Random Splicing of Several Exons Caused by a Single Base Change in the Target Exon of CRISPR/Cas9 Mediated Gene Knockout

Cells. 2016 Dec 14;5(4):45. doi: 10.3390/cells5040045.


The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-associated sequence 9 (CRISPR/Cas9) system is widely used for genome editing purposes as it facilitates an efficient knockout of a specific gene in, e.g. cultured cells. Targeted double-strand breaks are introduced to the target sequence of the guide RNAs, which activates the cellular DNA repair mechanism for non-homologous-end-joining, resulting in unprecise repair and introduction of small deletions or insertions. Due to this, sequence alterations in the coding region of the target gene frequently cause frame-shift mutations, facilitating degradation of the mRNA. We here show that such CRISPR/Cas9-mediated alterations in the target exon may also result in altered splicing of the respective pre-mRNA, most likely due to mutations of splice-regulatory sequences. Using the human FLOT-1 gene as an example, we demonstrate that such altered splicing products also give rise to aberrant protein products. These may potentially function as dominant-negative proteins and thus interfere with the interpretation of the data generated with these cell lines. Since most researchers only control the consequences of CRISPR knockout at genomic and protein level, our data should encourage to also check the alterations at the mRNA level.

Keywords: CRISPR; Cas9; RNA splicing; flotillin; genome editing.