Gene Essentiality Profiling Reveals Gene Networks and Synthetic Lethal Interactions with Oncogenic Ras

Cell. 2017 Feb 23;168(5):890-903.e15. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.01.013. Epub 2017 Feb 2.


The genetic dependencies of human cancers widely vary. Here, we catalog this heterogeneity and use it to identify functional gene interactions and genotype-dependent liabilities in cancer. By using genome-wide CRISPR-based screens, we generate a gene essentiality dataset across 14 human acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cell lines. Sets of genes with correlated patterns of essentiality across the lines reveal new gene relationships, the essential substrates of enzymes, and the molecular functions of uncharacterized proteins. Comparisons of differentially essential genes between Ras-dependent and -independent lines uncover synthetic lethal partners of oncogenic Ras. Screens in both human AML and engineered mouse pro-B cells converge on a surprisingly small number of genes in the Ras processing and MAPK pathways and pinpoint PREX1 as an AML-specific activator of MAPK signaling. Our findings suggest general strategies for defining mammalian gene networks and synthetic lethal interactions by exploiting the natural genetic and epigenetic diversity of human cancer cells.

Keywords: AML; CRISPR; RAS; gene networks; genetic screens; synthetic lethality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Genes, Essential
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics*
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Mice
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • ras Proteins / genetics


  • COA6 protein, human
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Mitochondrial Proteins
  • ras Proteins