Precise Gene Editing Preserves Hematopoietic Stem Cell Function following Transient p53-Mediated DNA Damage Response

Giulia Schiroli, Anastasia Conti, Samuele Ferrari, Lucrezia della Volpe, Aurelien Jacob, Luisa Albano, Stefano Beretta, Andrea Calabria, Valentina Vavassori, Patrizia Gasparini, Eralda Salataj, Delphine Ndiaye-Lobry, Chiara Brombin, Julie Chaumeil, Eugenio Montini, Ivan Merelli, Pietro Genovese, Luigi Naldini, Raffaella Di Micco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Precise gene editing in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) holds promise for treating genetic diseases. However, responses triggered by programmable nucleases in HSPCs are poorly characterized and may negatively impact HSPC engraftment and long-term repopulation capacity. Here, we induced either one or several DNA double-stranded breaks (DSBs) with optimized zinc-finger and CRISPR/Cas9 nucleases and monitored DNA damage response (DDR) foci induction, cell-cycle progression, and transcriptional responses in HSPC subpopulations, with up to single-cell resolution. p53-mediated DDR pathway activation was the predominant response to even single-nuclease-induced DSBs across all HSPC subtypes analyzed. Excess DSB load and/or adeno-associated virus (AAV)-mediated delivery of DNA repair templates induced cumulative p53 pathway activation, constraining proliferation, yield, and engraftment of edited HSPCs. However, functional impairment was reversible when DDR burden was low and could be overcome by transient p53 inhibition. These findings provide molecular and functional evidence for feasible and seamless gene editing in HSPCs. Precise gene editing has the potential to treat immune and hematological diseases. Genovese, Naldini, Di Micco, and colleagues now show that gene-editing procedures are well tolerated by hematopoietic stem cells and provide molecular evidence of the feasibility of seamless gene editing, strengthening translation of such approaches to humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)551-565.e8
JournalCell Stem Cell
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 4 2019


  • adeno-associated vector
  • DNA damage response
  • DNA double strand breaks
  • genome editing
  • hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells
  • p53 pathway
  • programmable nucleases

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology


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