Versatile in vitro assay to recognize Cas9-induced mutations

Plant Direct. 2020 Sep 28;4(9):e00269. doi: 10.1002/pld3.269. eCollection 2020 Sep.


The discovery of CRISPR/Cas9 has revolutionized molecular biology, and its impact on plant biotechnology and plant breeding cannot be over-estimated. In many plant species, its application for mutagenesis is now a routine procedure--if suitable target sites, sufficient expression of the Cas9 protein, and functioning sgRNAs are combined. sgRNAs differ in their efficiency, depending on parameters that are only poorly understood. Several software tools and experience from growing databases are supporting the design of sgRNAs, but some seemingly perfect sgRNAs turn out to be inefficient or fail entirely, and most data bases stem from work with mammalian cells. Different in vitro assays testing sgRNAs in reconstituted Cas9 complexes are available and useful to reduce the risk of failure, especially in plants when CRISPR/Cas9 application requires modifications within the germ line and laborious transformation protocols. Low sgRNA efficiency and long generation times in plants can also contribute to the workload and costs of screening for the wanted genome edits. Here, we present a protocol in which a simple, initial in vitro test for suitable sgRNAs is modified to accelerate genotyping of Cas9-induced mutations. We demonstrate applicability of our protocol for mutagenesis and mutation screen for specific genes in Arabidopsis, but the principle should be universally suitable to provide a simple, low-cost, and rapid method to identify edited genes also in other plants and other organisms.

Keywords: CRISPR/Cas9; cost and labor‐saving protocol; genotyping protocol; in vitro cleavage; mutagenesis; sgRNA cleavage efficiency.