Ion channel proteins are universal devices for fast communication across biological membranes. The temporal signature of the ionic flux they generate depends on properties intrinsic to each channel protein as well as the mechanism by which it is generated and controlled and represents an important area of current research. Information about the operational dynamics of ion channel proteins can be obtained by observing long stretches of current produced by a single molecule. Described here is a protocol for obtaining one-channel cell-attached patch-clamp current recordings for a ligand gated ion channel, the NMDA receptor, expressed heterologously in HEK293 cells or natively in cortical neurons. Also provided are instructions on how to adapt the method to other ion channels of interest by presenting the example of the mechano-sensitive channel PIEZO1. This method can provide data regarding the channel’s conductance properties and the temporal sequence of open-closed conformations that make up the channel’s activation mechanism, thus helping to understand their functions in health and disease.
25 Related JoVE Articles!
Gastrointestinal Motility Monitor (GIMM)
Institutions: The University of Vermont.
The Gastrointestinal Motility Monitor (GIMM; Catamount Research and Development; St. Albans, VT) is an in vitro
system that monitors propulsive motility in isolated segments of guinea pig distal colon. The complete system consists of a computer, video camera, illuminated organ bath, peristaltic and heated water bath circulating pumps, and custom GIMM software to record and analyze data. Compared with traditional methods of monitoring colonic peristalsis, the GIMM system allows for continuous, quantitative evaluation of motility. The guinea pig distal colon is bathed in warmed, oxygenated Krebs solution, and fecal pellets inserted in the oral end are propelled along the segment of colon at a rate of about 2 mm/sec. Movies of the fecal pellet proceeding along the segment are captured, and the GIMM software can be used track the progress of the fecal pellet. Rates of propulsive motility can be obtained for the entire segment or for any particular region of interest. In addition to analysis of bolus-induced motility patterns, spatiotemporal maps can be constructed from captured video segments to assess spontaneous motor activity patterns. Applications of this system include pharmacological evaluation of the effects of receptor agonists and antagonists on propulsive motility, as well as assessment of changes that result from pathophysiological conditions, such as inflammation or stress. The guinea pig distal colon propulsive motility assay, using the GIMM system, is straightforward and simple to learn, and it provides a reliable and reproducible method of assessing propulsive motility.
Medicine, Issue 46, peristalsis, colon, in vitro, video tracking, video analysis, GIMM, guinea pig,
Spectral Confocal Imaging of Fluorescently tagged Nicotinic Receptors in Knock-in Mice with Chronic Nicotine Administration
Institutions: University of Victoria .
Ligand-gated ion channels in the central nervous system (CNS) are implicated in numerous conditions with serious medical and social consequences. For instance, addiction to nicotine via tobacco smoking is a leading cause of premature death worldwide (World Health Organization) and is likely caused by an alteration of ion channel distribution in the brain1
. Chronic nicotine exposure in both rodents and humans results in increased numbers of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) in brain tissue1-3
. Similarly, alterations in the glutamatergic GluN1 or GluA1 channels have been implicated in triggering sensitization to other addictive drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and opiates4-6
Consequently, the ability to map and quantify distribution and expression patterns of specific ion channels is critically important to understanding the mechanisms of addiction. The study of brain region-specific effects of individual drugs was advanced by the advent of techniques such as radioactive ligands. However, the low spatial resolution of radioactive ligand binding prevents the ability to quantify ligand-gated ion channels in specific subtypes of neurons.
Genetically encoded fluorescent reporters, such as green fluorescent protein (GFP) and its many color variants, have revolutionized the field of biology7
.By genetically tagging a fluorescent reporter to an endogenous protein one can visualize proteins in vivo7-10
. One advantage of fluorescently tagging proteins with a probe is the elimination of antibody use, which have issues of nonspecificity and accessibility to the target protein. We have used this strategy to fluorescently label nAChRs, which enabled the study of receptor assembly using Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) in transfected cultured cells11
.More recently, we have used the knock-in approach to engineer mice with yellow fluorescent protein tagged α4 nAChR subunits (α4YFP), enabling precise quantification of the receptor ex vivo
at submicrometer resolution in CNS neurons via spectral confocal microscopy12
. The targeted fluorescent knock-in mutation is incorporated in the endogenous locus and under control of its native promoter, producing normal levels of expression and regulation of the receptor when compared to untagged receptors in wildtype mice. This knock-in approach can be extended to fluorescently tag other ion channels and offers a powerful approach of visualizing and quantifying receptors in the CNS.
In this paper we describe a methodology to quantify changes in nAChR expression in specific CNS neurons after exposure to chronic nicotine. Our methods include mini-osmotic pump implantation, intracardiac perfusion fixation, imaging and analysis of fluorescently tagged nicotinic receptor subunits from α4YFP knock-in mice (Fig. 1). We have optimized the fixation technique to minimize autofluorescence from fixed brain tissue.We describe in detail our imaging methodology using a spectral confocal microscope in conjunction with a linear spectral unmixing algorithm to subtract autofluoresent signal in order to accurately obtain α4YFP fluorescence signal. Finally, we show results of chronic nicotine-induced upregulation of α4YFP receptors in the medial perforant path of the hippocampus.
Neuroscience, Issue 60, nicotine addiction, knock-in mice, spectral confocal imaging, yellow fluorescent protein, nicotinic acetylcholine receptors
A Calcium Bioluminescence Assay for Functional Analysis of Mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and Tick (Rhipicephalus microplus) G Protein-coupled Receptors
Institutions: Texas A&M University (TAMU), Texas A&M University (TAMU).
Arthropod hormone receptors are potential targets for novel pesticides as they regulate many essential physiological and behavioral processes. The majority of them belong to the superfamily of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). We have focused on characterizing arthropod kinin receptors from the tick and mosquito. Arthropod kinins are multifunctional neuropeptides with myotropic, diuretic, and neurotransmitter function. Here, a method for systematic analyses of structure-activity relationships of insect kinins on two heterologous kinin receptor-expressing systems is described. We provide important information relevant to the development of biostable kinin analogs with the potential to disrupt the diuretic, myotropic, and/or digestive processes in ticks and mosquitoes.
The kinin receptors from the southern cattle tick, Boophilus microplus
(Canestrini), and the mosquito Aedes aegypti
(Linnaeus), were stably expressed in the mammalian cell line CHO-K1. Functional analyses of these receptors were completed using a calcium bioluminescence plate assay that measures intracellular bioluminescence to determine cytoplasmic calcium levels upon peptide application to these recombinant cells. This method takes advantage of the aequorin protein, a photoprotein isolated from luminescent jellyfish. We transiently transfected the aequorin plasmid (mtAEQ/pcDNA1) in cell lines that stably expressed the kinin receptors. These cells were then treated with the cofactor coelenterazine, which complexes with intracellular aequorin. This bond breaks in the presence of calcium, emitting luminescence levels indicative of the calcium concentration. As the kinin receptor signals through the release of intracellular calcium, the intensity of the signal is related to the potency of the peptide.
This protocol is a synthesis of several previously described protocols with modifications; it presents step-by-step instructions for the stable expression of GPCRs in a mammalian cell line through functional plate assays (Staubly et al
., 2002 and Stables et al
., 1997). Using this methodology, we were able to establish stable cell lines expressing the mosquito and the tick kinin receptors, compare the potency of three mosquito kinins, identify critical amino acid positions for the ligand-receptor interaction, and perform semi-throughput screening of a peptide library. Because insect kinins are susceptible to fast enzymatic degradation by endogenous peptidases, they are severely limited in use as tools for pest control or endocrinological studies. Therefore, we also tested kinin analogs containing amino isobutyric acid (Aib) to enhance their potency and biostability. This peptidase-resistant analog represents an important lead in the development of biostable insect kinin analogs and may aid in the development of neuropeptide-based arthropod control strategies.
Immunology, Issue 50, Aequorin calcium reporter, coelenterazine, G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), CHO-K1 cells, mammalian cell culture, neuropeptide SAR studies (SAR= structure-activity relationships), receptor-neuropeptide interaction, bioluminescence, drug discovery, semi-throughput screening in plates
Imaging Protein-protein Interactions in vivo
Institutions: Virginia Commonwealth University.
Protein-protein interactions are a hallmark of all essential cellular processes. However, many of these interactions are transient, or energetically weak, preventing their identification and analysis through traditional biochemical methods such as co-immunoprecipitation. In this regard, the genetically encodable fluorescent proteins (GFP, RFP, etc.) and their associated overlapping fluorescence spectrum have revolutionized our ability to monitor weak interactions in vivo
using Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)1-3
. Here, we detail our use of a FRET-based proximity assay for monitoring receptor-receptor interactions on the endothelial cell surface.
Cellular Biology, Issue 44, Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), confocal microscopy, angiogenesis, fluorescent proteins, protein interactions, receptors
FIBS-enabled Noninvasive Metabolic Profiling
Institutions: Imperial College London, Imperial College London.
In the era of computational biology, new high throughput experimental systems are necessary in order to populate and refine models so that they can be validated for predictive purposes. Ideally such systems would be low volume, which precludes sampling and destructive analyses when time course data are to be obtained. What is needed is an in situ
monitoring tool which can report the necessary information in real-time and noninvasively. An interesting option is the use of fluorescent, protein-based in vivo
biological sensors as reporters of intracellular concentrations. One particular class of in vivo
biosensors that has found applications in metabolite quantification is based on Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) between two fluorescent proteins connected by a ligand binding domain. FRET integrated biological sensors (FIBS) are constitutively produced within the cell line, they have fast response times and their spectral characteristics change based on the concentration of metabolite within the cell. In this paper, the method for constructing Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell lines that constitutively express a FIBS for glucose and glutamine and calibrating the FIBS in vivo
in batch cell culture in order to enable future quantification of intracellular metabolite concentration is described. Data from fed-batch CHO cell cultures demonstrates that the FIBS was able in each case to detect the resulting change in the intracellular concentration. Using the fluorescent signal from the FIBS and the previously constructed calibration curve, the intracellular concentration was accurately determined as confirmed by an independent enzymatic assay.
Bioengineering, Issue 84, metabolite monitoring, in vivo biosensors, in situ monitoring, mammalian cell culture, bioprocess engineering, medium formulation
Local Application of Drugs to Study Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Function in Mouse Brain Slices
Institutions: Purdue University.
Tobacco use leads to numerous health problems, including cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and stroke. Addiction to cigarette smoking is a prevalent neuropsychiatric disorder that stems from the biophysical and cellular actions of nicotine on nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs) throughout the central nervous system. Understanding the various nAChR subtypes that exist in brain areas relevant to nicotine addiction is a major priority.
Experiments that employ electrophysiology techniques such as whole-cell patch clamp or two-electrode voltage clamp recordings are useful for pharmacological characterization of nAChRs of interest. Cells expressing nAChRs, such as mammalian tissue culture cells or Xenopus laevis
oocytes, are physically isolated and are therefore easily studied using the tools of modern pharmacology. Much progress has been made using these techniques, particularly when the target receptor was already known and ectopic expression was easily achieved. Often, however, it is necessary to study nAChRs in their native environment: in neurons within brain slices acutely harvested from laboratory mice or rats. For example, mice expressing "hypersensitive" nAChR subunits such as α4 L9′A mice 1
and α6 L9′S mice 2
, allow for unambiguous identification of neurons based on their functional expression of a specific nAChR subunit. Although whole-cell patch clamp recordings from neurons in brain slices is routinely done by the skilled electrophysiologist, it is challenging to locally apply drugs such as acetylcholine or nicotine to the recorded cell within a brain slice. Dilution of drugs into the superfusate (bath application) is not rapidly reversible, and U-tube systems are not easily adapted to work with brain slices.
In this paper, we describe a method for rapidly applying nAChR-activating drugs to neurons recorded in adult mouse brain slices. Standard whole-cell recordings are made from neurons in slices, and a second micropipette filled with a drug of interest is maneuvered into position near the recorded cell. An injection of pressurized air or inert nitrogen into the drug-filled pipette causes a small amount of drug solution to be ejected from the pipette onto the recorded cell. Using this method, nAChR-mediated currents are able to be resolved with millisecond accuracy. Drug application times can easily be varied, and the drug-filled pipette can be retracted and replaced with a new pipette, allowing for concentration-response curves to be created for a single neuron. Although described in the context of nAChR neurobiology, this technique should be useful for studying many types of ligand-gated ion channels or receptors in neurons from brain slices.
Neuroscience, Issue 68, Nicotinic, acetylcholine, neurotransmitter, neuron, patch clamp, brain slice, picospritzer
Reconstitution of a Kv Channel into Lipid Membranes for Structural and Functional Studies
Institutions: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
To study the lipid-protein interaction in a reductionistic fashion, it is necessary to incorporate the membrane proteins into membranes of well-defined lipid composition. We are studying the lipid-dependent gating effects in a prototype voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channel, and have worked out detailed procedures to reconstitute the channels into different membrane systems. Our reconstitution procedures take consideration of both detergent-induced fusion of vesicles and the fusion of protein/detergent micelles with the lipid/detergent mixed micelles as well as the importance of reaching an equilibrium distribution of lipids among the protein/detergent/lipid and the detergent/lipid mixed micelles. Our data suggested that the insertion of the channels in the lipid vesicles is relatively random in orientations, and the reconstitution efficiency is so high that no detectable protein aggregates were seen in fractionation experiments. We have utilized the reconstituted channels to determine the conformational states of the channels in different lipids, record electrical activities of a small number of channels incorporated in planar lipid bilayers, screen for conformation-specific ligands from a phage-displayed peptide library, and support the growth of 2D crystals of the channels in membranes. The reconstitution procedures described here may be adapted for studying other membrane proteins in lipid bilayers, especially for the investigation of the lipid effects on the eukaryotic voltage-gated ion channels.
Molecular Biology, Issue 77, Biochemistry, Genetics, Cellular Biology, Structural Biology, Biophysics, Membrane Lipids, Phospholipids, Carrier Proteins, Membrane Proteins, Micelles, Molecular Motor Proteins, life sciences, biochemistry, Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, lipid-protein interaction, channel reconstitution, lipid-dependent gating, voltage-gated ion channel, conformation-specific ligands, lipids
Genetically-encoded Molecular Probes to Study G Protein-coupled Receptors
Institutions: The Rockefeller University.
To facilitate structural and dynamic studies of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling complexes, new approaches are required to introduce informative probes or labels into expressed receptors that do not perturb receptor function. We used amber codon suppression technology to genetically-encode the unnatural amino acid, p
-azido-L-phenylalanine (azF) at various targeted positions in GPCRs heterologously expressed in mammalian cells. The versatility of the azido group is illustrated here in different applications to study GPCRs in their native cellular environment or under detergent solubilized conditions. First, we demonstrate a cell-based targeted photocrosslinking technology to identify the residues in the ligand-binding pocket of GPCR where a tritium-labeled small-molecule ligand is crosslinked to a genetically-encoded azido amino acid. We then demonstrate site-specific modification of GPCRs by the bioorthogonal Staudinger-Bertozzi ligation reaction that targets the azido group using phosphine derivatives. We discuss a general strategy for targeted peptide-epitope tagging of expressed membrane proteins in-culture and its detection using a whole-cell-based ELISA approach. Finally, we show that azF-GPCRs can be selectively tagged with fluorescent probes. The methodologies discussed are general, in that they can in principle be applied to any amino acid position in any expressed GPCR to interrogate active signaling complexes.
Genetics, Issue 79, Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled, Protein Engineering, Signal Transduction, Biochemistry, Unnatural amino acid, site-directed mutagenesis, G protein-coupled receptor, targeted photocrosslinking, bioorthogonal labeling, targeted epitope tagging
A Method for Culturing Embryonic C. elegans Cells
Institutions: University of Miami .
is a powerful model system, in which genetic and molecular techniques are easily applicable. Until recently though, techniques that require direct access to cells and isolation of specific cell types, could not be applied in C. elegans
. This limitation was due to the fact that tissues are confined within a pressurized cuticle which is not easily digested by treatment with enzymes and/or detergents. Based on early pioneer work by Laird Bloom, Christensen and colleagues 1
developed a robust method for culturing C. elegans
embryonic cells in large scale. Eggs are isolated from gravid adults by treatment with bleach/NaOH and subsequently treated with chitinase to remove the eggshells. Embryonic cells are then dissociated by manual pipetting and plated onto substrate-covered glass in serum-enriched media. Within 24 hr of isolation cells begin to differentiate by changing morphology and by expressing cell specific markers. C. elegans
cells cultured using this method survive for up 2 weeks in vitro
and have been used for electrophysiological, immunochemical, and imaging analyses as well as they have been sorted and used for microarray profiling.
Developmental Biology, Issue 79, Eukaryota, Biological Phenomena, Cell Physiological Phenomena, C. elegans, cell culture, embryonic cells
The Xenopus Oocyte Cut-open Vaseline Gap Voltage-clamp Technique With Fluorometry
Institutions: Washington University in St. Louis.
The cut-open oocyte Vaseline gap (COVG) voltage clamp technique allows for analysis of electrophysiological and kinetic properties of heterologous ion channels in oocytes. Recordings from the cut-open setup are particularly useful for resolving low magnitude gating currents, rapid ionic current activation, and deactivation. The main benefits over the two-electrode voltage clamp (TEVC) technique include increased clamp speed, improved signal-to-noise ratio, and the ability to modulate the intracellular and extracellular milieu.
Here, we employ the human cardiac sodium channel (hNaV
1.5), expressed in Xenopus
oocytes, to demonstrate the cut-open setup and protocol as well as modifications that are required to add voltage clamp fluorometry capability.
The properties of fast activating ion channels, such as hNaV
1.5, cannot be fully resolved near room temperature using TEVC, in which the entirety of the oocyte membrane is clamped, making voltage control difficult. However, in the cut-open technique, isolation of only a small portion of the cell membrane allows for the rapid clamping required to accurately record fast kinetics while preventing channel run-down associated with patch clamp techniques.
In conjunction with the COVG technique, ion channel kinetics and electrophysiological properties can be further assayed by using voltage clamp fluorometry, where protein motion is tracked via cysteine conjugation of extracellularly applied fluorophores, insertion of genetically encoded fluorescent proteins, or the incorporation of unnatural amino acids into the region of interest1
. This additional data yields kinetic information about voltage-dependent conformational rearrangements of the protein via changes in the microenvironment surrounding the fluorescent molecule.
Developmental Biology, Issue 85, Voltage clamp, Cut-open, Oocyte, Voltage Clamp Fluorometry, Sodium Channels, Ionic Currents, Xenopus laevis
Proteomics to Identify Proteins Interacting with P2X2 Ligand-Gated Cation Channels
Institutions: David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles.
Ligand-gated ion channels underlie synaptic communication in the nervous system1
. In mammals there are three families of ligand-gated channels: the cys loop, the glutamate-gated and the P2X receptor channels2
. In each case binding of transmitter leads to the opening of a pore through which ions flow down their electrochemical gradients. Many ligand-gated channels are also permeable to calcium ions3, 4
, which have downstream signaling roles5
(e.g. gene regulation) that may exceed the duration of channel opening. Thus ligand-gated channels can signal over broad time scales ranging from a few milliseconds to days. Given these important roles it is necessary to understand how ligand-gated ion channels themselves are regulated by proteins, and how these proteins may tune signaling. Recent studies suggest that many, if not all, channels may be part of protein signaling complexes6
. In this article we explain how to identify the proteins that bind to the C-terminal aspects of the P2X2 receptor cytosolic domain.
P2X receptors are ATP-gated cation channels and consist of seven subunits (P2X1-P2X7). P2X receptors are widely expressed in the brain, where they mediate excitatory synaptic transmission and presynaptic facilitation of neurotransmitter release7
. P2X receptors are found in excitable and non-excitable cells and mediate key roles in neuronal signaling, inflammation and cardiovascular function8
. P2X2 receptors are abundant in the nervous system9
and are the focus of this study. Each P2X subunit is thought to possess two membrane spanning segments (TM1 & TM2) separated by an extracellular region7
and intracellular N and C termini (Fig 1a)7
. P2X subunits10
(P2X1-P2X7) show 30-50% sequence homology at the amino acid level11
. P2X receptors contain only three subunits, which is the simplest stoichiometry among ionotropic receptors. The P2X2 C-terminus consists of 120 amino acids (Fig 1b) and contains several protein docking consensus sites, supporting the hypothesis that P2X2 receptor may be part of signaling complexes. However, although several functions have been attributed to the C-terminus of P2X2 receptors9
no study has described the molecular partners that couple to the intracellular side of this protein via the full length C-terminus. In this methods paper we describe a proteomic approach to identify the proteins which interact with the full length C-terminus of P2X2 receptors.
Neuroscience, Issue 27, Pull down, recombinant protein, GST, brain, rat, mass spectrometry, protein interactions, P2X2, macromolecular complex, channel, receptor, purinergic
Use of Label-free Optical Biosensors to Detect Modulation of Potassium Channels by G-protein Coupled Receptors
Institutions: Yale School of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, X-BODY Biosciences.
Ion channels control the electrical properties of neurons and other excitable cell types by selectively allowing ions to flow through the plasma membrane1
. To regulate neuronal excitability, the biophysical properties of ion channels are modified by signaling proteins and molecules, which often bind to the channels themselves to form a heteromeric channel complex2,3
. Traditional assays examining the interaction between channels and regulatory proteins require exogenous labels that can potentially alter the protein's behavior and decrease the physiological relevance of the target, while providing little information on the time course of interactions in living cells. Optical biosensors, such as the X-BODY Biosciences BIND Scanner system, use a novel label-free technology, resonance wavelength grating (RWG) optical biosensors, to detect changes in resonant reflected light near the biosensor. This assay allows the detection of the relative change in mass within the bottom portion of living cells adherent to the biosensor surface resulting from ligand induced changes in cell adhesion and spreading, toxicity, proliferation, and changes in protein-protein interactions near the plasma membrane. RWG optical biosensors have been used to detect changes in mass near the plasma membrane of cells following activation of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), receptor tyrosine kinases, and other cell surface receptors. Ligand-induced changes in ion channel-protein interactions can also be studied using this assay. In this paper, we will describe the experimental procedure used to detect the modulation of Slack-B sodium-activated potassium (KNa
) channels by GPCRs.
Bioengineering, Issue 84, Ion channels, potassium channel, Slack, G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), label-free screening, high-throughput screening (HTS), channel-protein interactions, optical biosensors
A Fluorescent Screening Assay for Identifying Modulators of GIRK Channels
Institutions: University of South Carolina, School of Medicine.
G protein-gated inward rectifier K+
(GIRK) channels function as cellular mediators of a wide range of hormones and neurotransmitters and are expressed in the brain, heart, skeletal muscle and endocrine tissue1,2
. GIRK channels become activated following the binding of ligands (neurotransmitters, hormones, drugs, etc.) to their plasma membrane-bound, G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). This binding causes the stimulation of G proteins (Gi
) which subsequently bind to and activate the GIRK channel. Once opened the GIRK channel allows the movement of K+
out of the cell causing the resting membrane potential to become more negative. As a consequence, GIRK channel activation in neurons decreases spontaneous action potential formation and inhibits the release of excitatory neurotransmitters. In the heart, activation of the GIRK channel inhibits pacemaker activity thereby slowing the heart rate.
GIRK channels represent novel targets for the development of new therapeutic agents for the treatment neuropathic pain, drug addiction, cardiac arrhythmias and other disorders3
. However, the pharmacology of these channels remains largely unexplored. Although a number of drugs including anti-arrhythmic agents, antipsychotic drugs and antidepressants block the GIRK channel, this inhibition is not selective and occurs at relatively high drug concentrations3
Here, we describe a real-time screening assay for identifying new modulators of GIRK channels. In this assay, neuronal AtT20 cells, expressing GIRK channels, are loaded with membrane potential-sensitive fluorescent dyes such as bis-(1,3-dibutylbarbituric acid) trimethine oxonol [DiBAC4
(3)] or HLB 021-152 (Figure 1
). The dye molecules become strongly fluorescent following uptake into the cells (Figure 1
). Treatment of the cells with GPCR ligands stimulates the GIRK channels to open. The resulting K+
efflux out of the cell causes the membrane potential to become more negative and the fluorescent signal to decrease (Figure 1
). Thus, drugs that modulate K+
efflux through the GIRK channel can be assayed using a fluorescent plate reader. Unlike other ion channel screening assays, such atomic absorption spectrometry4
or radiotracer analysis5
, the GIRK channel fluorescent assay provides a fast, real-time and inexpensive screening procedure.
Medicine, Issue 62, G protein-gated inward rectifier K+ (GIRK) channels, clonal cell lines, drug screening, fluorescent dyes, K+ channel modulators, Pharmacology
Direct Imaging of ER Calcium with Targeted-Esterase Induced Dye Loading (TED)
Institutions: University of Wuerzburg, Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich.
Visualization of calcium dynamics is important to understand the role of calcium in cell physiology. To examine calcium dynamics, synthetic fluorescent Ca2+
indictors have become popular. Here we demonstrate TED (= targeted-esterase induced dye loading), a method to improve the release of Ca2+
indicator dyes in the ER lumen of different cell types. To date, TED was used in cell lines, glial cells, and neurons in vitro
. TED bases on efficient, recombinant targeting of a high carboxylesterase activity to the ER lumen using vector-constructs that express Carboxylesterases (CES). The latest TED vectors contain a core element of CES2 fused to a red fluorescent protein, thus enabling simultaneous two-color imaging. The dynamics of free calcium in the ER are imaged in one color, while the corresponding ER structure appears in red. At the beginning of the procedure, cells are transduced with a lentivirus. Subsequently, the infected cells are seeded on coverslips to finally enable live cell imaging. Then, living cells are incubated with the acetoxymethyl ester (AM-ester) form of low-affinity Ca2+
indicators, for instance Fluo5N-AM, Mag-Fluo4-AM, or Mag-Fura2-AM. The esterase activity in the ER cleaves off hydrophobic side chains from the AM form of the Ca2+
indicator and a hydrophilic fluorescent dye/Ca2+
complex is formed and trapped in the ER lumen. After dye loading, the cells are analyzed at an inverted confocal laser scanning microscope. Cells are continuously perfused with Ringer-like solutions and the ER calcium dynamics are directly visualized by time-lapse imaging. Calcium release from the ER is identified by a decrease in fluorescence intensity in regions of interest, whereas the refilling of the ER calcium store produces an increase in fluorescence intensity. Finally, the change in fluorescent intensity over time is determined by calculation of ΔF/F0
Cellular Biology, Issue 75, Neurobiology, Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Bioengineering, Virology, Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology, Surgery, Endoplasmic Reticulum, ER, Calcium Signaling, calcium store, calcium imaging, calcium indicator, metabotropic signaling, Ca2+, neurons, cells, mouse, animal model, cell culture, targeted esterase induced dye loading, imaging
Glutamine Flux Imaging Using Genetically Encoded Sensors
Institutions: Virginia Tech.
Genetically encoded sensors allow real-time monitoring of biological molecules at a subcellular resolution. A tremendous variety of such sensors for biological molecules became available in the past 15 years, some of which became indispensable tools that are used routinely in many laboratories.
One of the exciting applications of genetically encoded sensors is the use of these sensors in investigating cellular transport processes. Properties of transporters such as kinetics and substrate specificities can be investigated at a cellular level, providing possibilities for cell-type specific analyses of transport activities. In this article, we will demonstrate how transporter dynamics can be observed using genetically encoded glutamine sensor as an example. Experimental design, technical details of the experimental settings, and considerations for post-experimental analyses will be discussed.
Bioengineering, Issue 89, glutamine sensors, FRET, metabolites, in vivo imaging, cellular transport, genetically encoded sensors
Inhibitory Synapse Formation in a Co-culture Model Incorporating GABAergic Medium Spiny Neurons and HEK293 Cells Stably Expressing GABAA Receptors
Institutions: University College London.
Inhibitory neurons act in the central nervous system to regulate the dynamics and spatio-temporal co-ordination of neuronal networks. GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is released from the presynaptic terminals of inhibitory neurons within highly specialized intercellular junctions known as synapses, where it binds to GABAA
Rs) present at the plasma membrane of the synapse-receiving, postsynaptic neurons. Activation of these GABA-gated ion channels leads to influx of chloride resulting in postsynaptic potential changes that decrease the probability that these neurons will generate action potentials.
During development, diverse types of inhibitory neurons with distinct morphological, electrophysiological and neurochemical characteristics have the ability to recognize their target neurons and form synapses which incorporate specific GABAA
Rs subtypes. This principle of selective innervation of neuronal targets raises the question as to how the appropriate synaptic partners identify each other.
To elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms, a novel in vitro
co-culture model system was established, in which medium spiny GABAergic neurons, a highly homogenous population of neurons isolated from the embryonic striatum, were cultured with stably transfected HEK293 cell lines that express different GABAA
R subtypes. Synapses form rapidly, efficiently and selectively in this system, and are easily accessible for quantification. Our results indicate that various GABAA
R subtypes differ in their ability to promote synapse formation, suggesting that this reduced in vitro
model system can be used to reproduce, at least in part, the in vivo
conditions required for the recognition of the appropriate synaptic partners and formation of specific synapses. Here the protocols for culturing the medium spiny neurons and generating HEK293 cells lines expressing GABAA
Rs are first described, followed by detailed instructions on how to combine these two cell types in co-culture and analyze the formation of synaptic contacts.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, Developmental neuroscience, synaptogenesis, synaptic inhibition, co-culture, stable cell lines, GABAergic, medium spiny neurons, HEK 293 cell line
Bladder Smooth Muscle Strip Contractility as a Method to Evaluate Lower Urinary Tract Pharmacology
Institutions: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
We describe an in vitro
method to measure bladder smooth muscle contractility, and its use for investigating physiological and pharmacological properties of the smooth muscle as well as changes induced by pathology. This method provides critical information for understanding bladder function while overcoming major methodological difficulties encountered in in vivo
experiments, such as surgical and pharmacological manipulations that affect stability and survival of the preparations, the use of human tissue, and/or the use of expensive chemicals. It also provides a way to investigate the properties of each bladder component (i.e.
smooth muscle, mucosa, nerves) in healthy and pathological conditions.
The urinary bladder is removed from an anesthetized animal, placed in Krebs solution and cut into strips. Strips are placed into a chamber filled with warm Krebs solution. One end is attached to an isometric tension transducer to measure contraction force, the other end is attached to a fixed rod. Tissue is stimulated by directly adding compounds to the bath or by electric field stimulation electrodes that activate nerves, similar to triggering bladder contractions in vivo
. We demonstrate the use of this method to evaluate spontaneous smooth muscle contractility during development and after an experimental spinal cord injury, the nature of neurotransmission (transmitters and receptors involved), factors involved in modulation of smooth muscle activity, the role of individual bladder components, and species and organ differences in response to pharmacological agents. Additionally, it could be used for investigating intracellular pathways involved in contraction and/or relaxation of the smooth muscle, drug structure-activity relationships and evaluation of transmitter release.
The in vitro
smooth muscle contractility method has been used extensively for over 50 years, and has provided data that significantly contributed to our understanding of bladder function as well as to pharmaceutical development of compounds currently used clinically for bladder management.
Medicine, Issue 90, Krebs, species differences, in vitro, smooth muscle contractility, neural stimulation
Drug-induced Sensitization of Adenylyl Cyclase: Assay Streamlining and Miniaturization for Small Molecule and siRNA Screening Applications
Institutions: Purdue University, Eli Lilly and Company.
Sensitization of adenylyl cyclase (AC) signaling has been implicated in a variety of neuropsychiatric and neurologic disorders including substance abuse and Parkinson's disease. Acute activation of Gαi/o-linked receptors inhibits AC activity, whereas persistent activation of these receptors results in heterologous sensitization of AC and increased levels of intracellular cAMP. Previous studies have demonstrated that this enhancement of AC responsiveness is observed both in vitro
and in vivo
following the chronic activation of several types of Gαi/o-linked receptors including D2
dopamine and μ opioid receptors. Although heterologous sensitization of AC was first reported four decades ago, the mechanism(s) that underlie this phenomenon remain largely unknown. The lack of mechanistic data presumably reflects the complexity involved with this adaptive response, suggesting that nonbiased approaches could aid in identifying the molecular pathways involved in heterologous sensitization of AC. Previous studies have implicated kinase and Gbγ signaling as overlapping components that regulate the heterologous sensitization of AC. To identify unique and additional overlapping targets associated with sensitization of AC, the development and validation of a scalable cAMP sensitization assay is required for greater throughput. Previous approaches to study sensitization are generally cumbersome involving continuous cell culture maintenance as well as a complex methodology for measuring cAMP accumulation that involves multiple wash steps. Thus, the development of a robust cell-based assay that can be used for high throughput screening (HTS) in a 384 well format would facilitate future studies. Using two D2
dopamine receptor cellular models (i.e
), we have converted our 48-well sensitization assay (>20 steps 4-5 days) to a five-step, single day assay in 384-well format. This new format is amenable to small molecule screening, and we demonstrate that this assay design can also be readily used for reverse transfection of siRNA in anticipation of targeted siRNA library screening.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, adenylyl cyclase, cAMP, heterologous sensitization, superactivation, D2 dopamine, μ opioid, siRNA
Inducing Plasticity of Astrocytic Receptors by Manipulation of Neuronal Firing Rates
Institutions: University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside.
Close to two decades of research has established that astrocytes in situ
and in vivo
express numerous G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that can be stimulated by neuronally-released transmitter. However, the ability of astrocytic receptors to exhibit plasticity in response to changes in neuronal activity has received little attention. Here we describe a model system that can be used to globally scale up or down astrocytic group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in acute brain slices. Included are methods on how to prepare parasagittal hippocampal slices, construct chambers suitable for long-term slice incubation, bidirectionally manipulate neuronal action potential frequency, load astrocytes and astrocyte processes with fluorescent Ca2+
indicator, and measure changes in astrocytic Gq GPCR activity by recording spontaneous and evoked astrocyte Ca2+
events using confocal microscopy. In essence, a “calcium roadmap” is provided for how to measure plasticity of astrocytic Gq GPCRs. Applications of the technique for study of astrocytes are discussed. Having an understanding of how astrocytic receptor signaling is affected by changes in neuronal activity has important implications for both normal synaptic function as well as processes underlying neurological disorders and neurodegenerative disease.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, astrocyte, plasticity, mGluRs, neuronal Firing, electrophysiology, Gq GPCRs, Bolus-loading, calcium, microdomains, acute slices, Hippocampus, mouse
High-throughput Analysis of Mammalian Olfactory Receptors: Measurement of Receptor Activation via Luciferase Activity
Institutions: Monell Chemical Senses Center.
Odorants create unique and overlapping patterns of olfactory receptor activation, allowing a family of approximately 1,000 murine and 400 human receptors to recognize thousands of odorants. Odorant ligands have been published for fewer than 6% of human receptors1-11
. This lack of data is due in part to difficulties functionally expressing these receptors in heterologous systems. Here, we describe a method for expressing the majority of the olfactory receptor family in Hana3A cells, followed by high-throughput assessment of olfactory receptor activation using a luciferase reporter assay. This assay can be used to (1) screen panels of odorants against panels of olfactory receptors; (2) confirm odorant/receptor interaction via dose response curves; and (3) compare receptor activation levels among receptor variants. In our sample data, 328 olfactory receptors were screened against 26 odorants. Odorant/receptor pairs with varying response scores were selected and tested in dose response. These data indicate that a screen is an effective method to enrich for odorant/receptor pairs that will pass a dose response experiment, i.e.
receptors that have a bona fide response to an odorant. Therefore, this high-throughput luciferase assay is an effective method to characterize olfactory receptors—an essential step toward a model of odor coding in the mammalian olfactory system.
Neuroscience, Issue 88, Firefly luciferase, Renilla Luciferase, Dual-Glo Luciferase Assay, olfaction, Olfactory receptor, Odorant, GPCR, High-throughput
Characterization of G Protein-coupled Receptors by a Fluorescence-based Calcium Mobilization Assay
Institutions: KU Leuven.
For more than 20 years, reverse pharmacology has been the preeminent strategy to discover the activating ligands of orphan G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). The onset of a reverse pharmacology assay is the cloning and subsequent transfection of a GPCR of interest in a cellular expression system. The heterologous expressed receptor is then challenged with a compound library of candidate ligands to identify the receptor-activating ligand(s). Receptor activation can be assessed by measuring changes in concentration of second messenger reporter molecules, like calcium or cAMP. The fluorescence-based calcium mobilization assay described here is a frequently used medium-throughput reverse pharmacology assay. The orphan GPCR is transiently expressed in human embryonic kidney 293T (HEK293T) cells and a promiscuous Gα16
construct is co-transfected. Following ligand binding, activation of the Gα16
subunit induces the release of calcium from the endoplasmic reticulum. Prior to ligand screening, the receptor-expressing cells are loaded with a fluorescent calcium indicator, Fluo-4 acetoxymethyl. The fluorescent signal of Fluo-4 is negligible in cells under resting conditions, but can be amplified more than a 100-fold upon the interaction with calcium ions that are released after receptor activation. The described technique does not require the time-consuming establishment of stably transfected cell lines in which the transfected genetic material is integrated into the host cell genome. Instead, a transient transfection, generating temporary expression of the target gene, is sufficient to perform the screening assay. The setup allows medium-throughput screening of hundreds of compounds. Co-transfection of the promiscuous Gα16
, which couples to most GPCRs, allows the intracellular signaling pathway to be redirected towards the release of calcium, regardless of the native signaling pathway in endogenous settings. The HEK293T cells are easy to handle and have proven their efficacy throughout the years in receptor deorphanization assays. However, optimization of the assay for specific receptors may remain necessary.
Cellular Biology, Issue 89, G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), calcium mobilization assay, reverse pharmacology, deorphanization, cellular expression system, HEK293T, Fluo-4, FlexStation
Mechanical Stimulation-induced Calcium Wave Propagation in Cell Monolayers: The Example of Bovine Corneal Endothelial Cells
Institutions: KU Leuven.
Intercellular communication is essential for the coordination of physiological processes between cells in a variety of organs and tissues, including the brain, liver, retina, cochlea and vasculature. In experimental settings, intercellular Ca2+
-waves can be elicited by applying a mechanical stimulus to a single cell. This leads to the release of the intracellular signaling molecules IP3
that initiate the propagation of the Ca2+
-wave concentrically from the mechanically stimulated cell to the neighboring cells. The main molecular pathways that control intercellular Ca2+
-wave propagation are provided by gap junction channels through the direct transfer of IP3
and by hemichannels through the release of ATP. Identification and characterization of the properties and regulation of different connexin and pannexin isoforms as gap junction channels and hemichannels are allowed by the quantification of the spread of the intercellular Ca2+
-wave, siRNA, and the use of inhibitors of gap junction channels and hemichannels. Here, we describe a method to measure intercellular Ca2+
-wave in monolayers of primary corneal endothelial cells loaded with Fluo4-AM in response to a controlled and localized mechanical stimulus provoked by an acute, short-lasting deformation of the cell as a result of touching the cell membrane with a micromanipulator-controlled glass micropipette with a tip diameter of less than 1 μm. We also describe the isolation of primary bovine corneal endothelial cells and its use as model system to assess Cx43-hemichannel activity as the driven force for intercellular Ca2+
-waves through the release of ATP. Finally, we discuss the use, advantages, limitations and alternatives of this method in the context of gap junction channel and hemichannel research.
Cellular Biology, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics, Immunology, Ophthalmology, Gap Junctions, Connexins, Connexin 43, Calcium Signaling, Ca2+, Cell Communication, Paracrine Communication, Intercellular communication, calcium wave propagation, gap junctions, hemichannels, endothelial cells, cell signaling, cell, isolation, cell culture
Cell-based Calcium Assay for Medium to High Throughput Screening of TRP Channel Functions using FlexStation 3
Institutions: The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
The Molecular Devices' FlexStation 3 is a benchtop multi-mode microplate reader capable of automated fluorescence measurement in multi-well plates. It is ideal for medium- to high-throughput screens in academic settings. It has an integrated fluid transfer module equipped with a multi-channel pipetter and the machine reads one column at a time to monitor fluorescence changes of a variety of fluorescent reagents. For example, FlexStation 3 has been used to study the function of Ca2+
-permeable ion channels and G-protein coupled receptors by measuring the changes of intracellular free Ca2+
levels. Transient receptor potential (TRP) channels are a large family of nonselective cation channels that play important roles in many physiological and pathophysiological functions. Most of the TRP channels are calcium permeable and induce calcium influx upon activation. In this video, we demonstrate the application of FlexStation 3 to study the pharmacological profile of the TRPA1 channel, a molecular sensor for numerous noxious stimuli. HEK293 cells transiently or stably expressing human TRPA1 channels, grown in 96-well plates, are loaded with a Ca2+
-sensitive fluorescent dye, Fluo-4, and real-time fluorescence changes in these cells are measured before and during the application of a TRPA1 agonist using the FLEX mode of the FlexStation 3. The effect of a putative TRPA1 antagonist was also examined. Data are transferred from the SoftMax Pro software to construct concentration-response relationships of TRPA1 activators and inhibitors.
Bioengineering, Issue 54, TRP channels, Calcium assay, FlexStation 3
Preparation of Drosophila Central Neurons for in situ Patch Clamping
Institutions: Arizona State University .
Short generation times and facile genetic techniques make the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster
an excellent genetic model in fundamental neuroscience research. Ion channels are the basis of all behavior since they mediate neuronal excitability. The first voltage gated ion channel cloned was the Drosophila
voltage gated potassium channel Shaker1,2
. Toward understanding the role of ion channels and membrane excitability for nervous system function it is useful to combine powerful genetic tools available in Drosophila
with in situ
patch clamp recordings. For many years such recordings have been hampered by the small size of the Drosophila
CNS. Furthermore, a robust sheath made of glia and collagen constituted obstacles for patch pipette access to central neurons. Removal of this sheath is a necessary precondition for patch clamp recordings from any neuron in the adult Drosophila
CNS. In recent years scientists have been able to conduct in situ
patch clamp recordings from neurons in the adult brain3,4
and ventral nerve cord of embryonic5,6
, and adult Drosophila11,12,13,14
. A stable giga-seal is the main precondition for a good patch and depends on clean contact of the patch pipette with the cell membrane to avoid leak currents. Therefore, for whole cell in situ
patch clamp recordings from adult Drosophila
neurons must be cleaned thoroughly. In the first step, the ganglionic sheath has to be treated enzymatically and mechanically removed to make the target cells accessible. In the second step, the cell membrane has to be polished so that no layer of glia, collagen or other material may disturb giga-seal formation. This article describes how to prepare an identified central neuron in the Drosophila
ventral nerve cord, the flight motoneuron 5 (MN515
), for somatic whole cell patch clamp recordings. Identification and visibility of the neuron is achieved by targeted expression of GFP in MN5. We do not aim to explain the patch clamp technique itself.
Neuroscience, Issue 68, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, Patch clamp, in situ patch clamp, Drosophila, electrophysiology, motoneuron, neuron, CNS
Quantifying Agonist Activity at G Protein-coupled Receptors
Institutions: University of California, Irvine, University of California, Chapman University.
When an agonist activates a population of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), it elicits a signaling pathway that culminates in the response of the cell or tissue. This process can be analyzed at the level of a single receptor, a population of receptors, or a downstream response. Here we describe how to analyze the downstream response to obtain an estimate of the agonist affinity constant for the active state of single receptors.
Receptors behave as quantal switches that alternate between active and inactive states (Figure 1). The active state interacts with specific G proteins or other signaling partners. In the absence of ligands, the inactive state predominates. The binding of agonist increases the probability that the receptor will switch into the active state because its affinity constant for the active state (Kb
) is much greater than that for the inactive state (Ka
). The summation of the random outputs of all of the receptors in the population yields a constant level of receptor activation in time. The reciprocal of the concentration of agonist eliciting half-maximal receptor activation is equivalent to the observed affinity constant (Kobs
), and the fraction of agonist-receptor complexes in the active state is defined as efficacy (ε
) (Figure 2).
Methods for analyzing the downstream responses of GPCRs have been developed that enable the estimation of the Kobs
and relative efficacy of an agonist 1,2
. In this report, we show how to modify this analysis to estimate the agonist Kb
value relative to that of another agonist. For assays that exhibit constitutive activity, we show how to estimate Kb
in absolute units of M-1
Our method of analyzing agonist concentration-response curves 3,4
consists of global nonlinear regression using the operational model 5
. We describe a procedure using the software application, Prism (GraphPad Software, Inc., San Diego, CA). The analysis yields an estimate of the product of Kobs
and a parameter proportional to efficacy (τ
). The estimate of τKobs
of one agonist, divided by that of another, is a relative measure of Kb (RAi) 6
. For any receptor exhibiting constitutive activity, it is possible to estimate a parameter proportional to the efficacy of the free receptor complex (τsys
). In this case, the Kb
value of an agonist is equivalent to τKobs/τsys 3
Our method is useful for determining the selectivity of an agonist for receptor subtypes and for quantifying agonist-receptor signaling through different G proteins.
Molecular Biology, Issue 58, agonist activity, active state, ligand bias, constitutive activity, G protein-coupled receptor