The controlled change of plant genomes by homologous recombination (HR) is still difficult to achieve. We previously developed the in planta gene targeting (ipGT) technology which depends on the simultaneous activation of the target locus by a double-strand break and the excision of the target vector. Whereas the use of SpCas9 resulted in low ipGT frequencies in Arabidopsis, we were recently able to improve the efficiency by using egg cell-specific expression of the potent but less broadly applicable SaCas9 nuclease. In this study, we now tested whether we could improve ipGT further, by either performing it in cells with enhanced intrachromosomal HR efficiencies or by the use of Cas12a, a different kind of CRISPR/Cas nuclease with an alternative cutting mechanism. We could show before that plants possess three kinds of DNA ATPase complexes, which all lead to instabilities of homologous genomic repeats if lost by mutation. As these proteins act in independent pathways, we tested ipGT in double mutants in which intrachromosomal HR is enhanced 20-80-fold. However, we were not able to obtain higher ipGT frequencies, indicating that mechanisms for gene targeting (GT) and chromosomal repeat-induced HR differ. However, using LbCas12a, the GT frequencies were higher than with SaCas9, despite a lower non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) induction efficiency, demonstrating the particular suitability of Cas12a to induce HR. As SaCas9 has substantial restrictions due to its longer GC rich PAM sequence, the use of LbCas12a with its AT-rich PAM broadens the range of ipGT drastically, particularly when targeting in CG-deserts like promoters and introns.
Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; CRISPR/Cas; Fanconi anaemia; RTEL-1; blooms syndrome; double-strand break repair; genome editing; genome instability; homologous recombination; technical advance.
© 2019 The Authors. The Plant Journal published by Society for Experimental Biology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.