The industrially important non-conventional yeast Komagataella phaffii suffers from low rates of homologous recombination, making site specific genetic engineering tedious. Therefore, genome editing using CRISPR/Cas represents a simple and efficient alternative. To characterize on- and off-target mutations caused by CRISPR/Cas9 followed by non-homologous end joining repair, we chose a diverse set of CRISPR/Cas targets and conducted whole genome sequencing on 146 CRISPR/Cas9 engineered single colonies. We compared the outcomes of single target CRISPR transformations to double target experiments. Furthermore, we examined the extent of possible large deletions by targeting a large genomic region, which is likely to be non-essential. The analysis of on-target mutations showed an unexpectedly high number of large deletions and chromosomal rearrangements at the CRISPR target loci. We also observed an increase of on-target structural variants in double target experiments as compared to single target experiments. Targeting of two loci within a putatively non-essential region led to a truncation of chromosome 3 at the target locus in multiple cases, causing the deletion of 20 genes and several ribosomal DNA repeats. The identified de novo off-target mutations were rare and randomly distributed, with no apparent connection to unspecific CRISPR/Cas9 off-target binding sites.
Keywords: CRISPR/Cas technology; genome analysis; non-conventional yeasts; non-homologous end joining.