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Geminin is required for zygotic gene expression at the Xenopus mid-blastula transition.
In many organisms early development is under control of the maternal genome and zygotic gene expression is delayed until the mid-blastula transition (MBT). As zygotic transcription initiates, cell cycle checkpoints become activated and the tempo of cell division slows. The mechanisms that activate zygotic transcription at the MBT are incompletely understood, but they are of interest because they may resemble mechanisms that cause stem cells to stop dividing and terminally differentiate. The unstable regulatory protein Geminin is thought to coordinate cell division with cell differentiation. Geminin is a bi-functional protein. It prevents a second round of DNA replication during S and G2 phase by binding and inhibiting the essential replication factor Cdt1. Geminin also binds and inhibits a number of transcription factors and chromatin remodeling proteins and is thought to keep dividing cells in an undifferentiated state. We previously found that the cells of Geminin-deficient Xenopus embryos arrest in G2 phase just after the MBT then disintegrate at the onset of gastrulation. Here we report that they also fail to express most zygotic genes. The gene expression defect is cell-autonomous and is reproduced by over-expressing Cdt1 or by incubating the embryos in hydroxyurea. Geminin deficient and hydroxyurea-treated blastomeres accumulate DNA damage in the form of double stranded breaks. Bypassing the Chk1 pathway overcomes the cell cycle arrest caused by Geminin depletion but does not restore zygotic gene expression. In fact, bypassing the Chk1 pathway by itself induces double stranded breaks and abolishes zygotic transcription. We did not find evidence that Geminin has a replication-independent effect on transcription. We conclude that Geminin is required to maintain genome integrity during the rapid cleavage divisions, and that DNA damage disrupts zygotic gene transcription at the MBT, probably through activation of DNA damage checkpoint pathways.
Authors: Paaqua A. Grant, Mona B. Herold, Sally A. Moody.
Published: 01-26-2013
Fate maps, constructed from lineage tracing all of the cells of an embryo, reveal which tissues descend from each cell of the embryo. Although fate maps are very useful for identifying the precursors of an organ and for elucidating the developmental path by which the descendant cells populate that organ in the normal embryo, they do not illustrate the full developmental potential of a precursor cell or identify the mechanisms by which its fate is determined. To test for cell fate commitment, one compares a cell's normal repertoire of descendants in the intact embryo (the fate map) with those expressed after an experimental manipulation. Is the cell's fate fixed (committed) regardless of the surrounding cellular environment, or is it influenced by external factors provided by its neighbors? Using the comprehensive fate maps of the Xenopus embryo, we describe how to identify, isolate and culture single cleavage stage precursors, called blastomeres. This approach allows one to assess whether these early cells are committed to the fate they acquire in their normal environment in the intact embryo, require interactions with their neighboring cells, or can be influenced to express alternate fates if exposed to other types of signals.
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Analysis of Cell Cycle Position in Mammalian Cells
Authors: Matthew J. Cecchini, Mehdi Amiri, Frederick A. Dick.
Institutions: University of Western Ontario, University of Western Ontario.
The regulation of cell proliferation is central to tissue morphogenesis during the development of multicellular organisms. Furthermore, loss of control of cell proliferation underlies the pathology of diseases like cancer. As such there is great need to be able to investigate cell proliferation and quantitate the proportion of cells in each phase of the cell cycle. It is also of vital importance to indistinguishably identify cells that are replicating their DNA within a larger population. Since a cell′s decision to proliferate is made in the G1 phase immediately before initiating DNA synthesis and progressing through the rest of the cell cycle, detection of DNA synthesis at this stage allows for an unambiguous determination of the status of growth regulation in cell culture experiments. DNA content in cells can be readily quantitated by flow cytometry of cells stained with propidium iodide, a fluorescent DNA intercalating dye. Similarly, active DNA synthesis can be quantitated by culturing cells in the presence of radioactive thymidine, harvesting the cells, and measuring the incorporation of radioactivity into an acid insoluble fraction. We have considerable expertise with cell cycle analysis and recommend a different approach. We Investigate cell proliferation using bromodeoxyuridine/fluorodeoxyuridine (abbreviated simply as BrdU) staining that detects the incorporation of these thymine analogs into recently synthesized DNA. Labeling and staining cells with BrdU, combined with total DNA staining by propidium iodide and analysis by flow cytometry1 offers the most accurate measure of cells in the various stages of the cell cycle. It is our preferred method because it combines the detection of active DNA synthesis, through antibody based staining of BrdU, with total DNA content from propidium iodide. This allows for the clear separation of cells in G1 from early S phase, or late S phase from G2/M. Furthermore, this approach can be utilized to investigate the effects of many different cell stimuli and pharmacologic agents on the regulation of progression through these different cell cycle phases. In this report we describe methods for labeling and staining cultured cells, as well as their analysis by flow cytometry. We also include experimental examples of how this method can be used to measure the effects of growth inhibiting signals from cytokines such as TGF-β1, and proliferative inhibitors such as the cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor, p27KIP1. We also include an alternate protocol that allows for the analysis of cell cycle position in a sub-population of cells within a larger culture5. In this case, we demonstrate how to detect a cell cycle arrest in cells transfected with the retinoblastoma gene even when greatly outnumbered by untransfected cells in the same culture. These examples illustrate the many ways that DNA staining and flow cytometry can be utilized and adapted to investigate fundamental questions of mammalian cell cycle control.
Molecular Biology, Issue 59, cell cycle, proliferation, flow cytometry, DNA synthesis, fluorescence
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Visualization of DNA Replication in the Vertebrate Model System DT40 using the DNA Fiber Technique
Authors: Rebekka A.V. Schwab, Wojciech Niedzwiedz.
Institutions: University of Oxford , University of Warsaw.
Maintenance of replication fork stability is of utmost importance for dividing cells to preserve viability and prevent disease. The processes involved not only ensure faithful genome duplication in the face of endogenous and exogenous DNA damage but also prevent genomic instability, a recognized causative factor in tumor development. Here, we describe a simple and cost-effective fluorescence microscopy-based method to visualize DNA replication in the avian B-cell line DT40. This cell line provides a powerful tool to investigate protein function in vivo by reverse genetics in vertebrate cells1. DNA fiber fluorography in DT40 cells lacking a specific gene allows one to elucidate the function of this gene product in DNA replication and genome stability. Traditional methods to analyze replication fork dynamics in vertebrate cells rely on measuring the overall rate of DNA synthesis in a population of pulse-labeled cells. This is a quantitative approach and does not allow for qualitative analysis of parameters that influence DNA synthesis. In contrast, the rate of movement of active forks can be followed directly when using the DNA fiber technique2-4. In this approach, nascent DNA is labeled in vivo by incorporation of halogenated nucleotides (Fig 1A). Subsequently, individual fibers are stretched onto a microscope slide, and the labeled DNA replication tracts are stained with specific antibodies and visualized by fluorescence microscopy (Fig 1B). Initiation of replication as well as fork directionality is determined by the consecutive use of two differently modified analogues. Furthermore, the dual-labeling approach allows for quantitative analysis of parameters that influence DNA synthesis during the S-phase, i.e. replication structures such as ongoing and stalled forks, replication origin density as well as fork terminations. Finally, the experimental procedure can be accomplished within a day, and requires only general laboratory equipment and a fluorescence microscope.
Molecular Biology, Issue 56, Genetics, DNA fiber analysis, replication speed, fork stalling, origin firing, termination
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Identifying the Effects of BRCA1 Mutations on Homologous Recombination using Cells that Express Endogenous Wild-type BRCA1
Authors: Jeffrey Parvin, Natsuko Chiba, Derek Ransburgh.
Institutions: The Ohio State University, Tohoku University.
The functional analysis of missense mutations can be complicated by the presence in the cell of the endogenous protein. Structure-function analyses of the BRCA1 have been complicated by the lack of a robust assay for the full length BRCA1 protein and the difficulties inherent in working with cell lines that express hypomorphic BRCA1 protein1,2,3,4,5. We developed a system whereby the endogenous BRCA1 protein in a cell was acutely depleted by RNAi targeting the 3'-UTR of the BRCA1 mRNA and replaced by co-transfecting a plasmid expressing a BRCA1 variant. One advantage of this procedure is that the acute silencing of BRCA1 and simultaneous replacement allow the cells to grow without secondary mutations or adaptations that might arise over time to compensate for the loss of BRCA1 function. This depletion and add-back procedure was done in a HeLa-derived cell line that was readily assayed for homologous recombination activity. The homologous recombination assay is based on a previously published method whereby a recombination substrate is integrated into the genome (Figure 1)6,7,8,9. This recombination substrate has the rare-cutting I-SceI restriction enzyme site inside an inactive GFP allele, and downstream is a second inactive GFP allele. Transfection of the plasmid that expresses I-SceI results in a double-stranded break, which may be repaired by homologous recombination, and if homologous recombination does repair the break it creates an active GFP allele that is readily scored by flow cytometry for GFP protein expression. Depletion of endogenous BRCA1 resulted in an 8-10-fold reduction in homologous recombination activity, and add-back of wild-type plasmid fully restored homologous recombination function. When specific point mutants of full length BRCA1 were expressed from co-transfected plasmids, the effect of the specific missense mutant could be scored. As an example, the expression of the BRCA1(M18T) protein, a variant of unknown clinical significance10, was expressed in these cells, it failed to restore BRCA1-dependent homologous recombination. By contrast, expression of another variant, also of unknown significance, BRCA1(I21V) fully restored BRCA1-dependent homologous recombination function. This strategy of testing the function of BRCA1 missense mutations has been applied to another biological system assaying for centrosome function (Kais et al, unpublished observations). Overall, this approach is suitable for the analysis of missense mutants in any gene that must be analyzed recessively.
Cell Biology, Issue 48, BRCA1, homologous recombination, breast cancer, RNA interference, DNA repair
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Measuring Cell Cycle Progression Kinetics with Metabolic Labeling and Flow Cytometry
Authors: Helen Fleisig, Judy Wong.
Institutions: University of British Columbia .
Precise control of the initiation and subsequent progression through the various phases of the cell cycle are of paramount importance in proliferating cells. Cell cycle division is an integral part of growth and reproduction and deregulation of key cell cycle components have been implicated in the precipitating events of carcinogenesis 1,2. Molecular agents in anti-cancer therapies frequently target biological pathways responsible for the regulation and coordination of cell cycle division 3. Although cell cycle kinetics tend to vary according to cell type, the distribution of cells amongst the four stages of the cell cycle is rather consistent within a particular cell line due to the consistent pattern of mitogen and growth factor expression. Genotoxic events and other cellular stressors can result in a temporary block of cell cycle progression, resulting in arrest or a temporary pause in a particular cell cycle phase to allow for instigation of the appropriate response mechanism. The ability to experimentally observe the behavior of a cell population with reference to their cell cycle progression stage is an important advance in cell biology. Common procedures such as mitotic shake off, differential centrifugation or flow cytometry-based sorting are used to isolate cells at specific stages of the cell cycle 4-6. These fractionated, cell cycle phase-enriched populations are then subjected to experimental treatments. Yield, purity and viability of the separated fractions can often be compromised using these physical separation methods. As well, the time lapse between separation of the cell populations and the start of experimental treatment, whereby the fractionated cells can progress from the selected cell cycle stage, can pose significant challenges in the successful implementation and interpretation of these experiments. Other approaches to study cell cycle stages include the use of chemicals to synchronize cells. Treatment of cells with chemical inhibitors of key metabolic processes for each cell cycle stage are useful in blocking the progression of the cell cycle to the next stage. For example, the ribonucleotide reductase inhibitor hydroxyurea halts cells at the G1/S juncture by limiting the supply of deoxynucleotides, the building blocks of DNA. Other notable chemicals include treatment with aphidicolin, a polymerase alpha inhibitor for G1 arrest, treatment with colchicine and nocodazole, both of which interfere with mitotic spindle formation to halt cells in M phase and finally, treatment with the DNA chain terminator 5-fluorodeoxyridine to initiate S phase arrest 7-9. Treatment with these chemicals is an effective means of synchronizing an entire population of cells at a particular phase. With removal of the chemical, cells rejoin the cell cycle in unison. Treatment of the test agent following release from the cell cycle blocking chemical ensures that the drug response elicited is from a uniform, cell cycle stage-specific population. However, since many of the chemical synchronizers are known genotoxic compounds, teasing apart the participation of various response pathways (to the synchronizers vs. the test agents) is challenging. Here we describe a metabolic labeling method for following a subpopulation of actively cycling cells through their progression from the DNA replication phase, through to the division and separation of their daughter cells. Coupled with flow cytometry quantification, this protocol enables for measurement of kinetic progression of the cell cycle in the absence of either mechanically- or chemically- induced cellular stresses commonly associated with other cell cycle synchronization methodologies 10. In the following sections we will discuss the methodology, as well as some of its applications in biomedical research.
Cellular Biology, Issue 63, cell cycle, kinetics, metabolic labeling, flow cytometry, biomedical, genetics, DNA replication
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Generating Chimeric Zebrafish Embryos by Transplantation
Authors: Hilary A. Kemp, Amanda Carmany-Rampey, Cecilia Moens.
Institutions: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center - FHCRC.
One of the most powerful tools used to gain insight into complex developmental processes is the analysis of chimeric embryos. A chimera is defined as an organism that contains cells from more than one animal; mosaics are one type of chimera in which cells from more than one genotype are mixed, usually wild-type and mutant. In the zebrafish, chimeras can be readily made by transplantation of cells from a donor embryo into a host embryo at the appropriate embryonic stage. Labeled donor cells are generated by injection of a lineage marker, such as a fluorescent dye, into the one-cell stage embryo. Labeled donor cells are removed from donor embryos and introduced into unlabeled host embryos using an oil-controlled glass pipette mounted on either a compound or dissecting microscope. Donor cells can in some cases be targeted to a specific region or tissue of the developing blastula or gastrula stage host embryo by choosing a transplantation site in the host embryo based on well-established fate maps.
Developmental Biology, Issue 29, development, mosaic analysis, chimera, zebrafish embryo, gastrula, blastula, targeted, transplantation
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Production of Transgenic Xenopus laevis by Restriction Enzyme Mediated Integration and Nuclear Transplantation
Authors: Enrique Amaya, Kristen Kroll.
Institutions: University of Manchester, Washington University School of Medicine.
Stable integration of cloned gene products into the Xenopus genome is necessary to control the time and place of expression, to express genes at later stages of embryonic development, and to define how enhancers and promoters regulate gene expression within the embryo. The protocol demonstrated here can be used to efficiently produce transgenic Xenopus laevis embryos. This transgenesis approach involves three parts: 1. Sperm nuclei are isolated from adult X. laevis testis by treatment with lysolecithin, which permeabilizes the sperm plasma membrane. 2. Egg extract is prepared by low speed centrifugation, addition of calcium to cause the extract to progress to interphase of the cell cycle, and a high-speed centrifugation to isolate interphase cytosol. 3. Nuclear transplantation: the nuclei and extract are combined with the linearized plasmid DNA to be introduced as the transgene and a small amount of restriction enzyme. During a short reaction, egg extract partially decondenses the sperm chromatin and the restriction enzyme generates chromosomal breaks that promote recombination of the transgene into the genome. The treated sperm nuclei are then transplanted into unfertilized eggs. Integration of the transgene usually occurs prior to the first embryonic cleavage such that the resulting embryos are not chimeric. These embryos can be analyzed without any need to breed to the next generation, allowing for efficient and rapid generation of transgenic embryos for analyses of promoter and gene function. Adult X. laevis resulting from this procedure also propagate the transgene through the germline and can be used to generate lines of transgenic animals for multiple purposes.
Developmental Biology, Issue 42, transgenic, embryo, Xenopus, transgenesis, nuclear transplantation
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Measuring Cation Transport by Na,K- and H,K-ATPase in Xenopus Oocytes by Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry: An Alternative to Radioisotope Assays
Authors: Katharina L. Dürr, Neslihan N. Tavraz, Susan Spiller, Thomas Friedrich.
Institutions: Technical University of Berlin, Oregon Health & Science University.
Whereas cation transport by the electrogenic membrane transporter Na+,K+-ATPase can be measured by electrophysiology, the electroneutrally operating gastric H+,K+-ATPase is more difficult to investigate. Many transport assays utilize radioisotopes to achieve a sufficient signal-to-noise ratio, however, the necessary security measures impose severe restrictions regarding human exposure or assay design. Furthermore, ion transport across cell membranes is critically influenced by the membrane potential, which is not straightforwardly controlled in cell culture or in proteoliposome preparations. Here, we make use of the outstanding sensitivity of atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS) towards trace amounts of chemical elements to measure Rb+ or Li+ transport by Na+,K+- or gastric H+,K+-ATPase in single cells. Using Xenopus oocytes as expression system, we determine the amount of Rb+ (Li+) transported into the cells by measuring samples of single-oocyte homogenates in an AAS device equipped with a transversely heated graphite atomizer (THGA) furnace, which is loaded from an autosampler. Since the background of unspecific Rb+ uptake into control oocytes or during application of ATPase-specific inhibitors is very small, it is possible to implement complex kinetic assay schemes involving a large number of experimental conditions simultaneously, or to compare the transport capacity and kinetics of site-specifically mutated transporters with high precision. Furthermore, since cation uptake is determined on single cells, the flux experiments can be carried out in combination with two-electrode voltage-clamping (TEVC) to achieve accurate control of the membrane potential and current. This allowed e.g. to quantitatively determine the 3Na+/2K+ transport stoichiometry of the Na+,K+-ATPase and enabled for the first time to investigate the voltage dependence of cation transport by the electroneutrally operating gastric H+,K+-ATPase. In principle, the assay is not limited to K+-transporting membrane proteins, but it may work equally well to address the activity of heavy or transition metal transporters, or uptake of chemical elements by endocytotic processes.
Biochemistry, Issue 72, Chemistry, Biophysics, Bioengineering, Physiology, Molecular Biology, electrochemical processes, physical chemistry, spectrophotometry (application), spectroscopic chemical analysis (application), life sciences, temperature effects (biological, animal and plant), Life Sciences (General), Na+,K+-ATPase, H+,K+-ATPase, Cation Uptake, P-type ATPases, Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry (AAS), Two-Electrode Voltage-Clamp, Xenopus Oocytes, Rb+ Flux, Transversely Heated Graphite Atomizer (THGA) Furnace, electrophysiology, animal model
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A Simple Behavioral Assay for Testing Visual Function in Xenopus laevis
Authors: Andrea S. Viczian, Michael E. Zuber.
Institutions: Center for Vision Research, SUNY Eye Institute, Upstate Medical University.
Measurement of the visual function in the tadpoles of the frog, Xenopus laevis, allows screening for blindness in live animals. The optokinetic response is a vision-based, reflexive behavior that has been observed in all vertebrates tested. Tadpole eyes are small so the tail flip response was used as alternative measure, which requires a trained technician to record the subtle response. We developed an alternative behavior assay based on the fact that tadpoles prefer to swim on the white side of a tank when placed in a tank with both black and white sides. The assay presented here is an inexpensive, simple alternative that creates a response that is easily measured. The setup consists of a tripod, webcam and nested testing tanks, readily available in most Xenopus laboratories. This article includes a movie showing the behavior of tadpoles, before and after severing the optic nerve. In order to test the function of one eye, we also include representative results of a tadpole in which each eye underwent retinal axotomy on consecutive days. Future studies could develop an automated version of this assay for testing the vision of many tadpoles at once.
Neuroscience, Issue 88, eye, retina, vision, color preference, Xenopus laevis, behavior, light, guidance, visual assay
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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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Dissection of Xenopus laevis Neural Crest for in vitro Explant Culture or in vivo Transplantation
Authors: Cecile Milet, Anne Helene Monsoro-Burq.
Institutions: Centre Universitaire, Centre Universitaire, Centre Universitaire, Centre Universitaire.
The neural crest (NC) is a transient dorsal neural tube cell population that undergoes an epithelium-to-mesenchyme transition (EMT) at the end of neurulation, migrates extensively towards various organs, and differentiates into many types of derivatives (neurons, glia, cartilage and bone, pigmented and endocrine cells). In this protocol, we describe how to dissect the premigratory cranial NC from Xenopus laevis embryos, in order to study NC development in vivo and in vitro. The frog model offers many advantages to study early development; abundant batches are available, embryos develop rapidly, in vivo gain and loss of function strategies allow manipulation of gene expression prior to NC dissection in donor and/or host embryos. The NC explants can be plated on fibronectin and used for in vitro studies. They can be cultured for several days in a serum-free defined medium. We also describe how to graft NC explants back into host embryos for studying NC migration and differentiation in vivo.
Developmental Biology, Issue 85, Neural crest, Xenopus laevis, embryo, dissection, graft, fibronectin
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A Possible Zebrafish Model of Polycystic Kidney Disease: Knockdown of wnt5a Causes Cysts in Zebrafish Kidneys
Authors: Liwei Huang, An Xiao, Andrea Wecker, Daniel A. McBride, Soo Young Choi, Weibin Zhou, Joshua H. Lipschutz.
Institutions: Eastern Virginia Medical School, Medical University of South Carolina, University of Michigan.
Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is one of the most common causes of end-stage kidney disease, a devastating disease for which there is no cure. The molecular mechanisms leading to cyst formation in PKD remain somewhat unclear, but many genes are thought to be involved. Wnt5a is a non-canonical glycoprotein that regulates a wide range of developmental processes. Wnt5a works through the planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway that regulates oriented cell division during renal tubular cell elongation. Defects of the PCP pathway have been found to cause kidney cyst formation. Our paper describes a method for developing a zebrafish cystic kidney disease model by knockdown of the wnt5a gene with wnt5a antisense morpholino (MO) oligonucleotides. Tg(wt1b:GFP) transgenic zebrafish were used to visualize kidney structure and kidney cysts following wnt5a knockdown. Two distinct antisense MOs (AUG - and splice-site) were used and both resulted in curly tail down phenotype and cyst formation after wnt5a knockdown. Injection of mouse Wnt5a mRNA, resistant to the MOs due to a difference in primary base pair structure, rescued the abnormal phenotype, demonstrating that the phenotype was not due to “off-target” effects of the morpholino. This work supports the validity of using a zebrafish model to study wnt5a function in the kidney.
Medicine, Issue 94, Wnt5a, polycystic kidney disease, morpholino, microinjection, zebrafish, pronephros
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Dissection, Culture, and Analysis of Xenopus laevis Embryonic Retinal Tissue
Authors: Molly J. McDonough, Chelsea E. Allen, Ng-Kwet-Leok A. Ng-Sui-Hing, Brian A. Rabe, Brittany B. Lewis, Margaret S. Saha.
Institutions: College of William and Mary.
The process by which the anterior region of the neural plate gives rise to the vertebrate retina continues to be a major focus of both clinical and basic research. In addition to the obvious medical relevance for understanding and treating retinal disease, the development of the vertebrate retina continues to serve as an important and elegant model system for understanding neuronal cell type determination and differentiation1-16. The neural retina consists of six discrete cell types (ganglion, amacrine, horizontal, photoreceptors, bipolar cells, and Müller glial cells) arranged in stereotypical layers, a pattern that is largely conserved among all vertebrates 12,14-18. While studying the retina in the intact developing embryo is clearly required for understanding how this complex organ develops from a protrusion of the forebrain into a layered structure, there are many questions that benefit from employing approaches using primary cell culture of presumptive retinal cells 7,19-23. For example, analyzing cells from tissues removed and dissociated at different stages allows one to discern the state of specification of individual cells at different developmental stages, that is, the fate of the cells in the absence of interactions with neighboring tissues 8,19-22,24-33. Primary cell culture also allows the investigator to treat the culture with specific reagents and analyze the results on a single cell level 5,8,21,24,27-30,33-39. Xenopus laevis, a classic model system for the study of early neural development 19,27,29,31-32,40-42, serves as a particularly suitable system for retinal primary cell culture 10,38,43-45. Presumptive retinal tissue is accessible from the earliest stages of development, immediately following neural induction 25,38,43. In addition, given that each cell in the embryo contains a supply of yolk, retinal cells can be cultured in a very simple defined media consisting of a buffered salt solution, thus removing the confounding effects of incubation or other sera-based products 10,24,44-45. However, the isolation of the retinal tissue from surrounding tissues and the subsequent processing is challenging. Here, we present a method for the dissection and dissociation of retinal cells in Xenopus laevis that will be used to prepare primary cell cultures that will, in turn, be analyzed for calcium activity and gene expression at the resolution of single cells. While the topic presented in this paper is the analysis of spontaneous calcium transients, the technique is broadly applicable to a wide array of research questions and approaches (Figure 1).
Developmental Biology, Issue 70, Neuroscience, Cellular Biology, Surgery, Anatomy, Physiology, Ophthalmology, retina, primary cell culture, dissection, confocal microscopy, calcium imaging, fluorescent in situ hybridization, FISH, Xenopus laevis, animal model
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Study of the DNA Damage Checkpoint using Xenopus Egg Extracts
Authors: Jeremy Willis, Darla DeStephanis, Yogin Patel, Vrushab Gowda, Shan Yan.
Institutions: University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
On a daily basis, cells are subjected to a variety of endogenous and environmental insults. To combat these insults, cells have evolved DNA damage checkpoint signaling as a surveillance mechanism to sense DNA damage and direct cellular responses to DNA damage. There are several groups of proteins called sensors, transducers and effectors involved in DNA damage checkpoint signaling (Figure 1). In this complex signaling pathway, ATR (ATM and Rad3-related) is one of the major kinases that can respond to DNA damage and replication stress. Activated ATR can phosphorylate its downstream substrates such as Chk1 (Checkpoint kinase 1). Consequently, phosphorylated and activated Chk1 leads to many downstream effects in the DNA damage checkpoint including cell cycle arrest, transcription activation, DNA damage repair, and apoptosis or senescence (Figure 1). When DNA is damaged, failing to activate the DNA damage checkpoint results in unrepaired damage and, subsequently, genomic instability. The study of the DNA damage checkpoint will elucidate how cells maintain genomic integrity and provide a better understanding of how human diseases, such as cancer, develop. Xenopus laevis egg extracts are emerging as a powerful cell-free extract model system in DNA damage checkpoint research. Low-speed extract (LSE) was initially described by the Masui group1. The addition of demembranated sperm chromatin to LSE results in nuclei formation where DNA is replicated in a semiconservative fashion once per cell cycle. The ATR/Chk1-mediated checkpoint signaling pathway is triggered by DNA damage or replication stress 2. Two methods are currently used to induce the DNA damage checkpoint: DNA damaging approaches and DNA damage-mimicking structures 3. DNA damage can be induced by ultraviolet (UV) irradiation, γ-irradiation, methyl methanesulfonate (MMS), mitomycin C (MMC), 4-nitroquinoline-1-oxide (4-NQO), or aphidicolin3, 4. MMS is an alkylating agent that inhibits DNA replication and activates the ATR/Chk1-mediated DNA damage checkpoint 4-7. UV irradiation also triggers the ATR/Chk1-dependent DNA damage checkpoint 8. The DNA damage-mimicking structure AT70 is an annealed complex of two oligonucleotides poly-(dA)70 and poly-(dT)70. The AT70 system was developed in Bill Dunphy's laboratory and is widely used to induce ATR/Chk1 checkpoint signaling 9-12. Here, we describe protocols (1) to prepare cell-free egg extracts (LSE), (2) to treat Xenopus sperm chromatin with two different DNA damaging approaches (MMS and UV), (3) to prepare the DNA damage-mimicking structure AT70, and (4) to trigger the ATR/Chk1-mediated DNA damage checkpoint in LSE with damaged sperm chromatin or a DNA damage-mimicking structure.
Genetics, Issue 69, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Developmental Biology, DNA damage checkpoint, Xenopus egg extracts, Xenopus laevis, Chk1 phosphorylation, ATR, AT70, MMS, UV, immunoblotting
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Reconstitution Of β-catenin Degradation In Xenopus Egg Extract
Authors: Tony W. Chen, Matthew R. Broadus, Stacey S. Huppert, Ethan Lee.
Institutions: Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Xenopus laevis egg extract is a well-characterized, robust system for studying the biochemistry of diverse cellular processes. Xenopus egg extract has been used to study protein turnover in many cellular contexts, including the cell cycle and signal transduction pathways1-3. Herein, a method is described for isolating Xenopus egg extract that has been optimized to promote the degradation of the critical Wnt pathway component, β-catenin. Two different methods are described to assess β-catenin protein degradation in Xenopus egg extract. One method is visually informative ([35S]-radiolabeled proteins), while the other is more readily scaled for high-throughput assays (firefly luciferase-tagged fusion proteins). The techniques described can be used to, but are not limited to, assess β-catenin protein turnover and identify molecular components contributing to its turnover. Additionally, the ability to purify large volumes of homogenous Xenopus egg extract combined with the quantitative and facile readout of luciferase-tagged proteins allows this system to be easily adapted for high-throughput screening for modulators of β-catenin degradation.
Molecular Biology, Issue 88, Xenopus laevis, Xenopus egg extracts, protein degradation, radiolabel, luciferase, autoradiography, high-throughput screening
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Visualizing Neuroblast Cytokinesis During C. elegans Embryogenesis
Authors: Denise Wernike, Chloe van Oostende, Alisa Piekny.
Institutions: Concordia University.
This protocol describes the use of fluorescence microscopy to image dividing cells within developing Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. In particular, this protocol focuses on how to image dividing neuroblasts, which are found underneath the epidermal cells and may be important for epidermal morphogenesis. Tissue formation is crucial for metazoan development and relies on external cues from neighboring tissues. C. elegans is an excellent model organism to study tissue morphogenesis in vivo due to its transparency and simple organization, making its tissues easy to study via microscopy. Ventral enclosure is the process where the ventral surface of the embryo is covered by a single layer of epithelial cells. This event is thought to be facilitated by the underlying neuroblasts, which provide chemical guidance cues to mediate migration of the overlying epithelial cells. However, the neuroblasts are highly proliferative and also may act as a mechanical substrate for the ventral epidermal cells. Studies using this experimental protocol could uncover the importance of intercellular communication during tissue formation, and could be used to reveal the roles of genes involved in cell division within developing tissues.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, C. elegans, morphogenesis, cytokinesis, neuroblasts, anillin, microscopy, cell division
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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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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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Adenoviral Transduction of Naive CD4 T Cells to Study Treg Differentiation
Authors: Sebastian C. Warth, Vigo Heissmeyer.
Institutions: Helmholtz Zentrum München.
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are essential to provide immune tolerance to self as well as to certain foreign antigens. Tregs can be generated from naive CD4 T cells in vitro with TCR- and co-stimulation in the presence of TGFβ and IL-2. This bears enormous potential for future therapies, however, the molecules and signaling pathways that control differentiation are largely unknown. Primary T cells can be manipulated through ectopic gene expression, but common methods fail to target the most important naive state of the T cell prior to primary antigen recognition. Here, we provide a protocol to express ectopic genes in naive CD4 T cells in vitro before inducing Treg differentiation. It applies transduction with the replication-deficient adenovirus and explains its generation and production. The adenovirus can take up large inserts (up to 7 kb) and can be equipped with promoters to achieve high and transient overexpression in T cells. It effectively transduces naive mouse T cells if they express a transgenic Coxsackie adenovirus receptor (CAR). Importantly, after infection the T cells remain naive (CD44low, CD62Lhigh) and resting (CD25-, CD69-) and can be activated and differentiated into Tregs similar to non-infected cells. Thus, this method enables manipulation of CD4 T cell differentiation from its very beginning. It ensures that ectopic gene expression is already in place when early signaling events of the initial TCR stimulation induces cellular changes that eventually lead into Treg differentiation.
Immunology, Issue 78, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Bioengineering, Infection, Genetics, Microbiology, Virology, T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory, Adenoviruses, Human, MicroRNAs, Antigens, Differentiation, T-Lymphocyte, Gene Transfer Techniques, Transduction, Genetic, Transfection, Adenovirus, gene transfer, microRNA, overexpression, knock down, CD4 T cells, in vitro differentiation, regulatory T cell, virus, cell, flow cytometry
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Assessing Cell Cycle Progression of Neural Stem and Progenitor Cells in the Mouse Developing Brain after Genotoxic Stress
Authors: Olivier Etienne, Amandine Bery, Telma Roque, Chantal Desmaze, François D. Boussin.
Institutions: CEA DSV iRCM SCSR, INSERM, U967, Université Paris Diderot, Sorbonne Paris Cité, Université Paris Sud, UMR 967.
Neurons of the cerebral cortex are generated during brain development from different types of neural stem and progenitor cells (NSPC), which form a pseudostratified epithelium lining the lateral ventricles of the embryonic brain. Genotoxic stresses, such as ionizing radiation, have highly deleterious effects on the developing brain related to the high sensitivity of NSPC. Elucidation of the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved depends on the characterization of the DNA damage response of these particular types of cells, which requires an accurate method to determine NSPC progression through the cell cycle in the damaged tissue. Here is shown a method based on successive intraperitoneal injections of EdU and BrdU in pregnant mice and further detection of these two thymidine analogues in coronal sections of the embryonic brain. EdU and BrdU are both incorporated in DNA of replicating cells during S phase and are detected by two different techniques (azide or a specific antibody, respectively), which facilitate their simultaneous detection. EdU and BrdU staining are then determined for each NSPC nucleus in function of its distance from the ventricular margin in a standard region of the dorsal telencephalon. Thus this dual labeling technique allows distinguishing cells that progressed through the cell cycle from those that have activated a cell cycle checkpoint leading to cell cycle arrest in response to DNA damage. An example of experiment is presented, in which EdU was injected before irradiation and BrdU immediately after and analyzes performed within the 4 hr following irradiation. This protocol provides an accurate analysis of the acute DNA damage response of NSPC in function of the phase of the cell cycle at which they have been irradiated. This method is easily transposable to many other systems in order to determine the impact of a particular treatment on cell cycle progression in living tissues.
Neuroscience, Issue 87, EdU, BrdU, in utero irradiation, neural stem and progenitor cells, cell cycle, embryonic cortex, immunostaining, cell cycle checkpoints, apoptosis, genotoxic stress, embronic mouse brain
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Combining Magnetic Sorting of Mother Cells and Fluctuation Tests to Analyze Genome Instability During Mitotic Cell Aging in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Authors: Melissa N. Patterson, Patrick H. Maxwell.
Institutions: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been an excellent model system for examining mechanisms and consequences of genome instability. Information gained from this yeast model is relevant to many organisms, including humans, since DNA repair and DNA damage response factors are well conserved across diverse species. However, S. cerevisiae has not yet been used to fully address whether the rate of accumulating mutations changes with increasing replicative (mitotic) age due to technical constraints. For instance, measurements of yeast replicative lifespan through micromanipulation involve very small populations of cells, which prohibit detection of rare mutations. Genetic methods to enrich for mother cells in populations by inducing death of daughter cells have been developed, but population sizes are still limited by the frequency with which random mutations that compromise the selection systems occur. The current protocol takes advantage of magnetic sorting of surface-labeled yeast mother cells to obtain large enough populations of aging mother cells to quantify rare mutations through phenotypic selections. Mutation rates, measured through fluctuation tests, and mutation frequencies are first established for young cells and used to predict the frequency of mutations in mother cells of various replicative ages. Mutation frequencies are then determined for sorted mother cells, and the age of the mother cells is determined using flow cytometry by staining with a fluorescent reagent that detects bud scars formed on their cell surfaces during cell division. Comparison of predicted mutation frequencies based on the number of cell divisions to the frequencies experimentally observed for mother cells of a given replicative age can then identify whether there are age-related changes in the rate of accumulating mutations. Variations of this basic protocol provide the means to investigate the influence of alterations in specific gene functions or specific environmental conditions on mutation accumulation to address mechanisms underlying genome instability during replicative aging.
Microbiology, Issue 92, Aging, mutations, genome instability, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, fluctuation test, magnetic sorting, mother cell, replicative aging
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Modeling The Lifecycle Of Ebola Virus Under Biosafety Level 2 Conditions With Virus-like Particles Containing Tetracistronic Minigenomes
Authors: Thomas Hoenen, Ari Watt, Anita Mora, Heinz Feldmann.
Institutions: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health.
Ebola viruses cause severe hemorrhagic fevers in humans and non-human primates, with case fatality rates as high as 90%. There are no approved vaccines or specific treatments for the disease caused by these viruses, and work with infectious Ebola viruses is restricted to biosafety level 4 laboratories, significantly limiting the research on these viruses. Lifecycle modeling systems model the virus lifecycle under biosafety level 2 conditions; however, until recently such systems have been limited to either individual aspects of the virus lifecycle, or a single infectious cycle. Tetracistronic minigenomes, which consist of Ebola virus non-coding regions, a reporter gene, and three Ebola virus genes involved in morphogenesis, budding, and entry (VP40, GP1,2, and VP24), can be used to produce replication and transcription-competent virus-like particles (trVLPs) containing these minigenomes. These trVLPs can continuously infect cells expressing the Ebola virus proteins responsible for genome replication and transcription, allowing us to safely model multiple infectious cycles under biosafety level 2 conditions. Importantly, the viral components of this systems are solely derived from Ebola virus and not from other viruses (as is, for example, the case in systems using pseudotyped viruses), and VP40, GP1,2 and VP24 are not overexpressed in this system, making it ideally suited for studying morphogenesis, budding and entry, although other aspects of the virus lifecycle such as genome replication and transcription can also be modeled with this system. Therefore, the tetracistronic trVLP assay represents the most comprehensive lifecycle modeling system available for Ebola viruses, and has tremendous potential for use in investigating the biology of Ebola viruses in future. Here, we provide detailed information on the use of this system, as well as on expected results.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 91, hemorrhagic Fevers, Viral, Mononegavirales Infections, Ebola virus, filovirus, lifecycle modeling system, minigenome, reverse genetics, virus-like particles, replication, transcription, budding, morphogenesis, entry
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Direct Restart of a Replication Fork Stalled by a Head-On RNA Polymerase
Authors: Richard T. Pomerantz, Mike O'Donnell.
Institutions: Rockefeller University.
In vivo studies suggest that replication forks are arrested due to encounters with head-on transcription complexes. Yet, the fate of the replisome and RNA polymerase (RNAP) following a head-on collision is unknown. Here, we find that the E. coli replisome stalls upon collision with a head-on transcription complex, but instead of collapsing, the replication fork remains highly stable and eventually resumes elongation after displacing the RNAP from DNA. We also find that the transcription-repair coupling factor, Mfd, promotes direct restart of the fork following the collision by facilitating displacement of the RNAP. These findings demonstrate the intrinsic stability of the replication apparatus and a novel role for the transcription-coupled repair pathway in promoting replication past a RNAP block.
Cellular Biology, Issue 38, replication, transcription, transcription-coupled repair, replisome, RNA polymerase, collision
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Principles of Site-Specific Recombinase (SSR) Technology
Authors: Frank Bucholtz.
Institutions: Max Plank Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden.
Site-specific recombinase (SSR) technology allows the manipulation of gene structure to explore gene function and has become an integral tool of molecular biology. Site-specific recombinases are proteins that bind to distinct DNA target sequences. The Cre/lox system was first described in bacteriophages during the 1980's. Cre recombinase is a Type I topoisomerase that catalyzes site-specific recombination of DNA between two loxP (locus of X-over P1) sites. The Cre/lox system does not require any cofactors. LoxP sequences contain distinct binding sites for Cre recombinases that surround a directional core sequence where recombination and rearrangement takes place. When cells contain loxP sites and express the Cre recombinase, a recombination event occurs. Double-stranded DNA is cut at both loxP sites by the Cre recombinase, rearranged, and ligated ("scissors and glue"). Products of the recombination event depend on the relative orientation of the asymmetric sequences. SSR technology is frequently used as a tool to explore gene function. Here the gene of interest is flanked with Cre target sites loxP ("floxed"). Animals are then crossed with animals expressing the Cre recombinase under the control of a tissue-specific promoter. In tissues that express the Cre recombinase it binds to target sequences and excises the floxed gene. Controlled gene deletion allows the investigation of gene function in specific tissues and at distinct time points. Analysis of gene function employing SSR technology --- conditional mutagenesis -- has significant advantages over traditional knock-outs where gene deletion is frequently lethal.
Cellular Biology, Issue 15, Molecular Biology, Site-Specific Recombinase, Cre recombinase, Cre/lox system, transgenic animals, transgenic technology
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Genetic Studies of Human DNA Repair Proteins Using Yeast as a Model System
Authors: Monika Aggarwal, Robert M. Brosh Jr..
Institutions: National Institute on Aging, NIH.
Understanding the roles of human DNA repair proteins in genetic pathways is a formidable challenge to many researchers. Genetic studies in mammalian systems have been limited due to the lack of readily available tools including defined mutant genetic cell lines, regulatory expression systems, and appropriate selectable markers. To circumvent these difficulties, model genetic systems in lower eukaryotes have become an attractive choice for the study of functionally conserved DNA repair proteins and pathways. We have developed a model yeast system to study the poorly defined genetic functions of the Werner syndrome helicase-nuclease (WRN) in nucleic acid metabolism. Cellular phenotypes associated with defined genetic mutant backgrounds can be investigated to clarify the cellular and molecular functions of WRN through its catalytic activities and protein interactions. The human WRN gene and associated variants, cloned into DNA plasmids for expression in yeast, can be placed under the control of a regulatory plasmid element. The expression construct can then be transformed into the appropriate yeast mutant background, and genetic function assayed by a variety of methodologies. Using this approach, we determined that WRN, like its related RecQ family members BLM and Sgs1, operates in a Top3-dependent pathway that is likely to be important for genomic stability. This is described in our recent publication [1] at Detailed methods of specific assays for genetic complementation studies in yeast are provided in this paper.
Microbiology, Issue 37, Werner syndrome, helicase, topoisomerase, RecQ, Bloom's syndrome, Sgs1, genomic instability, genetics, DNA repair, yeast
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