Researchers at Johns Hopkins partners with researchers at the University of Trento in Italy, Rutgers and Harvard Medical School to examine new ways to isolate more protein-coding DNA sequences. The proof-of-concept study rendered a new molecular technique that would allow researchers to separate thousands of genes simultaneously, which is more than previously possible.
The new technology, dubbed LASSO cloning is capable of speeding up the production of protein, end product of genes, which in turn may potentially lead to the development of new biomarkers and medicines for a wide range of diseases.
The researchers describe their new molecular technique as novel and historical, as it can simultaneously clone and express thousands of DNA sequences in a single effort.
“Our goal is to make it cheap and easy for any researcher in any field to clone and express the entire set of proteins from any organism,” says co-senior author Ben Larman, an assistant professor of pathology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Until now, such a prospect was only realistic for high-powered research consortia studying model organisms like fruit flies or mice.”
The LASSO probe, a new captured DNA strand, can grab specific DNA sequences, – similar to a lasso capturing cattle. However, in this particular case it can grab thousands of specific DNA sequences simultaneously in a single reaction.
The average size of a gene’s protein-coding sequence can range up to several thousand DNA base pairs long. The new technique is far more advanced than the older technique, known as molecular inversion probes, since it was only capable of capturing around 200 bases of DNA.
During the study, researchers utilized the LASSO – Long Adapter Single-Stranded Oligonucleotide – probe to capture an estimated 3,000 DNA fragments simultaneously from the E. coli bacterial genome. The researchers were able to capture about 75 percent of the gene targets successfully.
The researchers noted that the LASSO probe permitted them to capture DNA fragments in a way that made it possible to assess what the genes’ proteins do.
“We’re very excited about all the potential applications for LASSO cloning,” Larman said. “Our hope is that by greatly expanding the number of proteins that can be expressed and screened in parallel, the road to interesting biology and new therapeutic biomolecules will be dramatically shortened for many researchers.”
The study was published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering on June 26, 2017.