Gene editing is a genetic manipulation that deletes, inserts, replaces, or modifies the genomic DNA of a living organism. Gene editing is region-specific targeting of DNA for damage through a variety of techniques and does not always involve repair mechanisms. One type of gene editing is CRISPR which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats.
Targeted nucleases are powerful tools for mediating genome alteration with high precision. The RNA-guided Cas9 nuclease from the microbial clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) adaptive immune system can be used to facilitate efficient genome engineering in eukaryotic cells by simply specifying a 20-nt targeting sequence within its guide RNA. Here we describe a set of tools for Cas9-mediated genome editing via nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) or homology-directed repair (HDR) in mammalian cells, as well as generation of modified cell lines for downstream functional studies. To minimise off-target cleavage, we further describe a double-nicking strategy using the Cas9 nickase mutant with paired guide RNAs. This protocol provides experimentally derived guidelines for the selection of target sites, evaluation of cleavage efficiency and analysis of off-target activity. Beginning with target design, gene modifications can be achieved within as little as 1–2 weeks, and modified clonal cell lines can be derived within 2–3 weeks.
(image regarding the process of CRISPR-Cas9)
Limitations of CRISPR
Cas9 can be targeted to specific genomic loci via a 20-nt guide sequence on the sgRNA. The only requirement for the selection of Cas9 target sites is the presence of a PAM sequence directly 3′ of the 20-bp target sequence. Each Cas9 ortholog has a unique PAM sequence; for example, SpCas9 requires a 5′-NGG PAM sequence. This PAM requirement does not severely limit the targeting range of SpCas9—in the human genome, such target sites can be found on average every 8–12 bp . In addition to the targeting range, another possible limitation is the potential for off-target mutagenesis.
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