Lrp5 Mutant and Crispant Zebrafish Faithfully Model Human Osteoporosis, Establishing the Zebrafish as a Platform for CRISPR-Based Functional Screening of Osteoporosis Candidate Genes

Jan Willem Bek, Chen Shochat, Adelbert De Clercq, Hanna De Saffel, Annekatrien Boel, Juriaan Metz, Frans Rodenburg, David Karasik, Andy Willaert, Paul J. Coucke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Genomewide association studies (GWAS) have improved our understanding of the genetic architecture of common complex diseases such as osteoporosis. Nevertheless, to attribute functional skeletal contributions of candidate genes to osteoporosis-related traits, there is a need for efficient and cost-effective in vivo functional testing. This can be achieved through CRISPR-based reverse genetic screens, where phenotyping is traditionally performed in stable germline knockout (KO) mutants. Recently it was shown that first-generation (F0) mosaic mutant zebrafish (so-called crispants) recapitulate the phenotype of germline KOs. To demonstrate feasibility of functional validation of osteoporosis candidate genes through crispant screening, we compared a crispant to a stable KO zebrafish model for the lrp5 gene. In humans, recessive loss-of-function mutations in LRP5, a co-receptor in the Wnt signaling pathway, cause osteoporosis-pseudoglioma syndrome. In addition, several GWAS studies identified LRP5 as a major risk locus for osteoporosis-related phenotypes. In this study, we showed that early stage lrp5 KO larvae display decreased notochord mineralization and malformations of the head cartilage. Quantitative micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) scanning and mass-spectrometry element analysis of the adult skeleton revealed decreased vertebral bone volume and bone mineralization, hallmark features of osteoporosis. Furthermore, regenerating fin tissue displayed reduced Wnt signaling activity in lrp5 KO adults. We next compared lrp5 mutants with crispants. Next-generation sequencing analysis of adult crispant tissue revealed a mean out-of-frame mutation rate of 76%, resulting in strongly reduced levels of Lrp5 protein. These crispants generally showed a milder but nonetheless highly comparable skeletal phenotype and a similarly reduced Wnt pathway response compared with lrp5 KO mutants. In conclusion, we show through faithful modeling of LRP5-related primary osteoporosis that crispant screening in zebrafish is a promising approach for rapid functional screening of osteoporosis candidate genes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1749-1764
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors express their gratitude to Karen Vermeulen for excellent zebrafish care (zebrafish facility Ghent) and Ran Harari and Eline Van Vooren for expert technical support. We also thank Peter Byers for helpful discussions. The study was supported by Ghent University Methusalem grant BOFMET2015000401 and a grant from Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) (FWO.OPR.2020.0023.01.). Authors’ roles: Conceptualization: JWB, CS, DK, AW, and PJC. Investigation: JWB, CS, HDS, AB, and JM. Analysis: JWB, ADC, HDS, AB, JM, FR, and AW. Methodology: JWB, CS, AB, JM, FR, and AW. Writing—original draft preparation: JWB, AW, and PJC. Writing—review and editing: all authors. Funding acquisition: AW and PJC. Supervision: AW and PJC.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR).




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