Cholesterol content of cells must be maintained within the very tight limits, too much or too little cholesterol in a cell results in disruption of cellular membranes, apoptosis and necrosis 1. Cells can source cholesterol from intracellular synthesis and from plasma lipoproteins, both sources are sufficient to fully satisfy cells' requirements for cholesterol. The processes of cholesterol synthesis and uptake are tightly regulated and deficiencies of cholesterol are rare 2. Excessive cholesterol is more common problem 3. With the exception of hepatocytes and to some degree adrenocortical cells, cells are unable to degrade cholesterol. Cells have two options to reduce their cholesterol content: to convert cholesterol into cholesteryl esters, an option with limited capacity as overloading cells with cholesteryl esters is also toxic, and cholesterol efflux, an option with potentially unlimited capacity. Cholesterol efflux is a specific process that is regulated by a number of intracellular transporters, such as ATP binding cassette transporter proteins A1 (ABCA1) and G1 (ABCG1) and scavenger receptor type B1. The natural acceptor of cholesterol in plasma is high density lipoprotein (HDL) and apolipoprotein A-I.
The cholesterol efflux assay is designed to quantitate the rate of cholesterol efflux from cultured cells. It measures the capacity of cells to maintain cholesterol efflux and/or the capacity of plasma acceptors to accept cholesterol released from cells. The assay consists of the following steps. Step 1: labelling cellular cholesterol by adding labelled cholesterol to serum-containing medium and incubating with cells for 24-48 h. This step may be combined with loading of cells with cholesterol. Step 2: incubation of cells in serum-free medium to equilibrate labelled cholesterol among all intracellular cholesterol pools. This stage may be combined with activation of cellular cholesterol transporters. Step 3: incubation of cells with extracellular acceptor and quantitation of movement of labelled cholesterol from cells to the acceptor. If cholesterol precursors were used to label newly synthesized cholesterol, a fourth step, purification of cholesterol, may be required.
The assay delivers the following information: (i) how a particular treatment (a mutation, a knock-down, an overexpression or a treatment) affects the capacity of cell to efflux cholesterol and (ii) how the capacity of plasma acceptors to accept cholesterol is affected by a disease or a treatment. This method is often used in context of cardiovascular research, metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders, infectious and reproductive diseases.
24 Related JoVE Articles!
Determination of Lipid Raft Partitioning of Fluorescently-tagged Probes in Living Cells by Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS)
Institutions: Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière, Université Paris-Sud, Université Paris-Sud.
In the past fifteen years the notion that cell membranes are not homogenous and rely on microdomains to exert their functions has become widely accepted. Lipid rafts are membrane microdomains enriched in cholesterol and sphingolipids. They play a role in cellular physiological processes such as signalling, and trafficking1,2
but are also thought to be key players in several diseases including viral or bacterial infections and neurodegenerative diseases3
Yet their existence is still a matter of controversy4,5
. Indeed, lipid raft size has been estimated to be around 20 nm6
, far under the resolution limit of conventional microscopy (around 200 nm), thus precluding their direct imaging. Up to now, the main techniques used to assess the partition of proteins of interest inside lipid rafts were Detergent Resistant Membranes (DRMs) isolation and co-patching with antibodies. Though widely used because of their rather easy implementation, these techniques were prone to artefacts and thus criticized7,8
. Technical improvements were therefore necessary to overcome these artefacts and to be able to probe lipid rafts partition in living cells.
Here we present a method for the sensitive analysis of lipid rafts partition of fluorescently-tagged proteins or lipids in the plasma membrane of living cells. This method, termed Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy (FCS), relies on the disparity in diffusion times of fluorescent probes located inside or outside of lipid rafts. In fact, as evidenced in both artificial membranes and cell cultures, probes would diffuse much faster outside than inside dense lipid rafts9,10
. To determine diffusion times, minute fluorescence fluctuations are measured as a function of time in a focal volume (approximately 1 femtoliter), located at the plasma membrane of cells with a confocal microscope (Fig. 1
). The auto-correlation curves can then be drawn from these fluctuations and fitted with appropriate mathematical diffusion models11
FCS can be used to determine the lipid raft partitioning of various probes, as long as they are fluorescently tagged. Fluorescent tagging can be achieved by expression of fluorescent fusion proteins or by binding of fluorescent ligands. Moreover, FCS can be used not only in artificial membranes and cell lines but also in primary cultures, as described recently12
. It can also be used to follow the dynamics of lipid raft partitioning after drug addition or membrane lipid composition change12
Cellular Biology, Issue 62, Lipid rafts, plasma membrane, diffusion times, confocal microscopy, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS)
Visualization of Bacterial Toxin Induced Responses Using Live Cell Fluorescence Microscopy
Institutions: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Bacterial toxins bind to cholesterol in membranes, forming pores that allow for leakage of cellular contents and influx of materials from the external environment. The cell can either recover from this insult, which requires active membrane repair processes, or else die depending on the amount of toxin exposure and cell type1
. In addition, these toxins induce strong inflammatory responses in infected hosts through activation of immune cells, including macrophages, which produce an array of pro-inflammatory cytokines2
. Many Gram positive bacteria produce cholesterol binding toxins which have been shown to contribute to their virulence through largely uncharacterized mechanisms.
Morphologic changes in the plasma membrane of cells exposed to these toxins include their sequestration into cholesterol-enriched surface protrusions, which can be shed into the extracellular space, suggesting an intrinsic cellular defense mechanism3,4
. This process occurs on all cells in the absence of metabolic activity, and can be visualized using EM after chemical fixation4
. In immune cells such as macrophages that mediate inflammation in response to toxin exposure, induced membrane vesicles are suggested to contain cytokines of the IL-1 family and may be responsible both for shedding toxin and disseminating these pro-inflammatory cytokines5,6,7
. A link between IL-1β release and a specific type of cell death, termed pyroptosis has been suggested, as both are caspase-1 dependent processes8
. To sort out the complexities of this macrophage response, which includes toxin binding, shedding of membrane vesicles, cytokine release, and potentially cell death, we have developed labeling techniques and fluorescence microscopy methods that allow for real time visualization of toxin-cell interactions, including measurements of dysfunction and death (Figure 1
). Use of live cell imaging is necessary due to limitations in other techniques. Biochemical approaches cannot resolve effects occurring in individual cells, while flow cytometry does not offer high resolution, real-time visualization of individual cells. The methods described here can be applied to kinetic analysis of responses induced by other stimuli involving complex phenotypic changes in cells.
Immunology, Issue 68, Cellular Biology, Physiology, streptolysin O, pore-forming toxin, cholesterol-dependent cytolysin, live cell imaging, fluorescence microscopy
Protein WISDOM: A Workbench for In silico De novo Design of BioMolecules
Institutions: Princeton University.
The aim of de novo
protein design is to find the amino acid sequences that will fold into a desired 3-dimensional structure with improvements in specific properties, such as binding affinity, agonist or antagonist behavior, or stability, relative to the native sequence. Protein design lies at the center of current advances drug design and discovery. Not only does protein design provide predictions for potentially useful drug targets, but it also enhances our understanding of the protein folding process and protein-protein interactions. Experimental methods such as directed evolution have shown success in protein design. However, such methods are restricted by the limited sequence space that can be searched tractably. In contrast, computational design strategies allow for the screening of a much larger set of sequences covering a wide variety of properties and functionality. We have developed a range of computational de novo
protein design methods capable of tackling several important areas of protein design. These include the design of monomeric proteins for increased stability and complexes for increased binding affinity.
To disseminate these methods for broader use we present Protein WISDOM (http://www.proteinwisdom.org), a tool that provides automated methods for a variety of protein design problems. Structural templates are submitted to initialize the design process. The first stage of design is an optimization sequence selection stage that aims at improving stability through minimization of potential energy in the sequence space. Selected sequences are then run through a fold specificity stage and a binding affinity stage. A rank-ordered list of the sequences for each step of the process, along with relevant designed structures, provides the user with a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the design. Here we provide the details of each design method, as well as several notable experimental successes attained through the use of the methods.
Genetics, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computational Biology, Genomics, Proteomics, Protein, Protein Binding, Computational Biology, Drug Design, optimization (mathematics), Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, De novo protein and peptide design, Drug design, In silico sequence selection, Optimization, Fold specificity, Binding affinity, sequencing
Bio-layer Interferometry for Measuring Kinetics of Protein-protein Interactions and Allosteric Ligand Effects
Institutions: SUNY Upstate Medical University.
We describe the use of Bio-layer Interferometry to study inhibitory interactions of subunit ε with the catalytic complex of Escherichia coli
ATP synthase. Bacterial F-type ATP synthase
is the target of a new, FDA-approved antibiotic to combat drug-resistant tuberculosis. Understanding bacteria-specific auto-inhibition of ATP synthase by the C-terminal domain of subunit ε could provide a new means to target the enzyme for discovery of antibacterial drugs. The C-terminal domain of ε undergoes a dramatic conformational change when the enzyme transitions between the active and inactive states, and catalytic-site ligands can influence which of ε's conformations is predominant. The assay measures kinetics of ε's binding/dissociation with the catalytic complex, and indirectly measures the shift of enzyme-bound ε to and from the apparently nondissociable inhibitory conformation. The Bio-layer Interferometry signal is not overly sensitive to solution composition, so it can also be used to monitor allosteric effects of catalytic-site ligands on ε's conformational changes.
Chemistry, Issue 84, ATP synthase, Bio-Layer Interferometry, Ligand-induced conformational change, Biomolecular Interaction Analysis, Allosteric regulation, Enzyme inhibition
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
Monitoring Activation of the Antiviral Pattern Recognition Receptors RIG-I And PKR By Limited Protease Digestion and Native PAGE
Institutions: Philipps-University Marburg.
Host defenses to virus infection are dependent on a rapid detection by pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) of the innate immune system. In the cytoplasm, the PRRs RIG-I and PKR bind to specific viral RNA ligands. This first mediates conformational switching and oligomerization, and then enables activation of an antiviral interferon response. While methods to measure antiviral host gene expression are well established, methods to directly monitor the activation states of RIG-I and PKR are only partially and less well established.
Here, we describe two methods to monitor RIG-I and PKR stimulation upon infection with an established interferon inducer, the Rift Valley fever virus mutant clone 13 (Cl 13). Limited trypsin digestion allows to analyze alterations in protease sensitivity, indicating conformational changes of the PRRs. Trypsin digestion of lysates from mock infected cells results in a rapid degradation of RIG-I and PKR, whereas Cl 13 infection leads to the emergence of a protease-resistant RIG-I fragment. Also PKR shows a virus-induced partial resistance to trypsin digestion, which coincides with its hallmark phosphorylation at Thr 446. The formation of RIG-I and PKR oligomers was validated by native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE). Upon infection, there is a strong accumulation of RIG-I and PKR oligomeric complexes, whereas these proteins remained as monomers in mock infected samples.
Limited protease digestion and native PAGE, both coupled to western blot analysis, allow a sensitive and direct measurement of two diverse steps of RIG-I and PKR activation. These techniques are relatively easy and quick to perform and do not require expensive equipment.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 89, innate immune response, virus infection, pathogen recognition receptor, RIG-I, PKR, IRF-3, limited protease digestion, conformational switch, native PAGE, oligomerization
Efficient Production and Purification of Recombinant Murine Kindlin-3 from Insect Cells for Biophysical Studies
Institutions: University of Oxford.
Kindlins are essential coactivators, with talin, of the cell surface receptors integrins and also participate in integrin outside-in signalling, and the control of gene transcription in the cell nucleus. The kindlins are ~75 kDa multidomain proteins and bind to an NPxY motif and upstream T/S cluster of the integrin β-subunit cytoplasmic tail. The hematopoietically-important kindlin isoform, kindlin-3, is critical for platelet aggregation during thrombus formation, leukocyte rolling in response to infection and inflammation and osteoclast podocyte formation in bone resorption. Kindlin-3's role in these processes has resulted in extensive cellular and physiological studies. However, there is a need for an efficient method of acquiring high quality milligram quantities of the protein for further studies. We have developed a protocol, here described, for the efficient expression and purification of recombinant murine kindlin-3 by use of a baculovirus-driven expression system in Sf9 cells yielding sufficient amounts of high purity full-length protein to allow its biophysical characterization. The same approach could be taken in the study of the other mammalian kindlin isoforms.
Virology, Issue 85, Heterologous protein expression, insect cells, Spodoptera frugiperda, baculovirus, protein purification, kindlin, cell adhesion
Structure and Coordination Determination of Peptide-metal Complexes Using 1D and 2D 1H NMR
Institutions: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Copper (I) binding by metallochaperone transport proteins prevents copper oxidation and release of the toxic ions that may participate in harmful redox reactions. The Cu (I) complex of the peptide model of a Cu (I) binding metallochaperone protein, which includes the sequence MTCSGCSRPG (underlined is conserved), was determined in solution under inert conditions by NMR spectroscopy.
NMR is a widely accepted technique for the determination of solution structures of proteins and peptides. Due to difficulty in crystallization to provide single crystals suitable for X-ray crystallography, the NMR technique is extremely valuable, especially as it provides information on the solution state rather than the solid state. Herein we describe all steps that are required for full three-dimensional structure determinations by NMR. The protocol includes sample preparation in an NMR tube, 1D and 2D data collection and processing, peak assignment and integration, molecular mechanics calculations, and structure analysis. Importantly, the analysis was first conducted without any preset metal-ligand bonds, to assure a reliable structure determination in an unbiased manner.
Chemistry, Issue 82, solution structure determination, NMR, peptide models, copper-binding proteins, copper complexes
A Protocol for Computer-Based Protein Structure and Function Prediction
Institutions: University of Michigan , University of Kansas.
Genome sequencing projects have ciphered millions of protein sequence, which require knowledge of their structure and function to improve the understanding of their biological role. Although experimental methods can provide detailed information for a small fraction of these proteins, computational modeling is needed for the majority of protein molecules which are experimentally uncharacterized. The I-TASSER server is an on-line workbench for high-resolution modeling of protein structure and function. Given a protein sequence, a typical output from the I-TASSER server includes secondary structure prediction, predicted solvent accessibility of each residue, homologous template proteins detected by threading and structure alignments, up to five full-length tertiary structural models, and structure-based functional annotations for enzyme classification, Gene Ontology terms and protein-ligand binding sites. All the predictions are tagged with a confidence score which tells how accurate the predictions are without knowing the experimental data. To facilitate the special requests of end users, the server provides channels to accept user-specified inter-residue distance and contact maps to interactively change the I-TASSER modeling; it also allows users to specify any proteins as template, or to exclude any template proteins during the structure assembly simulations. The structural information could be collected by the users based on experimental evidences or biological insights with the purpose of improving the quality of I-TASSER predictions. The server was evaluated as the best programs for protein structure and function predictions in the recent community-wide CASP experiments. There are currently >20,000 registered scientists from over 100 countries who are using the on-line I-TASSER server.
Biochemistry, Issue 57, On-line server, I-TASSER, protein structure prediction, function prediction
Analyzing Protein Dynamics Using Hydrogen Exchange Mass Spectrometry
Institutions: University of Heidelberg.
All cellular processes depend on the functionality of proteins. Although the functionality of a given protein is the direct consequence of its unique amino acid sequence, it is only realized by the folding of the polypeptide chain into a single defined three-dimensional arrangement or more commonly into an ensemble of interconverting conformations. Investigating the connection between protein conformation and its function is therefore essential for a complete understanding of how proteins are able to fulfill their great variety of tasks. One possibility to study conformational changes a protein undergoes while progressing through its functional cycle is hydrogen-1
H-exchange in combination with high-resolution mass spectrometry (HX-MS). HX-MS is a versatile and robust method that adds a new dimension to structural information obtained by e.g.
crystallography. It is used to study protein folding and unfolding, binding of small molecule ligands, protein-protein interactions, conformational changes linked to enzyme catalysis, and allostery. In addition, HX-MS is often used when the amount of protein is very limited or crystallization of the protein is not feasible. Here we provide a general protocol for studying protein dynamics with HX-MS and describe as an example how to reveal the interaction interface of two proteins in a complex.
Chemistry, Issue 81, Molecular Chaperones, mass spectrometers, Amino Acids, Peptides, Proteins, Enzymes, Coenzymes, Protein dynamics, conformational changes, allostery, protein folding, secondary structure, mass spectrometry
A Protocol to Infect Caenorhabditis elegans with Salmonella typhimurium
Institutions: Florida Atlantic University.
In the last decade, C. elegans
has emerged as an invertebrate organism to study interactions between hosts and pathogens, including the host defense against gram-negative bacterium Salmonella typhimurium. Salmonella
establishes persistent infection in the intestine of C. elegans
and results in early death of infected animals. A number of immunity mechanisms have been identified in C. elegans
to defend against Salmonella
infections. Autophagy, an evolutionarily conserved lysosomal degradation pathway, has been shown to limit the Salmonella
replication in C. elegans
and in mammals. Here, a protocol is described to infect C. elegans
with Salmonella typhimurium
, in which the worms are exposed to Salmonella
for a limited time, similar to Salmonella
infection in humans. Salmonella
infection significantly shortens the lifespan of C. elegans
. Using the essential autophagy gene bec-1
as an example, we combined this infection method with C. elegans
RNAi feeding approach and showed this protocol can be used to examine the function of C. elegans
host genes in defense against Salmonella
infection. Since C. elegans
whole genome RNAi libraries are available, this protocol makes it possible to comprehensively screen for C. elegans
genes that protect against Salmonella
and other intestinal pathogens using genome-wide RNAi libraries.
Immunology, Issue 88, C. elegans, Salmonella typhimurium, autophagy, infection, pathogen, host, RNAi
Catheterization of Intestinal Loops in Ruminants
Institutions: University of Alberta, Lethbridge Research Centre, Lethbridge.
The intestine is a complex structure that is involved not only in absorption of nutrients, but also acts as a barrier between the individual and the outside world. As such, the intestine plays a pivotal role in immunosurveillance and protection from enteric pathogens. Investigating intestinal physiology and immunology commonly employs 'intestinal loops' as an experimental model. The majority of these loop models are non-recovery surgical procedures that study short-term (<24 hr) changes in the intestine (1-3). We previously created a recovery intestinal loop model to specifically measure long-term (<6 mo) immunological changes in the intestine of sheep following exposure to vaccines, adjuvants, and viruses (4). This procedure localized treatments to a specific 'loop', allowing us to sample this area of the intestine. A significant drawback of this method is the single window of opportunity to administer treatments (i.e. at the time of surgery). Furthermore, samples of both the intestinal mucosa and luminal contents can only be taken at the termination of the project. Other salient limitations of the above model are that the surgical manipulation and requisite post-operative measures (e.g. administration of antibiotics and analgesics) can directly affect the treatment itself and/or alter immune function, thereby confounding results. Therefore, we modified our intestinal loop model by inserting long-term catheters into the loops. Sheep recover fully from the procedure, and are unaffected by the exteriorized catheters. Notably, the establishment of catheters in loops allows us to introduce multiple treatments over an extended interval, following recovery from surgery and clearance of drugs administered during surgery and the post-operative period.
Medicine, Issue 28, Intestinal loop, catheters, ileum, ruminants, sheep
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
Determination of Tolerable Fatty Acids and Cholera Toxin Concentrations Using Human Intestinal Epithelial Cells and BALB/c Mouse Macrophages
Institutions: Kingsborough Community College, University of Texas at Austin, Kean University.
The positive role of fatty acids in the prevention and alleviation of non-human and human diseases have been and continue to be extensively documented. These roles include influences on infectious and non-infectious diseases including prevention of inflammation as well as mucosal immunity to infectious diseases. Cholera is an acute intestinal illness caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae
. It occurs in developing nations and if left untreated, can result in death. While vaccines for cholera exist, they are not always effective and other preventative methods are needed. We set out to determine tolerable concentrations of three fatty acids (oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids) and cholera toxin using mouse BALB/C macrophages and human intestinal epithelial cells, respectively. We solubilized the above fatty acids and used cell proliferation assays to determine the concentration ranges and specific concentrations of the fatty acids that are not detrimental to human intestinal epithelial cell viability. We solubilized cholera toxin and used it in an assay to determine the concentration ranges and specific concentrations of cholera toxin that do not statistically decrease cell viability in BALB/C macrophages.
We found the optimum fatty acid concentrations to be between 1-5 ng/μl, and that for cholera toxin to be < 30 ng per treatment. This data may aid future studies that aim to find a protective mucosal role for fatty acids in prevention or alleviation of cholera infections.
Infection, Issue 75, Medicine, Immunology, Infectious Diseases, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Bacterial Infections and Mycoses, Mucosal immunity, oleic acid, linoleic acid, linolenic acid, cholera toxin, cholera, fatty acids, tissue culture, MTT assay, mouse, animal model
Micropipette Aspiration of Substrate-attached Cells to Estimate Cell Stiffness
Institutions: University of Illinois, University of Pennsylvania .
Growing number of studies show that biomechanical properties of individual cells play major roles in multiple cellular functions, including cell proliferation, differentiation, migration and cell-cell interactions. The two key parameters of cellular biomechanics are cellular deformability or stiffness and the ability of the cells to contract and generate force. Here we describe a quick and simple method to estimate cell stiffness by measuring the degree of membrane deformation in response to negative pressure applied by a glass micropipette to the cell surface, a technique that is called Micropipette Aspiration or Microaspiration.
Microaspiration is performed by pulling a glass capillary to create a micropipette with a very small tip (2-50 μm diameter depending on the size of a cell or a tissue sample), which is then connected to a pneumatic pressure transducer and brought to a close vicinity of a cell under a microscope. When the tip of the pipette touches a cell, a step of negative pressure is applied to the pipette by the pneumatic pressure transducer generating well-defined pressure on the cell membrane. In response to pressure, the membrane is aspirated into the pipette and progressive membrane deformation or "membrane projection" into the pipette is measured as a function of time. The basic principle of this experimental approach is that the degree of membrane deformation in response to a defined mechanical force is a function of membrane stiffness. The stiffer the membrane is, the slower the rate of membrane deformation and the shorter the steady-state aspiration length.The technique can be performed on isolated cells, both in suspension and substrate-attached, large organelles, and liposomes.
Analysis is performed by comparing maximal membrane deformations achieved under a given pressure for different cell populations or experimental conditions. A "stiffness coefficient" is estimated by plotting the aspirated length of membrane deformation as a function of the applied pressure. Furthermore, the data can be further analyzed to estimate the Young's modulus of the cells (E), the most common parameter to characterize stiffness of materials. It is important to note that plasma membranes of eukaryotic cells can be viewed as a bi-component system where membrane lipid bilayer is underlied by the sub-membrane cytoskeleton and that it is the cytoskeleton that constitutes the mechanical scaffold of the membrane and dominates the deformability of the cellular envelope. This approach, therefore, allows probing the biomechanical properties of the sub-membrane cytoskeleton.
Bioengineering, Issue 67, Biophysics, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Cellular Biology, Cell stiffness, biomechanics, microaspiration, cell membrane, cytoskeleton
The Use of Gas Chromatography to Analyze Compositional Changes of Fatty Acids in Rat Liver Tissue during Pregnancy
Institutions: University of Southampton.
Gas chromatography (GC) is a highly sensitive method used to identify and quantify the fatty acid content of lipids from tissues, cells, and plasma/serum, yielding results with high accuracy and high reproducibility. In metabolic and nutrition studies GC allows assessment of changes in fatty acid concentrations following interventions or during changes in physiological state such as pregnancy. Solid phase extraction (SPE) using aminopropyl silica cartridges allows separation of the major lipid classes including triacylglycerols, different phospholipids, and cholesteryl esters (CE). GC combined with SPE was used to analyze the changes in fatty acid composition of the CE fraction in the livers of virgin and pregnant rats that had been fed various high and low fat diets. There are significant diet/pregnancy interaction effects upon the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content of liver CE, indicating that pregnant females have a different response to dietary manipulation than is seen among virgin females.
Chemistry, Issue 85, gas chromatography, fatty acid, pregnancy, cholesteryl ester, solid phase extraction, polyunsaturated fatty acids
Optimized Negative Staining: a High-throughput Protocol for Examining Small and Asymmetric Protein Structure by Electron Microscopy
Institutions: The Molecular Foundry.
Structural determination of proteins is rather challenging for proteins with molecular masses between 40 - 200 kDa. Considering that more than half of natural proteins have a molecular mass between 40 - 200 kDa1,2
, a robust and high-throughput method with a nanometer resolution capability is needed. Negative staining (NS) electron microscopy (EM) is an easy, rapid, and qualitative approach which has frequently been used in research laboratories to examine protein structure and protein-protein interactions. Unfortunately, conventional NS protocols often generate structural artifacts on proteins, especially with lipoproteins that usually form presenting rouleaux artifacts. By using images of lipoproteins from cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) as a standard, the key parameters in NS specimen preparation conditions were recently screened and reported as the optimized NS protocol (OpNS), a modified conventional NS protocol 3
. Artifacts like rouleaux can be greatly limited by OpNS, additionally providing high contrast along with reasonably high‐resolution (near 1 nm) images of small and asymmetric proteins. These high-resolution and high contrast images are even favorable for an individual protein (a single object, no average) 3D reconstruction, such as a 160 kDa antibody, through the method of electron tomography4,5
. Moreover, OpNS can be a high‐throughput tool to examine hundreds of samples of small proteins. For example, the previously published mechanism of 53 kDa cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) involved the screening and imaging of hundreds of samples 6
. Considering cryo-EM rarely successfully images proteins less than 200 kDa has yet to publish any study involving screening over one hundred sample conditions, it is fair to call OpNS a high-throughput method for studying small proteins. Hopefully the OpNS protocol presented here can be a useful tool to push the boundaries of EM and accelerate EM studies into small protein structure, dynamics and mechanisms.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 90, small and asymmetric protein structure, electron microscopy, optimized negative staining
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
Biochemical and High Throughput Microscopic Assessment of Fat Mass in Caenorhabditis Elegans
Institutions: Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The nematode C. elegans
has emerged as an important model for the study of conserved genetic pathways regulating fat metabolism as it relates to human obesity and its associated pathologies. Several previous methodologies developed for the visualization of C. elegans
triglyceride-rich fat stores have proven to be erroneous, highlighting cellular compartments other than lipid droplets. Other methods require specialized equipment, are time-consuming, or yield inconsistent results. We introduce a rapid, reproducible, fixative-based Nile red staining method for the accurate and rapid detection of neutral lipid droplets in C. elegans
. A short fixation step in 40% isopropanol makes animals completely permeable to Nile red, which is then used to stain animals. Spectral properties of this lipophilic dye allow it to strongly and selectively fluoresce in the yellow-green spectrum only when in a lipid-rich environment, but not in more polar environments. Thus, lipid droplets can be visualized on a fluorescent microscope equipped with simple GFP imaging capability after only a brief Nile red staining step in isopropanol. The speed, affordability, and reproducibility of this protocol make it ideally suited for high throughput screens. We also demonstrate a paired method for the biochemical determination of triglycerides and phospholipids using gas chromatography mass-spectrometry. This more rigorous protocol should be used as confirmation of results obtained from the Nile red microscopic lipid determination. We anticipate that these techniques will become new standards in the field of C. elegans
Genetics, Issue 73, Biochemistry, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Developmental Biology, Physiology, Anatomy, Caenorhabditis elegans, Obesity, Energy Metabolism, Lipid Metabolism, C. elegans, fluorescent lipid staining, lipids, Nile red, fat, high throughput screening, obesity, gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, GC/MS, animal model
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
Microgavage of Zebrafish Larvae
Institutions: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill .
The zebrafish has emerged as a powerful model organism for studying intestinal development1-5
, and host-microbe interactions17-25
. Experimental approaches for studying intestinal biology often require the in vivo
introduction of selected materials into the lumen of the intestine. In the larval zebrafish model, this is typically accomplished by immersing fish in a solution of the selected material, or by injection through the abdominal wall. Using the immersion method, it is difficult to accurately monitor or control the route or timing of material delivery to the intestine. For this reason, immersion exposure can cause unintended toxicity and other effects on extraintestinal tissues, limiting the potential range of material amounts that can be delivered into the intestine. Also, the amount of material ingested during immersion exposure can vary significantly between individual larvae26
. Although these problems are not encountered during direct injection through the abdominal wall, proper injection is difficult and causes tissue damage which could influence experimental results.
We introduce a method for microgavage of zebrafish larvae. The goal of this method is to provide a safe, effective, and consistent way to deliver material directly to the lumen of the anterior intestine in larval zebrafish with controlled timing. Microgavage utilizes standard embryo microinjection and stereomicroscopy equipment common to most laboratories that perform zebrafish research. Once fish are properly positioned in methylcellulose, gavage can be performed quickly at a rate of approximately 7-10 fish/ min, and post-gavage survival approaches 100% depending on the gavaged material. We also show that microgavage can permit loading of the intestinal lumen with high concentrations of materials that are lethal to fish when exposed by immersion. To demonstrate the utility of this method, we present a fluorescent dextran microgavage assay that can be used to quantify transit from the intestinal lumen to extraintestinal spaces. This test can be used to verify proper execution of the microgavage procedure, and also provides a novel zebrafish assay to examine intestinal epithelial barrier integrity under different experimental conditions (e.g.
genetic manipulation, drug treatment, or exposure to environmental factors). Furthermore, we show how gavage can be used to evaluate intestinal motility by gavaging fluorescent microspheres and monitoring their subsequent transit. Microgavage can be applied to deliver diverse materials such as live microorganisms, secreted microbial factors/toxins, pharmacological agents, and physiological probes. With these capabilities, the larval zebrafish microgavage method has the potential to enhance a broad range of research fields using the zebrafish model system.
Biochemistry, Issue 72, Molecular Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, Basic Protocols, Surgery, Zebrafish, Danio rerio, intestine, lumen, larvae, gavage, microgavage, epithelium, barrier function, gut motility, microsurgery, microscopy, animal model
Setting-up an In Vitro Model of Rat Blood-brain Barrier (BBB): A Focus on BBB Impermeability and Receptor-mediated Transport
Institutions: VECT-HORUS SAS, CNRS, NICN UMR 7259.
The blood brain barrier (BBB) specifically regulates molecular and cellular flux between the blood and the nervous tissue. Our aim was to develop and characterize a highly reproducible rat syngeneic in vitro
model of the BBB using co-cultures of primary rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC) and astrocytes to study receptors involved in transcytosis across the endothelial cell monolayer. Astrocytes were isolated by mechanical dissection following trypsin digestion and were frozen for later co-culture. RBEC were isolated from 5-week-old rat cortices. The brains were cleaned of meninges and white matter, and mechanically dissociated following enzymatic digestion. Thereafter, the tissue homogenate was centrifuged in bovine serum albumin to separate vessel fragments from nervous tissue. The vessel fragments underwent a second enzymatic digestion to free endothelial cells from their extracellular matrix. The remaining contaminating cells such as pericytes were further eliminated by plating the microvessel fragments in puromycin-containing medium. They were then passaged onto filters for co-culture with astrocytes grown on the bottom of the wells. RBEC expressed high levels of tight junction (TJ) proteins such as occludin, claudin-5 and ZO-1 with a typical localization at the cell borders. The transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of brain endothelial monolayers, indicating the tightness of TJs reached 300 ohm·cm2
on average. The endothelial permeability coefficients (Pe) for lucifer yellow (LY) was highly reproducible with an average of 0.26 ± 0.11 x 10-3
cm/min. Brain endothelial cells organized in monolayers expressed the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp), showed a polarized transport of rhodamine 123, a ligand for P-gp, and showed specific transport of transferrin-Cy3 and DiILDL across the endothelial cell monolayer. In conclusion, we provide a protocol for setting up an in vitro
BBB model that is highly reproducible due to the quality assurance methods, and that is suitable for research on BBB transporters and receptors.
Medicine, Issue 88, rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC), mouse, spinal cord, tight junction (TJ), receptor-mediated transport (RMT), low density lipoprotein (LDL), LDLR, transferrin, TfR, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER),
Blood Collection for Biochemical Analysis in Adult Zebrafish
Institutions: Centro de Pesquisa Experimental Laboratório de Hepatologia e Gastroenterologia Experimental, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, UFRGS. Porto Alegre, RS, Brasil.
The zebrafish has been used as an animal model for studies of several human diseases. It can serve as a powerful preclinical platform for studies of molecular events and therapeutic strategies as well as for evaluating the physiological mechanisms of some pathologies1
There are relatively few publications related to adult zebrafish physiology of organs and systems2
, which may lead researchers to infer that the basic techniques needed to allow the exploration of zebrafish systems are lacking3
. Hematologic biochemical values of zebrafish were first reported in 2003 by Murtha and colleagues4
who employed a blood collection technique first described by Jagadeeswaran and colleagues in 1999. Briefly, blood was collected via a micropipette tip through a lateral incision, approximately 0.3 cm in length, in the region of the dorsal aorta5
. Because of the minute dimensions involved, this is a high-precision technique requiring a highly skilled practitioner. The same technique was used by the same group in another publication in that same year6
. In 2010, Eames and colleagues assessed whole blood glucose levels in zebrafish7
. They gained access to the blood by performing decapitations with scissors and then inserting a heparinized microcapillary collection tube into the pectoral articulation. They mention difficulties with hemolysis that were solved with an appropriate storage temperature based on the work Kilpatrick et al.8
. When attempting to use Jagadeeswaran's technique in our laboratory, we found that it was difficult to make the incision in precisely the right place as not to allow a significant amount of blood to be lost before collection could be started.
Recently, Gupta et al.9
described how to dissect adult zebrafish organs, Kinkle et al.10
described how to perform intraperitoneal injections, and Pugach et al.11
described how to perform retro-orbital injections. However, more work is needed to more fully explore basic techniques for research in zebrafish.
The small size of zebrafish presents challenges for researchers using it as an experimental model. Furthermore, given this smallness of scale, it is important that simple techniques are developed to enable researchers to explore the advantages of the zebrafish model.
Biochemistry, Issue 63, Developmental Biology, Zebrafish, Zebrafish blood, Hematologic, Biochemical analysis
A Technique for Serial Collection of Cerebrospinal Fluid from the Cisterna Magna in Mouse
Institutions: Columbia University.
Alzheimer's disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that is pathologically characterized by extracellular deposition of β-amyloid peptide (Aβ) and intraneuronal accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau protein. Because cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is in direct contact with the extracellular space of the brain, it provides a reflection of the biochemical changes in the brain in response to pathological processes. CSF from AD patients shows a decrease in the 42 amino-acid form of Aβ (Aβ42), and increases in total tau and hyperphosphorylated tau, though the mechanisms responsible for these changes are still not fully understood. Transgenic (Tg) mouse models of AD provide an excellent opportunity to investigate how and why Aβ or tau levels in CSF change as the disease progresses. Here, we demonstrate a refined cisterna magna puncture technique for CSF sampling from the mouse. This extremely gentle sampling technique allows serial CSF samples to be obtained from the same mouse at 2-3 month intervals which greatly minimizes the confounding effect of between-mouse variability in Aβ or tau levels, making it possible to detect subtle alterations over time. In combination with Aβ and tau ELISA, this technique will be useful for studies designed to investigate the relationship between the levels of CSF Aβ42 and tau, and their metabolism in the brain in AD mouse models. Studies in Tg mice could provide important validation as to the potential of CSF Aβ or tau levels to be used as biological markers for monitoring disease progression, and to monitor the effect of therapeutic interventions. As the mice can be sacrificed and the brains can be examined for biochemical or histological changes, the mechanisms underlying the CSF changes can be better assessed. These data are likely to be informative for interpretation of human AD CSF changes.
Neuroscience, Issue 21, Cerebrospinal fluid, Alzheimer's disease, Transgenic mouse, β-amyloid, tau