KEAP1 editing using CRISPR/Cas9 for therapeutic NRF2 activation in primary human T lymphocytes

Sanjeev Noel, Sul A. Lee, Mohanraj Sadasivam, Abdel R.A. Hamad, Hamid Rabb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Oxidant stress modifies T lymphocyte activation and function. Previous work demonstrated that murine T cell-specific kelch like-ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1) deletion enhances antioxidant capacity and protects from experimental acute kidney injury. In this study, we used CRISPR technology to develop clinically translatable human T cell-specific KEAP1 deletion. Delivery of KEAP1 exon 2 specific Cas9:guide RNA in Jurkat T cells led to significant (∼70%) editing and upregulation of NRF2-regulated antioxidant genes NADPH dehydrogenase quinone 1 (NQO1) (up to 11-fold), heme oxygenase 1 (HO1) (up to 11-fold), and GCLM (up to 2-fold). In primary human T cells, delivery of KEAP1 exon 2 target site 2-specific ATTO 550-labeled Cas9:guide RNA edited KEAP1 in ∼40% cells and significantly (p ≤ 0.04) increased NQO1 (16-fold), HO1 (9-fold), and GCLM (2-fold) expression. To further enrich KEAP1-edited cells, ATTO 550-positive cells were sorted 24 h after electroporation. Assessment of ATTO 550-positive cells showed KEAP1 editing in ∼55% cells. There was no detectable off-target cleavage in the top three predicted genes in the ATTO 550-positive cells. Gene expression analysis found significantly (p ≤ 0.01) higher expression of NQO1 mRNA in ATTO 550-positive cells compared with control cells. Flow cytometric assessment showed increased (p ≤ 0.01) frequency of CD4-, CD25-, and CD69- expressing KEAP1 edited cells whereas frequency of CD8-(p ≤ 0.01) and IL-17- (p ≤ 0.05) expressing cells was reduced compared with control cells. Similar experimental conditions resulted in significant KEAP1 editing, increased antioxidant gene expression, and frequency of CD69 and IL-10 positive cells in highly enriched KEAP1-edited regulatory T cells. KEAP1-edited T cells could potentially be used for treating multiple human diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1929-1936
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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