JoVE Logo
Faculty Resource Center

Sign In





Representative Results






High-throughput Functional Screening using a Homemade Dual-glow Luciferase Assay

Published: June 1st, 2014



1Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital

We present a rapid and inexpensive screening method for identifying transcriptional regulators using high-throughput robotic transfections and a homemade dual-glow luciferase assay. This protocol rapidly generates direct side-by-side functional data for thousands of genes and is easily modifiable to target any gene of interest.

We present a rapid and inexpensive high-throughput screening protocol to identify transcriptional regulators of alpha-synuclein, a gene associated with Parkinson's disease. 293T cells are transiently transfected with plasmids from an arrayed ORF expression library, together with luciferase reporter plasmids, in a one-gene-per-well microplate format. Firefly luciferase activity is assayed after 48 hr to determine the effects of each library gene upon alpha-synuclein transcription, normalized to expression from an internal control construct (a hCMV promoter directing Renilla luciferase). This protocol is facilitated by a bench-top robot enclosed in a biosafety cabinet, which performs aseptic liquid handling in 96-well format. Our automated transfection protocol is readily adaptable to high-throughput lentiviral library production or other functional screening protocols requiring triple-transfections of large numbers of unique library plasmids in conjunction with a common set of helper plasmids. We also present an inexpensive and validated alternative to commercially-available, dual luciferase reagents which employs PTC124, EDTA, and pyrophosphate to suppress firefly luciferase activity prior to measurement of Renilla luciferase. Using these methods, we screened 7,670 human genes and identified 68 regulators of alpha-synuclein. This protocol is easily modifiable to target other genes of interest.

The ability to identify key genetic regulatory elements and the factors that act on them is fundamental for the exploration of numerous biological processes. However, identifying factors that regulate expression of genes in rare cell types, such as specific neuronal populations, can be challenging. Here, we present a protocol for identifying novel transcriptional regulators of alpha-synuclein (SNCA), a gene associated with Parkinson's disease and expressed in dopaminergic neurons in the substantianigra pars compacta region of the midbrain. We accomplish this using a high-throughput, dual-luciferase, in vitro reporter screen to deconstruct alpha-synuclein ....

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

For an experimental overview, see Figure 1.

1. Prepare Reporter Plasmids Containing the Alpha-Synuclein Promoter

Regulatory elements of the alpha-synuclein gene (Figure 2) span approximately 10 kb, from the upstream NACP (non-A beta component of amyloid peptide) dinucleotide repeat sequence1,2 through intron 2 3. We include a portion of this region in our reporter construct. We found that plasmids containing intr.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Typical luciferase values, F:R ratios and induction values for a single half-plate are shown in Figure 4. Note the hit in well H2, a 32-fold inducer. Genes causing excessive toxicity (for example, well E3), or wells that were poorly transfected, will produce low values for both firefly and Renilla luciferases, but an average induction value. Genes causing non-specific induction of luciferase activity, perhaps via interaction with the pGL4 backbone, will induce firefly and Renilla

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Alpha-synuclein has been implicated in Parkinson's disease (PD) as a component of Lewy bodies4, intracellular inclusions considered pathognomonic for the disease. Numerous genome-wide association studies have linked single nucleotide polymorphisms in alpha-synuclein with increased risk for sporadic PD5,6,7. Although less common than sporadic PD, familial PD may be also caused by mutations in alpha-synuclein8, as well as duplication and triplication of the alpha-synuclein locus9,1.......

Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

We thank John Darga of the MGH DNA Core for preparation of the DNA screening library. Christopher Chigas of Perkin Elmer provided invaluable support for our Wallac 1420 luminometer. Steven Ciacco and Martin Thomae of Agilent provided support for the Bravo robot. We thank Ron Johnson and Steve Titus at the NIH for generously providing their dual-glow luciferase assay protocol.


Log in or to access full content. Learn more about your institution’s access to JoVE content here

Name Company Catalog Number Comments
QIAQuick PCR Purification Kit Qiagen 28106
PureLink Quick Gel Extraction Kit Invitrogen K2100-12
PureLink PCR Micro Kit Invitrogen K310250
PureLinkHiPure Plasmid Miniprep Kit Invitrogen K2100-03
PureLinkHiPure Plasmid Maxiprep Kit Invitrogen K2100-07
Bravo Robot Agilent -
Robot Pipet Tips with Filter Agilent 19477-022
Robot Pipet Tips without Filter Agilent 19477-002
Clear-bottomed 96-well Plates Corning 3610
Reservoirs Axygen RES-SW96-HP-SI
Polystyrene V-bottomed 96-well Plate Greiner 651101
Polypropylene V-bottomed 96-well Plate Greiner 651201
Adhesive Plate Covers CryoStuff #FS100
Phusion DNA Polymerase New England Biolabs M0530L
BAC 2002-D6 Invitrogen 2002-D6
Calf Intestine Alkaline Phosphatase Roche 10713023001
T4 DNA Ligase New England Biolabs M0202L
pGL4.10 Promega E6651
pGL4.74 Promega E6931
ElectroMAX Stbl4 Competent Cells Invitrogen 11635-018
Subcloning Efficiency DH5α Competent Cells Invitrogen 18265-017
DMEM without Phenol Red Invitrogen 31053-028
Optifect Invitrogen 12579017
Ciprofloxacin CellGro 61-277-RF
Tris-Hydrochloride Powder Sigma 93287
Tris-Base Powder Sigma 93286
Triton X-100 Pure Liquid Fisher BP151-100
DTT Invitrogen 15508-013
Coenzyme A Nanolight 309
ATP Sigma A6419
Luciferin Invitrogen L2912
h-CTZ Nanolight 301
PTC124 SelleckBiochemicals S6003

  1. Chiba-Falek, O., Nussbaum, R. L. Effect of allelic variation at the NACP-Rep1 repeat upstream of the α-synuclein gene (SNCA) on transcription in a cell culture luciferase reporter system. Hum. Mol. Genet. 10 (26), 3101-3109 (2001).
  2. Chiba-Falek, O., Touchman, J. W., Nussbaum, R. L. Functional analysis of intra-allelic variation at NACP-Rep1 in the alpha-synuclein gene. 113 (5), 426-431 (2003).
  3. Scherzer, C. R., et al. GATA transcription factors directly regulate the Parkinson's disease-linked gene α-synuclein. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 105 (31), 10907-10912 (2008).
  4. Spillantini, M. G., Schmidt, M. L., Lee, V. M. Y., Trojanowski, J. Q., Jakes, R., Goedert, M. α-Synuclein in Lewy Bodies. Nature. 388 (6645), 839-840 (1997).
  5. Pankratz, N., et al. Meta-analysis of Parkinson's disease: identification of a novel locus, RIT2. Ann. Neurol. 71 (3), 370-384 (2012).
  6. Satake, W., et al. Genome-wide association study identifies common variants at four loci as genetic risk factors for Parkinson's disease. Nat. Genet. 41 (12), 1303-1307 (2009).
  7. Simón-Sánchez, J., et al. Genome-wide association study reveals genetic risk underlying Parkinson's disease. Nat. Genet. 41 (12), 1308-1312 (2009).
  8. Polymeropoulos, M. H., et al. Mutation in the alpha-synuclein gene identified in families with Parkinson's disease. Science. 276 (5321), 2045-2047 (1997).
  9. Ibáñez, P., et al. Causal relationship between a-synuclein gene duplication and familial Parkinson's disease. Lancet. 364 (9440), 1169-1171 (2004).
  10. Chartier-Harlin, M. -. C., et al. a-Synuclein locus duplication as a cause of familial Parkinson's disease. Lancet. 364 (9440), 1167-1169 (2004).
  11. Singleton, A. B., et al. a-Synuclein locus triplication causes Parkinson's disease. Science. 302 (5646), 841 (2003).
  12. Ahn, T. -. B., et al. a-Synuclein gene duplication is present in sporadic Parkinson disease. Neurology. 70 (1), 43-49 (2008).
  13. Boyce, F. M., Bucher, N. L. Baculovirus-mediated gene transfer into mammalian cells. Proc. Nat. Acad. USA. 93 (6), 2348-2352 (1996).
  14. Montigny, W. J., et al. Parameters influencing high-efficiency transfection of bacterial artificial chromosomes into cultured mammalian cells. Biotechniques. 35, 796-807 (2003).
  15. Gorman, C. M., Moffat, L. F., Howard, B. H. Recombinant genomes which express chloramphenicol acetyltransferase in mammalian cells. Mol. Cell. Biol. 2 (9), 1044-1051 (1982).
  16. Li, J. J., Herskowitz, I. Isolation of ORC6, a Component of the Yeast Origin Recognition Complex by a One-Hybrid System. Science. 262, 1870-1874 (1993).
  17. Dejardin, J., Kingston, R. E. Purification of Proteins Associated with Specific Genomic Loci. Cell. 136, 175-186 (2009).
  18. Shen, Y., et al. A map of the cis-regulatory sequences in the mouseGenome. Nature. 488, 116-120 (2012).
  19. Fan, F., Wood, K. Bioluminescent assays for high-throughput screening. Assay Drug Dev. Technol. 5 (1), 127-136 (2007).
  20. Hampf, M., Gossen, M. A protocol for combined Photinus and Renilla luciferase quantification compatible with protein assays. Anal. Biochem. 356 (1), 94-99 (2006).
  21. Auld, D. S., Thorne, N., Maguire, W. F., Inglese, J. Mechanism of PTC124 activity in cell-based luciferase assays of nonsense codon suppression. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 106 (9), 3585-3590 (2009).
  22. Pearlberg, J., et al. Screens using RNAi and cDNA expression as surrogates for genetics in mammalian tissue culture cells. Cold Spring Harb.Symp. Quant. Biol. 70, 449-459 (2005).

This article has been published

Video Coming Soon

JoVE Logo


Terms of Use





Copyright © 2024 MyJoVE Corporation. All rights reserved