Sickle cell disease (SCD) is caused by a single amino acid change in the adult hemoglobin (Hb) β chain that causes Hb polymerization and red blood cell (RBC) sickling. The co-inheritance of mutations causing fetal γ-globin production in adult life hereditary persistence of fetal Hb (HPFH) reduces the clinical severity of SCD. HPFH mutations in the HBG γ-globin promoters disrupt binding sites for the repressors BCL11A and LRF. We used CRISPR-Cas9 to mimic HPFH mutations in the HBG promoters by generating insertions and deletions, leading to disruption of known and putative repressor binding sites. Editing of the LRF-binding site in patient-derived hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) resulted in γ-globin derepression and correction of the sickling phenotype. Xenotransplantation of HSPCs treated with gRNAs targeting the LRF-binding site showed a high editing efficiency in repopulating HSPCs. This study identifies the LRF-binding site as a potent target for genome-editing treatment of SCD.
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