RNAi screening

Top 10 List of Most Viewed AlleleBlogs in 2011

The ballot is in—among the “usual suspect” hot topics, iPS takes the top honor and most entries; Camelid antibodies, although not really presented as a typical AlleleBlog in 2011, made it to the top 3. shRNA cloning and RNAi screening are still on a lot of people’s minds, so it seems.

Method: total visits to each blog since our new webpage was launched in July was counted.

1) Fusion of the Transcription Domain to iPS Factors Radically Enhances Reprogramming

2) Methods of iPSC Generation Update

3) About 50 Papers Cited the Use of GFP-Trap Camelid Antibody So Far in 2011

4) Big Potential in Using Protozoans for Producing Mammalian Proteins

5) How do you make shRNA-expressing viruses for function screening?

6) Creating ground-state human iPSCs

7) Recombinase-Mediated Cassette Exchange (RMCE) and Integrase Swappable in vivo Targeting Element (InSITE)

8) Development of Cell Lines from iPSCs for Bioassays

9) Choosing siRNA, shRNA, and miRNA for Gene Silencing

10) Allele Biotech’s Box Swap Program

Have a successful 2012!

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Friday, December 30th, 2011 Allele Mail Bag No Comments

How do you make shRNA-expressing viruses for function screening?

Most people use standard cloning procedures when trying to insert shRNA templates into lentiviral vectors, i.e. anneal a pair of long oligos with sticky ends and ligate the dsDNA into a linearized plasmid with compatible overhangs. However, since typical lentiviral vector plasmids have terminal repeats and are relatively large, when ligated to hairpin sequence-containing shRNA templates, recombination often occurs inside bacteria that results in smaller plasmids. This problem is common for cloning shRNA or other unstable DNA pieces into viral vectors. This cloning issue is further compounded by the fact that it is difficult to sequence any shRNA template region because the hairpin may block the progress of the DNA polymerase used in sequencing, sometimes requiring several repeats under different sequencing conditions, incurring high costs charged by sequencing service providers.

To deal with these aspects of the cloning difficulties, particularly for the purpose of increasing cloning efficiency RNAi-based screening, we compared three different strategies

First, we built a smaller shRNA cloning vector to clone and sequence shRNA templates prior to transferring to lentiviral vectors. This smaller vector does not have a severe recombination problem and is easier to sequence in the hairpin-containing region. After an initial round of cloning with this new vector, we further improved it by inserting an XbaI and a NheI site between the BamHI and SpeI insertion sites, so that any plasmid preparations can be screened for recombinants by a simple XbaI or NheI digest before sequencing. After cloning into this intermediate vector, the shRNA expression cassette can be transferred into the lentivirus vectors with some flanking viral sequences so that the insert size will be around 1kb.

Second, we developed a novel DNA preparation procedure after realizing that DNA damage during miniprep of vector plasmids and gel purification of vector fragment increased recombination of these constructs, which were already less stable than usual due to hairpin structures. This procedure of DNA preparation avoids UV or guanidium exposure, which can cause nicks on double-stranded DNA and facilitate recombination. This new procedure relies on purifying DNA through surface-binding to regular reaction tubes treated with a proprietary reagent (SurfaceBind Purification). The process simply requires adding a proprietary, guanidium-free binding buffer to the DNA, which has been processed in a specially coated tube (eppendorf or thin-wall PCR tube), and purifying directly in the same tube. Vectors prepared this way indeed provide more colony counts and a higher percentage of correct constructs as shown by our test runs. The procedure also requires less time and the purified DNA can be dissolved in volumes as small as a few microliters.

Third, to enable truly high throughput shRNA screening (i.e. looking for effective RNAi reagents), we further tested and adapted a ligationless cloning protocol that can be handled by a liquid handler almost entirely. In order to increase throughput, we designed a drastically different procedure that could bypass ligation and sequencing altogether before functional tests. Briefly, DNA molecules that would provide enhanced recombination were created by one round of PCR, purified directly in the surface bind PCR reaction tubes (any template DNA would be removed with DpnI enzyme that cuts non-PCR DNA), pooled, and transformed in bacteria directly. DNA plasmids from transformed bacteria can be used for lentivirus packaging, bypassing sequencing at the initial screening stage, and choose single colonies for sequencing only after a shRNA sequence shows promise in functional assays. This is based on the fact that such cloning rarely has any background colonies, and that among all oligos (if using the correct grade of oligos from validated suppliers) inserted this way, a good portion encodes the correct sequence.

New Products of the week: 100x 15mm EcoCulture Vented Dishes for better stem cell attachment and less plastic waste to the environment, APB-CS-114TC.

Promotion of the week: Buy 1 Stealth Express IPS Induction PCR Template Set, get 1 SurfaceBind RNA Purification Kit free. Use code FreePureRNA.

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Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 RNAi patent landscape No Comments

Features of Allele’s Virus Packaging Services

High Titer
Allele Biotech’s HiTiter™ Viral Packaging Services, using proprietary technologies that are unique and highly efficient, can easily yield 10e8 to 10e9 TU/ml lentivirus/retrovirus without concentrating steps. With a concentration step 10e9 to 10e10 TU/ml can be achieved, which is ideal for in vivo research. It’s the world’s most powerful viral packaging platform.

Quick Turnaround
Allele Biotech has consolidated its procedure of HiTiter™ Viral Packaging Services as a standard production-line resulting in a quick turnaround. Typically, a standard 10e8 TU/ml 2ml packaging service is completed in one week and delivered in less than two weeks. You send us virus transfer plasmids, wait a week or two, and receive high titer ready-to-use virus. Imagine how our ingenuity and innovation can pave the way for your research!

Ideal for Complicated Constructs
Viral packaging, especially for complicated constructs, has been intrinsically difficult for most researchers. Now with Allele Biotech HiTiter™ Viral Packaging Services, you have an ideal option for packaging even the most demanding constructs! We have successfully developed the 4-In-1 iPSC Generation Lentivirus, expressing 4 genes (hOct3/4, hSox2, hKlf4 and hc-Myc) in one lentiviral construct, which has been very popular in the filed of stem cell research.

Fluorescent Proteins & Drug Resistance
Allele Biotech and our collaborators design, evolve, and select new FPs that suit different applications. These brighter fluorescent proteins, sometimes together with drug resistance genes, have been incorporated into our lentiviral/retroviral systems. When you order our viral packaging service, you will automatically receive a 20% discount for all our listed viral plasmids.

Full RNA Interference Services
We have RNAi lentiviral packaging services, RNAi validation services, and RNAi screening services, which can meet different demands in the filed of RNA Interference. The RNAi lentiviral packaging services include Gene-To-Silence™, Sequence-to-Virus™ and DNA-to-Virus™. The plasmids we use for these services have build-in FPs and drug resistance genes, convenient for virtually all research purposes.

    New Product of the Week 111510-112110:

Cre/loxP Reporter Cell Line LoxP-lacZ Human Fibroblast, ABP-RP-CLACLOX.

    Promotion of the Wee 111510-112110:

Fine agarose for DNA or RNA gel, buy 500g, get a second bottle of agarose at 40% off, use promo code FB111510AR, order by emailing oligo@allelebiotech.com

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Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 Viruses and cells No Comments

Fluorescent Protein-Based Assay Development

This blog is a preview of what is to be launched as a new Service Group. Allele Biotech is restructuring its CRO capabilities in the assay development area by combining its fast expanding fluorescent protein portfolio, viral vector and packaging expertise, as well as newly granted patents in shRNA. The focus of this post is fluorescent protein in biosensor and screening assays. A modified version will be used as the landing page for the FB-Based Assay Development Service.


Originally cloned from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria and subsequently from many other marine organisms, fluorescent proteins (FPs) spanning the entire visual spectrum have become some of the most widely used genetically encoded tags. Unlike traditional labeling methods, FPs may be used to specifically label virtually any protein of interest in a living cell with minimal perturbation to its endogenous function. Genes encoding FPs alone or as fusions to a protein of interest may be introduced to cells by a number of different methods, including simple plasmid transfection or viral transduction. Once expressed, FPs are easily detected with standard fluorescence microscopy equipment.

Factors that should be taken into account when designing an FP-based imaging experiment include the desired wavelength(s) for detection, the pH environment of the tagged protein, the total required imaging time, and the expression level or dynamic range required for detection of promoter activity or tagged protein. Individual FPs currently available to the research community vary considerably in their photostability, pH sensitivity, and overall brightness, and so FPs must be chosen with care to maximize the likelihood of success in a particular experimental context.

    FPs as fusion tags:

Use of FPs as fusion tags allows visualization of the dynamic localization of the tagged protein in living cells. For such applications, the cDNA of a protein of interest is attached in-frame to the coding sequence for the desired FP, and both are put under the control of a promoter appropriate to the experimental context (typically CMV for high-level expression, though other promoters may be desirable if overexpression of your protein of interest is suspected of producing artifacts). The most basic uses for fluorescent protein fusions include tracking of specific organelles (fusions to short organelle targeting signals) or cytoskeletal structures (fusions to actin or tubulin, for example). More advanced uses include tracking receptors or exported proteins. In most cases, it is critical that the FP used for fusion tagging be fully monomeric, as any interaction between fusion tags is likely to produce artifacts, some of which may be hard to recognize in the absence of other controls. While in most cases FP fusions do not interfere with normal protein function, whenever possible, FP fusion proteins should be validated by immunostaining the corresponding endogenous protein in non-transfected cells and verifying similar patterns of localization.

    FPs as expression reporters:

FPs are highly useful as quantitative expression reporters. By driving the expression of an FP gene by a specific promoter of interest, it is possible to produce an optical readout of promoter activity. Use of the brightest possible FP ensures the best dynamic range for such an experiment. Because dynamic localization is not generally an issue for expression reporter applications, it is possible to use non-monomeric FPs for this purpose, opening up additional possibilities for multiple wavelength imaging. In order to obtain more reliable quantitative data and to correct for likely variations between individual cells in expression reporter experiments, the use of two spectrally distinct (e.g. green and red) FPs is advisable. By driving expression of one FP with a constitutive promoter and a second FP with the promoter of interest, the ratio of the two signals provides a quantitative readout of relative activity. Averaged over many cells, this technique should provide statistical power necessary for quality expression level experiments. Because FPs normally have a very slow turnover rate in mammalian cells, it may be desirable to add a degradation tag to your FP to enhance temporal resolution when measuring highly dynamic promoter activity.

New Product of the Week 03-08-10 to 03-14-10: mWasabi 2A or IRES dual expression vectors (http://www.allelebiotech.com/shopcart/index.php?c=216&sc=34) ABP-FP-W2A10, orWIRES10

Promotion of the Week 03-08-10 to 03-14-10: for a limited time on Thursday, to be announced on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Diego-CA/Allele-Biotechnology-and-Pharmaceuticals-Inc/78331924957#!/allele.biotech?ref=profile), a strikingly low price will be honored for a commonly used lab reagent or equipment. This is the second week of the follow-us-to-the-basement promotion.

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Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 Fluorescent proteins, Open Forum No Comments

RNAi Design, Validation and Target Screening

Since Tuschl et al. published the first empirical guidelines on how to design effective siRNA [1], the most significant advancement (based on the understanding of biochemical mechanisms of RNAi such as how RISC is assembled) is the recognition of asymmetric thermostability of the 5’ end of the antisense strand (AS) relative to that of the sense strand (SS) [2, 3]. siRNAs with an A/T-rich AS 5’ end can be more easily integrated into RISC. By biasing against the sense strand for RISC loading, the off-target effects due to the presence of the SS (as one of the sources of off-targets effects) can also be minimized. In recent years datasets of increased number of siRNAs and shRNAs became available and statistical analysis suggested additional rules for RNAi design. These newer rules in general define the siRNA prediction parameters in more detail, for instance, the number of bases of the 5’ ends that should be included when calculating asymmetric thermostability, base preferences at each particular position, and the identity of the 2 nt 3’ overhang [4, 5]. Computer programs and websites are developed based on these features also resulting from NIH funded research through universities and organizations. Among the well-known ones, Design of SIRna (DSIR at biodev.extra.cea.fr/DSIR/DSIR.html) and the shRNA search program at the Broad Institute (broadinstitute.org/genome_bio/trc/publicSearchForHairpinsForm.php) are freely available.

Several companies such as Open Biosystems, System Biosciences, Dharmacon/ThermoFisher, Sigma-Aldrich, Invitrogen/LifeTech, provide premade RNAi reagents against various numbers of human and rodent genes. Although some product lines from these suppliers are labeled as validated RNAi reagents, apparently only one reveals clone sequences and only a few hundred among the claimed 4,500 shRNA clones. It is not possible to find what shRNAs are used against any target gene from most companies even though many of them claim to have a few hundred pre-validated constructs. Some of them may provide additional information upon purchase.

Even with the recent advancement of RNAi design technologies, prediction of effective RNAi is still far from accurate. Depending on the datasets used to score the success rates of the programs at DSIR, Broad or any other software, the general consensus is that about 50% of predicted RNAi target sequences will be effective, resulting in better than 70% gene knockdown. Allele Biotech uses a software that was trained with known RNAi results to predict siRNA target candidates on a given mRNA, and then applies an additional set of rules to pick the most promising candidates. Off-target effects caused by partial-matching between AS strand and untended targets are reduced by searching the chosen site against the NCBI gene base. The basic rules Allele Biotech uses include most currently known ones and are similar to what are listed by The RNAi Consortium (TRC) program at the Broad Institute.

Criteria for RNAi design:
(1) Overall GC content is between 30-55%
(2) The 4 bases at the 5’ of AS is more AT-rich than those of the SS
(3) The first base of AS and SS 5’ is preferably A/T and G/C, respectively
(4) “U” is preferred at the 10th position of the antisense from the 5’ end
(5) “C” is to be avoided as the last base of an overhang
(6) Avoid 4-nt mono-nucleotide regions
(7) Avoid 6-nt GC-rich regions
(8) If possible, do not include those with apparent secondary structures

These selected rules are based on a number of publications (for example, [4-6]), but it is impossible to include all known rules, many of which conflict with each other. In case of conflicting rules we rely more on recent discoveries and our own experience from providing RNAi service during the past 8 years.

Allele Biotech provides RNAi validation and screening services to customers using synthetic siRNA, linear DNA cassettes with engineered Pol III promoter, and shRNA expressing lentiviral vectors in high throughput formats. In a unique design, all RNAi target candidate sequences of a gene transcript are fused consecutively to a bright green fluorescent protein, mWasabi, on a lentiviral vector. Instead of analyzing gene silencing by QPCR, the initial selection of effective RNAi can be performed by measuring fluorescence.

RNAi screening has been conducted to identify correlations between gene functions and cellular phenotypes such as synthetic lethality among DNA damage signaling and repair pathway factors. Successfully performing high throughput screenings requires capabilities of efficient RNAi design, viral packaging, fluorescent proteins, and advanced cell culture and analysis techniques. In addition to these capabilities, Allele’s RNAi services are provided with access to commercial use of Allele’s own patents on Pol III promoter driven shRNA expression, and licensed patents on lentiviral vector, packaging, and fluorescent proteins.

    New Product/Service of week Nov 16-22, 09:

RNAi validation/screening service.

1. Tuschl, T., P.D. Zamore, R. Lehmann, D.P. Bartel, and P.A. Sharp, Targeted mRNA degradation by double-stranded RNA in vitro. Genes Dev, 1999. 13(24): p. 3191-7.
2. Khvorova, A., A. Reynolds, and S.D. Jayasena, Functional siRNAs and miRNAs exhibit strand bias. Cell, 2003. 115(2): p. 209-16.
3. Schwarz, D.S., G. Hutvagner, T. Du, Z. Xu, N. Aronin, and P.D. Zamore, Asymmetry in the assembly of the RNAi enzyme complex. Cell, 2003. 115(2): p. 199-208.
4. Vert, J.P., N. Foveau, C. Lajaunie, and Y. Vandenbrouck, An accurate and interpretable model for siRNA efficacy prediction. BMC Bioinformatics, 2006. 7: p. 520.
5. Zhou, H. and X. Zeng, Energy profile and secondary structure impact shRNA efficacy. BMC Genomics, 2009. 10 Suppl 1: p. S9.
6. Ui-Tei, K., Y. Naito, F. Takahashi, T. Haraguchi, H. Ohki-Hamazaki, A. Juni, R. Ueda, and K. Saigo, Guidelines for the selection of highly effective siRNA sequences for mammalian and chick RNA interference. Nucleic Acids Res, 2004. 32(3): p. 936-48.

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Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 Fluorescent proteins, RNAi patent landscape 1 Comment