Sojung Kim1,2, Daesik Kim1,2, Seung Woo Cho1,2, Jungeun Kim1,2, and Jin-Soo Kim1,2,3
1 Department of Chemistry, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea
2 Center for Genome Engineering, Institute for Basic Science, Seoul, South Korea
3 To whom correspondence should be addressed. J.-S.K.
RNA-guided engineered nucleases (RGENs) derived from the prokaryotic adaptive immune system known as CRISPR (clustered, regularly interspaced, short palindromic repeat)/Cas (CRISPR-associated) enable genome editing in human cell lines, animals, and plants but are limited by off-target effects and unwanted integration of DNA segments derived from plasmids encoding Cas9 and guide RNA at both on-target and off-target sites in the genome. Here, we deliver purified recombinant Cas9 protein and guide RNA into cultured human cells including hard-to-transfect fibroblasts and pluripotent stem cells. RGEN ribonucleoproteins (RNPs) induce site-specific mutations at frequencies of up to 79%, while reducing off-target mutations associated with plasmid transfection at off-target sites that differ by one or two nucleotides from on-target sites. RGEN RNPs cleave chromosomal DNA almost immediately after delivery and are degraded rapidly in cells, reducing off-target effects. Furthermore, RNP delivery is less stressful to human embryonic stem cells, producing at least two-fold more colonies than does plasmid transfection.