The cytomegaloviruses (CMVs) are among the most genetically complex mammalian viruses, with viral genomes that often exceed 230 kbp. Manipulation of cytomegalovirus genomes is largely performed using infectious bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs), which necessitates the maintenance of the viral genome in Escherichia coli and successful reconstitution of virus from permissive cells after transfection of the BAC. Here we describe an alternative strategy for the mutagenesis of guinea pig cytomegalovirus that utilizes clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9)-mediated genome editing to introduce targeted mutations to the viral genome. Transient transfection and drug selection were used to restrict lytic replication of guinea pig cytomegalovirus to cells that express Cas9 and virus-specific guide RNA. The result was highly efficient editing of the viral genome that introduced targeted insertion or deletion mutations to nonessential viral genes. Cotransfection of multiple virus-specific guide RNAs or a homology repair template was used for targeted, markerless deletions of viral sequence or to introduce exogenous sequence by homology-driven repair. As CRISPR/Cas9 mutagenesis occurs directly in infected cells, this methodology avoids selective pressures that may occur during propagation of the viral genome in bacteria and may facilitate genetic manipulation of low-passage or clinical CMV isolates.
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