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DNA targeting specificity of RNA-guided Cas9 nucleases

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Abstract

The Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpCas9) nuclease can be efficiently targeted to genomic loci by means of single-guide RNAs (sgRNAs) to enable genome editing1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. Here, we characterize SpCas9 targeting specificity in human cells to inform the selection of target sites and avoid off-target effects. Our study evaluates >700 guide RNA variants and SpCas9-induced indel mutation levels at >100 predicted genomic off-target loci in 293T and 293FT cells. We find that SpCas9 tolerates mismatches between guide RNA and target DNA at different positions in a sequence-dependent manner, sensitive to the number, position and distribution of mismatches. We also show that SpCas9-mediated cleavage is unaffected by DNA methylation and that the dosage of SpCas9 and sgRNA can be titrated to minimize off-target modification. To facilitate mammalian genome engineering applications, we provide a web-based software tool to guide the selection and validation of target sequences as well as off-target analyses.

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Figure 1: Optimization of guide RNA architecture for SpCas9-mediated mammalian genome editing.
Figure 2: Single-nucleotide specificity of SpCas9.
Figure 3: Multiple mismatch specificity of SpCas9.
Figure 4: SpCas9-mediated indel frequencies at predicted genomic off-target loci.

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  • 28 August 2013

    In the version of this article initially published, funding information was left out of the acknowledgments section. The error has been corrected in the HTML and PDF versions of the article.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Shalek, E. Stamenova and D. Gray for expert help with DNA sequencing, R. Barretto for genome-wide PAM analysis, as well as D. Altshuler, P.A. Sharp, and the entire Zhang Lab for their support and advice. P.D.H. is a James Mills Pierce Fellow. D.A.S. is an National Science Foundation pre-doctoral fellow and J.A.W. is supported by a Life Science Research Foundation Fellowship. X.W. is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Student Research Fellow and is supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants R01-GM34277 and R01-CA133404 to P.A. Sharp, X.W.'s thesis advisor. G.B. is supported by an NIH Nanomedicine Development Center Award (PN2EY018244).This work is supported by an NIH Director's Pioneer Award (DP1-MH100706), an NIH Transformative R01 grant (R01-DK097768) to D. Altshuler, the Keck, McKnight, Damon Runyon, Searle Scholars, Klingenstein and Simons Foundations, and Bob Metcalfe and Jane Pauley. The authors wish to dedicate this paper to the memory of Officer Sean Collier, for his caring service to the MIT community and for his sacrifice. Reagents are available to the academic community through Addgene, and associated protocols, support forums and computational tools are available through the Zhang lab website (http://www.genome-engineering.org/).

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Authors

Contributions

J.A.W. and F.A.R. contributed equally to this work. P.D.H., D.A.S., F.A.R., S.K. and F.Z. designed and performed the experiments. P.D.H., D.A.S., J.A.W., Y.L., S.K., F.A.R. and F.Z. analyzed the data. V.A. and O.S. contributed computational prediction of CRISPR off-target sites and X.W. performed the northern blot analysis. P.D.H., F.A.R., D.A.S. and F.Z. wrote the manuscript with help from all authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Feng Zhang.

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Competing interests

A patent application has been filed relating to this work, and the authors plan on making the reagents widely available to the academic community through Addgene and to provide software tools via the Zhang lab website (http://www.genome-engineering.org/).

Supplementary information

Supplementary Text and Figures

Supplementary Sequences, Supplementary Figures 1–11 and Supplementary Tables 1–4 (PDF 1235 kb)

Supplementary Table 5

All sequencing data for Figure 2 (XLSX 1740 kb)

Supplementary Table 6

All sequencing data for Figure 3 (XLSX 110 kb)

Supplementary Table 7

All sequencing data for Figure 4 (XLSX 142 kb)

Supplementary Table 8

All sequencing data for expanded set of candidate genomic off-target loci for EMX1 targets 1, 2, 3, and 6 (XLSX 94 kb)

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Hsu, P., Scott, D., Weinstein, J. et al. DNA targeting specificity of RNA-guided Cas9 nucleases. Nat Biotechnol 31, 827–832 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nbt.2647

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