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1.  Lambda Red-mediated recombinogenic engineering of enterohemorrhagic and enteropathogenic E. coli 
Background
The λ Red recombineering technology has been used extensively in Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium for easy PCR-mediated generation of deletion mutants, but less so in pathogenic species of E. coli such as EHEC and EPEC. Our early experiments with the use of λ Red in EHEC and EPEC have led to sporadic results, leading to the present study to identify factors that might improve the efficiency of Red recombineering in these pathogenic strains of E. coli.
Results
In this report, we have identified conditions that optimize the use of λ Red for recombineering in EHEC and EPEC. Using plasmids that contain a Ptac-red-gam operon and a temperature-sensitive origin of replication, we have generated multiple mutations (both marked and unmarked) in known virulence genes. In addition, we have easily deleted five O157-specific islands (O-islands) of EHEC suspected of containing virulence factors. We have examined the use of both PCR-generated substrates (40 bp of flanking homology) and plasmid-derived substrates (~1 kb of flanking homology); both work well and each have their own advantages. The establishment of the hyper-rec phenotype requires only a 20 minute IPTG induction period of red and gam. This recombinogenic window is important as constitutive expression of red and gam induces a 10-fold increase in spontaneous resistance to rifampicin. Other factors such as the orientation of the drug marker in recombination substrates and heat shock effects also play roles in the success of Red-mediated recombination in EHEC and EPEC.
Conclusions
The λ Red recombineering technology has been optimized for use in pathogenic species of E. coli, namely EHEC and EPEC. As demonstration of this technology, five O-islands of EHEC were easily and precisely deleted from the chromosome by electroporation with PCR-generated substrates containing drug markers flanked with 40 bp of target DNA. These results should encourage the use of λ Red recombineering in these and other strains of pathogenic bacteria for faster identification of virulence factors and the speedy generation of bacterial mutants for vaccine development.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-4-11
PMCID: PMC317293  PMID: 14672541
2.  A protein knockdown strategy to study the function of β-catenin in tumorigenesis 
Background
The Wnt signaling pathway plays critical roles in cell proliferation and cell fate determination at many stages of development. A critical downstream target of Wnt signaling is the cytosolic β-catenin, which is stabilized upon Wnt activation and promotes transcription of a variety of target genes including c-myc and cyclin D. Aberrant Wnt signaling, which results from mutations of either β-catenin or adenomatous polyposis coli (APC), renders β-catenin resistant to degradation, and has been associated with multiple types of human cancers.
Results
A protein knockdown strategy was designed to reduce the cytosolic β-catenin levels through accelerating its turnover rate. By engineering a chimeric protein with the β-catenin binding domain of E-cadherin fused to βTrCP ubiquitin-protein ligase, the stable β-catenin mutant was recruited to the cellular SCF (Skp1, Cullin 1, and F-box-containing substrate receptor) ubiquitination machinery for ubiquitination and degradation. The DLD1 colon cancer cells express wild type β-catenin at abnormally high levels due to loss of APC. Remarkably, conditional expression of βTrCP-E-cadherin under the control of a tetracycline-repressive promoter in DLD1 cells selectively knocked down the cytosolic, but not membrane-associated subpopulation of β-catenin. As a result, DLD1 cells were impaired in their growth and clonogenic ability in vitro, and lost their tumorigenic potential in nude mice.
Conclusion
We have designed a novel approach to induce degradation of stabilized/mutated β-catenin. Our results suggest that a high concentration of cytoplasmic β-catenin is critical for the growth of colorectal tumor cells. The protein knockdown strategy can be utilized not only as a novel method to dissect the role of oncoproteins in tumorigenesis, but also as a unique tool to delineate the function of a subpopulation of proteins localized to a specific subcellular compartment.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-4-10
PMCID: PMC222962  PMID: 14516475
3.  The p53-inhibitor Pifithrin-α inhibits Firefly Luciferase activity in vivo and in vitro 
Background
Pifithrin-α is a small molecule inhibitor of p53 transcriptional activity. It has been proposed that the use of pifithrin-α in conjunction with chemotherapeutic and radiation therapies for cancer will reduce the side effects of these treatments in normal tissue that still contains wild type p53. In addition, pifithrin-α provides a useful tool in the laboratory to investigate the function of p53 in model systems.
Results
While investigating the effects of pifithrin-α on the transcriptional activity of NF-κB, we observed a strong inhibition of reporter plasmids containing the firefly luciferase gene. Firefly luciferase is one of the most commonly used enzymes in reporter gene assays. In contrast, no inhibition of reporter plasmids containing Renilla luciferase or chloramphenicol acetyltransferase was observed. The inhibition of firefly luciferase activity by pifithrin-α was observed both in vivo and in vitro. Pifithrin-α did not inhibit firefly luciferase protein expression, but rather suppressed light production/emission, since addition of exogenous pifithrin-α to active extracts inhibited this activity. Furthermore, pifithrin-α also inhibited recombinant firefly luciferase protein activity.
Conclusions
Among its other biological activities, pifithrin-α is an inhibitor of firefly luciferase activity. Caution must therefore be taken when using this compound, which has been characterised as an inhibitor of p53 transcriptional activity, to investigate effects on gene expression using transiently transfected reporter plasmids. Furthermore, these results demonstrate that when using novel compounds, the choice of vectors used in the experimental procedures might be of great importance for the correct conclusions to be made.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-4-9
PMCID: PMC212280  PMID: 12967348
4.  Functional interaction between RNase III and the Escherichia coli ribosome 
Background
RNase III is a dsRNA specific endoribonuclease which is involved in the primary processing of rRNA and several mRNA species in bacteria. Both primary structural elements and the secondary structure of the substrate RNA play a role in cleavage specificity.
Results
We have analyzed RNase III cleavage sites around both ends of pre-23 S rRNA in the ribosome and in the protein-free pre-rRNA. It was found that in the protein-free pre-23 S rRNA the main cleavage site is at position (-7) in respect of the mature 5' end. When pre-23 S rRNA was in 70 S ribosomes or in 50 S subunits, the RNase III cleavage occurred at position (-3). We have demonstrated that RNase III interacts with both ribosomal subunits and with even higher affinity with 70 S ribosomes. Association of RNase III with 70 S ribosomes cannot be dissociated by poly(U) RNA indicating that the binding is specific.
Conclusions
In addition to the primary and secondary structural elements in RNA, protein binding to substrate RNA can be a determinant of the RNase III cleavage site.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-4-8
PMCID: PMC165447  PMID: 12814522
5.  Interactions within the mammalian DNA methyltransferase family 
Background
In mammals, epigenetic information is established and maintained via the postreplicative methylation of cytosine residues by the DNA methyltransferases Dnmt1, Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b. Dnmt1 is required for maintenance methylation whereas Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b are responsible for de novo methylation. Contrary to Dnmt3a or Dnmt3b, the isolated C-terminal region of Dnmt1 is catalytically inactive, despite the presence of the sequence motifs typical of active DNA methyltransferases. Deletion analysis has revealed that a large part of the N-terminal domain is required for enzymatic activity.
Results
The role played by the N-terminal domain in this regulation has been investigated using the yeast two-hybrid system. We show here the presence of an intra-molecular interaction in Dnmt1 but not in Dnmt3a or Dnmt3b. This interaction was confirmed by immunoprecipitation and was localized by deletion mapping. Furthermore, a systematic analysis of interactions among the Dnmt family members has revealed that DNMT3L interacts with the C-terminal domain of Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b.
Conclusions
The lack of methylating ability of the isolated C-terminal domain of Dnmt1 could be explained in part by a physical interaction between N- and C-terminal domains that apparently is required for activation of the catalytic domain. Our deletion analysis suggests that the tertiary structure of Dnmt1 is important in this process rather than a particular sequence motif. Furthermore, the interaction between DNMT3L and the C-terminal domains of Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b suggests a mechanism whereby the enzymatically inactive DNMT3L brings about the methylation of its substrate by recruiting an active methylase.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-4-7
PMCID: PMC166133  PMID: 12777184
6.  The kinase MSK1 is required for induction of c-fos by lysophosphatidic acid in mouse embryonic stem cells 
Background
The regulation of the immediate-early gene c-fos serves as a paradigm for signal-activated gene induction. Lysophosphatidic acid is a potent serum-borne mitogen able to induce c-fos.
Results
Analysing the signalling events following stimulation of mouse embryonic stem cells with serum and lysophosphatidic acid, we show that the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway is involved in mediating c-fos induction. We demonstrate that the ERK-activated kinase MSK1 is required for full c-fos promoter activation, as well as for the phosphorylation of cAMP-responsive element (CRE) binding proteins. We propose that MSK1 contributes to ERK-mediated c-fos promoter activation by targeting CRE binding proteins.
Conclusion
These results show that MSK1 is an important ERK-activated mediator of mitogen-stimulated c-fos induction. In addition, they indicate that MSK1 could act through CRE binding proteins to achieve c-fos promoter activation. Thus, they further our understanding of the complex regulation of the model immediate-early gene c-fos.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-4-6
PMCID: PMC161794  PMID: 12769834
7.  Accumulation of large non-circular forms of the chromosome in recombination-defective mutants of Escherichia coli 
Background
Double-strand breakage of chromosomal DNA is obviously a serious threat to cells because various activities of the chromosome depend on its integrity. However, recent experiments suggest that such breakage may occur frequently during "normal" growth in various organisms – from bacteria through vertebrates, possibly through arrest of a replication fork at some endogenous DNA damage.
Results
In order to learn how the recombination processes contribute to generation and processing of the breakage, large (> 2000 kb) linear forms of Escherichia coli chromosome were detected by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis in various recombination-defective mutants. The mutants were analyzed in a rich medium, in which the wild-type strain showed fewer of these huge broken chromosomes than in a synthetic medium, and the following results were obtained: (i) Several recB and recC null mutants (in an otherwise rec+ background) accumulated these huge linear forms, but several non-null recBCD mutants (recD, recC1001, recC1002, recC1003, recC1004, recC2145, recB2154, and recB2155) did not. (ii) In a recBC sbcA background, in which RecE-mediated recombination is active, recA, recJ, recQ, recE, recT, recF, recO, and recR mutations led to their accumulation. The recJ mutant accumulated many linear forms, but this effect was suppressed by a recQ mutation. (iii) The recA, recJ, recQ, recF and recR mutations led to their accumulation in a recBC sbcBC background. The recJ mutation showed the largest amount of these forms. (iv) No accumulation was detected in mutants affecting resolution of Holliday intermediates, recG, ruvAB and ruvC, in any of these backgrounds.
Conclusion
These results are discussed in terms of stepwise processing of chromosomal double-strand breaks.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-4-5
PMCID: PMC156651  PMID: 12718760
8.  Genetic heterogeneity in response to adenovirus gene therapy 
Background
After intravenous delivery of the adenoviral vector into rats or mice, 95–99% of the encoded protein is produced in the hepatocytes. We observed, as have others, that the early expression levels of the vector encoded protein vary, greatly, within a species, from one animal strain to another. This study was initiated to determine the molecular mechanism causing the difference: hepatic transfection, transcription or translation. For this purpose different doses of Ad5 luciferase and Ad5 LacZ were intravenously injected into Brown Norway rats and Wag/Rij rats, two strains that differ by a factor of 10 in encoded protein levels. The proportion of LacZ positive hepatocytes, the adenoviral DNA, specific transgenic RNA and luciferase protein were compared in the two strains.
Results
The number of transduced hepatocytes and the amounts of Ad5 DNA in the livers was similar in both strains, whereas the Brown Norway rats produced 8 to 10 times more of both vector encoded proteins and of transgene mRNA than the Wag/Rij rats.
Conclusions
It is concluded that the difference between strains in vector encoded protein expression is due to different transcriptional events. No evidence was obtained to suggest that the differences are related to liver damage influenced by vector toxicity or immune reactions.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-4-4
PMCID: PMC155537  PMID: 12697054
9.  Fragile X (CGG)n repeats induce a transcriptional repression in cis upon a linked promoter: Evidence for a chromatin mediated effect 
Background
Expansion of an unstable (CGG)n repeat to over 200 triplets within the promoter region of the human FMR1 gene leads to extensive local methylation and transcription silencing, resulting in the loss of FMRP protein and the development of the clinical features of fragile X syndrome. The causative link between (CGG)n expansion, methylation and gene silencing is unknown, although gene silencing is associated with extensive changes to local chromatin architecture.
Results
In order to determine the direct effects of increased repeat length on gene transcription in a chromatin context, we have examined the influence of FMR1 (CGG)n repeats upon transcription from the HSV thymidine kinase promoter in the Xenopus laevis oocyte. We observe a reduction in mRNA production directly associated with increasing repeat length, with a 90% reduction in mRNA production from arrays over 100 repeats in length. Using a kinetic approach, we show that this transcriptional repression is concomitant with chromatin maturation and, using in vitro transcription, we show that chromatin formation is a fundamental part of the repressive pathway mediated by (CGG)n repeats. Using Trichostatin A, a histone deacetylase inhibitor, we show reactivation of the silenced promoter.
Conclusions
Thus, isolated fragile X associated (CGG)n repeat arrays can exert a modifying and transcriptionally repressive influence over adjacent promoters and this repressive phenomenon is, in part, mediated by histone deacetylation.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-4-3
PMCID: PMC153536  PMID: 12659659
10.  Viable nonsense mutants for the essential gene SUP45 of Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
Background
Termination of protein synthesis in eukaryotes involves at least two polypeptide release factors (eRFs) – eRF1 and eRF3. The highly conserved translation termination factor eRF1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae is encoded by the essential gene SUP45.
Results
We have isolated five sup45-n (n from nonsense) mutations that cause nonsense substitutions in the following amino acid positions of eRF1: Y53 → UAA, E266 → UAA, L283 → UAA, L317 → UGA, E385 → UAA. We found that full-length eRF1 protein is present in all mutants, although in decreased amounts. All mutations are situated in a weak termination context. All these sup45-n mutations are viable in different genetic backgrounds, however their viability increases after growth in the absence of wild-type allele. Any of sup45-n mutations result in temperature sensitivity (37°C). Most of the sup45-n mutations lead to decreased spore viability and spores bearing sup45-n mutations are characterized by limited budding after germination leading to formation of microcolonies of 4–20 cells.
Conclusions
Nonsense mutations in the essential gene SUP45 can be isolated in the absence of tRNA nonsense suppressors.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-4-2
PMCID: PMC150568  PMID: 12589713
11.  Phage annealing proteins promote oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis in Escherichia coli and mouse ES cells 
Background
The phage protein pairs, RecE/RecT from Rac or Redα/Redβ from λ, initiate efficient double strand break repair (DSBR) in Escherichia coli that has proven very useful for DNA engineering. These phage pairs initiate DSBR either by annealing or by another mechanism that is not defined.
Results
Here we report that these proteins also mediate single strand oligonucleotide repair (ssOR) at high efficiencies. The ssOR activity, unlike DSBR, does not require a phage exonuclease (RecE or Redα) but only requires a phage annealing protein (RecT or Redβ). Notably, the P22 phage annealing protein Erf, which does not mediate the same DSBR reactions, also delivers ssOR activity. By altering aspects of the oligonucleotides, we document length and design parameters that affect ssOR efficiency to show a simple relationship to homologies either side of the repair site. Notably, ssOR shows strand bias. Oligonucleotides that can prime lagging strand replication deliver more ssOR than their leading complements. This suggests a model in which the annealing proteins hybridize the oligonucleotides to single stranded regions near the replication fork. We also show that ssOR is a highly efficient way to engineer BACs and can be detected in a eukaryotic cell upon expression of a phage annealing protein.
Conclusion
Phage annealing proteins can initiate the recombination of single stranded oligonucleotides into endogenous targets in Escherichia coli at very high efficiencies. This expands the repertoire of useful DNA engineering strategies, shows promise for applications in eukaryotic cells, and has implications for the unanswered questions regarding DSBR mediated by RecE/RecT and Redα/Redβ.
doi:10.1186/1471-2199-4-1
PMCID: PMC149363  PMID: 12530927

Results 1-11 (11)