Meiotic Cas9 expression mediates genotype conversion in the male and female mouse germline.

A. J. Weitzel, H. A. Grunwald, R. Levina, V. M. Gantz, S. M. Hedrick, E. Bier and K. L. Cooper,  2021.03.16.435716,  2021.

Highly efficient genotype conversion systems have potential to facilitate the study of complex genetic traits using laboratory mice and to limit loss of biodiversity and disease transmission caused by wild rodent populations. We previously showed that such a system of genotype conversion from heterozygous to homozygous after a sequence targeted CRISPR/Cas9 double strand DNA break is feasible in the female mouse germline. In the male germline, however, all double strand breaks were instead repaired by end joining mechanisms to form an insertion/deletion(indel) mutation. These observations suggested that timing Cas9 expression to coincide with meiosis I is critical to favor conditions when homologous chromosomes are aligned and interchromosomal homology directed repair (HDR) mechanisms predominate. Here, using a Cas9 knock-in allele at the Spo11 locus, we show that meiotic expression of Cas9 does indeed mediate genotype conversion in the male as well as in the female germline. However, the low frequency of both HDR and indel mutation in both male and female germlines suggests that Cas9 may be expressed from the Spo11 locus at levels too low for efficient double strand DNA break formation. We suggest that more robust Cas9 expression initiated during early meiosis I may improve the efficiency of genotype conversion and further increase the rate of 'super-Mendelian' inheritance from both male and female mice.

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