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Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is a global pandemic with a strong genetic component, but most causal genes influencing the disease risk remain unknown. It is clear, however, that the pancreatic beta cell is central to T2D pathogenesis. In vitro gene-knockout (KO) models to study T2D risk genes have so far focused on rodent beta cells. However, there are important structural and functional differences between rodent and human beta cell lines. With that in mind, we have developed a robust pipeline to create a stable CRISPR/Cas9 KO in an authentic human beta cell line (EndoC-βH1). The KO pipeline consists of a dual lentiviral sgRNA strategy and we targeted three genes ( INS , IDE , PAM ) as a proof of concept. We achieved a significant reduction in mRNA levels and complete protein depletion of all target genes. Using this dual sgRNA strategy, up to 94 kb DNA were cut out of the target genes and the editing efficiency of each sgRNA exceeded >87.5%. Sequencing of off-targets showed no unspecific editing. Most importantly, the pipeline did not affect the glucose-responsive insulin secretion of the cells. Interestingly, comparison of KO cell lines for NEUROD1 and SLC30A8 with siRNA-mediated knockdown (KD) approaches demonstrate phenotypic differences. NEUROD1- KO cells were not viable and displayed elevated markers for ER stress and apoptosis. NEUROD1 -KD, however, only had a modest elevation, by 34%, in the pro-apoptotic transcription factor CHOP and a gene expression profile indicative of chronic ER stress without evidence of elevated cell death. On the other hand, SLC30A8 -KO cells demonstrated no reduction in K ATP channel gene expression in contrast to siRNA silencing. Overall, this strategy to efficiently create stable KO in the human beta cell line EndoC-βH1 will allow for a better understanding of genes involved in beta cell dysfunction, their underlying functional mechanisms and T2D pathogenesis.

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