Pluto Bioinformatics

GSE68341: Genome-Wide Specificity of DNA-Binding, Gene Regulation, and Chromatin Remodeling by TALE- and CRISPR/Cas9-Based Transcription Factors

Bulk RNA sequencing

Synthetic DNA-binding proteins have found broad application in gene therapies and as tools for interrogating biology. Engineered proteins based on the CRISPR/Cas9 and TALE systems have been used to alter genomic DNA sequences, control transcription of endogenous genes, and modify epigenetic states. Although the activity of these proteins at their intended genomic target sites have been assessed, the genome-wide effects of their action have not been extensively characterized. Additionally, the role of chromatin structure in determining the binding of CRISPR/Cas9 and TALE proteins to their target sites and the regulation of nearby genes is poorly understood. Characterization of the activity these proteins using modern high-throughput genomic methods would provide valuable insight into the specificity and off-target effects of CRISPR- and TALE-based genome engineering tools. We have analyzed the genome-wide effects of TALE- and CRISPR-based transcriptional activators targeted to the promoters of two different endogenous human genes in HEK293T cells using a variety of high-throughput DNA sequencing methods. In particular, we assayed the DNA-binding specificity of these proteins and their effects on the epigenome. DNA-binding specificity was evaluated by ChIP-seq and RNA-seq was used to measure the specificity of these activators in perturbing the transcriptome. Additionally, DNase-seq was used to identify the chromatin state at target sites of the synthetic transcriptional activators and the genome-wide chromatin remodeling that occurs as a result of their action. Our results show that these genome engineering technologies are highly specific in both binding to their promoter target sites and inducing expression of downstream genes when multiple activators bind to a single promoter. Moreover, we show that these synthetic activators are able to induce the expression of silent genes in heterochromatic regions of the genome by opening regions of closed chromatin and decreasing DNA methylation. Interestingly, the transcriptional activation domain was not necessary for DNA-binding or chromatin remodeling in these regions, but was critical to inducing gene expression. This study shows that these CRISPR- and TALE-based transcriptional activators are exceptionally specific. Although we detected limited binding of off-target sites in the genome and changes to genome structure, these off-target event did not lead to any detectable changes in gene regulation. Collectively, these results underscore the potential for these technologies to make precise changes to gene expression for gene and cell therapies or fundamental studies of gene function. SOURCE: Christopher Vockley ( - Duke University

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