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  • Olgac, Ezgi (2022)
    Background– The BCL-2 protein family members are major regulators of apoptosis, and the anti-apoptotic (pro-survival) members of the family is commonly targeted with BH3 mimetic drugs in haematological cancers. However, these treatments have not been very impactful when administered as single agents and they have long been investigated for combination therapy with other agents. Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) is one of the difficult-to-cure haematological malignancies. A recently approved therapy for AML consists of the combinatorial administration of venetoclax (a selective BCL-2 inhibitor) and a DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) inhibitor such as azacitidine or decitabine. Although this novel therapy has shown promising clinical results, the majority of the patients still relapse under this treatment. These relapsed patients typically become highly resistant to treatment and have poor prognosis, emphasising the need for new effective drug combinations. Apart from BCL-2, other family members like BCL-xL and MCL1 are also common targets of BH3-mimetic drugs. This project thus aims to understand and characterise the resistance against BH3-mimetics and investigate new therapeutic approaches to overcome the challenges of resistance. Aims– This study aims (i) to characterise BH3-resistant AML cell lines for uncovering the mechanisms of drug resistance, and (ii) to identify possible combination treatment options for overcoming drug-resistance. Methods– Viability assays with Cell Titer Glo® (CTG) and Drug Sensitivity and Resistance Testing (DSRT). The long-term effectiveness of venetoclax, azacitidine and talazoparib (a PARP inhibitor) as single agents, double combinations and triple combination were investigated with Time-to-Progression (TTP) assay. For the resistant cell line models, underlying resistance mechanisms were assessed by checking protein expression of pro- and/or anti-apoptotic members of the BCL-2 family members with western blot (WB). Real-time quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) and WB were carried out for transcriptional and translational expression analyses of certain DNA damage-associated genes in PARP inhibitor-resistant cell lines. Results– Drug screening with DSRT has revealed promising results for two combination treatments of a BCL-xL inhibitor (A-1331852) (i) with an Aurora kinase A inhibitor (alisertib) and (ii) with an MCL1 inhibitor (S63845) for BCL-xL inhibitor-resistant cells. WB analyses of BCL-2 family members showed translational upregulation of un-inhibited members of the anti-apoptotic proteins in BH3-mimetic-resistant cell lines. A venetoclax-resistant AML cell line showed increased levels of the DNA damage marker P-γ-H2Ax upon treatments containing venetoclax, as well as increased levels of cleaved-PARP1, indicating induction of apoptosis. RT-qPCR analyses revealed increased mRNA expression of PARP1 in two resistant cell lines, whereas no significant expression changes in other DNA repair mechanism genes on the transcriptional level. Conclusions– In BH3-mimetic-resistant AML cell lines, apoptosis is avoided through translational upregulation of un-inhibited anti-apoptotic members of the BCL-2 family, and this resistance can be countered by combination treatment for additional inhibition of the compensatory anti-apoptotic proteins. Venetoclax is still effective on cells resistant to it, by inducing DNA damage and sensitising these cells against inhibitors of the members of DNA repair pathway. The transcriptional upregulation of PARP1 and the increase in its auto-catalytic activity suggests the DNA damage-inducing effects of the triple combination treatment [Ven + Aza + Tal].
  • Reinikka, Siiri (2020)
    Endometrial polyps are one of the most common benign uterine lesions, affecting approximately 10% of all adult women. While endometrial polyps have a high prevalence, their molecular pathogenesis and genetic background are largely undefined. Accordingly, the aim of this thesis was to characterize the somatic mutational landscape of endometrial polyps – to identify mutations in cancer-associated genes, and to identify mutational signatures contributing towards the somatic mutational spectrum. The present study was conducted using whole exome sequencing of 23 endometrial polyps and 18 matching normal blood samples. Mutational signature analysis was conducted using MutationalPatterns and SigProfiler. Endometrial polyps were found to carry varying number of somatic mutations in their exomes, most of them present at a low allelic fraction. Moreover, 43% (10/23) of the polyps were identified to carry one to four cancer-associated mutations, including mutations in genes such as PIK3CA 17% (4/23), KRAS 13% (3/23) and ERBB1 9% (2/23), which are well-established cancer driver genes. Cancer-associated mutational signatures do not have a notable contribution towards the somatic mutational spectrum of endometrial polyps. However, a novel signature, ‘signature B’, characterized by T>G mutations, was found to affect a subset of polyp samples. To conclude, the whole exome sequencing of endometrial polyps revealed several mutations in cancer-associated genes and a novel mutational signature, which may contribute to the development of these benign tumours. However, further research is required to confirm and validate the novel signature, and to define the genetic alterations leading to the polyp pathogenesis.
  • Lamichane, Nicole (2019)
    Over the past years sugar consumption has seen great increases worldwide, together with a rise in the prevalence of metabolic diseases. There is a growing need for a comprehensive characterisation of the genes involved in sugar metabolism, yet the mechanisms by which cells sense and respond to sugars in vivo have remained incompletely understood. Here, I analyse members of a protein family best known for their regulation of differentiation during development with regards to their role in sugar metabolism. The Hairy and Enhancer of Split (HES) protein family are a group of basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors that function as major downstream effectors of the Notch signalling pathway. In mammals, the HES proteins have mostly been studied for their role in cell differentiation, but HES1 has been implicated in metabolic control. Drosophila has several transcription factors belonging to the HES family, including Hairy and seven bHLH transcription factors located in the Enhancer of split complex (E(spl)-C). The E(spl)-C bHLH transcription factors display high homology and are considered to be genetically redundant, and therefore little is known about their individual functions. The other HES family members in Drosophila have not previously been linked to metabolic regulation, but Hairy has been shown to repress the tricarboxylic acid cycle. In light of the findings implicating HES1 and Hairy in the regulation of metabolism, I systematically investigated the role of the HES transcription factors in sugar metabolism. By using the GAL4/UAS system in Drosophila melanogaster, I knocked down gene expression of each of the family members, and raised the flies on diets varying in sugar content to identify possible sugar intolerance phenotypes. Here, I show that knockdown of one of the E(spl)-C bHLH genes led to severe sugar intolerance that affected both survival and organismal growth, but did not alter the levels of circulating carbohydrates and storage lipids as measured with colorimetric assays and lipid staining. Furthermore, I identify the tissues in which this transcription factor functions to provide sugar tolerance. Using analysis of publically available chromatin-immunoprecipitation sequencing data coupled with quantitative RT-PCR, I uncover mTOR target Thor/4E-BP as a putative target gene. Additionally, I show that Hairy is similarly required for complete sugar tolerance, but that the mechanism differs from the E(spl)-C bHLH transcription factor. Hairy binds to and positively regulates expression of genes involved in glycolysis and the pentose phosphate pathway, suggestive of a cooperation with earlier known regulators of sugar sensing. In conclusion, I have shown that only two HES family members are involved in the regulation of sugar metabolism and that their regulatory mechanisms are distinct, implying that the HES family members have more diverse roles than previously assumed.
  • Larmala, Saara (2023)
    The field of gene technology, which falls under the umbrella of biotechnology, presents challenges in business development and commercialisation. Understanding the field characteristics is crucial for successful commercialisation, as it can significantly impact the available strategies for bringing products or services to market, ultimately shaping the business model. This study aims to investigate and understand the challenges associated with commercializing gene technology, including identifying any typical challenge profiles specific to the field and possibly arising from the biological material. The research involves semi-structured interviews with multiple companies, venture capitals, and experts in the field to gain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges. The collected data is then analysed to identify common characteristics and business practices against a commercialisation model frame. The motivation behind this study is to provide researchers and other stakeholders with insights into the challenges they may face while commercializing gene technologies, with the aim of lowering the threshold for business creation. The findings reveal that there are two major groups of companies, each with their specific challenges. The challenges for the major group revolve around business know-how, HR, and sales, while the minor group faces challenges related to technology and regulation. However, a common theme is the limited market awareness among customers, which requires significant efforts in sales, marketing, and communications. The study provides guidance to company founders on the different challenges they should be prepared for and offers insights to society on how to harness the value of gene technologies.
  • Emre, Dusunceli (2022)
    The degree of neurogenesis in the adult hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG) is the center of the discussion in the field of adult neurogenesis. Although there is an on-going controversy, accumulating evidence suggests that the neural stem cells (NSCs) in the adult human DG are very few. The question remains open as to why there are so few NSCs in the adult human DG when compared with the rodent DG. In order to address these questions, it seems necessary to understand the developmental process of the NSCs in the adult human DG. In this thesis, the neural stem and progenitor cells in the fetal human DG are characterized. In addition to these findings, a semi-automatic method for counting and categorizing cells in their expressions of immunochemistry markers is developed.
  • Puutio, Johanna (2020)
    Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are phospholipid bilayer-enclosed nanoparticles that are secreted by eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. EVs carry macromolecules and signalling molecules to adjacent cells and play an important role in intercellular communication under both pathologic and homeostatic conditions. Therefore, they have become of significant interest for their therapeutic, diagnostic and prognostic potential. EVs are small and highly heterogeneous in size, shape, cargo and membrane composition, posing several challenges for establishing analytical and clinical guidelines. Therefore, EV research requires standardized and robust methods for their separation and characterization. In this study physical and immunochemical methods were employed to characterize human platelet-derived EVs (pEVs) generated from platelets activated with different external biochemical stimuli. The platelet-activating effect of the pro-inflammatory S100A8/A9 protein complex and a combination of thrombin and collagen were studied with nano flow cytometry. The size distribution of pEVs was studied with nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) and asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation (AF4), which represents a newly emerging method on the EV field. Finally, fluorescent labelling and co-localization analysis were employed to characterize membrane marker composition of pEVs and assess its usefulness as an analytic tool for EV research. We succeeded in providing new hints towards meaningful discoveries in platelet biology by characterizing the way platelets respond to inflammatory and hemostatic signals by shedding pEVs. When platelet activation markers are characterized with flow cytometry, the S100A8/A9 protein appeared to cause a shift in membrane activation markers when compared to the thrombin- collagen mix and the baseline control. Increased TLT-1 translocation and decreased integrin αIIbβ3 expression on pEV surfaces suggests that S100A8/A9 induced pEV secretion through differently packed platelet α-granules, rather than from the plasma membrane. An increase in TLT-1 expression compared to decreased P-selectin and αIIbβ3 suggests that S100A8/A9 stimulation shifts platelet phenotype towards secretion rather than aggregation. A protocol for small pEV separation with AF4-MALS was set up. With this method, subtle differences between small pEV populations were seen that were not distinguishable with NTA or flow cytometry. When investigated with AF4-MALS, S100A8/A9 induced pEVs appeared larger than those produced with thrombin- collagen activation. The mean particle sizes of the pEV populations obtained from activated platelets were generally also larger than those produced without an activator. We tested novel methods to detect subtle differences in small EV population sizes that are easily missed with conventional methods due to their technical limitations. A well-optimised AF4 protocol can detect different pEV subpopulations and is a promising tool for EV. In the future, when AF4 is combined with a MALS detector and a fraction collector, nanoimaging of fluorescently labelled EVs could be combined with it as a downstream application to obtain information on their versatile biological functions.
  • Rönkkö, Julius (2020)
    Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is a collective name for inherited neuropathies affecting the peripheral nerves. CMT affects 1:2500 children and adults worldwide. The disease is genetically highly heterogeneous, and the pathogenic mechanisms are largely unknown. Thus far, there is no cure known for the Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Therefore, the study of the genetic factors involved in the disease and the understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms will benefit the development of strategies to prevent or treat these diseases. In this thesis, a new candidate gene for CMT was investigated in patient fibroblasts. The novel gene variant was originally found at University of Helsinki in a pair of Finnish brothers with CMT; and in later examinations, in their affected family members. The gene encodes an ER calcium channel receptor that is responsible for Ca2+ release from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and plays an important role in the regulation of various cellular processes. In this thesis, I studied the effect of the variant in patient fibroblasts by Western blotting, quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-qPCR) and calcium imaging. I also knocked down the gene using siRNA in healthy fibroblasts to investigate if the loss of the receptor has a similar effect on calcium signaling as the patient variant. My results showed that siRNA treatment significantly decreased the targeted protein levels and delayed the ATP-evoked Ca2+ release from ER without profound effect on the amplitude of the release. Similar effects of the studied mutation were observed in one patient cell line, but not in the other. Patient cell line, which did not have alterations in the levels of the protein and Ca2+ release, had elevated levels of mRNA of the affected gene. The results suggest that the gene variant does not impair the total volume of the ATP-evoked Ca2+ release from ER. The possible effect of the studied mutation may be related to the decreased levels of the mutated protein, which at the functional level may affect the timing of total Ca2+ release from ER. However, the functional effect of the variant could not be confirmed with the fibroblast cells; further experiments are needed to clearly confirm the variant’s effect on calcium signaling.
  • Kemppinen, Jasmin (2020)
    Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are one of the prominent groups of signal compounds that are produced in stress conditions such as excess light. Nuclear protein RADICAL-INDUCED CELL DEAT (RCD1) is sensitive to ROS and controls the expression of organelle components, e.g. mitochondrial alternative oxidases (AOX), thus balancing the redox-status of a plant cell. Plants have fast responses to fluctuating light conditions that happen even before gene expression: i.e. readjusting the capability to receive light energy between the two photosystems by state transitions and increasing the capacity to remove excess energy by non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). Various small auxiliary proteins function in these fast acclimation events. However, many of them are identified on gene level only. The goal of this master’s thesis is to describe the role of a hypothetical protein, PPD8 in Arabidopsis thaliana. We evaluate how PPD8 is associated with RCD1 and a chloroplast thiol-regulator enzyme NTRC. We created double (rcd1 ppd8) and triple mutant plant lines (rcd1 ppd8 ntrc) by crossing single knockout lines ppd8, rcd1 and ntrc. Photosynthetic performance, NPQ and sensitivity to ROS were observed in each line by using two different chlorophyll fluorescence measurement methods: pulse-amplitude-modulation (PAM) and novel OJIP imaging fluorometry. The leaves were exposed to methyl viologen (MV), which accelerates the chloroplastic ROS production in light, and also to hypoxic conditions in order to study how the effect of MV is altered in low concentrations of oxygen. Additionally, we examined the amount of photosynthetic proteins and stoichiometry of photosystems in ppd8, rcd1 and rcd1 ppd8 by immunological methods. Finally, PPD8 gene with attached hemagglutinin encoding tags was generated by cloning and reintroduced back to the ppd8 knockout lines. Plants lacking RCD1 are very tolerant against MV and ROS, but when rcd1 was crossed with ppd8 the resistance was suppressed. Both rcd1 ppd8 and ppd8 exhibited elevated chlorophyll fluorescence and NPQ values. The removal of PPD8 gene had an impact on the abundance and the stoichiometry of photosynthetic proteins reducing the plants’ performance. When RCD1, PPD8 and NTRC were simultaneously absent the plants had major defects: their NPQ and fluorescence values were drastically increased. Furthermore, several results hinted towards possible issues in the function of ATP synthase in ppd8 background plants. It is also known that NTRC regulates ATP synthase: taken together, the results suggest that PPD8 is necessary for a fully operative ATP synthase and photosynthetic machinery. By reintroducing PPD8 to knockout line ppd8, the phenotype could be reverted back to wild type -like, thus confirming the significance of the PPD8 gene product in plant.
  • Zaki, Urfa (2019)
    Cerebral dopamine neurotrophic factor (CDNF) belongs to the the family of neurotrophic factors that are evolutionary conserved, having a unique structure, with two domains: C-terminal domain and the N-terminal domain, and a cysteine bridge. It is known to be involved in the repair of the dopaminergic neurons when studied in the animal models of PD, which shows their different mode of action as compared to other neurotrophic factors, highlighting their therapeutic potential. Analysis of the crystal structure shows that CDNF and MANF consist of two domains: the saposin-like N-terminal domain with five α-helices stabilized by three disulphide bridges, and presumably unstructured C-terminal domain with a disulphide bridge. Characteristic feature of saposin-like proteins is their ability to interact with membranes or lipids. The lipid interaction may be crucial for the activity of CDNF and MANF proteins. In the first part of this project, the binding of CDNF was tested with several oxidized lipids, using two methods; Co-sedementation assay and lipid fluorescence assay;with two different types of probes. According to the results, CDNF seemed to show binding with POVPC. The second part of the project involved testing the binding and internalization of CDNF to mouse myoblast cells in the presence of oxidized lipid; POVPC. It was observed that CDNF seemed to show binding to the cell surface of the mouse myoblast cells (C2C12) and is also observed to be internalized to the cells as well. However, as these are the preliminary results, so we need to further test the binding between the protein and other lipids and devise more precise protocols for the testing the internalization to the cells.
  • Aksentjeff, Katri (2020)
    The progressive myoclonus epilepsy of Unverricht-Lundborg type (EPM1) is a neurodegenerative disease caused by loss-of-function mutations in the cystatin B gene (CSTB) with juvenile onset, stimulus sensitive action-activated myoclonus, generalized tonic-clonic seizures and ataxia. The cystatin B (CSTB) protein inhibits cysteine proteases, such as cathepsin L, which has been reported to cleave histone H3 N-terminal tails in mouse embryonic stem cell differentiation. We have shown previously that histone H3 cleavage is an irreversible epigenetic chromatin modification, which occurs in cystatin B-deficient (Cstb-/-) mice derived neural progenitor cells during differentiation. In this study, first, we used the wild-type E13.5 mice brain derived neural cells in culture to determine the effect of extrinsic signaling factors to our earlier developed ex vivo neurosphere cell model. We also confirmed that the histone H3 cleavage positive progenitor cells are primarily neuronal cells. Then, we used phenotype rescue of Cstb-/- neural progenitor cells and showed that CSTB is a negative regulator of histone H3 cleavage. In wt mouse neurosphere cryosections, we showed that cathepsin B and L are not expressed in the nucleus of neural cells before differentiation.
  • Pennonen, Jana (2017)
    Puberty is a process of physiological changes, through which an immature individual becomes sexually mature. In humans, timing of puberty is highly variable within and between sexes and populations. Timing of puberty represents a complex trait, which is controlled both genetically and environmentally. Precocious pubertal timing is associated with development of metabolic diseases later in life, such as obesity and diabetes, and other disorders as ovarian and testicular cancer. Despite the estimated high heritability (50-80%) of pubertal timing, its genetic background is still poorly understood. Recently, the genome-wide association studies (GWASs) revealed many novel pubertal timing associated loci. Nevertheless, molecular mechanisms behind these associations remain elusive. This thesis focused on gene vestigial-like family member 3 (VGLL3), which is associated with pubertal timing in humans and maturation in Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Since the main physical structures, such as the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, needed in reaching puberty are evolutionary conserved and start to develop in vertebrates during embryogenesis, the aim was to study the expression pat-terns and role of vgll3 in zebrafish (Danio rerio) during this period. In order to localize expression patterns of the vgll3 gene in zebrafish embryos, a whole-mount in situ RNA hybridization (ISH) was performed. mRNA overexpression and morpholino oligonucleotide (MO) knockdown techniques were used to alter the vgll3 gene expression levels in 0-5 dpf zebrafish. The combined injections of both mRNA and MO were performed to validate MO specificity. The ISH experiment showed the expression patterns in 0-1 dpf embryos. The expression was ubiquitous up to 6 hours post fertilization becoming more localized to specific regions in the head and trunk of the embryos during the later stages. Altering vgll3 expression with high concentrations of synthetic mRNA or MO lead to phenotypical abnormalities such as shortened and curved body axis, pericardial and yolk sack edemas, deformed heads and eyes. However, it remained unclear if these malformations appear only due to the alteration of vgll3 expression levels. The results suggest that vgll3 may play an important role in the embryonic development. However, the study does not show that vgll3 has impacts on the pubertal timing in vertebrates by affecting the development of the structures required for sexual maturation.
  • Elomaa, Ellinoora Juulia (2020)
    The human cerebral cortex is characteristically large and folded, which can be majorly attributed to the high number and variety of neural progenitors during embryonic development. Radial glial cells are essential neural progenitors during neurogenesis. In addition to giving rise to new cell types, they also provide scaffold for migrating newborn neurons. Radial glia are known to portray peculiar characteristics in their cell division process, including unique migratory behavior as well as specifically regulated cleavage furrow orientation. While these processes of radial glial division have been studied extensively, the underlying molecular mechanisms are still largely unknown. ABBA (actin-bundling protein with BAIAP2 homology) and NEDD9 (neural precursor cell expressed, developmentally downregulated 9) are proteins, which are both known to be expressed in certain radial glia progenitors during embryonic development, while they are mainly absent in neurons. ABBA has a defined role of regulating plasma membrane deformation and actin polymerization in radial glia, while NEDD9 expression levels are a known factor in the correct progression from mitosis to cytokinesis. An interaction between ABBA and NEDD9 has previously been identified in a yeast two-hybrid screen done for the embryonic mouse brain. The aim of this thesis was to validate the interaction between ABBA and NEDD9 biochemically. First, their interaction was evaluated by doing co-immunoprecipitation assays on the endogenous proteins from C6 cells. The second approach was to test, whether their interaction is directly mediated by the N-terminal SH3-domain of NEDD9 and the proline-rich C-terminal portion of ABBA. This was done by doing biochemical binding assays using purified proteins and domains of interest. While co-immunoprecipitation of the two proteins gave results indicating an interaction, I could show that there is no direct binding between NEDD9 SH3-domain and ABBA, suggesting that the interaction might require other domains or be indirect. Together, these results provide valuable information that will help characterize what roles of ABBA and NEDD9 play in cortical development and beyond.
  • Karvonen, Eira (2020)
    APECED (Autoimmune-Polyendocrinopathy-Candidiasis-Ectodermal-Dystrophy) is a severe, multiorgan autoimmune disease caused by mutations in the AIRE (autoimmune regulator) gene. APECED is a rare disease, however in Finland the frequency is significantly high (1:25 000) and APECED belongs to the ‘Finnish Disease Heritage’. The most common mutation worldwide is the so-called Finn-major mutation R257X that results in a truncation of the AIRE protein, which disrupts the indispensable functions of AIRE. Immune reactions towards body’s own components are typically prevented with various central and peripheral immune tolerance mechanisms. AIRE is essential for the proper development of central and peripheral tolerance and the absence of functional AIRE leads to a loss of immune tolerance and various autoimmune manifestations. Recent studies have suggested that AIRE also has functions in stem cells and actively contributes to the regulation network of pluripotency. Currently, the development of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology has opened opportunities for precision medicine and for defining the cure for genetic diseases, such as APECED. The ultimate objective of our research group is to examine whether APECED could be cured via autologous, gene-corrected cell transplants with the use of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). As a requirement for such later therapeutic use and iPSC differentiation, the APECED patient-derived iPS cells needed to be characterized in detail. To assess, whether AIRE R257X mutation, present in APECED patients’ iPSCs, would cause defects in their stemness properties, the expression of AIRE and classical stem cell markers were examined with qPCR and immunocytochemistry and compared to healthy control iPSCs. The iPSC cells were also treated with spontaneous differentiation -inducing dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) to study, whether AIRE R257X mutation would affect the spontaneous differentiation of iPS cells. To further investigate the stemness and early developmental phase properties of APECED patient derived iPSCs, self-aggregated embryoid bodies (EBs) were generated and cultured. Immunocytochemistry was used to examine whether APECED EBs differ in stemness, proliferation or apoptosis from healthy individual’s EBs. The comparative Ct method (ΔΔCt) i.e. fold change revealed that APECED iPSC clones expressed all the classical stem cell markers similarly to healthy control iPSCs. DMSO treatment reduced the expression of stem cell markers in both healthy and APECED-derived iPSCs. The immunostaining results of iPSCs were consistent with the qPCR analysis. The overall growth properties as well as the immunocytochemical assays of stemness, proliferation and apoptosis markers did not show any significant difference between the APECED patient and healthy control derived EBs. Together the results indicate that the R257X mutation of the APECED patients does not affect stem cell properties such as stem cell marker expression and colony or the EB formation of the iPSCs. The results are contrary to previous studies in mice demonstrating the interspecific difference between mouse and human and denoting the importance of human samples completing the studies with animal models. As the APECED patient derived iPSCs did not exhibit any defects in their stemness properties, the later iPS differentiation and therapeutic use could be accomplished without hindrance. However, future work is still needed, as the small sample size in this preliminary test might introduce some biases to the results and hindered a relevant statistical analysis. Nevertheless, this thesis project was the first time APECED patient-derived iPSCs were characterized and has provided new information about the effect of AIRE mutation in APECED patient derived iPSCs.
  • Banerjee, Rishi (2019)
    After birth, stem cells act as the source of reparative and regenerative potential in various tissues. Among different tissues and organs in human body, tooth is one of the organs which does not undergo continuous regeneration. Therefore, tooth regeneration must be studied in a different animal, which possesses continuously growing teeth. In mouse, the incisor undergoes continuous growth which is fueled by the interaction between epithelial and mesenchymal stem cell compartments located at its apical end. The inferior alveolar nerve, which supports mandibular dentition, and its surrounding blood vessels (combinedly known as neurovascular bundle or NVB) were previously shown to act as a source of the mesenchymal stem cells during incisor growth and regeneration. However, the regulation of the cells in the NVB is not well understood. The primary aim of my master’s thesis was to characterize the effect of the Hh pathway modification on cellular properties of the NVB and the MSCs within it. The Ptch2 KO mouse model used in this study demonstrated increase in the number of blood vessel in the NVB. Additionally, analysis of the structure of skin in the mouse model was the second aim of my project, which showed significant increase in the thickness of the dermis at the postnatal day 1. Collectively, the change in structure of skin and NVB showed that Ptch2 might regulates the cellular properties of tooth mesenchyme and dermis by modulating the structural components of the NVB of continuously growing mice incisor and skin, respectively.
  • Holappa, Katri (2018)
    Staphylococcus aureus is a commensal bacterium in humans and approximately 30% of healthy people carry it as part of their microbiome, in the nasal cavity and skin, without any harm. However, it is an opportunistic pathogen that causes severe infections in immunocompromised and hospitalized patients. Typical infections caused by S. aureus are wound and skin infections, pneumonia and urinary tract infections in people with a medical implanted device such as for example a catheter. S. aureus has gained resistance to virtually all antibiotics over the years of excessive antibiotic consumption, making treatment nearly impossible in some cases. MRSA, methicillin resistant S. aureus, is a worldwide problem in hospitals and the mortality rate is still rising. One of the most common MRSA lineages is USA300, a community-acquired MRSA, which is notorious not only for its antibiotic resistance but also for its ability to form prolific biofilms. Biofilm production combined with antibiotic resistance complicates treatment of S. aureus even further. A detailed understanding the molecular mechanisms of biofilm formation might bring us closer to a cure for infections caused by MRSA biofilms. The study comprised two parts. First, characterize the phenotype of the mutants under static and dynamic conditions, test the minimal inhibitory concentrations (MIC’s) for antibiotics and verify the gene knockout by real-time RT-PCR. Second, study gene function by transduction to the parental strain USA300-UAS391 EryS and a MRSA strain TCH1516 EryS to study the gene function in a different bacterial background. The methods used were cell culturing for static and dynamic biofilm as well as growth curve, fluorescence microscopy, antibiotic susceptibility testing and real-time RT-PCR. In total seven strains were selected for characterization. The chosen seven knockouts were ΔHAD (HAD-superfamily hydrolase, subfamily IA, variant 1), non-coding region, ΔausA (non-ribosomal peptide synthetase), ΔoppA (Oligopeptide ABC transporter substrate-binding protein), ΔclfB (clumping factor B), ΔampA (cytosol aminopeptidase), and ΔpgsA (CDP-diacylglycerol--glycerol-3-phosphate 3-phosphatidyltransferase). General characterization showed a few changes in biofilm formation for the genes ΔoppA, ΔausA, ΔHAD and ΔpgsA. Especially ΔpgsA is interesting because of increased ciprofloxacin resistance. The real-time RT-PCR showed some altered gene expression patterns, but no connection to poor biofilm formation. With fluorescence microscopy the growth patterns of USA300 transposon mutant strain biofilms could be described. To verify the results of the characterization, further experimentation is needed, such as RNA sequencing and complementation. Also expanding the studies to other gene hits of the screening is recommended.
  • Alburkat, Hussein (2019)
    LCMV Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus is a rodent-borne pathogen belongs to Arenaviridae family. Most of the studies have referred Mus musculus as the main reservoir of the LCMV. It has been detected in pet rodents, laboratory rodents, and wild mice. Humans be infected with LCMV through the ingestion or inhalation of sources contaminated with rodent feces, urine, or both. LCMV infection can be asymptomatic, present with mild symptoms, or it can cause aseptic meningoencephalitis (AME) and teratogenic effects in infants. However, clinical cases of LCMV infection have been rarely reported, and there is only fragmental knowledge on the presence and prevalence of LCMV infections around the world. Likewise, the genetic characteristics of the circulating LCMV strains and impact of LCMV on public health have remained poorly characterized. This study was performed in the Southern Iraq, due to the lack of comprehensive information about LCMV in this area. There were three main aims in this thesis. First, to assess the prevalence of LCMV among the healthy human population in the Nasiriyah region, southern Iraq. Second, to assess whether LCMV infections can be associated with neurological manifestations. Third, to characterize the genetic variation and evolutionary history of LCMV strains circulating in southern Iraq. Serum and CSF samples were collected from patients and healthy people in Nasiriyah governorate in the Southern Iraq. Serum samples were screened for LCMV using Immunofluorescence assay (IFA) to detect IgG and IgM antibodies. Real-time PCR was used to detect LCMV genome. In order to confirm the PCR positive samples, we sequenced these samples by Next-generation sequencing. The serological assay results showed 12.22% IgG prevalence of LCMV among healthy people and 7.36% IgG prevalence among patients with neurological symptoms. The IgM prevalence was 1.25% among the patients with acute infections. From symptomatic patients, we sequenced partial L-segments of two new LCMV strains. The phylogenetic tree constructed on the basis of all known LCMV strains suggested that these new LCMV strains from Iraq are genetically distant from the previously known LCMV strains and form a novel sub-cluster within LCMV species. This study is the first survey of LCMV in the Southern Iraq. LCMV appears to be a rather common infection in Iraq. I reported new strains of LCMV that are circulating in the study site and most likely is the causative agent of the central nervous system-associated clinical manifestations in these patients. For future work, I’m aiming the detection of other Arenaviruses spreading in the Southern Iraq.
  • Sultana, Nasrin (2020)
    Tiivistelmä – Referat – Abstract Plant lives and grows in variable environment and climate conditions. Everyday plants can be confronted with a variety of abiotic (temperature, light, salt, water availability) and biotic stress (pathogens, insects etc). These abiotic and biotic stress can halt plant growth and influence crop productivity. Plant has evolved signaling mechanism and different responses to adapt or respond with these unfavorable environmental conditions. Our group’s previous research identified a new mutant in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana with a striking phenotype – when the plants ages it progressively becomes yellow and eventually the entire plant is white. The mutant was named “white” after its striking appearance. The phenotype is associated with increased accumulation of mRNA transcript for stress and senescence regulated genes. Mapping of the mutation identified a 4 bp deletion in a gene EGY1 that encodes a metalloprotease located in the chloroplast. To identify molecular mechanisms that regulate this unusual type of premature senescence, a suppressor mutants screen was performed in the white mutant, and three suppressors that restore normal appearance to the plant was identified. Mapping of one of these suppressors, identified a mutation in STAY GREEN1 (SGR1) as a likely candidate. SGR1 encodes the protein that catalyze the first step in chlorophyll breakdown, removal of Mg2+ from chlorophyll. The overall aim of my master thesis was to understand the molecular mechanisms behind the development of the age and chlorophyll related phenotypes in the white mutant and its two suppressors S1 and S2. Furthermore, with gene expression analysis, plant stress and senescence responses were studied in white, S1 and S2. By complementation method I proved that mutations in SGR1 gene caused the development of suppressor mutant phenotype and restoration of wild type allele of SGR1 gene restore white phenotype in suppressor mutant. Measurements of chlorophyll concentration provided further evidence that the mutation in SGR1 stabilizes the suppressor mutant phenotype, stops chlorophyll breakdown and keep the leaves green. Gene expression study using qPCR with marker genes provided insight of molecular changes within these phenotypes.
  • Tiusanen, Ville (2021)
    Enhancers are important regulatory elements of DNA, that are bound by transcription factors (TFs) to regulate gene expression. Enhancers control cell type specific gene expression and they can form structures called super-enhancers, that consist of multiple normal enhancers and are bound by high numbers and variety of transcription factors. These super-enhancers are important for defining cell identity and changes in the super-enhancer landscape have been linked to different cancers. In this project, characterization of super-enhancers and their transcription factors composition between primary and cancer cells were studied using genome-wide next-generation sequencing data from multiple assays, such as ChIP-seq, RNA-seq and ATAC-seq. The focus of the project was on the data processing and analysis to identify and characterize the super-enhancers. Analyses included GSEA, heatmap binding analysis, peak and super-enhancer calling and IGV analysis. This project used pancreatic HPDE cell line for primary cells and different cancers with endodermal origin as cancer cell lines. The goal of the thesis was to try show characteristic features of super-enhancers and their features in normal and cancer cells. Data analysis showed that distinct super-enhancers can be identified in cancer cells and defined super-enhancers had typical strong binding for specific transcription factor and histone modification such as histone 3 lysine 27 acetylation (H3K27ac) mark of active enhancers. Super-enhancer regions were located in highly accessible chromatin regions of the genome, and genes that were associated with HPDE super-enhancers could be shown to have association with cell identity. Peak and super-enhancer calling counts varied between cell lines for transcription factors, histone modifications and super-enhancers. Visualization of super-enhancers was successful and could show transcription factor binding and active enhancers that establish the super-enhancer structure. Comprehensive analyses allowed us to characterize typical features of super-enhancers and show differences in the numbers of super-enhancers between primary and cancer cell lines and cancer cell lines of different organ types. Analysis of the transcription factor binding showed unique peaks on some of the super-enhancers, and these peaks might have a role in inducing the super-enhancer structure.
  • Jokinen, Vilja (2021)
    Uterine leiomyomas are benign smooth muscle tumors arising in myometrium. They are very common, and the incidence in women is up to 70% by the age of 50. Usually, leiomyomas are asymptomatic, but some patients suffer from various symptoms, including abnormal uterine bleeding, pelvic pain, urinary frequency, and constipation. Uterine leiomyomas may also cause subfertility. Genetic alterations in the known driver genes MED12, HMGA2, FH, and COL4A5-6 account for about 90 % of all leiomyomas. These initiator mutations result in distinct molecular subtypes of leiomyomas. The majority of whole-genome sequencing (WGS) studies analyzing chromosomal rearrangements have been performed using fresh frozen tissues. One aim of this study was to examine the feasibility of detecting chromosomal rearrangements from WGS data of formalin-fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) tissue samples. Previous results from 3’RNA-sequencing data revealed a subset of uterine leiomyoma samples that displayed similar gene expression patterns with HMGA2-positive leiomyomas but were previously classified as HMGA2-negative by immunohistochemistry. According to 3’RNA-sequencing, all these tumors overexpressed PLAG1, and some of them overexpressed HMGA2 or HMGA1. Thus, the second aim of this study was to identify driver mutations in these leiomyoma samples using WGS. In this study, WGS was performed for 16 leiomyoma and 4 normal myometrium FFPE samples. The following bioinformatic tools were used to detect somatic alterations at multiple levels: Delly for chromosomal rearrangements, CNVkit for copy-number alterations, and Mutect for point mutations and small insertions and deletions. Sanger sequencing was used to validate findings. The quality of WGS data obtained from FFPE samples was sufficient for detecting chromosomal rearrangements, although the number of calls were quite high. We identified recurrent chromosomal rearrangements affecting HMGA2, HMGA1, and PLAG1, mutually exclusively. One sample did not harbor any of these rearrangements, but a deletion in COL4A5-6 was found. Biallelic loss of DEPDC5 was seen in one sample with an HMGA2 rearrangement and in another sample with an HMGA1 rearrangement. HMGA2 and HMGA1 encode architectural chromatin proteins regulating several transcription factors. It is well-known that HMGA2 upregulates PLAG1 expression. The structure and functionality of HMGA2 and HMGA1 are very similar and conserved, so it might be that HMGA1 may also regulate PLAG1 expression. The results of this study suggest that HMGA2 and HMGA1 drive tumorigenesis by regulating PLAG1, and thus, PLAG1 rearrangements resulting in PLAG1 overexpression can also drive tumorigenesis. A few samples, previously classified as HMGA2-negative by immunohistochemistry, revealed to harbor HMGA2 rearrangements, suggesting that the proportion of HMGA2-positive leiomyomas might be underestimated in previous studies using immunohistochemistry. Only one study has previously reported biallelic inactivation of DEPDC5 in leiomyomas, and the results of this study support the idea that biallelic loss of DEPDC5 is a secondary driver event in uterine leiomyomas.
  • Qureshi, Talha (2019)
    The TTN gene encodes a giant muscle protein called titin that regulates the function of muscle sarcomere and interacts with several other muscle proteins. Mutations in TTN are associated with a broad range of skeletal and cardiac muscle disorders termed titinopathies. Previous studies have shown the importance of unusual TTN splicing events in patients with TTN-related cardiomyopathies and muscular dystrophies. In this project, we characterized eight TTN splicing variants to further expound on the pathogenesis of titinopathies and to enhance the diagnostic accuracy for patients with TTN mutations. In addition, we also made a comparative analysis of five different RNA/cDNA sequencing techniques to extrapolate on which approach is most suitable to study splicing variants in TTN gene. Skeletal muscle samples of six patients were analyzed in this study who were previously detected with TTN variants in a compound heterozygous state from a targeted next-generation sequencing assay. Our results from traditional Sanger sequencing methods, second-generation (Illumina RNA-Sequencing) and third-generation sequencing (Single-molecule real-time sequencing) methods showed distinct splicing events in the form of partial or complete exon skipping, intron retention, and in few instances showed multiple splicing effects rendered by a single variant. Complying with the guidelines of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics and the Association for Molecular Pathology, the splicing variants were classified as pathogenic, likely pathogenic or variant of uncertain significance primarily on the basis of our experimental data. To address which sequencing method is most promising for analyzing TTN splicing variants, Illumina RNA Sequencing is very efficient, though, the combination of Illumina RNA Sequencing with long-read sequencing could be ideal. Our results further demonstrate that a near full-length titin is vital for survival until birth, and further studies are needed to understand the pathophysiology mechanism of congenital titinopathies.