Genome editing (GE) represents a powerful approach to fight inherited blinding diseases in which the underlying mutations cause the degeneration of the light sensing photoreceptor cells of the retina. Successful GE requires the efficient repair of DNA double-stranded breaks (DSBs) generated during the treatment. Rod photoreceptors of adult mice have a highly specialized chromatin organization, do not efficiently express a variety of DSB response genes and repair DSBs very inefficiently. The DSB repair efficiency in rods of other species including humans is unknown. Here, we used ionizing radiation to analyze the DSB response in rods of various nocturnal and diurnal species, including genetically modified mice, pigs, and humans. We show that the inefficient repair of DSBs in adult mouse rods does not result from their specialized chromatin organization. Instead, the DSB repair efficiency in rods correlates with the level of Kruppel-associated protein-1 (KAP1) expression and its ataxia-telangiectasia mutated (ATM)-dependent phosphorylation. Strikingly, we detected robust KAP1 expression and phosphorylation only in human rods but not in rods of other diurnal species including pigs. Hence, our study provides important information about the uniqueness of the DSB response in human rods which needs to be considered when choosing model systems for the development of GE strategies.
Keywords: ATM; CRISPR-Cas9; DNA double-stranded break; DNA repair; KAP1; chromatin; genome editing; inherited retinal dystrophies; photoreceptors; retina.