NAR - Marker-free Quantification of Repair Pathway Utilization at Cas9-induced Double-Strand Breaks
Genome integrity and genome engineering require efficient repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) by non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), homologous recombination (HR), or alternative end-joining pathways. Here we describe two complementary methods for marker-free quantification of DSB repair pathway utilization at Cas9-targeted chromosomal DSBs in mammalian cells. The first assay features the analysis of amplicon next-generation sequencing data using ScarMapper, an iterative break-associated alignment algorithm to classify individual repair products based on deletion size, microhomology usage, and insertions. The second assay uses repair pathway-specific droplet digital PCR assays (“PathSig-dPCR”) for absolute quantification of signature DSB repair outcomes. We show that ScarMapper and PathSig-dPCR enable comprehensive assessment of repair pathway utilization in different cell models, after a variety of experimental perturbations. We use these assays to measure the differential impact of DNA end resection on NHEJ, HR, and polymerase theta-mediated end joining (TMEJ) repair. These approaches are adaptable to any cellular model system and genomic locus where Cas9-mediated targeting is feasible. Thus, ScarMapper and PathSig-dPCR allow for systematic fate mapping of a targeted DSB with facile and accurate quantification of DSB repair pathway choice at endogenous chromosomal loci.