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Membrane-sensitive conformational states of helix 8 in the metabotropic Glu2 receptor, a class C GPCR.
The recent elucidation of the X-ray structure of several class A GPCRs clearly indicates that the amphipathic helix 8 (H8) is a conserved structural domain in most crystallized GPCRs. Very little is known about the presence and the possible role of an analogous H8 domain in the distantly related class C GPCRs. In this study, we investigated the structural properties for the H8 domain of the mGluR2 receptor, a class C GPCR, by applying extended molecular dynamics simulations. Our study indicates that the amphipathic H8 adopts membrane-sensitive conformational states, which depend on the membrane composition. Cholesterol-rich membranes stabilize the helical structure of H8 whereas cholesterol-depleted membranes induce a disruption of H8. The observed link between membrane cholesterol levels and H8 conformational states suggests that H8 behaves as a sensor of cholesterol concentration.
Authors: Saranga Naganathan, Amy Grunbeck, He Tian, Thomas Huber, Thomas P. Sakmar.
Published: 09-13-2013
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.
22 Related JoVE Articles!
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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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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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Enzyme-linked Immunospot Assay (ELISPOT): Quantification of Th-1 Cellular Immune Responses Against Microbial Antigens
Authors: Isfahan R. Chambers, Tiffany R. Cone, Kyra Oswald-Richter, Wonder P. Drake.
Institutions: Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Adaptive immunity is an important component to clearance of intracellular pathogens. The ability to detect and quantify these responses in humans is an important diagnostic tool. The enzyme-linked immunospot assay (ELISPOT) is gaining popularity for its ability to identify cellular immune responses against microbial antigens, including immunosuppressed populations such as those with HIV infection, transplantation, and steroid use. This assay has the capacity to quantify the immune responses against specific microbial antigens, as well as distinguish if these responses are Th1 or Th2 in character. ELISPOT is not limited to the site of inflammation. It is versatile in its ability to assess for immune responses within peripheral blood, as well as sites of active involvement such as bronchoalveolar lavage, cerebral spinal fluid, and ascites. Detection of immune responses against a single or multiple antigens is possible, as well as specific epitopes within microbial proteins. This assay facilitates detection of immune responses over time, as well as distinctions in antigens recognized by host T cells. Dual color ELISPOT assays are available for detection of simultaneous expression of two cytokines. Recent applications for this technique include diagnosis of extrapulmonary tuberculosis, as well as investigation of the contribution of infectious antigens to autoimmune diseases.
Immunology, Issue 45, ELISPOT, Th-1 Immune Response, interferon gamma, T cell, adaptive immunity
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Blood Collection for Biochemical Analysis in Adult Zebrafish
Authors: Gabriela L. Pedroso, Thais O. Hammes, Thayssa D.C. Escobar, Laisa B. Fracasso, Luiz Felipe Forgiarini, Themis R. da Silveira.
Institutions: Centro de Pesquisa Experimental Laboratório de Hepatologia e Gastroenterologia Experimental, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, UFRGS. Porto Alegre, RS, Brasil.
The zebrafish has been used as an animal model for studies of several human diseases. It can serve as a powerful preclinical platform for studies of molecular events and therapeutic strategies as well as for evaluating the physiological mechanisms of some pathologies1. There are relatively few publications related to adult zebrafish physiology of organs and systems2, which may lead researchers to infer that the basic techniques needed to allow the exploration of zebrafish systems are lacking3. Hematologic biochemical values of zebrafish were first reported in 2003 by Murtha and colleagues4 who employed a blood collection technique first described by Jagadeeswaran and colleagues in 1999. Briefly, blood was collected via a micropipette tip through a lateral incision, approximately 0.3 cm in length, in the region of the dorsal aorta5. Because of the minute dimensions involved, this is a high-precision technique requiring a highly skilled practitioner. The same technique was used by the same group in another publication in that same year6. In 2010, Eames and colleagues assessed whole blood glucose levels in zebrafish7. They gained access to the blood by performing decapitations with scissors and then inserting a heparinized microcapillary collection tube into the pectoral articulation. They mention difficulties with hemolysis that were solved with an appropriate storage temperature based on the work Kilpatrick et al.8. When attempting to use Jagadeeswaran's technique in our laboratory, we found that it was difficult to make the incision in precisely the right place as not to allow a significant amount of blood to be lost before collection could be started. Recently, Gupta et al.9 described how to dissect adult zebrafish organs, Kinkle et al.10 described how to perform intraperitoneal injections, and Pugach et al.11 described how to perform retro-orbital injections. However, more work is needed to more fully explore basic techniques for research in zebrafish. The small size of zebrafish presents challenges for researchers using it as an experimental model. Furthermore, given this smallness of scale, it is important that simple techniques are developed to enable researchers to explore the advantages of the zebrafish model.
Biochemistry, Issue 63, Developmental Biology, Zebrafish, Zebrafish blood, Hematologic, Biochemical analysis
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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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High-throughput Flow Cytometry Cell-based Assay to Detect Antibodies to N-Methyl-D-aspartate Receptor or Dopamine-2 Receptor in Human Serum
Authors: Mazen Amatoury, Vera Merheb, Jessica Langer, Xin Maggie Wang, Russell Clive Dale, Fabienne Brilot.
Institutions: The University of Sydney, Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research.
Over the recent years, antibodies against surface and conformational proteins involved in neurotransmission have been detected in autoimmune CNS diseases in children and adults. These antibodies have been used to guide diagnosis and treatment. Cell-based assays have improved the detection of antibodies in patient serum. They are based on the surface expression of brain antigens on eukaryotic cells, which are then incubated with diluted patient sera followed by fluorochrome-conjugated secondary antibodies. After washing, secondary antibody binding is then analyzed by flow cytometry. Our group has developed a high-throughput flow cytometry live cell-based assay to reliably detect antibodies against specific neurotransmitter receptors. This flow cytometry method is straight forward, quantitative, efficient, and the use of a high-throughput sampler system allows for large patient cohorts to be easily assayed in a short space of time. Additionally, this cell-based assay can be easily adapted to detect antibodies to many different antigenic targets, both from the central nervous system and periphery. Discovering additional novel antibody biomarkers will enable prompt and accurate diagnosis and improve treatment of immune-mediated disorders.
Medicine, Issue 81, Flow cytometry, cell-based assay, autoantibody, high-throughput sampler, autoimmune CNS disease
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Luminescence Resonance Energy Transfer to Study Conformational Changes in Membrane Proteins Expressed in Mammalian Cells
Authors: Drew M. Dolino, Swarna S. Ramaswamy, Vasanthi Jayaraman.
Institutions: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
Luminescence Resonance Energy Transfer, or LRET, is a powerful technique used to measure distances between two sites in proteins within the distance range of 10-100 Å. By measuring the distances under various ligated conditions, conformational changes of the protein can be easily assessed. With LRET, a lanthanide, most often chelated terbium, is used as the donor fluorophore, affording advantages such as a longer donor-only emission lifetime, the flexibility to use multiple acceptor fluorophores, and the opportunity to detect sensitized acceptor emission as an easy way to measure energy transfer without the risk of also detecting donor-only signal. Here, we describe a method to use LRET on membrane proteins expressed and assayed on the surface of intact mammalian cells. We introduce a protease cleavage site between the LRET fluorophore pair. After obtaining the original LRET signal, cleavage at that site removes the specific LRET signal from the protein of interest allowing us to quantitatively subtract the background signal that remains after cleavage. This method allows for more physiologically relevant measurements to be made without the need for purification of protein.
Bioengineering, Issue 91, LRET, FRET, Luminescence Resonance Energy Transfer, Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer, glutamate receptors, acid sensing ion channel, protein conformation, protein dynamics, fluorescence, protein-protein interactions
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Designing a Bio-responsive Robot from DNA Origami
Authors: Eldad Ben-Ishay, Almogit Abu-Horowitz, Ido Bachelet.
Institutions: Bar-Ilan University.
Nucleic acids are astonishingly versatile. In addition to their natural role as storage medium for biological information1, they can be utilized in parallel computing2,3 , recognize and bind molecular or cellular targets4,5 , catalyze chemical reactions6,7 , and generate calculated responses in a biological system8,9. Importantly, nucleic acids can be programmed to self-assemble into 2D and 3D structures10-12, enabling the integration of all these remarkable features in a single robot linking the sensing of biological cues to a preset response in order to exert a desired effect. Creating shapes from nucleic acids was first proposed by Seeman13, and several variations on this theme have since been realized using various techniques11,12,14,15 . However, the most significant is perhaps the one proposed by Rothemund, termed scaffolded DNA origami16. In this technique, the folding of a long (>7,000 bases) single-stranded DNA 'scaffold' is directed to a desired shape by hundreds of short complementary strands termed 'staples'. Folding is carried out by temperature annealing ramp. This technique was successfully demonstrated in the creation of a diverse array of 2D shapes with remarkable precision and robustness. DNA origami was later extended to 3D as well17,18 . The current paper will focus on the caDNAno 2.0 software19 developed by Douglas and colleagues. caDNAno is a robust, user-friendly CAD tool enabling the design of 2D and 3D DNA origami shapes with versatile features. The design process relies on a systematic and accurate abstraction scheme for DNA structures, making it relatively straightforward and efficient. In this paper we demonstrate the design of a DNA origami nanorobot that has been recently described20. This robot is 'robotic' in the sense that it links sensing to actuation, in order to perform a task. We explain how various sensing schemes can be integrated into the structure, and how this can be relayed to a desired effect. Finally we use Cando21 to simulate the mechanical properties of the designed shape. The concept we discuss can be adapted to multiple tasks and settings.
Bioengineering, Issue 77, Genetics, Biomedical Engineering, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Genomics, Nanotechnology, Nanomedicine, DNA origami, nanorobot, caDNAno, DNA, DNA Origami, nucleic acids, DNA structures, CAD, sequencing
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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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Cholesterol Efflux Assay
Authors: Hann Low, Anh Hoang, Dmitri Sviridov.
Institutions: Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute.
Cholesterol content of cells must be maintained within the very tight limits, too much or too little cholesterol in a cell results in disruption of cellular membranes, apoptosis and necrosis 1. Cells can source cholesterol from intracellular synthesis and from plasma lipoproteins, both sources are sufficient to fully satisfy cells' requirements for cholesterol. The processes of cholesterol synthesis and uptake are tightly regulated and deficiencies of cholesterol are rare 2. Excessive cholesterol is more common problem 3. With the exception of hepatocytes and to some degree adrenocortical cells, cells are unable to degrade cholesterol. Cells have two options to reduce their cholesterol content: to convert cholesterol into cholesteryl esters, an option with limited capacity as overloading cells with cholesteryl esters is also toxic, and cholesterol efflux, an option with potentially unlimited capacity. Cholesterol efflux is a specific process that is regulated by a number of intracellular transporters, such as ATP binding cassette transporter proteins A1 (ABCA1) and G1 (ABCG1) and scavenger receptor type B1. The natural acceptor of cholesterol in plasma is high density lipoprotein (HDL) and apolipoprotein A-I. The cholesterol efflux assay is designed to quantitate the rate of cholesterol efflux from cultured cells. It measures the capacity of cells to maintain cholesterol efflux and/or the capacity of plasma acceptors to accept cholesterol released from cells. The assay consists of the following steps. Step 1: labelling cellular cholesterol by adding labelled cholesterol to serum-containing medium and incubating with cells for 24-48 h. This step may be combined with loading of cells with cholesterol. Step 2: incubation of cells in serum-free medium to equilibrate labelled cholesterol among all intracellular cholesterol pools. This stage may be combined with activation of cellular cholesterol transporters. Step 3: incubation of cells with extracellular acceptor and quantitation of movement of labelled cholesterol from cells to the acceptor. If cholesterol precursors were used to label newly synthesized cholesterol, a fourth step, purification of cholesterol, may be required. The assay delivers the following information: (i) how a particular treatment (a mutation, a knock-down, an overexpression or a treatment) affects the capacity of cell to efflux cholesterol and (ii) how the capacity of plasma acceptors to accept cholesterol is affected by a disease or a treatment. This method is often used in context of cardiovascular research, metabolic and neurodegenerative disorders, infectious and reproductive diseases.
Medicine, Issue 61, Lipids, lipoproteins, atherosclerosis, trafficking, cholesterol
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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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Micropipette Aspiration of Substrate-attached Cells to Estimate Cell Stiffness
Authors: Myung-Jin Oh, Frank Kuhr, Fitzroy Byfield, Irena Levitan.
Institutions: University of Illinois, University of Pennsylvania .
Growing number of studies show that biomechanical properties of individual cells play major roles in multiple cellular functions, including cell proliferation, differentiation, migration and cell-cell interactions. The two key parameters of cellular biomechanics are cellular deformability or stiffness and the ability of the cells to contract and generate force. Here we describe a quick and simple method to estimate cell stiffness by measuring the degree of membrane deformation in response to negative pressure applied by a glass micropipette to the cell surface, a technique that is called Micropipette Aspiration or Microaspiration. Microaspiration is performed by pulling a glass capillary to create a micropipette with a very small tip (2-50 μm diameter depending on the size of a cell or a tissue sample), which is then connected to a pneumatic pressure transducer and brought to a close vicinity of a cell under a microscope. When the tip of the pipette touches a cell, a step of negative pressure is applied to the pipette by the pneumatic pressure transducer generating well-defined pressure on the cell membrane. In response to pressure, the membrane is aspirated into the pipette and progressive membrane deformation or "membrane projection" into the pipette is measured as a function of time. The basic principle of this experimental approach is that the degree of membrane deformation in response to a defined mechanical force is a function of membrane stiffness. The stiffer the membrane is, the slower the rate of membrane deformation and the shorter the steady-state aspiration length.The technique can be performed on isolated cells, both in suspension and substrate-attached, large organelles, and liposomes. Analysis is performed by comparing maximal membrane deformations achieved under a given pressure for different cell populations or experimental conditions. A "stiffness coefficient" is estimated by plotting the aspirated length of membrane deformation as a function of the applied pressure. Furthermore, the data can be further analyzed to estimate the Young's modulus of the cells (E), the most common parameter to characterize stiffness of materials. It is important to note that plasma membranes of eukaryotic cells can be viewed as a bi-component system where membrane lipid bilayer is underlied by the sub-membrane cytoskeleton and that it is the cytoskeleton that constitutes the mechanical scaffold of the membrane and dominates the deformability of the cellular envelope. This approach, therefore, allows probing the biomechanical properties of the sub-membrane cytoskeleton.
Bioengineering, Issue 67, Biophysics, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Cellular Biology, Cell stiffness, biomechanics, microaspiration, cell membrane, cytoskeleton
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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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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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Characterization of G Protein-coupled Receptors by a Fluorescence-based Calcium Mobilization Assay
Authors: Jelle Caers, Katleen Peymen, Nick Suetens, Liesbet Temmerman, Tom Janssen, Liliane Schoofs, Isabel Beets.
Institutions: KU Leuven.
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.
Cellular Biology, Issue 89, G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), calcium mobilization assay, reverse pharmacology, deorphanization, cellular expression system, HEK293T, Fluo-4, FlexStation
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A Microplate Assay to Assess Chemical Effects on RBL-2H3 Mast Cell Degranulation: Effects of Triclosan without Use of an Organic Solvent
Authors: Lisa M. Weatherly, Rachel H. Kennedy, Juyoung Shim, Julie A. Gosse.
Institutions: University of Maine, Orono, University of Maine, Orono.
Mast cells play important roles in allergic disease and immune defense against parasites. Once activated (e.g. by an allergen), they degranulate, a process that results in the exocytosis of allergic mediators. Modulation of mast cell degranulation by drugs and toxicants may have positive or adverse effects on human health. Mast cell function has been dissected in detail with the use of rat basophilic leukemia mast cells (RBL-2H3), a widely accepted model of human mucosal mast cells3-5. Mast cell granule component and the allergic mediator β-hexosaminidase, which is released linearly in tandem with histamine from mast cells6, can easily and reliably be measured through reaction with a fluorogenic substrate, yielding measurable fluorescence intensity in a microplate assay that is amenable to high-throughput studies1. Originally published by Naal et al.1, we have adapted this degranulation assay for the screening of drugs and toxicants and demonstrate its use here. Triclosan is a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent that is present in many consumer products and has been found to be a therapeutic aid in human allergic skin disease7-11, although the mechanism for this effect is unknown. Here we demonstrate an assay for the effect of triclosan on mast cell degranulation. We recently showed that triclosan strongly affects mast cell function2. In an effort to avoid use of an organic solvent, triclosan is dissolved directly into aqueous buffer with heat and stirring, and resultant concentration is confirmed using UV-Vis spectrophotometry (using ε280 = 4,200 L/M/cm)12. This protocol has the potential to be used with a variety of chemicals to determine their effects on mast cell degranulation, and more broadly, their allergic potential.
Immunology, Issue 81, mast cell, basophil, degranulation, RBL-2H3, triclosan, irgasan, antibacterial, β-hexosaminidase, allergy, Asthma, toxicants, ionophore, antigen, fluorescence, microplate, UV-Vis
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Reconstitution of a Kv Channel into Lipid Membranes for Structural and Functional Studies
Authors: Sungsoo Lee, Hui Zheng, Liang Shi, Qiu-Xing Jiang.
Institutions: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
To study the lipid-protein interaction in a reductionistic fashion, it is necessary to incorporate the membrane proteins into membranes of well-defined lipid composition. We are studying the lipid-dependent gating effects in a prototype voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channel, and have worked out detailed procedures to reconstitute the channels into different membrane systems. Our reconstitution procedures take consideration of both detergent-induced fusion of vesicles and the fusion of protein/detergent micelles with the lipid/detergent mixed micelles as well as the importance of reaching an equilibrium distribution of lipids among the protein/detergent/lipid and the detergent/lipid mixed micelles. Our data suggested that the insertion of the channels in the lipid vesicles is relatively random in orientations, and the reconstitution efficiency is so high that no detectable protein aggregates were seen in fractionation experiments. We have utilized the reconstituted channels to determine the conformational states of the channels in different lipids, record electrical activities of a small number of channels incorporated in planar lipid bilayers, screen for conformation-specific ligands from a phage-displayed peptide library, and support the growth of 2D crystals of the channels in membranes. The reconstitution procedures described here may be adapted for studying other membrane proteins in lipid bilayers, especially for the investigation of the lipid effects on the eukaryotic voltage-gated ion channels.
Molecular Biology, Issue 77, Biochemistry, Genetics, Cellular Biology, Structural Biology, Biophysics, Membrane Lipids, Phospholipids, Carrier Proteins, Membrane Proteins, Micelles, Molecular Motor Proteins, life sciences, biochemistry, Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, lipid-protein interaction, channel reconstitution, lipid-dependent gating, voltage-gated ion channel, conformation-specific ligands, lipids
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Visualization of ATP Synthase Dimers in Mitochondria by Electron Cryo-tomography
Authors: Karen M. Davies, Bertram Daum, Vicki A. M. Gold, Alexander W. Mühleip, Tobias Brandt, Thorsten B. Blum, Deryck J. Mills, Werner Kühlbrandt.
Institutions: Max Planck Institute of Biophysics.
Electron cryo-tomography is a powerful tool in structural biology, capable of visualizing the three-dimensional structure of biological samples, such as cells, organelles, membrane vesicles, or viruses at molecular detail. To achieve this, the aqueous sample is rapidly vitrified in liquid ethane, which preserves it in a close-to-native, frozen-hydrated state. In the electron microscope, tilt series are recorded at liquid nitrogen temperature, from which 3D tomograms are reconstructed. The signal-to-noise ratio of the tomographic volume is inherently low. Recognizable, recurring features are enhanced by subtomogram averaging, by which individual subvolumes are cut out, aligned and averaged to reduce noise. In this way, 3D maps with a resolution of 2 nm or better can be obtained. A fit of available high-resolution structures to the 3D volume then produces atomic models of protein complexes in their native environment. Here we show how we use electron cryo-tomography to study the in situ organization of large membrane protein complexes in mitochondria. We find that ATP synthases are organized in rows of dimers along highly curved apices of the inner membrane cristae, whereas complex I is randomly distributed in the membrane regions on either side of the rows. By subtomogram averaging we obtained a structure of the mitochondrial ATP synthase dimer within the cristae membrane.
Structural Biology, Issue 91, electron microscopy, electron cryo-tomography, mitochondria, ultrastructure, membrane structure, membrane protein complexes, ATP synthase, energy conversion, bioenergetics
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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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In Vitro Nuclear Assembly Using Fractionated Xenopus Egg Extracts
Authors: Marie Cross, Maureen Powers.
Institutions: Emory University.
Nuclear membrane assembly is an essential step in the cell division cycle; this process can be replicated in the test tube by combining Xenopus sperm chromatin, cytosol, and light membrane fractions. Complete nuclei are formed, including nuclear membranes with pore complexes, and these reconstituted nuclei are capable of normal nuclear processes.
Cellular Biology, Issue 19, Current Protocols Wiley, Xenopus Egg Extracts, Nuclear Assembly, Nuclear Membrane
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Single Molecule Methods for Monitoring Changes in Bilayer Elastic Properties
Authors: Helgi Ingolfson, Ruchi Kapoor, Shemille A. Collingwood, Olaf Sparre Andersen.
Institutions: Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University.
Membrane protein function is regulated by the cell membrane lipid composition. This regulation is due to a combination of specific lipid-protein interactions and more general lipid bilayer-protein interactions. These interactions are particularly important in pharmacological research, as many current pharmaceuticals on the market can alter the lipid bilayer material properties, which can lead to altered membrane protein function. The formation of gramicidin channels are dependent on conformational changes in gramicidin subunits which are in turn dependent on the properties of the lipid. Hence the gramicidin channel current is a reporter of altered properties of the bilayer due to certain compounds.
Cellular Biology, Issue 21, Springer Protocols, Membrane Biophysics, Gramicidin Channels, Artificial Bilayers, Bilayer Elastic Properties,
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