CRISPR RNAs trigger innate immune responses in human cells
Authors and Affiliations
Here, we report that CRISPR guide RNAs (gRNAs) with a 5′-triphosphate group (5′-ppp gRNAs) produced via in vitro transcription trigger RNA-sensing innate immune responses in human and murine cells, leading to cytotoxicity. 5′-ppp gRNAs in the cytosol are recognized by DDX58, which in turn activates type I interferon responses, causing up to ∼80% cell death. We show that the triphosphate group can be removed by a phosphatase in vitro and that the resulting 5′-hydroxyl gRNAs in complex with Cas9 or Cpf1 avoid innate immune responses and can achieve targeted mutagenesis at a frequency of 95% in primary human CD4+ T cells. These results are in line with previous findings that chemically synthesized sgRNAs with a 5′-hydroxyl group are much more efficient than in vitro?transcribed (IVT) sgRNAs in human and other mammalian cells. The phosphatase treatment of IVT sgRNAs is a cost-effective method for making highly active sgRNAs, avoiding innate immune responses in human cells.