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1.  Robust RNAi enhancement via human Argonaute-2 overexpression from plasmids, viral vectors and cell lines 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(21):e199.
As the only mammalian Argonaute protein capable of directly cleaving mRNAs in a small RNA-guided manner, Argonaute-2 (Ago2) is a keyplayer in RNA interference (RNAi) silencing via small interfering (si) or short hairpin (sh) RNAs. It is also a rate-limiting factor whose saturation by si/shRNAs limits RNAi efficiency and causes numerous adverse side effects. Here, we report a set of versatile tools and widely applicable strategies for transient or stable Ago2 co-expression, which overcome these concerns. Specifically, we engineered plasmids and viral vectors to co-encode a codon-optimized human Ago2 cDNA along with custom shRNAs. Furthermore, we stably integrated this Ago2 cDNA into a panel of standard human cell lines via plasmid transfection or lentiviral transduction. Using various endo- or exogenous targets, we demonstrate the potential of all three strategies to boost mRNA silencing efficiencies in cell culture by up to 10-fold, and to facilitate combinatorial knockdowns. Importantly, these robust improvements were reflected by augmented RNAi phenotypes and accompanied by reduced off-targeting effects. We moreover show that Ago2/shRNA-co-encoding vectors can enhance and prolong transgene silencing in livers of adult mice, while concurrently alleviating hepatotoxicity. Our customizable reagents and avenues should broadly improve future in vitro and in vivo RNAi experiments in mammalian systems.
doi:10.1093/nar/gkt836
PMCID: PMC3834839  PMID: 24049077
2.  The microtubule affinity regulating kinase MARK4 promotes axoneme extension during early ciliogenesis 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2013;200(4):505-522.
A functional screen identified MARK4 as a positive regulator of axonemal extension and ciliogenesis via its interaction with the mother centriolar protein ODF2.
Despite the critical contributions of cilia to embryonic development and human health, key regulators of cilia formation await identification. In this paper, a functional RNA interference–based screen linked 30 novel protein kinases with ciliogenesis. Of them, we have studied the role of the microtubule (MT)-associated protein/MT affinity regulating kinase 4 (MARK4) in depth. MARK4 associated with the basal body and ciliary axoneme in human and murine cell lines. Ultrastructural and functional analyses established that MARK4 kinase activity was required for initiation of axoneme extension. We identified the mother centriolar protein ODF2 as an interaction partner of MARK4 and showed that ODF2 localization to the centriole partially depended on MARK4. Our data indicated that, upon MARK4 or ODF2 knockdown, the ciliary program arrested before the complete removal of the CP110–Cep97 inhibitory complex from the mother centriole, suggesting that these proteins act at this level of axonemal extension. We propose that MARK4 is a critical positive regulator of early steps in ciliogenesis.
doi:10.1083/jcb.201206013
PMCID: PMC3575539  PMID: 23400999
3.  Fluorescence-Based High-Throughput Functional Profiling of Ligand-Gated Ion Channels at the Level of Single Cells 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e58479.
Ion channels are involved in many physiological processes and are attractive targets for therapeutic intervention. Their functional properties vary according to their subunit composition, which in turn varies in a developmental and tissue-specific manner and as a consequence of pathophysiological events. Understanding this diversity requires functional analysis of ion channel properties in large numbers of individual cells. Functional characterisation of ligand-gated channels involves quantitating agonist and drug dose-response relationships using electrophysiological or fluorescence-based techniques. Electrophysiology is limited by low throughput and high-throughput fluorescence-based functional evaluation generally does not enable the characterization of the functional properties of each individual cell. Here we describe a fluorescence-based assay that characterizes functional channel properties at single cell resolution in high throughput mode. It is based on progressive receptor activation and iterative fluorescence imaging and delivers >100 dose-responses in a single well of a 384-well plate, using α1-3 homomeric and αβ heteromeric glycine receptor (GlyR) chloride channels as a model system. We applied this assay with transiently transfected HEK293 cells co-expressing halide-sensitive yellow fluorescent protein and different GlyR subunit combinations. Glycine EC50 values of different GlyR isoforms were highly correlated with published electrophysiological data and confirm previously reported pharmacological profiles for the GlyR inhibitors, picrotoxin, strychnine and lindane. We show that inter and intra well variability is low and that clustering of functional phenotypes permits identification of drugs with subunit-specific pharmacological profiles. As this method dramatically improves the efficiency with which ion channel populations can be characterized in the context of cellular heterogeneity, it should facilitate systems-level analysis of ion channel properties in health and disease and the discovery of therapeutics to reverse pathological alterations.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058479
PMCID: PMC3592791  PMID: 23520514
4.  A Novel Multiplex Cell Viability Assay for High-Throughput RNAi Screening 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e28338.
Cell-based high-throughput RNAi screening has become a powerful research tool in addressing a variety of biological questions. In RNAi screening, one of the most commonly applied assay system is measuring the fitness of cells that is usually quantified using fluorescence, luminescence and absorption-based readouts. These methods, typically implemented and scaled to large-scale screening format, however often only yield limited information on the cell fitness phenotype due to evaluation of a single and indirect physiological indicator. To address this problem, we have established a cell fitness multiplexing assay which combines a biochemical approach and two fluorescence-based assaying methods. We applied this assay in a large-scale RNAi screening experiment with siRNA pools targeting the human kinome in different modified HEK293 cell lines. Subsequent analysis of ranked fitness phenotypes assessed by the different assaying methods revealed average phenotype intersections of 50.7±2.3%–58.7±14.4% when two indicators were combined and 40–48% when a third indicator was taken into account. From these observations we conclude that combination of multiple fitness measures may decrease false-positive rates and increases confidence for hit selection. Our robust experimental and analytical method improves the classical approach in terms of time, data comprehensiveness and cost.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028338
PMCID: PMC3230607  PMID: 22162763
5.  High Throughput Techniques for Discovering New Glycine Receptor Modulators and their Binding Sites 
The inhibitory glycine receptor (GlyR) is a member of the Cys-loop receptor family that mediates inhibitory neurotransmission in the central nervous system. These receptors are emerging as potential drug targets for inflammatory pain, immunomodulation, spasticity and epilepsy. Antagonists that specifically inhibit particular GlyR isoforms are also required as pharmacological probes for elucidating the roles of particular GlyR isoforms in health and disease. Although a substantial number of both positive and negative GlyR modulators have been identified, very few of these are specific for the GlyR over other receptor types. Thus, the potential of known compounds as either therapeutic leads or pharmacological probes is limited. It is therefore surprising that there have been few published studies describing attempts to discover novel GlyR isoform-specific modulators. The first aim of this review is to consider various methods for efficiently screening compounds against these receptors. We conclude that an anion sensitive yellow fluorescent protein is optimal for primary screening and that automated electrophysiology of cells stably expressing GlyRs is useful for confirming hits and quantitating the actions of identified compounds. The second aim of this review is to demonstrate how these techniques are used in our laboratory for the purpose of both discovering novel GlyR-active compounds and characterizing their binding sites. We also describe a reliable, cost effective method for transfecting HEK293 cells in single wells of a 384-well plate using nanogram quantities of plasmid DNA.
doi:10.3389/neuro.02.017.2009
PMCID: PMC2782790  PMID: 19949449
Cys-loop receptor; chloride channel; pharmacology; high throughput; drug discovery; transfection

Results 1-5 (5)