Identification of the genes and processes mediating genetic association signals for complex diseases represents a major challenge. As many of the genetic signals for type 2 diabetes (T2D) exert their effects through pancreatic islet-cell dysfunction, we performed a genome-wide pooled CRISPR loss-of-function screen in a human pancreatic beta cell line. We assessed the regulation of insulin content as a disease-relevant readout of beta cell function and identified 580 genes influencing this phenotype. Integration with genetic and genomic data provided experimental support for 20 candidate T2D effector transcripts including the autophagy receptor CALCOCO2. Loss of CALCOCO2 was associated with distorted mitochondria, less proinsulin-containing immature granules and accumulation of autophagosomes upon inhibition of late-stage autophagy. Carriers of T2D-associated variants at the CALCOCO2 locus further displayed altered insulin secretion. Our study highlights how cellular screens can augment existing multi-omic efforts to support mechanistic understanding and provide evidence for causal effects at genome-wide association studies loci.
Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.