Lentivirus pre-packed with Cas9 protein for safer gene editing

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Abstract

The CRISPR/Cas9 system provides an easy way to edit specific site/s in the genome and thus offers tremendous opportunity for human gene therapy for a wide range of diseases. However, one major concern is off-target effects, particularly with long-term expression of Cas9 nuclease when traditional expression methods such as via plasmid/viral vectors are used. To overcome this limitation, we pre-packaged Cas9 protein (Cas9P LV) in lentiviral particles for transient exposure and showed its effectiveness for gene disruption in cells, including primary T cells expressing specific single guide RNAs (sgRNAs). We then constructed an ‘all in one virus’ to express sgRNAs in association with pre-packaged Cas9 protein (sgRNA/Cas9P LV). We successfully edited CCR5 in TZM-bl cells by this approach. Using an sgRNA-targeting HIV long terminal repeat, we also were able to disrupt HIV provirus in the J-LAT model of viral latency. Moreover, we also found that pre-packaging Cas9 protein in LV particle reduced off-target editing of chromosome 4:-29134166 locus by CCR5 sgRNA, compared with continued expression from the vector. These results show that sgRNA/Cas9P LV can be used as a safer approach for human gene therapy applications.

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