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Dysregulation of the epigenome due to alterations in chromatin modifier proteins commonly contribute to malignant transformation. To interrogate the roles of epigenetic modifiers in cancer cells, we generated an epigenome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 knockout library (EPIKOL) that targets a wide-range of epigenetic modifiers and their cofactors. We conducted eight screens in two different cancer types and showed that EPIKOL performs with high efficiency in terms of sgRNA distribution and depletion of essential genes. We discovered novel epigenetic modifiers that regulate triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and prostate cancer cell fitness. We confirmed the growth-regulatory functions of individual candidates, including SS18L2 and members of the NSL complex (KANSL2, KANSL3, KAT8) in TNBC cells. Overall, we show that EPIKOL, a focused sgRNA library targeting ~800 genes, can reveal epigenetic modifiers that are essential for cancer cell fitness under in vitro and in vivo conditions and enable the identification of novel anti-cancer targets. Due to its comprehensive epigenome-wide targets and relatively high number of sgRNAs per gene, EPIKOL will facilitate studies examining functional roles of epigenetic modifiers in a wide range of contexts, such as screens in primary cells, patient-derived xenografts as well as in vivo models.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell death dis

Publication Date





CRISPR-Cas Systems, Cell Line, Tumor, Chromatin, Early Detection of Cancer, Humans, Male, Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms