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Pubmed Article
Rate-independent constructs for chemical computation.
PUBLISHED: 06-01-2011
This paper presents a collection of computational modules implemented with chemical reactions: an inverter, an incrementer, a decrementer, a copier, a comparator, a multiplier, an exponentiator, a raise-to-a-power operation, and a logarithm in base two. Unlike previous schemes for chemical computation, this method produces designs that are dependent only on coarse rate categories for the reactions ("fast" vs. "slow"). Given such categories, the computation is exact and independent of the specific reaction rates. The designs are validated through stochastic simulations of the chemical kinetics.
Authors: Luca Mazzei, Stefano Ciurli, Barbara Zambelli.
Published: 04-04-2014
Isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) is a well-described technique that measures the heat released or absorbed during a chemical reaction, using it as an intrinsic probe to characterize virtually every chemical process. Nowadays, this technique is extensively applied to determine thermodynamic parameters of biomolecular binding equilibria. In addition, ITC has been demonstrated to be able of directly measuring kinetics and thermodynamic parameters (kcat, KM, ΔH) of enzymatic reactions, even though this application is still underexploited. As heat changes spontaneously occur during enzymatic catalysis, ITC does not require any modification or labeling of the system under analysis and can be performed in solution. Moreover, the method needs little amount of material. These properties make ITC an invaluable, powerful and unique tool to study enzyme kinetics in several applications, such as, for example, drug discovery. In this work an experimental ITC-based method to quantify kinetics and thermodynamics of enzymatic reactions is thoroughly described. This method is applied to determine kcat and KM of the enzymatic hydrolysis of urea by Canavalia ensiformis (jack bean) urease. Calculation of intrinsic molar enthalpy (ΔHint) of the reaction is performed. The values thus obtained are consistent with previous data reported in literature, demonstrating the reliability of the methodology.
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In vitro Assembly of Semi-artificial Molecular Machine and its Use for Detection of DNA Damage
Authors: Candace L. Minchew, Vladimir V. Didenko.
Institutions: Baylor College of Medicine , Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Baylor College of Medicine .
Naturally occurring bio-molecular machines work in every living cell and display a variety of designs 1-6. Yet the development of artificial molecular machines centers on devices capable of directional motion, i.e. molecular motors, and on their scaled-down mechanical parts (wheels, axels, pendants etc) 7-9. This imitates the macro-machines, even though the physical properties essential for these devices, such as inertia and momentum conservation, are not usable in the nanoworld environments 10. Alternative designs, which do not follow the mechanical macromachines schemes and use mechanisms developed in the evolution of biological molecules, can take advantage of the specific conditions of the nanoworld. Besides, adapting actual biological molecules for the purposes of nano-design reduces potential dangers the nanotechnology products may pose. Here we demonstrate the assembly and application of one such bio-enabled construct, a semi-artificial molecular device which combines a naturally-occurring molecular machine with artificial components. From the enzymology point of view, our construct is a designer fluorescent enzyme-substrate complex put together to perform a specific useful function. This assembly is by definition a molecular machine, as it contains one 12. Yet, its integration with the engineered part - fluorescent dual hairpin - re-directs it to a new task of labeling DNA damage12. Our construct assembles out of a 32-mer DNA and an enzyme vaccinia topoisomerase I (VACC TOPO). The machine then uses its own material to fabricate two fluorescently labeled detector units (Figure 1). One of the units (green fluorescence) carries VACC TOPO covalently attached to its 3'end and another unit (red fluorescence) is a free hairpin with a terminal 3'OH. The units are short-lived and quickly reassemble back into the original construct, which subsequently recleaves. In the absence of DNA breaks these two units continuously separate and religate in a cyclic manner. In tissue sections with DNA damage, the topoisomerase-carrying detector unit selectively attaches to blunt-ended DNA breaks with 5'OH (DNase II-type breaks)11,12, fluorescently labeling them. The second, enzyme-free hairpin formed after oligonucleotide cleavage, will ligate to a 5'PO4 blunt-ended break (DNase I-type breaks)11,12, if T4 DNA ligase is present in the solution 13,14 . When T4 DNA ligase is added to a tissue section or a solution containing DNA with 5'PO4 blunt-ended breaks, the ligase reacts with 5'PO4 DNA ends, forming semi-stable enzyme-DNA complexes. The blunt ended hairpins will interact with these complexes releasing ligase and covalently linking hairpins to DNA, thus labeling 5'PO4 blunt-ended DNA breaks. This development exemplifies a new practical approach to the design of molecular machines and provides a useful sensor for detection of apoptosis and DNA damage in fixed cells and tissues.
Bioengineering, Issue 59, molecular machine, bio-nanotechnology, 5'OH DNA breaks, 5'PO4 DNA breaks, apoptosis labeling, in situ detection, vaccinia topoisomerase I, DNA breaks, green nanotechnology
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Monitoring the Reductive and Oxidative Half-Reactions of a Flavin-Dependent Monooxygenase using Stopped-Flow Spectrophotometry
Authors: Elvira Romero, Reeder Robinson, Pablo Sobrado.
Institutions: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Aspergillus fumigatus siderophore A (SidA) is an FAD-containing monooxygenase that catalyzes the hydroxylation of ornithine in the biosynthesis of hydroxamate siderophores that are essential for virulence (e.g. ferricrocin or N',N",N'''-triacetylfusarinine C)1. The reaction catalyzed by SidA can be divided into reductive and oxidative half-reactions (Scheme 1). In the reductive half-reaction, the oxidized FAD bound to Af SidA, is reduced by NADPH2,3. In the oxidative half-reaction, the reduced cofactor reacts with molecular oxygen to form a C4a-hydroperoxyflavin intermediate, which transfers an oxygen atom to ornithine. Here, we describe a procedure to measure the rates and detect the different spectral forms of SidA using a stopped-flow instrument installed in an anaerobic glove box. In the stopped-flow instrument, small volumes of reactants are rapidly mixed, and after the flow is stopped by the stop syringe (Figure 1), the spectral changes of the solution placed in the observation cell are recorded over time. In the first part of the experiment, we show how we can use the stopped-flow instrument in single mode, where the anaerobic reduction of the flavin in Af SidA by NADPH is directly measured. We then use double mixing settings where Af SidA is first anaerobically reduced by NADPH for a designated period of time in an aging loop, and then reacted with molecular oxygen in the observation cell (Figure 1). In order to perform this experiment, anaerobic buffers are necessary because when only the reductive half-reaction is monitored, any oxygen in the solutions will react with the reduced flavin cofactor and form a C4a-hydroperoxyflavin intermediate that will ultimately decay back into the oxidized flavin. This would not allow the user to accurately measure rates of reduction since there would be complete turnover of the enzyme. When the oxidative half-reaction is being studied the enzyme must be reduced in the absence of oxygen so that just the steps between reduction and oxidation are observed. One of the buffers used in this experiment is oxygen saturated so that we can study the oxidative half-reaction at higher concentrations of oxygen. These are often the procedures carried out when studying either the reductive or oxidative half-reactions with flavin-containing monooxygenases. The time scale of the pre-steady-state experiments performed with the stopped-flow is milliseconds to seconds, which allow the determination of intrinsic rate constants and the detection and identification of intermediates in the reaction4. The procedures described here can be applied to other flavin-dependent monooxygenases.5,6
Bioengineering, Issue 61, Stopped-flow, kinetic mechanism, SidA, C4a-hydroperoxyflavin, monooxygenase, Aspergillus fumigatus
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Small Bowel Transplantation In Mice
Authors: Fengchun Liu, Sang-Mo Kang.
Institutions: University of California, San Francisco - UCSF.
Since 1990, the development of tacrolimus-based immunosuppression and improved surgical techniques, the increased array of potent immunosuppressive medications, infection prophylaxis, and suitable patient selection helped improve actuarial graft and patient survival rates for all types of intestine transplantation. Patients with irreversible intestinal failure and complications of parenteral nutrition should now be routinely considered for small intestine transplantation. However, Survival rates for small intestinal transplantation have been slow to improve compares increasingly favorably with renal, liver, heart and lung. The small bowel transplantation is still unsatisfactory compared with other organs. Further progress may depend on better understanding of immunology and physiology of the graft and can be greatly facilitated by animal models. A wider use of mouse small bowel transplantation model is needed in the study of immunology and physiology of the transplantation gut as well as efficient methods in diagnosing early rejection. However, this model is limited to use because the techniques involved is an extremely technically challenging. We have developed a modified technique. When making anastomosis of portal vein and inferior vena cava, two stay sutures are made at the proximal apex and distal apex of the recipient s inferior vena cava with the donor s portal vein. The left wall of the inferior vena cava and donor s portal vein is closed with continuing sutures in the inside of the inferior vena cava after, after one knot with the proximal apex stay suture the right wall of the inferior vena cava and the donor s portal vein are closed with continuing sutures outside the inferior vena cave with 10-0 sutures. This method is easier to perform because anastomosis is made just on the one side of the inferior vena cava and 10-0 sutures is the right size to avoid bleeding and thrombosis. In this article, we provide details of the technique to supplement the video.
Issue 7, Immunology, Transplantation, Transplant Rejection, Small Bowel
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Exploring the Radical Nature of a Carbon Surface by Electron Paramagnetic Resonance and a Calibrated Gas Flow
Authors: Uri Green, Yulia Shenberger, Zeev Aizenshtat, Haim Cohen, Sharon Ruthstein.
Institutions: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ariel University, Bar Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University.
While the first Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) studies regarding the effects of oxidation on the structure and stability of carbon radicals date back to the early 1980s the focus of these early papers primarily characterized the changes to the structures under extremely harsh conditions (pH or temperature)1-3. It is also known that paramagnetic molecular oxygen undergoes a Heisenberg spin exchange interaction with stable radicals that extremely broadens the EPR signal4-6. Recently, we reported interesting results where this interaction of molecular oxygen with a certain part of the existing stable radical structure can be reversibly affected simply by flowing a diamagnetic gas through the carbon samples at STP7. As flows of He, CO2, and N2 had a similar effect these interactions occur at the surface area of the macropore system. This manuscript highlights the experimental techniques, work-up, and analysis towards affecting the existing stable radical nature in the carbon structures. It is hoped that it will help towards further development and understanding of these interactions in the community at large.
Chemistry, Issue 86, Carbon-centered radical, electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR), oxidation, radicals, oxygen, carbon
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High Throughput Quantitative Expression Screening and Purification Applied to Recombinant Disulfide-rich Venom Proteins Produced in E. coli
Authors: Natalie J. Saez, Hervé Nozach, Marilyne Blemont, Renaud Vincentelli.
Institutions: Aix-Marseille Université, Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA) Saclay, France.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) is the most widely used expression system for the production of recombinant proteins for structural and functional studies. However, purifying proteins is sometimes challenging since many proteins are expressed in an insoluble form. When working with difficult or multiple targets it is therefore recommended to use high throughput (HTP) protein expression screening on a small scale (1-4 ml cultures) to quickly identify conditions for soluble expression. To cope with the various structural genomics programs of the lab, a quantitative (within a range of 0.1-100 mg/L culture of recombinant protein) and HTP protein expression screening protocol was implemented and validated on thousands of proteins. The protocols were automated with the use of a liquid handling robot but can also be performed manually without specialized equipment. Disulfide-rich venom proteins are gaining increasing recognition for their potential as therapeutic drug leads. They can be highly potent and selective, but their complex disulfide bond networks make them challenging to produce. As a member of the FP7 European Venomics project (, our challenge is to develop successful production strategies with the aim of producing thousands of novel venom proteins for functional characterization. Aided by the redox properties of disulfide bond isomerase DsbC, we adapted our HTP production pipeline for the expression of oxidized, functional venom peptides in the E. coli cytoplasm. The protocols are also applicable to the production of diverse disulfide-rich proteins. Here we demonstrate our pipeline applied to the production of animal venom proteins. With the protocols described herein it is likely that soluble disulfide-rich proteins will be obtained in as little as a week. Even from a small scale, there is the potential to use the purified proteins for validating the oxidation state by mass spectrometry, for characterization in pilot studies, or for sensitive micro-assays.
Bioengineering, Issue 89, E. coli, expression, recombinant, high throughput (HTP), purification, auto-induction, immobilized metal affinity chromatography (IMAC), tobacco etch virus protease (TEV) cleavage, disulfide bond isomerase C (DsbC) fusion, disulfide bonds, animal venom proteins/peptides
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High-throughput Image Analysis of Tumor Spheroids: A User-friendly Software Application to Measure the Size of Spheroids Automatically and Accurately
Authors: Wenjin Chen, Chung Wong, Evan Vosburgh, Arnold J. Levine, David J. Foran, Eugenia Y. Xu.
Institutions: Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundation, New Jersey, Rutgers University, Rutgers University, Institute for Advanced Study, New Jersey.
The increasing number of applications of three-dimensional (3D) tumor spheroids as an in vitro model for drug discovery requires their adaptation to large-scale screening formats in every step of a drug screen, including large-scale image analysis. Currently there is no ready-to-use and free image analysis software to meet this large-scale format. Most existing methods involve manually drawing the length and width of the imaged 3D spheroids, which is a tedious and time-consuming process. This study presents a high-throughput image analysis software application – SpheroidSizer, which measures the major and minor axial length of the imaged 3D tumor spheroids automatically and accurately; calculates the volume of each individual 3D tumor spheroid; then outputs the results in two different forms in spreadsheets for easy manipulations in the subsequent data analysis. The main advantage of this software is its powerful image analysis application that is adapted for large numbers of images. It provides high-throughput computation and quality-control workflow. The estimated time to process 1,000 images is about 15 min on a minimally configured laptop, or around 1 min on a multi-core performance workstation. The graphical user interface (GUI) is also designed for easy quality control, and users can manually override the computer results. The key method used in this software is adapted from the active contour algorithm, also known as Snakes, which is especially suitable for images with uneven illumination and noisy background that often plagues automated imaging processing in high-throughput screens. The complimentary “Manual Initialize” and “Hand Draw” tools provide the flexibility to SpheroidSizer in dealing with various types of spheroids and diverse quality images. This high-throughput image analysis software remarkably reduces labor and speeds up the analysis process. Implementing this software is beneficial for 3D tumor spheroids to become a routine in vitro model for drug screens in industry and academia.
Cancer Biology, Issue 89, computer programming, high-throughput, image analysis, tumor spheroids, 3D, software application, cancer therapy, drug screen, neuroendocrine tumor cell line, BON-1, cancer research
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Measuring Cation Transport by Na,K- and H,K-ATPase in Xenopus Oocytes by Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry: An Alternative to Radioisotope Assays
Authors: Katharina L. Dürr, Neslihan N. Tavraz, Susan Spiller, Thomas Friedrich.
Institutions: Technical University of Berlin, Oregon Health & Science University.
Whereas cation transport by the electrogenic membrane transporter Na+,K+-ATPase can be measured by electrophysiology, the electroneutrally operating gastric H+,K+-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+ or Li+ transport by Na+,K+- or gastric H+,K+-ATPase in single cells. Using Xenopus oocytes as expression system, we determine the amount of Rb+ (Li+) 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+/2K+ transport stoichiometry of the Na+,K+-ATPase and enabled for the first time to investigate the voltage dependence of cation transport by the electroneutrally operating gastric H+,K+-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
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Self-reporting Scaffolds for 3-Dimensional Cell Culture
Authors: Helen Harrington, Felicity R.A.J. Rose, Jonathan W. Aylott, Amir M. Ghaemmaghami.
Institutions: University of Nottingham, University of Nottingham, University of Nottingham.
Culturing cells in 3D on appropriate scaffolds is thought to better mimic the in vivo microenvironment and increase cell-cell interactions. The resulting 3D cellular construct can often be more relevant to studying the molecular events and cell-cell interactions than similar experiments studied in 2D. To create effective 3D cultures with high cell viability throughout the scaffold the culture conditions such as oxygen and pH need to be carefully controlled as gradients in analyte concentration can exist throughout the 3D construct. Here we describe the methods of preparing biocompatible pH responsive sol-gel nanosensors and their incorporation into poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) electrospun scaffolds along with their subsequent preparation for the culture of mammalian cells. The pH responsive scaffolds can be used as tools to determine microenvironmental pH within a 3D cellular construct. Furthermore, we detail the delivery of pH responsive nanosensors to the intracellular environment of mammalian cells whose growth was supported by electrospun PLGA scaffolds. The cytoplasmic location of the pH responsive nanosensors can be utilized to monitor intracellular pH (pHi) during ongoing experimentation.
Bioengineering, Issue 81, Biocompatible Materials, Nanosensors, scaffold, electrospinning, 3D cell culture, PLGA
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Synthesis of an Intein-mediated Artificial Protein Hydrogel
Authors: Miguel A. Ramirez, Zhilei Chen.
Institutions: Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas A&M University, College Station.
We present the synthesis of a highly stable protein hydrogel mediated by a split-intein-catalyzed protein trans-splicing reaction. The building blocks of this hydrogel are two protein block-copolymers each containing a subunit of a trimeric protein that serves as a crosslinker and one half of a split intein. A highly hydrophilic random coil is inserted into one of the block-copolymers for water retention. Mixing of the two protein block copolymers triggers an intein trans-splicing reaction, yielding a polypeptide unit with crosslinkers at either end that rapidly self-assembles into a hydrogel. This hydrogel is very stable under both acidic and basic conditions, at temperatures up to 50 °C, and in organic solvents. The hydrogel rapidly reforms after shear-induced rupture. Incorporation of a "docking station peptide" into the hydrogel building block enables convenient incorporation of "docking protein"-tagged target proteins. The hydrogel is compatible with tissue culture growth media, supports the diffusion of 20 kDa molecules, and enables the immobilization of bioactive globular proteins. The application of the intein-mediated protein hydrogel as an organic-solvent-compatible biocatalyst was demonstrated by encapsulating the horseradish peroxidase enzyme and corroborating its activity.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, split-intein, self-assembly, shear-thinning, enzyme, immobilization, organic synthesis
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Direct Imaging of ER Calcium with Targeted-Esterase Induced Dye Loading (TED)
Authors: Samira Samtleben, Juliane Jaepel, Caroline Fecher, Thomas Andreska, Markus Rehberg, Robert Blum.
Institutions: University of Wuerzburg, Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich.
Visualization of calcium dynamics is important to understand the role of calcium in cell physiology. To examine calcium dynamics, synthetic fluorescent Ca2+ indictors have become popular. Here we demonstrate TED (= targeted-esterase induced dye loading), a method to improve the release of Ca2+ indicator dyes in the ER lumen of different cell types. To date, TED was used in cell lines, glial cells, and neurons in vitro. TED bases on efficient, recombinant targeting of a high carboxylesterase activity to the ER lumen using vector-constructs that express Carboxylesterases (CES). The latest TED vectors contain a core element of CES2 fused to a red fluorescent protein, thus enabling simultaneous two-color imaging. The dynamics of free calcium in the ER are imaged in one color, while the corresponding ER structure appears in red. At the beginning of the procedure, cells are transduced with a lentivirus. Subsequently, the infected cells are seeded on coverslips to finally enable live cell imaging. Then, living cells are incubated with the acetoxymethyl ester (AM-ester) form of low-affinity Ca2+ indicators, for instance Fluo5N-AM, Mag-Fluo4-AM, or Mag-Fura2-AM. The esterase activity in the ER cleaves off hydrophobic side chains from the AM form of the Ca2+ indicator and a hydrophilic fluorescent dye/Ca2+ complex is formed and trapped in the ER lumen. After dye loading, the cells are analyzed at an inverted confocal laser scanning microscope. Cells are continuously perfused with Ringer-like solutions and the ER calcium dynamics are directly visualized by time-lapse imaging. Calcium release from the ER is identified by a decrease in fluorescence intensity in regions of interest, whereas the refilling of the ER calcium store produces an increase in fluorescence intensity. Finally, the change in fluorescent intensity over time is determined by calculation of ΔF/F0.
Cellular Biology, Issue 75, Neurobiology, Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Bioengineering, Virology, Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology, Surgery, Endoplasmic Reticulum, ER, Calcium Signaling, calcium store, calcium imaging, calcium indicator, metabotropic signaling, Ca2+, neurons, cells, mouse, animal model, cell culture, targeted esterase induced dye loading, imaging
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A Restriction Enzyme Based Cloning Method to Assess the In vitro Replication Capacity of HIV-1 Subtype C Gag-MJ4 Chimeric Viruses
Authors: Daniel T. Claiborne, Jessica L. Prince, Eric Hunter.
Institutions: Emory University, Emory University.
The protective effect of many HLA class I alleles on HIV-1 pathogenesis and disease progression is, in part, attributed to their ability to target conserved portions of the HIV-1 genome that escape with difficulty. Sequence changes attributed to cellular immune pressure arise across the genome during infection, and if found within conserved regions of the genome such as Gag, can affect the ability of the virus to replicate in vitro. Transmission of HLA-linked polymorphisms in Gag to HLA-mismatched recipients has been associated with reduced set point viral loads. We hypothesized this may be due to a reduced replication capacity of the virus. Here we present a novel method for assessing the in vitro replication of HIV-1 as influenced by the gag gene isolated from acute time points from subtype C infected Zambians. This method uses restriction enzyme based cloning to insert the gag gene into a common subtype C HIV-1 proviral backbone, MJ4. This makes it more appropriate to the study of subtype C sequences than previous recombination based methods that have assessed the in vitro replication of chronically derived gag-pro sequences. Nevertheless, the protocol could be readily modified for studies of viruses from other subtypes. Moreover, this protocol details a robust and reproducible method for assessing the replication capacity of the Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses on a CEM-based T cell line. This method was utilized for the study of Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses derived from 149 subtype C acutely infected Zambians, and has allowed for the identification of residues in Gag that affect replication. More importantly, the implementation of this technique has facilitated a deeper understanding of how viral replication defines parameters of early HIV-1 pathogenesis such as set point viral load and longitudinal CD4+ T cell decline.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 90, HIV-1, Gag, viral replication, replication capacity, viral fitness, MJ4, CEM, GXR25
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Applications of EEG Neuroimaging Data: Event-related Potentials, Spectral Power, and Multiscale Entropy
Authors: Jennifer J. Heisz, Anthony R. McIntosh.
Institutions: Baycrest.
When considering human neuroimaging data, an appreciation of signal variability represents a fundamental innovation in the way we think about brain signal. Typically, researchers represent the brain's response as the mean across repeated experimental trials and disregard signal fluctuations over time as "noise". However, it is becoming clear that brain signal variability conveys meaningful functional information about neural network dynamics. This article describes the novel method of multiscale entropy (MSE) for quantifying brain signal variability. MSE may be particularly informative of neural network dynamics because it shows timescale dependence and sensitivity to linear and nonlinear dynamics in the data.
Neuroscience, Issue 76, Neurobiology, Anatomy, Physiology, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Electroencephalography, EEG, electroencephalogram, Multiscale entropy, sample entropy, MEG, neuroimaging, variability, noise, timescale, non-linear, brain signal, information theory, brain, imaging
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Investigating Protein-protein Interactions in Live Cells Using Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer
Authors: Pelagia Deriziotis, Sarah A. Graham, Sara B. Estruch, Simon E. Fisher.
Institutions: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour.
Assays based on Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET) provide a sensitive and reliable means to monitor protein-protein interactions in live cells. BRET is the non-radiative transfer of energy from a 'donor' luciferase enzyme to an 'acceptor' fluorescent protein. In the most common configuration of this assay, the donor is Renilla reniformis luciferase and the acceptor is Yellow Fluorescent Protein (YFP). Because the efficiency of energy transfer is strongly distance-dependent, observation of the BRET phenomenon requires that the donor and acceptor be in close proximity. To test for an interaction between two proteins of interest in cultured mammalian cells, one protein is expressed as a fusion with luciferase and the second as a fusion with YFP. An interaction between the two proteins of interest may bring the donor and acceptor sufficiently close for energy transfer to occur. Compared to other techniques for investigating protein-protein interactions, the BRET assay is sensitive, requires little hands-on time and few reagents, and is able to detect interactions which are weak, transient, or dependent on the biochemical environment found within a live cell. It is therefore an ideal approach for confirming putative interactions suggested by yeast two-hybrid or mass spectrometry proteomics studies, and in addition it is well-suited for mapping interacting regions, assessing the effect of post-translational modifications on protein-protein interactions, and evaluating the impact of mutations identified in patient DNA.
Cellular Biology, Issue 87, Protein-protein interactions, Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer, Live cell, Transfection, Luciferase, Yellow Fluorescent Protein, Mutations
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Studying Food Reward and Motivation in Humans
Authors: Hisham Ziauddeen, Naresh Subramaniam, Victoria C. Cambridge, Nenad Medic, Ismaa Sadaf Farooqi, Paul C. Fletcher.
Institutions: University of Cambridge, University of Cambridge, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke's Hospital.
A key challenge in studying reward processing in humans is to go beyond subjective self-report measures and quantify different aspects of reward such as hedonics, motivation, and goal value in more objective ways. This is particularly relevant for the understanding of overeating and obesity as well as their potential treatments. In this paper are described a set of measures of food-related motivation using handgrip force as a motivational measure. These methods can be used to examine changes in food related motivation with metabolic (satiety) and pharmacological manipulations and can be used to evaluate interventions targeted at overeating and obesity. However to understand food-related decision making in the complex food environment it is essential to be able to ascertain the reward goal values that guide the decisions and behavioral choices that people make. These values are hidden but it is possible to ascertain them more objectively using metrics such as the willingness to pay and a method for this is described. Both these sets of methods provide quantitative measures of motivation and goal value that can be compared within and between individuals.
Behavior, Issue 85, Food reward, motivation, grip force, willingness to pay, subliminal motivation
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Simultaneous Multicolor Imaging of Biological Structures with Fluorescence Photoactivation Localization Microscopy
Authors: Nikki M. Curthoys, Michael J. Mlodzianoski, Dahan Kim, Samuel T. Hess.
Institutions: University of Maine.
Localization-based super resolution microscopy can be applied to obtain a spatial map (image) of the distribution of individual fluorescently labeled single molecules within a sample with a spatial resolution of tens of nanometers. Using either photoactivatable (PAFP) or photoswitchable (PSFP) fluorescent proteins fused to proteins of interest, or organic dyes conjugated to antibodies or other molecules of interest, fluorescence photoactivation localization microscopy (FPALM) can simultaneously image multiple species of molecules within single cells. By using the following approach, populations of large numbers (thousands to hundreds of thousands) of individual molecules are imaged in single cells and localized with a precision of ~10-30 nm. Data obtained can be applied to understanding the nanoscale spatial distributions of multiple protein types within a cell. One primary advantage of this technique is the dramatic increase in spatial resolution: while diffraction limits resolution to ~200-250 nm in conventional light microscopy, FPALM can image length scales more than an order of magnitude smaller. As many biological hypotheses concern the spatial relationships among different biomolecules, the improved resolution of FPALM can provide insight into questions of cellular organization which have previously been inaccessible to conventional fluorescence microscopy. In addition to detailing the methods for sample preparation and data acquisition, we here describe the optical setup for FPALM. One additional consideration for researchers wishing to do super-resolution microscopy is cost: in-house setups are significantly cheaper than most commercially available imaging machines. Limitations of this technique include the need for optimizing the labeling of molecules of interest within cell samples, and the need for post-processing software to visualize results. We here describe the use of PAFP and PSFP expression to image two protein species in fixed cells. Extension of the technique to living cells is also described.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, Microscopy, Super-resolution imaging, Multicolor, single molecule, FPALM, Localization microscopy, fluorescent proteins
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Chromatin Interaction Analysis with Paired-End Tag Sequencing (ChIA-PET) for Mapping Chromatin Interactions and Understanding Transcription Regulation
Authors: Yufen Goh, Melissa J. Fullwood, Huay Mei Poh, Su Qin Peh, Chin Thing Ong, Jingyao Zhang, Xiaoan Ruan, Yijun Ruan.
Institutions: Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore, A*STAR-Duke-NUS Neuroscience Research Partnership, Singapore, National University of Singapore, Singapore.
Genomes are organized into three-dimensional structures, adopting higher-order conformations inside the micron-sized nuclear spaces 7, 2, 12. Such architectures are not random and involve interactions between gene promoters and regulatory elements 13. The binding of transcription factors to specific regulatory sequences brings about a network of transcription regulation and coordination 1, 14. Chromatin Interaction Analysis by Paired-End Tag Sequencing (ChIA-PET) was developed to identify these higher-order chromatin structures 5,6. Cells are fixed and interacting loci are captured by covalent DNA-protein cross-links. To minimize non-specific noise and reduce complexity, as well as to increase the specificity of the chromatin interaction analysis, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) is used against specific protein factors to enrich chromatin fragments of interest before proximity ligation. Ligation involving half-linkers subsequently forms covalent links between pairs of DNA fragments tethered together within individual chromatin complexes. The flanking MmeI restriction enzyme sites in the half-linkers allow extraction of paired end tag-linker-tag constructs (PETs) upon MmeI digestion. As the half-linkers are biotinylated, these PET constructs are purified using streptavidin-magnetic beads. The purified PETs are ligated with next-generation sequencing adaptors and a catalog of interacting fragments is generated via next-generation sequencers such as the Illumina Genome Analyzer. Mapping and bioinformatics analysis is then performed to identify ChIP-enriched binding sites and ChIP-enriched chromatin interactions 8. We have produced a video to demonstrate critical aspects of the ChIA-PET protocol, especially the preparation of ChIP as the quality of ChIP plays a major role in the outcome of a ChIA-PET library. As the protocols are very long, only the critical steps are shown in the video.
Genetics, Issue 62, ChIP, ChIA-PET, Chromatin Interactions, Genomics, Next-Generation Sequencing
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Protein WISDOM: A Workbench for In silico De novo Design of BioMolecules
Authors: James Smadbeck, Meghan B. Peterson, George A. Khoury, Martin S. Taylor, Christodoulos A. Floudas.
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 (, 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
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In Situ Neutron Powder Diffraction Using Custom-made Lithium-ion Batteries
Authors: William R. Brant, Siegbert Schmid, Guodong Du, Helen E. A. Brand, Wei Kong Pang, Vanessa K. Peterson, Zaiping Guo, Neeraj Sharma.
Institutions: University of Sydney, University of Wollongong, Australian Synchrotron, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, University of Wollongong, University of New South Wales.
Li-ion batteries are widely used in portable electronic devices and are considered as promising candidates for higher-energy applications such as electric vehicles.1,2 However, many challenges, such as energy density and battery lifetimes, need to be overcome before this particular battery technology can be widely implemented in such applications.3 This research is challenging, and we outline a method to address these challenges using in situ NPD to probe the crystal structure of electrodes undergoing electrochemical cycling (charge/discharge) in a battery. NPD data help determine the underlying structural mechanism responsible for a range of electrode properties, and this information can direct the development of better electrodes and batteries. We briefly review six types of battery designs custom-made for NPD experiments and detail the method to construct the ‘roll-over’ cell that we have successfully used on the high-intensity NPD instrument, WOMBAT, at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). The design considerations and materials used for cell construction are discussed in conjunction with aspects of the actual in situ NPD experiment and initial directions are presented on how to analyze such complex in situ data.
Physics, Issue 93, In operando, structure-property relationships, electrochemical cycling, electrochemical cells, crystallography, battery performance
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Characterization of Complex Systems Using the Design of Experiments Approach: Transient Protein Expression in Tobacco as a Case Study
Authors: Johannes Felix Buyel, Rainer Fischer.
Institutions: RWTH Aachen University, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.
Plants provide multiple benefits for the production of biopharmaceuticals including low costs, scalability, and safety. Transient expression offers the additional advantage of short development and production times, but expression levels can vary significantly between batches thus giving rise to regulatory concerns in the context of good manufacturing practice. We used a design of experiments (DoE) approach to determine the impact of major factors such as regulatory elements in the expression construct, plant growth and development parameters, and the incubation conditions during expression, on the variability of expression between batches. We tested plants expressing a model anti-HIV monoclonal antibody (2G12) and a fluorescent marker protein (DsRed). We discuss the rationale for selecting certain properties of the model and identify its potential limitations. The general approach can easily be transferred to other problems because the principles of the model are broadly applicable: knowledge-based parameter selection, complexity reduction by splitting the initial problem into smaller modules, software-guided setup of optimal experiment combinations and step-wise design augmentation. Therefore, the methodology is not only useful for characterizing protein expression in plants but also for the investigation of other complex systems lacking a mechanistic description. The predictive equations describing the interconnectivity between parameters can be used to establish mechanistic models for other complex systems.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, design of experiments (DoE), transient protein expression, plant-derived biopharmaceuticals, promoter, 5'UTR, fluorescent reporter protein, model building, incubation conditions, monoclonal antibody
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Nanomanipulation of Single RNA Molecules by Optical Tweezers
Authors: William Stephenson, Gorby Wan, Scott A. Tenenbaum, Pan T. X. Li.
Institutions: University at Albany, State University of New York, University at Albany, State University of New York, University at Albany, State University of New York, University at Albany, State University of New York, University at Albany, State University of New York.
A large portion of the human genome is transcribed but not translated. In this post genomic era, regulatory functions of RNA have been shown to be increasingly important. As RNA function often depends on its ability to adopt alternative structures, it is difficult to predict RNA three-dimensional structures directly from sequence. Single-molecule approaches show potentials to solve the problem of RNA structural polymorphism by monitoring molecular structures one molecule at a time. This work presents a method to precisely manipulate the folding and structure of single RNA molecules using optical tweezers. First, methods to synthesize molecules suitable for single-molecule mechanical work are described. Next, various calibration procedures to ensure the proper operations of the optical tweezers are discussed. Next, various experiments are explained. To demonstrate the utility of the technique, results of mechanically unfolding RNA hairpins and a single RNA kissing complex are used as evidence. In these examples, the nanomanipulation technique was used to study folding of each structural domain, including secondary and tertiary, independently. Lastly, the limitations and future applications of the method are discussed.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, RNA folding, single-molecule, optical tweezers, nanomanipulation, RNA secondary structure, RNA tertiary structure
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Physical, Chemical and Biological Characterization of Six Biochars Produced for the Remediation of Contaminated Sites
Authors: Mackenzie J. Denyes, Michèle A. Parisien, Allison Rutter, Barbara A. Zeeb.
Institutions: Royal Military College of Canada, Queen's University.
The physical and chemical properties of biochar vary based on feedstock sources and production conditions, making it possible to engineer biochars with specific functions (e.g. carbon sequestration, soil quality improvements, or contaminant sorption). In 2013, the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) made publically available their Standardized Product Definition and Product Testing Guidelines (Version 1.1) which set standards for physical and chemical characteristics for biochar. Six biochars made from three different feedstocks and at two temperatures were analyzed for characteristics related to their use as a soil amendment. The protocol describes analyses of the feedstocks and biochars and includes: cation exchange capacity (CEC), specific surface area (SSA), organic carbon (OC) and moisture percentage, pH, particle size distribution, and proximate and ultimate analysis. Also described in the protocol are the analyses of the feedstocks and biochars for contaminants including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), metals and mercury as well as nutrients (phosphorous, nitrite and nitrate and ammonium as nitrogen). The protocol also includes the biological testing procedures, earthworm avoidance and germination assays. Based on the quality assurance / quality control (QA/QC) results of blanks, duplicates, standards and reference materials, all methods were determined adequate for use with biochar and feedstock materials. All biochars and feedstocks were well within the criterion set by the IBI and there were little differences among biochars, except in the case of the biochar produced from construction waste materials. This biochar (referred to as Old biochar) was determined to have elevated levels of arsenic, chromium, copper, and lead, and failed the earthworm avoidance and germination assays. Based on these results, Old biochar would not be appropriate for use as a soil amendment for carbon sequestration, substrate quality improvements or remediation.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 93, biochar, characterization, carbon sequestration, remediation, International Biochar Initiative (IBI), soil amendment
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A Manual Small Molecule Screen Approaching High-throughput Using Zebrafish Embryos
Authors: Shahram Jevin Poureetezadi, Eric K. Donahue, Rebecca A. Wingert.
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
Zebrafish have become a widely used model organism to investigate the mechanisms that underlie developmental biology and to study human disease pathology due to their considerable degree of genetic conservation with humans. Chemical genetics entails testing the effect that small molecules have on a biological process and is becoming a popular translational research method to identify therapeutic compounds. Zebrafish are specifically appealing to use for chemical genetics because of their ability to produce large clutches of transparent embryos, which are externally fertilized. Furthermore, zebrafish embryos can be easily drug treated by the simple addition of a compound to the embryo media. Using whole-mount in situ hybridization (WISH), mRNA expression can be clearly visualized within zebrafish embryos. Together, using chemical genetics and WISH, the zebrafish becomes a potent whole organism context in which to determine the cellular and physiological effects of small molecules. Innovative advances have been made in technologies that utilize machine-based screening procedures, however for many labs such options are not accessible or remain cost-prohibitive. The protocol described here explains how to execute a manual high-throughput chemical genetic screen that requires basic resources and can be accomplished by a single individual or small team in an efficient period of time. Thus, this protocol provides a feasible strategy that can be implemented by research groups to perform chemical genetics in zebrafish, which can be useful for gaining fundamental insights into developmental processes, disease mechanisms, and to identify novel compounds and signaling pathways that have medically relevant applications.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, zebrafish, chemical genetics, chemical screen, in vivo small molecule screen, drug discovery, whole mount in situ hybridization (WISH), high-throughput screening (HTS), high-content screening (HCS)
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Millifluidics for Chemical Synthesis and Time-resolved Mechanistic Studies
Authors: Katla Sai Krishna, Sanchita Biswas, Chelliah V. Navin, Dawit G. Yamane, Jeffrey T. Miller, Challa S.S.R. Kumar.
Institutions: Louisiana State University, Louisiana State University, Louisiana State University, Argonne National Laboratory.
Procedures utilizing millifluidic devices for chemical synthesis and time-resolved mechanistic studies are described by taking three examples. In the first, synthesis of ultra-small copper nanoclusters is described. The second example provides their utility for investigating time resolved kinetics of chemical reactions by analyzing gold nanoparticle formation using in situ X-ray absorption spectroscopy. The final example demonstrates continuous flow catalysis of reactions inside millifluidic channel coated with nanostructured catalyst.
Bioengineering, Issue 81, Millifluidics, Millifluidic Device, Time-resolved Kinetics, Synthesis, Catalysis, Nanomaterials, Lab-on-a-Chip
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Application of Stopped-flow Kinetics Methods to Investigate the Mechanism of Action of a DNA Repair Protein
Authors: F. Noah Biro, Jie Zhai, Christopher W. Doucette, Manju M. Hingorani.
Institutions: Wesleyan University.
Transient kinetic analysis is indispensable for understanding the workings of biological macromolecules, since this approach yields mechanistic information including active site concentrations and intrinsic rate constants that govern macromolecular function. In case of enzymes, for example, transient or pre-steady state measurements identify and characterize individual events in the reaction pathway, whereas steady state measurements only yield overall catalytic efficiency and specificity. Individual events such as protein-protein or protein-ligand interactions and rate-limiting conformational changes often occur in the millisecond timescale, and can be measured directly by stopped-flow and chemical-quench flow methods. Given an optical signal such as fluorescence, stopped-flow serves as a powerful and accessible tool for monitoring reaction progress from substrate binding to product release and catalytic turnover1,2. Here, we report application of stopped-flow kinetics to probe the mechanism of action of Msh2-Msh6, a eukaryotic DNA repair protein that recognizes base-pair mismatches and insertion/deletion loops in DNA and signals mismatch repair (MMR)3-5. In doing so, Msh2-Msh6 increases the accuracy of DNA replication by three orders of magnitude (error frequency decreases from ~10-6 to10-9 bases), and thus helps preserve genomic integrity. Not surprisingly, defective human Msh2-Msh6 function is associated with hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer and other sporadic cancers6-8. In order to understand the mechanism of action of this critical DNA metabolic protein, we are probing the dynamics of Msh2-Msh6 interaction with mismatched DNA as well as the ATPase activity that fuels its actions in MMR. DNA binding is measured by rapidly mixing Msh2-Msh6 with DNA containing a 2-aminopurine (2-Ap) fluorophore adjacent to a G:T mismatch and monitoring the resulting increase in 2-aminopurine fluorescence in real time. DNA dissociation is measured by mixing pre-formed Msh2-Msh6 G:T(2-Ap) mismatch complex with unlabeled trap DNA and monitoring decrease in fluorescence over time9. Pre-steady state ATPase kinetics are measured by the change in fluorescence of 7-diethylamino-3-((((2-maleimidyl)ethyl)amino)carbonyl) coumarin)-labeled Phosphate Binding Protein (MDCC-PBP) on binding phosphate (Pi) released by Msh2-Msh6 following ATP hydrolysis9,10. The data reveal rapid binding of Msh2-Msh6 to a G:T mismatch and formation of a long-lived Msh2-Msh6 G:T complex, which in turn results in suppression of ATP hydrolysis and stabilization of the protein in an ATP-bound form. The reaction kinetics provide clear support for the hypothesis that ATP-bound Msh2-Msh6 signals DNA repair on binding a mismatched base pair in the double helix. F. Noah Biro and Jie Zhai contributed to this paper equally.
Cellular Biology, Issue 37, DNA mismatch repair, Stopped-flow kinetics, Msh2-Msh6, ATPase rate, DNA binding
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Designing and Implementing Nervous System Simulations on LEGO Robots
Authors: Daniel Blustein, Nikolai Rosenthal, Joseph Ayers.
Institutions: Northeastern University, Bremen University of Applied Sciences.
We present a method to use the commercially available LEGO Mindstorms NXT robotics platform to test systems level neuroscience hypotheses. The first step of the method is to develop a nervous system simulation of specific reflexive behaviors of an appropriate model organism; here we use the American Lobster. Exteroceptive reflexes mediated by decussating (crossing) neural connections can explain an animal's taxis towards or away from a stimulus as described by Braitenberg and are particularly well suited for investigation using the NXT platform.1 The nervous system simulation is programmed using LabVIEW software on the LEGO Mindstorms platform. Once the nervous system is tuned properly, behavioral experiments are run on the robot and on the animal under identical environmental conditions. By controlling the sensory milieu experienced by the specimens, differences in behavioral outputs can be observed. These differences may point to specific deficiencies in the nervous system model and serve to inform the iteration of the model for the particular behavior under study. This method allows for the experimental manipulation of electronic nervous systems and serves as a way to explore neuroscience hypotheses specifically regarding the neurophysiological basis of simple innate reflexive behaviors. The LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit provides an affordable and efficient platform on which to test preliminary biomimetic robot control schemes. The approach is also well suited for the high school classroom to serve as the foundation for a hands-on inquiry-based biorobotics curriculum.
Neuroscience, Issue 75, Neurobiology, Bioengineering, Behavior, Mechanical Engineering, Computer Science, Marine Biology, Biomimetics, Marine Science, Neurosciences, Synthetic Biology, Robotics, robots, Modeling, models, Sensory Fusion, nervous system, Educational Tools, programming, software, lobster, Homarus americanus, animal model
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