Indexed on: 24 May '17Published on: 24 May '17Published in: Nature communications
CRISPR-Cas9 provides the means to perform genome editing and facilitates loss-of-function screens. However, we and others demonstrated that expression of the Cas9 endonuclease induces a gene-independent response that correlates with the number of target sequences in the genome. An alternative approach to suppressing gene expression is to block transcription using a catalytically inactive Cas9 (dCas9). Here we directly compare genome editing by CRISPR-Cas9 (cutting, CRISPRc) and gene suppression using KRAB-dCas9 (CRISPRi) in loss-of-function screens to identify cell essential genes. CRISPRc identified 98% of previously defined cell essential genes. After optimizing library construction by analysing transcriptional start sites (TSS), CRISRPi identified 92% of core cell essential genes and did not show a bias to regions involved in copy number alterations. However, bidirectional promoters scored as false positives in CRISRPi. We conclude that CRISPRc and CRISPRi have different off-target effects and combining these approaches provides complementary information in loss-of-function genetic screens.