Application of a spacer-nick gene-targeting approach to repair disease-causing mutations with increased safety


  • N.T. Tran
  • M. Lebedin
  • E. Danner
  • R. Kühn
  • K. Rajewsky
  • V.T. Chu


  • Bio-protocol


  • Bio-protocol 13 (8): e4661


  • The CRISPR/Cas9 system is a powerful tool for gene repair that holds great potential for gene therapy to cure monogenic diseases. Despite intensive improvement, the safety of this system remains a major clinical concern. In contrast to Cas9 nuclease, Cas9 nickases with a pair of short-distance (38-68 bp) PAM-out single-guide RNAs (sgRNAs) preserve gene repair efficiency while strongly reducing off-target effects. However, this approach still leads to efficient unwanted on-target mutations that may cause tumorigenesis or abnormal hematopoiesis. We establish a precise and safe spacer-nick gene repair approach that combines Cas9(D10A) nickase with a pair of PAM-out sgRNAs at a distance of 200-350 bp. In combination with adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotype 6 donor templates, this approach leads to efficient gene repair with minimal unintended on- and off-target mutations in human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs). Here, we provide detailed protocols to use the spacer-nick approach for gene repair and to assess the safety of this system in human HSPCs. The spacer-nick approach enables efficient gene correction for repair of disease-causing mutations with increased safety and suitability for gene therapy.