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PLoS Genet. 2019 Oct 21;15(10):e1008464. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1008464. eCollection 2019 Oct.

CRISPR editing of sftb-1/SF3B1 in Caenorhabditis elegans allows the identification of synthetic interactions with cancer-related mutations and the chemical inhibition of splicing.

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Modeling human diseases in C. elegans Group, Genes, Disease and Therapy Program, Institut d'Investigació Biomèdica de Bellvitge-IDIBELL, Barcelona, Spain.
Mechanisms of Epigenetic Inheritance, Department of Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, Institut Pasteur, UMR3738, CNRS, Paris, France.
CNAG-CRG, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), The Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology, Barcelona, Spain.
Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF), Barcelona, Spain.


SF3B1 is the most frequently mutated splicing factor in cancer. Mutations in SF3B1 likely confer clonal advantages to cancer cells but they may also confer vulnerabilities that can be therapeutically targeted. SF3B1 cancer mutations can be maintained in homozygosis in C. elegans, allowing synthetic lethal screens with a homogeneous population of animals. These mutations cause alternative splicing (AS) defects in C. elegans, as it occurs in SF3B1-mutated human cells. In a screen, we identified RNAi of U2 snRNP components that cause synthetic lethality with sftb-1/SF3B1 mutations. We also detected synthetic interactions between sftb-1 mutants and cancer-related mutations in uaf-2/U2AF1 or rsp-4/SRSF2, demonstrating that this model can identify interactions between mutations that are mutually exclusive in human tumors. Finally, we have edited an SFTB-1 domain to sensitize C. elegans to the splicing modulators pladienolide B and herboxidiene. Thus, we have established a multicellular model for SF3B1 mutations amenable for high-throughput genetic and chemical screens.

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