Since the 1940s transmission electron microscopy (TEM) has been providing biologists with ultra-high resolution images of biological materials. Yet, because of laborious and time-consuming protocols that also demand experience in preparation of artifact-free samples, TEM is not considered a user-friendly technique. Traditional sample preparation for TEM used chemical fixatives to preserve cellular structures. High-pressure freezing is the cryofixation of biological samples under high pressures to produce very fast cooling rates, thereby restricting ice formation, which is detrimental to the integrity of cellular ultrastructure. High-pressure freezing and freeze substitution are currently the methods of choice for producing the highest quality morphology in resin sections for TEM. These methods minimize the artifacts normally associated with conventional processing for TEM of thin sections. After cryofixation the frozen water in the sample is replaced with liquid organic solvent at low temperatures, a process called freeze substitution. Freeze substitution is typically carried out over several days in dedicated, costly equipment. A recent innovation allows the process to be completed in three hours, instead of the usual two days. This is typically followed by several more days of sample preparation that includes infiltration and embedding in epoxy resins before sectioning. Here we present a protocol combining high-pressure freezing and quick freeze substitution that enables plant sample fixation to be accomplished within hours. The protocol can readily be adapted for working with other tissues or organisms. Plant tissues are of special concern because of the presence of aerated spaces and water-filled vacuoles that impede ice-free freezing of water. In addition, the process of chemical fixation is especially long in plants due to cell walls impeding the penetration of the chemicals to deep within the tissues. Plant tissues are therefore particularly challenging, but this protocol is reliable and produces samples of the highest quality.
20 Related JoVE Articles!
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
Visualization of ATP Synthase Dimers in Mitochondria by Electron Cryo-tomography
Institutions: Max Planck Institute of Biophysics.
Electron cryo-tomography is a powerful tool in structural biology, capable of visualizing the three-dimensional structure of biological samples, such as cells, organelles, membrane vesicles, or viruses at molecular detail. To achieve this, the aqueous sample is rapidly vitrified in liquid ethane, which preserves it in a close-to-native, frozen-hydrated state. In the electron microscope, tilt series are recorded at liquid nitrogen temperature, from which 3D tomograms are reconstructed. The signal-to-noise ratio of the tomographic volume is inherently low. Recognizable, recurring features are enhanced by subtomogram averaging, by which individual subvolumes are cut out, aligned and averaged to reduce noise. In this way, 3D maps with a resolution of 2 nm or better can be obtained. A fit of available high-resolution structures to the 3D volume then produces atomic models of protein complexes in their native environment. Here we show how we use electron cryo-tomography to study the in situ
organization of large membrane protein complexes in mitochondria. We find that ATP synthases are organized in rows of dimers along highly curved apices of the inner membrane cristae, whereas complex I is randomly distributed in the membrane regions on either side of the rows. By subtomogram averaging we obtained a structure of the mitochondrial ATP synthase dimer within the cristae membrane.
Structural Biology, Issue 91, electron microscopy, electron cryo-tomography, mitochondria, ultrastructure, membrane structure, membrane protein complexes, ATP synthase, energy conversion, bioenergetics
Inducing Plasticity of Astrocytic Receptors by Manipulation of Neuronal Firing Rates
Institutions: University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside.
Close to two decades of research has established that astrocytes in situ
and in vivo
express numerous G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that can be stimulated by neuronally-released transmitter. However, the ability of astrocytic receptors to exhibit plasticity in response to changes in neuronal activity has received little attention. Here we describe a model system that can be used to globally scale up or down astrocytic group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in acute brain slices. Included are methods on how to prepare parasagittal hippocampal slices, construct chambers suitable for long-term slice incubation, bidirectionally manipulate neuronal action potential frequency, load astrocytes and astrocyte processes with fluorescent Ca2+
indicator, and measure changes in astrocytic Gq GPCR activity by recording spontaneous and evoked astrocyte Ca2+
events using confocal microscopy. In essence, a “calcium roadmap” is provided for how to measure plasticity of astrocytic Gq GPCRs. Applications of the technique for study of astrocytes are discussed. Having an understanding of how astrocytic receptor signaling is affected by changes in neuronal activity has important implications for both normal synaptic function as well as processes underlying neurological disorders and neurodegenerative disease.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, astrocyte, plasticity, mGluRs, neuronal Firing, electrophysiology, Gq GPCRs, Bolus-loading, calcium, microdomains, acute slices, Hippocampus, mouse
Cryo-electron Microscopy Specimen Preparation By Means Of a Focused Ion Beam
Institutions: Uppsala University, Gatan Inc., Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, University of Oslo.
Here we present a protocol used to prepare cryo-TEM samples of Aspergillus niger
spores, but which can easily be adapted for any number of microorganisms or solutions. We make use of a custom built cryo-transfer station and a modified cryo-SEM preparation chamber2
. The spores are taken from a culture, plunge-frozen in a liquid nitrogen slush and observed in the cryo-SEM to select a region of interest. A thin lamella is then extracted using the FIB, attached to a TEM grid and subsequently thinned to electron transparency. The grid is transferred to a cryo-TEM holder and into a TEM for high resolution studies. Thanks to the introduction of a cooled nanomanipulator tip and a cryo-transfer station, this protocol is a straightforward adaptation to cryogenic temperature of the routinely used FIB preparation of TEM samples. As such it has the advantages of requiring a small amount of modifications to existing instruments, setups and procedures; it is easy to implement; it has a broad range of applications, in principle the same as for cryo-TEM sample preparation. One limitation is that it requires skillful handling of the specimens at critical steps to avoid or minimize contaminations.
Bioengineering, Issue 89, Cryoelectron Microscopy, Life Sciences (General), Cryo-microscopy, Focused ion beam, Sample preparation, TEM, FIB
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
Linear Amplification Mediated PCR – Localization of Genetic Elements and Characterization of Unknown Flanking DNA
Institutions: National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) and German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ).
Linear-amplification mediated PCR (LAM-PCR) has been developed to study hematopoiesis in gene corrected cells of patients treated by gene therapy with integrating vector systems. Due to the stable integration of retroviral vectors, integration sites can be used to study the clonal fate of individual cells and their progeny. LAM- PCR for the first time provided evidence that leukemia in gene therapy treated patients originated from provirus induced overexpression of a neighboring proto-oncogene. The high sensitivity and specificity of LAM-PCR compared to existing methods like inverse PCR and ligation mediated (LM)-PCR is achieved by an initial preamplification step (linear PCR of 100 cycles) using biotinylated vector specific primers which allow subsequent reaction steps to be carried out on solid phase (magnetic beads). LAM-PCR is currently the most sensitive method available to identify unknown DNA which is located in the proximity of known DNA. Recently, a variant of LAM-PCR has been developed that circumvents restriction digest thus abrogating retrieval bias of integration sites and enables a comprehensive analysis of provirus locations in host genomes. The following protocol explains step-by-step the amplification of both 3’- and 5’- sequences adjacent to the integrated lentiviral vector.
Genetics, Issue 88, gene therapy, integrome, integration site analysis, LAM-PCR, retroviral vectors, lentiviral vectors, AAV, deep sequencing, clonal inventory, mutagenesis screen
From Voxels to Knowledge: A Practical Guide to the Segmentation of Complex Electron Microscopy 3D-Data
Institutions: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Modern 3D electron microscopy approaches have recently allowed unprecedented insight into the 3D ultrastructural organization of cells and tissues, enabling the visualization of large macromolecular machines, such as adhesion complexes, as well as higher-order structures, such as the cytoskeleton and cellular organelles in their respective cell and tissue context. Given the inherent complexity of cellular volumes, it is essential to first extract the features of interest in order to allow visualization, quantification, and therefore comprehension of their 3D organization. Each data set is defined by distinct characteristics, e.g.
, signal-to-noise ratio, crispness (sharpness) of the data, heterogeneity of its features, crowdedness of features, presence or absence of characteristic shapes that allow for easy identification, and the percentage of the entire volume that a specific region of interest occupies. All these characteristics need to be considered when deciding on which approach to take for segmentation.
The six different 3D ultrastructural data sets presented were obtained by three different imaging approaches: resin embedded stained electron tomography, focused ion beam- and serial block face- scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM, SBF-SEM) of mildly stained and heavily stained samples, respectively. For these data sets, four different segmentation approaches have been applied: (1) fully manual model building followed solely by visualization of the model, (2) manual tracing segmentation of the data followed by surface rendering, (3) semi-automated approaches followed by surface rendering, or (4) automated custom-designed segmentation algorithms followed by surface rendering and quantitative analysis. Depending on the combination of data set characteristics, it was found that typically one of these four categorical approaches outperforms the others, but depending on the exact sequence of criteria, more than one approach may be successful. Based on these data, we propose a triage scheme that categorizes both objective data set characteristics and subjective personal criteria for the analysis of the different data sets.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, 3D electron microscopy, feature extraction, segmentation, image analysis, reconstruction, manual tracing, thresholding
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
PLGA Nanoparticles Formed by Single- or Double-emulsion with Vitamin E-TPGS
Institutions: Barrow Neurological Institute.
Poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) is a biocompatible member of the aliphatic polyester family of biodegradable polymers. PLGA has long been a popular choice for drug delivery applications, particularly since it is already FDA-approved for use in humans in the form of resorbable sutures. Hydrophobic and hydrophilic drugs are encapsulated in PLGA particles via single- or double-emulsion. Briefly, the drug is dissolved with polymer or emulsified with polymer in an organic phase that is then emulsified with the aqueous phase. After the solvent has evaporated, particles are washed and collected via centrifugation for lyophilization and long term storage. PLGA degrades slowly via hydrolysis in aqueous environments, and encapsulated agents are released over a period of weeks to months. Although PLGA is a material that possesses many advantages for drug delivery, reproducible formation of nanoparticles can be challenging; considerable variability is introduced by the use of different equipment, reagents batch, and precise method of emulsification. Here, we describe in great detail the formation and characterization of microparticles and nanoparticles formed by single- or double-emulsion using the emulsifying agent vitamin E-TPGS. Particle morphology and size are determined with scanning electron microscopy (SEM). We provide representative SEM images for nanoparticles produced with varying emulsifier concentration, as well as examples of imaging artifacts and failed emulsifications. This protocol can be readily adapted to use alternative emulsifiers (e.g.
poly(vinyl alcohol), PVA) or solvents (e.g.
Chemistry, Issue 82, Nanoparticles, Microparticles, PLGA, TPGS, drug delivery, scanning electron microscopy, emulsion, polymers
Preparation of Primary Neurons for Visualizing Neurites in a Frozen-hydrated State Using Cryo-Electron Tomography
Institutions: Baylor College of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, University of California at San Diego, Baylor College of Medicine.
Neurites, both dendrites and axons, are neuronal cellular processes that enable the conduction of electrical impulses between neurons. Defining the structure of neurites is critical to understanding how these processes move materials and signals that support synaptic communication. Electron microscopy (EM) has been traditionally used to assess the ultrastructural features within neurites; however, the exposure to organic solvent during dehydration and resin embedding can distort structures. An important unmet goal is the formulation of procedures that allow for structural evaluations not impacted by such artifacts.
Here, we have established a detailed and reproducible protocol for growing and flash-freezing whole neurites of different primary neurons on electron microscopy grids followed by their examination with cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET). This technique allows for 3-D visualization of frozen, hydrated neurites at nanometer resolution, facilitating assessment of their morphological differences. Our protocol yields an unprecedented view of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurites, and a visualization of hippocampal neurites in their near-native state. As such, these methods create a foundation for future studies on neurites of both normal neurons and those impacted by neurological disorders.
Neuroscience, Issue 84, Neurons, Cryo-electron Microscopy, Electron Microscope Tomography, Brain, rat, primary neuron culture, morphological assay
Scanning-probe Single-electron Capacitance Spectroscopy
Institutions: Michigan State University, Mercyhurst University, Saint Louis University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The integration of low-temperature scanning-probe techniques and single-electron capacitance spectroscopy represents a powerful tool to study the electronic quantum structure of small systems - including individual atomic dopants in semiconductors. Here we present a capacitance-based method, known as Subsurface Charge Accumulation (SCA) imaging, which is capable of resolving single-electron charging while achieving sufficient spatial resolution to image individual atomic dopants. The use of a capacitance technique enables observation of subsurface features, such as dopants buried many nanometers beneath the surface of a semiconductor material1,2,3
. In principle, this technique can be applied to any system to resolve electron motion below an insulating surface.
As in other electric-field-sensitive scanned-probe techniques4
, the lateral spatial resolution of the measurement depends in part on the radius of curvature of the probe tip. Using tips with a small radius of curvature can enable spatial resolution of a few tens of nanometers. This fine spatial resolution allows investigations of small numbers (down to one) of subsurface dopants1,2
. The charge resolution depends greatly on the sensitivity of the charge detection circuitry; using high electron mobility transistors (HEMT) in such circuits at cryogenic temperatures enables a sensitivity of approximately 0.01 electrons/Hz½
at 0.3 K 5
Physics, Issue 77, Biophysics, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Microscopy, Scanning Probe, Nanotechnology, Physics, Electronics, acceptors (solid state), donors (solid state), Solid-State Physics, tunneling microscopy, scanning capacitance microscopy, subsurface charge accumulation imaging, capacitance spectroscopy, scanning probe microscopy, single-electron spectroscopy, imaging
Isolation and Characterization of RNA-Containing Exosomes
Institutions: University of Gothenburg.
The field of exosome research is rapidly expanding, with a dramatic increase in publications in recent years. These small vesicles (30-100 nm) of endocytic origin were first proposed to function as a way for reticulocytes to eradicate the transferrin receptor while maturing into erythrocytes1
, and were later named exosomes. Exosomes are formed by inward budding of late endosomes, producing multivesicular bodies (MVBs), and are released into the environment by fusion of the MVBs with the plasma membrane2
. Since the first discovery of exosomes, a wide range of cells have been shown to release these vesicles. Exosomes have also been detected in several biological fluids, including plasma, nasal lavage fluid, saliva and breast milk3-6
. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that the content and function of exosomes depends on the originating cell and the conditions under which they are produced. A variety of functions have been demonstrated for exosomes, such as induction of tolerance against allergen7,8
, eradication of established tumors in mice9
, inhibition and activation of natural killer cells10-12
, promotion of differentiation into T regulatory cells13
, stimulation of T cell proliferation14
and induction of T cell apoptosis15
. Year 2007 we demonstrated that exosomes released from mast cells contain messenger RNA (mRNA) and microRNA (miRNA), and that the RNA can be shuttled from one cell to another via exosomes. In the recipient cells, the mRNA shuttled by exosomes was shown to be translated into protein, suggesting a regulatory function of the transferred RNA16
. Further, we have also shown that exosomes derived from cells grown under oxidative stress can induce tolerance against further stress in recipient cells and thus suggest a biological function of the exosomal shuttle RNA17
. Cell culture media and biological fluids contain a mixture of vesicles and shed fragments. A high quality isolation method for exosomes, followed by characterization and identification of the exosomes and their content, is therefore crucial to distinguish exosomes from other vesicles and particles. Here, we present a method for the isolation of exosomes from both cell culture medium and body fluids. This isolation method is based on repeated centrifugation and filtration steps, followed by a final ultracentrifugation step in which the exosomes are pelleted. Important methods to identify the exosomes and characterize the exosomal morphology and protein content are highlighted, including electron microscopy, flow cytometry and Western blot. The purification of the total exosomal RNA is based on spin column chromatography and the exosomal RNA yield and size distribution is analyzed using a Bioanalyzer.
Molecular Biology, Issue 59, Exosomes, microvesicles, mRNA, miRNA, RNA isolation, flow cytometry, electron microscopy, Western blot, Bioanalyzer
High-throughput Crystallization of Membrane Proteins Using the Lipidic Bicelle Method
Institutions: University of California Los Angeles , David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA.
Membrane proteins (MPs) play a critical role in many physiological processes such as pumping specific molecules across the otherwise impermeable membrane bilayer that surrounds all cells and organelles. Alterations in the function of MPs result in many human diseases and disorders; thus, an intricate understanding of their structures remains a critical objective for biological research. However, structure determination of MPs remains a significant challenge often stemming from their hydrophobicity.
MPs have substantial hydrophobic regions embedded within the bilayer. Detergents are frequently used to solubilize these proteins from the bilayer generating a protein-detergent micelle that can then be manipulated in a similar manner as soluble proteins. Traditionally, crystallization trials proceed using a protein-detergent mixture, but they often resist crystallization or produce crystals of poor quality. These problems arise due to the detergent′s inability to adequately mimic the bilayer resulting in poor stability and heterogeneity. In addition, the detergent shields the hydrophobic surface of the MP reducing the surface area available for crystal contacts. To circumvent these drawbacks MPs can be crystallized in lipidic media, which more closely simulates their endogenous environment, and has recently become a de novo technique for MP crystallization.
Lipidic cubic phase (LCP) is a three-dimensional lipid bilayer penetrated by an interconnected system of aqueous channels1
. Although monoolein is the lipid of choice, related lipids such as monopalmitolein and monovaccenin have also been used to make LCP2
. MPs are incorporated into the LCP where they diffuse in three dimensions and feed crystal nuclei. A great advantage of the LCP is that the protein remains in a more native environment, but the method has a number of technical disadvantages including high viscosity (requiring specialized apparatuses) and difficulties in crystal visualization and manipulation3,4
. Because of these technical difficulties, we utilized another lipidic medium for crystallization-bicelles5,6
). Bicelles are lipid/amphiphile mixtures formed by blending a phosphatidylcholine lipid (DMPC) with an amphiphile (CHAPSO) or a short-chain lipid (DHPC). Within each bicelle disc, the lipid molecules generate a bilayer while the amphiphile molecules line the apolar edges providing beneficial properties of both bilayers and detergents. Importantly, below their transition temperature, protein-bicelle mixtures have a reduced viscosity and are manipulated in a similar manner as detergent-solubilized MPs, making bicelles compatible with crystallization robots.
Bicelles have been successfully used to crystallize several membrane proteins5,7-11 (Table 1)
. This growing collection of proteins demonstrates the versatility of bicelles for crystallizing both alpha helical and beta sheet MPs from prokaryotic and eukaryotic sources. Because of these successes and the simplicity of high-throughput implementation, bicelles should be part of every membrane protein crystallographer′s arsenal. In this video, we describe the bicelle methodology and provide a step-by-step protocol for setting up high-throughput crystallization trials of purified MPs using standard robotics.
Molecular Biology, Issue 59, membrane proteins crystallization, bicelle, lipidic crystallization
Simultaneous Synthesis of Single-walled Carbon Nanotubes and Graphene in a Magnetically-enhanced Arc Plasma
Institutions: The George Washington University.
Carbon nanostructures such as single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) and graphene attract a deluge of interest of scholars nowadays due to their very promising application for molecular sensors, field effect transistor and super thin and flexible electronic devices1-4
. Anodic arc discharge supported by the erosion of the anode material is one of the most practical and efficient methods, which can provide specific non-equilibrium processes and a high influx of carbon material to the developing structures at relatively higher temperature, and consequently the as-synthesized products have few structural defects and better crystallinity.
To further improve the controllability and flexibility of the synthesis of carbon nanostructures in arc discharge, magnetic fields can be applied during the synthesis process according to the strong magnetic responses of arc plasmas. It was demonstrated that the magnetically-enhanced arc discharge can increase the average length of SWCNT 5
, narrow the diameter distribution of metallic catalyst particles and carbon nanotubes 6
, and change the ratio of metallic and semiconducting carbon nanotubes 7
, as well as lead to graphene synthesis 8
Furthermore, it is worthwhile to remark that when we introduce a non-uniform magnetic field with the component normal to the current in arc, the Lorentz force along the J×B direction can generate the plasmas jet and make effective delivery of carbon ion particles and heat flux to samples. As a result, large-scale graphene flakes and high-purity single-walled carbon nanotubes were simultaneously generated by such new magnetically-enhanced anodic arc method. Arc imaging, scanning electron microscope (SEM), transmission electron microscope (TEM) and Raman spectroscopy were employed to analyze the characterization of carbon nanostructures. These findings indicate a wide spectrum of opportunities to manipulate with the properties of nanostructures produced in plasmas by means of controlling the arc conditions.
Bioengineering, Issue 60, Arc discharge, magnetic control, single-walled carbon nanotubes, graphene
Low Molecular Weight Protein Enrichment on Mesoporous Silica Thin Films for Biomarker Discovery
Institutions: The Methodist Hospital Research Institute, National Center for Nanoscience and Technology.
The identification of circulating biomarkers holds great potential for non invasive approaches in early diagnosis and prognosis, as well as for the monitoring of therapeutic efficiency.1-3
The circulating low molecular weight proteome (LMWP) composed of small proteins shed from tissues and cells or peptide fragments derived from the proteolytic degradation of larger proteins, has been associated with the pathological condition in patients and likely reflects the state of disease.4,5
Despite these potential clinical applications, the use of Mass Spectrometry (MS) to profile the LMWP from biological fluids has proven to be very challenging due to the large dynamic range of protein and peptide concentrations in serum.6
Without sample pre-treatment, some of the more highly abundant proteins obscure the detection of low-abundance species in serum/plasma. Current proteomic-based approaches, such as two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel-electrophoresis (2D-PAGE) and shotgun proteomics methods are labor-intensive, low throughput and offer limited suitability for clinical applications.7-9
Therefore, a more effective strategy is needed to isolate LMWP from blood and allow the high throughput screening of clinical samples.
Here, we present a fast, efficient and reliable multi-fractionation system based on mesoporous silica chips to specifically target and enrich LMWP.10,11
Mesoporous silica (MPS) thin films with tunable features at the nanoscale were fabricated using the triblock copolymer template pathway. Using different polymer templates and polymer concentrations in the precursor solution, various pore size distributions, pore structures, connectivity and surface properties were determined and applied for selective recovery of low mass proteins. The selective parsing of the enriched peptides into different subclasses according to their physicochemical properties will enhance the efficiency of recovery and detection of low abundance species. In combination with mass spectrometry and statistic analysis, we demonstrated the correlation between the nanophase characteristics of the mesoporous silica thin films and the specificity and efficacy of low mass proteome harvesting. The results presented herein reveal the potential of the nanotechnology-based technology to provide a powerful alternative to conventional methods for LMWP harvesting from complex biological fluids. Because of the ability to tune the material properties, the capability for low-cost production, the simplicity and rapidity of sample collection, and the greatly reduced sample requirements for analysis, this novel nanotechnology will substantially impact the field of proteomic biomarker research and clinical proteomic assessment.
Bioengineering, Issue 62, Nanoporous silica chip, Low molecular weight proteomics, Peptidomics, MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, early diagnostics, proteomics
Controlling the Size, Shape and Stability of Supramolecular Polymers in Water
Institutions: Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology.
For aqueous based supramolecular polymers, the simultaneous control over shape, size and stability is very difficult1
. At the same time, the ability to do so is highly important in view of a number of applications in functional soft matter including electronics, biomedical engineering, and sensors. In the past, successful strategies to control the size and shape of supramolecular polymers typically focused on the use of templates2,3
, end cappers4
or selective solvent techniques5
Here we disclose a strategy based on self-assembling discotic amphiphiles that leads to the control over stack length and shape of ordered, chiral columnar aggregates. By balancing electrostatic repulsive interactions on the hydrophilic rim and attractive non-covalent forces within the hydrophobic core of the polymerizing building block, we manage to create small and discrete spherical objects6,7
. Increasing the salt concentration to screen the charges induces a sphere-to-rod transition. Intriguingly, this transition is expressed in an increase of cooperativity in the temperature-dependent self-assembly mechanism, and more stable aggregates are obtained.
For our study we select a benzene-1,3,5-tricarboxamide (BTA) core connected to a hydrophilic metal chelate via a hydrophobic, fluorinated L-phenylalanine based spacer (Scheme 1
). The metal chelate selected is a Gd(III)-DTPA complex that contains two overall remaining charges per complex and necessarily two counter ions. The one-dimensional growth of the aggregate is directed by π-π stacking and intermolecular hydrogen bonding. However, the electrostatic, repulsive forces that arise from the charges on the Gd(III)-DTPA complex start limiting the one-dimensional growth of the BTA-based discotic once a certain size is reached. At millimolar concentrations the formed aggregate has a spherical shape and a diameter of around 5 nm as inferred from 1
H-NMR spectroscopy, small angle X-ray scattering, and cryogenic transmission electron microscopy (cryo-TEM). The strength of the electrostatic repulsive interactions between molecules can be reduced by increasing the salt concentration of the buffered solutions. This screening of the charges induces a transition from spherical aggregates into elongated rods with a length > 25 nm. Cryo-TEM allows to visualise the changes in shape and size. In addition, CD spectroscopy permits to derive the mechanistic details of the self-assembly processes before and after the addition of salt. Importantly, the cooperativity -a key feature that dictates the physical properties of the produced supramolecular polymers- increases dramatically upon screening the electrostatic interactions. This increase in cooperativity results in a significant increase in the molecular weight of the formed supramolecular polymers in water.
Chemical Engineering, Issue 66, Chemistry, Physics, Self-assembly, cryogenic transmission electron microscopy, circular dichroism, controlled architecture, discotic amphiphile
Constant Pressure-controlled Extrusion Method for the Preparation of Nano-sized Lipid Vesicles
Institutions: University of Colorado Boulder, University of Colorado Boulder.
Liposomes are artificially prepared vesicles consisting of natural and synthetic phospholipids that are widely used as a cell membrane mimicking platform to study protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions3
, monitor drug delivery4,5
, and encapsulation4
. Phospholipids naturally create curved lipid bilayers, distinguishing itself from a micelle.6
Liposomes are traditionally classified by size and number of bilayers, i.e. large unilamellar vesicles (LUVs), small unilamellar vesicles (SUVs) and multilamellar vesicles (MLVs)7
. In particular, the preparation of homogeneous liposomes of various sizes is important for studying membrane curvature that plays a vital role in cell signaling, endo- and exocytosis, membrane fusion, and protein trafficking8
. Several groups analyze how proteins are used to modulate processes that involve membrane curvature and thus prepare liposomes of diameters <100 - 400 nm to study their behavior on cell functions3
. Others focus on liposome-drug encapsulation, studying liposomes as vehicles to carry and deliver a drug of interest9
. Drug encapsulation can be achieved as reported during liposome formation9
. Our extrusion step should not affect the encapsulated drug for two reasons, i.e. (1) drug encapsulation should be achieved prior to this step and (2) liposomes should retain their natural biophysical stability, securely carrying the drug in the aqueous core. These research goals further suggest the need for an optimized method to design stable sub-micron lipid vesicles.
Nonetheless, the current liposome preparation technologies (sonication10
, sedimentation) do not allow preparation of liposomes with highly curved surface (i.e. diameter <100 nm) with high consistency and efficiency10,5
, which limits the biophysical studies of an emerging field of membrane curvature sensing. Herein, we present a robust preparation method for a variety of biologically relevant liposomes.
Manual extrusion using gas-tight syringes and polycarbonate membranes10,5
is a common practice but heterogeneity is often observed when using pore sizes <100 nm due to due to variability of manual pressure applied. We employed a constant pressure-controlled extrusion apparatus to prepare synthetic liposomes whose diameters range between 30 and 400 nm. Dynamic light scattering (DLS)10
, electron microscopy11
and nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA)12
were used to quantify the liposome sizes as described in our protocol, with commercial polystyrene (PS) beads used as a calibration standard. A near linear correlation was observed between the employed pore sizes and the experimentally determined liposomes, indicating high fidelity of our pressure-controlled liposome preparation method. Further, we have shown that this lipid vesicle preparation method is generally applicable, independent of various liposome sizes. Lastly, we have also demonstrated in a time course study that these prepared liposomes were stable for up to 16 hours. A representative nano-sized liposome preparation protocol is demonstrated below.
Bioengineering, Issue 64, Biomedical Engineering, Liposomes, particle extrusion, nano-sized vesicles, dynamic light scattering (DLS), nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA)
Reconstitution of a Kv Channel into Lipid Membranes for Structural and Functional Studies
Institutions: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
To study the lipid-protein interaction in a reductionistic fashion, it is necessary to incorporate the membrane proteins into membranes of well-defined lipid composition. We are studying the lipid-dependent gating effects in a prototype voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channel, and have worked out detailed procedures to reconstitute the channels into different membrane systems. Our reconstitution procedures take consideration of both detergent-induced fusion of vesicles and the fusion of protein/detergent micelles with the lipid/detergent mixed micelles as well as the importance of reaching an equilibrium distribution of lipids among the protein/detergent/lipid and the detergent/lipid mixed micelles. Our data suggested that the insertion of the channels in the lipid vesicles is relatively random in orientations, and the reconstitution efficiency is so high that no detectable protein aggregates were seen in fractionation experiments. We have utilized the reconstituted channels to determine the conformational states of the channels in different lipids, record electrical activities of a small number of channels incorporated in planar lipid bilayers, screen for conformation-specific ligands from a phage-displayed peptide library, and support the growth of 2D crystals of the channels in membranes. The reconstitution procedures described here may be adapted for studying other membrane proteins in lipid bilayers, especially for the investigation of the lipid effects on the eukaryotic voltage-gated ion channels.
Molecular Biology, Issue 77, Biochemistry, Genetics, Cellular Biology, Structural Biology, Biophysics, Membrane Lipids, Phospholipids, Carrier Proteins, Membrane Proteins, Micelles, Molecular Motor Proteins, life sciences, biochemistry, Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, lipid-protein interaction, channel reconstitution, lipid-dependent gating, voltage-gated ion channel, conformation-specific ligands, lipids
Low-Cost Cryo-Light Microscopy Stage Fabrication for Correlated Light/Electron Microscopy
Institutions: University of California Davis.
The coupling of cryo-light microscopy (cryo-LM) and cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) poses a number of advantages for understanding cellular
dynamics and ultrastructure. First, cells can be imaged in a near native environment for both techniques. Second, due to the vitrification process, samples are
preserved by rapid physical immobilization rather than slow chemical fixation. Third, imaging the same sample with both cryo-LM and cryo-EM provides correlation of
data from a single cell, rather than a comparison of "representative samples". While these benefits are well known from prior studies, the widespread use of correlative
cryo-LM and cryo-EM remains limited due to the expense and complexity of buying or building a suitable cryogenic light microscopy stage. Here we demonstrate the
assembly, and use of an inexpensive cryogenic stage that can be fabricated in any lab for less than $40 with parts found at local hardware and grocery stores. This
cryo-LM stage is designed for use with reflected light microscopes that are fitted with long working distance air objectives. For correlative cryo-LM and cryo-EM
studies, we adapt the use of carbon coated standard 3-mm cryo-EM grids as specimen supports. After adsorbing the sample to the grid, previously established protocols
for vitrifying the sample and transferring/handling the grid are followed to permit multi-technique imaging. As a result, this setup allows any laboratory with a
reflected light microscope to have access to direct correlative imaging of frozen hydrated samples.
Cellular Biology, Issue 52, cryo-light microscopy, cryogenic stage, CLEM, cryo-fluorescence, multi-resolution microscopy, cryo-electron microscopy
Purification of Progenitors from Skeletal Muscle
Institutions: University of British Columbia.
Skeletal muscle contains multiple progenitor populations of distinct embryonic origins and developmental potential. Myogenic progenitors, usually residing in a "satellite cell position" between the myofiber plasma membrane and the laminin-rich basement membrane that ensheaths it, are self-renewing cells that are solely committed to the myogenic lineage1,2
. We have recently described a second class of vessel associated progenitors that can generate myofibroblasts and white adipocytes, which responds to damage by efficiently entering proliferation and provides trophic support to myogenic cells during tissue regeneration3,4
. One of the most trusted assays to determine the developmental and regenerative potential of a given cell population relies on their isolation and transplantation5-7
. To this end we have optimized protocols for their purification by flow cytometry from enzymatically dissociated muscle, which we will outline in this article. The populations obtained using this method will contain either myogenic or fibro/adipogenic colony forming cells: no other cell types are capable of expanding in vitro
or surviving in vivo
delivery. However, when these populations are used immediately after the sort for molecular analysis (e.g qRT-PCR) one must keep in mind that the freshly sorted subsets may contain other contaminant cells that lack the ability of forming colonies or engrafting recipients.
Cellular Biology, Issue 49, Muscle, white adipose, stem cells, flow cytometry, purification