A CRISPRi/a screening platform to study cellular nutrient transport in diverse microenvironments

Nat Cell Biol. 2024 May;26(5):825-838. doi: 10.1038/s41556-024-01402-1. Epub 2024 Apr 11.


Blocking the import of nutrients essential for cancer cell proliferation represents a therapeutic opportunity, but it is unclear which transporters to target. Here we report a CRISPR interference/activation screening platform to systematically interrogate the contribution of nutrient transporters to support cancer cell proliferation in environments ranging from standard culture media to tumours. We applied this platform to identify the transporters of amino acids in leukaemia cells and found that amino acid transport involves high bidirectional flux dependent on the microenvironment composition. While investigating the role of transporters in cystine starved cells, we uncovered a role for serotonin uptake in preventing ferroptosis. Finally, we identified transporters essential for cell proliferation in subcutaneous tumours and found that levels of glucose and amino acids can restrain proliferation in that environment. This study establishes a framework for systematically identifying critical cellular nutrient transporters, characterizing their function and exploring how the tumour microenvironment impacts cancer metabolism.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Transport Systems / genetics
  • Amino Acid Transport Systems / metabolism
  • Amino Acids / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Nutrients / metabolism
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment*