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Novel RNAi-mediated approach to G protein-coupled receptor deorphanization: proof of principle and characterization of a planarian 5-HT receptor.
G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) represent the largest known superfamily of membrane proteins extending throughout the Metazoa. There exists ample motivation to elucidate the functional properties of GPCRs given their role in signal transduction and their prominence as drug targets. In many target organisms, these efforts are hampered by the unreliable nature of heterologous receptor expression platforms. We validate and describe an alternative loss-of-function approach for ascertaining the ligand and G protein coupling properties of GPCRs in their native cell membrane environment. Our efforts are focused on the phylum Platyhelminthes, given the heavy health burden exacted by pathogenic flatworms, as well as the role of free-living flatworms as model organisms for the study of developmental biology. RNA interference (RNAi) was used in conjunction with a biochemical endpoint assay to monitor cAMP modulation in response to the translational suppression of individual receptors. As proof of principle, this approach was used to confirm the neuropeptide GYIRFamide as the cognate ligand for the planarian neuropeptide receptor GtNPR-1, while revealing its endogenous coupling to G?(i/o). The method was then extended to deorphanize a novel G?(s)-coupled planarian serotonin receptor, DtSER-1. A bioinformatics protocol guided the selection of receptor candidates mediating 5-HT-evoked responses. These results provide functional data on a neurotransmitter central to flatworm biology, while establishing the great potential of an RNAi-based deorphanization protocol. Future work can help optimize and adapt this protocol for higher-throughput platforms as well as other phyla.
Authors: Jelle Caers, Katleen Peymen, Nick Suetens, Liesbet Temmerman, Tom Janssen, Liliane Schoofs, Isabel Beets.
Published: 07-28-2014
For more than 20 years, reverse pharmacology has been the preeminent strategy to discover the activating ligands of orphan G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). The onset of a reverse pharmacology assay is the cloning and subsequent transfection of a GPCR of interest in a cellular expression system. The heterologous expressed receptor is then challenged with a compound library of candidate ligands to identify the receptor-activating ligand(s). Receptor activation can be assessed by measuring changes in concentration of second messenger reporter molecules, like calcium or cAMP. The fluorescence-based calcium mobilization assay described here is a frequently used medium-throughput reverse pharmacology assay. The orphan GPCR is transiently expressed in human embryonic kidney 293T (HEK293T) cells and a promiscuous Gα16 construct is co-transfected. Following ligand binding, activation of the Gα16 subunit induces the release of calcium from the endoplasmic reticulum. Prior to ligand screening, the receptor-expressing cells are loaded with a fluorescent calcium indicator, Fluo-4 acetoxymethyl. The fluorescent signal of Fluo-4 is negligible in cells under resting conditions, but can be amplified more than a 100-fold upon the interaction with calcium ions that are released after receptor activation. The described technique does not require the time-consuming establishment of stably transfected cell lines in which the transfected genetic material is integrated into the host cell genome. Instead, a transient transfection, generating temporary expression of the target gene, is sufficient to perform the screening assay. The setup allows medium-throughput screening of hundreds of compounds. Co-transfection of the promiscuous Gα16, which couples to most GPCRs, allows the intracellular signaling pathway to be redirected towards the release of calcium, regardless of the native signaling pathway in endogenous settings. The HEK293T cells are easy to handle and have proven their efficacy throughout the years in receptor deorphanization assays. However, optimization of the assay for specific receptors may remain necessary.
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Genetically-encoded Molecular Probes to Study G Protein-coupled Receptors
Authors: Saranga Naganathan, Amy Grunbeck, He Tian, Thomas Huber, Thomas P. Sakmar.
Institutions: The Rockefeller University.
To facilitate structural and dynamic studies of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling complexes, new approaches are required to introduce informative probes or labels into expressed receptors that do not perturb receptor function. We used amber codon suppression technology to genetically-encode the unnatural amino acid, p-azido-L-phenylalanine (azF) at various targeted positions in GPCRs heterologously expressed in mammalian cells. The versatility of the azido group is illustrated here in different applications to study GPCRs in their native cellular environment or under detergent solubilized conditions. First, we demonstrate a cell-based targeted photocrosslinking technology to identify the residues in the ligand-binding pocket of GPCR where a tritium-labeled small-molecule ligand is crosslinked to a genetically-encoded azido amino acid. We then demonstrate site-specific modification of GPCRs by the bioorthogonal Staudinger-Bertozzi ligation reaction that targets the azido group using phosphine derivatives. We discuss a general strategy for targeted peptide-epitope tagging of expressed membrane proteins in-culture and its detection using a whole-cell-based ELISA approach. Finally, we show that azF-GPCRs can be selectively tagged with fluorescent probes. The methodologies discussed are general, in that they can in principle be applied to any amino acid position in any expressed GPCR to interrogate active signaling complexes.
Genetics, Issue 79, Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled, Protein Engineering, Signal Transduction, Biochemistry, Unnatural amino acid, site-directed mutagenesis, G protein-coupled receptor, targeted photocrosslinking, bioorthogonal labeling, targeted epitope tagging
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A Calcium Bioluminescence Assay for Functional Analysis of Mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and Tick (Rhipicephalus microplus) G Protein-coupled Receptors
Authors: Hsiao-Ling Lu, Cymon N. Kersch, Suparna Taneja-Bageshwar, Patricia V. Pietrantonio.
Institutions: Texas A&M University (TAMU), Texas A&M University (TAMU).
Arthropod hormone receptors are potential targets for novel pesticides as they regulate many essential physiological and behavioral processes. The majority of them belong to the superfamily of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). We have focused on characterizing arthropod kinin receptors from the tick and mosquito. Arthropod kinins are multifunctional neuropeptides with myotropic, diuretic, and neurotransmitter function. Here, a method for systematic analyses of structure-activity relationships of insect kinins on two heterologous kinin receptor-expressing systems is described. We provide important information relevant to the development of biostable kinin analogs with the potential to disrupt the diuretic, myotropic, and/or digestive processes in ticks and mosquitoes. The kinin receptors from the southern cattle tick, Boophilus microplus (Canestrini), and the mosquito Aedes aegypti (Linnaeus), were stably expressed in the mammalian cell line CHO-K1. Functional analyses of these receptors were completed using a calcium bioluminescence plate assay that measures intracellular bioluminescence to determine cytoplasmic calcium levels upon peptide application to these recombinant cells. This method takes advantage of the aequorin protein, a photoprotein isolated from luminescent jellyfish. We transiently transfected the aequorin plasmid (mtAEQ/pcDNA1) in cell lines that stably expressed the kinin receptors. These cells were then treated with the cofactor coelenterazine, which complexes with intracellular aequorin. This bond breaks in the presence of calcium, emitting luminescence levels indicative of the calcium concentration. As the kinin receptor signals through the release of intracellular calcium, the intensity of the signal is related to the potency of the peptide. This protocol is a synthesis of several previously described protocols with modifications; it presents step-by-step instructions for the stable expression of GPCRs in a mammalian cell line through functional plate assays (Staubly et al., 2002 and Stables et al., 1997). Using this methodology, we were able to establish stable cell lines expressing the mosquito and the tick kinin receptors, compare the potency of three mosquito kinins, identify critical amino acid positions for the ligand-receptor interaction, and perform semi-throughput screening of a peptide library. Because insect kinins are susceptible to fast enzymatic degradation by endogenous peptidases, they are severely limited in use as tools for pest control or endocrinological studies. Therefore, we also tested kinin analogs containing amino isobutyric acid (Aib) to enhance their potency and biostability. This peptidase-resistant analog represents an important lead in the development of biostable insect kinin analogs and may aid in the development of neuropeptide-based arthropod control strategies.
Immunology, Issue 50, Aequorin calcium reporter, coelenterazine, G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), CHO-K1 cells, mammalian cell culture, neuropeptide SAR studies (SAR= structure-activity relationships), receptor-neuropeptide interaction, bioluminescence, drug discovery, semi-throughput screening in plates
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Use of Label-free Optical Biosensors to Detect Modulation of Potassium Channels by G-protein Coupled Receptors
Authors: Matthew R. Fleming, Steven M. Shamah, Leonard K. Kaczmarek.
Institutions: Yale School of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, X-BODY Biosciences.
Ion channels control the electrical properties of neurons and other excitable cell types by selectively allowing ions to flow through the plasma membrane1. To regulate neuronal excitability, the biophysical properties of ion channels are modified by signaling proteins and molecules, which often bind to the channels themselves to form a heteromeric channel complex2,3. Traditional assays examining the interaction between channels and regulatory proteins require exogenous labels that can potentially alter the protein's behavior and decrease the physiological relevance of the target, while providing little information on the time course of interactions in living cells. Optical biosensors, such as the X-BODY Biosciences BIND Scanner system, use a novel label-free technology, resonance wavelength grating (RWG) optical biosensors, to detect changes in resonant reflected light near the biosensor. This assay allows the detection of the relative change in mass within the bottom portion of living cells adherent to the biosensor surface resulting from ligand induced changes in cell adhesion and spreading, toxicity, proliferation, and changes in protein-protein interactions near the plasma membrane. RWG optical biosensors have been used to detect changes in mass near the plasma membrane of cells following activation of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), receptor tyrosine kinases, and other cell surface receptors. Ligand-induced changes in ion channel-protein interactions can also be studied using this assay. In this paper, we will describe the experimental procedure used to detect the modulation of Slack-B sodium-activated potassium (KNa) channels by GPCRs.
Bioengineering, Issue 84, Ion channels, potassium channel, Slack, G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), label-free screening, high-throughput screening (HTS), channel-protein interactions, optical biosensors
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A Fluorescent Screening Assay for Identifying Modulators of GIRK Channels
Authors: Maribel Vazquez, Charity A. Dunn, Kenneth B. Walsh.
Institutions: University of South Carolina, School of Medicine.
G protein-gated inward rectifier K+ (GIRK) channels function as cellular mediators of a wide range of hormones and neurotransmitters and are expressed in the brain, heart, skeletal muscle and endocrine tissue1,2. GIRK channels become activated following the binding of ligands (neurotransmitters, hormones, drugs, etc.) to their plasma membrane-bound, G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). This binding causes the stimulation of G proteins (Gi and Go) which subsequently bind to and activate the GIRK channel. Once opened the GIRK channel allows the movement of K+ out of the cell causing the resting membrane potential to become more negative. As a consequence, GIRK channel activation in neurons decreases spontaneous action potential formation and inhibits the release of excitatory neurotransmitters. In the heart, activation of the GIRK channel inhibits pacemaker activity thereby slowing the heart rate. GIRK channels represent novel targets for the development of new therapeutic agents for the treatment neuropathic pain, drug addiction, cardiac arrhythmias and other disorders3. However, the pharmacology of these channels remains largely unexplored. Although a number of drugs including anti-arrhythmic agents, antipsychotic drugs and antidepressants block the GIRK channel, this inhibition is not selective and occurs at relatively high drug concentrations3. Here, we describe a real-time screening assay for identifying new modulators of GIRK channels. In this assay, neuronal AtT20 cells, expressing GIRK channels, are loaded with membrane potential-sensitive fluorescent dyes such as bis-(1,3-dibutylbarbituric acid) trimethine oxonol [DiBAC4(3)] or HLB 021-152 (Figure 1). The dye molecules become strongly fluorescent following uptake into the cells (Figure 1). Treatment of the cells with GPCR ligands stimulates the GIRK channels to open. The resulting K+ efflux out of the cell causes the membrane potential to become more negative and the fluorescent signal to decrease (Figure 1). Thus, drugs that modulate K+ efflux through the GIRK channel can be assayed using a fluorescent plate reader. Unlike other ion channel screening assays, such atomic absorption spectrometry4 or radiotracer analysis5, the GIRK channel fluorescent assay provides a fast, real-time and inexpensive screening procedure.
Medicine, Issue 62, G protein-gated inward rectifier K+ (GIRK) channels, clonal cell lines, drug screening, fluorescent dyes, K+ channel modulators, Pharmacology
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Real-time Imaging of Leukotriene B4 Mediated Cell Migration and BLT1 Interactions with β-arrestin
Authors: Venkatakrishna R. Jala, Bodduluri Haribabu.
Institutions: University of Louisville.
G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) belong to the seven transmembrane protein family and mediate the transduction of extracellular signals to intracellular responses. GPCRs control diverse biological functions such as chemotaxis, intracellular calcium release, gene regulation in a ligand dependent manner via heterotrimeric G-proteins1-2. Ligand binding induces a series of conformational changes leading to activation of heterotrimeric G-proteins that modulate levels of second messengers such as cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), inositol triphosphate (IP3) and diacyl glycerol (DG). Concomitant with activation of the receptor ligand binding also initiates a series of events to attenuate the receptor signaling via desensitization, sequestration and/or internalization. The desensitization process of GPCRs occurs via receptor phosphorylation by G-protein receptor kinases (GRKs) and subsequent binding of β-arrestins3. β-arrestins are cytosolic proteins and translocate to membrane upon GPCR activation, binding to phosphorylated receptors (most cases) there by facilitating receptor internalization 4-6. Leukotriene B4 (LTB4) is a pro-inflammatory lipid molecule derived from arachidonic acid pathway and mediates its actions via GPCRs, LTB4 receptor 1 (BLT1; a high affinity receptor) and LTB4 receptor 2 (BLT2; a low affinity receptor)7-9. The LTB4-BLT1 pathway has been shown to be critical in several inflammatory diseases including, asthma, arthritis and atherosclerosis10-17. The current paper describes the methodologies developed to monitor LTB4-induced leukocyte migration and the interactions of BLT1 with β-arrestin and , receptor translocation in live cells using microscopy imaging techniques18-19. Bone marrow derived dendritic cells from C57BL/6 mice were isolated and cultured as previously described 20-21. These cells were tested in live cell imaging methods to demonstrate LTB4 induced cell migration. The human BLT1 was tagged with red fluorescent protein (BLT1-RFP) at C-terminus and β-arrestin1 tagged with green fluorescent protein (β-arr-GFP) and transfected the both plasmids into Rat Basophilic Leukomia (RBL-2H3) cell lines18-19. The kinetics of interaction between these proteins and localization were monitored using live cell video microscopy. The methodologies in the current paper describe the use of microscopic techniques to investigate the functional responses of G-protein coupled receptors in live cells. The current paper also describes the use of Metamorph software to quantify the fluorescence intensities to determine the kinetics of receptor and cytosolic protein interactions.
Immunology, Issue 46, Live cell imaging, Chemotaxis, G-protein coupled receptor, receptor internalization, leukotriene B4, leukotriene B4 receptor 1
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Imaging G-protein Coupled Receptor (GPCR)-mediated Signaling Events that Control Chemotaxis of Dictyostelium Discoideum
Authors: Xuehua Xu, Tian Jin.
Institutions: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health.
Many eukaryotic cells can detect gradients of chemical signals in their environments and migrate accordingly 1. This guided cell migration is referred as chemotaxis, which is essential for various cells to carry out their functions such as trafficking of immune cells and patterning of neuronal cells 2, 3. A large family of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) detects variable small peptides, known as chemokines, to direct cell migration in vivo 4. The final goal of chemotaxis research is to understand how a GPCR machinery senses chemokine gradients and controls signaling events leading to chemotaxis. To this end, we use imaging techniques to monitor, in real time, spatiotemporal concentrations of chemoattractants, cell movement in a gradient of chemoattractant, GPCR mediated activation of heterotrimeric G-protein, and intracellular signaling events involved in chemotaxis of eukaryotic cells 5-8. The simple eukaryotic organism, Dictyostelium discoideum, displays chemotaxic behaviors that are similar to those of leukocytes, and D. discoideum is a key model system for studying eukaryotic chemotaxis. As free-living amoebae, D. discoideum cells divide in rich medium. Upon starvation, cells enter a developmental program in which they aggregate through cAMP-mediated chemotaxis to form multicullular structures. Many components involved in chemotaxis to cAMP have been identified in D. discoideum. The binding of cAMP to a GPCR (cAR1) induces dissociation of heterotrimeric G-proteins into Gγ and Gβγ subunits 7, 9, 10. Gβγ subunits activate Ras, which in turn activates PI3K, converting PIP2 into PIP3 on the cell membrane 11-13. PIP3 serve as binding sites for proteins with pleckstrin Homology (PH) domains, thus recruiting these proteins to the membrane 14, 15. Activation of cAR1 receptors also controls the membrane associations of PTEN, which dephosphorylates PIP3 to PIP2 16, 17. The molecular mechanisms are evolutionarily conserved in chemokine GPCR-mediated chemotaxis of human cells such as neutrophils 18. We present following methods for studying chemotaxis of D. discoideum cells. 1. Preparation of chemotactic component cells. 2. Imaging chemotaxis of cells in a cAMP gradient. 3. Monitoring a GPCR induced activation of heterotrimeric G-protein in single live cells. 4. Imaging chemoattractant-triggered dynamic PIP3 responses in single live cells in real time. Our developed imaging methods can be applied to study chemotaxis of human leukocytes.
Molecular Biology, Issue 55, Chemotaxis, directional sensing, GPCR, PCR, G-proteins, signal transduction, Dictyostelium discoideum
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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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Vampiric Isolation of Extracellular Fluid from Caenorhabditis elegans
Authors: Stephen A. Banse, Craig P. Hunter.
Institutions: Harvard University .
The genetically tractable model organism C. elegans has provided insights into a myriad of biological questions, enabled by its short generation time, ease of growth and small size. This small size, though, has disallowed a number of technical approaches found in other model systems. For example, blood transfusions in mammalian systems and grafting techniques in plants enable asking questions of circulatory system composition and signaling. The circulatory system of the worm, the pseudocoelom, has until recently been impossible to assay directly. To answer questions of intercellular signaling and circulatory system composition C. elegans researchers have traditionally turned to genetic analysis, cell/tissue specific rescue, and mosaic analysis. These techniques provide a means to infer what is happening between cells, but are not universally applicable in identification and characterization of extracellular molecules. Here we present a newly developed technique to directly assay the pseudocoelomic fluid of C. elegans. The technique begins with either genetic or physical manipulation to increase the volume of extracellular fluid. Afterward the animals are subjected to a vampiric reverse microinjection technique using a microinjection rig that allows fine balance pressure control. After isolation of extracellular fluid, the collected fluid can be assayed by transfer into other animals or by molecular means. To demonstrate the effectiveness of this technique we present a detailed approach to assay a specific example of extracellular signaling molecules, long dsRNA during a systemic RNAi response. Although characterization of systemic RNAi is a proof of principle example, we see this technique as being adaptable to answer a variety of questions of circulatory system composition and signaling.
Cellular Biology, Issue 61, Caenorhabditis elegans, extracellular fluid, reverse microinjection, vampiric isolation, pseudocoelom
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Direct Imaging of ER Calcium with Targeted-Esterase Induced Dye Loading (TED)
Authors: Samira Samtleben, Juliane Jaepel, Caroline Fecher, Thomas Andreska, Markus Rehberg, Robert Blum.
Institutions: University of Wuerzburg, Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich.
Visualization of calcium dynamics is important to understand the role of calcium in cell physiology. To examine calcium dynamics, synthetic fluorescent Ca2+ indictors have become popular. Here we demonstrate TED (= targeted-esterase induced dye loading), a method to improve the release of Ca2+ indicator dyes in the ER lumen of different cell types. To date, TED was used in cell lines, glial cells, and neurons in vitro. TED bases on efficient, recombinant targeting of a high carboxylesterase activity to the ER lumen using vector-constructs that express Carboxylesterases (CES). The latest TED vectors contain a core element of CES2 fused to a red fluorescent protein, thus enabling simultaneous two-color imaging. The dynamics of free calcium in the ER are imaged in one color, while the corresponding ER structure appears in red. At the beginning of the procedure, cells are transduced with a lentivirus. Subsequently, the infected cells are seeded on coverslips to finally enable live cell imaging. Then, living cells are incubated with the acetoxymethyl ester (AM-ester) form of low-affinity Ca2+ indicators, for instance Fluo5N-AM, Mag-Fluo4-AM, or Mag-Fura2-AM. The esterase activity in the ER cleaves off hydrophobic side chains from the AM form of the Ca2+ indicator and a hydrophilic fluorescent dye/Ca2+ complex is formed and trapped in the ER lumen. After dye loading, the cells are analyzed at an inverted confocal laser scanning microscope. Cells are continuously perfused with Ringer-like solutions and the ER calcium dynamics are directly visualized by time-lapse imaging. Calcium release from the ER is identified by a decrease in fluorescence intensity in regions of interest, whereas the refilling of the ER calcium store produces an increase in fluorescence intensity. Finally, the change in fluorescent intensity over time is determined by calculation of ΔF/F0.
Cellular Biology, Issue 75, Neurobiology, Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Bioengineering, Virology, Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology, Surgery, Endoplasmic Reticulum, ER, Calcium Signaling, calcium store, calcium imaging, calcium indicator, metabotropic signaling, Ca2+, neurons, cells, mouse, animal model, cell culture, targeted esterase induced dye loading, imaging
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Assaying Surface Expression of Chemosensory Receptors in Heterologous Cells
Authors: Sandeepa Dey, Senmiao Zhan, Hiroaki Matsunami.
Institutions: Duke University, Duke University.
The vivid world of odors is recognized by the sense of olfaction. Olfaction in mice is mediated by a repertoire of about 1200 G Protein Coupled Receptors (GPCRs) 1 that are postulated to bind volatile odorant molecules and converting the extracellular signal into an intracellular signal by coupling with G protein Gαolf. Binding of the odorants to the receptors is thought to follow a combinatorial rule, that is, one odorant may bind several receptors and one receptor may bind several odorants to varying degrees 2. Biochemical, signaling and ligand binding studies have been conveniently carried out for most GPCRs using heterologous cells. However use of heterologous cells for study of odorant receptors, was precluded for a long time since on transfection they failed to export to the surface. Saito et al have demonstrated single membrane pass Receptor Transporting Protein (RTP) family chaperones show enhanced expression in the olfactory sensory neurons and act as chaperones to traffic odorant receptors to the surface in heterologous cells, when co transfected together 3. To carry out biochemical assays for receptors using heterologous cells, one must first determine if the receptor shows robust surface expression in the cell line. This can be assayed by overexpressing the receptors with the chaperone RTP1S followed by live cell staining to fluorescently label the extracellular domain or a tag in the extracellular domain exclusively. Here we demonstrate a protocol to carry out live cell staining that can be used to detect odorant receptors on the surface of HEK293T cells conveniently. In addition, it may also be used to assay for surface expression of other chemosensory receptors or GPCRs.
Neuroscience, Issue 48, heterologous, receptors, cell, surface, staining
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Planarian Immobilization, Partial Irradiation, and Tissue Transplantation
Authors: Otto C. Guedelhoefer IV, Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado.
Institutions: University of Utah School of Medicine, UCSB, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Stowers Institute for Medical Research.
The planarian, a freshwater flatworm, has proven to be a powerful system for dissecting metazoan regeneration and stem cell biology1,2. Planarian regeneration of any missing or damaged tissues is made possible by adult stem cells termed neoblasts3. Although these stem cells have been definitively shown to be pluripotent and singularly capable of reconstituting an entire animal4, the heterogeneity within the stem cell population and the dynamics of their cellular behaviors remain largely unresolved. Due to the large number and wide distribution of stem cells throughout the planarian body plan, advanced methods for manipulating subpopulations of stem cells for molecular and functional study in vivo are needed. Tissue transplantation and partial irradiation are two methods by which a subpopulation of planarian stem cells can be isolated for further study. Each technique has distinct advantages. Tissue transplantation allows for the introduction of stem cells, into a naïve host, that are either inherently genetically distinct or have been previously treated pharmacologically. Alternatively, partial irradiation allows for the isolation of stem cells within a host, juxtaposed to tissue devoid of stem cells, without the introduction of a wound or any breech in tissue integrity. Using these two methods, one can investigate the cell autonomous and non-autonomous factors that control stem cell functions, such as proliferation, differentiation, and migration. Both tissue transplantation5,6 and partial irradiation7 have been used historically in defining many of the questions about planarian regeneration that remain under study today. However, these techniques have remained underused due to the laborious and inconsistent nature of previous methods. The protocols presented here represent a large step forward in decreasing the time and effort necessary to reproducibly generate large numbers of grafted or partially irradiated animals with efficacies approaching 100 percent. We cover the culture of large animals, immobilization, preparation for partial irradiation, tissue transplantation, and the optimization of animal recovery. Furthermore, the work described here demonstrates the first application of the partial irradiation method for use with the most widely studied planarian, Schmidtea mediterranea. Additionally, efficient tissue grafting in planaria opens the door for the functional testing of subpopulations of naïve or treated stem cells in repopulation assays, which has long been the gold-standard method of assaying adult stem cell potential in mammals8. Broad adoption of these techniques will no doubt lead to a better understanding of the cellular behaviors of adult stem cells during tissue homeostasis and regeneration.
Developmental Biology, Issue 66, Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, Medicine, transplantation, partial irradiation, rescue, immobilization, planaria, flatworm, stem cell, regeneration
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Drug-induced Sensitization of Adenylyl Cyclase: Assay Streamlining and Miniaturization for Small Molecule and siRNA Screening Applications
Authors: Jason M. Conley, Tarsis F. Brust, Ruqiang Xu, Kevin D. Burris, Val J. Watts.
Institutions: Purdue University, Eli Lilly and Company.
Sensitization of adenylyl cyclase (AC) signaling has been implicated in a variety of neuropsychiatric and neurologic disorders including substance abuse and Parkinson's disease. Acute activation of Gαi/o-linked receptors inhibits AC activity, whereas persistent activation of these receptors results in heterologous sensitization of AC and increased levels of intracellular cAMP. Previous studies have demonstrated that this enhancement of AC responsiveness is observed both in vitro and in vivo following the chronic activation of several types of Gαi/o-linked receptors including D2 dopamine and μ opioid receptors. Although heterologous sensitization of AC was first reported four decades ago, the mechanism(s) that underlie this phenomenon remain largely unknown. The lack of mechanistic data presumably reflects the complexity involved with this adaptive response, suggesting that nonbiased approaches could aid in identifying the molecular pathways involved in heterologous sensitization of AC. Previous studies have implicated kinase and Gbγ signaling as overlapping components that regulate the heterologous sensitization of AC. To identify unique and additional overlapping targets associated with sensitization of AC, the development and validation of a scalable cAMP sensitization assay is required for greater throughput. Previous approaches to study sensitization are generally cumbersome involving continuous cell culture maintenance as well as a complex methodology for measuring cAMP accumulation that involves multiple wash steps. Thus, the development of a robust cell-based assay that can be used for high throughput screening (HTS) in a 384 well format would facilitate future studies. Using two D2 dopamine receptor cellular models (i.e. CHO-D2L and HEK-AC6/D2L), we have converted our 48-well sensitization assay (>20 steps 4-5 days) to a five-step, single day assay in 384-well format. This new format is amenable to small molecule screening, and we demonstrate that this assay design can also be readily used for reverse transfection of siRNA in anticipation of targeted siRNA library screening.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, adenylyl cyclase, cAMP, heterologous sensitization, superactivation, D2 dopamine, μ opioid, siRNA
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Inducing Plasticity of Astrocytic Receptors by Manipulation of Neuronal Firing Rates
Authors: Alison X. Xie, Kelli Lauderdale, Thomas Murphy, Timothy L. Myers, Todd A. Fiacco.
Institutions: University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside.
Close to two decades of research has established that astrocytes in situ and in vivo express numerous G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that can be stimulated by neuronally-released transmitter. However, the ability of astrocytic receptors to exhibit plasticity in response to changes in neuronal activity has received little attention. Here we describe a model system that can be used to globally scale up or down astrocytic group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in acute brain slices. Included are methods on how to prepare parasagittal hippocampal slices, construct chambers suitable for long-term slice incubation, bidirectionally manipulate neuronal action potential frequency, load astrocytes and astrocyte processes with fluorescent Ca2+ indicator, and measure changes in astrocytic Gq GPCR activity by recording spontaneous and evoked astrocyte Ca2+ events using confocal microscopy. In essence, a “calcium roadmap” is provided for how to measure plasticity of astrocytic Gq GPCRs. Applications of the technique for study of astrocytes are discussed. Having an understanding of how astrocytic receptor signaling is affected by changes in neuronal activity has important implications for both normal synaptic function as well as processes underlying neurological disorders and neurodegenerative disease.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, astrocyte, plasticity, mGluRs, neuronal Firing, electrophysiology, Gq GPCRs, Bolus-loading, calcium, microdomains, acute slices, Hippocampus, mouse
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Pharmacological and Functional Genetic Assays to Manipulate Regeneration of the Planarian Dugesia japonica
Authors: John D. Chan, Jonathan S. Marchant.
Institutions: University of Minnesota Medical School.
Free-living planarian flatworms have a long history of experimental usage owing to their remarkable regenerative abilities1. Small fragments excised from these animals reform the original body plan following regeneration of missing body structures. For example if a 'trunk' fragment is cut from an intact worm, a new 'head' will regenerate anteriorly and a 'tail' will regenerate posteriorly restoring the original 'head-to-tail' polarity of body structures prior to amputation (Figure 1A). Regeneration is driven by planarian stem cells, known as 'neoblasts' which differentiate into ~30 different cell types during normal body homeostasis and enforced tissue regeneration. This regenerative process is robust and easy to demonstrate. Owing to the dedication of several pioneering labs, many tools and functional genetic methods have now been optimized for this model system. Consequently, considerable recent progress has been made in understanding and manipulating the molecular events underpinning planarian developmental plasticity2-9. The planarian model system will be of interest to a broad range of scientists. For neuroscientists, the model affords the opportunity to study the regeneration of an entire nervous system, rather than simply the regrowth/repair of single nerve cell process that typically are the focus of study in many established models. Planarians express a plethora of neurotransmitters10, represent an important system for studying evolution of the central nervous system11, 12 and have behavioral screening potential13, 14. Regenerative outcomes are amenable to manipulation by pharmacological and genetic apparoaches. For example, drugs can be screened for effects on regeneration simply by placing body fragments in drug-containing solutions at different time points after amputation. The role of individual genes can be studied using knockdown methods (in vivo RNAi), which can be achieved either through cycles of microinjection or by feeding bacterially-expressed dsRNA constructs8, 9, 15. Both approaches can produce visually striking phenotypes at high penetrance- for example, regeneration of bipolar animals16-21. To facilitate adoption of this model and implementation of such methods, we showcase in this video article protocols for pharmacological and genetic assays (in vivo RNAi by feeding) using the planarian Dugesia japonica.
Developmental Biology, Issue 54, Stem Cells, Regeneration, Planarian, Flatworm, Dugesia japonica
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Setting-up an In Vitro Model of Rat Blood-brain Barrier (BBB): A Focus on BBB Impermeability and Receptor-mediated Transport
Authors: Yves Molino, Françoise Jabès, Emmanuelle Lacassagne, Nicolas Gaudin, Michel Khrestchatisky.
Institutions: VECT-HORUS SAS, CNRS, NICN UMR 7259.
The blood brain barrier (BBB) specifically regulates molecular and cellular flux between the blood and the nervous tissue. Our aim was to develop and characterize a highly reproducible rat syngeneic in vitro model of the BBB using co-cultures of primary rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC) and astrocytes to study receptors involved in transcytosis across the endothelial cell monolayer. Astrocytes were isolated by mechanical dissection following trypsin digestion and were frozen for later co-culture. RBEC were isolated from 5-week-old rat cortices. The brains were cleaned of meninges and white matter, and mechanically dissociated following enzymatic digestion. Thereafter, the tissue homogenate was centrifuged in bovine serum albumin to separate vessel fragments from nervous tissue. The vessel fragments underwent a second enzymatic digestion to free endothelial cells from their extracellular matrix. The remaining contaminating cells such as pericytes were further eliminated by plating the microvessel fragments in puromycin-containing medium. They were then passaged onto filters for co-culture with astrocytes grown on the bottom of the wells. RBEC expressed high levels of tight junction (TJ) proteins such as occludin, claudin-5 and ZO-1 with a typical localization at the cell borders. The transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of brain endothelial monolayers, indicating the tightness of TJs reached 300 ohm·cm2 on average. The endothelial permeability coefficients (Pe) for lucifer yellow (LY) was highly reproducible with an average of 0.26 ± 0.11 x 10-3 cm/min. Brain endothelial cells organized in monolayers expressed the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp), showed a polarized transport of rhodamine 123, a ligand for P-gp, and showed specific transport of transferrin-Cy3 and DiILDL across the endothelial cell monolayer. In conclusion, we provide a protocol for setting up an in vitro BBB model that is highly reproducible due to the quality assurance methods, and that is suitable for research on BBB transporters and receptors.
Medicine, Issue 88, rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC), mouse, spinal cord, tight junction (TJ), receptor-mediated transport (RMT), low density lipoprotein (LDL), LDLR, transferrin, TfR, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER),
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High-throughput Analysis of Mammalian Olfactory Receptors: Measurement of Receptor Activation via Luciferase Activity
Authors: Casey Trimmer, Lindsey L. Snyder, Joel D. Mainland.
Institutions: Monell Chemical Senses Center.
Odorants create unique and overlapping patterns of olfactory receptor activation, allowing a family of approximately 1,000 murine and 400 human receptors to recognize thousands of odorants. Odorant ligands have been published for fewer than 6% of human receptors1-11. This lack of data is due in part to difficulties functionally expressing these receptors in heterologous systems. Here, we describe a method for expressing the majority of the olfactory receptor family in Hana3A cells, followed by high-throughput assessment of olfactory receptor activation using a luciferase reporter assay. This assay can be used to (1) screen panels of odorants against panels of olfactory receptors; (2) confirm odorant/receptor interaction via dose response curves; and (3) compare receptor activation levels among receptor variants. In our sample data, 328 olfactory receptors were screened against 26 odorants. Odorant/receptor pairs with varying response scores were selected and tested in dose response. These data indicate that a screen is an effective method to enrich for odorant/receptor pairs that will pass a dose response experiment, i.e. receptors that have a bona fide response to an odorant. Therefore, this high-throughput luciferase assay is an effective method to characterize olfactory receptors—an essential step toward a model of odor coding in the mammalian olfactory system.
Neuroscience, Issue 88, Firefly luciferase, Renilla Luciferase, Dual-Glo Luciferase Assay, olfaction, Olfactory receptor, Odorant, GPCR, High-throughput
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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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Analysis of Tubular Membrane Networks in Cardiac Myocytes from Atria and Ventricles
Authors: Eva Wagner, Sören Brandenburg, Tobias Kohl, Stephan E. Lehnart.
Institutions: Heart Research Center Goettingen, University Medical Center Goettingen, German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) partner site Goettingen, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
In cardiac myocytes a complex network of membrane tubules - the transverse-axial tubule system (TATS) - controls deep intracellular signaling functions. While the outer surface membrane and associated TATS membrane components appear to be continuous, there are substantial differences in lipid and protein content. In ventricular myocytes (VMs), certain TATS components are highly abundant contributing to rectilinear tubule networks and regular branching 3D architectures. It is thought that peripheral TATS components propagate action potentials from the cell surface to thousands of remote intracellular sarcoendoplasmic reticulum (SER) membrane contact domains, thereby activating intracellular Ca2+ release units (CRUs). In contrast to VMs, the organization and functional role of TATS membranes in atrial myocytes (AMs) is significantly different and much less understood. Taken together, quantitative structural characterization of TATS membrane networks in healthy and diseased myocytes is an essential prerequisite towards better understanding of functional plasticity and pathophysiological reorganization. Here, we present a strategic combination of protocols for direct quantitative analysis of TATS membrane networks in living VMs and AMs. For this, we accompany primary cell isolations of mouse VMs and/or AMs with critical quality control steps and direct membrane staining protocols for fluorescence imaging of TATS membranes. Using an optimized workflow for confocal or superresolution TATS image processing, binarized and skeletonized data are generated for quantitative analysis of the TATS network and its components. Unlike previously published indirect regional aggregate image analysis strategies, our protocols enable direct characterization of specific components and derive complex physiological properties of TATS membrane networks in living myocytes with high throughput and open access software tools. In summary, the combined protocol strategy can be readily applied for quantitative TATS network studies during physiological myocyte adaptation or disease changes, comparison of different cardiac or skeletal muscle cell types, phenotyping of transgenic models, and pharmacological or therapeutic interventions.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, cardiac myocyte, atria, ventricle, heart, primary cell isolation, fluorescence microscopy, membrane tubule, transverse-axial tubule system, image analysis, image processing, T-tubule, collagenase
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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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Quantifying Agonist Activity at G Protein-coupled Receptors
Authors: Frederick J. Ehlert, Hinako Suga, Michael T. Griffin.
Institutions: University of California, Irvine, University of California, Chapman University.
When an agonist activates a population of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), it elicits a signaling pathway that culminates in the response of the cell or tissue. This process can be analyzed at the level of a single receptor, a population of receptors, or a downstream response. Here we describe how to analyze the downstream response to obtain an estimate of the agonist affinity constant for the active state of single receptors. Receptors behave as quantal switches that alternate between active and inactive states (Figure 1). The active state interacts with specific G proteins or other signaling partners. In the absence of ligands, the inactive state predominates. The binding of agonist increases the probability that the receptor will switch into the active state because its affinity constant for the active state (Kb) is much greater than that for the inactive state (Ka). The summation of the random outputs of all of the receptors in the population yields a constant level of receptor activation in time. The reciprocal of the concentration of agonist eliciting half-maximal receptor activation is equivalent to the observed affinity constant (Kobs), and the fraction of agonist-receptor complexes in the active state is defined as efficacy (ε) (Figure 2). Methods for analyzing the downstream responses of GPCRs have been developed that enable the estimation of the Kobs and relative efficacy of an agonist 1,2. In this report, we show how to modify this analysis to estimate the agonist Kb value relative to that of another agonist. For assays that exhibit constitutive activity, we show how to estimate Kb in absolute units of M-1. Our method of analyzing agonist concentration-response curves 3,4 consists of global nonlinear regression using the operational model 5. We describe a procedure using the software application, Prism (GraphPad Software, Inc., San Diego, CA). The analysis yields an estimate of the product of Kobs and a parameter proportional to efficacy (τ). The estimate of τKobs of one agonist, divided by that of another, is a relative measure of Kb (RAi) 6. For any receptor exhibiting constitutive activity, it is possible to estimate a parameter proportional to the efficacy of the free receptor complex (τsys). In this case, the Kb value of an agonist is equivalent to τKobssys 3. Our method is useful for determining the selectivity of an agonist for receptor subtypes and for quantifying agonist-receptor signaling through different G proteins.
Molecular Biology, Issue 58, agonist activity, active state, ligand bias, constitutive activity, G protein-coupled receptor
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