Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) have the potential to generate all adult cell types, including rare or inaccessible human cell populations, thus providing a unique platform for disease studies. To realize this promise, it is essential to develop methods for efficient genetic manipulations in hPSCs. Established using TALEN (transcription activator-like effector nuclease) and CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)/Cas (CRISPR-associated) systems, the iCRISPR platform supports a variety of genome-engineering approaches with high efficiencies. Here, we first describe the establishment of the iCRISPR platform through TALEN-mediated targeting of inducible Cas9 expression cassettes into the AAVS1 locus. Next, we provide a series of technical procedures for using iCRISPR to achieve one-step knockout of one or multiple gene(s), "scarless" introduction of precise nucleotide alterations, as well as inducible knockout during hPSC differentiation. We present an optimized workflow, as well as guidelines for the selection of CRISPR targeting sequences and the design of single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) homology-directed DNA repair templates for the introduction of specific nucleotide alterations. We have successfully used these protocols in four different hPSC lines, including human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. Once the iCRISPR platform is established, clonal lines with desired genetic modifications can be established in as little as 1 month. The methods described here enable a wide range of genome-engineering applications in hPSCs, thus providing a valuable resource for the creation of diverse hPSC-based disease models with superior speed and ease.
Keywords: CRISPR/Cas; Gene targeting; Genome engineering; Human embryonic stem cells; Human pluripotent stem cells; TALENs.