Transposon insertion site profiling chip (TIP-chip)

Transposon insertion site profiling chip (TIP-chip) was invented by Researchers at the Johns Hopkins’ High Throughput Biology Center. Tip-chip can be used to help identify otherwise elusive disease-causing mutations in the 97 percent of the genome long believed to be “junk.”

TIP-chip (transposable element insertion point) can locate in the genome where so-called jumping genes have landed and disrupted normal gene function. This chip is described n the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. the article titled Eukaryotic Transposable Elements and Genome Evolution Special Feature: Transposon insertion site profiling chip (TIP-chip

The most commonly used gene chips are glass slides that have arrayed on them neat grids of tiny dots containing small sequences of only hand-selected non-junk DNA. TIP-chips contains all DNA sequences. Because each chip can hold thousands of these dots – even a whole genome’s worth of information – scientists in the future may be able to rapidly and efficiently identify, by comparing a DNA sample from a patient with the DNA on the chip, exactly where mutations lie.

Jef Boeke, Ph.D., Sc.D, professor of molecular biology and genetics and director of the HiT (High Throughput Biology Center), who spearheaded both studies at the Institute of Basic Biomedical Sciences at Hopkins, and his team have focused particularly on transposable elements, segments of DNA that hop around from chromosome to chromosome.

These elements can, depending on where they land, wrongly turn on or off nearby genes, interrupt a gene by lodging in the middle of it, or cause chromosomes to break. Transposable elements long have been suspected of playing a role vital to disease-causing mutations in people. Boeke hopes that the TIP-chip eventually can be used to look for such mutations in people.

The new TIP-chip contains evenly sized fragments of the yeast genome arrayed in dots left to right in the same order as they appear on the chromosome. Boeke’s team used the one-celled yeast genome as starting material because, unlike the human genome, which contains hundreds of thousands of transposable elements of which perhaps a few hundred are actively moving around, the yeast genome contains only a few dozen copies.

Like a word-find puzzle, where words are hidden in a jumbled grid of letters, the TIP-chip highlights exactly where along the DNA sequence these elements have landed. By chopping up the DNA, amplifying the DNA next to the transposable elements and then applying these amplified copies to the TIP chip, the researchers were able to map more than 94 percent of the transposable elements to their exact chromosome locations.

double-tiled DNA chip 

Standard chips contain one layer of DNA dots that read from left to right, like the across section of a crossword puzzle. Boeke’s new double-capacity chips hold two layers of dots, a bottom layer that reads across and a top layer that reads down, again using the crossword analogy. So if their experiment lights up a horizontal row of dots, the researchers learn that the data maps to the region of the genome contained in the bottom layer; likewise, if the experiment highlights a vertical row, the data correspond to the top layer.

Says Boeke, “It’s so easy to differentiate the top and bottom layers. Next we’re going to try adding another layer reading diagonally” to triple the amount of genomic information packed onto the tiny chips.

Authors of the TIP-chip and double-tiled DNA chip papers are Sarah Wheelan, a new faculty member in the Department of Oncology, Lisa Scheifele, Francisco Martinez-Murillo, Rafael Irizarry and Boeke, all of Hopkins.

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