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Robust imaging and gene delivery to study human lymphoblastoid cell lines


Lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs) have been by far the most prevalent cell type used to study the genetics underlying normal and disease-relevant human phenotypic variation, across personal to epidemiological scales. In contrast, only few studies have explored the use of LCLs in functional genomics and mechanistic studies. Two major reasons are technical, as (1) interrogating the sub-cellular spatial information of LCLs is challenged by their non-adherent nature, and (2) LCLs are refractory to gene transfection. Methodological details relating to techniques that overcome these limitations are scarce, largely inadequate (without additional knowledge and expertise), and optimisation has never been described. Here we compare, optimise, and convey such methods in-depth. We provide a robust method to adhere LCLs to coverslips, which maintained cellular integrity, morphology, and permitted visualisation of sub-cellular structures and protein localisation. Next, we developed the use of lentiviral-based gene delivery to LCLs. Through empirical and combinatorial testing of multiple transduction conditions, we improved transduction efficiency from 3% up to 48%. Furthermore, we established strategies to purify transduced cells, to achieve sustainable cultures containing >85% transduced cells. Collectively, our methodologies provide a vital resource that enables the use of LCLs in functional cell and molecular biology experiments. Potential applications include the characterisation of genetic variants of unknown significance, the interrogation of cellular disease pathways and mechanisms, and high-throughput discovery of genetic modifiers of disease states among others.

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L.A.J. is supported by Australian Research Council DE160100620. J.G. is supported by National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia grants 1041920 and 1091593. This work was supported by NHMRC GNT1063808 to J.G. and L.A.J.

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Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Lachlan A. Jolly or Jozef Gecz.

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This Research was prospectively reviewed and approved by the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Human Research Ethics Committee, South Australia, Australia, 5006. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Jolly, L.A., Sun, Y., Carroll, R. et al. Robust imaging and gene delivery to study human lymphoblastoid cell lines. J Hum Genet 63, 945–955 (2018).

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