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Genomic Disruption of VEGF-A Expression in Human Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells Using CRISPR-Cas9 EndonucleaseGenomic Disruption of VEGF-A in RPE



To employ type II clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 endonuclease to suppress ocular angiogenesis by genomic disruption of VEGF-A in human RPE cells.


CRISPR sequences targeting exon 1 of human VEGF-A were computationally identified based on predicted Cas9 on- and off-target probabilities. Single guide RNA (gRNA) cassettes with these target sequences were cloned into lentiviral vectors encoding the Streptococcuspyogenes Cas9 endonuclease (SpCas9) gene. The lentiviral vectors were used to infect ARPE-19 cells, a human RPE cell line. Frequency of insertion or deletion (indel) mutations was assessed by T7 endonuclease 1 mismatch detection assay; mRNA levels were assessed with quantitative real-time PCR; and VEGF-A protein levels were determined by ELISA. In vitro angiogenesis was measured using an endothelial cell tube formation assay.


Five gRNAs targeting VEGF-A were selected based on the highest predicted on-target probabilities, lowest off-target probabilities, or combined average of both scores. Lentiviral delivery of the top-scoring gRNAs with SpCas9 resulted in indel formation in the VEGF-A gene at frequencies up to 37.0% ± 4.0% with corresponding decreases in secreted VEGF-A protein up to 41.2% ± 7.4% (P < 0.001), and reduction of endothelial tube formation up to 39.4% ± 9.8% (P = 0.02). No significant indel formation in the top three putative off-target sites tested was detected.


The CRISPR-Cas9 endonuclease system may reduce VEGF-A secretion from human RPE cells and suppress angiogenesis, supporting the possibility of employing gene editing for antiangiogenesis therapy in ocular diseases.

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