Targeting Toxic Nuclear RNA Foci with CRISPR-Cas13 to Treat Myotonic Dystrophy
Human monogenetic diseases can arise from the aberrant expansion of tandem nucleotide repeat sequences, which when transcribed into RNA, can misfold and aggregate into toxic nuclear foci. Nuclear retention of repeat-containing RNAs can disrupt their normal expression and induce widespread splicing defects by sequestering essential RNA binding proteins. Among the most prevalent of these disorders is myotonic dystrophy type 1 (DM1), a disease occurring from the expression of a noncoding CTG
... noncoding CTG repeat expansion in the 3-prime UTR of the human dystrophia myotonica protein kinase (DMPK) gene. Here we show that RNA-binding CRISPR-Cas13, with a robust non-classical nuclear localization signal, can be efficiently targeted to toxic nuclear RNA foci for either visualization or cleavage, tools we named hilightR and eraseR, respectively. HilightR combines catalytically dead Cas13b (dCas13b) with a fluorescent protein to directly visualize CUG repeat RNA foci in the nucleus of live cells, allowing for quantification of foci number and observation of foci dynamics. EraseR utilizes the intrinsic endoribonuclease activity of Cas13b, targeted to nuclear CUG repeat RNA, to disrupt nuclear foci. These studies demonstrate the potential for targeting toxic nuclear RNA foci directly with CRISPR-Cas13 for either the identification or treatment of DM1. The efficient and sequence programmable nature of CRISPR-Cas13 systems will allow for rapid targeting and manipulation of other human nuclear RNA disorders, without the associated risks of genome editing.