RNA interference (RNAi) in tissue culture cells has emerged as an excellent methodology for identifying gene functions systematically and in an unbiased manner. Here, we describe how RNAi high-throughput screening (HTS) in Drosophila cells are currently being performed and emphasize the strengths and weaknesses of the approach. Further, to demonstrate the versatility of the technology, we provide examples of the various applications of the method to problems in signal transduction and cell and developmental biology. Finally, we discuss emerging technological advances that will extend RNAi-based screening methods.
Stimulation of immune cells triggers Ca2+ entry through store-operated Ca2+ release-activated Ca2+ channels, promoting nuclear translocation of the transcription factor NFAT. Through genome-wide RNA interference screens in Drosophila, we and others identified olf186-F (Drosophila Orai, dOrai) and dStim as critical components of store-operated Ca2+ entry and showed that dOrai and its human homologue Orai1 are pore subunits of the Ca2+ release-activated Ca2+ channel. Here we report that Orai1 is predominantly responsible for store-operated Ca2+ influx in human embryonic kidney 293 cells and human T cells and fibroblasts, although its paralogue Orai3 can partly compensate in the absence of functional Orai1. All three mammalian Orai are widely expressed at the mRNA level, and all three are incorporated into the plasma membrane. In human embryonic kidney 293 cells, Orai1 is glycosylated at an asparagine residue in the predicted second extracellular loop, but mutation of the residue does not compromise function. STIM1 and Orai1 colocalize after store depletion, but Orai1 does not associate detectably with STIM1 in glycerol gradient centrifugation or coimmunoprecipitation experiments. Glutamine substitutions in two conserved glutamate residues, located within predicted transmembrane helices of Drosophila Orai and human Orai1, greatly diminish store-operated Ca2+ influx, and primary T cells ectopically expressing mutant E106Q and E190Q Orai1 proteins show reduced proliferation and cytokine secretion. Together, these data establish Orai1 as a predominant mediator of store-operated calcium entry, proliferation, and cytokine production in T cells.
Off-target effects have been demonstrated to be a major source of false-positives in RNA interference (RNAi) high-throughput screens. In this study, we re-assess the previously published transcriptional reporter-based whole-genome RNAi screens for the Wingless and Hedgehog signaling pathways using second generation double-stranded RNA libraries. Furthermore, we investigate other factors that may influence the outcome of such screens, including cell-type specificity, robustness of reporters, and assay normalization, which determine the efficacy of RNAi-knockdown of target genes.
This protocol describes the various steps and considerations involved in planning and carrying out RNA interference (RNAi) genome-wide screens in cultured Drosophila cells. We focus largely on the procedures that have been modified as a result of our experience over the past 3 years and of our better understanding of the underlying technology. Specifically, our protocol offers a set of suggestions and considerations for screen optimization and a step-by-step description of the procedures successfully used at the Drosophila RNAi Screening Center for screen implementation, data collection and analysis to identify potential hits. In addition, this protocol briefly covers postscreen analysis approaches that are often needed to finalize the hit list. Depending on the scope of the screen and subsequent analysis and validation involved, the full protocol can take anywhere from 3 months to 2 years to complete.
Regulation of chromatin structure is critical in many fundamental cellular processes. Previous studies have suggested that the Rb tumor suppressor may recruit multiple chromatin regulatory proteins to repress E2F, a key regulator of cell proliferation and differentiation. Taking advantage of the evolutionary conservation of the E2F pathway, we have conducted a genome-wide RNAi screen in cultured Drosophila cells for genes required for repression of E2F activity. Among the genes identified are components of the putative Domino chromatin remodeling complex, as well as the Polycomb Group (PcG) protein-like fly tumor suppressor, L3mbt, and the related CG16975/dSfmbt. These factors are recruited to E2F-responsive promoters through physical association with E2F and are required for repression of endogenous E2F target genes. Surprisingly, their inhibitory activities on E2F appear to be independent of Rb. In Drosophila, domino mutation enhances cell proliferation induced by E2F overexpression and suppresses a loss-of-function cyclin E mutation. These findings suggest that potential chromatin regulation mediated by Domino and PcG-like factors plays an important role in controlling E2F activity and cell growth.
Metazoan replication-dependent histone mRNAs are not polyadenylated and instead end in a conserved stem loop that is the cis element responsible for coordinate posttranscriptional regulation of these mRNAs. Using biochemical approaches, only a limited number of factors required for cleavage of histone pre-mRNA have been identified. We therefore performed a genome-wide RNA interference screen in Drosophila cells using a GFP reporter that is expressed only when histone pre-mRNA processing is disrupted. Four of the 24 genes identified encode proteins also necessary for cleavage/polyadenylation, indicating mechanistic conservation in formation of different mRNA 3' ends. We also unexpectedly identified the histone variants H2Av and H3.3A/B. In H2Av mutant cells, U7 snRNP remains active but fails to accumulate at the histone locus, suggesting there is a regulatory pathway that coordinates the production of variant and canonical histones that acts via localization of essential histone pre-mRNA processing factors.
Apoptosis is an evolutionally conserved cellular suicide mechanism that can be activated in response to a variety of stressful stimuli. Increasing evidence suggests that apoptotic regulation relies on specialized cell death signaling pathways and also integrates diverse signals from additional regulatory circuits, including those of cellular homeostasis. We present a genome-wide RNA interference screen to systematically identify regulators of apoptosis induced by DNA damage in Drosophila melanogaster cells. We identify 47 double- stranded RNA that target a functionally diverse set of genes, including several with a known function in promoting cell death. Further characterization uncovers 10 genes that influence caspase activation upon the removal of Drosophila inhibitor of apoptosis 1. This set includes the Drosophila initiator caspase Dronc and, surprisingly, several metabolic regulators, a candidate tumor suppressor, Charlatan, and an N-acetyltransferase, ARD1. Importantly, several of these genes show functional conservation in regulating apoptosis in mammalian cells. Our data suggest a previously unappreciated fundamental connection between various cellular processes and caspase-dependent cell death.
Nuclear translocation of Smad proteins is a critical step in signal transduction of transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) and bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). Using nuclear accumulation of the Drosophila Smad Mothers against Decapentaplegic (Mad) as the readout, we carried out a whole-genome RNAi screening in Drosophila cells. The screen identified moleskin (msk) as important for the nuclear import of phosphorylated Mad. Genetic evidence in the developing eye imaginal discs also demonstrates the critical functions of msk in regulating phospho-Mad. Moreover, knockdown of importin 7 and 8 (Imp7 and 8), the mammalian orthologues of Msk, markedly impaired nuclear accumulation of Smad1 in response to BMP2 and of Smad2/3 in response to TGF-beta. Biochemical studies further suggest that Smads are novel nuclear import substrates of Imp7 and 8. We have thus identified new evolutionarily conserved proteins that are important in the signal transduction of TGF-beta and BMP into the nucleus.
Although classical genetic and biochemical approaches have identified hundreds of proteins that function in the dynamic remodeling of cell shape in response to upstream signals, there is currently little systems-level understanding of the organization and composition of signaling networks that regulate cell morphology. We have developed quantitative morphological profiling methods to systematically investigate the role of individual genes in the regulation of cell morphology in a fast, robust, and cost-efficient manner. We analyzed a compendium of quantitative morphological signatures and described the existence of local signaling networks that act to regulate cell protrusion, adhesion, and tension.
Chlamydia spp. are intracellular obligate bacterial pathogens that infect a wide range of host cells. Here, we show that C. caviae enters, replicates, and performs a complete developmental cycle in Drosophila SL2 cells. Using this model system, we have performed a genome-wide RNA interference screen and identified 54 factors that, when depleted, inhibit C. caviae infection. By testing the effect of each candidate's knock down on L. monocytogenes infection, we have identified 31 candidates presumably specific of C. caviae infection. We found factors expected to have an effect on Chlamydia infection, such as heparansulfate glycosaminoglycans and actin and microtubule remodeling factors. We also identified factors that were not previously described as involved in Chlamydia infection. For instance, we identified members of the Tim-Tom complex, a multiprotein complex involved in the recognition and import of nuclear-encoded proteins to the mitochondria, as required for C. caviae infection of Drosophila cells. Finally, we confirmed that depletion of either Tom40 or Tom22 also reduced C. caviae infection in mammalian cells. However, C. trachomatis infection was not affected, suggesting that the mechanism involved is C. caviae specific.
During infection by diverse viral families, RNA replication occurs on the surface of virally induced cytoplasmic membranes of cellular origin. How this process is regulated, and which cellular factors are required, has been unclear. Moreover, the host-pathogen interactions that facilitate the formation of this new compartment might represent critical determinants of viral pathogenesis, and their elucidation may lead to novel insights into the coordination of vesicular trafficking events during infection. Here we show that in Drosophila cells, Drosophila C virus remodels the Golgi apparatus and forms a novel vesicular compartment, on the surface of which viral RNA replication takes place. Using genome-wide RNA interference screening, we found that this step in the viral lifecycle requires at least two host encoded pathways: the coat protein complex I (COPI) coatamer and fatty acid biosynthesis. Our results integrate, clarify, and extend numerous observations concerning the cell biology of viral replication, allowing us to conclude that the coupling of new cellular membrane formation with the budding of these vesicles from the Golgi apparatus allows for the regulated generation of this new virogenic organelle, which is essential for viral replication. Additionally, because these pathways are also limiting in flies and in human cells infected with the related RNA virus poliovirus, they may represent novel targets for antiviral therapies.
Store-operated Ca2+ entry is mediated by Ca2+ release-activated Ca2+ (CRAC) channels following Ca2+ release from intracellular stores. We performed a genome-wide RNA interference (RNAi) screen in Drosophila cells to identify proteins that inhibit store-operated Ca2+ influx. A secondary patch-clamp screen identified CRACM1 and CRACM2 (CRAC modulators 1 and 2) as modulators of Drosophila CRAC currents. We characterized the human ortholog of CRACM1, a plasma membrane-resident protein encoded by gene FLJ14466. Although overexpression of CRACM1 did not affect CRAC currents, RNAi-mediated knockdown disrupted its activation. CRACM1 could be the CRAC channel itself, a subunit of it, or a component of the CRAC signaling machinery.
To evaluate the specificity of long dsRNAs used in high-throughput RNA interference (RNAi) screens performed at the Drosophila RNAi Screening Center (DRSC), we performed a global analysis of their activity in 30 genome-wide screens completed at our facility. Notably, our analysis predicts that dsRNAs containing > or = 19-nucleotide perfect matches identified in silico to unintended targets may contribute to a significant false positive error rate arising from off-target effects. We confirmed experimentally that such sequences in dsRNAs lead to false positives and to efficient knockdown of a cross-hybridizing transcript, raising a cautionary note about interpreting results based on the use of a single dsRNA per gene. Although a full appreciation of all causes of false positive errors remains to be determined, we suggest simple guidelines to help ensure high-quality information from RNAi high-throughput screens.
RNA interference (RNAi) has become a powerful tool for genetic screening in Drosophila. At the Drosophila RNAi Screening Center (DRSC), we are using a library of over 21,000 double-stranded RNAs targeting known and predicted genes in Drosophila. This library is available for the use of visiting scientists wishing to perform full-genome RNAi screens. The data generated from these screens are collected in the DRSC database (http://flyRNAi.org/cgi-bin/RNAi_screens.pl) in a flexible format for the convenience of the scientist and for archiving data. The long-term goal of this database is to provide annotations for as many of the uncharacterized genes in Drosophila as possible. Data from published screens are available to the public through a highly configurable interface that allows detailed examination of the data and provides access to a number of other databases and bioinformatics tools.
Yeast genetics and in vitro biochemical analysis have identified numerous genes involved in protein secretion. As compared with yeast, however, the metazoan secretory pathway is more complex and many mechanisms that regulate organization of the Golgi apparatus remain poorly characterized. We performed a genome-wide RNA-mediated interference screen in a Drosophila cell line to identify genes required for constitutive protein secretion. We then classified the genes on the basis of the effect of their depletion on organization of the Golgi membranes. Here we show that depletion of class A genes redistributes Golgi membranes into the endoplasmic reticulum, depletion of class B genes leads to Golgi fragmentation, depletion of class C genes leads to aggregation of Golgi membranes, and depletion of class D genes causes no obvious change. Of the 20 new gene products characterized so far, several localize to the Golgi membranes and the endoplasmic reticulum.
Receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) signalling through extracellular-signal-regulated kinases (ERKs) has pivotal roles during metazoan development, underlying processes as diverse as fate determination, differentiation, proliferation, survival, migration and growth. Abnormal RTK/ERK signalling has been extensively documented to contribute to developmental disorders and disease, most notably in oncogenic transformation by mutant RTKs or downstream pathway components such as Ras and Raf. Although the core RTK/ERK signalling cassette has been characterized by decades of research using mammalian cell culture and forward genetic screens in model organisms, signal propagation through this pathway is probably regulated by a larger network of moderate, context-specific proteins. The genes encoding these proteins may not have been discovered through traditional screens owing, in particular, to the requirement for visible phenotypes. To obtain a global view of RTK/ERK signalling, we performed an unbiased, RNA interference (RNAi), genome-wide, high-throughput screen in Drosophila cells using a novel, quantitative, cellular assay monitoring ERK activation. Here we show that ERK pathway output integrates a wide array of conserved cellular processes. Further analysis of selected components-in multiple cell types with different RTK ligands and oncogenic stimuli-validates and classifies 331 pathway regulators. The relevance of these genes is highlighted by our isolation of a Ste20-like kinase and a PPM-family phosphatase that seem to regulate RTK/ERK signalling in vivo and in mammalian cells. Novel regulators that modulate specific pathway outputs may be selective targets for drug discovery.
Precise regulation of the NFAT (nuclear factor of activated T cells) family of transcription factors (NFAT1-4) is essential for vertebrate development and function. In resting cells, NFAT proteins are heavily phosphorylated and reside in the cytoplasm; in cells exposed to stimuli that raise intracellular free Ca2+ levels, they are dephosphorylated by the calmodulin-dependent phosphatase calcineurin and translocate to the nucleus. NFAT dephosphorylation by calcineurin is countered by distinct NFAT kinases, among them casein kinase 1 (CK1) and glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3). Here we have used a genome-wide RNA interference (RNAi) screen in Drosophila to identify additional regulators of the signalling pathway leading from Ca2+-calcineurin to NFAT. This screen was successful because the pathways regulating NFAT subcellular localization (Ca2+ influx, Ca2+-calmodulin-calcineurin signalling and NFAT kinases) are conserved across species, even though Ca2+-regulated NFAT proteins are not themselves represented in invertebrates. Using the screen, we have identified DYRKs (dual-specificity tyrosine-phosphorylation regulated kinases) as novel regulators of NFAT. DYRK1A and DYRK2 counter calcineurin-mediated dephosphorylation of NFAT1 by directly phosphorylating the conserved serine-proline repeat 3 (SP-3) motif of the NFAT regulatory domain, thus priming further phosphorylation of the SP-2 and serine-rich region 1 (SRR-1) motifs by GSK3 and CK1, respectively. Thus, genetic screening in Drosophila can be successfully applied to cross evolutionary boundaries and identify new regulators of a transcription factor that is expressed only in vertebrates.
Recent studies by our group and others demonstrated a required and conserved role of Stim in store-operated Ca(2+) influx and Ca(2+) release-activated Ca(2+) (CRAC) channel activity. By using an unbiased genome-wide RNA interference screen in Drosophila S2 cells, we now identify 75 hits that strongly inhibited Ca(2+) influx upon store emptying by thapsigargin. Among these hits are 11 predicted transmembrane proteins, including Stim, and one, olf186-F, that upon RNA interference-mediated knockdown exhibited a profound reduction of thapsigargin-evoked Ca(2+) entry and CRAC current, and upon overexpression a 3-fold augmentation of CRAC current. CRAC currents were further increased to 8-fold higher than control and developed more rapidly when olf186-F was cotransfected with Stim. olf186-F is a member of a highly conserved family of four-transmembrane spanning proteins with homologs from Caenorhabditis elegans to human. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) Ca(2+) pump sarco-/ER calcium ATPase (SERCA) and the single transmembrane-soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive (NSF) attachment receptor (SNARE) protein Syntaxin5 also were required for CRAC channel activity, consistent with a signaling pathway in which Stim senses Ca(2+) depletion within the ER, translocates to the plasma membrane, and interacts with olf186-F to trigger CRAC channel activity.
RNA interference has re-energized the field of functional genomics by enabling genome-scale loss-of-function screens in cultured cells. Looking back on the lessons that have been learned from the first wave of technology developments and applications in this exciting field, we provide both a user's guide for newcomers to the field and a detailed examination of some more complex issues, particularly concerning optimization and quality control, for more advanced users. From a discussion of cell lines, screening paradigms, reagent types and read-out methodologies, we explore in particular the complexities of designing optimal controls and normalization strategies for these challenging but extremely powerful studies.
Antigen stimulation of immune cells triggers Ca2+ entry through Ca2+ release-activated Ca2+ (CRAC) channels, promoting the immune response to pathogens by activating the transcription factor NFAT. We have previously shown that cells from patients with one form of hereditary severe combined immune deficiency (SCID) syndrome are defective in store-operated Ca2+ entry and CRAC channel function. Here we identify the genetic defect in these patients, using a combination of two unbiased genome-wide approaches: a modified linkage analysis with single-nucleotide polymorphism arrays, and a Drosophila RNA interference screen designed to identify regulators of store-operated Ca2+ entry and NFAT nuclear import. Both approaches converged on a novel protein that we call Orai1, which contains four putative transmembrane segments. The SCID patients are homozygous for a single missense mutation in ORAI1, and expression of wild-type Orai1 in SCID T cells restores store-operated Ca2+ influx and the CRAC current (I(CRAC)). We propose that Orai1 is an essential component or regulator of the CRAC channel complex.