A construct with fluorescent indicators for conditional expression of miRNA

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 364 Plantation St, Worcester, MA 01605, USA.
BMC Biotechnology (Impact Factor: 2.59). 11/2008; 8:77. DOI: 10.1186/1472-6750-8-77
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Transgenic RNAi holds promise as a simple, low-cost, and fast method for reverse genetics in mammals. It may be particularly useful for producing animal models for hypomorphic gene function. Inducible RNAi that permits spatially and temporally controllable gene silencing in vivo will enhance the power of transgenic RNAi approach. Furthermore, because microRNA (miRNA) targeting specific genes can be expressed simultaneously with protein coding genes, incorporation of fluorescent marker proteins can simplify the screening and analysis of transgenic RNAi animals.
We sought to optimally express a miRNA simultaneously with a fluorescent marker. We compared two construct designs. One expressed a red fluorescent protein (RFP) and a miRNA placed in its 3' untranslated region (UTR). The other expressed the same RFP and miRNA, but the precursor miRNA (pre-miRNA) coding sequence was placed in an intron that was inserted into the 3'-UTR. We found that the two constructs expressed comparable levels of miRNA. However, the intron-containing construct expressed a significantly higher level of RFP than the intron-less construct. Further experiments indicate that the 3'-UTR intron enhances RFP expression by its intrinsic gene-expression-enhancing activity and by eliminating the inhibitory effect of the pre-miRNA on the expression of RFP. Based on these findings, we incorporated the intron-embedded pre-miRNA design into a conditional expression construct that employed the Cre-loxP system. This construct initially expressed EGFP gene, which was flanked by loxP sites. After exposure to Cre recombinase, the transgene stopped EGFP expression and began expression of RFP and a miRNA, which silenced the expression of specific cellular genes.
We have designed and tested a conditional miRNA-expression construct and showed that this construct expresses both the marker genes strongly and can silence the target gene efficiently upon Cre-mediated induction of the miRNA expression. This construct can be used to increase the efficiency of making cell lines or transgenic animals that stably express miRNA targeting specific genes.

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    ABSTRACT: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurological disease that causes motor neuron degeneration, progressive motor dysfunction, paralysis, and death. Although multiple causes have been identified for this disease, >95% of ALS cases show aggregation of transactive response DNA binding protein (TDP-43) accompanied by its nuclear depletion. Therefore, the TDP-43 pathology may be a converging point in the pathogenesis that originates from various initial triggers. The aggregation is thought to result from TDP-43 misfolding, which could generate cellular toxicity. However, the aggregation as well as the nuclear depletion could also lead to a partial loss of TDP-43 function or TDP-43 dysfunction. To investigate the impact of TDP-43 dysfunction, we generated a transgenic mouse model for a partial loss of TDP-43 function using transgenic RNAi. These mice show ubiquitous transgene expression and TDP-43 knockdown in both the periphery and the central nervous system (CNS). Strikingly, these mice develop progressive neurodegeneration prominently in cortical layer V and spinal ventral horn, motor dysfunction, paralysis, and death. Furthermore, examination of splicing patterns of TDP-43 target genes in human ALS revealed changes consistent with TDP-43 dysfunction. These results suggest that the CNS, particularly motor neurons, possess a heightened vulnerability to TDP-43 dysfunction. Additionally, because TDP-43 knockdown predominantly occur in astrocytes in the spinal cord of these mice, our results suggest that TDP-43 dysfunction in astrocytes is an important driver for motor neuron degeneration and clinical phenotypes of ALS.
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    ABSTRACT: Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) regulate critical events during development. In complex tissues, such as the mammalian central nervous system (CNS), networks likely provide the complex regulatory interactions needed to direct the specification of the many CNS cell types. Here, we dissect a GRN that regulates a binary fate decision between two siblings in the murine retina, the rod photoreceptor and bipolar interneuron. The GRN centers on Blimp1, one of the transcription factors (TFs) that regulates the rod versus bipolar cell fate decision. We identified a cis-regulatory module (CRM), B108, that mimics Blimp1 expression. Deletion of genomic B108 by CRISPR/Cas9 in vivo using electroporation abolished the function of Blimp1. Otx2 and RORβ were found to regulate Blimp1 expression via B108, and Blimp1 and Otx2 were shown to form a negative feedback loop that regulates the level of Otx2, which regulates the production of the correct ratio of rods and bipolar cells.
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    ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding RNAs that regulate gene output at the post-transcriptional level by targeting degenerate elements primarily in 3'untranslated regions (3'UTRs) of mRNAs. Individual miRNAs can regulate networks of hundreds of genes, yet for the majority of miRNAs few, if any, targets are known. Misexpression of miRNAs is also a major contributor to cancer progression, thus there is a critical need to validate miRNA targets in high-throughput to understand miRNAs' contribution to tumorigenesis. Here we introduce a novel high-throughput assay to detect miRNA targets in 3'UTRs, called Luminescent Identification of Functional Elements in 3'UTRs (3'LIFE). We demonstrate the feasibility of 3'LIFE using a data set of 275 human 3'UTRs and two cancer-relevant miRNAs, let-7c and miR-10b, and compare our results to alternative methods to detect miRNA targets throughout the genome. We identify a large number of novel gene targets for these miRNAs, with only 32% of hits being bioinformatically predicted and 27% directed by non-canonical interactions. Functional analysis of target genes reveals consistent roles for each miRNA as either a tumor suppressor (let-7c) or oncogenic miRNA (miR-10b), and preferentially target multiple genes within regulatory networks, suggesting 3'LIFE is a rapid and sensitive method to detect miRNA targets in high-throughput.
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