Molecular Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 505 Views Jun 20, 2024

Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is a severe and extremely contagious viral disease of cloven-hoofed domestic and wild animals, which leads to serious economic losses to the livestock industry globally. FMD is caused by the FMD virus (FMDV), a positive-strand RNA virus that belongs to the genus Aphthovirus, within the family Picornaviridae. Early detection and characterization of FMDV strains are key factors to control new outbreaks and prevent the spread of the disease. Here, we describe a direct RNA sequencing method using Oxford Nanopore Technology (ONT) Flongle flow cells on MinION Mk1C (or GridION) to characterize FMDV. This is a rapid, low cost, and easily deployed point of care (POC) method for a near real-time characterization of FMDV in endemic areas or outbreak investigation sites.

0 Q&A 280 Views Jun 5, 2024

Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) stands as a cutting-edge technology widely used in biological and biomedical research. Existing scRNA-seq methods rely on reverse transcription (RT) and second-strand synthesis (SSS) to convert RNA to cDNA before amplification. However, these methods often suffer from limited RT/SSS efficiency, which compromises the sensitivity of RNA detection. Here, we develop a new method, linearly amplified single-stranded RNA-derived transcriptome sequencing (LAST-seq), which directly amplifies the original single-stranded RNA without prior RT and SSS and offers high-sensitivity RNA detection and a low level of technical noise in single-cell transcriptome analysis. LAST-seq has been applied to quantify transcriptional bursting kinetics in human cells, advancing our understanding of chromatin organization’s role in regulating gene expression.

0 Q&A 242 Views May 5, 2024

Pseudouridine (Ψ), the most prevalent modified base in cellular RNAs, has been mapped to numerous sites not only in rRNAs, tRNAs, and snRNAs but also mRNAs. Although there have been multiple techniques to identify Ψs, due to the recent development of sequencing technologies some reagents are not compatible with the current sequencer. Here, we show the updated Pseudo-seq, a technique enabling the genome-wide identification of pseudouridylation sites with single-nucleotide precision. We provide a comprehensive description of Pseudo-seq, covering protocols for RNA isolation from human cells, library preparation, and detailed data analysis procedures. The methodology presented is easily adaptable to any cell or tissue type with high-quality mRNA isolation. It can be used for discovering novel pseudouridylation sites, thus constituting a crucial initial step toward understanding the regulation and function of this modification.

0 Q&A 2896 Views Apr 20, 2024

The field of oligonucleotide therapeutics is rapidly advancing, particularly for combating orphan diseases and cancer. However, the intrinsic instability of oligonucleotides, especially RNA, poses a substantial challenge in the face of the harsh conditions encountered intracellularly and in circulation. Therefore, evaluating the stability of oligos in serum is of great significance when developing oligonucleotide therapeutics. This protocol outlines a dependable and reproducible method for preparing oligonucleotide duplexes, coupled with confirmation by gel electrophoresis. Subsequently, the protocol defines a mechanism to assess the stability of the oligo duplexes in serum. This protocol seeks to establish a standardized reference for researchers, enabling them to compare the impact of various modifications on oligo stability and assess the degradation kinetics effectively.

0 Q&A 318 Views Nov 5, 2023

Fork stability is key to genome DNA duplication and genetic integrity. Long non-coding RNAs (LncRNAs) may play vital roles in fork stabilization and chromatin remodeling. Existing techniques such as NCC-RNA sequencing are useful to identify LncRNAs on nascent chromatin DNA. However, there is still a lack of methods for LncRNAs purification directly from replicative forks, hindering a deep understanding of the functions of LncRNAs in fork regulation. Here, we provide a step-by-step protocol named iROND (isolate RNAs on nascent DNA). iROND was developed and modified from iPOND, a well-known method for purifying fork-associated proteins. iROND relies on click chemistry reaction of 5'-ethynyl-2'-deoxyuridine (EdU)-labeled forks and biotin. After streptavidin pull down, fork-associated LncRNAs and proteins are purified simultaneously. iROND is compatible with downstream RNA sequencing, qPCR confirmation, and immunoblotting. Integrated with functional methods such as RNA fluorescent in situ hybridization (RNA FISH) and DNA fiber assay, it is feasible to screen fork-binding LncRNAs in defined cell lines and explore their functions. In summary, we provide a purification pipeline of fork-associated LncRNAs. iROND is also useful for studying other types of fork-associated non-coding RNAs.

Key features

• Purify long non-coding RNAs (LncRNAs) directly from replication forks.

• Connects to RNA sequencing for screening easily.

• Allows testing various genotoxic stress responses.

• Provides LncRNA candidate list for downstream functional research.

Graphical overview

Schematic overview of isolate RNAs on nascent DNA (iROND) protocol. Cells were pulse-labeled with 5'-ethynyl-2'-deoxyuridine (EdU) for 10 min before paraformaldehyde fixation. EdU-positive forks were ligated with biotin through Click-IT chemistry reaction. Genomic DNA was ultrasonically cracked and crosslinked with streptavidin for pulling down. Both RNA and protein components were purified. RNA components were used for downstream RNA sequencing and qPCR validation. Protein components were used for immunoblotting to evaluate binding dynamics of fork-associated proteins such as helicase, topoisomerase, and DNA polymerases.

0 Q&A 442 Views Oct 20, 2023

The interaction of RNA with specific RNA-binding proteins (RBP) leads to the establishment of complex regulatory networks through which gene expression is controlled. Careful consideration should be given to the exact environment where a given RNA/RBP interplay occurs, as the functional responses might depend on the type of organism as well as the specific cellular or subcellular contexts. This requisite becomes particularly crucial for the study of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNA), as a consequence of their peculiar tissue-specificity and timely regulated expression. The functional characterization of lncRNAs has traditionally relied on the use of established cell lines that, although useful, are unable to fully recapitulate the complexity of a tissue or organ. Here, we detail an optimized protocol, with comments and tips, to identify the RNA interactome of given RBPs by performing cross-linking immunoprecipitation (CLIP) from mouse embryonal hearts. We tested the efficiency of this protocol on the murine pCharme, a muscle-specific lncRNA interacting with Matrin3 (MATR3) and forming RNA-enriched condensates of biological significance in the nucleus.

Key features

• The protocol refines previous methods of cardiac extracts preparation to use for CLIP assays.

• The protocol allows the quantitative RNA-seq analysis of transcripts interacting with selected proteins.

• Depending on the embryonal stage, a high number of hearts can be required as starting material.

• The steps are adaptable to other tissues and biochemical assays.

Graphical overview

Identification of RNA/protein interactions from developing hearts

0 Q&A 450 Views Oct 5, 2023

Many single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified by genome-wide association studies exert their effects on disease risk as expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) via allele-specific expression (ASE). While databases for probing eQTLs in tissues from normal individuals exist, one may wish to ascertain eQTLs or ASE in specific tissues or disease-states not characterized in these databases. Here, we present a protocol to assess ASE of two possible target genes (GPNMB and KLHL7) of a known genome-wide association study (GWAS) Parkinson’s disease (PD) risk locus in postmortem human brain tissue from PD and neurologically normal individuals. This was done using a sequence of RNA isolation, cDNA library generation, enrichment for transcripts of interest using customizable cDNA capture probes, paired-end RNA sequencing, and subsequent analysis. This method provides increased sensitivity relative to traditional bulk RNAseq-based and a blueprint that can be extended to the study of other genes, tissues, and disease states.

Key features

• Analysis of GPNMB allele-specific expression (ASE) in brain lysates from cognitively normal controls (NC) and Parkinson’s disease (PD) individuals.

• Builds on the ASE protocol of Mayba et al. (2014) and extends application from cells to human tissue.

• Increased sensitivity by enrichment for desired transcript via RNA CaptureSeq (Mercer et al., 2014).

• Optimized for human brain lysates from cingulate gyrus, caudate nucleus, and cerebellum.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 351 Views Sep 20, 2023

Information on RNA localisation is essential for understanding physiological and pathological processes, such as gene expression, cell reprogramming, host–pathogen interactions, and signalling pathways involving RNA transactions at the level of membrane-less or membrane-bounded organelles and extracellular vesicles. In many cases, it is important to assess the topology of RNA localisation, i.e., to distinguish the transcripts encapsulated within an organelle of interest from those merely attached to its surface. This allows establishing which RNAs can, in principle, engage in local molecular interactions and which are prevented from interacting by membranes or other physical barriers. The most widely used techniques interrogating RNA localisation topology are based on the treatment of isolated organelles with RNases with subsequent identification of the surviving transcripts by northern blotting, qRT-PCR, or RNA-seq. However, this approach produces incoherent results and many false positives. Here, we describe Controlled Level of Contamination coupled to deep sequencing (CoLoC-seq), a more refined subcellular transcriptomics approach that overcomes these pitfalls. CoLoC-seq starts by the purification of organelles of interest. They are then either left intact or lysed and subjected to a gradient of RNase concentrations to produce unique RNA degradation dynamics profiles, which can be monitored by northern blotting or RNA-seq. Through straightforward mathematical modelling, CoLoC-seq distinguishes true membrane-enveloped transcripts from degradable and non-degradable contaminants of any abundance. The method has been implemented in the mitochondria of HEK293 cells, where it outperformed alternative subcellular transcriptomics approaches. It is applicable to other membrane-bounded organelles, e.g., plastids, single-membrane organelles of the vesicular system, extracellular vesicles, or viral particles.

Key features

• Tested on human mitochondria; potentially applicable to cell cultures, non-model organisms, extracellular vesicles, enveloped viruses, tissues; does not require genetic manipulations or highly pure organelles.

• In the case of human cells, the required amount of starting material is ~2,500 cm2 of 80% confluent cells (or ~3 × 108 HEK293 cells).

• CoLoC-seq implements a special RNA-seq strategy to selectively capture intact transcripts, which requires RNases generating 5′-hydroxyl and 2′/3′-phosphate termini (e.g., RNase A, RNase I).

• Relies on nonlinear regression software with customisable exponential functions.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 559 Views Sep 20, 2023

The study of translation is important to the understanding of gene expression. While genome-wide measurements of translation efficiency (TE) rely upon ribosome profiling, classical approaches to address translation of individual genes of interest rely on biochemical methods, such as polysome fractionation and immunoprecipitation (IP) of ribosomal components, or on reporter constructs, such as luciferase reporters. Methods to investigate translation have been developed that, however, require considerable research effort, including addition of numerous features to mRNA regions, genomic integration of reporters, and complex data analysis. Here, we describe a simple biochemical reporter assay to study TE of mRNAs expressed from a transiently transfected plasmid, which we term Nascent Chain Immunoprecipitation (NC IP). The assay is based on a plasmid expressing an N-terminally Flag-tagged protein and relies on the IP of Flag-tagged nascent chains from elongating ribosomes, followed by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) quantification of eluted mRNA. We report that elution of mRNA following IP can be achieved by treatment with puromycin, which releases ribosome-mRNA complexes, or with purified Flag peptide, which instead releases nascent chain-ribosome-mRNA complexes. In the example described in this protocol, untranslated regions (UTRs) of a gene of interest were used to flank a FlagVenus coding sequence, with the method allowing to infer UTR-dependent regulation of TE. Importantly, our method enables discrimination of translating from non-translating mRNAs. Additionally, it requires simple procedures and standard laboratory equipment. Our method can be used to test the effect of regulators, such as microRNAs or therapeutic drugs or of various genetic backgrounds, on translation of any user-selected mRNA.

Key features

• The novel NC IP protocol builds upon a previously published method for detection of mRNA-binding proteins (Williams et al., 2022).

• The NC IP protocol is adapted for detecting mRNA actively undergoing translation.

• The method uses mammalian cell culture but could be adapted to multiple organisms, including budding yeast (S. cerevisiae).

Graphical overview

Design of the Nascent Chain Immunoprecipitation (NC IP) reporter and assay. Left. The construct carries a 3× Flag tag at the N-terminal end of Venus protein (FlagVenus). In this example, the reporter is adapted to study untranslated regions (UTR)-dependent expression by flanking FlagVenus coding sequence with UTRs of Aurora kinase A (AURKA) mRNA (depicted reporters refer to Cacioppo et al., 2023, Figure 3). The depicted reporters carry mutations in the proximal (p) or distal (d) polyadenylation signal (PAS). Right. Following reporter transfection, ribosomes are locked onto reporter mRNA by treating cells with cycloheximide (CHX), which prevents ribosome run-off and additional rounds of elongation, before cell lysis and immunoprecipitation (IP) of FlagVenus nascent chains via anti-Flag beads. Reporter mRNAs are then eluted, isolated, and quantified by RT-qPCR.

0 Q&A 408 Views Sep 20, 2023

The transfection of microRNA (miRNA) mimics and inhibitors can lead to the gain and loss of intracellular miRNA function, helping us better understand the role of miRNA during gene expression regulation under specific physical conditions. Our previous research has confirmed the efficiency and convenience of using liposomes to transfect miRNA mimics or inhibitors. This work uses miR-424 as an example, to provide a detailed introduction for the transfection process of miRNA mimics and inhibitors in the regular SW982 cell line and primary rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RASF) cells from patients by using lipofection, which can also serve as a reference to miRNA transfection in other cell lines.

Key features

• MiRNA mimics and inhibitors transfection in regular SW982 cell line and primary RASF cells.

• Treatment and culture of RASF primary cells before transfection.

Using liposomes for transfection purposes.

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