BMB Reports 2018; 51(9): 437-443
The road less traveled: strategies to enhance the frequency of homology-directed repair (HDR) for increased efficiency of CRISPR/Cas-mediated transgenesis
Sushil Devkota*
Section of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA
Correspondence to: Tel: +1-858-999-7879; Fax: +1-858-999-7879; E-mail:
Received: July 8, 2018; Published online: September 30, 2018.
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Non-homologous end joining (NHEJ), and to a lesser extent, the error-free pathway known as homology-directed repair (HDR) are cellular mechanisms for recovery from double-strand DNA breaks (DSB) induced by RNA-guided programmable nuclease CRISPR/Cas. Since NHEJ is equivalent to using a duck tape to stick two pieces of metals together, the outcome of this repair mechanism is prone to error. Any out-of-frame mutations or premature stop codons resulting from NHEJ repair mechanism are extremely handy for loss-of-function studies. Substitution of a mutation on the genome with the correct exogenous repair DNA requires coordination via an error-free HDR, for targeted transgenesis. However, several practical limitations exist in harnessing the potential of HDR to replace a faulty mutation for therapeutic purposes in all cell types and more so in somatic cells. In germ cells after the DSB, copying occurs from the homologous chromosome, which increases the chances of incorporation of exogenous DNA with some degree of homology into the genome compared with somatic cells where copying from the identical sister chromatid is always preferred. This review summarizes several strategies that have been implemented to increase the frequency of HDR with a focus on somatic cells. It also highlights the limitations of this technology in gene therapy and suggests specific solutions to circumvent those barriers.
Keywords: CRISPR/Cas, DNA-repair, HDR, NHEJ, Therapeutics

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