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Plated Cambrian bilaterians reveal the earliest stages of echinoderm evolution.
Echinoderms are unique in being pentaradiate, having diverged from the ancestral bilaterian body plan more radically than any other animal phylum. This transformation arises during ontogeny, as echinoderm larvae are initially bilateral, then pass through an asymmetric phase, before giving rise to the pentaradiate adult. Many fossil echinoderms are radial and a few are asymmetric, but until now none have been described that show the original bilaterian stage in echinoderm evolution. Here we report new fossils from the early middle Cambrian of southern Europe that are the first echinoderms with a fully bilaterian body plan as adults. Morphologically they are intermediate between two of the most basal classes, the Ctenocystoidea and Cincta. This provides a root for all echinoderms and confirms that the earliest members were deposit feeders not suspension feeders.
Authors: Alys M. Cheatle Jarvela, Veronica Hinman.
Published: 09-01-2014
Echinoderms have long been a favorite model system for studies of reproduction and development, and more recently for the study of gene regulation and evolution of developmental processes. The sea star, Patiria miniata, is gaining prevalence as a model system for these types of studies which were previously performed almost exclusively in the sea urchins, Strongylocentrotus purpuratus and Lytechinus variegatus. An advantage of these model systems is the ease of producing modified embryos in which a particular gene is up or downregulated, labeling a group of cells, or introducing a reporter gene. A single microinjection method is capable of creating a wide variety of such modified embryos. Here, we present a method for obtaining gametes from P. miniata, producing zygotes, and introducing perturbing reagents via microinjection. Healthy morphant embryos are subsequently isolated for quantitative and qualitative studies of gene function. The availability of genome and transcriptome data for this organism has increased the types of studies that are performed and the ease of executing them.
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Live-cell Imaging of Sensory Organ Precursor Cells in Intact Drosophila Pupae
Authors: Diana Zitserman, Fabrice Roegiers.
Institutions: Fox Chase Cancer Center.
Since the discovery of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), there has been a revolutionary change in the use of live-cell imaging as a tool for understanding fundamental biological mechanisms. Striking progress has been particularly evident in Drosophila, whose extensive toolkit of mutants and transgenic lines provides a convenient model to study evolutionarily-conserved developmental and cell biological mechanisms. We are interested in understanding the mechanisms that control cell fate specification in the adult peripheral nervous system (PNS) in Drosophila. Bristles that cover the head, thorax, abdomen, legs and wings of the adult fly are individual mechanosensory organs, and have been studied as a model system for understanding mechanisms of Notch-dependent cell fate decisions. Sensory organ precursor (SOP) cells of the microchaetes (or small bristles), are distributed throughout the epithelium of the pupal thorax, and are specified during the first 12 hours after the onset of pupariation. After specification, the SOP cells begin to divide, segregating the cell fate determinant Numb to one daughter cell during mitosis. Numb functions as a cell-autonomous inhibitor of the Notch signaling pathway. Here, we show a method to follow protein dynamics in SOP cell and its progeny within the intact pupal thorax using a combination of tissue-specific Gal4 drivers and GFP-tagged fusion proteins 1,2.This technique has the advantage over fixed tissue or cultured explants because it allows us to follow the entire development of an organ from specification of the neural precursor to growth and terminal differentiation of the organ. We can therefore directly correlate changes in cell behavior to changes in terminal differentiation. Moreover, we can combine the live imaging technique with mosaic analysis with a repressible cell marker (MARCM) system to assess the dynamics of tagged proteins in mitotic SOPs under mutant or wildtype conditions. Using this technique, we and others have revealed novel insights into regulation of asymmetric cell division and the control of Notch signaling activation in SOP cells (examples include references 1-6,7 ,8).
Neuroscience, Issue 51, Live imaging, asymmetric cell division, Drosophila, pupa
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Long-term, High-resolution Confocal Time Lapse Imaging of Arabidopsis Cotyledon Epidermis during Germination
Authors: Kylee M. Peterson, Keiko U. Torii.
Institutions: University of Washington, University of Washington, Japan Science and Technology Agency.
Imaging in vivo dynamics of cellular behavior throughout a developmental sequence can be a powerful technique for understanding the mechanics of tissue patterning. During animal development, key cell proliferation and patterning events occur very quickly. For instance, in Caenorhabditis elegans all cell divisions required for the larval body plan are completed within six hours after fertilization, with seven mitotic cycles1; the sixteen or more mitoses of Drosophila embryogenesis occur in less than 24 hr2. In contrast, cell divisions during plant development are slow, typically on the order of a day 3,4,5 . This imposes a unique challenge and a need for long-term live imaging for documenting dynamic behaviors of cell division and differentiation events during plant organogenesis. Arabidopsis epidermis is an excellent model system for investigating signaling, cell fate, and development in plants. In the cotyledon, this tissue consists of air- and water-resistant pavement cells interspersed with evenly distributed stomata, valves that open and close to control gas exchange and water loss. Proper spacing of these stomata is critical to their function, and their development follows a sequence of asymmetric division and cell differentiation steps to produce the organized epidermis (Fig. 1). This protocol allows observation of cells and proteins in the epidermis over several days of development. This time frame enables precise documentation of stem-cell divisions and differentiation of epidermal cells, including stomata and epidermal pavement cells. Fluorescent proteins can be fused to proteins of interest to assess their dynamics during cell division and differentiation processes. This technique allows us to understand the localization of a novel protein, POLAR6, during the proliferation stage of stomatal-lineage cells in the Arabidopsis cotyledon epidermis, where it is expressed in cells preceding asymmetric division events and moves to a characteristic area of the cell cortex shortly before division occurs. Images can be registered and streamlined video easily produced using public domain software to visualize dynamic protein localization and cell types as they change over time.
Plant Biology, Issue 70, Molecular Biology, Developmental Biology, Cellular Biology, Botany, plant, live imaging, epidermis, stomata, confocal, time lapse, Arabidopsis, cotyledon
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Derivation of Mouse Trophoblast Stem Cells from Blastocysts
Authors: Shang-Yi Chiu, Eri O. Maruyama, Wei Hsu.
Institutions: University of Rochester.
Specification of the trophectoderm is one of the earliest differentiation events of mammalian development. The trophoblast lineage derived from the trophectoderm mediates implantation and generates the fetal part of the placenta. As a result, the development of this lineage is essential for embryo survival. Derivation of trophoblast stem (TS) cells from mouse blastocysts was first described by Tanaka et al. 1998. The ability of TS cells to preserve the trophoblast specific property and their expression of stage- and cell type-specific markers after proper stimulation provides a valuable model system to investigate trophoblast lineage development whereby recapitulating early placentation events. Furthermore, trophoblast cells are one of the few somatic cell types undergoing natural genome amplification. Although the molecular pathways underlying trophoblast polyploidization have begun to unravel, the physiological role and advantage of trophoblast genome amplification remains largely elusive. The development of diploid stem cells into polyploid trophoblast cells in culture makes this ex vivo system an excellent tool for elucidating the regulatory mechanism of genome replication and instability in health and disease. Here we describe a protocol based on previous reports with modification published in Chiu et al. 2008.
Cellular Biology, Issue 40, Trophoblast stem cell, trophectoderm, trophoblast giant cell, blastocyst, extraembryonic development
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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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Dissection and Downstream Analysis of Zebra Finch Embryos at Early Stages of Development
Authors: Jessica R. Murray, Monika E. Stanciauskas, Tejas S. Aralere, Margaret S. Saha.
Institutions: College of William and Mary.
The zebra finch (Taeniopygiaguttata) has become an increasingly important model organism in many areas of research including toxicology1,2, behavior3, and memory and learning4,5,6. As the only songbird with a sequenced genome, the zebra finch has great potential for use in developmental studies; however, the early stages of zebra finch development have not been well studied. Lack of research in zebra finch development can be attributed to the difficulty of dissecting the small egg and embryo. The following dissection method minimizes embryonic tissue damage, which allows for investigation of morphology and gene expression at all stages of embryonic development. This permits both bright field and fluorescence quality imaging of embryos, use in molecular procedures such as in situ hybridization (ISH), cell proliferation assays, and RNA extraction for quantitative assays such as quantitative real-time PCR (qtRT-PCR). This technique allows investigators to study early stages of development that were previously difficult to access.
Developmental Biology, Issue 88, zebra finch (Taeniopygiaguttata), dissection, embryo, development, in situ hybridization, 5-ethynyl-2’-deoxyuridine (EdU)
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Generation of Transgenic Hydra by Embryo Microinjection
Authors: Celina E. Juliano, Haifan Lin, Robert E. Steele.
Institutions: Yale University School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine.
As a member of the phylum Cnidaria, the sister group to all bilaterians, Hydra can shed light on fundamental biological processes shared among multicellular animals. Hydra is used as a model for the study of regeneration, pattern formation, and stem cells. However, research efforts have been hampered by lack of a reliable method for gene perturbations to study molecular function. The development of transgenic methods has revitalized the study of Hydra biology1. Transgenic Hydra allow for the tracking of live cells, sorting to yield pure cell populations for biochemical analysis, manipulation of gene function by knockdown and over-expression, and analysis of promoter function. Plasmid DNA injected into early stage embryos randomly integrates into the genome early in development. This results in hatchlings that express transgenes in patches of tissue in one or more of the three lineages (ectodermal epithelial, endodermal epithelial, or interstitial). The success rate of obtaining a hatchling with transgenic tissue is between 10% and 20%. Asexual propagation of the transgenic hatchling is used to establish a uniformly transgenic line in a particular lineage. Generating transgenic Hydra is surprisingly simple and robust, and here we describe a protocol that can be easily implemented at low cost.
Molecular Biology, Issue 91, Hydra, transgenic, microinjection, gene overexpression, gene knockdown
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Protein WISDOM: A Workbench for In silico De novo Design of BioMolecules
Authors: James Smadbeck, Meghan B. Peterson, George A. Khoury, Martin S. Taylor, Christodoulos A. Floudas.
Institutions: Princeton University.
The aim of de novo protein design is to find the amino acid sequences that will fold into a desired 3-dimensional structure with improvements in specific properties, such as binding affinity, agonist or antagonist behavior, or stability, relative to the native sequence. Protein design lies at the center of current advances drug design and discovery. Not only does protein design provide predictions for potentially useful drug targets, but it also enhances our understanding of the protein folding process and protein-protein interactions. Experimental methods such as directed evolution have shown success in protein design. However, such methods are restricted by the limited sequence space that can be searched tractably. In contrast, computational design strategies allow for the screening of a much larger set of sequences covering a wide variety of properties and functionality. We have developed a range of computational de novo protein design methods capable of tackling several important areas of protein design. These include the design of monomeric proteins for increased stability and complexes for increased binding affinity. To disseminate these methods for broader use we present Protein WISDOM (, a tool that provides automated methods for a variety of protein design problems. Structural templates are submitted to initialize the design process. The first stage of design is an optimization sequence selection stage that aims at improving stability through minimization of potential energy in the sequence space. Selected sequences are then run through a fold specificity stage and a binding affinity stage. A rank-ordered list of the sequences for each step of the process, along with relevant designed structures, provides the user with a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the design. Here we provide the details of each design method, as well as several notable experimental successes attained through the use of the methods.
Genetics, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computational Biology, Genomics, Proteomics, Protein, Protein Binding, Computational Biology, Drug Design, optimization (mathematics), Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, De novo protein and peptide design, Drug design, In silico sequence selection, Optimization, Fold specificity, Binding affinity, sequencing
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In Situ Neutron Powder Diffraction Using Custom-made Lithium-ion Batteries
Authors: William R. Brant, Siegbert Schmid, Guodong Du, Helen E. A. Brand, Wei Kong Pang, Vanessa K. Peterson, Zaiping Guo, Neeraj Sharma.
Institutions: University of Sydney, University of Wollongong, Australian Synchrotron, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, University of Wollongong, University of New South Wales.
Li-ion batteries are widely used in portable electronic devices and are considered as promising candidates for higher-energy applications such as electric vehicles.1,2 However, many challenges, such as energy density and battery lifetimes, need to be overcome before this particular battery technology can be widely implemented in such applications.3 This research is challenging, and we outline a method to address these challenges using in situ NPD to probe the crystal structure of electrodes undergoing electrochemical cycling (charge/discharge) in a battery. NPD data help determine the underlying structural mechanism responsible for a range of electrode properties, and this information can direct the development of better electrodes and batteries. We briefly review six types of battery designs custom-made for NPD experiments and detail the method to construct the ‘roll-over’ cell that we have successfully used on the high-intensity NPD instrument, WOMBAT, at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). The design considerations and materials used for cell construction are discussed in conjunction with aspects of the actual in situ NPD experiment and initial directions are presented on how to analyze such complex in situ data.
Physics, Issue 93, In operando, structure-property relationships, electrochemical cycling, electrochemical cells, crystallography, battery performance
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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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Protocol for Plasmodium falciparum Infections in Mosquitoes and Infection Phenotype Determination
Authors: Zhiyong Xi, Suchismita Das, Lindsey Garver, George Dimopoulos.
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University.
Once a gene is identified as potentially refractory for malaria, it must be evaluated for its role in preventing Plasmodium infections within the mosquito. This protocol illustrates how the extent of plasmodium infections of mosquitoes can be assayed. The techniques for preparing the gametocyte culture, membrane feeding mosquitoes human blood, and assaying viral titers in the mosquito midgut are demonstrated.
Cellular Biology, Issue 5, mosquito, malaria, genetics, injection, RNAi, Plasmodium, TIssue Culture, Cell Culture, Insect
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Experimental Manipulation of Body Size to Estimate Morphological Scaling Relationships in Drosophila
Authors: R. Craig Stillwell, Ian Dworkin, Alexander W. Shingleton, W. Anthony Frankino.
Institutions: University of Houston, Michigan State University.
The scaling of body parts is a central feature of animal morphology1-7. Within species, morphological traits need to be correctly proportioned to the body for the organism to function; larger individuals typically have larger body parts and smaller individuals generally have smaller body parts, such that overall body shape is maintained across a range of adult body sizes. The requirement for correct proportions means that individuals within species usually exhibit low variation in relative trait size. In contrast, relative trait size can vary dramatically among species and is a primary mechanism by which morphological diversity is produced. Over a century of comparative work has established these intra- and interspecific patterns3,4. Perhaps the most widely used approach to describe this variation is to calculate the scaling relationship between the size of two morphological traits using the allometric equation y=bxα, where x and y are the size of the two traits, such as organ and body size8,9. This equation describes the within-group (e.g., species, population) scaling relationship between two traits as both vary in size. Log-transformation of this equation produces a simple linear equation, log(y) = log(b) + αlog(x) and log-log plots of the size of different traits among individuals of the same species typically reveal linear scaling with an intercept of log(b) and a slope of α, called the 'allometric coefficient'9,10. Morphological variation among groups is described by differences in scaling relationship intercepts or slopes for a given trait pair. Consequently, variation in the parameters of the allometric equation (b and α) elegantly describes the shape variation captured in the relationship between organ and body size within and among biological groups (see 11,12). Not all traits scale linearly with each other or with body size (e.g., 13,14) Hence, morphological scaling relationships are most informative when the data are taken from the full range of trait sizes. Here we describe how simple experimental manipulation of diet can be used to produce the full range of body size in insects. This permits an estimation of the full scaling relationship for any given pair of traits, allowing a complete description of how shape covaries with size and a robust comparison of scaling relationship parameters among biological groups. Although we focus on Drosophila, our methodology should be applicable to nearly any fully metamorphic insect.
Developmental Biology, Issue 56, Drosophila, allometry, morphology, body size, scaling, insect
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Adult and Embryonic Skeletal Muscle Microexplant Culture and Isolation of Skeletal Muscle Stem Cells
Authors: Deborah Merrick, Hung-Chih Chen, Dean Larner, Janet Smith.
Institutions: University of Birmingham.
Cultured embryonic and adult skeletal muscle cells have a number of different uses. The micro-dissected explants technique described in this chapter is a robust and reliable method for isolating relatively large numbers of proliferative skeletal muscle cells from juvenile, adult or embryonic muscles as a source of skeletal muscle stem cells. The authors have used micro-dissected explant cultures to analyse the growth characteristics of skeletal muscle cells in wild-type and dystrophic muscles. Each of the components of tissue growth, namely cell survival, proliferation, senescence and differentiation can be analysed separately using the methods described here. The net effect of all components of growth can be established by means of measuring explant outgrowth rates. The micro-explant method can be used to establish primary cultures from a wide range of different muscle types and ages and, as described here, has been adapted by the authors to enable the isolation of embryonic skeletal muscle precursors. Uniquely, micro-explant cultures have been used to derive clonal (single cell origin) skeletal muscle stem cell (SMSc) lines which can be expanded and used for in vivo transplantation. In vivo transplanted SMSc behave as functional, tissue-specific, satellite cells which contribute to skeletal muscle fibre regeneration but which are also retained (in the satellite cell niche) as a small pool of undifferentiated stem cells which can be re-isolated into culture using the micro-explant method.
Cellular Biology, Issue 43, Skeletal muscle stem cell, embryonic tissue culture, apoptosis, growth factor, proliferation, myoblast, myogenesis, satellite cell, skeletal muscle differentiation, muscular dystrophy
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Aseptic Laboratory Techniques: Plating Methods
Authors: Erin R. Sanders.
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles .
Microorganisms are present on all inanimate surfaces creating ubiquitous sources of possible contamination in the laboratory. Experimental success relies on the ability of a scientist to sterilize work surfaces and equipment as well as prevent contact of sterile instruments and solutions with non-sterile surfaces. Here we present the steps for several plating methods routinely used in the laboratory to isolate, propagate, or enumerate microorganisms such as bacteria and phage. All five methods incorporate aseptic technique, or procedures that maintain the sterility of experimental materials. Procedures described include (1) streak-plating bacterial cultures to isolate single colonies, (2) pour-plating and (3) spread-plating to enumerate viable bacterial colonies, (4) soft agar overlays to isolate phage and enumerate plaques, and (5) replica-plating to transfer cells from one plate to another in an identical spatial pattern. These procedures can be performed at the laboratory bench, provided they involve non-pathogenic strains of microorganisms (Biosafety Level 1, BSL-1). If working with BSL-2 organisms, then these manipulations must take place in a biosafety cabinet. Consult the most current edition of the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) as well as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for Infectious Substances to determine the biohazard classification as well as the safety precautions and containment facilities required for the microorganism in question. Bacterial strains and phage stocks can be obtained from research investigators, companies, and collections maintained by particular organizations such as the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC). It is recommended that non-pathogenic strains be used when learning the various plating methods. By following the procedures described in this protocol, students should be able to: ● Perform plating procedures without contaminating media. ● Isolate single bacterial colonies by the streak-plating method. ● Use pour-plating and spread-plating methods to determine the concentration of bacteria. ● Perform soft agar overlays when working with phage. ● Transfer bacterial cells from one plate to another using the replica-plating procedure. ● Given an experimental task, select the appropriate plating method.
Basic Protocols, Issue 63, Streak plates, pour plates, soft agar overlays, spread plates, replica plates, bacteria, colonies, phage, plaques, dilutions
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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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Optimized Negative Staining: a High-throughput Protocol for Examining Small and Asymmetric Protein Structure by Electron Microscopy
Authors: Matthew Rames, Yadong Yu, Gang Ren.
Institutions: The Molecular Foundry.
Structural determination of proteins is rather challenging for proteins with molecular masses between 40 - 200 kDa. Considering that more than half of natural proteins have a molecular mass between 40 - 200 kDa1,2, a robust and high-throughput method with a nanometer resolution capability is needed. Negative staining (NS) electron microscopy (EM) is an easy, rapid, and qualitative approach which has frequently been used in research laboratories to examine protein structure and protein-protein interactions. Unfortunately, conventional NS protocols often generate structural artifacts on proteins, especially with lipoproteins that usually form presenting rouleaux artifacts. By using images of lipoproteins from cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) as a standard, the key parameters in NS specimen preparation conditions were recently screened and reported as the optimized NS protocol (OpNS), a modified conventional NS protocol 3 . Artifacts like rouleaux can be greatly limited by OpNS, additionally providing high contrast along with reasonably high‐resolution (near 1 nm) images of small and asymmetric proteins. These high-resolution and high contrast images are even favorable for an individual protein (a single object, no average) 3D reconstruction, such as a 160 kDa antibody, through the method of electron tomography4,5. Moreover, OpNS can be a high‐throughput tool to examine hundreds of samples of small proteins. For example, the previously published mechanism of 53 kDa cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) involved the screening and imaging of hundreds of samples 6. Considering cryo-EM rarely successfully images proteins less than 200 kDa has yet to publish any study involving screening over one hundred sample conditions, it is fair to call OpNS a high-throughput method for studying small proteins. Hopefully the OpNS protocol presented here can be a useful tool to push the boundaries of EM and accelerate EM studies into small protein structure, dynamics and mechanisms.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 90, small and asymmetric protein structure, electron microscopy, optimized negative staining
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Live Imaging of Mitosis in the Developing Mouse Embryonic Cortex
Authors: Louis-Jan Pilaz, Debra L. Silver.
Institutions: Duke University Medical Center, Duke University Medical Center.
Although of short duration, mitosis is a complex and dynamic multi-step process fundamental for development of organs including the brain. In the developing cerebral cortex, abnormal mitosis of neural progenitors can cause defects in brain size and function. Hence, there is a critical need for tools to understand the mechanisms of neural progenitor mitosis. Cortical development in rodents is an outstanding model for studying this process. Neural progenitor mitosis is commonly examined in fixed brain sections. This protocol will describe in detail an approach for live imaging of mitosis in ex vivo embryonic brain slices. We will describe the critical steps for this procedure, which include: brain extraction, brain embedding, vibratome sectioning of brain slices, staining and culturing of slices, and time-lapse imaging. We will then demonstrate and describe in detail how to perform post-acquisition analysis of mitosis. We include representative results from this assay using the vital dye Syto11, transgenic mice (histone H2B-EGFP and centrin-EGFP), and in utero electroporation (mCherry-α-tubulin). We will discuss how this procedure can be best optimized and how it can be modified for study of genetic regulation of mitosis. Live imaging of mitosis in brain slices is a flexible approach to assess the impact of age, anatomy, and genetic perturbation in a controlled environment, and to generate a large amount of data with high temporal and spatial resolution. Hence this protocol will complement existing tools for analysis of neural progenitor mitosis.
Neuroscience, Issue 88, mitosis, radial glial cells, developing cortex, neural progenitors, brain slice, live imaging
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Automated, Quantitative Cognitive/Behavioral Screening of Mice: For Genetics, Pharmacology, Animal Cognition and Undergraduate Instruction
Authors: C. R. Gallistel, Fuat Balci, David Freestone, Aaron Kheifets, Adam King.
Institutions: Rutgers University, Koç University, New York University, Fairfield University.
We describe a high-throughput, high-volume, fully automated, live-in 24/7 behavioral testing system for assessing the effects of genetic and pharmacological manipulations on basic mechanisms of cognition and learning in mice. A standard polypropylene mouse housing tub is connected through an acrylic tube to a standard commercial mouse test box. The test box has 3 hoppers, 2 of which are connected to pellet feeders. All are internally illuminable with an LED and monitored for head entries by infrared (IR) beams. Mice live in the environment, which eliminates handling during screening. They obtain their food during two or more daily feeding periods by performing in operant (instrumental) and Pavlovian (classical) protocols, for which we have written protocol-control software and quasi-real-time data analysis and graphing software. The data analysis and graphing routines are written in a MATLAB-based language created to simplify greatly the analysis of large time-stamped behavioral and physiological event records and to preserve a full data trail from raw data through all intermediate analyses to the published graphs and statistics within a single data structure. The data-analysis code harvests the data several times a day and subjects it to statistical and graphical analyses, which are automatically stored in the "cloud" and on in-lab computers. Thus, the progress of individual mice is visualized and quantified daily. The data-analysis code talks to the protocol-control code, permitting the automated advance from protocol to protocol of individual subjects. The behavioral protocols implemented are matching, autoshaping, timed hopper-switching, risk assessment in timed hopper-switching, impulsivity measurement, and the circadian anticipation of food availability. Open-source protocol-control and data-analysis code makes the addition of new protocols simple. Eight test environments fit in a 48 in x 24 in x 78 in cabinet; two such cabinets (16 environments) may be controlled by one computer.
Behavior, Issue 84, genetics, cognitive mechanisms, behavioral screening, learning, memory, timing
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Membrane Potentials, Synaptic Responses, Neuronal Circuitry, Neuromodulation and Muscle Histology Using the Crayfish: Student Laboratory Exercises
Authors: Brittany Baierlein, Alison L. Thurow, Harold L. Atwood, Robin L. Cooper.
Institutions: University of Kentucky, University of Toronto.
The purpose of this report is to help develop an understanding of the effects caused by ion gradients across a biological membrane. Two aspects that influence a cell's membrane potential and which we address in these experiments are: (1) Ion concentration of K+ on the outside of the membrane, and (2) the permeability of the membrane to specific ions. The crayfish abdominal extensor muscles are in groupings with some being tonic (slow) and others phasic (fast) in their biochemical and physiological phenotypes, as well as in their structure; the motor neurons that innervate these muscles are correspondingly different in functional characteristics. We use these muscles as well as the superficial, tonic abdominal flexor muscle to demonstrate properties in synaptic transmission. In addition, we introduce a sensory-CNS-motor neuron-muscle circuit to demonstrate the effect of cuticular sensory stimulation as well as the influence of neuromodulators on certain aspects of the circuit. With the techniques obtained in this exercise, one can begin to answer many questions remaining in other experimental preparations as well as in physiological applications related to medicine and health. We have demonstrated the usefulness of model invertebrate preparations to address fundamental questions pertinent to all animals.
Neuroscience, Issue 47, Invertebrate, Crayfish, neurophysiology, muscle, anatomy, electrophysiology
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Live Imaging of Drosophila Larval Neuroblasts
Authors: Dorothy A. Lerit, Karen M. Plevock, Nasser M. Rusan.
Institutions: National Institutes of Health.
Stem cells divide asymmetrically to generate two progeny cells with unequal fate potential: a self-renewing stem cell and a differentiating cell. Given their relevance to development and disease, understanding the mechanisms that govern asymmetric stem cell division has been a robust area of study. Because they are genetically tractable and undergo successive rounds of cell division about once every hour, the stem cells of the Drosophila central nervous system, or neuroblasts, are indispensable models for the study of stem cell division. About 100 neural stem cells are located near the surface of each of the two larval brain lobes, making this model system particularly useful for live imaging microscopy studies. In this work, we review several approaches widely used to visualize stem cell divisions, and we address the relative advantages and disadvantages of those techniques that employ dissociated versus intact brain tissues. We also detail our simplified protocol used to explant whole brains from third instar larvae for live cell imaging and fixed analysis applications.
Neuroscience, Issue 89, live imaging, Drosophila, neuroblast, stem cell, asymmetric division, centrosome, brain, cell cycle, mitosis
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Ex vivo Culture of Drosophila Pupal Testis and Single Male Germ-line Cysts: Dissection, Imaging, and Pharmacological Treatment
Authors: Stefanie M. K. Gärtner, Christina Rathke, Renate Renkawitz-Pohl, Stephan Awe.
Institutions: Philipps-Universität Marburg, Philipps-Universität Marburg.
During spermatogenesis in mammals and in Drosophila melanogaster, male germ cells develop in a series of essential developmental processes. This includes differentiation from a stem cell population, mitotic amplification, and meiosis. In addition, post-meiotic germ cells undergo a dramatic morphological reshaping process as well as a global epigenetic reconfiguration of the germ line chromatin—the histone-to-protamine switch. Studying the role of a protein in post-meiotic spermatogenesis using mutagenesis or other genetic tools is often impeded by essential embryonic, pre-meiotic, or meiotic functions of the protein under investigation. The post-meiotic phenotype of a mutant of such a protein could be obscured through an earlier developmental block, or the interpretation of the phenotype could be complicated. The model organism Drosophila melanogaster offers a bypass to this problem: intact testes and even cysts of germ cells dissected from early pupae are able to develop ex vivo in culture medium. Making use of such cultures allows microscopic imaging of living germ cells in testes and of germ-line cysts. Importantly, the cultivated testes and germ cells also become accessible to pharmacological inhibitors, thereby permitting manipulation of enzymatic functions during spermatogenesis, including post-meiotic stages. The protocol presented describes how to dissect and cultivate pupal testes and germ-line cysts. Information on the development of pupal testes and culture conditions are provided alongside microscope imaging data of live testes and germ-line cysts in culture. We also describe a pharmacological assay to study post-meiotic spermatogenesis, exemplified by an assay targeting the histone-to-protamine switch using the histone acetyltransferase inhibitor anacardic acid. In principle, this cultivation method could be adapted to address many other research questions in pre- and post-meiotic spermatogenesis.
Developmental Biology, Issue 91, Ex vivo culture, testis, male germ-line cells, Drosophila, imaging, pharmacological assay
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Production of Haploid Zebrafish Embryos by In Vitro Fertilization
Authors: Paul T. Kroeger Jr., Shahram Jevin Poureetezadi, Robert McKee, Jonathan Jou, Rachel Miceli, Rebecca A. Wingert.
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish has become a mainstream vertebrate model that is relevant for many disciplines of scientific study. Zebrafish are especially well suited for forward genetic analysis of developmental processes due to their external fertilization, embryonic size, rapid ontogeny, and optical clarity – a constellation of traits that enable the direct observation of events ranging from gastrulation to organogenesis with a basic stereomicroscope. Further, zebrafish embryos can survive for several days in the haploid state. The production of haploid embryos in vitro is a powerful tool for mutational analysis, as it enables the identification of recessive mutant alleles present in first generation (F1) female carriers following mutagenesis in the parental (P) generation. This approach eliminates the necessity to raise multiple generations (F2, F3, etc.) which involves breeding of mutant families, thus saving the researcher time along with reducing the needs for zebrafish colony space, labor, and the husbandry costs. Although zebrafish have been used to conduct forward screens for the past several decades, there has been a steady expansion of transgenic and genome editing tools. These tools now offer a plethora of ways to create nuanced assays for next generation screens that can be used to further dissect the gene regulatory networks that drive vertebrate ontogeny. Here, we describe how to prepare haploid zebrafish embryos. This protocol can be implemented for novel future haploid screens, such as in enhancer and suppressor screens, to address the mechanisms of development for a broad number of processes and tissues that form during early embryonic stages.
Developmental Biology, Issue 89, zebrafish, haploid, in vitro fertilization, forward genetic screen, saturation, recessive mutation, mutagenesis
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Drosophila Larval NMJ Dissection
Authors: Jonathan R. Brent, Kristen M. Werner, Brian D. McCabe.
Institutions: Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The Drosophila neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is an established model system used for the study of synaptic development and plasticity. The widespread use of the Drosophila motor system is due to its high accessibility. It can be analyzed with single-cell resolution. There are 30 muscles per hemisegment whose arrangement within the peripheral body wall are known. A total of 35 motor neurons attach to these muscles in a pattern that has high fidelity. Using molecular biology and genetics, one can create transgenic animals or mutants. Then, one can study the developmental consequences on the morphology and function of the NMJ. In order to access the NMJ for study, it is necessary to carefully dissect each larva. In this article we demonstrate how to properly dissect Drosophila larvae for study of the NMJ by removing all internal organs while leaving the body wall intact. This technique is suitable to prepare larvae for imaging, immunohistochemistry, or electrophysiology.
Developmental Biology, Issue 24, NMJ, Drosophila, Larvae, Immunohistochemistry, Neuroscienc
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Electroporation of Mycobacteria
Authors: Renan Goude, Tanya Parish.
Institutions: Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry.
High efficiency transformation is a major limitation in the study of mycobacteria. The genus Mycobacterium can be difficult to transform; this is mainly caused by the thick and waxy cell wall, but is compounded by the fact that most molecular techniques have been developed for distantly-related species such as Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis. In spite of these obstacles, mycobacterial plasmids have been identified and DNA transformation of many mycobacterial species have now been described. The most successful method for introducing DNA into mycobacteria is electroporation. Many parameters contribute to successful transformation; these include the species/strain, the nature of the transforming DNA, the selectable marker used, the growth medium, and the conditions for the electroporation pulse. Optimized methods for the transformation of both slow- and fast-grower are detailed here. Transformation efficiencies for different mycobacterial species and with various selectable markers are reported.
Microbiology, Issue 15, Springer Protocols, Mycobacteria, Electroporation, Bacterial Transformation, Transformation Efficiency, Bacteria, Tuberculosis, M. Smegmatis, Springer Protocols
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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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Protocol for Mosquito Rearing (A. gambiae)
Authors: Suchismita Das, Lindsey Garver, George Dimopoulos.
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University.
This protocol describes mosquito rearing in the insectary. The insectary rooms are maintained at 28°C and ~80% humidity, with a 12 hr. day/night cycle. For this procedure, you'll need mosquito cages, 10% sterile sucrose solution, paper towels, beaker, whatman filter paper, glass feeders, human blood and serum, water bath, parafilm, distilled water, clean plastic trays, mosquito food (described below), mosquito net to cover the trays, vacuum, and a collection chamber to collect adults.
Cellular Biology, Issue 5, mosquito, malaria, infectious disease
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