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, and is breaking new ground by enabling new studies in mosquito vectors of disease.

View all NIH NIGMS-funded BTRRs and BTDDs

View DRSC-BTRR publications

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. Read more about CRISPR knockout in Drosophila cells here.

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

Interested to use our technologies to help address your biomedical topic of interest? Contact DRSC-BTRR Director Stephanie Mohr

  • BioRender illustration of the workflow at the DRSC-BTRR -- from tech development and testing to iterative improvement
  • Illustration by A.L. Ramirez of an Aedes mosquito and a BioRender illustration of the CRISPR cell screening pipeline
  • BioRender illustration evoking the idea of tech development for large-scale screening to find nanobody binders of fly or mosquito proteins
  • BioRender cartoon representing knowhow in the form of notebooks with text and a faint image of a brain

What is the DRSC-BTRR? Plain-language statement of our goals and approaches:

Typical research labs use many technologies to study one or a few biomedical topics. At the DRSC-BTRR, we flip that model. We focus on developing and improving technologies, and we help other labs apply these technologies to study many different topics. What kind of technologies are we working on? We aim to develop new technologies for manipulating genes and proteins in insects or insect cultured cells. Specifically, we are focused on developing technologies that can be applied for research purposes in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, which has long been used to uncover fundamental biological concepts and human disease-relevant information, and in cultured cells either from Drosophila or from mosquitos that spread human diseases such as malaria or zika virus disease. To accomplish this--and to stay focused on technologies that truly meet needs--we partner with laboratories that can benefit from applying the technologies. Among the labs we are currently partnering with are labs focused on the study of rare human genetic diseases, labs interested to find new treatments for cancer, and labs focused on understanding relationships between microbes that cause mosquito-borne diseases and their mosquito hosts. As part of our efforts, we engage in outreach to research communities that can benefit from our technologies to make sure that they hear about and learn how to use them. Once technologies are mature, we also publish detailed protocols and provide the materials we have developed, such as DNA plasmids or modified cell lines, to academic and non-profit facilities that specialize in storage and distribution of research materials. Through training, publication of protocols, and transfer of materials to distribution facilities, we make sure that researchers across the US and elsewhere will have easy access to DRSC-BTRR technologies for years to come.

Text illustration that provides a link to the webpage describing our DBPs

Funding: NIGMS P41 GM132087: "Functional genomics resources for the Drosophila and broader research communities" (PI: N. Perrimon | Co-I: S. Mohr)(08/01/2019 - 04/30/2024)

Projects that benefit from our in vivo, cell and/or bioinformatics resources should cite the above grant. Citation is critical to our ability to demonstrate our successful development of resources and outreach to relevant communities.


Recent Publications from the DSRC-BTRR

Hans M. Dalton, Raghuvir Viswanatha, Ricky Brathwaite Jr., Jae Sophia Zuno, Stephanie E Mohr, Norbert Perrimon, and Clement Y. Chow. 12/4/2021. “A genome-wide CRISPR screen identifies the glycosylation enzyme DPM1 as a modifier of DPAGT1 deficiency and ER stress.” BioRxiv. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Partial loss-of-function mutations in glycosylation pathways underlie a set of rare diseases called Congenital Disorders of Glycosylation (CDGs). In particular, DPAGT1 CDG is caused by mutations in the gene encoding the first step in N-glycosylation, DPAGT1, and this disorder currently lacks effective therapies. To identify potential therapeutic targets for DPAGT1-CDG, we performed CRISPR knockout screens in Drosophila cells for genes associated with better survival and glycoprotein levels under DPAGT1 inhibition. We identified hundreds of candidate genes that may be of therapeutic benefit. Intriguingly, inhibition of the mannosyltransferase Dpm1, or its downstream glycosylation pathways, could rescue two in vivo models of DPAGT1 inhibition and ER stress, even though impairment of these pathways alone usually cause CDGs. While both in vivo models ostensibly cause ER stress (through DPAGT1 inhibition or a misfolded protein), we found a novel difference in fructose metabolism that may indicate glycolysis as a modulator of DPAGT1-CDG. Our results provide new therapeutic targets for DPAGT1-CDG, include the unique finding of Dpm1-related pathways rescuing DPAGT1 inhibition, and reveal a novel interaction between fructose metabolism and ER stress.
Raghuvir Viswanatha, Enzo Mameli, Jonathan Rodiger, Pierre Merckaert, Fabiana Feitosa-Suntheimer, Tonya M Colpitts, Stephanie E Mohr, Yanhui Hu, and Norbert Perrimon. 11/24/2021. “Bioinformatic and cell-based tools for pooled CRISPR knockout screening in mosquitos.” Nat Commun, 12, 1, Pp. 6825.Abstract
Mosquito-borne diseases present a worldwide public health burden. Current efforts to understand and counteract them have been aided by the use of cultured mosquito cells. Moreover, application in mammalian cells of forward genetic approaches such as CRISPR screens have identified essential genes and genes required for host-pathogen interactions, and in general, aided in functional annotation of genes. An equivalent approach for genetic screening of mosquito cell lines has been lacking. To develop such an approach, we design a new bioinformatic portal for sgRNA library design in several mosquito genomes, engineer mosquito cell lines to express Cas9 and accept sgRNA at scale, and identify optimal promoters for sgRNA expression in several mosquito species. We then optimize a recombination-mediated cassette exchange system to deliver CRISPR sgRNA and perform pooled CRISPR screens in an Anopheles cell line. Altogether, we provide a platform for high-throughput genome-scale screening in cell lines from disease vector species.
Jiunn Song, Arda Mizrak, Chia-Wei Lee, Marcelo Cicconet, Zon Weng Lai, Chieh-Han Lu, Stephanie E. Mohr, Jr Robert V. Farese, and Tobias C. Walther. 9/15/2021. “Identification of two pathways mediating protein targeting from ER to lipid droplets”. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Pathways localizing proteins to their sites of action within a cell are essential for eukaryotic cell organization and function. Although mechanisms of protein targeting to many organelles have been defined, little is known about how proteins, such as key metabolic enzymes, target from the ER to cellular lipid droplets (LDs). Here, we identify two distinct pathways for ER-to-LD (ERTOLD) protein targeting: early ERTOLD, occurring during LD formation, and late ERTOLD, targeting mature LDs after their formation. By using systematic, unbiased approaches, we identified specific membrane-fusion machinery, including regulators, a tether, and SNARE proteins, that are required for late ERTOLD targeting. Components of this fusion machinery localize to LD-ER interfaces and appear to be organized at ER exit sites (ERES) to generate ER-LD membrane bridges. We also identified multiple cargoes for early and late ERTOLD. Collectively, our data provide a new model for how proteins target LDs from the ER.
Yanhui Hu, Sudhir Gopal Tattikota, Yifang Liu, Aram Comjean, Yue Gao, Corey Forman, Grace Kim, Jonathan Rodiger, Irene Papatheodorou, Gilberto Dos Santos, Stephanie E Mohr, and Norbert Perrimon. 2021. “DRscDB: A single-cell RNA-seq resource for data mining and data comparison across species.” Comput Struct Biotechnol J, 19, Pp. 2018-2026.Abstract
With the advent of single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) technologies, there has been a spike in studies involving scRNA-seq of several tissues across diverse species including Drosophila. Although a few databases exist for users to query genes of interest within the scRNA-seq studies, search tools that enable users to find orthologous genes and their cell type-specific expression patterns across species are limited. Here, we built a new search database, DRscDB (https://www.flyrnai.org/tools/single_cell/web/), to address this need. DRscDB serves as a comprehensive repository for published scRNA-seq datasets for Drosophila and relevant datasets from human and other model organisms. DRscDB is based on manual curation of Drosophila scRNA-seq studies of various tissue types and their corresponding analogous tissues in vertebrates including zebrafish, mouse, and human. Of note, our search database provides most of the literature-derived marker genes, thus preserving the original analysis of the published scRNA-seq datasets. Finally, DRscDB serves as a web-based user interface that allows users to mine gene expression data from scRNA-seq studies and perform cell cluster enrichment analyses pertaining to various scRNA-seq studies, both within and across species.
Stephanie E Mohr, Sudhir Gopal Tattikota, Jun Xu, Jonathan Zirin, Yanhui Hu, and Norbert Perrimon. 2021. “Methods and tools for spatial mapping of single-cell RNAseq clusters in Drosophila.” Genetics, 217, 4.Abstract
Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) experiments provide a powerful means to identify clusters of cells that share common gene expression signatures. A major challenge in scRNAseq studies is to map the clusters to specific anatomical regions along the body and within tissues. Existing data, such as information obtained from large-scale in situ RNA hybridization studies, cell type specific transcriptomics, gene expression reporters, antibody stainings, and fluorescent tagged proteins, can help to map clusters to anatomy. However, in many cases, additional validation is needed to precisely map the spatial location of cells in clusters. Several approaches are available for spatial resolution in Drosophila, including mining of existing datasets, and use of existing or new tools for direct or indirect detection of RNA, or direct detection of proteins. Here, we review available resources and emerging technologies that will facilitate spatial mapping of scRNAseq clusters at high resolution in Drosophila. Importantly, we discuss the need, available approaches, and reagents for multiplexing gene expression detection in situ, as in most cases scRNAseq clusters are defined by the unique coexpression of sets of genes.
Raghuvir Viswanatha, Enzo Mameli, Jonathan Rodiger, Pierre Merckaert, Fabiana Feitosa-Suntheimer, Tonya M. Colpitts, Stephanie E. Mohr, Yanhui Hu, and Norbert Perrimon. 3/30/2021. “Bioinformatic and cell-based tools for pooled CRISPR knockout screening in mosquitos [NOTE: A modified final version was published in Nat Comm and is also available here.].” bioRxiv. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Mosquito-borne diseases present a worldwide public health burden. Genome-scale screening tools that could inform our understanding of mosquitos and their control are lacking. Here, we adapt a recombination-mediated cassette exchange system for delivery of CRISPR sgRNA libraries into cell lines from several mosquito species and perform pooled CRISPR screens in an Anopheles cell line. To implement this method, we engineered modified mosquito cell lines, validated promoters and developed bioinformatics tools for multiple mosquito species.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.