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Genome-scale identification of cellular pathways required for cell surface recognition



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A range of biochemically diverse molecules located in the plasma membrane - such as proteins, glycans, and lipids - mediate cellular recognition events, initiation of signalling pathways, and the regulation of processes important for the normal development and function of multicellular organisms. Interactions mediated by cell surface receptors can be challenging to detect in biochemical assays, because they are often highly transient, and membrane-embedded receptors are difficult to solubilise in their native conformation. The biochemical features of low-affinity extracellular protein interactions have therefore necessitated the development of bespoke methods to detect them.

Here, I develop a genome-scale cell-based genetic screening approach using CRISPR-Cas9 knockout technology that reveals cellular pathways required for specific cell surface recognition events. Using a panel of high-affinity monoclonal antibodies, I first establish a method from which I identify not only the direct receptor but also other required gene products, such as co-receptors, post-translational modifications, and transcription factors contributing to antigen expression and subsequent antibody-antigen recognition on the surface of cells. I next adapt this method to identify cellular factors required for receptor interactions for a panel of recombinant proteins corresponding to the ectodomains of cell surface proteins to the endogenous surface receptors present on a range of cell lines. In addition to finding general cellular features recognised by many ectodomains, I also identify direct interaction partners of recombinant protein probes on cell surfaces together with intracellular genes required for such associations.

Using this method, I identify IGF2R as a binding partner for the R2 subunit of GABAB receptors, providing a mechanism for the internalisation and regulation of GABAB receptor signalling. The results here demonstrate that this single approach can identify the molecular nature and cell biology of surface receptors without the need to make any prior assumptions regarding their biochemical properties.





Wright, Gavin


CRISPR-Cas9, Low-affinity interaction, Cellular-signalling, Loss-of-function genetic screens, Glycoseaminoglycans, Receptor-ligand interactions, GABA receptor


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge