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A yeast phenomic model for the gene interaction network modulating CFTR-ΔF508 protein biogenesis

Raymond J Louie3, Jingyu Guo12, John W Rodgers1, Rick White4, Najaf A Shah1, Silvere Pagant3, Peter Kim3, Michael Livstone5, Kara Dolinski5, Brett A McKinney6, Jeong Hong2, Eric J Sorscher2, Jennifer Bryan4, Elizabeth A Miller3* and John L Hartman12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Genetics, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 730 Hugh Kaul Human Genetics Building, 720 20th Street South, Birmingham, AL 35294 USA

2 Gregory James Cystic Fibrosis Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 790 McCallum Basic Health Sciences Building, 1918 University Boulevard, Birmingham, AL 35294 USA

3 Department of Biology, Columbia University, 1212 Amsterdam Ave. MC2456, New York, NY 10027 USA

4 Department of Statistics and Michael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia, 3182 Earth Sciences Building, 2207 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4 Canada

5 Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, Princeton University, Washington Road, Princeton, NJ 08544 USA

6 Department of Computer Science, University of Tulsa, 2145 J. Newton Rayzor Hall, E 5th Pl, Tulsa, OK, 74104 USA

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Genome Medicine 2012, 4:103  doi:10.1186/gm404

Published: 27 December 2012



The overall influence of gene interaction in human disease is unknown. In cystic fibrosis (CF) a single allele of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR-ΔF508) accounts for most of the disease. In cell models, CFTR-ΔF508 exhibits defective protein biogenesis and degradation rather than proper trafficking to the plasma membrane where CFTR normally functions. Numerous genes function in the biogenesis of CFTR and influence the fate of CFTR-ΔF508. However it is not known whether genetic variation in such genes contributes to disease severity in patients. Nor is there an easy way to study how numerous gene interactions involving CFTR-ΔF would manifest phenotypically.


To gain insight into the function and evolutionary conservation of a gene interaction network that regulates biogenesis of a misfolded ABC transporter, we employed yeast genetics to develop a 'phenomic' model, in which the CFTR-ΔF508-equivalent residue of a yeast homolog is mutated (Yor1-ΔF670), and where the genome is scanned quantitatively for interaction. We first confirmed that Yor1-ΔF undergoes protein misfolding and has reduced half-life, analogous to CFTR-ΔF. Gene interaction was then assessed quantitatively by growth curves for approximately 5,000 double mutants, based on alteration in the dose response to growth inhibition by oligomycin, a toxin extruded from the cell at the plasma membrane by Yor1.


From a comparative genomic perspective, yeast gene interactions influencing Yor1-ΔF biogenesis were representative of human homologs previously found to modulate processing of CFTR-ΔF in mammalian cells. Additional evolutionarily conserved pathways were implicated by the study, and a ΔF-specific pro-biogenesis function of the recently discovered ER membrane complex (EMC) was evident from the yeast screen. This novel function was validated biochemically by siRNA of an EMC ortholog in a human cell line expressing CFTR-ΔF508. The precision and accuracy of quantitative high throughput cell array phenotyping (Q-HTCP), which captures tens of thousands of growth curves simultaneously, provided powerful resolution to measure gene interaction on a phenomic scale, based on discrete cell proliferation parameters.


We propose phenomic analysis of Yor1-ΔF as a model for investigating gene interaction networks that can modulate cystic fibrosis disease severity. Although the clinical relevance of the Yor1-ΔF gene interaction network for cystic fibrosis remains to be defined, the model appears to be informative with respect to human cell models of CFTR-ΔF. Moreover, the general strategy of yeast phenomics can be employed in a systematic manner to model gene interaction for other diseases relating to pathologies that result from protein misfolding or potentially any disease involving evolutionarily conserved genetic pathways.

Gene interaction; Genetic buffering; Genotype-phenotype complexity; Phenomics; Quantitative high throughput cell array phenotyping (Q-HTCP); Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR); ER membrane complex (EMC); ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporter; Membrane protein biogenesis; Yeast model of human disease; Comparative functional genomics