Manipulation of viral genomes is essential for studying viral gene function and utilizing viruses for therapy. Several techniques for viral genome engineering have been developed. Homologous recombination in virus-infected cells has traditionally been used to edit viral genomes; however, the frequency of the expected recombination is quite low. Alternatively, large viral genomes have been edited using a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) plasmid system. However, cloning of large viral genomes into BAC plasmids is both laborious and time-consuming. In addition, because it is possible for insertion into the viral genome of drug selection markers or parts of BAC plasmids to affect viral function, artificial genes sometimes need to be removed from edited viruses. Herpes simplex virus (HSV), a common DNA virus with a genome length of 152 kbp, causes labialis, genital herpes and encephalitis. Mutant HSV is a candidate for oncotherapy, in which HSV is used to kill tumor cells. In this study, the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat-Cas9 system was used to very efficiently engineer HSV without inserting artificial genes into viral genomes. Not only gene-ablated HSV but also gene knock-in HSV were generated using this method. Furthermore, selection with phenotypes of edited genes promotes the isolation efficiencies of expectedly mutated viral clones. Because our method can be applied to other DNA viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegaloviruses, vaccinia virus and baculovirus, our system will be useful for studying various types of viruses, including clinical isolates.
Keywords: clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat-Cas9; genome engineering; herpes simplex virus; large viral genome.
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