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On the significance of microtubule flexural behavior in cytoskeletal mechanics.
PUBLISHED: 09-08-2011
Quantitative description of cell mechanics has challenged biological scientists for the past two decades. Various structural models have been attempted to analyze the structure of the cytoskeleton. One important aspect that has been largely ignored in all these modeling approaches is related to the flexural and buckling behavior of microtubular filaments. The objective of this paper is to explore the influence of this flexural and buckling behavior in cytoskeletal mechanics.In vitro the microtubules are observed to buckle in the first mode, reminiscent of a free, simply-supported beam. In vivo images of microtubules, however, indicate that the buckling mostly occurs in higher modes. This buckling mode switch takes place mostly because of the lateral support of microtubules via their connections to actin and intermediate filaments. These lateral loads are exerted throughout the microtubule length and yield a considerable bending behavior that, unless properly accounted for, would produce erroneous results in the modeling and analysis of the cytoskeletal mechanics.One of the promising attempts towards mechanical modeling of the cytoskeleton is the tensegrity model, which simplifies the complex network of cytoskeletal filaments into a combination merely of tension-bearing actin filaments and compression-bearing microtubules. Interestingly, this discrete model can qualitatively explain many experimental observations in cell mechanics. However, evidence suggests that the simplicity of this model may undermine the accuracy of its predictions, given the models underlying assumption that "every single member bears solely either tensile or compressive behavior," i.e. neglecting the flexural behavior of the microtubule filaments. We invoke an anisotropic continuum model for microtubules and compare the bending energy stored in a single microtubule with its axial strain energy at the verge of buckling. Our results suggest that the bending energy can exceed the axial energy of microtubules by 40 folds. A modification to tensegrity model is, therefore, proved necessary in order to take into account the flexural response of microtubules. The concept of "bendo-tensegrity" is proposed as a modification to contemporary cytoskeletal tensegrity models.
Authors: Douglas S. Martin, Lu Yu, Brian L. Van Hoozen.
Published: 11-09-2012
Microtubules are cytoskeletal polymers which play a role in cell division, cell mechanics, and intracellular transport. Each of these functions requires microtubules that are stiff and straight enough to span a significant fraction of the cell diameter. As a result, the microtubule persistence length, a measure of stiffness, has been actively studied for the past two decades1. Nonetheless, open questions remain: short microtubules are 10-50 times less stiff than long microtubules2-4, and even long microtubules have measured persistence lengths which vary by an order of magnitude5-9. Here, we present a method to measure microtubule persistence length. The method is based on a kinesin-driven microtubule gliding assay10. By combining sparse fluorescent labeling of individual microtubules with single particle tracking of individual fluorophores attached to the microtubule, the gliding trajectories of single microtubules are tracked with nanometer-level precision. The persistence length of the trajectories is the same as the persistence length of the microtubule under the conditions used11. An automated tracking routine is used to create microtubule trajectories from fluorophores attached to individual microtubules, and the persistence length of this trajectory is calculated using routines written in IDL. This technique is rapidly implementable, and capable of measuring the persistence length of 100 microtubules in one day of experimentation. The method can be extended to measure persistence length under a variety of conditions, including persistence length as a function of length along microtubules. Moreover, the analysis routines used can be extended to myosin-based acting gliding assays, to measure the persistence length of actin filaments as well.
21 Related JoVE Articles!
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Measuring the Mechanical Properties of Living Cells Using Atomic Force Microscopy
Authors: Gawain Thomas, Nancy A. Burnham, Terri Anne Camesano, Qi Wen.
Institutions: Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Mechanical properties of cells and extracellular matrix (ECM) play important roles in many biological processes including stem cell differentiation, tumor formation, and wound healing. Changes in stiffness of cells and ECM are often signs of changes in cell physiology or diseases in tissues. Hence, cell stiffness is an index to evaluate the status of cell cultures. Among the multitude of methods applied to measure the stiffness of cells and tissues, micro-indentation using an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) provides a way to reliably measure the stiffness of living cells. This method has been widely applied to characterize the micro-scale stiffness for a variety of materials ranging from metal surfaces to soft biological tissues and cells. The basic principle of this method is to indent a cell with an AFM tip of selected geometry and measure the applied force from the bending of the AFM cantilever. Fitting the force-indentation curve to the Hertz model for the corresponding tip geometry can give quantitative measurements of material stiffness. This paper demonstrates the procedure to characterize the stiffness of living cells using AFM. Key steps including the process of AFM calibration, force-curve acquisition, and data analysis using a MATLAB routine are demonstrated. Limitations of this method are also discussed.
Biophysics, Issue 76, Bioengineering, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Physics, Chemical Engineering, Biomechanics, bioengineering (general), AFM, cell stiffness, microindentation, force spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, microscopy
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Micro 3D Printing Using a Digital Projector and its Application in the Study of Soft Materials Mechanics
Authors: Howon Lee, Nicholas X. Fang.
Institutions: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Buckling is a classical topic in mechanics. While buckling has long been studied as one of the major structural failure modes1, it has recently drawn new attention as a unique mechanism for pattern transformation. Nature is full of such examples where a wealth of exotic patterns are formed through mechanical instability2-5. Inspired by this elegant mechanism, many studies have demonstrated creation and transformation of patterns using soft materials such as elastomers and hydrogels6-11. Swelling gels are of particular interest because they can spontaneously trigger mechanical instability to create various patterns without the need of external force6-10. Recently, we have reported demonstration of full control over buckling pattern of micro-scaled tubular gels using projection micro-stereolithography (PμSL), a three-dimensional (3D) manufacturing technology capable of rapidly converting computer generated 3D models into physical objects at high resolution12,13. Here we present a simple method to build up a simplified PμSL system using a commercially available digital data projector to study swelling-induced buckling instability for controlled pattern transformation. A simple desktop 3D printer is built using an off-the-shelf digital data projector and simple optical components such as a convex lens and a mirror14. Cross-sectional images extracted from a 3D solid model is projected on the photosensitive resin surface in sequence, polymerizing liquid resin into a desired 3D solid structure in a layer-by-layer fashion. Even with this simple configuration and easy process, arbitrary 3D objects can be readily fabricated with sub-100 μm resolution. This desktop 3D printer holds potential in the study of soft material mechanics by offering a great opportunity to explore various 3D geometries. We use this system to fabricate tubular shaped hydrogel structure with different dimensions. Fixed on the bottom to the substrate, the tubular gel develops inhomogeneous stress during swelling, which gives rise to buckling instability. Various wavy patterns appear along the circumference of the tube when the gel structures undergo buckling. Experiment shows that circumferential buckling of desired mode can be created in a controlled manner. Pattern transformation of three-dimensionally structured tubular gels has significant implication not only in mechanics and material science, but also in many other emerging fields such as tunable matamaterials.
Mechanical Engineering, Issue 69, Materials Science, Physics, Chemical Engineering, 3D printing, stereo-lithography, photo-polymerization, gel, swelling, elastic instability, buckling, pattern formation
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Cargo Loading onto Kinesin Powered Molecular Shuttles
Authors: Yolaine Jeune-Smith, Ashutosh Agarwal, Henry Hess.
Institutions: University of Florida, Columbia University.
Cells have evolved sophisticated molecular machinery, such as kinesin motor proteins and microtubule filaments, to support active intracellular transport of cargo. While kinesins tail domain binds to a variety of cargoes, kinesins head domains utilize the chemical energy stored in ATP molecules to step along the microtubule lattice. The long, stiff microtubules serve as tracks for long-distance intracellular transport. These motors and filaments can also be employed in microfabricated synthetic environments as components of molecular shuttles 1. In a frequently used design, kinesin motors are anchored to the track surface through their tails, and functionalized microtubules serve as cargo carrying elements, which are propelled by these motors. These shuttles can be loaded with cargo by utilizing the strong and selective binding between biotin and streptavidin. The key components (biotinylated tubulin, streptavidin, and biotinylated cargo) are commercially available. Building on the classic inverted motility assay 2, the construction of molecular shuttles is detailed here. Kinesin motor proteins are adsorbed to a surface precoated with casein; microtubules are polymerized from biotinylated tubulin, adhered to the kinesin and subsequently coated with rhodamine-labeled streptavidin. The ATP concentration is maintained at subsaturating concentration to achieve a microtubule gliding velocity optimal for loading cargo 3. Finally, biotinylated fluorescein-labeled nanospheres are added as cargo. Nanospheres attach to microtubules as a result of collisions between gliding microtubules and nanospheres adhering to the surface. The protocol can be readily modified to load a variety of cargoes such as biotinylated DNA4, quantum dots 5 or a wide variety of antigens via biotinylated antibodies 4-6.
Cellular Biology, Issue 45, motility assay, microtubules, kinesin, motor protein, molecular shuttle, nanobiotechnology
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Immunohistological Labeling of Microtubules in Sensory Neuron Dendrites, Tracheae, and Muscles in the Drosophila Larva Body Wall
Authors: Cagri Yalgin, M. Rezaul Karim, Adrian W. Moore.
Institutions: RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Saitama University.
To understand how differences in complex cell shapes are achieved, it is important to accurately follow microtubule organization. The Drosophila larval body wall contains several cell types that are models to study cell and tissue morphogenesis. For example tracheae are used to examine tube morphogenesis1, and the dendritic arborization (DA) sensory neurons of the Drosophila larva have become a primary system for the elucidation of general and neuron-class-specific mechanisms of dendritic differentiation2-5 and degeneration6. The shape of dendrite branches can vary significantly between neuron classes, and even among different branches of a single neuron7,8. Genetic studies in DA neurons suggest that differential cytoskeletal organization can underlie morphological differences in dendritic branch shape4,9-11. We provide a robust immunological labeling method to assay in vivo microtubule organization in DA sensory neuron dendrite arbor (Figures 1, 2, Movie 1). This protocol illustrates the dissection and immunostaining of first instar larva, a stage when active sensory neuron dendrite outgrowth and branching organization is occurring 12,13. In addition to staining sensory neurons, this method achieves robust labeling of microtubule organization in muscles (Movies 2, 3), trachea (Figure 3, Movie 3), and other body wall tissues. It is valuable for investigators wishing to analyze microtubule organization in situ in the body wall when investigating mechanisms that control tissue and cell shape.
Neuroscience, Issue 57, developmental biology, Drosophila larvae, immunohistochemistry, microtubule, trachea, dendritic arborization neurons
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3D Orbital Tracking in a Modified Two-photon Microscope: An Application to the Tracking of Intracellular Vesicles
Authors: Andrea Anzalone, Paolo Annibale, Enrico Gratton.
Institutions: University of California, Irvine.
The objective of this video protocol is to discuss how to perform and analyze a three-dimensional fluorescent orbital particle tracking experiment using a modified two-photon microscope1. As opposed to conventional approaches (raster scan or wide field based on a stack of frames), the 3D orbital tracking allows to localize and follow with a high spatial (10 nm accuracy) and temporal resolution (50 Hz frequency response) the 3D displacement of a moving fluorescent particle on length-scales of hundreds of microns2. The method is based on a feedback algorithm that controls the hardware of a two-photon laser scanning microscope in order to perform a circular orbit around the object to be tracked: the feedback mechanism will maintain the fluorescent object in the center by controlling the displacement of the scanning beam3-5. To demonstrate the advantages of this technique, we followed a fast moving organelle, the lysosome, within a living cell6,7. Cells were plated according to standard protocols, and stained using a commercially lysosome dye. We discuss briefly the hardware configuration and in more detail the control software, to perform a 3D orbital tracking experiment inside living cells. We discuss in detail the parameters required in order to control the scanning microscope and enable the motion of the beam in a closed orbit around the particle. We conclude by demonstrating how this method can be effectively used to track the fast motion of a labeled lysosome along microtubules in 3D within a live cell. Lysosomes can move with speeds in the range of 0.4-0.5 µm/sec, typically displaying a directed motion along the microtubule network8.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, fluorescence, single particle tracking, laser scanning microscope, two-photon, vesicle transport, live-cell imaging, optics
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Production of Xenopus tropicalis Egg Extracts to Identify Microtubule-associated RNAs
Authors: Judith A. Sharp, Mike D. Blower.
Institutions: Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School.
Many organisms localize mRNAs to specific subcellular destinations to spatially and temporally control gene expression. Recent studies have demonstrated that the majority of the transcriptome is localized to a nonrandom position in cells and embryos. One approach to identify localized mRNAs is to biochemically purify a cellular structure of interest and to identify all associated transcripts. Using recently developed high-throughput sequencing technologies it is now straightforward to identify all RNAs associated with a subcellular structure. To facilitate transcript identification it is necessary to work with an organism with a fully sequenced genome. One attractive system for the biochemical purification of subcellular structures are egg extracts produced from the frog Xenopus laevis. However, X. laevis currently does not have a fully sequenced genome, which hampers transcript identification. In this article we describe a method to produce egg extracts from a related frog, X. tropicalis, that has a fully sequenced genome. We provide details for microtubule polymerization, purification and transcript isolation. While this article describes a specific method for identification of microtubule-associated transcripts, we believe that it will be easily applied to other subcellular structures and will provide a powerful method for identification of localized RNAs.
Molecular Biology, Issue 76, Genetics, Developmental Biology, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Cellular Biology, RNA, Messenger, Stored, RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional, Xenopus, microtubules, egg extract, purification, RNA localization, mRNA, Xenopus tropicalis, eggs, animal model
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Viability Assays for Cells in Culture
Authors: Jessica M. Posimo, Ajay S. Unnithan, Amanda M. Gleixner, Hailey J. Choi, Yiran Jiang, Sree H. Pulugulla, Rehana K. Leak.
Institutions: Duquesne University.
Manual cell counts on a microscope are a sensitive means of assessing cellular viability but are time-consuming and therefore expensive. Computerized viability assays are expensive in terms of equipment but can be faster and more objective than manual cell counts. The present report describes the use of three such viability assays. Two of these assays are infrared and one is luminescent. Both infrared assays rely on a 16 bit Odyssey Imager. One infrared assay uses the DRAQ5 stain for nuclei combined with the Sapphire stain for cytosol and is visualized in the 700 nm channel. The other infrared assay, an In-Cell Western, uses antibodies against cytoskeletal proteins (α-tubulin or microtubule associated protein 2) and labels them in the 800 nm channel. The third viability assay is a commonly used luminescent assay for ATP, but we use a quarter of the recommended volume to save on cost. These measurements are all linear and correlate with the number of cells plated, but vary in sensitivity. All three assays circumvent time-consuming microscopy and sample the entire well, thereby reducing sampling error. Finally, all of the assays can easily be completed within one day of the end of the experiment, allowing greater numbers of experiments to be performed within short timeframes. However, they all rely on the assumption that cell numbers remain in proportion to signal strength after treatments, an assumption that is sometimes not met, especially for cellular ATP. Furthermore, if cells increase or decrease in size after treatment, this might affect signal strength without affecting cell number. We conclude that all viability assays, including manual counts, suffer from a number of caveats, but that computerized viability assays are well worth the initial investment. Using all three assays together yields a comprehensive view of cellular structure and function.
Cellular Biology, Issue 83, In-cell Western, DRAQ5, Sapphire, Cell Titer Glo, ATP, primary cortical neurons, toxicity, protection, N-acetyl cysteine, hormesis
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Using plusTipTracker Software to Measure Microtubule Dynamics in Xenopus laevis Growth Cones
Authors: Alina Stout, Salvatore D'Amico, Tiffany Enzenbacher, Patrick Ebbert, Laura Anne Lowery.
Institutions: Boston College.
Microtubule (MT) plus-end-tracking proteins (+TIPs) localize to the growing plus-ends of MTs and regulate MT dynamics1,2. One of the most well-known and widely-utilized +TIPs for analyzing MT dynamics is the End-Binding protein, EB1, which binds all growing MT plus-ends, and thus, is a marker for MT polymerization1. Many studies of EB1 behavior within growth cones have used time-consuming and biased computer-assisted, hand-tracking methods to analyze individual MTs1-3. Our approach is to quantify global parameters of MT dynamics using the software package, plusTipTracker4, following the acquisition of high-resolution, live images of tagged EB1 in cultured embryonic growth cones5. This software is a MATLAB-based, open-source, user-friendly package that combines automated detection, tracking, visualization, and analysis for movies of fluorescently-labeled +TIPs. Here, we present the protocol for using plusTipTracker for the analysis of fluorescently-labeled +TIP comets in cultured Xenopus laevis growth cones. However, this software can also be used to characterize MT dynamics in various cell types6-8.
Molecular Biology, Issue 91, plusTipTracker, microtubule plus-end-tracking proteins, EB1, growth cone, Xenopus laevis, live cell imaging analysis, microtubule dynamics
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Analysis of Tubular Membrane Networks in Cardiac Myocytes from Atria and Ventricles
Authors: Eva Wagner, Sören Brandenburg, Tobias Kohl, Stephan E. Lehnart.
Institutions: Heart Research Center Goettingen, University Medical Center Goettingen, German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) partner site Goettingen, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
In cardiac myocytes a complex network of membrane tubules - the transverse-axial tubule system (TATS) - controls deep intracellular signaling functions. While the outer surface membrane and associated TATS membrane components appear to be continuous, there are substantial differences in lipid and protein content. In ventricular myocytes (VMs), certain TATS components are highly abundant contributing to rectilinear tubule networks and regular branching 3D architectures. It is thought that peripheral TATS components propagate action potentials from the cell surface to thousands of remote intracellular sarcoendoplasmic reticulum (SER) membrane contact domains, thereby activating intracellular Ca2+ release units (CRUs). In contrast to VMs, the organization and functional role of TATS membranes in atrial myocytes (AMs) is significantly different and much less understood. Taken together, quantitative structural characterization of TATS membrane networks in healthy and diseased myocytes is an essential prerequisite towards better understanding of functional plasticity and pathophysiological reorganization. Here, we present a strategic combination of protocols for direct quantitative analysis of TATS membrane networks in living VMs and AMs. For this, we accompany primary cell isolations of mouse VMs and/or AMs with critical quality control steps and direct membrane staining protocols for fluorescence imaging of TATS membranes. Using an optimized workflow for confocal or superresolution TATS image processing, binarized and skeletonized data are generated for quantitative analysis of the TATS network and its components. Unlike previously published indirect regional aggregate image analysis strategies, our protocols enable direct characterization of specific components and derive complex physiological properties of TATS membrane networks in living myocytes with high throughput and open access software tools. In summary, the combined protocol strategy can be readily applied for quantitative TATS network studies during physiological myocyte adaptation or disease changes, comparison of different cardiac or skeletal muscle cell types, phenotyping of transgenic models, and pharmacological or therapeutic interventions.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, cardiac myocyte, atria, ventricle, heart, primary cell isolation, fluorescence microscopy, membrane tubule, transverse-axial tubule system, image analysis, image processing, T-tubule, collagenase
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Measurement of Tension Release During Laser Induced Axon Lesion to Evaluate Axonal Adhesion to the Substrate at Piconewton and Millisecond Resolution
Authors: Massimo Vassalli, Michele Basso, Francesco Difato.
Institutions: National Research Council of Italy, Università di Firenze, Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia.
The formation of functional connections in a developing neuronal network is influenced by extrinsic cues. The neurite growth of developing neurons is subject to chemical and mechanical signals, and the mechanisms by which it senses and responds to mechanical signals are poorly understood. Elucidating the role of forces in cell maturation will enable the design of scaffolds that can promote cell adhesion and cytoskeletal coupling to the substrate, and therefore improve the capacity of different neuronal types to regenerate after injury. Here, we describe a method to apply simultaneous force spectroscopy measurements during laser induced cell lesion. We measure tension release in the partially lesioned axon by simultaneous interferometric tracking of an optically trapped probe adhered to the membrane of the axon. Our experimental protocol detects the tension release with piconewton sensitivity, and the dynamic of the tension release at millisecond time resolution. Therefore, it offers a high-resolution method to study how the mechanical coupling between cells and substrates can be modulated by pharmacological treatment and/or by distinct mechanical properties of the substrate.
Bioengineering, Issue 75, Biophysics, Neuroscience, Cellular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Engineering (General), Life Sciences (General), Physics (General), Axon, tension release, Laser dissector, optical tweezers, force spectroscopy, neurons, neurites, cytoskeleton, adhesion, cell culture, microscopy
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Preparation of Segmented Microtubules to Study Motions Driven by the Disassembling Microtubule Ends
Authors: Vladimir A. Volkov, Anatoly V. Zaytsev, Ekaterina L. Grishchuk.
Institutions: Russian Academy of Sciences, Federal Research Center of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Immunology, Moscow, Russia, University of Pennsylvania.
Microtubule depolymerization can provide force to transport different protein complexes and protein-coated beads in vitro. The underlying mechanisms are thought to play a vital role in the microtubule-dependent chromosome motions during cell division, but the relevant proteins and their exact roles are ill-defined. Thus, there is a growing need to develop assays with which to study such motility in vitro using purified components and defined biochemical milieu. Microtubules, however, are inherently unstable polymers; their switching between growth and shortening is stochastic and difficult to control. The protocols we describe here take advantage of the segmented microtubules that are made with the photoablatable stabilizing caps. Depolymerization of such segmented microtubules can be triggered with high temporal and spatial resolution, thereby assisting studies of motility at the disassembling microtubule ends. This technique can be used to carry out a quantitative analysis of the number of molecules in the fluorescently-labeled protein complexes, which move processively with dynamic microtubule ends. To optimize a signal-to-noise ratio in this and other quantitative fluorescent assays, coverslips should be treated to reduce nonspecific absorption of soluble fluorescently-labeled proteins. Detailed protocols are provided to take into account the unevenness of fluorescent illumination, and determine the intensity of a single fluorophore using equidistant Gaussian fit. Finally, we describe the use of segmented microtubules to study microtubule-dependent motions of the protein-coated microbeads, providing insights into the ability of different motor and nonmotor proteins to couple microtubule depolymerization to processive cargo motion.
Basic Protocol, Issue 85, microscopy flow chamber, single-molecule fluorescence, laser trap, microtubule-binding protein, microtubule-dependent motor, microtubule tip-tracking
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A Novel Stretching Platform for Applications in Cell and Tissue Mechanobiology
Authors: Dominique Tremblay, Charles M. Cuerrier, Lukasz Andrzejewski, Edward R. O'Brien, Andrew E. Pelling.
Institutions: University of Ottawa, University of Ottawa, University of Calgary, University of Ottawa, University of Ottawa.
Tools that allow the application of mechanical forces to cells and tissues or that can quantify the mechanical properties of biological tissues have contributed dramatically to the understanding of basic mechanobiology. These techniques have been extensively used to demonstrate how the onset and progression of various diseases are heavily influenced by mechanical cues. This article presents a multi-functional biaxial stretching (BAXS) platform that can either mechanically stimulate single cells or quantify the mechanical stiffness of tissues. The BAXS platform consists of four voice coil motors that can be controlled independently. Single cells can be cultured on a flexible substrate that can be attached to the motors allowing one to expose the cells to complex, dynamic, and spatially varying strain fields. Conversely, by incorporating a force load cell, one can also quantify the mechanical properties of primary tissues as they are exposed to deformation cycles. In both cases, a proper set of clamps must be designed and mounted to the BAXS platform motors in order to firmly hold the flexible substrate or the tissue of interest. The BAXS platform can be mounted on an inverted microscope to perform simultaneous transmitted light and/or fluorescence imaging to examine the structural or biochemical response of the sample during stretching experiments. This article provides experimental details of the design and usage of the BAXS platform and presents results for single cell and whole tissue studies. The BAXS platform was used to measure the deformation of nuclei in single mouse myoblast cells in response to substrate strain and to measure the stiffness of isolated mouse aortas. The BAXS platform is a versatile tool that can be combined with various optical microscopies in order to provide novel mechanobiological insights at the sub-cellular, cellular and whole tissue levels.
Bioengineering, Issue 88, cell stretching, tissue mechanics, nuclear mechanics, uniaxial, biaxial, anisotropic, mechanobiology
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Biophysical Assays to Probe the Mechanical Properties of the Interphase Cell Nucleus: Substrate Strain Application and Microneedle Manipulation
Authors: Maria L. Lombardi, Monika Zwerger, Jan Lammerding.
Institutions: Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Division, Cornell University.
In most eukaryotic cells, the nucleus is the largest organelle and is typically 2 to 10 times stiffer than the surrounding cytoskeleton; consequently, the physical properties of the nucleus contribute significantly to the overall biomechanical behavior of cells under physiological and pathological conditions. For example, in migrating neutrophils and invading cancer cells, nuclear stiffness can pose a major obstacle during extravasation or passage through narrow spaces within tissues.1 On the other hand, the nucleus of cells in mechanically active tissue such as muscle requires sufficient structural support to withstand repetitive mechanical stress. Importantly, the nucleus is tightly integrated into the cellular architecture; it is physically connected to the surrounding cytoskeleton, which is a critical requirement for the intracellular movement and positioning of the nucleus, for example, in polarized cells, synaptic nuclei at neuromuscular junctions, or in migrating cells.2 Not surprisingly, mutations in nuclear envelope proteins such as lamins and nesprins, which play a critical role in determining nuclear stiffness and nucleo-cytoskeletal coupling, have been shown recently to result in a number of human diseases, including Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, and dilated cardiomyopathy.3 To investigate the biophysical function of diverse nuclear envelope proteins and the effect of specific mutations, we have developed experimental methods to study the physical properties of the nucleus in single, living cells subjected to global or localized mechanical perturbation. Measuring induced nuclear deformations in response to precisely applied substrate strain application yields important information on the deformability of the nucleus and allows quantitative comparison between different mutations or cell lines deficient for specific nuclear envelope proteins. Localized cytoskeletal strain application with a microneedle is used to complement this assay and can yield additional information on intracellular force transmission between the nucleus and the cytoskeleton. Studying nuclear mechanics in intact living cells preserves the normal intracellular architecture and avoids potential artifacts that can arise when working with isolated nuclei. Furthermore, substrate strain application presents a good model for the physiological stress experienced by cells in muscle or other tissues (e.g., vascular smooth muscle cells exposed to vessel strain). Lastly, while these tools have been developed primarily to study nuclear mechanics, they can also be applied to investigate the function of cytoskeletal proteins and mechanotransduction signaling.
Biophysics, Issue 55, nuclear envelope, nuclear stiffness, nucleo-cytoskeletal coupling, lamin, nesprin, cytoskeleton, biomechanics, nuclear deformation, force transmission
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Impulsive Pressurization of Neuronal Cells for Traumatic Brain Injury Study
Authors: Matthew Nienaber, Jeong Soon Lee, Ruqiang Feng, Jung Yul Lim.
Institutions: University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
A novel impulsive cell pressurization experiment has been developed using a Kolsky bar device to investigate blast-induced traumatic brain injury (TBI). We demonstrate in this video article how blast TBI-relevant impulsive pressurization is applied to the neuronal cells in vitro. This is achieved by using well-controlled pressure pulse created by a specialized Kolsky bar device, with complete pressure history within the cell pressurization chamber recorded. Pressurized neuronal cells are inspected immediately after pressurization, or further incubated to examine the long-term effects of impulsive pressurization on neurite/axonal outgrowth, neuronal gene expression, apoptosis, etc. We observed that impulsive pressurization at about 2 MPa induces distinct neurite loss relative to unpressurized cells. Our technique provides a novel method to investigate the molecular/cellular mechanisms of blast TBI, via impulsive pressurization of brain cells at well-controlled pressure magnitude and duration.
Bioengineering, Issue 56, Neuroscience, Traumatic Brain Injury, Neuronal Cells, Neurons, Impulsive Pressurization, Blast-TBI
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Magnetic Tweezers for the Measurement of Twist and Torque
Authors: Jan Lipfert, Mina Lee, Orkide Ordu, Jacob W. J. Kerssemakers, Nynke H. Dekker.
Institutions: Delft University of Technology.
Single-molecule techniques make it possible to investigate the behavior of individual biological molecules in solution in real time. These techniques include so-called force spectroscopy approaches such as atomic force microscopy, optical tweezers, flow stretching, and magnetic tweezers. Amongst these approaches, magnetic tweezers have distinguished themselves by their ability to apply torque while maintaining a constant stretching force. Here, it is illustrated how such a “conventional” magnetic tweezers experimental configuration can, through a straightforward modification of its field configuration to minimize the magnitude of the transverse field, be adapted to measure the degree of twist in a biological molecule. The resulting configuration is termed the freely-orbiting magnetic tweezers. Additionally, it is shown how further modification of the field configuration can yield a transverse field with a magnitude intermediate between that of the “conventional” magnetic tweezers and the freely-orbiting magnetic tweezers, which makes it possible to directly measure the torque stored in a biological molecule. This configuration is termed the magnetic torque tweezers. The accompanying video explains in detail how the conversion of conventional magnetic tweezers into freely-orbiting magnetic tweezers and magnetic torque tweezers can be accomplished, and demonstrates the use of these techniques. These adaptations maintain all the strengths of conventional magnetic tweezers while greatly expanding the versatility of this powerful instrument.
Bioengineering, Issue 87, magnetic tweezers, magnetic torque tweezers, freely-orbiting magnetic tweezers, twist, torque, DNA, single-molecule techniques
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From Voxels to Knowledge: A Practical Guide to the Segmentation of Complex Electron Microscopy 3D-Data
Authors: Wen-Ting Tsai, Ahmed Hassan, Purbasha Sarkar, Joaquin Correa, Zoltan Metlagel, Danielle M. Jorgens, Manfred Auer.
Institutions: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Modern 3D electron microscopy approaches have recently allowed unprecedented insight into the 3D ultrastructural organization of cells and tissues, enabling the visualization of large macromolecular machines, such as adhesion complexes, as well as higher-order structures, such as the cytoskeleton and cellular organelles in their respective cell and tissue context. Given the inherent complexity of cellular volumes, it is essential to first extract the features of interest in order to allow visualization, quantification, and therefore comprehension of their 3D organization. Each data set is defined by distinct characteristics, e.g., signal-to-noise ratio, crispness (sharpness) of the data, heterogeneity of its features, crowdedness of features, presence or absence of characteristic shapes that allow for easy identification, and the percentage of the entire volume that a specific region of interest occupies. All these characteristics need to be considered when deciding on which approach to take for segmentation. The six different 3D ultrastructural data sets presented were obtained by three different imaging approaches: resin embedded stained electron tomography, focused ion beam- and serial block face- scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM, SBF-SEM) of mildly stained and heavily stained samples, respectively. For these data sets, four different segmentation approaches have been applied: (1) fully manual model building followed solely by visualization of the model, (2) manual tracing segmentation of the data followed by surface rendering, (3) semi-automated approaches followed by surface rendering, or (4) automated custom-designed segmentation algorithms followed by surface rendering and quantitative analysis. Depending on the combination of data set characteristics, it was found that typically one of these four categorical approaches outperforms the others, but depending on the exact sequence of criteria, more than one approach may be successful. Based on these data, we propose a triage scheme that categorizes both objective data set characteristics and subjective personal criteria for the analysis of the different data sets.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, 3D electron microscopy, feature extraction, segmentation, image analysis, reconstruction, manual tracing, thresholding
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Test Samples for Optimizing STORM Super-Resolution Microscopy
Authors: Daniel J. Metcalf, Rebecca Edwards, Neelam Kumarswami, Alex E. Knight.
Institutions: National Physical Laboratory.
STORM is a recently developed super-resolution microscopy technique with up to 10 times better resolution than standard fluorescence microscopy techniques. However, as the image is acquired in a very different way than normal, by building up an image molecule-by-molecule, there are some significant challenges for users in trying to optimize their image acquisition. In order to aid this process and gain more insight into how STORM works we present the preparation of 3 test samples and the methodology of acquiring and processing STORM super-resolution images with typical resolutions of between 30-50 nm. By combining the test samples with the use of the freely available rainSTORM processing software it is possible to obtain a great deal of information about image quality and resolution. Using these metrics it is then possible to optimize the imaging procedure from the optics, to sample preparation, dye choice, buffer conditions, and image acquisition settings. We also show examples of some common problems that result in poor image quality, such as lateral drift, where the sample moves during image acquisition and density related problems resulting in the 'mislocalization' phenomenon.
Molecular Biology, Issue 79, Genetics, Bioengineering, Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics, Basic Protocols, HeLa Cells, Actin Cytoskeleton, Coated Vesicles, Receptor, Epidermal Growth Factor, Actins, Fluorescence, Endocytosis, Microscopy, STORM, super-resolution microscopy, nanoscopy, cell biology, fluorescence microscopy, test samples, resolution, actin filaments, fiducial markers, epidermal growth factor, cell, imaging
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Longitudinal Measurement of Extracellular Matrix Rigidity in 3D Tumor Models Using Particle-tracking Microrheology
Authors: Dustin P. Jones, William Hanna, Hamid El-Hamidi, Jonathan P. Celli.
Institutions: University of Massachusetts Boston.
The mechanical microenvironment has been shown to act as a crucial regulator of tumor growth behavior and signaling, which is itself remodeled and modified as part of a set of complex, two-way mechanosensitive interactions. While the development of biologically-relevant 3D tumor models have facilitated mechanistic studies on the impact of matrix rheology on tumor growth, the inverse problem of mapping changes in the mechanical environment induced by tumors remains challenging. Here, we describe the implementation of particle-tracking microrheology (PTM) in conjunction with 3D models of pancreatic cancer as part of a robust and viable approach for longitudinally monitoring physical changes in the tumor microenvironment, in situ. The methodology described here integrates a system of preparing in vitro 3D models embedded in a model extracellular matrix (ECM) scaffold of Type I collagen with fluorescently labeled probes uniformly distributed for position- and time-dependent microrheology measurements throughout the specimen. In vitro tumors are plated and probed in parallel conditions using multiwell imaging plates. Drawing on established methods, videos of tracer probe movements are transformed via the Generalized Stokes Einstein Relation (GSER) to report the complex frequency-dependent viscoelastic shear modulus, G*(ω). Because this approach is imaging-based, mechanical characterization is also mapped onto large transmitted-light spatial fields to simultaneously report qualitative changes in 3D tumor size and phenotype. Representative results showing contrasting mechanical response in sub-regions associated with localized invasion-induced matrix degradation as well as system calibration, validation data are presented. Undesirable outcomes from common experimental errors and troubleshooting of these issues are also presented. The 96-well 3D culture plating format implemented in this protocol is conducive to correlation of microrheology measurements with therapeutic screening assays or molecular imaging to gain new insights into impact of treatments or biochemical stimuli on the mechanical microenvironment.
Bioengineering, Issue 88, viscoelasticity, mechanobiology, extracellular matrix (ECM), matrix remodeling, 3D tumor models, tumor microenvironment, stroma, matrix metalloprotease (MMP), epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)
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Actin Co-Sedimentation Assay; for the Analysis of Protein Binding to F-Actin
Authors: Jyoti Srivastava, Diane Barber.
Institutions: University of California, San Francisco - UCSF.
The actin cytoskeleton within the cell is a network of actin filaments that allows the movement of cells and cellular processes, and that generates tension and helps maintains cellular shape. Although the actin cytoskeleton is a rigid structure, it is a dynamic structure that is constantly remodeling. A number of proteins can bind to the actin cytoskeleton. The binding of a particular protein to F-actin is often desired to support cell biological observations or to further understand dynamic processes due to remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton. The actin co-sedimentation assay is an in vitro assay routinely used to analyze the binding of specific proteins or protein domains with F-actin. The basic principles of the assay involve an incubation of the protein of interest (full length or domain of) with F-actin, ultracentrifugation step to pellet F-actin and analysis of the protein co-sedimenting with F-actin. Actin co-sedimentation assays can be designed accordingly to measure actin binding affinities and in competition assays.
Biochemistry, Issue 13, F-actin, protein, in vitro binding, ultracentrifugation
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Live Cell Response to Mechanical Stimulation Studied by Integrated Optical and Atomic Force Microscopy
Authors: Andreea Trache, Soon-Mi Lim.
Institutions: Texas A&M Health Science Center, Texas A&M University.
To understand the mechanism by which living cells sense mechanical forces, and how they respond and adapt to their environment, a new technology able to investigate cells behavior at sub-cellular level with high spatial and temporal resolution was developed. Thus, an atomic force microscope (AFM) was integrated with total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy and fast-spinning disk (FSD) confocal microscopy. The integrated system is broadly applicable across a wide range of molecular dynamic studies in any adherent live cells, allowing direct optical imaging of cell responses to mechanical stimulation in real-time. Significant rearrangement of the actin filaments and focal adhesions was shown due to local mechanical stimulation at the apical cell surface that induced changes into the cellular structure throughout the cell body. These innovative techniques will provide new information for understanding live cell restructuring and dynamics in response to mechanical force. A detailed protocol and a representative data set that show live cell response to mechanical stimulation are presented.
Cellular Biology, Issue 44, live cells, mechanical stimulation, integrated microscopy, atomic force microscopy, spinning-disk confocal, total internal reflection fluorescence
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Measuring the Bending Stiffness of Bacterial Cells Using an Optical Trap
Authors: Siyuan Wang, Hugo Arellano-Santoyo, Peter A. Combs, Joshua W. Shaevitz.
Institutions: Princeton University, Princeton University.
We developed a protocol to measure the bending rigidity of filamentous rod-shaped bacteria. Forces are applied with an optical trap, a microscopic three-dimensional spring made of light that is formed when a high-intensity laser beam is focused to a very small spot by a microscope's objective lens. To bend a cell, we first bind live bacteria to a chemically-treated coverslip. As these cells grow, the middle of the cells remains bound to the coverslip but the growing ends are free of this restraint. By inducing filamentous growth with the drug cephalexin, we are able to identify cells in which one end of the cell was stuck to the surface while the other end remained unattached and susceptible to bending forces. A bending force is then applied with an optical trap by binding a polylysine-coated bead to the tip of a growing cell. Both the force and the displacement of the bead are recorded and the bending stiffness of the cell is the slope of this relationship.
Microbiology, Issue 38, optical trap, cell mechanics, E. coli, cell bending
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