Xingbo Xu, Xiaoying Tan, Björn Tampe, Tim Wilhelmi, Melanie S. Hulshoff, Shoji Saito, Tobias Moser, Raghu Kalluri, Gerd Hasenfuss, Elisabeth M. Zeisberg & Michael Zeisberg
While suppression of specific genes through aberrant promoter methylation contributes to different diseases including organ fibrosis, gene-specific reactivation technology is not yet available for therapy. TET enzymes catalyze hydroxymethylation of methylated DNA, reactivating gene expression. We here report generation of a high-fidelity CRISPR/Cas9-based gene-specific dioxygenase by fusing an endonuclease deactivated high-fidelity Cas9 (dHFCas9) to TET3 catalytic domain (TET3CD), targeted to specific genes by guiding RNAs (sgRNA). We demonstrate use of this technology in four different anti-fibrotic genes in different cell types in vitro, among them RASAL1 and Klotho, both hypermethylated in kidney fibrosis. Furthermore, in vivo lentiviral delivery of the Rasal1-targeted fusion protein to interstitial cells and of the Klotho-targeted fusion protein to tubular epithelial cells each results in specific gene reactivation and attenuation of fibrosis, providing gene-specific demethylating technology in a disease model.