A cre-dependent crispr/dcas9 system for gene expression regulation in neurons

Academic Article


  • Site-specific genetic and epigenetic targeting of distinct cell populations is a central goal in molecular neuroscience and is crucial to understand the gene regulatory mechanisms that underlie complex phenotypes and behaviors. While recent technological advances have enabled unprecedented control over gene expression, many of these approaches are focused on selected model organisms and/or require labor-intensive customization for different applications. The simplicity and modularity of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-based systems have transformed genome editing and expanded the gene regulatory toolbox. However, there are few available tools for cell-selective CRISPR regulation in neurons. We designed, validated, and optimized CRISPR activation (CRISPRa) and CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) systems for Cre recombinase-dependent gene regulation. Unexpectedly, CRISPRa systems based on a traditional double-floxed inverted open reading frame (DIO) strategy exhibited leaky target gene induction even without Cre. Therefore, we developed an intron-containing Cre-dependent CRISPRa system (SVI-DIO-dCas9-VPR) that alleviated leaky gene induction and outperformed the traditional DIO system at endogenous genes in HEK293T cells and rat primary neuron cultures. Using gene-specific CRISPR sgRNAs, we demonstrate that SVI-DIO-dCas9-VPR can activate numerous rat or human genes (GRM2, Tent5b, Fos, Sstr2, andGadd45b) in a Cre-specific manner. To illustrate the versatility of this tool, we created a parallel CRISPRi construct that successfully inhibited expression from a luciferase reporter in HEK293T cells only in the presence of Cre. These results provide a robust framework for Cre-dependent CRISPR-dCas9 approaches across different model systems, and enable cell-specific targeting when combined with common Cre driver lines or Cre delivery via viral vectors.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • eNeuro  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Carullo NVN; Hinds JE; Revanna JS; Tuscher JJ; Bauman AJ; Day JJ
  • Volume

  • 8
  • Issue

  • 4