Naturally occurring bio-molecular machines work in every living cell and display a variety of designs 1-6. Yet the development of artificial molecular machines centers on devices capable of directional motion, i.e. molecular motors, and on their scaled-down mechanical parts (wheels, axels, pendants etc) 7-9. This imitates the macro-machines, even though the physical properties essential for these devices, such as inertia and momentum conservation, are not usable in the nanoworld environments 10. Alternative designs, which do not follow the mechanical macromachines schemes and use mechanisms developed in the evolution of biological molecules, can take advantage of the specific conditions of the nanoworld. Besides, adapting actual biological molecules for the purposes of nano-design reduces potential dangers the nanotechnology products may pose. Here we demonstrate the assembly and application of one such bio-enabled construct, a semi-artificial molecular device which combines a naturally-occurring molecular machine with artificial components. From the enzymology point of view, our construct is a designer fluorescent enzyme-substrate complex put together to perform a specific useful function. This assembly is by definition a molecular machine, as it contains one 12. Yet, its integration with the engineered part - fluorescent dual hairpin - re-directs it to a new task of labeling DNA damage12.
Our construct assembles out of a 32-mer DNA and an enzyme vaccinia topoisomerase I (VACC TOPO). The machine then uses its own material to fabricate two fluorescently labeled detector units (Figure 1). One of the units (green fluorescence) carries VACC TOPO covalently attached to its 3'end and another unit (red fluorescence) is a free hairpin with a terminal 3'OH. The units are short-lived and quickly reassemble back into the original construct, which subsequently recleaves. In the absence of DNA breaks these two units continuously separate and religate in a cyclic manner. In tissue sections with DNA damage, the topoisomerase-carrying detector unit selectively attaches to blunt-ended DNA breaks with 5'OH (DNase II-type breaks)11,12, fluorescently labeling them. The second, enzyme-free hairpin formed after oligonucleotide cleavage, will ligate to a 5'PO4 blunt-ended break (DNase I-type breaks)11,12, if T4 DNA ligase is present in the solution 13,14 . When T4 DNA ligase is added to a tissue section or a solution containing DNA with 5'PO4 blunt-ended breaks, the ligase reacts with 5'PO4 DNA ends, forming semi-stable enzyme-DNA complexes. The blunt ended hairpins will interact with these complexes releasing ligase and covalently linking hairpins to DNA, thus labeling 5'PO4 blunt-ended DNA breaks.
This development exemplifies a new practical approach to the design of molecular machines and provides a useful sensor for detection of apoptosis and DNA damage in fixed cells and tissues.
17 Related JoVE Articles!
Quantitation and Analysis of the Formation of HO-Endonuclease Stimulated Chromosomal Translocations by Single-Strand Annealing in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Institutions: Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences, City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center and Beckman Research Institute, University of Southern California, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Genetic variation is frequently mediated by genomic rearrangements that arise through interaction between dispersed repetitive elements present in every eukaryotic genome. This process is an important mechanism for generating diversity between and within organisms1-3
. The human genome consists of approximately 40% repetitive sequence of retrotransposon origin, including a variety of LINEs and SINEs4
. Exchange events between these repetitive elements can lead to genome rearrangements, including translocations, that can disrupt gene dosage and expression that can result in autoimmune and cardiovascular diseases5
, as well as cancer in humans6-9
Exchange between repetitive elements occurs in a variety of ways. Exchange between sequences that share perfect (or near-perfect) homology occurs by a process called homologous recombination (HR). By contrast, non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) uses little-or-no sequence homology for exchange10,11
. The primary purpose of HR, in mitotic cells, is to repair double-strand breaks (DSBs) generated endogenously by aberrant DNA replication and oxidative lesions, or by exposure to ionizing radiation (IR), and other exogenous DNA damaging agents.
In the assay described here, DSBs are simultaneously created bordering recombination substrates at two different chromosomal loci in diploid cells by a galactose-inducible HO-endonuclease (Figure 1
). The repair of the broken chromosomes generates chromosomal translocations by single strand annealing (SSA), a process where homologous sequences adjacent to the chromosome ends are covalently joined subsequent to annealing. One of the substrates, his3-Δ3'
, contains a 3' truncated HIS3
allele and is located on one copy of chromosome XV at the native HIS3
locus. The second substrate, his3-Δ5'
, is located at the LEU2
locus on one copy of chromosome III, and contains a 5' truncated HIS3
allele. Both substrates are flanked by a HO endonuclease recognition site that can be targeted for incision by HO-endonuclease. HO endonuclease recognition sites native to the MAT
locus, on both copies of chromosome III, have been deleted in all strains. This prevents interaction between the recombination substrates and other broken chromosome ends from interfering in the assay. The KAN-MX
-marked galactose-inducible HO endonuclease expression cassette is inserted at the TRP1
locus on chromosome IV. The substrates share 311 bp or 60 bp of the HIS3
coding sequence that can be used by the HR machinery for repair by SSA. Cells that use these substrates to repair broken chromosomes by HR form an intact HIS3
allele and a tXV::III chromosomal translocation that can be selected for by the ability to grow on medium lacking histidine (Figure 2A
). Translocation frequency by HR is calculated by dividing the number of histidine prototrophic colonies that arise on selective medium by the total number of viable cells that arise after plating appropriate dilutions onto non-selective medium (Figure 2B
). A variety of DNA repair mutants have been used to study the genetic control of translocation formation by SSA using this system12-14
Genetics, Issue 55, translocation formation, HO-endonuclease, Genomic Southern blot, Chromosome blot, Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, Homologous recombination, DNA double-strand breaks, Single-strand annealing
Assessing Phagocytic Clearance of Cell Death in Experimental Stroke by Ligatable Fluorescent Probes
Institutions: Baylor College of Medicine, Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
We describe a new histochemical approach for visualization of phagocytic clearance in focal brain ischemia. The approach permits the study of elimination of dead cells in stroke by waste-management phagocytes of any cellular lineage. Although numerous cells of different origins that are capable of phagocytosis are present in ischemic brain, only part of them actively engulf and digest cell corpses. The selective visualization, quantification and analysis of such active phagocytic waste-management are helpful in assessing brain response to ischemia. Efficient cell death clearance is important for brain recovery from ischemic injury, as it opens the way for the subsequent regenerative processes. The failure to clean the corpses would result in a toxic reaction caused by non-degraded DNA and proteins. The described procedure uses fluorescent probes selectively ligated by a viral topoisomerase to characteristic DNA breaks produced in all phagocytes during engulfment and digestion of cells irreversibly damaged by ischemia. The method is a new tool for the investigation of brain reaction to ischemic injury.
Medicine, Issue 87, Brain Ischemia, Molecular Probe Techniques, Investigative Techniques, experimental stroke, focal brain ischemia, 5'OH DNA breaks, phagocytic clearance, in situ detection, phagocytosis labeling, DNA damage
Two- and Three-Dimensional Live Cell Imaging of DNA Damage Response Proteins
Institutions: Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Commonwealth University.
Double-strand breaks (DSBs) are the most deleterious DNA lesions a cell can encounter. If left unrepaired, DSBs harbor great potential to generate mutations and chromosomal aberrations1
. To prevent this trauma from catalyzing genomic instability, it is crucial for cells to detect DSBs, activate the DNA damage response (DDR), and repair the DNA. When stimulated, the DDR works to preserve genomic integrity by triggering cell cycle arrest to allow for repair to take place or force the cell to undergo apoptosis. The predominant mechanisms of DSB repair occur through nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination repair (HRR) (reviewed in2
). There are many proteins whose activities must be precisely orchestrated for the DDR to function properly. Herein, we describe a method for 2- and 3-dimensional (D) visualization of one of these proteins, 53BP1.
The p53-binding protein 1 (53BP1) localizes to areas of DSBs by binding to modified histones3,4
, forming foci within 5-15 minutes5
. The histone modifications and recruitment of 53BP1 and other DDR proteins to DSB sites are believed to facilitate the structural rearrangement of chromatin around areas of damage and contribute to DNA repair6
. Beyond direct participation in repair, additional roles have been described for 53BP1 in the DDR, such as regulating an intra-S checkpoint, a G2/M checkpoint, and activating downstream DDR proteins7-9
. Recently, it was discovered that 53BP1 does not form foci in response to DNA damage induced during mitosis, instead waiting for cells to enter G1 before localizing to the vicinity of DSBs6
. DDR proteins such as 53BP1 have been found to associate with mitotic structures (such as kinetochores) during the progression through mitosis10
In this protocol we describe the use of 2- and 3-D live cell imaging to visualize the formation of 53BP1 foci in response to the DNA damaging agent camptothecin (CPT), as well as 53BP1's behavior during mitosis. Camptothecin is a topoisomerase I inhibitor that primarily causes DSBs during DNA replication. To accomplish this, we used a previously described 53BP1-mCherry fluorescent fusion protein construct consisting of a 53BP1 protein domain able to bind DSBs11
. In addition, we used a histone H2B-GFP fluorescent fusion protein construct able to monitor chromatin dynamics throughout the cell cycle but in particular during mitosis12
. Live cell imaging in multiple dimensions is an excellent tool to deepen our understanding of the function of DDR proteins in eukaryotic cells.
Genetics, Issue 67, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Biochemistry, DNA, Double-strand breaks, DNA damage response, proteins, live cell imaging, 3D cell imaging, confocal microscopy
Assaying DNA Damage in Hippocampal Neurons Using the Comet Assay
Institutions: University of Alabama-Birmingham, The Ohio State University Medical School, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, University of Alabama-Birmingham.
A number of drugs target the DNA repair pathways and induce cell kill by creating DNA damage. Thus, processes to directly measure DNA damage have been extensively evaluated. Traditional methods are time consuming, expensive, resource intensive and require replicating cells. In contrast, the comet assay, a single cell gel electrophoresis assay, is a faster, non-invasive, inexpensive, direct and sensitive measure of DNA damage and repair. All forms of DNA damage as well as DNA repair can be visualized at the single cell level using this powerful technique.
The principle underlying the comet assay is that intact DNA is highly ordered whereas DNA damage disrupts this organization. The damaged DNA seeps into the agarose matrix and when subjected to an electric field, the negatively charged DNA migrates towards the cathode which is positively charged. The large undamaged DNA strands are not able to migrate far from the nucleus. DNA damage creates smaller DNA fragments which travel farther than the intact DNA. Comet Assay, an image analysis software, measures and compares the overall fluorescent intensity of the DNA in the nucleus with DNA that has migrated out of the nucleus. Fluorescent signal from the migrated DNA is proportional to DNA damage. Longer brighter DNA tail signifies increased DNA damage. Some of the parameters that are measured are tail moment which is a measure of both the amount of DNA and distribution of DNA in the tail, tail length and percentage of DNA in the tail. This assay allows to measure DNA repair as well since resolution of DNA damage signifies repair has taken place. The limit of sensitivity is approximately 50 strand breaks per diploid mammalian cell 1,2
. Cells treated with any DNA damaging agents, such as etoposide, may be used as a positive control. Thus the comet assay is a quick and effective procedure to measure DNA damage.
Neuroscience, Issue 70, Genetics, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Cancer Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, DNA, DNA damage, double strand break, single strand break, repair, neurons, comet assay, cell culture
Quantification of γH2AX Foci in Response to Ionising Radiation
Institutions: The Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct, The University of Melbourne, The Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), which are induced by either endogenous metabolic processes or by exogenous sources, are one of the most critical DNA lesions with respect to survival and preservation of genomic integrity. An early response to the induction of DSBs is phosphorylation of the H2A histone variant, H2AX, at the serine-139 residue, in the highly conserved C-terminal SQEY motif, forming γH2AX1
. Following induction of DSBs, H2AX is rapidly phosphorylated by the phosphatidyl-inosito 3-kinase (PIKK) family of proteins, ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM), DNA-protein kinase catalytic subunit and ATM and RAD3-related (ATR)2
. Typically, only a few base-pairs (bp) are implicated in a DSB, however, there is significant signal amplification, given the importance of chromatin modifications in DNA damage signalling and repair. Phosphorylation of H2AX mediated predominantly by ATM spreads to adjacent areas of chromatin, affecting approximately 0.03% of total cellular H2AX per DSB2,3
. This corresponds to phosphorylation of approximately 2000 H2AX molecules spanning ~2 Mbp regions of chromatin surrounding the site of the DSB and results in the formation of discrete γH2AX foci which can be easily visualized and quantitated by immunofluorescence microscopy2
. The loss of γH2AX at DSB reflects repair, however, there is some controversy as to what defines complete repair of DSBs; it has been proposed that rejoining of both strands of DNA is adequate however, it has also been suggested that re-instatement of the original chromatin state of compaction is necessary4-8
. The disappearence of γH2AX involves at least in part, dephosphorylation by phosphatases, phosphatase 2A and phosphatase 4C5,6
. Further, removal of γH2AX by redistribution involving histone exchange with H2A.Z has been implicated7,8
. Importantly, the quantitative analysis of γH2AX foci has led to a wide range of applications in medical and nuclear research. Here, we demonstrate the most commonly used immunofluorescence method for evaluation of initial DNA damage by detection and quantitation of γH2AX foci in γ-irradiated adherent human keratinocytes9
Medicine, Issue 38, H2AX, DNA double-strand break, DNA damage, chromatin modification, repair, ionising radiation
Evaluation of the Spatial Distribution of γH2AX following Ionizing Radiation
Institutions: The Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct, The Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct, University of Melbourne.
An early molecular response to DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) is phosphorylation of the Ser-139 residue within the terminal SQEY motif of the histone H2AX1,2
. This phosphorylation of H2AX is mediated by the phosphatidyl-inosito 3-kinase (PI3K) family of proteins, ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM), DNA-protein kinase catalytic subunit and ATM and RAD3-related (ATR)3
. The phosphorylated form of H2AX, referred to as γH2AX, spreads to adjacent regions of chromatin from the site of the DSB, forming discrete foci, which are easily visualized by immunofluorecence microscopy3
. Analysis and quantitation of γH2AX foci has been widely used to evaluate DSB formation and repair, particularly in response to ionizing radiation and for evaluating the efficacy of various radiation modifying compounds and cytotoxic compounds4
Given the exquisite specificity and sensitivity of this de novo marker of DSBs, it has provided new insights into the processes of DNA damage and repair in the context of chromatin. For example, in radiation biology the central paradigm is that the nuclear DNA is the critical target with respect to radiation sensitivity. Indeed, the general consensus in the field has largely been to view chromatin as a homogeneous template for DNA damage and repair. However, with the use of γH2AX as molecular marker of DSBs, a disparity in γ-irradiation-induced γH2AX foci formation in euchromatin and heterochromatin has been observed5-7
. Recently, we used a panel of antibodies to either mono-, di- or tri- methylated histone H3 at lysine 9 (H3K9me1, H3K9me2, H3K9me3) which are epigenetic imprints of constitutive heterochromatin and transcriptional silencing and lysine 4 (H3K4me1, H3K4me2, H3K4me3), which are tightly correlated actively transcribing euchromatic regions, to investigate the spatial distribution of γH2AX following ionizing radiation8
. In accordance with the prevailing ideas regarding chromatin biology, our findings indicated a close correlation between γH2AX formation and active transcription9
. Here we demonstrate our immunofluorescence method for detection and quantitation of γH2AX foci in non-adherent cells, with a particular focus on co-localization with other epigenetic markers, image analysis and 3D-modeling.
Cellular Biology, Issue 42, H2AX, radiation, euchromatin, heterochromatin, immunofluorescence, 3D-modeling
Identifying DNA Mutations in Purified Hematopoietic Stem/Progenitor Cells
Institutions: UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.
In recent years, it has become apparent that genomic instability is tightly related to many developmental disorders, cancers, and aging. Given that stem cells are responsible for ensuring tissue homeostasis and repair throughout life, it is reasonable to hypothesize that the stem cell population is critical for preserving genomic integrity of tissues. Therefore, significant interest has arisen in assessing the impact of endogenous and environmental factors on genomic integrity in stem cells and their progeny, aiming to understand the etiology of stem-cell based diseases.
transgenic mice carry a recoverable λ phage vector encoding the LacI
reporter system, in which the LacI
gene serves as the mutation reporter. The result of a mutated LacI
gene is the production of β-galactosidase that cleaves a chromogenic substrate, turning it blue. The LacI
reporter system is carried in all cells, including stem/progenitor cells and can easily be recovered and used to subsequently infect E. coli
. After incubating infected E. coli
on agarose that contains the correct substrate, plaques can be scored; blue plaques indicate a mutant LacI
gene, while clear plaques harbor wild-type. The frequency of blue (among clear) plaques indicates the mutant frequency in the original cell population the DNA was extracted from. Sequencing the mutant LacI
gene will show the location of the mutations in the gene and the type of mutation.
transgenic mouse model is well-established as an in vivo
mutagenesis assay. Moreover, the mice and the reagents for the assay are commercially available. Here we describe in detail how this model can be adapted to measure the frequency of spontaneously occurring DNA mutants in stem cell-enriched Lin-
(LSK) cells and other subpopulations of the hematopoietic system.
Infection, Issue 84, In vivo mutagenesis, hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells, LacI mouse model, DNA mutations, E. coli
Rapid Analysis of Chromosome Aberrations in Mouse B Lymphocytes by PNA-FISH
Institutions: Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Defective DNA repair leads to increased genomic instability, which is the root cause of mutations that lead to tumorigenesis. Analysis of the frequency and type of chromosome aberrations in different cell types allows defects in DNA repair pathways to be elucidated. Understanding mammalian DNA repair biology has been greatly helped by the production of mice with knockouts in specific genes. The goal of this protocol is to quantify genomic instability in mouse B lymphocytes. Labeling of the telomeres using PNA-FISH probes (peptide nucleic acid - fluorescent in situ
hybridization) facilitates the rapid analysis of genomic instability in metaphase chromosome spreads. B cells have specific advantages relative to fibroblasts, because they have normal ploidy and a higher mitotic index. Short-term culture of B cells therefore enables precise measurement of genomic instability in a primary cell population which is likely to have fewer secondary genetic mutations than what is typically found in transformed fibroblasts or patient cell lines.
Immunology, Issue 90, genomic instability, DNA repair, mouse, metaphase spread, FISH, primary culture
Functional Interrogation of Adult Hypothalamic Neurogenesis with Focal Radiological Inhibition
Institutions: California Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, University Of Washington Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The functional characterization of adult-born neurons remains a significant challenge. Approaches to inhibit adult neurogenesis via invasive viral delivery or transgenic animals have potential confounds that make interpretation of results from these studies difficult. New radiological tools are emerging, however, that allow one to noninvasively investigate the function of select groups of adult-born neurons through accurate and precise anatomical targeting in small animals. Focal ionizing radiation inhibits the birth and differentiation of new neurons, and allows targeting of specific neural progenitor regions. In order to illuminate the potential functional role that adult hypothalamic neurogenesis plays in the regulation of physiological processes, we developed a noninvasive focal irradiation technique to selectively inhibit the birth of adult-born neurons in the hypothalamic median eminence. We describe a method for C
omputer tomography-guided f
radiation (CFIR) delivery to enable precise and accurate anatomical targeting in small animals. CFIR uses three-dimensional volumetric image guidance for localization and targeting of the radiation dose, minimizes radiation exposure to nontargeted brain regions, and allows for conformal dose distribution with sharp beam boundaries. This protocol allows one to ask questions regarding the function of adult-born neurons, but also opens areas to questions in areas of radiobiology, tumor biology, and immunology. These radiological tools will facilitate the translation of discoveries at the bench to the bedside.
Neuroscience, Issue 81, Neural Stem Cells (NSCs), Body Weight, Radiotherapy, Image-Guided, Metabolism, Energy Metabolism, Neurogenesis, Cell Proliferation, Neurosciences, Irradiation, Radiological treatment, Computer-tomography (CT) imaging, Hypothalamus, Hypothalamic Proliferative Zone (HPZ), Median Eminence (ME), Small Animal Radiation Research Platform (SARRP)
Quantitation of γH2AX Foci in Tissue Samples
Institutions: The Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct, The Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct, The University of Melbourne, Royal Children's Hospital, The University of Melbourne.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are particularly lethal and genotoxic lesions, that can arise either by endogenous (physiological or pathological) processes or by exogenous factors, particularly ionizing radiation and radiomimetic compounds. Phosphorylation of the H2A histone variant, H2AX, at the serine-139 residue, in the highly conserved C-terminal SQEY motif, forming γH2AX, is an early response to DNA double-strand breaks1
. This phosphorylation event is mediated by the phosphatidyl-inosito 3-kinase (PI3K) family of proteins, ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM), DNA-protein kinase catalytic subunit and ATM and RAD3-related (ATR)2
. Overall, DSB induction results in the formation of discrete nuclear γH2AX foci which can be easily detected and quantitated by immunofluorescence microscopy2
. Given the unique specificity and sensitivity of this marker, analysis of γH2AX foci has led to a wide range of applications in biomedical research, particularly in radiation biology and nuclear medicine. The quantitation of γH2AX foci has been most widely investigated in cell culture systems in the context of ionizing radiation-induced DSBs. Apart from cellular radiosensitivity, immunofluorescence based assays have also been used to evaluate the efficacy of radiation-modifying compounds. In addition, γH2AX has been used as a molecular marker to examine the efficacy of various DSB-inducing compounds and is recently being heralded as important marker of ageing and disease, particularly cancer3
. Further, immunofluorescence-based methods have been adapted to suit detection and quantitation of γH2AX foci ex vivo
and in vivo4,5
. Here, we demonstrate a typical immunofluorescence method for detection and quantitation of γH2AX foci in mouse tissues.
Cellular Biology, Issue 40, immunofluorescence, DNA double-strand breaks, histone variant, H2AX, DNA damage, ionising radiation, reactive oxygen species
Preparation of the Mgm101 Recombination Protein by MBP-based Tagging Strategy
Institutions: State University of New York Upstate Medical University.
gene was identified 20 years ago for its role in the maintenance of mitochondrial DNA. Studies from several groups have suggested that the Mgm101 protein is involved in the recombinational repair of mitochondrial DNA. Recent investigations have indicated that Mgm101 is related to the Rad52-type recombination protein family. These proteins form large oligomeric rings and promote the annealing of homologous single stranded DNA molecules. However, the characterization of Mgm101 has been hindered by the difficulty in producing the recombinant protein. Here, a reliable procedure for the preparation of recombinant Mgm101 is described. Maltose Binding Protein (MBP)-tagged Mgm101 is first expressed in Escherichia coli
. The fusion protein is initially purified by amylose affinity chromatography. After being released by proteolytic cleavage, Mgm101 is separated from MBP by cationic exchange chromatography. Monodispersed Mgm101 is then obtained by size exclusion chromatography. A yield of ~0.87 mg of Mgm101 per liter of bacterial culture can be routinely obtained. The recombinant Mgm101 has minimal contamination of DNA. The prepared samples are successfully used for biochemical, structural and single particle image analyses of Mgm101. This protocol may also be used for the preparation of other large oligomeric DNA-binding proteins that may be misfolded and toxic to bacterial cells.
Biochemistry, Issue 76, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Microbiology, Bacteria, Proteins, Mgm101, Rad52, mitochondria, recombination, mtDNA, maltose-binding protein, MBP, E. coli., yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, chromatography, electron microscopy, cell culture
Polymerase Chain Reaction: Basic Protocol Plus Troubleshooting and Optimization Strategies
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles .
In the biological sciences there have been technological advances that catapult the discipline into golden ages of discovery. For example, the field of microbiology was transformed with the advent of Anton van Leeuwenhoek's microscope, which allowed scientists to visualize prokaryotes for the first time. The development of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is one of those innovations that changed the course of molecular science with its impact spanning countless subdisciplines in biology. The theoretical process was outlined by Keppe and coworkers in 1971; however, it was another 14 years until the complete PCR procedure was described and experimentally applied by Kary Mullis while at Cetus Corporation in 1985. Automation and refinement of this technique progressed with the introduction of a thermal stable DNA polymerase from the bacterium Thermus aquaticus
, consequently the name Taq
PCR is a powerful amplification technique that can generate an ample supply of a specific segment of DNA (i.e., an amplicon) from only a small amount of starting material (i.e., DNA template or target sequence). While straightforward and generally trouble-free, there are pitfalls that complicate the reaction producing spurious results. When PCR fails it can lead to many non-specific DNA products of varying sizes that appear as a ladder or smear of bands on agarose gels. Sometimes no products form at all. Another potential problem occurs when mutations are unintentionally introduced in the amplicons, resulting in a heterogeneous population of PCR products. PCR failures can become frustrating unless patience and careful troubleshooting are employed to sort out and solve the problem(s). This protocol outlines the basic principles of PCR, provides a methodology that will result in amplification of most target sequences, and presents strategies for optimizing a reaction. By following this PCR guide, students should be able to:
Set up reactions and thermal cycling conditions for a conventional PCR experiment
Understand the function of various reaction components and their overall effect on a PCR experiment
Design and optimize a PCR experiment for any DNA template
Troubleshoot failed PCR experiments
Basic Protocols, Issue 63, PCR, optimization, primer design, melting temperature, Tm, troubleshooting, additives, enhancers, template DNA quantification, thermal cycler, molecular biology, genetics
Designing a Bio-responsive Robot from DNA Origami
Institutions: Bar-Ilan University.
Nucleic acids are astonishingly versatile. In addition to their natural role as storage medium for biological information1
, they can be utilized in parallel computing2,3
, recognize and bind molecular or cellular targets4,5
, catalyze chemical reactions6,7
, and generate calculated responses in a biological system8,9
. Importantly, nucleic acids can be programmed to self-assemble into 2D and 3D structures10-12
, enabling the integration of all these remarkable features in a single robot linking the sensing of biological cues to a preset response in order to exert a desired effect.
Creating shapes from nucleic acids was first proposed by Seeman13
, and several variations on this theme have since been realized using various techniques11,12,14,15
. However, the most significant is perhaps the one proposed by Rothemund, termed scaffolded DNA origami16
. In this technique, the folding of a long (>7,000 bases) single-stranded DNA 'scaffold'
is directed to a desired shape by hundreds of short complementary strands termed 'staples'
. Folding is carried out by temperature annealing ramp. This technique was successfully demonstrated in the creation of a diverse array of 2D shapes with remarkable precision and robustness. DNA origami was later extended to 3D as well17,18
The current paper will focus on the caDNAno 2.0 software19
developed by Douglas and colleagues. caDNAno is a robust, user-friendly CAD tool enabling the design of 2D and 3D DNA origami shapes with versatile features. The design process relies on a systematic and accurate abstraction scheme for DNA structures, making it relatively straightforward and efficient.
In this paper we demonstrate the design of a DNA origami nanorobot that has been recently described20
. This robot is 'robotic' in the sense that it links sensing to actuation, in order to perform a task. We explain how various sensing schemes can be integrated into the structure, and how this can be relayed to a desired effect. Finally we use Cando21
to simulate the mechanical properties of the designed shape. The concept we discuss can be adapted to multiple tasks and settings.
Bioengineering, Issue 77, Genetics, Biomedical Engineering, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Genomics, Nanotechnology, Nanomedicine, DNA origami, nanorobot, caDNAno, DNA, DNA Origami, nucleic acids, DNA structures, CAD, sequencing
CometChip: A High-throughput 96-Well Platform for Measuring DNA Damage in Microarrayed Human Cells
Institutions: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chulabhorn Graduate Institute, University of Minnesota.
DNA damaging agents can promote aging, disease and cancer and they are ubiquitous in the environment and produced within human cells as normal cellular metabolites. Ironically, at high doses DNA damaging agents are also used to treat cancer. The ability to quantify DNA damage responses is thus critical in the public health, pharmaceutical and clinical domains. Here, we describe a novel platform that exploits microfabrication techniques to pattern cells in a fixed microarray. The ‘CometChip’ is based upon the well-established single cell gel electrophoresis assay (a.k.a. the comet assay), which estimates the level of DNA damage by evaluating the extent of DNA migration through a matrix in an electrical field. The type of damage measured by this assay includes abasic sites, crosslinks, and strand breaks. Instead of being randomly dispersed in agarose in the traditional assay, cells are captured into an agarose microwell array by gravity. The platform also expands from the size of a standard microscope slide to a 96-well format, enabling parallel processing. Here we describe the protocols of using the chip to evaluate DNA damage caused by known genotoxic agents and the cellular repair response followed after exposure. Through the integration of biological and engineering principles, this method potentiates robust and sensitive measurements of DNA damage in human cells and provides the necessary throughput for genotoxicity testing, drug development, epidemiological studies and clinical assays.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, comet assay, electrophoresis, microarray, DNA damage, DNA repair
Analysis of DNA Double-strand Break (DSB) Repair in Mammalian Cells
Institutions: University of Rochester.
DNA double-strand breaks are the most dangerous DNA lesions that may lead to massive loss of genetic information and cell death. Cells repair DSBs using two major pathways: nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination (HR). Perturbations of NHEJ and HR are often associated with premature aging and tumorigenesis, hence it is important to have a quantitative way of measuring each DSB repair pathway. Our laboratory has developed fluorescent reporter constructs that allow sensitive and quantitative measurement of NHEJ and HR. The constructs are based on an engineered GFP gene containing recognition sites for a rare-cutting I-SceI endonuclease for induction of DSBs. The starting constructs are GFP negative as the GFP gene is inactivated by an additional exon, or by mutations. Successful repair of the I-SceI-induced breaks by NHEJ or HR restores the functional GFP gene. The number of GFP positive cells counted by flow cytometry provides quantitative measure of NHEJ or HR efficiency.
Cellular Biology, Issue 43, DNA repair, HR, NHEJ, mammalian cells
Flexible Colonoscopy in Mice to Evaluate the Severity of Colitis and Colorectal Tumors Using a Validated Endoscopic Scoring System
Institutions: Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland.
The use of modern endoscopy for research purposes has greatly facilitated our understanding of gastrointestinal pathologies. In particular, experimental endoscopy has been highly useful for studies that require repeated assessments in a single laboratory animal, such as those evaluating mechanisms of chronic inflammatory bowel disease and the progression of colorectal cancer. However, the methods used across studies are highly variable. At least three endoscopic scoring systems have been published for murine colitis and published protocols for the assessment of colorectal tumors fail to address the presence of concomitant colonic inflammation. This study develops and validates a reproducible endoscopic scoring system that integrates evaluation of both inflammation and tumors simultaneously. This novel scoring system has three major components: 1) assessment of the extent and severity of colorectal inflammation (based on perianal findings, transparency of the wall, mucosal bleeding, and focal lesions), 2) quantitative recording of tumor lesions (grid map and bar graph), and 3) numerical sorting of clinical cases by their pathological and research relevance based on decimal units with assigned categories of observed lesions and endoscopic complications (decimal identifiers). The video and manuscript presented herein were prepared, following IACUC-approved protocols, to allow investigators to score their own experimental mice using a well-validated and highly reproducible endoscopic methodology, with the system option to differentiate distal from proximal endoscopic colitis (D-PECS).
Medicine, Issue 80, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, colon cancer, Clostridium difficile, SAMP mice, DSS/AOM-colitis, decimal scoring identifier
Principles of Site-Specific Recombinase (SSR) Technology
Institutions: Max Plank Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden.
Site-specific recombinase (SSR) technology allows the manipulation of gene structure to explore gene function and has become an integral tool of molecular biology. Site-specific recombinases are proteins that bind to distinct DNA target sequences. The Cre/lox system was first described in bacteriophages during the 1980's. Cre recombinase is a Type I topoisomerase that catalyzes site-specific recombination of DNA between two loxP (locus of X-over P1) sites. The Cre/lox system does not require any cofactors. LoxP sequences contain distinct binding sites for Cre recombinases that surround a directional core sequence where recombination and rearrangement takes place. When cells contain loxP sites and express the Cre recombinase, a recombination event occurs. Double-stranded DNA is cut at both loxP sites by the Cre recombinase, rearranged, and ligated ("scissors and glue"). Products of the recombination event depend on the relative orientation of the asymmetric sequences.
SSR technology is frequently used as a tool to explore gene function. Here the gene of interest is flanked with Cre target sites loxP ("floxed"). Animals are then crossed with animals expressing the Cre recombinase under the control of a tissue-specific promoter. In tissues that express the Cre recombinase it binds to target sequences and excises the floxed gene. Controlled gene deletion allows the investigation of gene function in specific tissues and at distinct time points. Analysis of gene function employing SSR technology --- conditional mutagenesis -- has significant advantages over traditional knock-outs where gene deletion is frequently lethal.
Cellular Biology, Issue 15, Molecular Biology, Site-Specific Recombinase, Cre recombinase, Cre/lox system, transgenic animals, transgenic technology