Background: CRISPR-Cas9 is a revolutionary genome editing technique that allows for efficient and directed alterations of the eukaryotic genome. This relatively new technology has already been used in a large number of 'loss of function' experiments in cultured cells. Despite its simplicity and efficiency, screening for mutated clones remains time-consuming, laborious and/or expensive.
Results: Here we report a high-throughput screening strategy that allows parallel screening of up to 96 clones, using next-generation sequencing. As a proof of principle, we used CRISPR-Cas9 to disrupt the coding sequence of the homeobox gene, Evx1 in mouse embryonic stem cells. We screened 67 CRISPR-Cas9 transfected clones simultaneously by next-generation sequencing on the Ion Torrent PGM. We were able to identify both homozygous and heterozygous Evx1 mutants, as well as mixed clones, which must be identified to maintain the integrity of subsequent experiments.
Conclusions: Our CRISPR-Cas9 screening strategy could be widely applied to screen for CRISPR-Cas9 mutants in a variety of contexts including the generation of mutant cell lines for in vitro research, the generation of transgenic organisms and for assessing the veracity of CRISPR-Cas9 homology directed repair. This technique is cost and time-effective, provides information on clonal heterogeneity and is adaptable for use on various sequencing platforms.