New Microfluidic Technologies for Studying Histone Modifications and Long Non-Coding RNA Bindings

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Virginia Tech

Previous studies have shown that genes can be switched on or off by age, environmental factors, diseases, and lifestyles. The open or compact structures of chromatin is a crucial factor that affects gene expression. Epigenetics refers to hereditary mechanisms that change gene expression and regulations without changing DNA sequences. Epigenetic modifications, such as DNA methylation, histone modification, and non-coding RNA interaction, play critical roles in cell differentiation and disease processes. The conventional approach requires the use of a few million or more cells as starting material. However, such quantity is not available when samples from patients and small lab animals are examined. Microfluidic technology offers advantages to utilize low-input starting material and for high-throughput.

In this thesis, I developed novel microfluidic technologies to study epigenomic regulations, including 1) profiling epigenomic changes associated with LPS-induced murine monocytes for immunotherapy, 2) examining cell-type-specific epigenomic changes associated with BRCA1 mutation in breast tissues for breast cancer treatment, and 3) developing a novel microfluidic oscillatory hybridized ChIRP-seq assay to profile genome-wide lncRNA binding for numerous human diseases.

We used 20,000 and 50,000 primary cells to study histone modifications in inflammation and breast cancer of BRCA1 mutation, respectively. In the project of whole-genome lncRNA bindings, our microfluidic ChIRP-seq assay, for the first time, allowed us to probe native lncRNA bindings in mouse tissue samples successfully. The technology is a promising approach for scientists to study lncRNA bindings in primary patients. Our works pave the way for low-input and high-throughput epigenomic profiling for precision medicine development.

Microfluidics, Epigenomics, Precision Medicine, Chromatin Immunoprecipitation, Histone Modification, Long Non-coding RNA Interaction, Next Generation Sequencing, NGS