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2447 Identification of CNOT4 As a Positive Regulator of Erythroid Cell Growth Using a Genome Wide CRISPR Knock-out Screen

Program: Oral and Poster Abstracts
Session: 101. Red Cells and Erythropoiesis, Excluding Iron: Poster II
Hematology Disease Topics & Pathways:
Research, Fundamental Science, Biological Processes, molecular biology
Sunday, December 10, 2023, 6:00 PM-8:00 PM

Claire Drysdale, BSc1,2, Greggory Myers, B.S.2, Lei Yu2*, Ann Friedman, B.S.3*, Claire Kerpet, B.S.3*, Ginette Balbin-Cuesta, MD, PhD1,4, Zesen Lin, BS5, Ayse Bilge Ozel, M.S., Ph.D.6*, James Engel, Ph.D.2 and Rami Khoriaty, M.D.2,3,7,8

1Medical Scientist Training Program, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI
2Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI
3Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI
4Cellular and Molecular Biology Program, University of Michigan Medical School, Northville, MI
5Department of Pharmacology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI
6Department of Human Genetics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
7Cellular and Molecular Biology Program, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI
8University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, MI

Red blood cells, also known as erythrocytes, are the principle means of oxygen delivery to the body, and inadequate or disordered erythrocyte production is a major cause of human disease. While the cell-extrinsic factors that control erythrocyte production have been well studied, our understanding of the cell-intrinsic regulation of this process is incomplete.

To identify genes that regulate erythroid proliferation and/or maturation, we performed a genome-scale CRISPR knock-out screen in the immortalized human erythroid cell line, HUDEP-2. HUDEP-2 cells can be maintained at the pro-erythroblast stage and then sequentially differentiated into basophilic, polychromatic, and orthochromatic erythroblasts by changing culture conditions, which permits separate evaluation of the impact of genetic perturbations on pro-erythroblast viability and terminal erythroid differentiation capacity.

To perform our screen, we used the commercially available GeCKO-v2 library, which includes 6 sgRNAs targeting virtually every protein-coding gene in the human genome. This library was packaged into lentiviral particles, each expressing Cas9, an sgRNA, and a puromycin resistance gene. HUDEP-2 cells were transduced with the pooled GeCKO-v2 library at low multiplicity of infection to ensure delivery of only one sgRNA per cell. Following puromycin selection, pro-erythroblasts were collected prior to differentiation and orthochromatic erythroblasts were sorted at day 12 of differentiation (selecting for cells that downregulated CD49d). By identifying sgRNAs that were under-represented in orthochromatic erythroblasts compared to the proerythroblasts, we identified several genes that when deleted lead to impaired erythroid differentiation.

One of these genes was CNOT4, which encodes a RING E3 ligase member of the CCR4-NOT complex, a conserved transcriptional regulator. This gene has been previously reported to positively regulate JAK/STAT signaling, which is known to play a key role in erythroid growth and differentiation. Additionally, only 30 out of 1095 cell lines tested in the Depmap portal exhibit diminished growth following CNOT4 deletion, suggesting a rather specific impact on erythroid cells.

To define the role of CNOT4 in erythropoiesis, we electroporated human CD34+ hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) with a ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex consisting of Cas9 protein and CNOT4-targeting sgRNA. Three unique CNOT4-targeting sgRNAs were tested. Following RNP electroporation, cells were differentiated using a four-phase erythroid differentiation culture protocol and assessed for growth, indel frequencies, and erythroid differentiation capacity. For all three sgRNAs tested, CNOT4 disruption resulted in 10-fold reduced proliferation over the course of differentiation compared to cells electroporated with non-targeting sgRNAs. Erythroid differentiation, assessed by flow cytometry using CD49d and CD233 expression, was identical in CNOT4 deleted and control cells. However, evaluation of cytospins revealed reduced cell size with diminished cytoplasm to nuclear ratio in CNOT4 deficient compared to control cells. Notably, the findings above were validated in erythroid cells differentiated from HSPCs harvested from two independent donors.

Taken together, these findings suggest a novel role for CNOT4 and/or the CCR4-NOT complex in erythroid differentiation. Studies are ongoing to determine the mechanism by which CNOT4 disruption negatively impacts erythropoiesis and to examine if CNOT4 overexpression results in enhanced proliferation/differentiation of erythroid cells.

Disclosures: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

*signifies non-member of ASH