Interrogation of enhancer function by enhancer-targeting CRISPR epigenetic editing

Kailong Li, Yuxuan Liu, Hui Cao, Yuannyu Zhang, Zhimin Gu, Xin Liu, Andy Yu, Pranita Kaphle, Kathryn E. Dickerson, Min Ni, Jian Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Tissue-specific gene expression requires coordinated control of gene-proximal and -distal cis-regulatory elements (CREs), yet functional analysis of gene-distal CREs such as enhancers remains challenging. Here we describe CRISPR/dCas9-based enhancer-targeting epigenetic editing systems, enCRISPRa and enCRISPRi, for efficient analysis of enhancer function in situ and in vivo. Using dual effectors capable of re-writing enhancer-associated chromatin modifications, we show that enCRISPRa and enCRISPRi modulate gene transcription by remodeling local epigenetic landscapes at sgRNA-targeted enhancers and associated genes. Comparing with existing methods, the improved systems display more robust perturbations of enhancer activity and gene transcription with minimal off-targets. Allele-specific targeting of enCRISPRa to oncogenic TAL1 super-enhancer modulates TAL1 expression and cancer progression in xenotransplants. Single or multi-loci perturbations of lineage-specific enhancers using an enCRISPRi knock-in mouse establish in vivo evidence for lineage-restricted essentiality of developmental enhancers during hematopoiesis. Hence, enhancer-targeting CRISPR epigenetic editing provides opportunities for interrogating enhancer function in native biological contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number485
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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