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The making of a monster: postnatal ontogenetic changes in craniomandibular shape in the great sabercat Smilodon.
Derived sabercats had craniomandibular morphologies that in many respects were highly different from those of extant felids, and this has often been interpreted functionally as adaptations for predation at extreme gape angles with hypertrophied upper canines. It is unknown how much of this was a result of intraspecific postnatal ontogeny, since juveniles of sabercats are rare and no quantitative study has been made of craniomandibular ontogeny. Postnatal ontogenetic craniomandibular shape changes in two morphologically derived sabercats, Smilodon fatalis and S. populator, were analysed using geometric morphometrics and compared to three species of extant pantherines, the jaguar, tiger, and Sunda clouded leopard. Ontogenetic shape changes in Smilodon usually involved the same areas of the cranium and mandible as in extant pantherines, and large-scale modularization was similar, suggesting that such may have been the case for all felids, since it followed the same trends previously observed in other mammals. However, in other respects Smilodon differed from extant pantherines. Their crania underwent much greater and more localised ontogenetic shape changes than did the mandibles, whereas crania and mandibles of extant pantherines underwent smaller, fewer and less localised shape changes. Ontogenetic shape changes in the two species of Smilodon are largely similar, but differences are also present, notably those which may be tied to the presence of larger upper canines in S. populator. Several of the specialized cranial characters differentiating adult Smilodon from extant felids in a functional context, which are usually regarded as evolutionary adaptations for achieving high gape angles, are ontogenetic, and in several instances ontogeny appears to recapitulate phylogeny to some extent. No such ontogenetic evolutionary adaptive changes were found in the extant pantherines. Evolution in morphologically derived sabercats involved greater cranial ontogenetic changes than among extant felids, resulting in greatly modified adult craniomandibular morphologies.
Authors: Matthew Moore, Yifan Hu, Sarah Woo, Dylan O'Hearn, Alexandru D. Iordan, Sanda Dolcos, Florin Dolcos.
Published: 07-02-2014
The present paper describes a comprehensive protocol for manual tracing of the set of brain regions comprising the medial temporal lobe (MTL): amygdala, hippocampus, and the associated parahippocampal regions (perirhinal, entorhinal, and parahippocampal proper). Unlike most other tracing protocols available, typically focusing on certain MTL areas (e.g., amygdala and/or hippocampus), the integrative perspective adopted by the present tracing guidelines allows for clear localization of all MTL subregions. By integrating information from a variety of sources, including extant tracing protocols separately targeting various MTL structures, histological reports, and brain atlases, and with the complement of illustrative visual materials, the present protocol provides an accurate, intuitive, and convenient guide for understanding the MTL anatomy. The need for such tracing guidelines is also emphasized by illustrating possible differences between automatic and manual segmentation protocols. This knowledge can be applied toward research involving not only structural MRI investigations but also structural-functional colocalization and fMRI signal extraction from anatomically defined ROIs, in healthy and clinical groups alike.
26 Related JoVE Articles!
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The Slice Culture Method for Following Development of Tooth Germs In Explant Culture
Authors: Sarah A. Alfaqeeh, Abigail S. Tucker.
Institutions: King's College London, King Saud University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Explant culture allows manipulation of developing organs at specific time points and is therefore an important method for the developmental biologist. For many organs it is difficult to access developing tissue to allow monitoring during ex vivo culture. The slice culture method allows access to tissue so that morphogenetic movements can be followed and specific cell populations can be targeted for manipulation or lineage tracing. In this paper we describe a method of slice culture that has been very successful for culture of tooth germs in a range of species. The method provides excellent access to the tooth germs, which develop at a similar rate to that observed in vivo, surrounded by the other jaw tissues. This allows tissue interactions between the tooth and surrounding tissue to be monitored. Although this paper concentrates on tooth germs, the same protocol can be applied to follow development of a number of other organs, such as salivary glands, Meckel's cartilage, nasal glands, tongue, and ear.
Anatomy, Issue 81, Tooth, Culture Techniques, Embryo Culture Techniques, Organ Culture Techniques, Developmental Biology, animal biology, animal models, Tooth germ, live slice, development, tissue chopper, lineage tracing, molar, incisor, gland
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The ITS2 Database
Authors: Benjamin Merget, Christian Koetschan, Thomas Hackl, Frank Förster, Thomas Dandekar, Tobias Müller, Jörg Schultz, Matthias Wolf.
Institutions: University of Würzburg, University of Würzburg.
The internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) has been used as a phylogenetic marker for more than two decades. As ITS2 research mainly focused on the very variable ITS2 sequence, it confined this marker to low-level phylogenetics only. However, the combination of the ITS2 sequence and its highly conserved secondary structure improves the phylogenetic resolution1 and allows phylogenetic inference at multiple taxonomic ranks, including species delimitation2-8. The ITS2 Database9 presents an exhaustive dataset of internal transcribed spacer 2 sequences from NCBI GenBank11 accurately reannotated10. Following an annotation by profile Hidden Markov Models (HMMs), the secondary structure of each sequence is predicted. First, it is tested whether a minimum energy based fold12 (direct fold) results in a correct, four helix conformation. If this is not the case, the structure is predicted by homology modeling13. In homology modeling, an already known secondary structure is transferred to another ITS2 sequence, whose secondary structure was not able to fold correctly in a direct fold. The ITS2 Database is not only a database for storage and retrieval of ITS2 sequence-structures. It also provides several tools to process your own ITS2 sequences, including annotation, structural prediction, motif detection and BLAST14 search on the combined sequence-structure information. Moreover, it integrates trimmed versions of 4SALE15,16 and ProfDistS17 for multiple sequence-structure alignment calculation and Neighbor Joining18 tree reconstruction. Together they form a coherent analysis pipeline from an initial set of sequences to a phylogeny based on sequence and secondary structure. In a nutshell, this workbench simplifies first phylogenetic analyses to only a few mouse-clicks, while additionally providing tools and data for comprehensive large-scale analyses.
Genetics, Issue 61, alignment, internal transcribed spacer 2, molecular systematics, secondary structure, ribosomal RNA, phylogenetic tree, homology modeling, phylogeny
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The Green Monster Process for the Generation of Yeast Strains Carrying Multiple Gene Deletions
Authors: Yo Suzuki, Jason Stam, Mark Novotny, Nozomu Yachie, Roger S. Lasken, Frederick P. Roth.
Institutions: J. Craig Venter Institute, J. Craig Venter Institute, University of Toronto, Mt Sinai Hospital.
Phenotypes for a gene deletion are often revealed only when the mutation is tested in a particular genetic background or environmental condition1,2. There are examples where many genes need to be deleted to unmask hidden gene functions3,4. Despite the potential for important discoveries, genetic interactions involving three or more genes are largely unexplored. Exhaustive searches of multi-mutant interactions would be impractical due to the sheer number of possible combinations of deletions. However, studies of selected sets of genes, such as sets of paralogs with a greater a priori chance of sharing a common function, would be informative. In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, gene knockout is accomplished by replacing a gene with a selectable marker via homologous recombination. Because the number of markers is limited, methods have been developed for removing and reusing the same marker5,6,7,8,9,10. However, sequentially engineering multiple mutations using these methods is time-consuming because the time required scales linearly with the number of deletions to be generated. Here we describe the Green Monster method for routinely engineering multiple deletions in yeast11. In this method, a green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter integrated into deletions is used to quantitatively label strains according to the number of deletions contained in each strain (Figure 1). Repeated rounds of assortment of GFP-marked deletions via yeast mating and meiosis coupled with flow-cytometric enrichment of strains carrying more of these deletions lead to the accumulation of deletions in strains (Figure 2). Performing multiple processes in parallel, with each process incorporating one or more deletions per round, reduces the time required for strain construction. The first step is to prepare haploid single-mutants termed 'ProMonsters,' each of which carries a GFP reporter in a deleted locus and one of the 'toolkit' loci—either Green Monster GMToolkit-a or GMToolkit-α at the can1Δ locus (Figure 3). Using strains from the yeast deletion collection12, GFP-marked deletions can be conveniently generated by replacing the common KanMX4 cassette existing in these strains with a universal GFP-URA3 fragment. Each GMToolkit contains: either the a- or α-mating-type-specific haploid selection marker1 and exactly one of the two markers that, when both GMToolkits are present, collectively allow for selection of diploids. The second step is to carry out the sexual cycling through which deletion loci can be combined within a single cell by the random assortment and/or meiotic recombination that accompanies each cycle of mating and sporulation.
Microbiology, Issue 70, Genetics, Synthetic Biology, Environmental Genomics, Genomics, Bioengineering, Biomedical Engineering, Cellular Biology, Multi-site genomic engineering, genetic interaction, green fluorescent protein, GFP, flow cytometry, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, yeast, Green Monster
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Whole Mount Immunofluorescent Staining of the Neonatal Mouse Retina to Investigate Angiogenesis In vivo
Authors: Simon Tual-Chalot, Kathleen R. Allinson, Marcus Fruttiger, Helen M. Arthur.
Institutions: Newcastle University , University College, London.
Angiogenesis is the complex process of new blood vessel formation defined by the sprouting of new blood vessels from a pre-existing vessel network. Angiogenesis plays a key role not only in normal development of organs and tissues, but also in many diseases in which blood vessel formation is dysregulated, such as cancer, blindness and ischemic diseases. In adult life, blood vessels are generally quiescent so angiogenesis is an important target for novel drug development to try and regulate new vessel formation specifically in disease. In order to better understand angiogenesis and to develop appropriate strategies to regulate it, models are required that accurately reflect the different biological steps that are involved. The mouse neonatal retina provides an excellent model of angiogenesis because arteries, veins and capillaries develop to form a vascular plexus during the first week after birth. This model also has the advantage of having a two-dimensional (2D) structure making analysis straightforward compared with the complex 3D anatomy of other vascular networks. By analyzing the retinal vascular plexus at different times after birth, it is possible to observe the various stages of angiogenesis under the microscope. This article demonstrates a straightforward procedure for analyzing the vasculature of a mouse retina using fluorescent staining with isolectin and vascular specific antibodies.
Developmental Biology, Issue 77, Neurobiology, Neuroscience, Biomedical Engineering, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology, Ophthalmology, Angiogenesis Modulating Agents, Growth and Development, Lymphangiogenesis, Angiogenesis, Mouse Neonatal Retina, Immunofluorescent-Staining, confocal microscopy, imaging, animal model
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In vivo Postnatal Electroporation and Time-lapse Imaging of Neuroblast Migration in Mouse Acute Brain Slices
Authors: Martina Sonego, Ya Zhou, Madeleine Julie Oudin, Patrick Doherty, Giovanna Lalli.
Institutions: King's College London, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The subventricular zone (SVZ) is one of the main neurogenic niches in the postnatal brain. Here, neural progenitors proliferate and give rise to neuroblasts able to move along the rostral migratory stream (RMS) towards the olfactory bulb (OB). This long-distance migration is required for the subsequent maturation of newborn neurons in the OB, but the molecular mechanisms regulating this process are still unclear. Investigating the signaling pathways controlling neuroblast motility may not only help understand a fundamental step in neurogenesis, but also have therapeutic regenerative potential, given the ability of these neuroblasts to target brain sites affected by injury, stroke, or degeneration. In this manuscript we describe a detailed protocol for in vivo postnatal electroporation and subsequent time-lapse imaging of neuroblast migration in the mouse RMS. Postnatal electroporation can efficiently transfect SVZ progenitor cells, which in turn generate neuroblasts migrating along the RMS. Using confocal spinning disk time-lapse microscopy on acute brain slice cultures, neuroblast migration can be monitored in an environment closely resembling the in vivo condition. Moreover, neuroblast motility can be tracked and quantitatively analyzed. As an example, we describe how to use in vivo postnatal electroporation of a GFP-expressing plasmid to label and visualize neuroblasts migrating along the RMS. Electroporation of shRNA or CRE recombinase-expressing plasmids in conditional knockout mice employing the LoxP system can also be used to target genes of interest. Pharmacological manipulation of acute brain slice cultures can be performed to investigate the role of different signaling molecules in neuroblast migration. By coupling in vivo electroporation with time-lapse imaging, we hope to understand the molecular mechanisms controlling neuroblast motility and contribute to the development of novel approaches to promote brain repair.
Neuroscience, Issue 81, Time-Lapse Imaging, Cell Migration Assays, Electroporation, neurogenesis, neuroblast migration, neural stem cells, subventricular zone (SVZ), rostral migratory stream (RMS), neonatal mouse pups, electroporation, time-lapse imaging, brain slice culture, cell tracking
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Preparation of Acute Subventricular Zone Slices for Calcium Imaging
Authors: Benjamin Lacar, Stephanie Z. Young, Jean-Claude Platel, Angélique Bordey.
Institutions: Yale University School of Medicine .
The subventricular zone (SVZ) is one of the two neurogenic zones in the postnatal brain. The SVZ contains densely packed cells, including neural progenitor cells with astrocytic features (called SVZ astrocytes), neuroblasts, and intermediate progenitor cells. Neuroblasts born in the SVZ tangentially migrate a great distance to the olfactory bulb, where they differentiate into interneurons. Intercellular signaling through adhesion molecules and diffusible signals play important roles in controlling neurogenesis. Many of these signals trigger intercellular calcium activity that transmits information inside and between cells. Calcium activity is thus reflective of the activity of extracellular signals and is an optimal way to understand functional intercellular signaling among SVZ cells. Calcium activity has been studied in many other regions and cell types, including mature astrocytes and neurons. However, the traditional method to load cells with calcium indicator dye (i.e. bath loading) was not efficient at loading all SVZ cell types. Indeed, the cellular density in the SVZ precludes dye diffusion inside the tissue. In addition, preparing sagittal slices will better preserve the three-dimensional arrangement of SVZ cells, particularly the stream of neuroblast migration on the rostral-caudal axis. Here, we describe methods to prepare sagittal sections containing the SVZ, the loading of SVZ cells with calcium indicator dye, and the acquisition of calcium activity with time-lapse movies. We used Fluo-4 AM dye for loading SVZ astrocytes using pressure application inside the tissue. Calcium activity was recorded using a scanning confocal microscope allowing a precise resolution for distinguishing individual cells. Our approach is applicable to other neurogenic zones including the adult hippocampal subgranular zone and embryonic neurogenic zones. In addition, other types of dyes can be applied using the described method.
Neuroscience, Issue 67, Molecular Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, subventricular zone, adult neurogenesis, gap junction, calcium imaging, neural stem cell
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Postsynaptic Recordings at Afferent Dendrites Contacting Cochlear Inner Hair Cells: Monitoring Multivesicular Release at a Ribbon Synapse
Authors: Lisa Grant, Eunyoung Yi, Juan D. Goutman, Elisabeth Glowatzki.
Institutions: The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas.
The afferent synapse between the inner hair cell (IHC) and the auditory nerve fiber provides an electrophysiologically accessible site for recording the postsynaptic activity of a single ribbon synapse 1-4. Ribbon synapses of sensory cells release neurotransmitter continuously, the rate of which is modulated in response to graded changes in IHC membrane potential 5. Ribbon synapses have been shown to operate by multivesicular release, where multiple vesicles can be released simultaneously to evoke excitatory postsynaptic currents (EPSCs) of varying amplitudes 1, 4, 6-11. Neither the role of the presynaptic ribbon, nor the mechanism underlying multivesicular release is currently well understood. The IHC is innervated by 10-20 auditory nerve fibers, and every fiber contacts the IHC with a unmyelinated single ending to form a single ribbon synapse. The small size of the afferent boutons contacting IHCs (approximately 1 μm in diameter) enables recordings with exceptional temporal resolution to be made. Furthermore, the technique can be adapted to record from both pre- and postsynaptic cells simultaneously, allowing the transfer function at the synapse to be studied directly 2. This method therefore provides a means by which fundamental aspects of neurotransmission can be studied, from multivesicular release to the elusive function of the ribbon in sensory cells.
Neuroscience, Issue 48, electrophysiology, whole-cell recording, patch clamp, synaptic transmission, ribbon synapse, multivesicular, dendrite, auditory nerve, hearing, hair cell.
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RNA Secondary Structure Prediction Using High-throughput SHAPE
Authors: Sabrina Lusvarghi, Joanna Sztuba-Solinska, Katarzyna J. Purzycka, Jason W. Rausch, Stuart F.J. Le Grice.
Institutions: Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research.
Understanding the function of RNA involved in biological processes requires a thorough knowledge of RNA structure. Toward this end, the methodology dubbed "high-throughput selective 2' hydroxyl acylation analyzed by primer extension", or SHAPE, allows prediction of RNA secondary structure with single nucleotide resolution. This approach utilizes chemical probing agents that preferentially acylate single stranded or flexible regions of RNA in aqueous solution. Sites of chemical modification are detected by reverse transcription of the modified RNA, and the products of this reaction are fractionated by automated capillary electrophoresis (CE). Since reverse transcriptase pauses at those RNA nucleotides modified by the SHAPE reagents, the resulting cDNA library indirectly maps those ribonucleotides that are single stranded in the context of the folded RNA. Using ShapeFinder software, the electropherograms produced by automated CE are processed and converted into nucleotide reactivity tables that are themselves converted into pseudo-energy constraints used in the RNAStructure (v5.3) prediction algorithm. The two-dimensional RNA structures obtained by combining SHAPE probing with in silico RNA secondary structure prediction have been found to be far more accurate than structures obtained using either method alone.
Genetics, Issue 75, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Virology, Cancer Biology, Medicine, Genomics, Nucleic Acid Probes, RNA Probes, RNA, High-throughput SHAPE, Capillary electrophoresis, RNA structure, RNA probing, RNA folding, secondary structure, DNA, nucleic acids, electropherogram, synthesis, transcription, high throughput, sequencing
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Nucleofection of Rodent Neuroblasts to Study Neuroblast Migration In vitro
Authors: Katarzyna Falenta, Sangeetha Gajendra, Martina Sonego, Patrick Doherty, Giovanna Lalli.
Institutions: King's College London, King's College London.
The subventricular zone (SVZ) located in the lateral wall of the lateral ventricles plays a fundamental role in adult neurogenesis. In this restricted area of the brain, neural stem cells proliferate and constantly generate neuroblasts that migrate tangentially in chains along the rostral migratory stream (RMS) to reach the olfactory bulb (OB). Once in the OB, neuroblasts switch to radial migration and then differentiate into mature neurons able to incorporate into the preexisting neuronal network. Proper neuroblast migration is a fundamental step in neurogenesis, ensuring the correct functional maturation of newborn neurons. Given the ability of SVZ-derived neuroblasts to target injured areas in the brain, investigating the intracellular mechanisms underlying their motility will not only enhance the understanding of neurogenesis but may also promote the development of neuroregenerative strategies. This manuscript describes a detailed protocol for the transfection of primary rodent RMS postnatal neuroblasts and the analysis of their motility using a 3D in vitro migration assay recapitulating their mode of migration observed in vivo. Both rat and mouse neuroblasts can be quickly and efficiently transfected via nucleofection with either plasmid DNA, small hairpin (sh)RNA or short interfering (si)RNA oligos targeting genes of interest. To analyze migration, nucleofected cells are reaggregated in 'hanging drops' and subsequently embedded in a three-dimensional matrix. Nucleofection per se does not significantly impair the migration of neuroblasts. Pharmacological treatment of nucleofected and reaggregated neuroblasts can also be performed to study the role of signaling pathways involved in neuroblast migration.
Neuroscience, Issue 81, Cellular Biology, Cell Migration Assays, Transfection, Neurogenesis, subventricular zone (SVZ), neural stem cells, rostral migratory stream (RMS), neuroblast, 3D migration assay, nucleofection
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Gene Transfer to the Developing Mouse Inner Ear by In Vivo Electroporation
Authors: Lingyan Wang, Han Jiang, John V. Brigande.
Institutions: Oregon Health & Science University.
The mammalian inner ear has 6 distinct sensory epithelia: 3 cristae in the ampullae of the semicircular canals; maculae in the utricle and saccule; and the organ of Corti in the coiled cochlea. The cristae and maculae contain vestibular hair cells that transduce mechanical stimuli to subserve the special sense of balance, while auditory hair cells in the organ of Corti are the primary transducers for hearing 1. Cell fate specification in these sensory epithelia and morphogenesis of the semicircular canals and cochlea take place during the second week of gestation in the mouse and are largely completed before birth 2,3. Developmental studies of the mouse inner ear are routinely conducted by harvesting transgenic embryos at different embryonic or postnatal stages to gain insight into the molecular basis of cellular and/or morphological phenotypes 4,5. We hypothesize that gene transfer to the developing mouse inner ear in utero in the context of gain- and loss-of-function studies represents a complimentary approach to traditional mouse transgenesis for the interrogation of the genetic mechanisms underlying mammalian inner ear development6. The experimental paradigm to conduct gene misexpression studies in the developing mouse inner ear demonstrated here resolves into three general steps: 1) ventral laparotomy; 2) transuterine microinjection; and 3) in vivo electroporation. Ventral laparotomy is a mouse survival surgical technique that permits externalization of the uterus to gain experimental access to the implanted embryos7. Transuterine microinjection is the use of beveled, glass capillary micropipettes to introduce expression plasmid into the lumen of the otic vesicle or otocyst. In vivo electroporation is the application of square wave, direct current pulses to drive expression plasmid into progenitor cells8-10. We previously described this electroporation-based gene transfer technique and included detailed notes on each step of the protocol11. Mouse experimental embryological techniques can be difficult to learn from prose and still images alone. In the present work, we demonstrate the 3 steps in the gene transfer procedure. Most critically, we deploy digital video microscopy to show precisely how to: 1) identify embryo orientation in utero; 2) reorient embryos for targeting injections to the otocyst; 3) microinject DNA mixed with tracer dye solution into the otocyst at embryonic days 11.5 and 12.5; 4) electroporate the injected otocyst; and 5) label electroporated embryos for postnatal selection at birth. We provide representative examples of successfully transfected inner ears; a pictorial guide to the most common causes of otocyst mistargeting; discuss how to avoid common methodological errors; and present guidelines for writing an in utero gene transfer animal care protocol.
Neuroscience, Issue 64, Developmental Biology, Physiology, Genetics, Inner ear, otocyst, in vivo electroporation, ventral laparotomy, transuterine microinjection, video microscopy
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Primer Extension Capture: Targeted Sequence Retrieval from Heavily Degraded DNA Sources
Authors: Adrian W. Briggs, Jeffrey M. Good, Richard E. Green, Johannes Krause, Tomislav Maricic, Udo Stenzel, Svante Pääbo.
Institutions: Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig.
We present a method of targeted DNA sequence retrieval from DNA sources which are heavily degraded and contaminated with microbial DNA, as is typical of ancient bones. The method greatly reduces sample destruction and sequencing demands relative to direct PCR or shotgun sequencing approaches. We used this method to reconstruct the complete mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genomes of five Neandertals from across their geographic range. The mtDNA genetic diversity of the late Neandertals was approximately three times lower than that of contemporary modern humans. Together with analyses of mtDNA protein evolution, these data suggest that the long-term effective population size of Neandertals was smaller than that of modern humans and extant great apes.
Cellular Biology, Issue 31, Neandertal, anthropology, evolution, ancient DNA, DNA sequencing, targeted sequencing, capture
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Construction of Vapor Chambers Used to Expose Mice to Alcohol During the Equivalent of all Three Trimesters of Human Development
Authors: Russell A. Morton, Marvin R. Diaz, Lauren A. Topper, C. Fernando Valenzuela.
Institutions: University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.
Exposure to alcohol during development can result in a constellation of morphological and behavioral abnormalities that are collectively known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). At the most severe end of the spectrum is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), characterized by growth retardation, craniofacial dysmorphology, and neurobehavioral deficits. Studies with animal models, including rodents, have elucidated many molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of FASDs. Ethanol administration to pregnant rodents has been used to model human exposure during the first and second trimesters of pregnancy. Third trimester ethanol consumption in humans has been modeled using neonatal rodents. However, few rodent studies have characterized the effect of ethanol exposure during the equivalent to all three trimesters of human pregnancy, a pattern of exposure that is common in pregnant women. Here, we show how to build vapor chambers from readily obtainable materials that can each accommodate up to six standard mouse cages. We describe a vapor chamber paradigm that can be used to model exposure to ethanol, with minimal handling, during all three trimesters. Our studies demonstrate that pregnant dams developed significant metabolic tolerance to ethanol. However, neonatal mice did not develop metabolic tolerance and the number of fetuses, fetus weight, placenta weight, number of pups/litter, number of dead pups/litter, and pup weight were not significantly affected by ethanol exposure. An important advantage of this paradigm is its applicability to studies with genetically-modified mice. Additionally, this paradigm minimizes handling of animals, a major confound in fetal alcohol research.
Medicine, Issue 89, fetal, ethanol, exposure, paradigm, vapor, development, alcoholism, teratogenic, animal, mouse, model
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Extraction of Venom and Venom Gland Microdissections from Spiders for Proteomic and Transcriptomic Analyses
Authors: Jessica E. Garb.
Institutions: University of Massachusetts Lowell.
Venoms are chemically complex secretions typically comprising numerous proteins and peptides with varied physiological activities. Functional characterization of venom proteins has important biomedical applications, including the identification of drug leads or probes for cellular receptors. Spiders are the most species rich clade of venomous organisms, but the venoms of only a few species are well-understood, in part due to the difficulty associated with collecting minute quantities of venom from small animals. This paper presents a protocol for the collection of venom from spiders using electrical stimulation, demonstrating the procedure on the Western black widow (Latrodectus hesperus). The collected venom is useful for varied downstream analyses including direct protein identification via mass spectrometry, functional assays, and stimulation of venom gene expression for transcriptomic studies. This technique has the advantage over protocols that isolate venom from whole gland homogenates, which do not separate genuine venom components from cellular proteins that are not secreted as part of the venom. Representative results demonstrate the detection of known venom peptides from the collected sample using mass spectrometry. The venom collection procedure is followed by a protocol for dissecting spider venom glands, with results demonstrating that this leads to the characterization of venom-expressed proteins and peptides at the sequence level.
Genetics, Issue 93, spider, toxin, proteomics, transcriptomics, electrical stimulation, Latrodectus
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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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Non-radioactive in situ Hybridization Protocol Applicable for Norway Spruce and a Range of Plant Species
Authors: Anna Karlgren, Jenny Carlsson, Niclas Gyllenstrand, Ulf Lagercrantz, Jens F. Sundström.
Institutions: Uppsala University, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
The high-throughput expression analysis technologies available today give scientists an overflow of expression profiles but their resolution in terms of tissue specific expression is limited because of problems in dissecting individual tissues. Expression data needs to be confirmed and complemented with expression patterns using e.g. in situ hybridization, a technique used to localize cell specific mRNA expression. The in situ hybridization method is laborious, time-consuming and often requires extensive optimization depending on species and tissue. In situ experiments are relatively more difficult to perform in woody species such as the conifer Norway spruce (Picea abies). Here we present a modified DIG in situ hybridization protocol, which is fast and applicable on a wide range of plant species including P. abies. With just a few adjustments, including altered RNase treatment and proteinase K concentration, we could use the protocol to study tissue specific expression of homologous genes in male reproductive organs of one gymnosperm and two angiosperm species; P. abies, Arabidopsis thaliana and Brassica napus. The protocol worked equally well for the species and genes studied. AtAP3 and BnAP3 were observed in second and third whorl floral organs in A. thaliana and B. napus and DAL13 in microsporophylls of male cones from P. abies. For P. abies the proteinase K concentration, used to permeablize the tissues, had to be increased to 3 g/ml instead of 1 g/ml, possibly due to more compact tissues and higher levels of phenolics and polysaccharides. For all species the RNase treatment was removed due to reduced signal strength without a corresponding increase in specificity. By comparing tissue specific expression patterns of homologous genes from both flowering plants and a coniferous tree we demonstrate that the DIG in situ protocol presented here, with only minute adjustments, can be applied to a wide range of plant species. Hence, the protocol avoids both extensive species specific optimization and the laborious use of radioactively labeled probes in favor of DIG labeled probes. We have chosen to illustrate the technically demanding steps of the protocol in our film. Anna Karlgren and Jenny Carlsson contributed equally to this study. Corresponding authors: Anna Karlgren at and Jens F. Sundström at
Plant Biology, Issue 26, RNA, expression analysis, Norway spruce, Arabidopsis, rapeseed, conifers
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Perceptual and Category Processing of the Uncanny Valley Hypothesis' Dimension of Human Likeness: Some Methodological Issues
Authors: Marcus Cheetham, Lutz Jancke.
Institutions: University of Zurich.
Mori's Uncanny Valley Hypothesis1,2 proposes that the perception of humanlike characters such as robots and, by extension, avatars (computer-generated characters) can evoke negative or positive affect (valence) depending on the object's degree of visual and behavioral realism along a dimension of human likeness (DHL) (Figure 1). But studies of affective valence of subjective responses to variously realistic non-human characters have produced inconsistent findings 3, 4, 5, 6. One of a number of reasons for this is that human likeness is not perceived as the hypothesis assumes. While the DHL can be defined following Mori's description as a smooth linear change in the degree of physical humanlike similarity, subjective perception of objects along the DHL can be understood in terms of the psychological effects of categorical perception (CP) 7. Further behavioral and neuroimaging investigations of category processing and CP along the DHL and of the potential influence of the dimension's underlying category structure on affective experience are needed. This protocol therefore focuses on the DHL and allows examination of CP. Based on the protocol presented in the video as an example, issues surrounding the methodology in the protocol and the use in "uncanny" research of stimuli drawn from morph continua to represent the DHL are discussed in the article that accompanies the video. The use of neuroimaging and morph stimuli to represent the DHL in order to disentangle brain regions neurally responsive to physical human-like similarity from those responsive to category change and category processing is briefly illustrated.
Behavior, Issue 76, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Molecular Biology, Psychology, Neuropsychology, uncanny valley, functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI, categorical perception, virtual reality, avatar, human likeness, Mori, uncanny valley hypothesis, perception, magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, imaging, clinical techniques
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Preparation of Primary Myogenic Precursor Cell/Myoblast Cultures from Basal Vertebrate Lineages
Authors: Jacob Michael Froehlich, Iban Seiliez, Jean-Charles Gabillard, Peggy R. Biga.
Institutions: University of Alabama at Birmingham, INRA UR1067, INRA UR1037.
Due to the inherent difficulty and time involved with studying the myogenic program in vivo, primary culture systems derived from the resident adult stem cells of skeletal muscle, the myogenic precursor cells (MPCs), have proven indispensible to our understanding of mammalian skeletal muscle development and growth. Particularly among the basal taxa of Vertebrata, however, data are limited describing the molecular mechanisms controlling the self-renewal, proliferation, and differentiation of MPCs. Of particular interest are potential mechanisms that underlie the ability of basal vertebrates to undergo considerable postlarval skeletal myofiber hyperplasia (i.e. teleost fish) and full regeneration following appendage loss (i.e. urodele amphibians). Additionally, the use of cultured myoblasts could aid in the understanding of regeneration and the recapitulation of the myogenic program and the differences between them. To this end, we describe in detail a robust and efficient protocol (and variations therein) for isolating and maintaining MPCs and their progeny, myoblasts and immature myotubes, in cell culture as a platform for understanding the evolution of the myogenic program, beginning with the more basal vertebrates. Capitalizing on the model organism status of the zebrafish (Danio rerio), we report on the application of this protocol to small fishes of the cyprinid clade Danioninae. In tandem, this protocol can be utilized to realize a broader comparative approach by isolating MPCs from the Mexican axolotl (Ambystomamexicanum) and even laboratory rodents. This protocol is now widely used in studying myogenesis in several fish species, including rainbow trout, salmon, and sea bream1-4.
Basic Protocol, Issue 86, myogenesis, zebrafish, myoblast, cell culture, giant danio, moustached danio, myotubes, proliferation, differentiation, Danioninae, axolotl
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Quantification of Orofacial Phenotypes in Xenopus
Authors: Allyson E. Kennedy, Amanda J. Dickinson.
Institutions: Virginia Commonwealth University.
Xenopus has become an important tool for dissecting the mechanisms governing craniofacial development and defects. A method to quantify orofacial development will allow for more rigorous analysis of orofacial phenotypes upon abrogation with substances that can genetically or molecularly manipulate gene expression or protein function. Using two dimensional images of the embryonic heads, traditional size dimensions-such as orofacial width, height and area- are measured. In addition, a roundness measure of the embryonic mouth opening is used to describe the shape of the mouth. Geometric morphometrics of these two dimensional images is also performed to provide a more sophisticated view of changes in the shape of the orofacial region. Landmarks are assigned to specific points in the orofacial region and coordinates are created. A principle component analysis is used to reduce landmark coordinates to principle components that then discriminate the treatment groups. These results are displayed as a scatter plot in which individuals with similar orofacial shapes cluster together. It is also useful to perform a discriminant function analysis, which statistically compares the positions of the landmarks between two treatment groups. This analysis is displayed on a transformation grid where changes in landmark position are viewed as vectors. A grid is superimposed on these vectors so that a warping pattern is displayed to show where significant landmark positions have changed. Shape changes in the discriminant function analysis are based on a statistical measure, and therefore can be evaluated by a p-value. This analysis is simple and accessible, requiring only a stereoscope and freeware software, and thus will be a valuable research and teaching resource.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, Orofacial quantification, geometric morphometrics, Xenopus, orofacial development, orofacial defects, shape changes, facial dimensions
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Inhibitory Synapse Formation in a Co-culture Model Incorporating GABAergic Medium Spiny Neurons and HEK293 Cells Stably Expressing GABAA Receptors
Authors: Laura E. Brown, Celine Fuchs, Martin W. Nicholson, F. Anne Stephenson, Alex M. Thomson, Jasmina N. Jovanovic.
Institutions: University College London.
Inhibitory neurons act in the central nervous system to regulate the dynamics and spatio-temporal co-ordination of neuronal networks. GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is released from the presynaptic terminals of inhibitory neurons within highly specialized intercellular junctions known as synapses, where it binds to GABAA receptors (GABAARs) present at the plasma membrane of the synapse-receiving, postsynaptic neurons. Activation of these GABA-gated ion channels leads to influx of chloride resulting in postsynaptic potential changes that decrease the probability that these neurons will generate action potentials. During development, diverse types of inhibitory neurons with distinct morphological, electrophysiological and neurochemical characteristics have the ability to recognize their target neurons and form synapses which incorporate specific GABAARs subtypes. This principle of selective innervation of neuronal targets raises the question as to how the appropriate synaptic partners identify each other. To elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms, a novel in vitro co-culture model system was established, in which medium spiny GABAergic neurons, a highly homogenous population of neurons isolated from the embryonic striatum, were cultured with stably transfected HEK293 cell lines that express different GABAAR subtypes. Synapses form rapidly, efficiently and selectively in this system, and are easily accessible for quantification. Our results indicate that various GABAAR subtypes differ in their ability to promote synapse formation, suggesting that this reduced in vitro model system can be used to reproduce, at least in part, the in vivo conditions required for the recognition of the appropriate synaptic partners and formation of specific synapses. Here the protocols for culturing the medium spiny neurons and generating HEK293 cells lines expressing GABAARs are first described, followed by detailed instructions on how to combine these two cell types in co-culture and analyze the formation of synaptic contacts.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, Developmental neuroscience, synaptogenesis, synaptic inhibition, co-culture, stable cell lines, GABAergic, medium spiny neurons, HEK 293 cell line
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Setting-up an In Vitro Model of Rat Blood-brain Barrier (BBB): A Focus on BBB Impermeability and Receptor-mediated Transport
Authors: Yves Molino, Françoise Jabès, Emmanuelle Lacassagne, Nicolas Gaudin, Michel Khrestchatisky.
Institutions: VECT-HORUS SAS, CNRS, NICN UMR 7259.
The blood brain barrier (BBB) specifically regulates molecular and cellular flux between the blood and the nervous tissue. Our aim was to develop and characterize a highly reproducible rat syngeneic in vitro model of the BBB using co-cultures of primary rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC) and astrocytes to study receptors involved in transcytosis across the endothelial cell monolayer. Astrocytes were isolated by mechanical dissection following trypsin digestion and were frozen for later co-culture. RBEC were isolated from 5-week-old rat cortices. The brains were cleaned of meninges and white matter, and mechanically dissociated following enzymatic digestion. Thereafter, the tissue homogenate was centrifuged in bovine serum albumin to separate vessel fragments from nervous tissue. The vessel fragments underwent a second enzymatic digestion to free endothelial cells from their extracellular matrix. The remaining contaminating cells such as pericytes were further eliminated by plating the microvessel fragments in puromycin-containing medium. They were then passaged onto filters for co-culture with astrocytes grown on the bottom of the wells. RBEC expressed high levels of tight junction (TJ) proteins such as occludin, claudin-5 and ZO-1 with a typical localization at the cell borders. The transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of brain endothelial monolayers, indicating the tightness of TJs reached 300 ohm·cm2 on average. The endothelial permeability coefficients (Pe) for lucifer yellow (LY) was highly reproducible with an average of 0.26 ± 0.11 x 10-3 cm/min. Brain endothelial cells organized in monolayers expressed the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp), showed a polarized transport of rhodamine 123, a ligand for P-gp, and showed specific transport of transferrin-Cy3 and DiILDL across the endothelial cell monolayer. In conclusion, we provide a protocol for setting up an in vitro BBB model that is highly reproducible due to the quality assurance methods, and that is suitable for research on BBB transporters and receptors.
Medicine, Issue 88, rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC), mouse, spinal cord, tight junction (TJ), receptor-mediated transport (RMT), low density lipoprotein (LDL), LDLR, transferrin, TfR, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER),
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Aseptic Laboratory Techniques: Plating Methods
Authors: Erin R. Sanders.
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles .
Microorganisms are present on all inanimate surfaces creating ubiquitous sources of possible contamination in the laboratory. Experimental success relies on the ability of a scientist to sterilize work surfaces and equipment as well as prevent contact of sterile instruments and solutions with non-sterile surfaces. Here we present the steps for several plating methods routinely used in the laboratory to isolate, propagate, or enumerate microorganisms such as bacteria and phage. All five methods incorporate aseptic technique, or procedures that maintain the sterility of experimental materials. Procedures described include (1) streak-plating bacterial cultures to isolate single colonies, (2) pour-plating and (3) spread-plating to enumerate viable bacterial colonies, (4) soft agar overlays to isolate phage and enumerate plaques, and (5) replica-plating to transfer cells from one plate to another in an identical spatial pattern. These procedures can be performed at the laboratory bench, provided they involve non-pathogenic strains of microorganisms (Biosafety Level 1, BSL-1). If working with BSL-2 organisms, then these manipulations must take place in a biosafety cabinet. Consult the most current edition of the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) as well as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for Infectious Substances to determine the biohazard classification as well as the safety precautions and containment facilities required for the microorganism in question. Bacterial strains and phage stocks can be obtained from research investigators, companies, and collections maintained by particular organizations such as the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC). It is recommended that non-pathogenic strains be used when learning the various plating methods. By following the procedures described in this protocol, students should be able to: ● Perform plating procedures without contaminating media. ● Isolate single bacterial colonies by the streak-plating method. ● Use pour-plating and spread-plating methods to determine the concentration of bacteria. ● Perform soft agar overlays when working with phage. ● Transfer bacterial cells from one plate to another using the replica-plating procedure. ● Given an experimental task, select the appropriate plating method.
Basic Protocols, Issue 63, Streak plates, pour plates, soft agar overlays, spread plates, replica plates, bacteria, colonies, phage, plaques, dilutions
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Experimental Manipulation of Body Size to Estimate Morphological Scaling Relationships in Drosophila
Authors: R. Craig Stillwell, Ian Dworkin, Alexander W. Shingleton, W. Anthony Frankino.
Institutions: University of Houston, Michigan State University.
The scaling of body parts is a central feature of animal morphology1-7. Within species, morphological traits need to be correctly proportioned to the body for the organism to function; larger individuals typically have larger body parts and smaller individuals generally have smaller body parts, such that overall body shape is maintained across a range of adult body sizes. The requirement for correct proportions means that individuals within species usually exhibit low variation in relative trait size. In contrast, relative trait size can vary dramatically among species and is a primary mechanism by which morphological diversity is produced. Over a century of comparative work has established these intra- and interspecific patterns3,4. Perhaps the most widely used approach to describe this variation is to calculate the scaling relationship between the size of two morphological traits using the allometric equation y=bxα, where x and y are the size of the two traits, such as organ and body size8,9. This equation describes the within-group (e.g., species, population) scaling relationship between two traits as both vary in size. Log-transformation of this equation produces a simple linear equation, log(y) = log(b) + αlog(x) and log-log plots of the size of different traits among individuals of the same species typically reveal linear scaling with an intercept of log(b) and a slope of α, called the 'allometric coefficient'9,10. Morphological variation among groups is described by differences in scaling relationship intercepts or slopes for a given trait pair. Consequently, variation in the parameters of the allometric equation (b and α) elegantly describes the shape variation captured in the relationship between organ and body size within and among biological groups (see 11,12). Not all traits scale linearly with each other or with body size (e.g., 13,14) Hence, morphological scaling relationships are most informative when the data are taken from the full range of trait sizes. Here we describe how simple experimental manipulation of diet can be used to produce the full range of body size in insects. This permits an estimation of the full scaling relationship for any given pair of traits, allowing a complete description of how shape covaries with size and a robust comparison of scaling relationship parameters among biological groups. Although we focus on Drosophila, our methodology should be applicable to nearly any fully metamorphic insect.
Developmental Biology, Issue 56, Drosophila, allometry, morphology, body size, scaling, insect
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Interview: Bioreactors and Surfaced-Modified 3D-Scaffolds for Stem Cell Research
Authors: Karl-Friedrich Weibezahn.
Institutions: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
A Nature Editorial in 2003 asked the question "Good-bye, flat biology?" What does this question imply? In the past, many in vitro culture systems, mainly monolayer cultures, often suffered from the disadvantage that differentiated primary cells had a relatively short life-span and de-differentiated during culture. As a consequence, most of their organ-specific functions were lost rapidly. Thus, in order to reproduce better conditions for these cells in vitro, modifications and adaptations have been made to conventional monolayer cultures. The last generation of CellChips -- micro-thermoformed containers -- a specific technology was developed, which offers the additional possibility to modify the whole surface of the 3D formed containers. This allows a surface-patterning on a submicron scale with distinct signalling molecules. Sensors and signal electrodes may be incorporated. Applications range from basic research in cell biology to toxicology and pharmacology. Using biodegradable polymers, clinical applications become a possibility. Furthermore, the last generation of micro-thermoformed chips has been optimized to allow for cheap mass production.
Cellular Biology, Issue 15, Interview, bioreactors, cell culture systems, 3D cell culture, stem cells
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Quantitative Comparison of cis-Regulatory Element (CRE) Activities in Transgenic Drosophila melanogaster
Authors: William A. Rogers, Thomas M. Williams.
Institutions: University of Dayton, University of Dayton.
Gene expression patterns are specified by cis-regulatory element (CRE) sequences, which are also called enhancers or cis-regulatory modules. A typical CRE possesses an arrangement of binding sites for several transcription factor proteins that confer a regulatory logic specifying when, where, and at what level the regulated gene(s) is expressed. The full set of CREs within an animal genome encodes the organism′s program for development1, and empirical as well as theoretical studies indicate that mutations in CREs played a prominent role in morphological evolution2-4. Moreover, human genome wide association studies indicate that genetic variation in CREs contribute substantially to phenotypic variation5,6. Thus, understanding regulatory logic and how mutations affect such logic is a central goal of genetics. Reporter transgenes provide a powerful method to study the in vivo function of CREs. Here a known or suspected CRE sequence is coupled to heterologous promoter and coding sequences for a reporter gene encoding an easily observable protein product. When a reporter transgene is inserted into a host organism, the CRE′s activity becomes visible in the form of the encoded reporter protein. P-element mediated transgenesis in the fruit fly species Drosophila (D.) melanogaster7 has been used for decades to introduce reporter transgenes into this model organism, though the genomic placement of transgenes is random. Hence, reporter gene activity is strongly influenced by the local chromatin and gene environment, limiting CRE comparisons to being qualitative. In recent years, the phiC31 based integration system was adapted for use in D. melanogaster to insert transgenes into specific genome landing sites8-10. This capability has made the quantitative measurement of gene and, relevant here, CRE activity11-13 feasible. The production of transgenic fruit flies can be outsourced, including phiC31-based integration, eliminating the need to purchase expensive equipment and/or have proficiency at specialized transgene injection protocols. Here, we present a general protocol to quantitatively evaluate a CRE′s activity, and show how this approach can be used to measure the effects of an introduced mutation on a CRE′s activity and to compare the activities of orthologous CREs. Although the examples given are for a CRE active during fruit fly metamorphosis, the approach can be applied to other developmental stages, fruit fly species, or model organisms. Ultimately, a more widespread use of this approach to study CREs should advance an understanding of regulatory logic and how logic can vary and evolve.
Developmental Biology, Issue 58, Cis-regulatory element, CRE, cis-regulatory module, enhancer, site-specific integration, reporter transgenes, confocal microscopy, regulatory logic, transcription factors, binding sites, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila
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Molecular Evolution of the Tre Recombinase
Authors: Frank Buchholz.
Institutions: Max Plank Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden.
Here we report the generation of Tre recombinase through directed, molecular evolution. Tre recombinase recognizes a pre-defined target sequence within the LTR sequences of the HIV-1 provirus, resulting in the excision and eradication of the provirus from infected human cells. We started with Cre, a 38-kDa recombinase, that recognizes a 34-bp double-stranded DNA sequence known as loxP. Because Cre can effectively eliminate genomic sequences, we set out to tailor a recombinase that could remove the sequence between the 5'-LTR and 3'-LTR of an integrated HIV-1 provirus. As a first step we identified sequences within the LTR sites that were similar to loxP and tested for recombination activity. Initially Cre and mutagenized Cre libraries failed to recombine the chosen loxLTR sites of the HIV-1 provirus. As the start of any directed molecular evolution process requires at least residual activity, the original asymmetric loxLTR sequences were split into subsets and tested again for recombination activity. Acting as intermediates, recombination activity was shown with the subsets. Next, recombinase libraries were enriched through reiterative evolution cycles. Subsequently, enriched libraries were shuffled and recombined. The combination of different mutations proved synergistic and recombinases were created that were able to recombine loxLTR1 and loxLTR2. This was evidence that an evolutionary strategy through intermediates can be successful. After a total of 126 evolution cycles individual recombinases were functionally and structurally analyzed. The most active recombinase -- Tre -- had 19 amino acid changes as compared to Cre. Tre recombinase was able to excise the HIV-1 provirus from the genome HIV-1 infected HeLa cells (see "HIV-1 Proviral DNA Excision Using an Evolved Recombinase", Hauber J., Heinrich-Pette-Institute for Experimental Virology and Immunology, Hamburg, Germany). While still in its infancy, directed molecular evolution will allow the creation of custom enzymes that will serve as tools of "molecular surgery" and molecular medicine.
Cell Biology, Issue 15, HIV-1, Tre recombinase, Site-specific recombination, molecular evolution
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Tomato Analyzer: A Useful Software Application to Collect Accurate and Detailed Morphological and Colorimetric Data from Two-dimensional Objects
Authors: Gustavo R. Rodríguez, Jennifer B. Moyseenko, Matthew D. Robbins, Nancy Huarachi Morejón, David M. Francis, Esther van der Knaap.
Institutions: The Ohio State University.
Measuring fruit morphology and color traits of vegetable and fruit crops in an objective and reproducible way is important for detailed phenotypic analyses of these traits. Tomato Analyzer (TA) is a software program that measures 37 attributes related to two-dimensional shape in a semi-automatic and reproducible manner1,2. Many of these attributes, such as angles at the distal and proximal ends of the fruit and areas of indentation, are difficult to quantify manually. The attributes are organized in ten categories within the software: Basic Measurement, Fruit Shape Index, Blockiness, Homogeneity, Proximal Fruit End Shape, Distal Fruit End Shape, Asymmetry, Internal Eccentricity, Latitudinal Section and Morphometrics. The last category requires neither prior knowledge nor predetermined notions of the shape attributes, so morphometric analysis offers an unbiased option that may be better adapted to high-throughput analyses than attribute analysis. TA also offers the Color Test application that was designed to collect color measurements from scanned images and allow scanning devices to be calibrated using color standards3. TA provides several options to export and analyze shape attribute, morphometric, and color data. The data may be exported to an excel file in batch mode (more than 100 images at one time) or exported as individual images. The user can choose between output that displays the average for each attribute for the objects in each image (including standard deviation), or an output that displays the attribute values for each object on the image. TA has been a valuable and effective tool for indentifying and confirming tomato fruit shape Quantitative Trait Loci (QTL), as well as performing in-depth analyses of the effect of key fruit shape genes on plant morphology. Also, TA can be used to objectively classify fruit into various shape categories. Lastly, fruit shape and color traits in other plant species as well as other plant organs such as leaves and seeds can be evaluated with TA.
Plant Biology, Issue 37, morphology, color, image processing, quantitative trait loci, software
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