Drosophila Research & Screening Center-Biomedical Technology Research Resource (DRSC-BTRR)

The NIH NIGMS P41-funded DRSC-BTRR helps researchers realize the full potential of Drosophila melanogaster as a model for the study of human health and disease.

The DRSC-BTRR develops state-of-the-art tools and methods in three technology areas: (1) Development of technologies for Drosophila cell-based and in vivo studies, (2) Application of technologies for study of mosquito vectors of human diseases, and (3) Development of in vivo proteomics technologies for Drosophila.

We develop technologies through iterative rounds of testing and improvement together with ‘driving biomedical projects’ at collaborating labs that can benefit from the technologies. Current collaborators include experts in cancer therapeutics, rare genetic diseases, and mosquito vectors of infectious diseases.

To further extend the impact of the technologies, we engage in community activities that inform a broad audience and rapidly disseminate technologies. Altogether, we will serve as an integrated, collaborative resource engaging in projects with strong potential for impact in areas that are of interest to several institutes at the US National Institutes of Health.

Point-of-contact for inquiries about DSRC-BTRR technologies and collaborations: Stephanie Mohr

Technology Research & Development (TR&D) focus areas:

TR&D1: Development of CRISPR-based functional genomics technologies for high-throughput screening in Drosophila cultured cells and for use in vivo in Drosophila.

TR&D2: Development of CRISPR-based functional genomics and other technologies for use in mosquitos, including development of CRISPR screening technologies for use in mosquito cell lines. Read more about mosquito cell technologies here.

TR&D3: Development of proteomics-based technologies for use in vivo in Drosophila, including development of new protein binding and labeling technologies.

Additional components of the DRSC-BTRR include

  • Driving Biomedical Projects (DBPs), which allow us to directly meet the needs of collaborators through iterative technology testing and development
  • Collaboration & Service Projects (CSPs), such as Drosophila cell-based RNAi screens using established technologies
  • Community Engagement, including presentations and workshops aimed at helping the broadest possible research community access DRSC-BTRR technologies
  • Administration & Management, including oversight by NIH NIGMS leadership and scientific advisors to the DRSC-BTRR
Diagram of the interaction between the DRSC-BTRR (tech development) and Driving Biomedical Projects (tech testing)
  • Drosophila melangaster 'fruit flies' with visible phenotypes, such as differences in the eye as compared with wild-type flies, due to mutation in 'marker' genes used in genetic analyses and transgenesis
Diagram of leadship roles at the DRSC-BTRR (Perrimon, PI; Mohr, Director: et al)

Recent Publications from the DSRC-BTRR

Yanhui Hu, Verena Chung, Aram Comjean, Jonathan Rodiger, Fnu Nipun, Norbert Perrimon, and Stephanie E Mohr. 2020. “BioLitMine: Advanced Mining of Biomedical and Biological Literature About Human Genes and Genes from Major Model Organisms.” G3 (Bethesda).Abstract
The accumulation of biological and biomedical literature outpaces the ability of most researchers and clinicians to stay abreast of their own immediate fields, let alone a broader range of topics. Although available search tools support identification of relevant literature, finding relevant and key publications is not always straightforward. For example, important publications might be missed in searches with an official gene name due to gene synonyms. Moreover, ambiguity of gene names can result in retrieval of a large number of irrelevant publications. To address these issues and help researchers and physicians quickly identify relevant publications, we developed BioLitMine, an advanced literature mining tool that takes advantage of the medical subject heading (MeSH) index and gene-to-publication annotations already available for PubMed literature. Using BioLitMine, a user can identify what MeSH terms are represented in the set of publications associated with a given gene of the interest, or start with a term and identify relevant publications. Users can also use the tool to find co-cited genes and a build a literature co-citation network. In addition, BioLitMine can help users build a gene list relevant to a MeSH terms, such as a list of genes relevant to "stem cells" or "breast neoplasms." Users can also start with a gene or pathway of interest and identify authors associated with that gene or pathway, a feature that makes it easier to identify experts who might serve as collaborators or reviewers. Altogether, BioLitMine extends the value of PubMed-indexed literature and its existing expert curation by providing a robust and gene-centric approach to retrieval of relevant information.
Baolong Xia, Gabriel Amador, Raghuvir Viswanatha, Jonathan Zirin, Stephanie E Mohr, and Norbert Perrimon. 2020. “CRISPR-based engineering of gene knockout cells by homology-directed insertion in polyploid Drosophila S2R+ cells.” Nat Protoc, 15, 10, Pp. 3478-3498.Abstract
Precise and efficient genome modifications provide powerful tools for biological studies. Previous CRISPR gene knockout methods in cell lines have relied on frameshifts caused by stochastic insertion/deletion in all alleles. However, this method is inefficient for genes with high copy number due to polyploidy or gene amplification because frameshifts in all alleles can be difficult to generate and detect. Here we describe a homology-directed insertion method to knockout genes in the polyploid Drosophila S2R+ cell line. This protocol allows generation of homozygous mutant cell lines using an insertion cassette which autocatalytically generates insertion mutations in all alleles. Knockout cells generated using this method can be directly identified by PCR without a need for DNA sequencing. This protocol takes 2-3 months and can be applied to other polyploid cell lines or high-copy-number genes.
Justin A Bosch, Shannon Knight, Oguz Kanca, Jonathan Zirin, Donghui Yang-Zhou, Yanhui Hu, Jonathan Rodiger, Gabriel Amador, Hugo J Bellen, Norbert Perrimon, and Stephanie E Mohr. 2020. “Use of the CRISPR-Cas9 System in Drosophila Cultured Cells to Introduce Fluorescent Tags into Endogenous Genes.” Curr Protoc Mol Biol, 130, 1, Pp. e112.Abstract
The CRISPR-Cas9 system makes it possible to cause double-strand breaks in specific regions, inducing repair. In the presence of a donor construct, repair can involve insertion or 'knock-in' of an exogenous cassette. One common application of knock-in technology is to generate cell lines expressing fluorescently tagged endogenous proteins. The standard approach relies on production of a donor plasmid with ∼500 to 1000 bp of homology on either side of an insertion cassette that contains the fluorescent protein open reading frame (ORF). We present two alternative methods for knock-in of fluorescent protein ORFs into Cas9-expressing Drosophila S2R+ cultured cells, the single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) Drop-In method and the CRISPaint universal donor method. Both methods eliminate the need to clone a large plasmid donor for each target. We discuss the advantages and limitations of the standard, ssDNA Drop-In, and CRISPaint methods for fluorescent protein tagging in Drosophila cultured cells. © 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Basic Protocol 1: Knock-in into Cas9-positive S2R+ cells using the ssDNA Drop-In approach Basic Protocol 2: Knock-in into Cas9-positive S2R+ cells by homology-independent insertion of universal donor plasmids that provide mNeonGreen (CRISPaint method) Support Protocol 1: sgRNA design and cloning Support Protocol 2: ssDNA donor synthesis Support Protocol 3: Transfection using Effectene Support Protocol 4: Electroporation of S2R+-MT::Cas9 Drosophila cells Support Protocol 5: Single-cell isolation of fluorescent cells using FACS.
Chiao-Lin Chen, Jonathan Rodiger, Verena Chung, Raghuvir Viswanatha, Stephanie E Mohr, Yanhui Hu, and Norbert Perrimon. 2019. “SNP-CRISPR: A Web Tool for SNP-Specific Genome Editing.” G3 (Bethesda).Abstract
CRISPR-Cas9 is a powerful genome editing technology in which a short guide RNA (sgRNA) confers target site specificity to achieve Cas9-mediated genome editing. Numerous sgRNA design tools have been developed based on reference genomes for humans and model organisms. However, existing resources are not optimal as genetic mutations or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within the targeting region affect the efficiency of CRISPR-based approaches by interfering with guide-target complementarity. To facilitate identification of sgRNAs (1) in non-reference genomes, (2) across varying genetic backgrounds, or (3) for specific targeting of SNP-containing alleles, for example, disease relevant mutations, we developed a web tool, SNP-CRISPR (https://www.flyrnai.org/tools/snp_crispr/). SNP-CRISPR can be used to design sgRNAs based on public variant data sets or user-identified variants. In addition, the tool computes efficiency and specificity scores for sgRNA designs targeting both the variant and the reference. Moreover, SNP-CRISPR provides the option to upload multiple SNPs and target single or multiple nearby base changes simultaneously with a single sgRNA design. Given these capabilities, SNP-CRISPR has a wide range of potential research applications in model systems and potential applications for design of sgRNAs for disease-associated mutant correction.
Raghuvir Viswanatha, Roderick Brathwaite, Yanhui Hu, Zhongchi Li, Jonathan Rodiger, Pierre Merckaert, Verena Chung, Stephanie E Mohr, and Norbert Perrimon. 2019. “Pooled CRISPR Screens in Drosophila Cells.” Curr Protoc Mol Biol, 129, 1, Pp. e111.Abstract
High-throughput screens in Drosophila melanogaster cell lines have led to discovery of conserved gene functions related to signal transduction, host-pathogen interactions, ion transport, and more. CRISPR/Cas9 technology has opened the door to new types of large-scale cell-based screens. Whereas array-format screens require liquid handling automation and assay miniaturization, pooled-format screens, in which reagents are introduced at random and in bulk, can be done in a standard lab setting. We provide a detailed protocol for conducting and evaluating genome-wide CRISPR single guide RNA (sgRNA) pooled screens in Drosophila S2R+ cultured cells. Specifically, we provide step-by-step instructions for library design and production, optimization of cytotoxin-based selection assays, genome-scale screening, and data analysis. This type of project takes ∼3 months to complete. Results can be used in follow-up studies performed in vivo in Drosophila, mammalian cells, and/or other systems. © 2019 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Basic Protocol: Pooled-format screening with Cas9-expressing Drosophila S2R+ cells in the presence of cytotoxin Support Protocol 1: Optimization of cytotoxin concentration for Drosophila cell screening Support Protocol 2: CRISPR sgRNA library design and production for Drosophila cell screening Support Protocol 3: Barcode deconvolution and analysis of screening data.