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1.  Development of Transgenic Minipigs with Expression of Antimorphic Human Cryptochrome 1 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e76098.
Minipigs have become important biomedical models for human ailments due to similarities in organ anatomy, physiology, and circadian rhythms relative to humans. The homeostasis of circadian rhythms in both central and peripheral tissues is pivotal for numerous biological processes. Hence, biological rhythm disorders may contribute to the onset of cancers and metabolic disorders including obesity and type II diabetes, amongst others. A tight regulation of circadian clock effectors ensures a rhythmic expression profile of output genes which, depending on cell type, constitute about 3–20% of the transcribed mammalian genome. Central to this system is the negative regulator protein Cryptochrome 1 (CRY1) of which the dysfunction or absence has been linked to the pathogenesis of rhythm disorders. In this study, we generated transgenic Bama-minipigs featuring expression of the Cys414-Ala antimorphic human Cryptochrome 1 mutant (hCRY1AP). Using transgenic donor fibroblasts as nuclear donors, the method of handmade cloning (HMC) was used to produce reconstructed embryos, subsequently transferred to surrogate sows. A total of 23 viable piglets were delivered. All were transgenic and seemingly healthy. However, two pigs with high transgene expression succumbed during the first two months. Molecular analyzes in epidermal fibroblasts demonstrated disturbances to the expression profile of core circadian clock genes and elevated expression of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF-α, known to be risk factors in cancer and metabolic disorders.
PMCID: PMC3797822  PMID: 24146819
2.  The Impact of cHS4 Insulators on DNA Transposon Vector Mobilization and Silencing in Retinal Pigment Epithelium Cells 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e48421.
DNA transposons have become important vectors for efficient non-viral integration of transgenes into genomic DNA. The Sleeping Beauty (SB), piggyBac (PB), and Tol2 transposable elements have distinct biological properties and currently represent the most promising transposon systems for animal transgenesis and gene therapy. A potential obstacle, however, for persistent function of integrating vectors is transcriptional repression of the element and its genetic cargo. In this study we analyze the insulating effect of the 1.2-kb 5′-HS4 chicken β-globin (cHS4) insulator element in the context of SB, PB, and Tol2 transposon vectors. By examining transgene expression from genomically inserted transposon vectors encoding a marker gene driven by a silencing-prone promoter, we detect variable levels of transcriptional silencing for the three transposon systems in retinal pigment epithelium cells. Notably, the PB system seems less vulnerable to silencing. Incorporation of cHS4 insulator sequences into the transposon vectors results in 2.2-fold and 1.5-fold increased transgene expression levels for insulated SB and PB vectors, respectively, but an improved persistency of expression was not obtained for insulated transgenes. Colony formation assays and quantitative excision assays unveil enhanced SB transposition efficiencies by the inclusion of the cHS4 element, resulting in a significant increase in the stable transfection rate for insulated SB transposon vectors in human cell lines. Our findings reveal a positive impact of cHS4 insulator inclusion for SB and PB vectors in terms of increased transgene expression levels and improved SB stable transfection rates, but also the lack of a long-term protective effect of the cHS4 insulator against progressive transgene silencing in retinal pigment epithelium cells.
PMCID: PMC3482222  PMID: 23110238
3.  Development of Transgenic Cloned Pig Models of Skin Inflammation by DNA Transposon-Directed Ectopic Expression of Human β1 and α2 Integrin 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36658.
Integrins constitute a superfamily of transmembrane signaling receptors that play pivotal roles in cutaneous homeostasis by modulating cell growth and differentiation as well as inflammatory responses in the skin. Subrabasal expression of integrins α2 and/or β1 entails hyperproliferation and aberrant differentiation of keratinocytes and leads to dermal and epidermal influx of activated T-cells. The anatomical and physiological similarities between porcine and human skin make the pig a suitable model for human skin diseases. In efforts to generate a porcine model of cutaneous inflammation, we employed the Sleeping Beauty DNA transposon system for production of transgenic cloned Göttingen minipigs expressing human β1 or α2 integrin under the control of a promoter specific for subrabasal keratinocytes. Using pools of transgenic donor fibroblasts, cloning by somatic cell nuclear transfer was utilized to produce reconstructed embryos that were subsequently transferred to surrogate sows. The resulting pigs were all transgenic and harbored from one to six transgene integrants. Molecular analyses on skin biopsies and cultured keratinocytes showed ectopic expression of the human integrins and localization within the keratinocyte plasma membrane. Markers of perturbed skin homeostasis, including activation of the MAPK pathway, increased expression of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-1α, and enhanced expression of the transcription factor c-Fos, were identified in keratinocytes from β1 and α2 integrin-transgenic minipigs, suggesting the induction of a chronic inflammatory phenotype in the skin. Notably, cellular dysregulation obtained by overexpression of either β1 or α2 integrin occurred through different cellular signaling pathways. Our findings mark the creation of the first cloned pig models with molecular markers of skin inflammation. Despite the absence of an overt psoriatic phenotype, these animals may possess increased susceptibility to severe skin damage-induced inflammation and should be of great potential in studies aiming at the development and refinement of topical therapies for cutaneous inflammation including psoriasis.
PMCID: PMC3349713  PMID: 22590584

Results 1-3 (3)