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Induction of Brain Arteriovenous Malformation Through CRISPR/Cas9-Mediated Somatic Alk1 Gene Mutations in Adult Mice


Brain arteriovenous malformation (bAVM) is an important risk factor for intracranial hemorrhage. The pathogenesis of bAVM has not been fully understood. Animal models are important tools for dissecting bAVM pathogenesis and testing new therapies. We have developed several mouse bAVM models using genetically modified mice. However, due to the body size, mouse bAVM models have some limitations. Recent studies identified somatic mutations in sporadic human bAVM. To develop a feasible tool to create sporadic bAVM in rodent and animals larger than rodent, we made tests using the CRISPR/Cas9 technique to induce somatic gene mutations in mouse brain in situ. Two sequence-specific guide RNAs (sgRNAs) targeting mouse Alk1 exons 4 and 5 were cloned into pAd-Alk1e4sgRNA + e5sgRNA-Cas9 plasmid. These sgRNAs were capable to generate mutations in Alk1 gene in mouse cell lines. After packaged into adenovirus, Ad-Alk1e4sgRNA + e5sgRNA-Cas9 was co-injected with an adeno-associated viral vector expressing vascular endothelial growth factor (AAV-VEGF) into the brains of wild-type C57BL/6J mice. Eight weeks after viral injection, bAVMs were detected in 10 of 12 mice. Compared to the control (Ad-GFP/AAV-VEGF-injected) brain, 13% of Alk1 alleles were mutated and Alk1 expression was reduced by 26% in the Ad-Alk1e4sgRNA + e5sgRNA-Cas9/AAV-VEGF-injected brains. Around the Ad-Alk1e4sgRNA + e5sgRNA-Cas9/AAV-VEGF injected site, Alk1-null endothelial cells were detected. Our data demonstrated that CRISPR/Cas9 is a feasible tool for generating bAVM model in animals.

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