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PLoS One. 2015 Aug 25;10(8):e0136690. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0136690. eCollection 2015.

Efficient Generation of Myostatin Knock-Out Sheep Using CRISPR/Cas9 Technology and Microinjection into Zygotes.

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Unidad de Animales Transgénicos y de Experimentación (UATE), Institut Pasteur de Montevideo, Montevideo, Uruguay.
INSERM UMR 1064, Center for Research in Transplantation and Immunology-ITUN, Nantes, France.
Instituto de Reproducción Animal Uruguay, Fundación IRAUy, Montevideo, Uruguay.


While CRISPR/Cas9 technology has proven to be a valuable system to generate gene-targeted modified animals in several species, this tool has been scarcely reported in farm animals. Myostatin is encoded by MSTN gene involved in the inhibition of muscle differentiation and growth. We determined the efficiency of the CRISPR/Cas9 system to edit MSTN in sheep and generate knock-out (KO) animals with the aim to promote muscle development and body growth. We generated CRISPR/Cas9 mRNAs specific for ovine MSTN and microinjected them into the cytoplasm of ovine zygotes. When embryo development of CRISPR/Cas9 microinjected zygotes (n = 216) was compared with buffer injected embryos (n = 183) and non microinjected embryos (n = 173), cleavage rate was lower for both microinjected groups (P<0.05) and neither was affected by CRISPR/Cas9 content in the injected medium. Embryo development to blastocyst was not affected by microinjection and was similar among the experimental groups. From 20 embryos analyzed by Sanger sequencing, ten were mutant (heterozygous or mosaic; 50% efficiency). To obtain live MSTN KO lambs, 53 blastocysts produced after zygote CRISPR/Cas9 microinjection were transferred to 29 recipient females resulting in 65.5% (19/29) of pregnant ewes and 41.5% (22/53) of newborns. From 22 born lambs analyzed by T7EI and Sanger sequencing, ten showed indel mutations at MSTN gene. Eight showed mutations in both alleles and five of them were homozygous for indels generating out-of frame mutations that resulted in premature stop codons. Western blot analysis of homozygous KO founders confirmed the absence of myostatin, showing heavier body weight than wild type counterparts. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that CRISPR/Cas9 system was a very efficient tool to generate gene KO sheep. This technology is quick and easy to perform and less expensive than previous techniques, and can be applied to obtain genetically modified animal models of interest for biomedicine and livestock.

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