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Escaping from CRISPR-Cas-mediated knockout: the facts, mechanisms, and applications.

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and associated Cas protein (CRISPR-Cas), a powerful genome editing tool, has revolutionized gene function investigation and exhibits huge potential for clinical applications. CRISPR-Cas-mediated gene knockout has already become a routine method in research laboratories. However, in the last few years, accumulating evidences have demonstrated that genes knocked out by CRISPR-Cas may not be truly silenced. Functional residual proteins could be generated in such knockout organisms to compensate the putative loss of function, termed herein knockout escaping. In line with this, several CRISPR-Cas-mediated knockout screenings have discovered much less abnormal phenotypes than expected. How does knockout escaping happen and how often does it happen have not been systematically reviewed yet. Without knowing this, knockout results could easily be misinterpreted. In this review, we summarize these evidences and propose two main mechanisms allowing knockout escaping. To avoid the confusion caused by knockout escaping, several strategies are discussed as well as their advantages and disadvantages. On the other hand, knockout escaping also provides convenient tools for studying essential genes and treating monogenic disorders such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which are discussed in the end.

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