A genome-scale screen for synthetic drivers of T cell proliferation
The engineering of autologous patient T cells for adoptive cell therapies has revolutionized the treatment of several types of cancer1. However, further improvements are needed to increase response and cure rates. CRISPR-based loss-of-function screens have been limited to negative regulators of T cell functions2-4 and raise safety concerns owing to the permanent modification of the genome. Here we identify positive regulators of T cellÂ functions through overexpression of around 12,000 barcoded human open reading frames (ORFs). The top-ranked genes increased the proliferation and activation of primary human CD4+ and CD8+ T cells and their secretion of key cytokines such as interleukin-2 and interferon-Î³. In addition, we developed the single-cell genomics method OverCITE-seq for high-throughput quantification of the transcriptome and surface antigens in ORF-engineered T cells. The top-ranked ORF-lymphotoxin-Î² receptor (LTBR)-is typically expressed in myeloid cells but absent in lymphocytes. When overexpressed in T cells, LTBR induced profound transcriptional and epigenomic remodelling, leading to increased T cell effector functions and resistance to exhaustion in chronic stimulation settings through constitutive activation of the canonical NF-ÎºB pathway. LTBR and other highly ranked genes improved the antigen-specific responses of chimeric antigen receptor T cells and Î³Î´ T cells, highlighting their potential for future cancer-agnostic therapies5. Our results provide several strategies for improving next-generation T cell therapies by the induction of synthetic cell programmes.
Development of Novel CAR Therapies for Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma Using Genome-Wide Overexpression Screens [Meeting Abstract]
Despite recent therapeutic advances in the management of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), up to 50% of patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) relapse after first line therapy, and for DLBCL patients who relapse within 12 months after subsequent stem cell transplant (SCT), the median overall survival (OS) is 6.3 months. Recently, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy has shown remarkable activity in relapsed DLBCL with complete response (CR) rate of 40% and 54% for the two of the FDA-approved CAR T-cell products, tisagenlecleucel and axicabtagene ciloleucel, respectively. However, at a median follow-up of 18 months, only 36% of patients treated with tisagenlecleucel remained in CR; with longer follow-up for axicabtagene ciloleucel the median progression free survival (PFS) was 5.9 months. Immune escape and immune evasion are primary mechanisms of CAR-T resistance; clearly improvements are needed to increase response rate and cure. While CRISPR-based loss-of-function screens have shown promise for high-throughput identification of genes that modulate T-cell response, these methods have been limited thus far to negative regulators of T-cell functions, and raise safety concerns due to the permanent nature of genome modification. Here we identify positive T-cell regulators via overexpression of ~12,000 barcoded human open reading frames (ORFs). Using this genome-scale ORF screen, we found modulator genes which increased primary human CD4+ and CD8+ T-cell proliferation, including activation markers like CD25 and CD40L, and secretion of key cytokines like interleukin-2 and interferon-gamma. In addition, we developed a single-cell genomics method (OverCITE-seq) for high-throughput quantification of the transcriptome and surface proteome in ORF-engineered T-cells. The top-ranked ORF, lymphotoxin beta receptor (LTBR), is typically expressed in a subset of myeloid cells but absent in lymphocytes. When expressed in T-cells, LTBR induces a profound transcriptional remodelling, resulting in increased resistance to exhaustion and activation-induced apoptosis, as well as upregulation of a plethora of proinflammatory cytokines, co-stimulatory molecules and antigen presentation machinery. In order to investigate the mechanism of action of LTBR, we developed an epistasis assay which allows for simultaneous gene knockout and LTBR overexpression in primary T cells. Thus, LTBR appears to induce both canonical and non-canonical NFkB pathways - but the phenotype observed in T cells is dependent only on the former. Finally, we co-expressed several top-ranked genes, including LTBR, with FDA approved CD19-targeting CARs utilizing either 4-1BB or CD28 co-stimulatory domains. In line with previous results, co-expression of top-ranked ORFs increased proinflammatory cytokine secretion and cytotoxicity against CD19+ positive cancer cell lines. This functional improvement was also observed when top-ranked ORFs and CARs were delivered to T cells isolated from DLBCL patients as shown in Figure 1. Our results provide several strategies for improving next generation CAR T-cell therapies via induction of new synthetic cell programs which may optimize immune activation and enhance the efficacy of these important therapies, a high priority for patients with relapsed and refractory DLBCL and other lymphomas. [Formula presented] Disclosures: Mimitou: Immunai: Current Employment. Smibert: Immunai: Current Employment. Diefenbach: Bristol-Myers Squibb: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; IMab: Research Funding; Gilead: Current equity holder in publicly-traded company; Celgene: Research Funding; AbbVie: Research Funding; Janssen: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Merck Sharp & Dohme: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; IGM Biosciences: Research Funding; Morphosys: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; MEI: Consultancy, Research Funding; Perlmutter Cancer Center at NYU Langone Health: Current Employment; Incyte: Research Funding; Trillium: Research Funding; Seattle Genetics: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding; Genentech, Inc./ F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd: Consultancy, Honoraria, Research Funding. Sanjana: Qiagen: Consultancy; Vertex: Consultancy.
Profiling the genetic determinants of chromatin accessibility with scalable single-cell CRISPR screens
CRISPR screens have been used to connect genetic perturbations with changes in gene expression and phenotypes. Here we describe a CRISPR-based, single-cell combinatorial indexing assay for transposase-accessible chromatin (CRISPR-sciATAC) to link genetic perturbations to genome-wide chromatin accessibility in a large number of cells. In human myelogenous leukemia cells, we apply CRISPR-sciATAC to target 105â€‰chromatin-related genes, generating chromatin accessibility data for ~30,000â€‰single cells. We correlate the loss of specific chromatin remodelers with changes in accessibility globally and at the binding sites of individual transcription factors (TFs). For example, we show that loss of the H3K27 methyltransferase EZH2 increases accessibility at heterochromatic regions involved in embryonic development and triggers expression of genes in the HOXA and HOXD clusters. At a subset of regulatory sites, we also analyze changes in nucleosome spacing following the loss of chromatin remodelers. CRISPR-sciATAC is a high-throughput, single-cell method for studying the effect of genetic perturbations on chromatin in normal and disease states.
Integrative approach identifies SLC6A20 and CXCR6 as putative causal genes for the COVID-19 GWAS signal in the 3p21.31 locus
To date, the locus with the most robust human genetic association to COVID-19 severity is 3p21.31. Here, we integrate genome-scale CRISPR loss-of-function screens and eQTLs in diverse cell types and tissues to pinpoint genes underlying COVID-19 risk. Our findings identify SLC6A20 and CXCR6 as putative causal genes that modulate COVID-19 risk and highlight the usefulness of this integrative approach to bridge the divide between correlational and causal studies of human biology.
Tracking cell lineages to improve research reproducibility [Letter]
Integrative approach identifies SLC6A20 and CXCR6 as putative causal genes for the COVID-19 GWAS signal in the 3p21.31 locus
To date the locus with the most robust human genetic association to COVID-19 susceptibility is 3p21.31. Here, we integrate genome-scale CRISPR loss-of-function screens and eQTLs in diverse cell types and tissues to pinpoint genes underlying COVID-19 risk. Our findings identify SLC6A20 and CXCR6 as putative causal genes that mediate COVID-19 risk and highlight the usefulness of this integrative approach to bridge the divide between correlational and causal studies of human biology.
The Spike D614G mutation increases SARS-CoV-2 infection of multiple human cell types
A novel variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus carrying a point mutation in the Spike protein (D614G) has recently emerged and rapidly surpassed others in prevalence. This mutation is in linkage disequilibrium with an ORF1b protein variant (P314L), making it difficult to discern the functional significance of the Spike D614G mutation from population genetics alone. Here, we perform site-directed mutagenesis on wild-type human codon optimized Spike to introduce the D614G variant. Using multiple human cell lines, including human lung epithelial cells, we found that the lentiviral particles pseudotyped with Spike D614G are more effective at transducing cells than ones pseudotyped with wild-type Spike. The increased transduction with Spike D614G ranged from 1.3 to 2.4-fold in Caco-2 and Calu-3 cells expressing endogenous ACE2, and 1.5 to 7.7-fold in A549ACE2 and Huh7.5ACE2 overexpressing ACE2. Furthermore, trans-complementation of SARS-CoV-2 virus with Spike D614G showed an increased infectivity of human cells. Although there is minimal difference in ACE2 receptor binding between the D614 and G614 Spike variants, we show that the G614 variant is more resistant to proteolytic cleavage in human cells, suggesting a possible mechanism for the increased transduction.
Identification of Required Host Factors for SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Human Cells
To better understand host-virus genetic dependencies and find potential therapeutic targets for COVID-19, we performed a genome-scale CRISPR loss-of-function screen to identify host factors required for SARS-CoV-2 viral infection of human alveolar epithelial cells. Top-ranked genes cluster into distinct pathways, including the vacuolar ATPase proton pump, Retromer, and Commander complexes. We validate these gene targets using several orthogonal methods such as CRISPR knockout, RNA interference knockdown, and small-molecule inhibitors. Using single-cell RNA-sequencing, we identify shared transcriptional changes in cholesterol biosynthesis upon loss of top-ranked genes. In addition, given the key role of the ACE2 receptor in the early stages of viral entry, we show that loss of RAB7A reduces viral entry by sequestering the ACE2 receptor inside cells. Overall, this work provides a genome-scale, quantitative resource of the impact of the loss of each host gene on fitness/response to viral infection.
The D614G mutation in SARS-CoV-2 Spike increases transduction of multiple human cell types
Recently, a novel isolate of the SARS-CoV-2 virus carrying a point mutation in the Spike protein (D614G) has emerged and rapidly surpassed others in prevalence, including the original SARS-CoV-2 isolate from Wuhan, China. This Spike variant is a defining feature of the most prevalent clade (A2a) of SARS-CoV-2 genomes worldwide. Using phylogenomic data, several groups have proposed that the D614G variant may confer increased transmissibility leading to positive selection, while others have claimed that currently available evidence does not support positive selection. Furthermore, in the A2a clade, this mutation is in linkage disequilibrium with a ORF1b protein variant (P314L), making it difficult to discern the functional significance of the Spike D614G mutation from population genetics alone. Here, we perform site-directed mutagenesis on a human codon-optimized spike protein to introduce the D614G variant and produce SARS-CoV-2-pseudotyped lentiviral particles (S-Virus) with this variant and with D614 Spike. We show that in multiple cell lines, including human lung epithelial cells, that S-Virus carrying the D614G mutation is up to 8-fold more effective at transducing cells than wild-type S-Virus. This provides functional evidence that the D614G mutation in the Spike protein increases transduction of human cells. Further we show that the G614 variant is more resistant to cleavage in vitro and in human cells, which may suggest a possible mechanism for the increased transduction. Given that several vaccines in development and in clinical trials are based on the initial (D614) Spike sequence, this result has important implications for the efficacy of these vaccines in protecting against this recent and highly-prevalent SARS-CoV-2 isolate.
Massively parallel Cas13 screens reveal principles for guide RNA design
Type VI CRISPR enzymes are RNA-targeting proteins with nuclease activity that enable specific and robust target gene knockdown without altering the genome. To define rules for the design of Cas13d guide RNAs (gRNAs), we conducted massively parallel screens targeting messenger RNAs (mRNAs) of a green fluorescent protein transgene, and CD46, CD55 and CD71 cell-surface proteins in human cells. In total, we measured the activity of 24,460 gRNAs with and without mismatches relative to the target sequences. Knockdown efficacy is driven by gRNA-specific features and target site context. Single mismatches generally reduce knockdown to a modest degree, but spacer nucleotides 15-21 are largely intolerant of target site mismatches. We developed a computational model to identify optimal gRNAs and confirm their generalizability, testing 3,979 guides targeting mRNAs of 48 endogenous genes. We show that Cas13 can be used in forward transcriptomic pooled screens and, using our model, predict optimized Cas13 gRNAs for all protein-coding transcripts in the human genome.