Browsing by Subject "Master's Programme in Genetics and Molecular Biosciences"

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  • Juntunen, Valtteri (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    Adeno-Associated Viruses (AAVs) are quickly becoming one of the most applied vectors for gene therapy applications. In the recent years three new AAV-based gene therapies have been approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA). The regulatory bodies require accurate and reliable characterisation of the clinical grade viral vectors during and after production. Analytic methods measuring the purity, potency and safety of the product support the up-stream and down-stream processes during the production and are used for final-drug substance characterisation. Median Tissue Culture Infectious Dose (TCID50) is a well-established method for measuring the infectious titer of a virus. Here, an assay for determining the infectious titer of AAVs, which has previously been used to characterise the existing AAV2 Reference Standard Material (AAV2RSM) was set up and optimised for research use at Kuopio Center for Gene and Cell Therapy (KCT). The assay utilizes the HeRC32-cell line, a HeLa clone, that stably expresses AAV Rep and Cap -proteins and in presence of adenovirus, enables the replication of recombinant AAV-vectors. The cells were grown in 96-well plates and infected with 10-fold dilution series of AAV vectors (AAV2 and AAV6) using human adenovirus type 5 as the co-infector. 72 hours post infection the vector genome replication of AAV was detected with quantitative PCR (qPCR). Thresholds for qPCR determined copy number and cycle threshold (Ct) were set and used for the determination of infection-positive wells. The 50-percent endpoint was observed and used to calculate the infectious titer according to the Spearman-Kärber method. The assay was set up and optimised with the AAV2 Reference standard material (AAV2RSM) using two different primer-probe sets (targeted sequences were; SV40 polyadenylation signal and AAV inverted terminal repeats (ITRs)). Plates infected with AAV2RSM were analysed separately with both primers resulting in mean infectious titers of 8.07 ± 3.13 x 108 TCID50 Infectious Units (IU) / mL (n = 9) and 1.27 ± 0.464 x 109 TCID50 IU/mL (n = 9) for SV40 and ITR, respectively. After the assay was set up with the AAV2RSM, an in-house AAV6 product was analysed with the ITR primers yielding 6.09 ± 3.94 x 109 TCID50 (IU) / mL (n = 5). The assay protocol was successfully set up for research use at the KCT laboratory. Improvements were added to the original protocol to increase assay robustness, accuracy and precision as well as to minimize the possibility of over-estimation of the infectious titer. The assay can be further optimised for a particular therapeutic AAV product in the research laboratory or technology transferred to a production facility for optimisation and validation for the analytics needs of a production pipeline.
  • Suonto, Lotta (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    Amelogenesis Imperfecta (AI) is a group of hereditary diseases where tooth enamel is abnormally formed. This disease has been found in Lancashire Heeler dogs. However, none of the mutations known to cause AI in canine, explain the disease in the Lancashire Heeler population. A research study was initiated to investigate the genetic background of the disease in the breed. Based on the pedigree data the disease was suggested to be inherited as an autosomal recessive disease. Whole-exome sequencing of two affected dogs was performed which revealed a plausible candidate variant in a gene regulating intracellular calcium concentration. The aim of this study was to examine whether the mutation in the candidate gene causes AI. The DNA were extracted from blood samples of 249 Lancashire Heelers. A genome-wide SNP genotyping was conducted on four cases and a homozygosity mapping was performed. The candidate variant was genotyped in a large cohort of Lancashire Heelers (n=249) and dogs from related breeds (n=91) to confirm the association with the disease. The expression of the candidate gene in lymphocytes was studied with RT-PCR. Clinical studies were performed to evaluate the clinical features and serum calcium levels were measured. The segregation of genotypes and phenotypes of the dogs was complete. The identified variant is predicted to cause a premature STOP codon, which, if translated, leads to a truncated protein lacking protein transmembrane domains. According to the results acquired from RT-PCR, it is possible that the protein will complete the translation despite the mutation. Clinical studies did not reveal other clinical features than enamel defects and serum calcium levels were normal. According to the results, we suggest that the identified variant is causal for AI in Lancashire Heelers. The results have significant impact because no other genetic connection between the gene and AI has been found before. Consequently, the development of a gene test is possible, creating multiple opportunities for researchers and veterinary medicine. The results are applicable also to human medicine. However, we need more research to achieve a complete understanding of the mutation and its effects.
  • 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.
  • Butkovic, Rebeka (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Autophagy is a cellular recycling and quality control process that eliminates cellular material in a non-selective or selective fashion. Macroautophagy is non-selective, and degrades macromolecules or damaged organelles to sustain cellular homeostasis. The selective autophagy of dysfunctional or excess mitochondria is known as mitophagy. The clinical importance of functional degradation is exemplified by the lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs), where lysosomal hydrolytic enzymes are absent or dysfunctional. Previous investigations of a rare infantile LSD indicated a change in autophagy and decreased mitochondrial content. The aim of this MSc thesis was to quantitatively compare macroautophagy and mitophagy in a cellular model of this rare LSD, by generating fluorescent macroautophagy and mitophagy reporter-expressing cell lines from patient material. Fibroblasts derived from patients diagnosed with a rare infantile LSD were transduced with lentiviruses carrying either mCherry-GFP-LC3 or mito-QC reporters, for the microscopic analysis of autophagy and mitophagy, respectively. I also monitored autophagic flux by traditional biochemistry in untreated and starved cells, in the presence or absence of lysosomal inhibitors (bafilomycin A1). Basal and iron-depletion induced mitophagy was profiled using confocal microscopy, quantitative cell biology and biochemistry. My findings suggest differential autophagic turnover in LSD patient-derived fibroblasts, with a marked accumulation of non-acidified autophagic structures. Basal mitophagy was elevated in two out of three LSD patient cell lines compared to unaffected controls. LSD patient cells exhibited altered mitochondrial content and network architecture compared to controls. These phenotypes were accompanied by distinct changes in the endo-lysosomal system and increased cell size. The patient-derived cells exhibit a profound accumulation of lysosomes and autophagic structures. My findings are in accordance with previous research in the field, suggesting perturbed macroautophagy in this rare LSD. The observations of altered mitochondrial homeostasis in this LSD provide a basis for future investigation. The reporter-expressing cells, generated as part of this MSc thesis project, will enable future studies of mechanisms that underlie phenotypic changes, and will complement essential in vivo work in this area.
  • 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.
  • Mantela, Fanni (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    There are no comprehensive research data on Finnish matriculation examinations in biology. This type of data is needed, because evaluation guides what and how students learn and what they consider important. Genetics is one the most challenging topics in biology, and in the opinion of teachers it will continue to be an important discipline in the future. The importance of studying genetics can also be justified with philosophical, social and health reasons. This is why the present study focused on the genetics component of the matriculation exam in biology. The aim of the study was to provide information on the challenges and contents of past matriculation examinations in biology and how they have aligned with high school curricula. The results of the study could be used to evaluate this alignment in relation to genetics questions in the biology exam, and could help in designing new matriculation examinations that align better with the existing high or new high school curricula and their aims. The research questions were: 1. What knowledge and cognitive dimensions are measured with the genetics-related questions in matriculation examinations in biology? 2. How do knowledge and cognitive dimensions in genetics-related questions in biology matriculation examinations relate to high school curriculum aims? The data comprised matriculation examination papers in biology from spring 2011 to autumn 2020 (20 exams) and the aims of the Finnish national High School Curriculum in 2003 and in 2015. Qualitative content analysis was performed on the knowledge dimensions (factual, conceptual or procedural knowledge) and the cognitive process dimensions (remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating or creating). The basis of this qualitative content analysis was Bloom’s revised taxonomy. The analysis was conducted on genetics-related matriculation examination questions and on the aims of the high school curriculum. The test questions and the aims were compared to determine whether they aligned. Classified questions were divided into two subcategories depending on which high school curricula they corresponded to. Genetics-related questions from spring 2011 to autumn 2017 corresponded to the High School Curriculum in 2003 and questions from spring 2018 to autumn 2020 corresponded to the High School Curriculum in 2015. Questions from the previous period were divided into all knowledge dimensions. All questions, except one, incorporated lower cognitive dimensions (remembering, understanding and applying). The main combined class was understanding conceptual knowledge. Questions from the later time period were also divided into all knowledge dimensions. Mostly lower cognitive dimensions were incorporated into the questions, but a few subquestions addressed higher cognitive dimensions (analyzing, evaluating and creating). The main combined class was understanding conceptual knowledge. All the aims were classified into conceptual or procedural knowledge classes. The aims were also divided between all cognitive dimensions, except remembering. Using constructive alignment as the basis for matching aims with questions, two aims in the High School Curriculum of 2003 and six aims in the High School Curriculum of 2015 had no questions that matched them. These aims mostly measured the cognitive dimension of creating. Several aims appeared to incorporate higher cognitive dimensions, but the questions were less well aligned with the aims than with those incorporating lower cognitive dimensions. The results concerning knowledge and cognitive dimensions were mostly as expected. Lower cognitive dimensions were highlighted in genetics-related matriculation examination questions in biology. The challenge of interpretation brought ambiguity to the aims and cumulative levels of cognitive dimensions when aligning questions with aims, as some of the questions aligned with aims did not assess such high cognitive dimensions as would be expected based on the aims, but were nonetheless aligned with them. Furthermore, there may be several reasons behind the absence of the creating dimension in matriculation examination questions. The alignment of questions and aims would be important to consider in the future, because evaluation has a considerable impact on studying.
  • 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.
  • Larkiala, Taru (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Calsyntenin-3 is a type I transmembrane protein, that is mainly expressed on the post-synaptic cell membranes. It belongs to the calsyntenin family that is part of the cadherin superfamily. Calsyntenin-3 consists of a cytosolic C-terminal region, a transmembrane domain and an extracellular N-terminal part, that consists of a laminin G-like domain (LNS) and two cadherin domains (CAD). Calsyntenin-3 is mainly expressed in the brain, but it can also be found in the heart, liver, pancreas, lung, skeletal muscle and placenta. Calsyntenin-3 has an effect on neurogenesis by affecting the development of excitatory and inhibitory synapses. It might also play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, as it has been found to be able to bind β-amyloid peptide, that is known to play a key role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Calsyntenin-3 acts as a synaptic adhesion protein, that binds to the post-synaptic neurexins with its extracellular region. However, the previous studies have contradicting results regarding the calsyntenin-3 domains that mediate the interaction between the calsyntenin-3 and neurexins. There is also disagreement whether calsyntenin-3 binds neurexin-α, neurexin-β or both. Because of these discrepancies, the aim of this master’s thesis study was to produce the calsyntenin-3 ectodomain constructs that contained either the two CAD domains, the LNS domain or all three domains, using baculovirus mediated protein production in insect cell cultures. These purified protein constructs were meant to be used for the determination of the binding domains. Unfortunately, only the purification of the calsyntenin-3 LNS domain was successful and the purification of the constructs, containing the CAD domains, was unsuccessful. A SEC-MALLS experiment, that was performed for the calsyntenin-3 LNS domain, revealed that it forms dimers in a solution, which is consistent with experiments performed with the LNS domain of human sex hormone‐binding globulin. The second aim of this master’s thesis study was to express the calsyntenin-3 ectodomain constructs on the surface of HEK293T cells and to test the binding between calsyntenin-3 and neurexins in a cell surface binding assay. The results of the cell surface binding assay indicated that the binding is mediated by the calsyntenin-3 CAD domains and that calsyntenin-3 binds to neurexin-α, but the binding to neurexin-β was not detected. However, the results from the cell surface binding assay were conflicting: the binding between the calsyntenin-3 full ectodomain construct and neurexin-α was not detected, but the binding was detected between calsyntenin-3 CAD ectodomain construct and neurexin-α. Therefore, the cell surface binding assay cannot be considered entirely reliable and should be repeated before making further conclusions.
  • 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.
  • Lamichane, Nicole (Helsingin yliopisto, 2019)
    Over the past years sugar consumption has seen great increases worldwide, together with a rise in the prevalence of metabolic diseases. There is a growing need for a comprehensive characterisation of the genes involved in sugar metabolism, yet the mechanisms by which cells sense and respond to sugars in vivo have remained incompletely understood. Here, I analyse members of a protein family best known for their regulation of differentiation during development with regards to their role in sugar metabolism. The Hairy and Enhancer of Split (HES) protein family are a group of basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factors that function as major downstream effectors of the Notch signalling pathway. In mammals, the HES proteins have mostly been studied for their role in cell differentiation, but HES1 has been implicated in metabolic control. Drosophila has several transcription factors belonging to the HES family, including Hairy and seven bHLH transcription factors located in the Enhancer of split complex (E(spl)-C). The E(spl)-C bHLH transcription factors display high homology and are considered to be genetically redundant, and therefore little is known about their individual functions. The other HES family members in Drosophila have not previously been linked to metabolic regulation, but Hairy has been shown to repress the tricarboxylic acid cycle. In light of the findings implicating HES1 and Hairy in the regulation of metabolism, I systematically investigated the role of the HES transcription factors in sugar metabolism. By using the GAL4/UAS system in Drosophila melanogaster, I knocked down gene expression of each of the family members, and raised the flies on diets varying in sugar content to identify possible sugar intolerance phenotypes. Here, I show that knockdown of one of the E(spl)-C bHLH genes led to severe sugar intolerance that affected both survival and organismal growth, but did not alter the levels of circulating carbohydrates and storage lipids as measured with colorimetric assays and lipid staining. Furthermore, I identify the tissues in which this transcription factor functions to provide sugar tolerance. Using analysis of publically available chromatin-immunoprecipitation sequencing data coupled with quantitative RT-PCR, I uncover mTOR target Thor/4E-BP as a putative target gene. Additionally, I show that Hairy is similarly required for complete sugar tolerance, but that the mechanism differs from the E(spl)-C bHLH transcription factor. Hairy binds to and positively regulates expression of genes involved in glycolysis and the pentose phosphate pathway, suggestive of a cooperation with earlier known regulators of sugar sensing. In conclusion, I have shown that only two HES family members are involved in the regulation of sugar metabolism and that their regulatory mechanisms are distinct, implying that the HES family members have more diverse roles than previously assumed.
  • Puutio, Johanna (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are phospholipid bilayer-enclosed nanoparticles that are secreted by eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells. EVs carry macromolecules and signalling molecules to adjacent cells and play an important role in intercellular communication under both pathologic and homeostatic conditions. Therefore, they have become of significant interest for their therapeutic, diagnostic and prognostic potential. EVs are small and highly heterogeneous in size, shape, cargo and membrane composition, posing several challenges for establishing analytical and clinical guidelines. Therefore, EV research requires standardized and robust methods for their separation and characterization. In this study physical and immunochemical methods were employed to characterize human platelet-derived EVs (pEVs) generated from platelets activated with different external biochemical stimuli. The platelet-activating effect of the pro-inflammatory S100A8/A9 protein complex and a combination of thrombin and collagen were studied with nano flow cytometry. The size distribution of pEVs was studied with nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA) and asymmetrical flow field-flow fractionation (AF4), which represents a newly emerging method on the EV field. Finally, fluorescent labelling and co-localization analysis were employed to characterize membrane marker composition of pEVs and assess its usefulness as an analytic tool for EV research. We succeeded in providing new hints towards meaningful discoveries in platelet biology by characterizing the way platelets respond to inflammatory and hemostatic signals by shedding pEVs. When platelet activation markers are characterized with flow cytometry, the S100A8/A9 protein appeared to cause a shift in membrane activation markers when compared to the thrombin- collagen mix and the baseline control. Increased TLT-1 translocation and decreased integrin αIIbβ3 expression on pEV surfaces suggests that S100A8/A9 induced pEV secretion through differently packed platelet α-granules, rather than from the plasma membrane. An increase in TLT-1 expression compared to decreased P-selectin and αIIbβ3 suggests that S100A8/A9 stimulation shifts platelet phenotype towards secretion rather than aggregation. A protocol for small pEV separation with AF4-MALS was set up. With this method, subtle differences between small pEV populations were seen that were not distinguishable with NTA or flow cytometry. When investigated with AF4-MALS, S100A8/A9 induced pEVs appeared larger than those produced with thrombin- collagen activation. The mean particle sizes of the pEV populations obtained from activated platelets were generally also larger than those produced without an activator. We tested novel methods to detect subtle differences in small EV population sizes that are easily missed with conventional methods due to their technical limitations. A well-optimised AF4 protocol can detect different pEV subpopulations and is a promising tool for EV. In the future, when AF4 is combined with a MALS detector and a fraction collector, nanoimaging of fluorescently labelled EVs could be combined with it as a downstream application to obtain information on their versatile biological functions.
  • 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.
  • Avdonin, Savva (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    Tiivistelmä – Referat – Abstract ROS or Reactive Oxygen Species can be found throughout all living organisms on the planet. Without ROS, processes, which are essential for the sustainment of most living organisms, such as respiration would not be possible. On the other hand, uncontrolled ROS generation can cause severe damage to the cellular structure. The family of ROS includes multiple compounds, which share a common trait of high chemical activity. ROS can be produced on demand by specific enzymes which are localized within cellular structures, such as membranes. One group of enzymes is called NADPH (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate) oxidases. These enzymes possess common structure which is composed of transmembrane region with multiple loop helixes and usually two or more terminal motifs, which are devised into regulatory EF-hand motifs and catalytic motifs. NADPH oxidases are essential ROS producers and can be found throughout most clades of living organism and are widely represented in different cellular compartments and distributed across different tissues in multicellular organisms. As an example, Nox family of NADPH oxidases can be found in human tissues and immune cells. Another common group of NADPH oxidases is respiratory burst oxidase homologues (RBOH) can be found in plants. Members of this group play important role in plant immune defense against pathogens. One example is AtRBOHD, which is expressed in Arabidopsis genus of plants. Upon activation, these enzymes are known to produce hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) as mean of antibacterial defense. These host defense mechanisms are known to be driven by different signaling molecules. It has been determined that in some examples of NADPH Oxidases, including Nox5 and RBOHD, the state of activation can be induced through the effects of Ca2+ ions. Moreover, it has been determined, that ROS-producing state of these NADPH oxidases is achieved through change of conformation. This change in conformation is attributed to the different modes of interaction of motifs of oxidases, which are dependent on concentration of bivalent cation Ca2+. Previous research regarding intramolecular interactions within specific NADPH oxidase- Nox5β has been performed by multiple research teams and different sources appear to contradict each other on the exact mode of interaction of Nox5β EF-hand upon presence of Ca2+. Therefore the exact interaction model of terminals of Nox5β is unclear. In addition, the effect of presence of Ca2+ on the interaction terminals in another representative of NADPH oxidases- AtRBOHD, which possess highly analogous molecular structure of catalytic C-terminus to Nox5β, has never been thoroughly studied, as well as interactive cross-compatibility of the C and N terminals from these two distinct species of NADPH oxidases. The objectives of this research are to analyze intramolecular interactions of N- and C- terminals in Arabidopsis RBOHD and Human Nox5β upon presence of ionic calcium, compare Ca2+-induced terminals interactions in said oxidases and to establish possible cross-compatibility of terminals in these two distinct NADPH oxidase species. Practical aspects of this research included cloning the C- and N- cytoplasmic regions of Nox5β and AtRBOHD into bacterial expression vectors utilizing the PIPE cloning method, heterologous production of epitope-tagged tails of NOX5β and RBOHD in E. Coli BL21 and finally in-vitro pull-down assays to analyse the interactions of the tails upon the presence of Ca2+ as well as interactive cross-compatibility of these tails. By utilizing methods mentioned above, this research has demonstrated that interactions of terminals motifs both in Nox5β and AtRBOHD are possible even in calcium-deprived environment, which was achieved through use calcium-binding agent (EDTA) and the effect of calcium on interactions of terminals both in RBOHD and Nox5β is very limited if not insignificant. This research has also demonstrated that the cross-compatible interactions between terminals of Nox5β and AtRBOHD are possible. Results of this research indicate a strong structural conservation within NADPH oxidases, which indicates similar intramolecular interaction mechanisms within two highly diverged species. These findings may prove to be useful as a background for the future research regarding ROS producing enzymes and evolutional conservation in structures of oxidases.
  • 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.
  • Sket, Tina (Helsingin yliopisto, 2020)
    Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress is caused by the accumulation of unfolded proteins in the ER, which leads to the activation of unfolded protein response (UPR) through three transmembrane protein sensors located in the ER membrane. The sensors correspond to three branches of the UPR, namely protein kinase RNA-like endoplasmic reticulum kinase (PERK), activating transcription factor 6 (ATF6), and inositol-requiring enzyme 1 (IRE1) branches. Upon ER stress, IRE1 dimerizes and oligomerizes, and its endonuclease domain is activated. It specifically targets X-box-binding protein 1 (XBP1) mRNA, from which a 26 nt intron is spliced. This allows a complete translation of spliced XBP1 mRNA into a functional protein that acts as a transcription factor. Together with the other pathways, the UPR leads to a decrease in the protein folding load by causing a reduction in the general level of protein translation, and by inducing the expression of protein folding machinery. However, if the UPR is activated continuously for a long time, the apoptotic pathway will be triggered, and the cell will die. ER stress and UPR are associated with various disorders, such as some types of cancer, diabetes, chronic inflammatory syndromes, and particularly neurodegeneration. For example, in Parkinson’s disease, it was suggested that prolonged ER stress induces the extensive apoptosis of dopaminergic neurons in substantia nigra pars compacta region of the midbrain. This hinders the normal functioning of the nigrostriatal pathway, and hence results in the progressive development of Parkinson’s motor symptoms. In order to study the regulation or IRE1 branch of the UPR, and to identify the ER-stress-modulating compounds, a human luciferase reporter cell line (XBP1-NLuc) was created in this work. The reporter was expressed when IRE1 splicing was activated, since the XBP1 intron fragment was fused to the Nano luciferase gene. The expression of the reporter was observed with luciferase assay at several time points during treatments. The treatments were done with ER stress inducers thapsigargin and tunicamycin, and with IRE1 inhibitors KIRA6 and 4μ8c, or the combination of those. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) was used to validate the expression of the reporter and to monitor the expression of the other branches of the UPR. Additionally, the oligomerization of IRE1 was observed with IRE1-GFP cell line that was treated identically to the XBP1-NLuc cell line, fixed, stained for nuclei, and imaged with fluorescent microscopy. After imaging, the IRE1-GFP clusters were analysed and quantified with CellProfiller and CellAnalyst softwares. Both cell lines were used to test the effect of neurotrophic factors CDNF, MANF, and MANF mutant isomers on the UPR with and without tunicamycin treatment. Collectively, the experiments confirmed that XBP1-NLuc cell line was created successfully and that it accurately reports IRE1 splicing activity. As expected, ER stress treatment increased the reporter expression, while IRE1 inhibitors decreased the expression of the reporter. qPCR revealed that the other observed UPR markers were activated as well upon thapsigargin treatment, however, they were not decreased with the treatment with IRE1 specific inhibitors. In line with XBP1-NLuc cell line, the IRE1-GFP cell line demonstrated an increased oligomerization of IRE1 upon ER stress induction. The KIRA6 inhibitor of IRE1, which prevents IRE1 oligomerization, decreased the formation of IRE1-GFP clusters. Additionally, the IRE1-endonuclease-activity inhibitor 4μ8c induced the formation of IRE1-GFP clusters. Curiously, the distribution of the intensity of IRE1-GFP clusters was bimodal and could point to two manners of IRE1 clustering and/or activation. Together, the experiments done with cells transfected with CDNF, MANF or MANF mutants, suggested that the tested neurotrophic factors decreased IRE1 oligomerization and its activation. However, there were substantial problems in the quantification of viable cells, which should be considered in the interpretation of these results. No significant difference among the tested neurotrophic factors was observed. In conclusion, the XBP1-NLuc reporter cell line provided a reliable reporter of IRE1 endonuclease activity, whose expression is increased during the ER stress. Together with IRE1-GFP cell line, it revealed the amount of IRE1 oligomerization and activation under various treatments and at different time points relative to treatments. Due to the effectiveness and accuracy, the XBP1-NLuc cell line can be further used in studying the regulation and activation of IRE1, as well as for the identification of ER-stress modulating molecules, which can be used for development of novel treatments for ER stress associated diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.
  • Hakosalo, Vili (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most common neurogenerative disease. There are no drugs available to halt the progression of PD. The glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) has been identified as a potential drug candidate against PD because of its protective properties on dopaminergic neurons, which are an especially vulnerable cell population in PD. It has been recently shown that GDNF can also attenuate aggregation of phosphorylated α-synuclein in dopaminergic neurons, which is one of the most important pathologies of PD. Phosphorylated α-synuclein is a primary component of Lewy bodies, which in turn, are vastly studied intracellular inclusions with a high correlation towards neurodegenerative diseases. GDNF signals through its main receptor RET and activates downstream signalling cascades. RET is indispensable for the effect of GDNF against α-synuclein aggregation. Importance of the downstream molecules Src, AKT and PI3K have been also pharmacologically demonstrated. However, complete mechanism of GNDF’s action and individual importance of downstream signalling molecules has been yet to establish. CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing tool has revolutionized the gene manipulation in biological research. In this thesis work, CRISPR/Cas9 guides were designed to target and mutate the c-Src, Akt1 and NURR1, which are important proteins of the GDNF/RET pathway. As a delivery system for the Cas9 enzyme and individual guides, lentiviral vectors were produced according to the protocols previously established in our laboratory and proved to be high efficiency. Modelling of α-synuclein aggregation in neurons was performed with pre-formed fibrils of α-synuclein, which induce the formation of intracellular Lewy body-like inclusions with the phosphorylation of α-synuclein at serine 129. In this study, primary dopaminergic neuron cultures from E13.5 mouse embryos were cultured in 96-well plates. For each of the target genes, I designed two guide variants, cloned them in lentiviral transfer vectors and produced lentiviral particles for neuronal transduction. My data shows that targeting Akt1 and c-Src impaired the protective mechanism of GDNF against Lewy body-like inclusions. For the importance of NURR1 more studies are needed for coherent conclusions. I also showed that targeting of NURR1 impaired the GDNF/RET signalling at least in one guide construct. The 15-day long cultivation did not affect to the dopaminergic cell numbers in any of the groups. Still the confirmation of successful CRISPR-induced genetic mutations by sequencing as well as the detailed mechanism of how GDNF prevents the formation of Lewy body-like inclusions will be a subject of future studies. This thesis provides important information for the molecular mechanism of attenuation of α-synuclein aggregation by GDNF through its main receptor RET.
  • Silfvast, Josetta (Helsingin yliopisto, 2021)
    The signal recognition particle (SRP) targets newly synthesized secretory and membrane proteins from the cytosol to the translocon complex on the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. This highly specific co-translational protein targeting is essential for proteostasis by preventing the accumulation of proteins in the cytosol and the mistargeting of proteins. Defects in the SRP68 and SRP72 subunits of eukaryotic SRP have been linked to various inflammatory muscle diseases such as myopathy and myositis. The full role of these subunits in protein targeting and regulation of targeting is unknown. Previously the yeast SRP72 subunit has been degraded using an auxin-inducible degron (AID) system to explore the effect of depletion on protein targeting and cell viability, but the mammalian SRP72-AID has not yet been studied. The aim of this study was to deplete the mammalian SRP68 and SRP72 subunits using the AID system. This study revealed that in the case of SRP68-AID, approximately 65% of the protein is degraded after 2 hours. Respectively, 75% of SRP72-AID degrades after 2 hours and 85% after 4 hours. However, complete depletion of subunits was not achieved during 24 hours of auxin treatment. Quantification of depletion also showed that the strongest decrease in SRP occurs during the first 2 hours. This study demonstrated that mammalian SRP subunits can be depleted using the AID system, providing a good basis for further research to examine the effect of subunit depletion on protein targeting. This may help to solve the mechanisms of diseases associated with SRP68 and SRP72 defects and to develop therapeutics for them.