DATE: May 21, 2019
TIMEL 7:00am PT, 10:00am ET
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. Critical biology of human immune cells, including key signaling pathways and effector functions, may not be recapitulated in immortalized cell lines. 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 characterized 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 responses to adenosine signaling. In summary, we have developed a novel pooled CRISPR screening technology with the potential to explore unmapped genetic circuits in primary human cells and to guide the design of engineered cell therapies.
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