CRISPR-Cas9 has quickly become the method of choice for genome editing, with multiple publications describing technical advances and novel applications. It has been widely adopted as a tool for basic research and has significant translational and clinical potential. However, its usage has outpaced the establishment of essential and rigorous controls for unwanted off-target effects, manifested as small mutations, large deletions of target loci, or large-scale chromosomal rearrangements. A common application of CRISPR-Cas9 is as a tool for creating isogenic cell-line models to study the effects of precise mutations, or variants, on disease traits. Here, we describe the effect of standard CRISPR-Cas9 mutagenesis protocols on well characterized cancer cell lines. We demonstrate that commonly used methods for detecting correctly mutated clones fail to uncover large-scale rearrangements. We show that simple cytogenetic methods can be used to identify clones carrying chromosomal abnormalities and large mutations at target loci. These methods are quick and cost-efficient, and we suggest that such controls should be performed prior to publication of studies based on novel CRISPR-Cas9 mutated cancer cell lines.
The CRISPR journal
Cancer Genetics and Evolution Laboratory, Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom.