A healthy immune system requires that T cells respond to foreign antigens while remaining tolerant to self-antigens. Random rearrangement of the T cell receptor (TCR) α and β loci generates a T cell repertoire with vast diversity in antigen specificity, both to self and foreign. Selection of the repertoire during development in the thymus is critical for generating safe and useful T cells. Defects in thymic selection contribute to the development of autoimmune and immunodeficiency disorders1-4.
T cell progenitors enter the thymus as double negative (DN) thymocytes that do not express CD4 or CD8 co-receptors. Expression of the αβTCR and both co-receptors occurs at the double positive (DP) stage. Interaction of the αβTCR with self-peptide-MHC (pMHC) presented by thymic cells determines the fate of the DP thymocyte. High affinity interactions lead to negative selection and elimination of self-reactive thymocytes. Low affinity interactions result in positive selection and development of CD4 or CD8 single positive (SP) T cells capable of recognizing foreign antigens presented by self-MHC5.
Positive selection can be studied in mice with a polyclonal (wildtype) TCR repertoire by observing the generation of mature T cells. However, they are not ideal for the study of negative selection, which involves deletion of small antigen-specific populations. Many model systems have been used to study negative selection but vary in their ability to recapitulate physiological events6. For example, in vitro stimulation of thymocytes lacks the thymic environment that is intimately involved in selection, while administration of exogenous antigen can lead to non-specific deletion of thymocytes7-9. Currently, the best tools for studying in vivo negative selection are mice that express a transgenic TCR specific for endogenous self-antigen. However, many classical TCR transgenic models are characterized by premature expression of the transgenic TCRα chain at the DN stage, resulting in premature negative selection. Our lab has developed the HYcd4 model, in which the transgenic HY TCRα is conditionally expressed at the DP stage, allowing negative selection to occur during the DP to SP transition as occurs in wildtype mice10.
Here, we describe a flow cytometry-based protocol to examine thymic positive and negative selection in the HYcd4 mouse model. While negative selection in HYcd4 mice is highly physiological, these methods can also be applied to other TCR transgenic models. We will also present general strategies for analyzing positive selection in a polyclonal repertoire applicable to any genetically manipulated mice.
25 Related JoVE Articles!
Transnuclear Mice with Pre-defined T Cell Receptor Specificities Against Toxoplasma gondii Obtained Via SCNT
Institutions: Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, National University of Singapore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Lymphocytes, such as T cells, undergo genetic V(D)J recombination, to generate a receptor with a certain specificity1
. Mice transgenic for a rearranged antigen-specific T cell receptor (TCR) have been an indispensable tool to study T cell development and function. However, such TCRs are usually isolated from the relevant T cells after long-term culture often following repeated antigen stimulation, which unavoidably selects for T cells with high affinity. Random genomic integration of the TCR α- and β-chain and expression from non-endogenous promoters can lead to variations in expression level and kinetics.
Epigenetic reprogramming via somatic cell nuclear transfer provides a tool to generate embryonic stem cells and mice from any cell of interest. Consequently, when SCNT is applied to T cells of known specificity, these genetic V(D)J rearrangements are transferred to the SCNT-embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and the mice derived from them, while epigenetic marks are reset. We have demonstrated that T cells with pre-defined specificities against Toxoplasma gondii
can be used to generate mouse models that express the specific TCR from their endogenous loci, without experimentally introduced genetic modification. The relative ease and speed with which such transnuclear models can be obtained holds promise for the construction of other disease models.
Developmental Biology, Issue 43, SCNT, immunology, TCR, BCR, mouse model, transnuclear
Dissecting Host-virus Interaction in Lytic Replication of a Model Herpesvirus
Institutions: UT Southwestern Medical Center, UT Southwestern Medical Center.
In response to viral infection, a host develops various defensive responses, such as activating innate immune signaling pathways that lead to antiviral cytokine production1,2
. In order to colonize the host, viruses are obligate to evade host antiviral responses and manipulate signaling pathways. Unraveling the host-virus interaction will shed light on the development of novel therapeutic strategies against viral infection.
Murine γHV68 is closely related to human oncogenic Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus and Epsten-Barr virus3,4
. γHV68 infection in laboratory mice provides a tractable small animal model to examine the entire course of host responses and viral infection in vivo
, which are not available for human herpesviruses. In this protocol, we present a panel of methods for phenotypic characterization and molecular dissection of host signaling components in γHV68 lytic replication both in vivo
and ex vivo
. The availability of genetically modified mouse strains permits the interrogation of the roles of host signaling pathways during γHV68 acute infection in vivo
. Additionally, mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) isolated from these deficient mouse strains can be used to further dissect roles of these molecules during γHV68 lytic replication ex vivo
Using virological and molecular biology assays, we can pinpoint the molecular mechanism of host-virus interactions and identify host and viral genes essential for viral lytic replication. Finally, a bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) system facilitates the introduction of mutations into the viral factor(s) that specifically interrupt the host-virus interaction. Recombinant γHV68 carrying these mutations can be used to recapitulate the phenotypes of γHV68 lytic replication in MEFs deficient in key host signaling components. This protocol offers an excellent strategy to interrogate host-pathogen interaction at multiple levels of intervention in vivo
and ex vivo
Recently, we have discovered that γHV68 usurps an innate immune signaling pathway to promote viral lytic replication5
. Specifically, γHV68 de novo infection activates the immune kinase IKKβ and activated IKKβ phosphorylates the master viral transcription factor, replication and transactivator (RTA), to promote viral transcriptional activation. In doing so, γHV68 efficiently couples its transcriptional activation to host innate immune activation, thereby facilitating viral transcription and lytic replication. This study provides an excellent example that can be applied to other viruses to interrogate host-virus interaction.
Immunology, Issue 56, herpesvirus, gamma herpesvirus 68, γHV68, signaling pathways, host-virus interaction, viral lytic replication
High Efficiency Differentiation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells to Cardiomyocytes and Characterization by Flow Cytometry
Institutions: Medical College of Wisconsin, Stanford University School of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Hong Kong University, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin.
There is an urgent need to develop approaches for repairing the damaged heart, discovering new therapeutic drugs that do not have toxic effects on the heart, and improving strategies to accurately model heart disease. The potential of exploiting human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) technology to generate cardiac muscle “in a dish” for these applications continues to generate high enthusiasm. In recent years, the ability to efficiently generate cardiomyogenic cells from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) has greatly improved, offering us new opportunities to model very early stages of human cardiac development not otherwise accessible. In contrast to many previous methods, the cardiomyocyte differentiation protocol described here does not require cell aggregation or the addition of Activin A or BMP4 and robustly generates cultures of cells that are highly positive for cardiac troponin I and T (TNNI3, TNNT2), iroquois-class homeodomain protein IRX-4 (IRX4), myosin regulatory light chain 2, ventricular/cardiac muscle isoform (MLC2v) and myosin regulatory light chain 2, atrial isoform (MLC2a) by day 10 across all human embryonic stem cell (hESC) and hiPSC lines tested to date. Cells can be passaged and maintained for more than 90 days in culture. The strategy is technically simple to implement and cost-effective. Characterization of cardiomyocytes derived from pluripotent cells often includes the analysis of reference markers, both at the mRNA and protein level. For protein analysis, flow cytometry is a powerful analytical tool for assessing quality of cells in culture and determining subpopulation homogeneity. However, technical variation in sample preparation can significantly affect quality of flow cytometry data. Thus, standardization of staining protocols should facilitate comparisons among various differentiation strategies. Accordingly, optimized staining protocols for the analysis of IRX4, MLC2v, MLC2a, TNNI3, and TNNT2 by flow cytometry are described.
Cellular Biology, Issue 91, human induced pluripotent stem cell, flow cytometry, directed differentiation, cardiomyocyte, IRX4, TNNI3, TNNT2, MCL2v, MLC2a
DTI of the Visual Pathway - White Matter Tracts and Cerebral Lesions
Institutions: Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg, University of Applied Sciences Trier, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, Centre Hospitalier de Luxembourg.
DTI is a technique that identifies white matter tracts (WMT) non-invasively in healthy and non-healthy patients using diffusion measurements. Similar to visual pathways (VP), WMT are not visible with classical MRI or intra-operatively with microscope. DTI will help neurosurgeons to prevent destruction of the VP while removing lesions adjacent to this WMT. We have performed DTI on fifty patients before and after surgery between March 2012 to January 2014. To navigate we used a 3DT1-weighted sequence. Additionally, we performed a T2-weighted and DTI-sequences. The parameters used were, FOV: 200 x 200 mm, slice thickness: 2 mm, and acquisition matrix: 96 x 96 yielding nearly isotropic voxels of 2 x 2 x 2 mm. Axial MRI was carried out using a 32 gradient direction and one b0-image. We used Echo-Planar-Imaging (EPI) and ASSET parallel imaging with an acceleration factor of 2 and b-value of 800 s/mm². The scanning time was less than 9 min.
The DTI-data obtained were processed using a FDA approved surgical navigation system program which uses a straightforward fiber-tracking approach known as fiber assignment by continuous tracking (FACT). This is based on the propagation of lines between regions of interest (ROI) which is defined by a physician. A maximum angle of 50, FA start value of 0.10 and ADC stop value of 0.20 mm²/s were the parameters used for tractography.
There are some limitations to this technique. The limited acquisition time frame enforces trade-offs in the image quality. Another important point not to be neglected is the brain shift during surgery. As for the latter intra-operative MRI might be helpful. Furthermore the risk of false positive or false negative tracts needs to be taken into account which might compromise the final results.
Medicine, Issue 90, Neurosurgery, brain, visual pathway, white matter tracts, visual cortex, optic chiasm, glioblastoma, meningioma, metastasis
Using Microwave and Macroscopic Samples of Dielectric Solids to Study the Photonic Properties of Disordered Photonic Bandgap Materials
Institutions: San Francisco State University.
Recently, disordered photonic materials have been suggested as an alternative to periodic crystals for the formation of a complete photonic bandgap (PBG). In this article we will describe the methods for constructing and characterizing macroscopic disordered photonic structures using microwaves. The microwave regime offers the most convenient experimental sample size to build and test PBG media. Easily manipulated dielectric lattice components extend flexibility in building various 2D structures on top of pre-printed plastic templates. Once built, the structures could be quickly modified with point and line defects to make freeform waveguides and filters. Testing is done using a widely available Vector Network Analyzer and pairs of microwave horn antennas. Due to the scale invariance property of electromagnetic fields, the results we obtained in the microwave region can be directly applied to infrared and optical regions. Our approach is simple but delivers exciting new insight into the nature of light and disordered matter interaction.
Our representative results include the first experimental demonstration of the existence of a complete and isotropic PBG in a two-dimensional (2D) hyperuniform disordered dielectric structure. Additionally we demonstrate experimentally the ability of this novel photonic structure to guide electromagnetic waves (EM) through freeform waveguides of arbitrary shape.
Physics, Issue 91, optics and photonics, photonic crystals, photonic bandgap, hyperuniform, disordered media, waveguides
A Toolkit to Enable Hydrocarbon Conversion in Aqueous Environments
Institutions: Delft University of Technology, Delft University of Technology.
This work puts forward a toolkit that enables the conversion of alkanes by Escherichia coli
and presents a proof of principle of its applicability. The toolkit consists of multiple standard interchangeable parts (BioBricks)9
addressing the conversion of alkanes, regulation of gene expression and survival in toxic hydrocarbon-rich environments.
A three-step pathway for alkane degradation was implemented in E. coli
to enable the conversion of medium- and long-chain alkanes to their respective alkanols, alkanals and ultimately alkanoic-acids. The latter were metabolized via the native β-oxidation pathway. To facilitate the oxidation of medium-chain alkanes (C5-C13) and cycloalkanes (C5-C8), four genes (alkB2
) of the alkane hydroxylase system from Gordonia
were transformed into E. coli
. For the conversion of long-chain alkanes (C15-C36), theladA
gene from Geobacillus thermodenitrificans
was implemented. For the required further steps of the degradation process, ADH
and ALDH (
originating from G. thermodenitrificans
) were introduced10,11
. The activity was measured by resting cell assays. For each oxidative step, enzyme activity was observed.
To optimize the process efficiency, the expression was only induced under low glucose conditions: a substrate-regulated promoter, pCaiF, was used. pCaiF is present in E. coli
K12 and regulates the expression of the genes involved in the degradation of non-glucose carbon sources.
The last part of the toolkit - targeting survival - was implemented using solvent tolerance genes, PhPFDα and β, both from Pyrococcus horikoshii
OT3. Organic solvents can induce cell stress and decreased survivability by negatively affecting protein folding. As chaperones, PhPFDα and β improve the protein folding process e.g.
under the presence of alkanes. The expression of these genes led to an improved hydrocarbon tolerance shown by an increased growth rate (up to 50%) in the presences of 10% n
-hexane in the culture medium were observed.
Summarizing, the results indicate that the toolkit enables E. coli
to convert and tolerate hydrocarbons in aqueous environments. As such, it represents an initial step towards a sustainable solution for oil-remediation using a synthetic biology approach.
Bioengineering, Issue 68, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Oil remediation, alkane metabolism, alkane hydroxylase system, resting cell assay, prefoldin, Escherichia coli, synthetic biology, homologous interaction mapping, mathematical model, BioBrick, iGEM
Introduction to Solid Supported Membrane Based Electrophysiology
Institutions: Max Planck Institute of Biophysics, Goethe University Frankfurt.
The electrophysiological method we present is based on a solid supported membrane (SSM) composed of an octadecanethiol layer chemisorbed on a gold coated sensor chip and a phosphatidylcholine monolayer on top. This assembly is mounted into a cuvette system containing the reference electrode, a chlorinated silver wire.
After adsorption of membrane fragments or proteoliposomes containing the membrane protein of interest, a fast solution exchange is used to induce the transport activity of the membrane protein. In the single solution exchange protocol two solutions, one non-activating and one activating solution, are needed. The flow is controlled by pressurized air and a valve and tubing system within a faraday cage.
The kinetics of the electrogenic transport activity is obtained via capacitive coupling between the SSM and the proteoliposomes or membrane fragments. The method, therefore, yields only transient currents. The peak current represents the stationary transport activity. The time dependent transporter currents can be reconstructed by circuit analysis.
This method is especially suited for prokaryotic transporters or eukaryotic transporters from intracellular membranes, which cannot be investigated by patch clamp or voltage clamp methods.
Biochemistry, Issue 75, Biophysics, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Physiology, Proteins, Membrane Lipids, Membrane Transport Proteins, Kinetics, Electrophysiology, solid supported membrane, SSM, membrane transporter, lactose permease, lacY, capacitive coupling, solution exchange, model membrane, membrane protein, transporter, kinetics, transport mechanism
Measuring Cation Transport by Na,K- and H,K-ATPase in Xenopus Oocytes by Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry: An Alternative to Radioisotope Assays
Institutions: Technical University of Berlin, Oregon Health & Science University.
Whereas cation transport by the electrogenic membrane transporter Na+
-ATPase can be measured by electrophysiology, the electroneutrally operating gastric H+
-ATPase is more difficult to investigate. Many transport assays utilize radioisotopes to achieve a sufficient signal-to-noise ratio, however, the necessary security measures impose severe restrictions regarding human exposure or assay design. Furthermore, ion transport across cell membranes is critically influenced by the membrane potential, which is not straightforwardly controlled in cell culture or in proteoliposome preparations. Here, we make use of the outstanding sensitivity of atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS) towards trace amounts of chemical elements to measure Rb+
transport by Na+
- or gastric H+
-ATPase in single cells. Using Xenopus
oocytes as expression system, we determine the amount of Rb+
) transported into the cells by measuring samples of single-oocyte homogenates in an AAS device equipped with a transversely heated graphite atomizer (THGA) furnace, which is loaded from an autosampler. Since the background of unspecific Rb+
uptake into control oocytes or during application of ATPase-specific inhibitors is very small, it is possible to implement complex kinetic assay schemes involving a large number of experimental conditions simultaneously, or to compare the transport capacity and kinetics of site-specifically mutated transporters with high precision. Furthermore, since cation uptake is determined on single cells, the flux experiments can be carried out in combination with two-electrode voltage-clamping (TEVC) to achieve accurate control of the membrane potential and current. This allowed e.g.
to quantitatively determine the 3Na+
transport stoichiometry of the Na+
-ATPase and enabled for the first time to investigate the voltage dependence of cation transport by the electroneutrally operating gastric H+
-ATPase. In principle, the assay is not limited to K+
-transporting membrane proteins, but it may work equally well to address the activity of heavy or transition metal transporters, or uptake of chemical elements by endocytotic processes.
Biochemistry, Issue 72, Chemistry, Biophysics, Bioengineering, Physiology, Molecular Biology, electrochemical processes, physical chemistry, spectrophotometry (application), spectroscopic chemical analysis (application), life sciences, temperature effects (biological, animal and plant), Life Sciences (General), Na+,K+-ATPase, H+,K+-ATPase, Cation Uptake, P-type ATPases, Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry (AAS), Two-Electrode Voltage-Clamp, Xenopus Oocytes, Rb+ Flux, Transversely Heated Graphite Atomizer (THGA) Furnace, electrophysiology, animal model
The Cell-based L-Glutathione Protection Assays to Study Endocytosis and Recycling of Plasma Membrane Proteins
Institutions: Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Membrane trafficking involves transport of proteins from the plasma membrane to the cell interior (i.e.
endocytosis) followed by trafficking to lysosomes for degradation or to the plasma membrane for recycling. The cell based L-glutathione protection assays can be used to study endocytosis and recycling of protein receptors, channels, transporters, and adhesion molecules localized at the cell surface. The endocytic assay requires labeling of cell surface proteins with a cell membrane impermeable biotin containing a disulfide bond and the N-hydroxysuccinimide (NHS) ester at 4 ºC - a temperature at which membrane trafficking does not occur. Endocytosis of biotinylated plasma membrane proteins is induced by incubation at 37 ºC. Next, the temperature is decreased again to 4 ºC to stop endocytic trafficking and the disulfide bond in biotin covalently attached to proteins that have remained at the plasma membrane is reduced with L-glutathione. At this point, only proteins that were endocytosed remain protected from L-glutathione and thus remain biotinylated. After cell lysis, biotinylated proteins are isolated with streptavidin agarose, eluted from agarose, and the biotinylated protein of interest is detected by western blotting. During the recycling assay, after biotinylation cells are incubated at 37 °C to load endocytic vesicles with biotinylated proteins and the disulfide bond in biotin covalently attached to proteins remaining at the plasma membrane is reduced with L-glutathione at 4 ºC as in the endocytic assay. Next, cells are incubated again at 37 °C to allow biotinylated proteins from endocytic vesicles to recycle to the plasma membrane. Cells are then incubated at 4 ºC, and the disulfide bond in biotin attached to proteins that recycled to the plasma membranes is reduced with L-glutathione. The biotinylated proteins protected from L-glutathione are those that did not recycle to the plasma membrane.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, Endocytosis, recycling, plasma membrane, cell surface, EZLink, Sulfo-NHS-SS-Biotin, L-Glutathione, GSH, thiol group, disulfide bond, epithelial cells, cell polarization
Derivation of Glial Restricted Precursors from E13 mice
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, University of Maryland , Biogen Idec, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
This is a protocol for derivation of glial restricted precursor (GRP) cells from the spinal cord of E13 mouse fetuses. These cells are early precursors within the oligodendrocytic cell lineage. Recently, these cells have been studied as potential source for restorative therapies in white matter diseases. Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is the leading cause of non-genetic white matter disease in childhood and affects up to 50% of extremely premature infants. The data suggest a heightened susceptibility of the developing brain to hypoxia-ischemia, oxidative stress and excitotoxicity that selectively targets nascent white matter. Glial restricted precursors (GRP), oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPC) and immature oligodendrocytes (preOL) seem to be key players in the development of PVL and are the subject of continuing studies. Furthermore, previous studies have identified a subset of CNS tissue that has increased susceptibility to glutamate excitotoxicity as well as a developmental pattern to this susceptibility. Our laboratory is currently investigating the role of oligodendrocyte progenitors in PVL and use cells at the GRP stage of development. We utilize these derived GRP cells in several experimental paradigms to test their response to select stresses consistent with PVL. GRP cells can be manipulated in vitro
into OPCs and preOL for transplantation experiments with mouse PVL models and in vitro
models of PVL-like insults including hypoxia-ischemia. By using cultured cells and in vitro
studies there would be reduced variability between experiments which facilitates interpretation of the data. Cultured cells also allows for enrichment of the GRP population while minimizing the impact of contaminating cells of non-GRP phenotype.
Neuroscience, Issue 64, Physiology, Medicine, periventricular leukomalacia, oligodendrocytes, glial restricted precursors, spinal cord, cell culture
Quantification of Global Diastolic Function by Kinematic Modeling-based Analysis of Transmitral Flow via the Parametrized Diastolic Filling Formalism
Institutions: Washington University in St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis, Washington University in St. Louis.
Quantitative cardiac function assessment remains a challenge for physiologists and clinicians. Although historically invasive methods have comprised the only means available, the development of noninvasive imaging modalities (echocardiography, MRI, CT) having high temporal and spatial resolution provide a new window for quantitative diastolic function assessment. Echocardiography is the agreed upon standard for diastolic function assessment, but indexes in current clinical use merely utilize selected features of chamber dimension (M-mode) or blood/tissue motion (Doppler) waveforms without incorporating the physiologic causal determinants of the motion itself. The recognition that all left ventricles (LV) initiate filling by serving as mechanical suction pumps allows global diastolic function to be assessed based on laws of motion that apply to all chambers. What differentiates one heart from another are the parameters of the equation of motion that governs filling. Accordingly, development of the Parametrized Diastolic Filling (PDF) formalism has shown that the entire range of clinically observed early transmitral flow (Doppler E-wave) patterns are extremely well fit by the laws of damped oscillatory motion. This permits analysis of individual E-waves in accordance with a causal mechanism (recoil-initiated suction) that yields three (numerically) unique lumped parameters whose physiologic analogues are chamber stiffness (k
), viscoelasticity/relaxation (c
), and load (xo
). The recording of transmitral flow (Doppler E-waves) is standard practice in clinical cardiology and, therefore, the echocardiographic recording method is only briefly reviewed. Our focus is on determination of the PDF parameters from routinely recorded E-wave data. As the highlighted results indicate, once the PDF parameters have been obtained from a suitable number of load varying E-waves, the investigator is free to use the parameters or construct indexes from the parameters (such as stored energy 1/2kxo2
, maximum A-V pressure gradient kxo
, load independent index of diastolic function, etc
.) and select the aspect of physiology or pathophysiology to be quantified.
Bioengineering, Issue 91, cardiovascular physiology, ventricular mechanics, diastolic function, mathematical modeling, Doppler echocardiography, hemodynamics, biomechanics
Diffusion Tensor Magnetic Resonance Imaging in the Analysis of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Institutions: University of Ulm.
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) techniques provide information on the microstructural processes of the cerebral white matter (WM) in vivo
. The present applications are designed to investigate differences of WM involvement patterns in different brain diseases, especially neurodegenerative disorders, by use of different DTI analyses in comparison with matched controls.
DTI data analysis is performed in a variate fashion, i.e.
voxelwise comparison of regional diffusion direction-based metrics such as fractional anisotropy (FA), together with fiber tracking (FT) accompanied by tractwise fractional anisotropy statistics (TFAS) at the group level in order to identify differences in FA along WM structures, aiming at the definition of regional patterns of WM alterations at the group level. Transformation into a stereotaxic standard space is a prerequisite for group studies and requires thorough data processing to preserve directional inter-dependencies. The present applications show optimized technical approaches for this preservation of quantitative and directional information during spatial normalization in data analyses at the group level. On this basis, FT techniques can be applied to group averaged data in order to quantify metrics information as defined by FT. Additionally, application of DTI methods, i.e.
differences in FA-maps after stereotaxic alignment, in a longitudinal analysis at an individual subject basis reveal information about the progression of neurological disorders. Further quality improvement of DTI based results can be obtained during preprocessing by application of a controlled elimination of gradient directions with high noise levels.
In summary, DTI is used to define a distinct WM pathoanatomy of different brain diseases by the combination of whole brain-based and tract-based DTI analysis.
Medicine, Issue 77, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Neurodegenerative Diseases, nuclear magnetic resonance, NMR, MR, MRI, diffusion tensor imaging, fiber tracking, group level comparison, neurodegenerative diseases, brain, imaging, clinical techniques
Accelerated Type 1 Diabetes Induction in Mice by Adoptive Transfer of Diabetogenic CD4+ T Cells
Institutions: Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine.
The nonobese diabetic (NOD) mouse spontaneously develops autoimmune diabetes after 12 weeks of age and is the most extensively studied animal model of human Type 1 diabetes (T1D). Cell transfer studies in irradiated recipient mice have established that T cells are pivotal in T1D pathogenesis in this model. We describe herein a simple method to rapidly induce T1D by adoptive transfer of purified, primary CD4+ T cells from pre-diabetic NOD mice transgenic for the islet-specific T cell receptor (TCR) BDC2.5 into NOD.SCID recipient mice. The major advantages of this technique are that isolation and adoptive transfer of diabetogenic T cells can be completed within the same day, irradiation of the recipients is not required, and a high incidence of T1D is elicited within 2 weeks after T cell transfer. Thus, studies of pathogenesis and therapeutic interventions in T1D can proceed at a faster rate than with methods that rely on heterogenous T cell populations or clones derived from diabetic NOD mice.
Immunology, Issue 75, Medicine, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Anatomy, Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, Genetics, Surgery, Type 1 diabetes, CD4+ T cells, diabetogenic T cells, T cell transfer, diabetes induction method, diabetes, T cells, isolation, cell sorting, FACS, transgenic mice, animal model
A TIRF Microscopy Technique for Real-time, Simultaneous Imaging of the TCR and its Associated Signaling Proteins
Institutions: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health.
Signaling is initiated through the T Cell Receptor (TCR) when it is engaged by antigenic peptide fragments bound by Major Histocompatibility Complex (pMHC) proteins expressed on the surface of antigen presenting cells (APCs). The TCR complex is composed of the ligand binding TCRαβ heterodimer that associates non-covalently with CD3 dimers (the εδ and εγ heterodimers and the ζζ homodimer)1
. Upon engagement of the receptor, the CD3 ζ chains are phosphorylated by the Src family kinase, Lck. This leads to the recruitment of the Syk family kinase, Zap70, which is then phosphorylated and activated by Lck. After that, Zap70 phosphorylates the adapter proteins LAT and SLP76, initiating the formation of the proximal signaling complex containing a large number of different signaling molecules2
The formation of this complex eventually results in calcium and Ras-dependent transcription factor activation and the consequent initiation of a complex series of gene expression programs that give rise to T cell differentiation2
. TCR signals (and the resulting state of differentiation) are modulated by many other factors, including antigen potency and crosstalk with co-stimulatory/co-inhibitory, chemokine, and cytokine receptors 3-4
. Studying the spatial and temporal organization of the proximal signaling complex under various stimulation conditions is, therefore, key to understanding the TCR signaling pathway as well as its regulation by other signaling pathways.
One very useful model system to study signaling initiated by the TCR at the plasma membrane in T cells is glass-supported lipid bilayers, as described previously5-6
. They can be utilized to present antigenic pMHC complexes, adhesion, and co-stimulatory molecules to T cells-serving as artificial APCs. By imaging the T cells interacting with the lipid bilayer using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM), we can restrict the excitation to within 100 nm of the space between the glass and the cell surface 7-8
. This allows us to image primarily the signaling events occurring at the plasma membrane. As we are interested in imaging the recruitment of signaling proteins to the TCR complex, we describe a two-camera TIRF imaging system wherein the TCR, labeled with fluorescent Fab (fragment antigen binding) fragments of the H57 antibody (purified from hybridoma H57-597, ATCC, ATCC Number:HB-218) which is specific for TCRβ, and signaling proteins, tagged with GFP, may be imaged simultaneously and in real time. This strategy is necessary due to the highly dynamic nature of both the T cells and of the signaling events that are occurring at the TCR. This imaging modality has allowed researchers to image single ligands 9-11
as well as recruitment of signaling molecules to activated receptors and is an excellent system to study biochemistry in-situ12-16
Immunology, Issue 61, Gene delivery, primary cells, T cells, fluorescence microscopy, total internal reflection fluorescence, T cell receptor, signaling
Real-time Live Imaging of T-cell Signaling Complex Formation
Institutions: Bar-Ilan University.
Protection against infectious diseases is mediated by the immune system 1,2
. T lymphocytes are the master coordinators of the immune system, regulating the activation and responses of multiple immune cells 3,4
. T-cell activation is dependent on the recognition of specific antigens displayed by antigen presenting cells (APCs). The T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) is specific to each T-cell clone and determines antigen specificity 5
. The binding of the TCR to the antigen induces the phosphorylation of components of the TCR complex. In order to promote T-cell activation, this signal must be transduced from the membrane to the cytoplasm and the nucleus, initiating various crucial responses such as recruitment of signaling proteins to the TCR;APC site (the immune synapse), their molecular activation, cytoskeletal rearrangement, elevation of intracellular calcium concentration, and changes in gene expression 6,7
. The correct initiation and termination of activating signals is crucial for appropriate T-cell responses. The activity of signaling proteins is dependent on the formation and termination of protein-protein interactions, post translational modifications such as protein phosphorylation, formation of protein complexes, protein ubiquitylation and the recruitment of proteins to various cellular sites 8
. Understanding the inner workings of the T-cell activation process is crucial for both immunological research and clinical applications.
Various assays have been developed in order to investigate protein-protein interactions; however, biochemical assays, such as the widely used co-immunoprecipitation method, do not allow protein location to be discerned, thus precluding the observation of valuable insights into the dynamics of cellular mechanisms. Additionally, these bulk assays usually combine proteins from many different cells that might be at different stages of the investigated cellular process. This can have a detrimental effect on temporal resolution. The use of real-time imaging of live cells allows both the spatial tracking of proteins and the ability to temporally distinguish between signaling events, thus shedding light on the dynamics of the process 9,10
. We present a method of real-time imaging of signaling-complex formation during T-cell activation. Primary T-cells or T-cell lines, such as Jurkat, are transfected with plasmids encoding for proteins of interest fused to monomeric fluorescent proteins, preventing non-physiological oligomerization 11
. Live T cells are dropped over a coverslip pre-coated with T-cell activating antibody 8,9
, which binds to the CD3/TCR complex, inducing T-cell activation while overcoming the need for specific activating antigens. Activated cells are constantly imaged with the use of confocal microscopy. Imaging data are analyzed to yield quantitative results, such as the colocalization coefficient of the signaling proteins.
Immunology, Issue 76, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Medicine, T-cell activation, Live-cell imaging, Signal transduction, Confocal microscopy, Signaling complex, Co-localization analysis, fluorescence, cell biology, T-cell, cell, imaging
Directed Differentiation of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells towards T Lymphocytes
Institutions: Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine.
Adoptive cell transfer (ACT) of antigen-specific CD8+
cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) is a promising treatment for a variety of malignancies 1
. CTLs can recognize malignant cells by interacting tumor antigens with the T cell receptors (TCR), and release cytotoxins as well as cytokines to kill malignant cells. It is known that less-differentiated and central-memory-like (termed highly reactive
) CTLs are the optimal population for ACT-based immunotherapy, because these CTLs have a high proliferative potential, are less prone to apoptosis than more differentiated cells and have a higher ability to respond to homeostatic cytokines 2-7
. However, due to difficulties in obtaining a high number of such CTLs from patients, there is an urgent need to find a new approach to generate highly reactive Ag-specific CTLs for successful ACT-based therapies.
TCR transduction of the self-renewable stem cells for immune reconstitution has a therapeutic potential for the treatment of diseases 8-10
. However, the approach to obtain embryonic stem cells (ESCs) from patients is not feasible. Although the use of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) for therapeutic purposes has been widely applied in clinic 11-13
, HSCs have reduced differentiation and proliferative capacities, and HSCs are difficult to expand in in vitro
cell culture 14-16
. Recent iPS cell technology and the development of an in vitro
system for gene delivery are capable of generating iPS cells from patients without any surgical approach. In addition, like ESCs, iPS cells possess indefinite proliferative capacity in vitro
, and have been shown to differentiate into hematopoietic cells. Thus, iPS cells have greater potential to be used in ACT-based immunotherapy compared to ESCs or HSCs.
Here, we present methods for the generation of T lymphocytes from iPS cells in vitro
, and in vivo
programming of antigen-specific CTLs from iPS cells for promoting cancer immune surveillance. Stimulation in vitro
with a Notch ligand drives T cell differentiation from iPS cells, and TCR gene transduction results in iPS cells differentiating into antigen-specific T cells in vivo
, which prevents tumor growth. Thus, we demonstrate antigen-specific T cell differentiation from iPS cells. Our studies provide a potentially more efficient approach for generating antigen-specific CTLs for ACT-based therapies and facilitate the development of therapeutic strategies for diseases.
Stem Cell Biology, Issue 63, Immunology, T cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, differentiation, Notch signaling, T cell receptor, adoptive cell transfer
Modeling Astrocytoma Pathogenesis In Vitro and In Vivo Using Cortical Astrocytes or Neural Stem Cells from Conditional, Genetically Engineered Mice
Institutions: University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Current astrocytoma models are limited in their ability to define the roles of oncogenic mutations in specific brain cell types during disease pathogenesis and their utility for preclinical drug development. In order to design a better model system for these applications, phenotypically wild-type cortical astrocytes and neural stem cells (NSC) from conditional, genetically engineered mice (GEM) that harbor various combinations of floxed oncogenic alleles were harvested and grown in culture. Genetic recombination was induced in vitro
using adenoviral Cre-mediated recombination, resulting in expression of mutated oncogenes and deletion of tumor suppressor genes. The phenotypic consequences of these mutations were defined by measuring proliferation, transformation, and drug response in vitro
. Orthotopic allograft models, whereby transformed cells are stereotactically injected into the brains of immune-competent, syngeneic littermates, were developed to define the role of oncogenic mutations and cell type on tumorigenesis in vivo
. Unlike most established human glioblastoma cell line xenografts, injection of transformed GEM-derived cortical astrocytes into the brains of immune-competent littermates produced astrocytomas, including the most aggressive subtype, glioblastoma, that recapitulated the histopathological hallmarks of human astrocytomas, including diffuse invasion of normal brain parenchyma. Bioluminescence imaging of orthotopic allografts from transformed astrocytes engineered to express luciferase was utilized to monitor in vivo
tumor growth over time. Thus, astrocytoma models using astrocytes and NSC harvested from GEM with conditional oncogenic alleles provide an integrated system to study the genetics and cell biology of astrocytoma pathogenesis in vitro
and in vivo
and may be useful in preclinical drug development for these devastating diseases.
Neuroscience, Issue 90, astrocytoma, cortical astrocytes, genetically engineered mice, glioblastoma, neural stem cells, orthotopic allograft
Adenoviral Transduction of Naive CD4 T Cells to Study Treg Differentiation
Institutions: Helmholtz Zentrum München.
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are essential to provide immune tolerance to self as well as to certain foreign antigens. Tregs can be generated from naive CD4 T cells in vitro
with TCR- and co-stimulation in the presence of TGFβ and IL-2. This bears enormous potential for future therapies, however, the molecules and signaling pathways that control differentiation are largely unknown.
Primary T cells can be manipulated through ectopic gene expression, but common methods fail to target the most important naive state of the T cell prior to primary antigen recognition. Here, we provide a protocol to express ectopic genes in naive CD4 T cells in vitro
before inducing Treg differentiation. It applies transduction with the replication-deficient adenovirus and explains its generation and production. The adenovirus can take up large inserts (up to 7 kb) and can be equipped with promoters to achieve high and transient overexpression in T cells. It effectively transduces naive mouse T cells if they express a transgenic Coxsackie adenovirus receptor (CAR). Importantly, after infection the T cells remain naive (CD44low
) and resting (CD25-
) and can be activated and differentiated into Tregs similar to non-infected cells. Thus, this method enables manipulation of CD4 T cell differentiation from its very beginning. It ensures that ectopic gene expression is already in place when early signaling events of the initial TCR stimulation induces cellular changes that eventually lead into Treg differentiation.
Immunology, Issue 78, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Bioengineering, Infection, Genetics, Microbiology, Virology, T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory, Adenoviruses, Human, MicroRNAs, Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte, Gene Transfer Techniques, Transduction, Genetic, Transfection, Adenovirus, gene transfer, microRNA, overexpression, knock down, CD4 T cells, in vitro differentiation, regulatory T cell, virus, cell, flow cytometry
A Microplate Assay to Assess Chemical Effects on RBL-2H3 Mast Cell Degranulation: Effects of Triclosan without Use of an Organic Solvent
Institutions: University of Maine, Orono, University of Maine, Orono.
Mast cells play important roles in allergic disease and immune defense against parasites. Once activated (e.g.
by an allergen), they degranulate, a process that results in the exocytosis of allergic mediators. Modulation of mast cell degranulation by drugs and toxicants may have positive or adverse effects on human health. Mast cell function has been dissected in detail with the use of rat basophilic leukemia mast cells (RBL-2H3), a widely accepted model of human mucosal mast cells3-5
. Mast cell granule component and the allergic mediator β-hexosaminidase, which is released linearly in tandem with histamine from mast cells6
, can easily and reliably be measured through reaction with a fluorogenic substrate, yielding measurable fluorescence intensity in a microplate assay that is amenable to high-throughput studies1
. Originally published by Naal et al.1
, we have adapted this degranulation assay for the screening of drugs and toxicants and demonstrate its use here.
Triclosan is a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent that is present in many consumer products and has been found to be a therapeutic aid in human allergic skin disease7-11
, although the mechanism for this effect is unknown. Here we demonstrate an assay for the effect of triclosan on mast cell degranulation. We recently showed that triclosan strongly affects mast cell function2
. In an effort to avoid use of an organic solvent, triclosan is dissolved directly into aqueous buffer with heat and stirring, and resultant concentration is confirmed using UV-Vis spectrophotometry (using ε280
= 4,200 L/M/cm)12
. This protocol has the potential to be used with a variety of chemicals to determine their effects on mast cell degranulation, and more broadly, their allergic potential.
Immunology, Issue 81, mast cell, basophil, degranulation, RBL-2H3, triclosan, irgasan, antibacterial, β-hexosaminidase, allergy, Asthma, toxicants, ionophore, antigen, fluorescence, microplate, UV-Vis
Identification of Post-translational Modifications of Plant Protein Complexes
Institutions: University of Warwick, Norwich Research Park, The Australian National University.
Plants adapt quickly to changing environments due to elaborate perception and signaling systems. During pathogen attack, plants rapidly respond to infection via
the recruitment and activation of immune complexes. Activation of immune complexes is associated with post-translational modifications (PTMs) of proteins, such as phosphorylation, glycosylation, or ubiquitination. Understanding how these PTMs are choreographed will lead to a better understanding of how resistance is achieved.
Here we describe a protein purification method for nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat (NB-LRR)-interacting proteins and the subsequent identification of their post-translational modifications (PTMs). With small modifications, the protocol can be applied for the purification of other plant protein complexes. The method is based on the expression of an epitope-tagged version of the protein of interest, which is subsequently partially purified by immunoprecipitation and subjected to mass spectrometry for identification of interacting proteins and PTMs.
This protocol demonstrates that: i). Dynamic changes in PTMs such as phosphorylation can be detected by mass spectrometry; ii). It is important to have sufficient quantities of the protein of interest, and this can compensate for the lack of purity of the immunoprecipitate; iii). In order to detect PTMs of a protein of interest, this protein has to be immunoprecipitated to get a sufficient quantity of protein.
Plant Biology, Issue 84, plant-microbe interactions, protein complex purification, mass spectrometry, protein phosphorylation, Prf, Pto, AvrPto, AvrPtoB
The Use of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy as a Tool for the Measurement of Bi-hemispheric Transcranial Electric Stimulation Effects on Primary Motor Cortex Metabolism
Institutions: University of Montréal, McGill University, University of Minnesota.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a neuromodulation technique that has been increasingly used over the past decade in the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders such as stroke and depression. Yet, the mechanisms underlying its ability to modulate brain excitability to improve clinical symptoms remains poorly understood 33
. To help improve this understanding, proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1
H-MRS) can be used as it allows the in vivo
quantification of brain metabolites such as γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate in a region-specific manner 41
. In fact, a recent study demonstrated that 1
H-MRS is indeed a powerful means to better understand the effects of tDCS on neurotransmitter concentration 34
. This article aims to describe the complete protocol for combining tDCS (NeuroConn MR compatible stimulator) with 1
H-MRS at 3 T using a MEGA-PRESS sequence. We will describe the impact of a protocol that has shown great promise for the treatment of motor dysfunctions after stroke, which consists of bilateral stimulation of primary motor cortices 27,30,31
. Methodological factors to consider and possible modifications to the protocol are also discussed.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, transcranial direct current stimulation, primary motor cortex, GABA, glutamate, stroke
Reconstitution Of β-catenin Degradation In Xenopus Egg Extract
Institutions: Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
egg extract is a well-characterized, robust system for studying the biochemistry of diverse cellular processes. Xenopus
egg extract has been used to study protein turnover in many cellular contexts, including the cell cycle and signal transduction pathways1-3
. Herein, a method is described for isolating Xenopus
egg extract that has been optimized to promote the degradation of the critical Wnt pathway component, β-catenin. Two different methods are described to assess β-catenin protein degradation in Xenopus
egg extract. One method is visually informative ([35
S]-radiolabeled proteins), while the other is more readily scaled for high-throughput assays (firefly luciferase-tagged fusion proteins). The techniques described can be used to, but are not limited to, assess β-catenin protein turnover and identify molecular components contributing to its turnover. Additionally, the ability to purify large volumes of homogenous Xenopus
egg extract combined with the quantitative and facile readout of luciferase-tagged proteins allows this system to be easily adapted for high-throughput screening for modulators of β-catenin degradation.
Molecular Biology, Issue 88, Xenopus laevis, Xenopus egg extracts, protein degradation, radiolabel, luciferase, autoradiography, high-throughput screening
Imaging of HIV-1 Envelope-induced Virological Synapse and Signaling on Synthetic Lipid Bilayers
Institutions: New York University Langone School of Medicine, Marty and Helen Kimmel Center for Biology and Medicine and Skirball Institute for Biomolecular Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Veteran Affairs New York Harbor Healthcare System.
Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection occurs most efficiently via cell to cell transmission2,10,11
. This cell to cell transfer between CD4+
T cells involves the formation of a virological synapse (VS), which is an F-actin-dependent cell-cell junction formed upon the engagement of HIV-1 envelope gp120 on the infected cell with CD4 and the chemokine receptor (CKR) CCR5 or CXCR4 on the target cell 8
. In addition to gp120 and its receptors, other membrane proteins, particularly the adhesion molecule LFA-1 and its ligands, the ICAM family, play a major role in VS formation and virus transmission as they are present on the surface of virus-infected donor cells and target cells, as well as on the envelope of HIV-1 virions1,4,5,6,7,13
. VS formation is also accompanied by intracellular signaling events that are transduced as a result of gp120-engagement of its receptors. Indeed, we have recently showed that CD4+
T cell interaction with gp120 induces recruitment and phosphorylation of signaling molecules associated with the TCR signalosome including Lck, CD3ζ, ZAP70, LAT, SLP-76, Itk, and PLCγ15
In this article, we present a method to visualize supramolecular arrangement and membrane-proximal signaling events taking place during VS formation. We take advantage of the glass-supported planar bi-layer system as a reductionist model to represent the surface of HIV-infected cells bearing the viral envelope gp120 and the cellular adhesion molecule ICAM-1. The protocol describes general procedures for monitoring HIV-1 gp120-induced VS assembly and signal activation events that include i) bi-layer preparation and assembly in a flow cell, ii) injection of cells and immunofluorescence staining to detect intracellular signaling molecules on cells interacting with HIV-1 gp120 and ICAM-1 on bi-layers, iii) image acquisition by TIRF microscopy, and iv) data analysis. This system generates high-resolution images of VS interface beyond that achieved with the conventional cell-cell system as it allows detection of distinct clusters of individual molecular components of VS along with specific signaling molecules recruited to these sub-domains.
Immunology, Issue 61, TIRF microscopy, planar bilayer, HIV envelope, virological synapse
Retroviral Transduction of T-cell Receptors in Mouse T-cells
Institutions: New York University School of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine.
T-cell receptors (TCRs) play a central role in the immune system. TCRs on T-cell surfaces can specifically recognize peptide antigens presented by antigen presenting cells (APCs)1
. This recognition leads to the activation of T-cells and a series of functional outcomes (e.g. cytokine production, killing of the target cells). Understanding the functional role of TCRs is critical to harness the power of the immune system to treat a variety of immunology related diseases (e.g. cancer or autoimmunity).
It is convenient to study TCRs in mouse models, which can be accomplished in several ways. Making TCR transgenic mouse models is costly and time-consuming and currently there are only a limited number of them available2-4
. Alternatively, mice with antigen-specific T-cells can be generated by bone marrow chimera. This method also takes several weeks and requires expertise5
. Retroviral transduction of TCRs into in vitro
activated mouse T-cells is a quick and relatively easy method to obtain T-cells of desired peptide-MHC specificity. Antigen-specific T-cells can be generated in one week and used in any downstream applications. Studying transduced T-cells also has direct application to human immunotherapy, as adoptive transfer of human T-cells transduced with antigen-specific TCRs is an emerging strategy for cancer treatment6
Here we present a protocol to retrovirally transduce TCRs into in vitro
activated mouse T-cells. Both human and mouse TCR genes can be used. Retroviruses carrying specific TCR genes are generated and used to infect mouse T-cells activated with anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 antibodies. After in vitro
expansion, transduced T-cells are analyzed by flow cytometry.
Immunology, Issue 44, T-cell, T-cell receptor, Retrovirus, Mouse, Transduction, Spleen
In situ Imaging of the Mouse Thymus Using 2-Photon Microscopy
Institutions: University of California, Berkeley.
Two-photon Microscopy (TPM) enables us to image deep into the thymus and document the events that are important for thymocyte development. To follow the migration of individuals in a crowd of thymocytes , we generate neonatal chimeras where less than one percent of the thymocytes are derived from a donor that is transgenic for a ubiquitously express fluorescent protein. To generate these partial hematopoetic chimeras, neonatal recipients are injected with bone marrow between 3-7 days of age. After 4-6 weeks, the mouse is sacrificed and the thymus is carefully dissected and bissected preserving the architecture of the tissue that will be imaged. The thymus is glued onto a coverslip in preparation for ex vivo imaging by TPM. During imaging the thymus is kept in DMEM without phenol red that is perfused with 95% oxygen and 5% carbon dioxide and warmed to 37°C. Using this approach, we can study the events required for the generation of a diverse T cell repertoire.
Immunology, Issue 11, 2-photon microscopy, neonatal chimera, adoptive transfer, thymus