A gene expression high-throughput screen (GE-HTS) for coordinated detection of functionally similar effectors in cancer

Chaitra Rao, Dianna H. Huisman, Heidi M. Vieira, Danielle E. Frodyma, Beth K. Neilsen, Binita Chakraborty, Suzie K. Hight, Michael A. White, Kurt W. Fisher, Robert E. Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Genome-wide, loss-of-function screening can be used to identify novel vulnerabilities upon which specific tumor cells depend for survival. Functional Signature Ontology (FUSION) is a gene expression-based high-throughput screening (GE-HTS) method that allows researchers to identify functionally similar proteins, small molecules, and microRNA mimics, revealing novel therapeutic targets. FUSION uses cell-based high-throughput screening and computational analysis to match gene expression signatures produced by natural products to those produced by small interfering RNA (siRNA) and synthetic microRNA libraries to identify putative protein targets and mechanisms of action (MoA) for several previously undescribed natural products. We have used FUSION to screen for functional analogues to Kinase suppressor of Ras 1 (KSR1), a scaffold protein downstream of Ras in the Raf-MEK-ERK kinase cascade, and biologically validated several proteins with functional similarity to KSR1. FUSION incorporates bioinformatics analysis that may offer higher resolution of the endpoint readout than other screens which utilize Boolean outputs regarding a single pathway activation (i.e., synthetic lethal and cell proliferation). Challenges associated with FUSION and other high-content genome-wide screens include variation, batch effects, and controlling for potential off-target effects. In this review, we discuss the effcacy of FUSION to identify novel inhibitors and oncogene-induced changes that may be cancer cell-specific as well as several potential pitfalls within FUSION and best practices to avoid them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3143
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2020


  • Cancer susceptibility genes
  • Functional signature ontology
  • High-throughput screens
  • Ras-driven cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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