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Precision epigenome editing has gained significant attention as a method to modulate gene expression without altering genetic information. However, a major limiting factor has been that the gene expression changes are often transient, unlike the life-long epigenetic changes that occur frequently in nature. Here, we systematically interrogate the ability of CRISPR/dCas9-based epigenome editors (Epi-dCas9) to engineer persistent epigenetic silencing. We elucidated cis regulatory features that contribute to the differential stability of epigenetic reprogramming, such as the active transcription histone marks H3K36me3 and H3K27ac strongly correlating with resistance to short-term repression and resistance to long-term silencing, respectively. H3K27ac inversely correlates with increased DNA methylation. Interestingly, the dependance on H3K27ac was only observed when a combination of KRAB-dCas9 and targetable DNA methyltransferases (DNMT3A-dCas9 + DNMT3L) was used, but not when KRAB was replaced with the targetable H3K27 histone methyltransferase Ezh2. In addition, programmable Ezh2/DNMT3A + L treatment demonstrated enhanced engineering of localized DNA methylation and was not sensitive to a divergent chromatin state. Our results highlight the importance of local chromatin features for heritability of programmable silencing and the differential response to KRAB- and Ezh2-based epigenetic editing platforms. The information gained in this study provides fundamental insights into understanding contextual cues to more predictably engineer persistent silencing.

Original publication




Journal article


Nucleic acids research

Publication Date





3239 - 3253


Genome Center, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Chromatin, DNA Methylation, Epigenesis, Genetic, Gene Silencing, CRISPR-Cas Systems, Gene Editing, Epigenome