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Genetic Screens in Human Cells Using the CRISPR-Cas9 System

Science  03 Jan 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6166, pp. 80-84
DOI: 10.1126/science.1246981

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Improving Whole-Genome Screens

Improved methods are needed for the knockout of individual genes in genome-scale functional screens. Wang et al. (p. 80, published online 12 December) and Shalem et al. (p. 84, published online 12 December) used the bacterial CRISPR/Cas9 system to power-screen protocols that avoid several of the pitfalls associated with small interfering RNA (siRNA) screens. Genome editing by these methods completely disrupts target genes, thus avoiding weak signals that can occur when transcript abundance is partially decreased by siRNA. Furthermore, gene targeting by the CRISPR system is more precise and appears to produce substantially fewer off-target effects than existing methods.

Abstract

The bacterial clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)–Cas9 system for genome editing has greatly expanded the toolbox for mammalian genetics, enabling the rapid generation of isogenic cell lines and mice with modified alleles. Here, we describe a pooled, loss-of-function genetic screening approach suitable for both positive and negative selection that uses a genome-scale lentiviral single-guide RNA (sgRNA) library. sgRNA expression cassettes were stably integrated into the genome, which enabled a complex mutant pool to be tracked by massively parallel sequencing. We used a library containing 73,000 sgRNAs to generate knockout collections and performed screens in two human cell lines. A screen for resistance to the nucleotide analog 6-thioguanine identified all expected members of the DNA mismatch repair pathway, whereas another for the DNA topoisomerase II (TOP2A) poison etoposide identified TOP2A, as expected, and also cyclin-dependent kinase 6, CDK6. A negative selection screen for essential genes identified numerous gene sets corresponding to fundamental processes. Last, we show that sgRNA efficiency is associated with specific sequence motifs, enabling the prediction of more effective sgRNAs. Collectively, these results establish Cas9/sgRNA screens as a powerful tool for systematic genetic analysis in mammalian cells.

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