CHANGE-seq reveals genetic and epigenetic effects on CRISPR-Cas9 genome-wide activity

Nat Biotechnol. 2020 Nov;38(11):1317-1327. doi: 10.1038/s41587-020-0555-7. Epub 2020 Jun 15.


Current methods can illuminate the genome-wide activity of CRISPR-Cas9 nucleases, but are not easily scalable to the throughput needed to fully understand the principles that govern Cas9 specificity. Here we describe 'circularization for high-throughput analysis of nuclease genome-wide effects by sequencing' (CHANGE-seq), a scalable, automatable tagmentation-based method for measuring the genome-wide activity of Cas9 in vitro. We applied CHANGE-seq to 110 single guide RNA targets across 13 therapeutically relevant loci in human primary T cells and identified 201,934 off-target sites, enabling the training of a machine learning model to predict off-target activity. Comparing matched genome-wide off-target, chromatin modification and accessibility, and transcriptional data, we found that cellular off-target activity was two to four times more likely to occur near active promoters, enhancers and transcribed regions. Finally, CHANGE-seq analysis of six targets across eight individual genomes revealed that human single-nucleotide variation had significant effects on activity at ~15.2% of off-target sites analyzed. CHANGE-seq is a simplified, sensitive and scalable approach to understanding the specificity of genome editors.

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

  • Base Sequence
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9 / metabolism*
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Editing
  • Genetic Variation
  • Genome, Human
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing*
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning


  • Chromatin
  • CRISPR-Associated Protein 9