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From single molecule fluctuations to muscle contraction: a Brownian model of A.F. Huxleys hypotheses.
Muscular force generation in response to external stimuli is the result of thermally fluctuating, cyclical interactions between myosin and actin, which together form the actomyosin complex. Normally, these fluctuations are modelled using transition rate functions that are based on muscle fiber behaviour, in a phenomenological fashion. However, such a basis reduces the predictive power of these models. As an alternative, we propose a model which uses direct single molecule observations of actomyosin fluctuations reported in the literature. We precisely estimate the actomyosin potential bias and use diffusion theory to obtain a brownian ratchet model that reproduces the complete cross-bridge cycle. The model is validated by simulating several macroscopic experimental conditions, while its interpretation is compatible with two different force-generating scenarios.
Authors: Ki Ho Park, Leticia Brotto, Oanh Lehoang, Marco Brotto, Jianjie Ma, Xiaoli Zhao.
Published: 11-01-2012
Described here is a method to measure contractility of isolated skeletal muscles. Parameters such as muscle force, muscle power, contractile kinetics, fatigability, and recovery after fatigue can be obtained to assess specific aspects of the excitation-contraction coupling (ECC) process such as excitability, contractile machinery and Ca2+ handling ability. This method removes the nerve and blood supply and focuses on the isolated skeletal muscle itself. We routinely use this method to identify genetic components that alter the contractile property of skeletal muscle though modulating Ca2+ signaling pathways. Here, we describe a newly identified skeletal muscle phenotype, i.e., mechanic alternans, as an example of the various and rich information that can be obtained using the in vitro muscle contractility assay. Combination of this assay with single cell assays, genetic approaches and biochemistry assays can provide important insights into the mechanisms of ECC in skeletal muscle.
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Demonstrating the Uses of the Novel Gravitational Force Spectrometer to Stretch and Measure Fibrous Proteins
Authors: James W. Dunn, Douglas D. Root.
Institutions: University of North Texas.
The study of macromolecular structure has become critical to the elucidation of molecular mechanisms and function. There are several limited, but important bioinstruments capable of testing the force dependence of structural features in proteins. Scale has been a limiting parameter on how accurately researchers can peer into the nanomechanical world of molecules, such as nucleic acids, enzymes, and motor proteins that perform life-sustaining work. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is well tuned to determine native structures of fibrous proteins with a distance resolution on par with electron microscopy. However, in AFM force studies, the forces are typically much higher than a single molecule might experience 1, 2. Optical traps (OT) are very good at determining the relative distance between the trapped beads and they can impart very small forces 3. However, they do not yield accurate absolute lengths of the molecules under study. Molecular simulations provide supportive information to such experiments, but are limited in the ability to handle the same large molecular sizes, long time frames, and convince some researchers in the absence of other supporting evidence2, 4. The gravitational force spectrometer (GFS) fills a critical niche in the arsenal of an investigator by providing a unique combination of abilities. This instrument is capable of generating forces typically with 98% or better accuracy from the femtonewton range to the nanonewton range. The distance measurements currently are capable of resolving the absolute molecular length down to five nanometers, and relative bead pair separation distances with a precision similar to an optical trap. Also, the GFS can determine stretching or uncoiling where the force is near equilibrium, or provide a graded force to juxtapose against any measured structural changes. It is even possible to determine how many amino acid residues are involved in uncoiling events under physiological force loads 2. Unlike in other methods where there is extensive force calibration that must precede any assay, the GFS requires no such force calibration 5. By complementing the strengths of other methods, the GFS will bridge gaps in understanding the nanomechanics of vital proteins and other macromolecules.
Biophysics, Issue 49, Force Spectroscopy, Single Molecule Assays, Myosin, Antibodies, Digital Image Processing, Microscopy, Education, Microspheres, Coiled Coil, Protein
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A Simple Stimulatory Device for Evoking Point-like Tactile Stimuli: A Searchlight for LFP to Spike Transitions
Authors: Antonio G. Zippo, Sara Nencini, Gian Carlo Caramenti, Maurizio Valente, Riccardo Storchi, Gabriele E.M. Biella.
Institutions: National Research Council, National Research Council, University of Manchester.
Current neurophysiological research has the aim to develop methodologies to investigate the signal route from neuron to neuron, namely in the transitions from spikes to Local Field Potentials (LFPs) and from LFPs to spikes. LFPs have a complex dependence on spike activity and their relation is still poorly understood1. The elucidation of these signal relations would be helpful both for clinical diagnostics (e.g. stimulation paradigms for Deep Brain Stimulation) and for a deeper comprehension of neural coding strategies in normal and pathological conditions (e.g. epilepsy, Parkinson disease, chronic pain). To this aim, one has to solve technical issues related to stimulation devices, stimulation paradigms and computational analyses. Therefore, a custom-made stimulation device was developed in order to deliver stimuli well regulated in space and time that does not incur in mechanical resonance. Subsequently, as an exemplification, a set of reliable LFP-spike relationships was extracted. The performance of the device was investigated by extracellular recordings, jointly spikes and LFP responses to the applied stimuli, from the rat Primary Somatosensory cortex. Then, by means of a multi-objective optimization strategy, a predictive model for spike occurrence based on LFPs was estimated. The application of this paradigm shows that the device is adequately suited to deliver high frequency tactile stimulation, outperforming common piezoelectric actuators. As a proof of the efficacy of the device, the following results were presented: 1) the timing and reliability of LFP responses well match the spike responses, 2) LFPs are sensitive to the stimulation history and capture not only the average response but also the trial-to-trial fluctuations in the spike activity and, finally, 3) by using the LFP signal it is possible to estimate a range of predictive models that capture different aspects of the spike activity.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, LFP, spike, tactile stimulus, Multiobjective function, Neuron, somatosensory cortex
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Shape Memory Polymers for Active Cell Culture
Authors: Kevin A. Davis, Xiaofan Luo, Patrick T. Mather, James H. Henderson.
Institutions: Syracuse Biomaterials Institute.
Shape memory polymers (SMPs) are a class of "smart" materials that have the ability to change from a fixed, temporary shape to a pre-determined permanent shape upon the application of a stimulus such as heat1-5. In a typical shape memory cycle, the SMP is first deformed at an elevated temperature that is higher than its transition temperature, Ttrans [either the melting temperature (Tm) or the glass transition temperature (Tg)]. The deformation is elastic in nature and mainly leads to a reduction in conformational entropy of the constituent network chains (following the rubber elasticity theory). The deformed SMP is then cooled to a temperature below its Ttrans while maintaining the external strain or stress constant. During cooling, the material transitions to a more rigid state (semi-crystalline or glassy), which kinetically traps or "freezes" the material in this low-entropy state leading to macroscopic shape fixing. Shape recovery is triggered by continuously heating the material through Ttrans under a stress-free (unconstrained) condition. By allowing the network chains (with regained mobility) to relax to their thermodynamically favored, maximal-entropy state, the material changes from the temporary shape to the permanent shape. Cells are capable of surveying the mechanical properties of their surrounding environment6. The mechanisms through which mechanical interactions between cells and their physical environment control cell behavior are areas of active research. Substrates of defined topography have emerged as powerful tools in the investigation of these mechanisms. Mesoscale, microscale, and nanoscale patterns of substrate topography have been shown to direct cell alignment, cell adhesion, and cell traction forces7-14. These findings have underscored the potential for substrate topography to control and assay the mechanical interactions between cells and their physical environment during cell culture, but the substrates used to date have generally been passive and could not be programmed to change significantly during culture. This physical stasis has limited the potential of topographic substrates to control cells in culture. Here, active cell culture (ACC) SMP substrates are introduced that employ surface shape memory to provide programmed control of substrate topography and deformation. These substrates demonstrate the ability to transition from a temporary grooved topography to a second, nearly flat memorized topography. This change in topography can be used to control cell behavior under standard cell culture conditions.
Bioengineering, Issue 53, Shape Memory Polymer, Mechanobiology, Tissue Engineering, Cell Culture, Cell Biomechanics
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Force Measurement During Contraction to Assess Muscle Function in Zebrafish Larvae
Authors: Darcée D. Sloboda, Dennis R. Claflin, James J. Dowling, Susan V. Brooks.
Institutions: University of Michigan , University of Michigan , University of Michigan , University of Michigan .
Zebrafish larvae provide models of muscle development, muscle disease and muscle-related chemical toxicity, but related studies often lack functional measures of muscle health. In this video article, we demonstrate a method to measure force generation during contraction of zebrafish larval trunk muscle. Force measurements are accomplished by placing an anesthetized larva into a chamber filled with a salt solution. The anterior end of the larva is tied to a force transducer and the posterior end of the larva is tied to a length controller. An isometric twitch contraction is elicited by electric field stimulation and the force response is recorded for analysis. Force generation during contraction provides a measure of overall muscle health and specifically provides a measure of muscle function. Although we describe this technique for use with wild-type larvae, this method can be used with genetically modified larvae or with larvae treated with drugs or toxicants, to characterize muscle disease models and evaluate treatments, or to study muscle development, injury, or chemical toxicity.
Developmental Biology, Issue 77, Anatomy, Physiology, Biophysics, Biomedical Engineering, Neurobiology, Neuroscience, Muscle, contraction, force, zebrafish, larvae, muscle function, muscle health, force generation, animal model
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Extracellularly Identifying Motor Neurons for a Muscle Motor Pool in Aplysia californica
Authors: Hui Lu, Jeffrey M. McManus, Hillel J. Chiel.
Institutions: Case Western Reserve University , Case Western Reserve University , Case Western Reserve University .
In animals with large identified neurons (e.g. mollusks), analysis of motor pools is done using intracellular techniques1,2,3,4. Recently, we developed a technique to extracellularly stimulate and record individual neurons in Aplysia californica5. We now describe a protocol for using this technique to uniquely identify and characterize motor neurons within a motor pool. This extracellular technique has advantages. First, extracellular electrodes can stimulate and record neurons through the sheath5, so it does not need to be removed. Thus, neurons will be healthier in extracellular experiments than in intracellular ones. Second, if ganglia are rotated by appropriate pinning of the sheath, extracellular electrodes can access neurons on both sides of the ganglion, which makes it easier and more efficient to identify multiple neurons in the same preparation. Third, extracellular electrodes do not need to penetrate cells, and thus can be easily moved back and forth among neurons, causing less damage to them. This is especially useful when one tries to record multiple neurons during repeating motor patterns that may only persist for minutes. Fourth, extracellular electrodes are more flexible than intracellular ones during muscle movements. Intracellular electrodes may pull out and damage neurons during muscle contractions. In contrast, since extracellular electrodes are gently pressed onto the sheath above neurons, they usually stay above the same neuron during muscle contractions, and thus can be used in more intact preparations. To uniquely identify motor neurons for a motor pool (in particular, the I1/I3 muscle in Aplysia) using extracellular electrodes, one can use features that do not require intracellular measurements as criteria: soma size and location, axonal projection, and muscle innervation4,6,7. For the particular motor pool used to illustrate the technique, we recorded from buccal nerves 2 and 3 to measure axonal projections, and measured the contraction forces of the I1/I3 muscle to determine the pattern of muscle innervation for the individual motor neurons. We demonstrate the complete process of first identifying motor neurons using muscle innervation, then characterizing their timing during motor patterns, creating a simplified diagnostic method for rapid identification. The simplified and more rapid diagnostic method is superior for more intact preparations, e.g. in the suspended buccal mass preparation8 or in vivo9. This process can also be applied in other motor pools10,11,12 in Aplysia or in other animal systems2,3,13,14.
Neuroscience, Issue 73, Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Behavior, Neurobiology, Animal, Neurosciences, Neurophysiology, Electrophysiology, Aplysia, Aplysia californica, California sea slug, invertebrate, feeding, buccal mass, ganglia, motor neurons, neurons, extracellular stimulation and recordings, extracellular electrodes, animal model
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Mapping Molecular Diffusion in the Plasma Membrane by Multiple-Target Tracing (MTT)
Authors: Vincent Rouger, Nicolas Bertaux, Tomasz Trombik, Sébastien Mailfert, Cyrille Billaudeau, Didier Marguet, Arnauld Sergé.
Institutions: Parc scientifique de Luminy, Parc scientifique de Luminy, Aix-Marseille University, Technopôle de Château-Gombert, Aix-Marseille University, Aix-Marseille University.
Our goal is to obtain a comprehensive description of molecular processes occurring at cellular membranes in different biological functions. We aim at characterizing the complex organization and dynamics of the plasma membrane at single-molecule level, by developing analytic tools dedicated to Single-Particle Tracking (SPT) at high density: Multiple-Target Tracing (MTT)1. Single-molecule videomicroscopy, offering millisecond and nanometric resolution1-11, allows a detailed representation of membrane organization12-14 by accurately mapping descriptors such as cell receptors localization, mobility, confinement or interactions. We revisited SPT, both experimentally and algorithmically. Experimental aspects included optimizing setup and cell labeling, with a particular emphasis on reaching the highest possible labeling density, in order to provide a dynamic snapshot of molecular dynamics as it occurs within the membrane. Algorithmic issues concerned each step used for rebuilding trajectories: peaks detection, estimation and reconnection, addressed by specific tools from image analysis15,16. Implementing deflation after detection allows rescuing peaks initially hidden by neighboring, stronger peaks. Of note, improving detection directly impacts reconnection, by reducing gaps within trajectories. Performances have been evaluated using Monte-Carlo simulations for various labeling density and noise values, which typically represent the two major limitations for parallel measurements at high spatiotemporal resolution. The nanometric accuracy17 obtained for single molecules, using either successive on/off photoswitching or non-linear optics, can deliver exhaustive observations. This is the basis of nanoscopy methods17 such as STORM18, PALM19,20, RESOLFT21 or STED22,23, which may often require imaging fixed samples. The central task is the detection and estimation of diffraction-limited peaks emanating from single-molecules. Hence, providing adequate assumptions such as handling a constant positional accuracy instead of Brownian motion, MTT is straightforwardly suited for nanoscopic analyses. Furthermore, MTT can fundamentally be used at any scale: not only for molecules, but also for cells or animals, for instance. Hence, MTT is a powerful tracking algorithm that finds applications at molecular and cellular scales.
Physics, Issue 63, Single-particle tracking, single-molecule fluorescence microscopy, image analysis, tracking algorithm, high-resolution diffusion map, plasma membrane lateral organization
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Bladder Smooth Muscle Strip Contractility as a Method to Evaluate Lower Urinary Tract Pharmacology
Authors: F. Aura Kullmann, Stephanie L. Daugherty, William C. de Groat, Lori A. Birder.
Institutions: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
We describe an in vitro method to measure bladder smooth muscle contractility, and its use for investigating physiological and pharmacological properties of the smooth muscle as well as changes induced by pathology. This method provides critical information for understanding bladder function while overcoming major methodological difficulties encountered in in vivo experiments, such as surgical and pharmacological manipulations that affect stability and survival of the preparations, the use of human tissue, and/or the use of expensive chemicals. It also provides a way to investigate the properties of each bladder component (i.e. smooth muscle, mucosa, nerves) in healthy and pathological conditions. The urinary bladder is removed from an anesthetized animal, placed in Krebs solution and cut into strips. Strips are placed into a chamber filled with warm Krebs solution. One end is attached to an isometric tension transducer to measure contraction force, the other end is attached to a fixed rod. Tissue is stimulated by directly adding compounds to the bath or by electric field stimulation electrodes that activate nerves, similar to triggering bladder contractions in vivo. We demonstrate the use of this method to evaluate spontaneous smooth muscle contractility during development and after an experimental spinal cord injury, the nature of neurotransmission (transmitters and receptors involved), factors involved in modulation of smooth muscle activity, the role of individual bladder components, and species and organ differences in response to pharmacological agents. Additionally, it could be used for investigating intracellular pathways involved in contraction and/or relaxation of the smooth muscle, drug structure-activity relationships and evaluation of transmitter release. The in vitro smooth muscle contractility method has been used extensively for over 50 years, and has provided data that significantly contributed to our understanding of bladder function as well as to pharmaceutical development of compounds currently used clinically for bladder management.
Medicine, Issue 90, Krebs, species differences, in vitro, smooth muscle contractility, neural stimulation
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Combining Single-molecule Manipulation and Imaging for the Study of Protein-DNA Interactions
Authors: Carina Monico, Gionata Belcastro, Francesco Vanzi, Francesco S. Pavone, Marco Capitanio.
Institutions: University of Florence, University of Oxford, University of Florence, University of Florence, National Institute of Optics-National Research Council, Italy, International Center of Computational Neurophotonics.
The paper describes the combination of optical tweezers and single molecule fluorescence detection for the study of protein-DNA interaction. The method offers the opportunity of investigating interactions occurring in solution (thus avoiding problems due to closeby surfaces as in other single molecule methods), controlling the DNA extension and tracking interaction dynamics as a function of both mechanical parameters and DNA sequence. The methods for establishing successful optical trapping and nanometer localization of single molecules are illustrated. We illustrate the experimental conditions allowing the study of interaction of lactose repressor (lacI), labeled with Atto532, with a DNA molecule containing specific target sequences (operators) for LacI binding. The method allows the observation of specific interactions at the operators, as well as one-dimensional diffusion of the protein during the process of target search. The method is broadly applicable to the study of protein-DNA interactions but also to molecular motors, where control of the tension applied to the partner track polymer (for example actin or microtubules) is desirable.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, Single molecule biophysics, Optical tweezers, fluorescence microscopy, DNA binding proteins, lactose repressor, microfluidics
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From Fast Fluorescence Imaging to Molecular Diffusion Law on Live Cell Membranes in a Commercial Microscope
Authors: Carmine Di Rienzo, Enrico Gratton, Fabio Beltram, Francesco Cardarelli.
Institutions: Scuola Normale Superiore, Instituto Italiano di Tecnologia, University of California, Irvine.
It has become increasingly evident that the spatial distribution and the motion of membrane components like lipids and proteins are key factors in the regulation of many cellular functions. However, due to the fast dynamics and the tiny structures involved, a very high spatio-temporal resolution is required to catch the real behavior of molecules. Here we present the experimental protocol for studying the dynamics of fluorescently-labeled plasma-membrane proteins and lipids in live cells with high spatiotemporal resolution. Notably, this approach doesn’t need to track each molecule, but it calculates population behavior using all molecules in a given region of the membrane. The starting point is a fast imaging of a given region on the membrane. Afterwards, a complete spatio-temporal autocorrelation function is calculated correlating acquired images at increasing time delays, for example each 2, 3, n repetitions. It is possible to demonstrate that the width of the peak of the spatial autocorrelation function increases at increasing time delay as a function of particle movement due to diffusion. Therefore, fitting of the series of autocorrelation functions enables to extract the actual protein mean square displacement from imaging (iMSD), here presented in the form of apparent diffusivity vs average displacement. This yields a quantitative view of the average dynamics of single molecules with nanometer accuracy. By using a GFP-tagged variant of the Transferrin Receptor (TfR) and an ATTO488 labeled 1-palmitoyl-2-hydroxy-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine (PPE) it is possible to observe the spatiotemporal regulation of protein and lipid diffusion on µm-sized membrane regions in the micro-to-milli-second time range.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, fluorescence, protein dynamics, lipid dynamics, membrane heterogeneity, transient confinement, single molecule, GFP
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Utilization of Microscale Silicon Cantilevers to Assess Cellular Contractile Function In Vitro
Authors: Alec S.T. Smith, Christopher J. Long, Christopher McAleer, Nathaniel Bobbitt, Balaji Srinivasan, James J. Hickman.
Institutions: University of Central Florida.
The development of more predictive and biologically relevant in vitro assays is predicated on the advancement of versatile cell culture systems which facilitate the functional assessment of the seeded cells. To that end, microscale cantilever technology offers a platform with which to measure the contractile functionality of a range of cell types, including skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle cells, through assessment of contraction induced substrate bending. Application of multiplexed cantilever arrays provides the means to develop moderate to high-throughput protocols for assessing drug efficacy and toxicity, disease phenotype and progression, as well as neuromuscular and other cell-cell interactions. This manuscript provides the details for fabricating reliable cantilever arrays for this purpose, and the methods required to successfully culture cells on these surfaces. Further description is provided on the steps necessary to perform functional analysis of contractile cell types maintained on such arrays using a novel laser and photo-detector system. The representative data provided highlights the precision and reproducible nature of the analysis of contractile function possible using this system, as well as the wide range of studies to which such technology can be applied. Successful widespread adoption of this system could provide investigators with the means to perform rapid, low cost functional studies in vitro, leading to more accurate predictions of tissue performance, disease development and response to novel therapeutic treatment.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, cantilever, in vitro, contraction, skeletal muscle, NMJ, cardiomyocytes, functional
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Utilizing Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to Study the Human Neuromuscular System
Authors: David A. Goss, Richard L. Hoffman, Brian C. Clark.
Institutions: Ohio University.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been in use for more than 20 years 1, and has grown exponentially in popularity over the past decade. While the use of TMS has expanded to the study of many systems and processes during this time, the original application and perhaps one of the most common uses of TMS involves studying the physiology, plasticity and function of the human neuromuscular system. Single pulse TMS applied to the motor cortex excites pyramidal neurons transsynaptically 2 (Figure 1) and results in a measurable electromyographic response that can be used to study and evaluate the integrity and excitability of the corticospinal tract in humans 3. Additionally, recent advances in magnetic stimulation now allows for partitioning of cortical versus spinal excitability 4,5. For example, paired-pulse TMS can be used to assess intracortical facilitatory and inhibitory properties by combining a conditioning stimulus and a test stimulus at different interstimulus intervals 3,4,6-8. In this video article we will demonstrate the methodological and technical aspects of these techniques. Specifically, we will demonstrate single-pulse and paired-pulse TMS techniques as applied to the flexor carpi radialis (FCR) muscle as well as the erector spinae (ES) musculature. Our laboratory studies the FCR muscle as it is of interest to our research on the effects of wrist-hand cast immobilization on reduced muscle performance6,9, and we study the ES muscles due to these muscles clinical relevance as it relates to low back pain8. With this stated, we should note that TMS has been used to study many muscles of the hand, arm and legs, and should iterate that our demonstrations in the FCR and ES muscle groups are only selected examples of TMS being used to study the human neuromuscular system.
Medicine, Issue 59, neuroscience, muscle, electromyography, physiology, TMS, strength, motor control. sarcopenia, dynapenia, lumbar
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Isometric and Eccentric Force Generation Assessment of Skeletal Muscles Isolated from Murine Models of Muscular Dystrophies
Authors: Catherine Moorwood, Min Liu, Zuozhen Tian, Elisabeth R. Barton.
Institutions: School of Dental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.
Critical to the evaluation of potential therapeutics for muscular disease are sensitive and reproducible physiological assessments of muscle function. Because many pre-clinical trials rely on mouse models for these diseases, isolated muscle function has become one of the standards for Go/NoGo decisions in moving drug candidates forward into patients. We will demonstrate the preparation of the extensor digitorum longus (EDL) and diaphragm muscles for functional testing, which are the predominant muscles utilized for these studies. The EDL muscle geometry is ideal for isolated muscle preparations, with two easily accessible tendons, and a small size that can be supported by superfusion in a bath. The diaphragm exhibits profound progressive pathology in dystrophic animals, and can serve as a platform for evaluating many potential therapies countering fibrosis, and promoting myofiber stability. Protocols for routine testing, including isometric and eccentric contractions, will be shown. Isometric force provides assessment of strength, and eccentric contractions help to evaluate sarcolemma stability, which is disrupted in many types of muscular dystrophies. Comparisons of the expected results between muscles from wildtype and dystrophic muscles will also be provided. These measures can complement morphological and biochemical measurements of tissue homeostasis, as well as whole animal assessments of muscle function.
Anatomy, Issue 71, Physiology, Cellular Biology, Biophysics, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Surgery, Muscles, Muscular Diseases, Animal Experimentation, Chemicals and Drugs, muscular dystrophy, muscle function, muscle damage, muscular dystrophies, mouse, animal model
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Use of Stopped-Flow Fluorescence and Labeled Nucleotides to Analyze the ATP Turnover Cycle of Kinesins
Authors: Jennifer T. Patel, Hannah R. Belsham, Alexandra J. Rathbone, Claire T. Friel.
Institutions: University of Nottingham.
The kinesin superfamily of microtubule associated motor proteins share a characteristic motor domain which both hydrolyses ATP and binds microtubules. Kinesins display differences across the superfamily both in ATP turnover and in microtubule interaction. These differences tailor specific kinesins to various functions such as cargo transport, microtubule sliding, microtubule depolymerization and microtubule stabilization. To understand the mechanism of action of a kinesin it is important to understand how the chemical cycle of ATP turnover is coupled to the mechanical cycle of microtubule interaction. To dissect the ATP turnover cycle, one approach is to utilize fluorescently labeled nucleotides to visualize individual steps in the cycle. Determining the kinetics of each nucleotide transition in the ATP turnover cycle allows the rate-limiting step or steps for the complete cycle to be identified. For a kinesin, it is important to know the rate-limiting step, in the absence of microtubules, as this step is generally accelerated several thousand fold when the kinesin interacts with microtubules. The cycle in the absence of microtubules is then compared to that in the presence of microtubules to fully understand a kinesin’s ATP turnover cycle. The kinetics of individual nucleotide transitions are generally too fast to observe by manually mixing reactants, particularly in the presence of microtubules. A rapid mixing device, such as a stopped-flow fluorimeter, which allows kinetics to be observed on timescales of as little as a few milliseconds, can be used to monitor such transitions. Here, we describe protocols in which rapid mixing of reagents by stopped-flow is used in conjunction with fluorescently labeled nucleotides to dissect the ATP turnover cycle of a kinesin.
Chemistry, Issue 92, Kinesin, ATP turnover, mantATP, mantADP, stopped-flow fluorescence, microtubules, enzyme kinetics, nucleotide
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Magnetic Tweezers for the Measurement of Twist and Torque
Authors: Jan Lipfert, Mina Lee, Orkide Ordu, Jacob W. J. Kerssemakers, Nynke H. Dekker.
Institutions: Delft University of Technology.
Single-molecule techniques make it possible to investigate the behavior of individual biological molecules in solution in real time. These techniques include so-called force spectroscopy approaches such as atomic force microscopy, optical tweezers, flow stretching, and magnetic tweezers. Amongst these approaches, magnetic tweezers have distinguished themselves by their ability to apply torque while maintaining a constant stretching force. Here, it is illustrated how such a “conventional” magnetic tweezers experimental configuration can, through a straightforward modification of its field configuration to minimize the magnitude of the transverse field, be adapted to measure the degree of twist in a biological molecule. The resulting configuration is termed the freely-orbiting magnetic tweezers. Additionally, it is shown how further modification of the field configuration can yield a transverse field with a magnitude intermediate between that of the “conventional” magnetic tweezers and the freely-orbiting magnetic tweezers, which makes it possible to directly measure the torque stored in a biological molecule. This configuration is termed the magnetic torque tweezers. The accompanying video explains in detail how the conversion of conventional magnetic tweezers into freely-orbiting magnetic tweezers and magnetic torque tweezers can be accomplished, and demonstrates the use of these techniques. These adaptations maintain all the strengths of conventional magnetic tweezers while greatly expanding the versatility of this powerful instrument.
Bioengineering, Issue 87, magnetic tweezers, magnetic torque tweezers, freely-orbiting magnetic tweezers, twist, torque, DNA, single-molecule techniques
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Multiplexed Single-molecule Force Proteolysis Measurements Using Magnetic Tweezers
Authors: Arjun S. Adhikari, Jack Chai, Alexander R. Dunn.
Institutions: Stanford University .
The generation and detection of mechanical forces is a ubiquitous aspect of cell physiology, with direct relevance to cancer metastasis1, atherogenesis2 and wound healing3. In each of these examples, cells both exert force on their surroundings and simultaneously enzymatically remodel the extracellular matrix (ECM). The effect of forces on ECM has thus become an area of considerable interest due to its likely biological and medical importance4-7. Single molecule techniques such as optical trapping8, atomic force microscopy9, and magnetic tweezers10,11 allow researchers to probe the function of enzymes at a molecular level by exerting forces on individual proteins. Of these techniques, magnetic tweezers (MT) are notable for their low cost and high throughput. MT exert forces in the range of ~1-100 pN and can provide millisecond temporal resolution, qualities that are well matched to the study of enzyme mechanism at the single-molecule level12. Here we report a highly parallelizable MT assay to study the effect of force on the proteolysis of single protein molecules. We present the specific example of the proteolysis of a trimeric collagen peptide by matrix metalloproteinase 1 (MMP-1); however, this assay can be easily adapted to study other substrates and proteases.
Bioengineering, Issue 65, Chemical Engineering, Physics, Single-molecule spectroscopy, magnetic tweezers, force proteolysis, collagen, MMP-1
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Perceptual and Category Processing of the Uncanny Valley Hypothesis' Dimension of Human Likeness: Some Methodological Issues
Authors: Marcus Cheetham, Lutz Jancke.
Institutions: University of Zurich.
Mori's Uncanny Valley Hypothesis1,2 proposes that the perception of humanlike characters such as robots and, by extension, avatars (computer-generated characters) can evoke negative or positive affect (valence) depending on the object's degree of visual and behavioral realism along a dimension of human likeness (DHL) (Figure 1). But studies of affective valence of subjective responses to variously realistic non-human characters have produced inconsistent findings 3, 4, 5, 6. One of a number of reasons for this is that human likeness is not perceived as the hypothesis assumes. While the DHL can be defined following Mori's description as a smooth linear change in the degree of physical humanlike similarity, subjective perception of objects along the DHL can be understood in terms of the psychological effects of categorical perception (CP) 7. Further behavioral and neuroimaging investigations of category processing and CP along the DHL and of the potential influence of the dimension's underlying category structure on affective experience are needed. This protocol therefore focuses on the DHL and allows examination of CP. Based on the protocol presented in the video as an example, issues surrounding the methodology in the protocol and the use in "uncanny" research of stimuli drawn from morph continua to represent the DHL are discussed in the article that accompanies the video. The use of neuroimaging and morph stimuli to represent the DHL in order to disentangle brain regions neurally responsive to physical human-like similarity from those responsive to category change and category processing is briefly illustrated.
Behavior, Issue 76, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Molecular Biology, Psychology, Neuropsychology, uncanny valley, functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI, categorical perception, virtual reality, avatar, human likeness, Mori, uncanny valley hypothesis, perception, magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, imaging, clinical techniques
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Nanomanipulation of Single RNA Molecules by Optical Tweezers
Authors: William Stephenson, Gorby Wan, Scott A. Tenenbaum, Pan T. X. Li.
Institutions: University at Albany, State University of New York, University at Albany, State University of New York, University at Albany, State University of New York, University at Albany, State University of New York, University at Albany, State University of New York.
A large portion of the human genome is transcribed but not translated. In this post genomic era, regulatory functions of RNA have been shown to be increasingly important. As RNA function often depends on its ability to adopt alternative structures, it is difficult to predict RNA three-dimensional structures directly from sequence. Single-molecule approaches show potentials to solve the problem of RNA structural polymorphism by monitoring molecular structures one molecule at a time. This work presents a method to precisely manipulate the folding and structure of single RNA molecules using optical tweezers. First, methods to synthesize molecules suitable for single-molecule mechanical work are described. Next, various calibration procedures to ensure the proper operations of the optical tweezers are discussed. Next, various experiments are explained. To demonstrate the utility of the technique, results of mechanically unfolding RNA hairpins and a single RNA kissing complex are used as evidence. In these examples, the nanomanipulation technique was used to study folding of each structural domain, including secondary and tertiary, independently. Lastly, the limitations and future applications of the method are discussed.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, RNA folding, single-molecule, optical tweezers, nanomanipulation, RNA secondary structure, RNA tertiary structure
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Determination of Protein-ligand Interactions Using Differential Scanning Fluorimetry
Authors: Mirella Vivoli, Halina R. Novak, Jennifer A. Littlechild, Nicholas J. Harmer.
Institutions: University of Exeter.
A wide range of methods are currently available for determining the dissociation constant between a protein and interacting small molecules. However, most of these require access to specialist equipment, and often require a degree of expertise to effectively establish reliable experiments and analyze data. Differential scanning fluorimetry (DSF) is being increasingly used as a robust method for initial screening of proteins for interacting small molecules, either for identifying physiological partners or for hit discovery. This technique has the advantage that it requires only a PCR machine suitable for quantitative PCR, and so suitable instrumentation is available in most institutions; an excellent range of protocols are already available; and there are strong precedents in the literature for multiple uses of the method. Past work has proposed several means of calculating dissociation constants from DSF data, but these are mathematically demanding. Here, we demonstrate a method for estimating dissociation constants from a moderate amount of DSF experimental data. These data can typically be collected and analyzed within a single day. We demonstrate how different models can be used to fit data collected from simple binding events, and where cooperative binding or independent binding sites are present. Finally, we present an example of data analysis in a case where standard models do not apply. These methods are illustrated with data collected on commercially available control proteins, and two proteins from our research program. Overall, our method provides a straightforward way for researchers to rapidly gain further insight into protein-ligand interactions using DSF.
Biophysics, Issue 91, differential scanning fluorimetry, dissociation constant, protein-ligand interactions, StepOne, cooperativity, WcbI.
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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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The Preparation of Electrohydrodynamic Bridges from Polar Dielectric Liquids
Authors: Adam D. Wexler, Mónica López Sáenz, Oliver Schreer, Jakob Woisetschläger, Elmar C. Fuchs.
Institutions: Wetsus - Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Water Technology, IRCAM GmbH, Graz University of Technology.
Horizontal and vertical liquid bridges are simple and powerful tools for exploring the interaction of high intensity electric fields (8-20 kV/cm) and polar dielectric liquids. These bridges are unique from capillary bridges in that they exhibit extensibility beyond a few millimeters, have complex bi-directional mass transfer patterns, and emit non-Planck infrared radiation. A number of common solvents can form such bridges as well as low conductivity solutions and colloidal suspensions. The macroscopic behavior is governed by electrohydrodynamics and provides a means of studying fluid flow phenomena without the presence of rigid walls. Prior to the onset of a liquid bridge several important phenomena can be observed including advancing meniscus height (electrowetting), bulk fluid circulation (the Sumoto effect), and the ejection of charged droplets (electrospray). The interaction between surface, polarization, and displacement forces can be directly examined by varying applied voltage and bridge length. The electric field, assisted by gravity, stabilizes the liquid bridge against Rayleigh-Plateau instabilities. Construction of basic apparatus for both vertical and horizontal orientation along with operational examples, including thermographic images, for three liquids (e.g., water, DMSO, and glycerol) is presented.
Physics, Issue 91, floating water bridge, polar dielectric liquids, liquid bridge, electrohydrodynamics, thermography, dielectrophoresis, electrowetting, Sumoto effect, Armstrong effect
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Characterization of Complex Systems Using the Design of Experiments Approach: Transient Protein Expression in Tobacco as a Case Study
Authors: Johannes Felix Buyel, Rainer Fischer.
Institutions: RWTH Aachen University, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.
Plants provide multiple benefits for the production of biopharmaceuticals including low costs, scalability, and safety. Transient expression offers the additional advantage of short development and production times, but expression levels can vary significantly between batches thus giving rise to regulatory concerns in the context of good manufacturing practice. We used a design of experiments (DoE) approach to determine the impact of major factors such as regulatory elements in the expression construct, plant growth and development parameters, and the incubation conditions during expression, on the variability of expression between batches. We tested plants expressing a model anti-HIV monoclonal antibody (2G12) and a fluorescent marker protein (DsRed). We discuss the rationale for selecting certain properties of the model and identify its potential limitations. The general approach can easily be transferred to other problems because the principles of the model are broadly applicable: knowledge-based parameter selection, complexity reduction by splitting the initial problem into smaller modules, software-guided setup of optimal experiment combinations and step-wise design augmentation. Therefore, the methodology is not only useful for characterizing protein expression in plants but also for the investigation of other complex systems lacking a mechanistic description. The predictive equations describing the interconnectivity between parameters can be used to establish mechanistic models for other complex systems.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, design of experiments (DoE), transient protein expression, plant-derived biopharmaceuticals, promoter, 5'UTR, fluorescent reporter protein, model building, incubation conditions, monoclonal antibody
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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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Investigating Receptor-ligand Systems of the Cellulosome with AFM-based Single-molecule Force Spectroscopy
Authors: Markus A. Jobst, Constantin Schoeler, Klara Malinowska, Michael A. Nash.
Institutions: Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität.
Cellulosomes are discrete multienzyme complexes used by a subset of anaerobic bacteria and fungi to digest lignocellulosic substrates. Assembly of the enzymes onto the noncatalytic scaffold protein is directed by interactions among a family of related receptor-ligand pairs comprising interacting cohesin and dockerin modules. The extremely strong binding between cohesin and dockerin modules results in dissociation constants in the low picomolar to nanomolar range, which may hamper accurate off-rate measurements with conventional bulk methods. Single-molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) with the atomic force microscope measures the response of individual biomolecules to force, and in contrast to other single-molecule manipulation methods (i.e. optical tweezers), is optimal for studying high-affinity receptor-ligand interactions because of its ability to probe the high-force regime (>120 pN). Here we present our complete protocol for studying cellulosomal protein assemblies at the single-molecule level. Using a protein topology derived from the native cellulosome, we worked with enzyme-dockerin and carbohydrate binding module-cohesin (CBM-cohesin) fusion proteins, each with an accessible free thiol group at an engineered cysteine residue. We present our site-specific surface immobilization protocol, along with our measurement and data analysis procedure for obtaining detailed binding parameters for the high-affinity complex. We demonstrate how to quantify single subdomain unfolding forces, complex rupture forces, kinetic off-rates, and potential widths of the binding well. The successful application of these methods in characterizing the cohesin-dockerin interaction responsible for assembly of multidomain cellulolytic complexes is further described.
Bioengineering, Issue 82, biophysics, protein unfolding, atomic force microscopy, surface immobilization
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Measuring Diffusion Coefficients via Two-photon Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching
Authors: Kelley D. Sullivan, Edward B. Brown.
Institutions: University of Rochester, University of Rochester.
Multi-fluorescence recovery after photobleaching is a microscopy technique used to measure the diffusion coefficient (or analogous transport parameters) of macromolecules, and can be applied to both in vitro and in vivo biological systems. Multi-fluorescence recovery after photobleaching is performed by photobleaching a region of interest within a fluorescent sample using an intense laser flash, then attenuating the beam and monitoring the fluorescence as still-fluorescent molecules from outside the region of interest diffuse in to replace the photobleached molecules. We will begin our demonstration by aligning the laser beam through the Pockels Cell (laser modulator) and along the optical path through the laser scan box and objective lens to the sample. For simplicity, we will use a sample of aqueous fluorescent dye. We will then determine the proper experimental parameters for our sample including, monitor and bleaching powers, bleach duration, bin widths (for photon counting), and fluorescence recovery time. Next, we will describe the procedure for taking recovery curves, a process that can be largely automated via LabVIEW (National Instruments, Austin, TX) for enhanced throughput. Finally, the diffusion coefficient is determined by fitting the recovery data to the appropriate mathematical model using a least-squares fitting algorithm, readily programmable using software such as MATLAB (The Mathworks, Natick, MA).
Cellular Biology, Issue 36, Diffusion, fluorescence recovery after photobleaching, MP-FRAP, FPR, multi-photon
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Laser-inflicted Injury of Zebrafish Embryonic Skeletal Muscle
Authors: Cécile Otten, Salim Abdelilah-Seyfried.
Institutions: Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine.
Various experimental approaches have been used in mouse to induce muscle injury with the aim to study muscle regeneration, including myotoxin injections (bupivacaine, cardiotoxin or notexin), muscle transplantations (denervation-devascularization induced regeneration), intensive exercise, but also murine muscular dystrophy models such as the mdx mouse (for a review of these approaches see 1). In zebrafish, genetic approaches include mutants that exhibit muscular dystrophy phenotypes (such as runzel2 or sapje3) and antisense oligonucleotide morpholinos that block the expression of dystrophy-associated genes4. Besides, chemical approaches are also possible, e.g. with Galanthamine, a chemical compound inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, thereby resulting in hypercontraction, which eventually leads to muscular dystrophy5. However, genetic and pharmacological approaches generally affect all muscles within an individual, whereas the extent of physically inflicted injuries are more easily controlled spatially and temporally1. Localized physical injury allows the assessment of contralateral muscle as an internal control. Indeed, we recently used laser-mediated cell ablation to study skeletal muscle regeneration in the zebrafish embryo6, while another group recently reported the use of a two-photon laser (822 nm) to damage very locally the plasma membrane of individual embryonic zebrafish muscle cells7. Here, we report a method for using the micropoint laser (Andor Technology) for skeletal muscle cell injury in the zebrafish embryo. The micropoint laser is a high energy laser which is suitable for targeted cell ablation at a wavelength of 435 nm. The laser is connected to a microscope (in our setup, an optical microscope from Zeiss) in such a way that the microscope can be used at the same time for focusing the laser light onto the sample and for visualizing the effects of the wounding (brightfield or fluorescence). The parameters for controlling laser pulses include wavelength, intensity, and number of pulses. Due to its transparency and external embryonic development, the zebrafish embryo is highly amenable for both laser-induced injury and for studying the subsequent recovery. Between 1 and 2 days post-fertilization, somitic skeletal muscle cells progressively undergo maturation from anterior to posterior due to the progression of somitogenesis from the trunk to the tail8, 9. At these stages, embryos spontaneously twitch and initiate swimming. The zebrafish has recently been recognized as an important vertebrate model organism for the study of tissue regeneration, as many types of tissues (cardiac, neuronal, vascular etc.) can be regenerated after injury in the adult zebrafish10, 11.
Developmental Biology, Issue 71, Anatomy, Physiology, Medicine, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Genetics, Zebrafish, skeletal muscle, cell ablation, injury, regeneration, damage, laser pulses, tissue, embryos, Danio rerio, animal model
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