Pervasive head-to-tail insertions of DNA templates mask desired CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome editing events

Sci Adv. 2020 Feb 12;6(7):eaax2941. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aax2941. eCollection 2020 Feb.


CRISPR-Cas9-mediated homology-directed DNA repair is the method of choice for precise gene editing in a wide range of model organisms, including mouse and human. Broad use by the biomedical community refined the method, making it more efficient and sequence specific. Nevertheless, the rapidly evolving technique still contains pitfalls. During the generation of six different conditional knockout mouse models, we discovered that frequently (sometimes solely) homology-directed repair and/or nonhomologous end joining mechanisms caused multiple unwanted head-to-tail insertions of donor DNA templates. Disturbingly, conventionally applied PCR analysis, in most cases, failed to identify these multiple integration events, which led to a high rate of falsely claimed precisely edited alleles. We caution that comprehensive analysis of modified alleles is essential and offer practical solutions to correctly identify precisely edited chromosomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • DNA / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Editing*
  • Gene Targeting
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genome
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Models, Animal
  • Templates, Genetic*


  • DNA