Integrating gene delivery and gene-editing technologies by adenoviral vector transfer of optimized CRISPR-Cas9 components

Gene Ther. 2020 May;27(5):209-225. doi: 10.1038/s41434-019-0119-y. Epub 2020 Jan 3.


Enhancing the intracellular delivery and performance of RNA-guided CRISPR-Cas9 nucleases (RGNs) remains in demand. Here, we show that nuclear translocation of commonly used Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 (SpCas9) proteins is suboptimal. Hence, we generated eCas9.4NLS by endowing the high-specificity eSpCas9(1.1) nuclease (eCas9.2NLS) with additional nuclear localization signals (NLSs). We demonstrate that eCas9.4NLS coupled to prototypic or optimized guide RNAs achieves efficient targeted DNA cleavage and probe the performance of SpCas9 proteins with different NLS compositions at target sequences embedded in heterochromatin versus euchromatin. Moreover, after adenoviral vector (AdV)-mediated transfer of SpCas9 expression units, unbiased quantitative immunofluorescence microscopy revealed 2.3-fold higher eCas9.4NLS nuclear enrichment levels than those observed for high-specificity eCas9.2NLS. This improved nuclear translocation yielded in turn robust gene editing after nonhomologous end joining repair of targeted double-stranded DNA breaks. In particular, AdV delivery of eCas9.4NLS into muscle progenitor cells resulted in significantly higher editing frequencies at defective DMD alleles causing Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) than those achieved by AdVs encoding the parental, eCas9.2NLS, protein. In conclusion, this work provides a strong rationale for integrating viral vector and optimized gene-editing technologies to bring about enhanced RGN delivery and performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • Gene Editing*
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics
  • RNA, Guide, Kinetoplastida / genetics


  • RNA, Guide