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Combinatorial assembly of small molecules into bivalent antagonists of TrkC or TrkA receptors.
PUBLISHED: 01-01-2014
A library of peptidomimetics was assembled combinatorially into dimers on a triazine-based core. The pharmacophore corresponds to ?-turns of the neurotrophin polypeptides neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), nerve growth factor (NGF), or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). These are the natural ligands for TrkC, TrkA, and TrkB receptors, respectively. The linker length and the side-chain orientation of each monomer within the bivalent mimics were systematically altered, and the impact of these changes on the function of each ligand was evaluated. While the monovalent peptidomimetics had no detectable binding or bioactivity, four bivalent peptidomimetics (2c, 2d, 2e, 3f) are selective TrkC ligands with antagonistic activity, and two bivalent peptidomimetics (1a, 1b) are TrkC and TrkA ligands with antagonistic activity. All these bivalent compounds block ligand-dependent receptor activation and cell survival, without affecting neuritogenic differentiation. This work adds to our understanding of how the neurotrophins function through Trk receptors, and demonstrates that peptidomimetics can be designed to selectively disturb specific biological signals, and may be used as pharmacological probes or as therapeutic leads. The concept of altering side-chain, linker length, and sequence orientation of a subunit within a pharmacophore provides an easy modular approach to generate larger libraries with diversified bioactivity.
Peptidomimetics are great sources of protein ligands. The oligomeric nature of these compounds enables us to access large synthetic libraries on solid phase by using combinatorial chemistry. One of the most well studied classes of peptidomimetics is peptoids. Peptoids are easy to synthesize and have been shown to be proteolysis-resistant and cell-permeable. Over the past decade, many useful protein ligands have been identified through screening of peptoid libraries. However, most of the ligands identified from peptoid libraries do not display high affinity, with rare exceptions. This may be due, in part, to the lack of chiral centers and conformational constraints in peptoid molecules. Recently, we described a new synthetic route to access peptide tertiary amides (PTAs). PTAs are a superfamily of peptidomimetics that include but are not limited to peptides, peptoids and N-methylated peptides. With side chains on both α-carbon and main chain nitrogen atoms, the conformation of these molecules are greatly constrained by sterical hindrance and allylic 1,3 strain. (Figure 1) Our study suggests that these PTA molecules are highly structured in solution and can be used to identify protein ligands. We believe that these molecules can be a future source of high-affinity protein ligands. Here we describe the synthetic method combining the power of both split-and-pool and sub-monomer strategies to synthesize a sample one-bead one-compound (OBOC) library of PTAs.
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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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Covalent Binding of BMP-2 on Surfaces Using a Self-assembled Monolayer Approach
Authors: Theresa L. M. Pohl, Elisabeth H. Schwab, Elisabetta A. Cavalcanti-Adam.
Institutions: University of Heidelberg, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems at Stuttgart.
Bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP-2) is a growth factor embedded in the extracellular matrix of bone tissue. BMP-2 acts as trigger of mesenchymal cell differentiation into osteoblasts, thus stimulating healing and de novo bone formation. The clinical use of recombinant human BMP-2 (rhBMP-2) in conjunction with scaffolds has raised recent controversies, based on the mode of presentation and the amount to be delivered. The protocol presented here provides a simple and efficient way to deliver BMP-2 for in vitro studies on cells. We describe how to form a self-assembled monolayer consisting of a heterobifunctional linker, and show the subsequent binding step to obtain covalent immobilization of rhBMP-2. With this approach it is possible to achieve a sustained presentation of BMP-2 while maintaining the biological activity of the protein. In fact, the surface immobilization of BMP-2 allows targeted investigations by preventing unspecific adsorption, while reducing the amount of growth factor and, most notably, hindering uncontrolled release from the surface. Both short- and long-term signaling events triggered by BMP-2 are taking place when cells are exposed to surfaces presenting covalently immobilized rhBMP-2, making this approach suitable for in vitro studies on cell responses to BMP-2 stimulation.
Chemistry, Issue 78, Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering, Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics, Genetics, Chemical Biology, Physical Chemistry, Proteins, life sciences, Biological Factors, Chemistry and Materials (General), Bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP-2), self-assembled monolayer (SAM), covalent immobilization, NHS-linker, BMP-2 signaling, protein, assay
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Laser Capture Microdissection of Neurons from Differentiated Human Neuroprogenitor Cells in Culture
Authors: Ron Bouchard, Thomas Chong, Subbiah Pugazhenthi.
Institutions: Denver VA Medical Center, University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine.
Neuroprogenitor cells (NPCs) isolated from the human fetal brain were expanded under proliferative conditions in the presence of epidermal growth factor (EGF) and fibroblast growth factor (FGF) to provide an abundant supply of cells. NPCs were differentiated in the presence of a new combination of nerve growth factor (NGF), brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), dibutyryl cAMP (DBC) and retinoic acid on dishes coated with poly-L-lysine and mouse laminin to obtain neuron-rich cultures. NPCs were also differentiated in the absence of neurotrophins, DBC and retinoic acid and in the presence of ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) to yield astrocyte-rich cultures. Differentiated NPCs were characterized by immunofluorescence staining for a panel of neuronal markers including NeuN, synapsin, acetylcholinesterase, synaptophysin and GAP43. Glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and STAT3, astrocyte markers, were detected in 10-15% of differentiated NPCs. To facilitate cell-type specific molecular characterization, laser capture microdissection was performed to isolate neurons cultured on polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) membrane slides. The methods described in this study provide valuable tools to advance our understanding of the molecular mechanism of neurodegeneration.
Neuroscience, Issue 79, Neurobiology, Cellular Biology, Cells, Cultured, Neurons, Central Nervous System, Neurodegenerative Diseases, Human neuroprogenitor cells, neuronal differentiation, neuronal markers, astrocytes, laser capture microdissection, PEN membrane slides, cell culture
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A Cell Free Assay System Estimating the Neutralizing Capacity of GM-CSF Antibody using Recombinant Soluble GM-CSF Receptor
Authors: Shinya Urano, Ryushi Tazawa, Takahito Nei, Natsuki Motoi, Masato Watanabe, Takenori Igarashi, Masahiro Tomita, Koh Nakata.
Institutions: Niigata University Medical and Dental Hospital, Kyorin University, Immuno Biological Laboratories Co., Ltd..
BACKGROUNDS: Previously, we demonstrated that neutralizing capacity but not the concentration of GM-CSF autoantibody was correlated with the disease severity in patients with autoimmune pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP)1-3. As abrogation of GM-CSF bioactivity in the lung is the likely cause for autoimmune PAP4,5, it is promising to measure the neutralizing capacity of GM-CSF autoantibodies for evaluating the disease severity in each patient with PAP. Until now, neutralizing capacity of GM-CSF autoantibodies has been assessed by evaluating the growth inhibition of human bone marrow cells or TF-1 cells stimulated with GM-CSF6-8. In the bioassay system, however, it is often problematic to obtain reliable data as well as to compare the data from different laboratories, due to the technical difficulties in maintaining the cells in a constant condition. OBJECTIVE: To mimic GM-CSF binding to GM-CSF receptor on the cell surface using cell-free receptor-binding-assay. METHODS: Transgenic silkworm technology was applied for obtaining a large amount for recombinant soluble GM-CSF receptor alpha (sGMRα) with high purity9-13. The recombinant sGMRα was contained in the hydrophilic sericin layers of silk threads without being fused to the silk proteins, and thus, we can easily extract from the cocoons in good purity with neutral aqueous solutions14,15. Fortunately, the oligosaccharide structures, which are critical for binding with GM-CSF, are more similar to the structures of human sGMRα than those produced by other insects or yeasts. RESULTS: The cell-free assay system using sGMRα yielded the data with high plasticity and reliability. GM-CSF binding to sGMRα was dose-dependently inhibited by polyclonal GM-CSF autoantibody in a similar manner to the bioassay using TF-1 cells, indicating that our new cell-free assay system using sGMRα is more useful for the measurement of neutralizing activity of GM-CSF autoantibodies than the bioassay system using TF-1 cell or human bone marrow cells. CONCLUSIONS: We established a cell-free assay quantifying the neutralizing capacity of GM-CSF autoantibody.
Molecular Biology, Issue 52, GM-CSF, GM-CSF autoantibody, GM-CSF receptor α, receptor binding assay, cell free system
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Drug-induced Sensitization of Adenylyl Cyclase: Assay Streamlining and Miniaturization for Small Molecule and siRNA Screening Applications
Authors: Jason M. Conley, Tarsis F. Brust, Ruqiang Xu, Kevin D. Burris, Val J. Watts.
Institutions: Purdue University, Eli Lilly and Company.
Sensitization of adenylyl cyclase (AC) signaling has been implicated in a variety of neuropsychiatric and neurologic disorders including substance abuse and Parkinson's disease. Acute activation of Gαi/o-linked receptors inhibits AC activity, whereas persistent activation of these receptors results in heterologous sensitization of AC and increased levels of intracellular cAMP. Previous studies have demonstrated that this enhancement of AC responsiveness is observed both in vitro and in vivo following the chronic activation of several types of Gαi/o-linked receptors including D2 dopamine and μ opioid receptors. Although heterologous sensitization of AC was first reported four decades ago, the mechanism(s) that underlie this phenomenon remain largely unknown. The lack of mechanistic data presumably reflects the complexity involved with this adaptive response, suggesting that nonbiased approaches could aid in identifying the molecular pathways involved in heterologous sensitization of AC. Previous studies have implicated kinase and Gbγ signaling as overlapping components that regulate the heterologous sensitization of AC. To identify unique and additional overlapping targets associated with sensitization of AC, the development and validation of a scalable cAMP sensitization assay is required for greater throughput. Previous approaches to study sensitization are generally cumbersome involving continuous cell culture maintenance as well as a complex methodology for measuring cAMP accumulation that involves multiple wash steps. Thus, the development of a robust cell-based assay that can be used for high throughput screening (HTS) in a 384 well format would facilitate future studies. Using two D2 dopamine receptor cellular models (i.e. CHO-D2L and HEK-AC6/D2L), we have converted our 48-well sensitization assay (>20 steps 4-5 days) to a five-step, single day assay in 384-well format. This new format is amenable to small molecule screening, and we demonstrate that this assay design can also be readily used for reverse transfection of siRNA in anticipation of targeted siRNA library screening.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, adenylyl cyclase, cAMP, heterologous sensitization, superactivation, D2 dopamine, μ opioid, siRNA
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High-throughput Analysis of Mammalian Olfactory Receptors: Measurement of Receptor Activation via Luciferase Activity
Authors: Casey Trimmer, Lindsey L. Snyder, Joel D. Mainland.
Institutions: Monell Chemical Senses Center.
Odorants create unique and overlapping patterns of olfactory receptor activation, allowing a family of approximately 1,000 murine and 400 human receptors to recognize thousands of odorants. Odorant ligands have been published for fewer than 6% of human receptors1-11. This lack of data is due in part to difficulties functionally expressing these receptors in heterologous systems. Here, we describe a method for expressing the majority of the olfactory receptor family in Hana3A cells, followed by high-throughput assessment of olfactory receptor activation using a luciferase reporter assay. This assay can be used to (1) screen panels of odorants against panels of olfactory receptors; (2) confirm odorant/receptor interaction via dose response curves; and (3) compare receptor activation levels among receptor variants. In our sample data, 328 olfactory receptors were screened against 26 odorants. Odorant/receptor pairs with varying response scores were selected and tested in dose response. These data indicate that a screen is an effective method to enrich for odorant/receptor pairs that will pass a dose response experiment, i.e. receptors that have a bona fide response to an odorant. Therefore, this high-throughput luciferase assay is an effective method to characterize olfactory receptors—an essential step toward a model of odor coding in the mammalian olfactory system.
Neuroscience, Issue 88, Firefly luciferase, Renilla Luciferase, Dual-Glo Luciferase Assay, olfaction, Olfactory receptor, Odorant, GPCR, High-throughput
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Electronic Tongue Generating Continuous Recognition Patterns for Protein Analysis
Authors: Yanxia Hou, Maria Genua, Laurie-Amandine Garçon, Arnaud Buhot, Roberto Calemczuk, David Bonnaffé, Hugues Lortat-Jacob, Thierry Livache.
Institutions: Institut Nanosciences et Cryogénie, CEA-Grenoble, Université Paris-Sud, Institut de Biologie Structurale.
In current protocol, a combinatorial approach has been developed to simplify the design and production of sensing materials for the construction of electronic tongues (eT) for protein analysis. By mixing a small number of simple and easily accessible molecules with different physicochemical properties, used as building blocks (BBs), in varying and controlled proportions and allowing the mixtures to self-assemble on the gold surface of a prism, an array of combinatorial surfaces featuring appropriate properties for protein sensing was created. In this way, a great number of cross-reactive receptors can be rapidly and efficiently obtained. By combining such an array of combinatorial cross-reactive receptors (CoCRRs) with an optical detection system such as surface plasmon resonance imaging (SPRi), the obtained eT can monitor the binding events in real-time and generate continuous recognition patterns including 2D continuous evolution profile (CEP) and 3D continuous evolution landscape (CEL) for samples in liquid. Such an eT system is efficient for discrimination of common purified proteins.
Bioengineering, Issue 91, electronic tongue, combinatorial cross-reactive receptor, surface plasmon resonance imaging, pattern recognition, continuous evolution profiles, continuous evolution landscapes, protein analysis
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Examination of Synaptic Vesicle Recycling Using FM Dyes During Evoked, Spontaneous, and Miniature Synaptic Activities
Authors: Sadahiro Iwabuchi, Yasuhiro Kakazu, Jin-Young Koh, Kirsty M. Goodman, N. Charles Harata.
Institutions: University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, University of Bath.
Synaptic vesicles in functional nerve terminals undergo exocytosis and endocytosis. This synaptic vesicle recycling can be effectively analyzed using styryl FM dyes, which reveal membrane turnover. Conventional protocols for the use of FM dyes were designed for analyzing neurons following stimulated (evoked) synaptic activity. Recently, protocols have become available for analyzing the FM signals that accompany weaker synaptic activities, such as spontaneous or miniature synaptic events. Analysis of these small changes in FM signals requires that the imaging system is sufficiently sensitive to detect small changes in intensity, yet that artifactual changes of large amplitude are suppressed. Here we describe a protocol that can be applied to evoked, spontaneous, and miniature synaptic activities, and use cultured hippocampal neurons as an example. This protocol also incorporates a means of assessing the rate of photobleaching of FM dyes, as this is a significant source of artifacts when imaging small changes in intensity.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, Presynaptic Terminals, Synaptic Vesicles, Microscopy, Biological Assay, Nervous System, Endocytosis, exocytosis, fluorescence imaging, FM dye, neuron, photobleaching
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Particles without a Box: Brush-first Synthesis of Photodegradable PEG Star Polymers under Ambient Conditions
Authors: Jenny Liu, Angela Xiaodi Gao, Jeremiah A. Johnson.
Institutions: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Convenient methods for the rapid, parallel synthesis of diversely functionalized nanoparticles will enable discovery of novel formulations for drug delivery, biological imaging, and supported catalysis. In this report, we demonstrate parallel synthesis of brush-arm star polymer (BASP) nanoparticles by the "brush-first" method. In this method, a norbornene-terminated poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) macromonomer (PEG-MM) is first polymerized via ring-opening metathesis polymerization (ROMP) to generate a living brush macroinitiator. Aliquots of this initiator stock solution are added to vials that contain varied amounts of a photodegradable bis-norbornene crosslinker. Exposure to crosslinker initiates a series of kinetically-controlled brush+brush and star+star coupling reactions that ultimately yields BASPs with cores comprised of the crosslinker and coronas comprised of PEG. The final BASP size depends on the amount of crosslinker added. We carry out the synthesis of three BASPs on the benchtop with no special precautions to remove air and moisture. The samples are characterized by gel permeation chromatography (GPC); results agreed closely with our previous report that utilized inert (glovebox) conditions. Key practical features, advantages, and potential disadvantages of the brush-first method are discussed.
Chemistry, Issue 80, Chemical Engineering, Nanoparticles, Polymers, Drug Delivery Systems, Polymerization, polymers, Biomedical and Dental Materials, brush first, polyethylene glycol, photodegradable, ring opening metathesis polymerization, brush polymer, star polymer, drug delivery, gel permeation chromatography, arm first, core functional, photocleavable
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Manufacturing and Using Piggy-back Multibarrel Electrodes for In vivo Pharmacological Manipulations of Neural Responses
Authors: Anna Dondzillo, Jennifer L. Thornton, Daniel J. Tollin, Achim Klug.
Institutions: University of Colorado Medical Campus.
In vivo recordings from single neurons allow an investigator to examine the firing properties of neurons, for example in response to sensory stimuli. Neurons typically receive multiple excitatory and inhibitory afferent and/or efferent inputs that integrate with each other, and the ultimate measured response properties of the neuron are driven by the neural integrations of these inputs. To study information processing in neural systems, it is necessary to understand the various inputs to a neuron or neural system, and the specific properties of these inputs. A powerful and technically relatively simple method to assess the functional role of certain inputs that a given neuron is receiving is to dynamically and reversibly suppress or eliminate these inputs, and measure the changes in the neuron's output caused by this manipulation. This can be accomplished by pharmacologically altering the neuron's immediate environment with piggy-back multibarrel electrodes. These electrodes consist of a single barrel recording electrode and a multibarrel drug electrode that can carry up to 4 different synaptic agonists or antagonists. The pharmacological agents can be applied iontophoretically at desired times during the experiment, allowing for time-controlled delivery and reversible reconfiguration of synaptic inputs. As such, pharmacological manipulation of the microenvironment represents a powerful and unparalleled method to test specific hypotheses about neural circuit function. Here we describe how piggy-back electrodes are manufactured, and how they are used during in vivo experiments. The piggy-back system allows an investigator to combine a single barrel recording electrode of any arbitrary property (resistance, tip size, shape etc) with a multibarrel drug electrode. This is a major advantage over standard multi-electrodes, where all barrels have more or less similar shapes and properties. Multibarrel electrodes were first introduced over 40 years ago 1-3, and have undergone a number of design improvements 2,3 until the piggy-back type was introduced in the 1980s 4,5. Here we present a set of important improvements in the laboratory production of piggy-back electrodes that allow for deep brain penetration in intact in vivo animal preparations due to a relatively thin electrode shaft that causes minimal damage. Furthermore these electrodes are characterized by low noise recordings, and have low resistance drug barrels for very effective iontophoresis of the desired pharmacological agents.
Neuroscience, Issue 71, Biophysics, Physiology, Neurobiology, Medicine, Pharmacology, Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Piggyback electrode, iontophoresis, iontophoresis pump, single cell recording, neural excitation, neural inhibition, in vivo electrophysiology
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Lectin-based Isolation and Culture of Mouse Embryonic Motoneurons
Authors: Rebecca Conrad, Sibylle Jablonka, Teresa Sczepan, Michael Sendtner, Stefan Wiese, Alice Klausmeyer.
Institutions: Ruhr-University Bochum, University of Wuerzburg.
Spinal motoneurons develop towards postmitotic stages through early embryonic nervous system development and subsequently grow out dendrites and axons. Neuroepithelial cells of the neural tube that express Nkx6.1 are the unique precursor cells for spinal motoneurons1. Though postmitotic motoneurons move towards their final position and organize themselves into columns along the spinal tract2,3. More than 90% of all these differentiated and positioned motoneurons express the transcription factors Islet 1/2. They innervate the muscles of the limbs as well as those of the body and the inner organs. Among others, motoneurons typically express the high affinity receptors for brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and Neurotrophin-3 (NT-3), the tropomyosin-related kinase B and C (TrkB, TrkC). They do not express the tropomyosin-related kinase A (TrkA)4. Beside the two high affinity receptors, motoneurons do express the low affinity neurotrophin receptor p75NTR. The p75NTR can bind all neurotrophins with similar but lower affinity to all neurotrophins than the high affinity receptors would bind the mature neurotrophins. Within the embryonic spinal cord, the p75NTR is exclusively expressed by the spinal motoneurons5. This has been used to develop motoneuron isolation techniques to purify the cells from the vast majority of surrounding cells6. Isolating motoneurons with the help of specific antibodies (panning) against the extracellular domains of p75NTR has turned out to be an expensive method as the amount of antibody used for a single experiment is high due to the size of the plate used for panning. A much more economical alternative is the use of lectin. Lectin has been shown to specifically bind to p75NTR as well7. The following method describes an alternative technique using wheat germ agglutinin for a preplating procedure instead of the p75NTR antibody. The lectin is an extremely inexpensive alternative to the p75NTR antibody and the purification grades using lectin are comparable to that of the p75NTR antibody. Motoneurons from the embryonic spinal cord can be isolated by this method, survive and grow out neurites.
Neuroscience, Issue 55, p75NTR, spinal cord, lectin, axon, dendrite
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Dissection and Culture of Chick Statoacoustic Ganglion and Spinal Cord Explants in Collagen Gels for Neurite Outgrowth Assays
Authors: Kristen N. Fantetti, Donna M. Fekete.
Institutions: Purdue University.
The sensory organs of the chicken inner ear are innervated by the peripheral processes of statoacoustic ganglion (SAG) neurons. Sensory organ innervation depends on a combination of axon guidance cues1 and survival factors2 located along the trajectory of growing axons and/or within their sensory organ targets. For example, functional interference with a classic axon guidance signaling pathway, semaphorin-neuropilin, generated misrouting of otic axons3. Also, several growth factors expressed in the sensory targets of the inner ear, including Neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) and Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), have been manipulated in transgenic animals, again leading to misrouting of SAG axons4. These same molecules promote both survival and neurite outgrowth of chick SAG neurons in vitro5,6. Here, we describe and demonstrate the in vitro method we are currently using to test the responsiveness of chick SAG neurites to soluble proteins, including known morphogens such as the Wnts, as well as growth factors that are important for promoting SAG neurite outgrowth and neuron survival. Using this model system, we hope to draw conclusions about the effects that secreted ligands can exert on SAG neuron survival and neurite outgrowth. SAG explants are dissected on embryonic day 4 (E4) and cultured in three-dimensional collagen gels under serum-free conditions for 24 hours. First, neurite responsiveness is tested by culturing explants with protein-supplemented medium. Then, to ask whether point sources of secreted ligands can have directional effects on neurite outgrowth, explants are co-cultured with protein-coated beads and assayed for the ability of the bead to locally promote or inhibit outgrowth. We also include a demonstration of the dissection (modified protocol7) and culture of E6 spinal cord explants. We routinely use spinal cord explants to confirm bioactivity of the proteins and protein-soaked beads, and to verify species cross-reactivity with chick tissue, under the same culture conditions as SAG explants. These in vitro assays are convenient for quickly screening for molecules that exert trophic (survival) or tropic (directional) effects on SAG neurons, especially before performing studies in vivo. Moreover, this method permits the testing of individual molecules under serum-free conditions, with high neuron survival8.
Neuroscience, Issue 58, chicken, dissection, morphogen, NT-3, neurite outgrowth, spinal cord, statoacoustic ganglion, Wnt5a
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Real-time Imaging of Axonal Transport of Quantum Dot-labeled BDNF in Primary Neurons
Authors: Xiaobei Zhao, Yue Zhou, April M. Weissmiller, Matthew L. Pearn, William C. Mobley, Chengbiao Wu.
Institutions: University of California, San Diego, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, University of California, San Diego, VA San Diego Healthcare System.
BDNF plays an important role in several facets of neuronal survival, differentiation, and function. Structural and functional deficits in axons are increasingly viewed as an early feature of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and Huntington’s disease (HD). As yet unclear is the mechanism(s) by which axonal injury is induced. We reported the development of a novel technique to produce biologically active, monobiotinylated BDNF (mBtBDNF) that can be used to trace axonal transport of BDNF. Quantum dot-labeled BDNF (QD-BDNF) was produced by conjugating quantum dot 655 to mBtBDNF. A microfluidic device was used to isolate axons from neuron cell bodies. Addition of QD-BDNF to the axonal compartment allowed live imaging of BDNF transport in axons. We demonstrated that QD-BDNF moved essentially exclusively retrogradely, with very few pauses, at a moving velocity of around 1.06 μm/sec. This system can be used to investigate mechanisms of disrupted axonal function in AD or HD, as well as other degenerative disorders.
Neuroscience, Issue 91, live imaging, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), quantum dot, trafficking, axonal retrograde transport, microfluidic chamber
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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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Inhibitory Synapse Formation in a Co-culture Model Incorporating GABAergic Medium Spiny Neurons and HEK293 Cells Stably Expressing GABAA Receptors
Authors: Laura E. Brown, Celine Fuchs, Martin W. Nicholson, F. Anne Stephenson, Alex M. Thomson, Jasmina N. Jovanovic.
Institutions: University College London.
Inhibitory neurons act in the central nervous system to regulate the dynamics and spatio-temporal co-ordination of neuronal networks. GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is released from the presynaptic terminals of inhibitory neurons within highly specialized intercellular junctions known as synapses, where it binds to GABAA receptors (GABAARs) present at the plasma membrane of the synapse-receiving, postsynaptic neurons. Activation of these GABA-gated ion channels leads to influx of chloride resulting in postsynaptic potential changes that decrease the probability that these neurons will generate action potentials. During development, diverse types of inhibitory neurons with distinct morphological, electrophysiological and neurochemical characteristics have the ability to recognize their target neurons and form synapses which incorporate specific GABAARs subtypes. This principle of selective innervation of neuronal targets raises the question as to how the appropriate synaptic partners identify each other. To elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms, a novel in vitro co-culture model system was established, in which medium spiny GABAergic neurons, a highly homogenous population of neurons isolated from the embryonic striatum, were cultured with stably transfected HEK293 cell lines that express different GABAAR subtypes. Synapses form rapidly, efficiently and selectively in this system, and are easily accessible for quantification. Our results indicate that various GABAAR subtypes differ in their ability to promote synapse formation, suggesting that this reduced in vitro model system can be used to reproduce, at least in part, the in vivo conditions required for the recognition of the appropriate synaptic partners and formation of specific synapses. Here the protocols for culturing the medium spiny neurons and generating HEK293 cells lines expressing GABAARs are first described, followed by detailed instructions on how to combine these two cell types in co-culture and analyze the formation of synaptic contacts.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, Developmental neuroscience, synaptogenesis, synaptic inhibition, co-culture, stable cell lines, GABAergic, medium spiny neurons, HEK 293 cell line
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Setting-up an In Vitro Model of Rat Blood-brain Barrier (BBB): A Focus on BBB Impermeability and Receptor-mediated Transport
Authors: Yves Molino, Françoise Jabès, Emmanuelle Lacassagne, Nicolas Gaudin, Michel Khrestchatisky.
Institutions: VECT-HORUS SAS, CNRS, NICN UMR 7259.
The blood brain barrier (BBB) specifically regulates molecular and cellular flux between the blood and the nervous tissue. Our aim was to develop and characterize a highly reproducible rat syngeneic in vitro model of the BBB using co-cultures of primary rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC) and astrocytes to study receptors involved in transcytosis across the endothelial cell monolayer. Astrocytes were isolated by mechanical dissection following trypsin digestion and were frozen for later co-culture. RBEC were isolated from 5-week-old rat cortices. The brains were cleaned of meninges and white matter, and mechanically dissociated following enzymatic digestion. Thereafter, the tissue homogenate was centrifuged in bovine serum albumin to separate vessel fragments from nervous tissue. The vessel fragments underwent a second enzymatic digestion to free endothelial cells from their extracellular matrix. The remaining contaminating cells such as pericytes were further eliminated by plating the microvessel fragments in puromycin-containing medium. They were then passaged onto filters for co-culture with astrocytes grown on the bottom of the wells. RBEC expressed high levels of tight junction (TJ) proteins such as occludin, claudin-5 and ZO-1 with a typical localization at the cell borders. The transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of brain endothelial monolayers, indicating the tightness of TJs reached 300 ohm·cm2 on average. The endothelial permeability coefficients (Pe) for lucifer yellow (LY) was highly reproducible with an average of 0.26 ± 0.11 x 10-3 cm/min. Brain endothelial cells organized in monolayers expressed the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp), showed a polarized transport of rhodamine 123, a ligand for P-gp, and showed specific transport of transferrin-Cy3 and DiILDL across the endothelial cell monolayer. In conclusion, we provide a protocol for setting up an in vitro BBB model that is highly reproducible due to the quality assurance methods, and that is suitable for research on BBB transporters and receptors.
Medicine, Issue 88, rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC), mouse, spinal cord, tight junction (TJ), receptor-mediated transport (RMT), low density lipoprotein (LDL), LDLR, transferrin, TfR, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER),
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Characterization of G Protein-coupled Receptors by a Fluorescence-based Calcium Mobilization Assay
Authors: Jelle Caers, Katleen Peymen, Nick Suetens, Liesbet Temmerman, Tom Janssen, Liliane Schoofs, Isabel Beets.
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
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A Protocol for Computer-Based Protein Structure and Function Prediction
Authors: Ambrish Roy, Dong Xu, Jonathan Poisson, Yang Zhang.
Institutions: University of Michigan , University of Kansas.
Genome sequencing projects have ciphered millions of protein sequence, which require knowledge of their structure and function to improve the understanding of their biological role. Although experimental methods can provide detailed information for a small fraction of these proteins, computational modeling is needed for the majority of protein molecules which are experimentally uncharacterized. The I-TASSER server is an on-line workbench for high-resolution modeling of protein structure and function. Given a protein sequence, a typical output from the I-TASSER server includes secondary structure prediction, predicted solvent accessibility of each residue, homologous template proteins detected by threading and structure alignments, up to five full-length tertiary structural models, and structure-based functional annotations for enzyme classification, Gene Ontology terms and protein-ligand binding sites. All the predictions are tagged with a confidence score which tells how accurate the predictions are without knowing the experimental data. To facilitate the special requests of end users, the server provides channels to accept user-specified inter-residue distance and contact maps to interactively change the I-TASSER modeling; it also allows users to specify any proteins as template, or to exclude any template proteins during the structure assembly simulations. The structural information could be collected by the users based on experimental evidences or biological insights with the purpose of improving the quality of I-TASSER predictions. The server was evaluated as the best programs for protein structure and function predictions in the recent community-wide CASP experiments. There are currently >20,000 registered scientists from over 100 countries who are using the on-line I-TASSER server.
Biochemistry, Issue 57, On-line server, I-TASSER, protein structure prediction, function prediction
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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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Mechanical Stimulation-induced Calcium Wave Propagation in Cell Monolayers: The Example of Bovine Corneal Endothelial Cells
Authors: Catheleyne D'hondt, Bernard Himpens, Geert Bultynck.
Institutions: KU Leuven.
Intercellular communication is essential for the coordination of physiological processes between cells in a variety of organs and tissues, including the brain, liver, retina, cochlea and vasculature. In experimental settings, intercellular Ca2+-waves can be elicited by applying a mechanical stimulus to a single cell. This leads to the release of the intracellular signaling molecules IP3 and Ca2+ that initiate the propagation of the Ca2+-wave concentrically from the mechanically stimulated cell to the neighboring cells. The main molecular pathways that control intercellular Ca2+-wave propagation are provided by gap junction channels through the direct transfer of IP3 and by hemichannels through the release of ATP. Identification and characterization of the properties and regulation of different connexin and pannexin isoforms as gap junction channels and hemichannels are allowed by the quantification of the spread of the intercellular Ca2+-wave, siRNA, and the use of inhibitors of gap junction channels and hemichannels. Here, we describe a method to measure intercellular Ca2+-wave in monolayers of primary corneal endothelial cells loaded with Fluo4-AM in response to a controlled and localized mechanical stimulus provoked by an acute, short-lasting deformation of the cell as a result of touching the cell membrane with a micromanipulator-controlled glass micropipette with a tip diameter of less than 1 μm. We also describe the isolation of primary bovine corneal endothelial cells and its use as model system to assess Cx43-hemichannel activity as the driven force for intercellular Ca2+-waves through the release of ATP. Finally, we discuss the use, advantages, limitations and alternatives of this method in the context of gap junction channel and hemichannel research.
Cellular Biology, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics, Immunology, Ophthalmology, Gap Junctions, Connexins, Connexin 43, Calcium Signaling, Ca2+, Cell Communication, Paracrine Communication, Intercellular communication, calcium wave propagation, gap junctions, hemichannels, endothelial cells, cell signaling, cell, isolation, cell culture
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Genetically-encoded Molecular Probes to Study G Protein-coupled Receptors
Authors: Saranga Naganathan, Amy Grunbeck, He Tian, Thomas Huber, Thomas P. Sakmar.
Institutions: The Rockefeller University.
To facilitate structural and dynamic studies of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling complexes, new approaches are required to introduce informative probes or labels into expressed receptors that do not perturb receptor function. We used amber codon suppression technology to genetically-encode the unnatural amino acid, p-azido-L-phenylalanine (azF) at various targeted positions in GPCRs heterologously expressed in mammalian cells. The versatility of the azido group is illustrated here in different applications to study GPCRs in their native cellular environment or under detergent solubilized conditions. First, we demonstrate a cell-based targeted photocrosslinking technology to identify the residues in the ligand-binding pocket of GPCR where a tritium-labeled small-molecule ligand is crosslinked to a genetically-encoded azido amino acid. We then demonstrate site-specific modification of GPCRs by the bioorthogonal Staudinger-Bertozzi ligation reaction that targets the azido group using phosphine derivatives. We discuss a general strategy for targeted peptide-epitope tagging of expressed membrane proteins in-culture and its detection using a whole-cell-based ELISA approach. Finally, we show that azF-GPCRs can be selectively tagged with fluorescent probes. The methodologies discussed are general, in that they can in principle be applied to any amino acid position in any expressed GPCR to interrogate active signaling complexes.
Genetics, Issue 79, Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled, Protein Engineering, Signal Transduction, Biochemistry, Unnatural amino acid, site-directed mutagenesis, G protein-coupled receptor, targeted photocrosslinking, bioorthogonal labeling, targeted epitope tagging
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Detection of Neu1 Sialidase Activity in Regulating TOLL-like Receptor Activation
Authors: Schammim R. Amith, Preethi Jayanth, Trisha Finlay, Susan Franchuk, Alanna Gilmour, Samar Abdulkhalek, Myron R. Szewczuk.
Institutions: Queen's University - Kingston, Ontario.
Mammalian Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are a family of receptors that recognize pathogen-associated molecular patterns. Not only are TLRs crucial sensors of microbial (e.g., viruses, bacteria and parasite) infections, they also play an important role in the pathophysiology of infectious diseases, inflammatory diseases, and possibly in autoimmune diseases. Thus, the intensity and duration of TLR responses against infectious diseases must be tightly controlled. It follows that understanding the structural integrity of sensor receptors, their ligand interactions and signaling components is essential for subsequent immunological protection. It would also provide important opportunities for disease modification through sensor manipulation. Although the signaling pathways of TLR sensors are well characterized, the parameters controlling interactions between the sensors and their ligands still remain poorly defined. We have recently identified a novel mechanism of TLR activation by its natural ligand, which has not been previously observed 1,2. It suggests that ligand-induced TLR activation is tightly controlled by Neu1 sialidase activation. We have also reported that Neu1 tightly regulates neurotrophin receptors like TrkA and TrkB 3, which involve Neu1 and matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) cross-talk in complex with the receptors 4. The sialidase assay has been initially use to find a novel ligand, thymoquinone, in the activation of Neu4 sialidase on the cell surface of macrophages, dendritic cells and fibroblast cells via GPCR Gαi proteins and MMP-9 5. For TLR receptors, our data indicate that Neu1 sialidase is already in complex with TLR-2, -3 and -4 receptors, and is induced upon ligand binding to either receptor. Activated Neu1 sialidase hydrolyzes sialyl α-2,3-linked β-galactosyl residues distant from ligand binding to remove steric hinderance to TLR-4 dimerization, MyD88/TLR4 complex recruitment, NFkB activation and pro-inflammatory cell responses. In a collaborative report, Neu1 sialidase has been shown to regulate phagocytosis in macrophage cells 6. Taken together, the sialidase assay has provided us with powerful insights to the molecular mechanisms of ligand-induced receptor activation. Although the precise relationship between Neu1 sialidase and the activation of TLR, Trk receptors has yet to be fully elucidated, it would represent a new or pioneering approach to cell regulation pathways.
Cellular Biology, Issue 43, Neu1 sialidase, TOLL-like receptors, macrophages, sialidase substrate, fluorescence microscopy, cell signaling, receptor activation
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Bladder Smooth Muscle Strip Contractility as a Method to Evaluate Lower Urinary Tract Pharmacology
Authors: F. Aura Kullmann, Stephanie L. Daugherty, William C. de Groat, Lori A. Birder.
Institutions: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
We describe an in vitro method to measure bladder smooth muscle contractility, and its use for investigating physiological and pharmacological properties of the smooth muscle as well as changes induced by pathology. This method provides critical information for understanding bladder function while overcoming major methodological difficulties encountered in in vivo experiments, such as surgical and pharmacological manipulations that affect stability and survival of the preparations, the use of human tissue, and/or the use of expensive chemicals. It also provides a way to investigate the properties of each bladder component (i.e. smooth muscle, mucosa, nerves) in healthy and pathological conditions. The urinary bladder is removed from an anesthetized animal, placed in Krebs solution and cut into strips. Strips are placed into a chamber filled with warm Krebs solution. One end is attached to an isometric tension transducer to measure contraction force, the other end is attached to a fixed rod. Tissue is stimulated by directly adding compounds to the bath or by electric field stimulation electrodes that activate nerves, similar to triggering bladder contractions in vivo. We demonstrate the use of this method to evaluate spontaneous smooth muscle contractility during development and after an experimental spinal cord injury, the nature of neurotransmission (transmitters and receptors involved), factors involved in modulation of smooth muscle activity, the role of individual bladder components, and species and organ differences in response to pharmacological agents. Additionally, it could be used for investigating intracellular pathways involved in contraction and/or relaxation of the smooth muscle, drug structure-activity relationships and evaluation of transmitter release. The in vitro smooth muscle contractility method has been used extensively for over 50 years, and has provided data that significantly contributed to our understanding of bladder function as well as to pharmaceutical development of compounds currently used clinically for bladder management.
Medicine, Issue 90, Krebs, species differences, in vitro, smooth muscle contractility, neural stimulation
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Preparation and Maintenance of Dorsal Root Ganglia Neurons in Compartmented Cultures
Authors: Maria F. Pazyra-Murphy, Rosalind A. Segal.
Institutions: Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School.
Neurons extend axonal processes that are far removed from the cell body to innervate target tissues, where target-derived growth factors are required for neuronal survival and function. Neurotrophins are specifically required to maintain the survival and differentiation of innervating sensory neurons but the question of how these target-derived neurotrophins communicate to the cell body of innervating neurons has been an area of active research for over 30 years. The most commonly accepted model of how neurotrophin signals reach the cell body proposes that signaling endosomes carry this signal retrogradely along the axon. In order to study retrograde transport, a culture system was originally devised by Robert Campenot, in which cell bodies are isolated from their axons. The technique of preparing these compartmented chambers for culturing sensory neurons recapitulates the selective stimulation of neuron terminals that occurs in vivo following release of target-derived neurotrophins. Retrograde signaling events that require long-range microtubule dependent retrograde transport have important implications for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.
Neuroscience, Issue 20, campenot cultures, cell culture, dorsal root ganglia (DRG) neurons, neuronal culture
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