Essential gene profiles for human pluripotent stem cells identify uncharacterized genes and substrate dependencies. Mair et al.
Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) provide an invaluable tool for modeling diseases and hold promise for regenerative medicine. For understanding pluripotency and lineage differentiation mechanisms, a critical first step involves systematically cataloging genes that are indispensable for hPSC maintenance and proliferation. To map genetic determinants of hPSC fitness, we performed genome-scale loss-of-function screens in an inducible Cas9 H1 hPSC line cultured on feeder cells and feeder-free to identify essential genes. Among these, we found FOXH1 and VENTX, genes that encode transcription factors previously implicated in stem cell biology, as well as an uncharacterized gene, C22orf43/DRICH1. hPSCs essential genes are substantially different from other cell lines, and gene essentiality in hPSCs is highly context-dependent with respect to different growth substrates. Our CRISPR screens establish parameters for genome-wide screens in hPSCs, which will facilitate the characterization of unappreciated regulators of hPSC biology to understand the genetic wiring of hPSC fitness and pluripotency.
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