DNA nicks promote efficient and safe targeted gene correction

PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e23981. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023981. Epub 2011 Sep 1.


Targeted gene correction employs a site-specific DNA lesion to promote homologous recombination that eliminates mutation in a disease gene of interest. The double-strand break typically used to initiate correction can also result in genomic instability if deleterious repair occurs rather than gene correction, possibly compromising the safety of targeted gene correction. Here we show that single-strand breaks (nicks) and double-strand breaks both promote efficient gene correction. However, breaks promote high levels of inadvertent but heritable genomic alterations both locally and elsewhere in the genome, while nicks are accompanied by essentially no collateral local mutagenesis, and thus provide a safer approach to gene correction. Defining efficacy as the ratio of gene correction to local deletion, nicks initiate gene correction with 70-fold greater efficacy than do double-strand breaks (29.0±6.0% and 0.42±0.03%, respectively). Thus nicks initiate efficient gene correction, with limited local mutagenesis. These results have clear therapeutic implications, and should inform future design of meganucleases for targeted gene correction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded
  • DNA Breaks, Single-Stranded*
  • DNA End-Joining Repair / genetics
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases / genetics
  • Endodeoxyribonucleases / metabolism
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Targeted Gene Repair / methods*


  • Endodeoxyribonucleases