The RGBarrier assay: the parallel study of gene regulatory element performance at defined chromosomal locations

Guerrini, Ileana (2016) The RGBarrier assay: the parallel study of gene regulatory element performance at defined chromosomal locations. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Vertebrate genomes are organised into a variety of nuclear environments and chromatin states that have profound effects on the regulation of gene transcription. This variation presents a major challenge to the expression of transgenes for experimental research, genetic therapies and the production of biopharmaceuticals. The majority of transgenes succumb to transcriptional silencing by their chromosomal environment when they are randomly integrated into the genome, a phenomenon known as chromosomal position effect (CPE). It is not always feasible to target transgene integration to transcriptionally permissive “safe harbour” loci that favour transgene expression, so there remains an unmet need to identify gene regulatory elements that can be added to transgenes which protect them against CPE.
Dominant regulatory elements (DREs) with chromatin barrier (or boundary) activity have been shown to protect transgenes from CPE. The HS4 element from the chicken beta-globin locus and the A2UCOE element from a human housekeeping gene locus have been shown to function as DRE barriers in a wide variety of cell types and species. Despite rapid advances in the profiling of transcription factor binding, chromatin states and chromosomal looping interactions, progress towards functionally validating the many candidate barrier elements in vertebrates has been very slow. This is largely due to the lack of a tractable and efficient assay for chromatin barrier activity.
In this study, I have developed the RGBarrier assay system to test the chromatin barrier activity of candidate DREs at pre-defined isogenic loci in human cells. The RGBarrier assay consists in a Flp-based RMCE reaction for the integration of an expression construct, carrying candidate DREs, in a pre-characterised chromosomal location. The RGBarrier system involves the tracking of red, green and blue fluorescent proteins by flow cytometry to monitor on-target versus off-target integration and transgene expression. The analysis of the reporter (GFP) expression for several weeks gives a measure of the protective ability of each candidate elements from chromosomal silencing. This assay can be scaled up to test tens of new putative barrier elements in the same chromosomal context in parallel. The defined chromosomal contexts of the RGBarrier assays will allow for detailed mechanistic studies of chromosomal silencing and DRE barrier element action. Understanding these mechanisms will be of paramount importance for the design of specific solutions for overcoming chromosomal silencing in specific transgenic applications.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Chromosomal silencing, insulator, chromatin barrier, barrier assay, chromosomal position effect, stable cell lines.
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH426 Genetics
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Cancer Sciences
Supervisor's Name: West, Doctor Adam
Date of Award: 2016
Embargo Date: 28 September 2019
Depositing User: Miss Ileana Guerrini
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7606
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2016 10:48
Last Modified: 02 Nov 2016 15:42

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