Applications of genome editing tools in drug discovery and basic research

Villaseñor Molina, Guillermo Rodrigo. Applications of genome editing tools in drug discovery and basic research. 2015, PhD Thesis, University of Basel, Faculty of Science.

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Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/diss/DissB_11778


Since the discovery of the DNA double helix, major advances in biology have been; the development of recombinant DNA technology in the 1970s, methods to amplify DNA and gene targeting technology in the late 1980s. In organisms such as yeast and mice, the ability to accurately add or delete genetic information transformed biology, allowing an unmatched level of precision in studies of gene function. But, the ability to easily and specifically edit the genetic material of other cells and organisms remained impossible until recently for molecular biologists. The recent advent of programmable nucleases has dramatically changed the efficiency and speed of genome manipulation in several model organisms including cultured cells, as well as whole animals and plants. These tools opened up a powerful technique for biology research now called “genome editing” or “genome engineering” (Carroll, 2011; Hsu et al., 2014; Kim and Kim, 2014).
In the first half of my doctoral studies, I developed genome-editing strategies to discover drug targets for a rare genetic disease called Friedreich’s Ataxia. Friedreich’s Ataxia (FRDA) is a neurodegenerative disease caused by deficiency of the mitochondrial protein frataxin (FXN) (Campuzano et al., 1997). This deficiency results from an expansion of a trinucleotide GAA repeat in the first intron of the FXN gene (Campuzano et al., 1996; Durr et al., 1996). Therapeutics that reactivate FXN gene expression are expected to be beneficial to FRDA patients (Gottesfeld, 2007). However, high-throughput screening (HTS) for FXN activators has so far met with limited success because current cellular models do not accurately assess endogenous FXN gene regulation. Here I used genome-editing technologies to generate a cellular model in which a luciferase reporter is introduced into the endogenous FXN locus. Using this system in a high-throughput genomic screen, we discovered novel inhibitors of FXN-luciferase expression. I confirmed that reducing expression of one of these inhibitors, PRKD1, led to an increase in FXN expression in FRDA patient fibroblasts (Villasenor et al., 2015). We then used reprogramming technologies to create a disease-relevant situation and test small molecules that specifically modulate PRKD1. We found that WA-21-JO19, a chemical inhibitor of PRKD1, increases FXN expression levels in iPSC-derived FRDA patient neurons. This approach, developed at the interface between academic and pharmaceutical research, demonstrates how a combination of genome editing, cellular reprogramming, and high-throughput biology can generate an effective novel drug discovery platform.
In the second part of my doctoral work, we developed an interface between genome editing and proteomics to isolate native protein complexes produced from their natural genomic contexts. In many biological processes, proteins act as members of protein complexes. Understanding the molecular composition of protein complexes is a key task towards explaining their function in the cell. Conventional affinity purification followed by mass spectrometry analysis is a broadly applicable method to decipher molecular interaction networks and infer protein function. However, traditional affinity purification methods are limited by a number of factors such as antibody specificity and are sensitive to perturbations induced by overexpressed target proteins. Here, we combined genome editing with tandem affinity purification to circumvent current limitations. I uncovered subunits and interactions among well-characterized complexes and report the isolation of novel Mettl3-binding partners. The multi-protein complex composed of two active methyltransferases Mettl3 and Mettl14 mediates methylation of adenosines at position N6 on RNA molecules (Bokar et al., 1994; Bokar et al., 1997; Liu et al., 2014). N6-methyladenosine is the most abundant internal modification in eukaryotic mRNA and is often found on introns, which implies that methylation occurs co-transcriptionally (Fu et al., 2014). My work identified a set of nuclear RNA binding proteins, which specifically interact with the Mettl3-Mettl14 complex. We are currently testing the ability of these factors to function as “recruiters” of the Mettl3-Mettl14 complex to nascent mRNAs in the cell nucleus.
In summary, our approach solidly establishes how a combination of genome editing and proteomics can simplify explorations of protein complexes as well as the study of post-translational modifications. In addition, this approach opens up new opportunities to study native protein complexes in a wide variety of cells and model organisms and will likely enable the systematic investigation of mammalian proteome function.
Advisors:Bühler, Marc and Ketting, René
Faculties and Departments:09 Associated Institutions > Friedrich Miescher Institut FMI > Non-coding RNAs and chromatin (Bühler)
Item Type:Thesis
Thesis no:11778
Bibsysno:Link to catalogue
Number of Pages:1 Online-Ressource (168 Seiten)
Identification Number:
Last Modified:21 Sep 2016 12:12
Deposited On:21 Sep 2016 12:11

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