Receptor-Mediated Delivery of CRISPR-Cas9 Endonuclease for Cell-Type-Specific Gene Editing

J Am Chem Soc. 2018 May 30;140(21):6596-6603. doi: 10.1021/jacs.8b01551. Epub 2018 May 18.


CRISPR-Cas RNA-guided endonucleases hold great promise for disrupting or correcting genomic sequences through site-specific DNA cleavage and repair. However, the lack of methods for cell- and tissue-selective delivery currently limits both research and clinical uses of these enzymes. We report the design and in vitro evaluation of S. pyogenes Cas9 proteins harboring asialoglycoprotein receptor ligands (ASGPrL). In particular, we demonstrate that the resulting ribonucleoproteins (Cas9-ASGPrL RNP) can be engineered to be preferentially internalized into cells expressing the corresponding receptor on their surface. Uptake of such fluorescently labeled proteins in liver-derived cell lines HEPG2 (ASGPr+) and SKHEP (control; diminished ASGPr) was studied by live cell imaging and demonstrates increased accumulation of Cas9-ASGPrL RNP in HEPG2 cells as a result of effective ASGPr-mediated endocytosis. When uptake occurred in the presence of a peptide with endosomolytic properties, we observed receptor-facilitated and cell-type specific gene editing that did not rely on electroporation or the use of transfection reagents. Overall, these in vitro results validate the receptor-mediated delivery of genome-editing enzymes as an approach for cell-selective gene editing and provide a framework for future potential applications to hepatoselective gene editing in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Endonucleases / genetics
  • Endonucleases / metabolism*
  • Gene Editing*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Protein Engineering


  • Endonucleases