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F1000Research

An image-based, dual fluorescence reporter assay to evaluate the efficacy of shRNA for gene silencing at the single-cell level.


PMID 24741441

Abstract

RNA interference (RNAi) is widely used to suppress gene expression in a specific manner. The efficacy of RNAi is mainly dependent on the sequence of small interfering RNA (siRNA) in relation to the target mRNA. Although several algorithms have been developed for the design of siRNA, it is still difficult to choose a really effective siRNA from among multiple candidates. In this article, we report the development of an image-based, quantitative, ratiometric fluorescence reporter assay to evaluate the efficacy of RNAi at the single-cell level. Two fluorescence reporter constructs are used. One expresses the candidate small hairpin RNA (shRNA) together with an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP); the other expresses a 19-nt target sequence inserted into a cassette expressing a red fluorescent protein (either DsRed or mCherry). Effectiveness of the candidate shRNA is evaluated as the extent to which it knocks down expression of the red fluorescent protein. Thus, the red-to-green fluorescence intensity ratio (appropriately normalized to controls) is used as the read-out for quantifying the siRNA efficacy at the individual cell level. We tested this dual fluorescence assay and compared predictions to actual endogenous knockdown levels for three different genes (vimentin, lamin A/C and Arp3) and twenty different shRNAs. For each of the genes, our assay successfully predicted the target sequences for effective RNAi. To further facilitate testing of RNAi efficacy, we developed a negative selection marker ( ccdB) method for construction of shRNA and red fluorescent reporter plasmids that allowed us to purify these plasmids directly from transformed bacteria without the need for colony selection and DNA sequencing verification.