Browsing by Subject "Genetik och genomik"

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  • Kuitunen, Essi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    Glutamine, the conditionally essential amino acid, is a major carbon and nitrogen carrier required for a range of cell functions, such as protein synthesis and maintaining redox balance. While healthy cells adjust their activities in response to glutamine availability, tumor cells display deregulated glutamine uptake and metabolism allowing quick proliferation and survival in cellular stress conditions. Hence, further knowledge of the glutamine sensing network is of interest. Utilizing Drosophila melanogaster, the roles of formerly identified glutamine sensing regulator candidates, Forkhead box O (FoxO), Super sex combs (Sxc), Spalt major (Salm) and Spalt-related (Salr), were explored. Drosophila is an efficient model organism for analyzing gene regulatory mechanisms, with its simple genome but conserved genes and metabolic pathways. Loss-of function and gain-of-function mutants of the candidates were cultured with/without glutamine, and their physiological response and gene expression changes were analyzed. The results show the glutamine intolerant phenotype of FoxO and Sxc deficiency, not dependent on altered food intake levels of larvae. However, glutamine intolerance of Salr and Salm deficiency was not observed. Moreover, we aimed to gain further insight to the roles of FoxO and Sxc in glutamine metabolism. Since amino acid catabolism produces ammonia, and glutamine metabolism plays a vital role in ammonia detoxification, we performed a pH-based measurement of foxo and sxc mutant larvae hemolymph on food with/without glutamine. However, we could not associate FoxO or Sxc with regulation of glutamine-derived ammonia clearance. In addition, we explored FoxO downstream regulator candidates. Putative promoter areas of Paics, Uro, Sesn, salr, Prat2 and Gdh were cloned into reporter vectors and the luciferase activity was analyzed under the expression of foxo. The results indicate that FoxO is a regulator of all of the 6 genes. Next we could utilize the here constructed plasmids to see whether the FoxO-mediated regulation is affected by altered glutamine levels in cell culture.
  • Peltola, Sanni (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    In recent decades, ancient DNA recovered from old and degraded samples, such as bones and fossils, has presented novel prospects in the fields of genetics, archaeology and anthropology. In Finland, ancient DNA research is constrained by the poor preservation of bones: they are quickly degraded by acidic soils, limiting the age of DNA that can be recovered from physical remains. However, some soil components can bind DNA and thus protect the molecules from degradation. Ancient DNA from soils and sediments has previously been used to reconstruct paleoenvironments, to study ancient parasites and diet and to demonstrate the presence of a species at a given site, even when there are no visible fossils present. In this pilot study, I explored the potential of archaeological sediments as an alternative source of ancient human DNA. I collected sediment samples from five Finnish Neolithic Stone Age (6,000–4,000 years ago) settlement sites, located in woodland. In addition, I analysed a lakebed sample from a submerged Mesolithic (10,000–7,000 years ago) settlement site, and a soil sample from an Iron Age burial with bones present to compare DNA yields between the two materials. Soil samples were converted into Illumina sequencing libraries and enriched for human mtDNA. I analysed the sequencing data with a customised metagenomics-based bioinformatic analysis workflow. I also tested program performance with simulated data. The results suggested that human DNA preservation in Finnish archaeological sediments may be poor or very localised. I detected small amounts of human mtDNA in three Stone Age woodland settlement sites and a submerged Mesolithic settlement site. One Stone Age sample exhibited terminal damage patterns suggestive of DNA decay, but the time of deposition is difficult to estimate. Interestingly, no human DNA was recovered from the Iron Age burial soil, suggesting that body decomposition may not serve as a significant source of sedimentary ancient DNA. Additional complications may arise from the high inhibitor content of the soil and the abundance of microbial and other non-human DNA present in environmental samples. In the future, a more refined sampling approach, such as targeting microscopic bone fragments, could be a strategy worth trialling.
  • 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.
  • Reinikka, Siiri (Helsingin yliopisto, 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.
  • Elomaa, Ellinoora Juulia (Helsingin yliopisto, 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.
  • 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.
  • Ukwattage, Sanjeevi (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    Background- Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common epithelial carcinoma. There is an increased risk of colorectal cancer in people with longstanding inflammation in the large intestine, including individuals with ulcerative colitis (UC). Epigenetic changes in CRC such as aberrant DNA methylation alterations are common changes in human cancer. The aim of this study is to identify the DNA methylation alterations of selected inflammation related genes in UC-CRC vs. Lynch syndrome (LS). Method- DNA was extracted from archival tissue specimens from normal and tumor samples from UC-CRC (n= 31), and LS-CRC (n=29). Methylation-specific multiple ligation-dependent probe amplification (MS-MLPA) assays were used to detect CIMP status and CpG promoter methylation status of seven inflammation related genes. Microsatellite instability analysis was carried out using two mononucleotide repeat markers BAT25 and BAT26. Results- Increased hypermethylation frequencies in carcinoma vs. normal colonic mucosa were detected for all the inflammatory marker genes in specimens of UC-CRC patients. Statistically significant differences for methylation frequencies were observed in the NTSR1 gene (p value =0.008) and SOCS2 gene (p value =0.04) in specimens of UC-CRC patients. NTSR1 gene showed significantly increased methylation of normal colonic mucosae from UC-CRC vs. LS patients (p value=0.01). Conclusion- UC-CRC and LS tumor specimens revealed varying frequencies of hypermethylation in all the inflammatory genes. Methylation of the NTSR1 in the normal colonic mucosa suggests a possible field defect in UC-CRC, and could thus be used as an early biomarker to detect increased UC-CRC risk in non-neoplastic epithelium.
  • 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.
  • Rahnasto, Johanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    Preeclampsia is a vascular pregnancy disorder characterized by new-onset hypertension and proteinuria and/or new-onset preeclampsia associated symptoms during the second half of pregnancy. The pathophysiology of the disorder is not fully understood, but incomplete placentation and maternal tolerance towards fetal tissue are known to play a part in the disease pathogenesis. Predisposing factors include nulliparity, obesity, diabetes, chronic hypertension and autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, women who have experienced preeclampsia are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease later in life. One established biomarker for preeclampsia is the increased concentration of the soluble Fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 (sFlt1) in the maternal serum. sFlt1 is frequently overexpressed in preeclampsia and it is linked with angiogenic imbalance and endothelial dysfunction, although its role in the disorder is not completely clear. Preeclampsia has a genetic background. There are protective and predisposing variants in and near the Fms related tyrosine kinase 1 gene (FLT1; coding for sFlt1) that have been associated with preeclampsia either in the mother or in the fetus. In this study, five genetic polymorphisms over a 2.3 kb region in the 3’ untranslated region of FLT1 were genotyped by Sanger sequencing and fragment analysis in altogether 1200 individuals consisting of case and control mother–child pairs of the Finnish Genetics of Pre-eclampsia Consortium (FINNPEC) cohort. These polymorphisms were tested for association with various preeclampsia-related phenotypes by Fisher’s exact test. In the maternal genome, the minor alleles of rs17086497 and rs57760154 were associated with extreme hypertension (systolic blood pressure >180 mmHg) (p=0.004, OR=1.77) and obesity (p=0.023, OR=1.63). Homozygosity for these minor alleles was associated with pregnancy complications in general (p=0.026, OR=2.53) and the early-onset form of preeclampsia (p=0.004, OR=3.34). Additionally, the minor alleles of rs9554314, rs3138582 and rs149279513 were associated with extreme hypertension (p=0.045, OR=1.63) and obesity (p=0.023, OR=1.78). Moreover, a suggestive association to severe proteinuria (> 5 g/24h) was found in the maternal genome. In the fetal genome, significant negative associations were reached for rs17086497 and rs57760154 in terms of the serum concentration of sFlt1 in the preeclampsia group (p=0.008, OR=0.23). Overall, the results seem to link the studied region in the maternal genome to preeclampsia with severe features. This supports the idea of preeclampsia as a heterogeneous disorder with varying etiology and mechanisms and thus highlights the importance of differentiating between the various sub-phenotypes. For example, the association of the same allele in the fetal genome with lower maternal sFlt1 levels and in the maternal genome with severe symptoms of preeclampsia suggests that the sFlt1 level might not be a good measure in all patients. Additionally, the observed associations with extreme hypertension and obesity point to the possibility that this region might be relevant for the endothelial damage that is thought to be a central factor in creating the later-in-life disease susceptibility.
  • Viitanen, Arto I. (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    The intestinal stem cells (ISC) are responsible for the regeneration of the intestine epithelial barrier after acute injury and for the replenishment of its cells overall. How the ISC activation and resulting proliferation is controlled is complex and still under study. The ISCs of the midgut, which is the functional analogue to mammalian small intestine, are also highly responsive to changes in nutrition, and with proper methodologies it is possible to study the effects of diet on stem cell activation. The metabolic flux of the nutritional components of the diet can then shed light on which metabolic pathways are necessary for nutrient-dependent proliferation. One nutrient that has garnered interest is glutamine (Gln). It is well established that glutamine supplementation can in parenterally fed patients diminish intestinal barrier atrophy, extend the time the patient can be kept under the regime, and increase survivability of critically ill patients. Consequently, glutamine or its downstream metabolites may have stem cell activating characteristics. However, the exact regulatory mechanisms and specific effects of Gln are not well known, and studies have found contradictory results on the beneficial effects of Gln supplementation. Glutamine itself is a conditionally essential amino acid that has a variety of functions: it is an important source of nitrogen and cellular energy and contributes carbon into the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCA) and is involved in protein and nucleotide synthesis. In this thesis, the effects of Gln supplementation on the cell populations of D. melanogaster were studied via microscopy and computational analysis. Cross-breeds of fruit fly were established to lineage label the ISC with a GAL4/UAS driver system. Confocal microscope was used to image the midguts which were then analysed with Imaris software. A novel analysis method was developed to study population changes and varying features of the cells in the midgut in an unprecedented region-by-region bulk analysis. Earlier studies into nutrient control of ISC have had limited focus within the midgut and might have consequently given a restricted view of ISC activation. This new Longitudinal Analysis of Midgut (LAM) can be utilized in a diverse set of further studies to describe conditional variation within midgut, and possibly other tissues. Gln was found to increase total cell numbers to comparable levels with well-fed midguts, and to drive limited endoreplication in enterocytes. Lineage labelled cell population grew primarily in the R3 and R4 regions of the midgut. Additionally, enteroendocrine cells (EE) were greatly increased in the posterior part of R3 but had conceivable minor increases along the whole length of the midgut. Improved nutrition was also found to affect the proportions of the midgut, presenting itself as elongated posterior and stunted anterior. Overall, the pipeline and analysis method established during this study enable more expeditious research of effects of other nutritional components and allows for study of effects of other mechanisms, for example how gene knock-downs or altered gene activities affect cell populations of the midgut.
  • 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.
  • Pezzutto, Denise (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    Antimicrobial resistance is an emerging concern at the global scale, threatening the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating bacterial infections. Among anthropogenically impacted environments, wastewater treatment plants have been indicated as possible reservoirs of antibiotic resistance genes, putative hotspots for their horizontal gene transfer, and a source of their dissemination to the environment. Generally, the abundance of antibiotic resistance genes is reduced during the wastewater treatment process. However, some genes were shown to be enriched in purified effluent water and dried sludge, which are then released to the environment, compared to influent water. Also, the taxonomy of the hosts carrying antibiotic resistance genes could change as a result of horizontal gene transfer events. The aim of this study was to analyse and compare the host range of a series of antibiotic resistance genes in influent water, effluent water and dried sludge collected from the Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant in Helsinki, Finland, by applying Emulsion, Paired Isolation and Concatenation PCR (epicPCR). EpicPCR is a method that can link a gene of interest to the 16S rRNA gene from the genome of the host bacterium, without any cultivation step. The abundance of the hosts was also evaluated by sequencing the 16S rRNA gene from the whole bacterial community. In several cases, the target antibiotic resistance genes (blaIMP, blaNDM, ermB, ermF, sul1 and strB) were carried in effluent water and dried sludge by taxa that were not hosting them in influent water, suggesting that horizontal gene transfer events might have occurred during the treatment. All the examined genes were detected both in abundant and in rare taxa, including genera that also comprise pathogenic species, such as Arcobacter and Acinetobacter. Some of the detected hosts were not previously known to show resistant phenotypes, namely members of the family Methylophilaceae. These results corroborate the idea that wastewater treatment plants might be hotspots for the horizontal gene transfer of resistance determinants, and potentially disseminate antibiotic resistant pathogens to the environment. However, in order to ensure the accuracy of the results, the limits of epicPCR as a method need to be identified and addressed.
  • Savelius, Mariel (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Breast cancer remains as the leading cause of cancer deaths among women. Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is one of the most aggressive breast cancer subtypes and lacks targetable receptors, consequently, cannot be treated with current hormone of anti-HER2 targeting therapies. Thus, there is a need for discovering novel and well-tolerated therapies. MYC is a proto-oncogene and a transcription factor, that is frequently amplified and overexpressed in breast cancers. MYC is involved in many cellular processes promoting cell proliferation, however, overexpression of MYC can also sensitize cells to replicative stress and apoptotic cell death. In our previous studies we have shown that pharmacological activation of AMPK, a cellular energy sensor, synergises with Bcl-2 family inhibitors, such as navitoclax and venetoclax, and activates MYC-dependent apoptosis in breast cancer cell lines, transgenic mouse models of MYC-dependent mammary tumorigenesis and in MYC-high patient-derived explant cultures (PDECs). In subsequent study we observed, that indirect AMPK activator metformin alone inhibited tumor growth in vivo, but did not induce apoptosis in mouse tumors or in PDECs. Metformin, a type II diabetes mellitus drug, has shown anti-cancer effects in some population studies and is under investigation for a cancer therapies, however the whole mechanism of action in cancer is still not well-known. To elucidate metformin’s effects on MYC overexpressing triple-negative breast cancer cells, I will present, that metformin has anti-proliferative effects and show that long term metformin treatment induces senescence biomarkers in MYC-high TNBC breast cancer cell lines. To study metformin's short and long-term anti-proliferative activity, cell proliferation during and after drug treatment was investigated, which showed, that metformin’s effects do not seem to persist long after drug withdrawal. In conclusion, the key observation of this thesis was, that metformin does inhibit the proliferation of MYC overexpressing cancer cells and presents a senescence phenotype that possibly can be exploited to find new targeted therapies for triple-negative breast cancer patients.
  • 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.