Tal-effector nucleases (TALENs) are engineered proteins that can stimulate precise genome editing through specific DNA double-strand breaks. Sickle cell disease and β-thalassemia are common genetic disorders caused by mutations in β-globin, and we engineered a pair of highly active TALENs that induce modification of 54% of human β-globin alleles near the site of the sickle mutation. These TALENS stimulate targeted integration of therapeutic, full-length beta-globin cDNA to the endogenous β-globin locus in 19% of cells prior to selection as quantified by single molecule real-time sequencing. We also developed highly active TALENs to human γ-globin, a pharmacologic target in sickle cell disease therapy. Using the β-globin and γ-globin TALENs, we generated cell lines that express GFP under the control of the endogenous β-globin promoter and tdTomato under the control of the endogenous γ-globin promoter. With these fluorescent reporter cell lines, we screened a library of small molecule compounds for their differential effect on the transcriptional activity of the endogenous β-and γ-globin genes and identified several that preferentially upregulate γ-globin expression.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
National Institutes of Health Nanomedicine Center for Nucleoprotein Machines [PN2EY018244]; U.T. Southwestern Medical Scientist Training Program [to R.A.V.]; Laurie Kraus Lacob Faculty Scholar Fund (to M.H.P.). Funding for open access charge: NIH [PN2EY018244].