Preparation of cell-lines for conditional knockdown of gene expression and measurement of the knockdown effects on E4orf4-induced cell death.
Functional inactivation of gene expression in mammalian cells is crucial for the study of the contribution of a protein of interest to various pathways(1,2). However, conditional knockdown of gene expression is required in cases when constitutive knockdown is not tolerated by cells for a long period of time(3-5). Here we describe a protocol for preparation of cell lines allowing conditional knockdown of subunits of the ACF chromatin remodeling factor. These cell lines facilitate the determination of the contribution of ACF to induction of cell death by the adenovirus E4orf4 protein(6). Sequences encoding short hairpin RNAs for the Acf1 and SNF2h subunits of the ACF chromatin remodeling factor were cloned next to a doxycycline-inducible promoter in a plasmid also containing a gene for the neomycin resistance gene. Neomycin-resistant cell clones were selected in the presence of G418 and isolated. The resulting cell lines were induced by doxycycline treatment, and once Acf1 or SNF2h expression levels were reduced, the cells were transfected with a plasmid encoding E4orf4 or an empty vector. To confirm the specific effect of the shRNA constructs, Acf1 or SNF2h protein levels were restored to WT levels by cotransfection with a plasmid expressing Acf1 or SNF2h which were rendered resistant to the shRNA by introduction of silent mutations. The ability of E4orf4 to induce cell death in the various samples was determined by a DAPI assay, in which the frequency of appearance of nuclei with apoptotic morphologies in the transfected cell population was measured(7-9). The protocol described here can be utilized for determination of the functional contribution of various proteins to induction of cell death by their protein partners in cases when constitutive knockdown may be cell lethal.