For the last decade, we have tried to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms of neuronal degeneration using Drosophila as a model organism. Although fruit flies provide obvious experimental advantages, research on neurodegenerative diseases has mostly relied on traditional techniques, including genetic interaction, histology, immunofluorescence, and protein biochemistry. These techniques are effective for mechanistic, hypothesis-driven studies, which lead to a detailed understanding of the role of single genes in well-defined biological problems. However, neurodegenerative diseases are highly complex and affect multiple cellular organelles and processes over time. The advent of new technologies and the omics age provides a unique opportunity to understand the global cellular perturbations underlying complex diseases. Flexible model organisms such as Drosophila are ideal for adapting these new technologies because of their strong annotation and high tractability. One challenge with these small animals, though, is the purification of enough informational molecules (DNA, mRNA, protein, metabolites) from highly relevant tissues such as fly brains. Other challenges consist of collecting large numbers of flies for experimental replicates (critical for statistical robustness) and developing consistent procedures for the purification of high-quality biological material. Here, we describe the procedures for collecting thousands of fly heads and the extraction of transcripts and metabolites to understand how global changes in gene expression and metabolism contribute to neurodegenerative diseases. These procedures are easily scalable and can be applied to the study of proteomic and epigenomic contributions to disease.
27 Related JoVE Articles!
Using Caenorhabditis elegans as a Model System to Study Protein Homeostasis in a Multicellular Organism
Institutions: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The folding and assembly of proteins is essential for protein function, the long-term health of the cell, and longevity of the organism. Historically, the function and regulation of protein folding was studied in vitro
, in isolated tissue culture cells and in unicellular organisms. Recent studies have uncovered links between protein homeostasis (proteostasis), metabolism, development, aging, and temperature-sensing. These findings have led to the development of new tools for monitoring protein folding in the model metazoan organism Caenorhabditis elegans
. In our laboratory, we combine behavioral assays, imaging and biochemical approaches using temperature-sensitive or naturally occurring metastable proteins as sensors of the folding environment to monitor protein misfolding. Behavioral assays that are associated with the misfolding of a specific protein provide a simple and powerful readout for protein folding, allowing for the fast screening of genes and conditions that modulate folding. Likewise, such misfolding can be associated with protein mislocalization in the cell. Monitoring protein localization can, therefore, highlight changes in cellular folding capacity occurring in different tissues, at various stages of development and in the face of changing conditions. Finally, using biochemical tools ex vivo
, we can directly monitor protein stability and conformation. Thus, by combining behavioral assays, imaging and biochemical techniques, we are able to monitor protein misfolding at the resolution of the organism, the cell, and the protein, respectively.
Biochemistry, Issue 82, aging, Caenorhabditis elegans, heat shock response, neurodegenerative diseases, protein folding homeostasis, proteostasis, stress, temperature-sensitive
Acquisition of High-Quality Digital Video of Drosophila Larval and Adult Behaviors from a Lateral Perspective
Institutions: Willamette University.
is a powerful experimental model system for studying the function of the nervous system. Gene mutations that cause dysfunction of the nervous system often produce viable larvae and adults that have locomotion defective phenotypes that are difficult to adequately describe with text or completely represent with a single photographic image. Current modes of scientific publishing, however, support the submission of digital video media as supplemental material to accompany a manuscript. Here we describe a simple and widely accessible microscopy technique for acquiring high-quality digital video of both Drosophila
larval and adult phenotypes from a lateral perspective. Video of larval and adult locomotion from a side-view is advantageous because it allows the observation and analysis of subtle distinctions and variations in aberrant locomotive behaviors. We have successfully used the technique to visualize and quantify aberrant crawling behaviors in third instar larvae, in addition to adult mutant phenotypes and behaviors including grooming.
Neuroscience, Issue 92, Drosophila, behavior, coordination, crawling, locomotion, nervous system, neurodegeneration, larva
Methods to Characterize Spontaneous and Startle-induced Locomotion in a Rotenone-induced Parkinson's Disease Model of Drosophila
Institutions: Colby College.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that results from the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the central nervous system, primarily in the substantia nigra. The disease causes motor deficiencies, which present as rigidity, tremors and dementia in humans. Rotenone is an insecticide that causes oxidative damage by inhibiting the function of the electron transport chain in mitochondria. It is also used to model Parkinson’s disease in the Drosophila
. Flies have an inherent negative geotactic response, which compels them to climb upwards upon being startled. It has been established that rotenone causes early mortality and locomotion defects that disrupt the flies’ ability to climb after they have been tapped downwards. However, the effect of rotenone on spontaneous movement is not well documented. This study outlines two sensitive, reproducible, and high throughput assays to characterize rotenone-induced deficiencies in short-term startle-induced locomotion and long-term spontaneous locomotion in Drosophila
. These assays can be conveniently adapted to characterize other Drosophila
models of locomotion defects and efficacy of therapeutic agents.
Neuroscience, Issue 90, Locomotion, Parkinson’s disease, rotenone, Drosophila, activity monitoring, neurobiology, behavior
The Use of Primary Human Fibroblasts for Monitoring Mitochondrial Phenotypes in the Field of Parkinson's Disease
Institutions: DZNE, University of Tübingen.
Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common movement disorder and affects 1% of people over the age of 60 1
. Because ageing is the most important risk factor, cases of PD will increase during the next decades 2
. Next to pathological protein folding and impaired protein degradation pathways, alterations of mitochondrial function and morphology were pointed out as further hallmark of neurodegeneration in PD 3-11
After years of research in murine and human cancer cells as in vitro
models to dissect molecular pathways of Parkinsonism, the use of human fibroblasts from patients and appropriate controls as ex vivo
models has become a valuable research tool, if potential caveats are considered. Other than immortalized, rather artificial cell models, primary fibroblasts from patients carrying disease-associated mutations apparently reflect important pathological features of the human disease.
Here we delineate the procedure of taking skin biopsies, culturing human fibroblasts and using detailed protocols for essential microscopic techniques to define mitochondrial phenotypes. These were used to investigate different features associated with PD that are relevant to mitochondrial function and dynamics. Ex vivo
, mitochondria can be analyzed in terms of their function, morphology, colocalization with lysosomes (the organelles degrading dysfunctional mitochondria) and degradation via the lysosomal pathway. These phenotypes are highly relevant for the identification of early signs of PD and may precede clinical motor symptoms in human disease-gene carriers. Hence, the assays presented here can be utilized as valuable tools to identify pathological features of neurodegeneration and help to define new therapeutic strategies in PD.
Medicine, Issue 68, Genetics, Cellular Biology, Physiology, Parkinson's disease, fibroblasts, mitochondria, live cell imaging, mitochondrial function, mitochondrial morphology, mitophagy
Characterization of G Protein-coupled Receptors by a Fluorescence-based Calcium Mobilization Assay
Institutions: KU Leuven.
For more than 20 years, reverse pharmacology has been the preeminent strategy to discover the activating ligands of orphan G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). The onset of a reverse pharmacology assay is the cloning and subsequent transfection of a GPCR of interest in a cellular expression system. The heterologous expressed receptor is then challenged with a compound library of candidate ligands to identify the receptor-activating ligand(s). Receptor activation can be assessed by measuring changes in concentration of second messenger reporter molecules, like calcium or cAMP. The fluorescence-based calcium mobilization assay described here is a frequently used medium-throughput reverse pharmacology assay. The orphan GPCR is transiently expressed in human embryonic kidney 293T (HEK293T) cells and a promiscuous Gα16
construct is co-transfected. Following ligand binding, activation of the Gα16
subunit induces the release of calcium from the endoplasmic reticulum. Prior to ligand screening, the receptor-expressing cells are loaded with a fluorescent calcium indicator, Fluo-4 acetoxymethyl. The fluorescent signal of Fluo-4 is negligible in cells under resting conditions, but can be amplified more than a 100-fold upon the interaction with calcium ions that are released after receptor activation. The described technique does not require the time-consuming establishment of stably transfected cell lines in which the transfected genetic material is integrated into the host cell genome. Instead, a transient transfection, generating temporary expression of the target gene, is sufficient to perform the screening assay. The setup allows medium-throughput screening of hundreds of compounds. Co-transfection of the promiscuous Gα16
, which couples to most GPCRs, allows the intracellular signaling pathway to be redirected towards the release of calcium, regardless of the native signaling pathway in endogenous settings. The HEK293T cells are easy to handle and have proven their efficacy throughout the years in receptor deorphanization assays. However, optimization of the assay for specific receptors may remain necessary.
Cellular Biology, Issue 89, G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR), calcium mobilization assay, reverse pharmacology, deorphanization, cellular expression system, HEK293T, Fluo-4, FlexStation
Novel Whole-tissue Quantitative Assay of Nitric Oxide Levels in Drosophila Neuroinflammatory Response
Institutions: University of Alabama.
Neuroinflammation is a complex innate immune response vital to the healthy function of the central nervous system (CNS). Under normal conditions, an intricate network of inducers, detectors, and activators rapidly responds to neuron damage, infection or other immune infractions. This inflammation of immune cells is intimately associated with the pathology of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson's disease (PD), Alzheimer's disease and ALS. Under compromised disease states, chronic inflammation, intended to minimize neuron damage, may lead to an over-excitation of the immune cells, ultimately resulting in the exacerbation of disease progression. For example, loss of dopaminergic neurons in the midbrain, a hallmark of PD, is accelerated by the excessive activation of the inflammatory response. Though the cause of PD is largely unknown, exposure to environmental toxins has been implicated in the onset of sporadic cases. The herbicide paraquat, for example, has been shown to induce Parkinsonian-like pathology in several animal models, including Drosophila melanogaster.
Here, we have used the conserved innate immune response in Drosophila
to develop an assay capable of detecting varying levels of nitric oxide, a cell-signaling molecule critical to the activation of the inflammatory response cascade and targeted neuron death. Using paraquat-induced neuronal damage, we assess the impact of these immune insults on neuroinflammatory stimulation through the use of a novel, quantitative assay. Whole brains are fully extracted from flies either exposed to neurotoxins or of genotypes that elevate susceptibility to neurodegeneration then incubated in cell-culture media. Then, using the principles of the Griess reagent reaction, we are able to detect minor changes in the secretion of nitric oxide into cell-culture media, essentially creating a primary live-tissue model in a simple procedure. The utility of this model is amplified by the robust genetic and molecular complexity of Drosophila melanogaster,
and this assay can be modified to be applicable to other Drosophila
tissues or even other small, whole-organism inflammation models.
Immunology, Issue 82, biology (general), environmental effects (biological, animal and plant), immunology, animal models, Immune System Diseases, Pathological Conditions, Signs and Symptoms, Life Sciences (General), Neuroinflammation, inflammation, nitric oxide, nitric oxide synthase, Drosophila, neurodegeneration, brain, Griess assay, nitrite detection, innate immunity, Parkinson disease, tissue culture
A Low-cost Method for Analyzing Seizure-like Activity and Movement in Drosophila
Institutions: Franciscan University of Steubenville, Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Video tracking systems have been used widely to analyze Drosophila melanogaster
movement and detect various abnormalities in locomotive behavior. While these systems can provide a wealth of behavioral information, the cost and complexity of these systems can be prohibitive for many labs. We have developed a low-cost assay for measuring locomotive behavior and seizure movement in D. melanogaster
. The system uses a web-cam to capture images that can be processed using a combination of inexpensive and free software to track the distance moved, the average velocity of movement and the duration of movement during a specified time-span. To demonstrate the utility of this system, we examined a group of D. melanogaster
mutants, the Bang-sensitive (BS) paralytics, which are 3-10 times more susceptible to seizure-like activity (SLA) than wild type flies. Using this novel system, we were able to detect that the BS mutant bang senseless
) exhibits lower levels of exploratory locomotion in a novel environment than wild type flies. In addition, the system was used to identify that the drug metformin, which is commonly used to treat type II diabetes, reduces the intensity of SLA in the BS mutants.
Neuroscience, Issue 84, Drosophila melanogaster, movement tracking, seizures, video analysis, locomotion, metformin, behavior, seizure-like activity
The Tomato/GFP-FLP/FRT Method for Live Imaging of Mosaic Adult Drosophila Photoreceptor Cells
Institutions: Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, Université Lille-Nord de France, The Rockefeller University.
eye is widely used as a model for studies of development and neuronal degeneration. With the powerful mitotic recombination technique, elegant genetic screens based on clonal analysis have led to the identification of signaling pathways involved in eye development and photoreceptor (PR) differentiation at larval stages. We describe here the Tomato/GFP-FLP/FRT method, which can be used for rapid clonal analysis in the eye of living adult Drosophila
. Fluorescent photoreceptor cells are imaged with the cornea neutralization technique, on retinas with mosaic clones generated by flipase-mediated recombination. This method has several major advantages over classical histological sectioning of the retina: it can be used for high-throughput screening and has proved an effective method for identifying the factors regulating PR survival and function. It can be used for kinetic analyses of PR degeneration in the same living animal over several weeks, to demonstrate the requirement for specific genes for PR survival or function in the adult fly. This method is also useful for addressing cell autonomy issues in developmental mutants, such as those in which the establishment of planar cell polarity is affected.
Developmental Biology, Issue 79, Eye, Photoreceptor Cells, Genes, Developmental, neuron, visualization, degeneration, development, live imaging,Drosophila, photoreceptor, cornea neutralization, mitotic recombination
Determination of the Spontaneous Locomotor Activity in Drosophila melanogaster
Institutions: University of Connecticut Health Center.
has been used as an excellent model organism to study environmental and genetic manipulations that affect behavior. One such behavior is spontaneous locomotor activity. Here we describe our protocol that utilizes Drosophila
population monitors and a tracking system that allows continuous monitoring of the spontaneous locomotor activity of flies for several days at a time. This method is simple, reliable, and objective and can be used to examine the effects of aging, sex, changes in caloric content of food, addition of drugs, or genetic manipulations that mimic human diseases.
Neuroscience, Issue 86, Investigative Techniques, Life Sciences (General), Behavioral Sciences, Drosophila melanogaster, Fruit flies, Spontaneous physical activity, Mobility, Fly behavior, Locomotor Activity
Viability Assays for Cells in Culture
Institutions: Duquesne University.
Manual cell counts on a microscope are a sensitive means of assessing cellular viability but are time-consuming and therefore expensive. Computerized viability assays are expensive in terms of equipment but can be faster and more objective than manual cell counts. The present report describes the use of three such viability assays. Two of these assays are infrared and one is luminescent. Both infrared assays rely on a 16 bit Odyssey Imager. One infrared assay uses the DRAQ5 stain for nuclei combined with the Sapphire stain for cytosol and is visualized in the 700 nm channel. The other infrared assay, an In-Cell Western, uses antibodies against cytoskeletal proteins (α-tubulin or microtubule associated protein 2) and labels them in the 800 nm channel. The third viability assay is a commonly used luminescent assay for ATP, but we use a quarter of the recommended volume to save on cost. These measurements are all linear and correlate with the number of cells plated, but vary in sensitivity. All three assays circumvent time-consuming microscopy and sample the entire well, thereby reducing sampling error. Finally, all of the assays can easily be completed within one day of the end of the experiment, allowing greater numbers of experiments to be performed within short timeframes. However, they all rely on the assumption that cell numbers remain in proportion to signal strength after treatments, an assumption that is sometimes not met, especially for cellular ATP. Furthermore, if cells increase or decrease in size after treatment, this might affect signal strength without affecting cell number. We conclude that all viability assays, including manual counts, suffer from a number of caveats, but that computerized viability assays are well worth the initial investment. Using all three assays together yields a comprehensive view of cellular structure and function.
Cellular Biology, Issue 83, In-cell Western, DRAQ5, Sapphire, Cell Titer Glo, ATP, primary cortical neurons, toxicity, protection, N-acetyl cysteine, hormesis
Methods to Assay Drosophila Behavior
Institutions: Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.
, the fruit fly, has been used to study molecular mechanisms of a wide range of human diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and various neurological diseases1
. We have optimized simple and robust behavioral assays for determining larval locomotion, adult climbing ability (RING assay), and courtship behaviors of Drosophila.
These behavioral assays are widely applicable for studying the role of genetic and environmental factors on fly behavior. Larval crawling ability can be reliably used for determining early stage changes in the crawling abilities of Drosophila
larvae and also for examining effect of drugs or human disease genes (in transgenic flies) on their locomotion. The larval crawling assay becomes more applicable if expression or abolition of a gene causes lethality in pupal or adult stages, as these flies do not survive to adulthood where they otherwise could be assessed. This basic assay can also be used in conjunction with bright light or stress to examine additional behavioral responses in Drosophila
larvae. Courtship behavior has been widely used to investigate genetic basis of sexual behavior, and can also be used to examine activity and coordination, as well as learning and memory. Drosophila
courtship behavior involves the exchange of various sensory stimuli including visual, auditory, and chemosensory signals between males and females that lead to a complex series of well characterized motor behaviors culminating in successful copulation. Traditional adult climbing assays (negative geotaxis) are tedious, labor intensive, and time consuming, with significant variation between different trials2-4
. The rapid iterative negative geotaxis (RING) assay5
has many advantages over more widely employed protocols, providing a reproducible, sensitive, and high throughput approach to quantify adult locomotor and negative geotaxis behaviors. In the RING assay, several genotypes or drug treatments can be tested simultaneously using large number of animals, with the high-throughput approach making it more amenable for screening experiments.
Neuroscience, Issue 61, Drosophila, locomotor dysfunction, courtship, larval crawling, RING assay, neurodegeneration
Assessing Neurodegenerative Phenotypes in Drosophila Dopaminergic Neurons by Climbing Assays and Whole Brain Immunostaining
Institutions: University of Rochester Medical Center .
is a valuable model organism to study aging and pathological degenerative processes in the nervous system. The advantages of the fly as an experimental system include its genetic tractability, short life span and the possibility to observe and quantitatively analyze complex behaviors. The expression of disease-linked genes in specific neuronal populations of the Drosophila
brain, can be used to model human neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's 5
Dopaminergic (DA) neurons are among the most vulnerable neuronal populations in the aging human brain. In Parkinson's disease (PD), the most common neurodegenerative movement disorder, the accelerated loss of DA neurons leads to a progressive and irreversible decline in locomotor function. In addition to age and exposure to environmental toxins, loss of DA neurons is exacerbated by specific mutations in the coding or promoter regions of several genes. The identification of such PD-associated alleles provides the experimental basis for the use of Drosophila
as a model to study neurodegeneration of DA neurons in vivo
. For example, the expression of the PD-linked human α-synuclein gene in Drosophila
DA neurons recapitulates some features of the human disease, e.g.
progressive loss of DA neurons and declining locomotor function 2
. Accordingly, this model has been successfully used to identify potential therapeutic targets in PD 8
Here we describe two assays that have commonly been used to study age-dependent neurodegeneration of DA neurons in Drosophila
: a climbing assay based on the startle-induced negative geotaxis response and tyrosine hydroxylase immunostaining of whole adult brain mounts to monitor the number of DA neurons at different ages. In both cases, in vivo
expression of UAS transgenes specifically in DA neurons can be achieved by using a tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) promoter-Gal4 driver line 3, 10
Neuroscience, Issue 74, Genetics, Neurobiology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Developmental Biology, Drosophila melanogaster, neurodegenerative diseases, negative geotaxis, tyrosine hydroxylase, dopaminergic neuron, α-synuclein, neurons, immunostaining, animal model
Assaying Locomotor, Learning, and Memory Deficits in Drosophila Models of Neurodegeneration
Institutions: University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine.
Advances in genetic methods have enabled the study of genes involved in human neurodegenerative diseases using Drosophila
as a model system1
. Most of these diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Huntington's disease are characterized by age-dependent deterioration in learning and memory functions and movement coordination2
. Here we use behavioral assays, including the negative geotaxis assay3
and the aversive phototaxic suppression assay (APS assay)4,5
, to show that some of the behavior characteristics associated with human neurodegeneration can be recapitulated in flies. In the negative geotaxis assay, the natural tendency of flies to move against gravity when agitated is utilized to study genes or conditions that may hinder locomotor capacities. In the APS assay, the learning and memory functions are tested in positively-phototactic flies trained to associate light with aversive bitter taste and hence avoid this otherwise natural tendency to move toward light. Testing these trained flies 6 hours post-training is used to assess memory functions. Using these assays, the contribution of any genetic or environmental factors toward developing neurodegeneration can be easily studied in flies.
Neuroscience, Issue 49, Geotaxis, phototaxis, behavior, Tau
The FlyBar: Administering Alcohol to Flies
Institutions: Florida State University, University of Houston.
Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster
) are an established model for both alcohol research and circadian biology. Recently, we showed that the circadian clock modulates alcohol sensitivity, but not the formation of tolerance. Here, we describe our protocol in detail. Alcohol is administered to the flies using the FlyBar. In this setup, saturated alcohol vapor is mixed with humidified air in set proportions, and administered to the flies in four tubes simultaneously. Flies are reared under standardized conditions in order to minimize variation between the replicates. Three-day old flies of different genotypes or treatments are used for the experiments, preferably by matching flies of two different time points (e.g.
, CT 5 and CT 17) making direct comparisons possible. During the experiment, flies are exposed for 1 hr to the pre-determined percentage of alcohol vapor and the number of flies that exhibit the Loss of Righting reflex (LoRR) or sedation are counted every 5 min. The data can be analyzed using three different statistical approaches. The first is to determine the time at which 50% of the flies have lost their righting reflex and use an Analysis of the Variance (ANOVA) to determine whether significant differences exist between time points. The second is to determine the percentage flies that show LoRR after a specified number of minutes, followed by an ANOVA analysis. The last method is to analyze the whole times series using multivariate statistics. The protocol can also be used for non-circadian experiments or comparisons between genotypes.
Neuroscience, Issue 87, neuroscience, alcohol sensitivity, Drosophila, Circadian, sedation, biological rhythms, undergraduate research
In Vivo Modeling of the Morbid Human Genome using Danio rerio
Institutions: Duke University Medical Center, Duke University, Duke University Medical Center.
Here, we present methods for the development of assays to query potentially clinically significant nonsynonymous changes using in vivo
complementation in zebrafish. Zebrafish (Danio rerio
) are a useful animal system due to their experimental tractability; embryos are transparent to enable facile viewing, undergo rapid development ex vivo,
and can be genetically manipulated.1
These aspects have allowed for significant advances in the analysis of embryogenesis, molecular processes, and morphogenetic signaling. Taken together, the advantages of this vertebrate model make zebrafish highly amenable to modeling the developmental defects in pediatric disease, and in some cases, adult-onset disorders. Because the zebrafish genome is highly conserved with that of humans (~70% orthologous), it is possible to recapitulate human disease states in zebrafish. This is accomplished either through the injection of mutant human mRNA to induce dominant negative or gain of function alleles, or utilization of morpholino (MO) antisense oligonucleotides to suppress genes to mimic loss of function variants. Through complementation of MO-induced phenotypes with capped human mRNA, our approach enables the interpretation of the deleterious effect of mutations on human protein sequence based on the ability of mutant mRNA to rescue a measurable, physiologically relevant phenotype. Modeling of the human disease alleles occurs through microinjection of zebrafish embryos with MO and/or human mRNA at the 1-4 cell stage, and phenotyping up to seven days post fertilization (dpf). This general strategy can be extended to a wide range of disease phenotypes, as demonstrated in the following protocol. We present our established models for morphogenetic signaling, craniofacial, cardiac, vascular integrity, renal function, and skeletal muscle disorder phenotypes, as well as others.
Molecular Biology, Issue 78, Genetics, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Developmental Biology, Biochemistry, Anatomy, Physiology, Bioengineering, Genomics, Medical, zebrafish, in vivo, morpholino, human disease modeling, transcription, PCR, mRNA, DNA, Danio rerio, animal model
Ex vivo Culture of Drosophila Pupal Testis and Single Male Germ-line Cysts: Dissection, Imaging, and Pharmacological Treatment
Institutions: Philipps-Universität Marburg, Philipps-Universität Marburg.
During spermatogenesis in mammals and in Drosophila melanogaster,
male germ cells develop in a series of essential developmental processes. This includes differentiation from a stem cell population, mitotic amplification, and meiosis. In addition, post-meiotic germ cells undergo a dramatic morphological reshaping process as well as a global epigenetic reconfiguration of the germ line chromatin—the histone-to-protamine switch.
Studying the role of a protein in post-meiotic spermatogenesis using mutagenesis or other genetic tools is often impeded by essential embryonic, pre-meiotic, or meiotic functions of the protein under investigation. The post-meiotic phenotype of a mutant of such a protein could be obscured through an earlier developmental block, or the interpretation of the phenotype could be complicated. The model organism Drosophila melanogaster
offers a bypass to this problem: intact testes and even cysts of germ cells dissected from early pupae are able to develop ex vivo
in culture medium. Making use of such cultures allows microscopic imaging of living germ cells in testes and of germ-line cysts. Importantly, the cultivated testes and germ cells also become accessible to pharmacological inhibitors, thereby permitting manipulation of enzymatic functions during spermatogenesis, including post-meiotic stages.
The protocol presented describes how to dissect and cultivate pupal testes and germ-line cysts. Information on the development of pupal testes and culture conditions are provided alongside microscope imaging data of live testes and germ-line cysts in culture. We also describe a pharmacological assay to study post-meiotic spermatogenesis, exemplified by an assay targeting the histone-to-protamine switch using the histone acetyltransferase inhibitor anacardic acid. In principle, this cultivation method could be adapted to address many other research questions in pre- and post-meiotic spermatogenesis.
Developmental Biology, Issue 91,
Ex vivo culture, testis, male germ-line cells, Drosophila, imaging, pharmacological assay
Methods to Assess Subcellular Compartments of Muscle in C. elegans
Institutions: University of Nottingham.
Muscle is a dynamic tissue that responds to changes in nutrition, exercise, and disease state. The loss of muscle mass and function with disease and age are significant public health burdens. We currently understand little about the genetic regulation of muscle health with disease or age. The nematode C. elegans
is an established model for understanding the genomic regulation of biological processes of interest. This worm’s body wall muscles display a large degree of homology with the muscles of higher metazoan species. Since C. elegans
is a transparent organism, the localization of GFP to mitochondria and sarcomeres allows visualization of these structures in vivo
. Similarly, feeding animals cationic dyes, which accumulate based on the existence of a mitochondrial membrane potential, allows the assessment of mitochondrial function in vivo
. These methods, as well as assessment of muscle protein homeostasis, are combined with assessment of whole animal muscle function, in the form of movement assays, to allow correlation of sub-cellular defects with functional measures of muscle performance. Thus, C. elegans
provides a powerful platform with which to assess the impact of mutations, gene knockdown, and/or chemical compounds upon muscle structure and function. Lastly, as GFP, cationic dyes, and movement assays are assessed non-invasively, prospective studies of muscle structure and function can be conducted across the whole life course and this at present cannot be easily investigated in vivo
in any other organism.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, Physiology, C. elegans, muscle, mitochondria, sarcomeres, ageing
Imaging Centrosomes in Fly Testes
Institutions: University of Toledo.
Centrosomes are conserved microtubule-based organelles whose structure and function change dramatically throughout the cell cycle and cell differentiation. Centrosomes are essential to determine the cell division axis during mitosis and to nucleate cilia during interphase. The identity of the proteins that mediate these dynamic changes remains only partially known, and the function of many of the proteins that have been implicated in these processes is still rudimentary. Recent work has shown that Drosophila
spermatogenesis provides a powerful system to identify new proteins critical for centrosome function and formation as well as to gain insight into the particular function of known players in centrosome-related processes. Drosophila
is an established genetic model organism where mutants in centrosomal genes can be readily obtained and easily analyzed. Furthermore, recent advances in the sensitivity and resolution of light microscopy and the development of robust genetically tagged centrosomal markers have transformed the ability to use Drosophila
testes as a simple and accessible model system to study centrosomes. This paper describes the use of genetically-tagged centrosomal markers to perform genetic screens for new centrosomal mutants and to gain insight into the specific function of newly identified genes.
Developmental Biology, Issue 79, biology (general), genetics (animal and plant), animal biology, animal models, Life Sciences (General), Centrosome, Spermatogenesis, Spermiogenesis, Drosophila, Centriole, Cilium, Mitosis, Meiosis
Modeling Astrocytoma Pathogenesis In Vitro and In Vivo Using Cortical Astrocytes or Neural Stem Cells from Conditional, Genetically Engineered Mice
Institutions: University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Current astrocytoma models are limited in their ability to define the roles of oncogenic mutations in specific brain cell types during disease pathogenesis and their utility for preclinical drug development. In order to design a better model system for these applications, phenotypically wild-type cortical astrocytes and neural stem cells (NSC) from conditional, genetically engineered mice (GEM) that harbor various combinations of floxed oncogenic alleles were harvested and grown in culture. Genetic recombination was induced in vitro
using adenoviral Cre-mediated recombination, resulting in expression of mutated oncogenes and deletion of tumor suppressor genes. The phenotypic consequences of these mutations were defined by measuring proliferation, transformation, and drug response in vitro
. Orthotopic allograft models, whereby transformed cells are stereotactically injected into the brains of immune-competent, syngeneic littermates, were developed to define the role of oncogenic mutations and cell type on tumorigenesis in vivo
. Unlike most established human glioblastoma cell line xenografts, injection of transformed GEM-derived cortical astrocytes into the brains of immune-competent littermates produced astrocytomas, including the most aggressive subtype, glioblastoma, that recapitulated the histopathological hallmarks of human astrocytomas, including diffuse invasion of normal brain parenchyma. Bioluminescence imaging of orthotopic allografts from transformed astrocytes engineered to express luciferase was utilized to monitor in vivo
tumor growth over time. Thus, astrocytoma models using astrocytes and NSC harvested from GEM with conditional oncogenic alleles provide an integrated system to study the genetics and cell biology of astrocytoma pathogenesis in vitro
and in vivo
and may be useful in preclinical drug development for these devastating diseases.
Neuroscience, Issue 90, astrocytoma, cortical astrocytes, genetically engineered mice, glioblastoma, neural stem cells, orthotopic allograft
Microinjection Wound Assay and In vivo Localization of Epidermal Wound Response Reporters in Drosophila Embryos.
Institutions: The City College of New York, University of California, San Diego.
embryo develops a robust epidermal layer that serves both to protect the internal cells from a harsh external environment as well as to maintain cellular homeostasis. Puncture injury with glass needles provides a direct method to trigger a rapid epidermal wound response that activates wound transcriptional reporters, which can be visualized by a localized reporter signal in living embryos or larvae. Puncture or laser injury also provides signals that promote the recruitment of hemocytes to the wound site. Surprisingly, severe (through and through) puncture injury in late stage embryos only rarely disrupts normal embryonic development, as greater than 90% of such wounded embryos survive to adulthood when embryos are injected in an oil medium that minimizes immediate leakage of hemolymph from puncture sites. The wound procedure does require micromanipulation of the Drosophila
embryos, including manual alignment of the embryos on agar plates and transfer of the aligned embryos to microscope slides. The Drosophila
epidermal wound response assay provides a quick system to test the genetic requirements of a variety of biological functions that promote wound healing, as well as a way to screen for potential chemical compounds that promote wound healing. The short life cycle and easy culturing routine make Drosophila
a powerful model organism. Drosophila
clean wound healing appears to coordinate the epidermal regenerative response, with the innate immune response, in ways that are still under investigation, which provides an excellent system to find conserved regulatory mechanisms common to Drosophila
and mammalian epidermal wounding.
Bioengineering, Issue 81, wound, microinjection, epidermal, localization, Drosophila, green fluorescent protein (GFP), genetic mutations
Cytological Analysis of Spermatogenesis: Live and Fixed Preparations of Drosophila Testes
Institutions: Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
is a powerful model system that has been widely used to elucidate a variety of biological processes. For example, studies of both the female and male germ lines of Drosophila
have contributed greatly to the current understanding of meiosis as well as stem cell biology. Excellent protocols are available in the literature for the isolation and imaging of Drosophila
ovaries and testes3-12
. Herein, methods for the dissection and preparation of Drosophila
testes for microscopic analysis are described with an accompanying video demonstration. A protocol for isolating testes from the abdomen of adult males and preparing slides of live tissue for analysis by phase-contrast microscopy as well as a protocol for fixing and immunostaining testes for analysis by fluorescence microscopy are presented. These techniques can be applied in the characterization of Drosophila
mutants that exhibit defects in spermatogenesis as well as in the visualization of subcellular localizations of proteins.
Basic Protocol, Issue 83, Drosophila melanogaster, dissection, testes, spermatogenesis, meiosis, germ cells, phase-contrast microscopy, immunofluorescence
Analysis of Nephron Composition and Function in the Adult Zebrafish Kidney
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish model has emerged as a relevant system to study kidney development, regeneration and disease. Both the embryonic and adult zebrafish kidneys are composed of functional units known as nephrons, which are highly conserved with other vertebrates, including mammals. Research in zebrafish has recently demonstrated that two distinctive phenomena transpire after adult nephrons incur damage: first, there is robust regeneration within existing nephrons that replaces the destroyed tubule epithelial cells; second, entirely new nephrons are produced from renal progenitors in a process known as neonephrogenesis. In contrast, humans and other mammals seem to have only a limited ability for nephron epithelial regeneration. To date, the mechanisms responsible for these kidney regeneration phenomena remain poorly understood. Since adult zebrafish kidneys undergo both nephron epithelial regeneration and neonephrogenesis, they provide an outstanding experimental paradigm to study these events. Further, there is a wide range of genetic and pharmacological tools available in the zebrafish model that can be used to delineate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate renal regeneration. One essential aspect of such research is the evaluation of nephron structure and function. This protocol describes a set of labeling techniques that can be used to gauge renal composition and test nephron functionality in the adult zebrafish kidney. Thus, these methods are widely applicable to the future phenotypic characterization of adult zebrafish kidney injury paradigms, which include but are not limited to, nephrotoxicant exposure regimes or genetic methods of targeted cell death such as the nitroreductase mediated cell ablation technique. Further, these methods could be used to study genetic perturbations in adult kidney formation and could also be applied to assess renal status during chronic disease modeling.
Cellular Biology, Issue 90,
zebrafish; kidney; nephron; nephrology; renal; regeneration; proximal tubule; distal tubule; segment; mesonephros; physiology; acute kidney injury (AKI)
Operant Learning of Drosophila at the Torque Meter
Institutions: Free University of Berlin.
For experiments at the torque meter, flies are kept on standard fly medium at 25°C and 60% humidity with a 12hr light/12hr dark regime. A standardized breeding regime assures proper larval density and age-matched cohorts. Cold-anesthetized flies are glued with head and thorax to a triangle-shaped hook the day before the experiment. Attached to the torque meter via a clamp, the fly's intended flight maneuvers are measured as the angular momentum around its vertical body axis. The fly is placed in the center of a cylindrical panorama to accomplish stationary flight. An analog to digital converter card feeds the yaw torque signal into a computer which stores the trace for later analysis. The computer also controls a variety of stimuli which can be brought under the fly's control by closing the feedback loop between these stimuli and the yaw torque trace. Punishment is achieved by applying heat from an adjustable infrared laser.
Neuroscience, Issue 16, operant, learning, Drosophila, fruit fly, insect, invertebrate, neuroscience, neurobiology, fly, conditioning
Quantitative Comparison of cis-Regulatory Element (CRE) Activities in Transgenic Drosophila melanogaster
Institutions: University of Dayton, University of Dayton.
Gene expression patterns are specified by cis
-regulatory element (CRE) sequences, which are also called enhancers or cis-regulatory modules. A typical CRE possesses an arrangement of binding sites for several transcription factor proteins that confer a regulatory logic specifying when, where, and at what level the regulated gene(s) is expressed. The full set of CREs within an animal genome encodes the organism′s program for development1
, and empirical as well as theoretical studies indicate that mutations in CREs played a prominent role in morphological evolution2-4
. Moreover, human genome wide association studies indicate that genetic variation in CREs contribute substantially to phenotypic variation5,6
. Thus, understanding regulatory logic and how mutations affect such logic is a central goal of genetics.
Reporter transgenes provide a powerful method to study the in vivo
function of CREs. Here a known or suspected CRE sequence is coupled to heterologous promoter and coding sequences for a reporter gene encoding an easily observable protein product. When a reporter transgene is inserted into a host organism, the CRE′s activity becomes visible in the form of the encoded reporter protein. P-element mediated transgenesis in the fruit fly species Drosophila (D.) melanogaster7
has been used for decades to introduce reporter transgenes into this model organism, though the genomic placement of transgenes is random. Hence, reporter gene activity is strongly influenced by the local chromatin and gene environment, limiting CRE comparisons to being qualitative. In recent years, the phiC31 based integration system was adapted for use in D. melanogaster
to insert transgenes into specific genome landing sites8-10
. This capability has made the quantitative measurement of gene and, relevant here, CRE activity11-13
feasible. The production of transgenic fruit flies can be outsourced, including phiC31-based integration, eliminating the need to purchase expensive equipment and/or have proficiency at specialized transgene injection protocols.
Here, we present a general protocol to quantitatively evaluate a CRE′s activity, and show how this approach can be used to measure the effects of an introduced mutation on a CRE′s activity and to compare the activities of orthologous CREs. Although the examples given are for a CRE active during fruit fly metamorphosis, the approach can be applied to other developmental stages, fruit fly species, or model organisms. Ultimately, a more widespread use of this approach to study CREs should advance an understanding of regulatory logic and how logic can vary and evolve.
Developmental Biology, Issue 58, Cis-regulatory element, CRE, cis-regulatory module, enhancer, site-specific integration, reporter transgenes, confocal microscopy, regulatory logic, transcription factors, binding sites, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila
Interview: Protein Folding and Studies of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Institutions: MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In this interview, Dr. Lindquist describes relationships between protein folding, prion diseases and neurodegenerative disorders. The problem of the protein folding is at the core of the modern biology. In addition to their traditional biochemical functions, proteins can mediate transfer of biological information and therefore can be considered a genetic material. This recently discovered function of proteins has important implications for studies of human disorders. Dr. Lindquist also describes current experimental approaches to investigate the mechanism of neurodegenerative diseases based on genetic studies in model organisms.
Neuroscience, issue 17, protein folding, brain, neuron, prion, neurodegenerative disease, yeast, screen, Translational Research
Isolation of Drosophila melanogaster Testes
Institutions: University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The testes of Drosophila melanogaster
provide an important model for the study of stem cell maintenance and differentiation, meiosis, and soma-germline interactions. Testes are typically isolated from adult males 0-3 days after eclosion from the pupal case. The testes of wild-type flies are easily distinguished from other tissues because they are yellow, but the testes of white
mutant flies, a common genetic background for laboratory experiments are similar in both shape and color to the fly gut. Performing dissection on a glass microscope slide with a black background makes identifying the testes considerably easier. Testes are removed from the flies using dissecting needles. Compared to protocols that use forceps for testes dissection, our method is far quicker, allowing a well-practiced individual to dissect testes from 200-300 wild-type flies per hour, yielding 400-600 testes. Testes from white
flies or from mutants that reduce testes size are harder to dissect and typically yield 200-400 testes per hour.
Cellular Biology, Issue 51, Microdissection, Drosophila melanogaster, testes, germline
A Simple Composite Phenotype Scoring System for Evaluating Mouse Models of Cerebellar Ataxia
Institutions: University of Washington, University of Washington, University of California, San Diego - Rady Children’s Hospital.
We describe a protocol for the rapid and sensitive quantification of disease severity in mouse models of cerebella ataxia. It is derived from previously published phenotype assessments in several disease models, including spinocerebellar ataxias, Huntington s disease and spinobulbar muscular atrophy. Measures include hind limb clasping, ledge test, gait and kyphosis. Each measure is recorded on a scale of 0-3, with a combined total of 0-12 for all four measures. The results effectively discriminate between affected and non-affected individuals, while also quantifying the temporal progression of neurodegenerative disease phenotypes. Measures may be analyzed individually or combined into a composite phenotype score for greater statistical power. The ideal combination of the four described measures will depend upon the disorder in question. We present an example of the protocol used to assess disease severity in a transgenic mouse model of spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7).
Albert R. La Spada and Gwenn A. Garden contributed to this manuscript equally.
JoVE Neuroscience, Issue 39, Neurodegeneration, Mouse behavior assay, cerebellar ataxia, polyglutamine disease