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Enhanced glutathione content allows the in vivo synthesis of fluorescent CdTe nanoparticles by Escherichia coli.
The vast application of fluorescent semiconductor nanoparticles (NPs) or quantum dots (QDs) has prompted the development of new, cheap and safer methods that allow generating QDs with improved biocompatibility. In this context, green or biological QDs production represents a still unexplored area. This work reports the intracellular CdTe QDs biosynthesis in bacteria. Escherichia coli overexpressing the gshA gene, involved in glutathione (GSH) biosynthesis, was used to produce CdTe QDs. Cells exhibited higher reduced thiols, GSH and Cd/Te contents that allow generating fluorescent intracellular NP-like structures when exposed to CdCl(2) and K(2)TeO(3). Fluorescence microscopy revealed that QDs-producing cells accumulate defined structures of various colors, suggesting the production of differently-sized NPs. Purified fluorescent NPs exhibited structural and spectroscopic properties characteristic of CdTe QDs, as size and absorption/emission spectra. Elemental analysis confirmed that biosynthesized QDs were formed by Cd and Te with Cd/Te ratios expected for CdTe QDs. Finally, fluorescent properties of QDs-producing cells, such as color and intensity, were improved by temperature control and the use of reducing buffers.
Authors: Derek D. Lovingood, Jeffrey R. Owens, Michael Seeber, Konstantin G. Kornev, Igor Luzinov.
Published: 12-16-2013
Microwave-assisted synthetic techniques were used to quickly and reproducibly produce silica nanoparticle sols using an acid catalyst with nanoparticle diameters ranging from 30-250 nm by varying the reaction conditions. Through the selection of a microwave compatible solvent, silicic acid precursor, catalyst, and microwave irradiation time, these microwave-assisted methods were capable of overcoming the previously reported shortcomings associated with synthesis of silica nanoparticles using microwave reactors. The siloxane precursor was hydrolyzed using the acid catalyst, HCl. Acetone, a low-tan δ solvent, mediates the condensation reactions and has minimal interaction with the electromagnetic field. Condensation reactions begin when the silicic acid precursor couples with the microwave radiation, leading to silica nanoparticle sol formation. The silica nanoparticles were characterized by dynamic light scattering data and scanning electron microscopy, which show the materials' morphology and size to be dependent on the reaction conditions. Microwave-assisted reactions produce silica nanoparticles with roughened textured surfaces that are atypical for silica sols produced by Stöber's methods, which have smooth surfaces.
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A Step Beyond BRET: Fluorescence by Unbound Excitation from Luminescence (FUEL)
Authors: Joseph Dragavon, Carolyn Sinow, Alexandra D. Holland, Abdessalem Rekiki, Ioanna Theodorou, Chelsea Samson, Samantha Blazquez, Kelly L. Rogers, Régis Tournebize, Spencer L. Shorte.
Institutions: Institut Pasteur, Stanford School of Medicine, Institut d'Imagerie Biomédicale, Vanderbilt School of Medicine, The Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Institut Pasteur, Institut Pasteur.
Fluorescence by Unbound Excitation from Luminescence (FUEL) is a radiative excitation-emission process that produces increased signal and contrast enhancement in vitro and in vivo. FUEL shares many of the same underlying principles as Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET), yet greatly differs in the acceptable working distances between the luminescent source and the fluorescent entity. While BRET is effectively limited to a maximum of 2 times the Förster radius, commonly less than 14 nm, FUEL can occur at distances up to µm or even cm in the absence of an optical absorber. Here we expand upon the foundation and applicability of FUEL by reviewing the relevant principles behind the phenomenon and demonstrate its compatibility with a wide variety of fluorophores and fluorescent nanoparticles. Further, the utility of antibody-targeted FUEL is explored. The examples shown here provide evidence that FUEL can be utilized for applications where BRET is not possible, filling the spatial void that exists between BRET and traditional whole animal imaging.
Bioengineering, Issue 87, Biochemical Phenomena, Biochemical Processes, Energy Transfer, Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET), FUEL, BRET, CRET, Förster, bioluminescence, In vivo
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Solubilization and Bio-conjugation of Quantum Dots and Bacterial Toxicity Assays by Growth Curve and Plate Count
Authors: Soonhyang Park, Hicham Chibli, Jay Nadeau.
Institutions: McGill University, Montreal, QC Canada.
Quantum dots (QDs) are fluorescent semiconductor nanoparticles with size-dependent emission spectra that can be excited by a broad choice of wavelengths. QDs have attracted a lot of interest for imaging, diagnostics, and therapy due to their bright, stable fluorescence1,2 3,4,5. QDs can be conjugated to a variety of bio-active molecules for binding to bacteria and mammalian cells6. QDs are also being widely investigated as cytotoxic agents for targeted killing of bacteria. The emergence of multiply-resistant bacterial strains is rapidly becoming a public health crisis, particularly in the case of Gram negative pathogens 7. Because of the well-known antimicrobial effect of certain nanomaterials, especially Ag, there are hundreds of studies examining the toxicity of nanoparticles to bacteria 8. Bacterial studies have been performed with other types of semiconductor nanoparticles as well, especially TiO2 9,10-11, but also ZnO12 and others including CuO 13. Some comparisons of bacterial strains have been performed in these studies, usually comparing a Gram negative strain with a Gram positive. With all of these particles, mechanisms of toxicity are attributed to oxidation: either the photogeneration of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by the particles or the direct release of metal ions that can cause oxidative toxicity. Even with these materials, results of different studies vary greatly. In some studies the Gram positive test strain is reportedly more sensitive than the Gram negative 10; in others it is the opposite 14. These studies have been well reviewed 15. In all nanoparticle studies, particle composition, size, surface chemistry, sample aging/breakdown, and wavelength, power, and duration of light exposure can all dramatically affect the results. In addition, synthesis byproducts and solvents must be considered16 17. High-throughput screening techniques are needed to be able to develop effective new nanomedicine agents. CdTe QDs have anti-microbial effects alone18 or in combination with antibiotics. In a previous study, we showed that coupling of antibiotics to CdTe can increase toxicity to bacteria but decrease toxicity to mammalian cells, due to decreased production of reactive oxygen species from the conjugates19. Although it is unlikely that cadmium-containing compounds will be approved for use in humans, such preparations could be used for disinfection of surfaces or sterilization of water. In this protocol, we give a straightforward approach to solubilizing CdTe QDs with mercaptopropionic acid (MPA). The QDs are ready to use within an hour. We then demonstrate coupling to an antimicrobial agent. The second part of the protocol demonstrates a 96-well bacterial inhibition assay using the conjugated and unconjugated QDs. The optical density is read over many hours, permitting the effects of QD addition and light exposure to be evaluated immediately as well as after a recovery period. We also illustrate a colony count for quantifying bacterial survival.
Biomedical Engineering, Issue 65, Bioengineering, Molecular Biology, Quantum dots, solubilization, conjugation, cytotoxicity, phototoxicity, growth curve, plate count
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In Vitro Reconstitution of Light-harvesting Complexes of Plants and Green Algae
Authors: Alberto Natali, Laura M. Roy, Roberta Croce.
Institutions: VU University Amsterdam.
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.
Biochemistry, Issue 92, Reconstitution, Photosynthesis, Chlorophyll, Carotenoids, Light Harvesting Protein, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Arabidopsis thaliana
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Non-chromatographic Purification of Recombinant Elastin-like Polypeptides and their Fusions with Peptides and Proteins from Escherichia coli
Authors: Sarah R. MacEwan, Wafa Hassouneh, Ashutosh Chilkoti.
Institutions: Duke University, Duke University.
Elastin-like polypeptides are repetitive biopolymers that exhibit a lower critical solution temperature phase transition behavior, existing as soluble unimers below a characteristic transition temperature and aggregating into micron-scale coacervates above their transition temperature. The design of elastin-like polypeptides at the genetic level permits precise control of their sequence and length, which dictates their thermal properties. Elastin-like polypeptides are used in a variety of applications including biosensing, tissue engineering, and drug delivery, where the transition temperature and biopolymer architecture of the ELP can be tuned for the specific application of interest. Furthermore, the lower critical solution temperature phase transition behavior of elastin-like polypeptides allows their purification by their thermal response, such that their selective coacervation and resolubilization allows the removal of both soluble and insoluble contaminants following expression in Escherichia coli. This approach can be used for the purification of elastin-like polypeptides alone or as a purification tool for peptide or protein fusions where recombinant peptides or proteins genetically appended to elastin-like polypeptide tags can be purified without chromatography. This protocol describes the purification of elastin-like polypeptides and their peptide or protein fusions and discusses basic characterization techniques to assess the thermal behavior of pure elastin-like polypeptide products.
Molecular Biology, Issue 88, elastin-like polypeptides, lower critical solution temperature, phase separation, inverse transition cycling, protein purification, batch purification
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Real-time Imaging of Axonal Transport of Quantum Dot-labeled BDNF in Primary Neurons
Authors: Xiaobei Zhao, Yue Zhou, April M. Weissmiller, Matthew L. Pearn, William C. Mobley, Chengbiao Wu.
Institutions: University of California, San Diego, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, University of California, San Diego, VA San Diego Healthcare System.
BDNF plays an important role in several facets of neuronal survival, differentiation, and function. Structural and functional deficits in axons are increasingly viewed as an early feature of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Huntington’s disease (HD). As yet unclear is the mechanism(s) by which axonal injury is induced. We reported the development of a novel technique to produce biologically active, monobiotinylated BDNF (mBtBDNF) that can be used to trace axonal transport of BDNF. Quantum dot-labeled BDNF (QD-BDNF) was produced by conjugating quantum dot 655 to mBtBDNF. A microfluidic device was used to isolate axons from neuron cell bodies. Addition of QD-BDNF to the axonal compartment allowed live imaging of BDNF transport in axons. We demonstrated that QD-BDNF moved essentially exclusively retrogradely, with very few pauses, at a moving velocity of around 1.06 μm/sec. This system can be used to investigate mechanisms of disrupted axonal function in AD or HD, as well as other degenerative disorders.
Neuroscience, Issue 91, live imaging, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), quantum dot, trafficking, axonal retrograde transport, microfluidic chamber
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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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Expression, Isolation, and Purification of Soluble and Insoluble Biotinylated Proteins for Nerve Tissue Regeneration
Authors: Aleesha M. McCormick, Natalie A. Jarmusik, Elizabeth J. Endrizzi, Nic D. Leipzig.
Institutions: University of Akron.
Recombinant protein engineering has utilized Escherichia coli (E. coli) expression systems for nearly 4 decades, and today E. coli is still the most widely used host organism. The flexibility of the system allows for the addition of moieties such as a biotin tag (for streptavidin interactions) and larger functional proteins like green fluorescent protein or cherry red protein. Also, the integration of unnatural amino acids like metal ion chelators, uniquely reactive functional groups, spectroscopic probes, and molecules imparting post-translational modifications has enabled better manipulation of protein properties and functionalities. As a result this technique creates customizable fusion proteins that offer significant utility for various fields of research. More specifically, the biotinylatable protein sequence has been incorporated into many target proteins because of the high affinity interaction between biotin with avidin and streptavidin. This addition has aided in enhancing detection and purification of tagged proteins as well as opening the way for secondary applications such as cell sorting. Thus, biotin-labeled molecules show an increasing and widespread influence in bioindustrial and biomedical fields. For the purpose of our research we have engineered recombinant biotinylated fusion proteins containing nerve growth factor (NGF) and semaphorin3A (Sema3A) functional regions. We have reported previously how these biotinylated fusion proteins, along with other active protein sequences, can be tethered to biomaterials for tissue engineering and regenerative purposes. This protocol outlines the basics of engineering biotinylatable proteins at the milligram scale, utilizing  a T7 lac inducible vector and E. coli expression hosts, starting from transformation to scale-up and purification.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, protein engineering, recombinant protein production, AviTag, BirA, biotinylation, pET vector system, E. coli, inclusion bodies, Ni-NTA, size exclusion chromatography
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Visualizing Protein-DNA Interactions in Live Bacterial Cells Using Photoactivated Single-molecule Tracking
Authors: Stephan Uphoff, David J. Sherratt, Achillefs N. Kapanidis.
Institutions: University of Oxford, University of Oxford.
Protein-DNA interactions are at the heart of many fundamental cellular processes. For example, DNA replication, transcription, repair, and chromosome organization are governed by DNA-binding proteins that recognize specific DNA structures or sequences. In vitro experiments have helped to generate detailed models for the function of many types of DNA-binding proteins, yet, the exact mechanisms of these processes and their organization in the complex environment of the living cell remain far less understood. We recently introduced a method for quantifying DNA-repair activities in live Escherichia coli cells using Photoactivated Localization Microscopy (PALM) combined with single-molecule tracking. Our general approach identifies individual DNA-binding events by the change in the mobility of a single protein upon association with the chromosome. The fraction of bound molecules provides a direct quantitative measure for the protein activity and abundance of substrates or binding sites at the single-cell level. Here, we describe the concept of the method and demonstrate sample preparation, data acquisition, and data analysis procedures.
Immunology, Issue 85, Super-resolution microscopy, single-particle tracking, Live-cell imaging, DNA-binding proteins, DNA repair, molecular diffusion
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Combining QD-FRET and Microfluidics to Monitor DNA Nanocomplex Self-Assembly in Real-Time
Authors: Yi-Ping Ho, Hunter H. Chen, Kam W. Leong, Tza-Huei Wang.
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University.
Advances in genomics continue to fuel the development of therapeutics that can target pathogenesis at the cellular and molecular level. Typically functional inside the cell, nucleic acid-based therapeutics require an efficient intracellular delivery system. One widely adopted approach is to complex DNA with a gene carrier to form nanocomplexes via electrostatic self-assembly, facilitating cellular uptake of DNA while protecting it against degradation. The challenge lies in the rational design of efficient gene carriers, since premature dissociation or overly stable binding would be detrimental to the cellular uptake and therapeutic efficacy. Nanocomplexes synthesized by bulk mixing showed a diverse range of intracellular unpacking and trafficking behavior, which was attributed to the heterogeneity in size and stability of nanocomplexes. Such heterogeneity hinders the accurate assessment of the self-assembly kinetics and adds to the difficulty in correlating their physical properties to transfection efficiencies or bioactivities. We present a novel convergence of nanophotonics (i.e. QD-FRET) and microfluidics to characterize the real-time kinetics of the nanocomplex self-assembly under laminar flow. QD-FRET provides a highly sensitive indication of the onset of molecular interactions and quantitative measure throughout the synthesis process, whereas microfluidics offers a well-controlled microenvironment to spatially analyze the process with high temporal resolution (~milliseconds). For the model system of polymeric nanocomplexes, two distinct stages in the self-assembly process were captured by this analytic platform. The kinetic aspect of the self-assembly process obtained at the microscale would be particularly valuable for microreactor-based reactions which are relevant to many micro- and nano-scale applications. Further, nanocomplexes may be customized through proper design of microfludic devices, and the resulting QD-FRET polymeric DNA nanocomplexes could be readily applied for establishing structure-function relationships.
Biomedical Engineering, Issue 30, microfluidics, gene delivery, quantum dots, fluorescence resonance energy transfer, self-assembly, nanocomplexes
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Protocols for Implementing an Escherichia coli Based TX-TL Cell-Free Expression System for Synthetic Biology
Authors: Zachary Z. Sun, Clarmyra A. Hayes, Jonghyeon Shin, Filippo Caschera, Richard M. Murray, Vincent Noireaux.
Institutions: California Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota.
Ideal cell-free expression systems can theoretically emulate an in vivo cellular environment in a controlled in vitro platform.1 This is useful for expressing proteins and genetic circuits in a controlled manner as well as for providing a prototyping environment for synthetic biology.2,3 To achieve the latter goal, cell-free expression systems that preserve endogenous Escherichia coli transcription-translation mechanisms are able to more accurately reflect in vivo cellular dynamics than those based on T7 RNA polymerase transcription. We describe the preparation and execution of an efficient endogenous E. coli based transcription-translation (TX-TL) cell-free expression system that can produce equivalent amounts of protein as T7-based systems at a 98% cost reduction to similar commercial systems.4,5 The preparation of buffers and crude cell extract are described, as well as the execution of a three tube TX-TL reaction. The entire protocol takes five days to prepare and yields enough material for up to 3000 single reactions in one preparation. Once prepared, each reaction takes under 8 hr from setup to data collection and analysis. Mechanisms of regulation and transcription exogenous to E. coli, such as lac/tet repressors and T7 RNA polymerase, can be supplemented.6 Endogenous properties, such as mRNA and DNA degradation rates, can also be adjusted.7 The TX-TL cell-free expression system has been demonstrated for large-scale circuit assembly, exploring biological phenomena, and expression of proteins under both T7- and endogenous promoters.6,8 Accompanying mathematical models are available.9,10 The resulting system has unique applications in synthetic biology as a prototyping environment, or "TX-TL biomolecular breadboard."
Cellular Biology, Issue 79, Bioengineering, Synthetic Biology, Chemistry Techniques, Synthetic, Molecular Biology, control theory, TX-TL, cell-free expression, in vitro, transcription-translation, cell-free protein synthesis, synthetic biology, systems biology, Escherichia coli cell extract, biological circuits, biomolecular breadboard
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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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Protocols for Assessing Radiofrequency Interactions with Gold Nanoparticles and Biological Systems for Non-invasive Hyperthermia Cancer Therapy
Authors: Stuart J. Corr, Brandon T. Cisneros, Leila Green, Mustafa Raoof, Steven A. Curley.
Institutions: University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Rice University , Rice University .
Cancer therapies which are less toxic and invasive than their existing counterparts are highly desirable. The use of RF electric-fields that penetrate deep into the body, causing minimal toxicity, are currently being studied as a viable means of non-invasive cancer therapy. It is envisioned that the interactions of RF energy with internalized nanoparticles (NPs) can liberate heat which can then cause overheating (hyperthermia) of the cell, ultimately ending in cell necrosis. In the case of non-biological systems, we present detailed protocols relating to quantifying the heat liberated by highly-concentrated NP colloids. For biological systems, in the case of in vitro experiments, we describe the techniques and conditions which must be adhered to in order to effectively expose cancer cells to RF energy without bulk media heating artifacts significantly obscuring the data. Finally, we give a detailed methodology for in vivo mouse models with ectopic hepatic cancer tumors.
Medicine, Issue 78, Electronics and Electrical Engineering, Life Sciences (General), Radiofrequency, Cancer, Nanoparticles, Hyperthermia, Gold
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Synthesis and Operation of Fluorescent-core Microcavities for Refractometric Sensing
Authors: Shalon McFarlane, C.P.K. Manchee, Joshua W. Silverstone, Jonathan Veinot, Al Meldrum.
Institutions: University of Alberta.
This paper discusses fluorescent core microcavity-based sensors that can operate in a microfluidic analysis setup. These structures are based on the formation of a fluorescent quantum-dot (QD) coating on the channel surface of a conventional microcapillary. Silicon QDs are especially attractive for this application, owing in part to their negligible toxicity compared to the II-VI and II-VI compound QDs, which are legislatively controlled substances in many countries. While the ensemble emission spectrum is broad and featureless, an Si-QD film on the channel wall of a capillary features a set of sharp, narrow peaks in the fluorescence spectrum, corresponding to the electromagnetic resonances for light trapped within the film. The peak wavelength of these resonances is sensitive to the external medium, thus permitting the device to function as a refractometric sensor in which the QDs never come into physical contact with the analyte. The experimental methods associated with the fabrication of the fluorescent-core microcapillaries are discussed in detail, as well as the analysis methods. Finally, a comparison is made between these structures and the more widely investigated liquid-core optical ring resonators, in terms of microfluidic sensing capabilities.
Physics, Issue 73, Microfluidics, Optics, Quantum Dots, Optics and Photonics, fluid flow sensors (general), luminescence (optics), optical waveguides, photonics, condensed matter physics, microcavities, whispering gallery modes, refractometric sensor, fluorescence, microcapillary, quantum dots
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Compact Quantum Dots for Single-molecule Imaging
Authors: Andrew M. Smith, Shuming Nie.
Institutions: Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology .
Single-molecule imaging is an important tool for understanding the mechanisms of biomolecular function and for visualizing the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of molecular behaviors that underlie cellular biology 1-4. To image an individual molecule of interest, it is typically conjugated to a fluorescent tag (dye, protein, bead, or quantum dot) and observed with epifluorescence or total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy. While dyes and fluorescent proteins have been the mainstay of fluorescence imaging for decades, their fluorescence is unstable under high photon fluxes necessary to observe individual molecules, yielding only a few seconds of observation before complete loss of signal. Latex beads and dye-labeled beads provide improved signal stability but at the expense of drastically larger hydrodynamic size, which can deleteriously alter the diffusion and behavior of the molecule under study. Quantum dots (QDs) offer a balance between these two problematic regimes. These nanoparticles are composed of semiconductor materials and can be engineered with a hydrodynamically compact size with exceptional resistance to photodegradation 5. Thus in recent years QDs have been instrumental in enabling long-term observation of complex macromolecular behavior on the single molecule level. However these particles have still been found to exhibit impaired diffusion in crowded molecular environments such as the cellular cytoplasm and the neuronal synaptic cleft, where their sizes are still too large 4,6,7. Recently we have engineered the cores and surface coatings of QDs for minimized hydrodynamic size, while balancing offsets to colloidal stability, photostability, brightness, and nonspecific binding that have hindered the utility of compact QDs in the past 8,9. The goal of this article is to demonstrate the synthesis, modification, and characterization of these optimized nanocrystals, composed of an alloyed HgxCd1-xSe core coated with an insulating CdyZn1-yS shell, further coated with a multidentate polymer ligand modified with short polyethylene glycol (PEG) chains (Figure 1). Compared with conventional CdSe nanocrystals, HgxCd1-xSe alloys offer greater quantum yields of fluorescence, fluorescence at red and near-infrared wavelengths for enhanced signal-to-noise in cells, and excitation at non-cytotoxic visible wavelengths. Multidentate polymer coatings bind to the nanocrystal surface in a closed and flat conformation to minimize hydrodynamic size, and PEG neutralizes the surface charge to minimize nonspecific binding to cells and biomolecules. The end result is a brightly fluorescent nanocrystal with emission between 550-800 nm and a total hydrodynamic size near 12 nm. This is in the same size range as many soluble globular proteins in cells, and substantially smaller than conventional PEGylated QDs (25-35 nm).
Physics, Issue 68, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Nanotechnology, Nanoparticle, nanocrystal, synthesis, fluorescence, microscopy, imaging, conjugation, dynamics, intracellular, receptor
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A Toolkit to Enable Hydrocarbon Conversion in Aqueous Environments
Authors: Eva K. Brinkman, Kira Schipper, Nadine Bongaerts, Mathias J. Voges, Alessandro Abate, S. Aljoscha Wahl.
Institutions: Delft University of Technology, Delft University of Technology.
This work puts forward a toolkit that enables the conversion of alkanes by Escherichia coli and presents a proof of principle of its applicability. The toolkit consists of multiple standard interchangeable parts (BioBricks)9 addressing the conversion of alkanes, regulation of gene expression and survival in toxic hydrocarbon-rich environments. A three-step pathway for alkane degradation was implemented in E. coli to enable the conversion of medium- and long-chain alkanes to their respective alkanols, alkanals and ultimately alkanoic-acids. The latter were metabolized via the native β-oxidation pathway. To facilitate the oxidation of medium-chain alkanes (C5-C13) and cycloalkanes (C5-C8), four genes (alkB2, rubA3, rubA4and rubB) of the alkane hydroxylase system from Gordonia sp. TF68,21 were transformed into E. coli. For the conversion of long-chain alkanes (C15-C36), theladA gene from Geobacillus thermodenitrificans was implemented. For the required further steps of the degradation process, ADH and ALDH (originating from G. thermodenitrificans) were introduced10,11. The activity was measured by resting cell assays. For each oxidative step, enzyme activity was observed. To optimize the process efficiency, the expression was only induced under low glucose conditions: a substrate-regulated promoter, pCaiF, was used. pCaiF is present in E. coli K12 and regulates the expression of the genes involved in the degradation of non-glucose carbon sources. The last part of the toolkit - targeting survival - was implemented using solvent tolerance genes, PhPFDα and β, both from Pyrococcus horikoshii OT3. Organic solvents can induce cell stress and decreased survivability by negatively affecting protein folding. As chaperones, PhPFDα and β improve the protein folding process e.g. under the presence of alkanes. The expression of these genes led to an improved hydrocarbon tolerance shown by an increased growth rate (up to 50%) in the presences of 10% n-hexane in the culture medium were observed. Summarizing, the results indicate that the toolkit enables E. coli to convert and tolerate hydrocarbons in aqueous environments. As such, it represents an initial step towards a sustainable solution for oil-remediation using a synthetic biology approach.
Bioengineering, Issue 68, Microbiology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Oil remediation, alkane metabolism, alkane hydroxylase system, resting cell assay, prefoldin, Escherichia coli, synthetic biology, homologous interaction mapping, mathematical model, BioBrick, iGEM
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Therapeutic Gene Delivery and Transfection in Human Pancreatic Cancer Cells using Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor-targeted Gelatin Nanoparticles
Authors: Jing Xu, Mansoor Amiji.
Institutions: Northeastern University.
More than 32,000 patients are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the United States per year and the disease is associated with very high mortality 1. Urgent need exists to develop novel clinically-translatable therapeutic strategies that can improve on the dismal survival statistics of pancreatic cancer patients. Although gene therapy in cancer has shown a tremendous promise, the major challenge is in the development of safe and effective delivery system, which can lead to sustained transgene expression. Gelatin is one of the most versatile natural biopolymer, widely used in food and pharmaceutical products. Previous studies from our laboratory have shown that type B gelatin could physical encapsulate DNA, which preserved the supercoiled structure of the plasmid and improved transfection efficiency upon intracellular delivery. By thiolation of gelatin, the sulfhydryl groups could be introduced into the polymer and would form disulfide bond within nanoparticles, which stabilizes the whole complex and once disulfide bond is broken due to the presence of glutathione in cytosol, payload would be released 2-5. Poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG)-modified GENS, when administered into the systemic circulation, provides long-circulation times and preferentially targets to the tumor mass due to the hyper-permeability of the neovasculature by the enhanced permeability and retention effect 6. Studies have shown over-expression of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) on Panc-1 human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells 7. In order to actively target pancreatic cancer cell line, EGFR specific peptide was conjugated on the particle surface through a PEG spacer.8 Most anti-tumor gene therapies are focused on administration of the tumor suppressor genes, such as wild-type p53 (wt-p53), to restore the pro-apoptotic function in the cells 9. The p53 mechanism functions as a critical signaling pathway in cell growth, which regulates apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, metabolism and other processes 10. In pancreatic cancer, most cells have mutations in p53 protein, causing the loss of apoptotic activity. With the introduction of wt-p53, the apoptosis could be repaired and further triggers cell death in cancer cells 11. Based on the above rationale, we have designed EGFR targeting peptide-modified thiolated gelatin nanoparticles for wt-p53 gene delivery and evaluated delivery efficiency and transfection in Panc-1 cells.
Bioengineering, Issue 59, Gelatin Nanoparticle, Gene Therapy, Targeted Delivery, Pancreatic Cancer, Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor, EGFR
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Electrophysiological Characterization of GFP-Expressing Cell Populations in the Intact Retina
Authors: Mark Pottek, Gabriel C. Knop, Reto Weiler, Karin Dedek.
Institutions: University of Oldenburg.
Studying the physiological properties and synaptic connections of specific neurons in the intact tissue is a challenge for those cells that lack conspicuous morphological features or show a low population density. This applies particularly to retinal amacrine cells, an exceptionally multiform class of interneurons that comprise roughly 30 subtypes in mammals1. Though being a crucial part of the visual processing by shaping the retinal output2, most of these subtypes have not been studied up to now in a functional context because encountering these cells with a recording electrode is a rare event. Recently, a multitude of transgenic mouse lines is available that express fluorescent markers like green fluorescent protein (GFP) under the control of promoters for membrane receptors or enzymes that are specific to only a subset of neurons in a given tissue3,4. These pre-labeled cells are therefore accessible to directed microelectrode targeting under microscopic control, permitting the systematic study of their physiological properties in situ. However, excitation of fluorescent markers is accompanied by the risk of phototoxicity for the living tissue. In the retina, this approach is additionally hampered by the problem that excitation light causes appropriate stimulation of the photoreceptors, thus inflicting photopigment bleaching and transferring the retinal circuits into a light-adapted condition. These drawbacks are overcome by using infrared excitation delivered by a mode-locked laser in short pulses of the femtosecond range. Two-photon excitation provides energy sufficient for fluorophore excitation and at the same time restricts the excitation to a small tissue volume minimizing the hazards of photodamage5. Also, it leaves the retina responsive to visual stimuli since infrared light (>850 nm) is only poorly absorbed by photopigments6. In this article we demonstrate the use of a transgenic mouse retina to attain electrophysiological in situ recordings from GFP-expressing cells that are visually targeted by two-photon excitation. The retina is prepared and maintained in darkness and can be subjected to optical stimuli which are projected through the condenser of the microscope (Figure 1). Patch-clamp recording of light responses can be combined with dye filling to reveal the morphology and to check for gap junction-mediated dye coupling to neighboring cells, so that the target cell can by studied on different experimental levels.
Neuroscience, Issue 57, retina, transgenic mouse line, two-photon microscopy, patch-clamp recording, amacrine cells
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Production and Targeting of Monovalent Quantum Dots
Authors: Daeha Seo, Justin Farlow, Kade Southard, Young-wook Jun, Zev J. Gartner.
Institutions: University of California, San Francisco, University of California, Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of California, San Francisco, University of California, San Francisco, University of California, San Francisco, University of California, San Francisco.
The multivalent nature of commercial quantum dots (QDs) and the difficulties associated with producing monovalent dots have limited their applications in biology, where clustering and the spatial organization of biomolecules is often the object of study. We describe here a protocol to produce monovalent quantum dots (mQDs) that can be accomplished in most biological research laboratories via a simple mixing of CdSe/ZnS core/shell QDs with phosphorothioate DNA (ptDNA) of defined length. After a single ptDNA strand has wrapped the QD, additional strands are excluded from the surface. Production of mQDs in this manner can be accomplished at small and large scale, with commercial reagents, and in minimal steps. These mQDs can be specifically directed to biological targets by hybridization to a complementary single stranded targeting DNA. We demonstrate the use of these mQDs as imaging probes by labeling SNAP-tagged Notch receptors on live mammalian cells, targeted by mQDs bearing a benzylguanine moiety.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, monovalent quantum dots, single particle tracking, SNAP tag, steric exclusion, phosphorothioate, DNA, nanoparticle bioconjugation, single molecule imaging
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