Safe Care Commitment:Expert care during COVID-19; In-person and virtual visits.Learn more
We have remained at the forefront of medicine by fostering a culture of collaboration, pushing the boundaries of medical research, educating the brightest medical minds and maintaining an unwavering commitment to the diverse communities we serve.
We offer diagnostic and treatment options for common and complex medical conditions.
Search for condition information or for a specific treatment program.
We are committed to providing expert care—safely and effectively. Let us help you navigate your in-person or virtual visit to Mass General.
At Mass General, the brightest minds in medicine collaborate on behalf of our patients to bridge innovation science with state-of-the-art clinical medicine.
NewsMay | 1 | 2019
CRISPR-Cas base-editor technology enables targeted nucleotide alterations, and is being increasingly used for research and potential therapeutic applications1,2. The most widely used cytosine base editors (CBEs) induce deamination of DNA cytosines using the rat APOBEC1 enzyme, which is targeted by a linked Cas protein-guide RNA complex3,4. Previous studies of the specificity of CBEs have identified off-target DNA edits in mammalian cells5,6. Here we show that a CBE with rat APOBEC1 can cause extensive transcriptome-wide deamination of RNA cytosines in human cells, inducing tens of thousands of C-to-U edits with frequencies ranging from 0.07% to 100% in 38-58% of expressed genes. CBE-induced RNA edits occur in both protein-coding and non-protein-coding sequences and generate missense, nonsense, splice site, and 5' and 3' untranslated region mutations. We engineered two CBE variants bearing mutations in rat APOBEC1 that substantially decreased the number of RNA edits (by more than 390-fold and more than 3,800-fold) in human cells. These variants also showed more precise on-target DNA editing than the wild-type CBE and, for most guide RNAs tested, no substantial reduction in editing efficiency. Finally, we show that an adenine base editor7 can also induce transcriptome-wide RNA edits. These results have implications for the use of base editors in both research and clinical settings, illustrate the feasibility of engineering improved variants with reduced RNA editing activities, and suggest the need to more fully define and characterize the RNA off-target effects of deaminase enzymes in base editor platforms.