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Distinct effects of guanidine thiocyanate on the structure of superfolder GFP.
Having a high folding efficiency and a low tendency to aggregate, the superfolder GFP (sfGFP) offers a unique opportunity to study the folding of proteins that have a ?-barrel topology. Here, we studied the unfolding-refolding of sfGFP that was induced by guanidine thiocyanate (GTC), which is a stronger denaturing agent than GdnHCl or urea. Structural perturbations of sfGFP were studied by spectroscopic methods (absorbance, fluorescence, and circular dichroism), by acrylamide quenching of tryptophan and green chromophore fluorescence, and by size-exclusion chromatography. Low concentrations of GTC (up to 0.1 M) induce subtle changes in the sfGFP structure. The pronounced changes in the visible absorption spectrum of sfGFP which are accompanied by a dramatic decrease in tryptophan and green chromophore fluorescence was recorded in the range 0-0.7 M GNC. These alterations of sfGFP characteristics that erroneously can be mixed up with appearance of intermediate state in fact have pure spectroscopic but not structural nature. Higher concentrations of GTC (from 0.7 to 1.7 M), induce a disruption of the sfGFP structure, that is manifested in simultaneous changes of all of the detected parameters. Full recovery of native properties of denaturated sfGFP was observed after denaturant removal. The refolding of sfGFP passes through the accumulation of the off-pathway intermediate state, in which inner alpha-helix and hence green chromophore and Trp57 are still not tuned up to (properly integrated into) the already formed ?-barrel scaffold of protein. Incorporation of the chromophore in the ?-barrel in the pathway of refolding and restoration of its ability to fluoresce occur in a narrow range of GTC concentrations from 1.0 to 0.7 M, and a correct insertion of Trp 57 occurs at concentrations ranging from 0.7 to 0 M GTC. These two processes determine the hysteresis of protein unfolding and refolding.
Authors: Alberto Natali, Laura M. Roy, Roberta Croce.
Published: 10-10-2014
In plants and green algae, light is captured by the light-harvesting complexes (LHCs), a family of integral membrane proteins that coordinate chlorophylls and carotenoids. In vivo, these proteins are folded with pigments to form complexes which are inserted in the thylakoid membrane of the chloroplast. The high similarity in the chemical and physical properties of the members of the family, together with the fact that they can easily lose pigments during isolation, makes their purification in a native state challenging. An alternative approach to obtain homogeneous preparations of LHCs was developed by Plumley and Schmidt in 19871, who showed that it was possible to reconstitute these complexes in vitro starting from purified pigments and unfolded apoproteins, resulting in complexes with properties very similar to that of native complexes. This opened the way to the use of bacterial expressed recombinant proteins for in vitro reconstitution. The reconstitution method is powerful for various reasons: (1) pure preparations of individual complexes can be obtained, (2) pigment composition can be controlled to assess their contribution to structure and function, (3) recombinant proteins can be mutated to study the functional role of the individual residues (e.g., pigment binding sites) or protein domain (e.g., protein-protein interaction, folding). This method has been optimized in several laboratories and applied to most of the light-harvesting complexes. The protocol described here details the method of reconstituting light-harvesting complexes in vitro currently used in our laboratory, and examples describing applications of the method are provided.
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Crystallizing Membrane Proteins for Structure Determination using Lipidic Mesophases
Authors: Martin Caffrey, Christopher Porter.
Institutions: Trinity College Dublin.
A detailed protocol for crystallizing membrane proteins by using lipidic mesophases is described. This method has variously been referred to as the lipidic cubic phase or in meso method. The method has been shown to be quite versatile in that it has been used to solve X-ray crystallographic structures of prokaryotic and eukaryotic proteins, proteins that are monomeric, homo- and hetero-multimeric, chromophore-containing and chromophore-free, and alpha-helical and beta-barrel proteins. Recent successes using in meso crystallization are the human engineered beta2-adrenergic and adenosine A2a G protein-coupled receptors. Protocols are presented for reconstituting the membrane protein into the monoolein-based mesophase, and for setting up crystallizations in the manual mode. Additional steps in the overall process, such as crystal harvesting, are to be addressed in future video articles. The time required to prepare the protein-loaded mesophase and to set up a crystallization plate manually is about one hour.
Biochemistry, Issue 45, membrane protein, in meso, membrane, crystallization, lipidic mesophases, manual
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4D Imaging of Protein Aggregation in Live Cells
Authors: Rachel Spokoini, Maya Shamir, Alma Keness, Daniel Kaganovich.
Institutions: Hebrew University of Jerusalem .
One of the key tasks of any living cell is maintaining the proper folding of newly synthesized proteins in the face of ever-changing environmental conditions and an intracellular environment that is tightly packed, sticky, and hazardous to protein stability1. The ability to dynamically balance protein production, folding and degradation demands highly-specialized quality control machinery, whose absolute necessity is observed best when it malfunctions. Diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and certain forms of Cystic Fibrosis have a direct link to protein folding quality control components2, and therefore future therapeutic development requires a basic understanding of underlying processes. Our experimental challenge is to understand how cells integrate damage signals and mount responses that are tailored to diverse circumstances. The primary reason why protein misfolding represents an existential threat to the cell is the propensity of incorrectly folded proteins to aggregate, thus causing a global perturbation of the crowded and delicate intracellular folding environment1. The folding health, or "proteostasis," of the cellular proteome is maintained, even under the duress of aging, stress and oxidative damage, by the coordinated action of different mechanistic units in an elaborate quality control system3,4. A specialized machinery of molecular chaperones can bind non-native polypeptides and promote their folding into the native state1, target them for degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system5, or direct them to protective aggregation inclusions6-9. In eukaryotes, the cytosolic aggregation quality control load is partitioned between two compartments8-10: the juxtanuclear quality control compartment (JUNQ) and the insoluble protein deposit (IPOD) (Figure 1 - model). Proteins that are ubiquitinated by the protein folding quality control machinery are delivered to the JUNQ, where they are processed for degradation by the proteasome. Misfolded proteins that are not ubiquitinated are diverted to the IPOD, where they are actively aggregated in a protective compartment. Up until this point, the methodological paradigm of live-cell fluorescence microscopy has largely been to label proteins and track their locations in the cell at specific time-points and usually in two dimensions. As new technologies have begun to grant experimenters unprecedented access to the submicron scale in living cells, the dynamic architecture of the cytosol has come into view as a challenging new frontier for experimental characterization. We present a method for rapidly monitoring the 3D spatial distributions of multiple fluorescently labeled proteins in the yeast cytosol over time. 3D timelapse (4D imaging) is not merely a technical challenge; rather, it also facilitates a dramatic shift in the conceptual framework used to analyze cellular structure. We utilize a cytosolic folding sensor protein in live yeast to visualize distinct fates for misfolded proteins in cellular aggregation quality control, using rapid 4D fluorescent imaging. The temperature sensitive mutant of the Ubc9 protein10-12 (Ubc9ts) is extremely effective both as a sensor of cellular proteostasis, and a physiological model for tracking aggregation quality control. As with most ts proteins, Ubc9ts is fully folded and functional at permissive temperatures due to active cellular chaperones. Above 30 °C, or when the cell faces misfolding stress, Ubc9ts misfolds and follows the fate of a native globular protein that has been misfolded due to mutation, heat denaturation, or oxidative damage. By fusing it to GFP or other fluorophores, it can be tracked in 3D as it forms Stress Foci, or is directed to JUNQ or IPOD.
Cellular Biology, Issue 74, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Proteins, Aggregation quality control, protein folding quality control, GFP, JUNQ (juxtanuclear quality control compartment), IPOD (insoluble protein deposit), proteostasis sensor, 4D live cell imaging, live cells, laser, cell biology, protein folding, Ubc9ts, yeast, assay, cell, imaging
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RNA Isolation from Mouse Pancreas: A Ribonuclease-rich Tissue
Authors: Ana Clara P. Azevedo-Pouly, Ola A. Elgamal, Thomas D. Schmittgen.
Institutions: The Ohio State University.
Isolation of high-quality RNA from ribonuclease-rich tissue such as mouse pancreas presents a challenge. As a primary function of the pancreas is to aid in digestion, mouse pancreas may contain as much a 75 mg of ribonuclease. We report modifications of standard phenol/guanidine thiocyanate lysis reagent protocols to isolate RNA from mouse pancreas. Guanidine thiocyanate is a strong protein denaturant and will effectively disrupt the activity of ribonuclease under most conditions. However, critical modifications to standard protocols are necessary to successfully isolate RNA from ribonuclease-rich tissues. Key steps include a high lysis reagent to tissue ratio, removal of undigested tissue prior to phase separation and inclusion of a ribonuclease inhibitor to the RNA solution. Using these and other modifications, we routinely isolate RNA with RNA Integrity Number (RIN) greater than 7. The isolated RNA is of suitable quality for routine gene expression analysis. Adaptation of this protocol to isolate RNA from ribonuclease rich tissues besides the pancreas should be readily achievable.
Molecular Biology, Issue 90, pancreas, mouse, RNA integrity, ribonuclease, RNA isolation, gene expression
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Production of RNA for Transcriptomic Analysis from Mouse Spinal Cord Motor Neuron Cell Bodies by Laser Capture Microdissection
Authors: Urmi Bandyopadhyay, Wayne A. Fenton, Arthur L. Horwich, Maria Nagy.
Institutions: Yale School of Medicine, Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Preparation of high-quality RNA from cells of interest is critical to precise and meaningful analysis of transcriptional differences among cell types or between the same cell type in health and disease or following pharmacologic treatments. In the spinal cord, such preparation from motor neurons, the target of interest in many neurologic and neurodegenerative diseases, is complicated by the fact that motor neurons represent <10% of the total cell population. Laser capture microdissection (LMD) has been developed to address this problem. Here, we describe a protocol to quickly recover, freeze, and section mouse spinal cord to avoid RNA damage by endogenous and exogenous RNases, followed by staining with Azure B in 70% ethanol to identify the motor neurons while keeping endogenous RNase inhibited. LMD is then used to capture the stained neurons directly into guanidine thiocyanate lysis buffer, maintaining RNA integrity. Standard techniques are used to recover the total RNA and measure its integrity. This material can then be used for downstream analysis of the transcripts by RNA-seq and qRT-PCR.
Neuroscience, Issue 83, Laser capture microdissection, Motor neuron, Spinal cord, Azure B, RNA, RNA-seq, qRT-PCR
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Electricity-Free, Sequential Nucleic Acid and Protein Isolation
Authors: David R. Pawlowski, Richard J. Karalus.
Institutions: CUBRC, Inc., State University of New York at Buffalo, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Traditional and emerging pathogens such as Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), Yersinia pestis, or prion-based diseases are of significant concern for governments, industries and medical professionals worldwide. For example, EHECs, combined with Shigella, are responsible for the deaths of approximately 325,000 children each year and are particularly prevalent in the developing world where laboratory-based identification, common in the United States, is unavailable 1. The development and distribution of low cost, field-based, point-of-care tools to aid in the rapid identification and/or diagnosis of pathogens or disease markers could dramatically alter disease progression and patient prognosis. We have developed a tool to isolate nucleic acids and proteins from a sample by solid-phase extraction (SPE) without electricity or associated laboratory equipment 2. The isolated macromolecules can be used for diagnosis either in a forward lab or using field-based point-of-care platforms. Importantly, this method provides for the direct comparison of nucleic acid and protein data from an un-split sample, offering a confidence through corroboration of genomic and proteomic analysis. Our isolation tool utilizes the industry standard for solid-phase nucleic acid isolation, the BOOM technology, which isolates nucleic acids from a chaotropic salt solution, usually guanidine isothiocyanate, through binding to silica-based particles or filters 3. CUBRC's proprietary solid-phase extraction chemistry is used to purify protein from chaotropic salt solutions, in this case, from the waste or flow-thru following nucleic acid isolation4. By packaging well-characterized chemistries into a small, inexpensive and simple platform, we have generated a portable system for nucleic acid and protein extraction that can be performed under a variety of conditions. The isolated nucleic acids are stable and can be transported to a position where power is available for PCR amplification while the protein content can immediately be analyzed by hand held or other immunological-based assays. The rapid identification of disease markers in the field could significantly alter the patient's outcome by directing the proper course of treatment at an earlier stage of disease progression. The tool and method described are suitable for use with virtually any infectious agent and offer the user the redundancy of multi-macromolecule type analyses while simultaneously reducing their logistical burden.
Chemistry, Issue 63, Solid phase extraction, nucleic acid, protein, isolation, silica, Guanidine thiocyanate, isopropanol, remote, DTRA
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Detection and Genogrouping of Noroviruses from Children's Stools By Taqman One-step RT-PCR
Authors: Sonia Apaza, Susan Espetia, Robert H. Gilman, Sonia Montenegro, Susana Pineda, Fanny Herhold, Romeo Pomari, Margaret Kosek, Nancy Vu, Mayuko Saito.
Institutions: Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Johns Hopkins University, University of Concepcion,Chile, University of California San Diego School of Medicine.
Noroviruses (NoVs) are the leading cause of outbreaks of sporadic acute gastroenteritis worldwide in humans of all ages. They are important cause of hospitalizations in children with a public health impact similar to that of Rotavirus. NoVs are RNA viruses of great genetic diversity and there is a continuous appearance of new strains. Five genogroups are recognized; GI and GII with their many genotypes and subtypes being the most important for human infection. However, the diagnosis of these two genotypes remains problematic, delaying diagnosis and treatment. 1, 2, 3 For RNA extraction from stool specimens the most commonly used method is the QIAmp Viral RNA commercial kit from Qiagen. This method combines the binding properties of a silica gel membrane, buffers that control RNases and provide optimum binding of the RNA to the column together with the speed of microspin. This method is simple, fast and reliable and is carried out in a few steps that are detailed in the description provided by the manufacturer. Norovirus is second only to rotavirus as the most common cause of diarrhea. Norovirus diagnosis should be available in all studies on pathogenesis of diarrhea as well as in outbreaks or individual diarrhea cases. At present however norovirus diagnosis is restricted to only a few centers due to the lack of simple methods of diagnosis. This delays diagnosis and treatment 1, 2, 3. In addition, due to costs and regulated transportation of corrosive buffers within and between countries use of these manufactured kits poses logistical problems. As a result, in this protocol we describe an alternative, economic, in-house method which is based on the original Boom et al. method4 which uses the nucleic acid binding properties of silica particles together with the anti-nuclease properties of guanidinium thiocyanate. For the detection and genogrouping (GI and GII) of NoVs isolates from stool specimens, several RT-PCR protocols utilizing different targets have been developed. The consensus is that an RT-PCR using TaqMan chemistry would be the best molecular technique for diagnosis, because it combines high sensitivity, specificity and reproducibility with high throughput and ease of use. Here we describe an assay targeting the open reading frame 1 (ORF1)-ORF2 junction region; the most conserved region of the NoV genome and hence most suitable for diagnosis. For further genetic analysis a conventional RT-PCR that targets the highly variable N-terminal-shell from the major protein of the capsid (Region C) using primers originally described by Kojima et al. 5 is detailed. Sequencing of the PCR product from the conventional PCR enables the differentiation of genotypes belonging to the GI and GII genogroups.
Virology, Issue 65, Medicine, Genetics, norovirus, gastroenteritis, RNA extraction, diarrhea, stool samples, PCR, RT-PCR, TaqMan, silica
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Profiling of Estrogen-regulated MicroRNAs in Breast Cancer Cells
Authors: Anne Katchy, Cecilia Williams.
Institutions: University of Houston.
Estrogen plays vital roles in mammary gland development and breast cancer progression. It mediates its function by binding to and activating the estrogen receptors (ERs), ERα, and ERβ. ERα is frequently upregulated in breast cancer and drives the proliferation of breast cancer cells. The ERs function as transcription factors and regulate gene expression. Whereas ERα's regulation of protein-coding genes is well established, its regulation of noncoding microRNA (miRNA) is less explored. miRNAs play a major role in the post-transcriptional regulation of genes, inhibiting their translation or degrading their mRNA. miRNAs can function as oncogenes or tumor suppressors and are also promising biomarkers. Among the miRNA assays available, microarray and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) have been extensively used to detect and quantify miRNA levels. To identify miRNAs regulated by estrogen signaling in breast cancer, their expression in ERα-positive breast cancer cell lines were compared before and after estrogen-activation using both the µParaflo-microfluidic microarrays and Dual Labeled Probes-low density arrays. Results were validated using specific qPCR assays, applying both Cyanine dye-based and Dual Labeled Probes-based chemistry. Furthermore, a time-point assay was used to identify regulations over time. Advantages of the miRNA assay approach used in this study is that it enables a fast screening of mature miRNA regulations in numerous samples, even with limited sample amounts. The layout, including the specific conditions for cell culture and estrogen treatment, biological and technical replicates, and large-scale screening followed by in-depth confirmations using separate techniques, ensures a robust detection of miRNA regulations, and eliminates false positives and other artifacts. However, mutated or unknown miRNAs, or regulations at the primary and precursor transcript level, will not be detected. The method presented here represents a thorough investigation of estrogen-mediated miRNA regulation.
Medicine, Issue 84, breast cancer, microRNA, estrogen, estrogen receptor, microarray, qPCR
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Purification of the Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator Protein Expressed in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Authors: Naomi Pollock, Natasha Cant, Tracy Rimington, Robert C. Ford.
Institutions: University of Manchester.
Defects in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) protein cause cystic fibrosis (CF), an autosomal recessive disease that currently limits the average life expectancy of sufferers to <40 years of age. The development of novel drug molecules to restore the activity of CFTR is an important goal in the treatment CF, and the isolation of functionally active CFTR is a useful step towards achieving this goal. We describe two methods for the purification of CFTR from a eukaryotic heterologous expression system, S. cerevisiae. Like prokaryotic systems, S. cerevisiae can be rapidly grown in the lab at low cost, but can also traffic and posttranslationally modify large membrane proteins. The selection of detergents for solubilization and purification is a critical step in the purification of any membrane protein. Having screened for the solubility of CFTR in several detergents, we have chosen two contrasting detergents for use in the purification that allow the final CFTR preparation to be tailored to the subsequently planned experiments. In this method, we provide comparison of the purification of CFTR in dodecyl-β-D-maltoside (DDM) and 1-tetradecanoyl-sn-glycero-3-phospho-(1'-rac-glycerol) (LPG-14). Protein purified in DDM by this method shows ATPase activity in functional assays. Protein purified in LPG-14 shows high purity and yield, can be employed to study post-translational modifications, and can be used for structural methods such as small-angle X-ray scattering and electron microscopy. However it displays significantly lower ATPase activity.
Biochemistry, Issue 87, Membrane protein, cystic fibrosis, CFTR, ABCC7, protein purification, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, green fluorescent protein
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Methods to Assess Subcellular Compartments of Muscle in C. elegans
Authors: Christopher J. Gaffney, Joseph J. Bass, Thomas F. Barratt, Nathaniel J. Szewczyk.
Institutions: University of Nottingham.
Muscle is a dynamic tissue that responds to changes in nutrition, exercise, and disease state. The loss of muscle mass and function with disease and age are significant public health burdens. We currently understand little about the genetic regulation of muscle health with disease or age. The nematode C. elegans is an established model for understanding the genomic regulation of biological processes of interest. This worm’s body wall muscles display a large degree of homology with the muscles of higher metazoan species. Since C. elegans is a transparent organism, the localization of GFP to mitochondria and sarcomeres allows visualization of these structures in vivo. Similarly, feeding animals cationic dyes, which accumulate based on the existence of a mitochondrial membrane potential, allows the assessment of mitochondrial function in vivo. These methods, as well as assessment of muscle protein homeostasis, are combined with assessment of whole animal muscle function, in the form of movement assays, to allow correlation of sub-cellular defects with functional measures of muscle performance. Thus, C. elegans provides a powerful platform with which to assess the impact of mutations, gene knockdown, and/or chemical compounds upon muscle structure and function. Lastly, as GFP, cationic dyes, and movement assays are assessed non-invasively, prospective studies of muscle structure and function can be conducted across the whole life course and this at present cannot be easily investigated in vivo in any other organism.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, Physiology, C. elegans, muscle, mitochondria, sarcomeres, ageing
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Synthesis of an Intein-mediated Artificial Protein Hydrogel
Authors: Miguel A. Ramirez, Zhilei Chen.
Institutions: Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas A&M University, College Station.
We present the synthesis of a highly stable protein hydrogel mediated by a split-intein-catalyzed protein trans-splicing reaction. The building blocks of this hydrogel are two protein block-copolymers each containing a subunit of a trimeric protein that serves as a crosslinker and one half of a split intein. A highly hydrophilic random coil is inserted into one of the block-copolymers for water retention. Mixing of the two protein block copolymers triggers an intein trans-splicing reaction, yielding a polypeptide unit with crosslinkers at either end that rapidly self-assembles into a hydrogel. This hydrogel is very stable under both acidic and basic conditions, at temperatures up to 50 °C, and in organic solvents. The hydrogel rapidly reforms after shear-induced rupture. Incorporation of a "docking station peptide" into the hydrogel building block enables convenient incorporation of "docking protein"-tagged target proteins. The hydrogel is compatible with tissue culture growth media, supports the diffusion of 20 kDa molecules, and enables the immobilization of bioactive globular proteins. The application of the intein-mediated protein hydrogel as an organic-solvent-compatible biocatalyst was demonstrated by encapsulating the horseradish peroxidase enzyme and corroborating its activity.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, split-intein, self-assembly, shear-thinning, enzyme, immobilization, organic synthesis
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Intracellular Refolding Assay
Authors: Tamara Vanessa Walther, Danilo Maddalo.
Institutions: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
This protocol describes a method to measure the enzymatic activity of molecular chaperones in a cell-based system and the possible effects of compounds with inhibitory/stimulating activity. Molecular chaperones are proteins involved in regulation of protein folding1 and have a crucial role in promoting cell survival upon stress insults like heat shock2, nutrient starvation and exposure to chemicals/poisons3. For this reason chaperones are found to be involved in events like tumor development, chemioresistance of cancer cells4 as well as neurodegeneration5. Design of small molecules able to inhibit or stimulate the activity of these enzymes is therefore one of the most studied strategies for cancer therapy7 and neurodegenerative disorders9. The assay here described offers the possibility to measure the refolding activity of a particular molecular chaperone and to study the effect of compounds on its activity. In this method the gene of the molecular chaperone investigated is transfected together with an expression vector encoding for the firefly luciferase gene. It has been already described that denaturated firefly luciferase can be refolded by molecular chaperones10,11. As normalizing transfection control, a vector encoding for the renilla luciferase gene is transfected. All transfections described in this protocol are performed with X-treme Gene 11 (Roche) in HEK-293 cells. In the first step, protein synthesis is inhibited by treating the cells with cycloheximide. Thereafter protein unfolding is induced by heat shock at 45°C for 30 minutes. Upon recovery at 37°C, proteins are re-folded into their active conformation and the activity of the firefly luciferase is used as read-out: the more light will be produced, the more protein will have re-gained the original conformation. Non-heat shocked cells are set as reference (100% of refolded luciferase).
Molecular Biology, Issue 59, chaperone, refolding, stress, luciferase, heat shock
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Analysis of Nephron Composition and Function in the Adult Zebrafish Kidney
Authors: Kristen K. McCampbell, Kristin N. Springer, Rebecca A. Wingert.
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish model has emerged as a relevant system to study kidney development, regeneration and disease. Both the embryonic and adult zebrafish kidneys are composed of functional units known as nephrons, which are highly conserved with other vertebrates, including mammals. Research in zebrafish has recently demonstrated that two distinctive phenomena transpire after adult nephrons incur damage: first, there is robust regeneration within existing nephrons that replaces the destroyed tubule epithelial cells; second, entirely new nephrons are produced from renal progenitors in a process known as neonephrogenesis. In contrast, humans and other mammals seem to have only a limited ability for nephron epithelial regeneration. To date, the mechanisms responsible for these kidney regeneration phenomena remain poorly understood. Since adult zebrafish kidneys undergo both nephron epithelial regeneration and neonephrogenesis, they provide an outstanding experimental paradigm to study these events. Further, there is a wide range of genetic and pharmacological tools available in the zebrafish model that can be used to delineate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate renal regeneration. One essential aspect of such research is the evaluation of nephron structure and function. This protocol describes a set of labeling techniques that can be used to gauge renal composition and test nephron functionality in the adult zebrafish kidney. Thus, these methods are widely applicable to the future phenotypic characterization of adult zebrafish kidney injury paradigms, which include but are not limited to, nephrotoxicant exposure regimes or genetic methods of targeted cell death such as the nitroreductase mediated cell ablation technique. Further, these methods could be used to study genetic perturbations in adult kidney formation and could also be applied to assess renal status during chronic disease modeling.
Cellular Biology, Issue 90, zebrafish; kidney; nephron; nephrology; renal; regeneration; proximal tubule; distal tubule; segment; mesonephros; physiology; acute kidney injury (AKI)
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Microfluidic Mixers for Studying Protein Folding
Authors: Steven A. Waldauer, Ling Wu, Shuhuai Yao, Olgica Bakajin, Lisa J. Lapidus.
Institutions: Michigan State University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, University of California, Davis .
The process by which a protein folds into its native conformation is highly relevant to biology and human health yet still poorly understood. One reason for this is that folding takes place over a wide range of timescales, from nanoseconds to seconds or longer, depending on the protein1. Conventional stopped-flow mixers have allowed measurement of folding kinetics starting at about 1 ms. We have recently developed a microfluidic mixer that dilutes denaturant ~100-fold in ~8 μs2. Unlike a stopped-flow mixer, this mixer operates in the laminar flow regime in which turbulence does not occur. The absence of turbulence allows precise numeric simulation of all flows within the mixer with excellent agreement to experiment3-4. Laminar flow is achieved for Reynolds numbers Re ≤100. For aqueous solutions, this requires micron scale geometries. We use a hard substrate, such as silicon or fused silica, to make channels 5-10 μm wide and 10 μm deep (See Figure 1). The smallest dimensions, at the entrance to the mixing region, are on the order of 1 μm in size. The chip is sealed with a thin glass or fused silica coverslip for optical access. Typical total linear flow rates are ~1 m/s, yielding Re~10, but the protein consumption is only ~0.5 nL/s or 1.8 μL/hr. Protein concentration depends on the detection method: For tryptophan fluorescence the typical concentration is 100 μM (for 1 Trp/protein) and for FRET the typical concentration is ~100 nM. The folding process is initiated by rapid dilution of denaturant from 6 M to 0.06 M guanidine hydrochloride. The protein in high denaturant flows down a central channel and is met on either side at the mixing region by buffer without denaturant moving ~100 times faster (see Figure 2). This geometry causes rapid constriction of the protein flow into a narrow jet ~100 nm wide. Diffusion of the light denaturant molecules is very rapid, while diffusion of the heavy protein molecules is much slower, diffusing less than 1 μm in 1 ms. The difference in diffusion constant of the denaturant and the protein results in rapid dilution of the denaturant from the protein stream, reducing the effective concentration of the denaturant around the protein. The protein jet flows at a constant rate down the observation channel and fluorescence of the protein during folding can be observed using a scanning confocal microscope5.
Bioengineering, Issue 62, microfluidic mixing, laminar flow, protein folding, fluorescence, FRET
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Assembly of Nucleosomal Arrays from Recombinant Core Histones and Nucleosome Positioning DNA
Authors: Ryan A. Rogge, Anna A. Kalashnikova, Uma M. Muthurajan, Mary E. Porter-Goff, Karolin Luger, Jeffrey C. Hansen.
Institutions: Colorado State University .
Core histone octamers that are repetitively spaced along a DNA molecule are called nucleosomal arrays. Nucleosomal arrays are obtained in one of two ways: purification from in vivo sources, or reconstitution in vitro from recombinant core histones and tandemly repeated nucleosome positioning DNA. The latter method has the benefit of allowing for the assembly of a more compositionally uniform and precisely positioned nucleosomal array. Sedimentation velocity experiments in the analytical ultracentrifuge yield information about the size and shape of macromolecules by analyzing the rate at which they migrate through solution under centrifugal force. This technique, along with atomic force microscopy, can be used for quality control, ensuring that the majority of DNA templates are saturated with nucleosomes after reconstitution. Here we describe the protocols necessary to reconstitute milligram quantities of length and compositionally defined nucleosomal arrays suitable for biochemical and biophysical studies of chromatin structure and function.
Cellular Biology, Issue 79, Chromosome Structures, Chromatin, Nucleosomes, Histones, Microscopy, Atomic Force (AFM), Biochemistry, Chromatin, Nucleosome, Nucleosomal Array, Histone, Analytical Ultracentrifugation, Sedimentation Velocity
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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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Nanomanipulation of Single RNA Molecules by Optical Tweezers
Authors: William Stephenson, Gorby Wan, Scott A. Tenenbaum, Pan T. X. Li.
Institutions: University at Albany, State University of New York, University at Albany, State University of New York, University at Albany, State University of New York, University at Albany, State University of New York, University at Albany, State University of New York.
A large portion of the human genome is transcribed but not translated. In this post genomic era, regulatory functions of RNA have been shown to be increasingly important. As RNA function often depends on its ability to adopt alternative structures, it is difficult to predict RNA three-dimensional structures directly from sequence. Single-molecule approaches show potentials to solve the problem of RNA structural polymorphism by monitoring molecular structures one molecule at a time. This work presents a method to precisely manipulate the folding and structure of single RNA molecules using optical tweezers. First, methods to synthesize molecules suitable for single-molecule mechanical work are described. Next, various calibration procedures to ensure the proper operations of the optical tweezers are discussed. Next, various experiments are explained. To demonstrate the utility of the technique, results of mechanically unfolding RNA hairpins and a single RNA kissing complex are used as evidence. In these examples, the nanomanipulation technique was used to study folding of each structural domain, including secondary and tertiary, independently. Lastly, the limitations and future applications of the method are discussed.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, RNA folding, single-molecule, optical tweezers, nanomanipulation, RNA secondary structure, RNA tertiary structure
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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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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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Determination of Protein-ligand Interactions Using Differential Scanning Fluorimetry
Authors: Mirella Vivoli, Halina R. Novak, Jennifer A. Littlechild, Nicholas J. Harmer.
Institutions: University of Exeter.
A wide range of methods are currently available for determining the dissociation constant between a protein and interacting small molecules. However, most of these require access to specialist equipment, and often require a degree of expertise to effectively establish reliable experiments and analyze data. Differential scanning fluorimetry (DSF) is being increasingly used as a robust method for initial screening of proteins for interacting small molecules, either for identifying physiological partners or for hit discovery. This technique has the advantage that it requires only a PCR machine suitable for quantitative PCR, and so suitable instrumentation is available in most institutions; an excellent range of protocols are already available; and there are strong precedents in the literature for multiple uses of the method. Past work has proposed several means of calculating dissociation constants from DSF data, but these are mathematically demanding. Here, we demonstrate a method for estimating dissociation constants from a moderate amount of DSF experimental data. These data can typically be collected and analyzed within a single day. We demonstrate how different models can be used to fit data collected from simple binding events, and where cooperative binding or independent binding sites are present. Finally, we present an example of data analysis in a case where standard models do not apply. These methods are illustrated with data collected on commercially available control proteins, and two proteins from our research program. Overall, our method provides a straightforward way for researchers to rapidly gain further insight into protein-ligand interactions using DSF.
Biophysics, Issue 91, differential scanning fluorimetry, dissociation constant, protein-ligand interactions, StepOne, cooperativity, WcbI.
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High Throughput Quantitative Expression Screening and Purification Applied to Recombinant Disulfide-rich Venom Proteins Produced in E. coli
Authors: Natalie J. Saez, Hervé Nozach, Marilyne Blemont, Renaud Vincentelli.
Institutions: Aix-Marseille Université, Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA) Saclay, France.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) is the most widely used expression system for the production of recombinant proteins for structural and functional studies. However, purifying proteins is sometimes challenging since many proteins are expressed in an insoluble form. When working with difficult or multiple targets it is therefore recommended to use high throughput (HTP) protein expression screening on a small scale (1-4 ml cultures) to quickly identify conditions for soluble expression. To cope with the various structural genomics programs of the lab, a quantitative (within a range of 0.1-100 mg/L culture of recombinant protein) and HTP protein expression screening protocol was implemented and validated on thousands of proteins. The protocols were automated with the use of a liquid handling robot but can also be performed manually without specialized equipment. Disulfide-rich venom proteins are gaining increasing recognition for their potential as therapeutic drug leads. They can be highly potent and selective, but their complex disulfide bond networks make them challenging to produce. As a member of the FP7 European Venomics project (, our challenge is to develop successful production strategies with the aim of producing thousands of novel venom proteins for functional characterization. Aided by the redox properties of disulfide bond isomerase DsbC, we adapted our HTP production pipeline for the expression of oxidized, functional venom peptides in the E. coli cytoplasm. The protocols are also applicable to the production of diverse disulfide-rich proteins. Here we demonstrate our pipeline applied to the production of animal venom proteins. With the protocols described herein it is likely that soluble disulfide-rich proteins will be obtained in as little as a week. Even from a small scale, there is the potential to use the purified proteins for validating the oxidation state by mass spectrometry, for characterization in pilot studies, or for sensitive micro-assays.
Bioengineering, Issue 89, E. coli, expression, recombinant, high throughput (HTP), purification, auto-induction, immobilized metal affinity chromatography (IMAC), tobacco etch virus protease (TEV) cleavage, disulfide bond isomerase C (DsbC) fusion, disulfide bonds, animal venom proteins/peptides
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Proton Transfer and Protein Conformation Dynamics in Photosensitive Proteins by Time-resolved Step-scan Fourier-transform Infrared Spectroscopy
Authors: Víctor A. Lórenz-Fonfría, Joachim Heberle.
Institutions: Freie Universität Berlin.
Monitoring the dynamics of protonation and protein backbone conformation changes during the function of a protein is an essential step towards understanding its mechanism. Protonation and conformational changes affect the vibration pattern of amino acid side chains and of the peptide bond, respectively, both of which can be probed by infrared (IR) difference spectroscopy. For proteins whose function can be repetitively and reproducibly triggered by light, it is possible to obtain infrared difference spectra with (sub)microsecond resolution over a broad spectral range using the step-scan Fourier transform infrared technique. With ~102-103 repetitions of the photoreaction, the minimum number to complete a scan at reasonable spectral resolution and bandwidth, the noise level in the absorption difference spectra can be as low as ~10-4, sufficient to follow the kinetics of protonation changes from a single amino acid. Lower noise levels can be accomplished by more data averaging and/or mathematical processing. The amount of protein required for optimal results is between 5-100 µg, depending on the sampling technique used. Regarding additional requirements, the protein needs to be first concentrated in a low ionic strength buffer and then dried to form a film. The protein film is hydrated prior to the experiment, either with little droplets of water or under controlled atmospheric humidity. The attained hydration level (g of water / g of protein) is gauged from an IR absorption spectrum. To showcase the technique, we studied the photocycle of the light-driven proton-pump bacteriorhodopsin in its native purple membrane environment, and of the light-gated ion channel channelrhodopsin-2 solubilized in detergent.
Biophysics, Issue 88, bacteriorhodopsin, channelrhodopsin, attenuated total reflection, proton transfer, protein dynamics, infrared spectroscopy, time-resolved spectroscopy, step-scan, membrane proteins, singular value decomposition
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Thermodynamics of Membrane Protein Folding Measured by Fluorescence Spectroscopy
Authors: Diana E. Schlamadinger, Judy E. Kim.
Institutions: University of California San Diego - UCSD.
Membrane protein folding is an emerging topic with both fundamental and health-related significance. The abundance of membrane proteins in cells underlies the need for comprehensive study of the folding of this ubiquitous family of proteins. Additionally, advances in our ability to characterize diseases associated with misfolded proteins have motivated significant experimental and theoretical efforts in the field of protein folding. Rapid progress in this important field is unfortunately hindered by the inherent challenges associated with membrane proteins and the complexity of the folding mechanism. Here, we outline an experimental procedure for measuring the thermodynamic property of the Gibbs free energy of unfolding in the absence of denaturant, ΔH2O, for a representative integral membrane protein from E. coli. This protocol focuses on the application of fluorescence spectroscopy to determine equilibrium populations of folded and unfolded states as a function of denaturant concentration. Experimental considerations for the preparation of synthetic lipid vesicles as well as key steps in the data analysis procedure are highlighted. This technique is versatile and may be pursued with different types of denaturant, including temperature and pH, as well as in various folding environments of lipids and micelles. The current protocol is one that can be generalized to any membrane or soluble protein that meets the set of criteria discussed below.
Bioengineering, Issue 50, tryptophan, peptides, Gibbs free energy, protein stability, vesicles
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Coupled Assays for Monitoring Protein Refolding in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Authors: Jennifer L. Abrams, Kevin A. Morano.
Institutions: University of Texas Medical School.
Proteostasis, defined as the combined processes of protein folding/biogenesis, refolding/repair, and degradation, is a delicate cellular balance that must be maintained to avoid deleterious consequences 1. External or internal factors that disrupt this balance can lead to protein aggregation, toxicity and cell death. In humans this is a major contributing factor to the symptoms associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Huntington's, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's diseases 10. It is therefore essential that the proteins involved in maintenance of proteostasis be identified in order to develop treatments for these debilitating diseases. This article describes techniques for monitoring in vivo protein folding at near-real time resolution using the model protein firefly luciferase fused to green fluorescent protein (FFL-GFP). FFL-GFP is a unique model chimeric protein as the FFL moiety is extremely sensitive to stress-induced misfolding and aggregation, which inactivates the enzyme 12. Luciferase activity is monitored using an enzymatic assay, and the GFP moiety provides a method of visualizing soluble or aggregated FFL using automated microscopy. These coupled methods incorporate two parallel and technically independent approaches to analyze both refolding and functional reactivation of an enzyme after stress. Activity recovery can be directly correlated with kinetics of disaggregation and re-solubilization to better understand how protein quality control factors such as protein chaperones collaborate to perform these functions. In addition, gene deletions or mutations can be used to test contributions of specific proteins or protein subunits to this process. In this article we examine the contributions of the protein disaggregase Hsp104 13, known to partner with the Hsp40/70/nucleotide exchange factor (NEF) refolding system 5, to protein refolding to validate this approach.
Genetics, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Cellular Biology, Biochemistry, Bioengineering, Biomedical Engineering, Proteins, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Protein Folding, yeast, protein, chaperone, firefly luciferase, GFP, yeast, plasmid, assay, microscopy
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Interview: Protein Folding and Studies of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Authors: Susan Lindquist.
Institutions: MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In this interview, Dr. Lindquist describes relationships between protein folding, prion diseases and neurodegenerative disorders. The problem of the protein folding is at the core of the modern biology. In addition to their traditional biochemical functions, proteins can mediate transfer of biological information and therefore can be considered a genetic material. This recently discovered function of proteins has important implications for studies of human disorders. Dr. Lindquist also describes current experimental approaches to investigate the mechanism of neurodegenerative diseases based on genetic studies in model organisms.
Neuroscience, issue 17, protein folding, brain, neuron, prion, neurodegenerative disease, yeast, screen, Translational Research
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A Protocol for the Production of KLRG1 Tetramer
Authors: Stephanie C. Terrizzi, Cindy Banh, Laurent Brossay.
Institutions: Brown University.
Killer cell lectin-like receptor G1 (KLRG1) is a type II transmembrane glycoprotein inhibitory receptor belonging to the C type lectin-like superfamily. KLRG1 exists both as a monomer and as a disulfide-linked homodimer. This well-conserved receptor is found on the most mature and recently activated NK cells as well as on a subset of effector/memory T cells. Using KLRG1 tetramer as well as other methods, E-, N-, and R-cadherins were identified as KLRG1 ligands. These Ca2+-dependent cell-cell adhesion molecules comprises of an extracellular domain containing five cadherin repeats responsible for cell-cell interactions, a transmembrane domain and a cytoplasmic domain that is linked to the actin cytoskeleton. Generation of the KLRG1 tetramer was essential to the identification of the KLRG1 ligands. KLRG1 tetramer is also a unique tool to elucidate the roles cadherin and KLRG1 play in regulating the immune response and tissue integrity.
Microbiology, Issue 35, Immunology, Basic Protocols, Tetramer, Inclusion Bodies, Refolding, Monomer, Flow Cytometry, KLRG1, Cadherins
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