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1.  Predator-induced defences in Daphnia pulex: Selection and evaluation of internal reference genes for gene expression studies with real-time PCR 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:50.
The planktonic microcrustacean Daphnia pulex is among the best-studied animals in ecological, toxicological and evolutionary research. One aspect that has sustained interest in the study system is the ability of D. pulex to develop inducible defence structures when exposed to predators, such as the phantom midge larvae Chaoborus. The available draft genome sequence for D. pulex is accelerating research to identify genes that confer plastic phenotypes that are regularly cued by environmental stimuli. Yet for quantifying gene expression levels, no experimentally validated set of internal control genes exists for the accurate normalization of qRT-PCR data.
In this study, we tested six candidate reference genes for normalizing transcription levels of D. pulex genes; alpha tubulin (aTub), glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH), TATA box binding protein (Tbp) syntaxin 16 (Stx16), X-box binding protein 1 (Xbp1) and CAPON, a protein associated with the neuronal nitric oxide synthase, were selected on the basis of an earlier study and from microarray studies. One additional gene, a matrix metalloproteinase (MMP), was tested to validate its transcriptional response to Chaoborus, which was earlier observed in a microarray study. The transcription profiles of these seven genes were assessed by qRT-PCR from RNA of juvenile D. pulex that showed induced defences in comparison to untreated control animals. We tested the individual suitability of genes for expression normalization using the programs geNorm, NormFinder and BestKeeper. Intriguingly, Xbp1, Tbp, CAPON and Stx16 were selected as ideal reference genes. Analyses on the relative expression level using the software REST showed that both classical housekeeping candidate genes (aTub and GAPDH) were significantly downregulated, whereas the MMP gene was shown to be significantly upregulated, as predicted. aTub is a particularly ill suited reference gene because five copies are found in the D. pulex genome sequence. When applying aTub for expression normalization Xbp1 and Tbp are falsely reported as significantly upregulated.
Our results suggest that the genes Xbp1, Tbp, CAPON and Stx16 are suitable reference genes for accurate normalization in qRT-PCR studies using Chaoborus-induced D. pulex specimens. Furthermore, our study underscores the importance of verifying the expression stability of putative reference genes for normalization of expression levels.
PMCID: PMC3148505  PMID: 20587017
2.  The Renilla luciferase gene as a reference gene for normalization of gene expression in transiently transfected cells 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:103.
The importance of appropriate normalization controls in quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) experiments has become more apparent as the number of biological studies using this methodology has increased. In developing a system to study gene expression from transiently transfected plasmids, it became clear that normalization using chromosomally encoded genes is not ideal, at it does not take into account the transfection efficiency and the significantly lower expression levels of the plasmids. We have developed and validated a normalization method for qPCR using a co-transfected plasmid.
The best chromosomal gene for normalization in the presence of the transcriptional activators used in this study, cadmium, dexamethasone, forskolin and phorbol-12-myristate 13-acetate was first identified. qPCR data was analyzed using geNorm, Normfinder and BestKeeper. Each software application was found to rank the normalization controls differently with no clear correlation. Including a co-transfected plasmid encoding the Renilla luciferase gene (Rluc) in this analysis showed that its calculated stability was not as good as the optimised chromosomal genes, most likely as a result of the lower expression levels and transfection variability. Finally, we validated these analyses by testing two chromosomal genes (B2M and ActB) and a co-transfected gene (Rluc) under biological conditions. When analyzing co-transfected plasmids, Rluc normalization gave the smallest errors compared to the chromosomal reference genes.
Our data demonstrates that transfected Rluc is the most appropriate normalization reference gene for transient transfection qPCR analysis; it significantly reduces the standard deviation within biological experiments as it takes into account the transfection efficiencies and has easily controllable expression levels. This improves reproducibility, data validity and most importantly, enables accurate interpretation of qPCR data.
PMCID: PMC3022783  PMID: 21194418
3.  Inflammation in the avian spleen: timing is everything 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:104.
The synchrony of an organism with both its external and internal environment is critical to well-being and survival. As a result, organisms display daily cycles of physiology and behavior termed circadian rhythms. At the cellular level, circadian rhythms originate via interlocked autoregulatory feedback loops consisting of circadian clock genes and their proteins. These regulatory loops provide the molecular framework that enables the intracellular circadian timing system necessary to generate and maintain subsequent 24 hr rhythms. In the present study we examine the daily control of circadian clock genes and regulation of the inflammatory response by the circadian clock in the spleen.
Our results reveal that circadian clock genes as well as proinflammatory cytokines, including Tnfά and IL-1β, display rhythmic oscillations of mRNA abundance over a 24 hr cycle. LPS-induced systemic inflammation applied at midday vs. midnight reveals a differential response of proinflammatory cytokine induction in the spleen, suggesting a daily rhythm of inflammation. Exogenous melatonin administration at midday prior to LPS stimulation conveys pleiotropic effects, enhancing and repressing inflammatory cytokines, indicating melatonin functions as both a pro- and anti-inflammatory molecule in the spleen.
In summary, a daily oscillation of circadian clock genes and inflammatory cytokines as well as the ability of melatonin to function as a daily mediator of inflammation provides valuable information to aid in deciphering how the circadian timing system regulates immune function at the molecular level. However, further research is needed to clarify the precise mechanisms by which the circadian clock and melatonin have an impact upon daily immune functions in the periphery.
PMCID: PMC3027090  PMID: 21194436
4.  A single hydrophobic cleft in the Escherichia coli processivity clamp is sufficient to support cell viability and DNA damage-induced mutagenesis in vivo 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:102.
The ubiquitous family of DnaN sliding processivity clamp proteins plays essential roles in DNA replication, DNA repair, and cell cycle progression, in part by managing the actions of the different proteins involved in these processes. Interactions of the homodimeric Escherichia coli β clamp with its known partners involves multiple surfaces, including a hydrophobic cleft located near the C-terminus of each clamp protomer.
A mutant E. coli β clamp protein lacking a functional hydrophobic cleft (βC) complemented the temperature sensitive growth phenotype of a strain bearing the dnaN159 allele, which encodes a thermolabile mutant clamp protein (β159). Complementation was conferred by a βC/β159 heterodimer, and was observed only in the absence of the dinB gene, which encodes DNA polymerase IV (Pol IV). Furthermore, the complemented strain was proficient for umuDC (Pol V) -dependent ultraviolet light (UV) -induced mutagenesis.
Our results suggest that a single cleft in the homodimeric E. coli β sliding clamp protein is sufficient to support both cell viability, as well as Pol III, Pol IV, and Pol V function in vivo. These findings provide further support for a model in which different Pols switch places with each other on DNA using a single cleft in the clamp.
PMCID: PMC3022782  PMID: 21190558
5.  The CTCF insulator protein forms an unusual DNA structure 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:101.
The CTCF insulator protein is a highly conserved zinc finger protein that has been implicated in many aspects of gene regulation and nuclear organization. The protein has been hypothesized to organize the human genome by forming DNA loops.
In this paper, we report biochemical evidence to support the role for CTCF in forming DNA loops. We have measured DNA bending by CTCF at the chicken HS4 β-globin FII insulator element in vitro and have observed a unique DNA structure with aberrant electrophoretic mobility which we believe to be a DNA loop. CTCF is able to form this unusual DNA structure at two other binding sites: the c-myc P2 promoter and the chicken F1 lysozyme gene silencer. We also demonstrate that the length though not the sequence of the DNA downstream of the binding site is important for the ability of CTCF to form this unusual DNA structure. We hypothesize that a single CTCF protein molecule is able to act as a "looper" possibly through the use of several of its zinc fingers.
CTCF is able to form an unusual DNA structure through the zinc finger domain of the protein. This unusual DNA structure is formed in a directional manner by the CTCF protein. The findings described in this paper suggest mechanisms by which CTCF is able to form DNA loops, organize the mammalian genome and function as an insulator protein.
PMCID: PMC3014928  PMID: 21176138
6.  qPCR in gastrointestinal stromal tumors: Evaluation of reference genes and expression analysis of KIT and the alternative receptor tyrosine kinases FLT3, CSF1-R, PDGFRB, MET and AXL 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:100.
Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST) represent the most common mesenchymal tumors of the gastrointestinal tract. About 85% carry an activating mutation in the KIT or PDGFRA gene. Approximately 10% of GIST are so-called wild type GIST (wt-GIST) without mutations in the hot spots. In the present study we evaluated appropriate reference genes for the expression analysis of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded and fresh frozen samples from gastrointestinal stromal tumors. We evaluated the gene expression of KIT as well as of the alternative receptor tyrosine kinase genes FLT3, CSF1-R, PDGFRB, AXL and MET by qPCR. wt-GIST were compared to samples with mutations in KIT exon 9 and 11 and PDGFRA exon 18 in order to evaluate whether overexpression of these alternative RTK might contribute to the pathogenesis of wt-GIST.
Gene expression variability of the pooled cDNA samples is much lower than the single reverse transcription cDNA synthesis. By combining the lowest variability values of fixed and fresh tissue, the genes POLR2A, PPIA, RPLPO and TFRC were chosen for further analysis of the GIST samples. Overexpression of KIT compared to the corresponding normal tissue was detected in each GIST subgroup except in GIST with PDGFRA exon 18 mutation. Comparing our sample groups, no significant differences in the gene expression levels of FLT3, CSF1R and AXL were determined. An exception was the sample group with KIT exon 9 mutation. A significantly reduced expression of CSF1R, FLT3 and PDGFRB compared to the normal tissue was detected. GIST with mutations in KIT exon 9 and 11 and in PDGFRA exon 18 showed a significant PDGFRB downregulation.
As the variability of expression levels for the reference genes is very high comparing fresh frozen and formalin-fixed tissue there is a strong need for validation in each tissue type. None of the alternative receptor tyrosine kinases analyzed is associated with the pathogenesis of wild-type or mutated GIST. It remains to be clarified whether an autocrine or paracrine mechanism by overexpression of receptor tyrosine kinase ligands is responsible for the tumorigenesis of wt-GIST.
PMCID: PMC3014927  PMID: 21171987
7.  A thymus-specific noncoding RNA, Thy-ncR1, is a cytoplasmic riboregulator of MFAP4 mRNA in immature T-cell lines 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:99.
Postgenomic transcriptome analyses have identified large numbers of noncoding (nc)RNAs in mammalian cells. However, the biological function of long ncRNAs in mammalian cells remains largely unknown. Our recent expression profiling of selected human long ncRNAs revealed that a majority were expressed in an organ-specific manner, suggesting their function was linked to specific physiological phenomena in each organ. We investigated the characteristics and function of ncRNAs that were specifically expressed in the thymus, the site of T-cell selection and maturation.
Expression profiling of 10 thymus-specific ncRNAs in 17 T-cell leukemia cell lines derived from various stages of T-cell maturation revealed that HIT14168 ncRNA, named Thy-ncR1, was specifically expressed in cell lines derived from stage III immature T cells in which the neighbouring CD1 gene cluster is also specifically activated. The Thy-ncR1 precursor exhibited complex alternative splicing patterns and differential usage of the 5' terminus leading to the production of an estimated 24 isoforms, which were predominantly located in the cytoplasm. Selective RNAi knockdown of each Thy-ncR1 isoform demonstrated that microfibril-associated glycoprotein 4 (MFAP4) mRNA was negatively regulated by two major Thy-ncR1 isoforms. Intriguingly, the MFAP4 mRNA level was controlled by a hUPF1-dependent mRNA degradation pathway in the cytoplasm distinct from nonsense-mediated decay.
This study identified Thy-ncR1 ncRNA to be specifically expressed in stage III immature T cells in which the neighbouring CD1 gene cluster was activated. Complex alternative splicing produces multiple Thy-ncR1 isoforms. Two major Thy-ncR1 isoforms are cytoplasmic riboregulators that suppress the expression of MFAP4 mRNA, which is degraded by an uncharacterized hUPF1-dependent pathway.
PMCID: PMC3023731  PMID: 21162727
8.  Characterization, phylogeny, alternative splicing and expression of Sox30 gene 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:98.
Members of the Sox gene family isolated from both vertebrates and invertebrates have been proved to participate in a wide variety of developmental processes, including sex determination and differentiation. Among these members, Sox30 had been considered to exist only in mammals since its discovery, and its exact function remains unclear.
Sox30 cDNA was cloned from the Nile tilapia by RT-PCR and RACE. Screening of available genome and EST databases and phylogenetic analysis showed that Sox30 also exists in non-mammalian vertebrates and invertebrates, which was further supported by synteny analyses. Tissue expression in human, mouse and tilapia suggested that Sox30 was probably a gonad-specific gene, which was also supported by the fact that Sox30 EST sequences were obtained from gonads of the animal species. In addition, four alternatively spliced isoforms were isolated from tilapia gonad. Their temporal and spatial expression patterns during normal and sex reversed gonadal development were investigated by RT-PCR and in situ hybridization. Our data suggest that expressions of Sox30 isoforms are related to stage and phenotypic-sex, observed in the germ cells of male gonad and in somatic cells of the female gonad.
Sox30 is not a gene only existed in mammals, but exists widely throughout the animal kingdom as supported by our bioinformatic, phylogenetic and syntenic analyses. It is very likely that Sox30 is expressed exclusively in gonads. Expression analyses revealed that Sox30 may be involved in female and male gonadal development at different stages by alternative splicing.
PMCID: PMC3004900  PMID: 21143990
9.  Overexpression of miR-128 specifically inhibits the truncated isoform of NTRK3 and upregulates BCL2 in SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:95.
Neurotrophins and their receptors are key molecules in the regulation of neuronal differentiation and survival. They mediate the survival of neurons during development and adulthood and are implicated in synaptic plasticity. The human neurotrophin-3 receptor gene NTRK3 yields two major isoforms, a full-length kinase-active form and a truncated non-catalytic form, which activates a specific pathway affecting membrane remodeling and cytoskeletal reorganization. The two variants present non-overlapping 3'UTRs, indicating that they might be differentially regulated at the post-transcriptional level. Here, we provide evidence that the two isoforms of NTRK3 are targeted by different sets of microRNAs, small non-coding RNAs that play an important regulatory role in the nervous system.
We identify one microRNA (miR-151-3p) that represses the full-length isoform of NTRK3 and four microRNAs (miR-128, miR-485-3p, miR-765 and miR-768-5p) that repress the truncated isoform. In particular, we show that the overexpression of miR-128 - a brain enriched miRNA - causes morphological changes in SH-SY5Y neuroblastoma cells similar to those observed using an siRNA specifically directed against truncated NTRK3, as well as a significant increase in cell number. Accordingly, transcriptome analysis of cells transfected with miR-128 revealed an alteration of the expression of genes implicated in cytoskeletal organization as well as genes involved in apoptosis, cell survival and proliferation, including the anti-apoptotic factor BCL2.
Our results show that the regulation of NTRK3 by microRNAs is isoform-specific and suggest that neurotrophin-mediated processes are strongly linked to microRNA-dependent mechanisms. In addition, these findings open new perspectives for the study of the physiological role of miR-128 and its possible involvement in cell death/survival processes.
PMCID: PMC3019150  PMID: 21143953
10.  Structure and expression of two nuclear receptor genes in marsupials: insights into the evolution of the antisense overlap between the α-thyroid hormone receptor and Rev-erbα 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:97.
Alternative processing of α-thyroid hormone receptor (TRα, NR1A1) mRNAs gives rise to two functionally antagonistic nuclear receptors: TRα1, the α-type receptor, and TRα2, a non-hormone binding variant that is found only in mammals. TRα2 shares an unusual antisense coding overlap with mRNA for Rev-erbα (NR1D1), another nuclear receptor protein. In this study we examine the structure and expression of these genes in the gray short-tailed opossum, Monodelphis domestica, in comparison with that of eutherian mammals and three other marsupial species, Didelphis virginiana, Potorous tridactylus and Macropus eugenii, in order to understand the evolution and regulatory role of this antisense overlap.
The sequence, expression and genomic organization of mRNAs encoding TRα1 and Rev-erbα are very similar in the opossum and eutherian mammals. However, the sequence corresponding to the TRα2 coding region appears truncated by almost 100 amino acids. While expression of TRα1 and Rev-erbα was readily detected in all tissues of M. domestica ages 0 days to 18 weeks, TRα2 mRNA was not detected in any tissue or stage examined. These results contrast with the widespread and abundant expression of TRα2 in rodents and other eutherian mammals. To examine requirements for alternative splicing of TRα mRNAs, a series of chimeric minigenes was constructed. Results show that the opossum TRα2-specific 5' splice site sequence is fully competent for splicing but the sequence homologous to the TRα2 3' splice site is not, even though the marsupial sequences are remarkably similar to core splice site elements in rat.
Our results strongly suggest that the variant nuclear receptor isoform, TRα2, is not expressed in marsupials and that the antisense overlap between TRα and Rev-erbα thus is unique to eutherian mammals. Further investigation of the TRα and Rev-erbα genes in marsupial and eutherian species promises to yield additional insight into the physiological function of TRα2 and the role of the associated antisense overlap with Rev-erbα in regulating expression of these genes.
PMCID: PMC3047299  PMID: 21143985
11.  Identifying novel genes in C. elegans using SAGE tags 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:96.
Despite extensive efforts devoted to predicting protein-coding genes in genome sequences, many bona fide genes have not been found and many existing gene models are not accurate in all sequenced eukaryote genomes. This situation is partly explained by the fact that gene prediction programs have been developed based on our incomplete understanding of gene feature information such as splicing and promoter characteristics. Additionally, full-length cDNAs of many genes and their isoforms are hard to obtain due to their low level or rare expression. In order to obtain full-length sequences of all protein-coding genes, alternative approaches are required.
In this project, we have developed a method of reconstructing full-length cDNA sequences based on short expressed sequence tags which is called sequence tag-based amplification of cDNA ends (STACE). Expressed tags are used as anchors for retrieving full-length transcripts in two rounds of PCR amplification. We have demonstrated the application of STACE in reconstructing full-length cDNA sequences using expressed tags mined in an array of serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) of C. elegans cDNA libraries. We have successfully applied STACE to recover sequence information for 12 genes, for two of which we found isoforms. STACE was used to successfully recover full-length cDNA sequences for seven of these genes.
The STACE method can be used to effectively reconstruct full-length cDNA sequences of genes that are under-represented in cDNA sequencing projects and have been missed by existing gene prediction methods, but their existence has been suggested by short sequence tags such as SAGE tags.
PMCID: PMC3017025  PMID: 21143975
12.  A mechanism for ramified rolling circle amplification 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:94.
Amplification of single-stranded DNA circles has wide utility for a variety of applications. The two-primer ramified rolling circle amplification (RAM) reaction provides exponential DNA amplification under isothermal conditions, creating a regular laddered series of double-stranded DNA products. However, the molecular mechanism of the RAM reaction remains unexplained.
A RAM reaction model predicts exponential accumulation of a double-stranded DNA product size series, and product-size ratios, that are consistent with observed RAM reaction products. The mechanism involves generation of a series of increasing size intermediate templates; those templates produce RAM products and recursively generate smaller intermediate templates. The model allows prediction of the number of rounds of circular template replication. Real-time RAM reaction data are consistent with the model. Analysis of RAM reaction products shows exponential growth limitation consistent with the model's predictions.
The model provides a rationale for the observed products of the RAM reaction, and the molecular yield among those products. Experimental results are consistent with the model.
PMCID: PMC3017024  PMID: 21138587
13.  Cell- and region-specific miR30-based gene knock-down with temporal control in the rat brain 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:93.
RNA interference (RNAi) emerges as a powerful tool to induce loss-of-function phenotypes. In the context of the brain, gene manipulation is best targeted to specific subsets of cells in order to achieve a physiologically relevant outcome. Polymerase II-based viral expression systems can be used to cell-specifically express constructs incorporating flanking and loop sequences from endogenous microRNA (miRNA), which directs the designed hairpins into the endogenous gene silencing machinery. While many studies have documented non-cell-selective gene knock-down in the brain, it has not been tested whether different cell types or different areas of the central nervous system (CNS) are equally amenable to this approach. We have evaluated this issue using a tetracycline (Tet)-controllable and cell-specific miRNA 30 (miR30)-based short hairpin (shRNA) interference system.
To achieve targeted expression two cell type-specific promoters were used; the enhanced compact glial fibrillary acidic protein (GfaABC1D) promoter and the enhanced human synapsin-1 (SYN) promoter. Powerful luciferase (Luc) and the neuronal isoform of nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) gene knock-down were achieved both in vitro and in vivo. Administration of doxycycline (Dox) abrogated gene silencing. However, the efficacy of gene knock-down in both neurones and astrocytes in the hippocampus (HIP) was lower than that in the dorsal vagal complex of the brainstem (DVC). This was not due to regional differences in the expression of the the key enzymes involved in miRNA processing.
The results from the presented experiments demonstrated that selective gene knock-down in subsets of brain cells is achievable. However, there are some presently unknown regional factors which affect either the processing of miRNA-based cassettes or their potency for gene silencing.
PMCID: PMC3047298  PMID: 21134262
14.  Rrd1 isomerizes RNA polymerase II in response to rapamycin 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:92.
In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the immunosuppressant rapamycin engenders a profound modification in the transcriptional profile leading to growth arrest. Mutants devoid of Rrd1, a protein possessing in vitro peptidyl prolyl cis/trans isomerase activity, display striking resistance to the drug, although how Rrd1 activity is linked to the biological responses has not been elucidated.
We now provide evidence that Rrd1 is associated with the chromatin and it interacts with RNA polymerase II. Circular dichroism revealed that Rrd1 mediates structural changes onto the C-terminal domain (CTD) of the large subunit of RNA polymerase II (Rpb1) in response to rapamycin, although this appears to be independent of the overall phosphorylation status of the CTD. In vitro experiments, showed that recombinant Rrd1 directly isomerizes purified GST-CTD and that it releases RNA polymerase II from the chromatin. Consistent with this, we demonstrated that Rrd1 is required to alter RNA polymerase II occupancy on rapamycin responsive genes.
We propose as a mechanism, that upon rapamycin exposure Rrd1 isomerizes Rpb1 to promote its dissociation from the chromatin in order to modulate transcription.
PMCID: PMC3019149  PMID: 21129186
15.  Essential role for ALCAM gene silencing in megakaryocytic differentiation of K562 cells 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:91.
Activated leukocyte cell adhesion molecule (ALCAM/CD166) is expressed by hematopoietic stem cells. However, its role in hematopoietic differentiation has not previously been defined.
In this study, we show that ALCAM expression is silenced in erythromegakaryocytic progenitor cell lines. In agreement with this finding, the ALCAM promoter is occupied by GATA-1 in vivo, and a cognate motif at -850 inhibited promoter activity in K562 and MEG-01 cells. Gain-of-function studies showed that ALCAM clusters K562 cells in a process that requires PKC. Induction of megakaryocytic differentiation in K562 clones expressing ALCAM activated PKC-δ and triggered apoptosis.
There is a lineage-specific silencing of ALCAM in bi-potential erythromegakaryocytic progenitor cell lines. Marked apoptosis of ALCAM-expressing K562 clones treated with PMA suggests that aberrant ALCAM expression in erythromegakaryocytic progenitors may contribute to megakaryocytopenia.
PMCID: PMC3003670  PMID: 21126364
16.  Selection of reliable reference genes during THP-1 monocyte differentiation into macrophages 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:90.
Reliable reference genes are a vital prerequisite for any functional study employing quantitative real-time RT-PCR (RT-qPCR) for analyzing gene expression. Yet a proper selection and assessment of the chosen reference genes is only rarely included into a study. To date, no reference genes have been validated for differentiation of THP-1 monocytes. Here we report on the selection of validated reference genes during differentiation of THP-1 monocytes into macrophages induced by phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA).
The mRNA expression of 21 preselected potential reference genes was measured by RT-qPCR at several time-points over six days of PMA-induced THP-1 monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation. A ranking according to expression stability was calculated. Calculations were performed using Microsoft Excel-based applets GeNorm, NormFinder and BestKeeper. Our results indicated ACTB (β-actin) (Cq ± SD, 14.1 ± 0.3) and RPL37A (ribosomal protein L37a) (14.5 ± 0.3) as the most stable genes. While other frequently used reference genes such as GAPDH (glycereraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase) (20.8 ± 0.8) or G6PD (glucose-6-phophate dehydrogenase) (16.1 ± 1.0) were found to be not as reliable and were therefore unsuited for use as reference genes. These findings were validated by investigating mRNA expression of macrophage scavenger receptor CD36, known to be regulated during monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation. Using ACTB and RPL37A as reference genes a profound and significant regulation of CD36 could be demonstrated, while use of G6PD resulted in a much less pronounced apparent regulation of CD36.
Consequently, it is recommended to normalize any real-time PCR-based expression data obtained during THP-1 monocyte differentiation using ACTB and RPL37A.
PMCID: PMC3002353  PMID: 21122122
17.  Subcellular distribution of nuclear import-defective isoforms of the promyelocytic leukemia protein 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:89.
The promyelocytic leukemia (PML) protein participates in a number of cellular processes, including transcription regulation, apoptosis, differentiation, virus defense and genome maintenance. This protein is structurally organized into a tripartite motif (TRIM) at its N-terminus, a nuclear localization signal (NLS) at its central region and a C-terminus that varies between alternatively spliced isoforms. Most PML splice variants target the nucleus where they define sub-nuclear compartments termed PML nuclear bodies (PML NBs). However, PML variants that lack the NLS are also expressed, suggesting the existence of PML isoforms with cytoplasmic functions. In the present study we expressed PML isoforms with a mutated NLS in U2OS cells to identify potential cytoplasmic compartments targeted by this protein.
Expression of NLS mutated PML isoforms in U2OS cells revealed that PML I targets early endosomes, PML II targets the inner nuclear membrane (partially due to an extra NLS at its C-terminus), and PML III, IV and V target late endosomes/lysosomes. Clustering of PML at all of these subcellular locations depended on a functional TRIM domain.
This study demonstrates the capacity of PML to form macromolecular protein assemblies at several different subcellular sites. Further, it emphasizes a role of the variable C-terminus in subcellular target selection and a general role of the N-terminal TRIM domain in promoting protein clustering.
PMCID: PMC2998510  PMID: 21092142
18.  Expression of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase, p-hydroxybenzoate-m-geranyltransferase and genes of phenylpropanoid pathway exhibits positive correlation with shikonins content in arnebia [Arnebia euchroma (Royle) Johnston] 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:88.
Geranyl pyrophosphate (GPP) and p-hydroxybenzoate (PHB) are the basic precursors involved in shikonins biosynthesis. GPP is derived from mevalonate (MVA) and/or 2-C-methyl-D-erythritol 4-phosphate (MEP) pathway(s), depending upon the metabolite and the plant system under consideration. PHB, however, is synthesized by only phenylpropanoid (PP) pathway. GPP and PHB are central moieties to yield shikonins through the synthesis of m-geranyl-p-hydroxybenzoate (GHB). Enzyme p-hydroxybenzoate-m-geranyltransferase (PGT) catalyses the coupling of GPP and PHB to yield GHB.
The present research was carried out in shikonins yielding plant arnebia [Arnebia euchroma (Royle) Johnston], wherein no molecular work has been reported so far. The objective of the work was to identify the preferred GPP synthesizing pathway for shikonins biosynthesis, and to determine the regulatory genes involved in the biosynthesis of GPP, PHB and GHB.
A cell suspension culture-based, low and high shikonins production systems were developed to facilitate pathway identification and finding the regulatory gene. Studies with mevinolin and fosmidomycin, inhibitors of MVA and MEP pathway, respectively suggested MVA as a preferred route of GPP supply for shikonins biosynthesis in arnebia. Accordingly, genes of MVA pathway (eight genes), PP pathway (three genes), and GHB biosynthesis were cloned. Expression studies showed down-regulation of all the genes in response to mevinolin treatment, whereas gene expression was not influenced by fosmidomycin. Expression of all the twelve genes vis-à-vis shikonins content in low and high shikonins production system, over a period of twelve days at frequent intervals, identified critical genes of shikonins biosynthesis in arnebia.
A positive correlation between shikonins content and expression of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (AeHMGR) and AePGT suggested critical role played by these genes in shikonins biosynthesis. Higher expression of genes of PP pathway was a general feature for higher shikonins biosynthesis.
PMCID: PMC3002352  PMID: 21092138
19.  Translational independence between overlapping genes for a restriction endonuclease and its transcriptional regulator 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:87.
Most type II restriction-modification (RM) systems have two independent enzymes that act on the same DNA sequence: a modification methyltransferase that protects target sites, and a restriction endonuclease that cleaves unmethylated target sites. When RM genes enter a new cell, methylation must occur before restriction activity appears, or the host's chromosome is digested. Transcriptional mechanisms that delay endonuclease expression have been identified in some RM systems. A substantial subset of those systems is controlled by a family of small transcription activators called C proteins. In the PvuII system, C.PvuII activates transcription of its own gene, along with that of the downstream endonuclease gene. This regulation results in very low R.PvuII mRNA levels early after gene entry, followed by rapid increase due to positive feedback. However, given the lethal consequences of premature REase accumulation, transcriptional control alone might be insufficient. In C-controlled RM systems, there is a ± 20 nt overlap between the C termination codon and the R (endonuclease) initiation codon, suggesting possible translational coupling, and in many cases predicted RNA hairpins could occlude the ribosome binding site for the endonuclease gene.
Expression levels of lacZ translational fusions to pvuIIR or pvuIIC were determined, with the native pvuII promoter having been replaced by one not controlled by C.PvuII. In-frame pvuIIC insertions did not substantially decrease either pvuIIC-lacZ or pvuIIR-lacZ expression (with or without C.PvuII provided in trans). In contrast, a frameshift mutation in pvuIIC decreased expression markedly in both fusions, but mRNA measurements indicated that this decrease could be explained by transcriptional polarity. Expression of pvuIIR-lacZ was unaffected when the pvuIIC stop codon was moved 21 nt downstream from its WT location, or 25 or 40 bp upstream of the pvuIIR initiation codon. Disrupting the putative hairpins had no significant effects.
The initiation of translation of pvuIIR appears to be independent of that for pvuIIC. Direct tests failed to detect regulatory rules for either gene overlap or the putative hairpins. Thus, at least during balanced growth, transcriptional control appears to be sufficiently robust for proper regulation of this RM system.
PMCID: PMC2997769  PMID: 21092102
20.  A tryptophan-rich peptide acts as a transcription activation domain 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:85.
Eukaryotic transcription activators normally consist of a sequence-specific DNA-binding domain (DBD) and a transcription activation domain (AD). While many sequence patterns and motifs have been defined for DBDs, ADs do not share easily recognizable motifs or structures.
We report herein that the N-terminal domain of yeast valyl-tRNA synthetase can function as an AD when fused to a DNA-binding protein, LexA, and turn on reporter genes with distinct LexA-responsive promoters. The transcriptional activity was mainly attributed to a five-residue peptide, WYDWW, near the C-terminus of the N domain. Remarkably, the pentapeptide per se retained much of the transcriptional activity. Mutations which substituted tryptophan residues for both of the non-tryptophan residues in the pentapeptide (resulting in W5) significantly enhanced its activity (~1.8-fold), while mutations which substituted aromatic residues with alanine residues severely impaired its activity. Accordingly, a much more active peptide, pentatryptophan (W7), was produced, which elicited ~3-fold higher activity than that of the native pentapeptide and the N domain. Further study indicated that W7 mediates transcription activation through interacting with the general transcription factor, TFIIB.
Since W7 shares no sequence homology or features with any known transcription activators, it may represent a novel class of AD.
PMCID: PMC2992532  PMID: 21078206
21.  Germline transformation of the stalk-eyed fly, Teleopsis dalmanni 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:86.
Stalk-eyed flies of the family Diopsidae have proven to be an excellent model organism for studying the evolution of ornamental sexual traits. In diopsid flies the eyes and antennae are borne at the end of lateral head projections called 'eye-stalks'. Eyespan, the distance between the eyes, and the degree of sexual dimorphism in eyespan vary considerably between species and several sexually dimorphic species show sexual selection through female mate preference for males with exaggerated eyespan. Relatively little is known about the molecular genetic basis of intra- or inter-species variation in eyespan, eye-stalk development or growth regulation in diopsids. Molecular approaches including comparative developmental analyses, EST screening and QTL mapping have identified potential candidate loci for eyespan regulation in the model species Teleopsis dalmanni. Functional analyses of these genes to confirm and fully characterise their roles in eye-stalk growth require the development of techniques such as germline transformation to manipulate gene activity in vivo.
We used in vivo excision assays to identify transposon vector systems with the activity required to mediate transgenesis in T. dalmanni. Mariner based vectors showed no detectable excision while both Minos and piggyBac were active in stalk-eyed fly embryos. Germline transformation with an overall efficiency of 4% was achieved using a Minos based vector and the 3xP3-EGFP marker construct. Chromosomal insertion of constructs was confirmed by Southern blot analysis. Both autosomal and X-linked inserts were recovered. A homozygous stock, established from one of the X-linked inserts, has maintained stable expression for eight generations.
We have performed stable germline transformation of a stalk-eyed fly, T. dalmanni. This is the first transgenic protocol to be developed in an insect species that exhibits an exaggerated male sexual trait. Transgenesis will enable the development of a range of techniques for analysing gene function in this species and so provide insight into the mechanisms underlying the development of a morphological trait subject to sexual selection. Our X-linked insertion line will permit the sex of live larvae to be determined. This will greatly facilitate the identification of genes which are differentially expressed during eye-stalk development in males and females.
PMCID: PMC2999598  PMID: 21080934
22.  Targeting of highly conserved Dengue virus sequences with anti-Dengue virus trans-splicing group I introns 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:84.
Dengue viruses (DENV) are one of the most important viral diseases in the world with approximately 100 million infections and 200,000 deaths each year. The current lack of an approved tetravalent vaccine and ineffective insecticide control measures warrant a search for alternatives to effectively combat DENV. The trans-splicing variant of the Tetrahymena thermophila group I intron catalytic RNA, or ribozyme, is a powerful tool for post-transcriptional RNA modification. The nature of the ribozyme and the predictability with which it can be directed makes it a powerful tool for modifying RNA in nearly any cell type without the need for genome-altering gene therapy techniques or dependence on native cofactors.
Several anti-DENV Group I trans-splicing introns (αDENV-GrpIs) were designed and tested for their ability to target DENV-2 NGC genomes in situ. We have successfully targeted two different uracil bases on the positive sense genomic strand within the highly conserved 5'-3' cyclization sequence (CS) region common to all serotypes of DENV with our αDENV-GrpIs. Our ribozymes have demonstrated ability to specifically trans-splice a new RNA sequence downstream of the targeted site in vitro and in transfected insect cells as analyzed by firefly luciferase and RT-PCR assays. The effectiveness of these αDENV-GrpIs to target infecting DENV genomes is also validated in transfected or transformed Aedes mosquito cell lines upon infection with unattenuated DENV-2 NGC.
Analysis shows that our αDENV-GrpIs have the ability to effectively trans-splice the DENV genome in situ. Notably, these results show that the αDENV-GrpI 9v1, designed to be active against all forms of Dengue virus, effectively targeted the DENV-2 NGC genome in a sequence specific manner. These novel αDENV-GrpI introns provide a striking alternative to other RNA based approaches for the transgenic suppression of DENV in transformed mosquito cells and tissues.
PMCID: PMC3000392  PMID: 21078188
23.  Identification of amino acid residues in protein SRP72 required for binding to a kinked 5e motif of the human signal recognition particle RNA 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:83.
Human cells depend critically on the signal recognition particle (SRP) for the sorting and delivery of their proteins. The SRP is a ribonucleoprotein complex which binds to signal sequences of secretory polypeptides as they emerge from the ribosome. Among the six proteins of the eukaryotic SRP, the largest protein, SRP72, is essential for protein targeting and possesses a poorly characterized RNA binding domain.
We delineated the minimal region of SRP72 capable of forming a stable complex with an SRP RNA fragment. The region encompassed residues 545 to 585 of the full-length human SRP72 and contained a lysine-rich cluster (KKKKKKKKGK) at postions 552 to 561 as well as a conserved Pfam motif with the sequence PDPXRWLPXXER at positions 572 to 583. We demonstrated by site-directed mutagenesis that both regions participated in the formation of a complex with the RNA. In agreement with biochemical data and results from chymotryptic digestion experiments, molecular modeling of SRP72 implied that the invariant W577 was located inside the predicted structure of an RNA binding domain. The 11-nucleotide 5e motif contained within the SRP RNA fragment was shown by comparative electrophoresis on native polyacrylamide gels to conform to an RNA kink-turn. The model of the complex suggested that the conserved A240 of the K-turn, previously identified as being essential for the binding to SRP72, could protrude into a groove of the SRP72 RNA binding domain, similar but not identical to how other K-turn recognizing proteins interact with RNA.
The results from the presented experiments provided insights into the molecular details of a functionally important and structurally interesting RNA-protein interaction. A model for how a ligand binding pocket of SRP72 can accommodate a new RNA K-turn in the 5e region of the eukaryotic SRP RNA is proposed.
PMCID: PMC2995471  PMID: 21073748
24.  Single-cell qPCR on dispersed primary pituitary cells -an optimized protocol 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:82.
The incidence of false positives is a potential problem in single-cell PCR experiments. This paper describes an optimized protocol for single-cell qPCR measurements in primary pituitary cell cultures following patch-clamp recordings. Two different cell harvesting methods were assessed using both the GH4 prolactin producing cell line from rat, and primary cell culture from fish pituitaries.
Harvesting whole cells followed by cell lysis and qPCR performed satisfactory on the GH4 cell line. However, harvesting of whole cells from primary pituitary cultures regularly produced false positives, probably due to RNA leakage from cells ruptured during the dispersion of the pituitary cells. To reduce RNA contamination affecting the results, we optimized the conditions by harvesting only the cytosol through a patch pipette, subsequent to electrophysiological experiments. Two important factors proved crucial for reliable harvesting. First, silanizing the patch pipette glass prevented foreign extracellular RNA from attaching to charged residues on the glass surface. Second, substituting the commonly used perforating antibiotic amphotericin B with β-escin allowed efficient cytosol harvest without loosing the giga seal. Importantly, the two harvesting protocols revealed no difference in RNA isolation efficiency.
Depending on the cell type and preparation, validation of the harvesting technique is extremely important as contaminations may give false positives. Here we present an optimized protocol allowing secure harvesting of RNA from single cells in primary pituitary cell culture following perforated whole cell patch clamp experiments.
PMCID: PMC2994858  PMID: 21073722
25.  Sex-biased transcription enhancement by a 5' tethered Gal4-MOF histone acetyltransferase fusion protein in Drosophila 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:80.
In male Drosophila melanogaster, the male specific lethal (MSL) complex is somehow responsible for a two-fold increase in transcription of most X-linked genes, which are enriched for histone H4 acetylated at lysine 16 (H4K16ac). This acetylation requires MOF, a histone acetyltransferase that is a component of the MSL complex. MOF also associates with the non-specific lethal or NSL complex. The MSL complex is bound within active genes on the male X chromosome with a 3' bias. In contrast, the NSL complex is enriched at promoter regions of many autosomal and X-linked genes in both sexes. In this study we have investigated the role of MOF as a transcriptional activator.
MOF was fused to the DNA binding domain of Gal4 and targeted to the promoter region of UAS-reporter genes in Drosophila. We found that expression of a UAS-red fluorescent protein (DsRed) reporter gene was strongly induced by Gal4-MOF. However, DsRed RNA levels were about seven times higher in female than male larvae. Immunostaining of polytene chromosomes showed that Gal4-MOF co-localized with MSL1 to many sites on the X chromosome in male but not female nuclei. However, in female nuclei that express MSL2, Gal4-MOF co-localized with MSL1 to many sites on polytene chromosomes but DsRed expression was reduced. Mutation of conserved active site residues in MOF (Glu714 and Cys680) reduced HAT activity in vitro and UAS-DsRed activation in Drosophila. In the presence of Gal4-MOF, H4K16ac levels were enriched over UAS-lacZ and UAS-arm-lacZ reporter genes. The latter utilizes the constitutive promoter from the arm gene to drive lacZ expression. In contrast to the strong induction of UAS-DsRed expression, UAS-arm-lacZ expression increased by about 2-fold in both sexes.
Targeting MOF to reporter genes led to transcription enhancement and acetylation of histone H4 at lysine 16. Histone acetyltransferase activity was required for the full transcriptional response. Incorporation of Gal4-MOF into the MSL complex in males led to a lower transcription enhancement of UAS-DsRed but not UAS-arm-lacZ genes. We discuss how association of Gal4-MOF with the MSL or NSL proteins could explain our results.
PMCID: PMC2988783  PMID: 21062452

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