SHIELD: a platform for high-throughput screening of barrier-type DNA elements in human cells

Meng Zhang, Mary Elisabeth Ehmann, Srija Matukumalli, Aashutosh Girish Boob, David M. Gilbert, Huimin Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Chromatin boundary elements contribute to the partitioning of mammalian genomes into topological domains to regulate gene expression. Certain boundary elements are adopted as DNA insulators for safe and stable transgene expression in mammalian cells. These elements, however, are ill-defined and less characterized in the non-coding genome, partially due to the lack of a platform to readily evaluate boundary-associated activities of putative DNA sequences. Here we report SHIELD (Site-specific Heterochromatin Insertion of Elements at Lamina-associated Domains), a platform tailored for the high-throughput screening of barrier-type DNA elements in human cells. SHIELD takes advantage of the high specificity of serine integrase at heterochromatin, and exploits the natural heterochromatin spreading inside lamina-associated domains (LADs) for the discovery of potent barrier elements. We adopt SHIELD to evaluate the barrier activity of 1000 DNA elements in a high-throughput manner and identify 8 candidates with barrier activities comparable to the core region of cHS4 element in human HCT116 cells. We anticipate SHIELD could facilitate the discovery of novel barrier DNA elements from the non-coding genome in human cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5616
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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