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Conformational analysis of Clostridium difficile toxin B and its implications for substrate recognition.
Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) is an opportunistic pathogen that can cause potentially lethal hospital-acquired infections. The cellular damage that it causes is the result of two large clostridial cytotoxins: TcdA and TcdB which act by glucosylating cytosolic G-proteins, mis-regulation of which induces apoptosis. TcdB is a large flexible protein that appears to undergo significant structural rearrangement upon accommodation of its substrates: UDP-glucose and a Rho-family GTPase. To characterize the conformational space of TcdB, we applied normal mode and hinge-region analysis, followed by long-timescale unbiased molecular dynamics. In order to examine the TcdB and RhoA interaction, macromolecular docking and simulation of the TcdB/RhoA complex was performed. Generalized Masked Delaunay analysis of the simulations determined the extent of significant motions. This combination of methods elucidated a wide range of motions within TcdB that are reiterated in both the low-cost normal mode analysis and the extensive MD simulation. Of particular interest are the coupled motions between a peripheral 4-helix bundle and a small loop in the active site that must rearrange to allow RhoA entry to the catalytic site. These extensive coupled motions are indicative of TcdB using a conformational capture mechanism for substrate accommodation.
Authors: Adrianne N. Edwards, Jose M. Suárez, Shonna M. McBride.
Published: 09-14-2013
Clostridium difficile is a Gram-positive, anaerobic, sporogenic bacterium that is primarily responsible for antibiotic associated diarrhea (AAD) and is a significant nosocomial pathogen. C. difficile is notoriously difficult to isolate and cultivate and is extremely sensitive to even low levels of oxygen in the environment. Here, methods for isolating C. difficile from fecal samples and subsequently culturing C. difficile for preparation of glycerol stocks for long-term storage are presented. Techniques for preparing and enumerating spore stocks in the laboratory for a variety of downstream applications including microscopy and animal studies are also described. These techniques necessitate an anaerobic chamber, which maintains a consistent anaerobic environment to ensure proper conditions for optimal C. difficile growth. We provide protocols for transferring materials in and out of the chamber without causing significant oxygen contamination along with suggestions for regular maintenance required to sustain the appropriate anaerobic environment for efficient and consistent C. difficile cultivation.
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Affinity Precipitation of Active Rho-GEFs Using a GST-tagged Mutant Rho Protein (GST-RhoA(G17A)) from Epithelial Cell Lysates
Authors: Faiza Waheed, Pamela Speight, Qinghong Dan, Rafael Garcia-Mata, Katalin Szaszi.
Institutions: St. Michael's Hospital , University of Toronto, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill .
Proteins of the Rho family of small GTPases are central regulators of the cytoskeleton, and control a large variety of cellular processes, including cell migration, gene expression, cell cycle progression and cell adhesion 1. Rho proteins are molecular switches that are active in GTP-bound and inactive in GDP-bound state. Their activation is mediated by a family of Guanine-nucleotide Exchange Factor (GEF) proteins. Rho-GEFs constitute a large family, with overlapping specificities 2. Although a lot of progress has been made in identifying the GEFs activated by specific signals, there are still many questions remaining regarding the pathway-specific regulation of these proteins. The number of Rho-GEFs exceeds 70, and each cell expresses more than one GEF protein. In addition, many of these proteins activate not only Rho, but other members of the family, contributing further to the complexity of the regulatory networks. Importantly, exploring how GEFs are regulated requires a method to follow the active pool of individual GEFs in cells activated by different stimuli. Here we provide a step-by-step protocol for a method used to assess and quantify the available active Rho-specific GEFs using an affinity precipitation assay. This assay was developed a few years ago in the Burridge lab 3,4 and we have used it in kidney tubular cell lines 5,6,7. The assay takes advantage of a "nucleotide free" mutant RhoA, with a high affinity for active GEFs. The mutation (G17A) renders the protein unable to bind GDP or GTP and this state mimics the intermediate state that is bound to the GEF. A GST-tagged version of this mutant protein is expressed and purified from E. coli, bound to glutathione sepharose beads and used to precipitate active GEFs from lysates of untreated and stimulated cells. As most GEFs are activated via posttranslational modifications or release from inhibitory bindings, their active state is preserved in cell lysates, and they can be detected by this assay8. Captured proteins can be probed for known GEFs by detection with specific antibodies using Western blotting, or analyzed by Mass Spectrometry to identify unknown GEFs activated by certain stimuli.
Molecular Biology, Issue 61, Rho Family Small GTPases, Guanine-nucleotide exchange factor (GEFs), Affinity Precipitation Assay, expression of proteins in E. Coli, Purification of GST-tagged Protein, microbead assay
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Spatio-Temporal Manipulation of Small GTPase Activity at Subcellular Level and on Timescale of Seconds in Living Cells
Authors: Robert DeRose, Christopher Pohlmeyer, Nobuhiro Umeda, Tasuku Ueno, Tetsuo Nagano, Scot Kuo, Takanari Inoue.
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University, University of Tokyo, Johns Hopkins University.
Dynamic regulation of the Rho family of small guanosine triphosphatases (GTPases) with great spatiotemporal precision is essential for various cellular functions and events1, 2. Their spatiotemporally dynamic nature has been revealed by visualization of their activity and localization in real time3. In order to gain deeper understanding of their roles in diverse cellular functions at the molecular level, the next step should be perturbation of protein activities at a precise subcellular location and timing. To achieve this goal, we have developed a method for light-induced, spatio-temporally controlled activation of small GTPases by combining two techniques: (1) rapamycin-induced FKBP-FRB heterodimerization and (2) a photo-caging method of rapamycin. With the use of rapamycin-mediated FKBP-FRB heterodimerization, we have developed a method for rapidly inducible activation or inactivation of small GTPases including Rac4, Cdc424, RhoA4 and Ras5, in which rapamycin induces translocation of FKBP-fused GTPases, or their activators, to the plasma membrane where FRB is anchored. For coupling with this heterodimerization system, we have also developed a photo-caging system of rapamycin analogs. A photo-caged compound is a small molecule whose activity is suppressed with a photocleavable protecting group known as a caging group. To suppress heterodimerization activity completely, we designed a caged rapamycin that is tethered to a macromolecule such that the resulting large complex cannot cross the plasma membrane, leading to virtually no background activity as a chemical dimerizer inside cells6. Figure 1 illustrates a scheme of our system. With the combination of these two systems, we locally recruited a Rac activator to the plasma membrane on a timescale of seconds and achieved light-induced Rac activation at the subcellular level6.
Bioengineering, Issue 61, Small GTPase, rapamycin, caged compound, spatiotemporal control, heterodimerization, FKBP, FRB, light irradiation
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Isolation and Quantification of Botulinum Neurotoxin From Complex Matrices Using the BoTest Matrix Assays
Authors: F. Mark Dunning, Timothy M. Piazza, Füsûn N. Zeytin, Ward C. Tucker.
Institutions: BioSentinel Inc., Madison, WI.
Accurate detection and quantification of botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) in complex matrices is required for pharmaceutical, environmental, and food sample testing. Rapid BoNT testing of foodstuffs is needed during outbreak forensics, patient diagnosis, and food safety testing while accurate potency testing is required for BoNT-based drug product manufacturing and patient safety. The widely used mouse bioassay for BoNT testing is highly sensitive but lacks the precision and throughput needed for rapid and routine BoNT testing. Furthermore, the bioassay's use of animals has resulted in calls by drug product regulatory authorities and animal-rights proponents in the US and abroad to replace the mouse bioassay for BoNT testing. Several in vitro replacement assays have been developed that work well with purified BoNT in simple buffers, but most have not been shown to be applicable to testing in highly complex matrices. Here, a protocol for the detection of BoNT in complex matrices using the BoTest Matrix assays is presented. The assay consists of three parts: The first part involves preparation of the samples for testing, the second part is an immunoprecipitation step using anti-BoNT antibody-coated paramagnetic beads to purify BoNT from the matrix, and the third part quantifies the isolated BoNT's proteolytic activity using a fluorogenic reporter. The protocol is written for high throughput testing in 96-well plates using both liquid and solid matrices and requires about 2 hr of manual preparation with total assay times of 4-26 hr depending on the sample type, toxin load, and desired sensitivity. Data are presented for BoNT/A testing with phosphate-buffered saline, a drug product, culture supernatant, 2% milk, and fresh tomatoes and includes discussion of critical parameters for assay success.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, Botulinum, food testing, detection, quantification, complex matrices, BoTest Matrix, Clostridium, potency testing
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Detection of Toxin Translocation into the Host Cytosol by Surface Plasmon Resonance
Authors: Michael Taylor, Tuhina Banerjee, Neyda VanBennekom, Ken Teter.
Institutions: University of Central Florida.
AB toxins consist of an enzymatic A subunit and a cell-binding B subunit1. These toxins are secreted into the extracellular milieu, but they act upon targets within the eukaryotic cytosol. Some AB toxins travel by vesicle carriers from the cell surface to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) before entering the cytosol2-4. In the ER, the catalytic A chain dissociates from the rest of the toxin and moves through a protein-conducting channel to reach its cytosolic target5. The translocated, cytosolic A chain is difficult to detect because toxin trafficking to the ER is an extremely inefficient process: most internalized toxin is routed to the lysosomes for degradation, so only a small fraction of surface-bound toxin reaches the Golgi apparatus and ER6-12. To monitor toxin translocation from the ER to the cytosol in cultured cells, we combined a subcellular fractionation protocol with the highly sensitive detection method of surface plasmon resonance (SPR)13-15. The plasma membrane of toxin-treated cells is selectively permeabilized with digitonin, allowing collection of a cytosolic fraction which is subsequently perfused over an SPR sensor coated with an anti-toxin A chain antibody. The antibody-coated sensor can capture and detect pg/mL quantities of cytosolic toxin. With this protocol, it is possible to follow the kinetics of toxin entry into the cytosol and to characterize inhibitory effects on the translocation event. The concentration of cytosolic toxin can also be calculated from a standard curve generated with known quantities of A chain standards that have been perfused over the sensor. Our method represents a rapid, sensitive, and quantitative detection system that does not require radiolabeling or other modifications to the target toxin.
Immunology, Issue 59, Surface plasmon resonance, AB toxin, translocation, endoplasmic reticulum, cell culture, cholera toxin, pertussis toxin
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Steady-state, Pre-steady-state, and Single-turnover Kinetic Measurement for DNA Glycosylase Activity
Authors: Akira Sassa, William A. Beard, David D. Shock, Samuel H. Wilson.
Institutions: NIEHS, National Institutes of Health.
Human 8-oxoguanine DNA glycosylase (OGG1) excises the mutagenic oxidative DNA lesion 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine (8-oxoG) from DNA. Kinetic characterization of OGG1 is undertaken to measure the rates of 8-oxoG excision and product release. When the OGG1 concentration is lower than substrate DNA, time courses of product formation are biphasic; a rapid exponential phase (i.e. burst) of product formation is followed by a linear steady-state phase. The initial burst of product formation corresponds to the concentration of enzyme properly engaged on the substrate, and the burst amplitude depends on the concentration of enzyme. The first-order rate constant of the burst corresponds to the intrinsic rate of 8-oxoG excision and the slower steady-state rate measures the rate of product release (product DNA dissociation rate constant, koff). Here, we describe steady-state, pre-steady-state, and single-turnover approaches to isolate and measure specific steps during OGG1 catalytic cycling. A fluorescent labeled lesion-containing oligonucleotide and purified OGG1 are used to facilitate precise kinetic measurements. Since low enzyme concentrations are used to make steady-state measurements, manual mixing of reagents and quenching of the reaction can be performed to ascertain the steady-state rate (koff). Additionally, extrapolation of the steady-state rate to a point on the ordinate at zero time indicates that a burst of product formation occurred during the first turnover (i.e. y-intercept is positive). The first-order rate constant of the exponential burst phase can be measured using a rapid mixing and quenching technique that examines the amount of product formed at short time intervals (<1 sec) before the steady-state phase and corresponds to the rate of 8-oxoG excision (i.e. chemistry). The chemical step can also be measured using a single-turnover approach where catalytic cycling is prevented by saturating substrate DNA with enzyme (E>S). These approaches can measure elementary rate constants that influence the efficiency of removal of a DNA lesion.
Chemistry, Issue 78, Biochemistry, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Structural Biology, Chemical Biology, Eukaryota, Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, Nucleic Acids, Nucleotides, and Nucleosides, Enzymes and Coenzymes, Life Sciences (General), enzymology, rapid quench-flow, active site titration, steady-state, pre-steady-state, single-turnover, kinetics, base excision repair, DNA glycosylase, 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine, 8-oxoG, sequencing
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A High-throughput-compatible FRET-based Platform for Identification and Characterization of Botulinum Neurotoxin Light Chain Modulators
Authors: Dejan Caglič, Kristin M. Bompiani, Michelle C. Krutein, Petr Čapek, Tobin J. Dickerson.
Institutions: The Scripps Research Institute, The Scripps Research Institute.
Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) is a potent and potentially lethal bacterial toxin that binds to host motor neurons, is internalized into the cell, and cleaves intracellular proteins that are essential for neurotransmitter release. BoNT is comprised of a heavy chain (HC), which mediates host cell binding and internalization, and a light chain (LC), which cleaves intracellular host proteins essential for acetylcholine release. While therapies that inhibit toxin binding/internalization have a small time window of administration, compounds that target intracellular LC activity have a much larger time window of administrations, particularly relevant given the extremely long half-life of the toxin. In recent years, small molecules have been heavily analyzed as potential LC inhibitors based on their increased cellular permeability relative to larger therapeutics (peptides, aptamers, etc.). Lead identification often involves high-throughput screening (HTS), where large libraries of small molecules are screened based on their ability to modulate therapeutic target function. Here we describe a FRET-based assay with a commercial BoNT/A LC substrate and recombinant LC that can be automated for HTS of potential BoNT inhibitors. Moreover, we describe a manual technique that can be used for follow-up secondary screening, or for comparing the potency of several candidate compounds.
Chemistry, Issue 82, BoNT/A, botulinum neurotoxin, high-throughput screening, FRET, inhibitor, FRET peptide substrate, activator
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Measuring Cation Transport by Na,K- and H,K-ATPase in Xenopus Oocytes by Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry: An Alternative to Radioisotope Assays
Authors: Katharina L. Dürr, Neslihan N. Tavraz, Susan Spiller, Thomas Friedrich.
Institutions: Technical University of Berlin, Oregon Health & Science University.
Whereas cation transport by the electrogenic membrane transporter Na+,K+-ATPase can be measured by electrophysiology, the electroneutrally operating gastric H+,K+-ATPase is more difficult to investigate. Many transport assays utilize radioisotopes to achieve a sufficient signal-to-noise ratio, however, the necessary security measures impose severe restrictions regarding human exposure or assay design. Furthermore, ion transport across cell membranes is critically influenced by the membrane potential, which is not straightforwardly controlled in cell culture or in proteoliposome preparations. Here, we make use of the outstanding sensitivity of atomic absorption spectrophotometry (AAS) towards trace amounts of chemical elements to measure Rb+ or Li+ transport by Na+,K+- or gastric H+,K+-ATPase in single cells. Using Xenopus oocytes as expression system, we determine the amount of Rb+ (Li+) transported into the cells by measuring samples of single-oocyte homogenates in an AAS device equipped with a transversely heated graphite atomizer (THGA) furnace, which is loaded from an autosampler. Since the background of unspecific Rb+ uptake into control oocytes or during application of ATPase-specific inhibitors is very small, it is possible to implement complex kinetic assay schemes involving a large number of experimental conditions simultaneously, or to compare the transport capacity and kinetics of site-specifically mutated transporters with high precision. Furthermore, since cation uptake is determined on single cells, the flux experiments can be carried out in combination with two-electrode voltage-clamping (TEVC) to achieve accurate control of the membrane potential and current. This allowed e.g. to quantitatively determine the 3Na+/2K+ transport stoichiometry of the Na+,K+-ATPase and enabled for the first time to investigate the voltage dependence of cation transport by the electroneutrally operating gastric H+,K+-ATPase. In principle, the assay is not limited to K+-transporting membrane proteins, but it may work equally well to address the activity of heavy or transition metal transporters, or uptake of chemical elements by endocytotic processes.
Biochemistry, Issue 72, Chemistry, Biophysics, Bioengineering, Physiology, Molecular Biology, electrochemical processes, physical chemistry, spectrophotometry (application), spectroscopic chemical analysis (application), life sciences, temperature effects (biological, animal and plant), Life Sciences (General), Na+,K+-ATPase, H+,K+-ATPase, Cation Uptake, P-type ATPases, Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry (AAS), Two-Electrode Voltage-Clamp, Xenopus Oocytes, Rb+ Flux, Transversely Heated Graphite Atomizer (THGA) Furnace, electrophysiology, animal model
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Monitoring Activation of the Antiviral Pattern Recognition Receptors RIG-I And PKR By Limited Protease Digestion and Native PAGE
Authors: Michaela Weber, Friedemann Weber.
Institutions: Philipps-University Marburg.
Host defenses to virus infection are dependent on a rapid detection by pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) of the innate immune system. In the cytoplasm, the PRRs RIG-I and PKR bind to specific viral RNA ligands. This first mediates conformational switching and oligomerization, and then enables activation of an antiviral interferon response. While methods to measure antiviral host gene expression are well established, methods to directly monitor the activation states of RIG-I and PKR are only partially and less well established. Here, we describe two methods to monitor RIG-I and PKR stimulation upon infection with an established interferon inducer, the Rift Valley fever virus mutant clone 13 (Cl 13). Limited trypsin digestion allows to analyze alterations in protease sensitivity, indicating conformational changes of the PRRs. Trypsin digestion of lysates from mock infected cells results in a rapid degradation of RIG-I and PKR, whereas Cl 13 infection leads to the emergence of a protease-resistant RIG-I fragment. Also PKR shows a virus-induced partial resistance to trypsin digestion, which coincides with its hallmark phosphorylation at Thr 446. The formation of RIG-I and PKR oligomers was validated by native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE). Upon infection, there is a strong accumulation of RIG-I and PKR oligomeric complexes, whereas these proteins remained as monomers in mock infected samples. Limited protease digestion and native PAGE, both coupled to western blot analysis, allow a sensitive and direct measurement of two diverse steps of RIG-I and PKR activation. These techniques are relatively easy and quick to perform and do not require expensive equipment.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 89, innate immune response, virus infection, pathogen recognition receptor, RIG-I, PKR, IRF-3, limited protease digestion, conformational switch, native PAGE, oligomerization
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Formation of Biomembrane Microarrays with a Squeegee-based Assembly Method
Authors: Nathan J. Wittenberg, Timothy W. Johnson, Luke R. Jordan, Xiaohua Xu, Arthur E. Warrington, Moses Rodriguez, Sang-Hyun Oh.
Institutions: University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.
Lipid bilayer membranes form the plasma membranes of cells and define the boundaries of subcellular organelles. In nature, these membranes are heterogeneous mixtures of many types of lipids, contain membrane-bound proteins and are decorated with carbohydrates. In some experiments, it is desirable to decouple the biophysical or biochemical properties of the lipid bilayer from those of the natural membrane. Such cases call for the use of model systems such as giant vesicles, liposomes or supported lipid bilayers (SLBs). Arrays of SLBs are particularly attractive for sensing applications and mimicking cell-cell interactions. Here we describe a new method for forming SLB arrays. Submicron-diameter SiO2 beads are first coated with lipid bilayers to form spherical SLBs (SSLBs). The beads are then deposited into an array of micro-fabricated submicron-diameter microwells. The preparation technique uses a "squeegee" to clean the substrate surface, while leaving behind SSLBs that have settled into microwells. This method requires no chemical modification of the microwell substrate, nor any particular targeting ligands on the SSLB. Microwells are occupied by single beads because the well diameter is tuned to be just larger than the bead diameter. Typically, more 75% of the wells are occupied, while the rest remain empty. In buffer SSLB arrays display long-term stability of greater than one week. Multiple types of SSLBs can be placed in a single array by serial deposition, and the arrays can be used for sensing, which we demonstrate by characterizing the interaction of cholera toxin with ganglioside GM1. We also show that phospholipid vesicles without the bead supports and biomembranes from cellular sources can be arrayed with the same method and cell-specific membrane lipids can be identified.
Bioengineering, Issue 87, supported lipid bilayer, beads, microarray, fluorescence, microfabrication, nanofabrication, atomic layer deposition, myelin, lipid rafts
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Assessment of Immunologically Relevant Dynamic Tertiary Structural Features of the HIV-1 V3 Loop Crown R2 Sequence by ab initio Folding
Authors: David Almond, Timothy Cardozo.
Institutions: School of Medicine, New York University.
The antigenic diversity of HIV-1 has long been an obstacle to vaccine design, and this variability is especially pronounced in the V3 loop of the virus' surface envelope glycoprotein. We previously proposed that the crown of the V3 loop, although dynamic and sequence variable, is constrained throughout the population of HIV-1 viruses to an immunologically relevant β-hairpin tertiary structure. Importantly, there are thousands of different V3 loop crown sequences in circulating HIV-1 viruses, making 3D structural characterization of trends across the diversity of viruses difficult or impossible by crystallography or NMR. Our previous successful studies with folding of the V3 crown1, 2 used the ab initio algorithm 3 accessible in the ICM-Pro molecular modeling software package (Molsoft LLC, La Jolla, CA) and suggested that the crown of the V3 loop, specifically from positions 10 to 22, benefits sufficiently from the flexibility and length of its flanking stems to behave to a large degree as if it were an unconstrained peptide freely folding in solution. As such, rapid ab initio folding of just this portion of the V3 loop of any individual strain of the 60,000+ circulating HIV-1 strains can be informative. Here, we folded the V3 loop of the R2 strain to gain insight into the structural basis of its unique properties. R2 bears a rare V3 loop sequence thought to be responsible for the exquisite sensitivity of this strain to neutralization by patient sera and monoclonal antibodies4, 5. The strain mediates CD4-independent infection and appears to elicit broadly neutralizing antibodies. We demonstrate how evaluation of the results of the folding can be informative for associating observed structures in the folding with the immunological activities observed for R2.
Infection, Issue 43, HIV-1, structure-activity relationships, ab initio simulations, antibody-mediated neutralization, vaccine design
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RhoC GTPase Activation Assay
Authors: Michelle Lucey, Heather Unger, Kenneth L. van Golen.
Institutions: University of Delaware.
RhoC GTPase has 91% homology to RhoA GTPase. Because of its prevalence in cells, many reagents and techniques for RhoA GTPase have been developed. However, RhoC GTPase is expressed in metastatic cancer cells at relatively low levels. Therefore, few RhoC-specific reagents have been developed. We have adapted a Rho activation assay to detect RhoC GTPase. This technique utilizes a GST-Rho binding domain fusion protein to pull out active RhoC GTPase. In addition, we can harvest total protein at the beginning of the assay to determine levels of total (GTP and GDP bound) RhoC GTPase. This allows for the determination of active versus total RhoC GTPase in the cell. Several commercial versions of this procedure have been developed however, the commercial kits are optimized for RhoA GTPase and typically do not work well for RhoC GTPase. Parts of the assay have been modified as well as development of a RhoC-specific antibody.
neuroscience, Issue 42, brain, mouse, transplantation, labeling
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From Voxels to Knowledge: A Practical Guide to the Segmentation of Complex Electron Microscopy 3D-Data
Authors: Wen-Ting Tsai, Ahmed Hassan, Purbasha Sarkar, Joaquin Correa, Zoltan Metlagel, Danielle M. Jorgens, Manfred Auer.
Institutions: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Modern 3D electron microscopy approaches have recently allowed unprecedented insight into the 3D ultrastructural organization of cells and tissues, enabling the visualization of large macromolecular machines, such as adhesion complexes, as well as higher-order structures, such as the cytoskeleton and cellular organelles in their respective cell and tissue context. Given the inherent complexity of cellular volumes, it is essential to first extract the features of interest in order to allow visualization, quantification, and therefore comprehension of their 3D organization. Each data set is defined by distinct characteristics, e.g., signal-to-noise ratio, crispness (sharpness) of the data, heterogeneity of its features, crowdedness of features, presence or absence of characteristic shapes that allow for easy identification, and the percentage of the entire volume that a specific region of interest occupies. All these characteristics need to be considered when deciding on which approach to take for segmentation. The six different 3D ultrastructural data sets presented were obtained by three different imaging approaches: resin embedded stained electron tomography, focused ion beam- and serial block face- scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM, SBF-SEM) of mildly stained and heavily stained samples, respectively. For these data sets, four different segmentation approaches have been applied: (1) fully manual model building followed solely by visualization of the model, (2) manual tracing segmentation of the data followed by surface rendering, (3) semi-automated approaches followed by surface rendering, or (4) automated custom-designed segmentation algorithms followed by surface rendering and quantitative analysis. Depending on the combination of data set characteristics, it was found that typically one of these four categorical approaches outperforms the others, but depending on the exact sequence of criteria, more than one approach may be successful. Based on these data, we propose a triage scheme that categorizes both objective data set characteristics and subjective personal criteria for the analysis of the different data sets.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, 3D electron microscopy, feature extraction, segmentation, image analysis, reconstruction, manual tracing, thresholding
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A Protocol for Computer-Based Protein Structure and Function Prediction
Authors: Ambrish Roy, Dong Xu, Jonathan Poisson, Yang Zhang.
Institutions: University of Michigan , University of Kansas.
Genome sequencing projects have ciphered millions of protein sequence, which require knowledge of their structure and function to improve the understanding of their biological role. Although experimental methods can provide detailed information for a small fraction of these proteins, computational modeling is needed for the majority of protein molecules which are experimentally uncharacterized. The I-TASSER server is an on-line workbench for high-resolution modeling of protein structure and function. Given a protein sequence, a typical output from the I-TASSER server includes secondary structure prediction, predicted solvent accessibility of each residue, homologous template proteins detected by threading and structure alignments, up to five full-length tertiary structural models, and structure-based functional annotations for enzyme classification, Gene Ontology terms and protein-ligand binding sites. All the predictions are tagged with a confidence score which tells how accurate the predictions are without knowing the experimental data. To facilitate the special requests of end users, the server provides channels to accept user-specified inter-residue distance and contact maps to interactively change the I-TASSER modeling; it also allows users to specify any proteins as template, or to exclude any template proteins during the structure assembly simulations. The structural information could be collected by the users based on experimental evidences or biological insights with the purpose of improving the quality of I-TASSER predictions. The server was evaluated as the best programs for protein structure and function predictions in the recent community-wide CASP experiments. There are currently >20,000 registered scientists from over 100 countries who are using the on-line I-TASSER server.
Biochemistry, Issue 57, On-line server, I-TASSER, protein structure prediction, function prediction
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Analyzing Protein Dynamics Using Hydrogen Exchange Mass Spectrometry
Authors: Nikolai Hentze, Matthias P. Mayer.
Institutions: University of Heidelberg.
All cellular processes depend on the functionality of proteins. Although the functionality of a given protein is the direct consequence of its unique amino acid sequence, it is only realized by the folding of the polypeptide chain into a single defined three-dimensional arrangement or more commonly into an ensemble of interconverting conformations. Investigating the connection between protein conformation and its function is therefore essential for a complete understanding of how proteins are able to fulfill their great variety of tasks. One possibility to study conformational changes a protein undergoes while progressing through its functional cycle is hydrogen-1H/2H-exchange in combination with high-resolution mass spectrometry (HX-MS). HX-MS is a versatile and robust method that adds a new dimension to structural information obtained by e.g. crystallography. It is used to study protein folding and unfolding, binding of small molecule ligands, protein-protein interactions, conformational changes linked to enzyme catalysis, and allostery. In addition, HX-MS is often used when the amount of protein is very limited or crystallization of the protein is not feasible. Here we provide a general protocol for studying protein dynamics with HX-MS and describe as an example how to reveal the interaction interface of two proteins in a complex.   
Chemistry, Issue 81, Molecular Chaperones, mass spectrometers, Amino Acids, Peptides, Proteins, Enzymes, Coenzymes, Protein dynamics, conformational changes, allostery, protein folding, secondary structure, mass spectrometry
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Fecal Microbiota Transplantation via Colonoscopy for Recurrent C. difficile Infection
Authors: Jessica R. Allegretti, Joshua R. Korzenik, Matthew J. Hamilton.
Institutions: Brigham and Women‘s Hospital.
Fecal Microbiota Transplantation (FMT) is a safe and highly effective treatment for recurrent and refractory C. difficile infection (CDI). Various methods of FMT administration have been reported in the literature including nasogastric tube, upper endoscopy, enema and colonoscopy. FMT via colonoscopy yields excellent cure rates and is also well tolerated. We have found that patients find this an acceptable and tolerable mode of delivery. At our Center, we have initiated a fecal transplant program for patients with recurrent or refractory CDI. We have developed a protocol using an iterative process of revision and have performed 24 fecal transplants on 22 patients with success rates comparable to the current published literature. A systematic approach to patient and donor screening, preparation of stool, and delivery of the stool maximizes therapeutic success. Here we detail each step of the FMT protocol that can be carried out at any endoscopy center with a high degree of safety and success.
Immunology, Issue 94, C.difficile, colonoscopy, fecal transplant, stool, diarrhea, microbiota
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Preparation of Segmented Microtubules to Study Motions Driven by the Disassembling Microtubule Ends
Authors: Vladimir A. Volkov, Anatoly V. Zaytsev, Ekaterina L. Grishchuk.
Institutions: Russian Academy of Sciences, Federal Research Center of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Immunology, Moscow, Russia, University of Pennsylvania.
Microtubule depolymerization can provide force to transport different protein complexes and protein-coated beads in vitro. The underlying mechanisms are thought to play a vital role in the microtubule-dependent chromosome motions during cell division, but the relevant proteins and their exact roles are ill-defined. Thus, there is a growing need to develop assays with which to study such motility in vitro using purified components and defined biochemical milieu. Microtubules, however, are inherently unstable polymers; their switching between growth and shortening is stochastic and difficult to control. The protocols we describe here take advantage of the segmented microtubules that are made with the photoablatable stabilizing caps. Depolymerization of such segmented microtubules can be triggered with high temporal and spatial resolution, thereby assisting studies of motility at the disassembling microtubule ends. This technique can be used to carry out a quantitative analysis of the number of molecules in the fluorescently-labeled protein complexes, which move processively with dynamic microtubule ends. To optimize a signal-to-noise ratio in this and other quantitative fluorescent assays, coverslips should be treated to reduce nonspecific absorption of soluble fluorescently-labeled proteins. Detailed protocols are provided to take into account the unevenness of fluorescent illumination, and determine the intensity of a single fluorophore using equidistant Gaussian fit. Finally, we describe the use of segmented microtubules to study microtubule-dependent motions of the protein-coated microbeads, providing insights into the ability of different motor and nonmotor proteins to couple microtubule depolymerization to processive cargo motion.
Basic Protocol, Issue 85, microscopy flow chamber, single-molecule fluorescence, laser trap, microtubule-binding protein, microtubule-dependent motor, microtubule tip-tracking
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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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Electric Cell-substrate Impedance Sensing for the Quantification of Endothelial Proliferation, Barrier Function, and Motility
Authors: Robert Szulcek, Harm Jan Bogaard, Geerten P. van Nieuw Amerongen.
Institutions: Institute for Cardiovascular Research, VU University Medical Center, Institute for Cardiovascular Research, VU University Medical Center.
Electric Cell-substrate Impedance Sensing (ECIS) is an in vitro impedance measuring system to quantify the behavior of cells within adherent cell layers. To this end, cells are grown in special culture chambers on top of opposing, circular gold electrodes. A constant small alternating current is applied between the electrodes and the potential across is measured. The insulating properties of the cell membrane create a resistance towards the electrical current flow resulting in an increased electrical potential between the electrodes. Measuring cellular impedance in this manner allows the automated study of cell attachment, growth, morphology, function, and motility. Although the ECIS measurement itself is straightforward and easy to learn, the underlying theory is complex and selection of the right settings and correct analysis and interpretation of the data is not self-evident. Yet, a clear protocol describing the individual steps from the experimental design to preparation, realization, and analysis of the experiment is not available. In this article the basic measurement principle as well as possible applications, experimental considerations, advantages and limitations of the ECIS system are discussed. A guide is provided for the study of cell attachment, spreading and proliferation; quantification of cell behavior in a confluent layer, with regard to barrier function, cell motility, quality of cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesions; and quantification of wound healing and cellular responses to vasoactive stimuli. Representative results are discussed based on human microvascular (MVEC) and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC), but are applicable to all adherent growing cells.
Bioengineering, Issue 85, ECIS, Impedance Spectroscopy, Resistance, TEER, Endothelial Barrier, Cell Adhesions, Focal Adhesions, Proliferation, Migration, Motility, Wound Healing
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Simultaneous Multicolor Imaging of Biological Structures with Fluorescence Photoactivation Localization Microscopy
Authors: Nikki M. Curthoys, Michael J. Mlodzianoski, Dahan Kim, Samuel T. Hess.
Institutions: University of Maine.
Localization-based super resolution microscopy can be applied to obtain a spatial map (image) of the distribution of individual fluorescently labeled single molecules within a sample with a spatial resolution of tens of nanometers. Using either photoactivatable (PAFP) or photoswitchable (PSFP) fluorescent proteins fused to proteins of interest, or organic dyes conjugated to antibodies or other molecules of interest, fluorescence photoactivation localization microscopy (FPALM) can simultaneously image multiple species of molecules within single cells. By using the following approach, populations of large numbers (thousands to hundreds of thousands) of individual molecules are imaged in single cells and localized with a precision of ~10-30 nm. Data obtained can be applied to understanding the nanoscale spatial distributions of multiple protein types within a cell. One primary advantage of this technique is the dramatic increase in spatial resolution: while diffraction limits resolution to ~200-250 nm in conventional light microscopy, FPALM can image length scales more than an order of magnitude smaller. As many biological hypotheses concern the spatial relationships among different biomolecules, the improved resolution of FPALM can provide insight into questions of cellular organization which have previously been inaccessible to conventional fluorescence microscopy. In addition to detailing the methods for sample preparation and data acquisition, we here describe the optical setup for FPALM. One additional consideration for researchers wishing to do super-resolution microscopy is cost: in-house setups are significantly cheaper than most commercially available imaging machines. Limitations of this technique include the need for optimizing the labeling of molecules of interest within cell samples, and the need for post-processing software to visualize results. We here describe the use of PAFP and PSFP expression to image two protein species in fixed cells. Extension of the technique to living cells is also described.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, Microscopy, Super-resolution imaging, Multicolor, single molecule, FPALM, Localization microscopy, fluorescent proteins
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Optimized Negative Staining: a High-throughput Protocol for Examining Small and Asymmetric Protein Structure by Electron Microscopy
Authors: Matthew Rames, Yadong Yu, Gang Ren.
Institutions: The Molecular Foundry.
Structural determination of proteins is rather challenging for proteins with molecular masses between 40 - 200 kDa. Considering that more than half of natural proteins have a molecular mass between 40 - 200 kDa1,2, a robust and high-throughput method with a nanometer resolution capability is needed. Negative staining (NS) electron microscopy (EM) is an easy, rapid, and qualitative approach which has frequently been used in research laboratories to examine protein structure and protein-protein interactions. Unfortunately, conventional NS protocols often generate structural artifacts on proteins, especially with lipoproteins that usually form presenting rouleaux artifacts. By using images of lipoproteins from cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) as a standard, the key parameters in NS specimen preparation conditions were recently screened and reported as the optimized NS protocol (OpNS), a modified conventional NS protocol 3 . Artifacts like rouleaux can be greatly limited by OpNS, additionally providing high contrast along with reasonably high‐resolution (near 1 nm) images of small and asymmetric proteins. These high-resolution and high contrast images are even favorable for an individual protein (a single object, no average) 3D reconstruction, such as a 160 kDa antibody, through the method of electron tomography4,5. Moreover, OpNS can be a high‐throughput tool to examine hundreds of samples of small proteins. For example, the previously published mechanism of 53 kDa cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) involved the screening and imaging of hundreds of samples 6. Considering cryo-EM rarely successfully images proteins less than 200 kDa has yet to publish any study involving screening over one hundred sample conditions, it is fair to call OpNS a high-throughput method for studying small proteins. Hopefully the OpNS protocol presented here can be a useful tool to push the boundaries of EM and accelerate EM studies into small protein structure, dynamics and mechanisms.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 90, small and asymmetric protein structure, electron microscopy, optimized negative staining
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Mechanical Stimulation-induced Calcium Wave Propagation in Cell Monolayers: The Example of Bovine Corneal Endothelial Cells
Authors: Catheleyne D'hondt, Bernard Himpens, Geert Bultynck.
Institutions: KU Leuven.
Intercellular communication is essential for the coordination of physiological processes between cells in a variety of organs and tissues, including the brain, liver, retina, cochlea and vasculature. In experimental settings, intercellular Ca2+-waves can be elicited by applying a mechanical stimulus to a single cell. This leads to the release of the intracellular signaling molecules IP3 and Ca2+ that initiate the propagation of the Ca2+-wave concentrically from the mechanically stimulated cell to the neighboring cells. The main molecular pathways that control intercellular Ca2+-wave propagation are provided by gap junction channels through the direct transfer of IP3 and by hemichannels through the release of ATP. Identification and characterization of the properties and regulation of different connexin and pannexin isoforms as gap junction channels and hemichannels are allowed by the quantification of the spread of the intercellular Ca2+-wave, siRNA, and the use of inhibitors of gap junction channels and hemichannels. Here, we describe a method to measure intercellular Ca2+-wave in monolayers of primary corneal endothelial cells loaded with Fluo4-AM in response to a controlled and localized mechanical stimulus provoked by an acute, short-lasting deformation of the cell as a result of touching the cell membrane with a micromanipulator-controlled glass micropipette with a tip diameter of less than 1 μm. We also describe the isolation of primary bovine corneal endothelial cells and its use as model system to assess Cx43-hemichannel activity as the driven force for intercellular Ca2+-waves through the release of ATP. Finally, we discuss the use, advantages, limitations and alternatives of this method in the context of gap junction channel and hemichannel research.
Cellular Biology, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics, Immunology, Ophthalmology, Gap Junctions, Connexins, Connexin 43, Calcium Signaling, Ca2+, Cell Communication, Paracrine Communication, Intercellular communication, calcium wave propagation, gap junctions, hemichannels, endothelial cells, cell signaling, cell, isolation, cell culture
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ELIME (Enzyme Linked Immuno Magnetic Electrochemical) Method for Mycotoxin Detection
Authors: Daniela Romanazzo, Francesco Ricci, Silvia Vesco, Silvia Piermarini, Giulia Volpe, Danila Moscone, Giuseppe Palleschi.
Institutions: University of Rome, Tor Vergata.
Immunoassays are a valid alternative to the more expensive and time consuming quantitative HPLC or GC1, 2 methods for the screening detection of hazardous mycotoxins in food commodities. In this protocol we show how to fabricate and interrogate an electrochemical competitive Enzyme linked immunomagnetic assay based on the use of magnetic beads as solid support for the immunochemical chain3 and screen printed electrodes as sensing platform. Our method aims to determine the total amount of HT-2 and T-2 toxins, mycotoxins belonging to the trichothecenes family and of great concern for human health4. The use of an antibody clone with a cross reactivity of 100% towards HT-2 and T-2 allows to simultaneously detect both toxins with similar sensitivity5. The first step of our assay is the coating step where we immobilize HT2-KLH conjugate toxin on the surface of magnetic beads. After a blocking step, necessary to avoid non-specific absorptions, the addition of a monoclonal antibody allows the competition between immobilized HT-2 and free HT-2 or T-2 present in the sample or dissolved in a standard solution. At the end of the competition step, the amount of monoclonal antibody linked to the immobilized HT-2 will be inversely proportional to the amount of toxin in the sample solution. A secondary antibody labeled with alkaline phosphatase (AP) is used to reveal the binding between the specific antibody and the immobilized HT-2. The final measurement step is performed by dropping an aliquot of magnetic bead suspension, corresponding to a specific sample/standard solution, on the surface of a screen-printed working electrode; magnetic beads are immobilized and concentrated by means of a magnet placed precisely under the screen-printed electrode. After two minutes of incubation between magnetic beads and a substrate for AP, the enzymatic product is detected by Differential Pulse Voltammetry (DPV) using a portable instrument (PalmSens) also able to initiate automatically eight measurements within an interval of few seconds.
Biochemistry, Issue 32, Immunosensors, assay, antibody, magnetic bead, electrochemical, screen printed electrodes, array, toxin, food
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Analyzing and Building Nucleic Acid Structures with 3DNA
Authors: Andrew V. Colasanti, Xiang-Jun Lu, Wilma K. Olson.
Institutions: Rutgers - The State University of New Jersey, Columbia University .
The 3DNA software package is a popular and versatile bioinformatics tool with capabilities to analyze, construct, and visualize three-dimensional nucleic acid structures. This article presents detailed protocols for a subset of new and popular features available in 3DNA, applicable to both individual structures and ensembles of related structures. Protocol 1 lists the set of instructions needed to download and install the software. This is followed, in Protocol 2, by the analysis of a nucleic acid structure, including the assignment of base pairs and the determination of rigid-body parameters that describe the structure and, in Protocol 3, by a description of the reconstruction of an atomic model of a structure from its rigid-body parameters. The most recent version of 3DNA, version 2.1, has new features for the analysis and manipulation of ensembles of structures, such as those deduced from nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) measurements and molecular dynamic (MD) simulations; these features are presented in Protocols 4 and 5. In addition to the 3DNA stand-alone software package, the w3DNA web server, located at, provides a user-friendly interface to selected features of the software. Protocol 6 demonstrates a novel feature of the site for building models of long DNA molecules decorated with bound proteins at user-specified locations.
Genetics, Issue 74, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Biophysics, Genomics, Chemical Biology, Quantitative Biology, conformational analysis, DNA, high-resolution structures, model building, molecular dynamics, nucleic acid structure, RNA, visualization, bioinformatics, three-dimensional, 3DNA, software
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Principles of Site-Specific Recombinase (SSR) Technology
Authors: Frank Bucholtz.
Institutions: Max Plank Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden.
Site-specific recombinase (SSR) technology allows the manipulation of gene structure to explore gene function and has become an integral tool of molecular biology. Site-specific recombinases are proteins that bind to distinct DNA target sequences. The Cre/lox system was first described in bacteriophages during the 1980's. Cre recombinase is a Type I topoisomerase that catalyzes site-specific recombination of DNA between two loxP (locus of X-over P1) sites. The Cre/lox system does not require any cofactors. LoxP sequences contain distinct binding sites for Cre recombinases that surround a directional core sequence where recombination and rearrangement takes place. When cells contain loxP sites and express the Cre recombinase, a recombination event occurs. Double-stranded DNA is cut at both loxP sites by the Cre recombinase, rearranged, and ligated ("scissors and glue"). Products of the recombination event depend on the relative orientation of the asymmetric sequences. SSR technology is frequently used as a tool to explore gene function. Here the gene of interest is flanked with Cre target sites loxP ("floxed"). Animals are then crossed with animals expressing the Cre recombinase under the control of a tissue-specific promoter. In tissues that express the Cre recombinase it binds to target sequences and excises the floxed gene. Controlled gene deletion allows the investigation of gene function in specific tissues and at distinct time points. Analysis of gene function employing SSR technology --- conditional mutagenesis -- has significant advantages over traditional knock-outs where gene deletion is frequently lethal.
Cellular Biology, Issue 15, Molecular Biology, Site-Specific Recombinase, Cre recombinase, Cre/lox system, transgenic animals, transgenic technology
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