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The zinc finger protein Zfr1p is localized specifically to conjugation junction and required for sexual development in Tetrahymena thermophila.
Conjugation in Tetrahymena thermophila involves a developmental program consisting of three prezygotic nuclear divisions, pronuclear exchange and fusion, and postzygotic and exconjugant stages. The conjugation junction structure appears during the initiation of conjugation development, and disappears during the exconjugant stage. Many structural and functional proteins are involved in the establishment and maintenance of the junction structure in T. thermophila. In the present study, a zinc finger protein-encoding gene ZFR1 was found to be expressed specifically during conjugation and to localize specifically to the conjugation junction region. Truncated Zfr1p localized at the plasma membrane in ordered arrays and decorated Golgi apparatus located adjacent to basal body. The N-terminal zinc finger and C-terminal hydrophobic domains of Zfr1p were found to be required for its specific conjugation junction localization. Conjugation development of ZFR1 somatic knockout cells was aborted at the pronuclear exchange and fusion conjugation stages. Furthermore, Zfr1p was found to be important for conjugation junction stability during the prezygotic nuclear division stage. Taken together, our data reveal that Zfr1p is required for the stability and integrity of the conjugation junction structure and essential for the sexual life cycle of the Tetrahymena cell.
Authors: Kristen E. Murfin, John Chaston, Heidi Goodrich-Blair.
Published: 10-19-2012
Symbioses, the living together of two or more organisms, are widespread throughout all kingdoms of life. As two of the most ubiquitous organisms on earth, nematodes and bacteria form a wide array of symbiotic associations that range from beneficial to pathogenic 1-3. One such association is the mutually beneficial relationship between Xenorhabdus bacteria and Steinernema nematodes, which has emerged as a model system of symbiosis 4. Steinernema nematodes are entomopathogenic, using their bacterial symbiont to kill insects 5. For transmission between insect hosts, the bacteria colonize the intestine of the nematode's infective juvenile stage 6-8. Recently, several other nematode species have been shown to utilize bacteria to kill insects 9-13, and investigations have begun examining the interactions between the nematodes and bacteria in these systems 9. We describe a method for visualization of a bacterial symbiont within or on a nematode host, taking advantage of the optical transparency of nematodes when viewed by microscopy. The bacteria are engineered to express a fluorescent protein, allowing their visualization by fluorescence microscopy. Many plasmids are available that carry genes encoding proteins that fluoresce at different wavelengths (i.e. green or red), and conjugation of plasmids from a donor Escherichia coli strain into a recipient bacterial symbiont is successful for a broad range of bacteria. The methods described were developed to investigate the association between Steinernema carpocapsae and Xenorhabdus nematophila 14. Similar methods have been used to investigate other nematode-bacterium associations 9,15-18and the approach therefore is generally applicable. The method allows characterization of bacterial presence and localization within nematodes at different stages of development, providing insights into the nature of the association and the process of colonization 14,16,19. Microscopic analysis reveals both colonization frequency within a population and localization of bacteria to host tissues 14,16,19-21. This is an advantage over other methods of monitoring bacteria within nematode populations, such as sonication 22or grinding 23, which can provide average levels of colonization, but may not, for example, discriminate populations with a high frequency of low symbiont loads from populations with a low frequency of high symbiont loads. Discriminating the frequency and load of colonizing bacteria can be especially important when screening or characterizing bacterial mutants for colonization phenotypes 21,24. Indeed, fluorescence microscopy has been used in high throughput screening of bacterial mutants for defects in colonization 17,18, and is less laborious than other methods, including sonication 22,25-27and individual nematode dissection 28,29.
23 Related JoVE Articles!
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Mapping Bacterial Functional Networks and Pathways in Escherichia Coli using Synthetic Genetic Arrays
Authors: Alla Gagarinova, Mohan Babu, Jack Greenblatt, Andrew Emili.
Institutions: University of Toronto, University of Toronto, University of Regina.
Phenotypes are determined by a complex series of physical (e.g. protein-protein) and functional (e.g. gene-gene or genetic) interactions (GI)1. While physical interactions can indicate which bacterial proteins are associated as complexes, they do not necessarily reveal pathway-level functional relationships1. GI screens, in which the growth of double mutants bearing two deleted or inactivated genes is measured and compared to the corresponding single mutants, can illuminate epistatic dependencies between loci and hence provide a means to query and discover novel functional relationships2. Large-scale GI maps have been reported for eukaryotic organisms like yeast3-7, but GI information remains sparse for prokaryotes8, which hinders the functional annotation of bacterial genomes. To this end, we and others have developed high-throughput quantitative bacterial GI screening methods9, 10. Here, we present the key steps required to perform quantitative E. coli Synthetic Genetic Array (eSGA) screening procedure on a genome-scale9, using natural bacterial conjugation and homologous recombination to systemically generate and measure the fitness of large numbers of double mutants in a colony array format. Briefly, a robot is used to transfer, through conjugation, chloramphenicol (Cm) - marked mutant alleles from engineered Hfr (High frequency of recombination) 'donor strains' into an ordered array of kanamycin (Kan) - marked F- recipient strains. Typically, we use loss-of-function single mutants bearing non-essential gene deletions (e.g. the 'Keio' collection11) and essential gene hypomorphic mutations (i.e. alleles conferring reduced protein expression, stability, or activity9, 12, 13) to query the functional associations of non-essential and essential genes, respectively. After conjugation and ensuing genetic exchange mediated by homologous recombination, the resulting double mutants are selected on solid medium containing both antibiotics. After outgrowth, the plates are digitally imaged and colony sizes are quantitatively scored using an in-house automated image processing system14. GIs are revealed when the growth rate of a double mutant is either significantly better or worse than expected9. Aggravating (or negative) GIs often result between loss-of-function mutations in pairs of genes from compensatory pathways that impinge on the same essential process2. Here, the loss of a single gene is buffered, such that either single mutant is viable. However, the loss of both pathways is deleterious and results in synthetic lethality or sickness (i.e. slow growth). Conversely, alleviating (or positive) interactions can occur between genes in the same pathway or protein complex2 as the deletion of either gene alone is often sufficient to perturb the normal function of the pathway or complex such that additional perturbations do not reduce activity, and hence growth, further. Overall, systematically identifying and analyzing GI networks can provide unbiased, global maps of the functional relationships between large numbers of genes, from which pathway-level information missed by other approaches can be inferred9.
Genetics, Issue 69, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Aggravating, alleviating, conjugation, double mutant, Escherichia coli, genetic interaction, Gram-negative bacteria, homologous recombination, network, synthetic lethality or sickness, suppression
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Methods to Assess Subcellular Compartments of Muscle in C. elegans
Authors: Christopher J. Gaffney, Joseph J. Bass, Thomas F. Barratt, Nathaniel J. Szewczyk.
Institutions: University of Nottingham.
Muscle is a dynamic tissue that responds to changes in nutrition, exercise, and disease state. The loss of muscle mass and function with disease and age are significant public health burdens. We currently understand little about the genetic regulation of muscle health with disease or age. The nematode C. elegans is an established model for understanding the genomic regulation of biological processes of interest. This worm’s body wall muscles display a large degree of homology with the muscles of higher metazoan species. Since C. elegans is a transparent organism, the localization of GFP to mitochondria and sarcomeres allows visualization of these structures in vivo. Similarly, feeding animals cationic dyes, which accumulate based on the existence of a mitochondrial membrane potential, allows the assessment of mitochondrial function in vivo. These methods, as well as assessment of muscle protein homeostasis, are combined with assessment of whole animal muscle function, in the form of movement assays, to allow correlation of sub-cellular defects with functional measures of muscle performance. Thus, C. elegans provides a powerful platform with which to assess the impact of mutations, gene knockdown, and/or chemical compounds upon muscle structure and function. Lastly, as GFP, cationic dyes, and movement assays are assessed non-invasively, prospective studies of muscle structure and function can be conducted across the whole life course and this at present cannot be easily investigated in vivo in any other organism.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, Physiology, C. elegans, muscle, mitochondria, sarcomeres, ageing
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Production of Apolipoprotein C-III Knockout Rabbits using Zinc Finger Nucleases
Authors: Dongshan Yang, Jifeng Zhang, Jie Xu, Tianqing Zhu, Yanbo Fan, Jianglin Fan, Y. Eugene Chen.
Institutions: University of Michigan Medical Center, University of Yamanashi.
Apolipoprotein (Apo) C-III (ApoCIII) resides on the surface of plasma chylomicron (CM), very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL). It has been recognized that high levels of plasma ApoCIII constitutea risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Elevated plasma ApoCIII level often correlates with insulin resistance, obesity, and hypertriglyceridemia. Invaluable knowledge on the roles of ApoCIIIin lipid metabolisms and CVD has been obtained from transgenic mouse models including ApoCIII knockout (KO) mice; however, it is noted that the metabolism of lipoprotein in mice is different from that of humans in many aspects. It is not known until now whether elevated plasma ApoCIII is directly atherogenic. We worked to develop ApoCIII KO rabbits in the present study based on the hypothesis that rabbits can serve as a reasonablemodelfor studying human lipid metabolism and atherosclerosis. Zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) sets targeting rabbit ApoCIIIgene were subjected to in vitro validation prior to embryo microinjection. The mRNA was injected to the cytoplasm of 35 rabbit pronuclear stage embryos, and evaluated the mutation rates at the blastocyst state. Of sixteen blastocysts that were assayed, a satisfactory 50% mutation rate (8/16) at the targeting site was achieved, supporting the use of Set 1 for in vivo experiments. Next, we microinjected 145 embryos with Set 1 mRNA, and transferred these embryos to 7 recipient rabbits. After 30 days gestation, 21 kits were born, out of which five were confirmed as ApoCIII KO rabbits after PCR sequencing assays. The KO animal rate (#KO kits/total born) was 23.8%. The overall production efficiency is 3.4% (5 kits/145 embryos transferred). The present work demonstrated that ZFN is a highly efficient method to produce KO rabbits. These ApoCIII KO rabbits are novel resources to study the roles of ApoCIII in lipid metabolisms.
Medicine, Issue 81, Apolipoprotein C-III, rabbits, knockout, zinc finger nuclease, cardiovascular diseases, lipid metabolism, ApoCIII
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Optimized Negative Staining: a High-throughput Protocol for Examining Small and Asymmetric Protein Structure by Electron Microscopy
Authors: Matthew Rames, Yadong Yu, Gang Ren.
Institutions: The Molecular Foundry.
Structural determination of proteins is rather challenging for proteins with molecular masses between 40 - 200 kDa. Considering that more than half of natural proteins have a molecular mass between 40 - 200 kDa1,2, a robust and high-throughput method with a nanometer resolution capability is needed. Negative staining (NS) electron microscopy (EM) is an easy, rapid, and qualitative approach which has frequently been used in research laboratories to examine protein structure and protein-protein interactions. Unfortunately, conventional NS protocols often generate structural artifacts on proteins, especially with lipoproteins that usually form presenting rouleaux artifacts. By using images of lipoproteins from cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) as a standard, the key parameters in NS specimen preparation conditions were recently screened and reported as the optimized NS protocol (OpNS), a modified conventional NS protocol 3 . Artifacts like rouleaux can be greatly limited by OpNS, additionally providing high contrast along with reasonably high‐resolution (near 1 nm) images of small and asymmetric proteins. These high-resolution and high contrast images are even favorable for an individual protein (a single object, no average) 3D reconstruction, such as a 160 kDa antibody, through the method of electron tomography4,5. Moreover, OpNS can be a high‐throughput tool to examine hundreds of samples of small proteins. For example, the previously published mechanism of 53 kDa cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) involved the screening and imaging of hundreds of samples 6. Considering cryo-EM rarely successfully images proteins less than 200 kDa has yet to publish any study involving screening over one hundred sample conditions, it is fair to call OpNS a high-throughput method for studying small proteins. Hopefully the OpNS protocol presented here can be a useful tool to push the boundaries of EM and accelerate EM studies into small protein structure, dynamics and mechanisms.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 90, small and asymmetric protein structure, electron microscopy, optimized negative staining
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Setting-up an In Vitro Model of Rat Blood-brain Barrier (BBB): A Focus on BBB Impermeability and Receptor-mediated Transport
Authors: Yves Molino, Françoise Jabès, Emmanuelle Lacassagne, Nicolas Gaudin, Michel Khrestchatisky.
Institutions: VECT-HORUS SAS, CNRS, NICN UMR 7259.
The blood brain barrier (BBB) specifically regulates molecular and cellular flux between the blood and the nervous tissue. Our aim was to develop and characterize a highly reproducible rat syngeneic in vitro model of the BBB using co-cultures of primary rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC) and astrocytes to study receptors involved in transcytosis across the endothelial cell monolayer. Astrocytes were isolated by mechanical dissection following trypsin digestion and were frozen for later co-culture. RBEC were isolated from 5-week-old rat cortices. The brains were cleaned of meninges and white matter, and mechanically dissociated following enzymatic digestion. Thereafter, the tissue homogenate was centrifuged in bovine serum albumin to separate vessel fragments from nervous tissue. The vessel fragments underwent a second enzymatic digestion to free endothelial cells from their extracellular matrix. The remaining contaminating cells such as pericytes were further eliminated by plating the microvessel fragments in puromycin-containing medium. They were then passaged onto filters for co-culture with astrocytes grown on the bottom of the wells. RBEC expressed high levels of tight junction (TJ) proteins such as occludin, claudin-5 and ZO-1 with a typical localization at the cell borders. The transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of brain endothelial monolayers, indicating the tightness of TJs reached 300 ohm·cm2 on average. The endothelial permeability coefficients (Pe) for lucifer yellow (LY) was highly reproducible with an average of 0.26 ± 0.11 x 10-3 cm/min. Brain endothelial cells organized in monolayers expressed the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp), showed a polarized transport of rhodamine 123, a ligand for P-gp, and showed specific transport of transferrin-Cy3 and DiILDL across the endothelial cell monolayer. In conclusion, we provide a protocol for setting up an in vitro BBB model that is highly reproducible due to the quality assurance methods, and that is suitable for research on BBB transporters and receptors.
Medicine, Issue 88, rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC), mouse, spinal cord, tight junction (TJ), receptor-mediated transport (RMT), low density lipoprotein (LDL), LDLR, transferrin, TfR, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER),
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Identification of Novel Genes Associated with Alginate Production in Pseudomonas aeruginosa Using Mini-himar1 Mariner Transposon-mediated Mutagenesis
Authors: T. Ryan Withers, Yeshi Yin, Hongwei D. Yu.
Institutions: Marshall University.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa is a Gram-negative, environmental bacterium with versatile metabolic capabilities. P. aeruginosa is an opportunistic bacterial pathogen which establishes chronic pulmonary infections in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF). The overproduction of a capsular polysaccharide called alginate, also known as mucoidy, promotes the formation of mucoid biofilms which are more resistant than planktonic cells to antibiotic chemotherapy and host defenses. Additionally, the conversion from the nonmucoid to mucoid phenotype is a clinical marker for the onset of chronic infection in CF. Alginate overproduction by P. aeruginosa is an endergonic process which heavily taxes cellular energy. Therefore, alginate production is highly regulated in P. aeruginosa. To better understand alginate regulation, we describe a protocol using the mini-himar1 transposon mutagenesis for the identification of novel alginate regulators in a prototypic strain PAO1. The procedure consists of two basic steps. First, we transferred the mini-himar1 transposon (pFAC) from host E. coli SM10/λpir into recipient P. aeruginosa PAO1 via biparental conjugation to create a high-density insertion mutant library, which were selected on Pseudomonas isolation agar plates supplemented with gentamycin. Secondly, we screened and isolated the mucoid colonies to map the insertion site through inverse PCR using DNA primers pointing outward from the gentamycin cassette and DNA sequencing. Using this protocol, we have identified two novel alginate regulators, mucE (PA4033) and kinB (PA5484), in strain PAO1 with a wild-type mucA encoding the anti-sigma factor MucA for the master alginate regulator AlgU (AlgT, σ22). This high-throughput mutagenesis protocol can be modified for the identification of other virulence-related genes causing change in colony morphology.
Immunology, Issue 85, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, alginate, mucoidy, mutagenesis, mini-himar1 mariner transposon, pFAC
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Linear Amplification Mediated PCR – Localization of Genetic Elements and Characterization of Unknown Flanking DNA
Authors: Richard Gabriel, Ina Kutschera, Cynthia C Bartholomae, Christof von Kalle, Manfred Schmidt.
Institutions: National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) and German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).
Linear-amplification mediated PCR (LAM-PCR) has been developed to study hematopoiesis in gene corrected cells of patients treated by gene therapy with integrating vector systems. Due to the stable integration of retroviral vectors, integration sites can be used to study the clonal fate of individual cells and their progeny. LAM- PCR for the first time provided evidence that leukemia in gene therapy treated patients originated from provirus induced overexpression of a neighboring proto-oncogene. The high sensitivity and specificity of LAM-PCR compared to existing methods like inverse PCR and ligation mediated (LM)-PCR is achieved by an initial preamplification step (linear PCR of 100 cycles) using biotinylated vector specific primers which allow subsequent reaction steps to be carried out on solid phase (magnetic beads). LAM-PCR is currently the most sensitive method available to identify unknown DNA which is located in the proximity of known DNA. Recently, a variant of LAM-PCR has been developed that circumvents restriction digest thus abrogating retrieval bias of integration sites and enables a comprehensive analysis of provirus locations in host genomes. The following protocol explains step-by-step the amplification of both 3’- and 5’- sequences adjacent to the integrated lentiviral vector.
Genetics, Issue 88, gene therapy, integrome, integration site analysis, LAM-PCR, retroviral vectors, lentiviral vectors, AAV, deep sequencing, clonal inventory, mutagenesis screen
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Analysis of Nephron Composition and Function in the Adult Zebrafish Kidney
Authors: Kristen K. McCampbell, Kristin N. Springer, Rebecca A. Wingert.
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish model has emerged as a relevant system to study kidney development, regeneration and disease. Both the embryonic and adult zebrafish kidneys are composed of functional units known as nephrons, which are highly conserved with other vertebrates, including mammals. Research in zebrafish has recently demonstrated that two distinctive phenomena transpire after adult nephrons incur damage: first, there is robust regeneration within existing nephrons that replaces the destroyed tubule epithelial cells; second, entirely new nephrons are produced from renal progenitors in a process known as neonephrogenesis. In contrast, humans and other mammals seem to have only a limited ability for nephron epithelial regeneration. To date, the mechanisms responsible for these kidney regeneration phenomena remain poorly understood. Since adult zebrafish kidneys undergo both nephron epithelial regeneration and neonephrogenesis, they provide an outstanding experimental paradigm to study these events. Further, there is a wide range of genetic and pharmacological tools available in the zebrafish model that can be used to delineate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate renal regeneration. One essential aspect of such research is the evaluation of nephron structure and function. This protocol describes a set of labeling techniques that can be used to gauge renal composition and test nephron functionality in the adult zebrafish kidney. Thus, these methods are widely applicable to the future phenotypic characterization of adult zebrafish kidney injury paradigms, which include but are not limited to, nephrotoxicant exposure regimes or genetic methods of targeted cell death such as the nitroreductase mediated cell ablation technique. Further, these methods could be used to study genetic perturbations in adult kidney formation and could also be applied to assess renal status during chronic disease modeling.
Cellular Biology, Issue 90, zebrafish; kidney; nephron; nephrology; renal; regeneration; proximal tubule; distal tubule; segment; mesonephros; physiology; acute kidney injury (AKI)
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Zinc-finger Nuclease Enhanced Gene Targeting in Human Embryonic Stem Cells
Authors: Brigham J. Hartley, Stewart A. Fabb, Ben A.L. Finnin, John M. Haynes, Colin W. Pouton.
Institutions: Monash University.
One major limitation with current human embryonic stem cell (ESC) differentiation protocols is the generation of heterogeneous cell populations. These cultures contain the cells of interest, but are also contaminated with undifferentiated ESCs, non-neural derivatives and other neuronal subtypes.  This limits their use in in vitro and in vivo applications, such as in vitro modeling for drug discovery or cell replacement therapy. To help overcome this, reporter cell lines, which offer a means to visualize, track and isolate cells of interest, can be engineered. However, to achieve this in human embryonic stem cells via conventional homologous recombination is extremely inefficient. This protocol describes targeting of the Pituitary homeobox 3 (PITX3) locus in human embryonic stem cells using custom designed zinc-finger nucleases, which introduce site-specific double-strand DNA breaks, together with a PITX3-EGFP-specific DNA donor vector. Following the generation of the PITX3 reporter cell line, it can then be differentiated using published protocols for use in studies such as in vitro Parkinson’s disease modeling or cell replacement therapy.
Molecular Biology, Issue 90, Electroporation, human embryonic stem cell, genome editing, reporter cell line, midbrain dopaminergic neurons
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Ex vivo Culture of Drosophila Pupal Testis and Single Male Germ-line Cysts: Dissection, Imaging, and Pharmacological Treatment
Authors: Stefanie M. K. Gärtner, Christina Rathke, Renate Renkawitz-Pohl, Stephan Awe.
Institutions: Philipps-Universität Marburg, Philipps-Universität Marburg.
During spermatogenesis in mammals and in Drosophila melanogaster, male germ cells develop in a series of essential developmental processes. This includes differentiation from a stem cell population, mitotic amplification, and meiosis. In addition, post-meiotic germ cells undergo a dramatic morphological reshaping process as well as a global epigenetic reconfiguration of the germ line chromatin—the histone-to-protamine switch. Studying the role of a protein in post-meiotic spermatogenesis using mutagenesis or other genetic tools is often impeded by essential embryonic, pre-meiotic, or meiotic functions of the protein under investigation. The post-meiotic phenotype of a mutant of such a protein could be obscured through an earlier developmental block, or the interpretation of the phenotype could be complicated. The model organism Drosophila melanogaster offers a bypass to this problem: intact testes and even cysts of germ cells dissected from early pupae are able to develop ex vivo in culture medium. Making use of such cultures allows microscopic imaging of living germ cells in testes and of germ-line cysts. Importantly, the cultivated testes and germ cells also become accessible to pharmacological inhibitors, thereby permitting manipulation of enzymatic functions during spermatogenesis, including post-meiotic stages. The protocol presented describes how to dissect and cultivate pupal testes and germ-line cysts. Information on the development of pupal testes and culture conditions are provided alongside microscope imaging data of live testes and germ-line cysts in culture. We also describe a pharmacological assay to study post-meiotic spermatogenesis, exemplified by an assay targeting the histone-to-protamine switch using the histone acetyltransferase inhibitor anacardic acid. In principle, this cultivation method could be adapted to address many other research questions in pre- and post-meiotic spermatogenesis.
Developmental Biology, Issue 91, Ex vivo culture, testis, male germ-line cells, Drosophila, imaging, pharmacological assay
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A Novel Method for Localizing Reporter Fluorescent Beads Near the Cell Culture Surface for Traction Force Microscopy
Authors: Samantha G. Knoll, M. Yakut Ali, M. Taher A. Saif.
Institutions: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
PA gels have long been used as a platform to study cell traction forces due to ease of fabrication and the ability to tune their elastic properties. When the substrate is coated with an extracellular matrix protein, cells adhere to the gel and apply forces, causing the gel to deform. The deformation depends on the cell traction and the elastic properties of the gel. If the deformation field of the surface is known, surface traction can be calculated using elasticity theory. Gel deformation is commonly measured by embedding fluorescent marker beads uniformly into the gel. The probes displace as the gel deforms. The probes near the surface of the gel are tracked. The displacements reported by these probes are considered as surface displacements. Their depths from the surface are ignored. This assumption introduces error in traction force evaluations. For precise measurement of cell forces, it is critical for the location of the beads to be known. We have developed a technique that utilizes simple chemistry to confine fluorescent marker beads, 0.1 and 1 µm in diameter, in PA gels, within 1.6 μm of the surface. We coat a coverslip with poly-D-lysine (PDL) and fluorescent beads. PA gel solution is then sandwiched between the coverslip and an adherent surface. The fluorescent beads transfer to the gel solution during curing. After polymerization, the PA gel contains fluorescent beads on a plane close to the gel surface.
Bioengineering, Issue 91, cell mechanics, polyacrylamide (PA) gel, traction force microscopy, fluorescent beads, poly-D-lysine (PDL), cell culture surface
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Mouse Genome Engineering Using Designer Nucleases
Authors: Mario Hermann, Tomas Cermak, Daniel F. Voytas, Pawel Pelczar.
Institutions: University of Zurich, University of Minnesota.
Transgenic mice carrying site-specific genome modifications (knockout, knock-in) are of vital importance for dissecting complex biological systems as well as for modeling human diseases and testing therapeutic strategies. Recent advances in the use of designer nucleases such as zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs), transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), and the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated (Cas) 9 system for site-specific genome engineering open the possibility to perform rapid targeted genome modification in virtually any laboratory species without the need to rely on embryonic stem (ES) cell technology. A genome editing experiment typically starts with identification of designer nuclease target sites within a gene of interest followed by construction of custom DNA-binding domains to direct nuclease activity to the investigator-defined genomic locus. Designer nuclease plasmids are in vitro transcribed to generate mRNA for microinjection of fertilized mouse oocytes. Here, we provide a protocol for achieving targeted genome modification by direct injection of TALEN mRNA into fertilized mouse oocytes.
Genetics, Issue 86, Oocyte microinjection, Designer nucleases, ZFN, TALEN, Genome Engineering
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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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IP-FCM: Immunoprecipitation Detected by Flow Cytometry
Authors: Tessa R. Davis, Adam G. Schrum.
Institutions: Mayo Clinic.
Immunoprecipitation detected by flow cytometry (IP-FCM) is an efficient method for detecting and quantifying protein-protein interactions. The basic principle extends that of sandwich ELISA, wherein the captured primary analyte can be detected together with other molecules physically associated within multiprotein complexes. The procedure involves covalent coupling of polystyrene latex microbeads with immunoprecipitating monoclonal antibodies (mAb) specific for a protein of interest, incubating these beads with cell lysates, probing captured protein complexes with fluorochrome-conjugated probes, and analyzing bead-associated fluorescence by flow cytometry. IP-FCM is extremely sensitive, allows analysis of proteins in their native (non-denatured) state, and is amenable to either semi-quantitative or quantitative analysis. As additional advantages, IP-FCM requires no genetic engineering or specialized equipment, other than a flow cytometer, and it can be readily adapted for high-throughput applications.
Cellular Biology, Issue 46, immunoprecipitation, flow cytometry, protein-protein interaction, multiprotein complex
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Preparation of Complaint Matrices for Quantifying Cellular Contraction
Authors: Yvonne Aratyn-Schaus, Patrick W. Oakes, Jonathan Stricker, Stephen P. Winter, Margaret L. Gardel.
Institutions: University of Chicago, University of Chicago, University of Chicago.
The regulation of cellular adhesion to the extracellular matrix (ECM) is essential for cell migration and ECM remodeling. Focal adhesions are macromolecular assemblies that couple the contractile F-actin cytoskeleton to the ECM. This connection allows for the transmission of intracellular mechanical forces across the cell membrane to the underlying substrate. Recent work has shown the mechanical properties of the ECM regulate focal adhesion and F-actin morphology as well as numerous physiological processes, including cell differentiation, division, proliferation and migration. Thus, the use of cell culture substrates has become an increasingly prevalent method to precisely control and modulate ECM mechanical properties. To quantify traction forces at focal adhesions in an adherent cell, compliant substrates are used in conjunction with high-resolution imaging and computational techniques in a method termed traction force microscopy (TFM). This technique relies on measurements of the local magnitude and direction of substrate deformations induced by cellular contraction. In combination with high-resolution fluorescence microscopy of fluorescently tagged proteins, it is possible to correlate cytoskeletal organization and remodeling with traction forces. Here we present a detailed experimental protocol for the preparation of two-dimensional, compliant matrices for the purpose of creating a cell culture substrate with a well-characterized, tunable mechanical stiffness, which is suitable for measuring cellular contraction. These protocols include the fabrication of polyacrylamide hydrogels, coating of ECM proteins on such gels, plating cells on gels, and high-resolution confocal microscopy using a perfusion chamber. Additionally, we provide a representative sample of data demonstrating location and magnitude of cellular forces using cited TFM protocols.
Bioengineering, Issue 46, Traction force microscopy, cellular adhesion, polyacrylamide gel, stiffness, elastic modulus
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HLA-Ig Based Artificial Antigen Presenting Cells for Efficient ex vivo Expansion of Human CTL
Authors: Yen-Ling Chiu, Jonathan P. Schneck, Mathias Oelke.
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University, Far-Eastern Memorial Hospital, Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins University.
CTL with optimal effector function play critical roles in mediating protection against various intracellular infections and cancer. However, individuals may exhibit suppressive immune microenvironment and, in contrast to activating CTL, their autologous antigen presenting cells may tend to tolerize or anergize antigen specific CTL. As a result, although still in the experimental phase, CTL-based adoptive immunotherapy has evolved to become a promising treatment for various diseases such as cancer and virus infections. In initial experiments ex vivo expanded CMV (cytomegalovirus) specific CTL have been used for treatment of CMV infection in immunocompromised allogeneic bone marrow transplant patients. While it is common to have life-threatening CMV viremia in these patients, none of the patients receiving expanded CTL develop CMV related illness, implying the anti-CMV immunity is established by the adoptively transferred CTL1. Promising results have also been observed for melanoma and may be extended to other types of cancer2. While there are many ways to ex vivo stimulate and expand human CTL, current approaches are restricted by the cost and technical limitations. For example, the current gold standard is based on the use of autologous DC. This requires each patient to donate a significant number of leukocytes and is also very expensive and laborious. Moreover, detailed in vitro characterization of DC expanded CTL has revealed that these have only suboptimal effector function 3. Here we present a highly efficient aAPC based system for ex vivo expansion of human CMV specific CTL for adoptive immunotherapy (Figure 1). The aAPC were made by coupling cell sized magnetic beads with human HLA-A2-Ig dimer and anti-CD28mAb4. Once aAPC are made, they can be loaded with various peptides of interest, and remain functional for months. In this report, aAPC were loaded with a dominant peptide from CMV, pp65 (NLVPMVATV). After culturing purified human CD8+ CTL from a healthy donor with aAPC for one week, CMV specific CTL can be increased dramatically in specificity up to 98% (Figure 2) and amplified more than 10,000 fold. If more CMV-specific CTL are required, further expansion can be easily achieved by repetitive stimulation with aAPC. Phenotypic and functional characterization shows these expanded cells have an effector-memory phenotype and make significant amounts of both TNFα and IFNγ (Figure 3).
Immunology, Issue 50, immunotherapy, adoptive T cell therapy, CD8+ T cells, HLA-A2-Ig, CMV, aAPC, DC
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Visualizing Dengue Virus through Alexa Fluor Labeling
Authors: Summer Zhang, Hwee Cheng Tan, Eng Eong Ooi.
Institutions: DSO National Laboratories, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School.
The early events in the interaction between virus and cell can have profound influence on the outcome of infection. Determining the factors that influence this interaction could lead to improved understanding of disease pathogenesis and thus influence vaccine or therapeutic design. Hence, the development of methods to probe this interaction would be useful. Recent advancements in fluorophores development1-3 and imaging technology4 can be exploited to improve our current knowledge on dengue pathogenesis and thus pave the way to reduce the millions of dengue infections occurring annually. The enveloped dengue virus has an external scaffold consisting of 90 envelope glycoprotein (E) dimers protecting the nucleocapsid shell, which contains a single positive strand RNA genome5. The identical protein subunits on the virus surface can thus be labeled with an amine reactive dye and visualized through immunofluorescent microscopy. Here, we present a simple method of labeling of dengue virus with Alexa Fluor succinimidyl ester dye dissolved directly in a sodium bicarbonate buffer that yielded highly viable virus after labeling. There is no standardized procedure for the labeling of live virus and existing manufacturer’s protocol for protein labeling usually requires the reconstitution of dye in dimethyl sulfoxide. The presence of dimethyl sulfoxide, even in minute quantities, can block productive infection of virus and also induce cell cytotoxicity6. The exclusion of the use of dimethyl sulfoxide in this protocol thus reduced this possibility. Alexa Fluor dyes have superior photostability and are less pH-sensitive than the common dyes, such as fluorescein and rhodamine2, making them ideal for studies on cellular uptake and endosomal transport of the virus. The conjugation of Alexa Fluor dye did not affect the recognition of labeled dengue virus by virus-specific antibody and its putative receptors in host cells7. This method could have useful applications in virological studies.
Immunology, Issue 53, Dengue virus, Alexa Fluor, labeling, fluorescence
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Genome Editing with CompoZr Custom Zinc Finger Nucleases (ZFNs)
Authors: Keith Hansen, Matthew J. Coussens, Jack Sago, Shilpi Subramanian, Monika Gjoka, Dave Briner.
Institutions: Sigma Life Science.
Genome editing is a powerful technique that can be used to elucidate gene function and the genetic basis of disease. Traditional gene editing methods such as chemical-based mutagenesis or random integration of DNA sequences confer indiscriminate genetic changes in an overall inefficient manner and require incorporation of undesirable synthetic sequences or use of aberrant culture conditions, potentially confusing biological study. By contrast, transient ZFN expression in a cell can facilitate precise, heritable gene editing in a highly efficient manner without the need for administration of chemicals or integration of synthetic transgenes. Zinc finger nucleases (ZFNs) are enzymes which bind and cut distinct sequences of double-stranded DNA (dsDNA). A functional CompoZr ZFN unit consists of two individual monomeric proteins that bind a DNA "half-site" of approximately 15-18 nucleotides (see Figure 1). When two ZFN monomers "home" to their adjacent target sites the DNA-cleavage domains dimerize and create a double-strand break (DSB) in the DNA.1 Introduction of ZFN-mediated DSBs in the genome lays a foundation for highly efficient genome editing. Imperfect repair of DSBs in a cell via the non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) DNA repair pathway can result in small insertions and deletions (indels). Creation of indels within the gene coding sequence of a cell can result in frameshift and subsequent functional knockout of a gene locus at high efficiency.2 While this protocol describes the use of ZFNs to create a gene knockout, integration of transgenes may also be conducted via homology-directed repair at the ZFN cut site. The CompoZr Custom ZFN Service represents a systematic, comprehensive, and well-characterized approach to targeted gene editing for the scientific community with ZFN technology. Sigma scientists work closely with investigators to 1) perform due diligence analysis including analysis of relevant gene structure, biology, and model system pursuant to the project goals, 2) apply this knowledge to develop a sound targeting strategy, 3) then design, build, and functionally validate ZFNs for activity in a relevant cell line. The investigator receives positive control genomic DNA and primers, and ready-to-use ZFN reagents supplied in both plasmid DNA and in-vitro transcribed mRNA format. These reagents may then be delivered for transient expression in the investigator’s cell line or cell type of choice. Samples are then tested for gene editing at the locus of interest by standard molecular biology techniques including PCR amplification, enzymatic digest, and electrophoresis. After positive signal for gene editing is detected in the initial population, cells are single-cell cloned and genotyped for identification of mutant clones/alleles.
Genetics, Issue 64, Molecular Biology, Zinc Finger Nuclease, Genome Engineering, Genomic Editing, Gene Modification, Gene Knockout, Gene Integration, non-homologous end joining, homologous recombination, targeted genome editing
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Formulation of Diblock Polymeric Nanoparticles through Nanoprecipitation Technique
Authors: Shrirang Karve, Michael E. Werner, Natalie D. Cummings, Rohit Sukumar, Edina C. Wang, Ying-Ao Zhang, Andrew Z. Wang.
Institutions: University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina .
Nanotechnology is a relatively new branch of science that involves harnessing the unique properties of particles that are nanometers in scale (nanoparticles). Nanoparticles can be engineered in a precise fashion where their size, composition and surface chemistry can be carefully controlled. This enables unprecedented freedom to modify some of the fundamental properties of their cargo, such as solubility, diffusivity, biodistribution, release characteristics and immunogenicity. Since their inception, nanoparticles have been utilized in many areas of science and medicine, including drug delivery, imaging, and cell biology1-4. However, it has not been fully utilized outside of "nanotechnology laboratories" due to perceived technical barrier. In this article, we describe a simple method to synthesize a polymer based nanoparticle platform that has a wide range of potential applications. The first step is to synthesize a diblock co-polymer that has both a hydrophobic domain and hydrophilic domain. Using PLGA and PEG as model polymers, we described a conjugation reaction using EDC/NHS chemistry5 (Fig 1). We also discuss the polymer purification process. The synthesized diblock co-polymer can self-assemble into nanoparticles in the nanoprecipitation process through hydrophobic-hydrophilic interactions. The described polymer nanoparticle is very versatile. The hydrophobic core of the nanoparticle can be utilized to carry poorly soluble drugs for drug delivery experiments6. Furthermore, the nanoparticles can overcome the problem of toxic solvents for poorly soluble molecular biology reagents, such as wortmannin, which requires a solvent like DMSO. However, DMSO can be toxic to cells and interfere with the experiment. These poorly soluble drugs and reagents can be effectively delivered using polymer nanoparticles with minimal toxicity. Polymer nanoparticles can also be loaded with fluorescent dye and utilized for intracellular trafficking studies. Lastly, these polymer nanoparticles can be conjugated to targeting ligands through surface PEG. Such targeted nanoparticles can be utilized to label specific epitopes on or in cells7-10.
Bioengineering, Issue 55, Nanoparticles, nanomedicine, drug delivery, polymeric micelles, polymeric nanoparticles, diblock co-polymers, nanoplatform, nanoparticle molecular imaging, polymer conjugation.
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Direct Detection of the Acetate-forming Activity of the Enzyme Acetate Kinase
Authors: Matthew L. Fowler, Cheryl J. Ingram-Smith, Kerry S. Smith.
Institutions: Clemson University.
Acetate kinase, a member of the acetate and sugar kinase-Hsp70-actin (ASKHA) enzyme superfamily1-5, is responsible for the reversible phosphorylation of acetate to acetyl phosphate utilizing ATP as a substrate. Acetate kinases are ubiquitous in the Bacteria, found in one genus of Archaea, and are also present in microbes of the Eukarya6. The most well characterized acetate kinase is that from the methane-producing archaeon Methanosarcina thermophila7-14. An acetate kinase which can only utilize PPi but not ATP in the acetyl phosphate-forming direction has been isolated from Entamoeba histolytica, the causative agent of amoebic dysentery, and has thus far only been found in this genus15,16. In the direction of acetyl phosphate formation, acetate kinase activity is typically measured using the hydroxamate assay, first described by Lipmann17-20, a coupled assay in which conversion of ATP to ADP is coupled to oxidation of NADH to NAD+ by the enzymes pyruvate kinase and lactate dehydrogenase21,22, or an assay measuring release of inorganic phosphate after reaction of the acetyl phosphate product with hydroxylamine23. Activity in the opposite, acetate-forming direction is measured by coupling ATP formation from ADP to the reduction of NADP+ to NADPH by the enzymes hexokinase and glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase24. Here we describe a method for the detection of acetate kinase activity in the direction of acetate formation that does not require coupling enzymes, but is instead based on direct determination of acetyl phosphate consumption. After the enzymatic reaction, remaining acetyl phosphate is converted to a ferric hydroxamate complex that can be measured spectrophotometrically, as for the hydroxamate assay. Thus, unlike the standard coupled assay for this direction that is dependent on the production of ATP from ADP, this direct assay can be used for acetate kinases that produce ATP or PPi.
Molecular Biology, Issue 58, Acetate kinase, acetate, acetyl phosphate, pyrophosphate, PPi, ATP
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Synthesis of an In vivo MRI-detectable Apoptosis Probe
Authors: Justin Lam, Paul C. Simpson, Phillip C. Yang, Rajesh Dash.
Institutions: Stanford University Medical Center, University of California, San Francisco , San Francisco VAMC.
Cellular apoptosis is a prominent feature of many diseases, and this programmed cell death typically occurs before clinical manifestations of disease are evident. A means to detect apoptosis in its earliest, reversible stages would afford a pre-clinical 'window' during which preventive or therapeutic measures could be taken to protect the heart from permanent damage. We present herein a simple and robust method to conjugate human Annexin V (ANX), which avidly binds to cells in the earliest, reversible stages of apoptosis, to superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) nanoparticles, which serve as an MRI-detectable contrast agent. The conjugation method begins with an oxidation of the SPIO nanoparticles, which oxidizes carboxyl groups on the polysaccharide shell of SPIO. Purified ANX protein is then added in the setting of a sodium borate solution to facilitate covalent interaction of ANX with SPIO in a reducing buffer. A final reduction step with sodium borohydride is performed to complete the reduction, and then the reaction is quenched. Unconjugated ANX is removed from the mix by microcentrifuge filtration. The size and purity of the ANX-SPIO product is verified by dynamic light scattering (DLS). This method does not require addition to, or modification of, the polysaccharide SPIO shell, as opposed to cross-linked iron oxide particle conjugation methods or biotin-labeled nanoparticles. As a result, this method represents a simple, robust approach that may be extended to conjugation of other proteins of interest.
Molecular Biology, Issue 65, Biomedical Engineering, conjugation, annexin, iron oxide, nanoparticle, MRI, molecular imaging
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Detection of Protein Ubiquitination
Authors: Yeun Su Choo, Zhuohua Zhang.
Institutions: The Sanford Burnham Institute for Medical Research.
Ubiquitination, the covalent attachment of the polypeptide ubiquitin to target proteins, is a key posttranslational modification carried out by a set of three enzymes. They include ubiquitin-activating enzyme E1, ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme E2, and ubiquitin ligase E3. Unlike to E1 and E2, E3 ubiquitin ligases display substrate specificity. On the other hand, numerous deubiquitylating enzymes have roles in processing polyubiquitinated proteins. Ubiquitination can result in change of protein stability, cellular localization, and biological activity. Mutations of genes involved in the ubiquitination/deubiquitination pathway or altered ubiquitin system function are associated with many different human diseases such as various types of cancer, neurodegeneration, and metabolic disorders. The detection of altered or normal ubiquitination of target proteins may provide a better understanding on the pathogenesis of these diseases.  Here, we describe protocols to detect protein ubiquitination in cultured cells in vivo and test tubes in vitro. These protocols are also useful to detect other ubiquitin-like small molecule modification such as sumolyation and neddylation.
Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Issue 30, ubiquitination, cultured cell, in vitro system, immunoprecipitation, immunoblotting, ubiquitin, posttranslational modification
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In Vitro Nuclear Assembly Using Fractionated Xenopus Egg Extracts
Authors: Marie Cross, Maureen Powers.
Institutions: Emory University.
Nuclear membrane assembly is an essential step in the cell division cycle; this process can be replicated in the test tube by combining Xenopus sperm chromatin, cytosol, and light membrane fractions. Complete nuclei are formed, including nuclear membranes with pore complexes, and these reconstituted nuclei are capable of normal nuclear processes.
Cellular Biology, Issue 19, Current Protocols Wiley, Xenopus Egg Extracts, Nuclear Assembly, Nuclear Membrane
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