Reliable CRISPR/Cas9 Genome Engineering in Caenorhabditis elegans Using a Single Efficient sgRNA and an Easily Recognizable Phenotype

G3 (Bethesda). 2017 May 5;7(5):1429-1437. doi: 10.1534/g3.117.040824.


CRISPR/Cas9 genome engineering strategies allow the directed modification of the Caenorhabditis elegans genome to introduce point mutations, generate knock-out mutants, and insert coding sequences for epitope or fluorescent tags. Three practical aspects, however, complicate such experiments. First, the efficiency and specificity of single-guide RNAs (sgRNA) cannot be reliably predicted. Second, the detection of animals carrying genome edits can be challenging in the absence of clearly visible or selectable phenotypes. Third, the sgRNA target site must be inactivated after editing to avoid further double-strand break events. We describe here a strategy that addresses these complications by transplanting the protospacer of a highly efficient sgRNA into a gene of interest to render it amenable to genome engineering. This sgRNA targeting the dpy-10 gene generates genome edits at comparatively high frequency. We demonstrate that the transplanted protospacer is cleaved at the same time as the dpy-10 gene. Our strategy generates scarless genome edits because it no longer requires the introduction of mutations in endogenous sgRNA target sites. Modified progeny can be easily identified in the F1 generation, which drastically reduces the number of animals to be tested by PCR or phenotypic analysis. Using this strategy, we reliably generated precise deletion mutants, transcriptional reporters, and translational fusions with epitope tags and fluorescent reporter genes. In particular, we report here the first use of the new red fluorescent protein mScarlet in a multicellular organism. wrmScarlet, a C. elegans-optimized version, dramatically surpassed TagRFP-T by showing an eightfold increase in fluorescence in a direct comparison.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9 genome engineering; Caenorhabditis elegans; coconversion; dpy-10; mScarlet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Collagen / genetics
  • Gene Targeting / methods*
  • Genome, Helminth
  • Phenotype*
  • RNA, Guide, CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • RNA, Guide, CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • dpy-10 protein, C elegans
  • Collagen