Genome editing has shown great promise for clinical translation but also revealed the risk of genotoxicity caused by off-target effects of programmable nucleases. Here we describe chromosomal aberrations analysis by single targeted linker-mediated PCR sequencing (CAST-Seq), a preclinical assay to identify and quantify chromosomal aberrations derived from on-target and off-target activities of CRISPR-Cas nucleases or transcriptional activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), respectively, in human hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Depending on the employed designer nuclease, CAST-Seq detected translocations in 0%-0.5% of gene-edited human CD34+ HSCs, and up to 20% of on-target loci harbored gross rearrangements. Moreover, CAST-Seq detected distinct types of chromosomal aberrations, such as homology-mediated translocations, that are mediated by homologous recombination and not off-target activity. CAST-Seq is a sensitive assay able to identify and quantify unintended chromosomal rearrangements in addition to the more typical mutations at off-target sites. CAST-Seq analyses may be particularly relevant for therapeutic genome editing to enable thorough risk assessment before clinical application of gene-edited products.
Keywords: CRISPR-Cas; chromosomal aberrations; chromosomal rearrangements; clinical risk assessment; designer nucleases; gene editing; off-target activity; off-target effects; programmable nucleases; translocations.
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