Combined CRISPRi/a-Based Chemical Genetic Screens Reveal that Rigosertib Is a Microtubule-Destabilizing Agent

Marco Jost, Yuwen Chen, Luke A Gilbert, Max A Horlbeck, Lenno Krenning, Grégory Menchon, Ankit Rai, Min Y Cho, Jacob J Stern, Andrea E Prota, Martin Kampmann, Anna Akhmanova, Michel O Steinmetz, Marvin E Tanenbaum, Jonathan S Weissman

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

134 Citations (Scopus)


Chemical libraries paired with phenotypic screens can now readily identify compounds with therapeutic potential. A central limitation to exploiting these compounds, however, has been in identifying their relevant cellular targets. Here, we present a two-tiered CRISPR-mediated chemical-genetic strategy for target identification: combined genome-wide knockdown and overexpression screening as well as focused, comparative chemical-genetic profiling. Application of these strategies to rigosertib, a drug in phase 3 clinical trials for high-risk myelodysplastic syndrome whose molecular target had remained controversial, pointed singularly to microtubules as rigosertib's target. We showed that rigosertib indeed directly binds to and destabilizes microtubules using cell biological, in vitro, and structural approaches. Finally, expression of tubulin with a structure-guided mutation in the rigosertib-binding pocket conferred resistance to rigosertib, establishing that rigosertib kills cancer cells by destabilizing microtubules. These results demonstrate the power of our chemical-genetic screening strategies for pinpointing the physiologically relevant targets of chemical agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)210-223.e6
JournalMolecular Cell
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 05 Oct 2017


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Colchicine
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genetic Testing
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Glycine
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • K562 Cells
  • Kinesin
  • Lentivirus
  • Microtubules
  • Mutation
  • Myelodysplastic Syndromes
  • RNA, Guide
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Sulfones
  • Tubulin
  • Tubulin Modulators
  • Vinblastine
  • Journal Article


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