Double-strand break toxicity is chromatin context independent

Anoek Friskes, Lisa Koob, Lenno Krenning, Tesa M. Severson, Emma S. Koeleman, Xabier Vergara, Michael Schubert, Jeroen van den Berg, Bastiaan Evers, Anna G. Manjón, Stacey Joosten, Yongsoo Kim, Wilbert Zwart, René H. Medema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Cells respond to double-strand breaks (DSBs) by activating DNA damage response pathways, including cell cycle arrest. We have previously shown that a single double-strand break generated via CRISPR/Cas9 is sufficient to delay cell cycle progression and compromise cell viability. However, we also found that the cellular response to DSBs can vary, independent of the number of lesions. This implies that not all DSBs are equally toxic, and raises the question if the location of a single double-strand break could influence its toxicity. To systematically investigate if DSB-location is a determinant of toxicity we performed a CRISPR/Cas9 screen targeting 6237 single sites in the human genome. Next, we developed a data-driven framework to design CRISPR/Cas9 sgRNA (crRNA) pools targeting specific chromatin features. The chromatin context was defined using ChromHMM states, Lamin-B1 DAM-iD, DNAseI hypersensitivity, and RNA-sequencing data. We computationally designed 6 distinct crRNA pools, each containing 10 crRNAs targeting the same chromatin state. We show that the toxicity of a DSB is highly similar across the different ChromHMM states. Rather, we find that the major determinants of toxicity of a sgRNA are cutting efficiency and off-target effects. Thus, chromatin features have little to no effect on the toxicity of a single CRISPR/Cas9-induced DSB.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9930-9947
Number of pages18
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2022

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