CRISPR-Cas9 has been proposed as a treatment for genetically inherited skin disorders. Here we report that CRISPR transfection activates STING-dependent antiviral responses in keratinocytes, resulting in heightened endogenous interferon (IFN) responses through induction of IFN-κ leading to decreased plasmid stability secondary to induction of the cytidine deaminase APOBEC3G. Notably, CRISPR-generated KO keratinocytes had permanent suppression of IFN-κ and IFN-stimulated gene (ISG) expression, secondary to hypermethylation of the IFNK promoter region by the DNA methyltransferase DNMT3B. JAK inhibition via baricitinib prior to CRISPR transfection increased transfection efficiency, prevented IFNK promoter hypermethylation, and restored normal IFN-κ activity and ISG responses. This work shows that CRISPR-mediated gene correction alters antiviral responses in keratinocytes, has implications for future gene therapies of inherited skin diseases using CRISPR technology, and suggests pharmacologic JAK inhibition as a tool for facilitating and attenuating inadvertent selection effects in CRISPR-Cas9 therapeutic approaches.
Mrinal K. Sarkar, Ranjitha Uppala, Chang Zeng, Allison C. Billi, Lam C. Tsoi, Austin Kidder, Xianying Xing, Bethany E. Perez White, Shuai Shao, Olesya Plazyo, Sirisha Sirobhushanam, Enze Xing, Yanyun Jiang, Katherine A. Gallagher, John J. Voorhees, J. Michelle Kahlenberg, Johann E. Gudjonsson