Quantifying the activity of cis-regulatory elements in the mouse retina by explant electroporation

Montana CL, Myers CA, Corbo JC (2011). J Vis Exp, pii:2821
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Abstract

Transcription factors within cellular gene networks control the spatiotemporal pattern and levels of expression of their target genes by binding to cis-regulatory elements (CREs), short (˜300-600 bp) stretches of genomic DNA which can lie upstream, downstream, or within the introns of the genes they control. CREs (i.e., enhancers/promoters) typically consist of multiple clustered binding sites for both transcriptional activators and repressors(1-3). They serve as logical integrators of transcriptional input giving a unitary output in the form of spatiotemporally precise and quantitatively exact promoter activity. Most studies of mammalian cis-regulation to date have relied on mouse transgenesis as a means of assaying the enhancer function of CREs(4-5). This technique is time-consuming, costly and, on account of insertion site effects, largely non-quantitative. On the other hand, quantitative assays for mammalian CRE function have been developed in tissue culture systems (e.g., dual luciferase assays), but the in vivo relevance of these results is often uncertain. Electroporation offers an excellent alternative to traditional mouse transgenesis in that it permits both spatiotemporal and quantitative assessment of cis-regulatory activity in living mammalian tissue. This technique has been particularly useful in the analysis of cis-regulation in the central nervous system, especially in the cerebral cortex and the retina(6-8). While mouse retinal electroporation, both in vivo and ex vivo, has been developed and extensively described by Matsuda and Cepko(6-7,9), we have recently developed a simple approach to quantify the activity of photoreceptor-specific CREs in electroporated mouse retinas(10). Given that the amount of DNA that is introduced into the retina by electroporation can vary from experiment to experiment, it is necessary to include a co-electroporated ‘loading control’ in all experiments. In this respect, the technique is very similar to the dual luciferase assay used to quantify promoter activity in cultured cells. When assaying photoreceptor cis-regulatory activity, electroporation is usually performed in newborn mice (postnatal day 0, P0) which is the time of peak rod production(11-12). Once retinal cell types become post-mitotic, electroporation is much less efficient. Given the high rate of rod birth in newborn mice and the fact that rods constitute more than 70% of the cells in the adult mouse retina, the majority of cells that are electroporated at P0 are rods. For this reason, rod photoreceptors are the easiest retinal cell type to study via electroporation. The technique we describe here is primarily useful for quantifying the activity of photoreceptor CREs.

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Posted on October 14, 2011
Posted in: Neurogenetics, Publications Authors: