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1.  Targeting the active site of the placental isozyme of alkaline phosphatase by phage-displayed scFv antibodies selected by a specific uncompetitive inhibitor 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:33.
The isozymes of alkaline phosphatase, the tissue non-specific, intestinal and placental, have similar properties and a high degree of identity. The placental isozyme (PLAP) is an oncofetal antigen expressed in several malignancies including choriocarcinoma, seminoma and ovarian carcinoma. We had earlier attempted to isolate PLAP-specific scFv from a synthetic human immunoglobulin library but were unable to do so, presumably because of the similarity between the isozymes.
In this work, we have employed a PLAP-specific uncompetitive inhibitor, L-Phe-Gly-Gly, to select isozyme specific scFvs. An uncompetitive inhibitor binds to the enzyme in the presence of substrate and stabilizes the enzyme-substrate complex. Several uncompetitive inhibitors have varying degrees of isozyme specificity for human alkaline phosphatase isozymes. A specific uncompetitive inhibitor would be able to unmask conformational differences between the otherwise very similar molecules. Also, such inhibitors would be directed to regions at/close to the active site of the enzyme. In this work, the library was first incubated with PLAP and the bound clones then eluted by incubation with L-Phe-Gly-Gly along with the substrate, para-nitro phenyl phosphate (pNPP). The scFvs were then studied with regard to the biochemical modulation of their binding, isozyme specificity and effect on enzyme activity.
Of 13 clones studied initially, the binding of 9 was inhibited by L-Phe-Gly-Gly (with pNPP) and 2 clones were inhibited by pNPP alone. Two clones had absolute and 2 clones had partial specificity to PLAP. Two clones were cross-reactive with only one other isozyme. Three scFv clones, having an accessible His6-tag, were purified and studied for their modulation of enzyme activity. All the three scFvs inhibited PLAP activity with the kinetics of competitive inhibition. Cell ELISA could demonstrate binding of the specific scFvs to the cell surface expressed PLAP.
The results demonstrate the biochemical modulation of scFv binding. Also, the scFvs bound to the active site and denied the access to the substrate. The selection strategy could generate specific anti-enzyme antibodies to PLAP that can potentially be used for targeting, for modulating enzyme activity in in vitro and in vivo and as probes for the active site. This strategy also has a general application in selecting antibodies from combinatorial libraries to closely related molecules and conformations.
PMCID: PMC1351172  PMID: 16372914
2.  Open field trial of genetically modified parthenocarpic tomato: seedlessness and fruit quality 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:32.
Parthenocarpic tomato lines transgenic for the DefH9-RI-iaaM gene have been cultivated under open field conditions to address some aspects of the equivalence of genetically modified (GM) fruit in comparison to controls (non-GM).
Under open field cultivation conditions, two tomato lines (UC 82) transgenic for the DefH9-RI-iaaM gene produced parthenocarpic fruits. DefH9-RI-iaaM fruits were either seedless or contained very few seeds. GM fruit quality, with the exception of a higher β-carotene level, did not show any difference, neither technological (colour, firmness, dry matter, °Brix, pH) nor chemical (titratable acidity, organic acids, lycopene, tomatine, total polyphenols and antioxidant capacity – TEAC), when compared to that of fruits from control line. Highly significant differences in quality traits exist between the tomato F1 commercial hybrid Allflesh and the three UC 82 genotypes tested, regardless of whether or not they are GM. Total yield per plant did not differ between GM and parental line UC 82. Fruit number was increased in GM lines, and GM fruit weight was decreased.
The use in the diet of fruits from a new line or variety introduces much greater changes than the consumption of GM fruits in comparison to its genetic background. Parthenocarpic fruits, produced under open field conditions, contained 10-fold less seeds than control fruits. Thus parthenocarpy caused by DefH9-RI-iaaM gene represents also a tool for mitigating GM seeds dispersal in the environment.
PMCID: PMC1361772  PMID: 16371162
3.  Standardisation of data from real-time quantitative PCR methods – evaluation of outliers and comparison of calibration curves 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:31.
As real-time quantitative PCR (RT-QPCR) is increasingly being relied upon for the enforcement of legislation and regulations dependent upon the trace detection of DNA, focus has increased on the quality issues related to the technique. Recent work has focused on the identification of factors that contribute towards significant measurement uncertainty in the real-time quantitative PCR technique, through investigation of the experimental design and operating procedure. However, measurement uncertainty contributions made during the data analysis procedure have not been studied in detail. This paper presents two additional approaches for standardising data analysis through the novel application of statistical methods to RT-QPCR, in order to minimise potential uncertainty in results.
Experimental data was generated in order to develop the two aspects of data handling and analysis that can contribute towards measurement uncertainty in results. This paper describes preliminary aspects in standardising data through the application of statistical techniques to the area of RT-QPCR. The first aspect concerns the statistical identification and subsequent handling of outlying values arising from RT-QPCR, and discusses the implementation of ISO guidelines in relation to acceptance or rejection of outlying values. The second aspect relates to the development of an objective statistical test for the comparison of calibration curves.
The preliminary statistical tests for outlying values and comparisons between calibration curves can be applied using basic functions found in standard spreadsheet software. These two aspects emphasise that the comparability of results arising from RT-QPCR needs further refinement and development at the data-handling phase. The implementation of standardised approaches to data analysis should further help minimise variation due to subjective judgements. The aspects described in this paper will help contribute towards the development of a set of best practice guidelines regarding standardising handling and interpretation of data arising from RT-QPCR experiments.
PMCID: PMC1326201  PMID: 16336641
4.  Use of endogenous signal sequences for transient production and efficient secretion by moss (Physcomitrella patens) cells 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:30.
Efficient targeting to appropriate cell organelles is one of the bottlenecks for the production of recombinant proteins in plant systems. A common practice is to use the native secretory signal peptide of the heterologous protein to be produced. Though general features of secretion signals are conserved between plants and animals, the broad sequence variability among signal peptides suggests differing efficiency of signal peptide recognition.
Aiming to improve secretion in moss bioreactors, we quantitatively compared the efficiency of two human signal peptides and six signals from recently isolated moss (Physcomitrella patens) proteins. We therefore used fusions of the different signals to heterologous reporter sequences for transient transfection of moss cells and measured the extra- and intracellular accumulation of the recombinant proteins rhVEGF and GST, respectively. Our data demonstrates an up to fivefold higher secretion efficiency with endogenous moss signals compared to the two utilised human signal peptides.
From the distribution of extra- and intracellular recombinant proteins, we suggest translational inhibition during the signal recognition particle-cycle (SRP-cycle) as the most probable of several possible explanations for the decreased extracellular accumulation with the human signals. In this work, we report on the supremacy of moss secretion signals over the utilised heterologous ones within the moss-bioreactor system. Though the molecular details of this effect remain to be elucidated, our results will contribute to the improvement of molecular farming systems.
PMCID: PMC1291358  PMID: 16271156
5.  Efficient expression of transgenes in adult zebrafish by electroporation 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:29.
Expression of transgenes in muscle by injection of naked DNA is widely practiced. Application of electrical pulses at the site of injection was demonstrated to improve transgene expression in muscle tissue. Zebrafish is a precious model to investigate developmental biology in vertebrates. In this study we investigated the effect of electroporation on expression of transgenes in 3–6 month old adult zebrafish.
Electroporation parameters such as number of pulses, voltage and amount of plasmid DNA were optimized and it was found that 6 pulses of 40 V·cm-1 at 15 μg of plasmid DNA per fish increased the luciferase expression 10-fold compared to controls. Similar enhancement in transgene expression was also observed in Indian carp (Labeo rohita). To establish the utility of adult zebrafish as a system for transient transfections, the strength of the promoters was compared in A2 cells and adult zebrafish after electroporation. The relative strengths of the promoters were found to be similar in cell lines and in adult zebrafish. GFP fluorescence in tissues after electroporation was also studied by fluorescence microscopy.
Electroporation after DNA injection enhances gene expression 10-fold in adult zebrafish. Electroporation parameters for optimum transfection of adult zebrafish with tweezer type electrode were presented. Enhanced reporter gene expression upon electroporation allowed comparison of strengths of the promoters in vivo in zebrafish.
PMCID: PMC1266056  PMID: 16221312
6.  Avidin related protein 2 shows unique structural and functional features among the avidin protein family 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:28.
The chicken avidin gene family consists of avidin and several avidin related genes (AVRs). Of these gene products, avidin is the best characterized and is known for its extremely high affinity for D-biotin, a property that is utilized in numerous modern life science applications. Recently, the AVR genes have been expressed as recombinant proteins, which have shown different biotin-binding properties as compared to avidin.
In the present study, we have employed multiple biochemical methods to better understand the structure-function relationship of AVR proteins focusing on AVR2. Firstly, we have solved the high-resolution crystal structure of AVR2 in complex with a bound ligand, D-biotin. The AVR2 structure reveals an overall fold similar to the previously determined structures of avidin and AVR4. Major differences are seen, especially at the 1–3 subunit interface, which is stabilized mainly by polar interactions in the case of AVR2 but by hydrophobic interactions in the case of AVR4 and avidin, and in the vicinity of the biotin binding pocket. Secondly, mutagenesis, competitive dissociation analysis and differential scanning calorimetry were used to compare and study the biotin-binding properties as well as the thermal stability of AVRs and avidin. These analyses pinpointed the importance of residue 109 for biotin binding and stability of AVRs. The I109K mutation increased the biotin-binding affinity of AVR2, whereas the K109I mutation decreased the biotin-binding affinity of AVR4. Furthermore, the thermal stability of AVR2(I109K) increased in comparison to the wild-type protein and the K109I mutation led to a decrease in the thermal stability of AVR4.
Altogether, this study broadens our understanding of the structural features determining the ligand-binding affinities and stability as well as the molecular evolution within the protein family. This novel information can be applied to further develop and improve the tools already widely used in avidin-biotin technology.
PMCID: PMC1282572  PMID: 16212654
7.  A system for precise analysis of transcription-regulating elements of immunoglobulin genes 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:27.
Precise analysis of expression-regulating elements, such as enhancers and insulators, requires that they be tested under reproducible, isogenic conditions. The commonly used methods of transfecting DNA into cell lines and selecting for drug resistance lack the requisite precision, as they yield cell lines in which varying numbers of gene copies have inserted at varying and undefined sites. By contrast, recombination-mediated cassette exchange (RMCE), by which a site-specific recombinase is used to place a single copy of a transgene at a constant chromosomal site of a cell line, offers the necessary precision. Although RMCE is generally applicable, many regulatory elements of interest are tissue-specific in their function and so require cell lines in the appropriate ontogenetic state.
As reported here, we have used RMCE in a mouse B hybridoma cell line to establish a system with several additional advantages. To avoid the non-physiological features of prokaryotic DNA, this system uses the immunoglobulin μ heavy chain (IgH) gene from the hybridoma as the reporter. Expression can be measured simply by bulk culture assays (ELISA, Northern blot) and single cell assays (flow cytometry). Expression of the IgH reporter gene varies only 1.5 fold among independent transfectants, and expression is greatly (> 50 fold) increased by inclusion of the IgH intronic enhancer.
This system is suitable for precise analysis of the regulatory elements of the immunoglobulin loci.
PMCID: PMC1266055  PMID: 16202157
8.  Ultra-sensitive detection of prion protein fibrils by flow cytometry in blood from cattle affected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:26.
The definite diagnosis of prion diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle currently relies on the post mortem detection of the pathological form of the prion protein (PrPSc) in brain tissue. Infectivity studies indicate that PrPSc may also be present in body fluids, even at presymptomatic stages of the disease, albeit at concentrations well below the detection limits of currently available analytical methods.
We developed a highly sensitive method for detecting prion protein aggregates that takes advantage of kinetic differences between seeded and unseeded polymerization of prion protein monomers. Detection of the aggregates was carried out by flow cytometry. In the presence of prion seeds, the association of labelled recombinant PrP monomers in plasma and serum proceeds much more efficiently than in the absence of seeds. In a diagnostic model system, synthetic PrP aggregates were detected down to a concentration of approximately 10-8 nM [0.24 fg/ml]. A specific signal was detected in six out of six available serum samples from BSE-positive cattle.
We have developed a method based on seed-dependent PrP fibril formation that shows promising results in differentiating a small number of BSE-positive serum samples from healthy controls. This method may provide the basis for an ante mortem diagnostic test for prion diseases.
PMCID: PMC1266054  PMID: 16202155
9.  Nymphal RNAi: systemic RNAi mediated gene knockdown in juvenile grasshopper 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:25.
Grasshopper serves as important model system in neuroscience, development and evolution. Representatives of this primitive insect group are also highly relevant targets of pest control efforts. Unfortunately, the lack of genetics or gene specific molecular manipulation imposes major limitations to the study of grasshopper biology.
We investigated whether juvenile instars of the grasshopper species Schistocerca americana are conducive to gene silencing via the systemic RNAi pathway. Injection of dsRNA corresponding to the eye colour gene vermilion into first instar nymphs triggered suppression of ommochrome formation in the eye lasting through two instars equivalent to 10–14 days in absolute time. QRT-PCR analysis revealed a two fold decrease of target transcript levels in affected animals. Control injections of EGFP dsRNA did not result in detectable phenotypic changes. RT-PCR and in situ hybridization detected ubiquitous expression of the grasshopper homolog of the dsRNA channel protein gene sid-1 in embryos, nymphs and adults.
Our results demonstrate that systemic dsRNA application elicits specific and long-term gene silencing in juvenile grasshopper instars. The conservation of systemic RNAi in the grasshopper suggests that this pathway can be exploited for gene specific manipulation of juvenile and adult instars in a wide range of primitive insects.
PMCID: PMC1266053  PMID: 16202143
10.  Effects of DNA mass on multiple displacement whole genome amplification and genotyping performance 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:24.
Whole genome amplification (WGA) promises to eliminate practical molecular genetic analysis limitations associated with genomic DNA (gDNA) quantity. We evaluated the performance of multiple displacement amplification (MDA) WGA using gDNA extracted from lymphoblastoid cell lines (N = 27) with a range of starting gDNA input of 1–200 ng into the WGA reaction. Yield and composition analysis of whole genome amplified DNA (wgaDNA) was performed using three DNA quantification methods (OD, PicoGreen® and RT-PCR). Two panels of N = 15 STR (using the AmpFlSTR® Identifiler® panel) and N = 49 SNP (TaqMan®) genotyping assays were performed on each gDNA and wgaDNA sample in duplicate. gDNA and wgaDNA masses of 1, 4 and 20 ng were used in the SNP assays to evaluate the effects of DNA mass on SNP genotyping assay performance. A total of N = 6,880 STR and N = 56,448 SNP genotype attempts provided adequate power to detect differences in STR and SNP genotyping performance between gDNA and wgaDNA, and among wgaDNA produced from a range of gDNA templates inputs.
The proportion of double-stranded wgaDNA and human-specific PCR amplifiable wgaDNA increased with increased gDNA input into the WGA reaction. Increased amounts of gDNA input into the WGA reaction improved wgaDNA genotyping performance. Genotype completion or genotype concordance rates of wgaDNA produced from all gDNA input levels were observed to be reduced compared to gDNA, although the reduction was not always statistically significant. Reduced wgaDNA genotyping performance was primarily due to the increased variance of allelic amplification, resulting in loss of heterozygosity or increased undetermined genotypes. MDA WGA produces wgaDNA from no template control samples; such samples exhibited substantial false-positive genotyping rates.
The amount of gDNA input into the MDA WGA reaction is a critical determinant of genotyping performance of wgaDNA. At least 10 ng of lymphoblastoid gDNA input into MDA WGA is required to obtain wgaDNA TaqMan® SNP assay genotyping performance equivalent to that of gDNA. Over 100 ng of lymphoblastoid gDNA input into MDA WGA is required to obtain optimal STR genotyping performance using the AmpFlSTR® Identifiler® panel from wgaDNA equivalent to that of gDNA.
PMCID: PMC1249558  PMID: 16168060
11.  Description of a PCR-based technique for DNA splicing and mutagenesis by producing 5' overhangs with run through stop DNA synthesis utilizing Ara-C 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:23.
Splicing of DNA molecules is an important task in molecular biology that facilitates cloning, mutagenesis and creation of chimeric genes. Mutagenesis and DNA splicing techniques exist, some requiring restriction enzymes, and others utilize staggered reannealing approaches.
A method for DNA splicing and mutagenesis without restriction enzymes is described. The method is based on mild template-dependent polymerization arrest with two molecules of cytosine arabinose (Ara-C) incorporated into PCR primers. Two rounds of PCR are employed: the first PCR produces 5' overhangs that are utilized for DNA splicing. The second PCR is based on polymerization running through the Ara-C molecules to produce the desired final product. To illustrate application of the run through stop mutagenesis and DNA splicing technique, we have carried out splicing of two segments of the human cofilin 1 gene and introduced a mutational deletion into the product.
We have demonstrated the utility of a new PCR-based method for carrying out DNA splicing and mutagenesis by incorporating Ara-C into the PCR primers.
PMCID: PMC1208860  PMID: 16137330
12.  A simplified immunoprecipitation method for quantitatively measuring antibody responses in clinical sera samples by using mammalian-produced Renilla luciferase-antigen fusion proteins 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:22.
Assays detecting human antigen-specific antibodies are medically useful. However, the usefulness of existing simple immunoassay formats is limited by technical considerations such as sera antibodies to contaminants in insufficiently pure antigen, a problem likely exacerbated when antigen panels are screened to obtain clinically useful data.
We developed a novel and simple immunoprecipitation technology for identifying clinical sera containing antigen-specific antibodies and for generating quantitative antibody response profiles. This method is based on fusing protein antigens to an enzyme reporter, Renilla luciferase (Ruc), and expressing these fusions in mammalian cells, where mammalian-specific post-translational modifications can be added. After mixing crude extracts, sera and protein A/G beads together and incubating, during which the Ruc-antigen fusion become immobilized on the A/G beads, antigen-specific antibody is quantitated by washing the beads and adding coelenterazine substrate and measuring light production.
We have characterized this technology with sera from patients having three different types of cancers. We show that 20–85% of these sera contain significant titers of antibodies against at least one of five frequently mutated and/or overexpressed tumor-associated proteins. Five of six colon cancer sera tested gave responses that were statistically significantly greater than the average plus three standard deviations of 10 control sera. The results of competition experiments, preincubating positive sera with unmodified E. coli-produced antigens, varied dramatically.
This technology has several advantages over current quantitative immunoassays including its relative simplicity, its avoidance of problems associated with E. coli-produced antigens and its use of antigens that can carry mammalian or disease-specific post-translational modifications. This assay should be generally useful for analyzing sera for antibodies recognizing any protein or its post-translational modifications.
PMCID: PMC1208859  PMID: 16109166
13.  Efficient assembly of de novo human artificial chromosomes from large genomic loci 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:21.
Human Artificial Chromosomes (HACs) are potentially useful vectors for gene transfer studies and for functional annotation of the genome because of their suitability for cloning, manipulating and transferring large segments of the genome. However, development of HACs for the transfer of large genomic loci into mammalian cells has been limited by difficulties in manipulating high-molecular weight DNA, as well as by the low overall frequencies of de novo HAC formation. Indeed, to date, only a small number of large (>100 kb) genomic loci have been reported to be successfully packaged into de novo HACs.
We have developed novel methodologies to enable efficient assembly of HAC vectors containing any genomic locus of interest. We report here the creation of a novel, bimolecular system based on bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs) for the construction of HACs incorporating any defined genomic region. We have utilized this vector system to rapidly design, construct and validate multiple de novo HACs containing large (100–200 kb) genomic loci including therapeutically significant genes for human growth hormone (HGH), polycystic kidney disease (PKD1) and ß-globin. We report significant differences in the ability of different genomic loci to support de novo HAC formation, suggesting possible effects of cis-acting genomic elements. Finally, as a proof of principle, we have observed sustained ß-globin gene expression from HACs incorporating the entire 200 kb ß-globin genomic locus for over 90 days in the absence of selection.
Taken together, these results are significant for the development of HAC vector technology, as they enable high-throughput assembly and functional validation of HACs containing any large genomic locus. We have evaluated the impact of different genomic loci on the frequency of HAC formation and identified segments of genomic DNA that appear to facilitate de novo HAC formation. These genomic loci may be useful for identifying discrete functional elements that may be incorporated into future generations of HAC vectors.
PMCID: PMC1182356  PMID: 15998466
14.  Genetic and spectrally distinct in vivo imaging: embryonic stem cells and mice with widespread expression of a monomeric red fluorescent protein 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:20.
DsRed the red fluorescent protein (RFP) isolated from Discosoma sp. coral holds much promise as a genetically and spectrally distinct alternative to green fluorescent protein (GFP) for application in mice. Widespread use of DsRed has been hampered by several issues resulting in the inability to establish and maintain lines of red fluorescent protein expressing embryonic stem cells and mice. This has been attributed to the non-viability, or toxicity, of the protein, probably as a result of its obligate tetramerization. A mutagenesis approach directing the stepwise evolution of DsRed has produced mRFP1, the first true monomer. mRFP1 currently represents an attractive autofluorescent reporter for use in heterologous systems.
We have used embryonic stem cell-mediated transgenesis to evaluate mRFP1 in embryonic stem cells and mice. We find that mRFP1 exhibits the most spatially homogenous expression when compared to the native (tetrameric) and variant dimeric forms of DsRed. High levels of mRFP1 expression do not affect cell morphology, developmental potential or viability and fertility of animals. High levels of widespread mRFP1 expression are maintained in a constitutive manner in embryonic stem cells in culture and in transgenic animals. We have used various optical imaging modalities to visualize mRFP1 expressing cells in culture, in embryos and adult mice. Moreover co-visualization of red, green and cyan fluorescent cells within a sample is easily achieved without the need for specialized methodologies, such as spectral deconvolution or linear unmixing.
Fluorescent proteins with excitation and/or emission profiles in the red part of the visible spectrum represent distinct partners, or longer wavelength substitutes for GFP. Not only do DsRed-based RFPs provide a genetically and spectrally distinct addition to the available repertoire of autoflorescent proteins, but by virtue of their spectral properties they permit deeper tissue imaging. Our work in generating CAG::mRFP1 transgenic ES cells and mice demonstrates the developmental neutrality of mRFP1 in an organismal context. It paves the way for the use of DsRed-based monomeric RFPs in transgenic and gene targeted approaches which often necessitate spatially and/or temporally restricted reporter expression. Moreover animals of the CAG::mRFP1 transgenic strain serve as a source of RFP tagged tissue for the derivation of cell lines and explant, transplant and embryo chimera experiments.
PMCID: PMC1192791  PMID: 15996270
15.  Viral promoters can initiate expression of toxin genes introduced into Escherichia coli 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:19.
The expression of recombinant proteins in eukaryotic cells requires the fusion of the coding region to a promoter functional in the eukaryotic cell line. Viral promoters are very often used for this purpose. The preceding cloning procedures are usually performed in Escherichia coli and it is therefore of interest if the foreign promoter results in an expression of the gene in bacteria. In the case molecules toxic for humans are to be expressed, this knowledge is indispensable for the specification of safety measures.
We selected five frequently used viral promoters and quantified their activity in E. coli with a reporter system. Only the promoter from the thymidine kinase gene from HSV1 showed no activity, while the polyhedrin promoter from baculovirus, the early immediate CMV promoter, the early SV40 promoter and the 5' LTR promoter from HIV-1 directed gene expression in E. coli. The determination of transcription start sites in the immediate early CMV promoter and the polyhedrin promoter confirmed the existence of bacterial -10 and -35 consensus sequences. The importance of this heterologous gene expression for safety considerations was further supported by analysing fusions between the aforementioned promoters and a promoter-less cytotoxin gene.
According to our results a high percentage of viral promoters have the ability of initiating gene expression in E. coli. The degree of such heterologous gene expression can be sufficient for the expression of toxin genes and must therefore be considered when defining safety measures for the handling of corresponding genetically modified organisms.
PMCID: PMC1181807  PMID: 15967027
16.  Cell membrane array fabrication and assay technology 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:18.
Microarray technology has been used extensively over the past 10 years for assessing gene expression, and has facilitated precise genetic profiling of everything from tumors to small molecule drugs. By contrast, arraying cell membranes in a manner which preserves their ability to mediate biochemical processes has been considerably more difficult.
In this article, we describe a novel technology for generating cell membrane microarrays for performing high throughput biology. Our robotically-arrayed supported membranes are physiologically fluid, a critical property which differentiates this technology from other previous membrane systems and makes it useful for studying cellular processes on an industrialized scale. Membrane array elements consist of a solid substrate, above which resides a fluid supported lipid bilayer containing biologically-active molecules of interest. Incorporation of transmembrane proteins into the arrayed membranes enables the study of ligand/receptor binding, as well as interactions with live intact cells. The fluidity of these molecules in the planar lipid bilayer facilitates dimerization and other higher order interactions necessary for biological signaling events. In order to demonstrate the utility of our fluid membrane array technology to ligand/receptor studies, we investigated the multivalent binding of the cholera toxin B-subunit (CTB) to the membrane ganglioside GM1. We have also displayed a number of bona fide drug targets, including bacterial endotoxin (also referred to as lipopolysaccharide (LPS)) and membrane proteins important in T cell activation.
We have demonstrated the applicability of our fluid cell membrane array technology to both academic research applications and industrial drug discovery. Our technology facilitates the study of ligand/receptor interactions and cell-cell signaling, providing rich qualitative and quantitative information.
PMCID: PMC1177928  PMID: 15960850
17.  CpG-island fragments from the HNRPA2B1/CBX3 genomic locus reduce silencing and enhance transgene expression from the hCMV promoter/enhancer in mammalian cells 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:17.
The hCMV promoter is very commonly used for high level expression of transgenes in mammalian cells, but its utility is hindered by transcriptional silencing. Large genomic fragments incorporating the CpG island region of the HNRPA2B1 locus are resistant to transcriptional silencing.
In this report we describe studies on the use of a novel series of vectors combining the HNRPA2B1 CpG island with the hCMV promoter for expression of transgenes in CHO-K1 cells. We show that the CpG island gives at least twenty-fold increases in the levels of EGFP and EPO observed in pools of transfectants, and that transgene expression levels remain high in such pools for more than 100 generations. These novel vectors also allow facile isolation of clonal CHO-K1 cell lines showing stable, high-level transgene expression.
Vectors incorporating the hnRPA2B1 CpG island give major benefits in transgene expression from the hCMV promoter, including substantial improvements in the level and stability of expression. The utility of these vectors for the improved production of recombinant proteins in CHO cells has been demonstrated.
PMCID: PMC1175082  PMID: 15935093
18.  High-throughput kinase assays with protein substrates using fluorescent polymer superquenching 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:16.
High-throughput screening is used by the pharmaceutical industry for identifying lead compounds that interact with targets of pharmacological interest. Because of the key role that aberrant regulation of protein phosphorylation plays in diseases such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension, kinases have become one of the main drug targets. With the exception of antibody-based assays, methods to screen for specific kinase activity are generally restricted to the use of small synthetic peptides as substrates. However, the use of natural protein substrates has the advantage that potential inhibitors can be detected that affect enzyme activity by binding to a site other than the catalytic site. We have previously reported a non-radioactive and non-antibody-based fluorescence quench assay for detection of phosphorylation or dephosphorylation using synthetic peptide substrates. The aim of this work is to develop an assay for detection of phosphorylation of chemically unmodified proteins based on this polymer superquenching platform.
Using a modified QTL Lightspeed™ assay, phosphorylation of native protein was quantified by the interaction of the phosphorylated proteins with metal-ion coordinating groups co-located with fluorescent polymer deposited onto microspheres. The binding of phospho-protein inhibits a dye-labeled "tracer" peptide from associating to the phosphate-binding sites present on the fluorescent microspheres. The resulting inhibition of quench generates a "turn on" assay, in which the signal correlates with the phosphorylation of the substrate. The assay was tested on three different proteins: Myelin Basic Protein (MBP), Histone H1 and Phosphorylated heat- and acid-stable protein (PHAS-1). Phosphorylation of the proteins was detected by Protein Kinase Cα (PKCα) and by the Interleukin -1 Receptor-associated Kinase 4 (IRAK4). Enzyme inhibition yielded IC50 values that were comparable to those obtained using peptide substrates. Statistical parameters that are used in the high-throughput community to determine assay robustness (Z'-value) demonstrate the suitability of this format for high-throughput screening applications for detection of inhibitors of enzyme activity.
The QTL Lightspeed™ protein detection system provides a simple mix and measure "turn on" assay for the detection of kinase activity using natural protein substrates. The platform is robust and allows for identification of inhibitors of kinase activity.
PMCID: PMC1166542  PMID: 15927069
19.  An inter-platform repeatability study investigating real-time amplification of plasmid DNA 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:15.
The wide variety of real-time amplification platforms currently available has determined that standardisation of DNA measurements is a fundamental aspect involved in the comparability of results.
Statistical analysis of the data arising from three different real-time platforms was conducted in order to assess inter-platform repeatability. On three consecutive days two PCR reaction mixes were used on each of the three amplification platforms – the LightCycler®, ABI PRISM® 7700 and Rotor Gene 3000™. Real-time PCR amplification using a fluorogenic 5' exonuclease assay was performed in triplicate on negative controls and DNA plasmid dilutions of 108–102 copies to give a total of 24 reactions per PCR experiment.
The results of the statistical analyses indicated that the platform with the most precise repeatability was the ABI PRISM® 7700 when coupled with the FastStart PCR reaction mix. It was also found that there was no obvious relationship between plasmid copy number and repeatability. An ANOVA approach identified the factors that significantly affected the results, in descending order of magnitude, as: plasmid copy number, platform, PCR reaction mix and day (on which the experiment was performed).
In order to deliver useful, informative genetic tests, standardisation of real-time PCR detection platforms to provide repeatable, reliable results is warranted. In addition, a better understanding of inter-assay and intra-assay repeatability is required.
PMCID: PMC1168890  PMID: 15916714
20.  Simultaneous imaging of GFP, CFP and collagen in tumors in vivo using multiphoton microscopy 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:14.
The development of multiphoton laser scanning microscopy has greatly facilitated the imaging of living tissues. However, the use of genetically encoded fluorescent proteins to distinguish different cell types in living animals has not been described at single cell resolution using multiphoton microscopy.
Here we describe a method for the simultaneous imaging, by multiphoton microscopy, of Green Fluorescent Protein, Cyan Fluorescent Protein and collagen in vivo in living tumors. This novel method enables: 1) the simultaneous visualization of overall cell shape and sub-cellular structures such as the plasma membrane or proteins of interest in cells inside living animals, 2) direct comparison of the behavior of single cells from different cell lines in the same microenvironment in vivo.
Using this multi-fluor, multiphoton technique, we demonstrate that motility and metastatic differences between carcinoma cells of differing metastatic potential can be imaged in the same animal simultaneously at sub-cellular resolution.
PMCID: PMC1159039  PMID: 15910685
21.  Characterisation and application of a bovine U6 promoter for expression of short hairpin RNAs 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:13.
The use of small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules in animals to achieve double-stranded RNA-mediated interference (RNAi) has recently emerged as a powerful method of sequence-specific gene knockdown. As DNA-based expression of short hairpin RNA (shRNA) for RNAi may offer some advantages over chemical and in vitro synthesised siRNA, a number of vectors for expression of shRNA have been developed. These often feature polymerase III (pol. III) promoters of either mouse or human origin.
To develop a shRNA expression vector specifically for bovine RNAi applications, we identified and characterised a novel bovine U6 small nuclear RNA (snRNA) promoter from bovine sequence data. This promoter is the putative bovine homologue of the human U6-8 snRNA promoter, and features a number of functional sequence elements that are characteristic of these types of pol. III promoters. A PCR based cloning strategy was used to incorporate this promoter sequence into plasmid vectors along with shRNA sequences for RNAi. The promoter was then used to express shRNAs, which resulted in the efficient knockdown of an exogenous reporter gene and an endogenous bovine gene.
We have mined data from the bovine genome sequencing project to identify a functional bovine U6 promoter and used the promoter sequence to construct a shRNA expression vector. The use of this native bovine promoter in shRNA expression is an important component of our future development of RNAi therapeutic and transgenic applications in bovine species.
PMCID: PMC1142307  PMID: 15885150
22.  Liposome retention in size exclusion chromatography 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:11.
Size exclusion chromatography is the method of choice for separating free from liposome-encapsulated molecules. However, if the column is not presaturated with lipids this type of chromatography causes a significant loss of lipid material. To date, the mechanism of lipid retention is poorly understood. It has been speculated that lipid binds to the column material or the entire liposome is entrapped inside the void.
Here we show that intact liposomes and their contents are retained in the exclusion gel. Retention depends on the pore size, the smaller the pores, the higher the retention. Retained liposomes are not tightly fixed to the beads and are slowly released from the gels upon direct or inverted eluent flow, long washing steps or column repacking. Further addition of free liposomes leads to the elution of part of the gel-trapped liposomes, showing that the retention is transitory. Trapping reversibility should be related to a mechanism of partitioning of the liposomes between the stationary phase, water-swelled polymeric gel, and the mobile aqueous phase.
Retention of liposomes by size exclusion gels is a dynamic and reversible process, which should be accounted for to control lipid loss and sample contamination during chromatography.
PMCID: PMC1142305  PMID: 15885140
23.  A simple technique for quantifying apoptosis in 96-well plates 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:12.
Analyzing apoptosis has been an integral component of many biological studies. However, currently available methods for quantifying apoptosis have various limitations including multiple, sometimes cell-damaging steps, the inability to quantify live, necrotic and apoptotic cells at the same time, and non-specific detection (i.e. "false positive"). To overcome the shortcomings of current methods that quantify apoptosis in vitro and to take advantage of the 96-well plate format, we present here a modified ethidium bromide and acridine orange (EB/AO) staining assay, which may be performed entirely in a 96-well plate. Our method combines the advantages of the 96-well format and the conventional EB/AO method for apoptotic quantification.
We compared our method and the conventional EB/AO method for quantifying apoptosis of suspension cells (Jurkat) and adherent cells (A375) under normal growth and apoptosis-inducing conditions. We found that our new EB/AO method achieved quantification results comparable to those produced using the conventional EB/AO method for both suspension and adherent cells.
By eliminating the detaching and washing steps, our method drastically reduces the time needed to perform the test, minimizes damage to adherent cells, and decreases the possibility of losing floating cells. Overall, our method is an improvement over the currently available techniques especially for adherent cells.
PMCID: PMC1142306  PMID: 15885144
24.  Detection of target DNA using fluorescent cationic polymer and peptide nucleic acid probes on solid support 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:10.
Nucleic acids detection using microarrays requires labelling of target nucleic acids with fluorophores or other reporter molecules prior to hybridization.
Using surface-bound peptide nucleic acids (PNA) probes and soluble fluorescent cationic polythiophenes, we show a simple and sensitive electrostatic approach to detect and identify unlabelled target nucleic acid on microarray.
This simple methodology opens exciting possibilities for applied genetic analysis for the diagnosis of infections, identification of genetic mutations, and forensic inquiries. This electrostatic strategy could also be used with other nucleic acid detection methods such as electrochemistry, silver staining, metallization, quantum dots, or electrochemical dyes.
PMCID: PMC1131893  PMID: 15850478
25.  Goat uromodulin promoter directs kidney-specific expression of GFP gene in transgenic mice 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:9.
Uromodulin is the most abundant protein found in the urine of mammals. In an effort to utilize the uromodulin promoter in order to target recombinant proteins in the urine of transgenic animals we have cloned a goat uromodulin gene promoter fragment (GUM promoter) and used it to drive expression of GFP in the kidney of transgenic mice.
The GUM-GFP cassette was constructed and transgenic mice were generated in order to study the promoter's tissue specificity, the GFP kidney specific expression and its subcellular distribution. Tissues collected from three GUM-GFP transgenic mouse lines, and analyzed for the presence of GFP by Western blotting and fluorescence confirmed that the GUM promoter drove expression of GFP specifically in the kidney. More specifically, by using immuno-histochemistry analysis of kidney sections, we demonstrated that GFP expression was co-localized, with endogenous uromodulin protein, in the epithelial cells of the thick ascending limbs (TAL) of Henle's loop and the early distal convoluted tubule in the kidney.
The goat uromodulin promoter is capable of driving recombinant protein expression in the kidney of transgenic mice. The goat promoter fragment cloned may be a useful tool in targeting proteins or oncogenes in the kidney of mammals.
PMCID: PMC1090560  PMID: 15823198

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