Dcyfir: A high-throughput CRISPR platform for multiplexed G protein-coupled receptor profiling and ligand discovery

N. J. Kapolka, G. J. Taghon, J. B. Rowe, W. M. Morgan, J. F. Enten, N. A. Lambert, D. G. Isom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


More than 800 G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) comprise the largest class of membrane receptors in humans. While there is ample biological understanding and many approved drugs for prototypic GPCRs, most GPCRs still lack well-defined biological ligands and drugs. Here, we report our efforts to tap the potential of understudied GPCRs by developing yeast-based technologies for high-throughput clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) engineering and GPCR ligand discovery. We refer to these technologies collectively as Dynamic Cyan Induction by Functional Integrated Receptors, or DCyFIR. A major advantage of DCyFIR is that GPCRs and other assay components are CRISPR-integrated directly into the yeast genome, making it possible to decode ligand specificity by profiling mixtures of GPCR-barcoded yeast strains in a single tube. To demonstrate the capabilities of DCyFIR, we engineered a yeast strain library of 30 human GPCRs and their 300 possible GPCR–Gα coupling combinations. Profiling of these 300 strains, using parallel (DCyFIRscreen) and multiplex (DCyFIRplex) DCyFIR modes, recapitulated known GPCR agonism with 100% accuracy, and identified unexpected interactions for the receptors ADRA2B, HCAR3, MTNR1A, S1PR1, and S1PR2. To demonstrate DCyFIR scalability, we profiled a library of 320 human metabolites and discovered several GPCR–metabolite interactions. Remarkably, many of these findings pertained to understudied pharmacologically dark receptors GPR4, GPR65, GPR68, and HCAR3. Experiments on select receptors in mammalian cells confirmed our yeast-based observations, including our discovery that kynurenic acid activates HCAR3 in addition to GPR35, its known receptor. Taken together, these findings demonstrate the power of DCyFIR for identifying ligand interactions with prototypic and understudied GPCRs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13117-13126
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number23
StatePublished - Jun 9 2020


  • DCyFIR
  • G protein-coupled receptors
  • Multiplex
  • Pharmacologically dark GPCR
  • Yeast

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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