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Strategies for Efficient Genome Editing Using CRISPR-Cas9


The targetable DNA endonuclease CRISPR-Cas9 has transformed analysis of biological processes by enabling robust genome editing in model and nonmodel organisms. Although rules directing Cas9 to its target DNA via a guide RNA are straightforward, wide variation occurs in editing efficiency and repair outcomes for both imprecise error-prone repair and precise templated repair. We found that imprecise and precise DNA repair from double-strand breaks (DSBs) is asymmetric, favoring repair in one direction. Using this knowledge, we designed RNA guides and repair templates that increased the frequency of imprecise insertions and deletions and greatly enhanced precise insertion of point mutations in Caenorhabditis elegans We also devised strategies to insert long (10 kb) exogenous sequences and incorporate multiple nucleotide substitutions at a considerable distance from DSBs. We expanded the repertoire of co-conversion markers appropriate for diverse nematode species. These selectable markers enable rapid identification of Cas9-edited animals also likely to carry edits in desired targets. Lastly, we explored the timing, location, frequency, sex dependence, and categories of DSB repair events by developing loci with allele-specific Cas9 targets that can be contributed during mating from either male or hermaphrodite germ cells. We found a striking difference in editing efficiency between maternally and paternally contributed genomes. Furthermore, imprecise repair and precise repair from exogenous repair templates occur with high frequency before and after fertilization. Our strategies enhance Cas9-targeting efficiency, lend insight into the timing and mechanisms of DSB repair, and establish guidelines for achieving predictable precise and imprecise repair outcomes with high frequency.

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