Chromosome rearrangement plays important roles in development, carcinogenesis and evolution. The mechanism and subsequent effects are not fully understood. This study provided a new application of CRISPR-Cas9 and a practical approach for SCR in complex mammalian genomes.
Chromosome rearrangement plays important roles in development, carcinogenesis and evolution. However, its mechanism and subsequent effects are not fully understood. At present, large-scale chromosome rearrangement has been performed in the simple eukaryote, wine yeast, but the relative research in mammalian cells remains at the level of individual chromosome rearrangement due to technical limitations. In this study, we used CRISPR-Cas9 to target the highly repetitive human endogenous retrotransposons, LINE-1 (L1) and Alu, resulting in a large number of DNA double-strand breaks in the chromosomes. While this operation killed the majority of the cells, we eventually obtained live cell groups. Karyotype analysis and genome re-sequencing proved that we have achieved systematic chromosome rearrangement (SCR) in human cells. The copy number variations (CNVs) of the SCR genomes showed typical patterns that observed in tumor genomes. For example, the most frequent deleted region Chr9p21 containing p15 and p16 tumor suppressor, and the amplified region Chr8q24 containing MYC in tumors were all identified in both SCR cells. The ATAC-seq and RNA-seq further revealed that the epigenetic and transcriptomic landscapes were deeply reshaped by the SCR. Gene expressions related to p53 pathway, DNA repair, cell cycle and apoptosis were greatly altered to facilitate the cell survival under the severe stress induced by the large-scale chromosomal breaks. In addition, we found that the cells acquired CRISPR-Cas9 resistance after SCR by interfering with the Cas9 mRNA. Our study provided a new application of CRISPR-Cas9 and a practical approach for SCR in complex mammalian genomes. HighlightsRepetitive retroelements with large copy numbers were targeted using CRISPR-Cas9 in human cells. Cells survived after their chromosomal DNAs were heavily cleaved and systematic chromosome rearrangement was achieved. Systematic chromosome rearrangement reshaped the genome and transcriptome of the cells.