Endonucleases: New tools to edit the mouse genome

Tobias Wijshake, Darren J. Baker, Bart van de Sluis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Mouse transgenesis has been instrumental in determining the function of genes in the pathophysiology of human diseases and modification of genes by homologous recombination in mouse embryonic stem cells remains a widely used technology. However, this approach harbors a number of disadvantages, as it is time-consuming and quite laborious. Over the last decade a number of new genome editing technologies have been developed, including zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs), transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated (CRISPR/Cas). These systems are characterized by a designed DNA binding protein or RNA sequence fused or co-expressed with a non-specific endonuclease, respectively. The engineered DNA binding protein or RNA sequence guides the nuclease to a specific target sequence in the genome to induce a double strand break. The subsequent activation of the DNA repair machinery then enables the introduction of gene modifications at the target site, such as gene disruption, correction or insertion. Nuclease-mediated genome editing has numerous advantages over conventional gene targeting, including increased efficiency in gene editing, reduced generation time of mutant mice, and the ability to mutagenize multiple genes simultaneously. Although nuclease-driven modifications in the genome are a powerful tool to generate mutant mice, there are concerns about off-target cleavage, especially when using the CRISPR/Cas system. Here, we describe the basic principles of these new strategies in mouse genome manipulation, their inherent advantages, and their potential disadvantages compared to current technologies used to study gene function in mouse models. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: From Genome to Function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1942-1950
Number of pages9
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Basis of Disease
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • CRISPR/Cas
  • Endonucleases
  • Genome editing
  • Mouse
  • ZFN

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


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