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Genetic compensation in a stable slc25a46 mutant zebrafish: A case for using F0 CRISPR mutagenesis to study phenotypes caused by inherited disease

Buglo E, Sarmiento E, Martuscelli NB, Sant DW, Danzi MC, Abrams AJ, Dallman JE, Züchner S
PLoS ONE. 2020;15(3):e0230566. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0230566
A phenomenon of genetic compensation is commonly observed when an organism with a disease-bearing mutation shows incomplete penetrance of the disease phenotype. Such incomplete phenotypic penetrance, or genetic compensation, is more commonly found in stable knockout models, rather than transient knockdown models. As such, these incidents present a challenge for the disease modeling field, although a deeper understanding of genetic compensation may also hold the key for novel therapeutic interventions. In our study we created a knockout model of slc25a46 gene, which is a recently discovered important player in mitochondrial dynamics, and deleterious mutations in which are known to cause peripheral neuropathy, optic atrophy and cerebellar ataxia. We report a case of genetic compensation in a stable slc25a46 homozygous zebrafish mutant (hereafter referred as “mutant”), in contrast to a penetrant disease phenotype in the first generation (F0) slc25a46 mosaic mutant (hereafter referred as “crispant”), generated with CRISPR/Cas-9 technology. We show that the crispant phenotype is specific and rescuable. By performing mRNA sequencing, we define significant changes in slc25a46 mutant’s gene expression profile, which are largely absent in crispants. We find that among the most significantly altered mRNAs, anxa6 gene stands out as a functionally relevant player in mitochondrial dynamics. We also find that our genetic compensation case does not arise from mechanisms driven by mutant mRNA decay. Our study contributes to the growing evidence of the genetic compensation phenomenon and presents novel insights about Slc25a46 function. Furthermore, our study provides the evidence for the efficiency of F0 CRISPR screens for disease candidate genes, which may be used to advance the field of functional genetics.
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