Implementation of CRISPR/Cas9 Genome Editing to Generate Murine Lung Cancer Models That Depict the Mutational Landscape of Human Disease

Front Cell Dev Biol. 2021 Mar 2;9:641618. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2021.641618. eCollection 2021.


Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide and the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women. Despite the development of novel therapeutic interventions, the 5-year survival rate for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients remains low, demonstrating the necessity for novel treatments. One strategy to improve translational research is the development of surrogate models reflecting somatic mutations identified in lung cancer patients as these impact treatment responses. With the advent of CRISPR-mediated genome editing, gene deletion as well as site-directed integration of point mutations enabled us to model human malignancies in more detail than ever before. Here, we report that by using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated targeting of Trp53 and KRas, we recapitulated the classic murine NSCLC model Trp53 fl/fl :lsl-KRas G12D/wt . Developing tumors were indistinguishable from Trp53 fl/fl :lsl-KRas G12D/ wt -derived tumors with regard to morphology, marker expression, and transcriptional profiles. We demonstrate the applicability of CRISPR for tumor modeling in vivo and ameliorating the need to use conventional genetically engineered mouse models. Furthermore, tumor onset was not only achieved in constitutive Cas9 expression but also in wild-type animals via infection of lung epithelial cells with two discrete AAVs encoding different parts of the CRISPR machinery. While conventional mouse models require extensive husbandry to integrate new genetic features allowing for gene targeting, basic molecular methods suffice to inflict the desired genetic alterations in vivo. Utilizing the CRISPR toolbox, in vivo cancer research and modeling is rapidly evolving and enables researchers to swiftly develop new, clinically relevant surrogate models for translational research.

Keywords: CRISPR-Cas9; JUN; KRAS; MYC; TP53; lung cancer; mouse model; non-small cell lung cancer.