Off-target analysis

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.
Screenshot of online tools

Navigating our online tools -- orthologs, literature mining, qPCR primers, and so much more!

February 14, 2019

We have been taking a critical look at how we organize our online tools on the Online Tools Overview page. And more generally, we have been thinking about new ways to spread the word about the many resources in our suite of online tools. One way that we at the DRSC like to think about these tools is how they fit into the start-to-finish order of events in a screen or other experimental project. Various tools help define lists of genes to be studied, help identify reagents for the study,...

Read more about Navigating our online tools -- orthologs, literature mining, qPCR primers, and so much more!
2018 Apr 13

DRSC & TRiP Workshop at ADRC

1:45pm to 3:45pm


Philadelphia, PA, USA
The DRSC & TRiP will be hosting a workshop at the Annual Drosophila Research Conference in Philadelphia, PA. The workshop is scheduled for Friday, April 13th from 1:45 to 3:45 PM. Come hear from DRSC & TRiP leaders Norbert Perrimon, Jonathan Zirin (organizer), Claire Yanhui Hu, and Stephanie Mohr. At the workshop, you will learn about new opportunities for community nomination and experiments using CRISPR knockout and activation, as well as learn what's new and popular among our online software and database tools. There will be something for everyone -- we will provide information... Read more about DRSC & TRiP Workshop at ADRC
Stephanie E Mohr, Kirstin Rudd, Yanhui Hu, Wei R Song, Quentin Gilly, Michael Buckner, Benjamin E Housden, Colleen Kelley, Jonathan Zirin, Rong Tao, Gabriel Amador, Katarzyna Sierzputowska, Aram Comjean, and Norbert Perrimon. 12/9/2017. “Zinc Detoxification: A Functional Genomics and Transcriptomics Analysis in Drosophila melanogaster Cultured Cells.” G3 (Bethesda).Abstract
Cells require some metals, such as zinc and manganese, but excess levels of these metals can be toxic. As a result, cells have evolved complex mechanisms for maintaining metal homeostasis and surviving metal intoxication. Here, we present the results of a large-scale functional genomic screen in Drosophila cultured cells for modifiers of zinc chloride toxicity, together with transcriptomics data for wildtype or genetically zinc-sensitized cells challenged with mild zinc chloride supplementation. Altogether, we identified 47 genes for which knockdown conferred sensitivity or resistance to toxic zinc or manganese chloride treatment, and more than 1800 putative zinc-responsive genes. Analysis of the 'omics data points to the relevance of ion transporters, glutathione-related factors, and conserved disease-associated genes in zinc detoxification. Specific genes identified in the zinc screen include orthologs of human disease-associated genes CTNS, PTPRN (also known as IA-2), and ATP13A2 (also known as PARK9). We show that knockdown of red dog mine (rdog; CG11897), a candidate zinc detoxification gene encoding an ABCC-type transporter family protein related to yeast cadmium factor (YCF1), confers sensitivity to zinc intoxication in cultured cells and that rdog is transcriptionally up-regulated in response to zinc stress. As there are many links between the biology of zinc and other metals and human health, the 'omics datasets presented here provide a resource that will allow researchers to explore metal biology in the context of diverse health-relevant processes.
Chen X and Xu L. 2016. “Genome-Wide RNAi Screening to Dissect the TGF-β Signal Transduction Pathway.” Methods in Molecular Biology. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) family of cytokines figures prominently in regulation of embryonic development and adult tissue homeostasis from Drosophila to mammals. Genetic defects affecting TGF-β signaling underlie developmental disorders and diseases such as cancer in human. Therefore, delineating the molecular mechanism by which TGF-β regulates cell biology is critical for understanding normal biology and disease mechanisms. Forward genetic screens in model organisms and biochemical approaches in mammalian tissue culture were instrumental in initial characterization of the TGF-β signal transduction pathway. With complete sequence information of the genomes and the advent of RNA interference (RNAi) technology, genome-wide RNAi screening emerged as a powerful functional genomics approach to systematically delineate molecular components of signal transduction pathways. Here, we describe a protocol for image-based whole-genome RNAi screening aimed at identifying molecules required for TGF-β signaling into the nucleus. Using this protocol we examined >90 % of annotated Drosophila open reading frames (ORF) individually and successfully uncovered several novel factors serving critical roles in the TGF-β pathway. Thus cell-based high-throughput functional genomics can uncover new mechanistic insights on signaling pathways beyond what the classical genetics had revealed.

Benjamin E Housden, Matthias Muhar, Matthew Gemberling, Charles A Gersbach, Didier YR Stainier, Geraldine Seydoux, Stephanie E Mohr, Johannes Zuber, and Norbert Perrimon. 10/31/2016. “Loss-of-function genetic tools for animal models: cross-species and cross-platform differences.” Nat Rev Genet. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Our understanding of the genetic mechanisms that underlie biological processes has relied extensively on loss-of-function (LOF) analyses. LOF methods target DNA, RNA or protein to reduce or to ablate gene function. By analysing the phenotypes that are caused by these perturbations the wild-type function of genes can be elucidated. Although all LOF methods reduce gene activity, the choice of approach (for example, mutagenesis, CRISPR-based gene editing, RNA interference, morpholinos or pharmacological inhibition) can have a major effect on phenotypic outcomes. Interpretation of the LOF phenotype must take into account the biological process that is targeted by each method. The practicality and efficiency of LOF methods also vary considerably between model systems. We describe parameters for choosing the optimal combination of method and system, and for interpreting phenotypes within the constraints of each method.

Matthew Booker, Anastasia A Samsonova, Young Kwon, Ian Flockhart, Stephanie E Mohr, and Norbert Perrimon. 2011. “False negative rates in Drosophila cell-based RNAi screens: a case study.” BMC Genomics, 12, Pp. 50.Abstract

BACKGROUND: High-throughput screening using RNAi is a powerful gene discovery method but is often complicated by false positive and false negative results. Whereas false positive results associated with RNAi reagents has been a matter of extensive study, the issue of false negatives has received less attention. RESULTS: We performed a meta-analysis of several genome-wide, cell-based Drosophila RNAi screens, together with a more focused RNAi screen, and conclude that the rate of false negative results is at least 8%. Further, we demonstrate how knowledge of the cell transcriptome can be used to resolve ambiguous results and how the number of false negative results can be reduced by using multiple, independently-tested RNAi reagents per gene. CONCLUSIONS: RNAi reagents that target the same gene do not always yield consistent results due to false positives and weak or ineffective reagents. False positive results can be partially minimized by filtering with transcriptome data. RNAi libraries with multiple reagents per gene also reduce false positive and false negative outcomes when inconsistent results are disambiguated carefully.

Susan Armknecht, Michael Boutros, Amy Kiger, Kent Nybakken, Bernard Mathey-Prevot, and Norbert Perrimon. 2005. “High-throughput RNA interference screens in Drosophila tissue culture cells.” Methods Enzymol, 392, Pp. 55-73.Abstract

This chapter describes the method used to conduct high-throughput screening (HTs) by RNA interference in Drosophila tissue culture cells. It covers four main topics: (1) a brief description of the existing platforms to conduct RNAi-screens in cell-based assays; (2) a table of the Drosophila cell lines available for these screens and a brief mention of the need to establish other cell lines as well as cultures of primary cells; (3) a discussion of the considerations and protocols involved in establishing assays suitable for HTS in a 384-well format; and (A) a summary of the various ways of handling raw data from an ongoing screen, with special emphasis on how to apply normalization for experimental variation and statistical filters to sort out noise from signals.

Yanhui Hu, Richelle Sopko, Marianna Foos, Colleen Kelley, Ian Flockhart, Noemie Ammeux, Xiaowei Wang, Lizabeth Perkins, Norbert Perrimon, and Stephanie E Mohr. 2013. “FlyPrimerBank: an online database for Drosophila melanogaster gene expression analysis and knockdown evaluation of RNAi reagents.” G3 (Bethesda), 3, 9, Pp. 1607-16.Abstract

The evaluation of specific endogenous transcript levels is important for understanding transcriptional regulation. More specifically, it is useful for independent confirmation of results obtained by the use of microarray analysis or RNA-seq and for evaluating RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated gene knockdown. Designing specific and effective primers for high-quality, moderate-throughput evaluation of transcript levels, i.e., quantitative, real-time PCR (qPCR), is nontrivial. To meet community needs, predefined qPCR primer pairs for mammalian genes have been designed and sequences made available, e.g., via PrimerBank. In this work, we adapted and refined the algorithms used for the mammalian PrimerBank to design 45,417 primer pairs for 13,860 Drosophila melanogaster genes, with three or more primer pairs per gene. We experimentally validated primer pairs for ~300 randomly selected genes expressed in early Drosophila embryos, using SYBR Green-based qPCR and sequence analysis of products derived from conventional PCR. All relevant information, including primer sequences, isoform specificity, spatial transcript targeting, and any available validation results and/or user feedback, is available from an online database ( At FlyPrimerBank, researchers can retrieve primer information for fly genes either one gene at a time or in batch mode. Importantly, we included the overlap of each predicted amplified sequence with RNAi reagents from several public resources, making it possible for researchers to choose primers suitable for knockdown evaluation of RNAi reagents (i.e., to avoid amplification of the RNAi reagent itself). We demonstrate the utility of this resource for validation of RNAi reagents in vivo.

Christophe J Echeverri and Norbert Perrimon. 2006. “High-throughput RNAi screening in cultured cells: a user's guide.” Nat Rev Genet, 7, 5, Pp. 373-84.Abstract

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.

Stephanie E Mohr, Yanhui Hu, Kevin Kim, Benjamin E Housden, and Norbert Perrimon. 2014. “Resources for functional genomics studies in Drosophila melanogaster.” Genetics, 197, 1, Pp. 1-18.Abstract

Drosophila melanogaster has become a system of choice for functional genomic studies. Many resources, including online databases and software tools, are now available to support design or identification of relevant fly stocks and reagents or analysis and mining of existing functional genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, etc. datasets. These include large community collections of fly stocks and plasmid clones, "meta" information sites like FlyBase and FlyMine, and an increasing number of more specialized reagents, databases, and online tools. Here, we introduce key resources useful to plan large-scale functional genomics studies in Drosophila and to analyze, integrate, and mine the results of those studies in ways that facilitate identification of highest-confidence results and generation of new hypotheses. We also discuss ways in which existing resources can be used and might be improved and suggest a few areas of future development that would further support large- and small-scale studies in Drosophila and facilitate use of Drosophila information by the research community more generally.

Nadire Ramadan, Ian Flockhart, Matthew Booker, Norbert Perrimon, and Bernard Mathey-Prevot. 2007. “Design and implementation of high-throughput RNAi screens in cultured Drosophila cells.” Nat Protoc, 2, 9, Pp. 2245-64.Abstract

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.