The identification of genetic regulators of cell secretions is challenging because it requires the sorting of a large number of cells according to their secretion patterns. Here we report the development and applicability of a high-throughput microfluidic method for the analysis of the secretion levels of large populations of immune cells. The method is linked with a kinome-wide loss-of-function CRISPR screen, immunomagnetically sorting the cells according to their secretion levels, and the sequencing of their genomes to identify key genetic modifiers of cell secretion. We used the method, which we validated against flow cytometry for cytokines secreted from primary mouse CD4+ (cluster of differentiation 4-positive) T cells, to discover a subgroup of highly co-expressed kinase-coding genes that regulate interferon-gamma secretion by these cells. We validated the function of the kinases identified using RNA interference, CRISPR knockouts and kinase inhibitors and confirmed the druggability of selected kinases via the administration of a kinase inhibitor in an animal model of colitis. The technique may facilitate the discovery of regulatory mechanisms for immune-cell activation and of therapeutic targets for autoimmune diseases.



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Nature Biomedical Engineering

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Peninsula Medical School