Browsing by Subject "Genetiikka ja genomiikka"

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  • Preussner, Annina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    The Y chromosome has an essential role in the genetic sex determination in humans and other mammals. It contains a male-specific region (MSY) which escapes recombination and is inherited exclusively through the male line. The genetic variations inherited together on the MSY can be used in classifying Y chromosomes into haplogroups. Y-chromosomal haplogroups are highly informative of genetic ancestry, thus Y chromosomes have been widely used in tracing human population history. However, given the peculiar biology and analytical challenges specific to the Y chromosome, the chromosome is routinely excluded from genetic association studies. Consequently, potential impacts of Y-chromosomal variation on complex disease remain largely uncharacterized. Lately the access to large-scale biobank data has enabled to extend the Y-chromosomal genetic association studies. A recent UK Biobank study suggested links between Y-chromosomal haplogroup I1 and coronary artery disease (CAD) in the British population, but this result has not been validated in other datasets. Since Finland harbours a notable frequency of Y-chromosomal haplogroup I1, the relationship between haplogroup I1 and CAD can further be inferred in the Finnish population using data from the FinnGen project. The first aim of this thesis was to determine the prevalence of Y-chromosomal haplogroups in Finland and characterize their geographical distributions using genotyping array data from the FinnGen project. The second aim was to assess the role between Finnish Y-chromosomal haplogroups and coronary artery disease (CAD) by logistic regression. This thesis characterized the Y-chromosomal haplogroups in Finland for 24 160 males and evaluated the association between Y-chromosomal haplogroups and CAD in Finland. The dataset used in this study was extensive, providing an opportunity to study the Y-chromosomal variation geographically in Finland and its role in complex disease more accurately compared to previous studies. The geographical distribution of the Y-chromosomal haplogroups was characterized on 20 birth regions, and between eastern and western areas of Finland. Consistent with previous studies, the results demonstrated that two major Finnish Y-chromosomal haplogroup lineages, N1c1 and I1, displayed differing distributions within regions, especially between eastern and western Finland. Results from logistic regression analysis between CAD and Y-chromosomal haplogroups suggested no significant association between haplogroup I1 and CAD. Instead, the major Finnish Y-chromosomal haplogroup N1c1 displayed a decreased risk for CAD in the association analysis when compared against other haplogroups. Moreover, this thesis also demonstrated that the association results were not straightforwardly comparable between populations. For instance, haplogroup I1 displayed a decreased risk for CAD in the FinnGen dataset when compared against haplogroup R1b, whereas the same association was reported as risk increasing for CAD in the UK Biobank. Overall, this thesis demonstrates the possibility to study the genetics of Y chromosome using data from the FinnGen project, and highlights the value of including this part of the genome in the future complex disease studies.
  • Jäntti, Maija (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Uterine leiomyomas are benign tumors originating in the smooth muscle cells of the uterine wall. Leiomyomas represent one of the most common tumor types in women affecting up to 80% of pre-menopausal women. Besides having extensive implications on women´s health through the numerous symptoms they cause, leiomyomas are a cause of remarkable financial burden worldwide. Bivalent promoters are defined by the co-occurrence of two histone modifications with opposite functions: trimethylation of lysine 4 on histone 3 (H3K4me3) and trimethylation of lysine 27 on histone 3 (H3K27me3). H3K4me3 is associated with promoters of actively expressed genes, whereas H3K27me3 is frequently found at promoters of silenced genes. The genes controlled by the bivalent promoters are reversibly silenced or expressed at low levels and remain poised for fast activation or full repression as a response to external cues. Bivalent chromatin is gaining more and more importance as new roles are identified in tumorigenesis and cell differentiation. Despite this, the vast majority of data available was obtained from cell lines, and not from human tissue. The aim of this thesis work was to map the genomic location of bivalent promoters in uterine leiomyoma and myometrium tissue, and to characterize the functions of bivalently-controlled genes in differentiated tissue. This would provide novel information about bivalent promoters’ distribution in human tissues and also their potential role in myomagenesis. Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing (ChIP-seq) against H3K4me3 and H3K27me3 was performed on fresh frozen tissue samples of uterine leiomyomas and corresponding myometrium. A promoter was defined as bivalent, if it showed overlap between H3K4me3 and H3K27me3 peaks within a 2 kb region of a gene’s transcription start site in all samples. Altogether 951 bivalent promoters were found in myometrium and leiomyoma. Strikingly, only 231 (24.3%) promoters were present in both tissue types, most bivalent promoters being tissue-specific. These findings indicated bivalent promoters regulating a substantial number of genes also in differentiated tissue and the presence of extensive alterations in bivalent promoter distribution during myomagenesis. Gene ontology analyses of the bivalently-controlled genes in myometrium revealed the highest score for developmental processes. Instead, for leiomyomas, the highest enrichment was detected in stem cell fate specification-related processes. The data presented in this thesis suggests that bivalent chromatin plays an important role during myomagenesis, as it undergoes a significant reorganization during the process. Future experiments will provide novel insights about the role for these changes, i.e.: if they underlie the process.
  • Tiusanen, Ville (Helsingin yliopisto, 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 (Helsingin yliopisto, 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.
  • Keskinen, Timo (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Cerebral autosomal dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy (CADASIL) is an inherited autosomal dominant disease that leads to cognitive impairment, vascular dementia and ischemic strokes. In CADASIL, vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) degrade gradually and are replaced by connective tissue in the small and mid-sized arteries in the brain. Extracellular granular osmiophilic material (GOM) that surround the VSMCs are a unique feature in CADASIL. The causal gene behind CADASIL is Notch3, which encodes a transmembrane protein with a signaling function. There are over 200 cysteine-altering mutations that cause CADASIL in Notch3. The potential pathology causing mechanism is still unclear, but most likely the mechanism is linked to the aggregation of GOM deposits that are potentially toxic to VSMCs. This thesis project aimed to correct CADASIL causing c.475C>T mutation in Notch3 in different CADASIL cell lines with different CRISPR base editor systems. Another aim was to create induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines from a CADASIL patient-derived skin biopsy sample to be used in the creation of an in vitro disease model for CADASIL. RNA-based ABEmax base editor system was used to correct immortalized- and primary- CADASIL cell lines. DNA-based ABEmax base editor system was used as a positive control. Simultaneous pluripotent reprogramming and pathogenic CADASIL mutation correction were done in the same transfection during this project. The editing efficiencies were evaluated by Sanger sequencing the genomic target region before and after the transfection. The editing efficiencies were good in general compared to literature. They ranged from 27 % to 73 % target base editing efficiency depending on the editing system-, guide-RNAs - and electroporation parameters used. Confirmed proximal off-target effects were not detected, and distal off-target effects were not evaluated.
  • Vänttinen, Ida (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Multiple myeloma (MM) is a heterogeneous plasma cell cancer that results from the excessive proliferation of mutated B cells in the bone marrow and the accumulation of ineffective antibodies, monoclonal proteins, in the blood. Despite recent advances in research and novel therapeutics, MM remains incurable, mainly due to the mechanisms underlying disease progression and drug resistance. Therefore, novel biomarkers and therapeutics for the treatment of relapsed and refractory MM are urgently needed. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), short non-coding RNA molecules that play a key role in post-transcriptional gene regulation, have been found to be associated with different hallmarks of MM. Previous studies have indicated that abnormally functioning miRNA-mediated gene regulation followed by oncogene activation and tumor suppressor gene silencing results in drastic alterations in cell proliferation, apoptosis, growth, and metabolism. These changes in cellular functions have been indicated to be associated with the pathogenesis, progression, and formation of drug resistance in MM. Therefore, the role and potential of miRNAs to act as biomarkers to predict MM progression and drug sensitivity should be further investigated to ultimately improve the survival rates of patients. The aim of this master’s thesis was to investigate the relationships between drug sensitivity, disease progression and miRNA regulation in MM patients. Bioinformatically predicted miRNAs identified to be associated with sensitivity to panobinostat, a novel histone deacetylase inhibitor, and MM progression were validated in MM patient samples by using real-time quantitative reverse transcription PCR (RT-qPCR). In addition, the specific gene targets of miRNAs involved in the regulation of drug responses and MM progression were predicted by identifying statistically significant, negatively correlated interactions between the miRNA and RNA sequencing data of 45 MM patients in pairwise comparative correlation analysis. Finally, the predicted miRNA targets genes were validated in MM patient samples using RT-qPCR. Based on the bioinformatic analyses and RT-qPCR validation, mir-424 expression was significantly increased in relapsed MM patients as compared to respective patient samples taken at diagnosis, suggesting a potential role of mir-424 in MM progression. Similarly, mir-4433b expression was significantly elevated in panobinostat-resistant patients compared to sensitive patients, suggesting a potential effect of mir-4433b on the regulation of panobinostat drug response in MM patients. In addition, the RT-qPCR validation demonstrated that the disease progression and drug sensitivity associated mir-92b, mir-363 and mir-221, would potentially regulate the expression of FGF2, MFF, and TMEM248, respectively, providing novel insights into the functional roles of miRNAs in MM pathways.
  • Zhou, Quan (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Leaf senescence is a developmental and physiological phase in plants to end leaf development. Environment factors such as drought stress, extreme temperature, and pathogen threat and internal factors including age and reactive oxygen species induce leaf senescence. Some phytohormones such as jasmonic acid and salicylic acid play a key function in cell death in plants. WRKY transcription factors is known as one of the largest transcription factor family in plants which regulates a variety of plants processes. WRKY75 which belong to WRKY transcription factors has shown multiple functions in plant development like regulation of Pi starvation responses and root development and flowering. In my thesis, I focused on the role of WRKY75 in senescence and stress responses. WRKY75 was identified as a positive regulator of cell death in Arabidopsis. WRKY75 can promote salicylic acid biosynthesis by promote transcript levels of SID2 and also cause hydrogen peroxide accumulation by suppressing the transcription of CAT2. Hydrogen peroxide and salicylic acid can promote WRKY75 transcription at the same time. To evaluate the function of WRKY75 transcription factor in SA signalling and cell death, three lesion mimic mutants acd5, cat2, dnd1 and their corresponding wrky75 double mutant were used. Interestingly, no different phenotypes were found between acd5, cat2, dnd1 and their corresponding wrky75 double mutants in cell death and hydrogen peroxide accumulation detection in Arabidopsis leaves. Meanwhile, marker genes transcription levels were not different in both short day and long day growth condition. However, different phenotypes were observed in botrytis infection. Based on these results, we formed a hypothesis that gene redundancy could influence genetic characterization of WRKY75. To overcome this problem, SRDX-WRKY75 chimeric repressor transgenic lines were generated. The SRDX domain act as a dominant negative regulator to suppress WRKY75 target genes. In future research, these new lines can be used to test transcript levels for putative WRKY75 target genes.
  • Laiho, Elina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is a small mammal native to the Iberian Peninsula, but introduced by humans to all continents except Antarctica. The rabbit has been a remarkably successful invasive species due to its generalist nature and fast reproduction. Its spreading has mostly been destructive to the local nature, and humans have used fatal rabbit diseases such as rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) to control harmful populations. The rabbit population in Helsinki is one of the most northern annually surviving rabbit populations in the world. It is believed to have originated from escaped pet rabbits in the late 1980s, and in the early 2000s, the rabbits spread rapidly around the Helsinki area. RHD spread unintentionally to Finland in 2016, and the disease caused a significant reduction in the Helsinki rabbit population. Rabbit population genetics has previously been studied in several countries, but never before in Finland. The aim of the thesis was to examine the genetic diversity and population structure of the Helsinki rabbit population before and after the RHD epidemic, and to compare the results to similar preceding rabbit population genetic studies. Rabbit populations have previously been found to recover from major population crashes without a notable loss in genetic diversity using DNA microsatellite markers. The recent RHD epidemic in Helsinki provided an opportunity to study, whether a rabbit population can recover from a population crash even in a harsher environment without losing genetic diversity. To conduct genetic analysis, fourteen DNA microsatellite loci were genotyped from individuals caught during two distinct time periods, in 2008-2009 (n=130) and in 2019-2020 (n=59). Population structure was observed in both temporal rabbit populations with small but significant FST values. The 2019-2020 population was more diverse than the 2008-2009 population in terms of allele numbers and expected heterozygosity. This result was unexpected considering the recent RHD-epidemic but could be explained by gene flow from new escaped rabbits. Compared to other wild rabbit populations around the world, the Helsinki area rabbits exhibit significantly lower genetic diversity. Bottleneck tests showed a significant signal separately in both temporal populations, but the RHD bottleneck cannot be distinguished based on the tests. The results could be biased by new gene flow, or the initial bottleneck caused by the founder effect of only a few pet rabbits. The rabbits have demonstrated their adaptation and survival skills in the cold climate of Helsinki. The population has significantly lower genetic diversity compared to other wild populations, yet recovered from a major RHD epidemic without reduction in genetic diversity under these more extreme environmental conditions. It has been proven again; the rabbit is a thriving invasive species.
  • Nihtilä, Julia (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    Henoch-Schölein purpura (HSP) is a vasculitis of small vessels and its characteristics include abnormal accumulation of IgA immunocomplexes on vessel walls as well as abnormal glycosylation patterns of IgA. HSP is an autoimmune disease like inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). The genetic background of HSP has not been studied in Finnish population before, and only one genome-wide association study has been conducted for HSP before. Therefore investigating the Finnish genetic associations of HSP on a genome-wide level is of value. In this study the genetic background of HSP is studied with genome-wide association analyses performed on 424,041 genotyped SNPs passing quality control, HLA alleles imputed from the SNPs, and for their allele-level HLA protein sequences with the aim of replicating previous HSP associations in a Finnish cohort. There were 46 HSP individuals and 18,757 controls (216 bone marrow donors and 18,541 blood donors) passing quality control and included in the study. R package HIBAG was used for HLA imputation, and SPAtest package was used for the association analyses. In the association analyses, a region in chromosome 6 passed genome-wide significance (SNP with the smallest p-value: p 6,57 x 10-10, OR 0.14[0.1-0.2]) and the region contained both predisposing and protective associations. Of HLA alleles, DQB1*05:01, DQA1*01:01 ja DRB1*01:01 surpassed genome-wide significance level (p values 4,99 x 10-9, 1,04 x 10-8 and 2,37 x 10-8, respectively) and were positively associated with HSP. Five amino acid positions were significantly associated with HSP (p-values 3,9 x 10-10, 7,37 x 10-9, 1,26 x 10-8, 1,69 x 10-8 and 2,41 x 10-8), being both protective and predisposing to HSP. In addition, the genetic background of HSP was compared with that of IBD by comparing their GWAS results of genotyped SNPs, HLA alleles and their protein sequences. There were 49 IBD patients after quality control, and the same controls as for HSP (18,541 individuals) were included in the association analyses of IBD. The diseases seem to share some of their genetic background. According to the results, HSP seems to associate primarily with HLA class 2 and the result is also compatible with previous studies linking HSP to this region. The results also replicate previous GWAS findings in HLA class 2. According to this it is likely that the same HLA alleles are notable genetic factors in both Finnish and Spanish populations. The connection between HSP and IBD could potentially have to do with intestinal microbes aiding the onset of autoimmune diseases in genetically susceptible hosts.
  • Vakkari, Eeva (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    The wide distribution of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) in boreal forests and the outstanding properties of its wood have made it an economically significant resource at the forest sector. The highly valued chemical and mechanical properties of Scots pine wood are related to heartwood, a specialized tissue forming the innermost part of a mature trunk. Decay resistance of Scots pine wood is largely defined by heartwood extractives of which the stilbene pinosylvin has the highest quality trait breeding interest. Pinosylvin concentration is a high-heritability trait that positively correlates with the heartwood decay resistance. Pinosylvin biosynthesis pathway is upregulated both developmentally at the mature tree transition zone between sapwood and heartwood and as stress response in various tissues of young trees. Identification of the regulators of pinosylvin synthase could speed up quality trait breeding providing a basis for variant screening in the natural populations and for analysing functional properties of the variants. Early genotyping would enable selection of the desired quality individuals before the start of developmental pinosylvin production and significantly accelerate breeding programs. Scots pine pinosylvin synthase PST-1 is proposed to be both stress-induced and developmentally regulated. Previous studies have identified several MYELOBLASTOSIS (MYB) domain transcription factors (TFs) that co-regulate with stilbene pathway transcripts under pinosylvin production inducing conditions or that have promising homologs in other species. In this study, eight Scots pine MYB TFs were examined in PST-1 promoter interaction studies using quantitative luciferase assay and yeast one-hybrid assay. This study aimed to clone the MYB coding sequences and confirm the integrity and MYB character of the proteins they encode, and to verify whether any of the MYB TFs are direct regulators of PST-1, and to characterize the regulatory functions of the MYB TFs as activators or repressors. This study identified one MYB TF as a direct regulator of PST-1 whereas the other studied MYB TFs did not bind the most promising MYB target elements in the promoter. The discovery of a direct regulator of pinosylvin synthase provides a potential marker for early selection making the finding highly valuable for quality trait breeding efforts. Additionally, another MYB TF was detected as a potential indirect regulator of pinosylvin biosynthetic pathway or as a regulator of neighbouring pathways suggesting that it would also be an interesting target for further studies. The MYB TFs were successfully cloned and seven out of eight MYB TFs were classified into MYB subfamilies. Tentative characterizations for the MYB TFs were presented based on the sequence analysis. The Gateway compatible vectors generated in this study will facilitate future experiments. The MYB coding sequences were incorporated in the verified entry clones ready-to-use in generation of other types of expression vectors. The MYB TF plant vectors could be directly used in Arabidopsis, as well. Two multisite Gateway compatible entry clones for N-terminal fusions to VP16 and SRDX transcriptional regulatory domains were generated for the plant expression vectors. The protocol developed for the 3’ fusion entry clones comprises of sequential polymerase chain reactions easily applicable for other cloning purposes. The yeast one-hybrid prey vectors could be utilized not only in another one-hybrid but also in two-hybrid studies. Several of the MYB TFs, including the PST-1 direct regulator, were hypothesized to interact with other types of TFs. The protein – protein interaction studies would detect possible co-factors involved in the MYB TF mediated regulation of Scots pine pinosylvin synthase. Identification of each member in the regulatory complexes would enable targeting the quality trait breeding efforts most effectively
  • Olkkonen, Emmi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are over 200 bp long RNA molecules that are not translated into protein. LncRNAs can regulate the expression of protein coding genes, and studies have indicated their role in stress response. Stress response has also been associated with differences in the structure of the myelin sheaths in the mouse brain cortex. Myelin is produced by mature oligodendrocytes (OLGs), and therefore, OLGs are likely to play a role in stress response. The aim of this thesis was to find lncRNAs differentially expressed in the oligodendrocytes and myelin on the medial prefrontal cortex of stressed mice in comparison to controls. Mice of strains C57/6NCrl and DBA/2NCrl, differing in stress response, were exposed to chronic social defeat stress. After the stress paradigm, the mice were assigned as stress-susceptible or stress-resilient, the susceptible mice exhibiting anxiety-like behavior. RNA from OLGs and myelin from the medial prefrontal cortex of the mice was sequenced, and I compared the lncRNA expression levels between stressed and control mice and stress-susceptible and resilient mice using bioinformatic methods. I also assessed modules formed by lncRNAs and protein coding genes correlating in expression in both datasets. I used RT-qPCR to investigate if results from two differentially expressed lncRNAs, Gm37885 and Neat1, replicate in a stress hormone-treated oligodendrocyte cell line. Three hundred and seventy lncRNAs were differentially expressed between stressed mice and controls or stress-susceptible and resilient mice in the OLG dataset and 132 in the myelin dataset. Two hundred and 87 of them overlapped with a protein coding gene in the OLG and myelin datasets, respectively. Sixty-one percent of the differentially expressed lncRNAs were specific to comparisons in the OLG dataset and 73 % in the myelin dataset, but 39 % of the differentially expressed lncRNAs in the OLG dataset and 27 % in the myelin dataset were shared between them. No module of genes with correlating expression levels was associated with stress, but the expression levels of two correlation modules from each dataset differed between strains. The results for one of the differentially expressed lncRNAs, Gm37885, replicated in stressed Oli-neu cells in RT-qPCR. The results of my thesis indicate that multiple lncRNAs are involved in the mouse stress response, as many were differentially expressed and shared between phenotype comparisons. Additionally, significant gene expression differences were observed between strains, which could contribute to the previously reported strain differences in stress susceptibility. The results also suggest a specific role of Gm37885 in GR-mediated stress response. However, the function of Gm37885 remains unknown, and further studies regarding Gm37885 and the other differentially expressed lncRNAs should be carried out to draw conclusions of their contribution to the OLG-mediated stress response.
  • Tommila, Jenni (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    Bacteraemia, the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream, may lead to severe and costly health issues. Sepsis, a serious complication of bacteraemia, is one of the top causes of mortality globally. Early and specific diagnostics as well as fast acting are essential in successful treatment. However, current diagnosis relies mainly on time-consuming blood culturing and clinical symptoms, which are unspecific for the causative agent. With the advanced technology and decreasing cost, state-of-art sequencing-based (Next generation sequencing) methods provide a new way to investigate the bacteria present. Metagenomics, which means sequencing and studying all DNA extracted from a microbial community sample, is widely used, but it only describes the genetic potential of a community and does not differentiate live from dead microbes. Metatranscriptomics, in which essentially all RNA from a sample is sequenced, provides information about expression and activity together with identification of viable bacteria, However, the high amounts of host cells and host RNA complicate the detection of bacterial transcripts from complex host-microbe samples. In this thesis, I investigated solutions for the efficient isolation and enrichment of bacterial RNA from whole blood to be used in sequencing and metatranscriptomics analysis. Firstly, I tested the capability of bacterial cell lysis of two commercial blood sampling tubes with Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus epidermidis suspensions. Both tubes, Tempus and RNAgard, were able to lyse gram-negative E. coli cells and good-quality RNA was extracted in measurable quantities with their respective RNA extraction methods. With Tempus tubes the RNA yield was clearly higher. With gram-positive S. epidermidis, RNA quantities from both extractions were below the measurement limits indicating insufficient lysis and need for further optimization. Secondly, I investigated the depletion of polyadenylated (poly-A) transcripts in order to reduce the host transcripts and thus to enrich the bacterial transcripts prior to costly sequencing step. I evaluated the performance of a previously designed in-house protocol, based on the capture of poly-A -transcripts with oligo-dT -beads, and tested different parameters to see whether the depletion efficiency could be enhanced. Most significantly, the amount of oligo-dT -bead suspension was reduced to half from the original protocol. In-house protocols were also compared to a commercial solution, which they clearly outperformed. Depletion performances were tested with a RT-qPCR and dot blot assay, which I designed along this thesis work. Finally, to make the poly-A depletion better suited for blood samples infested with globin transcripts (representing up to 80% of all poly-A transcripts extracted from whole blood), I tested and successfully pipelined the leading commercial method for depleting globin transcripts with the in-house poly-A depletion protocol. The optimized sample preparation protocol provides a platform for further bloodstream infection and sepsis studies. Next steps of the process, such as sequencing and testing with clinical samples, are already ongoing with promising preliminary results. In the future, the metatranscriptomics approach can be utilized in fast and specific identification of the pathogens and their antibiotic susceptibilities. In addition, infection mechanisms and host-pathogen interactions may be studied possibly providing novel insights for sepsis diagnostics and treatment.
  • Ciparyte, Auguste (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Diabetic ovarian cancer patients who take metformin as part of their anti-diabetic medication generally respond better to DNA-damaging cancer treatment. The molecular mechanisms of the anti-cancer effects of metformin are currently being investigated, but they remain poorly elucidated. Not much is understood about the metformin effect on DNA damage in ovarian cancer cells, where it is of particular importance. When chemotherapy-induced double-stranded DNA breaks are unrepaired, cells reach a point when they cannot tolerate the accumulated DNA damage and die. However, some ovarian cancer cells efficiently employ DNA repair mechanisms, the most prominent being homologous recombination (HR), to overcome DNA damage. Efficient HR causes chemoresistance. An important question is whether metformin has the ability to induce the HR-deficient state in cancer cells, thereby sensitizing them to treatment. This study did not examine HR directly, but it assessed HR indirectly by observing the effect of metformin on recovery from DNA damage in two ovarian cancer cell lines: OVCAR4 (HR-proficient) and Kuramochi (HR-deficient). Additionally, this study evaluated the metformin effect on cell proliferation and apoptosis. OVCAR4 and Kuramochi cells were exposed to varying metformin concentrations (0,5 mM, 5 mM, 10 mM, 15 mM, 20 mM and 25 mM) and for varying durations (24 hours and 48 hours). This study also tested how metformin pretreatment affected the cells’ ability to repair externally (ionizing irradiation) induced DNA damage. The cells were imaged with a high-content imaging system, and percentages of nuclei that were positive for markers for different cellular processes (i.e., DNA damage, proliferation, and apoptosis) were calculated. The study found that only high metformin concentrations, such as 20 mM were able to increase DNA damage and reduce cell proliferation in HR-proficient OVCAR4 cells, both non-irradiated and irradiated. The HR-deficient Kuramochi cell line was generally more sensitive to metformin, particularly with regards to DNA damage, which increased using metformin concentrations < 20 mM. However, 20 mM concentration resulted in the most significant effects. Similarly, only high metformin concentration (25 mM) increased apoptosis, although data were obtained only for a limited number of Kuramochi cells. More experiments on apoptosis would be beneficial. Also, more extensive experiments for the irradiation part are needed to validate these preliminary findings, as well as examining whether high metformin concentrations (> 20 mM) affect specifically the HR-mediated DNA repair pathway.