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Pubmed Article
Structural and Functional Analysis of Human SOD1 in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2013
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease with familial inheritance (fALS) in 5% to 10% of cases; 25% of those are caused by mutations in the superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) protein. More than 100 mutations in the SOD1 gene have been associated with fALS, altering the geometry of the active site, protein folding and the interaction between monomers. We performed a functional analysis of non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (nsSNPs) in 124 fALS SOD1 mutants. Eleven different algorithms were used to estimate the functional impact of the replacement of one amino acid on protein structure: SNPs&GO, PolyPhen-2, SNAP, PMUT, Sift, PhD-SNP, nsSNPAnalyzer, TANGO, WALTZ, LIMBO and FoldX. For the structural analysis, theoretical models of 124 SNPs of SOD1 were created by comparative modeling using the MHOLline workflow, which includes Modeller and Procheck. Models were aligned with the native protein by the TM-align algorithm. A human-curated database was developed using the server side include in Java, JMOL. The results of this functional analysis indicate that the majority of the 124 natural mutants are harmful to the protein structure and thus corroborate the correlation between the reported mutations and fALS. In the structural analysis, all models showed conformational changes when compared to wild-type SOD1, and the degree of structural alignment varied between them. The SOD1 database converge structural and functional analyses of SOD1; it is a vast resource for the molecular analysis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which allows the user to expand his knowledge on the molecular basis of the disease. The SOD1 database is available at
Respiratory compromise due to phrenic motor neuron loss is a debilitating consequence of a large proportion of human traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) cases 1 and is the ultimate cause of death in patients with the motor neuron disorder, amyotrophic laterals sclerosis (ALS) 2. ALS is a devastating neurological disorder that is characterized by relatively rapid degeneration of upper and lower motor neurons. Patients ultimately succumb to the disease on average 2-5 years following diagnosis because of respiratory paralysis due to loss of phrenic motor neuron innnervation of the diaphragm 3. The vast majority of cases are sporadic, while 10% are of the familial form. Approximately twenty percent of familial cases are linked to various point mutations in the Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) gene on chromosome 21 4. Transgenic mice 4,5 and rats 6 carrying mutant human SOD1 genes (G93A, G37R, G86R, G85R) have been generated, and, despite the existence of other animal models of motor neuron loss, are currently the most highly used models of the disease. Spinal cord injury (SCI) is a heterogeneous set of conditions resulting from physical trauma to the spinal cord, with functional outcome varying according to the type, location and severity of the injury 7. Nevertheless, approximately half of human SCI cases affect cervical regions, resulting in debilitating respiratory dysfunction due to phrenic motor neuron loss and injury to descending bulbospinal respiratory axons 1. A number of animal models of SCI have been developed, with the most commonly used and clinically-relevant being the contusion 8. Transplantation of various classes of neural precursor cells (NPCs) is a promising therapeutic strategy for treatment of traumatic CNS injuries and neurodegeneration, including ALS and SCI, because of the ability to replace lost or dysfunctional CNS cell types, provide neuroprotection, and deliver gene factors of interest 9. Animal models of both ALS and SCI can model many clinically-relevant aspects of these diseases, including phrenic motor neuron loss and consequent respiratory compromise 10,11. In order to evaluate the efficacy of NPC-based strategies on respiratory function in these animal models of ALS and SCI, cellular interventions must be specifically directed to regions containing therapeutically relevant targets such as phrenic motor neurons. We provide a detailed protocol for multi-segmental, intraspinal transplantation of NPCs into the cervical spinal cord ventral gray matter of neurodegenerative models such as SOD1G93A mice and rats, as well as spinal cord injured rats and mice 11.
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Clinical Testing and Spinal Cord Removal in a Mouse Model for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Authors: René Günther, Martin Suhr, Jan C. Koch, Mathias Bähr, Paul Lingor, Lars Tönges.
Institutions: University Medicine Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder resulting in progressive degeneration of motoneurons. Peak of onset is around 60 years for the sporadic disease and around 50 years for the familial disease. Due to its progressive course, 50% of the patients die within 30 months of symptom onset. In order to evaluate novel treatment options for this disease, genetic mouse models of ALS have been generated based on human familial mutations in the SOD gene, such as the SOD1 (G93A) mutation. Most important aspects that have to be evaluated in the model are overall survival, clinical course and motor function. Here, we demonstrate the clinical evaluation, show the conduction of two behavioural motor tests and provide quantitative scoring systems for all parameters. Because an in depth analysis of the ALS mouse model usually requires an immunohistochemical examination of the spinal cord, we demonstrate its preparation in detail applying the dorsal laminectomy method. Exemplary histological findings are demonstrated. The comprehensive application of the depicted examination methods in studies on the mouse model of ALS will enable the researcher to reliably test future therapeutic options which can provide a basis for later human clinical trials.
Medicine, Issue 61, neuroscience, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, spinal cord, mouse, rotarod, hanging wire
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Direct Intraventricular Delivery of Drugs to the Rodent Central Nervous System
Authors: Sarah L. DeVos, Timothy M. Miller.
Institutions: Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine.
Due to an inability to cross the blood brain barrier, certain drugs need to be directly delivered into the central nervous system (CNS). Our lab focuses specifically on antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs), though the techniques shown in the video here can also be used to deliver a plethora of other drugs to the CNS. Antisense oligonucleotides (ASOs) have the capability to knockdown sequence-specific targets 1 as well as shift isoform ratios of specific genes 2. To achieve widespread gene knockdown or splicing in the CNS of mice, the ASOs can be delivered into the brain using two separate routes of administration, both of which we demonstrate in the video. The first uses Alzet osmotic pumps, connected to a catheter that is surgically implanted into the lateral ventricle. This allows the ASOs to be continuously infused into the CNS for a designated period of time. The second involves a single bolus injection of a high concentration of ASO into the right lateral ventricle. Both methods use the mouse cerebral ventricular system to deliver the ASO to the entire brain and spinal cord, though depending on the needs of the study, one method may be preferred over the other.
Neurobiology, Issue 75, Neuroscience, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Genetics, Anatomy, Physiology, Surgery, Pharmacology, Cerebrospinal Fluid, Rodentia, Oligonucleotides, Antisense, Drug Administration Routes, Injections, Intraventricular, Drug Delivery Systems, mouse, rat, brain, antisense oligonucleotide, osmotic pump, Bolus, Ventricle, Neurosciences, Translational, Cerebrospinal fluid, CNS, cannula, catheter, animal model, surgical techniques
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Evisceration of Mouse Vitreous and Retina for Proteomic Analyses
Authors: Jessica M. Skeie, Stephen H. Tsang, Vinit B. Mahajan.
Institutions: University of Iowa, University of Iowa, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.
While the mouse retina has emerged as an important genetic model for inherited retinal disease, the mouse vitreous remains to be explored. The vitreous is a highly aqueous extracellular matrix overlying the retina where intraocular as well as extraocular proteins accumulate during disease.1-3 Abnormal interactions between vitreous and retina underlie several diseases such as retinal detachment, proliferative diabetic retinopathy, uveitis, and proliferative vitreoretinopathy.1,4 The relative mouse vitreous volume is significantly smaller than the human vitreous (Figure 1), since the mouse lens occupies nearly 75% of its eye.5 This has made biochemical studies of mouse vitreous challenging. In this video article, we present a technique to dissect and isolate the mouse vitreous from the retina, which will allow use of transgenic mouse models to more clearly define the role of this extracellular matrix in the development of vitreoretinal diseases.
Cellular Biology, Issue 50, mouse, vitreous, retina, proteomics, superoxide dismutase
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The ITS2 Database
Authors: Benjamin Merget, Christian Koetschan, Thomas Hackl, Frank Förster, Thomas Dandekar, Tobias Müller, Jörg Schultz, Matthias Wolf.
Institutions: University of Würzburg, University of Würzburg.
The internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) has been used as a phylogenetic marker for more than two decades. As ITS2 research mainly focused on the very variable ITS2 sequence, it confined this marker to low-level phylogenetics only. However, the combination of the ITS2 sequence and its highly conserved secondary structure improves the phylogenetic resolution1 and allows phylogenetic inference at multiple taxonomic ranks, including species delimitation2-8. The ITS2 Database9 presents an exhaustive dataset of internal transcribed spacer 2 sequences from NCBI GenBank11 accurately reannotated10. Following an annotation by profile Hidden Markov Models (HMMs), the secondary structure of each sequence is predicted. First, it is tested whether a minimum energy based fold12 (direct fold) results in a correct, four helix conformation. If this is not the case, the structure is predicted by homology modeling13. In homology modeling, an already known secondary structure is transferred to another ITS2 sequence, whose secondary structure was not able to fold correctly in a direct fold. The ITS2 Database is not only a database for storage and retrieval of ITS2 sequence-structures. It also provides several tools to process your own ITS2 sequences, including annotation, structural prediction, motif detection and BLAST14 search on the combined sequence-structure information. Moreover, it integrates trimmed versions of 4SALE15,16 and ProfDistS17 for multiple sequence-structure alignment calculation and Neighbor Joining18 tree reconstruction. Together they form a coherent analysis pipeline from an initial set of sequences to a phylogeny based on sequence and secondary structure. In a nutshell, this workbench simplifies first phylogenetic analyses to only a few mouse-clicks, while additionally providing tools and data for comprehensive large-scale analyses.
Genetics, Issue 61, alignment, internal transcribed spacer 2, molecular systematics, secondary structure, ribosomal RNA, phylogenetic tree, homology modeling, phylogeny
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Utility of Dissociated Intrinsic Hand Muscle Atrophy in the Diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
Authors: Parvathi Menon, Steve Vucic.
Institutions: Westmead Hospital, University of Sydney, Australia.
The split hand phenomenon refers to predominant wasting of thenar muscles and is an early and specific feature of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). A novel split hand index (SI) was developed to quantify the split hand phenomenon, and its diagnostic utility was assessed in ALS patients. The split hand index was derived by dividing the product of the compound muscle action potential (CMAP) amplitude recorded over the abductor pollicis brevis and first dorsal interosseous muscles by the CMAP amplitude recorded over the abductor digiti minimi muscle. In order to assess the diagnostic utility of the split hand index, ALS patients were prospectively assessed and their results were compared to neuromuscular disorder patients. The split hand index was significantly reduced in ALS when compared to neuromuscular disorder patients (P<0.0001). Limb-onset ALS patients exhibited the greatest reduction in the split hand index, and a value of 5.2 or less reliably differentiated ALS from other neuromuscular disorders. Consequently, the split hand index appears to be a novel diagnostic biomarker for ALS, perhaps facilitating an earlier diagnosis.
Medicine, Issue 85, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), dissociated muscle atrophy, hypothenar muscles, motor neuron disease, split-hand index, thenar muscles
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Assessment of Calcium Sparks in Intact Skeletal Muscle Fibers
Authors: Ki Ho Park, Noah Weisleder, Jingsong Zhou, Kristyn Gumpper, Xinyu Zhou, Pu Duann, Jianjie Ma, Pei-Hui Lin.
Institutions: The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Rush University Medical Center, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Maintaining homeostatic Ca2+ signaling is a fundamental physiological process in living cells. Ca2+ sparks are the elementary units of Ca2+ signaling in the striated muscle fibers that appear as highly localized Ca2+ release events mediated by ryanodine receptor (RyR) Ca2+ release channels on the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) membrane. Proper assessment of muscle Ca2+ sparks could provide information on the intracellular Ca2+ handling properties of healthy and diseased striated muscles. Although Ca2+ sparks events are commonly seen in resting cardiomyocytes, they are rarely observed in resting skeletal muscle fibers; thus there is a need for methods to generate and analyze sparks in skeletal muscle fibers. Detailed here is an experimental protocol for measuring Ca2+ sparks in isolated flexor digitorm brevis (FDB) muscle fibers using fluorescent Ca2+ indictors and laser scanning confocal microscopy. In this approach, isolated FDB fibers are exposed to transient hypoosmotic stress followed by a return to isotonic physiological solution. Under these conditions, a robust Ca2+ sparks response is detected adjacent to the sarcolemmal membrane in young healthy FDB muscle fibers. Altered Ca2+ sparks response is detected in dystrophic or aged skeletal muscle fibers. This approach has recently demonstrated that membrane-delimited signaling involving cross-talk between inositol (1,4,5)-triphosphate receptor (IP3R) and RyR contributes to Ca2+ spark activation in skeletal muscle. In summary, our studies using osmotic stress induced Ca2+ sparks showed that this intracellular response reflects a muscle signaling mechanism in physiology and aging/disease states, including mouse models of muscle dystrophy (mdx mice) or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS model).
Physiology, Issue 84, flexor digitorm brevis (FDB), sarcoplasmic reticulum, SR Ca2+ release, calcium signaling, ryanodine receptor, confocal imaging, muscle physiology
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Dissection of the Transversus Abdominis Muscle for Whole-mount Neuromuscular Junction Analysis
Authors: Lyndsay Murray, Thomas H Gillingwater, Rashmi Kothary.
Institutions: Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, University of Edinburgh.
Analysis of neuromuscular junction morphology can give important insight into the physiological status of a given motor neuron. Analysis of thin flat muscles can offer significant advantage over traditionally used thicker muscles, such as those from the hind limb (e.g. gastrocnemius). Thin muscles allow for comprehensive overview of the entire innervation pattern for a given muscle, which in turn permits identification of selectively vulnerable pools of motor neurons. These muscles also allow analysis of parameters such as motor unit size, axonal branching, and terminal/nodal sprouting. A common obstacle in using such muscles is gaining the technical expertise to dissect them. In this video, we detail the protocol for dissecting the transversus abdominis (TVA) muscle from young mice and performing immunofluorescence to visualize axons and neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). We demonstrate that this technique gives a complete overview of the innervation pattern of the TVA muscle and can be used to investigate NMJ pathology in a mouse model of the childhood motor neuron disease, spinal muscular atrophy.
Neuroscience, Issue 83, Transversus Abdominis, neuromuscular junction, NMJ, dissection, mouse, immunofluorescence
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A Protocol for Comprehensive Assessment of Bulbar Dysfunction in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Authors: Yana Yunusova, Jordan R. Green, Jun Wang, Gary Pattee, Lorne Zinman.
Institutions: University of Toronto, Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Toronto.
Improved methods for assessing bulbar impairment are necessary for expediting diagnosis of bulbar dysfunction in ALS, for predicting disease progression across speech subsystems, and for addressing the critical need for sensitive outcome measures for ongoing experimental treatment trials. To address this need, we are obtaining longitudinal profiles of bulbar impairment in 100 individuals based on a comprehensive instrumentation-based assessment that yield objective measures. Using instrumental approaches to quantify speech-related behaviors is very important in a field that has primarily relied on subjective, auditory-perceptual forms of speech assessment1. Our assessment protocol measures performance across all of the speech subsystems, which include respiratory, phonatory (laryngeal), resonatory (velopharyngeal), and articulatory. The articulatory subsystem is divided into the facial components (jaw and lip), and the tongue. Prior research has suggested that each speech subsystem responds differently to neurological diseases such as ALS. The current protocol is designed to test the performance of each speech subsystem as independently from other subsystems as possible. The speech subsystems are evaluated in the context of more global changes to speech performance. These speech system level variables include speaking rate and intelligibility of speech. The protocol requires specialized instrumentation, and commercial and custom software. The respiratory, phonatory, and resonatory subsystems are evaluated using pressure-flow (aerodynamic) and acoustic methods. The articulatory subsystem is assessed using 3D motion tracking techniques. The objective measures that are used to quantify bulbar impairment have been well established in the speech literature and show sensitivity to changes in bulbar function with disease progression. The result of the assessment is a comprehensive, across-subsystem performance profile for each participant. The profile, when compared to the same measures obtained from healthy controls, is used for diagnostic purposes. Currently, we are testing the sensitivity and specificity of these measures for diagnosis of ALS and for predicting the rate of disease progression. In the long term, the more refined endophenotype of bulbar ALS derived from this work is expected to strengthen future efforts to identify the genetic loci of ALS and improve diagnostic and treatment specificity of the disease as a whole. The objective assessment that is demonstrated in this video may be used to assess a broad range of speech motor impairments, including those related to stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson disease.
Medicine, Issue 48, speech, assessment, subsystems, bulbar function, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
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Production of RNA for Transcriptomic Analysis from Mouse Spinal Cord Motor Neuron Cell Bodies by Laser Capture Microdissection
Authors: Urmi Bandyopadhyay, Wayne A. Fenton, Arthur L. Horwich, Maria Nagy.
Institutions: Yale School of Medicine, Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Preparation of high-quality RNA from cells of interest is critical to precise and meaningful analysis of transcriptional differences among cell types or between the same cell type in health and disease or following pharmacologic treatments. In the spinal cord, such preparation from motor neurons, the target of interest in many neurologic and neurodegenerative diseases, is complicated by the fact that motor neurons represent <10% of the total cell population. Laser capture microdissection (LMD) has been developed to address this problem. Here, we describe a protocol to quickly recover, freeze, and section mouse spinal cord to avoid RNA damage by endogenous and exogenous RNases, followed by staining with Azure B in 70% ethanol to identify the motor neurons while keeping endogenous RNase inhibited. LMD is then used to capture the stained neurons directly into guanidine thiocyanate lysis buffer, maintaining RNA integrity. Standard techniques are used to recover the total RNA and measure its integrity. This material can then be used for downstream analysis of the transcripts by RNA-seq and qRT-PCR.
Neuroscience, Issue 83, Laser capture microdissection, Motor neuron, Spinal cord, Azure B, RNA, RNA-seq, qRT-PCR
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A Practical Guide to Phylogenetics for Nonexperts
Authors: Damien O'Halloran.
Institutions: The George Washington University.
Many researchers, across incredibly diverse foci, are applying phylogenetics to their research question(s). However, many researchers are new to this topic and so it presents inherent problems. Here we compile a practical introduction to phylogenetics for nonexperts. We outline in a step-by-step manner, a pipeline for generating reliable phylogenies from gene sequence datasets. We begin with a user-guide for similarity search tools via online interfaces as well as local executables. Next, we explore programs for generating multiple sequence alignments followed by protocols for using software to determine best-fit models of evolution. We then outline protocols for reconstructing phylogenetic relationships via maximum likelihood and Bayesian criteria and finally describe tools for visualizing phylogenetic trees. While this is not by any means an exhaustive description of phylogenetic approaches, it does provide the reader with practical starting information on key software applications commonly utilized by phylogeneticists. The vision for this article would be that it could serve as a practical training tool for researchers embarking on phylogenetic studies and also serve as an educational resource that could be incorporated into a classroom or teaching-lab.
Basic Protocol, Issue 84, phylogenetics, multiple sequence alignments, phylogenetic tree, BLAST executables, basic local alignment search tool, Bayesian models
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A Protocol for Computer-Based Protein Structure and Function Prediction
Authors: Ambrish Roy, Dong Xu, Jonathan Poisson, Yang Zhang.
Institutions: University of Michigan , University of Kansas.
Genome sequencing projects have ciphered millions of protein sequence, which require knowledge of their structure and function to improve the understanding of their biological role. Although experimental methods can provide detailed information for a small fraction of these proteins, computational modeling is needed for the majority of protein molecules which are experimentally uncharacterized. The I-TASSER server is an on-line workbench for high-resolution modeling of protein structure and function. Given a protein sequence, a typical output from the I-TASSER server includes secondary structure prediction, predicted solvent accessibility of each residue, homologous template proteins detected by threading and structure alignments, up to five full-length tertiary structural models, and structure-based functional annotations for enzyme classification, Gene Ontology terms and protein-ligand binding sites. All the predictions are tagged with a confidence score which tells how accurate the predictions are without knowing the experimental data. To facilitate the special requests of end users, the server provides channels to accept user-specified inter-residue distance and contact maps to interactively change the I-TASSER modeling; it also allows users to specify any proteins as template, or to exclude any template proteins during the structure assembly simulations. The structural information could be collected by the users based on experimental evidences or biological insights with the purpose of improving the quality of I-TASSER predictions. The server was evaluated as the best programs for protein structure and function predictions in the recent community-wide CASP experiments. There are currently >20,000 registered scientists from over 100 countries who are using the on-line I-TASSER server.
Biochemistry, Issue 57, On-line server, I-TASSER, protein structure prediction, function prediction
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Diffusion Tensor Magnetic Resonance Imaging in the Analysis of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Authors: Hans-Peter Müller, Jan Kassubek.
Institutions: University of Ulm.
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) techniques provide information on the microstructural processes of the cerebral white matter (WM) in vivo. The present applications are designed to investigate differences of WM involvement patterns in different brain diseases, especially neurodegenerative disorders, by use of different DTI analyses in comparison with matched controls. DTI data analysis is performed in a variate fashion, i.e. voxelwise comparison of regional diffusion direction-based metrics such as fractional anisotropy (FA), together with fiber tracking (FT) accompanied by tractwise fractional anisotropy statistics (TFAS) at the group level in order to identify differences in FA along WM structures, aiming at the definition of regional patterns of WM alterations at the group level. Transformation into a stereotaxic standard space is a prerequisite for group studies and requires thorough data processing to preserve directional inter-dependencies. The present applications show optimized technical approaches for this preservation of quantitative and directional information during spatial normalization in data analyses at the group level. On this basis, FT techniques can be applied to group averaged data in order to quantify metrics information as defined by FT. Additionally, application of DTI methods, i.e. differences in FA-maps after stereotaxic alignment, in a longitudinal analysis at an individual subject basis reveal information about the progression of neurological disorders. Further quality improvement of DTI based results can be obtained during preprocessing by application of a controlled elimination of gradient directions with high noise levels. In summary, DTI is used to define a distinct WM pathoanatomy of different brain diseases by the combination of whole brain-based and tract-based DTI analysis.
Medicine, Issue 77, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Neurodegenerative Diseases, nuclear magnetic resonance, NMR, MR, MRI, diffusion tensor imaging, fiber tracking, group level comparison, neurodegenerative diseases, brain, imaging, clinical techniques
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A Functional Motor Unit in the Culture Dish: Co-culture of Spinal Cord Explants and Muscle Cells
Authors: Anne-Sophie Arnold, Martine Christe, Christoph Handschin.
Institutions: University of Basel.
Human primary muscle cells cultured aneurally in monolayer rarely contract spontaneously because, in the absence of a nerve component, cell differentiation is limited and motor neuron stimulation is missing1. These limitations hamper the in vitro study of many neuromuscular diseases in cultured muscle cells. Importantly, the experimental constraints of monolayered, cultured muscle cells can be overcome by functional innervation of myofibers with spinal cord explants in co-cultures. Here, we show the different steps required to achieve an efficient, proper innervation of human primary muscle cells, leading to complete differentiation and fiber contraction according to the method developed by Askanas2. To do so, muscle cells are co-cultured with spinal cord explants of rat embryos at ED 13.5, with the dorsal root ganglia still attached to the spinal cord slices. After a few days, the muscle fibers start to contract and eventually become cross-striated through innervation by functional neurites projecting from the spinal cord explants that connecting to the muscle cells. This structure can be maintained for many months, simply by regular exchange of the culture medium. The applications of this invaluable tool are numerous, as it represents a functional model for multidisciplinary analyses of human muscle development and innervation. In fact, a complete de novo neuromuscular junction installation occurs in a culture dish, allowing an easy measurement of many parameters at each step, in a fundamental and physiological context. Just to cite a few examples, genomic and/or proteomic studies can be performed directly on the co-cultures. Furthermore, pre- and post-synaptic effects can be specifically and separately assessed at the neuromuscular junction, because both components come from different species, rat and human, respectively. The nerve-muscle co-culture can also be performed with human muscle cells isolated from patients suffering from muscle or neuromuscular diseases3, and thus can be used as a screening tool for candidate drugs. Finally, no special equipment but a regular BSL2 facility is needed to reproduce a functional motor unit in a culture dish. This method thus is valuable for both the muscle as well as the neuromuscular research communities for physiological and mechanistic studies of neuromuscular function, in a normal and disease context.
Neuroscience, Issue 62, Human primary muscle cells, embryonic spinal cord explants, neurites, innervation, contraction, cell culture
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Protein WISDOM: A Workbench for In silico De novo Design of BioMolecules
Authors: James Smadbeck, Meghan B. Peterson, George A. Khoury, Martin S. Taylor, Christodoulos A. Floudas.
Institutions: Princeton University.
The aim of de novo protein design is to find the amino acid sequences that will fold into a desired 3-dimensional structure with improvements in specific properties, such as binding affinity, agonist or antagonist behavior, or stability, relative to the native sequence. Protein design lies at the center of current advances drug design and discovery. Not only does protein design provide predictions for potentially useful drug targets, but it also enhances our understanding of the protein folding process and protein-protein interactions. Experimental methods such as directed evolution have shown success in protein design. However, such methods are restricted by the limited sequence space that can be searched tractably. In contrast, computational design strategies allow for the screening of a much larger set of sequences covering a wide variety of properties and functionality. We have developed a range of computational de novo protein design methods capable of tackling several important areas of protein design. These include the design of monomeric proteins for increased stability and complexes for increased binding affinity. To disseminate these methods for broader use we present Protein WISDOM (, a tool that provides automated methods for a variety of protein design problems. Structural templates are submitted to initialize the design process. The first stage of design is an optimization sequence selection stage that aims at improving stability through minimization of potential energy in the sequence space. Selected sequences are then run through a fold specificity stage and a binding affinity stage. A rank-ordered list of the sequences for each step of the process, along with relevant designed structures, provides the user with a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the design. Here we provide the details of each design method, as well as several notable experimental successes attained through the use of the methods.
Genetics, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computational Biology, Genomics, Proteomics, Protein, Protein Binding, Computational Biology, Drug Design, optimization (mathematics), Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, De novo protein and peptide design, Drug design, In silico sequence selection, Optimization, Fold specificity, Binding affinity, sequencing
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Isolation of Fidelity Variants of RNA Viruses and Characterization of Virus Mutation Frequency
Authors: Stéphanie Beaucourt, Antonio V. Bordería, Lark L. Coffey, Nina F. Gnädig, Marta Sanz-Ramos, Yasnee Beeharry, Marco Vignuzzi.
Institutions: Institut Pasteur .
RNA viruses use RNA dependent RNA polymerases to replicate their genomes. The intrinsically high error rate of these enzymes is a large contributor to the generation of extreme population diversity that facilitates virus adaptation and evolution. Increasing evidence shows that the intrinsic error rates, and the resulting mutation frequencies, of RNA viruses can be modulated by subtle amino acid changes to the viral polymerase. Although biochemical assays exist for some viral RNA polymerases that permit quantitative measure of incorporation fidelity, here we describe a simple method of measuring mutation frequencies of RNA viruses that has proven to be as accurate as biochemical approaches in identifying fidelity altering mutations. The approach uses conventional virological and sequencing techniques that can be performed in most biology laboratories. Based on our experience with a number of different viruses, we have identified the key steps that must be optimized to increase the likelihood of isolating fidelity variants and generating data of statistical significance. The isolation and characterization of fidelity altering mutations can provide new insights into polymerase structure and function1-3. Furthermore, these fidelity variants can be useful tools in characterizing mechanisms of virus adaptation and evolution4-7.
Immunology, Issue 52, Polymerase fidelity, RNA virus, mutation frequency, mutagen, RNA polymerase, viral evolution
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In Vivo Modeling of the Morbid Human Genome using Danio rerio
Authors: Adrienne R. Niederriter, Erica E. Davis, Christelle Golzio, Edwin C. Oh, I-Chun Tsai, Nicholas Katsanis.
Institutions: Duke University Medical Center, Duke University, Duke University Medical Center.
Here, we present methods for the development of assays to query potentially clinically significant nonsynonymous changes using in vivo complementation in zebrafish. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are a useful animal system due to their experimental tractability; embryos are transparent to enable facile viewing, undergo rapid development ex vivo, and can be genetically manipulated.1 These aspects have allowed for significant advances in the analysis of embryogenesis, molecular processes, and morphogenetic signaling. Taken together, the advantages of this vertebrate model make zebrafish highly amenable to modeling the developmental defects in pediatric disease, and in some cases, adult-onset disorders. Because the zebrafish genome is highly conserved with that of humans (~70% orthologous), it is possible to recapitulate human disease states in zebrafish. This is accomplished either through the injection of mutant human mRNA to induce dominant negative or gain of function alleles, or utilization of morpholino (MO) antisense oligonucleotides to suppress genes to mimic loss of function variants. Through complementation of MO-induced phenotypes with capped human mRNA, our approach enables the interpretation of the deleterious effect of mutations on human protein sequence based on the ability of mutant mRNA to rescue a measurable, physiologically relevant phenotype. Modeling of the human disease alleles occurs through microinjection of zebrafish embryos with MO and/or human mRNA at the 1-4 cell stage, and phenotyping up to seven days post fertilization (dpf). This general strategy can be extended to a wide range of disease phenotypes, as demonstrated in the following protocol. We present our established models for morphogenetic signaling, craniofacial, cardiac, vascular integrity, renal function, and skeletal muscle disorder phenotypes, as well as others.
Molecular Biology, Issue 78, Genetics, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Developmental Biology, Biochemistry, Anatomy, Physiology, Bioengineering, Genomics, Medical, zebrafish, in vivo, morpholino, human disease modeling, transcription, PCR, mRNA, DNA, Danio rerio, animal model
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Immunodetection of Outer Membrane Proteins by Flow Cytometry of Isolated Mitochondria
Authors: Sarah Pickles, Nathalie Arbour, Christine Vande Velde.
Institutions: Université de Montréal, CRCHUM, Université de Montréal, CRCHUM.
Methods to detect and monitor mitochondrial outer membrane protein components in animal tissues are vital to study mitochondrial physiology and pathophysiology. This protocol describes a technique where mitochondria isolated from rodent tissue are immunolabeled and analyzed by flow cytometry. Mitochondria are isolated from rodent spinal cords and subjected to a rapid enrichment step so as to remove myelin, a major contaminant of mitochondrial fractions prepared from nervous tissue. Isolated mitochondria are then labeled with an antibody of choice and a fluorescently conjugated secondary antibody. Analysis by flow cytometry verifies the relative purity of mitochondrial preparations by staining with a mitochondrial specific dye, followed by detection and quantification of immunolabeled protein. This technique is rapid, quantifiable and high-throughput, allowing for the analysis of hundreds of thousands of mitochondria per sample. It is applicable to assess novel proteins at the mitochondrial surface under normal physiological conditions as well as the proteins that may become mislocalized to this organelle during pathology. Importantly, this method can be coupled to fluorescent indicator dyes to report on certain activities of mitochondrial subpopulations and is feasible for mitochondria from the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) as well as liver.
Cellular Biology, Issue 91, Mitochondria, flow cytometry, organelle isolation, immunolabeling, spinal cord, TMRM
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Interview: Protein Folding and Studies of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Authors: Susan Lindquist.
Institutions: MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In this interview, Dr. Lindquist describes relationships between protein folding, prion diseases and neurodegenerative disorders. The problem of the protein folding is at the core of the modern biology. In addition to their traditional biochemical functions, proteins can mediate transfer of biological information and therefore can be considered a genetic material. This recently discovered function of proteins has important implications for studies of human disorders. Dr. Lindquist also describes current experimental approaches to investigate the mechanism of neurodegenerative diseases based on genetic studies in model organisms.
Neuroscience, issue 17, protein folding, brain, neuron, prion, neurodegenerative disease, yeast, screen, Translational Research
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A Strategy to Identify de Novo Mutations in Common Disorders such as Autism and Schizophrenia
Authors: Gauthier Julie, Fadi F. Hamdan, Guy A. Rouleau.
Institutions: Universite de Montreal, Universite de Montreal, Universite de Montreal.
There are several lines of evidence supporting the role of de novo mutations as a mechanism for common disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia. First, the de novo mutation rate in humans is relatively high, so new mutations are generated at a high frequency in the population. However, de novo mutations have not been reported in most common diseases. Mutations in genes leading to severe diseases where there is a strong negative selection against the phenotype, such as lethality in embryonic stages or reduced reproductive fitness, will not be transmitted to multiple family members, and therefore will not be detected by linkage gene mapping or association studies. The observation of very high concordance in monozygotic twins and very low concordance in dizygotic twins also strongly supports the hypothesis that a significant fraction of cases may result from new mutations. Such is the case for diseases such as autism and schizophrenia. Second, despite reduced reproductive fitness1 and extremely variable environmental factors, the incidence of some diseases is maintained worldwide at a relatively high and constant rate. This is the case for autism and schizophrenia, with an incidence of approximately 1% worldwide. Mutational load can be thought of as a balance between selection for or against a deleterious mutation and its production by de novo mutation. Lower rates of reproduction constitute a negative selection factor that should reduce the number of mutant alleles in the population, ultimately leading to decreased disease prevalence. These selective pressures tend to be of different intensity in different environments. Nonetheless, these severe mental disorders have been maintained at a constant relatively high prevalence in the worldwide population across a wide range of cultures and countries despite a strong negative selection against them2. This is not what one would predict in diseases with reduced reproductive fitness, unless there was a high new mutation rate. Finally, the effects of paternal age: there is a significantly increased risk of the disease with increasing paternal age, which could result from the age related increase in paternal de novo mutations. This is the case for autism and schizophrenia3. The male-to-female ratio of mutation rate is estimated at about 4–6:1, presumably due to a higher number of germ-cell divisions with age in males. Therefore, one would predict that de novo mutations would more frequently come from males, particularly older males4. A high rate of new mutations may in part explain why genetic studies have so far failed to identify many genes predisposing to complexes diseases genes, such as autism and schizophrenia, and why diseases have been identified for a mere 3% of genes in the human genome. Identification for de novo mutations as a cause of a disease requires a targeted molecular approach, which includes studying parents and affected subjects. The process for determining if the genetic basis of a disease may result in part from de novo mutations and the molecular approach to establish this link will be illustrated, using autism and schizophrenia as examples.
Medicine, Issue 52, de novo mutation, complex diseases, schizophrenia, autism, rare variations, DNA sequencing
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ALS - Motor Neuron Disease: Mechanism and Development of New Therapies
Authors: Jeffrey D. Rothstein.
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University.
Medicine, Issue 6, Translational Research, Neuroscience, ALS, stem cells, brain, neuron, upper motor neuron, transplantation
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JoVE Visualize is a tool created to match the last 5 years of PubMed publications to methods in JoVE's video library.

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