Identification of orphan ligand-receptor relationships using a cell-based CRISPRa enrichment screening platform

Reviewer #1 (Public Review):

In this manuscript, Siepe et al. developed a high-throughput screen designed to identify novel protein-protein interactions in the extracellular human proteome. Their CRISPRa-based method induced the expression of transmembrane receptors such that they could be screened for binding to proteins of interest. Major strengths of this approach include the ability to screen multiple ligands in parallel, the ability to identify low-affinity interactions, and the availability of custom single- and multi-pass transmembrane protein libraries for selective target screening. A potential weakness is that low-affinity binders and non-specific interactions can be difficult to distinguish in certain cases, and these scenarios require more complex statistical analysis. The authors also note that the CRISPRa strategy cannot induce the expression of multi-subunit receptors that may be required for some ligands. The screen was tested against a curated set of ligand candidates and identified more than twenty novel interactions with intriguing biological implications. Both the method and newly discovered interactions will be of immediate scientific interest given the growing need to identify receptors for orphan ligands. Overall, this technology should function as a powerful new tool for ligand deorphanization in the extracellular space.

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