Computational correction of copy number effect improves specificity of CRISPR-Cas9 essentiality screens in cancer cells.
ABSTRACT: The CRISPR-Cas9 system has revolutionized gene editing both at single genes and in multiplexed loss-of-function screens, thus enabling precise genome-scale identification of genes essential for proliferation and survival of cancer cells. However, previous studies have reported that a gene-independent antiproliferative effect of Cas9-mediated DNA cleavage confounds such measurement of genetic dependency, thereby leading to false-positive results in copy number-amplified regions. We developed CERES, a computational method to estimate gene-dependency levels from CRISPR-Cas9 essentiality screens while accounting for the copy number-specific effect. In our efforts to define a cancer dependency map, we performed genome-scale CRISPR-Cas9 essentiality screens across 342 cancer cell lines and applied CERES to this data set. We found that CERES decreased false-positive results and estimated sgRNA activity for both this data set and previously published screens performed with different sgRNA libraries. We further demonstrate the utility of this collection of screens, after CERES correction, for identifying cancer-type-specific vulnerabilities.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Genome editing by CRISPR-Cas9 technology allows large-scale screening of gene essentiality in cancer. A confounding factor when interpreting CRISPR-Cas9 screens is the high false-positive rate in detecting essential genes within copy number amplified regions of the genome. We have developed the computational tool CRISPRcleanR which is capable of identifying and correcting gene-independent responses to CRISPR-Cas9 targeting. CRISPRcleanR uses an unsupervised approach based on the segmentation of single-guide RNA fold change values across the genome, without making any assumption about the copy number status of the targeted genes. RESULTS:Applying our method to existing and newly generated genome-wide essentiality profiles from 15 cancer cell lines, we demonstrate that CRISPRcleanR reduces false positives when calling essential genes, correcting biases within and outside of amplified regions, while maintaining true positive rates. Established cancer dependencies and essentiality signals of amplified cancer driver genes are detectable post-correction. CRISPRcleanR reports sgRNA fold changes and normalised read counts, is therefore compatible with downstream analysis tools, and works with multiple sgRNA libraries. CONCLUSIONS:CRISPRcleanR is a versatile open-source tool for the analysis of CRISPR-Cas9 knockout screens to identify essential genes.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Genome-wide loss-of-function screens using the CRISPR/Cas9 system allow the efficient discovery of cancer cell vulnerabilities. While several studies have focused on correcting for DNA cleavage toxicity biases associated with copy number alterations, the effects of sgRNAs co-targeting multiple genomic loci in CRISPR screens have not been discussed. RESULTS:In this work, we analyze CRISPR essentiality screen data from 391 cancer cell lines to characterize biases induced by multi-target sgRNAs. We investigate two types of multi-targets: on-targets predicted through perfect sequence complementarity and off-targets predicted through sequence complementarity with up to two nucleotide mismatches. We find that the number of on-targets and off-targets both increase sgRNA activity in a cell line-specific manner and that existing additive models of gene knockout effects fail at capturing genetic interactions that may occur between co-targeted genes. We use synthetic lethality between paralog genes to show that genetic interactions can introduce biases in essentiality scores estimated from multi-target sgRNAs. We further show that single-mismatch tolerant sgRNAs can confound the analysis of gene essentiality and lead to incorrect co-essentiality functional networks. Lastly, we also find that single nucleotide polymorphisms located in protospacer regions can impair on-target activity as a result of mismatch tolerance. CONCLUSION:We show the impact of multi-target effects on estimating cancer cell dependencies and the impact of off-target effects caused by mismatch tolerance in sgRNA-DNA binding.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Probing genetic dependencies of cancer cells can improve our understanding of tumour development and progression, as well as identify potential drug targets. CRISPR-Cas9-based and shRNA-based genetic screening are commonly utilized to identify essential genes that affect cancer growth. However, systematic methods leveraging these genetic screening techniques to derive consensus cancer dependency maps for individual cancer cell lines are lacking. FINDING:In this work, we first explored the CRISPR-Cas9 and shRNA gene essentiality profiles in 42 cancer cell lines representing 10 cancer types. We observed limited consistency between the essentiality profiles of these two screens at the genome scale. To improve consensus on the cancer dependence map, we developed a computational model called combined essentiality score (CES) to integrate the genetic essentiality profiles from CRISPR-Cas9 and shRNA screens, while accounting for the molecular features of the genes. We found that the CES method outperformed the existing gene essentiality scoring approaches in terms of ability to detect cancer essential genes. We further demonstrated the power of the CES method in adjusting for screen-specific biases and predicting genetic dependencies in individual cancer cell lines. INTERPRETATION:Systematic comparison of the CRISPR-Cas9 and shRNA gene essentiality profiles showed the limitation of relying on a single technique to identify cancer essential genes. The CES method provides an integrated framework to leverage both genetic screening techniques as well as molecular feature data to determine gene essentiality more accurately for cancer cells.
Project description:CRISPR/Cas9 is a powerful gene editing tool for gene knockout studies and functional genomic screens. Successful implementation of CRISPR often requires Cas9 to elicit efficient target knockout in a population of cells. In this study, we investigated the role of several key factors, including variation in target copy number, inherent potency of sgRNA guides, and expression level of Cas9 and sgRNA, in determining CRISPR knockout efficiency. Using isogenic, clonal cell lines with variable copy numbers of an EGFP transgene, we discovered that CRISPR knockout is relatively insensitive to target copy number, but is highly dependent on the potency of the sgRNA guide sequence. Kinetic analysis revealed that most target mutation occurs between 5 and 10 days following Cas9/sgRNA transduction, while sgRNAs with different potencies differ by their knockout time course and by their terminal-phase knockout efficiency. We showed that prolonged, low level expression of Cas9 and sgRNA often fails to elicit target mutation, particularly if the potency of the sgRNA is also low. Our findings provide new insights into the behavior of CRISPR/Cas9 in mammalian cells that could be used for future improvement of this platform.
Project description:The CRISPR/Cas9 system has revolutionized mammalian somatic cell genetics. Genome-wide functional screens using CRISPR/Cas9-mediated knockout or dCas9 fusion-mediated inhibition/activation (CRISPRi/a) are powerful techniques for discovering phenotype-associated gene function. We systematically assessed the DNA sequence features that contribute to single guide RNA (sgRNA) efficiency in CRISPR-based screens. Leveraging the information from multiple designs, we derived a new sequence model for predicting sgRNA efficiency in CRISPR/Cas9 knockout experiments. Our model confirmed known features and suggested new features including a preference for cytosine at the cleavage site. The model was experimentally validated for sgRNA-mediated mutation rate and protein knockout efficiency. Tested on independent data sets, the model achieved significant results in both positive and negative selection conditions and outperformed existing models. We also found that the sequence preference for CRISPRi/a is substantially different from that for CRISPR/Cas9 knockout and propose a new model for predicting sgRNA efficiency in CRISPRi/a experiments. These results facilitate the genome-wide design of improved sgRNA for both knockout and CRISPRi/a studies.
Project description:Cell autonomous cancer dependencies are now routinely identified using CRISPR loss-of-function viability screens. However, a bias exists that makes it difficult to assess the true essentiality of genes located in amplicons, since the entire amplified region can exhibit lethal scores. These false-positive hits can either be discarded from further analysis, which in cancer models can represent a significant number of hits, or methods can be developed to rescue the true-positives within amplified regions. We propose two methods to rescue true positive hits in amplified regions by correcting for this copy number artefact. The Local Drop Out (LDO) method uses the relative lethality scores within genomic regions to assess true essentiality and does not require additional orthogonal data (e.g. copy number value). LDO is meant to be used in screens covering a dense region of the genome (e.g. a whole chromosome or the whole genome). The General Additive Model (GAM) method models the screening data as a function of the known copy number values and removes the systematic effect from the measured lethality. GAM does not require the same density as LDO, but does require prior knowledge of the copy number values. Both methods have been developed with single sample experiments in mind so that the correction can be applied even in smaller screens. Here we demonstrate the efficacy of both methods at removing the copy number effect and rescuing hits from some of the amplified regions. We estimate a 70-80% decrease of false positive hits with either method in regions of high copy number compared to no correction.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The CRISPR/Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat and CRISPR-associated nucleases) based technologies have revolutionized genome engineering. While their use for prokaryotic genome editing is expanding, some limitations remain such as possible off-target effects and design constraints. These are compounded when performing systematic genome editing at distinct loci or when targeting repeated sequences (e.g. multicopy genes or mobile genetic elements). To overcome these limitations, we designed an approach using the same sgRNA and CRISPR-Cas9 system to independently perform gene editing at different loci. RESULTS:We developed a two-step procedure based on the introduction by homologous recombination of 'bait' DNA at the vicinity of a gene copy of interest before inducing CRISPR-Cas9 activity. The introduction of a genetic tool encoding a CRISPR-Cas9 complex targeting this 'bait' DNA induces a double strand break near the copy of interest. Its repair by homologous recombination can lead either to reversion or gene copy-specific editing. The relative frequencies of these events are linked to the impact of gene editing on cell fitness. In our study, we used this technology to successfully delete the native copies of two xenogeneic silencers lsr2 paralogs in Streptomyces ambofaciens. We observed that one of these paralogs is a candidate-essential gene since its native locus can be deleted only in the presence of an extra copy. CONCLUSION:By targeting 'bait' DNA, we designed a 'generic' CRISPR-Cas9 toolkit that can be used to edit different loci. The differential action of this CRISPR-Cas9 system is exclusively based on the specific recombination between regions surrounding the gene copy of interest. This approach is suitable to edit multicopy genes. One such particular example corresponds to the mutagenesis of candidate-essential genes that requires the presence of an extra copy of the gene before gene disruption. This opens new insights to explore gene essentiality in bacteria and to limit off-target effects during systematic CRISPR-Cas9 based approaches.
Project description:An emerging theme from large-scale genetic screens that identify genes essential for cell fitness is that essentiality of a given gene is highly context-specific. Identification of such contexts could be the key to defining gene function and also to develop novel therapeutic interventions. Here, we present Context-specific Essentiality Network-tools (CEN-tools), a website and python package, in which users can interrogate the essentiality of a gene from large-scale genome-scale CRISPR screens in a number of biological contexts including tissue of origin, mutation profiles, expression levels and drug responses. We show that CEN-tools is suitable for the systematic identification of genetic dependencies and for more targeted queries. The associations between genes and a given context are represented as dependency networks (CENs), and we demonstrate the utility of these networks in elucidating novel gene functions. In addition, we integrate the dependency networks with existing protein-protein interaction networks to reveal context-dependent essential cellular pathways in cancer cells. Together, we demonstrate the applicability of CEN-tools in aiding the current efforts to define the human cellular dependency map.
Project description:High-throughput CRISPR-Cas9 knockout screens using a tiling-sgRNA design permit in situ evaluation of protein domain function. Here, to facilitate de novo identification of essential protein domains from such screens, we propose ProTiler, a computational method for the robust mapping of CRISPR knockout hyper-sensitive (CKHS) regions, which refer to the protein regions associated with a strong sgRNA dropout effect in the screens. Applied to a published CRISPR tiling screen dataset, ProTiler identifies 175 CKHS regions in 83 proteins. Of these CKHS regions, more than 80% overlap with annotated Pfam domains, including all of the 15 known drug targets in the dataset. ProTiler also reveals unannotated essential domains, including the N-terminus of the SWI/SNF subunit SMARCB1, which is validated experimentally. Surprisingly, the CKHS regions are negatively correlated with phosphorylation and acetylation sites, suggesting that protein domains and post-translational modification sites have distinct sensitivities to CRISPR-Cas9 mediated amino acids loss.
Project description:It has been possible to create tools to predict single guide RNA (sgRNA) activity in the CRISPR/Cas9 system derived from Streptococcus pyogenes due to the large amount of data that has been generated in sgRNA library screens. However, with the discovery of additional CRISPR systems from different bacteria, which show potent activity in eukaryotic cells, the approach of generating large data sets for each of these systems to predict their activity is not tractable. Here, we present a new guide RNA tool that can predict sgRNA activity across multiple CRISPR systems. In addition to predicting activity for Cas9 from S. pyogenes and Streptococcus thermophilus CRISPR1, we experimentally demonstrate that our algorithm can predict activity for Cas9 from Staphylococcus aureus and S. thermophilus CRISPR3. We also have made available a new version of our software, sgRNA Scorer 2.0, which will allow users to identify sgRNA sites for any PAM sequence of interest.