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Review
, 283 (17), 3239-48

Off-target Effects of Engineered Nucleases

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Review

Off-target Effects of Engineered Nucleases

Jiing-Kuan Yee. FEBS J.

Abstract

Recent advances in gene editing with engineered nucleases have transformed our ability to manipulate the genome from diverse organisms for applications ranging from biomedical research to disease treatment. A major complication with these engineered nucleases is the binding of the nuclease to unintended genomic sites that share sequence homology with the on-target site. Cleavage of these off-target sites followed by DNA repair using normal cellular DNA repair mechanisms can cause gene mutation or gross chromosome rearrangement. Identification of nuclease-generated off-target sites is a daunting task due to the size and complexity of the mammalian genome. Five unbiased, genome-wide strategies have been developed to detect the off-target cleavage. Some of these strategies reach the sensitivity near the detection limit of directed deep sequencing and have sufficient precision and resolution to objectively assessing the off-target effect of any engineered nuclease. Significant progress has also been made recently to boost the nuclease targeting specificity by protein engineering to modify the structure of the nuclease and alter the interaction with its genomic target. In several studied cases, the off-target effect generated by the modified nuclease is completely eliminated. These modified nucleases significantly improve the overall fidelity of gene editing. These developments will enable gene editing tools to be applied more broadly and safely in basic research and disease treatment.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9; engineered nuclease; gene editing; homology-directed repair; meganuclease; nonhomologous end-joining; off-target effect; transcription activator-like effector nuclease; zinc finger nuclease.

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