Highly Efficient and Versatile Plasmid-Based Gene Editing in Primary T Cells

J Immunol. 2018 Apr 1;200(7):2489-2501. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1701121. Epub 2018 Feb 14.


Adoptive cell transfer is an important approach for basic research and emerges as an effective treatment for various diseases, including infections and blood cancers. Direct genetic manipulation of primary immune cells opens up unprecedented research opportunities and could be applied to enhance cellular therapeutic products. In this article, we report highly efficient genome engineering in primary murine T cells using a plasmid-based RNA-guided CRISPR system. We developed a straightforward approach to ablate genes in up to 90% of cells and to introduce precisely targeted single nucleotide polymorphisms in up to 25% of the transfected primary T cells. We used gene editing-mediated allele switching to quantify homology-directed repair, systematically optimize experimental parameters, and map a native B cell epitope in primary T cells. Allele switching of a surrogate cell surface marker can be used to enrich cells, with successful simultaneous editing of a second gene of interest. Finally, we applied the approach to correct two disease-causing mutations in the Foxp3 gene. Repairing the cause of the scurfy syndrome, a 2-bp insertion in Foxp3, and repairing the clinically relevant Foxp3K276X mutation restored Foxp3 expression in primary T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / transplantation
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics
  • Cell Engineering / methods*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Editing / methods*
  • Immunotherapy, Adoptive / methods
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Plasmids / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Foxp3 protein, mouse
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens
  • Ptprc protein, mouse