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CopyCatchers are versatile active genetic elements that detect and quantify inter-homolog somatic gene conversion.

  • Li, Zhiqian
  • Marcel, Nimi
  • Devkota, Sushil
  • Auradkar, Ankush
  • Hedrick, Stephen M
  • Gantz, Valentino M
  • Bier, Ethan
Publication Date
May 11, 2021
eScholarship - University of California
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CRISPR-based active genetic elements, or gene-drives, copied via homology-directed repair (HDR) in the germline, are transmitted to progeny at super-Mendelian frequencies. Active genetic elements also can generate widespread somatic mutations, but the genetic basis for such phenotypes remains uncertain. It is generally assumed that such somatic mutations are generated by non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ), the predominant double stranded break repair pathway active in somatic cells. Here, we develop CopyCatcher systems in Drosophila to detect and quantify somatic gene conversion (SGC) events. CopyCatchers inserted into two independent genetic loci reveal unexpectedly high rates of SGC in the Drosophila eye and thoracic epidermis. Focused RNAi-based genetic screens identify several unanticipated loci altering SGC efficiency, one of which (c-MYC), when downregulated, promotes SGC mediated by both plasmid and homologous chromosome-templates in human HEK293T cells. Collectively, these studies suggest that CopyCatchers can serve as effective discovery platforms to inform potential gene therapy strategies.

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