Is it possible to reconstruct an accurate cell lineage using CRISPR recorders?

Elife. 2019 Jan 28;8:e40292. doi: 10.7554/eLife.40292.


Cell lineages provide the framework for understanding how cell fates are decided during development. Describing cell lineages in most organisms is challenging; even a fruit fly larva has ~50,000 cells and a small mammal has >1 billion cells. Recently, the idea of applying CRISPR to induce mutations during development, to be used as heritable markers for lineage reconstruction, has been proposed by several groups. While an attractive idea, its practical value depends on the accuracy of the cell lineages that can be generated. Here, we use computer simulations to estimate the performance of these approaches under different conditions. We incorporate empirical data on CRISPR-induced mutation frequencies in Drosophila. We show significant impacts from multiple biological and technical parameters - variable cell division rates, skewed mutational outcomes, target dropouts and different sequencing strategies. Our approach reveals the limitations of published CRISPR recorders, and indicates how future implementations can be optimised.

Editorial note: This article has been through an editorial process in which the authors decide how to respond to the issues raised during peer review. The Reviewing Editor's assessment is that all the issues have been addressed (see decision letter).

Keywords: CRISPR-based lineage recorders; D. melanogaster; cell lineage; computer simulation; developmental biology; zebrafish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Lineage*
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats / genetics*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Drosophila
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Mutation Rate