Genome engineering has been greatly enhanced by the availability of Cas9 endonuclease that can be targeted to almost any genomic locus using so called guide RNAs (gRNAs). However, the introduction of foreign DNA sequences to tag an endogenous gene is still cumbersome as it requires the synthesis or cloning of homology templates. Here we present a strategy that enables the tagging of endogenous loci using one generic donor plasmid. It contains the tag of interest flanked by two gRNA recognition sites that allow excision of the tag from the plasmid. Co-transfection of cells with Cas9, a gRNA specifying the genomic locus of interest, the donor plasmid and a cassette-specific gRNA triggers the insertion of the tag by a homology-independent mechanism. The strategy is efficient and delivers clones that display a predictable integration pattern. As showcases we generated NanoLuc luciferase- and TurboGFP-tagged reporter cell lines.
High-throughput live-cell screens are intricate elements of systems biology studies and drug discovery pipelines. Here, we demonstrate an optogenetics-assisted method that avoids the need for chemical activators and reporters, reduces the number of operational steps and increases information content in a cell-based small-molecule screen against human protein kinases, including an orphan receptor tyrosine kinase. This blueprint for all-optical screening can be adapted to many drug targets and cellular processes.
The upswing in US Food and Drug Administration and European Medicines Agency drug approvals in 2014 may have marked an end to the dry spell that has troubled the pharmaceutical industry over the past decade. Regardless, the attrition rate of drugs in late clinical phases remains high, and a lack of target validation has been highlighted as an explanation. This has led to a resurgence in appreciation of phenotypic drug screens, as these may be more likely to yield compounds with relevant modes of action. However, cell-based screening approaches do not directly reveal cellular targets, and hence target deconvolution and a detailed understanding of drug action are needed for efficient lead optimization and biomarker development. Here, recently developed functional genomics technologies that address this need are reviewed. The approaches pioneered in model organisms, particularly in yeast, and more recently adapted to mammalian systems are discussed. Finally, areas of particular interest and directions for future tool development are highlighted.
Detecting genetic variation is one of the main applications of high-throughput sequencing, but is still challenging wherever aligning short reads poses ambiguities. Current state-of-the-art variant calling approaches avoid such regions, arguing that it is necessary to sacrifice detection sensitivity to limit false discovery. We developed a method that links candidate variant positions within repetitive genomic regions into clusters. The technique relies on a resource, a thesaurus of genetic variation, that enumerates genomic regions with similar sequence. The resource is computationally intensive to generate, but once compiled can be applied efficiently to annotate and prioritize variants in repetitive regions. We show that thesaurus annotation can reduce the rate of false variant calls due to mappability by up to three orders of magnitude. We apply the technique to whole genome datasets and establish that called variants in low mappability regions annotated using the thesaurus can be experimentally validated. We then extend the analysis to a large panel of exomes to show that the annotation technique opens possibilities to study variation in hereto hidden and under-studied parts of the genome.
Some mutations in cancer cells can be exploited for therapeutic intervention. However, for many cancer subtypes, including triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), no frequently recurring aberrations could be identified to make such an approach clinically feasible. Characterized by a highly heterogeneous mutational landscape with few common features, many TNBCs cluster together based on their 'basal-like' transcriptional profiles. We therefore hypothesized that targeting TNBC cells on a systems level by exploiting the transcriptional cell state might be a viable strategy to find novel therapies for this highly aggressive disease. We performed a large-scale chemical genetic screen and identified a group of compounds related to the drug PKC412 (midostaurin). PKC412 induced apoptosis in a subset of TNBC cells enriched for the basal-like subtype and inhibited tumor growth in vivo. We employed a multi-omics approach and computational modeling to address the mechanism of action and identified spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) as a novel and unexpected target in TNBC. Quantitative phosphoproteomics revealed that SYK inhibition abrogates signaling to STAT3, explaining the selectivity for basal-like breast cancer cells. This non-oncogene addiction suggests that chemical SYK inhibition may be beneficial for a specific subset of TNBC patients and demonstrates that targeting cell states could be a viable strategy to discover novel treatment strategies.
The great majority of targeted anticancer drugs inhibit mutated oncogenes that display increased activity. Yet many tumors do not contain such actionable aberrations, such as those harboring loss-of-function mutations. The notion of targeting synthetic lethal vulnerabilities in cancer cells has provided an alternative approach to exploiting more of the genetic and epigenetic changes acquired during tumorigenesis. Here, we review synthetic lethality as a therapeutic concept that exploits the inherent differences between normal cells and cancer cells. Furthermore, we provide an overview of the screening approaches that can be used to identify synthetic lethal interactions in human cells and present several recently identified interactions that may be pharmacologically exploited. Finally, we indicate some of the challenges of translating synthetic lethal interactions into the clinic and how these may be overcome.
Breast cancer is genetically heterogeneous, and recent studies have underlined a prominent contribution of epigenetics to the development of this disease. To uncover new synthetic lethalities with known breast cancer oncogenes, we screened an epigenome-focused short hairpin RNA library on a panel of engineered breast epithelial cell lines. Here we report a selective interaction between the NOTCH1 signaling pathway and the SUMOylation cascade. Knockdown of the E2-conjugating enzyme UBC9 (UBE2I) as well as inhibition of the E1-activating complex SAE1/UBA2 using ginkgolic acid impairs the growth of NOTCH1-activated breast epithelial cells. We show that upon inhibition of SUMOylation NOTCH1-activated cells proceed slower through the cell cycle and ultimately enter apoptosis. Mechanistically, activation of NOTCH1 signaling depletes the pool of unconjugated small ubiquitin-like modifier 1 (SUMO1) and SUMO2/3 leading to increased sensitivity to perturbation of the SUMOylation cascade. Depletion of unconjugated SUMO correlates with sensitivity to inhibition of SUMOylation also in patient-derived breast cancer cell lines with constitutive NOTCH pathway activation. Our investigation suggests that SUMOylation cascade inhibitors should be further explored as targeted treatment for NOTCH-driven breast cancer.
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Total citations for publications on this page: 165