Genotoxic effects of base and prime editing in human hematopoietic stem cells
Raw data associated to the manuscript by Fiumara et al. Base and prime editors (BEs and PEs) may provide more precise genetic engineering than nuclease-based approaches because they bypass the dependence on DNA double-strand breaks. However, little is known about their cellular responses and genotoxicity. Here, we compared state-of-the-art BEs and PEs and Cas9 in human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells with respect to editing efficiency, cytotoxicity, transcriptomic changes and on-target and genome-wide genotoxicity. BEs and PEs induced detrimental transcriptional responses that reduced editing efficiency and hematopoietic repopulation in xenotransplants and also generated DNA double-strand breaks and genotoxic byproducts, including deletions and translocations, at a lower frequency than Cas9. These effects were strongest for cytidine BEs due to suboptimal inhibition of base excision repair and were mitigated by tailoring delivery timing and editor expression through optimized mRNA design. However, BEs altered the mutational landscape of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells across the genome by increasing the load and relative proportions of nucleotide variants. These findings raise concerns about the genotoxicity of BEs and PEs and warrant further investigation in view of their clinical application.