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Electroporation: An alternative to microinjection for creating genetically modified rodents

Tools for genome engineering in rodents

Transgenic rodents have become powerful systems for understanding gene function and modeling genetic disorders. The classic genome engineering strategy in rodents introduces intended mutations at a given endogenous locus in rodent embryonic stem cells (ESCs) via homologous recombination. The ESCs carrying the desired modifications are injected into recipient blastocysts to generate chimeric offspring, which are subsequently bred to establish a mutant animal line [1]. Genetically modified rodents have also been produced by modern genome engineering techniques that directly introduce double-strand breaks at defined loci using programmable endonucleases, such as zinc finger nuclease (ZFN), transcription activator-like effector nuclease (TALEN), or clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) nuclease [2–5]. More recently, the CRISPR-Cas9 system has been widely perceived as the preferred approach for rodent genome engineering, due to its efficiency and simplicity.

Microinjection of CRISPR components presents challenges

Delivery of pre-assembled Cas9 ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes facilitates highly efficient genome editing in multiple model organisms [6,7]. As the gold standard technique for delivery of nucleic acids into embryos, microinjection also is routinely used to introduce CRISPR components—such as Cas9 RNP complexes—into rodent embryos [8]. However, conventional pronuclear microinjection is a labor-intensive, costly procedure that requires sophisticated equipment and highly skilled personnel. It is also time-consuming, as embryos need to be injected individually [9]. These features pose substantial obstacles for researchers to readily adopt the CRISPR-Cas9 system to efficiently generate strains carrying mutations of interest.

Successful high throughput delivery with a novel electroporation method

However, electroporation can work as an alternative approach for delivering CRISPR RNPs into embryos. Drs Kaneko and Mashimo, from the Universities of Kyoto and Osaka, Japan, described a newly optimized electroporation approach, “Technique for Animal Knockout system by Electroporation” (TAKE), which allows easy and rapid, high throughput generation of engineered animals [9]. In this study, they used a novel electroporation platform, the NEPA21 electroporator (Nepa Gene Company,* Ltd, Japan), to enable a 4-step electroporation pulse [10]. Using their electroporation protocol, the researchers efficiently introduced CRISPR-Cas9 reagents into mouse and rat zygotes, without the need for special handling skills or weakening the zona pellucida, which is required for conventional embryo electroporation but can have negative impacts on subsequent embryo development. As shown in Table 1, Dr Kaneko tested TAKE in rat embryos and compared its performance to the conventional microinjection approach. With the use of Cas9 endonuclease and gRNA obtained from IDT, he achieved 100% desired gene knock-out (verified by Sanger sequencing) in the resulting 17 live offspring [11].

CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing in rat embryos mediated by microinjection or TAKE approach

Adapted from Table 6 in Genome editing in mouse and rat by electroporation. Methods Mol Biol. 2017; 1630:81-89. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-7128-2_7.
Methods Embryos delivered Offspring Edited offspring
Microinjection 40 13 (68%) 10 (77%)
TAKE 25 17 (68%) 17 (100%)

Protocols for optimizing electroporation in your system

Outside Japan, the NEPA21 electroporator can be obtained through the Nepa Gene Company distributor network ( Here you can access protocols for mouse zygote electroporation and human-induced iPS cells using the NEPA21 Electroporator. These protocols serve as a starting point for using the Alt-R® CRISPR-Cas9 system in similar model organisms.

*IDT has no interests or affiliation with Nepa Gene Company, the manufacturer of the electroporation system.


  1. Capecchi MR. (2005) Gene targeting in mice: functional analysis of the mammalian genome for the twenty-first century. Nat Rev Genet, 6(6):507–512.

  2. Geurts AM, Cost GJ, et al. (2009) Knockout rats via embryo microinjection of zinc-finger nucleases. Science, 325(5939):433.

  3. Tesson L, Usal C, et al. (2011) Knockout rats generated by embryo microinjection of TALENs. Nat Biotechnol, 29(8):695–696.

  4. Sung YH, Baek IJ, et al. (2013) Knockout mice created by TALEN-mediated gene targeting. Nat Biotechnol, 31(1):23–24.

  5. Li D, Qui Z, et al. (2013) Heritable gene targeting in the mouse and rat using a CRISPR-Cas system. Nat Biotechnol, 31(8):681–683.

  6. Jacobi AM, Rettig GR, et al. (2017) Simplified CRISPR tools for efficient genome editing and streamlined protocols for their delivery into mammalian cells and mouse zygotes. Methods,121–122:16–28.

  7. Quadros RM, Miura H, et al. (2017) Easi-CRISPR: a robust method for one-step generation of mice carrying conditional and insertion alleles using long ssDNA donors and CRISPR ribonucleoproteins. Genome Biol, 18(1):92.

  8. Takahashi G, Gurumurthy CB, et al. (2015) GONAD: Genome-editing via Oviductal Nucleic Acids Delivery system: a novel microinjection independent genome engineering method in mice. Sci Rep, 5:11406.

  9. Kaneko T, Mashimo T. (2015) Simple genome editing of rodent intact embryos by electroporation. PLoS One, 10(11):e0142755.

  10. NEPA21 Super Electroporator (NepaGene): High Transfection Efficiency & High Viability WITHOUT Special Buffers. (Accessed 14 Sept, 2017).

  11. Kaneko T. (2017) Genome editing in mouse and rat by electroporation. Methods Mol Biol, 1630:81–89.

Product focus—genome editing with Alt-R CRISPR Reagents

Alt-R CRISPR-Cas9 System

The Alt-R CRISPR-Cas9 System includes all the reagents needed for successful genome editing. Based on the natural S. pyogenes CRISPR-Cas9 system, the Alt-R CRISPR-Cas9 System offers numerous advantages over alternative methods:

  • Higher on-target potency than other CRISPR systems
  • Precision control with delivery of Cas9 ribonucleoprotein (RNP)
  • Efficient delivery of the RNP with lipofection, electroporation, or microinjection
  • No toxicity or innate immune response activation, in contrast to in vitro transcribed Cas9 mRNA and sgRNAs

Learn more about the Alt-R CRISPR-Cas9 System.

Related reading

Protocols for CRISPR genome editing in your model system—Looking for CRISPR genome editing protocols? Read about our growing library of protocols and user methods—we may have what you need to get started. And, if you have a novel protocol for using Alt-R CRISPR RNA and/or nucleases, find out how to share it with the research community.

The key to successful electroporation in CRISPR genome editing experiments—Product spotlight: The most efficient CRISPR-based genome editing results from delivering CRISPR reagents to cells as ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes. Should your cells require electroporation, learn why we recommend using Alt-R electroporation enhancers to increase genome editing efficiency.

Using CRISPR genome editing for gene knockout and homology-directed repair (HDR)—Webinar review: Watch our webinar recording for expert guidance on a complete CRISPR genome editing workflow, including available tools and protocols. Also, see what we have learned about homology-directed repair and a new option for repair templates.

Review other DECODED Online newsletter articles on CRISPR in genome editing applications.

You can also browse our DECODED Online newsletter for additional application reviews, lab tips, and citation summaries to facilitate your research.

Author: Brian Wang, PhD, is the Genomic Tools Market Development Manager at IDT.

© 2017 Integrated DNA Technologies. All rights reserved. Trademarks contained herein are the property of Integrated DNA Technologies, Inc. or their respective owners. For specific trademark and licensing information, see

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