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Universal sequence replication, reversible polymerization and early functional biopolymers: a model for the initiation of prebiotic sequence evolution.
Many models for the origin of life have focused on understanding how evolution can drive the refinement of a preexisting enzyme, such as the evolution of efficient replicase activity. Here we present a model for what was, arguably, an even earlier stage of chemical evolution, when polymer sequence diversity was generated and sustained before, and during, the onset of functional selection. The model includes regular environmental cycles (e.g. hydration-dehydration cycles) that drive polymers between times of replication and functional activity, which coincide with times of different monomer and polymer diffusivity. Template-directed replication of informational polymers, which takes place during the dehydration stage of each cycle, is considered to be sequence-independent. New sequences are generated by spontaneous polymer formation, and all sequences compete for a finite monomer resource that is recycled via reversible polymerization. Kinetic Monte Carlo simulations demonstrate that this proposed prebiotic scenario provides a robust mechanism for the exploration of sequence space. Introduction of a polymer sequence with monomer synthetase activity illustrates that functional sequences can become established in a preexisting pool of otherwise non-functional sequences. Functional selection does not dominate system dynamics and sequence diversity remains high, permitting the emergence and spread of more than one functional sequence. It is also observed that polymers spontaneously form clusters in simulations where polymers diffuse more slowly than monomers, a feature that is reminiscent of a previous proposal that the earliest stages of life could have been defined by the collective evolution of a system-wide cooperation of polymer aggregates. Overall, the results presented demonstrate the merits of considering plausible prebiotic polymer chemistries and environments that would have allowed for the rapid turnover of monomer resources and for regularly varying monomer/polymer diffusivities.
Authors: Andrew L. Hook, Chien-Yi Chang, Jing Yang, David J. Scurr, Robert Langer, Daniel G. Anderson, Steve Atkinson, Paul Williams, Martyn C. Davies, Morgan R. Alexander.
Published: 01-25-2012
The discovery of novel biomaterials that are optimized for a specific biological application is readily achieved using polymer microarrays, which allows a combinatorial library of materials to be screened in a parallel, high throughput format1. Herein is described the formation and characterization of a polymer microarray using an on-chip photopolymerization technique 2. This involves mixing monomers at varied ratios to produce a library of monomer solutions, transferring the solution to a glass slide format using a robotic printing device and curing with UV irradiation. This format is readily amenable to many biological assays, including stem cell attachment and proliferation, cell sorting and low bacterial adhesion, allowing the ready identification of 'hit' materials that fulfill a specific biological criterion3-5. Furthermore, the use of high throughput surface characterization (HTSC) allows the biological performance to be correlated with physio-chemical properties, hence elucidating the biological-material interaction6. HTSC makes use of water contact angle (WCA) measurements, atomic force microscopy (AFM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS). In particular, ToF-SIMS provides a chemically rich analysis of the sample that can be used to correlate the cell response with a molecular moiety. In some cases, the biological performance can be predicted from the ToF-SIMS spectra, demonstrating the chemical dependence of a biological-material interaction, and informing the development of hit materials5,3.
24 Related JoVE Articles!
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Hydrophobic Salt-modified Nafion for Enzyme Immobilization and Stabilization
Authors: Shannon Meredith, Shuai Xu, Matthew T. Meredith, Shelley D. Minteer.
Institutions: University of Utah .
Over the last decade, there has been a wealth of application for immobilized and stabilized enzymes including biocatalysis, biosensors, and biofuel cells.1-3 In most bioelectrochemical applications, enzymes or organelles are immobilized onto an electrode surface with the use of some type of polymer matrix. This polymer scaffold should keep the enzymes stable and allow for the facile diffusion of molecules and ions in and out of the matrix. Most polymers used for this type of immobilization are based on polyamines or polyalcohols - polymers that mimic the natural environment of the enzymes that they encapsulate and stabilize the enzyme through hydrogen or ionic bonding. Another method for stabilizing enzymes involves the use of micelles, which contain hydrophobic regions that can encapsulate and stabilize enzymes.4,5 In particular, the Minteer group has developed a micellar polymer based on commercially available Nafion.6,7 Nafion itself is a micellar polymer that allows for the channel-assisted diffusion of protons and other small cations, but the micelles and channels are extremely small and the polymer is very acidic due to sulfonic acid side chains, which is unfavorable for enzyme immobilization. However, when Nafion is mixed with an excess of hydrophobic alkyl ammonium salts such as tetrabutylammonium bromide (TBAB), the quaternary ammonium cations replace the protons and become the counter ions to the sulfonate groups on the polymer side chains (Figure 1). This results in larger micelles and channels within the polymer that allow for the diffusion of large substrates and ions that are necessary for enzymatic function such as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). This modified Nafion polymer has been used to immobilize many different types of enzymes as well as mitochondria for use in biosensors and biofuel cells.8-12 This paper describes a novel procedure for making this micellar polymer enzyme immobilization membrane that can stabilize enzymes. The synthesis of the micellar enzyme immobilization membrane, the procedure for immobilizing enzymes within the membrane, and the assays for studying enzymatic specific activity of the immobilized enzyme are detailed below.
Bioengineering, Issue 65, Materials Science, Chemical Engineering, enzyme immobilization, polymer modification, Nafion, enzyme stabilization, enzyme activity assays
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Preparation of Light-responsive Membranes by a Combined Surface Grafting and Postmodification Process
Authors: Katrin Schöller, Lukas Baumann, Dirk Hegemann, Damien De Courten, Martin Wolf, René M. Rossi, Lukas J. Scherer.
Institutions: Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Empa, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, University Hospital Zurich.
In order to modify the surface tension of commercial available track-edged polymer membranes, a procedure of surface-initiated polymerization is presented. The polymerization from the membrane surface is induced by plasma treatment of the membrane, followed by reacting the membrane surface with a methanolic solution of 2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate (HEMA). Special attention is given to the process parameters for the plasma treatment prior to the polymerization on the surface. For example, the influence of the plasma-treatment on different types of membranes (e.g. polyester, polycarbonate, polyvinylidene fluoride) is studied. Furthermore, the time-dependent stability of the surface-grafted membranes is shown by contact angle measurements. When grafting poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (PHEMA) in this way, the surface can be further modified by esterification of the alcohol moiety of the polymer with a carboxylic acid function of the desired substance. These reactions can therefore be used for the functionalization of the membrane surface. For example, the surface tension of the membrane can be changed or a desired functionality as the presented light-responsiveness can be inserted. This is demonstrated by reacting PHEMA with a carboxylic acid functionalized spirobenzopyran unit which leads to a light-responsive membrane. The choice of solvent plays a major role in the postmodification step and is discussed in more detail in this paper. The permeability measurements of such functionalized membranes are performed using a Franz cell with an external light source. By changing the wavelength of the light from the visible to the UV-range, a change of permeability of aqueous caffeine solutions is observed.
Bioengineering, Issue 85, plasma-induced polymerization ,smart membranes, surface graft polymerization, light-responsive, drug delivery, plasma modification, surface-initiated polymerization, permeability
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ampliPHOX Colorimetric Detection on a DNA Microarray for Influenza
Authors: Kevin R. Moulton, Amber W. Taylor, Kathy L. Rowlen, Erica D. Dawson.
Institutions: Inc..
DNA microarrays have emerged as a powerful tool for pathogen detection.1-5 For instance, many examples of the ability to type and subtype influenza virus have been demonstrated.6-11 The identification and subtyping of influenza on DNA microarrays has applications in both public health and the clinic for early detection, rapid intervention, and minimizing the impact of an influenza pandemic. Traditional fluorescence is currently the most commonly used microarray detection method. However, as microarray technology progresses towards clinical use,1 replacing expensive instrumentation with low cost detection technology exhibiting similar performance characteristics to fluorescence will make microarray assays more attractive and cost-effective. The ampliPHOX colorimetric detection technology is intended for research applications, and has a limit of detection within one order of magnitude of traditional fluorescence11, with a main advantage being an approximate ten-fold lower instrument cost compared to the confocal microarray scanners required for fluorescence microarray detection. Another advantage is the compact size of the instrument which allows for portability and flexibility, unlike traditional fluorescence instruments. Because the polymerization technology is not as inherently linear as fluorescence detection, however, it is best suited for lower density microarray applications in which a yes/no answer for the presence of a certain sequence is desired, such as for pathogen detection arrays. Currently the maximum spot density compatible with ampliPHOX detection is ˜1800 spots/array. Because of the spot density limitations, higher density microarrays are not suitable for ampliPHOX detection. Here, we present ampliPHOX colorimetric detection technology as a method of signal amplification on a low density microarray developed for the detection and characterization of influenza viruses (FluChip). Although this protocol uses the FluChip (a DNA microarray) as one specific application of ampliPHOX detection, any microarray incorporating biotinylated target can be labeled and detected in a similar manner. The microarray design and biotinylation of the target to be captured are the responsibility of the user. Once the biotinylated target has been captured on the array, ampliPHOX detection can be performed by first tagging the array with a streptavidin-label conjugate (ampliTAG). Upon light exposure using the ampliPHOX Reader instrument, polymerization of a monomer solution (ampliPHY) occurs only in regions containing ampliTAG-labeled targets. The polymer formed can be subsequently stained with a non-toxic solution to improve visual contrast, followed by imaging and analysis using a simple software package (ampliVIEW). The entire FluChip assay from un-extracted sample to result can be performed in about 6 hours, and the ampliPHOX detection steps described above can be completed in about 30 min.
Immunology, Issue 52, microarrays, colorimetric detection, ampliPHOX, diagnostic, low-density, pathogen detection, influenza
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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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Mutagenesis and Functional Selection Protocols for Directed Evolution of Proteins in E. coli
Authors: Chris Troll, David Alexander, Jennifer Allen, Jacob Marquette, Manel Camps.
Institutions: University of California Santa Cruz - UCSC.
The efficient generation of genetic diversity represents an invaluable molecular tool that can be used to label DNA synthesis, to create unique molecular signatures, or to evolve proteins in the laboratory. Here, we present a protocol that allows the generation of large (>1011) mutant libraries for a given target sequence. This method is based on replication of a ColE1 plasmid encoding the desired sequence by a low-fidelity variant of DNA polymerase I (LF-Pol I). The target plasmid is transformed into a mutator strain of E. coli and plated on solid media, yielding between 0.2 and 1 mutations/kb, depending on the location of the target gene. Higher mutation frequencies are achieved by iterating this process of mutagenesis. Compared to alternative methods of mutagenesis, our protocol stands out for its simplicity, as no cloning or PCR are involved. Thus, our method is ideal for mutational labeling of plasmids or other Pol I templates or to explore large sections of sequence space for the evolution of activities not present in the original target. The tight spatial control that PCR or randomized oligonucleotide-based methods offer can also be achieved through subsequent cloning of specific sections of the library. Here we provide protocols showing how to create a random mutant library and how to establish drug-based selections in E. coli to identify mutants exhibiting new biochemical activities.
Genetics, Issue 49, random mutagenesis, directed evolution, LB agar drug gradient, bacterial complementation, ColE1 plasmid, DNA polymerase I, replication fidelity, genetic adaptation, antimicrobials, methylating agents
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Preparation of DNA-crosslinked Polyacrylamide Hydrogels
Authors: Michelle L. Previtera, Noshir A. Langrana.
Institutions: JFK Medical Center, Rutgers University, Rutgers University.
Mechanobiology is an emerging scientific area that addresses the critical role of physical cues in directing cell morphology and function. For example, the effect of tissue elasticity on cell function is a major area of mechanobiology research because tissue stiffness modulates with disease, development, and injury. Static tissue-mimicking materials, or materials that cannot alter stiffness once cells are plated, are predominately used to investigate the effects of tissue stiffness on cell functions. While information gathered from static studies is valuable, these studies are not indicative of the dynamic nature of the cellular microenvironment in vivo. To better address the effects of dynamic stiffness on cell function, we developed a DNA-crosslinked polyacrylamide hydrogel system (DNA gels). Unlike other dynamic substrates, DNA gels have the ability to decrease or increase in stiffness after fabrication without stimuli. DNA gels consist of DNA crosslinks that are polymerized into a polyacrylamide backbone. Adding and removing crosslinks via delivery of single-stranded DNA allows temporal, spatial, and reversible control of gel elasticity. We have shown in previous reports that dynamic modulation of DNA gel elasticity influences fibroblast and neuron behavior. In this report and video, we provide a schematic that describes the DNA gel crosslinking mechanisms and step-by-step instructions on the preparation DNA gels.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, bioengineering (general), Elastic, viscoelastic, bis-acrylamide, substrate, stiffness, dynamic, static, neuron, fibroblast, compliance, ECM, mechanobiology, tunable
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Nucleoside Triphosphates - From Synthesis to Biochemical Characterization
Authors: Marcel Hollenstein, Christine Catherine Smith, Michael Räz.
Institutions: University of Bern.
The traditional strategy for the introduction of chemical functionalities is the use of solid-phase synthesis by appending suitably modified phosphoramidite precursors to the nascent chain. However, the conditions used during the synthesis and the restriction to rather short sequences hamper the applicability of this methodology. On the other hand, modified nucleoside triphosphates are activated building blocks that have been employed for the mild introduction of numerous functional groups into nucleic acids, a strategy that paves the way for the use of modified nucleic acids in a wide-ranging palette of practical applications such as functional tagging and generation of ribozymes and DNAzymes. One of the major challenges resides in the intricacy of the methodology leading to the isolation and characterization of these nucleoside analogues. In this video article, we present a detailed protocol for the synthesis of these modified analogues using phosphorous(III)-based reagents. In addition, the procedure for their biochemical characterization is divulged, with a special emphasis on primer extension reactions and TdT tailing polymerization. This detailed protocol will be of use for the crafting of modified dNTPs and their further use in chemical biology.
Chemistry, Issue 86, Nucleic acid analogues, Bioorganic Chemistry, PCR, primer extension reactions, organic synthesis, PAGE, HPLC, nucleoside triphosphates
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Conducting Miller-Urey Experiments
Authors: Eric T. Parker, James H. Cleaves, Aaron S. Burton, Daniel P. Glavin, Jason P. Dworkin, Manshui Zhou, Jeffrey L. Bada, Facundo M. Fernández.
Institutions: Georgia Institute of Technology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Institute for Advanced Study, NASA Johnson Space Center, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, University of California at San Diego.
In 1953, Stanley Miller reported the production of biomolecules from simple gaseous starting materials, using an apparatus constructed to simulate the primordial Earth's atmosphere-ocean system. Miller introduced 200 ml of water, 100 mmHg of H2, 200 mmHg of CH4, and 200 mmHg of NH3 into the apparatus, then subjected this mixture, under reflux, to an electric discharge for a week, while the water was simultaneously heated. The purpose of this manuscript is to provide the reader with a general experimental protocol that can be used to conduct a Miller-Urey type spark discharge experiment, using a simplified 3 L reaction flask. Since the experiment involves exposing inflammable gases to a high voltage electric discharge, it is worth highlighting important steps that reduce the risk of explosion. The general procedures described in this work can be extrapolated to design and conduct a wide variety of electric discharge experiments simulating primitive planetary environments.
Chemistry, Issue 83, Geosciences (General), Exobiology, Miller-Urey, Prebiotic chemistry, amino acids, spark discharge
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Non-chromatographic Purification of Recombinant Elastin-like Polypeptides and their Fusions with Peptides and Proteins from Escherichia coli
Authors: Sarah R. MacEwan, Wafa Hassouneh, Ashutosh Chilkoti.
Institutions: Duke University, Duke University.
Elastin-like polypeptides are repetitive biopolymers that exhibit a lower critical solution temperature phase transition behavior, existing as soluble unimers below a characteristic transition temperature and aggregating into micron-scale coacervates above their transition temperature. The design of elastin-like polypeptides at the genetic level permits precise control of their sequence and length, which dictates their thermal properties. Elastin-like polypeptides are used in a variety of applications including biosensing, tissue engineering, and drug delivery, where the transition temperature and biopolymer architecture of the ELP can be tuned for the specific application of interest. Furthermore, the lower critical solution temperature phase transition behavior of elastin-like polypeptides allows their purification by their thermal response, such that their selective coacervation and resolubilization allows the removal of both soluble and insoluble contaminants following expression in Escherichia coli. This approach can be used for the purification of elastin-like polypeptides alone or as a purification tool for peptide or protein fusions where recombinant peptides or proteins genetically appended to elastin-like polypeptide tags can be purified without chromatography. This protocol describes the purification of elastin-like polypeptides and their peptide or protein fusions and discusses basic characterization techniques to assess the thermal behavior of pure elastin-like polypeptide products.
Molecular Biology, Issue 88, elastin-like polypeptides, lower critical solution temperature, phase separation, inverse transition cycling, protein purification, batch purification
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Combinatorial Synthesis of and High-throughput Protein Release from Polymer Film and Nanoparticle Libraries
Authors: Latrisha K. Petersen, Ana V. Chavez-Santoscoy, Balaji Narasimhan.
Institutions: Iowa State University.
Polyanhydrides are a class of biomaterials with excellent biocompatibility and drug delivery capabilities. While they have been studied extensively with conventional one-sample-at-a-time synthesis techniques, a more recent high-throughput approach has been developed enabling the synthesis and testing of large libraries of polyanhydrides1. This will facilitate more efficient optimization and design process of these biomaterials for drug and vaccine delivery applications. The method in this work describes the combinatorial synthesis of biodegradable polyanhydride film and nanoparticle libraries and the high-throughput detection of protein release from these libraries. In this robotically operated method (Figure 1), linear actuators and syringe pumps are controlled by LabVIEW, which enables a hands-free automated protocol, eliminating user error. Furthermore, this method enables the rapid fabrication of micro-scale polymer libraries, reducing the batch size while resulting in the creation of multivariant polymer systems. This combinatorial approach to polymer synthesis facilitates the synthesis of up to 15 different polymers in an equivalent amount of time it would take to synthesize one polymer conventionally. In addition, the combinatorial polymer library can be fabricated into blank or protein-loaded geometries including films or nanoparticles upon dissolution of the polymer library in a solvent and precipitation into a non-solvent (for nanoparticles) or by vacuum drying (for films). Upon loading a fluorochrome-conjugated protein into the polymer libraries, protein release kinetics can be assessed at high-throughput using a fluorescence-based detection method (Figures 2 and 3) as described previously1. This combinatorial platform has been validated with conventional methods2 and the polyanhydride film and nanoparticle libraries have been characterized with 1H NMR and FTIR. The libraries have been screened for protein release kinetics, stability and antigenicity; in vitro cellular toxicity, cytokine production, surface marker expression, adhesion, proliferation and differentiation; and in vivo biodistribution and mucoadhesion1-11. The combinatorial method developed herein enables high-throughput polymer synthesis and fabrication of protein-loaded nanoparticle and film libraries, which can, in turn, be screened in vitro and in vivo for optimization of biomaterial performance.
Bioengineering, Issue 67, combinatorial, high-throughput, polymer synthesis, polyanhydrides, nanoparticle fabrication, release kinetics, protein delivery
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Procedure for Fabricating Biofunctional Nanofibers
Authors: Jereme Doss, Omotunde Olubi, Biswajit Sannigrahi, M. D. Williams, Deepti Gadi, Barbara Baird, Ishrat Khan.
Institutions: Clark Atlanta University, Clark Atlanta University, Cornell University.
Electrospinning is an effective processing method for preparing nanofibers decorated with functional groups. Nanofibers decorated with functional groups may be utilized to study material-biomarker interactions i.e. act as biosensors with potential as single molecule detectors. We have developed an effective approach for preparing functional polymers where the functionality has the capacity of specifically binding with a model protein. In our model system, the functional group is 2,4-dinitrophenyl (DNP) and the protein is anti-DNP IgE (Immunoglobulin E). The functional polymer, α,ω-bi[2,4-dinitrophenyl caproic][poly(ethylene oxide)-b-poly(2-methoxystyrene)-b-poly(ethylene oxide)] (CDNP-PEO-P2MS-PEO-CDNP), is prepared by anionic living polymerization. The difunctional initiator utilized in the polymerization was prepared by electron transfer reaction of α-methylstyrene and potassium (mirror) metal. The 2-methoxystyrene monomer was added first to the initiator, followed by the addition of the second monomer, ethylene oxide, and finally the living polymer was terminated by methanol. The α,ω-dihydroxyl polymer [HO-PEO-P2MS-PEO-OH] was reacted with N-2,4-DNP-∈-amino caproic acid, by DCC coupling, resulting in the formation of α,ω-bi[2,4-dinitrophenylcaproic][poly(ethyleneoxide)-b-poly(2-methoxystyrene)-b-poly(ethylene oxide)] (CDNP-PEO-P2MS-PEO-CDNP). The polymers were characterized by FT-IR, 1H NMR and Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC). The molecular weight distributions of the polymers were narrow (1.1-1.2) and polymers with molecular weights greater than 50,000 was used in this study. The polymers were yellow powders and soluble in tetrahydrofuran. A water soluble CDNP-PEO-P2MS-PEO-CDNP/ DMEG (dimethoxyethylene glycol) complex binds and achieves steady state binding with solution IgE within a few seconds. Higher molecular weight (water insoluble i.e. around 50,000) CDNP-PEO-P2MS-PEO-CDNP polymers, containing 1% single wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) were processed into electroactive nanofibers (100 nm to 500 nm in diameter) on silicon substrate. Fluorescence spectroscopy shows that anti-DNP IgE interacts with the nanofibers by binding with the DNP functional groups decorating the fibers. These observations suggest that appropriately functionalized nanofibers hold promise for developing biomarker detection device.
Chemistry, Issue 67, Bioengineering, Physics, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Living polymerization, NMR Spectroscopy, Electrospinning, Nanofibers, I-V behavior, Biosensor, confocal microscopy
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An Affordable HIV-1 Drug Resistance Monitoring Method for Resource Limited Settings
Authors: Justen Manasa, Siva Danaviah, Sureshnee Pillay, Prevashinee Padayachee, Hloniphile Mthiyane, Charity Mkhize, Richard John Lessells, Christopher Seebregts, Tobias F. Rinke de Wit, Johannes Viljoen, David Katzenstein, Tulio De Oliveira.
Institutions: University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa, Jembi Health Systems, University of Amsterdam, Stanford Medical School.
HIV-1 drug resistance has the potential to seriously compromise the effectiveness and impact of antiretroviral therapy (ART). As ART programs in sub-Saharan Africa continue to expand, individuals on ART should be closely monitored for the emergence of drug resistance. Surveillance of transmitted drug resistance to track transmission of viral strains already resistant to ART is also critical. Unfortunately, drug resistance testing is still not readily accessible in resource limited settings, because genotyping is expensive and requires sophisticated laboratory and data management infrastructure. An open access genotypic drug resistance monitoring method to manage individuals and assess transmitted drug resistance is described. The method uses free open source software for the interpretation of drug resistance patterns and the generation of individual patient reports. The genotyping protocol has an amplification rate of greater than 95% for plasma samples with a viral load >1,000 HIV-1 RNA copies/ml. The sensitivity decreases significantly for viral loads <1,000 HIV-1 RNA copies/ml. The method described here was validated against a method of HIV-1 drug resistance testing approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Viroseq genotyping method. Limitations of the method described here include the fact that it is not automated and that it also failed to amplify the circulating recombinant form CRF02_AG from a validation panel of samples, although it amplified subtypes A and B from the same panel.
Medicine, Issue 85, Biomedical Technology, HIV-1, HIV Infections, Viremia, Nucleic Acids, genetics, antiretroviral therapy, drug resistance, genotyping, affordable
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A Restriction Enzyme Based Cloning Method to Assess the In vitro Replication Capacity of HIV-1 Subtype C Gag-MJ4 Chimeric Viruses
Authors: Daniel T. Claiborne, Jessica L. Prince, Eric Hunter.
Institutions: Emory University, Emory University.
The protective effect of many HLA class I alleles on HIV-1 pathogenesis and disease progression is, in part, attributed to their ability to target conserved portions of the HIV-1 genome that escape with difficulty. Sequence changes attributed to cellular immune pressure arise across the genome during infection, and if found within conserved regions of the genome such as Gag, can affect the ability of the virus to replicate in vitro. Transmission of HLA-linked polymorphisms in Gag to HLA-mismatched recipients has been associated with reduced set point viral loads. We hypothesized this may be due to a reduced replication capacity of the virus. Here we present a novel method for assessing the in vitro replication of HIV-1 as influenced by the gag gene isolated from acute time points from subtype C infected Zambians. This method uses restriction enzyme based cloning to insert the gag gene into a common subtype C HIV-1 proviral backbone, MJ4. This makes it more appropriate to the study of subtype C sequences than previous recombination based methods that have assessed the in vitro replication of chronically derived gag-pro sequences. Nevertheless, the protocol could be readily modified for studies of viruses from other subtypes. Moreover, this protocol details a robust and reproducible method for assessing the replication capacity of the Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses on a CEM-based T cell line. This method was utilized for the study of Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses derived from 149 subtype C acutely infected Zambians, and has allowed for the identification of residues in Gag that affect replication. More importantly, the implementation of this technique has facilitated a deeper understanding of how viral replication defines parameters of early HIV-1 pathogenesis such as set point viral load and longitudinal CD4+ T cell decline.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 90, HIV-1, Gag, viral replication, replication capacity, viral fitness, MJ4, CEM, GXR25
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Protein WISDOM: A Workbench for In silico De novo Design of BioMolecules
Authors: James Smadbeck, Meghan B. Peterson, George A. Khoury, Martin S. Taylor, Christodoulos A. Floudas.
Institutions: Princeton University.
The aim of de novo protein design is to find the amino acid sequences that will fold into a desired 3-dimensional structure with improvements in specific properties, such as binding affinity, agonist or antagonist behavior, or stability, relative to the native sequence. Protein design lies at the center of current advances drug design and discovery. Not only does protein design provide predictions for potentially useful drug targets, but it also enhances our understanding of the protein folding process and protein-protein interactions. Experimental methods such as directed evolution have shown success in protein design. However, such methods are restricted by the limited sequence space that can be searched tractably. In contrast, computational design strategies allow for the screening of a much larger set of sequences covering a wide variety of properties and functionality. We have developed a range of computational de novo protein design methods capable of tackling several important areas of protein design. These include the design of monomeric proteins for increased stability and complexes for increased binding affinity. To disseminate these methods for broader use we present Protein WISDOM (, a tool that provides automated methods for a variety of protein design problems. Structural templates are submitted to initialize the design process. The first stage of design is an optimization sequence selection stage that aims at improving stability through minimization of potential energy in the sequence space. Selected sequences are then run through a fold specificity stage and a binding affinity stage. A rank-ordered list of the sequences for each step of the process, along with relevant designed structures, provides the user with a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the design. Here we provide the details of each design method, as well as several notable experimental successes attained through the use of the methods.
Genetics, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computational Biology, Genomics, Proteomics, Protein, Protein Binding, Computational Biology, Drug Design, optimization (mathematics), Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, De novo protein and peptide design, Drug design, In silico sequence selection, Optimization, Fold specificity, Binding affinity, sequencing
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Microwave-assisted Functionalization of Poly(ethylene glycol) and On-resin Peptides for Use in Chain Polymerizations and Hydrogel Formation
Authors: Amy H. Van Hove, Brandon D. Wilson, Danielle S. W. Benoit.
Institutions: University of Rochester, University of Rochester, University of Rochester Medical Center.
One of the main benefits to using poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) macromers in hydrogel formation is synthetic versatility. The ability to draw from a large variety of PEG molecular weights and configurations (arm number, arm length, and branching pattern) affords researchers tight control over resulting hydrogel structures and properties, including Young’s modulus and mesh size. This video will illustrate a rapid, efficient, solvent-free, microwave-assisted method to methacrylate PEG precursors into poly(ethylene glycol) dimethacrylate (PEGDM). This synthetic method provides much-needed starting materials for applications in drug delivery and regenerative medicine. The demonstrated method is superior to traditional methacrylation methods as it is significantly faster and simpler, as well as more economical and environmentally friendly, using smaller amounts of reagents and solvents. We will also demonstrate an adaptation of this technique for on-resin methacrylamide functionalization of peptides. This on-resin method allows the N-terminus of peptides to be functionalized with methacrylamide groups prior to deprotection and cleavage from resin. This allows for selective addition of methacrylamide groups to the N-termini of the peptides while amino acids with reactive side groups (e.g. primary amine of lysine, primary alcohol of serine, secondary alcohols of threonine, and phenol of tyrosine) remain protected, preventing functionalization at multiple sites. This article will detail common analytical methods (proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy (;H-NMR) and Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time of Flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-ToF)) to assess the efficiency of the functionalizations. Common pitfalls and suggested troubleshooting methods will be addressed, as will modifications of the technique which can be used to further tune macromer functionality and resulting hydrogel physical and chemical properties. Use of synthesized products for the formation of hydrogels for drug delivery and cell-material interaction studies will be demonstrated, with particular attention paid to modifying hydrogel composition to affect mesh size, controlling hydrogel stiffness and drug release.
Chemistry, Issue 80, Poly(ethylene glycol), peptides, polymerization, polymers, methacrylation, peptide functionalization, 1H-NMR, MALDI-ToF, hydrogels, macromer synthesis
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Isolation of Fidelity Variants of RNA Viruses and Characterization of Virus Mutation Frequency
Authors: Stéphanie Beaucourt, Antonio V. Bordería, Lark L. Coffey, Nina F. Gnädig, Marta Sanz-Ramos, Yasnee Beeharry, Marco Vignuzzi.
Institutions: Institut Pasteur .
RNA viruses use RNA dependent RNA polymerases to replicate their genomes. The intrinsically high error rate of these enzymes is a large contributor to the generation of extreme population diversity that facilitates virus adaptation and evolution. Increasing evidence shows that the intrinsic error rates, and the resulting mutation frequencies, of RNA viruses can be modulated by subtle amino acid changes to the viral polymerase. Although biochemical assays exist for some viral RNA polymerases that permit quantitative measure of incorporation fidelity, here we describe a simple method of measuring mutation frequencies of RNA viruses that has proven to be as accurate as biochemical approaches in identifying fidelity altering mutations. The approach uses conventional virological and sequencing techniques that can be performed in most biology laboratories. Based on our experience with a number of different viruses, we have identified the key steps that must be optimized to increase the likelihood of isolating fidelity variants and generating data of statistical significance. The isolation and characterization of fidelity altering mutations can provide new insights into polymerase structure and function1-3. Furthermore, these fidelity variants can be useful tools in characterizing mechanisms of virus adaptation and evolution4-7.
Immunology, Issue 52, Polymerase fidelity, RNA virus, mutation frequency, mutagen, RNA polymerase, viral evolution
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Particles without a Box: Brush-first Synthesis of Photodegradable PEG Star Polymers under Ambient Conditions
Authors: Jenny Liu, Angela Xiaodi Gao, Jeremiah A. Johnson.
Institutions: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Convenient methods for the rapid, parallel synthesis of diversely functionalized nanoparticles will enable discovery of novel formulations for drug delivery, biological imaging, and supported catalysis. In this report, we demonstrate parallel synthesis of brush-arm star polymer (BASP) nanoparticles by the "brush-first" method. In this method, a norbornene-terminated poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) macromonomer (PEG-MM) is first polymerized via ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) to generate a living brush macroinitiator. Aliquots of this initiator stock solution are added to vials that contain varied amounts of a photodegradable bis-norbornene crosslinker. Exposure to crosslinker initiates a series of kinetically-controlled brush+brush and star+star coupling reactions that ultimately yields BASPs with cores comprised of the crosslinker and coronas comprised of PEG. The final BASP size depends on the amount of crosslinker added. We carry out the synthesis of three BASPs on the benchtop with no special precautions to remove air and moisture. The samples are characterized by gel permeation chromatography (GPC); results agreed closely with our previous report that utilized inert (glovebox) conditions. Key practical features, advantages, and potential disadvantages of the brush-first method are discussed.
Chemistry, Issue 80, Chemical Engineering, Nanoparticles, Polymers, Drug Delivery Systems, Polymerization, polymers, Biomedical and Dental Materials, brush first, polyethylene glycol, photodegradable, ring opening metathesis polymerization, brush polymer, star polymer, drug delivery, gel permeation chromatography, arm first, core functional, photocleavable
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A Protocol for Computer-Based Protein Structure and Function Prediction
Authors: Ambrish Roy, Dong Xu, Jonathan Poisson, Yang Zhang.
Institutions: University of Michigan , University of Kansas.
Genome sequencing projects have ciphered millions of protein sequence, which require knowledge of their structure and function to improve the understanding of their biological role. Although experimental methods can provide detailed information for a small fraction of these proteins, computational modeling is needed for the majority of protein molecules which are experimentally uncharacterized. The I-TASSER server is an on-line workbench for high-resolution modeling of protein structure and function. Given a protein sequence, a typical output from the I-TASSER server includes secondary structure prediction, predicted solvent accessibility of each residue, homologous template proteins detected by threading and structure alignments, up to five full-length tertiary structural models, and structure-based functional annotations for enzyme classification, Gene Ontology terms and protein-ligand binding sites. All the predictions are tagged with a confidence score which tells how accurate the predictions are without knowing the experimental data. To facilitate the special requests of end users, the server provides channels to accept user-specified inter-residue distance and contact maps to interactively change the I-TASSER modeling; it also allows users to specify any proteins as template, or to exclude any template proteins during the structure assembly simulations. The structural information could be collected by the users based on experimental evidences or biological insights with the purpose of improving the quality of I-TASSER predictions. The server was evaluated as the best programs for protein structure and function predictions in the recent community-wide CASP experiments. There are currently >20,000 registered scientists from over 100 countries who are using the on-line I-TASSER server.
Biochemistry, Issue 57, On-line server, I-TASSER, protein structure prediction, function prediction
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Towards Biomimicking Wood: Fabricated Free-standing Films of Nanocellulose, Lignin, and a Synthetic Polycation
Authors: Karthik Pillai, Fernando Navarro Arzate, Wei Zhang, Scott Renneckar.
Institutions: Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech, Illinois Institute of Technology- Moffett Campus, University of Guadalajara, Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech.
Woody materials are comprised of plant cell walls that contain a layered secondary cell wall composed of structural polymers of polysaccharides and lignin. Layer-by-layer (LbL) assembly process which relies on the assembly of oppositely charged molecules from aqueous solutions was used to build a freestanding composite film of isolated wood polymers of lignin and oxidized nanofibril cellulose (NFC). To facilitate the assembly of these negatively charged polymers, a positively charged polyelectrolyte, poly(diallyldimethylammomium chloride) (PDDA), was used as a linking layer to create this simplified model cell wall. The layered adsorption process was studied quantitatively using quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D) and ellipsometry. The results showed that layer mass/thickness per adsorbed layer increased as a function of total number of layers. The surface coverage of the adsorbed layers was studied with atomic force microscopy (AFM). Complete coverage of the surface with lignin in all the deposition cycles was found for the system, however, surface coverage by NFC increased with the number of layers. The adsorption process was carried out for 250 cycles (500 bilayers) on a cellulose acetate (CA) substrate. Transparent free-standing LBL assembled nanocomposite films were obtained when the CA substrate was later dissolved in acetone. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of the fractured cross-sections showed a lamellar structure, and the thickness per adsorption cycle (PDDA-Lignin-PDDA-NC) was estimated to be 17 nm for two different lignin types used in the study. The data indicates a film with highly controlled architecture where nanocellulose and lignin are spatially deposited on the nanoscale (a polymer-polymer nanocomposites), similar to what is observed in the native cell wall.
Plant Biology, Issue 88, nanocellulose, thin films, quartz crystal microbalance, layer-by-layer, LbL
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Designing Silk-silk Protein Alloy Materials for Biomedical Applications
Authors: Xiao Hu, Solomon Duki, Joseph Forys, Jeffrey Hettinger, Justin Buchicchio, Tabbetha Dobbins, Catherine Yang.
Institutions: Rowan University, Rowan University, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Rowan University.
Fibrous proteins display different sequences and structures that have been used for various applications in biomedical fields such as biosensors, nanomedicine, tissue regeneration, and drug delivery. Designing materials based on the molecular-scale interactions between these proteins will help generate new multifunctional protein alloy biomaterials with tunable properties. Such alloy material systems also provide advantages in comparison to traditional synthetic polymers due to the materials biodegradability, biocompatibility, and tenability in the body. This article used the protein blends of wild tussah silk (Antheraea pernyi) and domestic mulberry silk (Bombyx mori) as an example to provide useful protocols regarding these topics, including how to predict protein-protein interactions by computational methods, how to produce protein alloy solutions, how to verify alloy systems by thermal analysis, and how to fabricate variable alloy materials including optical materials with diffraction gratings, electric materials with circuits coatings, and pharmaceutical materials for drug release and delivery. These methods can provide important information for designing the next generation multifunctional biomaterials based on different protein alloys.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, protein alloys, biomaterials, biomedical, silk blends, computational simulation, implantable electronic devices
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Polymerase Chain Reaction: Basic Protocol Plus Troubleshooting and Optimization Strategies
Authors: Todd C. Lorenz.
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles .
In the biological sciences there have been technological advances that catapult the discipline into golden ages of discovery. For example, the field of microbiology was transformed with the advent of Anton van Leeuwenhoek's microscope, which allowed scientists to visualize prokaryotes for the first time. The development of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is one of those innovations that changed the course of molecular science with its impact spanning countless subdisciplines in biology. The theoretical process was outlined by Keppe and coworkers in 1971; however, it was another 14 years until the complete PCR procedure was described and experimentally applied by Kary Mullis while at Cetus Corporation in 1985. Automation and refinement of this technique progressed with the introduction of a thermal stable DNA polymerase from the bacterium Thermus aquaticus, consequently the name Taq DNA polymerase. PCR is a powerful amplification technique that can generate an ample supply of a specific segment of DNA (i.e., an amplicon) from only a small amount of starting material (i.e., DNA template or target sequence). While straightforward and generally trouble-free, there are pitfalls that complicate the reaction producing spurious results. When PCR fails it can lead to many non-specific DNA products of varying sizes that appear as a ladder or smear of bands on agarose gels. Sometimes no products form at all. Another potential problem occurs when mutations are unintentionally introduced in the amplicons, resulting in a heterogeneous population of PCR products. PCR failures can become frustrating unless patience and careful troubleshooting are employed to sort out and solve the problem(s). This protocol outlines the basic principles of PCR, provides a methodology that will result in amplification of most target sequences, and presents strategies for optimizing a reaction. By following this PCR guide, students should be able to: ● Set up reactions and thermal cycling conditions for a conventional PCR experiment ● Understand the function of various reaction components and their overall effect on a PCR experiment ● Design and optimize a PCR experiment for any DNA template ● Troubleshoot failed PCR experiments
Basic Protocols, Issue 63, PCR, optimization, primer design, melting temperature, Tm, troubleshooting, additives, enhancers, template DNA quantification, thermal cycler, molecular biology, genetics
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Microfabrication of Chip-sized Scaffolds for Three-dimensional Cell cultivation
Authors: Stefan Giselbrecht, Eric Gottwald, Roman Truckenmueller, Christina Trautmann, Alexander Welle, Andreas Guber, Volker Saile, Thomas Gietzelt, Karl-Friedrich Weibezahn.
Institutions: Karlsruhe Research Centre, University of Twente, Institute for Heavy Ion Research, Karlsruhe Research Centre, Karlsruhe Research Centre.
Using microfabrication technologies is a prerequisite to create scaffolds of reproducible geometry and constant quality for three-dimensional cell cultivation. These technologies offer a wide spectrum of advantages not only for manufacturing but also for different applications. The size and shape of formed cell clusters can be influenced by the exact and reproducible architecture of the microfabricated scaffold and, therefore, the diffusion path length of nutrients and gases can be controlled.1 This is unquestionably a useful tool to prevent apoptosis and necrosis of cells due to an insufficient nutrient and gas supply or removal of cellular metabolites. Our polymer chip, called CellChip, has the outer dimensions of 2 x 2 cm with a central microstructured area. This area is subdivided into an array of up to 1156 microcontainers with a typical dimension of 300 m edge length for the cubic design (cp- or cf-chip) or of 300 m diameter and depth for the round design (r-chip).2 So far, hot embossing or micro injection moulding (in combination with subsequent laborious machining of the parts) was used for the fabrication of the microstructured chips. Basically, micro injection moulding is one of the only polymer based replication techniques that, up to now, is capable for mass production of polymer microstructures.3 However, both techniques have certain unwanted limitations due to the processing of a viscous polymer melt with the generation of very thin walls or integrated through holes. In case of the CellChip, thin bottom layers are necessary to perforate the polymer and provide small pores of defined size to supply cells with culture medium e.g. by microfluidic perfusion of the containers. In order to overcome these limitations and to reduce the manufacturing costs we have developed a new microtechnical approach on the basis of a down-scaled thermoforming process. For the manufacturing of highly porous and thin walled polymer chips, we use a combination of heavy ion irradiation, microthermoforming and track etching. In this so called "SMART" process (Substrate Modification And Replication by Thermoforming) thin polymer films are irradiated with energetic heavy projectiles of several hundred MeV introducing so-called "latent tracks" Subsequently, the film in a rubber elastic state is formed into three dimensional parts without modifying or annealing the tracks. After the forming process, selective chemical etching finally converts the tracks into cylindrical pores of adjustable diameter.
Cellular Biology, Issue 15, SMART, microthermoforming, microfabrication, scaffolds, polymer
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Fabrication of the Thermoplastic Microfluidic Channels
Authors: Arpita Bhattacharyya, Dominika Kulinski, Catherine Klapperich.
Institutions: Boston University.
In our lab, we have successfully isolated nucleic acids directly from microliter and submicroliter volumes of human blood, urine and stool using polymer/nanoparticle composite microscale lysis and solid phase extraction columns. The recovered samples are concentrated, small volume samples that are PCRable, without any additional cleanup. Here, we demonstrate how to fabricate thermoplastic microfluidic chips using hot embossing and heat sealing. Then, we demonstrate how to use in situ light directed surface grafting and polymerization through the sealed chip to form the composite solid phase columns. We demonstrate grafting and polymerization of a carbon nanotube/polymer composite column for bacterial cell lysis. We then show the lysis process followed by solid phase extraction of nucleic acids from the sample on chip using a silica/polymer composite column. The attached protocols contain detailed instructions on how to make both lysis and solid phase extraction columns.
Cellular Biology, Issue 12, bioengineering, purification, microfluidics, DNA, RNA, solid phase, column
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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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