The discovery of transcription factors (TFs) controlling pathways in health and disease is of paramount interest. We designed a widely applicable method, dubbed barcorded synthetic tandem repeat promoter screening (BC-STAR-PROM), to identify signal-activated TFs without any a priori knowledge about their properties. The BC-STAR-PROM library consists of ~3000 luciferase expression vectors, each harboring a promoter (composed of six tandem repeats of synthetic random DNA) and an associated barcode of 20 base pairs (bp) within the 3' untranslated mRNA region. Together, the promoter sequences encompass >400,000 bp of random DNA, a sequence complexity sufficient to capture most TFs. Cells transfected with the library are exposed to a signal, and the mRNAs that it encodes are counted by next-generation sequencing of the barcodes. This allows the simultaneous activity tracking of each of the ~3000 synthetic promoters in a single experiment. Here we establish proof of concept for BC-STAR-PROM by applying it to the identification of TFs induced by drugs affecting actin and tubulin cytoskeleton dynamics. BC-STAR-PROM revealed that serum response factor (SRF) is the only immediate early TF induced by both actin polymerization and microtubule depolymerization. Such changes in cytoskeleton dynamics are known to occur during the cell division cycle, and real-time bioluminescence microscopy indeed revealed cell-autonomous SRF-myocardin-related TF (MRTF) activity bouts in proliferating cells.© 2016 Gosselin et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.
Journal: Genes & development