Engineered zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) are a tool for genome manipulation that are of great interest to scientists in many fields. To meet the needs of researchers wishing to employ ZFNs, an inexpensive, rapid assembly procedure would be beneficial to laboratories that do not have access to the proprietary reagents often required for ZFN production. Using freely available sequence data derived from the Zinc Finger Targeter database, we developed a protocol for synthesis and directed insertion of user-defined ZFNs into a versatile plasmid expression system. This oligonucleotide-based isothermal DNA assembly protocol was used to determine whether we could generate functional nucleases capable of endogenous gene editing. We targeted the human α-l-iduronidase (IDUA) gene on chromosome 4, mutations of which result in the severe lysosomal storage disease mucopolysaccharidosis type I. In approximately 1 week we were able to design, assemble, and test six IDUA-specific ZFNs. In a single-stranded annealing assay five of the six candidates we tested performed at a level comparable to or surpassing previously reported ZFNs. One of the five subsequently showed nuclease activity at the endogenous genomic IDUA locus. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of in silico-designed, oligonucleotide-assembled, synthetic ZFNs, requiring no specialized templates or reagents that are capable of endogenous human gene target site activity. This method, termed CoDA-syn (context-dependent assembly-synthetic), should facilitate a more widespread use of ZFNs in the research community.
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