, Volume 82, Issue 3, pp 207-221
Date: 28 Apr 2013

A rapid assay to quantify the cleavage efficiency of custom-designed nucleases in planta

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Abstract

Custom-designed nucleases are a promising technology for genome editing through the catalysis of double-strand DNA breaks within target loci and subsequent repair by the host cell, which can result in targeted mutagenesis or gene replacement. Implementing this new technology requires a rapid means to determine the cleavage efficiency of these custom-designed proteins in planta. Here we present such an assay that is based on cleavage-dependent luciferase gene correction as part of a transient dual-luciferase® reporter (Promega) expression system. This assay consists of co-infiltrating Nicotiana benthamiana leaves with two Agrobacterium tumefaciens strains: one contains the target sequence embedded within a luciferase reporter gene and the second strain contains the custom-designed nuclease gene(s). We compared repair following site-specific nuclease digestion through non-homologous DNA end-joining, as opposed to single strand DNA annealing, as a means to restore an out-of-frame luciferase gene cleavage-reporter construct. We show, using luminometer measurements and bioluminescence imaging, that the assay for non-homologous end-joining is sensitive, quantitative, reproducible and rapid in estimating custom-designed nucleases’ cleavage efficiency. We detected cleavage by two out of three transcription activator-like effector nucleases that we custom-designed for targets in the Arabidopsis CRUCIFERIN3 gene, and we compared with the well-established ‘QQR’ zinc-finger nuclease. The assay we report requires only standard equipment and basic plant molecular biology techniques, and it can be carried out within a few days. Different types of custom-designed nucleases can be preliminarily tested in our assay system before their downstream application in plant genome editing.