Low incidence of SNVs and indels in trio genomes of Cas9-mediated multiplex edited sheep
Background The simplicity of the CRISPR/Cas9 system has enabled its widespread applications in generating animal models, functional genomic screening and in treating genetic and infectious diseases. However, unintended mutations produced by off-target CRISPR/Cas9 nuclease activity may lead to negative consequences. Especially, a very recent study found that gene editing can introduce hundreds of unintended mutations into the genome, and have attracted wide attention. Results To address the off-target concerns, urgent characterization of the CRISPR/Cas9-mediated off-target mutagenesis is highly anticipated. Here we took advantage of our previously generated gene-edited sheep and performed family trio-based whole genome sequencing which is capable of discriminating variants in the edited progenies that are inherited, naturally generated, or induced by genetic modification. Three family trios were re-sequenced at a high average depth of genomic coverage (~ 25.8×). After developing a pipeline to comprehensively analyze the sequence data for de novo single nucleotide variants, indels and structural variations from the genome; we only found a single unintended event in the form of a 2.4 kb inversion induced by site-specific double-strand breaks between two sgRNA targeting sites at the MSTN locus with a low incidence. Conclusions We provide the first report on the fidelity of CRISPR-based modification for sheep genomes targeted simultaneously for gene breaks at three coding sequence locations. The trio-based sequencing approach revealed almost negligible off-target modifications, providing timely evidences of the safe application of genome editing in vivo with CRISPR/Cas9.