Use of dual sgRNAs is a common CRISPR/Cas9-based strategy for the creation of genetic deletions. The ease of screening combined with a rather high rate of success makes this approach a reliable genome engineering procedure. Recently, a number of studies using CRISPR/Cas9 have revealed unwanted large-scale rearrangements, duplications, inversions or larger-than-expected deletions. Strict quality control measures are required to validate the model system, and this crucially depends on knowing which potential experimental outcomes to expect. Using the dual sgRNA deletion approach, our team discovered high levels of excision, inversion and re-insertion at the site of targeting. We detected those at a variety of genomic loci and in several immortalized cell lines, demonstrating that inverted re-insertions are a common by-product with an overall frequency between 3% and 20%. Our findings imply an inherent danger in the misinterpretation of screening data when using only a single PCR screening. While amplification of the region of interest might classify clones as wild type (WT) based on amplicon size, secondary analyses can discover heterozygous (HET) clones among presumptive WTs, and events deemed as HET clones could potentially be full KO. As such, screening for inverted re-insertions helps in decreasing the number of clones required to obtain a full KO. With this technical note, we want to raise awareness of this phenomenon and suggest implementing a standard secondary PCR while screening for deletions.
CRISPR/Cas9, NHEJ, PCR screen, dual sgRNA, genomic knock-out, hidden genotypes, inverted re-insertion