Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE

Using a Fluorescent PCR-capillary Gel Electrophoresis Technique to Genotype CRISPR/Cas9-mediated Knockout Mutants in a High-throughput Format.

PMID 28448034


The development of programmable genome-editing tools has facilitated the use of reverse genetics to understand the roles specific genomic sequences play in the functioning of cells and whole organisms. This cause has been tremendously aided by the recent introduction of the CRISPR/Cas9 system-a versatile tool that allows researchers to manipulate the genome and transcriptome in order to, among other things, knock out, knock down, or knock in genes in a targeted manner. For the purpose of knocking out a gene, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated double-strand breaks recruit the non-homologous end-joining DNA repair pathway to introduce the frameshift-causing insertion or deletion of nucleotides at the break site. However, an individual guide RNA may cause undesirable off-target effects, and to rule these out, the use of multiple guide RNAs is necessary. This multiplicity of targets also means that a high-volume screening of clones is required, which in turn begs the use of an efficient high-throughput technique to genotype the knockout clones. Current genotyping techniques either suffer from inherent limitations or incur high cost, hence rendering them unsuitable for high-throughput purposes. Here, we detail the protocol for using fluorescent PCR, which uses genomic DNA from crude cell lysate as a template, and then resolving the PCR fragments via capillary gel electrophoresis. This technique is accurate enough to differentiate one base-pair difference between fragments and hence is adequate in indicating the presence or absence of a frameshift in the coding sequence of the targeted gene. This precise knowledge effectively precludes the need for a confirmatory sequencing step and allows users to save time and cost in the process. Moreover, this technique has proven to be versatile in genotyping various mammalian cells of various tissue origins targeted by guide RNAs against numerous genes, as shown here and elsewhere.