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Frequently asked questions

Our Scientific Applications Support team has assembled a list of frequently asked questions to help you find answers quickly. Filter using one or more categories to focus on specific topics, or use the search bar to perform a text search.

Optimal Length for Left & Right Homology Arms?

DNA with homology to the sequences flanking a double-stranded break (DSB) can serve as template for error-free homology directed-repair (HDR) of the DSB. The efficiency of HDR is determined by the concentration of donor DNA present at the time of repair, the length of the homology arms, the cell cycle, and the activity of the endogenous repair systems in the particular cell [1].

These factors contribute to the high variability of HDR efficiency observed across different cell lines, and particularly in immortalized cells [2]. Typically in replicating mammalian cells donor arms range are at least 500 bp in length [3]. However, it is important to determine the optimal HDR conditions for your cell line.
Inserts between the homology arms are frequently in the 1–2 kb range [4].

While longer inserts are possible, the efficiency of recombination decreases as the insert size increases [5]. Finding successfully integrated inserts is likely to be challenging when inserts are greater than 3 kb in most mammalian cells.

Single-stranded oligo DNA (ssODN) has recently been identified as a substrate that is preferred by the HDR mechanism and often achieves good efficiency with homology arms as short as 40 bp [6]. The drawback to using ssODNs is that they are limited in length to a few hundred bases, so the insert size is limited.
  1. Elliott B, Richardson C, et al. (1998) Gene conversion tracts from double-strand break repair in mammalian cells. Molecular and cellular biology. 18(1):93–101.
  2. Lin S, Staahl BT, et al. (2014) Enhanced homology-directed human genome engineering by controlled timing of CRISPR/Cas9 delivery. eLife. 3:e04766.
  3. Thomas KR, Folger KR, et al. (1986) High frequency targeting of genes to specific sites in the mammalian genome. Cell. 44(3):419–428.
  4. Dickinson DJ, Ward JD, et al. (2013) Engineering the Caenorhabditis elegans genome using Cas9-triggered homologous recombination. Nature methods. 10(10):1028–1034.
  5. Li K, Wang G, et al. (2014) Optimization of genome engineering approaches with the CRISPR/Cas9 system. PloS one. 9(8):e105779.
  6. Davis L and Maizels N (2014) Homology-directed repair of DNA nicks via pathways distinct from canonical double-strand break repair. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 111(10): E924-932.

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