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Lrp5 mutant and crispant zebrafish faithfully model human osteoporosis, establishing the zebrafish as a platform for CRISPR-based functional screening of osteoporosis candidate genes

Jan Willem Bek 1Chen Shochat 2Adelbert De Clercq 1Hanna De Saffel 1Annekatrien Boel 1 3Juriaan Metz 4Frans Rodenburg 5 6 7David Karasik 2 8Andy Willaert # 1Paul J Coucke # 1

J Bone Miner Res doi: 10.1002/jbmr.4327. 


Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have improved our understanding of the genetic architecture of common, complex diseases such as osteoporosis. Nevertheless, to attribute functional skeletal contributions of candidate genes to osteoporosis-related traits there is a need for efficient and cost-effective in vivo functional testing. This can be achieved through CRISPR-based reverse genetic screens, where phenotyping is traditionally performed in stable germline KO mutants. Recently it was shown that first-generation (F0) mosaic mutant zebrafish (so-called crispants) recapitulate the phenotype of germline KOs. To demonstrate feasibility of functional validation of osteoporosis candidate genes through crispant screening, we compared a crispant to a stable KO zebrafish model for the lrp5 gene. In humans, recessive loss-of-function mutations in LRP5, a co-receptor in the Wnt signaling pathway, cause Osteoporosis-pseudoglioma syndrome. In addition, several GWAS studies identified LRP5 as a major risk locus for osteoporosis-related phenotypes. In this study, we showed that early stage lrp5 KO larvae display decreased notochord mineralization and malformations of the head cartilage. Quantitative micro-computed tomography (microCT) scanning and mass-spectrometry element analysis of the adult skeleton revealed decreased vertebral bone volume and bone mineralization, hallmark features of osteoporosis. Furthermore, regenerating fin tissue displayed reduced Wnt signaling activity in lrp5 KO adults. We next compared lrp5 mutants with crispants. Next-generation sequencing analysis of adult crispant tissue revealed a mean out-of-frame mutation rate of 76%, resulting in strongly reduced levels of Lrp5 protein. These crispants generally showed a milder, but nonetheless highly comparable skeletal phenotype and a similarly reduced Wnt pathway response compared to lrp5 KO mutants. In conclusion, we show through faithful modeling of LRP5-related primary osteoporosis, that crispant screening in zebrafish is a promising approach for rapid functional screening of osteoporosis candidate genes.