Knowing the timing, level, cellular localization, and cell type that a gene is expressed in contributes to our understanding of the function of the gene. Each of these features can be accomplished with in situ hybridization to mRNAs within cells. Here we present a radioactive in situ hybridization method modified from Clayton et al. (1988)1 that has been working successfully in our lab for many years, especially for adult vertebrate brains2-5. The long complementary RNA (cRNA) probes to the target sequence allows for detection of low abundance transcripts6,7. Incorporation of radioactive nucleotides into the cRNA probes allows for further detection sensitivity of low abundance transcripts and quantitative analyses, either by light sensitive x-ray film or emulsion coated over the tissue. These detection methods provide a long-term record of target gene expression. Compared with non-radioactive probe methods, such as DIG-labeling, the radioactive probe hybridization method does not require multiple amplification steps using HRP-antibodies and/or TSA kit to detect low abundance transcripts. Therefore, this method provides a linear relation between signal intensity and targeted mRNA amounts for quantitative analysis. It allows processing 100-200 slides simultaneously. It works well for different developmental stages of embryos. Most developmental studies of gene expression use whole embryos and non-radioactive approaches8,9, in part because embryonic tissue is more fragile than adult tissue, with less cohesion between cells, making it difficult to see boundaries between cell populations with tissue sections. In contrast, our radioactive approach, due to the larger range of sensitivity, is able to obtain higher contrast in resolution of gene expression between tissue regions, making it easier to see boundaries between populations. Using this method, researchers could reveal the possible significance of a newly identified gene, and further predict the function of the gene of interest.
23 Related JoVE Articles!
Visualizing Cytoplasmic Flow During Single-cell Wound Healing in Stentor coeruleus
Institutions: Marine Biological Laboratory, University of California San Francisco, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Although wound-healing is often addressed at the level of whole tissues, in many cases individual cells are able to heal wounds within themselves, repairing broken cell membrane before the cellular contents leak out. The giant unicellular organism Stentor coeruleus
, in which cells can be more than one millimeter in size, have been a classical model organism for studying wound healing in single cells. Stentor
cells can be cut in half without loss of viability, and can even be cut and grafted together. But this high tolerance to cutting raises the question of why the cytoplasm does not simply flow out from the size of the cut. Here we present a method for cutting Stentor
cells while simultaneously imaging the movement of cytoplasm in the vicinity of the cut at high spatial and temporal resolution. The key to our method is to use a "double decker" microscope configuration in which the surgery is performed under a dissecting microscope focused on a chamber that is simultaneously viewed from below at high resolution using an inverted microscope with a high NA lens. This setup allows a high level of control over the surgical procedure while still permitting high resolution tracking of cytoplasm.
Cellular Biology, Issue 82, intracellular wound healing, cytoplasm, rheology, protists, ciliates, regeneration, microscopy, Stentor coeruleus
Optimized Negative Staining: a High-throughput Protocol for Examining Small and Asymmetric Protein Structure by Electron Microscopy
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
Preparation of Segmented Microtubules to Study Motions Driven by the Disassembling Microtubule Ends
Institutions: Russian Academy of Sciences, Federal Research Center of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Immunology, Moscow, Russia, University of Pennsylvania.
Microtubule depolymerization can provide force to transport different protein complexes and protein-coated beads in vitro
. The underlying mechanisms are thought to play a vital role in the microtubule-dependent chromosome motions during cell division, but the relevant proteins and their exact roles are ill-defined. Thus, there is a growing need to develop assays with which to study such motility in vitro
using purified components and defined biochemical milieu. Microtubules, however, are inherently unstable polymers; their switching between growth and shortening is stochastic and difficult to control. The protocols we describe here take advantage of the segmented microtubules that are made with the photoablatable stabilizing caps. Depolymerization of such segmented microtubules can be triggered with high temporal and spatial resolution, thereby assisting studies of motility at the disassembling microtubule ends. This technique can be used to carry out a quantitative analysis of the number of molecules in the fluorescently-labeled protein complexes, which move processively with dynamic microtubule ends. To optimize a signal-to-noise ratio in this and other quantitative fluorescent assays, coverslips should be treated to reduce nonspecific absorption of soluble fluorescently-labeled proteins. Detailed protocols are provided to take into account the unevenness of fluorescent illumination, and determine the intensity of a single fluorophore using equidistant Gaussian fit. Finally, we describe the use of segmented microtubules to study microtubule-dependent motions of the protein-coated microbeads, providing insights into the ability of different motor and nonmotor proteins to couple microtubule depolymerization to processive cargo motion.
Basic Protocol, Issue 85, microscopy flow chamber, single-molecule fluorescence, laser trap, microtubule-binding protein, microtubule-dependent motor, microtubule tip-tracking
Histochemical Staining of Arabidopsis thaliana Secondary Cell Wall Elements
Institutions: Joint Bioenergy Institute, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
is a model organism commonly used to understand and manipulate various cellular processes in plants, and it has been used extensively in the study of secondary cell wall formation. Secondary cell wall deposition occurs after the primary cell wall is laid down, a process carried out exclusively by specialized cells such as those forming vessel and fiber tissues. Most secondary cell walls are composed of cellulose (40–50%), hemicellulose (25–30%), and lignin (20–30%). Several mutations affecting secondary cell wall biosynthesis have been isolated, and the corresponding mutants may or may not exhibit obvious biochemical composition changes or visual phenotypes since these mutations could be masked by compensatory responses. Staining procedures have historically been used to show differences on a cellular basis. These methods are exclusively visual means of analysis; nevertheless their role in rapid and critical analysis is of great importance. Congo red and calcofluor white are stains used to detect polysaccharides, whereas Mäule and phloroglucinol are commonly used to determine differences in lignin, and toluidine blue O is used to differentially stain polysaccharides and lignin. The seemingly simple techniques of sectioning, staining, and imaging can be a challenge for beginners. Starting with sample preparation using the A. thaliana
model, this study details the protocols of a variety of staining methodologies that can be easily implemented for observation of cell and tissue organization in secondary cell walls of plants.
Cellular Biology, Issue 87, Xylem, Fibers, Lignin, polysaccharides, Plant cell wall, Mäule staining, Phloroglucinol, Congo red, Toluidine blue O, Calcofluor white, Cell wall staining methods
Analysis of Tubular Membrane Networks in Cardiac Myocytes from Atria and Ventricles
Institutions: Heart Research Center Goettingen, University Medical Center Goettingen, German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) partner site Goettingen, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
In cardiac myocytes a complex network of membrane tubules - the transverse-axial tubule system (TATS) - controls deep intracellular signaling functions. While the outer surface membrane and associated TATS membrane components appear to be continuous, there are substantial differences in lipid and protein content. In ventricular myocytes (VMs), certain TATS components are highly abundant contributing to rectilinear tubule networks and regular branching 3D architectures. It is thought that peripheral TATS components propagate action potentials from the cell surface to thousands of remote intracellular sarcoendoplasmic reticulum (SER) membrane contact domains, thereby activating intracellular Ca2+
release units (CRUs). In contrast to VMs, the organization and functional role of TATS membranes in atrial myocytes (AMs) is significantly different and much less understood. Taken together, quantitative structural characterization of TATS membrane networks in healthy and diseased myocytes is an essential prerequisite towards better understanding of functional plasticity and pathophysiological reorganization. Here, we present a strategic combination of protocols for direct quantitative analysis of TATS membrane networks in living VMs and AMs. For this, we accompany primary cell isolations of mouse VMs and/or AMs with critical quality control steps and direct membrane staining protocols for fluorescence imaging of TATS membranes. Using an optimized workflow for confocal or superresolution TATS image processing, binarized and skeletonized data are generated for quantitative analysis of the TATS network and its components. Unlike previously published indirect regional aggregate image analysis strategies, our protocols enable direct characterization of specific components and derive complex physiological properties of TATS membrane networks in living myocytes with high throughput and open access software tools. In summary, the combined protocol strategy can be readily applied for quantitative TATS network studies during physiological myocyte adaptation or disease changes, comparison of different cardiac or skeletal muscle cell types, phenotyping of transgenic models, and pharmacological or therapeutic interventions.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, cardiac myocyte, atria, ventricle, heart, primary cell isolation, fluorescence microscopy, membrane tubule, transverse-axial tubule system, image analysis, image processing, T-tubule, collagenase
Super-resolution Imaging of the Cytokinetic Z Ring in Live Bacteria Using Fast 3D-Structured Illumination Microscopy (f3D-SIM)
Institutions: University of Technology, Sydney.
Imaging of biological samples using fluorescence microscopy has advanced substantially with new technologies to overcome the resolution barrier of the diffraction of light allowing super-resolution of live samples. There are currently three main types of super-resolution techniques – stimulated emission depletion (STED), single-molecule localization microscopy (including techniques such as PALM, STORM, and GDSIM), and structured illumination microscopy (SIM). While STED and single-molecule localization techniques show the largest increases in resolution, they have been slower to offer increased speeds of image acquisition. Three-dimensional SIM (3D-SIM) is a wide-field fluorescence microscopy technique that offers a number of advantages over both single-molecule localization and STED. Resolution is improved, with typical lateral and axial resolutions of 110 and 280 nm, respectively and depth of sampling of up to 30 µm from the coverslip, allowing for imaging of whole cells. Recent advancements (fast 3D-SIM) in the technology increasing the capture rate of raw images allows for fast capture of biological processes occurring in seconds, while significantly reducing photo-toxicity and photobleaching. Here we describe the use of one such method to image bacterial cells harboring the fluorescently-labelled cytokinetic FtsZ protein to show how cells are analyzed and the type of unique information that this technique can provide.
Molecular Biology, Issue 91, super-resolution microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, OMX, 3D-SIM, Blaze, cell division, bacteria, Bacillus subtilis, Staphylococcus aureus, FtsZ, Z ring constriction
Analysis of Nephron Composition and Function in the Adult Zebrafish Kidney
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)
Studying DNA Looping by Single-Molecule FRET
Institutions: Georgia Institute of Technology.
Bending of double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) is associated with many important biological processes such as DNA-protein recognition and DNA packaging into nucleosomes. Thermodynamics of dsDNA bending has been studied by a method called cyclization which relies on DNA ligase to covalently join short sticky ends of a dsDNA. However, ligation efficiency can be affected by many factors that are not related to dsDNA looping such as the DNA structure surrounding the joined sticky ends, and ligase can also affect the apparent looping rate through mechanisms such as nonspecific binding. Here, we show how to measure dsDNA looping kinetics without ligase by detecting transient DNA loop formation by FRET (Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer). dsDNA molecules are constructed using a simple PCR-based protocol with a FRET pair and a biotin linker. The looping probability density known as the J factor is extracted from the looping rate and the annealing rate between two disconnected sticky ends. By testing two dsDNAs with different intrinsic curvatures, we show that the J factor is sensitive to the intrinsic shape of the dsDNA.
Molecular Biology, Issue 88, DNA looping, J factor, Single molecule, FRET, Gel mobility shift, DNA curvature, Worm-like chain
Rapid and Low-cost Prototyping of Medical Devices Using 3D Printed Molds for Liquid Injection Molding
Institutions: University of California, San Francisco, University of California, San Francisco, University of Southern California.
Biologically inert elastomers such as silicone are favorable materials for medical device fabrication, but forming and curing these elastomers using traditional liquid injection molding processes can be an expensive process due to tooling and equipment costs. As a result, it has traditionally been impractical to use liquid injection molding for low-cost, rapid prototyping applications. We have devised a method for rapid and low-cost production of liquid elastomer injection molded devices that utilizes fused deposition modeling 3D printers for mold design and a modified desiccator as an injection system. Low costs and rapid turnaround time in this technique lower the barrier to iteratively designing and prototyping complex elastomer devices. Furthermore, CAD models developed in this process can be later adapted for metal mold tooling design, enabling an easy transition to a traditional injection molding process. We have used this technique to manufacture intravaginal probes involving complex geometries, as well as overmolding over metal parts, using tools commonly available within an academic research laboratory. However, this technique can be easily adapted to create liquid injection molded devices for many other applications.
Bioengineering, Issue 88, liquid injection molding, reaction injection molding, molds, 3D printing, fused deposition modeling, rapid prototyping, medical devices, low cost, low volume, rapid turnaround time.
Fluorescence Imaging with One-nanometer Accuracy (FIONA)
Institutions: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Fluorescence imaging with one-nanometer accuracy (FIONA) is a simple but useful technique for localizing single fluorophores with nanometer precision in the x-y plane. Here a summary of the FIONA technique is reported and examples of research that have been performed using FIONA are briefly described. First, how to set up the required equipment for FIONA experiments, i.e.
, a total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM), with details on aligning the optics, is described. Then how to carry out a simple FIONA experiment on localizing immobilized Cy3-DNA single molecules using appropriate protocols, followed by the use of FIONA to measure the 36 nm step size of a single truncated myosin Va motor labeled with a quantum dot, is illustrated. Lastly, recent effort to extend the application of FIONA to thick samples is reported. It is shown that, using a water immersion objective and quantum dots soaked deep in sol-gels and rabbit eye corneas (>200 µm), localization precision of 2-3 nm can be achieved.
Molecular Biology, Issue 91, FIONA, fluorescence imaging, nanometer precision, myosin walking, thick tissue
Micron-scale Resolution Optical Tomography of Entire Mouse Brains with Confocal Light Sheet Microscopy
Institutions: European Laboratory for Non-linear Spectroscopy (LENS), University Campus Bio-medico of Rome, University of Cassino, National Institute of Optics (CNR-INO), Allen Institute for Brain Science, University of Florence, ICON Foundation, Sesto Fiorentino, Italy.
Understanding the architecture of mammalian brain at single-cell resolution is one of the key issues of neuroscience. However, mapping neuronal soma and projections throughout the whole brain is still challenging for imaging and data management technologies. Indeed, macroscopic volumes need to be reconstructed with high resolution and contrast in a reasonable time, producing datasets in the TeraByte range. We recently demonstrated an optical method (confocal light sheet microscopy, CLSM) capable of obtaining micron-scale reconstruction of entire mouse brains labeled with enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP). Combining light sheet illumination and confocal detection, CLSM allows deep imaging inside macroscopic cleared specimens with high contrast and speed. Here we describe the complete experimental pipeline to obtain comprehensive and human-readable images of entire mouse brains labeled with fluorescent proteins. The clearing and the mounting procedures are described, together with the steps to perform an optical tomography on its whole volume by acquiring many parallel adjacent stacks. We showed the usage of open-source custom-made software tools enabling stitching of the multiple stacks and multi-resolution data navigation. Finally, we illustrated some example of brain maps: the cerebellum from an L7-GFP transgenic mouse, in which all Purkinje cells are selectively labeled, and the whole brain from a thy1-GFP-M mouse, characterized by a random sparse neuronal labeling.
Neuroscience, Issue 80, Microscopy, Neuroanatomy, Connectomics, Light sheet microscopy, Whole-brain imaging
Simultaneous Multicolor Imaging of Biological Structures with Fluorescence Photoactivation Localization Microscopy
Institutions: University of Maine.
Localization-based super resolution microscopy can be applied to obtain a spatial map (image) of the distribution of individual fluorescently labeled single molecules within a sample with a spatial resolution of tens of nanometers. Using either photoactivatable (PAFP) or photoswitchable (PSFP) fluorescent proteins fused to proteins of interest, or organic dyes conjugated to antibodies or other molecules of interest, fluorescence photoactivation localization microscopy (FPALM) can simultaneously image multiple species of molecules within single cells. By using the following approach, populations of large numbers (thousands to hundreds of thousands) of individual molecules are imaged in single cells and localized with a precision of ~10-30 nm. Data obtained can be applied to understanding the nanoscale spatial distributions of multiple protein types within a cell. One primary advantage of this technique is the dramatic increase in spatial resolution: while diffraction limits resolution to ~200-250 nm in conventional light microscopy, FPALM can image length scales more than an order of magnitude smaller. As many biological hypotheses concern the spatial relationships among different biomolecules, the improved resolution of FPALM can provide insight into questions of cellular organization which have previously been inaccessible to conventional fluorescence microscopy. In addition to detailing the methods for sample preparation and data acquisition, we here describe the optical setup for FPALM. One additional consideration for researchers wishing to do super-resolution microscopy is cost: in-house setups are significantly cheaper than most commercially available imaging machines. Limitations of this technique include the need for optimizing the labeling of molecules of interest within cell samples, and the need for post-processing software to visualize results. We here describe the use of PAFP and PSFP expression to image two protein species in fixed cells. Extension of the technique to living cells is also described.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, Microscopy, Super-resolution imaging, Multicolor, single molecule, FPALM, Localization microscopy, fluorescent proteins
Test Samples for Optimizing STORM Super-Resolution Microscopy
Institutions: National Physical Laboratory.
STORM is a recently developed super-resolution microscopy technique with up to 10 times better resolution than standard fluorescence microscopy techniques. However, as the image is acquired in a very different way than normal, by building up an image molecule-by-molecule, there are some significant challenges for users in trying to optimize their image acquisition. In order to aid this process and gain more insight into how STORM works we present the preparation of 3 test samples and the methodology of acquiring and processing STORM super-resolution images with typical resolutions of between 30-50 nm. By combining the test samples with the use of the freely available rainSTORM processing software it is possible to obtain a great deal of information about image quality and resolution. Using these metrics it is then possible to optimize the imaging procedure from the optics, to sample preparation, dye choice, buffer conditions, and image acquisition settings. We also show examples of some common problems that result in poor image quality, such as lateral drift, where the sample moves during image acquisition and density related problems resulting in the 'mislocalization' phenomenon.
Molecular Biology, Issue 79, Genetics, Bioengineering, Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics, Basic Protocols, HeLa Cells, Actin Cytoskeleton, Coated Vesicles, Receptor, Epidermal Growth Factor, Actins, Fluorescence, Endocytosis, Microscopy, STORM, super-resolution microscopy, nanoscopy, cell biology, fluorescence microscopy, test samples, resolution, actin filaments, fiducial markers, epidermal growth factor, cell, imaging
Modeling Neural Immune Signaling of Episodic and Chronic Migraine Using Spreading Depression In Vitro
Institutions: The University of Chicago Medical Center, The University of Chicago Medical Center.
Migraine and its transformation to chronic migraine are healthcare burdens in need of improved treatment options. We seek to define how neural immune signaling modulates the susceptibility to migraine, modeled in vitro
using spreading depression (SD), as a means to develop novel therapeutic targets for episodic and chronic migraine. SD is the likely cause of migraine aura and migraine pain. It is a paroxysmal loss of neuronal function triggered by initially increased neuronal activity, which slowly propagates within susceptible brain regions. Normal brain function is exquisitely sensitive to, and relies on, coincident low-level immune signaling. Thus, neural immune signaling likely affects electrical activity of SD, and therefore migraine. Pain perception studies of SD in whole animals are fraught with difficulties, but whole animals are well suited to examine systems biology aspects of migraine since SD activates trigeminal nociceptive pathways. However, whole animal studies alone cannot be used to decipher the cellular and neural circuit mechanisms of SD. Instead, in vitro
preparations where environmental conditions can be controlled are necessary. Here, it is important to recognize limitations of acute slices and distinct advantages of hippocampal slice cultures. Acute brain slices cannot reveal subtle changes in immune signaling since preparing the slices alone triggers: pro-inflammatory changes that last days, epileptiform behavior due to high levels of oxygen tension needed to vitalize the slices, and irreversible cell injury at anoxic slice centers.
In contrast, we examine immune signaling in mature hippocampal slice cultures since the cultures closely parallel their in vivo
counterpart with mature trisynaptic function; show quiescent astrocytes, microglia, and cytokine levels; and SD is easily induced in an unanesthetized preparation. Furthermore, the slices are long-lived and SD can be induced on consecutive days without injury, making this preparation the sole means to-date capable of modeling the neuroimmune consequences of chronic SD, and thus perhaps chronic migraine. We use electrophysiological techniques and non-invasive imaging to measure
neuronal cell and circuit functions coincident with SD. Neural immune gene expression variables are measured with qPCR screening, qPCR arrays, and, importantly, use of cDNA preamplification for detection of ultra-low level targets such as interferon-gamma using whole, regional, or specific cell enhanced (via laser dissection microscopy) sampling. Cytokine cascade signaling is further assessed with multiplexed phosphoprotein related targets with gene expression and phosphoprotein changes confirmed via cell-specific immunostaining. Pharmacological and siRNA strategies are used to mimic
SD immune signaling.
Neuroscience, Issue 52, innate immunity, hormesis, microglia, T-cells, hippocampus, slice culture, gene expression, laser dissection microscopy, real-time qPCR, interferon-gamma
Video-rate Scanning Confocal Microscopy and Microendoscopy
Institutions: Harvard University , Harvard-MIT, Harvard Medical School.
Confocal microscopy has become an invaluable tool in biology and the biomedical sciences, enabling rapid, high-sensitivity, and high-resolution optical sectioning of complex systems. Confocal microscopy is routinely used, for example, to study specific cellular targets1
, monitor dynamics in living cells2-4
, and visualize the three dimensional evolution of entire organisms5,6
. Extensions of confocal imaging systems, such as confocal microendoscopes, allow for high-resolution imaging in vivo7
and are currently being applied to disease imaging and diagnosis in clinical settings8,9
Confocal microscopy provides three-dimensional resolution by creating so-called "optical sections" using straightforward geometrical optics. In a standard wide-field microscope, fluorescence generated from a sample is collected by an objective lens and relayed directly to a detector. While acceptable for imaging thin samples, thick samples become blurred by fluorescence generated above and below the objective focal plane. In contrast, confocal microscopy enables virtual, optical sectioning of samples, rejecting out-of-focus light to build high resolution three-dimensional representations of samples.
Confocal microscopes achieve this feat by using a confocal aperture in the detection beam path. The fluorescence collected from a sample by the objective is relayed back through the scanning mirrors and through the primary dichroic mirror, a mirror carefully selected to reflect shorter wavelengths such as the laser excitation beam while passing the longer, Stokes-shifted fluorescence emission. This long-wavelength fluorescence signal is then passed to a pair of lenses on either side of a pinhole that is positioned at a plane exactly conjugate with the focal plane of the objective lens. Photons collected from the focal volume of the object are collimated by the objective lens and are focused by the confocal lenses through the pinhole. Fluorescence generated above or below the focal plane will therefore not be collimated properly, and will not pass through the confocal pinhole1
, creating an optical section in which only light from the microscope focus is visible. (Fig 1
). Thus the pinhole effectively acts as a virtual aperture in the focal plane, confining the detected emission to only one limited spatial location.
Modern commercial confocal microscopes offer users fully automated operation, making formerly complex imaging procedures relatively straightforward and accessible. Despite the flexibility and power of these systems, commercial confocal microscopes are not well suited for all confocal imaging tasks, such as many in vivo
imaging applications. Without the ability to create customized imaging systems to meet their needs, important experiments can remain out of reach to many scientists.
In this article, we provide a step-by-step method for the complete construction of a custom, video-rate confocal imaging system from basic components. The upright microscope will be constructed using a resonant galvanometric mirror to provide the fast scanning axis, while a standard speed resonant galvanometric mirror will scan the slow axis. To create a precise scanned beam in the objective lens focus, these mirrors will be positioned at the so-called telecentric planes using four relay lenses. Confocal detection will be accomplished using a standard, off-the-shelf photomultiplier tube (PMT), and the images will be captured and displayed using a Matrox framegrabber card and the included software.
Bioengineering, Issue 56, Microscopy, confocal microscopy, microendoscopy, video-rate, fluorescence, scanning, in vivo imaging
A TIRF Microscopy Technique for Real-time, Simultaneous Imaging of the TCR and its Associated Signaling Proteins
Institutions: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health.
Signaling is initiated through the T Cell Receptor (TCR) when it is engaged by antigenic peptide fragments bound by Major Histocompatibility Complex (pMHC) proteins expressed on the surface of antigen presenting cells (APCs). The TCR complex is composed of the ligand binding TCRαβ heterodimer that associates non-covalently with CD3 dimers (the εδ and εγ heterodimers and the ζζ homodimer)1
. Upon engagement of the receptor, the CD3 ζ chains are phosphorylated by the Src family kinase, Lck. This leads to the recruitment of the Syk family kinase, Zap70, which is then phosphorylated and activated by Lck. After that, Zap70 phosphorylates the adapter proteins LAT and SLP76, initiating the formation of the proximal signaling complex containing a large number of different signaling molecules2
The formation of this complex eventually results in calcium and Ras-dependent transcription factor activation and the consequent initiation of a complex series of gene expression programs that give rise to T cell differentiation2
. TCR signals (and the resulting state of differentiation) are modulated by many other factors, including antigen potency and crosstalk with co-stimulatory/co-inhibitory, chemokine, and cytokine receptors 3-4
. Studying the spatial and temporal organization of the proximal signaling complex under various stimulation conditions is, therefore, key to understanding the TCR signaling pathway as well as its regulation by other signaling pathways.
One very useful model system to study signaling initiated by the TCR at the plasma membrane in T cells is glass-supported lipid bilayers, as described previously5-6
. They can be utilized to present antigenic pMHC complexes, adhesion, and co-stimulatory molecules to T cells-serving as artificial APCs. By imaging the T cells interacting with the lipid bilayer using total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM), we can restrict the excitation to within 100 nm of the space between the glass and the cell surface 7-8
. This allows us to image primarily the signaling events occurring at the plasma membrane. As we are interested in imaging the recruitment of signaling proteins to the TCR complex, we describe a two-camera TIRF imaging system wherein the TCR, labeled with fluorescent Fab (fragment antigen binding) fragments of the H57 antibody (purified from hybridoma H57-597, ATCC, ATCC Number:HB-218) which is specific for TCRβ, and signaling proteins, tagged with GFP, may be imaged simultaneously and in real time. This strategy is necessary due to the highly dynamic nature of both the T cells and of the signaling events that are occurring at the TCR. This imaging modality has allowed researchers to image single ligands 9-11
as well as recruitment of signaling molecules to activated receptors and is an excellent system to study biochemistry in-situ12-16
Immunology, Issue 61, Gene delivery, primary cells, T cells, fluorescence microscopy, total internal reflection fluorescence, T cell receptor, signaling
Nanotopology of Cell Adhesion upon Variable-Angle Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscopy (VA-TIRFM)
Institutions: Institut für Angewandte Forschung.
Surface topology, e.g.
of cells growing on a substrate, is determined with nanometer precision by Variable-Angle Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscopy (VA-TIRFM). Cells are cultivated on transparent slides and incubated with a fluorescent marker homogeneously distributed in their plasma membrane. Illumination occurs by a parallel laser beam under variable angles of total internal reflection (TIR) with different penetration depths of the evanescent electromagnetic field. Recording of fluorescence images upon irradiation at about 10 different angles permits to calculate cell-substrate distances with a precision of a few nanometers. Differences of adhesion between various cell lines, e.g.
cancer cells and less malignant cells, are thus determined. In addition, possible changes of cell adhesion upon chemical or photodynamic treatment can be examined. In comparison with other methods of super-resolution microscopy light exposure is kept very small, and no damage of living cells is expected to occur.
Bioengineering, Issue 68, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Biophysics, Physics, Cell adhesion, fluorescence microscopy, TIRFM, nanotopology
Lensfree On-chip Tomographic Microscopy Employing Multi-angle Illumination and Pixel Super-resolution
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles , University of California, Los Angeles , University of California, Los Angeles .
Tomographic imaging has been a widely used tool in medicine as it can provide three-dimensional (3D) structural information regarding objects of different size scales. In micrometer and millimeter scales, optical microscopy modalities find increasing use owing to the non-ionizing nature of visible light, and the availability of a rich set of illumination sources (such as lasers and light-emitting-diodes) and detection elements (such as large format CCD and CMOS detector-arrays). Among the recently developed optical tomographic microscopy modalities, one can include optical coherence tomography, optical diffraction tomography, optical projection tomography and light-sheet microscopy. 1-6
These platforms provide sectional imaging of cells, microorganisms and model animals such as C. elegans
, zebrafish and mouse embryos.
Existing 3D optical imagers generally have relatively bulky and complex architectures, limiting the availability of these equipments to advanced laboratories, and impeding their integration with lab-on-a-chip platforms and microfluidic chips. To provide an alternative tomographic microscope, we recently developed lensfree optical tomography (LOT) as a high-throughput, compact and cost-effective optical tomography modality. 7
LOT discards the use of lenses and bulky optical components, and instead relies on multi-angle illumination and digital computation to achieve depth-resolved imaging of micro-objects over a large imaging volume. LOT can image biological specimen at a spatial resolution of <1 μm x <1 μm x <3 μm in the x, y and z dimensions, respectively, over a large imaging volume of 15-100 mm3
, and can be particularly useful for lab-on-a-chip platforms.
Bioengineering, Issue 66, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, lensfree imaging, lensless imaging, on-chip microscopy, lensfree tomography, 3D microscopy, pixel super-resolution, C. elegans, optical sectioning, lab-on-a-chip
Localization and Relative Quantification of Carbon Nanotubes in Cells with Multispectral Imaging Flow Cytometry
Institutions: CNRS/Université Paris Diderot, CNRS/Université Paris Diderot, CNRS/Institut de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire.
Carbon-based nanomaterials, like carbon nanotubes (CNTs), belong to this type of nanoparticles which are very difficult to discriminate from carbon-rich cell structures and de facto
there is still no quantitative method to assess their distribution at cell and tissue levels. What we propose here is an innovative method allowing the detection and quantification of CNTs in cells using a multispectral imaging flow cytometer (ImageStream, Amnis). This newly developed device integrates both a high-throughput of cells and high resolution imaging, providing thus images for each cell directly in flow and therefore statistically relevant image analysis. Each cell image is acquired on bright-field (BF), dark-field (DF), and fluorescent channels, giving access respectively to the level and the distribution of light absorption, light scattered and fluorescence for each cell. The analysis consists then in a pixel-by-pixel comparison of each image, of the 7,000-10,000 cells acquired for each condition of the experiment. Localization and quantification of CNTs is made possible thanks to some particular intrinsic properties of CNTs: strong light absorbance and scattering; indeed CNTs appear as strongly absorbed dark spots on BF and bright spots on DF with a precise colocalization.
This methodology could have a considerable impact on studies about interactions between nanomaterials and cells given that this protocol is applicable for a large range of nanomaterials, insofar as they are capable of absorbing (and/or scattering) strongly enough the light.
Bioengineering, Issue 82, bioengineering, imaging flow cytometry, Carbon Nanotubes, bio-nano-interactions, cellular uptake, cell trafficking
In situ Quantification of Pancreatic Beta-cell Mass in Mice
Institutions: University of Chicago.
Tracing changes of specific cell populations in health and disease is an important goal of biomedical research. The process of monitoring pancreatic beta-cell proliferation and islet growth is particularly challenging. We have developed a method to capture the distribution of beta-cells in the intact pancreas of transgenic mice with fluorescence-tagged beta-cells with a macro written for ImageJ (rsb.info.nih.gov/ij/). Following pancreatic dissection and tissue clearing, the entire pancreas is captured as a virtual slice, after which the GFP-tagged beta-cells are examined. The analysis includes the quantification of total beta-cell area, islet number and size distribution with reference to specific parameters and locations for each islet and for small clusters of beta-cells. The entire distribution of islets can be plotted in three dimensions, and the information from the distribution on the size and shape of each islet allows a quantitative and qualitative comparison of changes in overall beta-cell area at a glance.
Cellular Biology, Issue 40, beta-cells, islets, mouse, pancreas
The Preparation of Drosophila Embryos for Live-Imaging Using the Hanging Drop Protocol
Institutions: University of Waterloo.
Green fluorescent protein (GFP)-based timelapse live-imaging is a powerful technique for studying the genetic regulation of dynamic processes such as tissue morphogenesis, cell-cell adhesion, or cell death. Drosophila embryos expressing GFP are readily imaged using either stereoscopic or confocal microscopy. A goal of any live-imaging protocol is to minimize detrimental effects such as dehydration and hypoxia. Previous protocols for preparing Drosophila embryos for live-imaging analysis have involved placing dechorionated embryos in halocarbon oil and sandwiching them between a halocarbon gas-permeable membrane and a coverslip1-3
. The introduction of compression through mounting embryos in this manner represents an undesirable complication for any biomechanical-based analysis of morphogenesis. Our method, which we call the hanging drop protocol, results in excellent viability of embryos during live imaging and does not require that embryos be compressed. Briefly, the hanging drop protocol involves the placement of embryos in a drop of halocarbon oil that is suspended from a coverslip, which is, in turn, fixed in position over a humid chamber. In addition to providing gas exchange and preventing dehydration, this arrangement takes advantage of the buoyancy of embryos in halocarbon oil to prevent them from drifting out of position during timelapse acquisition. This video describes in detail how to collect and prepare Drosophila embryos for live imaging using the hanging drop protocol. This protocol is suitable for imaging dechorionated embryos using stereomicroscopy or any upright compound fluorescence microscope.
Developmental Biology, Issue 25, Drosophila, embryos, live-imaging, GFP
Phase Contrast and Differential Interference Contrast (DIC) Microscopy
Institutions: University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA).
Phase-contrast microscopy is often used to produce contrast for transparent, non light-absorbing, biological specimens. The technique was discovered by Zernike, in 1942, who received the Nobel prize for his achievement. DIC microscopy, introduced in the late 1960s, has been popular in biomedical research because it highlights edges of specimen structural detail, provides high-resolution optical sections of thick specimens including tissue cells, eggs, and embryos and does not suffer from the phase halos typical of phase-contrast images. This protocol highlights the principles and practical applications of these microscopy techniques.
Basic protocols, Issue 18, Current Protocols Wiley, Microscopy, Phase Contrast, Difference Interference Contrast
Thin Sectioning of Slice Preparations for Immunohistochemistry
Institutions: Yonsei University College of Medicine, Severance Hospital, Harvard Medical School.
Many investigations in neuroscience, as well as other disciplines, involve studying small, yet macroscopic pieces or sections of tissue that have been preserved, freshly removed, or excised but kept viable, as in slice preparations of brain tissue. Subsequent microscopic studies of this material can be challenging, as the tissue samples may be difficult to handle. Demonstrated here is a method for obtaining thin cryostat sections of tissue with a thickness that may range from 0.2-5.0 mm. We routinely cut 400 micron thick Vibratome brain slices serially into 5-10 micron coronal cryostat sections. The slices are typically first used for electrophysiology experiments and then require microscopic analysis of the cytoarchitecture of the region from which the recordings were observed. We have constructed a simple device that allows controlled and reproducible preparation and positioning of the tissue slice. This device consists of a cylinder 5 cm in length with a diameter of 1.2 cm, which serves as a freezing stage for the slice. A ring snugly slides over the cylinder providing walls around the slice allowing the tissue to be immersed in freezing compound (e.g., OCT). This is then quickly frozen with crushed dry ice and the resulting wafer can be position easily for cryostat sectioning. Thin sections can be thaw-mounted onto coated slides to allow further studies to be performed, such as various staining methods, in situ hybridization, or immunohistochemistry, as demonstrated here.
Neuroscience, Issue 3, dissection, slide, immunohistochemistry, staining