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Design and specificity of long ssDNA donors for CRISPR-based knock-in

By Han Li, Kyle A. Beckman, Veronica Pessino, Bo Huang, Jonathan S Weissman, Manuel D. Leonetti

Posted 21 Aug 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/178905

CRISPR/Cas technologies have transformed our ability to manipulate genomes for research and gene-based therapy. In particular, homology-directed repair after genomic cleavage allows for precise modification of genes using exogenous donor sequences as templates. While both single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) and double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) forms of donors have been used as repair templates, a systematic comparison of the performance and specificity of repair using ssDNA versus dsDNA donors is still lacking. Here, we describe an optimized method for the synthesis of long ssDNA templates and demonstrate that ssDNA donors can drive efficient integration of gene-sized reporters in human cell lines. We next define a set of rules to maximize the efficiency of ssDNA-mediated knock-in by optimizing donor design. Finally, by comparing ssDNA donors with equivalent dsDNA sequences (PCR products or plasmids), we demonstrate that ssDNA templates have a unique advantage in terms of repair specificity while dsDNA donors can lead to a high rate of off-target integration. Our results provide a framework for designing high-fidelity CRISPR-based knock-in experiments, in both research and therapeutic settings.

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