The High Throughout Screening STP

The High-throughput Screening (HTS) facility provides a core service for Crick research groups. It enables researchers to use large-scale, unbiased screening technologies and approaches as part of their research.

One of our main areas of activity revolves around the question of gene function. Thanks to genome sequencing we know a lot about the component parts of a cell as represented by genes and how these genes can be altered or lost in diseases. What such data doesn't immediately reveal is how, or to what extent, any gene influences a particular cell activity and behaviour.

Imagine you have all of the component parts of a car on the floor in front of you. Without an instruction book, it is hard to say whether any one component plays a crucial role in holding the brakes together or if it plays a more trivial role. One way to address the question of the function of this component is to take it away and see what happens; does the car crash immediately, does it drive perfectly well or is it more subtly compromised?

We use biological reagents (CRISPR or RNAi) to achieve very much the same end, in that they can remove a specific gene activity from a cell and we can measure the effect of this loss on cell behaviour or responses by microscopy. Because there are of the order of 20,000 genes in the human genome these experiments are large-scale but because we ask the same question for all genes such screens are unbiased.

What emerges for these experiments is a full survey of all of the genetic influences on a particular cellular behaviour. The HTS facility provides the reagents, equipment and expertise to conduct such large-scale, cell-based screens.