Archive for October, 2010

Cell Cycle Assays-Part I

This is the first part of a series of blogs about using fluorescent proteins in cell based assays with established examples, a common theme here at the AlleleBlog.

FUCCI Cell Cycle Sensor

The FUCCI Cell Cycle Sensor is composed of a red (RFP) and a green (GFP) fluorescent protein fused to different regulators of the cell cycle: cdt1 and geminin.

During the cell cycle, these two proteins are ubiquitinated at different time points by specific ubiquitin E3 ligases, which tag them for degradation in the proteasome. The E3 ligases’ activities are regulated temporally and result in the biphasic cycling of GERMINI and CDT1 levels during the cell cycle. In the G1 phase of the cell cycle, GERMINI is degraded; therefore, only CDT1 tagged with RFP is present and appears as red fluorescence within the nuclei. In the S, G2, and M phases, CDT1 is degraded; only GERMINI tagged with GFP is present, resulting in cells with green fluorescent nuclei.

During the G1/S transition, when CDT1 levels are decreasing and GERMINI levels increasing, both proteins are present, so are the tagged fluorescent proteins. When the green and red images are overlaid, nuclei fluoresce yellow. This dynamic color change, from red-to-yellow-to-green, represents the entire cell cycle. This representation can be used to study the effects of elements that may influence cell cycles.

Sakaue-Sawano A, Kurokawa H, Morimura T, Hanyu A, Hama H, Osawa H, Kashiwagi S, Fukami K, Miyata T, Miyoshi H, Imamura T, Ogawa M, Masai H, Miyawaki A.Visualizing spatiotemporal dynamics of multicellular cell-cycle progression. Cell. 2008 Feb 8;132(3):487-98.


In late S phage, CCNB1 promoter will be switched on to drive the expression of Cyclin B N-terminus-GFP expression; thereafter the fluorescent signal will be switched off at the destruction box in Cyclin B N-terminus at the end of Mitosis phase. During the intervening phase the fusion reporter protein will translocate from cytoplasm to nucleus by the cytoplasmic retention signal in the Cyclin B N-terminus.

Thomas N. Lighting the circle of life: fluorescent sensors for covert surveillance of the cell cycle. Cell Cycle. 2003 Nov-Dec;2(6):545-9.

GFP-PCNA, a fusion of GFP and PCNA, has been widely used as a convenient tool to monitor the progress of S phase. At the onset of S phase, GFP-PCNA translocates into the nucleus; at mitosis the nuclear envelope breaks down and the nuclear accumulation of PCNA-GFP dissipates.

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Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 Fluorescent proteins No Comments

Purifying DNA without Membrane Binding

Purifying DNA from natural samples or biochemical reactions is one the most frequently performed experiments in virtually all molecular biology labs. Binding DNA to silica membranes in chaotropic binding buffers is the currently prevailing method, pioneered by Qiagen. Before Qiagen columns and the similar columns from a number of companies, including Allele, there was the silica resin, mostly from Promega. Before silica, it was phenol extraction or CsCl gradient.

Silica-based technology has been around for more than a decade, and it is time for a new generation of technologies that are more convenient and efficient than silica membrane to take center stage of DNA purification, especially given the fast-paced advances in polynucleotide analysis in microarrays and deep sequencing. Solid Surface Reversible Binding (SSRB) technology should be a shining star in coming years. The process is simple: DNA or RNA molecules in a simple binding buffer bind to the surface of plastics of any size and shape (PCR tube, 2.0ml eppendorf, 96-well plates, even 15 ml or 50 ml conical tubes) that is treated by a special process, washed, and eluted in any volume of water or even downstream reaction buffers. The utmost convenience is that the downstream reaction can be performed in the same tube!

This process is different from the electroreversion type of binding and releasing that requires buffers of different and extreme pH. Allele Biotech has started marketing SurfaceBind PCR purification kits, and will roll out products that are specifically tailored for genomic DNA, mRNA, size-differentiated DNA or RNA, DNA or RNA from fixed samples, from different species, etc. The convenience and cost-efficiency of these systems will provide significant contributions to the broad scientific community.

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Updated: GFP-nAb products (equivalent to previously distributed GFP-trap), good for genomic DNA pull down by transcription factor-GFP fusion, RNA co-IP via RNA binding protein-GFP fusion. Or try our brand new, the brightest mFP–mNeonGreen and already available mNeonGreen-nAb, or anti-mNeonGreen nano antibody (also referred to by others as “nanobodies”).

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Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 oligos and cloning No Comments

DNA Repair Pathway Factors in Cell-Based Screening for Restoring Patients’ Sensitivity to Cancer Therapies

Cancers undergoing therapies may develop resistance to treatment. Many current cancer treatments, such as cisplatin, function by creating DNA damage, particularly to fast-dividing cells, i.e., most cancer cells. These treatments may be rendered ineffective by DNA-damage response pathways. Cancer resistance to therapies may come from increased activity in nonhomologous end joining, decreased functions of mismatch repair, or reactivation of the Fanconi anemia (FA)/BRCA DNA-damage response pathway, etc. Ironically the loss of function of some of these DNA-damage repair factors may have partially caused the cancer formation in the first place. Regaining their functions in cancer cells possibly contribute to drug resistance. Molecules that disrupt FA/BRCA pathway or other DNA-damage responses could be used to help restore therapy sensitivity.

Like many proteins that function in DNA-damage repair complexes, FANCD2, a member of the FA pathway factor group, is targeted towards chromatin following damage to DNA in a process called foci formation. There have been recent studies that monitored the foci formation of GFP-FANCD2 in small molecule library screening and identified inhibitors to FANCD2 as candidates for a cancer therapy sensitizer. The assays can be improved in a number of ways. There are fluorescent proteins (FPs) that are much brighter than EGFP for increased sensitivity. For instance, the monomeric green FP mWasabi is about 2-3 fold brighter than EGFP, with narrower emission peak, and is more stable under acidic environment. The newly developed lancelet YFP (LanYFP, developed/introduced by Allele Biotech) is astonishingly 10 times brighter than EGFP. Since it has a longer excitation and emission wavelength, it should inherently have a better signal to noise/background ratio compared to EGFP because cells autofluoresce less in long wavelengths. The improved brightness would also help in this respect. The fold difference between foci and LanYFP background will be the same as EGFP, but the contrast will still probably be better because of less autofluorescent background and significantly higher fluorescence reading in foci.

Other factors that may be used as a screening target when fused to effective FPs may probably include:

1) Homologous recombination (HR)
a. End Resection
MRN complex (MRE11, RAD50, NBS1)
b. Synapsis
c. DNA synthesis
DNA polymerase delta, PCNA

2) Nonhomologous End Joining (NHEJ)
Ku70/Ku80, DNA-PK, Ligase IV, XRCC4, XLF

3) Fanconi Anemia Pathway

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Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 Fluorescent proteins 1 Comment

Expression of iPS Factors from Transfected mRNA

Differentiated cells can be reprogrammed to pluripotency by enforced expression of certain combinations of stem cell-specific protein factors in them. The power of this method was first demonstrated by Yamanaka’s group using retroviruses carrying Oct3/4, Sox2, c-Myc, and Klf4. Alternative factors such as Lin28 and Nanog, and additional factors such as the human telomerase gene hTert and shRNA against p53 were also shown to contribute to reprogramming. From the very beginning it was realized that viral integration would pose a major problem in using the induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) for clinical purposes. There have been multiple attempts to circumvent this problem by using non-integrating vectors such as plasmid, minicircle DNA, adenovirus, baculovirus, removable transposons, episomal DNA, or by introducing recombinant proteins with a transmembrane domain into target cells. From reports in the field and customer feedbacks it seems that retroviral or lentiviral systems are still the most efficient in reprogramming. mRNA is about the only option left unreported, until an article by Warren et al was published in Cell Stem Cell online recently.

From that report, it is clear that the reason that it took so long for RNA-induced iPSCs (RiPSCs) to appear in the literature was because synthetic mRNAs activate interferon responses in mammalian cells, reminding us of the early days of RNAi. The authors took a number of steps to reduce interferon responses, including adding a 5’-cap (actually a fairly standard step in in vitro transcription), using a phosphatase to remove 5’ triphosphates on uncapped mRNAs, and using modified C and U bases (5-methucytidine or 5mC and pseudouridine or psi) during T7 promoter-driven in vitro transcription. The prepared mRNA was then administered everyday for 17 days at an amount not clearly defined in the paper. The main benefit of this method is of course that there is no gene integration to alter the chromosome. The efficiency of the new method was also compared to using viral vectors and it was shown that 1.4% conversion efficiency was achieved vs retroviral systems’ 0.01% (although we have experienced better results using lentivirus, at least the 4-in-1 version).

The DNA templates used for in vitro transcription of the iPS factors were created by multiple PCR reactions and bridged ligation; it could also be done by other cloning strategies. For those excited about trying this new way of making iPSCs, the major hassle would be preparing modified mRNAs good and abundant enough for 17 consecutive transfections. Allele Biotech would like to provide custom services, before offering shelf products, for creating such mRNAs as the method sounds potentially very helpful to many researchers in the iPSC field.

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