Analysis of neuromuscular junction morphology can give important insight into the physiological status of a given motor neuron. Analysis of thin flat muscles can offer significant advantage over traditionally used thicker muscles, such as those from the hind limb (e.g. gastrocnemius). Thin muscles allow for comprehensive overview of the entire innervation pattern for a given muscle, which in turn permits identification of selectively vulnerable pools of motor neurons. These muscles also allow analysis of parameters such as motor unit size, axonal branching, and terminal/nodal sprouting. A common obstacle in using such muscles is gaining the technical expertise to dissect them. In this video, we detail the protocol for dissecting the transversus abdominis (TVA) muscle from young mice and performing immunofluorescence to visualize axons and neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). We demonstrate that this technique gives a complete overview of the innervation pattern of the TVA muscle and can be used to investigate NMJ pathology in a mouse model of the childhood motor neuron disease, spinal muscular atrophy.
21 Related JoVE Articles!
Detection of Viral RNA by Fluorescence in situ Hybridization (FISH)
Institutions: Sir Mortimer B. Davis Jewish General Hospital, McGill University , McGill University .
Viruses that infect cells elicit specific changes to normal cell functions which serve to divert energy and resources for viral replication. Many aspects of host cell function are commandeered by viruses, usually by the expression of viral gene products that recruit host cell proteins and machineries. Moreover, viruses engineer specific membrane organelles or tag on to mobile vesicles and motor proteins to target regions of the cell (during de novo
infection, viruses co-opt molecular motor proteins to target the nucleus; later, during virus assembly, they will hijack cellular machineries that will help in the assembly of viruses). Less is understood on how viruses, in particular those with RNA genomes, coordinate the intracellular trafficking of both protein and RNA components and how they achieve assembly of infectious particles at specific loci in the cell. The study of RNA localization began in earlier work. Developing lower eukaryotic embryos and neuronal cells provided important biological information, and also underscored the importance of RNA localization in the programming of gene expression cascades. The study in other organisms and cell systems has yielded similar important information. Viruses are obligate parasites and must utilise their host cells to replicate. Thus, it is critical to understand how RNA viruses direct their RNA genomes from the nucleus, through the nuclear pore, through the cytoplasm and on to one of its final destinations, into progeny virus particles 1
FISH serves as a useful tool to identify changes in steady-state localization of viral RNA. When combined with immunofluorescence (IF) analysis 22
, FISH/IF co-analyses will provide information on the co-localization of proteins with the viral RNA3
. This analysis therefore provides a good starting point to test for RNA-protein interactions by other biochemical or biophysical tests 4,5
, since co-localization by itself is not enough evidence to be certain of an interaction. In studying viral RNA localization using a method like this, abundant information has been gained on both viral and cellular RNA trafficking events 6
. For instance, HIV-1 produces RNA in the nucleus of infected cells but the RNA is only translated in the cytoplasm. When one key viral protein is missing (Rev) 7
, FISH of the viral RNA has revealed that the block to viral replication is due to the retention of the HIV-1 genomic RNA in the nucleus 8
Here, we present the method for visual analysis of viral genomic RNA in situ
. The method makes use of a labelled RNA probe. This probe is designed to be complementary to the viral genomic RNA. During the in vitro
synthesis of the antisense RNA probe, the ribonucleotide that is modified with digoxigenin (DIG) is included in an in vitro
transcription reaction. Once the probe has hybridized to the target mRNA in cells, subsequent antibody labelling steps (Figure 1
) will reveal the localization of the mRNA as well as proteins of interest when performing FISH/IF.
Genetics, Issue 63, Viral genomic RNA, Fluorescence in situ Hybridization, FISH, imaging, genomics
Lectin-based Isolation and Culture of Mouse Embryonic Motoneurons
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
. 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
Imaging Analysis of Neuron to Glia Interaction in Microfluidic Culture Platform (MCP)-based Neuronal Axon and Glia Co-culture System
Institutions: Tufts University, Tufts Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences.
Proper neuron to glia interaction is critical to physiological function of the central nervous system (CNS). This bidirectional communication is sophisticatedly mediated by specific signaling pathways between neuron and glia1,2
. Identification and characterization of these signaling pathways is essential to the understanding of how neuron to glia interaction shapes CNS physiology. Previously, neuron and glia mixed cultures have been widely utilized for testing and characterizing signaling pathways between neuron and glia. What we have learned from these preparations and other in vivo
tools, however, has suggested that mutual signaling between neuron and glia often occurred in specific compartments within neurons (i.e.
, axon, dendrite, or soma)3
. This makes it important to develop a new culture system that allows separation of neuronal compartments and specifically examines the interaction between glia and neuronal axons/dendrites. In addition, the conventional mixed culture system is not capable of differentiating the soluble factors and direct membrane contact signals between neuron and glia. Furthermore, the large quantity of neurons and glial cells in the conventional co-culture system lacks the resolution necessary to observe the interaction between a single axon and a glial cell.
In this study, we describe a novel axon and glia co-culture system with the use of a microfluidic culture platform (MCP). In this co-culture system, neurons and glial cells are cultured in two separate chambers that are connected through multiple central channels. In this microfluidic culture platform, only neuronal processes (especially axons) can enter the glial side through the central channels. In combination with powerful fluorescent protein labeling, this system allows direct examination of signaling pathways between axonal/dendritic and glial interactions, such as axon-mediated transcriptional regulation in glia, glia-mediated receptor trafficking in neuronal terminals, and glia-mediated axon growth. The narrow diameter of the chamber also significantly prohibits the flow of the neuron-enriched medium into the glial chamber, facilitating probing of the direct membrane-protein interaction between axons/dendrites and glial surfaces.
Neuroscience, Issue 68, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Biophysics, Microfluidics, Microfluidic culture platform, Compartmented culture, Neuron to glia signaling, neurons, glia, cell culture
Patch-clamp Capacitance Measurements and Ca2+ Imaging at Single Nerve Terminals in Retinal Slices
Institutions: Oregon Health and Science University.
Visual stimuli are detected and conveyed over a wide dynamic range of light intensities and frequency changes by specialized neurons in the vertebrate retina. Two classes of retinal neurons, photoreceptors and bipolar cells, accomplish this by using ribbon-type active zones, which enable sustained and high-throughput neurotransmitter release over long time periods. ON-type mixed bipolar cell (Mb) terminals in the goldfish retina, which depolarize to light stimuli and receive mixed rod and cone photoreceptor input, are suitable for the study of ribbon-type synapses both due to their large size (~10-12 μm diameter) and to their numerous lateral and reciprocal synaptic connections with amacrine cell dendrites. Direct access to Mb bipolar cell terminals in goldfish retinal slices with the patch-clamp technique allows the measurement of presynaptic Ca2+
currents, membrane capacitance changes, and reciprocal synaptic feedback inhibition mediated by GABAA
receptors expressed on the terminals. Presynaptic membrane capacitance measurements of exocytosis allow one to study the short-term plasticity of excitatory neurotransmitter release 14,15
. In addition, short-term and long-term plasticity of inhibitory neurotransmitter release from amacrine cells can also be investigated by recordings of reciprocal feedback inhibition arriving at the Mb terminal 21
. Over short periods of time (e.g. ~10 s), GABAergic reciprocal feedback inhibition from amacrine cells undergoes paired-pulse depression via GABA vesicle pool depletion 11
. The synaptic dynamics of retinal microcircuits in the inner plexiform layer of the retina can thus be directly studied.
The brain-slice technique was introduced more than 40 years ago but is still very useful for the investigation of the electrical properties of neurons, both at the single cell soma, single dendrite or axon, and microcircuit synaptic level 19
. Tissues that are too small to be glued directly onto the slicing chamber are often first embedded in agar (or placed onto a filter paper) and then sliced 20, 23, 18, 9
. In this video, we employ the pre-embedding agar technique using goldfish retina. Some of the giant bipolar cell terminals in our slices of goldfish retina are axotomized (axon-cut) during the slicing procedure. This allows us to isolate single presynaptic nerve terminal inputs, because recording from axotomized terminals excludes the signals from the soma-dendritic compartment. Alternatively, one can also record from intact Mb bipolar cells, by recording from terminals attached to axons that have not been cut during the slicing procedure. Overall, use of this experimental protocol will aid in studies of retinal synaptic physiology, microcircuit functional analysis, and synaptic transmission at ribbon synapses.
Neuroscience, Issue 59, synaptic physiology, axon terminal, synaptic ribbon, retina microcircuits, goldfish, zebrafish, brain slices, patch-clamp, membrane capacitance measurements, calcium-imaging, exocytosis, transmitter release
Vibrodissociation of Neurons from Rodent Brain Slices to Study Synaptic Transmission and Image Presynaptic Terminals
Institutions: National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Ewha Womans University, National Institutes of Health/National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
Mechanical dissociation of neurons from the central nervous system has the advantage that presynaptic boutons remain attached to the isolated neuron of interest. This allows for examination of synaptic transmission under conditions where the extracellular and postsynaptic intracellular environments can be well controlled. A vibration-based technique without the use of proteases, known as vibrodissociation, is the most popular technique for mechanical isolation. A micropipette, with the tip fire-polished to the shape of a small ball, is placed into a brain slice made from a P1-P21 rodent. The micropipette is vibrated parallel to the slice surface and lowered through the slice thickness resulting in the liberation of isolated neurons. The isolated neurons are ready for study within a few minutes of vibrodissociation. This technique has advantages over the use of primary neuronal cultures, brain slices and enzymatically isolated neurons including: rapid production of viable, relatively mature neurons suitable for electrophysiological and imaging studies; superior control of the extracellular environment free from the influence of neighboring cells; suitability for well-controlled pharmacological experiments using rapid drug application and total cell superfusion; and improved space-clamp in whole-cell recordings relative to neurons in slice or cell culture preparations. This preparation can be used to examine synaptic physiology, pharmacology, modulation and plasticity. Real-time imaging of both pre- and postsynaptic elements in the living cells and boutons is also possible using vibrodissociated neurons. Characterization of the molecular constituents of pre- and postsynaptic elements can also be achieved with immunological and imaging-based approaches.
Neuroscience, Issue 51, neuronal dissociation, synaptic transmission, GABA, calcium imaging, electrophysiology, hippocampus, striatum
Whole-cell Patch-clamp Recordings from Morphologically- and Neurochemically-identified Hippocampal Interneurons
Institutions: Charité Universitätmedizin.
GABAergic inhibitory interneurons play a central role within neuronal circuits of the brain. Interneurons comprise a small subset of the neuronal population (10-20%), but show a high level of physiological, morphological, and neurochemical heterogeneity, reflecting their diverse functions. Therefore, investigation of interneurons provides important insights into the organization principles and function of neuronal circuits. This, however, requires an integrated physiological and neuroanatomical approach for the selection and identification of individual interneuron types. Whole-cell patch-clamp recording from acute brain slices of transgenic animals, expressing fluorescent proteins under the promoters of interneuron-specific markers, provides an efficient method to target and electrophysiologically characterize intrinsic and synaptic properties of specific interneuron types. Combined with intracellular dye labeling, this approach can be extended with post-hoc morphological and immunocytochemical analysis, enabling systematic identification of recorded neurons. These methods can be tailored to suit a broad range of scientific questions regarding functional properties of diverse types of cortical neurons.
Neuroscience, Issue 91, electrophysiology, acute slice, whole-cell patch-clamp recording, neuronal morphology, immunocytochemistry, parvalbumin, hippocampus, inhibition, GABAergic interneurons, synaptic transmission, IPSC, GABA-B receptor
Examination of Synaptic Vesicle Recycling Using FM Dyes During Evoked, Spontaneous, and Miniature Synaptic Activities
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
Physiological Recordings of High and Low Output NMJs on the Crayfish Leg Extensor Muscle
Institutions: University of Kentucky.
We explain in detail how to expose and conduct electrophysiological recordings of synaptic responses for high (phasic) and low (tonic) output motor neurons innervating the extensor muscle in the walking leg of a crayfish. Distinct differences are present in the physiology and morphology of the phasic and tonic nerve terminals. The tonic axon contains many more mitochondria, enabling it to take a vital stain more intensely than the phasic axon. The tonic terminals have varicosities, and the phasic terminal is filiform. The tonic terminals are low in synaptic efficacy but show dramatic facilitated responses. In contrast, the phasic terminals are high in quantal efficacy but show synaptic depression with high frequency stimulation. The quantal output is measured with a focal macropatch electrode placed directly over the visualized nerve terminals. Both phasic and tonic terminals innervate the same muscle fibers, which suggests that inherent differences in the neurons, rather than differential retrograde feedback from the muscle, account for the morphological and physiological differentiation.
Neuroscience, Issue 45, synapse, crayfish, neuromuscular junction, invertebrate, motor neuron, muscle
Antibody Transfection into Neurons as a Tool to Study Disease Pathogenesis
Institutions: Veterans Administration Medical Center, Memphis, TN, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN.
Antibodies provide the ability to gain novel insight into various events taking place in living systems. The ability to produce highly specific antibodies to target proteins has allowed for very precise biological questions to be addressed. Importantly, antibodies have been implicated in the pathogenesis of a number of human diseases including systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), paraneoplastic syndromes, multiple sclerosis (MS) and human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) associated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis (HAM/TSP) 1-9
. How antibodies cause disease is an area of ongoing investigation, and data suggests that interactions between antibodies and various intracellular molecules results in inflammation, altered cellular messaging, and apoptosis 10
. It has been shown that patients with MS and HAM/TSP produce autoantibodies to the intracellular RNA binding protein heterogeneous ribonuclear protein A1 (hnRNP A1) 3, 5-7, 9, 11
. Recent data indicate that antibodies to both intra-neuronal and surface antigens are pathogenic 3, 5-9, 11
. Thus, a procedure that allows for the study of intracellular antibody:protein interactions would lend great insight into disease pathogenesis.
Genes are commonly transfected into primary cells and cell lines in culture, however transfection of antibodies into cells has been hindered by alteration of antibody structure or poor transfection efficiency 12
. Other methods of transfection include antibody transfection based on cationic liposomes (consisting of DOTAP/DOPE) and polyethylenimines (PEI); both of which resulted in a ten-fold decrease in antibody transfection compared to controls 12
. The method performed in our study is similar to cationic lipid-mediated methods and uses a lipid-based mechanism to form non-covalent complexes with the antibodies through electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions 13
. We utilized Ab-DeliverIN reagent, which is a lipid formulation capable of capturing antibodies through non-covalent electrostatic and hydrophobic interactions and delivering them inside cells. Thus chemical and genetic couplings are not necessary for delivery of functional antibodies into living cells. This method has enabled us to perform various antibody tracing and protein localization experiments, as well as the analyses of the molecular consequences of intracellular antibody:protein interactions 9
In this protocol, we will show how to transfect antibodies into neurons rapidly, reproducibly and with a high degree of transfection efficiency. As an example, we will use anti-hnRNP A1 and anti-IgG antibodies. For easy quantification of transfection efficiency we used anti-hnRNP A1 antibodies labelled with Atto-550-NHS and FITC-labeled IgG. Atto550 NHS is a new label with high molecular absorbtion and quantum yield. Excitation source and fluorescent filters for Atto550 are similar to Cy3 (Ex. 556 Em. 578). In addition, Atto550 has high photostability. FITC-labeled IgG were used as a control to show that this method is versatile and not dye dependent. This approach and the data that is generated will assist in understanding of the role that antibodies to intracellular target antigens might play in the pathogenesis of human diseases.
Neuroscience, Issue 67, Medicine, Molecular Biology, Immunology, Transfection, antibodies, neuron, immunocytochemistry, fluorescent microscopy, autoimmunity
Delivery of Therapeutic Agents Through Intracerebroventricular (ICV) and Intravenous (IV) Injection in Mice
Institutions: University of Missouri, Columbia University , University of Missouri.
Despite the protective role that blood brain barrier plays in shielding the brain, it limits the access to the central nervous system (CNS) which most often results in failure of potential therapeutics designed for neurodegenerative disorders 1,2
. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), in which the lower motor neurons are affected, can benefit greatly from introducing the therapeutic agents into the CNS. The purpose of this video is to demonstrate two different injection paradigms to deliver therapeutic materials into neonatal mice soon after birth. One of these methods is injecting directly into cerebral lateral ventricles (Intracerebroventricular) which results in delivery of materials into the CNS through the cerebrospinal fluid 3,4
. The second method is a temporal vein injection (intravenous) that can introduce different therapeutics into the circulatory system, leading to systemic delivery including the CNS 5
. Widespread transduction of the CNS is achievable if an appropriate viral vector and viral serotype is utilized. Visualization and utilization of the temporal vein for injection is feasible up to postnatal day 6. However, if the delivered material is intended to reach the CNS, these injections should take place while the blood brain barrier is more permeable due to its immature status, preferably prior to postnatal day 2. The fully developed blood brain barrier greatly limits the effectiveness of intravenous delivery. Both delivery systems are simple and effective once the surgical aptitude is achieved. They do not require any extensive surgical devices and can be performed by a single person. However, these techniques are not without challenges. The small size of postnatal day 2 pups and the subsequent small target areas can make the injections difficult to perform and initially challenging to replicate.
Medicine, Issue 56, Neuroscience, Motor neuron, brain, CNS, temporal vein, mouse, injection, ventricles
An Ex Vivo Laser-induced Spinal Cord Injury Model to Assess Mechanisms of Axonal Degeneration in Real-time
Institutions: University of Louisville, University of Calgary.
Injured CNS axons fail to regenerate and often retract away from the injury site. Axons spared from the initial injury may later undergo secondary axonal degeneration. Lack of growth cone formation, regeneration, and loss of additional myelinated axonal projections within the spinal cord greatly limits neurological recovery following injury. To assess how central myelinated axons of the spinal cord respond to injury, we developed an ex vivo
living spinal cord model utilizing transgenic mice that express yellow fluorescent protein in axons and a focal and highly reproducible laser-induced spinal cord injury to document the fate of axons and myelin (lipophilic fluorescent dye Nile Red) over time using two-photon excitation time-lapse microscopy. Dynamic processes such as acute axonal injury, axonal retraction, and myelin degeneration are best studied in real-time. However, the non-focal nature of contusion-based injuries and movement artifacts encountered during in vivo
spinal cord imaging make differentiating primary and secondary axonal injury responses using high resolution microscopy challenging. The ex vivo
spinal cord model described here mimics several aspects of clinically relevant contusion/compression-induced axonal pathologies including axonal swelling, spheroid formation, axonal transection, and peri-axonal swelling providing a useful model to study these dynamic processes in real-time. Major advantages of this model are excellent spatiotemporal resolution that allows differentiation between the primary insult that directly injures axons and secondary injury mechanisms; controlled infusion of reagents directly to the perfusate bathing the cord; precise alterations of the environmental milieu (e.g.,
calcium, sodium ions, known contributors to axonal injury, but near impossible to manipulate in vivo
); and murine models also offer an advantage as they provide an opportunity to visualize and manipulate genetically identified cell populations and subcellular structures. Here, we describe how to isolate and image the living spinal cord from mice to capture dynamics of acute axonal injury.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, spinal cord injury, axon, myelin, two-photon excitation microscopy, Nile Red, axonal degeneration, axonal dieback, axonal retraction
Generation of Shear Adhesion Map Using SynVivo Synthetic Microvascular Networks
Institutions: CFD Research Corporation.
Cell/particle adhesion assays are critical to understanding the biochemical interactions involved in disease pathophysiology and have important applications in the quest for the development of novel therapeutics. Assays using static conditions fail to capture the dependence of adhesion on shear, limiting their correlation with in vivo
environment. Parallel plate flow chambers that quantify adhesion under physiological fluid flow need multiple experiments for the generation of a shear adhesion map. In addition, they do not represent the in vivo
scale and morphology and require large volumes (~ml) of reagents for experiments. In this study, we demonstrate the generation of shear adhesion map from a single experiment using a microvascular network based microfluidic device, SynVivo-SMN. This device recreates the complex in vivo
vasculature including geometric scale, morphological elements, flow features and cellular interactions in an in vitro
format, thereby providing a biologically realistic environment for basic and applied research in cellular behavior, drug delivery, and drug discovery. The assay was demonstrated by studying the interaction of the 2 µm biotin-coated particles with avidin-coated surfaces of the microchip. The entire range of shear observed in the microvasculature is obtained in a single assay enabling adhesion vs. shear map for the particles under physiological conditions.
Bioengineering, Issue 87, particle, adhesion, shear, microfluidics, vasculature, networks
A Functional Motor Unit in the Culture Dish: Co-culture of Spinal Cord Explants and Muscle Cells
Institutions: University of Basel.
Human primary muscle cells cultured aneurally in monolayer rarely contract spontaneously because, in the absence of a nerve component, cell differentiation is limited and motor neuron stimulation is missing1
. These limitations hamper the in vitro
study of many neuromuscular diseases in cultured muscle cells. Importantly, the experimental constraints of monolayered, cultured muscle cells can be overcome by functional innervation of myofibers with spinal cord explants in co-cultures.
Here, we show the different steps required to achieve an efficient, proper innervation of human primary muscle cells, leading to complete differentiation and fiber contraction according to the method developed by Askanas2
. To do so, muscle cells are co-cultured with spinal cord explants of rat embryos at ED 13.5, with the dorsal root ganglia still attached to the spinal cord slices. After a few days, the muscle fibers start to contract and eventually become cross-striated through innervation by functional neurites projecting from the spinal cord explants that connecting to the muscle cells. This structure can be maintained for many months, simply by regular exchange of the culture medium.
The applications of this invaluable tool are numerous, as it represents a functional model for multidisciplinary analyses of human muscle development and innervation. In fact, a complete de novo
neuromuscular junction installation occurs in a culture dish, allowing an easy measurement of many parameters at each step, in a fundamental and physiological context.
Just to cite a few examples, genomic and/or proteomic studies can be performed directly on the co-cultures. Furthermore, pre- and post-synaptic effects can be specifically and separately assessed at the neuromuscular junction, because both components come from different species, rat and human, respectively. The nerve-muscle co-culture can also be performed with human muscle cells isolated from patients suffering from muscle or neuromuscular diseases3
, and thus can be used as a screening tool for candidate drugs. Finally, no special equipment but a regular BSL2 facility is needed to reproduce a functional motor unit in a culture dish. This method thus is valuable for both the muscle as well as the neuromuscular research communities for physiological and mechanistic studies of neuromuscular function, in a normal and disease context.
Neuroscience, Issue 62, Human primary muscle cells, embryonic spinal cord explants, neurites, innervation, contraction, cell culture
Intravenous Injections in Neonatal Mice
Institutions: Ohio State University, Ohio State University.
Intravenous injection is a clinically applicable manner to deliver therapeutics. For adult rodents and larger animals, intravenous injections are technically feasible and routine. However, some mouse models can have early onset of disease with a rapid progression that makes administration of potential therapies difficult. The temporal (or facial) vein is just anterior to the ear bud in mice and is clearly visible for the first two days after birth on either side of the head using a dissecting microscope. During this window, the temporal vein can be injected with volumes up to 50 μl. The injection is safe and well tolerated by both the pups and the dams. A typical injection procedure is completed within 1-2 min, after which the pup is returned to the home cage. By the third postnatal day the vein is difficult to visualize and the injection procedure becomes technically unreliable. This technique has been used for delivery of adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors, which in turn can provide almost body-wide, stable transgene expression for the life of the animal depending on the viral serotype chosen.
Basic Protocol, Issue 93, intravenous injection, systemic delivery, neonate, AAV, gene therapy, brain, spinal cord, muscle, temporal vein
Inhibitory Synapse Formation in a Co-culture Model Incorporating GABAergic Medium Spiny Neurons and HEK293 Cells Stably Expressing GABAA Receptors
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
Rs) 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 GABAA
Rs 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 GABAA
R subtypes. Synapses form rapidly, efficiently and selectively in this system, and are easily accessible for quantification. Our results indicate that various GABAA
R 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 GABAA
Rs 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
Acute Dissociation of Lamprey Reticulospinal Axons to Enable Recording from the Release Face Membrane of Individual Functional Presynaptic Terminals
Institutions: University of Illinois at Chicago.
Synaptic transmission is an extremely rapid process. Action potential driven influx of Ca2+
into the presynaptic terminal, through voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs) located in the release face membrane, is the trigger for vesicle fusion and neurotransmitter release. Crucial to the rapidity of synaptic transmission is the spatial and temporal synchrony between the arrival of the action potential, VGCCs and the neurotransmitter release machinery. The ability to directly record Ca2+
currents from the release face membrane of individual presynaptic terminals is imperative for a precise understanding of the relationship between presynaptic Ca2+
and neurotransmitter release. Access to the presynaptic release face membrane for electrophysiological recording is not available in most preparations and presynaptic Ca2+
entry has been characterized using imaging techniques and macroscopic current measurements – techniques that do not have sufficient temporal resolution to visualize Ca2+
entry. The characterization of VGCCs directly at single presynaptic terminals has not been possible in central synapses and has thus far been successfully achieved only in the calyx-type synapse of the chick ciliary ganglion and in rat calyces. We have successfully addressed this problem in the giant reticulospinal synapse of the lamprey spinal cord by developing an acutely dissociated preparation of the spinal cord that yields isolated reticulospinal axons with functional presynaptic terminals devoid of postsynaptic structures. We can fluorescently label and identify individual presynaptic terminals and target them for recording. Using this preparation, we have characterized VGCCs directly at the release face of individual presynaptic terminals using immunohistochemistry and electrophysiology approaches. Ca2+
currents have been recorded directly at the release face membrane of individual presynaptic terminals, the first such recording to be carried out at central synapses.
Neuroscience, Issue 92, reticulospinal synapse, reticulospinal axons, presynaptic terminal, presynaptic calcium, voltage-gated calcium channels, vesicle fusion, synaptic transmission, neurotransmitter release, spinal cord, lamprey, synaptic vesicles, acute dissociation
Using Microfluidics Chips for Live Imaging and Study of Injury Responses in Drosophila Larvae
Institutions: University of Michigan, University of Michigan, University of Michigan, University of Michigan, University of Michigan.
Live imaging is an important technique for studying cell biological processes, however this can be challenging in live animals. The translucent cuticle of the Drosophila
larva makes it an attractive model organism for live imaging studies. However, an important challenge for live imaging techniques is to noninvasively immobilize and position an animal on the microscope. This protocol presents a simple and easy to use method for immobilizing and imaging Drosophila
larvae on a polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microfluidic device, which we call the 'larva chip'. The larva chip is comprised of a snug-fitting PDMS microchamber that is attached to a thin glass coverslip, which, upon application of a vacuum via a syringe, immobilizes the animal and brings ventral structures such as the nerve cord, segmental nerves, and body wall muscles, within close proximity to the coverslip. This allows for high-resolution imaging, and importantly, avoids the use of anesthetics and chemicals, which facilitates the study of a broad range of physiological processes. Since larvae recover easily from the immobilization, they can be readily subjected to multiple imaging sessions. This allows for longitudinal studies over time courses ranging from hours to days. This protocol describes step-by-step how to prepare the chip and how to utilize the chip for live imaging of neuronal events in 3rd
instar larvae. These events include the rapid transport of organelles in axons, calcium responses to injury, and time-lapse studies of the trafficking of photo-convertible proteins over long distances and time scales. Another application of the chip is to study regenerative and degenerative responses to axonal injury, so the second part of this protocol describes a new and simple procedure for injuring axons within peripheral nerves by a segmental nerve crush.
Bioengineering, Issue 84, Drosophila melanogaster, Live Imaging, Microfluidics, axonal injury, axonal degeneration, calcium imaging, photoconversion, laser microsurgery
Membrane Potentials, Synaptic Responses, Neuronal Circuitry, Neuromodulation and Muscle Histology Using the Crayfish: Student Laboratory Exercises
Institutions: University of Kentucky, University of Toronto.
The purpose of this report is to help develop an understanding of the effects caused by ion gradients across a biological membrane. Two aspects that influence a cell's membrane potential and which we address in these experiments are: (1) Ion concentration of K+
on the outside of the membrane, and (2) the permeability of the membrane to specific ions. The crayfish abdominal extensor muscles are in groupings with some being tonic (slow) and others phasic (fast) in their biochemical and physiological phenotypes, as well as in their structure; the motor neurons that innervate these muscles are correspondingly different in functional characteristics. We use these muscles as well as the superficial, tonic abdominal flexor muscle to demonstrate properties in synaptic transmission. In addition, we introduce a sensory-CNS-motor neuron-muscle circuit to demonstrate the effect of cuticular sensory stimulation as well as the influence of neuromodulators on certain aspects of the circuit. With the techniques obtained in this exercise, one can begin to answer many questions remaining in other experimental preparations as well as in physiological applications related to medicine and health. We have demonstrated the usefulness of model invertebrate preparations to address fundamental questions pertinent to all animals.
Neuroscience, Issue 47, Invertebrate, Crayfish, neurophysiology, muscle, anatomy, electrophysiology
Analysis of Translation Initiation During Stress Conditions by Polysome Profiling
Institutions: Laval University, CHU de Quebec Research Center.
Precise control of mRNA translation is fundamental for eukaryotic cell homeostasis, particularly in response to physiological and pathological stress. Alterations of this program can lead to the growth of damaged cells, a hallmark of cancer development, or to premature cell death such as seen in neurodegenerative diseases. Much of what is known concerning the molecular basis for translational control has been obtained from polysome analysis using a density gradient fractionation system. This technique relies on ultracentrifugation of cytoplasmic extracts on a linear sucrose gradient. Once the spin is completed, the system allows fractionation and quantification of centrifuged zones corresponding to different translating ribosomes populations, thus resulting in a polysome profile. Changes in the polysome profile are indicative of changes or defects in translation initiation that occur in response to various types of stress. This technique also allows to assess the role of specific proteins on translation initiation, and to measure translational activity of specific mRNAs. Here we describe our protocol to perform polysome profiles in order to assess translation initiation of eukaryotic cells and tissues under either normal or stress growth conditions.
Cellular Biology, Issue 87, Translation initiation, polysome profile, sucrose gradient, protein and RNA isolation, stress conditions
Quantifying Synapses: an Immunocytochemistry-based Assay to Quantify Synapse Number
Institutions: Duke University, Duke University.
One of the most important goals in neuroscience is to understand the molecular cues that instruct early stages of synapse formation. As such it has become imperative to develop objective approaches to quantify changes in synaptic connectivity. Starting from sample fixation, this protocol details how to quantify synapse number both in dissociated neuronal culture and in brain sections using immunocytochemistry. Using compartment-specific antibodies, we label presynaptic terminals as well as sites of postsynaptic specialization. We define synapses as points of colocalization between the signals generated by these markers. The number of these colocalizations is quantified using a plug in Puncta Analyzer (written by Bary Wark, available upon request, firstname.lastname@example.org) under the ImageJ analysis software platform. The synapse assay described in this protocol can be applied to any neural tissue or culture preparation for which you have selective pre- and postsynaptic markers. This synapse assay is a valuable tool that can be widely utilized in the study of synaptic development.
Neuroscience, Issue 45, synapse, immunocytochemistry, brain, neuron, astrocyte
A Multi-compartment CNS Neuron-glia Co-culture Microfluidic Platform
Institutions: Texas A&M University (TAMU), Texas A&M University (TAMU).
We present a novel multi-compartment neuron co-culture microsystem platform for in vitro
CNS axon-glia interaction research, capable of conducting up to six independent experiments in parallel for higher-throughput. We developed a new fabrication method to create microfluidic devices having both micro and macro scale structures within the same device through a single soft-lithography process, enabling mass fabrication with good repeatability.
The multi-compartment microfluidic co-culture platform is composed of one soma compartment for neurons and six axon/glia compartments for oligodendrocytes (OLs). The soma compartment and axon/glia compartments are connected by arrays of axon-guiding microchannels that function as physical barriers to confine neuronal soma in the soma compartment, while allowing axons to grow into axon/glia compartments. OLs loaded into axon/glia compartments can interact only with axons but not with neuronal soma or dendrites, enabling localized axon-glia interaction studies. The microchannels also enabled fluidic isolation between compartments, allowing six independent experiments to be conducted on a single device for higher throughput.
Soft-lithography using poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) is a commonly used technique in biomedical microdevices. Reservoirs on these devices are commonly defined by manual punching. Although simple, poor alignment and time consuming nature of the process makes this process not suitable when large numbers of reservoirs have to be repeatedly created. The newly developed method did not require manual punching of reservoirs, overcoming such limitations. First, seven reservoirs (depth: 3.5 mm) were made on a poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) block using a micro-milling machine. Then, arrays of ridge microstructures, fabricated on a glass substrate, were hot-embossed against the PMMA block to define microchannels that connect the soma and axon/glia compartments. This process resulted in macro-scale reservoirs (3.5 mm) and micro-scale channels (2.5 μm) to coincide within a single PMMA master. A PDMS replica that served as a mold master was obtained using soft-lithography and the final PDMS device was replicated from this master.
Primary neurons from E16-18 rats were loaded to the soma compartment and cultured for two weeks. After one week of cell culture, axons crossed microchannels and formed axonal only network layer inside axon/glia compartments. Axons grew uniformly throughout six axon/glia compartments and OLs from P1-2 rats were added to axon/glia compartments at 14 days in vitro
Biomedical Engineering, Issue 31, Neuron culture, neuron-glia interaction, microfluidics, cell culture microsystem