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What does it take to synergistically combine sub-potent natural products into drug-level potent combinations?
There have been renewed interests in natural products as drug discovery sources. In particular, natural product combinations have been extensively studied, clinically tested, and widely used in traditional, folk and alternative medicines. But opinions about their therapeutic efficacies vary from placebo to synergistic effects. The important questions are whether synergistic effects can sufficiently elevate therapeutic potencies to drug levels, and by what mechanisms and at what odds such combinations can be assembled. We studied these questions by analyzing literature-reported cell-based potencies of 190 approved anticancer and antimicrobial drugs, 1378 anticancer and antimicrobial natural products, 99 natural product extracts, 124 synergistic natural product combinations, and 122 molecular interaction profiles of the 19 natural product combinations with collective potency enhanced to drug level or by >10-fold. Most of the evaluated natural products and combinations are sub-potent to drugs. Sub-potent natural products can be assembled into combinations of drug level potency at low probabilities by distinguished multi-target modes modulating primary targets, their regulators and effectors, and intracellular bioavailability of the active natural products.
The heterologous production of complex natural products is an approach designed to address current limitations and future possibilities. It is particularly useful for those compounds which possess therapeutic value but cannot be sufficiently produced or would benefit from an improved form of production. The experimental procedures involved can be subdivided into three components: 1) genetic transfer; 2) heterologous reconstitution; and 3) product analysis. Each experimental component is under continual optimization to meet the challenges and anticipate the opportunities associated with this emerging approach. Heterologous biosynthesis begins with the identification of a genetic sequence responsible for a valuable natural product. Transferring this sequence to a heterologous host is complicated by the biosynthetic pathway complexity responsible for product formation. The antibiotic erythromycin A is a good example. Twenty genes (totaling >50 kb) are required for eventual biosynthesis. In addition, three of these genes encode megasynthases, multi-domain enzymes each ~300 kDa in size. This genetic material must be designed and transferred to E. coli for reconstituted biosynthesis. The use of PCR isolation, operon construction, multi-cystronic plasmids, and electro-transformation will be described in transferring the erythromycin A genetic cluster to E. coli. Once transferred, the E. coli cell must support eventual biosynthesis. This process is also challenging given the substantial differences between E. coli and most original hosts responsible for complex natural product formation. The cell must provide necessary substrates to support biosynthesis and coordinately express the transferred genetic cluster to produce active enzymes. In the case of erythromycin A, the E. coli cell had to be engineered to provide the two precursors (propionyl-CoA and (2S)-methylmalonyl-CoA) required for biosynthesis. In addition, gene sequence modifications, plasmid copy number, chaperonin co-expression, post-translational enzymatic modification, and process temperature were also required to allow final erythromycin A formation. Finally, successful production must be assessed. For the erythromycin A case, we will present two methods. The first is liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to confirm and quantify production. The bioactivity of erythromycin A will also be confirmed through use of a bioassay in which the antibiotic activity is tested against Bacillus subtilis. The assessment assays establish erythromycin A biosynthesis from E. coli and set the stage for future engineering efforts to improve or diversify production and for the production of new complex natural compounds using this approach.
22 Related JoVE Articles!
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Rapid PCR Thermocycling using Microscale Thermal Convection
Authors: Radha Muddu, Yassin A. Hassan, Victor M. Ugaz.
Institutions: Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University.
Many molecular biology assays depend in some way on the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify an initially dilute target DNA sample to a detectable concentration level. But the design of conventional PCR thermocycling hardware, predominantly based on massive metal heating blocks whose temperature is regulated by thermoelectric heaters, severely limits the achievable reaction speed1. Considerable electrical power is also required to repeatedly heat and cool the reagent mixture, limiting the ability to deploy these instruments in a portable format. Thermal convection has emerged as a promising alternative thermocycling approach that has the potential to overcome these limitations2-9. Convective flows are an everyday occurrence in a diverse array of settings ranging from the Earth's atmosphere, oceans, and interior, to decorative and colorful lava lamps. Fluid motion is initiated in the same way in each case: a buoyancy driven instability arises when a confined volume of fluid is subjected to a spatial temperature gradient. These same phenomena offer an attractive way to perform PCR thermocycling. By applying a static temperature gradient across an appropriately designed reactor geometry, a continuous circulatory flow can be established that will repeatedly transport PCR reagents through temperature zones associated with the denaturing, annealing, and extension stages of the reaction (Figure 1). Thermocycling can therefore be actuated in a pseudo-isothermal manner by simply holding two opposing surfaces at fixed temperatures, completely eliminating the need to repeatedly heat and cool the instrument. One of the main challenges facing design of convective thermocyclers is the need to precisely control the spatial velocity and temperature distributions within the reactor to ensure that the reagents sequentially occupy the correct temperature zones for a sufficient period of time10,11. Here we describe results of our efforts to probe the full 3-D velocity and temperature distributions in microscale convective thermocyclers12. Unexpectedly, we have discovered a subset of complex flow trajectories that are highly favorable for PCR due to a synergistic combination of (1) continuous exchange among flow paths that provides an enhanced opportunity for reagents to sample the full range of optimal temperature profiles, and (2) increased time spent within the extension temperature zone the rate limiting step of PCR. Extremely rapid DNA amplification times (under 10 min) are achievable in reactors designed to generate these flows.
Molecular Biology, Issue 49, polymerase chain reaction, PCR, DNA, thermal convection
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GENPLAT: an Automated Platform for Biomass Enzyme Discovery and Cocktail Optimization
Authors: Jonathan Walton, Goutami Banerjee, Suzana Car.
Institutions: Michigan State University, Michigan State University.
The high cost of enzymes for biomass deconstruction is a major impediment to the economic conversion of lignocellulosic feedstocks to liquid transportation fuels such as ethanol. We have developed an integrated high throughput platform, called GENPLAT, for the discovery and development of novel enzymes and enzyme cocktails for the release of sugars from diverse pretreatment/biomass combinations. GENPLAT comprises four elements: individual pure enzymes, statistical design of experiments, robotic pipeting of biomass slurries and enzymes, and automated colorimeteric determination of released Glc and Xyl. Individual enzymes are produced by expression in Pichia pastoris or Trichoderma reesei, or by chromatographic purification from commercial cocktails or from extracts of novel microorganisms. Simplex lattice (fractional factorial) mixture models are designed using commercial Design of Experiment statistical software. Enzyme mixtures of high complexity are constructed using robotic pipeting into a 96-well format. The measurement of released Glc and Xyl is automated using enzyme-linked colorimetric assays. Optimized enzyme mixtures containing as many as 16 components have been tested on a variety of feedstock and pretreatment combinations. GENPLAT is adaptable to mixtures of pure enzymes, mixtures of commercial products (e.g., Accellerase 1000 and Novozyme 188), extracts of novel microbes, or combinations thereof. To make and test mixtures of ˜10 pure enzymes requires less than 100 μg of each protein and fewer than 100 total reactions, when operated at a final total loading of 15 mg protein/g glucan. We use enzymes from several sources. Enzymes can be purified from natural sources such as fungal cultures (e.g., Aspergillus niger, Cochliobolus carbonum, and Galerina marginata), or they can be made by expression of the encoding genes (obtained from the increasing number of microbial genome sequences) in hosts such as E. coli, Pichia pastoris, or a filamentous fungus such as T. reesei. Proteins can also be purified from commercial enzyme cocktails (e.g., Multifect Xylanase, Novozyme 188). An increasing number of pure enzymes, including glycosyl hydrolases, cell wall-active esterases, proteases, and lyases, are available from commercial sources, e.g., Megazyme, Inc. (, NZYTech (, and PROZOMIX ( Design-Expert software (Stat-Ease, Inc.) is used to create simplex-lattice designs and to analyze responses (in this case, Glc and Xyl release). Mixtures contain 4-20 components, which can vary in proportion between 0 and 100%. Assay points typically include the extreme vertices with a sufficient number of intervening points to generate a valid model. In the terminology of experimental design, most of our studies are "mixture" experiments, meaning that the sum of all components adds to a total fixed protein loading (expressed as mg/g glucan). The number of mixtures in the simplex-lattice depends on both the number of components in the mixture and the degree of polynomial (quadratic or cubic). For example, a 6-component experiment will entail 63 separate reactions with an augmented special cubic model, which can detect three-way interactions, whereas only 23 individual reactions are necessary with an augmented quadratic model. For mixtures containing more than eight components, a quadratic experimental design is more practical, and in our experience such models are usually statistically valid. All enzyme loadings are expressed as a percentage of the final total loading (which for our experiments is typically 15 mg protein/g glucan). For "core" enzymes, the lower percentage limit is set to 5%. This limit was derived from our experience in which yields of Glc and/or Xyl were very low if any core enzyme was present at 0%. Poor models result from too many samples showing very low Glc or Xyl yields. Setting a lower limit in turn determines an upper limit. That is, for a six-component experiment, if the lower limit for each single component is set to 5%, then the upper limit of each single component will be 75%. The lower limits of all other enzymes considered as "accessory" are set to 0%. "Core" and "accessory" are somewhat arbitrary designations and will differ depending on the substrate, but in our studies the core enzymes for release of Glc from corn stover comprise the following enzymes from T. reesei: CBH1 (also known as Cel7A), CBH2 (Cel6A), EG1(Cel7B), BG (β-glucosidase), EX3 (endo-β1,4-xylanase, GH10), and BX (β-xylosidase).
Bioengineering, Issue 56, cellulase, cellobiohydrolase, glucanase, xylanase, hemicellulase, experimental design, biomass, bioenergy, corn stover, glycosyl hydrolase
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Amide Coupling Reaction for the Synthesis of Bispyridine-based Ligands and Their Complexation to Platinum as Dinuclear Anticancer Agents
Authors: Michael G. Apps, Ben W. Johnson, Oliver B. Sutcliffe, Sarah D. Brown, Nial J. Wheate.
Institutions: The University of Sydney, University of Western Sydney, Manchester Metropolitan University, Nature Publishing Group.
Amide coupling reactions can be used to synthesize bispyridine-based ligands for use as bridging linkers in multinuclear platinum anticancer drugs. Isonicotinic acid, or its derivatives, are coupled to variable length diaminoalkane chains under an inert atmosphere in anhydrous DMF or DMSO with the use of a weak base, triethylamine, and a coupling agent, 1-propylphosphonic anhydride. The products precipitate from solution upon formation or can be precipitated by the addition of water. If desired, the ligands can be further purified by recrystallization from hot water. Dinuclear platinum complex synthesis using the bispyridine ligands is done in hot water using transplatin. The most informative of the chemical characterization techniques to determine the structure and gross purity of both the bispyridine ligands and the final platinum complexes is 1H NMR with particular analysis of the aromatic region of the spectra (7-9 ppm). The platinum complexes have potential application as anticancer agents and the synthesis method can be modified to produce trinuclear and other multinuclear complexes with different hydrogen bonding functionality in the bridging ligand.
Chemistry, Issue 87, BBR3464, picoplatin, bispyridine, amide coupling, inorganic synthesis, cancer
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Anticancer Metal Complexes: Synthesis and Cytotoxicity Evaluation by the MTT Assay
Authors: Nitzan Ganot, Sigalit Meker, Lilia Reytman, Avia Tzubery, Edit Y. Tshuva.
Institutions: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Titanium (IV) and vanadium (V) complexes are highly potent anticancer agents. A challenge in their synthesis refers to their hydrolytic instability; therefore their preparation should be conducted under an inert atmosphere. Evaluation of the anticancer activity of these complexes can be achieved by the MTT assay. The MTT assay is a colorimetric viability assay based on enzymatic reduction of the MTT molecule to formazan when it is exposed to viable cells. The outcome of the reduction is a color change of the MTT molecule. Absorbance measurements relative to a control determine the percentage of remaining viable cancer cells following their treatment with varying concentrations of a tested compound, which is translated to the compound anticancer activity and its IC50 values. The MTT assay is widely common in cytotoxicity studies due to its accuracy, rapidity, and relative simplicity. Herein we present a detailed protocol for the synthesis of air sensitive metal based drugs and cell viability measurements, including preparation of the cell plates, incubation of the compounds with the cells, viability measurements using the MTT assay, and determination of IC50 values.
Medicine, Issue 81, Inorganic Chemicals, Therapeutics, Metals and Metallic Materials, anticancer drugs, cell viability, cisplatin, metal complex, cytotoxicity, HT-29, metal-based drugs, MTT assay, titanium (IV), vanadium (V)
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A Parasite Rescue and Transformation Assay for Antileishmanial Screening Against Intracellular Leishmania donovani Amastigotes in THP1 Human Acute Monocytic Leukemia Cell Line
Authors: Surendra K. Jain, Rajnish Sahu, Larry A. Walker, Babu L. Tekwani.
Institutions: University of Mississippi, University of Mississippi.
Leishmaniasis is one of the world's most neglected diseases, largely affecting the poorest of the poor, mainly in developing countries. Over 350 million people are considered at risk of contracting leishmaniasis, and approximately 2 million new cases occur yearly1. Leishmania donovani is the causative agent for visceral leishmaniasis (VL), the most fatal form of the disease. The choice of drugs available to treat leishmaniasis is limited 2;current treatments provide limited efficacy and many are toxic at therapeutic doses. In addition, most of the first line treatment drugs have already lost their utility due to increasing multiple drug resistance 3. The current pipeline of anti-leishmanial drugs is also severely depleted. Sustained efforts are needed to enrich a new anti-leishmanial drug discovery pipeline, and this endeavor relies on the availability of suitable in vitro screening models. In vitro promastigotes 4 and axenic amastigotes assays5 are primarily used for anti-leishmanial drug screening however, may not be appropriate due to significant cellular, physiological, biochemical and molecular differences in comparison to intracellular amastigotes. Assays with macrophage-amastigotes models are considered closest to the pathophysiological conditions of leishmaniasis, and are therefore the most appropriate for in vitro screening. Differentiated, non-dividing human acute monocytic leukemia cells (THP1) (make an attractive) alternative to isolated primary macrophages and can be used for assaying anti-leishmanial activity of different compounds against intracellular amastigotes. Here, we present a parasite-rescue and transformation assay with differentiated THP1 cells infected in vitro with Leishmania donovani for screening pure compounds and natural products extracts and determining the efficacy against the intracellular Leishmania amastigotes. The assay involves the following steps: (1) differentiation of THP1 cells to non-dividing macrophages, (2) infection of macrophages with L. donovani metacyclic promastigotes, (3) treatment of infected cells with test drugs, (4) controlled lysis of infected macrophages, (5) release/rescue of amastigotes and (6) transformation of live amastigotes to promastigotes. The assay was optimized using detergent treatment for controlled lysis of Leishmania-infected THP1 cells to achieve almost complete rescue of viable intracellular amastigotes with minimal effect on their ability to transform to promastigotes. Different macrophage:promastigotes ratios were tested to achieve maximum infection. Quantification of the infection was performed through transformation of live, rescued Leishmania amastigotes to promastigotes and evaluation of their growth by an alamarBlue fluorometric assay in 96-well microplates. This assay is comparable to the currently-used microscopic, transgenic reporter gene and digital-image analysis assays. This assay is robust and measures only the live intracellular amastigotes compared to reporter gene and image analysis assays, which may not differentiate between live and dead amastigotes. Also, the assay has been validated with a current panel of anti-leishmanial drugs and has been successfully applied to large-scale screening of pure compounds and a library of natural products fractions (Tekwani et al. unpublished).
Infection, Issue 70, Immunology, Infectious Diseases, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Pharmacology, Leishmania donovani, Visceral Leishmaniasis, THP1 cells, Drug Screening, Amastigotes, Antileishmanial drug assay
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Cell Death Associated with Abnormal Mitosis Observed by Confocal Imaging in Live Cancer Cells
Authors: Asher Castiel, Leonid Visochek, Leonid Mittelman, Yael Zilberstein, Francoise Dantzer, Shai Izraeli, Malka Cohen-Armon.
Institutions: Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv University, Ecole Superieure de Biotechnologie Strasbourg, Tel-Aviv University.
Phenanthrene derivatives acting as potent PARP1 inhibitors prevented the bi-focal clustering of supernumerary centrosomes in multi-centrosomal human cancer cells in mitosis. The phenanthridine PJ-34 was the most potent molecule. Declustering of extra-centrosomes causes mitotic failure and cell death in multi-centrosomal cells. Most solid human cancers have high occurrence of extra-centrosomes. The activity of PJ-34 was documented in real-time by confocal imaging of live human breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells transfected with vectors encoding for fluorescent γ-tubulin, which is highly abundant in the centrosomes and for fluorescent histone H2b present in the chromosomes. Aberrant chromosomes arrangements and de-clustered γ-tubulin foci representing declustered centrosomes were detected in the transfected MDA-MB-231 cells after treatment with PJ-34. Un-clustered extra-centrosomes in the two spindle poles preceded their cell death. These results linked for the first time the recently detected exclusive cytotoxic activity of PJ-34 in human cancer cells with extra-centrosomes de-clustering in mitosis, and mitotic failure leading to cell death. According to previous findings observed by confocal imaging of fixed cells, PJ-34 exclusively eradicated cancer cells with multi-centrosomes without impairing normal cells undergoing mitosis with two centrosomes and bi-focal spindles. This cytotoxic activity of PJ-34 was not shared by other potent PARP1 inhibitors, and was observed in PARP1 deficient MEF harboring extracentrosomes, suggesting its independency of PARP1 inhibition. Live confocal imaging offered a useful tool for identifying new molecules eradicating cells during mitosis.
Cancer Biology, Issue 78, Medicine, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Genetics, Neoplastic Processes, Pharmacologic Actions, Live confocal imaging, Extra-centrosomes clustering/de-clustering, Mitotic Catastrophe cell death, PJ-34, myocardial infarction, microscopy, imaging
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Assays for the Identification of Novel Antivirals against Bluetongue Virus
Authors: Linlin Gu, Stewart W. Schneller, Qianjun Li.
Institutions: University of Alabama at Birmingham, Auburn University.
To identify potential antivirals against BTV, we have developed, optimized and validated three assays presented here. The CPE-based assay was the first assay developed to evaluate whether a compound showed any antiviral efficacy and have been used to screen large compound library. Meanwhile, cytotoxicity of antivirals could also be evaluated using the CPE-based assay. The dose-response assay was designed to determine the range of efficacy for the selected antiviral, i.e. 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) or effective concentration (EC50), as well as its range of cytotoxicity (CC50). The ToA assay was employed for the initial MoA study to determine the underlying mechanism of the novel antivirals during BTV viral lifecycle or the possible effect on host cellular machinery. These assays are vital for the evaluation of antiviral efficacy in cell culture system, and have been used for our recent researches leading to the identification of a number of novel antivirals against BTV.
Immunology, Issue 80, Drug Discovery, Drug Evaluation, Preclinical, Evaluation Studies as Topic, Drug Evaluation, Feasibility Studies, Biological Assay, Technology, Pharmaceutical, High-Throughput Screening Assays, Animal Diseases, Investigative Techniques, Antiviral, Efficacy, Bluetongue Virus, Cytopathic effect, Dose response, Time-of-Addition, Mechanism-of-Action
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A cGMP-applicable Expansion Method for Aggregates of Human Neural Stem and Progenitor Cells Derived From Pluripotent Stem Cells or Fetal Brain Tissue
Authors: Brandon C. Shelley, Geneviève Gowing, Clive N. Svendsen.
Institutions: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
A cell expansion technique to amass large numbers of cells from a single specimen for research experiments and clinical trials would greatly benefit the stem cell community. Many current expansion methods are laborious and costly, and those involving complete dissociation may cause several stem and progenitor cell types to undergo differentiation or early senescence. To overcome these problems, we have developed an automated mechanical passaging method referred to as “chopping” that is simple and inexpensive. This technique avoids chemical or enzymatic dissociation into single cells and instead allows for the large-scale expansion of suspended, spheroid cultures that maintain constant cell/cell contact. The chopping method has primarily been used for fetal brain-derived neural progenitor cells or neurospheres, and has recently been published for use with neural stem cells derived from embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells. The procedure involves seeding neurospheres onto a tissue culture Petri dish and subsequently passing a sharp, sterile blade through the cells effectively automating the tedious process of manually mechanically dissociating each sphere. Suspending cells in culture provides a favorable surface area-to-volume ratio; as over 500,000 cells can be grown within a single neurosphere of less than 0.5 mm in diameter. In one T175 flask, over 50 million cells can grow in suspension cultures compared to only 15 million in adherent cultures. Importantly, the chopping procedure has been used under current good manufacturing practice (cGMP), permitting mass quantity production of clinical-grade cell products.
Neuroscience, Issue 88, neural progenitor cell, neural precursor cell, neural stem cell, passaging, neurosphere, chopping, stem cell, neuroscience, suspension culture, good manufacturing practice, GMP
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Enhancement of Apoptotic and Autophagic Induction by a Novel Synthetic C-1 Analogue of 7-deoxypancratistatin in Human Breast Adenocarcinoma and Neuroblastoma Cells with Tamoxifen
Authors: Dennis Ma, Jonathan Collins, Tomas Hudlicky, Siyaram Pandey.
Institutions: University of Windsor, Brock University.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers amongst women in North America. Many current anti-cancer treatments, including ionizing radiation, induce apoptosis via DNA damage. Unfortunately, such treatments are non-selective to cancer cells and produce similar toxicity in normal cells. We have reported selective induction of apoptosis in cancer cells by the natural compound pancratistatin (PST). Recently, a novel PST analogue, a C-1 acetoxymethyl derivative of 7-deoxypancratistatin (JCTH-4), was produced by de novo synthesis and it exhibits comparable selective apoptosis inducing activity in several cancer cell lines. Recently, autophagy has been implicated in malignancies as both pro-survival and pro-death mechanisms in response to chemotherapy. Tamoxifen (TAM) has invariably demonstrated induction of pro-survival autophagy in numerous cancers. In this study, the efficacy of JCTH-4 alone and in combination with TAM to induce cell death in human breast cancer (MCF7) and neuroblastoma (SH-SY5Y) cells was evaluated. TAM alone induced autophagy, but insignificant cell death whereas JCTH-4 alone caused significant induction of apoptosis with some induction of autophagy. Interestingly, the combinatory treatment yielded a drastic increase in apoptotic and autophagic induction. We monitored time-dependent morphological changes in MCF7 cells undergoing TAM-induced autophagy, JCTH-4-induced apoptosis and autophagy, and accelerated cell death with combinatorial treatment using time-lapse microscopy. We have demonstrated these compounds to induce apoptosis/autophagy by mitochondrial targeting in these cancer cells. Importantly, these treatments did not affect the survival of noncancerous human fibroblasts. Thus, these results indicate that JCTH-4 in combination with TAM could be used as a safe and very potent anti-cancer therapy against breast cancer and neuroblastoma cells.
Cancer Biology, Issue 63, Medicine, Biochemistry, Breast adenocarcinoma, neuroblastoma, tamoxifen, combination therapy, apoptosis, autophagy
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A Restriction Enzyme Based Cloning Method to Assess the In vitro Replication Capacity of HIV-1 Subtype C Gag-MJ4 Chimeric Viruses
Authors: Daniel T. Claiborne, Jessica L. Prince, Eric Hunter.
Institutions: Emory University, Emory University.
The protective effect of many HLA class I alleles on HIV-1 pathogenesis and disease progression is, in part, attributed to their ability to target conserved portions of the HIV-1 genome that escape with difficulty. Sequence changes attributed to cellular immune pressure arise across the genome during infection, and if found within conserved regions of the genome such as Gag, can affect the ability of the virus to replicate in vitro. Transmission of HLA-linked polymorphisms in Gag to HLA-mismatched recipients has been associated with reduced set point viral loads. We hypothesized this may be due to a reduced replication capacity of the virus. Here we present a novel method for assessing the in vitro replication of HIV-1 as influenced by the gag gene isolated from acute time points from subtype C infected Zambians. This method uses restriction enzyme based cloning to insert the gag gene into a common subtype C HIV-1 proviral backbone, MJ4. This makes it more appropriate to the study of subtype C sequences than previous recombination based methods that have assessed the in vitro replication of chronically derived gag-pro sequences. Nevertheless, the protocol could be readily modified for studies of viruses from other subtypes. Moreover, this protocol details a robust and reproducible method for assessing the replication capacity of the Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses on a CEM-based T cell line. This method was utilized for the study of Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses derived from 149 subtype C acutely infected Zambians, and has allowed for the identification of residues in Gag that affect replication. More importantly, the implementation of this technique has facilitated a deeper understanding of how viral replication defines parameters of early HIV-1 pathogenesis such as set point viral load and longitudinal CD4+ T cell decline.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 90, HIV-1, Gag, viral replication, replication capacity, viral fitness, MJ4, CEM, GXR25
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Characterization of Complex Systems Using the Design of Experiments Approach: Transient Protein Expression in Tobacco as a Case Study
Authors: Johannes Felix Buyel, Rainer Fischer.
Institutions: RWTH Aachen University, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.
Plants provide multiple benefits for the production of biopharmaceuticals including low costs, scalability, and safety. Transient expression offers the additional advantage of short development and production times, but expression levels can vary significantly between batches thus giving rise to regulatory concerns in the context of good manufacturing practice. We used a design of experiments (DoE) approach to determine the impact of major factors such as regulatory elements in the expression construct, plant growth and development parameters, and the incubation conditions during expression, on the variability of expression between batches. We tested plants expressing a model anti-HIV monoclonal antibody (2G12) and a fluorescent marker protein (DsRed). We discuss the rationale for selecting certain properties of the model and identify its potential limitations. The general approach can easily be transferred to other problems because the principles of the model are broadly applicable: knowledge-based parameter selection, complexity reduction by splitting the initial problem into smaller modules, software-guided setup of optimal experiment combinations and step-wise design augmentation. Therefore, the methodology is not only useful for characterizing protein expression in plants but also for the investigation of other complex systems lacking a mechanistic description. The predictive equations describing the interconnectivity between parameters can be used to establish mechanistic models for other complex systems.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, design of experiments (DoE), transient protein expression, plant-derived biopharmaceuticals, promoter, 5'UTR, fluorescent reporter protein, model building, incubation conditions, monoclonal antibody
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Protein WISDOM: A Workbench for In silico De novo Design of BioMolecules
Authors: James Smadbeck, Meghan B. Peterson, George A. Khoury, Martin S. Taylor, Christodoulos A. Floudas.
Institutions: Princeton University.
The aim of de novo protein design is to find the amino acid sequences that will fold into a desired 3-dimensional structure with improvements in specific properties, such as binding affinity, agonist or antagonist behavior, or stability, relative to the native sequence. Protein design lies at the center of current advances drug design and discovery. Not only does protein design provide predictions for potentially useful drug targets, but it also enhances our understanding of the protein folding process and protein-protein interactions. Experimental methods such as directed evolution have shown success in protein design. However, such methods are restricted by the limited sequence space that can be searched tractably. In contrast, computational design strategies allow for the screening of a much larger set of sequences covering a wide variety of properties and functionality. We have developed a range of computational de novo protein design methods capable of tackling several important areas of protein design. These include the design of monomeric proteins for increased stability and complexes for increased binding affinity. To disseminate these methods for broader use we present Protein WISDOM (, a tool that provides automated methods for a variety of protein design problems. Structural templates are submitted to initialize the design process. The first stage of design is an optimization sequence selection stage that aims at improving stability through minimization of potential energy in the sequence space. Selected sequences are then run through a fold specificity stage and a binding affinity stage. A rank-ordered list of the sequences for each step of the process, along with relevant designed structures, provides the user with a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the design. Here we provide the details of each design method, as well as several notable experimental successes attained through the use of the methods.
Genetics, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computational Biology, Genomics, Proteomics, Protein, Protein Binding, Computational Biology, Drug Design, optimization (mathematics), Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, De novo protein and peptide design, Drug design, In silico sequence selection, Optimization, Fold specificity, Binding affinity, sequencing
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Isolation and Quantification of Botulinum Neurotoxin From Complex Matrices Using the BoTest Matrix Assays
Authors: F. Mark Dunning, Timothy M. Piazza, Füsûn N. Zeytin, Ward C. Tucker.
Institutions: BioSentinel Inc., Madison, WI.
Accurate detection and quantification of botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) in complex matrices is required for pharmaceutical, environmental, and food sample testing. Rapid BoNT testing of foodstuffs is needed during outbreak forensics, patient diagnosis, and food safety testing while accurate potency testing is required for BoNT-based drug product manufacturing and patient safety. The widely used mouse bioassay for BoNT testing is highly sensitive but lacks the precision and throughput needed for rapid and routine BoNT testing. Furthermore, the bioassay's use of animals has resulted in calls by drug product regulatory authorities and animal-rights proponents in the US and abroad to replace the mouse bioassay for BoNT testing. Several in vitro replacement assays have been developed that work well with purified BoNT in simple buffers, but most have not been shown to be applicable to testing in highly complex matrices. Here, a protocol for the detection of BoNT in complex matrices using the BoTest Matrix assays is presented. The assay consists of three parts: The first part involves preparation of the samples for testing, the second part is an immunoprecipitation step using anti-BoNT antibody-coated paramagnetic beads to purify BoNT from the matrix, and the third part quantifies the isolated BoNT's proteolytic activity using a fluorogenic reporter. The protocol is written for high throughput testing in 96-well plates using both liquid and solid matrices and requires about 2 hr of manual preparation with total assay times of 4-26 hr depending on the sample type, toxin load, and desired sensitivity. Data are presented for BoNT/A testing with phosphate-buffered saline, a drug product, culture supernatant, 2% milk, and fresh tomatoes and includes discussion of critical parameters for assay success.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, Botulinum, food testing, detection, quantification, complex matrices, BoTest Matrix, Clostridium, potency testing
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A Manual Small Molecule Screen Approaching High-throughput Using Zebrafish Embryos
Authors: Shahram Jevin Poureetezadi, Eric K. Donahue, Rebecca A. Wingert.
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
Zebrafish have become a widely used model organism to investigate the mechanisms that underlie developmental biology and to study human disease pathology due to their considerable degree of genetic conservation with humans. Chemical genetics entails testing the effect that small molecules have on a biological process and is becoming a popular translational research method to identify therapeutic compounds. Zebrafish are specifically appealing to use for chemical genetics because of their ability to produce large clutches of transparent embryos, which are externally fertilized. Furthermore, zebrafish embryos can be easily drug treated by the simple addition of a compound to the embryo media. Using whole-mount in situ hybridization (WISH), mRNA expression can be clearly visualized within zebrafish embryos. Together, using chemical genetics and WISH, the zebrafish becomes a potent whole organism context in which to determine the cellular and physiological effects of small molecules. Innovative advances have been made in technologies that utilize machine-based screening procedures, however for many labs such options are not accessible or remain cost-prohibitive. The protocol described here explains how to execute a manual high-throughput chemical genetic screen that requires basic resources and can be accomplished by a single individual or small team in an efficient period of time. Thus, this protocol provides a feasible strategy that can be implemented by research groups to perform chemical genetics in zebrafish, which can be useful for gaining fundamental insights into developmental processes, disease mechanisms, and to identify novel compounds and signaling pathways that have medically relevant applications.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, zebrafish, chemical genetics, chemical screen, in vivo small molecule screen, drug discovery, whole mount in situ hybridization (WISH), high-throughput screening (HTS), high-content screening (HCS)
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Inhibitory Synapse Formation in a Co-culture Model Incorporating GABAergic Medium Spiny Neurons and HEK293 Cells Stably Expressing GABAA Receptors
Authors: Laura E. Brown, Celine Fuchs, Martin W. Nicholson, F. Anne Stephenson, Alex M. Thomson, Jasmina N. Jovanovic.
Institutions: University College London.
Inhibitory neurons act in the central nervous system to regulate the dynamics and spatio-temporal co-ordination of neuronal networks. GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is released from the presynaptic terminals of inhibitory neurons within highly specialized intercellular junctions known as synapses, where it binds to GABAA receptors (GABAARs) present at the plasma membrane of the synapse-receiving, postsynaptic neurons. Activation of these GABA-gated ion channels leads to influx of chloride resulting in postsynaptic potential changes that decrease the probability that these neurons will generate action potentials. During development, diverse types of inhibitory neurons with distinct morphological, electrophysiological and neurochemical characteristics have the ability to recognize their target neurons and form synapses which incorporate specific GABAARs subtypes. This principle of selective innervation of neuronal targets raises the question as to how the appropriate synaptic partners identify each other. To elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms, a novel in vitro co-culture model system was established, in which medium spiny GABAergic neurons, a highly homogenous population of neurons isolated from the embryonic striatum, were cultured with stably transfected HEK293 cell lines that express different GABAAR subtypes. Synapses form rapidly, efficiently and selectively in this system, and are easily accessible for quantification. Our results indicate that various GABAAR subtypes differ in their ability to promote synapse formation, suggesting that this reduced in vitro model system can be used to reproduce, at least in part, the in vivo conditions required for the recognition of the appropriate synaptic partners and formation of specific synapses. Here the protocols for culturing the medium spiny neurons and generating HEK293 cells lines expressing GABAARs are first described, followed by detailed instructions on how to combine these two cell types in co-culture and analyze the formation of synaptic contacts.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, Developmental neuroscience, synaptogenesis, synaptic inhibition, co-culture, stable cell lines, GABAergic, medium spiny neurons, HEK 293 cell line
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Engineering and Evolution of Synthetic Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) Gene Therapy Vectors via DNA Family Shuffling
Authors: Eike Kienle, Elena Senís, Kathleen Börner, Dominik Niopek, Ellen Wiedtke, Stefanie Grosse, Dirk Grimm.
Institutions: Heidelberg University, Heidelberg University.
Adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors represent some of the most potent and promising vehicles for therapeutic human gene transfer due to a unique combination of beneficial properties1. These include the apathogenicity of the underlying wildtype viruses and the highly advanced methodologies for production of high-titer, high-purity and clinical-grade recombinant vectors2. A further particular advantage of the AAV system over other viruses is the availability of a wealth of naturally occurring serotypes which differ in essential properties yet can all be easily engineered as vectors using a common protocol1,2. Moreover, a number of groups including our own have recently devised strategies to use these natural viruses as templates for the creation of synthetic vectors which either combine the assets of multiple input serotypes, or which enhance the properties of a single isolate. The respective technologies to achieve these goals are either DNA family shuffling3, i.e. fragmentation of various AAV capsid genes followed by their re-assembly based on partial homologies (typically >80% for most AAV serotypes), or peptide display4,5, i.e. insertion of usually seven amino acids into an exposed loop of the viral capsid where the peptide ideally mediates re-targeting to a desired cell type. For maximum success, both methods are applied in a high-throughput fashion whereby the protocols are up-scaled to yield libraries of around one million distinct capsid variants. Each clone is then comprised of a unique combination of numerous parental viruses (DNA shuffling approach) or contains a distinctive peptide within the same viral backbone (peptide display approach). The subsequent final step is iterative selection of such a library on target cells in order to enrich for individual capsids fulfilling most or ideally all requirements of the selection process. The latter preferably combines positive pressure, such as growth on a certain cell type of interest, with negative selection, for instance elimination of all capsids reacting with anti-AAV antibodies. This combination increases chances that synthetic capsids surviving the selection match the needs of the given application in a manner that would probably not have been found in any naturally occurring AAV isolate. Here, we focus on the DNA family shuffling method as the theoretically and experimentally more challenging of the two technologies. We describe and demonstrate all essential steps for the generation and selection of shuffled AAV libraries (Fig. 1), and then discuss the pitfalls and critical aspects of the protocols that one needs to be aware of in order to succeed with molecular AAV evolution.
Immunology, Issue 62, Adeno-associated virus, AAV, gene therapy, synthetic biology, viral vector, molecular evolution, DNA shuffling
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A Microplate Assay to Assess Chemical Effects on RBL-2H3 Mast Cell Degranulation: Effects of Triclosan without Use of an Organic Solvent
Authors: Lisa M. Weatherly, Rachel H. Kennedy, Juyoung Shim, Julie A. Gosse.
Institutions: University of Maine, Orono, University of Maine, Orono.
Mast cells play important roles in allergic disease and immune defense against parasites. Once activated (e.g. by an allergen), they degranulate, a process that results in the exocytosis of allergic mediators. Modulation of mast cell degranulation by drugs and toxicants may have positive or adverse effects on human health. Mast cell function has been dissected in detail with the use of rat basophilic leukemia mast cells (RBL-2H3), a widely accepted model of human mucosal mast cells3-5. Mast cell granule component and the allergic mediator β-hexosaminidase, which is released linearly in tandem with histamine from mast cells6, can easily and reliably be measured through reaction with a fluorogenic substrate, yielding measurable fluorescence intensity in a microplate assay that is amenable to high-throughput studies1. Originally published by Naal et al.1, we have adapted this degranulation assay for the screening of drugs and toxicants and demonstrate its use here. Triclosan is a broad-spectrum antibacterial agent that is present in many consumer products and has been found to be a therapeutic aid in human allergic skin disease7-11, although the mechanism for this effect is unknown. Here we demonstrate an assay for the effect of triclosan on mast cell degranulation. We recently showed that triclosan strongly affects mast cell function2. In an effort to avoid use of an organic solvent, triclosan is dissolved directly into aqueous buffer with heat and stirring, and resultant concentration is confirmed using UV-Vis spectrophotometry (using ε280 = 4,200 L/M/cm)12. This protocol has the potential to be used with a variety of chemicals to determine their effects on mast cell degranulation, and more broadly, their allergic potential.
Immunology, Issue 81, mast cell, basophil, degranulation, RBL-2H3, triclosan, irgasan, antibacterial, β-hexosaminidase, allergy, Asthma, toxicants, ionophore, antigen, fluorescence, microplate, UV-Vis
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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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Optimization and Utilization of Agrobacterium-mediated Transient Protein Production in Nicotiana
Authors: Moneim Shamloul, Jason Trusa, Vadim Mett, Vidadi Yusibov.
Institutions: Fraunhofer USA Center for Molecular Biotechnology.
Agrobacterium-mediated transient protein production in plants is a promising approach to produce vaccine antigens and therapeutic proteins within a short period of time. However, this technology is only just beginning to be applied to large-scale production as many technological obstacles to scale up are now being overcome. Here, we demonstrate a simple and reproducible method for industrial-scale transient protein production based on vacuum infiltration of Nicotiana plants with Agrobacteria carrying launch vectors. Optimization of Agrobacterium cultivation in AB medium allows direct dilution of the bacterial culture in Milli-Q water, simplifying the infiltration process. Among three tested species of Nicotiana, N. excelsiana (N. benthamiana × N. excelsior) was selected as the most promising host due to the ease of infiltration, high level of reporter protein production, and about two-fold higher biomass production under controlled environmental conditions. Induction of Agrobacterium harboring pBID4-GFP (Tobacco mosaic virus-based) using chemicals such as acetosyringone and monosaccharide had no effect on the protein production level. Infiltrating plant under 50 to 100 mbar for 30 or 60 sec resulted in about 95% infiltration of plant leaf tissues. Infiltration with Agrobacterium laboratory strain GV3101 showed the highest protein production compared to Agrobacteria laboratory strains LBA4404 and C58C1 and wild-type Agrobacteria strains at6, at10, at77 and A4. Co-expression of a viral RNA silencing suppressor, p23 or p19, in N. benthamiana resulted in earlier accumulation and increased production (15-25%) of target protein (influenza virus hemagglutinin).
Plant Biology, Issue 86, Agroinfiltration, Nicotiana benthamiana, transient protein production, plant-based expression, viral vector, Agrobacteria
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Enrichment of NK Cells from Human Blood with the RosetteSep Kit from StemCell Technologies
Authors: Christine Beeton, K. George Chandy.
Institutions: University of California, Irvine (UCI).
Natural killer (NK) cells are large granular cytotoxic lymphocytes that belong to the innate immune system and play major roles in fighting against cancer and infections, but are also implicated in the early stages of pregnancy and transplant rejection. These cells are present in peripheral blood, from which they can be isolated. Cells can be isolated using either positive or negative selection. For positive selection we use antibodies directed to a surface marker present only on the cells of interest whereas for negative selection we use cocktails of antibodies targeted to surface markers present on all cells but the cells of interest. This latter technique presents the advantage of leaving the cells of interest free of antibodies, thereby reducing the risk of unwanted cell activation or differenciation. In this video-protocol we demonstrate how to separate NK cells from human blood by negative selection, using the RosetteSep kit from StemCell technologies. The procedure involves obtaining human peripheral blood (under an institutional review board-approved protocol to protect the human subjects) and mixing it with a cocktail of antibodies that will bind to markers absent on NK cells, but present on all other mononuclear cells present in peripheral blood (e.g., T lymphocytes, monocytes...). The antibodies present in the cocktail are conjugated to antibodies directed to glycophorin A on erythrocytes. All unwanted cells and red blood cells will therefore be trapped in complexes. The mix of blood and antibody cocktail is then diluted, overlayed on a Histopaque gradient, and centrifuged. NK cells (>80% pure) can be collected at the interface between the Histopaque and the diluted plasma. Similar cocktails are available for enrichment of other cell populations, such as human T lymphocytes.
Immunology, issue 8, blood, cell isolation, natural killer, lymphocyte, primary cells, negative selection, PBMC, Ficoll gradient, cell separation
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A Protocol for Detecting and Scavenging Gas-phase Free Radicals in Mainstream Cigarette Smoke
Authors: Long-Xi Yu, Boris G. Dzikovski, Jack H. Freed.
Institutions: CDCF-AOX Lab, Cornell University.
Cigarette smoking is associated with human cancers. It has been reported that most of the lung cancer deaths are caused by cigarette smoking 5,6,7,12. Although tobacco tars and related products in the particle phase of cigarette smoke are major causes of carcinogenic and mutagenic related diseases, cigarette smoke contains significant amounts of free radicals that are also considered as an important group of carcinogens9,10. Free radicals attack cell constituents by damaging protein structure, lipids and DNA sequences and increase the risks of developing various types of cancers. Inhaled radicals produce adducts that contribute to many of the negative health effects of tobacco smoke in the lung3. Studies have been conducted to reduce free radicals in cigarette smoke to decrease risks of the smoking-induced damage. It has been reported that haemoglobin and heme-containing compounds could partially scavenge nitric oxide, reactive oxidants and carcinogenic volatile nitrosocompounds of cigarette smoke4. A 'bio-filter' consisted of haemoglobin and activated carbon was used to scavenge the free radicals and to remove up to 90% of the free radicals from cigarette smoke14. However, due to the cost-ineffectiveness, it has not been successfully commercialized. Another study showed good scavenging efficiency of shikonin, a component of Chinese herbal medicine8. In the present study, we report a protocol for introducing common natural antioxidant extracts into the cigarette filter for scavenging gas phase free radicals in cigarette smoke and measurement of the scavenge effect on gas phase free radicals in mainstream cigarette smoke (MCS) using spin-trapping Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) Spectroscopy1,2,14. We showed high scavenging capacity of lycopene and grape seed extract which could point to their future application in cigarette filters. An important advantage of these prospective scavengers is that they can be obtained in large quantities from byproducts of tomato or wine industry respectively11,13
Bioengineering, Issue 59, Cigarette smoke, free radical, spin-trap, ESR
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Interview: Glycolipid Antigen Presentation by CD1d and the Therapeutic Potential of NKT cell Activation
Authors: Mitchell Kronenberg.
Institutions: La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology.
Natural Killer T cells (NKT) are critical determinants of the immune response to cancer, regulation of autioimmune disease, clearance of infectious agents, and the development of artheriosclerotic plaques. In this interview, Mitch Kronenberg discusses his laboratory's efforts to understand the mechanism through which NKT cells are activated by glycolipid antigens. Central to these studies is CD1d - the antigen presenting molecule that presents glycolipids to NKT cells. The advent of CD1d tetramer technology, a technique developed by the Kronenberg lab, is critical for the sorting and identification of subsets of specific glycolipid-reactive T cells. Mitch explains how glycolipid agonists are being used as therapeutic agents to activate NKT cells in cancer patients and how CD1d tetramers can be used to assess the state of the NKT cell population in vivo following glycolipid agonist therapy. Current status of ongoing clinical trials using these agonists are discussed as well as Mitch's prediction for areas in the field of immunology that will have emerging importance in the near future.
Immunology, Issue 10, Natural Killer T cells, NKT cells, CD1 Tetramers, antigen presentation, glycolipid antigens, CD1d, Mucosal Immunity, Translational Research
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