CRISPRa-Mediated Upregulation of scn1laa during Early Development Causes Epileptiform Activity and dCas9-Associated Toxicity

Wout J. Weuring*, Ivana Dilevska, Jos Hoekman, Joep Van De Vondervoort, Martijn Koetsier, Ruben H. Van 'T Slot, Kees P.J. Braun, Bobby P.C. Koeleman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Dravet syndrome (DS) is a monogenic epileptic encephalopathy caused by loss-of-function mutations in the voltage-gated sodium channel (VGSC) gene SCN1A. DS has an age of onset within the first year of life and severe disease prognosis. In the past years, it has been shown that upregulation of endogenous SCN1A can be beneficial in animal models for DS, but a complete rescue was not observed. We hypothesized that upregulation during early development that precedes onset of first symptoms might improve disease outcome. To test this hypothesis, we first evaluated the CRISPR activating method for early upregulation of voltage gated sodium channels during early development. We injected CRISPRa components, which target the proximal or distal promoter region of the VGSC gene scn1Laa in the yolk of one-cell stage zebrafish embryos. The effect of both dCas9-VPR and dCas9-VP64 was evaluated. Both CRISPRa fusions showed toxicity in the majority of embryos, with or without guide RNAs. The few embryos that survived developed normally, and dCas9-VPR induces an upregulation of scn1Laa mRNA until 24 hours after fertilization. At 5 days post fertilization, CRISPRa-injected embryos showed an epileptic phenotype, including locomotor burst movements, hyperactivity, and epileptiform activity originating from the brain. In addition to previously published scn1Laa and scn1Lab loss-of-function models, we conclude that gain of scn1Laa function can have an equally severe phenotype. Upregulation of scn1Laa in the current zebrafish model for DS, scn1Lab-KO, aggravated the disease phenotype, highlighting that early-stage upregulation using CRISPRa can lead to both toxicity and a worsening of the disease phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-582
Number of pages8
JournalCRISPR Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'CRISPRa-Mediated Upregulation of scn1laa during Early Development Causes Epileptiform Activity and dCas9-Associated Toxicity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this