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Genome-wide CRISPR Screens in Primary Human T Cells Reveal Key Regulators of Immune Function

By Eric Shifrut, Julia Carnevale, Victoria Tobin, Theodore L. Roth, Jonathan M Woo, Christina Bui, P. Jonathan Li, Morgan Diolaiti, Alan Ashworth, Alexander Marson

Posted 03 Aug 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/384776 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.10.024)

Human T cells are central effectors of immunity and cancer immunotherapy. CRISPR-based functional studies in T cells could prioritize novel targets for drug development and improve the design of genetically reprogrammed cell-based therapies. However, large-scale CRISPR screens have been challenging in primary human cells. We developed a new method, sgRNA lentiviral infection with Cas9 protein electroporation (SLICE), to identify regulators of stimulation responses in primary human T cells. Genome-wide loss-of-function screens identified essential T cell receptor signaling components and genes that negatively tune proliferation following stimulation. Targeted ablation of individual candidate genes validated hits and identified perturbations that enhanced cancer cell killing. SLICE coupled with single-cell RNA-Seq revealed signature stimulation-response gene programs altered by key genetic perturbations. SLICE genome-wide screening was also adaptable to identify mediators of immunosuppression, revealing genes controlling response to adenosine signaling. The SLICE platform enables unbiased discovery and characterization of functional gene targets in primary cells.

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