Genome sequencing projects have ciphered millions of protein sequence, which require knowledge of their structure and function to improve the understanding of their biological role. Although experimental methods can provide detailed information for a small fraction of these proteins, computational modeling is needed for the majority of protein molecules which are experimentally uncharacterized. The I-TASSER server is an on-line workbench for high-resolution modeling of protein structure and function. Given a protein sequence, a typical output from the I-TASSER server includes secondary structure prediction, predicted solvent accessibility of each residue, homologous template proteins detected by threading and structure alignments, up to five full-length tertiary structural models, and structure-based functional annotations for enzyme classification, Gene Ontology terms and protein-ligand binding sites. All the predictions are tagged with a confidence score which tells how accurate the predictions are without knowing the experimental data. To facilitate the special requests of end users, the server provides channels to accept user-specified inter-residue distance and contact maps to interactively change the I-TASSER modeling; it also allows users to specify any proteins as template, or to exclude any template proteins during the structure assembly simulations. The structural information could be collected by the users based on experimental evidences or biological insights with the purpose of improving the quality of I-TASSER predictions. The server was evaluated as the best programs for protein structure and function predictions in the recent community-wide CASP experiments. There are currently >20,000 registered scientists from over 100 countries who are using the on-line I-TASSER server.
24 Related JoVE Articles!
Specific Marking of HIV-1 Positive Cells using a Rev-dependent Lentiviral Vector Expressing the Green Fluorescent Protein
Institutions: George Mason University.
Most of HIV-responsive expression vectors are based on the HIV promoter, the long terminal repeat (LTR). While responsive to an early HIV protein, Tat, the LTR is also responsive to cellular activation states and to the local chromatin activity where the integration has occurred. This can result in high HIV-independent activity, and has restricted the usefulness of LTR-based reporter to mark HIV positive cells 1,2,3
. Here, we constructed an expression lentiviral vector that possesses, in addition to the Tat-responsive LTR, numerous HIV DNA sequences that include the Rev-response element and HIV splicing sites 4,5,6
. The vector was incorporated into a lentiviral reporter virus, permitting highly specific detection of replicating HIV in living cell populations. The activity of the vector was measured by expression of the green fluorescence protein (GFP). The application of this vector as reported here offers a novel alternative approach to existing methods, such as in situ
PCR or HIV antigen staining, to identify HIV-positive cells. The vector can also express therapeutic genes for basic or clinical experimentation to target HIV-positive cells.
Infectious Disease, Issue 43, HIV-1, Rev, GFP, lentiviral vector, RRE
Detection of Viral RNA by Fluorescence in situ Hybridization (FISH)
Institutions: Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, McGill University , McGill University .
Viruses that infect cells elicit specific changes to normal cell functions which serve to divert energy and resources for viral replication. Many aspects of host cell function are commandeered by viruses, usually by the expression of viral gene products that recruit host cell proteins and machineries. Moreover, viruses engineer specific membrane organelles or tag on to mobile vesicles and motor proteins to target regions of the cell (during de novo
infection, viruses co-opt molecular motor proteins to target the nucleus; later, during virus assembly, they will hijack cellular machineries that will help in the assembly of viruses). Less is understood on how viruses, in particular those with RNA genomes, coordinate the intracellular trafficking of both protein and RNA components and how they achieve assembly of infectious particles at specific loci in the cell. The study of RNA localization began in earlier work. Developing lower eukaryotic embryos and neuronal cells provided important biological information, and also underscored the importance of RNA localization in the programming of gene expression cascades. The study in other organisms and cell systems has yielded similar important information. Viruses are obligate parasites and must utilise their host cells to replicate. Thus, it is critical to understand how RNA viruses direct their RNA genomes from the nucleus, through the nuclear pore, through the cytoplasm and on to one of its final destinations, into progeny virus particles 1
FISH serves as a useful tool to identify changes in steady-state localization of viral RNA. When combined with immunofluorescence (IF) analysis 22
, FISH/IF co-analyses will provide information on the co-localization of proteins with the viral RNA3
. This analysis therefore provides a good starting point to test for RNA-protein interactions by other biochemical or biophysical tests 4,5
, since co-localization by itself is not enough evidence to be certain of an interaction. In studying viral RNA localization using a method like this, abundant information has been gained on both viral and cellular RNA trafficking events 6
. For instance, HIV-1 produces RNA in the nucleus of infected cells but the RNA is only translated in the cytoplasm. When one key viral protein is missing (Rev) 7
, FISH of the viral RNA has revealed that the block to viral replication is due to the retention of the HIV-1 genomic RNA in the nucleus 8
Here, we present the method for visual analysis of viral genomic RNA in situ
. The method makes use of a labelled RNA probe. This probe is designed to be complementary to the viral genomic RNA. During the in vitro
synthesis of the antisense RNA probe, the ribonucleotide that is modified with digoxigenin (DIG) is included in an in vitro
transcription reaction. Once the probe has hybridized to the target mRNA in cells, subsequent antibody labelling steps (Figure 1
) will reveal the localization of the mRNA as well as proteins of interest when performing FISH/IF.
Genetics, Issue 63, Viral genomic RNA, Fluorescence in situ Hybridization, FISH, imaging, genomics
The ITS2 Database
Institutions: University of Würzburg, University of Würzburg.
The internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) has been used as a phylogenetic marker for more than two decades. As ITS2 research mainly focused on the very variable ITS2 sequence, it confined this marker to low-level phylogenetics only. However, the combination of the ITS2 sequence and its highly conserved secondary structure improves the phylogenetic resolution1
and allows phylogenetic inference at multiple taxonomic ranks, including species delimitation2-8
The ITS2 Database9
presents an exhaustive dataset of internal transcribed spacer 2 sequences from NCBI GenBank11
. Following an annotation by profile Hidden Markov Models (HMMs), the secondary structure of each sequence is predicted. First, it is tested whether a minimum energy based fold12
(direct fold) results in a correct, four helix conformation. If this is not the case, the structure is predicted by homology modeling13
. In homology modeling, an already known secondary structure is transferred to another ITS2 sequence, whose secondary structure was not able to fold correctly in a direct fold.
The ITS2 Database is not only a database for storage and retrieval of ITS2 sequence-structures. It also provides several tools to process your own ITS2 sequences, including annotation, structural prediction, motif detection and BLAST14
search on the combined sequence-structure information. Moreover, it integrates trimmed versions of 4SALE15,16
for multiple sequence-structure alignment calculation and Neighbor Joining18
tree reconstruction. Together they form a coherent analysis pipeline from an initial set of sequences to a phylogeny based on sequence and secondary structure.
In a nutshell, this workbench simplifies first phylogenetic analyses to only a few mouse-clicks, while additionally providing tools and data for comprehensive large-scale analyses.
Genetics, Issue 61, alignment, internal transcribed spacer 2, molecular systematics, secondary structure, ribosomal RNA, phylogenetic tree, homology modeling, phylogeny
Packaging HIV- or FIV-based Lentivector Expression Constructs & Transduction of VSV-G Pseudotyped Viral Particles
Institutions: System Biosciences.
As with standard plasmid vectors, it is possible to transfect lentivectors in plasmid form into cells with low-to-medium efficiency to obtain transient expression of effectors. Packaging lentiviral expression constructs into pseudoviral particles, however, enables up to 100% transduction, even with difficult-to-transfect cells, such as primary, stem, and differentiated cells. Moreover, the lentiviral delivery does not produce the specific cellular responses typically associated with chemical transfections, such as cell death resulting from toxicity of the transfection reagent 1, 2
. When transduced into target cells, the lentiviral construct integrates into genomic DNA and provides stable expression of the small hairpin RNA (shRNA), cDNA, microRNA or reporter gene 3, 4
. Target cells stably expressing the effector molecule can be isolated using a selectable marker contained in the expression vector construct such as puromycin or GFP. After pseudoviral particles infect target cells, they cannot replicate within target cells because the viral structural genes are absent and the long terminal repeats (LTRs) are designed to be self-inactivating upon transduction 5, 6
There are three main components necessary for efficient lentiviral packaging 1, 5, 6, 7
The lentiviral expression vector that contains some of the genetic elements required for packaging, stable integration of the viral expression construct into genomic DNA, and expression of the effector or reporter.
The lentiviral packaging plasmids that provide the proteins essential for transcription and packaging of an RNA copy of the expression construct into recombinant pseudoviral particles. This protocol uses the pPACK plasmids (SBI) that encode for gag, pol, and rev from the HIV or FIV genome and Vesicular Stomatitis Virus g protein (VSV-G) for the viral coat protein.
293TN producer cells (derived from HEK293 cells) that express the SV40 large T antigen, which is required for high-titer lentiviral production and a neomycin resistance gene, useful for reselecting the cells for maintenance.
An overview of the viral production protocol can be seen in Figure 1
. Viral production starts by co-transfecting 293TN producer cells with the lentiviral expression vector and the packaging plasmids. Viral particles are secreted into the media. After 48-72 hours the cell culture media is harvested. Cellular debris is removed from the cell culture media, and the viral particles are precipitated by centrifugation with PEG-it for concentration. Produced lentiviral particles are then titered and can be used to transduce target cells. Details of viral titering are not included in this protocol, but can be found at:
This protocol has been optimized using the specific products indicated. Other reagents may be substituted, but the same results cannot be guaranteed.
Immunology, Issue 62, lentivector, virus packaging, pseudovirus production, lentiviral packaging, HIV-based lentivector, lentiviral delivery, lentiviral transduction, lentivirus concentration, stable expression, stable cell lines
Alphavirus Transducing System: Tools for Visualizing Infection in Mosquito Vectors
Institutions: Colorado State University.
Alphavirus transducing systems (ATSs) are important tools for expressing genes of interest (GOI) during infection. ATSs are derived from cDNA clones of mosquito-borne RNA viruses (genus Alphavirus
; family Togaviridae
). The Alphavirus
genus contains about 30 different mosquito-borne virus species. Alphaviruses are enveloped viruses and contain single-stranded RNA genomes (~11.7 Kb). Alphaviruses transcribe a subgenomic mRNA that encodes the structural proteins of the virus required for encapsidation of the genome and maturation of the virus. Alphaviruses are usually highly lytic in vertebrate cells, but persistently infect susceptible mosquito cells with minimal cytopathology. These attributes make them excellent tools for gene expression in mosquito vectors. The most common ATSs in use are derived from Sindbis virus (SINV). The broad species tropism of SINV allows for infection of insect, avian, and mammalian cells8. However, ATSs have been derived from other alphaviruses as well9,10,20
. Foreign gene expression is made possible by the insertion of an additional viral subgenomic RNA initiation site or promoter. ATSs in which an exogenous gene sequence is positioned 5' to the viral structural genes is used for stable protein expression in insects. ATSs, in which a gene sequence is positioned 3' to the structural genes, is used to trigger RNAi and silence expression of that gene in the insect.
ATSs have proven to be valuable tools for understanding vector-pathogen interactions, molecular details of viral replication and maintenance infectious cycles3,4,11,19,21
. In particular, the expression of fluorescent and bioluminescent reporters has been instrumental tracking the viral infection in the vector and virus transmission5,14-16,18
. Additionally, the vector immune response has been described using two strains of SINV engineered to express GFP2,9
Here, we present a method for the production of SINV containing a fluorescent reporter (GFP) from the cDNA infectious clone. Infectious, full-length RNA is transcribed from the linearized cDNA clone. Infectious RNA is introduced into permissive target cells by electroporation. Transfected cells generate infectious virus particles expressing the GOI. Harvested virus is used to infect mosquitoes, as described here, or other host species (not shown herein). Vector competence is assessed by detecting fluorescence outside the midgut or by monitoring virus transmission7
. Use of a fluorescent reporter as the GOI allows for convenient estimation of virus spread throughout a cell culture, for determination of rate of infection, dissemination in exposed mosquitoes, virus transmission from the mosquito and provides a rapid gauge of vector competence.
Infectious Disease, Issue 45, alphavirus, arthropod, mosquito, bloodmeal, reporter, imaging
Adenoviral Transduction of Naive CD4 T Cells to Study Treg Differentiation
Institutions: Helmholtz Zentrum München.
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are essential to provide immune tolerance to self as well as to certain foreign antigens. Tregs can be generated from naive CD4 T cells in vitro
with TCR- and co-stimulation in the presence of TGFβ and IL-2. This bears enormous potential for future therapies, however, the molecules and signaling pathways that control differentiation are largely unknown.
Primary T cells can be manipulated through ectopic gene expression, but common methods fail to target the most important naive state of the T cell prior to primary antigen recognition. Here, we provide a protocol to express ectopic genes in naive CD4 T cells in vitro
before inducing Treg differentiation. It applies transduction with the replication-deficient adenovirus and explains its generation and production. The adenovirus can take up large inserts (up to 7 kb) and can be equipped with promoters to achieve high and transient overexpression in T cells. It effectively transduces naive mouse T cells if they express a transgenic Coxsackie adenovirus receptor (CAR). Importantly, after infection the T cells remain naive (CD44low
) and resting (CD25-
) and can be activated and differentiated into Tregs similar to non-infected cells. Thus, this method enables manipulation of CD4 T cell differentiation from its very beginning. It ensures that ectopic gene expression is already in place when early signaling events of the initial TCR stimulation induces cellular changes that eventually lead into Treg differentiation.
Immunology, Issue 78, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Bioengineering, Infection, Genetics, Microbiology, Virology, T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory, Adenoviruses, Human, MicroRNAs, Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte, Gene Transfer Techniques, Transduction, Genetic, Transfection, Adenovirus, gene transfer, microRNA, overexpression, knock down, CD4 T cells, in vitro differentiation, regulatory T cell, virus, cell, flow cytometry
Viral Concentration Determination Through Plaque Assays: Using Traditional and Novel Overlay Systems
Institutions: George Mason University.
Plaque assays remain one of the most accurate methods for the direct quantification of infectious virons and antiviral substances through the counting of discrete plaques (infectious units and cellular dead zones) in cell culture. Here we demonstrate how to perform a basic plaque assay, and how differing overlays and techniques can affect plaque formation and production. Typically solid or semisolid overlay substrates, such as agarose or carboxymethyl cellulose, have been used to restrict viral spread, preventing indiscriminate infection through the liquid growth medium. Immobilized overlays restrict cellular infection to the immediately surrounding monolayer, allowing the formation of discrete countable foci and subsequent plaque formation. To overcome the difficulties inherent in using traditional overlays, a novel liquid overlay utilizing microcrystalline cellulose and carboxymethyl cellulose sodium has been increasingly used as a replacement in the standard plaque assay. Liquid overlay plaque assays can be readily performed in either standard 6 or 12 well plate formats as per traditional techniques and require no special equipment. Due to its liquid state and subsequent ease of application and removal, microculture plate formats may alternatively be utilized as a rapid, accurate and high throughput alternative to larger scale viral titrations. Use of a non heated viscous liquid polymer offers the opportunity to streamline work, conserves reagents, incubator space, and increases operational safety when used in traditional or high containment labs as no reagent heating or glassware are required. Liquid overlays may also prove more sensitive than traditional overlays for certain heat labile viruses.
Virology, Issue 93, Plaque Assay, Virology, Viral Quantification, Cellular Overlays, Agarose, Avicel, Crystal Violet Staining, Serial Dilutions, Rift Valley fever virus, Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis, Influenza
Multi-target Parallel Processing Approach for Gene-to-structure Determination of the Influenza Polymerase PB2 Subunit
Institutions: Emerald Bio, Emerald Bio, Emerald Bio, Emerald Bio, Emerald Bio, Emerald Bio, Emerald Bio, Emerald Bio, Emerald Bio.
Pandemic outbreaks of highly virulent influenza strains can cause widespread morbidity and mortality in human populations worldwide. In the United States alone, an average of 41,400 deaths and 1.86 million hospitalizations are caused by influenza virus infection each year 1
. Point mutations in the polymerase basic protein 2 subunit (PB2) have been linked to the adaptation of the viral infection in humans 2
. Findings from such studies have revealed the biological significance of PB2 as a virulence factor, thus highlighting its potential as an antiviral drug target.
The structural genomics program put forth by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) provides funding to Emerald Bio and three other Pacific Northwest institutions that together make up the Seattle Structural Genomics Center for Infectious Disease (SSGCID). The SSGCID is dedicated to providing the scientific community with three-dimensional protein structures of NIAID category A-C pathogens. Making such structural information available to the scientific community serves to accelerate structure-based drug design.
Structure-based drug design plays an important role in drug development. Pursuing multiple targets in parallel greatly increases the chance of success for new lead discovery by targeting a pathway or an entire protein family. Emerald Bio has developed a high-throughput, multi-target parallel processing pipeline (MTPP) for gene-to-structure determination to support the consortium. Here we describe the protocols used to determine the structure of the PB2 subunit from four different influenza A strains.
Infection, Issue 76, Structural Biology, Virology, Genetics, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Molecular Biology, Infectious Diseases, Microbiology, Genomics, high throughput, multi-targeting, structural genomics, protein crystallization, purification, protein production, X-ray crystallography, Gene Composer, Protein Maker, expression, E. coli, fermentation, influenza, virus, vector, plasmid, cell, cell culture, PCR, sequencing
Two Methods of Heterokaryon Formation to Discover HCV Restriction Factors
Institutions: Twincore, Centre for Experimental and Clinical Infection Research, The Rockefeller University, NY.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a hepatotropic virus with a host-range restricted to humans and chimpanzees. Although HCV RNA replication has been observed in human non-hepatic and murine cell lines, the efficiency was very low and required long-term selection procedures using HCV replicon constructs expressing dominant antibiotic-selectable markers1-5
. HCV in vitro
research is therefore limited to human hepatoma cell lines permissive for virus entry and completion of the viral life cycle. Due to HCVs narrow species tropism, there is no immunocompetent small animal model available that sustains the complete HCV replication cycle 6-8
. Inefficient replication of HCV in non-human cells e.g. of mouse origin is likely due to lack of genetic incompatibility of essential host dependency factors and/or expression of restriction factors.
We investigated whether HCV propagation is suppressed by dominant restriction factors in either human cell lines derived from non-hepatic tissues or in mouse liver cell lines. To this end, we developed two independent conditional trans
-complementation methods relying on somatic cell fusion. In both cases, completion of the viral replication cycle is only possible in the heterokaryons. Consequently, successful trans
-complementation, which is determined by measuring de novo
production of infectious viral progeny, indicates absence of dominant restrictions.
Specifically, subgenomic HCV replicons carrying a luciferase transgene were transfected into highly permissive human hepatoma cells (Huh-7.5 cells). Subsequently, these cells were co-cultured and fused to various human and murine cells expressing HCV structural proteins core, envelope 1 and 2 (E1, E2) and accessory proteins p7 and NS2. Provided that cell fusion was initiated by treatment with polyethylene-glycol (PEG), the culture released infectious viral particles which infected naïve cells in a receptor-dependent fashion.
To assess the influence of dominant restrictions on the complete viral life cycle including cell entry, RNA translation, replication and virus assembly, we took advantage of a human liver cell line (Huh-7 Lunet N cells 9
) which lacks endogenous expression of CD81, an essential entry factor of HCV. In the absence of ectopically expressed CD81, these cells are essentially refractory to HCV infection 10
. Importantly, when co-cultured and fused with cells that express human CD81 but lack at least another crucial cell entry factor (i.e. SR-BI, CLDN1, OCLN), only the resulting heterokaryons display the complete set of HCV entry factors requisite for infection. Therefore, to analyze if dominant restriction factors suppress completion of the HCV replication cycle, we fused Lunet N cells with various cells from human and mouse origin which fulfill the above mentioned criteria. When co-cultured cells were transfected with a highly fusogenic viral envelope protein mutant of the prototype foamy virus (PFV11
) and subsequently challenged with infectious HCV particles (HCVcc), de novo
production of infectious virus was observed. This indicates that HCV successfully completed its replication cycle in heterokaryons thus ruling out expression of dominant restriction factors in these cell lines. These novel conditional trans
-complementation methods will be useful to screen a large panel of cell lines and primary cells for expression of HCV-specific dominant restriction factors.
Virology, Issue 65, Immunology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, cell fusion, HCV, restriction factor, heterokaryon, mouse, species-specificity
Reverse Genetics Mediated Recovery of Infectious Murine Norovirus
Institutions: Imperial College London .
Human noroviruses are responsible for most cases of human gastroenteritis (GE) worldwide and are recurrent problem in environments where close person-to-person contact cannot be avoided 1, 2
. During the last few years an increase in the incidence of outbreaks in hospitals has been reported, causing significant disruptions to their operational capacity as well as large economic losses. The identification of new antiviral approaches has been limited due to the inability of human noroviruses to complete a productive infection in cell culture 3
. The recent isolation of a murine norovirus (MNV), closely related to human norovirus 4
but which can be propagated in cells 5
has opened new avenues for the investigation of these pathogens 6, 7
MNV replication results in the synthesis of new positive sense genomic and subgenomic RNA molecules, the latter of which corresponds to the last third of the viral genome (Figure 1
). MNV contains four different open reading frames (ORFs), of which ORF1 occupies most of the genome and encodes seven non-structural proteins (NS1-7) released from a polyprotein precursor. ORF2 and ORF3 are contained within the subgenomic RNA region and encode the capsid proteins (VP1 and VP2, respectively) (Figure 1
). Recently, we have identified that additional ORF4 overlapping ORF2 but in a different reading frame is functional and encodes for a mitochondrial localised virulence factor (VF1) 8
Replication for positive sense RNA viruses, including noroviruses, takes place in the cytoplasm resulting in the synthesis of new uncapped RNA genomes. To promote viral translation, viruses exploit different strategies aimed at recruiting the cellular protein synthesis machinery 9-11
. Interestingly, norovirus translation is driven by the multifunctional viral protein-primer VPg covalently linked to the 5' end of both genomic and subgenomic RNAs 12-14
. This sophisticated mechanism of translation is likely to be a major factor in the limited efficiency of viral recovery by conventional reverse genetics approaches.
Here we report two different strategies based on the generation of murine norovirus-1 (referred to as MNV herewith) transcripts capped at the 5' end. One of the methods involves both in vitro
synthesis and capping of viral RNA, whereas the second approach entails the transcription of MNV cDNA in cells expressing T7 RNA polymerase. The availability of these reverse genetics systems for the study of MNV and a small animal model has provided an unprecedented ability to dissect the role of viral sequences in replication and pathogenesis 15-17
Virology, Issue 64, Immunology, Genetics, Infection, RNA virus, VPg, RNA capping, T7 RNA polymerase, calicivirus, norovirus
Isolation of Fidelity Variants of RNA Viruses and Characterization of Virus Mutation Frequency
Institutions: Institut Pasteur .
RNA viruses use RNA dependent RNA polymerases to replicate their genomes. The intrinsically high error rate of these enzymes is a large contributor to the generation of extreme population diversity that facilitates virus adaptation and evolution. Increasing evidence shows that the intrinsic error rates, and the resulting mutation frequencies, of RNA viruses can be modulated by subtle amino acid changes to the viral polymerase. Although biochemical assays exist for some viral RNA polymerases that permit quantitative measure of incorporation fidelity, here we describe a simple method of measuring mutation frequencies of RNA viruses that has proven to be as accurate as biochemical approaches in identifying fidelity altering mutations. The approach uses conventional virological and sequencing techniques that can be performed in most biology laboratories. Based on our experience with a number of different viruses, we have identified the key steps that must be optimized to increase the likelihood of isolating fidelity variants and generating data of statistical significance. The isolation and characterization of fidelity altering mutations can provide new insights into polymerase structure and function1-3
. Furthermore, these fidelity variants can be useful tools in characterizing mechanisms of virus adaptation and evolution4-7
Immunology, Issue 52, Polymerase fidelity, RNA virus, mutation frequency, mutagen, RNA polymerase, viral evolution
Modeling The Lifecycle Of Ebola Virus Under Biosafety Level 2 Conditions With Virus-like Particles Containing Tetracistronic Minigenomes
Institutions: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health.
Ebola viruses cause severe hemorrhagic fevers in humans and non-human primates, with case fatality rates as high as 90%. There are no approved vaccines or specific treatments for the disease caused by these viruses, and work with infectious Ebola viruses is restricted to biosafety level 4 laboratories, significantly limiting the research on these viruses. Lifecycle modeling systems model the virus lifecycle under biosafety level 2 conditions; however, until recently such systems have been limited to either individual aspects of the virus lifecycle, or a single infectious cycle. Tetracistronic minigenomes, which consist of Ebola virus non-coding regions, a reporter gene, and three Ebola virus genes involved in morphogenesis, budding, and entry (VP40, GP1,2
, and VP24), can be used to produce replication and transcription-competent virus-like particles (trVLPs) containing these minigenomes. These trVLPs can continuously infect cells expressing the Ebola virus proteins responsible for genome replication and transcription, allowing us to safely model multiple infectious cycles under biosafety level 2 conditions. Importantly, the viral components of this systems are solely derived from Ebola virus and not from other viruses (as is, for example, the case in systems using pseudotyped viruses), and VP40, GP1,2
and VP24 are not overexpressed in this system, making it ideally suited for studying morphogenesis, budding and entry, although other aspects of the virus lifecycle such as genome replication and transcription can also be modeled with this system. Therefore, the tetracistronic trVLP assay represents the most comprehensive lifecycle modeling system available for Ebola viruses, and has tremendous potential for use in investigating the biology of Ebola viruses in future. Here, we provide detailed information on the use of this system, as well as on expected results.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 91, hemorrhagic Fevers, Viral, Mononegavirales Infections, Ebola virus, filovirus, lifecycle modeling system, minigenome, reverse genetics, virus-like particles, replication, transcription, budding, morphogenesis, entry
Protein WISDOM: A Workbench for In silico De novo Design of BioMolecules
Institutions: Princeton University.
The aim of de novo
protein design is to find the amino acid sequences that will fold into a desired 3-dimensional structure with improvements in specific properties, such as binding affinity, agonist or antagonist behavior, or stability, relative to the native sequence. Protein design lies at the center of current advances drug design and discovery. Not only does protein design provide predictions for potentially useful drug targets, but it also enhances our understanding of the protein folding process and protein-protein interactions. Experimental methods such as directed evolution have shown success in protein design. However, such methods are restricted by the limited sequence space that can be searched tractably. In contrast, computational design strategies allow for the screening of a much larger set of sequences covering a wide variety of properties and functionality. We have developed a range of computational de novo
protein design methods capable of tackling several important areas of protein design. These include the design of monomeric proteins for increased stability and complexes for increased binding affinity.
To disseminate these methods for broader use we present Protein WISDOM (http://www.proteinwisdom.org), a tool that provides automated methods for a variety of protein design problems. Structural templates are submitted to initialize the design process. The first stage of design is an optimization sequence selection stage that aims at improving stability through minimization of potential energy in the sequence space. Selected sequences are then run through a fold specificity stage and a binding affinity stage. A rank-ordered list of the sequences for each step of the process, along with relevant designed structures, provides the user with a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the design. Here we provide the details of each design method, as well as several notable experimental successes attained through the use of the methods.
Genetics, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computational Biology, Genomics, Proteomics, Protein, Protein Binding, Computational Biology, Drug Design, optimization (mathematics), Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, De novo protein and peptide design, Drug design, In silico sequence selection, Optimization, Fold specificity, Binding affinity, sequencing
A Protocol for Analyzing Hepatitis C Virus Replication
Institutions: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) affects 3% of the world’s population and causes serious liver ailments including chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. HCV is an enveloped RNA virus belonging to the family Flaviviridae
. Current treatment is not fully effective and causes adverse side effects. There is no HCV vaccine available. Thus, continued effort is required for developing a vaccine and better therapy. An HCV cell culture system is critical for studying various stages of HCV growth including viral entry, genome replication, packaging, and egress. In the current procedure presented, we used a wild-type intragenotype 2a chimeric virus, FNX-HCV, and a recombinant FNX-Rluc virus carrying a Renilla
luciferase reporter gene to study the virus replication. A human hepatoma cell line (Huh-7 based) was used for transfection of in vitro
transcribed HCV genomic RNAs. Cell-free culture supernatants, protein lysates and total RNA were harvested at various time points post-transfection to assess HCV growth. HCV genome replication status was evaluated by quantitative RT-PCR and visualizing the presence of HCV double-stranded RNA. The HCV protein expression was verified by Western blot and immunofluorescence assays using antibodies specific for HCV NS3 and NS5A proteins. HCV RNA transfected cells released infectious particles into culture supernatant and the viral titer was measured. Luciferase assays were utilized to assess the replication level and infectivity of reporter HCV. In conclusion, we present various virological assays for characterizing different stages of the HCV replication cycle.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 88, Hepatitis C Virus, HCV, Tumor-virus, Hepatitis C, Cirrhosis, Liver Cancer, Hepatocellular Carcinoma
Efficient Production and Purification of Recombinant Murine Kindlin-3 from Insect Cells for Biophysical Studies
Institutions: University of Oxford.
Kindlins are essential coactivators, with talin, of the cell surface receptors integrins and also participate in integrin outside-in signalling, and the control of gene transcription in the cell nucleus. The kindlins are ~75 kDa multidomain proteins and bind to an NPxY motif and upstream T/S cluster of the integrin β-subunit cytoplasmic tail. The hematopoietically-important kindlin isoform, kindlin-3, is critical for platelet aggregation during thrombus formation, leukocyte rolling in response to infection and inflammation and osteoclast podocyte formation in bone resorption. Kindlin-3's role in these processes has resulted in extensive cellular and physiological studies. However, there is a need for an efficient method of acquiring high quality milligram quantities of the protein for further studies. We have developed a protocol, here described, for the efficient expression and purification of recombinant murine kindlin-3 by use of a baculovirus-driven expression system in Sf9 cells yielding sufficient amounts of high purity full-length protein to allow its biophysical characterization. The same approach could be taken in the study of the other mammalian kindlin isoforms.
Virology, Issue 85, Heterologous protein expression, insect cells, Spodoptera frugiperda, baculovirus, protein purification, kindlin, cell adhesion
A Restriction Enzyme Based Cloning Method to Assess the In vitro Replication Capacity of HIV-1 Subtype C Gag-MJ4 Chimeric Viruses
Institutions: Emory University, Emory University.
The protective effect of many HLA class I alleles on HIV-1 pathogenesis and disease progression is, in part, attributed to their ability to target conserved portions of the HIV-1 genome that escape with difficulty. Sequence changes attributed to cellular immune pressure arise across the genome during infection, and if found within conserved regions of the genome such as Gag, can affect the ability of the virus to replicate in vitro
. Transmission of HLA-linked polymorphisms in Gag to HLA-mismatched recipients has been associated with reduced set point viral loads. We hypothesized this may be due to a reduced replication capacity of the virus. Here we present a novel method for assessing the in vitro
replication of HIV-1 as influenced by the gag
gene isolated from acute time points from subtype C infected Zambians. This method uses restriction enzyme based cloning to insert the gag
gene into a common subtype C HIV-1 proviral backbone, MJ4. This makes it more appropriate to the study of subtype C sequences than previous recombination based methods that have assessed the in vitro
replication of chronically derived gag-pro
sequences. Nevertheless, the protocol could be readily modified for studies of viruses from other subtypes. Moreover, this protocol details a robust and reproducible method for assessing the replication capacity of the Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses on a CEM-based T cell line. This method was utilized for the study of Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses derived from 149 subtype C acutely infected Zambians, and has allowed for the identification of residues in Gag that affect replication. More importantly, the implementation of this technique has facilitated a deeper understanding of how viral replication defines parameters of early HIV-1 pathogenesis such as set point viral load and longitudinal CD4+ T cell decline.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 90, HIV-1, Gag, viral replication, replication capacity, viral fitness, MJ4, CEM, GXR25
Characterization of Complex Systems Using the Design of Experiments Approach: Transient Protein Expression in Tobacco as a Case Study
Institutions: RWTH Aachen University, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.
Plants provide multiple benefits for the production of biopharmaceuticals including low costs, scalability, and safety. Transient expression offers the additional advantage of short development and production times, but expression levels can vary significantly between batches thus giving rise to regulatory concerns in the context of good manufacturing practice. We used a design of experiments (DoE) approach to determine the impact of major factors such as regulatory elements in the expression construct, plant growth and development parameters, and the incubation conditions during expression, on the variability of expression between batches. We tested plants expressing a model anti-HIV monoclonal antibody (2G12) and a fluorescent marker protein (DsRed). We discuss the rationale for selecting certain properties of the model and identify its potential limitations. The general approach can easily be transferred to other problems because the principles of the model are broadly applicable: knowledge-based parameter selection, complexity reduction by splitting the initial problem into smaller modules, software-guided setup of optimal experiment combinations and step-wise design augmentation. Therefore, the methodology is not only useful for characterizing protein expression in plants but also for the investigation of other complex systems lacking a mechanistic description. The predictive equations describing the interconnectivity between parameters can be used to establish mechanistic models for other complex systems.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, design of experiments (DoE), transient protein expression, plant-derived biopharmaceuticals, promoter, 5'UTR, fluorescent reporter protein, model building, incubation conditions, monoclonal antibody
Analysis of Nephron Composition and Function in the Adult Zebrafish Kidney
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish model has emerged as a relevant system to study kidney development, regeneration and disease. Both the embryonic and adult zebrafish kidneys are composed of functional units known as nephrons, which are highly conserved with other vertebrates, including mammals. Research in zebrafish has recently demonstrated that two distinctive phenomena transpire after adult nephrons incur damage: first, there is robust regeneration within existing nephrons that replaces the destroyed tubule epithelial cells; second, entirely new nephrons are produced from renal progenitors in a process known as neonephrogenesis. In contrast, humans and other mammals seem to have only a limited ability for nephron epithelial regeneration. To date, the mechanisms responsible for these kidney regeneration phenomena remain poorly understood. Since adult zebrafish kidneys undergo both nephron epithelial regeneration and neonephrogenesis, they provide an outstanding experimental paradigm to study these events. Further, there is a wide range of genetic and pharmacological tools available in the zebrafish model that can be used to delineate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate renal regeneration. One essential aspect of such research is the evaluation of nephron structure and function. This protocol describes a set of labeling techniques that can be used to gauge renal composition and test nephron functionality in the adult zebrafish kidney. Thus, these methods are widely applicable to the future phenotypic characterization of adult zebrafish kidney injury paradigms, which include but are not limited to, nephrotoxicant exposure regimes or genetic methods of targeted cell death such as the nitroreductase mediated cell ablation technique. Further, these methods could be used to study genetic perturbations in adult kidney formation and could also be applied to assess renal status during chronic disease modeling.
Cellular Biology, Issue 90,
zebrafish; kidney; nephron; nephrology; renal; regeneration; proximal tubule; distal tubule; segment; mesonephros; physiology; acute kidney injury (AKI)
Modeling Astrocytoma Pathogenesis In Vitro and In Vivo Using Cortical Astrocytes or Neural Stem Cells from Conditional, Genetically Engineered Mice
Institutions: University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Current astrocytoma models are limited in their ability to define the roles of oncogenic mutations in specific brain cell types during disease pathogenesis and their utility for preclinical drug development. In order to design a better model system for these applications, phenotypically wild-type cortical astrocytes and neural stem cells (NSC) from conditional, genetically engineered mice (GEM) that harbor various combinations of floxed oncogenic alleles were harvested and grown in culture. Genetic recombination was induced in vitro
using adenoviral Cre-mediated recombination, resulting in expression of mutated oncogenes and deletion of tumor suppressor genes. The phenotypic consequences of these mutations were defined by measuring proliferation, transformation, and drug response in vitro
. Orthotopic allograft models, whereby transformed cells are stereotactically injected into the brains of immune-competent, syngeneic littermates, were developed to define the role of oncogenic mutations and cell type on tumorigenesis in vivo
. Unlike most established human glioblastoma cell line xenografts, injection of transformed GEM-derived cortical astrocytes into the brains of immune-competent littermates produced astrocytomas, including the most aggressive subtype, glioblastoma, that recapitulated the histopathological hallmarks of human astrocytomas, including diffuse invasion of normal brain parenchyma. Bioluminescence imaging of orthotopic allografts from transformed astrocytes engineered to express luciferase was utilized to monitor in vivo
tumor growth over time. Thus, astrocytoma models using astrocytes and NSC harvested from GEM with conditional oncogenic alleles provide an integrated system to study the genetics and cell biology of astrocytoma pathogenesis in vitro
and in vivo
and may be useful in preclinical drug development for these devastating diseases.
Neuroscience, Issue 90, astrocytoma, cortical astrocytes, genetically engineered mice, glioblastoma, neural stem cells, orthotopic allograft
Assessment of Immunologically Relevant Dynamic Tertiary Structural Features of the HIV-1 V3 Loop Crown R2 Sequence by ab initio Folding
Institutions: School of Medicine, New York University.
The antigenic diversity of HIV-1 has long been an obstacle to vaccine design, and this variability is especially pronounced in the V3 loop of the virus' surface envelope glycoprotein. We previously proposed that the crown of the V3 loop, although dynamic and sequence variable, is constrained throughout the population of HIV-1 viruses to an immunologically relevant β-hairpin tertiary structure. Importantly, there are thousands of different V3 loop crown sequences in circulating HIV-1 viruses, making 3D structural characterization of trends across the diversity of viruses difficult or impossible by crystallography or NMR. Our previous successful studies with folding of the V3 crown1, 2
used the ab initio
accessible in the ICM-Pro molecular modeling software package (Molsoft LLC, La Jolla, CA) and suggested that the crown of the V3 loop, specifically from positions 10 to 22, benefits sufficiently from the flexibility and length of its flanking stems to behave to a large degree as if it were an unconstrained peptide freely folding in solution. As such, rapid ab initio
folding of just this portion of the V3 loop of any individual strain of the 60,000+ circulating HIV-1 strains can be informative. Here, we folded the V3 loop of the R2 strain to gain insight into the structural basis of its unique properties. R2 bears a rare V3 loop sequence thought to be responsible for the exquisite sensitivity of this strain to neutralization by patient sera and monoclonal antibodies4, 5
. The strain mediates CD4-independent infection and appears to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies. We demonstrate how evaluation of the results of the folding can be informative for associating observed structures in the folding with the immunological activities observed for R2.
Infection, Issue 43, HIV-1, structure-activity relationships, ab initio simulations, antibody-mediated neutralization, vaccine design
Titration of Human Coronaviruses Using an Immunoperoxidase Assay
Institutions: INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier.
Determination of infectious viral titers is a basic and essential experimental approach for virologists. Classical plaque assays cannot be used for viruses that do not cause significant cytopathic effects, which is the case for prototype strains 229E and OC43 of human coronavirus (HCoV). Therefore, an alternative indirect immunoperoxidase assay (IPA) was developed for the detection and titration of these viruses and is described herein. Susceptible cells are inoculated with serial logarithmic dilutions of virus-containing samples in a 96-well plate format. After viral growth, viral detection by IPA yields the infectious virus titer, expressed as 'Tissue Culture Infectious Dose 50 percent' (TCID50). This represents the dilution of a virus-containing sample at which half of a series of laboratory wells contain infectious replicating virus. This technique provides a reliable method for the titration of HCoV-229E and HCoV-OC43 in biological samples such as cells, tissues and fluids. This article is based on work first reported in Methods in Molecular Biology (2008) volume 454, pages 93-102.
Microbiology, Issue 14, Springer Protocols, Human coronavirus, HCoV-229E, HCoV-OC43, cell and tissue sample, titration, immunoperoxidase assay, TCID50
Institutions: University of California, San Francisco - UCSF.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a system of gene silencing in living cells. In RNAi, genes homologous in sequence to short interfering RNAs (siRNA) are silenced at the post-transcriptional state. Short hairpin RNAs, precursors to siRNA, can be expressed using lentivirus, allowing for RNAi in a variety of cell types. Lentiviruses, such as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, are capable to infecting both dividing and non-dividing cells. We will describe a procedure which to package lentiviruses. Packaging refers to the preparation of competent virus from DNA vectors. Lentiviral vector production systems are based on a 'split' system, where the natural viral genome has been split into individual helper plasmid constructs. This splitting of the different viral elements into four separate vectors diminishes the risk of creating a replication-capable virus by adventitious recombination of the lentiviral genome. Here, a vector containing the shRNA of interest and three packaging vectors (p-VSVG, pRSV, pMDL) are transiently transfected into human 293 cells. After at least a 48-hour incubation period, the virus containing supernatant is harvested and concentrated. Finally, virus titer is determined by reporter (fluorescent) expression with a flow cytometer.
Microbiology, Issue 32, Lentivirus, RNAi, viral titration, transfection, retrovirus, flow cytometry, split vector system, shRNA.
Interview: Protein Folding and Studies of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Institutions: MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In this interview, Dr. Lindquist describes relationships between protein folding, prion diseases and neurodegenerative disorders. The problem of the protein folding is at the core of the modern biology. In addition to their traditional biochemical functions, proteins can mediate transfer of biological information and therefore can be considered a genetic material. This recently discovered function of proteins has important implications for studies of human disorders. Dr. Lindquist also describes current experimental approaches to investigate the mechanism of neurodegenerative diseases based on genetic studies in model organisms.
Neuroscience, issue 17, protein folding, brain, neuron, prion, neurodegenerative disease, yeast, screen, Translational Research
Interview: HIV-1 Proviral DNA Excision Using an Evolved Recombinase
Institutions: Heinrich-Pette-Institute for Experimental Virology and Immunology, University of Hamburg.
HIV-1 integrates into the host chromosome of infected cells and persists as a provirus flanked by long terminal repeats. Current treatment strategies primarily target virus enzymes or virus-cell fusion, suppressing the viral life cycle without eradicating the infection. Since the integrated provirus is not targeted by these approaches, new resistant strains of HIV-1 may emerge. Here, we report that the engineered recombinase Tre (see Molecular evolution of the Tre recombinase , Buchholz, F., Max Planck Institute for Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden) efficiently excises integrated HIV-1 proviral DNA from the genome of infected cells. We produced loxLTR containing viral pseudotypes and infected HeLa cells to examine whether Tre recombinase can excise the provirus from the genome of HIV-1 infected human cells. A virus particle-releasing cell line was cloned and transfected with a plasmid expressing Tre or with a parental control vector. Recombinase activity and virus production were monitored. All assays demonstrated the efficient deletion of the provirus from infected cells without visible cytotoxic effects. These results serve as proof of principle that it is possible to evolve a recombinase to specifically target an HIV-1 LTR and that this recombinase is capable of excising the HIV-1 provirus from the genome of HIV-1-infected human cells.
Before an engineered recombinase could enter the therapeutic arena, however, significant obstacles need to be overcome. Among the most critical issues, that we face, are an efficient and safe delivery to targeted cells and the absence of side effects.
Medicine, Issue 16, HIV, Cell Biology, Recombinase, provirus, HeLa Cells