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Focused CRISPR-Cas9 genetic screening reveals USO1 as a vulnerability in B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

  • Author(s): Jaiswal, Amit Kumar
  • Truong, Hellen
  • Tran, Tiffany M
  • Lin, Tasha L
  • Casero, David
  • Alberti, Michael O
  • Rao, Dinesh S
  • et al.

Post-transcriptional gene regulation, including that by RNA binding proteins (RBPs), has recently been described as an important mechanism in cancer. We had previously identified a set of RBPs that were highly dysregulated in B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) with MLL translocations, which carry a poor prognosis. Here, we sought to functionally characterize these dysregulated RBP genes by performing a focused CRISPR dropout screen in B-ALL cell lines, finding dependencies on several genes including EIF3E, EPRS and USO1. Validating our findings, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated disruption of USO1 in MLL-translocated B-ALL cells reduced cell growth, promoted cell death, and altered the cell cycle. Transcriptomic analysis of USO1-deficient cells revealed alterations in pathways related to mTOR signaling, RNA metabolism, and targets of MYC. In addition, USO1-regulated genes from these experimental samples were significantly and concordantly correlated with USO1 expression in primary samples collected from B-ALL patients. Lastly, we found that loss of Uso1 inhibited colony formation of MLL-transformed in primary bone marrow cells from Cas9-EGFP mice. Together, our findings demonstrate an approach to performing focused sub-genomic CRISPR screens and highlight a putative RBP vulnerability in MLL-translocated B-ALL, thus identifying potential therapeutic targets in this disease.

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