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Specific amino acid substitutions improve the activity and specificity of an antimicrobial peptide & serodiagnosis by immunosignature: a multiplexing tool for monitoring the humoral immune response to dengue

Description

Random peptide microarrays are a powerful tool for both the treatment and diagnostics of infectious diseases. On the treatment side, selected random peptides on the microarray have either binding or lytic potency against certain pathogens cells, thus they can be

Random peptide microarrays are a powerful tool for both the treatment and diagnostics of infectious diseases. On the treatment side, selected random peptides on the microarray have either binding or lytic potency against certain pathogens cells, thus they can be synthesized into new antimicrobial agents, denoted as synbodies (synthetic antibodies). On the diagnostic side, serum containing specific infection-related antibodies create unique and distinct "pathogen-immunosignatures" on the random peptide microarray distinct from the healthy control serum, and this different mode of binding can be used as a more precise measurement than traditional ELISA tests. My thesis project is separated into these two parts: the first part falls into the treatment side and the second one focuses on the diagnostic side. My first chapter shows that a substitution amino acid peptide library helps to improve the activity of a recently reported synthetic antimicrobial peptide selected by the random peptide microarray. By substituting one or two amino acids of the original lead peptide, the new substitutes show changed hemolytic effects against mouse red blood cells and changed potency against two pathogens: Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Two new substitutes are then combined together to form the synbody, which shows a significantly antimicrobial potency against Staphylococcus aureus (<0.5uM). In the second chapter, I explore the possibility of using the 10K Ver.2 random peptide microarray to monitor the humoral immune response of dengue. Over 2.5 billion people (40% of the world's population) live in dengue transmitting areas. However, currently there is no efficient dengue treatment or vaccine. Here, with limited dengue patient serum samples, we show that the immunosignature has the potential to not only distinguish the dengue infection from non-infected people, but also the primary dengue infection from the secondary dengue infections, dengue infection from West Nile Virus (WNV) infection, and even between different dengue serotypes. By further bioinformatic analysis, we demonstrate that the significant peptides selected to distinguish dengue infected and normal samples may indicate the epitopes responsible for the immune response.

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2013

Optimizing micro-vortex chamber for living single cell rotation

Description

Single cell phenotypic heterogeneity studies reveal more information about the pathogenesis process than conventional bulk methods. Furthermore, investigation of the individual cellular response mechanism during rapid environmental changes can only be achieved at single cell level. By enabling the study

Single cell phenotypic heterogeneity studies reveal more information about the pathogenesis process than conventional bulk methods. Furthermore, investigation of the individual cellular response mechanism during rapid environmental changes can only be achieved at single cell level. By enabling the study of cellular morphology, a single cell three-dimensional (3D) imaging system can be used to diagnose fatal diseases, such as cancer, at an early stage. One proven method, CellCT, accomplishes 3D imaging by rotating a single cell around a fixed axis. However, some existing cell rotating mechanisms require either intricate microfabrication, and some fail to provide a suitable environment for living cells. This thesis develops a microvorterx chamber that allows living cells to be rotated by hydrodynamic alone while facilitating imaging access. In this thesis work, 1) the new chamber design was developed through numerical simulation. Simulations revealed that in order to form a microvortex in the side chamber, the ratio of the chamber opening to the channel width must be smaller than one. After comparing different chamber designs, the trapezoidal side chamber was selected because it demonstrated controllable circulation and met the imaging requirements. Microvortex properties were not sensitive to the chambers with interface angles ranging from 0.32 to 0.64. A similar trend was observed when chamber heights were larger than chamber opening. 2) Micro-particle image velocimetry was used to characterize microvortices and validate simulation results. Agreement between experimentation and simulation confirmed that numerical simulation was an effective method for chamber design. 3) Finally, cell rotation experiments were performed in the trapezoidal side chamber. The experimental results demonstrated cell rotational rates ranging from 12 to 29 rpm for regular cells. With a volumetric flow rate of 0.5 µL/s, an irregular cell rotated at a mean rate of 97 ± 3 rpm. Rotational rates can be changed by altering inlet flow rates.

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2011

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Application of low frequency focused ultrasound waves ripen the rat cervix during pregnancy

Description

The object of this study is to charac terize the effect of focused ultrasound stimulation (FUS) on the rat ce rvix which has been observed to speed its ripening during pregnancy. Ce rvical ripening is required for successful fetal delivery.

The object of this study is to charac terize the effect of focused ultrasound stimulation (FUS) on the rat ce rvix which has been observed to speed its ripening during pregnancy. Ce rvical ripening is required for successful fetal delivery. Timed-pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats (n=36) were used. On day 14 of gestation, the FUS system was placed on the body surface of the rat over the cervix and ultrasound energy was applied to cervix for variable times up to 1 hour in the control group, the FUS system was placed on rats but no energy was applied. Daily measurement of cervix light-induced florescence (LIF, photon counts of collagen x-bridge fluorescence) were made on days 16 of gestation and daily until spont-aneous delivery (day22) to estimate changes in cervical ripening. We found that pulses of 680 KHz ultrasound at 25 Hertz, 1 millisecond pulse duration at 1W/cm^2 applied for as little as 30 minutes would immediately afterwards show the cervix to hav e ripened to the degree seen just before delivery on day 22. Delivery times, fetal weights and viability were unaffected in the FUS-treated animals.

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2012

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Design of apoferritin-based nanoparticle MRI contrast agents through controlled metal deposition

Description

Sensitivity is a fundamental challenge for in vivo molecular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Here, I improve the sensitivity of metal nanoparticle contrast agents by strategically incorporating pure and doped metal oxides in the nanoparticle core, forming a soluble, monodisperse, contrast

Sensitivity is a fundamental challenge for in vivo molecular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Here, I improve the sensitivity of metal nanoparticle contrast agents by strategically incorporating pure and doped metal oxides in the nanoparticle core, forming a soluble, monodisperse, contrast agent with adjustable T2 or T1 relaxivity (r2 or r1). I first developed a simplified technique to incorporate iron oxides in apoferritin to form "magnetoferritin" for nM-level detection with T2- and T2* weighting. I then explored whether the crystal could be chemically modified to form a particle with high r1. I first adsorbed Mn2+ ions to metal binding sites in the apoferritin pores. The strategic placement of metal ions near sites of water exchange and within the crystal oxide enhance r1, suggesting a mechanism for increasing relaxivity in porous nanoparticle agents. However, the Mn2+ addition was only possible when the particle was simultaneously filled with an iron oxide, resulting in a particle with a high r1 but also a high r2 and making them undetectable with conventional T1-weighting techniques. To solve this problem and decrease the particle r2 for more sensitive detection, I chemically doped the nanoparticles with tungsten to form a disordered W-Fe oxide composite in the apoferritin core. This configuration formed a particle with a r1 of 4,870mM-1s-1 and r2 of 9,076mM-1s-1. These relaxivities allowed the detection of concentrations ranging from 20nM - 400nM in vivo, both passively injected and targeted to the kidney glomerulus. I further developed an MRI acquisition technique to distinguish particles based on r2/r1, and show that three nanoparticles of similar size can be distinguished in vitro and in vivo with MRI. This work forms the basis for a new, highly flexible inorganic approach to design nanoparticle contrast agents for molecular MRI.

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2012

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Topological analysis of biological pathways : genes, microRNAs and pathways involved in hepatocellular carcinoma

Description

Rewired biological pathways and/or rewired microRNA (miRNA)-mRNA interactions might also influence the activity of biological pathways. Here, rewired biological pathways is defined as differential (rewiring) effect of genes on the topology of biological pathways between controls and cases. Similarly, rewired

Rewired biological pathways and/or rewired microRNA (miRNA)-mRNA interactions might also influence the activity of biological pathways. Here, rewired biological pathways is defined as differential (rewiring) effect of genes on the topology of biological pathways between controls and cases. Similarly, rewired miRNA-mRNA interactions are defined as the differential (rewiring) effects of miRNAs on the topology of biological pathways between controls and cases. In the dissertation, it is discussed that how rewired biological pathways (Chapter 1) and/or rewired miRNA-mRNA interactions (Chapter 2) aberrantly influence the activity of biological pathways and their association with disease.

This dissertation proposes two PageRank-based analytical methods, Pathways of Topological Rank Analysis (PoTRA) and miR2Pathway, discussed in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2, respectively. PoTRA focuses on detecting pathways with an altered number of hub genes in corresponding pathways between two phenotypes. The basis for PoTRA is that the loss of connectivity is a common topological trait of cancer networks, as well as the prior knowledge that a normal biological network is a scale-free network whose degree distribution follows a power law where a small number of nodes are hubs and a large number of nodes are non-hubs. However, from normal to cancer, the process of the network losing connectivity might be the process of disrupting the scale-free structure of the network, namely, the number of hub genes might be altered in cancer compared to that in normal samples. Hence, it is hypothesized that if the number of hub genes is different in a pathway between normal and cancer, this pathway might be involved in cancer. MiR2Pathway focuses on quantifying the differential effects of miRNAs on the activity of a biological pathway when miRNA-mRNA connections are altered from normal to disease and rank disease risk of rewired miRNA-mediated biological pathways. This dissertation explores how rewired gene-gene interactions and rewired miRNA-mRNA interactions lead to aberrant activity of biological pathways, and rank pathways for their disease risk. The two methods proposed here can be used to complement existing genomics analysis methods to facilitate the study of biological mechanisms behind disease at the systems-level.

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2017

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Controlled Epigenetic Silencing and Tandem Histone-Binding Transcriptional Activation

Description

Fusion proteins that specifically interact with biochemical marks on chromosomes represent a new class of synthetic transcriptional regulators that decode cell state information rather than deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA) sequences. In multicellular organisms, information relevant to cell state, tissue identity,

Fusion proteins that specifically interact with biochemical marks on chromosomes represent a new class of synthetic transcriptional regulators that decode cell state information rather than deoxyribose nucleic acid (DNA) sequences. In multicellular organisms, information relevant to cell state, tissue identity, and oncogenesis is often encoded as biochemical modifications of histones, which are bound to DNA in eukaryotic nuclei and regulate gene expression states. In 2011, Haynes et al. showed that a synthetic regulator called the Polycomb chromatin Transcription Factor (PcTF), a fusion protein that binds methylated histones, reactivated an artificially-silenced luciferase reporter gene. These synthetic transcription activators are derived from the polycomb repressive complex (PRC) and associate with the epigenetic silencing mark H3K27me3 to reactivate the expression of silenced genes. It is demonstrated here that the duration of epigenetic silencing does not perturb reactivation via PcTF fusion proteins. After 96 hours PcTF shows the strongest reactivation activity. A variant called Pc2TF, which has roughly double the affinity for H3K27me3 in vitro, reactivated the silenced luciferase gene by at least 2-fold in living cells.

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2019

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A Robust scRNA-seq Data Analysis Pipeline for Measuring Gene Expression Noise

Description

The past decade has seen a drastic increase in collaboration between Computer Science (CS) and Molecular Biology (MB). Current foci in CS such as deep learning require very large amounts of data, and MB research can often be rapidly advanced

The past decade has seen a drastic increase in collaboration between Computer Science (CS) and Molecular Biology (MB). Current foci in CS such as deep learning require very large amounts of data, and MB research can often be rapidly advanced by analysis and models from CS. One of the places where CS could aid MB is during analysis of sequences to find binding sites, prediction of folding patterns of proteins. Maintenance and replication of stem-like cells is possible for long terms as well as differentiation of these cells into various tissue types. These behaviors are possible by controlling the expression of specific genes. These genes then cascade into a network effect by either promoting or repressing downstream gene expression. The expression level of all gene transcripts within a single cell can be analyzed using single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq). A significant portion of noise in scRNA-seq data are results of extrinsic factors and could only be removed by customized scRNA-seq analysis pipeline. scRNA-seq experiments utilize next-gen sequencing to measure genome scale gene expression levels with single cell resolution.

Almost every step during analysis and quantification requires the use of an often empirically determined threshold, which makes quantification of noise less accurate. In addition, each research group often develops their own data analysis pipeline making it impossible to compare data from different groups. To remedy this problem a streamlined and standardized scRNA-seq data analysis and normalization protocol was designed and developed. After analyzing multiple experiments we identified the possible pipeline stages, and tools needed. Our pipeline is capable of handling data with adapters and barcodes, which was not the case with pipelines from some experiments. Our pipeline can be used to analyze single experiment scRNA-seq data and also to compare scRNA-seq data across experiments. Various processes like data gathering, file conversion, and data merging were automated in the pipeline. The main focus was to standardize and normalize single-cell RNA-seq data to minimize technical noise introduced by disparate platforms.

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2017

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Generation of isogenic pluripotent stem cell lines for study of APOE, an Alzheimer’s risk factor

Description

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), despite over a century of research, does not have a clearly defined pathogenesis for the sporadic form that makes up the majority of disease incidence. A variety of correlative risk factors have been identified, including the three

Alzheimer’s disease (AD), despite over a century of research, does not have a clearly defined pathogenesis for the sporadic form that makes up the majority of disease incidence. A variety of correlative risk factors have been identified, including the three isoforms of apolipoprotein E (ApoE), a cholesterol transport protein in the central nervous system. ApoE ε3 is the wild-type variant with no effect on risk. ApoE ε2, the protective and most rare variant, reduces risk of developing AD by 40%. ApoE ε4, the risk variant, increases risk by 3.2-fold and 14.9-fold for heterozygous and homozygous representation respectively. Study of these isoforms has been historically complex, but the advent of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) provides the means for highly controlled, longitudinal in vitro study. The effect of ApoE variants can be further elucidated using this platform by generating isogenic hiPSC lines through precise genetic modification, the objective of this research. As the difference between alleles is determined by two cytosine-thymine polymorphisms, a specialized CRISPR/Cas9 system for direct base conversion was able to be successfully employed. The base conversion method for transitioning from the ε3 to ε2 allele was first verified using the HEK293 cell line as a model with delivery via electroporation. Following this verification, the transfection method was optimized using two hiPSC lines derived from ε4/ε4 patients, with a lipofection technique ultimately resulting in successful base conversion at the same site verified in the HEK293 model. Additional research performed included characterization of the pre-modification genotype with respect to likely off-target sites and methods of isolating clonal variants.

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2017

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Spatial Temporal Patterning and Dynamics of E. Coli Growth with Nutrient Variation

Description

Synthetic biology (SB) has become an important field of science focusing on designing and engineering new biological parts and systems, or re-designing existing biological systems for useful purposes. The dramatic growth of SB throughout the past two decades has not

Synthetic biology (SB) has become an important field of science focusing on designing and engineering new biological parts and systems, or re-designing existing biological systems for useful purposes. The dramatic growth of SB throughout the past two decades has not only provided us numerous achievements, but also brought us more timely and underexplored problems. In SB's entire history, mathematical modeling has always been an indispensable approach to predict the experimental outcomes, improve experimental design and obtain mechanism-understanding of the biological systems. \textit{Escherichia coli} (\textit{E. coli}) is one of the most important experimental platforms, its growth dynamics is the major research objective in this dissertation. Chapter 2 employs a reaction-diffusion model to predict the \textit{E. coli} colony growth on a semi-solid agar plate under multiple controls. In that chapter, a density-dependent diffusion model with non-monotonic growth to capture the colony's non-linear growth profile is introduced. Findings of the new model to experimental data are compared and contrasted with those from other proposed models. In addition, the cross-sectional profile of the colony are computed and compared with experimental data. \textit{E. coli} colony is also used to perform spatial patterns driven by designed gene circuits. In Chapter 3, a gene circuit (MINPAC) and its corresponding pattern formation results are presented. Specifically, a series of partial differential equation (PDE) models are developed to describe the pattern formation driven by the MINPAC circuit. Model simulations of the patterns based on different experimental conditions and numerical analysis of the models to obtain a deeper understanding of the mechanisms are performed and discussed. Mathematical analysis of the simplified models, including traveling wave analysis and local stability analysis, is also presented and used to explore the control strategies of the pattern formation. The interaction between the gene circuit and the host \textit{E. coli} may be crucial and even greatly affect the experimental outcomes. Chapter 4 focuses on the growth feedback between the circuit and the host cell under different nutrient conditions. Two ordinary differential equation (ODE) models are developed to describe such feedback with nutrient variation. Preliminary results on data fitting using both two models and the model dynamical analysis are included.

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2021

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Development of CRISPR-RNA guided recombinases for genome engineering

Description

Recombinases are powerful tools for genome engineering and synthetic biology, however recombinases are limited by a lack of user-programmability and often require complex directed-evolution experiments to retarget specificity. Conversely, CRISPR systems have extreme versatility yet can induce off-target mutations and

Recombinases are powerful tools for genome engineering and synthetic biology, however recombinases are limited by a lack of user-programmability and often require complex directed-evolution experiments to retarget specificity. Conversely, CRISPR systems have extreme versatility yet can induce off-target mutations and karyotypic destabilization. To address these constraints we developed an RNA-guided recombinase protein by fusing a hyperactive mutant resolvase from transposon TN3 to catalytically inactive Cas9. We validated recombinase-Cas9 (rCas9) function in model eukaryote Saccharomyces cerevisiae using a chromosomally integrated fluorescent reporter. Moreover, we demonstrated cooperative targeting by CRISPR RNAs at spacings of 22 or 40bps is necessary for directing recombination. Using PCR and Sanger sequencing, we confirmed rCas9 targets DNA recombination. With further development we envision rCas9 becoming useful in the development of RNA-programmed genetic circuitry as well as high-specificity genome engineering.

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2018