Transcription activator-like (TAL) effector nucleases (TALENs) have enabled the introduction of targeted genetic alterations into a broad range of cell lines and organisms. These customizable nucleases are comprised of programmable sequence-specific DNA-binding modules derived from TAL effector proteins fused to the non-specific FokI cleavage domain. Delivery of these nucleases into cells has proven challenging as the large size and highly repetitive nature of the TAL effector DNA-binding domain precludes their incorporation into many types of viral vectors. Furthermore, viral and non-viral gene delivery methods carry the risk of insertional mutagenesis and have been shown to increase the off-target activity of site-specific nucleases. We previously demonstrated that direct delivery of zinc-finger nuclease proteins enables highly efficient gene knockout in a variety of mammalian cell types with reduced off-target effects. Here we show that conjugation of cell-penetrating poly-Arg peptides to a surface-exposed Cys residue present on each TAL effector repeat imparted cell-penetrating activity to purified TALEN proteins. These modifications are reversible under reducing conditions and enabled TALEN-mediated gene knockout of the human CCR5 and BMPR1A genes at rates comparable to those achieved with transient transfection of TALEN expression vectors. These findings demonstrate that direct protein delivery, facilitated by conjugation of chemical functionalities onto the TALEN protein surface, is a promising alternative to current non-viral and viral-based methods for TALEN delivery into mammalian cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)