Journal: Nature biotechnology
Oligonucleotides are almost exclusively synthesized using the nucleoside phosphoramidite method, even though it is limited to the direct synthesis of ∼200 mers and produces hazardous waste. Here, we describe an oligonucleotide synthesis strategy that uses the template-independent polymerase terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT). Each TdT molecule is conjugated to a single deoxyribonucleoside triphosphate (dNTP) molecule that it can incorporate into a primer. After incorporation of the tethered dNTP, the 3' end of the primer remains covalently bound to TdT and is inaccessible to other TdT-dNTP molecules. Cleaving the linkage between TdT and the incorporated nucleotide releases the primer and allows subsequent extension. We demonstrate that TdT-dNTP conjugates can quantitatively extend a primer by a single nucleotide in 10-20 s, and that the scheme can be iterated to write a defined sequence. This approach may form the basis of an enzymatic oligonucleotide synthesizer.
Genome editing followed by reproductive cloning was previously used to produce two hornless dairy bulls. We crossed one genome-edited dairy bull, homozygous for the dominant PC Celtic POLLED allele, with horned cows (pp) and obtained six heterozygous (PCp) polled calves. The calves had no horns and were otherwise healthy and phenotypically unremarkable. We conducted whole-genome sequencing of all animals using an Illumina HiSeq4000 to achieve ~20× coverage. Bioinformatics analyses revealed the bull was a compound heterozygote, carrying one naturally occurring PC Celtic POLLED allele and an allele containing an additional introgression of the homology-directed repair donor plasmid along with the PC Celtic allele. These alleles segregated in the offspring of this bull, and inheritance of either allele produced polled calves. No other unintended genomic alterations were observed. These data can be used to inform conversations in the scientific community, with regulatory authorities and with the public around ‘intentional genomic alterations’ and future regulatory actions regarding genome-edited animals.
Multiple sequence alignments (MSAs) are used for structural1,2 and evolutionary predictions1,2, but the complexity of aligning large datasets requires the use of approximate solutions3, including the progressive algorithm4. Progressive MSA methods start by aligning the most similar sequences and subsequently incorporate the remaining sequences, from leaf to root, based on a guide tree. Their accuracy declines substantially as the number of sequences is scaled up5. We introduce a regressive algorithm that enables MSA of up to 1.4 million sequences on a standard workstation and substantially improves accuracy on datasets larger than 10,000 sequences. Our regressive algorithm works the other way around from the progressive algorithm and begins by aligning the most dissimilar sequences. It uses an efficient divide-and-conquer strategy to run third-party alignment methods in linear time, regardless of their original complexity. Our approach will enable analyses of extremely large genomic datasets such as the recently announced Earth BioGenome Project, which comprises 1.5 million eukaryotic genomes6.
An outbreak of betacoronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV-2 began in Wuhan, China in December 2019. COVID-19, the disease associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection, rapidly spread to produce a global pandemic. We report development of a rapid (<40 min), easy-to-implement and accurate CRISPR-Cas12-based lateral flow assay for detection of SARS-CoV-2 from respiratory swab RNA extracts. We validated our method using contrived reference samples and clinical samples from patients in the United States, including 36 patients with COVID-19 infection and 42 patients with other viral respiratory infections. Our CRISPR-based DETECTR assay provides a visual and faster alternative to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention SARS-CoV-2 real-time RT-PCR assay, with 95% positive predictive agreement and 100% negative predictive agreement.
CRISPR-Cas9 is poised to become the gene editing tool of choice in clinical contexts. Thus far, exploration of Cas9-induced genetic alterations has been limited to the immediate vicinity of the target site and distal off-target sequences, leading to the conclusion that CRISPR-Cas9 was reasonably specific. Here we report significant on-target mutagenesis, such as large deletions and more complex genomic rearrangements at the targeted sites in mouse embryonic stem cells, mouse hematopoietic progenitors and a human differentiated cell line. Using long-read sequencing and long-range PCR genotyping, we show that DNA breaks introduced by single-guide RNA/Cas9 frequently resolved into deletions extending over many kilobases. Furthermore, lesions distal to the cut site and crossover events were identified. The observed genomic damage in mitotically active cells caused by CRISPR-Cas9 editing may have pathogenic consequences.
In the human malaria vector Anopheles gambiae, the gene doublesex (Agdsx) encodes two alternatively spliced transcripts, dsx-female (AgdsxF) and dsx-male (AgdsxM), that control differentiation of the two sexes. The female transcript, unlike the male, contains an exon (exon 5) whose sequence is highly conserved in all Anopheles mosquitoes so far analyzed. We found that CRISPR-Cas9-targeted disruption of the intron 4-exon 5 boundary aimed at blocking the formation of functional AgdsxF did not affect male development or fertility, whereas females homozygous for the disrupted allele showed an intersex phenotype and complete sterility. A CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive construct targeting this same sequence spread rapidly in caged mosquitoes, reaching 100% prevalence within 7-11 generations while progressively reducing egg production to the point of total population collapse. Owing to functional constraint of the target sequence, no selection of alleles resistant to the gene drive occurred in these laboratory experiments. Cas9-resistant variants arose in each generation at the target site but did not block the spread of the drive.
Bacterial blight of rice is an important disease in Asia and Africa. The pathogen, Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo), secretes one or more of six known transcription-activator-like effectors (TALes) that bind specific promoter sequences and induce, at minimum, one of the three host sucrose transporter genes SWEET11, SWEET13 and SWEET14, the expression of which is required for disease susceptibility. We used CRISPR-Cas9-mediated genome editing to introduce mutations in all three SWEET gene promoters. Editing was further informed by sequence analyses of TALe genes in 63 Xoo strains, which revealed multiple TALe variants for SWEET13 alleles. Mutations were also created in SWEET14, which is also targeted by two TALes from an African Xoo lineage. A total of five promoter mutations were simultaneously introduced into the rice line Kitaake and the elite mega varieties IR64 and Ciherang-Sub1. Paddy trials showed that genome-edited SWEET promoters endow rice lines with robust, broad-spectrum resistance.
A challenge for tissue engineering is producing three-dimensional (3D), vascularized cellular constructs of clinically relevant size, shape and structural integrity. We present an integrated tissue-organ printer (ITOP) that can fabricate stable, human-scale tissue constructs of any shape. Mechanical stability is achieved by printing cell-laden hydrogels together with biodegradable polymers in integrated patterns and anchored on sacrificial hydrogels. The correct shape of the tissue construct is achieved by representing clinical imaging data as a computer model of the anatomical defect and translating the model into a program that controls the motions of the printer nozzles, which dispense cells to discrete locations. The incorporation of microchannels into the tissue constructs facilitates diffusion of nutrients to printed cells, thereby overcoming the diffusion limit of 100-200 μm for cell survival in engineered tissues. We demonstrate capabilities of the ITOP by fabricating mandible and calvarial bone, cartilage and skeletal muscle. Future development of the ITOP is being directed to the production of tissues for human applications and to the building of more complex tissues and solid organs.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) remains a major cause of blindness, with dysfunction and loss of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) central to disease progression. We engineered an RPE patch comprising a fully differentiated, human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived RPE monolayer on a coated, synthetic basement membrane. We delivered the patch, using a purpose-designed microsurgical tool, into the subretinal space of one eye in each of two patients with severe exudative AMD. Primary endpoints were incidence and severity of adverse events and proportion of subjects with improved best-corrected visual acuity of 15 letters or more. We report successful delivery and survival of the RPE patch by biomicroscopy and optical coherence tomography, and a visual acuity gain of 29 and 21 letters in the two patients, respectively, over 12 months. Only local immunosuppression was used long-term. We also present the preclinical surgical, cell safety and tumorigenicity studies leading to trial approval. This work supports the feasibility and safety of hESC-RPE patch transplantation as a regenerative strategy for AMD.
Genetic studies of human disease have traditionally focused on the detection of disease-causing mutations in afflicted individuals. Here we describe a complementary approach that seeks to identify healthy individuals resilient to highly penetrant forms of genetic childhood disorders. A comprehensive screen of 874 genes in 589,306 genomes led to the identification of 13 adults harboring mutations for 8 severe Mendelian conditions, with no reported clinical manifestation of the indicated disease. Our findings demonstrate the promise of broadening genetic studies to systematically search for well individuals who are buffering the effects of rare, highly penetrant, deleterious mutations. They also indicate that incomplete penetrance for Mendelian diseases is likely more common than previously believed. The identification of resilient individuals may provide a first step toward uncovering protective genetic variants that could help elucidate the mechanisms of Mendelian diseases and new therapeutic strategies.