CRISPR/Cas9-mediated grna gene knockout leads to neurodevelopmental defects and motor behavior changes in zebrafish

Jiuling Zhu, Huimin Xu, Hui Song, Xiang Li, Ning Wang, Junli Zhao, Xiaojing Zheng, Kwang Youn Kim, Hui Zhang, Qinwen Mao, Haibin Xia*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Progranulin (PGRN) is a secreted glycoprotein with multiple biological functions in early embryogenesis, anti-inflammation, and neurodegeneration. A good model for the functional study of PGRN is the zebrafish with knockdown or knockout of grn, the gene encoding PGRN. Morpholino oligonucleotides (MOs) and zinc finger nucleases have been used to generate zebrafish grn models, yet they have shown inconsistent phenotypes due to either the neurotoxicity of the MOs or possible genetic compensation responses during gene editing. In this study, we generated stable grna (one of the major grn homologues of zebrafish) knockout zebrafish by using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing. A grna sgRNA was designed to target the similar repeated sequence shared by exon 13, exon 15, and exon 19 in zebrafish. The F1 generation with the frameshift mutation of + 4 bp (the addition of 4 bp to exon15), which causes a premature termination, was obtained and subjected to morphological and behavioral evaluation. The grna knockout zebrafish showed neurodevelopmental defects, including spinal motor neurons with shorter axons, decreased sensory hair cells, thinning of the outer nuclear layer and thickening of the inner nuclear layer of the retina, decreased expression of rhodopsin in the cone cells, and motor behavior changes. Moreover, the phenotypes of grna knockout zebrafish could be rescued with the Tol2 system carrying the grna gene. The grna knockout zebrafish model generated in this study provides a useful tool to study PGRN function and has potential for high-throughput drug screening for disease therapy. (Figure presented.).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-531
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurochemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2021


  • CRISPR/Cas9
  • PGRN
  • grn
  • knockout
  • phenotype
  • zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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