Genome editing using site-specific nucleases: targeting highly expressed genomic regions for robust transgene expression and genetic analysis
Tennant, Peter Andrew
MetadataShow full item record
Integration and expression of exogenous genetic material – in particular, transgenes – into the genomes of model organisms, cell lines or patients is widely used for the creation of genetically modified experimental systems and gene therapy. However, loss of transgene expression due to silencing is still a major hurdle which remains to be overcome. Judicious selection of integration loci can help alleviate the risk of silencing; in recent years the ability to efficiently and specifically target transgene integration has been improved by the advent of site-specific nucleases (SSNs). SSNs can be used to generate double strand breaks (DSBs) in a targeted manner, which increases the efficiency of homologous recombination (HR) mediated transgene integration into predetermined loci. In this work I investigate four human genomic loci for their potential to act as transgene integration sites which will support robust long term expression: the adeno-associated virus (AAV) integration site 1 (AAVS1); the human homologue of the mouse Rosa26 locus (hROSA26); the inosine monophosphate dehydrogenase 2 (IMPDH2) gene and the eukaryotic translation elongation factor 1 alpha 1 (EEF1A1) gene. I also investigate the potential of creating a novel drug-selectable transgene integration system at the IMPDH2 locus to allow for rapid and specific selection of correctly inserted transgenes. In addition to their ability to drive targeted transgene integration, SSNs can be harnessed to specifically disrupt gene function through indel formation following erroneous repair of the induced DSB. Using this strategy, I aimed to answer some important biological questions about eukaryotic translation elongation factor 1 alpha (eEF1A); eEF1A is responsible for providing aminoacylated tRNAs to the ribosome during the elongation phase of protein synthesis. Humans and other vertebrates express two isoforms, eEF1A1 and eEF1A2 (encoded by EEF1A1 and EEF1A2 respectively). During development eEF1A1 is replaced by eEF1A2 in some tissues. The reasons for this remain elusive, but one explanation may lie in the moonlighting functions of eEF1A1, which may not be shared by eEF1A2. Additionally, eEF1A2 can act as an oncogene, while there is no evidence that eEF1A1 is overexpressed in tumours. To begin to untangle these issues I targeted EEF1A1 using SSNs with the aim of making a cell line expressing only the eEF1A2 isoform. This work suggests that eEF1A1 may be essential even in the presence of eEF1A2, though further studies will be required to confirm this.