Effective CRISPR interference of an endogenous gene via a single transgene in mice

Sci Rep. 2019 Nov 21;9(1):17312. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-53611-6.


Drawbacks of conditional gene deletion in mice include the need for extensive breeding and, often, a lack of cell type-specificity. CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) is an alternative approach for loss-of-function studies that inhibits expression by guiding a transcriptional repressor to the transcription start-site of target genes. However, there has been limited exploration of CRISPRi in mice. We tested the effectiveness of a single CRISPRi transgene broadly expressing a single guide RNA and a catalytically dead Cas9 fused to the KRAB repressor domain to suppress a well-characterized target gene, Tnfsf11. The phenotype of CRISPRi transgenic mice was compared to mice with germline deletion of Tnfsf11, which are osteopetrotic and do not form lymph nodes. High transgene expression mimicked gene deletion, with failure of lymph node development and classic signs of osteopetrosis such as high bone mass and failure of tooth eruption. Mice with low transgene expression were normal and mice with medium expression displayed an intermediate phenotype. Transgene expression in tissues from these mice correlated inversely with Tnfsf11 mRNA levels. These results demonstrate that a single CRISPRi transgene can effectively suppress a target gene in mice and suggest that this approach may be useful for cell type-specific loss-of-function studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Lentivirus / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • RANK Ligand / genetics
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA, Guide / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic*
  • Transduction, Genetic
  • Transgenes / genetics


  • RANK Ligand
  • RNA, Guide
  • Tnfsf11 protein, mouse