Optimized CRISPR guide RNA design for two high-fidelity Cas9 variants by deep learning

Highly specific Cas9 nucleases derived from SpCas9 are valuable tools for genome editing, but their wide applications are hampered by a lack of knowledge governing guide RNA (gRNA) activity. Here, we perform a genome-scale screen to measure gRNA activity for two highly specific SpCas9 variants (eSpCas9(1.1) and SpCas9-HF1) and wild-type SpCas9 (WT-SpCas9) in human cells, and obtain indel rates of over 50,000 gRNAs for each nuclease, covering ~20,000 genes. We evaluate the contribution of 1,031 features to gRNA activity and develope models for activity prediction. Our data reveals that a combination of RNN with important biological features outperforms other models for activity prediction. We further demonstrate that our model outperforms other popular gRNA design tools. Finally, we develop an online design tool DeepHF for the three Cas9 nucleases. The database, as well as the designer tool, is freely accessible via a web server, http://www.DeepHF.com/.