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Cytosine, but not adenine, base editors induce genome-wide off-target mutations in rice

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Science  19 Apr 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6437, pp. 292-295
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw7166

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Spotting off-targets from gene editing

Unintended genomic modifications limit the potential therapeutic use of gene-editing tools. Available methods to find off-targets generally do not work in vivo or detect single-nucleotide changes. Three papers in this issue report new methods for monitoring gene-editing tools in vivo (see the Perspective by Kempton and Qi). Wienert et al. followed the recruitment of a DNA repair protein to DNA breaks induced by CRISPR-Cas9, enabling unbiased detection of off-target editing in cellular and animal models. Zuo et al. identified off-targets without the interference of natural genetic heterogeneity by injecting base editors into one blastomere of a two-cell mouse embryo and leaving the other genetically identical blastomere unedited. Jin et al. performed whole-genome sequencing on individual, genome-edited rice plants to identify unintended mutations. Cytosine, but not adenine, base editors induced numerous single-nucleotide variants in both mouse and rice.

Science, this issue p. 286, p. 289, p. 292; see also p. 234

Abstract

Cytosine and adenine base editors (CBEs and ABEs) are promising new tools for achieving the precise genetic changes required for disease treatment and trait improvement. However, genome-wide and unbiased analyses of their off-target effects in vivo are still lacking. Our whole-genome sequencing analysis of rice plants treated with the third-generation base editor (BE3), high-fidelity BE3 (HF1-BE3), or ABE revealed that BE3 and HF1-BE3, but not ABE, induce substantial genome-wide off-target mutations, which are mostly the C→T type of single-nucleotide variants (SNVs) and appear to be enriched in genic regions. Notably, treatment of rice with BE3 or HF1-BE3 in the absence of single-guide RNA also results in the rise of genome-wide SNVs. Thus, the base-editing unit of BE3 or HF1-BE3 needs to be optimized in order to attain high fidelity.

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