Functional CRISPR screen identifies AP1-associated enhancer regulating FOXF1 to modulate oncogene-induced senescence

Ruiqi Han, Li Li, Alejandro Piñeiro Ugalde, Arieh Tal, Zohar Manber, Eric Pinto Barbera, Veronica Della Chiara, Ran Elkon*, Reuven Agami

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Functional characterization of non-coding elements in the human genome is a major genomic challenge and the maturation of genome-editing technologies is revolutionizing our ability to achieve this task. Oncogene-induced senescence, a cellular state of irreversible proliferation arrest that is enforced following excessive oncogenic activity, is a major barrier against cancer transformation; therefore, bypassing oncogene-induced senescence is a critical step in tumorigenesis. Here, we aim at further identification of enhancer elements that are required for the establishment of this state. Results: We first apply genome-wide profiling of enhancer-RNAs (eRNAs) to systematically identify enhancers that are activated upon oncogenic stress. DNA motif analysis of these enhancers indicates AP-1 as a major regulator of the transcriptional program induced by oncogene-induced senescence. We thus constructed a CRISPR-Cas9 sgRNA library designed to target senescence-induced enhancers that are putatively regulated by AP-1 and used it in a functional screen. We identify a critical enhancer that we name Enh AP1-OIS1 and validate that mutating the AP-1 binding site within this element results in oncogene-induced senescence bypass. Furthermore, we identify FOXF1 as the gene regulated by this enhancer and demonstrate that FOXF1 mediates Enh AP1-OIS1 effect on the senescence phenotype. Conclusions: Our study elucidates a novel cascade mediated by AP-1 and FOXF1 that regulates oncogene-induced senescence and further demonstrates the power of CRISPR-based functional genomic screens in deciphering the function of non-coding regulatory elements in the genome.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118
JournalGenome Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 17 Aug 2018


  • AP1
  • Enhancers
  • FOS
  • FOXF1
  • Functional screen
  • Gene regulation
  • JUN
  • Oncogene-induced senescence


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