CRISPR base editing of cis-regulatory elements enables the perturbation of neurodegeneration-linked genes

Colin K.W. Lim, Tristan X. McCallister, Christian Saporito-Magriña, Garrett D. McPheron, Ramya Krishnan, M. Alejandra Zeballos C, Jackson E. Powell, Lindsay V. Clark, Pablo Perez-Pinera, Thomas Gaj

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


CRISPR technology has demonstrated broad utility for controlling target gene expression; however, there remains a need for strategies capable of modulating expression via the precise editing of non-coding regulatory elements. Here, we demonstrate that CRISPR base editors, a class of gene-modifying proteins capable of creating single-base substitutions in DNA, can be used to perturb gene expression via their targeted mutagenesis of cis-acting sequences. Using the promoter region of the human huntingtin (HTT) gene as an initial target, we show that editing of the binding site for the transcription factor NF-κB led to a marked reduction in HTT gene expression in base-edited cell populations. We found that these gene perturbations were persistent and specific, as a transcriptome-wide RNA analysis revealed minimal off-target effects resulting from the action of the base editor protein. We further demonstrate that this base-editing platform could influence gene expression in vivo as its delivery to a mouse model of Huntington's disease led to a potent decrease in HTT mRNA in striatal neurons. Finally, to illustrate the applicability of this concept, we target the amyloid precursor protein, showing that multiplex editing of its promoter region significantly perturbed its expression. These findings demonstrate the potential for base editors to regulate target gene expression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3619-3631
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular Therapy
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 7 2022


  • AAV
  • base editing
  • cis-regulatory elements
  • gene regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology


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