Copy Number Variation (CNV) of the human CNTN6 gene (encoding the contactin-6 protein), caused by deletions or duplications, is responsible for severe neurodevelopmental impairments, often in combination with facial dysmorphias. Conversely, deleterious point mutations of this gene do not show any clinical phenotypes. The aim of this study is to generate mice carrying large deletions, duplications and inversions involving the Cntn6 gene as a new experimental model to study CNV of the human CNTN6 locus.
To generate large chromosomal rearrangements on mouse chromosome 6, we applied CRISPR/Cas9 technology in zygotes. Two guide RNAs (gRNAs) (flanking a DNA fragment of 1137 Mb) together with Cas9 mRNA and single-stranded DNA oligonucleotides (ssODN) were microinjected into the cytoplasm of 599 zygotes of F1 (C57BL x CBA) mice, and 256 of them were transplanted into oviducts of CD-1 females. As a result, we observed the birth of 41 viable F0 offspring. Genotyping of these mice was performed by PCR analysis and sequencing of PCR products. Among the 41 F0 offspring, we identified seven mice with deletions, two animals carrying duplications of the gene and four carrying inversions. Interestingly, two F0 offspring had both deletions and duplications. It is important to note that while three of seven deletion carriers showed expected sequences at the new joint sites, in another three, we identified an absence of 1-10 nucleotides at the CRISPR/Cas9 cut sites, and in one animal, 103 bp were missing, presumably due to error-prone non-homologous end joining. In addition, we detected the absence of 5 and 13 nucleotides at these sites in two F0 duplication carriers. Similar sequence changes at CRISPR/Cas9 cut sites were observed at the right and left boundaries of inversions. Thus, megabase-scale deletions, duplications and inversions were identified in 11 F0 offspring among 41 analyzed, i.e., approximately 25% efficiency. All genetically modified F0 offspring were viable and able to transmit these large chromosomal rearrangements to the next generation.
Using CRISPR/Cas9 technology, we created mice carrying megabase-scale deletions, duplications, and inversions involving the full-sized Cntn6 gene. These mice became founders of new mouse lines, which may be more appropriate experimental models of CNV in the human 3p26.3 region than Сntn6 knockout mice.