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Characterizing the molecular regulation of inhibitory immune checkpoints with multi-modal single-cell screens

By Efthymia Papalexi, Eleni P. Mimitou, Andrew Butler, Samantha Foster, Bernadette Bracken, William M. Mauck, Hans-Hermann Wessels, Bertrand Yeung, Peter Smibert, Rahul Satija

Posted 28 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.28.175596

The expression of inhibitory immune checkpoint molecules such as PD-L1 is frequently observed in human cancers and can lead to the suppression of T cell-mediated immune responses. Here we apply ECCITE-seq, a technology which combines pooled CRISPR screens with single-cell mRNA and surface protein measurements, to explore the molecular networks that regulate PD-L1 expression. We also develop a computational framework, mixscape, that substantially improves the signal-to-noise ratio in single-cell perturbation screens by identifying and removing confounding sources of variation. Applying these tools, we identify and validate regulators of PD-L1, and leverage our multi-modal data to identify both transcriptional and post-transcriptional modes of regulation. In particular, we discover that the kelch-like protein KEAP1 and the transcriptional activator NRF2, mediate levels of PD-L1 upregulation after IFN╬│ stimulation. Our results identify a novel mechanism for the regulation of immune checkpoints and present a powerful analytical framework for the analysis of multi-modal single-cell perturbation screens. ### Competing Interest Statement In the past three years, RS has worked as a consultant for Bristol-Myers Squibb, Regeneron, and Kallyope, and served as an SAB member for ImmunAI and Apollo Life Sciences GmbH. PS is a co-inventor of a patent related to this work. BZY is an employee at BioLegend Inc., which is the exclusive licensee of the New York Genome Center patent application related to this work.

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