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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jun 18;110(25):E2317-26. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1307002110. Epub 2013 Jun 5.

Integrated platform for genome-wide screening and construction of high-density genetic interaction maps in mammalian cells.

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Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology, California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA.


A major challenge of the postgenomic era is to understand how human genes function together in normal and disease states. In microorganisms, high-density genetic interaction (GI) maps are a powerful tool to elucidate gene functions and pathways. We have developed an integrated methodology based on pooled shRNA screening in mammalian cells for genome-wide identification of genes with relevant phenotypes and systematic mapping of all GIs among them. We recently demonstrated the potential of this approach in an application to pathways controlling the susceptibility of human cells to the toxin ricin. Here we present the complete quantitative framework underlying our strategy, including experimental design, derivation of quantitative phenotypes from pooled screens, robust identification of hit genes using ultra-complex shRNA libraries, parallel measurement of tens of thousands of GIs from a single double-shRNA experiment, and construction of GI maps. We describe the general applicability of our strategy. Our pooled approach enables rapid screening of the same shRNA library in different cell lines and under different conditions to determine a range of different phenotypes. We illustrate this strategy here for single- and double-shRNA libraries. We compare the roles of genes for susceptibility to ricin and Shiga toxin in different human cell lines and reveal both toxin-specific and cell line-specific pathways. We also present GI maps based on growth and ricin-resistance phenotypes, and we demonstrate how such a comparative GI mapping strategy enables functional dissection of physical complexes and context-dependent pathways.


RNA interference; epistasis; functional genomics; human genome; synthetic lethality

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