Experimental physiology

Examination of CRISPR/Cas9 design tools and the effect of target site accessibility on Cas9 activity.

PMID 28303677


What is the topic of this review? In this review, we analyse the performance of recently described tools for CRISPR/Cas9 guide RNA design, in particular, design tools that predict CRISPR/Cas9 activity. What advances does it highlight? Recently, many tools designed to predict CRISPR/Cas9 activity have been reported. However, the majority of these tools lack experimental validation. Our analyses indicate that these tools have poor predictive power. Our preliminary results suggest that target site accessibility should be considered in order to develop better guide RNA design tools with improved predictive power. The recent adaptation of the clustered regulatory interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated proteinxa09 (Cas9) system for targeted genome engineering has led to its widespread application in many fields worldwide. In order to gain a better understanding of the design rules of CRISPR/Cas9 systems, several groups have carried out large library-based screens leading to some insight into sequence preferences among highly active target sites. To facilitate CRISPR/Cas9 design, these studies have spawned a plethora of guide RNA (gRNA) design tools with algorithms based solely on direct or indirect sequence features. Here, we demonstrate that the predictive power of these tools is poor, suggesting that sequence features alone cannot accurately inform the cutting efficiency of a particular CRISPR/Cas9 gRNA design. Furthermore, we demonstrate that DNA target site accessibility influences the activity of CRISPR/Cas9. With further optimization, we hypothesize that it will be possible to increase the predictive power of gRNA design tools by including both sequence and target site accessibility metrics.