Molecular biology of the cell

Practical method for targeted disruption of cilia-related genes by using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated, homology-independent knock-in system.

PMID 28179459


The CRISPR/Cas9 system has revolutionized genome editing in virtually all organisms. Although the CRISPR/Cas9 system enables the targeted cleavage of genomic DNA, its use for gene knock-in remains challenging because levels of homologous recombination activity vary among various cells. In contrast, the efficiency of homology-independent DNA repair is relatively high in most cell types. Therefore the use of a homology-independent repair mechanism is a possible alternative for efficient genome editing. Here we constructed a donor knock-in vector optimized for the CRISPR/Cas9 system and developed a practical system that enables efficient disruption of target genes by exploiting homology-independent repair. Using this practical knock-in system, we successfully disrupted genes encoding proteins involved in ciliary protein trafficking, including IFT88 and IFT20, in hTERT-RPE1 cells, which have low homologous recombination activity. The most critical concern using the CRISPR/Cas9 system is off-target cleavage. To reduce the off-target cleavage frequency and increase the versatility of our knock-in system, we constructed a universal donor vector and an expression vector containing Cas9 with enhanced specificity and tandem sgRNA expression cassettes. We demonstrated that the second version of our system has improved usability.