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Browsing by Subject "microRNA"

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  • Parkkinen, Ilmari (2018)
    MicroRNAs are ~22 nucleotide long RNA strands which regulate gene expression by binding to the 3’UTRs of messenger RNAs. MicroRNAs are predicted to regulate about a half of all protein-coding genes in the human genome thus affecting many cellular processes. One crucial part of microRNA biogenesis is the cleaving of pre-miRNA strands into mature microRNAs by the type III RNase enzyme, Dicer. Dicer has been shown to be downregulated due to aging and in many disease states. Particularly central nervous system disorders are linked to dysregulated microRNA processing. According to the latest studies, Dicer is crucial to the survival of dopaminergic neurons and conditional Dicer knockout mice show severe nigrostriatal dopaminergic cell loss, which is a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease. By activating Dicer with a small-molecule drug, enoxacin, the survival of dopaminergic cells exposed to stress is significantly improved. However, enoxacin, which is a fluoroquinolone antibiotic, activates Dicer only at high concentrations (10-100 μM) and is polypharmacological, which may cause detrimental side effects. Therefore, enoxacin is not a suitable drug candidate for Dicer deficiencies and better Dicer-activating drug candidates are needed. The aim of this work was to develop a cell-based fluorescent assay to screen for Dicer-activating compounds. Assays which measure Dicer activity have already been developed, but they have some pitfalls which don’t make them optimal to use for high-throughput screening of Dicer-activating compounds. Some are cell-free enzyme-based assays and thus neglect Dicer in its native context. The RNA to be processed by Dicer does not represent a common mammalian RNA type. Most assays do not have internal normalizing factors, such as a second reporter protein to account for e.g. cell death, or the analysis method is not feasible for high-throughput screening data. Considering these disadvantages, the study started by designing a reporter plasmid in silico. The plasmid expresses two fluorescent proteins, mCherry (red) and EGFP (green), and a mCherry transcripttargeting siRNA implemented into a pre-miR155 backbone which is processed by Dicer. Thus, measuring the ratios of red and green fluorescence intensities will give an indication on Dicer activity. The plasmid also has additional regulatory elements for stabilizing expression levels. The plasmid was then produced by molecular cloning methods and its functionality was tested with Dicer-modulating compounds. The assay was optimised by testing it in different cell lines and varying assay parameters, and stable cell lines were created to make large-scale screening more convenient. Finally, a small-scale screen was done with ten pharmacologically active compounds. Transiently transfected, in Chinese hamster ovarian cells, mCherry silencing was too efficient for reliable detection of improvement in silencing efficiency due to floor effect. With an inducible, Tet-On, system in FLP-IN 293 T-Rex cells, the expression could be controlled by administering doxycycline and the improvement in silencing was quantifiable. The assay seemed to be functional after 72 hours and 120 hours of incubation using enoxacin (100 μM) as a positive control. However, the screening found no compounds to significantly reduce mCherry/EGFP fluorescence ratio and, additionally, the effect of enoxacin was abolished. Therefore, a more thorough analysis on the effects of enoxacin was done and, although statistically significant, enoxacin was only marginally effective in reducing mCherry/EGFP fluorescence ratio after 72 hours of treatment. It should be noted from the small-scale screening that metformin and BDNF, compounds previously shown to elevate Dicer levels, showed similar effects to enoxacin. The quality of the assay in terms of high-throughput screening was determined by calculating Zfactors and coefficients of variations for the experiments, which showed that the variability of the assay was acceptable, but the differences between controls was not large enough for reliable screening. In conclusion, the effects of metformin and BDNF should be further studied and regarding the assay, more optimisation is needed for large-scale, high-throughput, screening to be done with minimal resources.