Synthetic Notch-Receptor-Mediated Transmission of a Transient Signal into Permanent Information via CRISPR/Cas9-Based Genome Editing.
Synthetic receptor biology and genome editing are emerging techniques, both of which are currently beginning to be used in preclinical and clinical applications. We were interested in whether a combination of these techniques approaches would allow for the generation of a novel type of reporter cell that would recognize transient cellular events through specifically designed synthetic receptors and would permanently store information about these events via associated gene editing. Reporting cells could be used in the future to detect alterations in the cellular microenvironment, including degenerative processes or malignant transformation into cancer cells. Here, we explored synthetic Notch (synNotch) receptors expressed in human embryonic kidney cells to investigate the efficacy of antigen recognition events in a time- and dose-dependent manner. First, we evaluated the most suitable conditions for synNotch expression based on dsRed-Express fluorophore expression. Then, we used a synNotch receptor coupled to transcriptional activators to induce the expression of a Cas9 nuclease targeted to a specific genomic DNA site. Our data demonstrate that recognition of various specific antigens via synNotch receptors robustly induced Cas9 expression and resulted in an indel formation frequency of 34.5%-45.5% at the targeted CXCR4 locus. These results provide proof of concept that reporter cells can be designed to recognize a given event and to store transient information permanently in their genomes.