Thursday, September 17, 2009

Scale UP!

How much periplasmic DNA can I hope to get using my current protocols, and how much DNA will I need? As promised, here are some rough calculations regarding the oligo purchases that we want to make.

I used a molecular weight calculator available on-line to determine the size of the dsDNA I described in the last post.
I alternatively could’ve used Rosie’s Universal Constants (660 g / mol of base pair and 10^-18 g / single 1 kb DNA molecule) to make this calculation, but since I’m dealing with a known sequence, I might as well get an exact molecular weight. (I also made a minor mistake in the last post, and the molecule I describe is actually only 199 bp).

So, for our USS molecule, MW = 122,828.6 g / mol. And the oligo synthesis service we’re planning on using will be at the 1 micromole scale. That means if we took all of the two oligos, annealed, extended, and purified, we’d end up with 0.123 grams of input DNA pool! That’s really a very large amount.

My previous concerns about needing to do PCR to maintain the pool are unfounded. This scale should be sufficient for hundreds (or even thousands) of experiments...

What follows are my preliminary assumptions about yields from the periplasmic DNA prep. They are based on several different experiments, though I am erring on the side of being conservative with my estimates and are guides for future experiments only. In this post, I will address the issues of scale-up at the end; before that I’ll just refer to the approximate total culture volume and amount of DNA that I’d need to get a target amount of DNA, assuming all else works perfectly.

So, I’ve now done several experiments using a PCR fragment bearing the consensus USS, called USS-1. If I add 20 ng DNA / 1 ml competent cells, ~50% is taken up. That is, in rec-2 cells, my theoretical yield of periplasmic DNA is 10 ng. My actual yield is considerably lower; as evaluated by my radiolabeling experiments, I estimate I get ~25% of my theoretical maximum.

This means,

1 ml cells + 20 ng DNA → 2.5 ng recovered.
20 ml cells + 400 ng DNA → 50 ng.
40 ml cells + 800 ng DNA → 100 ng

But this is only for the consensus sequence. Our real experiments will be a mix of molecules, some of which will be efficiently taken up and others that won’t. For a cursory estimate, we might assume that ~50% of fragments will be “good” USS and the other half will be “bad”. This would further reduce the yield.

That means, I am likely to need ~80 ml cultures and a starting input DNA amount of ~1600 ng, just to get back a mere 100 ng of DNA back!

Most Illumina sequencing centers seem to want ~1 ug of DNA to make libraries, but a lot of ChIP-seq experiments seem to call for only ~100 ng. In our case, there will be no downstream library construction, so we can likely get away with small amounts of DNA, as long as it is quite pure and accurately quantified.

Regardless, this is going to take fairly large cultures, fairly large amounts of DNA, and a good scaled-up periplasmic prep.

BUT, one important thing to note is that our degenerate oligo preparation will be more than sufficient for a large number of experiments, even at this large scale. For the controls, I can merely buy minimum-scale synthesis long oligos at ~$200 a pop. Since I can safely PCR amplify these, I will be able to make a replenishable stock for use in scale-up experiments.

More on this in the future, but while I’m doing this, I might as well estimate what it will take to get a microgram of chromosomal DNA fragments out of competent cell periplasms.

My previous experiments with sonicated DNA gave pretty consistent DNA uptake measurements:

~50% of 200 ng 1-10kb DNA / 1 ml cells → 100 ng max. yield.
~10% of 200 ng 0.2-0.4kb DNA / 1 ml cells → 20 ng max. yield.

Given a 25% recovery rate from the periplasm, this means that for a microgram of DNA, I will need:

1-10kb DNA: 8 micrograms in a 40 ml culture
0.2-0.4kb DNA: 40 micrograms in a 200 ml culture (!)

This last is really asking a lot. That size of scale-up will require special thought…

Appendix on Scale-up Issues:
  1. Purity: I have not been adding RNase. I need to get all the RNA away, in order to accurately quantify the DNA. I am also concerned about salt. The CsCl in my DNA precipitates may not be getting washed out adequately by a single 80% ethanol wash.
  2. Cell concentration: It would help for technical reasons, if I could concentrate the cells quite a bit before doing the organic extractions. I have used a ratio of 1:1, cells : organic solvents. So a 1 ml competent cell prep (~a billion cells) gets mixed with 1 ml solvent. But I might be able to resuspend 10 ml of cells in 1 ml and then use 1 ml solvent. I just don’t know.
  3. DNA concentration: I want to make sure that I am saturating with DNA for my initial experiments, but I haven’t yet done a proper saturation curve to know what I should be using. This will decrease the total efficiency of DNA uptake, but my total yields will be higher, and I will be biasing things towards the best uptake sequences (which is a good place to start).
  4. DNase: I have not been treating cells with DNase prior to isolation. From what I can tell, this is not a problem, and the free DNA is washed away. But if I use very high DNA concentrations, I will probably want to use DNase, just to be sure I’m eliminating free DNA completely.
  5. Details, details: Scale-up is never quite as simple as just increasing the volume of everything. I will need to make sure that there are appropriate centrifuges, shakers, tubes, and everything else. Growth rates of cells and competence induction may be poor when going to larger volume cultures. I am also concerned about scaling up the organic extractions. It turns out that not all conicals are created equal; I’ve had disasters where the phenol has torn through the bottom of 50 ml conicals when doing large-scale organic extractions, depending on the brand of conical and rotor used. I’ll need to make sure that things like this don’t happen in advance before I mess up somebody else’s equipment!

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