Mair B, Tomic J, Masud SN, Tonge P, Weiss A, Usaj M, Tong AHY, Kwan JJ, Brown KR, Titus E, Atkins M, Chan KSK, Munsie L, Habsid A, Han H, Kennedy M, Cohen B, Keller G, Moffat J
Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) provide an invaluable tool for modeling diseases and hold promise for regenerative medicine. For understanding pluripotency and lineage differentiation mechanisms, a critical first step involves systematically cataloging essential genes (EGs) that are indispensable for hPSC fitness, defined as cell reproduction in this study. To map essential genetic determinants of hPSC fitness, we performed genome-scale loss-of-function screens in an inducible Cas9 H1 hPSC line cultured on feeder cells and laminin to identify EGs. Among these, we found FOXH1 and VENTX, genes that encode transcription factors previously implicated in stem cell biology, as well as an uncharacterized gene, C22orf43/DRICH1. hPSC EGs are substantially different from other human model cell lines, and EGs in hPSCs are highly context dependent with respect to different growth substrates. Our CRISPR screens establish parameters for genome-wide screens in hPSCs, which will facilitate the characterization of unappreciated genetic regulators of hPSC biology.