OPEN Nature communications | 8 Sep 2019
R Tuladhar, Y Yeu, J Tyler Piazza, Z Tan, J Rene Clemenceau, X Wu, Q Barrett, J Herbert, DH Mathews, J Kim, T Hyun Hwang and L Lum
The introduction of insertion-deletions (INDELs) by non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) pathway underlies the mechanistic basis of CRISPR-Cas9-directed genome editing. Selective gene ablation using CRISPR-Cas9 is achieved by installation of a premature termination codon (PTC) from a frameshift-inducing INDEL that elicits nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) of the mutant mRNA. Here, by examining the mRNA and protein products of CRISPR targeted genes in a cell line panel with presumed gene knockouts, we detect the production of foreign mRNAs or proteins in ~50% of the cell lines. We demonstrate that these aberrant protein products stem from the introduction of INDELs that promote internal ribosomal entry, convert pseudo-mRNAs (alternatively spliced mRNAs with a PTC) into protein encoding molecules, or induce exon skipping by disruption of exon splicing enhancers (ESEs). Our results reveal challenges to manipulating gene expression outcomes using INDEL-based mutagenesis and strategies useful in mitigating their impact on intended genome-editing outcomes.
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