Dehorning is a common practice in the dairy industry, but raises animal welfare concerns. A naturally occurring genetic mutation (PC allele) comprised of a 212 bp duplicated DNA sequence replacing a 10-bp sequence at the polled locus is associated with the hornless phenotype (polled) in cattle. To test the hypothesis that the 10 bp deletion alone is sufficient to result in polled, a CRISPR-Cas9 dual guide RNA approach was optimized to delete a 133 bp region including the 10 bp sequence. Timing of ribonucleoprotein complex injections at various hours post insemination (hpi) (6, 8, and 18 hpi) as well as in vitro transcribed (IVT) vs synthetic gRNAs were compared. Embryos injected 6 hpi had a significantly higher deletion rate (53%) compared to those injected 8 (12%) and 18 hpi (7%), and synthetic gRNAs had a significantly higher deletion rate (84%) compared to IVT gRNAs (53%). Embryo transfers were performed, and bovine fetuses were harvested between 3 and 5 months of gestation. All fetuses had mutations at the target site, with two of the seven having biallelic deletions, and yet they displayed horn bud development indicating that the 10 bp deletion alone is not sufficient to result in the polled phenotype.
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