Pooled genetic perturbation screens with image-based phenotypes

Nat Protoc. 2022 Feb;17(2):476-512. doi: 10.1038/s41596-021-00653-8. Epub 2022 Jan 12.


Discovery of the genetic components underpinning fundamental and disease-related processes is being rapidly accelerated by combining efficient, programmable genetic engineering with phenotypic readouts of high spatial, temporal and/or molecular resolution. Microscopy is a fundamental tool for studying cell biology, but its lack of high-throughput sequence readouts hinders integration in large-scale genetic screens. Optical pooled screens using in situ sequencing provide massively scalable integration of barcoded lentiviral libraries (e.g., CRISPR perturbation libraries) with high-content imaging assays, including dynamic processes in live cells. The protocol uses standard lentiviral vectors and molecular biology, providing single-cell resolution of phenotype and engineered genotype, scalability to millions of cells and accurate sequence reads sufficient to distinguish >106 perturbations. In situ amplification takes ~2 d, while sequencing can be performed in ~1.5 h per cycle. The image analysis pipeline provided enables fully parallel automated sequencing analysis using a cloud or cluster computing environment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • RNA, Guide, Kinetoplastida*


  • RNA, Guide