RATIONALE: CRISPR/Cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated protein 9)-based DNA editing has rapidly evolved as an attractive tool to modify the genome. Although CRISPR/Cas9 has been extensively used to manipulate the germline in zygotes, its application in postnatal gene editing remains incompletely characterized.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the feasibility of CRISPR/Cas9-based cardiac genome editing in vivo in postnatal mice.
METHODS AND RESULTS: We generated cardiomyocyte-specific Cas9 mice and demonstrated that Cas9 expression does not affect cardiac function or gene expression. As a proof-of-concept, we delivered short guide RNAs targeting 3 genes critical for cardiac physiology, Myh6, Sav1, and Tbx20, using a cardiotropic adeno-associated viral vector 9. Despite a similar degree of DNA disruption and subsequent mRNA downregulation, only disruption of Myh6 was sufficient to induce a cardiac phenotype, irrespective of short guide RNA exposure or the level of Cas9 expression. DNA sequencing analysis revealed target-dependent mutations that were highly reproducible across mice resulting in differential rates of in- and out-of-frame mutations. Finally, we applied a dual short guide RNA approach to effectively delete an important coding region of Sav1, which increased the editing efficiency.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicate that the effect of postnatal CRISPR/Cas9-based cardiac gene editing using adeno-associated virus serotype 9 to deliver a single short guide RNA is target dependent. We demonstrate a mosaic pattern of gene disruption, which hinders the application of the technology to study gene function. Further studies are required to expand the versatility of CRISPR/Cas9 as a robust tool to study novel cardiac gene functions in vivo.