CRISPR/Cas9 holds immense potential to treat a range of genetic disorders. Allele-specific gene disruption induced by non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) DNA repair offers a potential treatment option for autosomal dominant disease. Here, we successfully delivered a plasmid encoding S. pyogenes Cas9 and sgRNA to the corneal epithelium by intrastromal injection and acheived long-term knockdown of a corneal epithelial reporter gene, demonstrating gene disruption via NHEJ in vivo. In addition, we used TGFBI corneal dystrophies as a model of autosomal dominant disease to assess the use of CRISPR/Cas9 in two allele-specific systems, comparing cleavage using a SNP-derived PAM to a guide specific approach. In vitro, cleavage via a SNP-derived PAM was found to confer stringent allele-specific cleavage, while a guide-specific approach lacked the ability to distinguish between the wild-type and mutant alleles. The failings of the guide-specific approach highlights the necessity for meticulous guide design and assessment, as various degrees of allele-specificity are achieved depending on the guide sequence employed. A major concern for the use of CRISPR/Cas9 is its tendency to cleave DNA non-specifically at “off-target” sites. Confirmation that S. pyogenes Cas9 lacks the specificity to discriminate between alleles differing by a single base-pair regardless of the position in the guide is demonstrated.
- Gene editing