Systematic reconstruction of genetic and molecular circuits in mammalian cells remains a significant, large-scale and unsolved challenge in genomics. The urgency to address it is underscored by the sizeable number of GWAS-derived disease genes whose functions remain largely obscure, limiting our progress towards biological understanding and therapeutic intervention. Recent advances in probing and manipulating cellular circuits on a genomic scale open the way for the development of a systematic method for circuit reconstruction. Here, we propose a Center for Cell Circuits to develop the reagents, technologies, algorithms, protocols and strategies needed to reconstruct molecular circuits. Our preliminary studies chart an initial path towards a universal strategy, which we will fully implement by developing a broad and integrated experimental and computational toolkit. We will develop methods for comprehensive profiling, genetic perturbations and mesoscale monitoring of diverse circuit layers (Aim 1). In parallel, we will develop a computational framework to analyze profiles, derive provisional models, use them to determine targets for perturbation and monitoring, and evaluate, refine and validate circuits based on those experiments (Aim 2). We will develop, test and refine this strategy in the context of two distinct and complementary mammalian circuits. First, we will produce an integrated, multi-layer circuit of the transcriptional response to pathogens in dendritic cells (Aim 3) as an example ofan acute environmental response. Second, we will reconstruct the the circuit of chromatin factors and non-coding RNAs that control chromatin organization and gene expression in mouse embryonic stem cells (Aim 4) as an example of the circuitry underlying stable cell states. These detailed datasets and models will reveal general principles of circuit organization, provide a resource for scientists in these two important fields, and allow computational biologists to test and develop algorithms. We will broadly disseminate our tools and methods to the community, enabling researchers to dissect any cell circuit of interest at unprecedented detail. Our work will open the way for reconstructing cellular circuits in human disease and individuals, to improve the accuracy of both diagnosis and treatment.
While it is now possible to rapidly identify genes that contribute to human disease, it is remains a major challenge to explain how these genes work together to carry out their normal functions or cause disease. We propose to develop a universal way to discover how genes work together in circuits, eventually leading to better diagnosis and therapy.
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