FEBS Open Bio 12 (10) 1896-1908 [2022-10-00; online 2022-09-11]
The tetracycline repressor (tetR)-regulated system is a widely used tool to specifically control gene expression in mammalian cells. Based on this system, we generated a human osteosarcoma cell line, which allows for the inducible expression of an EGFP fusion of the TAR DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43), which has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases. Consistent with previous findings, TDP-43 overexpression led to the accumulation of aggregates and limited the viability of U2OS. Using this inducible system, we conducted a chemical screen with a library that included FDA-approved drugs. While the primary screen identified several compounds that prevented TDP-43 toxicity, further experiments revealed that these chemicals abrogated the doxycycline-dependent TDP-43 expression. This antagonistic effect was observed with both doxycycline and tetracycline, and in several Tet-On cell lines expressing different genes, confirming the general effect of these compounds as inhibitors of the tetR system. Using the same cell line, a genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 screen identified epigenetic regulators such as the G9a methyltransferase and TRIM28 as potential modifiers of TDP-43 toxicity. Yet again, further experiments revealed that G9a inhibition or TRIM28 loss prevented doxycycline-dependent expression of TDP-43. In summary, we have identified new chemical and genetic regulators of the tetR system, thereby raising awareness of the limitations of this approach to conduct chemical or genetic screening in mammalian cells.