Applications of CRISPR/Cas9 in the Mammalian Central Nervous System

Yale J Biol Med. 2017 Dec 19;90(4):567-581. eCollection 2017 Dec.


Within the central nervous system, gene regulatory mechanisms are crucial regulators of cellular development and function, and dysregulation of these systems is commonly observed in major neuropsychiatric and neurological disorders. However, due to a lack of tools to specifically modulate the genome and epigenome in the central nervous system, many molecular and genetic mechanisms underlying cognitive function and behavior are still unknown. Although genome editing tools have been around for decades, the recent emergence of inexpensive, straightforward, and widely accessible CRISPR/Cas9 systems has led to a revolution in gene editing. The development of the catalytically dead Cas9 (dCas9) expanded this flexibility even further by acting as an anchoring system for fused effector proteins, structural scaffolds, and RNAs. Together, these advances have enabled robust, modular approaches for specific targeting and modification of the local chromatin environment at a single gene. This review highlights these advancements and how the combination of powerful modulatory tools paired with the versatility of CRISPR-Cas9-based systems offer great potential for understanding the underlying genetic and epigenetic contributions of neuronal function, behavior, and neurobiological diseases.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9; epigenetic editing; epigenetics; genome editing; neuroepigenetics; neuron.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • Cellular Reprogramming Techniques
  • Central Nervous System / physiology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene Editing
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Humans
  • Mammals / genetics*
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA, Guide, Kinetoplastida / genetics
  • RNA, Guide, Kinetoplastida / metabolism


  • Proteins
  • RNA, Guide