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Automated NMR fragment based screening identified a novel interface blocker to the LARG/RhoA complex.
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2014
The small GTPase cycles between the inactive GDP form and the activated GTP form, catalyzed by the upstream guanine exchange factors. The modulation of such process by small molecules has been proven to be a fruitful route for therapeutic intervention to prevent the over-activation of the small GTPase. The fragment based approach emerging in the past decade has demonstrated its paramount potential in the discovery of inhibitors targeting such novel and challenging protein-protein interactions. The details regarding the procedure of NMR fragment screening from scratch have been rarely disclosed comprehensively, thus restricts its wider applications. To achieve a consistent screening applicable to a number of targets, we developed a highly automated protocol to cover every aspect of NMR fragment screening as possible, including the construction of small but diverse libray, determination of the aqueous solubility by NMR, grouping compounds with mutual dispersity to a cocktail, and the automated processing and visualization of the ligand based screening spectra. We exemplified our streamlined screening in RhoA alone and the complex of the small GTPase RhoA and its upstream guanine exchange factor LARG. Two hits were confirmed from the primary screening in cocktail and secondary screening over individual hits for LARG/RhoA complex, while one of them was also identified from the screening for RhoA alone. HSQC titration of the two hits over RhoA and LARG alone, respectively, identified one compound binding to RhoA.GDP at a 0.11 mM affinity, and perturbed the residues at the switch II region of RhoA. This hit blocked the formation of the LARG/RhoA complex, validated by the native gel electrophoresis, and the titration of RhoA to ¹?N labeled LARG in the absence and presence the compound, respectively. It therefore provides us a starting point toward a more potent inhibitor to RhoA activation catalyzed by LARG.
Authors: Faiza Waheed, Pamela Speight, Qinghong Dan, Rafael Garcia-Mata, Katalin Szaszi.
Published: 03-31-2012
Proteins of the Rho family of small GTPases are central regulators of the cytoskeleton, and control a large variety of cellular processes, including cell migration, gene expression, cell cycle progression and cell adhesion 1. Rho proteins are molecular switches that are active in GTP-bound and inactive in GDP-bound state. Their activation is mediated by a family of Guanine-nucleotide Exchange Factor (GEF) proteins. Rho-GEFs constitute a large family, with overlapping specificities 2. Although a lot of progress has been made in identifying the GEFs activated by specific signals, there are still many questions remaining regarding the pathway-specific regulation of these proteins. The number of Rho-GEFs exceeds 70, and each cell expresses more than one GEF protein. In addition, many of these proteins activate not only Rho, but other members of the family, contributing further to the complexity of the regulatory networks. Importantly, exploring how GEFs are regulated requires a method to follow the active pool of individual GEFs in cells activated by different stimuli. Here we provide a step-by-step protocol for a method used to assess and quantify the available active Rho-specific GEFs using an affinity precipitation assay. This assay was developed a few years ago in the Burridge lab 3,4 and we have used it in kidney tubular cell lines 5,6,7. The assay takes advantage of a "nucleotide free" mutant RhoA, with a high affinity for active GEFs. The mutation (G17A) renders the protein unable to bind GDP or GTP and this state mimics the intermediate state that is bound to the GEF. A GST-tagged version of this mutant protein is expressed and purified from E. coli, bound to glutathione sepharose beads and used to precipitate active GEFs from lysates of untreated and stimulated cells. As most GEFs are activated via posttranslational modifications or release from inhibitory bindings, their active state is preserved in cell lysates, and they can be detected by this assay8. Captured proteins can be probed for known GEFs by detection with specific antibodies using Western blotting, or analyzed by Mass Spectrometry to identify unknown GEFs activated by certain stimuli.
24 Related JoVE Articles!
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Spatio-Temporal Manipulation of Small GTPase Activity at Subcellular Level and on Timescale of Seconds in Living Cells
Authors: Robert DeRose, Christopher Pohlmeyer, Nobuhiro Umeda, Tasuku Ueno, Tetsuo Nagano, Scot Kuo, Takanari Inoue.
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University, University of Tokyo, Johns Hopkins University.
Dynamic regulation of the Rho family of small guanosine triphosphatases (GTPases) with great spatiotemporal precision is essential for various cellular functions and events1, 2. Their spatiotemporally dynamic nature has been revealed by visualization of their activity and localization in real time3. In order to gain deeper understanding of their roles in diverse cellular functions at the molecular level, the next step should be perturbation of protein activities at a precise subcellular location and timing. To achieve this goal, we have developed a method for light-induced, spatio-temporally controlled activation of small GTPases by combining two techniques: (1) rapamycin-induced FKBP-FRB heterodimerization and (2) a photo-caging method of rapamycin. With the use of rapamycin-mediated FKBP-FRB heterodimerization, we have developed a method for rapidly inducible activation or inactivation of small GTPases including Rac4, Cdc424, RhoA4 and Ras5, in which rapamycin induces translocation of FKBP-fused GTPases, or their activators, to the plasma membrane where FRB is anchored. For coupling with this heterodimerization system, we have also developed a photo-caging system of rapamycin analogs. A photo-caged compound is a small molecule whose activity is suppressed with a photocleavable protecting group known as a caging group. To suppress heterodimerization activity completely, we designed a caged rapamycin that is tethered to a macromolecule such that the resulting large complex cannot cross the plasma membrane, leading to virtually no background activity as a chemical dimerizer inside cells6. Figure 1 illustrates a scheme of our system. With the combination of these two systems, we locally recruited a Rac activator to the plasma membrane on a timescale of seconds and achieved light-induced Rac activation at the subcellular level6.
Bioengineering, Issue 61, Small GTPase, rapamycin, caged compound, spatiotemporal control, heterodimerization, FKBP, FRB, light irradiation
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Assays for the Identification of Novel Antivirals against Bluetongue Virus
Authors: Linlin Gu, Stewart W. Schneller, Qianjun Li.
Institutions: University of Alabama at Birmingham, Auburn University.
To identify potential antivirals against BTV, we have developed, optimized and validated three assays presented here. The CPE-based assay was the first assay developed to evaluate whether a compound showed any antiviral efficacy and have been used to screen large compound library. Meanwhile, cytotoxicity of antivirals could also be evaluated using the CPE-based assay. The dose-response assay was designed to determine the range of efficacy for the selected antiviral, i.e. 50% inhibitory concentration (IC50) or effective concentration (EC50), as well as its range of cytotoxicity (CC50). The ToA assay was employed for the initial MoA study to determine the underlying mechanism of the novel antivirals during BTV viral lifecycle or the possible effect on host cellular machinery. These assays are vital for the evaluation of antiviral efficacy in cell culture system, and have been used for our recent researches leading to the identification of a number of novel antivirals against BTV.
Immunology, Issue 80, Drug Discovery, Drug Evaluation, Preclinical, Evaluation Studies as Topic, Drug Evaluation, Feasibility Studies, Biological Assay, Technology, Pharmaceutical, High-Throughput Screening Assays, Animal Diseases, Investigative Techniques, Antiviral, Efficacy, Bluetongue Virus, Cytopathic effect, Dose response, Time-of-Addition, Mechanism-of-Action
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High Content Screening in Neurodegenerative Diseases
Authors: Shushant Jain, Ronald E. van Kesteren, Peter Heutink.
Institutions: VU University Medical Center, Neuroscience Campus Amsterdam.
The functional annotation of genomes, construction of molecular networks and novel drug target identification, are important challenges that need to be addressed as a matter of great urgency1-4. Multiple complementary 'omics' approaches have provided clues as to the genetic risk factors and pathogenic mechanisms underlying numerous neurodegenerative diseases, but most findings still require functional validation5. For example, a recent genome wide association study for Parkinson's Disease (PD), identified many new loci as risk factors for the disease, but the underlying causative variant(s) or pathogenic mechanism is not known6, 7. As each associated region can contain several genes, the functional evaluation of each of the genes on phenotypes associated with the disease, using traditional cell biology techniques would take too long. There is also a need to understand the molecular networks that link genetic mutations to the phenotypes they cause. It is expected that disease phenotypes are the result of multiple interactions that have been disrupted. Reconstruction of these networks using traditional molecular methods would be time consuming. Moreover, network predictions from independent studies of individual components, the reductionism approach, will probably underestimate the network complexity8. This underestimation could, in part, explain the low success rate of drug approval due to undesirable or toxic side effects. Gaining a network perspective of disease related pathways using HT/HC cellular screening approaches, and identifying key nodes within these pathways, could lead to the identification of targets that are more suited for therapeutic intervention. High-throughput screening (HTS) is an ideal methodology to address these issues9-12. but traditional methods were one dimensional whole-well cell assays, that used simplistic readouts for complex biological processes. They were unable to simultaneously quantify the many phenotypes observed in neurodegenerative diseases such as axonal transport deficits or alterations in morphology properties13, 14. This approach could not be used to investigate the dynamic nature of cellular processes or pathogenic events that occur in a subset of cells. To quantify such features one has to move to multi-dimensional phenotypes termed high-content screening (HCS)4, 15-17. HCS is the cell-based quantification of several processes simultaneously, which provides a more detailed representation of the cellular response to various perturbations compared to HTS. HCS has many advantages over HTS18, 19, but conducting a high-throughput (HT)-high-content (HC) screen in neuronal models is problematic due to high cost, environmental variation and human error. In order to detect cellular responses on a 'phenomics' scale using HC imaging one has to reduce variation and error, while increasing sensitivity and reproducibility. Herein we describe a method to accurately and reliably conduct shRNA screens using automated cell culturing20 and HC imaging in neuronal cellular models. We describe how we have used this methodology to identify modulators for one particular protein, DJ1, which when mutated causes autosomal recessive parkinsonism21. Combining the versatility of HC imaging with HT methods, it is possible to accurately quantify a plethora of phenotypes. This could subsequently be utilized to advance our understanding of the genome, the pathways involved in disease pathogenesis as well as identify potential therapeutic targets.
Medicine, Issue 59, High-throughput screening, high-content screening, neurodegeneration, automated cell culturing, Parkinson’s disease
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Electric Cell-substrate Impedance Sensing for the Quantification of Endothelial Proliferation, Barrier Function, and Motility
Authors: Robert Szulcek, Harm Jan Bogaard, Geerten P. van Nieuw Amerongen.
Institutions: Institute for Cardiovascular Research, VU University Medical Center, Institute for Cardiovascular Research, VU University Medical Center.
Electric Cell-substrate Impedance Sensing (ECIS) is an in vitro impedance measuring system to quantify the behavior of cells within adherent cell layers. To this end, cells are grown in special culture chambers on top of opposing, circular gold electrodes. A constant small alternating current is applied between the electrodes and the potential across is measured. The insulating properties of the cell membrane create a resistance towards the electrical current flow resulting in an increased electrical potential between the electrodes. Measuring cellular impedance in this manner allows the automated study of cell attachment, growth, morphology, function, and motility. Although the ECIS measurement itself is straightforward and easy to learn, the underlying theory is complex and selection of the right settings and correct analysis and interpretation of the data is not self-evident. Yet, a clear protocol describing the individual steps from the experimental design to preparation, realization, and analysis of the experiment is not available. In this article the basic measurement principle as well as possible applications, experimental considerations, advantages and limitations of the ECIS system are discussed. A guide is provided for the study of cell attachment, spreading and proliferation; quantification of cell behavior in a confluent layer, with regard to barrier function, cell motility, quality of cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesions; and quantification of wound healing and cellular responses to vasoactive stimuli. Representative results are discussed based on human microvascular (MVEC) and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC), but are applicable to all adherent growing cells.
Bioengineering, Issue 85, ECIS, Impedance Spectroscopy, Resistance, TEER, Endothelial Barrier, Cell Adhesions, Focal Adhesions, Proliferation, Migration, Motility, Wound Healing
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Methods to Identify the NMR Resonances of the 13C-Dimethyl N-terminal Amine on Reductively Methylated Proteins
Authors: Kevin J. Roberson, Pamlea N. Brady, Michelle M. Sweeney, Megan A. Macnaughtan.
Institutions: Louisiana State University.
Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is a proven technique for protein structure and dynamic studies. To study proteins with NMR, stable magnetic isotopes are typically incorporated metabolically to improve the sensitivity and allow for sequential resonance assignment. Reductive 13C-methylation is an alternative labeling method for proteins that are not amenable to bacterial host over-expression, the most common method of isotope incorporation. Reductive 13C-methylation is a chemical reaction performed under mild conditions that modifies a protein's primary amino groups (lysine ε-amino groups and the N-terminal α-amino group) to 13C-dimethylamino groups. The structure and function of most proteins are not altered by the modification, making it a viable alternative to metabolic labeling. Because reductive 13C-methylation adds sparse, isotopic labels, traditional methods of assigning the NMR signals are not applicable. An alternative assignment method using mass spectrometry (MS) to aid in the assignment of protein 13C-dimethylamine NMR signals has been developed. The method relies on partial and different amounts of 13C-labeling at each primary amino group. One limitation of the method arises when the protein's N-terminal residue is a lysine because the α- and ε-dimethylamino groups of Lys1 cannot be individually measured with MS. To circumvent this limitation, two methods are described to identify the NMR resonance of the 13C-dimethylamines associated with both the N-terminal α-amine and the side chain ε-amine. The NMR signals of the N-terminal α-dimethylamine and the side chain ε-dimethylamine of hen egg white lysozyme, Lys1, are identified in 1H-13C heteronuclear single-quantum coherence spectra.
Chemistry, Issue 82, Boranes, Formaldehyde, Dimethylamines, Tandem Mass Spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance, MALDI-TOF, Reductive methylation, lysozyme, dimethyllysine, mass spectrometry, NMR
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Chemically-blocked Antibody Microarray for Multiplexed High-throughput Profiling of Specific Protein Glycosylation in Complex Samples
Authors: Chen Lu, Joshua L. Wonsidler, Jianwei Li, Yanming Du, Timothy Block, Brian Haab, Songming Chen.
Institutions: Institute for Hepatitis and Virus Research, Thomas Jefferson University , Drexel University College of Medicine, Van Andel Research Institute, Serome Biosciences Inc..
In this study, we describe an effective protocol for use in a multiplexed high-throughput antibody microarray with glycan binding protein detection that allows for the glycosylation profiling of specific proteins. Glycosylation of proteins is the most prevalent post-translational modification found on proteins, and leads diversified modifications of the physical, chemical, and biological properties of proteins. Because the glycosylation machinery is particularly susceptible to disease progression and malignant transformation, aberrant glycosylation has been recognized as early detection biomarkers for cancer and other diseases. However, current methods to study protein glycosylation typically are too complicated or expensive for use in most normal laboratory or clinical settings and a more practical method to study protein glycosylation is needed. The new protocol described in this study makes use of a chemically blocked antibody microarray with glycan-binding protein (GBP) detection and significantly reduces the time, cost, and lab equipment requirements needed to study protein glycosylation. In this method, multiple immobilized glycoprotein-specific antibodies are printed directly onto the microarray slides and the N-glycans on the antibodies are blocked. The blocked, immobilized glycoprotein-specific antibodies are able to capture and isolate glycoproteins from a complex sample that is applied directly onto the microarray slides. Glycan detection then can be performed by the application of biotinylated lectins and other GBPs to the microarray slide, while binding levels can be determined using Dylight 549-Streptavidin. Through the use of an antibody panel and probing with multiple biotinylated lectins, this method allows for an effective glycosylation profile of the different proteins found in a given human or animal sample to be developed. Introduction Glycosylation of protein, which is the most ubiquitous post-translational modification on proteins, modifies the physical, chemical, and biological properties of a protein, and plays a fundamental role in various biological processes1-6. Because the glycosylation machinery is particularly susceptible to disease progression and malignant transformation, aberrant glycosylation has been recognized as early detection biomarkers for cancer and other diseases 7-12. In fact, most current cancer biomarkers, such as the L3 fraction of α-1 fetoprotein (AFP) for hepatocellular carcinoma 13-15, and CA199 for pancreatic cancer 16, 17 are all aberrant glycan moieties on glycoproteins. However, methods to study protein glycosylation have been complicated, and not suitable for routine laboratory and clinical settings. Chen et al. has recently invented a chemically blocked antibody microarray with a glycan-binding protein (GBP) detection method for high-throughput and multiplexed profile glycosylation of native glycoproteins in a complex sample 18. In this affinity based microarray method, multiple immobilized glycoprotein-specific antibodies capture and isolate glycoproteins from the complex mixture directly on the microarray slide, and the glycans on each individual captured protein are measured by GBPs. Because all normal antibodies contain N-glycans which could be recognized by most GBPs, the critical step of this method is to chemically block the glycans on the antibodies from binding to GBP. In the procedure, the cis-diol groups of the glycans on the antibodies were first oxidized to aldehyde groups by using NaIO4 in sodium acetate buffer avoiding light. The aldehyde groups were then conjugated to the hydrazide group of a cross-linker, 4-(4-N-MaleimidoPhenyl)butyric acid Hydrazide HCl (MPBH), followed by the conjugation of a dipeptide, Cys-Gly, to the maleimide group of the MPBH. Thus, the cis-diol groups on glycans of antibodies were converted into bulky none hydroxyl groups, which hindered the lectins and other GBPs bindings to the capture antibodies. This blocking procedure makes the GBPs and lectins bind only to the glycans of captured proteins. After this chemically blocking, serum samples were incubated with the antibody microarray, followed by the glycans detection by using different biotinylated lectins and GBPs, and visualized with Cy3-streptavidin. The parallel use of an antibody panel and multiple lectin probing provides discrete glycosylation profiles of multiple proteins in a given sample 18-20. This method has been used successfully in multiple different labs 1, 7, 13, 19-31. However, stability of MPBH and Cys-Gly, complicated and extended procedure in this method affect the reproducibility, effectiveness and efficiency of the method. In this new protocol, we replaced both MPBH and Cys-Gly with one much more stable reagent glutamic acid hydrazide (Glu-hydrazide), which significantly improved the reproducibility of the method, simplified and shorten the whole procedure so that the it can be completed within one working day. In this new protocol, we describe the detailed procedure of the protocol which can be readily adopted by normal labs for routine protein glycosylation study and techniques which are necessary to obtain reproducible and repeatable results.
Molecular Biology, Issue 63, Glycoproteins, glycan-binding protein, specific protein glycosylation, multiplexed high-throughput glycan blocked antibody microarray
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Analyzing Protein Dynamics Using Hydrogen Exchange Mass Spectrometry
Authors: Nikolai Hentze, Matthias P. Mayer.
Institutions: University of Heidelberg.
All cellular processes depend on the functionality of proteins. Although the functionality of a given protein is the direct consequence of its unique amino acid sequence, it is only realized by the folding of the polypeptide chain into a single defined three-dimensional arrangement or more commonly into an ensemble of interconverting conformations. Investigating the connection between protein conformation and its function is therefore essential for a complete understanding of how proteins are able to fulfill their great variety of tasks. One possibility to study conformational changes a protein undergoes while progressing through its functional cycle is hydrogen-1H/2H-exchange in combination with high-resolution mass spectrometry (HX-MS). HX-MS is a versatile and robust method that adds a new dimension to structural information obtained by e.g. crystallography. It is used to study protein folding and unfolding, binding of small molecule ligands, protein-protein interactions, conformational changes linked to enzyme catalysis, and allostery. In addition, HX-MS is often used when the amount of protein is very limited or crystallization of the protein is not feasible. Here we provide a general protocol for studying protein dynamics with HX-MS and describe as an example how to reveal the interaction interface of two proteins in a complex.   
Chemistry, Issue 81, Molecular Chaperones, mass spectrometers, Amino Acids, Peptides, Proteins, Enzymes, Coenzymes, Protein dynamics, conformational changes, allostery, protein folding, secondary structure, mass spectrometry
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Metabolomic Analysis of Rat Brain by High Resolution Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy of Tissue Extracts
Authors: Norbert W. Lutz, Evelyne Béraud, Patrick J. Cozzone.
Institutions: Aix-Marseille Université, Aix-Marseille Université.
Studies of gene expression on the RNA and protein levels have long been used to explore biological processes underlying disease. More recently, genomics and proteomics have been complemented by comprehensive quantitative analysis of the metabolite pool present in biological systems. This strategy, termed metabolomics, strives to provide a global characterization of the small-molecule complement involved in metabolism. While the genome and the proteome define the tasks cells can perform, the metabolome is part of the actual phenotype. Among the methods currently used in metabolomics, spectroscopic techniques are of special interest because they allow one to simultaneously analyze a large number of metabolites without prior selection for specific biochemical pathways, thus enabling a broad unbiased approach. Here, an optimized experimental protocol for metabolomic analysis by high-resolution NMR spectroscopy is presented, which is the method of choice for efficient quantification of tissue metabolites. Important strengths of this method are (i) the use of crude extracts, without the need to purify the sample and/or separate metabolites; (ii) the intrinsically quantitative nature of NMR, permitting quantitation of all metabolites represented by an NMR spectrum with one reference compound only; and (iii) the nondestructive nature of NMR enabling repeated use of the same sample for multiple measurements. The dynamic range of metabolite concentrations that can be covered is considerable due to the linear response of NMR signals, although metabolites occurring at extremely low concentrations may be difficult to detect. For the least abundant compounds, the highly sensitive mass spectrometry method may be advantageous although this technique requires more intricate sample preparation and quantification procedures than NMR spectroscopy. We present here an NMR protocol adjusted to rat brain analysis; however, the same protocol can be applied to other tissues with minor modifications.
Neuroscience, Issue 91, metabolomics, brain tissue, rodents, neurochemistry, tissue extracts, NMR spectroscopy, quantitative metabolite analysis, cerebral metabolism, metabolic profile
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A Strategy for Sensitive, Large Scale Quantitative Metabolomics
Authors: Xiaojing Liu, Zheng Ser, Ahmad A. Cluntun, Samantha J. Mentch, Jason W. Locasale.
Institutions: Cornell University, Cornell University.
Metabolite profiling has been a valuable asset in the study of metabolism in health and disease. However, current platforms have different limiting factors, such as labor intensive sample preparations, low detection limits, slow scan speeds, intensive method optimization for each metabolite, and the inability to measure both positively and negatively charged ions in single experiments. Therefore, a novel metabolomics protocol could advance metabolomics studies. Amide-based hydrophilic chromatography enables polar metabolite analysis without any chemical derivatization. High resolution MS using the Q-Exactive (QE-MS) has improved ion optics, increased scan speeds (256 msec at resolution 70,000), and has the capability of carrying out positive/negative switching. Using a cold methanol extraction strategy, and coupling an amide column with QE-MS enables robust detection of 168 targeted polar metabolites and thousands of additional features simultaneously.  Data processing is carried out with commercially available software in a highly efficient way, and unknown features extracted from the mass spectra can be queried in databases.
Chemistry, Issue 87, high-resolution mass spectrometry, metabolomics, positive/negative switching, low mass calibration, Orbitrap
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A Fluorescent Screening Assay for Identifying Modulators of GIRK Channels
Authors: Maribel Vazquez, Charity A. Dunn, Kenneth B. Walsh.
Institutions: University of South Carolina, School of Medicine.
G protein-gated inward rectifier K+ (GIRK) channels function as cellular mediators of a wide range of hormones and neurotransmitters and are expressed in the brain, heart, skeletal muscle and endocrine tissue1,2. GIRK channels become activated following the binding of ligands (neurotransmitters, hormones, drugs, etc.) to their plasma membrane-bound, G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). This binding causes the stimulation of G proteins (Gi and Go) which subsequently bind to and activate the GIRK channel. Once opened the GIRK channel allows the movement of K+ out of the cell causing the resting membrane potential to become more negative. As a consequence, GIRK channel activation in neurons decreases spontaneous action potential formation and inhibits the release of excitatory neurotransmitters. In the heart, activation of the GIRK channel inhibits pacemaker activity thereby slowing the heart rate. GIRK channels represent novel targets for the development of new therapeutic agents for the treatment neuropathic pain, drug addiction, cardiac arrhythmias and other disorders3. However, the pharmacology of these channels remains largely unexplored. Although a number of drugs including anti-arrhythmic agents, antipsychotic drugs and antidepressants block the GIRK channel, this inhibition is not selective and occurs at relatively high drug concentrations3. Here, we describe a real-time screening assay for identifying new modulators of GIRK channels. In this assay, neuronal AtT20 cells, expressing GIRK channels, are loaded with membrane potential-sensitive fluorescent dyes such as bis-(1,3-dibutylbarbituric acid) trimethine oxonol [DiBAC4(3)] or HLB 021-152 (Figure 1). The dye molecules become strongly fluorescent following uptake into the cells (Figure 1). Treatment of the cells with GPCR ligands stimulates the GIRK channels to open. The resulting K+ efflux out of the cell causes the membrane potential to become more negative and the fluorescent signal to decrease (Figure 1). Thus, drugs that modulate K+ efflux through the GIRK channel can be assayed using a fluorescent plate reader. Unlike other ion channel screening assays, such atomic absorption spectrometry4 or radiotracer analysis5, the GIRK channel fluorescent assay provides a fast, real-time and inexpensive screening procedure.
Medicine, Issue 62, G protein-gated inward rectifier K+ (GIRK) channels, clonal cell lines, drug screening, fluorescent dyes, K+ channel modulators, Pharmacology
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Neural Tube Closure in Mouse Whole Embryo Culture
Authors: Jason Gray, M. Elizabeth Ross.
Institutions: Weill Cornell Medical College.
Genetic mouse models are an important tool in the study of mammalian neural tube closure (Gray & Ross, 2009; Ross, 2010). However, the study of mouse embryos in utero is limited by our inability to directly pharmacologically manipulate the embryos in isolation from the effects of maternal metabolism on the reagent of interest. Whether using a small molecule, recombinant protein, or siRNA, delivery of these substances to the mother, through the diet or by injection will subject these unstable compounds to a variety of bodily defenses that could prevent them from reaching the embryo. Investigations in cultures of whole embryos can be used to separate maternal from intrinsic fetal effects on development. Here, we present a method for culturing mouse embryos using highly enriched media in a roller incubator apparatus that allows for normal neural tube closure after dissection (Crockett, 1990). Once in culture, embryos can be manipulated using conventional in vitro techniques that would not otherwise be possible if the embryos were still in utero. Embryo siblings can be collected at various time points to study different aspects of neurulation, occurring from E7-7.5 (neural plate formation, just prior to the initiation of neurulation) to E9.5-10 (at the conclusion of cranial fold and caudal neuropore closure, Kaufman, 1992). In this protocol, we demonstrate our method for dissecting embryos at timepoints that are optimal for the study of cranial neurulation. Embryos will be dissected at E8.5 (approx. 10-12 somities), after the initiation of neural tube closure but prior to embryo turning and cranial neural fold closure, and maintained in culture till E10 (26-28 somities), when cranial neurulation should be complete.
Neuroscience, Issue 56, development, mouse embryo, neurulation, roller culture
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RhoC GTPase Activation Assay
Authors: Michelle Lucey, Heather Unger, Kenneth L. van Golen.
Institutions: University of Delaware.
RhoC GTPase has 91% homology to RhoA GTPase. Because of its prevalence in cells, many reagents and techniques for RhoA GTPase have been developed. However, RhoC GTPase is expressed in metastatic cancer cells at relatively low levels. Therefore, few RhoC-specific reagents have been developed. We have adapted a Rho activation assay to detect RhoC GTPase. This technique utilizes a GST-Rho binding domain fusion protein to pull out active RhoC GTPase. In addition, we can harvest total protein at the beginning of the assay to determine levels of total (GTP and GDP bound) RhoC GTPase. This allows for the determination of active versus total RhoC GTPase in the cell. Several commercial versions of this procedure have been developed however, the commercial kits are optimized for RhoA GTPase and typically do not work well for RhoC GTPase. Parts of the assay have been modified as well as development of a RhoC-specific antibody.
neuroscience, Issue 42, brain, mouse, transplantation, labeling
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High-throughput Screening for Small-molecule Modulators of Inward Rectifier Potassium Channels
Authors: Rene Raphemot, C. David Weaver, Jerod S. Denton.
Institutions: Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Specific members of the inward rectifier potassium (Kir) channel family are postulated drug targets for a variety of disorders, including hypertension, atrial fibrillation, and pain1,2. For the most part, however, progress toward understanding their therapeutic potential or even basic physiological functions has been slowed by the lack of good pharmacological tools. Indeed, the molecular pharmacology of the inward rectifier family has lagged far behind that of the S4 superfamily of voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channels, for which a number of nanomolar-affinity and highly selective peptide toxin modulators have been discovered3. The bee venom toxin tertiapin and its derivatives are potent inhibitors of Kir1.1 and Kir3 channels4,5, but peptides are of limited use therapeutically as well as experimentally due to their antigenic properties and poor bioavailability, metabolic stability and tissue penetrance. The development of potent and selective small-molecule probes with improved pharmacological properties will be a key to fully understanding the physiology and therapeutic potential of Kir channels. The Molecular Libraries Probes Production Center Network (MLPCN) supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund has created opportunities for academic scientists to initiate probe discovery campaigns for molecular targets and signaling pathways in need of better pharmacology6. The MLPCN provides researchers access to industry-scale screening centers and medicinal chemistry and informatics support to develop small-molecule probes to elucidate the function of genes and gene networks. The critical step in gaining entry to the MLPCN is the development of a robust target- or pathway-specific assay that is amenable for high-throughput screening (HTS). Here, we describe how to develop a fluorescence-based thallium (Tl+) flux assay of Kir channel function for high-throughput compound screening7,8,9,10.The assay is based on the permeability of the K+ channel pore to the K+ congener Tl+. A commercially available fluorescent Tl+ reporter dye is used to detect transmembrane flux of Tl+ through the pore. There are at least three commercially available dyes that are suitable for Tl+ flux assays: BTC, FluoZin-2, and FluxOR7,8. This protocol describes assay development using FluoZin-2. Although originally developed and marketed as a zinc indicator, FluoZin-2 exhibits a robust and dose-dependent increase in fluorescence emission upon Tl+ binding. We began working with FluoZin-2 before FluxOR was available7,8 and have continued to do so9,10. However, the steps in assay development are essentially identical for all three dyes, and users should determine which dye is most appropriate for their specific needs. We also discuss the assay's performance benchmarks that must be reached to be considered for entry to the MLPCN. Since Tl+ readily permeates most K+ channels, the assay should be adaptable to most K+ channel targets.
Biochemistry, Issue 71, Molecular Biology, Chemistry, Cellular Biology, Chemical Biology, Pharmacology, Molecular Pharmacology, Potassium channels, drug discovery, drug screening, high throughput, small molecules, fluorescence, thallium flux, checkerboard analysis, DMSO, cell lines, screen, assay, assay development
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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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Visualizing Neuroblast Cytokinesis During C. elegans Embryogenesis
Authors: Denise Wernike, Chloe van Oostende, Alisa Piekny.
Institutions: Concordia University.
This protocol describes the use of fluorescence microscopy to image dividing cells within developing Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. In particular, this protocol focuses on how to image dividing neuroblasts, which are found underneath the epidermal cells and may be important for epidermal morphogenesis. Tissue formation is crucial for metazoan development and relies on external cues from neighboring tissues. C. elegans is an excellent model organism to study tissue morphogenesis in vivo due to its transparency and simple organization, making its tissues easy to study via microscopy. Ventral enclosure is the process where the ventral surface of the embryo is covered by a single layer of epithelial cells. This event is thought to be facilitated by the underlying neuroblasts, which provide chemical guidance cues to mediate migration of the overlying epithelial cells. However, the neuroblasts are highly proliferative and also may act as a mechanical substrate for the ventral epidermal cells. Studies using this experimental protocol could uncover the importance of intercellular communication during tissue formation, and could be used to reveal the roles of genes involved in cell division within developing tissues.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, C. elegans, morphogenesis, cytokinesis, neuroblasts, anillin, microscopy, cell division
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Determination of Protein-ligand Interactions Using Differential Scanning Fluorimetry
Authors: Mirella Vivoli, Halina R. Novak, Jennifer A. Littlechild, Nicholas J. Harmer.
Institutions: University of Exeter.
A wide range of methods are currently available for determining the dissociation constant between a protein and interacting small molecules. However, most of these require access to specialist equipment, and often require a degree of expertise to effectively establish reliable experiments and analyze data. Differential scanning fluorimetry (DSF) is being increasingly used as a robust method for initial screening of proteins for interacting small molecules, either for identifying physiological partners or for hit discovery. This technique has the advantage that it requires only a PCR machine suitable for quantitative PCR, and so suitable instrumentation is available in most institutions; an excellent range of protocols are already available; and there are strong precedents in the literature for multiple uses of the method. Past work has proposed several means of calculating dissociation constants from DSF data, but these are mathematically demanding. Here, we demonstrate a method for estimating dissociation constants from a moderate amount of DSF experimental data. These data can typically be collected and analyzed within a single day. We demonstrate how different models can be used to fit data collected from simple binding events, and where cooperative binding or independent binding sites are present. Finally, we present an example of data analysis in a case where standard models do not apply. These methods are illustrated with data collected on commercially available control proteins, and two proteins from our research program. Overall, our method provides a straightforward way for researchers to rapidly gain further insight into protein-ligand interactions using DSF.
Biophysics, Issue 91, differential scanning fluorimetry, dissociation constant, protein-ligand interactions, StepOne, cooperativity, WcbI.
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A Manual Small Molecule Screen Approaching High-throughput Using Zebrafish Embryos
Authors: Shahram Jevin Poureetezadi, Eric K. Donahue, Rebecca A. Wingert.
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
Zebrafish have become a widely used model organism to investigate the mechanisms that underlie developmental biology and to study human disease pathology due to their considerable degree of genetic conservation with humans. Chemical genetics entails testing the effect that small molecules have on a biological process and is becoming a popular translational research method to identify therapeutic compounds. Zebrafish are specifically appealing to use for chemical genetics because of their ability to produce large clutches of transparent embryos, which are externally fertilized. Furthermore, zebrafish embryos can be easily drug treated by the simple addition of a compound to the embryo media. Using whole-mount in situ hybridization (WISH), mRNA expression can be clearly visualized within zebrafish embryos. Together, using chemical genetics and WISH, the zebrafish becomes a potent whole organism context in which to determine the cellular and physiological effects of small molecules. Innovative advances have been made in technologies that utilize machine-based screening procedures, however for many labs such options are not accessible or remain cost-prohibitive. The protocol described here explains how to execute a manual high-throughput chemical genetic screen that requires basic resources and can be accomplished by a single individual or small team in an efficient period of time. Thus, this protocol provides a feasible strategy that can be implemented by research groups to perform chemical genetics in zebrafish, which can be useful for gaining fundamental insights into developmental processes, disease mechanisms, and to identify novel compounds and signaling pathways that have medically relevant applications.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, zebrafish, chemical genetics, chemical screen, in vivo small molecule screen, drug discovery, whole mount in situ hybridization (WISH), high-throughput screening (HTS), high-content screening (HCS)
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High Throughput Quantitative Expression Screening and Purification Applied to Recombinant Disulfide-rich Venom Proteins Produced in E. coli
Authors: Natalie J. Saez, Hervé Nozach, Marilyne Blemont, Renaud Vincentelli.
Institutions: Aix-Marseille Université, Commissariat à l'énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives (CEA) Saclay, France.
Escherichia coli (E. coli) is the most widely used expression system for the production of recombinant proteins for structural and functional studies. However, purifying proteins is sometimes challenging since many proteins are expressed in an insoluble form. When working with difficult or multiple targets it is therefore recommended to use high throughput (HTP) protein expression screening on a small scale (1-4 ml cultures) to quickly identify conditions for soluble expression. To cope with the various structural genomics programs of the lab, a quantitative (within a range of 0.1-100 mg/L culture of recombinant protein) and HTP protein expression screening protocol was implemented and validated on thousands of proteins. The protocols were automated with the use of a liquid handling robot but can also be performed manually without specialized equipment. Disulfide-rich venom proteins are gaining increasing recognition for their potential as therapeutic drug leads. They can be highly potent and selective, but their complex disulfide bond networks make them challenging to produce. As a member of the FP7 European Venomics project (, our challenge is to develop successful production strategies with the aim of producing thousands of novel venom proteins for functional characterization. Aided by the redox properties of disulfide bond isomerase DsbC, we adapted our HTP production pipeline for the expression of oxidized, functional venom peptides in the E. coli cytoplasm. The protocols are also applicable to the production of diverse disulfide-rich proteins. Here we demonstrate our pipeline applied to the production of animal venom proteins. With the protocols described herein it is likely that soluble disulfide-rich proteins will be obtained in as little as a week. Even from a small scale, there is the potential to use the purified proteins for validating the oxidation state by mass spectrometry, for characterization in pilot studies, or for sensitive micro-assays.
Bioengineering, Issue 89, E. coli, expression, recombinant, high throughput (HTP), purification, auto-induction, immobilized metal affinity chromatography (IMAC), tobacco etch virus protease (TEV) cleavage, disulfide bond isomerase C (DsbC) fusion, disulfide bonds, animal venom proteins/peptides
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FtsZ Polymerization Assays: Simple Protocols and Considerations
Authors: Ewa Król, Dirk-Jan Scheffers.
Institutions: University of Groningen.
During bacterial cell division, the essential protein FtsZ assembles in the middle of the cell to form the so-called Z-ring. FtsZ polymerizes into long filaments in the presence of GTP in vitro, and polymerization is regulated by several accessory proteins. FtsZ polymerization has been extensively studied in vitro using basic methods including light scattering, sedimentation, GTP hydrolysis assays and electron microscopy. Buffer conditions influence both the polymerization properties of FtsZ, and the ability of FtsZ to interact with regulatory proteins. Here, we describe protocols for FtsZ polymerization studies and validate conditions and controls using Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis FtsZ as model proteins. A low speed sedimentation assay is introduced that allows the study of the interaction of FtsZ with proteins that bundle or tubulate FtsZ polymers. An improved GTPase assay protocol is described that allows testing of GTP hydrolysis over time using various conditions in a 96-well plate setup, with standardized incubation times that abolish variation in color development in the phosphate detection reaction. The preparation of samples for light scattering studies and electron microscopy is described. Several buffers are used to establish suitable buffer pH and salt concentration for FtsZ polymerization studies. A high concentration of KCl is the best for most of the experiments. Our methods provide a starting point for the in vitro characterization of FtsZ, not only from E. coli and B. subtilis but from any other bacterium. As such, the methods can be used for studies of the interaction of FtsZ with regulatory proteins or the testing of antibacterial drugs which may affect FtsZ polymerization.
Basic Protocols, Issue 81, FtsZ, protein polymerization, cell division, GTPase, sedimentation assay, light scattering
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Using Coculture to Detect Chemically Mediated Interspecies Interactions
Authors: Elizabeth Anne Shank.
Institutions: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill .
In nature, bacteria rarely exist in isolation; they are instead surrounded by a diverse array of other microorganisms that alter the local environment by secreting metabolites. These metabolites have the potential to modulate the physiology and differentiation of their microbial neighbors and are likely important factors in the establishment and maintenance of complex microbial communities. We have developed a fluorescence-based coculture screen to identify such chemically mediated microbial interactions. The screen involves combining a fluorescent transcriptional reporter strain with environmental microbes on solid media and allowing the colonies to grow in coculture. The fluorescent transcriptional reporter is designed so that the chosen bacterial strain fluoresces when it is expressing a particular phenotype of interest (i.e. biofilm formation, sporulation, virulence factor production, etc.) Screening is performed under growth conditions where this phenotype is not expressed (and therefore the reporter strain is typically nonfluorescent). When an environmental microbe secretes a metabolite that activates this phenotype, it diffuses through the agar and activates the fluorescent reporter construct. This allows the inducing-metabolite-producing microbe to be detected: they are the nonfluorescent colonies most proximal to the fluorescent colonies. Thus, this screen allows the identification of environmental microbes that produce diffusible metabolites that activate a particular physiological response in a reporter strain. This publication discusses how to: a) select appropriate coculture screening conditions, b) prepare the reporter and environmental microbes for screening, c) perform the coculture screen, d) isolate putative inducing organisms, and e) confirm their activity in a secondary screen. We developed this method to screen for soil organisms that activate biofilm matrix-production in Bacillus subtilis; however, we also discuss considerations for applying this approach to other genetically tractable bacteria.
Microbiology, Issue 80, High-Throughput Screening Assays, Genes, Reporter, Microbial Interactions, Soil Microbiology, Coculture, microbial interactions, screen, fluorescent transcriptional reporters, Bacillus subtilis
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High-throughput Screening for Broad-spectrum Chemical Inhibitors of RNA Viruses
Authors: Marianne Lucas-Hourani, Hélène Munier-Lehmann, Olivier Helynck, Anastassia Komarova, Philippe Desprès, Frédéric Tangy, Pierre-Olivier Vidalain.
Institutions: Institut Pasteur, CNRS UMR3569, Institut Pasteur, CNRS UMR3523, Institut Pasteur.
RNA viruses are responsible for major human diseases such as flu, bronchitis, dengue, Hepatitis C or measles. They also represent an emerging threat because of increased worldwide exchanges and human populations penetrating more and more natural ecosystems. A good example of such an emerging situation is chikungunya virus epidemics of 2005-2006 in the Indian Ocean. Recent progresses in our understanding of cellular pathways controlling viral replication suggest that compounds targeting host cell functions, rather than the virus itself, could inhibit a large panel of RNA viruses. Some broad-spectrum antiviral compounds have been identified with host target-oriented assays. However, measuring the inhibition of viral replication in cell cultures using reduction of cytopathic effects as a readout still represents a paramount screening strategy. Such functional screens have been greatly improved by the development of recombinant viruses expressing reporter enzymes capable of bioluminescence such as luciferase. In the present report, we detail a high-throughput screening pipeline, which combines recombinant measles and chikungunya viruses with cellular viability assays, to identify compounds with a broad-spectrum antiviral profile.
Immunology, Issue 87, Viral infections, high-throughput screening assays, broad-spectrum antivirals, chikungunya virus, measles virus, luciferase reporter, chemical libraries
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Automated, Quantitative Cognitive/Behavioral Screening of Mice: For Genetics, Pharmacology, Animal Cognition and Undergraduate Instruction
Authors: C. R. Gallistel, Fuat Balci, David Freestone, Aaron Kheifets, Adam King.
Institutions: Rutgers University, Koç University, New York University, Fairfield University.
We describe a high-throughput, high-volume, fully automated, live-in 24/7 behavioral testing system for assessing the effects of genetic and pharmacological manipulations on basic mechanisms of cognition and learning in mice. A standard polypropylene mouse housing tub is connected through an acrylic tube to a standard commercial mouse test box. The test box has 3 hoppers, 2 of which are connected to pellet feeders. All are internally illuminable with an LED and monitored for head entries by infrared (IR) beams. Mice live in the environment, which eliminates handling during screening. They obtain their food during two or more daily feeding periods by performing in operant (instrumental) and Pavlovian (classical) protocols, for which we have written protocol-control software and quasi-real-time data analysis and graphing software. The data analysis and graphing routines are written in a MATLAB-based language created to simplify greatly the analysis of large time-stamped behavioral and physiological event records and to preserve a full data trail from raw data through all intermediate analyses to the published graphs and statistics within a single data structure. The data-analysis code harvests the data several times a day and subjects it to statistical and graphical analyses, which are automatically stored in the "cloud" and on in-lab computers. Thus, the progress of individual mice is visualized and quantified daily. The data-analysis code talks to the protocol-control code, permitting the automated advance from protocol to protocol of individual subjects. The behavioral protocols implemented are matching, autoshaping, timed hopper-switching, risk assessment in timed hopper-switching, impulsivity measurement, and the circadian anticipation of food availability. Open-source protocol-control and data-analysis code makes the addition of new protocols simple. Eight test environments fit in a 48 in x 24 in x 78 in cabinet; two such cabinets (16 environments) may be controlled by one computer.
Behavior, Issue 84, genetics, cognitive mechanisms, behavioral screening, learning, memory, timing
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Large Scale Zebrafish-Based In vivo Small Molecule Screen
Authors: Jijun Hao, Charles H. Williams, Morgan E. Webb, Charles C. Hong.
Institutions: Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Given their small embryo size, rapid development, transparency, fecundity, and numerous molecular, morphological and physiological similarities to mammals, zebrafish has emerged as a powerful in vivo platform for phenotype-based drug screens and chemical genetic analysis. Here, we demonstrate a simple, practical method for large-scale screening of small molecules using zebrafish embryos.
Developmental Biology, Issue 46, Chemical screen, chemical genetics, drug discovery, small molecule library, phenotype, zebrafish
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MISSION esiRNA for RNAi Screening in Mammalian Cells
Authors: Mirko Theis, Frank Buchholz.
Institutions: Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics.
RNA interference (RNAi) is a basic cellular mechanism for the control of gene expression. RNAi is induced by short double-stranded RNAs also known as small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). The short double-stranded RNAs originate from longer double stranded precursors by the activity of Dicer, a protein of the RNase III family of endonucleases. The resulting fragments are components of the RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), directing it to the cognate target mRNA. RISC cleaves the target mRNA thereby reducing the expression of the encoded protein1,2,3. RNAi has become a powerful and widely used experimental method for loss of gene function studies in mammalian cells utilizing small interfering RNAs. Currently two main methods are available for the production of small interfering RNAs. One method involves chemical synthesis, whereas an alternative method employs endonucleolytic cleavage of target specific long double-stranded RNAs by RNase III in vitro. Thereby, a diverse pool of siRNA-like oligonucleotides is produced which is also known as endoribonuclease-prepared siRNA or esiRNA. A comparison of efficacy of chemically derived siRNAs and esiRNAs shows that both triggers are potent in target-gene silencing. Differences can, however, be seen when comparing specificity. Many single chemically synthesized siRNAs produce prominent off-target effects, whereas the complex mixture inherent in esiRNAs leads to a more specific knockdown10. In this study, we present the design of genome-scale MISSION esiRNA libraries and its utilization for RNAi screening exemplified by a DNA-content screen for the identification of genes involved in cell cycle progression. We show how to optimize the transfection protocol and the assay for screening in high throughput. We also demonstrate how large data-sets can be evaluated statistically and present methods to validate primary hits. Finally, we give potential starting points for further functional characterizations of validated hits.
Cellular Biology, Issue 39, MISSION, esiRNA, RNAi, cell cycle, high throughput screening
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