Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Prion diseases are a group of fatal neurodegenerative disorders that includes chronic wasting disease, which affects cervids and is highly transmissible. Given that chronic wasting disease prevalence exceeds 30% in some endemic areas of North America, and that eventual transmission to other mammalian species, potentially including humans, cannot be ruled out, novel control strategies beyond population management via hunting and/or culling must be investigated. Prion diseases depend upon post-translational conversion of the cellular prion protein, encoded by the Prnp gene, into a disease-associated conformation; ablation of cellular prion protein expression, which is generally well-tolerated, eliminates prion disease susceptibility entirely. Inspired by demonstrations of gene drive in caged mosquito species, we aimed to test whether a CRISPR/Cas9-based gene drive mechanism could, in principle, promote the spread of a null Prnp allele among mammalian populations. First, we showed that transient co-expression of Cas9 and Prnp-directed guide RNAs in RK13 cells generates indels within the Prnp open-reading frame, indicating that repair of Cas9-induced double-strand breaks by non-homologous end-joining had taken place. Second, we integrated a ~1.2 kb donor DNA sequence into the Prnp open-reading frame in N2a cells by homology-directed repair following Cas9-induced cleavages and confirmed that integration occurred precisely in most cases. Third, we demonstrated that electroporation of Cas9/guide RNA ribonucleoprotein complexes into fertilised mouse oocytes resulted in pups with a variety of disruptions to the Prnp open reading frame, with a new coisogenic line of Prnp-null mice obtained as part of this work. However, a technical challenge in obtaining expression of Cas9 in the male germline prevented implementation of a complete gene drive mechanism in mice.

Original publication




Journal article




Public Library of Science (PLoS)

Publication Date





e0269342 - e0269342