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The CRISPR/Cas9 system is a powerful tool for targeted gene editing, in which a single guide RNA (sgRNA) directs a Cas9 nuclease to a specific genomic locus. Cas9 cleaves the gene of interest and creates a double-stranded break (DSB) in the DNA, which can be repaired by non-homologous end joining (NHEJ). As NHEJ is an error-prone DNA repair process, insertions and deletions (indels) are often introduced into the gene, resulting in frameshifts and potential loss of gene function.
It is often necessary to determine if there are indels in one or both alleles (monoallelic or biallelic mutants, respectively). To achieve functional knockout, both copies of the gene need to be mutated. This is especially important for certain applications such as disease modeling or the development of transgenic animals (Hai et al. 2014; Jao, Wente, and Chen 2013). In some cases, a monoallelic mutation can be useful or necessary, such as when modeling specific diseases. Therefore, it is necessary to confirm the exact genotype of cells following CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing. Traditionally, this has involved lengthy subcloning and sequencing steps. However, a streamlined protocol with the ability for direct assessment can save time while providing high accuracy.
An in vitro cleavage assay for genotype determination
The Guide-it Genotype Confirmation Kit uses a Cas9/sgRNA-mediated in vitro cleavage assay for genotype determination. PCR amplicons containing the potentially edited genomic locus are used in a cleavage reaction set up with the same sgRNA used for the initial gene editing (Figure 1). The cleavage products are then separated on an agarose gel. If both alleles of the target site are wild type (wt), the Cas9/sgRNA complex will cleave the PCR amplicons, which would appear on the gel as two small DNA fragments. Conversely, if both alleles have indels (biallelic mutation), the Cas9/sgRNA complex will not cleave, and the gel will show only one large DNA fragment. If just one allele has an indel, as in the case of a monoallelic mutation, only the wt allele will be cleaved, resulting in one large fragment and two small fragments on the gel. In this manner, a particular cell's genotype can be directly assessed, without the need for molecular subcloning and subsequent sequencing.
Accurate genotype determination of HEK 293 cells
The C4BPB gene encodes one of the two polypeptides for human plasma glycoprotein C4b-binding protein (C4BPB) and has a role in the complement pathway, which is key to innate immunity (Rodríguez de Córdoba et al. 1994). In the following experiment, HEK 293 cells were treated with Cas9 and a sgRNA targeting C4BPB. Fifteen single-cell clones were isolated, and the Guide-it Genotype Confirmation Kit was used for genotype determination, as shown in Figure 2 below.
Following CRISPR/Cas9 editing, the C4BPB locus was PCR-amplified from crude DNA extracts. In vitro cleavage of the PCR products was set up with recombinant Cas9 nuclease and the same sgRNA that was used for gene editing. Control reactions (included in the kit) were included in the analysis (Figure 3). Results of agarose gel electrophoresis on the cleaved DNA fragments indicated that clones 1, 4, 10, and 12 were wt. Clone 2 was monoallelic (M), and clones 3, 5–9, 11, and 13–15 were biallelic (B).
In order to confirm the in vitro genotype assay, the C4BPB locus was subcloned for Sanger sequencing. For each of the four clones selected, the sequencing results corroborated the results of the Guide-it Genotype Confirmation Kit (Figure 4). As predicted, clone 2 was monoallelic, while clone 7 was heterozygous biallelic. Clones 9 and 11 were homozygous biallelic, representing biallelic deletion and insertion mutants, respectively.
The Guide-it Genotype Confirmation Kit is a streamlined, in vitro alternative to tedious subcloning and sequencing following CRISPR/Cas9 editing of target genes. This assay—performed directly from crude DNA extracts—allows monoallelic and biallelic mutations to be quickly and easily identified. Genotyping is simple yet accurate, further improving your gene modification workflow.
Disruption of the C4BPB gene in HEK 293 cells:
1 x 105 HEK 293 cells were seeded in 12-well plates one day prior to transfection. Cells were cotransfected with 2.5 µg of pGuide-it-ZsGreen1 plasmid encoding Cas9 and a sgRNA designed to target C4BPB using the Xfect Transfection Reagent.
Genotype determination assay
48 hours after transfection, single-cell clones were established by the dilution method. Crude DNA extracts were prepared by using the extraction buffer included in the Guide-it Genotype Confirmation Kit. Following extraction, the C4BPB locus was PCR-amplified using the Terra PCR Direct Polymerase Mix included in the kit. For downstream applications, 96-well replica single-cell plates were generated. In vitro cleavage reactions were set up using the recommended protocol in the Guide-it Genotype Confirmation Kit, with PCR amplicons, 250 ng of the Guide-it Recombinant Cas9 Nuclease, and 50 ng of the sgRNA. The same sgRNA used during gene editing was used in this in vitro cleavage assay. Cleavage reactions were run on a 2% agarose gel.
Sanger sequencing of the C4BPB locus
The C4BPB locus was subcloned into pUC19 from single-cell HEK 293 clones using the Guide-it Indel Identification Kit. PCR fragments were sequenced using standard pUC19 primers included in the kit.
Hai, T., Teng, F., Guo, R., Li, W. & Zhou, Q. One-step generation of knockout pigs by zygote injection of CRISPR/Cas system. Cell Res.24, 372–5 (2014).
Jao, L.-E., Wente, S. R. & Chen, W. Efficient multiplex biallelic zebrafish genome editing using a CRISPR nuclease system. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A.110, 13904–9 (2013).
Rodríguez de Córdoba, S. et al. The gene coding for the beta-chain of C4b-binding protein (C4BPB) has become a pseudogene in the mouse. Genomics21, 501–9 (1994).