Research ArticleNEUROSCIENCE

Development of a CRISPR-SaCas9 system for projection- and function-specific gene editing in the rat brain

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Science Advances  18 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 12, eaay6687
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay6687


A genome editing technique based on the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)–associated endonuclease Cas9 enables efficient modification of genes in various cell types, including neurons. However, neuronal ensembles even in the same brain region are not anatomically or functionally uniform but divide into distinct subpopulations. Such heterogeneity requires gene editing in specific neuronal populations. We developed a CRISPR-SaCas9 system–based technique, and its combined application with anterograde/retrograde AAV vectors and activity-dependent cell-labeling techniques achieved projection- and function-specific gene editing in the rat brain. As a proof-of-principle application, we knocked down the cbp (CREB-binding protein), a sample target gene, in specific neuronal subpopulations in the medial prefrontal cortex, and demonstrated the significance of the projection- and function-specific CRISPR-SaCas9 system in revealing neuronal and circuit basis of memory. The high efficiency and specificity of our projection- and function-specific CRISPR-SaCas9 system could be widely applied in neural circuitry studies.

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