The phenomenon that is known as RNA mediated interference (RNAi) was first observed in the nematode C. elegans. The application of RNAi has now been widely disseminated and the mechanisms underlying the pathway have been uncovered using both genetics and biochemistry. In the worm, it has been demonstrated that RNAi is easily adapted to high throughput analysis and screening protocols. Hence, given the availability of whole genome sequences, RNAi has been used extensively as a tool for annotating gene function. Genetic screens performed with C. elegans have also led to the identification of genes that are essential for RNAi or that modulate the RNAi process. The identification of such genes has made it possible to manipulate and enhance the RNAi response. Moreover, many of the genes identified in C. elegans have been conserved in other organisms. Thus, opportunities are available for researchers to take advantage of the insights gained from the worm and apply them to their own systems in order to improve the efficiency and potency of the RNAi response.
C. elegans; RdRP; RNA interference; siRNA; systemic RNAi
RNA interference (RNAi) is a well-conserved mechanism that uses small noncoding RNAs to silence gene expression posttranscriptionally. Gene regulation by RNAi is now recognized as one of the major regulatory pathways in eukaryotic cells. Although the main components of the RNAi/miRNA pathway have been identified, the molecular mechanisms regulating the activity of the RNAi/miRNA pathway have only begun to emerge within the last couple of years. Recently, high-throughput reporter assays to monitor the activity of the RNAi/miRNA pathway have been developed and used for proof-of-concept pilot screens. Both inhibitors and activators of the RNAi/miRNA pathway have been found. Although still in its infancy, a chemical biology approach using high-throughput chemical screens should open up a new avenue for dissecting the RNAi/miRNA pathway, as well as developing novel RNAi- or miRNA-based therapeutic interventions.
Gene silencing using RNA interference (RNAi) has become a prominent biological tool for gene annotation, pathway analysis, and target discovery in mammalian cells. High-throughput screens conducted using whole-genome siRNA libraries have uncovered rich sets of new genes involved in a variety of biological processes and cellular models of disease. However, high-throughput RNAi screening is not yet a mainstream tool in life science research because current screening platforms are expensive and onerous. Miniaturizing the RNAi screening platform to reduce cost and increase throughput will enable its widespread use and harness its potential for rapid genome annotation. With this aim, we have combined semi-conductor microfabrication and nanolitre dispensing techniques to develop miniaturized electroporation-ready microwell arrays loaded with siRNA molecules in which multiplexed gene knockdown can be achieved. Arrays of microwells are created using high-aspect ratio biocompatible photoresists on optically transparent and conductive Indium-Tin Oxide (ITO) substrates with integrated micro-electrodes to enable in situ electroporation. Non-contact inkjet microarraying allows precise dispensing of nanolitre volumes into the microwell structures. We have achieved parallel electroporation of multiple mammalian cells cultured in these microwell arrays and observed efficient knockdown of genes with surface-bound, printed siRNAs. Further integration of microfabrication and non-contact nanolitre dispensing techniques described here may enable single-substrate whole-genome siRNA screening in mammalian cells.
The diversity of metazoan cell shapes is influenced by the dynamic cytoskeletal network. With the advent of RNA-interference (RNAi) technology, it is now possible to screen systematically for genes controlling specific cell-biological processes, including those required to generate distinct morphologies.
We adapted existing RNAi technology in Drosophila cell culture for use in high-throughput screens to enable a comprehensive genetic dissection of cell morphogenesis. To identify genes responsible for the characteristic shape of two morphologically distinct cell lines, we performed RNAi screens in each line with a set of double-stranded RNAs (dsRNAs) targeting 994 predicted cell shape regulators. Using automated fluorescence microscopy to visualize actin filaments, microtubules and DNA, we detected morphological phenotypes for 160 genes, one-third of which have not been previously characterized in vivo. Genes with similar phenotypes corresponded to known components of pathways controlling cytoskeletal organization and cell shape, leading us to propose similar functions for previously uncharacterized genes. Furthermore, we were able to uncover genes acting within a specific pathway using a co-RNAi screen to identify dsRNA suppressors of a cell shape change induced by Pten dsRNA.
Using RNAi, we identified genes that influence cytoskeletal organization and morphology in two distinct cell types. Some genes exhibited similar RNAi phenotypes in both cell types, while others appeared to have cell-type-specific functions, in part reflecting the different mechanisms used to generate a round or a flat cell morphology.
Recently, High-content screening (HCS) has been combined with RNA interference (RNAi) to become an essential image-based high-throughput method for studying genes and biological networks through RNAi-induced cellular phenotype analyses. However, a genome-wide RNAi-HCS screen typically generates tens of thousands of images, most of which remain uncategorized due to the inadequacies of existing HCS image analysis tools. Until now, it still requires highly trained scientists to browse a prohibitively large RNAi-HCS image database and produce only a handful of qualitative results regarding cellular morphological phenotypes. For this reason we have developed intelligent interfaces to facilitate the application of the HCS technology in biomedical research. Our new interfaces empower biologists with computational power not only to effectively and efficiently explore large-scale RNAi-HCS image databases, but also to apply their knowledge and experience to interactive mining of cellular phenotypes using Content-Based Image Retrieval (CBIR) with Relevance Feedback (RF) techniques.
RNA interference (RNAi) is an effective tool for genome-scale, high-throughput analysis of gene function. In the past five years, a number of genome-scale RNAi high-throughput screens (HTSs) have been done in both Drosophila and mammalian cultured cells to study diverse biological processes, including signal transduction, cancer biology, and host cell responses to infection. Results from these screens have led to the identification of new components of these processes and, importantly, have also provided insights into the complexity of biological systems, forcing new and innovative approaches to understanding functional networks in cells. Here, we review the main findings that have emerged from RNAi HTS and discuss technical issues that remain to be improved, in particular the verification of RNAi results and validation of their biological relevance. Furthermore, we discuss the importance of multiplexed and integrated experimental data analysis pipelines to RNAi HTS.
bioinformatics; cell biology; Drosophila; high-throughput screening
In many eukaryotic cells, double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) triggers RNA interference (RNAi), the specific degradation of RNA of homologous sequence. RNAi is now a major tool for reverse-genetics projects, including large-scale high-throughput screens. Recent reports have questioned the specificity of RNAi, raising problems in interpretation of RNAi-based experiments.
Using the protozoan Trypanosoma brucei as a model, we designed a functional complementation assay to ascertain that phenotypic effect(s) observed upon RNAi were due to specific silencing of the targeted gene. This was applied to a cytoskeletal gene encoding the paraflagellar rod protein 2 (TbPFR2), whose product is essential for flagellar motility. We demonstrate the complementation of TbPFR2, silenced via dsRNA targeting its UTRs, through the expression of a tagged RNAi-resistant TbPFR2 encoding a protein that could be immunolocalized in the flagellum. Next, we performed a functional complementation of TbPFR2, silenced via dsRNA targeting its coding sequence, through heterologous expression of the TbPFR2 orthologue gene from Trypanosoma cruzi: the flagellum regained its motility.
This work shows that functional complementation experiments can be readily performed in order to ascertain that phenotypic effects observed upon RNAi experiments are indeed due to the specific silencing of the targetted gene. Further, the results described here are of particular interest when reverse genetics studies cannot be easily achieved in organisms not amenable to RNAi. In addition, our strategy should constitute a firm basis to elaborate functional-dissection studies of genes from other organisms.
The completion of the genome sequencing for several organisms has
created a great demand for genomic tools that can systematically
analyze the growing wealth of data. In contrast to the classical
reverse genetics approach of creating specific knockout cell lines
or animals that is time-consuming and expensive, RNA-mediated
interference (RNAi) has emerged as a fast, simple, and
cost-effective technique for gene knockdown in large scale. Since
its discovery as a gene silencing response to double-stranded RNA
(dsRNA) with homology to endogenous genes in
Caenorhabditis elegans (C elegans),
RNAi technology has been adapted to various high-throughput
screens (HTS) for genome-wide loss-of-function (LOF) analysis.
Biochemical insights into the endogenous mechanism of
RNAi have led to advances in RNAi methodology including RNAi
molecule synthesis, delivery, and sequence design. In this
article, we will briefly review these various RNAi library designs
and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each library strategy.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a regulatory gene silencing system found in nearly all eukaryotic organisms that employs small RNAs, typically 20–25 nucleotides long, to target complementary sequences found in mRNAs. RNA helicases use ATP to unwind double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), and are known to participate at nearly every level of RNA metabolism. A multitude of RNA helicases have been isolated from screens for essential RNAi factors, and even the earliest models of the RNAi pathway have presumed an RNA helicase to function at the level of small RNA duplex unwinding. However, while many components that function in RNAi have been uncovered and characterized, the exact placement in the pathway and ascription of a specific biochemical function of an RNA helicase in RNAi remains elusive. Recent studies have delved deeper into the precise role of some RNA helicases. Surprisingly, these studies have revealed nontraditional roles, which may not even require the helicase activity. Such findings suggest that RNA helicases regulate gene silencing at nearly every level of the RNAi pathways.
gene silencing; RNA helicase; RNAi; small RNAs; unwind
Fluorescence microscopy is one of the most powerful tools to investigate complex cellular processes such as cell division, cell motility, or intracellular trafficking. The availability of RNA interference (RNAi) technology and automated microscopy has opened the possibility to perform cellular imaging in functional genomics and other large-scale applications. Although imaging often dramatically increases the content of a screening assay, it poses new challenges to achieve accurate quantitative annotation and therefore needs to be carefully adjusted to the specific needs of individual screening applications. In this review, we discuss principles of assay design, large-scale RNAi, microscope automation, and computational data analysis. We highlight strategies for imaging-based RNAi screening adapted to different library and assay designs.
With recent advances in fluorescence microscopy imaging techniques and methods of gene knock down by RNA interference (RNAi), genome-scale high-content screening (HCS) has emerged as a powerful approach to systematically identify all parts of complex biological processes. However, a critical barrier preventing fulfillment of the success is the lack of efficient and robust methods for automating RNAi image analysis and quantitative evaluation of the gene knock down effects on huge volume of HCS data. Facing such opportunities and challenges, we have started investigation of automatic methods towards the development of a fully automatic RNAi-HCS system. Particularly important are reliable approaches to cellular phenotype classification and image-based gene function estimation.
We have developed a HCS analysis platform that consists of two main components: fluorescence image analysis and image scoring. For image analysis, we used a two-step enhanced watershed method to extract cellular boundaries from HCS images. Segmented cells were classified into several predefined phenotypes based on morphological and appearance features. Using statistical characteristics of the identified phenotypes as a quantitative description of the image, a score is generated that reflects gene function. Our scoring model integrates fuzzy gene class estimation and single regression models. The final functional score of an image was derived using the weighted combination of the inference from several support vector-based regression models. We validated our phenotype classification method and scoring system on our cellular phenotype and gene database with expert ground truth labeling.
We built a database of high-content, 3-channel, fluorescence microscopy images of Drosophila Kc167 cultured cells that were treated with RNAi to perturb gene function. The proposed informatics system for microscopy image analysis is tested on this database. Both of the two main components, automated phenotype classification and image scoring system, were evaluated. The robustness and efficiency of our system were validated in quantitatively predicting the biological relevance of genes.
High-content screening; Image score inference
Centrioles, cilia, and flagella are ancestral conserved organelles of eukaryotic cells. Among the proteins identified in the proteomics of ciliary proteins in Paramecium, we focus here on a protein, Bug22p, previously detected by cilia and basal-body high-throughput studies but never analyzed per se. Remarkably, this protein is also present in plants, which lack centrioles and cilia. Bug22p sequence alignments revealed consensus positions that distinguish species with centrioles/cilia from plants. In Paramecium, antibody and green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion labeling localized Bug22p in basal bodies and cilia, and electron microscopy immunolabeling refined the localization to the terminal plate of the basal bodies, the transition zone, and spots along the axoneme, preferentially between the membrane and the microtubules. RNA interference (RNAi) depletion of Bug22p provoked a strong decrease in swimming speed, followed by cell death after a few days. High-speed video microscopy and morphological analysis of Bug22p-depleted cells showed that the protein plays an important role in the efficiency of ciliary movement by participating in the stroke shape and rigidity of cilia. The defects in cell swimming and growth provoked by RNAi can be complemented by expression of human Bug22p. This is the first reported case of complementation by a human gene in a ciliate.
RNA interference (RNAi) has become a powerful technique for reverse genetics and drug discovery and, in both of these areas, large-scale high-throughput RNAi screens are commonly performed. The statistical techniques used to analyze these screens are frequently borrowed directly from small-molecule screening; however small-molecule and RNAi data characteristics differ in meaningful ways. We examine the similarities and differences between RNAi and small-molecule screens, highlighting particular characteristics of RNAi screen data that must be addressed during analysis. Additionally, we provide guidance on selection of analysis techniques in the context of a sample workflow.
Systems biology aims to describe the complex interplays between cellular building blocks which, in their concurrence, give rise to the emergent properties observed in cellular behaviors and responses. This approach tries to determine the molecular players and the architectural principles of their interactions within the genetic networks that control certain biological processes. Large-scale loss-of-function screens, applicable in various different model systems, have begun to systematically interrogate entire genomes to identify the genes that contribute to a certain cellular response. In particular, RNA interference (RNAi)-based high-throughput screens have been instrumental in determining the composition of regulatory systems and paired with integrative data analyses have begun to delineate the genetic networks that control cell biological and developmental processes. Through the creation of tools for both, in vitro and in vivo genome-wide RNAi screens, Drosophila melanogaster has emerged as one of the key model organisms in systems biology research and over the last years has massively contributed to and hence shaped this discipline.
Small RNA molecules of about 20 to 30 nucleotides function in gene regulation and genomic defense via conserved eukaryotic RNA interference (RNAi)-related pathways. The RNAi machinery consists of three core components: Dicer, Argonaute, and RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. In fungi, the RNAi-related pathways have three major functions: genomic defense, heterochromatin formation, and gene regulation. Studies of Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Neurospora, and other fungi have uncovered surprisingly diverse small RNA biogenesis pathways, suggesting that fungi utilize RNAi-related pathways in various cellular processes to adapt to different environmental conditions. These studies also provided important insights into how RNAi functions in eukaryotic systems in general. In this review, we will discuss our current understanding of the fungal RNAi-related pathways and their functions, with a focus on filamentous fungi. We will also discuss how RNAi can be used as a tool in fungal research.
A second generation dsRNA library was used to re-assess factors that influence the outcome of transcriptional reporter-based whole-genome RNAi screens for the Wnt/Wingless (wg) and Hedgehog (hh)-signaling pathways.
Off-target effects have been demonstrated to be a major source of false-positives in RNA interference (RNAi) high-throughput screens. In this study, we re-assess the previously published transcriptional reporter-based whole-genome RNAi screens for the Wingless and Hedgehog signaling pathways using second generation double-stranded RNA libraries. Furthermore, we investigate other factors that may influence the outcome of such screens, including cell-type specificity, robustness of reporters, and assay normalization, which determine the efficacy of RNAi-knockdown of target genes.
RNA interference (RNAi) leads to sequence-specific knockdown of gene function. The approach can be used in large-scale screens to interrogate function in various model organisms and an increasing number of other species. Genome-scale RNAi screens are routinely performed in cultured or primary cells or in vivo in organisms such as C. elegans. High-throughput RNAi screening is benefitting from the development of sophisticated new instrumentation and software tools for collecting and analyzing data, including high-content image data. The results of large-scale RNAi screens have already proved useful, leading to new understandings of gene function relevant to topics such as infection, cancer, obesity and aging. Nevertheless, important caveats apply and should be taken into consideration when developing or interpreting RNAi screens. Some level of false discovery is inherent to high-throughput approaches and specific to RNAi screens, false discovery due to off-target effects (OTEs) of RNAi reagents remains a problem. The need to improve our ability to use RNAi to elucidate gene function at large scale and in additional systems continues to be addressed through improved RNAi library design, development of innovative computational and analysis tools and other approaches.
RNAi; high-throughput screens; high-content imaging; cell-based assays
High-content, high-throughput RNA interference (RNAi) offers unprecedented possibilities to elucidate gene function and involvement in biological processes. Microscopy based screening allows phenotypic observations at the level of individual cells. It was recently shown that a cell's population context significantly influences results. However, standard analysis methods for cellular screens do not currently take individual cell data into account unless this is important for the phenotype of interest, i.e. when studying cell morphology.
We present a method that normalizes and statistically scores microscopy based RNAi screens, exploiting individual cell information of hundreds of cells per knockdown. Each cell's individual population context is employed in normalization. We present results on two infection screens for hepatitis C and dengue virus, both showing considerable effects on observed phenotypes due to population context. In addition, we show on a non-virus screen that these effects can be found also in RNAi data in the absence of any virus. Using our approach to normalize against these effects we achieve improved performance in comparison to an analysis without this normalization and hit scoring strategy. Furthermore, our approach results in the identification of considerably more significantly enriched pathways in hepatitis C virus replication than using a standard analysis approach.
Using a cell-based analysis and normalization for population context, we achieve improved sensitivity and specificity not only on a individual protein level, but especially also on a pathway level. This leads to the identification of new host dependency factors of the hepatitis C and dengue viruses and higher reproducibility of results.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a modality in which small double-stranded RNA molecules (siRNAs) designed to lead to the degradation of specific mRNAs are introduced into cells or organisms. siRNA libraries have been developed in which siRNAs targeting virtually every gene in the human genome are designed, synthesized and are presented for introduction into cells by transfection in a microtiter plate array. These siRNAs can then be transfected into cells using high-throughput screening (HTS) methodologies. The goal of RNAi HTS is to identify a set of siRNAs that inhibit or activate defined cellular phenotypes. The commonly used analysis methods including median ± kMAD have issues about error rates in multiple hypothesis testing and plate-wise versus experiment-wise analysis. We propose a methodology based on a Bayesian framework to address these issues. Our approach allows for sharing of information across plates in a plate-wise analysis, which obviates the need for choosing either a plate-wise or experimental-wise analysis. The proposed approach incorporates information from reliable controls to achieve a higher power and a balance between the contribution from the samples and control wells. Our approach provides false discovery rate (FDR) control to address multiple testing issues and it is robust to outliers.
Heritable RNA interference (RNAi), triggered from stably expressed transgenes with an inverted repeat (IR) configuration, is an important tool for reverse genetic studies. Here we report on the development of stable RNAi in Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes, the major vector of human malaria in Asia. Trans genic mosquitoes stably expressing a RNAi transgene, designed to produce intron-spliced double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) targeting the green fluorescent protein EGFP gene, were crossed to an EGFP-expressing target line. EGFP expression was dramatically reduced at both the protein and RNA levels. The levels of gene silencing depended upon the RNAi gene copy number and its site of integration. These results demonstrate that specific RNAi-mediated knockdown of gene function can be achieved with high efficiency in Anopheles. This will be invaluable to systematically unravel the function of Anopheles genes determining the vectorial capacity of the malaria parasite.
Advances in microscopy automation and image analysis have given biologists the tools to attempt large scale systems-level experiments on biological systems using microscope image readout. Fluorescence microscopy has become a standard tool for assaying gene function in RNAi knockdown screens and protein localization studies in eukaryotic systems. Similar high throughput studies can be attempted in prokaryotes, though the difficulties surrounding work at the diffraction limit pose challenges, and targeting essential genes in a high throughput way can be difficult. Here we will discuss efforts to make live-cell fluorescent microscopy based experiments using genetically encoded fluorescent reporters an automated, high throughput, and quantitative endeavor amenable to systems-level experiments in bacteria. We emphasize a quantitative data reduction approach, using simulation to help develop biologically relevant cell measurements that completely characterize the cell image. We give an example of how this type of data can be directly exploited by statistical learning algorithms to discover functional pathways.
The diffraction limit makes high-throughput fluorescence microscopy more challenging in prokaryotes, but approaches such as quantitative data reduction now allow systems-level analysis of bacteria by this technique.
FLIGHT (http://flight.icr.ac.uk/) is an online resource compiling data from high-throughput Drosophila in vivo and in vitro RNAi screens. FLIGHT includes details of RNAi reagents and their predicted off-target effects, alongside RNAi screen hits, scores and phenotypes, including images from high-content screens. The latest release of FLIGHT is designed to enable users to upload, analyze, integrate and share their own RNAi screens. Users can perform multiple normalizations, view quality control plots, detect and assign screen hits and compare hits from multiple screens using a variety of methods including hierarchical clustering. FLIGHT integrates RNAi screen data with microarray gene expression as well as genomic annotations and genetic/physical interaction datasets to provide a single interface for RNAi screen analysis and datamining in Drosophila.
RNAi; database; integration; bioinformatics; phenotype
High-throughput RNA interference (RNAi) screening has become a widely used approach to elucidating gene functions. However, analysis and annotation of large data sets generated from these screens has been a challenge for researchers without a programming background. Over the years, numerous data analysis methods were produced for plate quality control and hit selection and implemented by a few open-access software packages. Recently, strictly standardized mean difference (SSMD) has become a widely used method for RNAi screening analysis mainly due to its better control of false negative and false positive rates and its ability to quantify RNAi effects with a statistical basis. We have developed GUItars to enable researchers without a programming background to use SSMD as both a plate quality and a hit selection metric to analyze large data sets.
The software is accompanied by an intuitive graphical user interface for easy and rapid analysis workflow. SSMD analysis methods have been provided to the users along with traditionally-used z-score, normalized percent activity, and t-test methods for hit selection. GUItars is capable of analyzing large-scale data sets from screens with or without replicates. The software is designed to automatically generate and save numerous graphical outputs known to be among the most informative high-throughput data visualization tools capturing plate-wise and screen-wise performances. Graphical outputs are also written in HTML format for easy access, and a comprehensive summary of screening results is written into tab-delimited output files.
With GUItars, we demonstrated robust SSMD-based analysis workflow on a 3840-gene small interfering RNA (siRNA) library and identified 200 siRNAs that increased and 150 siRNAs that decreased the assay activities with moderate to stronger effects. GUItars enables rapid analysis and illustration of data from large- or small-scale RNAi screens using SSMD and other traditional analysis methods. The software is freely available at http://sourceforge.net/projects/guitars/.
The experimental malleability and unique phylogenetic position of the sea squirt Ciona intestinalis as part of the sister group to the vertebrates have helped establish these marine chordates as model organisms for the study of developmental genetics and evolution. Here we summarize the tools, techniques, and resources available to the Ciona geneticist, citing examples of studies that employed such strategies in the elucidation of gene function in Ciona. Genetic screens, germline transgenesis, electroporation of plasmid DNA, and microinjection of morpholinos are all routinely employed, and in the near future we expect these to be complemented by targeted mutagenesis, homologous recombination, and RNAi. The genomic resources available will continue to support the design and interpretation of genetic experiments and allow for increasingly sophisticated approaches on a high-throughput, whole-genome scale.
ascidian; development; transgenesis; electroporation
By virtue of their accumulated genetic alterations, tumor cells may acquire vulnerabilities that create opportunities for therapeutic intervention. We have devised a massively parallel strategy for screening short hairpin RNA (shRNA) collections for stable loss-of-function phenotypes. We assayed from 6000 to 20,000 shRNAs simultaneously to identify genes important for the proliferation and survival of five cell lines derived from human mammary tissue. Lethal shRNAs common to these cell lines targeted many known cell-cycle regulatory networks. Cell line–specific sensitivities to suppression of protein complexes and biological pathways also emerged, and these could be validated by RNA interference (RNAi) and pharmacologically. These studies establish a practical platform for genome-scale screening of complex phenotypes in mammalian cells and demonstrate that RNAi can be used to expose genotype-specific sensitivities.