CRISPR genome editing

Xingjie Ren, Jin Sun, Benjamin E Housden, Yanhui Hu, Charles Roesel, Shuailiang Lin, Lu-Ping Liu, Zhihao Yang, Decai Mao, Lingzhu Sun, Qujie Wu, Jun-Yuan Ji, Jianzhong Xi, Stephanie E Mohr, Jiang Xu, Norbert Perrimon, and Jian-Quan Ni. 2013. “Optimized gene editing technology for Drosophila melanogaster using germ line-specific Cas9.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 110, 47, Pp. 19012-7.Abstract

The ability to engineer genomes in a specific, systematic, and cost-effective way is critical for functional genomic studies. Recent advances using the CRISPR-associated single-guide RNA system (Cas9/sgRNA) illustrate the potential of this simple system for genome engineering in a number of organisms. Here we report an effective and inexpensive method for genome DNA editing in Drosophila melanogaster whereby plasmid DNAs encoding short sgRNAs under the control of the U6b promoter are injected into transgenic flies in which Cas9 is specifically expressed in the germ line via the nanos promoter. We evaluate the off-targets associated with the method and establish a Web-based resource, along with a searchable, genome-wide database of predicted sgRNAs appropriate for genome engineering in flies. Finally, we discuss the advantages of our method in comparison with other recently published approaches.

Shuailiang Lin, Ben Ewen-Campen, Xiaochun Ni, Benjamin E Housden, and Norbert Perrimon. 2015. “In Vivo Transcriptional Activation Using CRISPR/Cas9 in Drosophila.” Genetics, 201, 2, Pp. 433-42.Abstract

A number of approaches for Cas9-mediated transcriptional activation have recently been developed, allowing target genes to be overexpressed from their endogenous genomic loci. However, these approaches have thus far been limited to cell culture, and this technique has not been demonstrated in vivo in any animal. The technique involving the fewest separate components, and therefore the most amenable to in vivo applications, is the dCas9-VPR system, where a nuclease-dead Cas9 is fused to a highly active chimeric activator domain. In this study, we characterize the dCas9-VPR system in Drosophila cells and in vivo. We show that this system can be used in cell culture to upregulate a range of target genes, singly and in multiplex, and that a single guide RNA upstream of the transcription start site can activate high levels of target transcription. We observe marked heterogeneity in guide RNA efficacy for any given gene, and we confirm that transcription is inhibited by guide RNAs binding downstream of the transcription start site. To demonstrate one application of this technique in cells, we used dCas9-VPR to identify target genes for Twist and Snail, two highly conserved transcription factors that cooperate during Drosophila mesoderm development. In addition, we simultaneously activated both Twist and Snail to identify synergistic responses to this physiologically relevant combination. Finally, we show that dCas9-VPR can activate target genes and cause dominant phenotypes in vivo, providing the first demonstration of dCas9 activation in a multicellular animal. Transcriptional activation using dCas9-VPR thus offers a simple and broadly applicable technique for a variety of overexpression studies.

Stephanie E Mohr, Jennifer A Smith, Caroline E Shamu, Ralph A Neumüller, and Norbert Perrimon. 2014. “RNAi screening comes of age: improved techniques and complementary approaches.” Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol, 15, 9, Pp. 591-600.Abstract

Gene silencing through sequence-specific targeting of mRNAs by RNAi has enabled genome-wide functional screens in cultured cells and in vivo in model organisms. These screens have resulted in the identification of new cellular pathways and potential drug targets. Considerable progress has been made to improve the quality of RNAi screen data through the development of new experimental and bioinformatics approaches. The recent availability of genome-editing strategies, such as the CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-Cas9 system, when combined with RNAi, could lead to further improvements in screen data quality and follow-up experiments, thus promoting our understanding of gene function and gene regulatory networks.

Benjamin E Housden, Alexander J Valvezan, Colleen Kelley, Richelle Sopko, Yanhui Hu, Charles Roesel, Shuailiang Lin, Michael Buckner, Rong Tao, Bahar Yilmazel, Stephanie E Mohr, Brendan D Manning, and Norbert Perrimon. 2015. “Identification of potential drug targets for tuberous sclerosis complex by synthetic screens combining CRISPR-based knockouts with RNAi.” Sci Signal, 8, 393, Pp. rs9.Abstract

The tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) family of tumor suppressors, TSC1 and TSC2, function together in an evolutionarily conserved protein complex that is a point of convergence for major cell signaling pathways that regulate mTOR complex 1 (mTORC1). Mutation or aberrant inhibition of the TSC complex is common in various human tumor syndromes and cancers. The discovery of novel therapeutic strategies to selectively target cells with functional loss of this complex is therefore of clinical relevance to patients with nonmalignant TSC and those with sporadic cancers. We developed a CRISPR-based method to generate homogeneous mutant Drosophila cell lines. By combining TSC1 or TSC2 mutant cell lines with RNAi screens against all kinases and phosphatases, we identified synthetic interactions with TSC1 and TSC2. Individual knockdown of three candidate genes (mRNA-cap, Pitslre, and CycT; orthologs of RNGTT, CDK11, and CCNT1 in humans) reduced the population growth rate of Drosophila cells lacking either TSC1 or TSC2 but not that of wild-type cells. Moreover, individual knockdown of these three genes had similar growth-inhibiting effects in mammalian TSC2-deficient cell lines, including human tumor-derived cells, illustrating the power of this cross-species screening strategy to identify potential drug targets.

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