Liao HK, Gu Y, Diaz A, Marlett J, Takahashi Y, Li M, Suzuki K, Xu R, Hishida T, Chang CJ, Esteban CR, Young J, Izpisua Belmonte JC
To combat hostile viruses, bacteria and archaea have evolved a unique antiviral defense system composed of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs), together with CRISPR-associated genes (Cas). The CRISPR/Cas9 system develops an adaptive immune resistance to foreign plasmids and viruses by creating site-specific DNA double-stranded breaks (DSBs). Here we adapt the CRISPR/Cas9 system to human cells for intracellular defense against foreign DNA and viruses. Using HIV-1 infection as a model, our results demonstrate that the CRISPR/Cas9 system disrupts latently integrated viral genome and provides long-term adaptive defense against new viral infection, expression and replication in human cells. We show that engineered human-induced pluripotent stem cells stably expressing HIV-targeted CRISPR/Cas9 can be efficiently differentiated into HIV reservoir cell types and maintain their resistance to HIV-1 challenge. These results unveil the potential of the CRISPR/Cas9 system as a new therapeutic strategy against viral infections.