Autophagy is a cellular response triggered by the lack of nutrients, especially the absence of amino acids. Autophagy is defined by the formation of double membrane structures, called autophagosomes, that sequester cytoplasm, long-lived proteins and protein aggregates, defective organelles, and even viruses or bacteria. Autophagosomes eventually fuse with lysosomes leading to bulk degradation of their content, with the produced nutrients being recycled back to the cytoplasm. Therefore, autophagy is crucial for cell homeostasis, and dysregulation of autophagy can lead to disease, most notably neurodegeneration, ageing and cancer.
Autophagosome formation is a very elaborate process, for which cells have allocated a specific group of proteins, called the core autophagy machinery. The core autophagy machinery is functionally complemented by additional proteins involved in diverse cellular processes, e.g. in membrane trafficking, in mitochondrial and lysosomal biology. Coordination of these proteins for the formation and degradation of autophagosomes constitutes the highly dynamic and sophisticated response of autophagy. Live cell imaging allows one to follow the molecular contribution of each autophagy-related protein down to the level of a single autophagosome formation event and in real time, therefore this technique offers a high temporal and spatial resolution.
Here we use a cell line stably expressing GFP-DFCP1, to establish a spatial and temporal context for our analysis. DFCP1 marks omegasomes, which are precursor structures leading to autophagosomes formation. A protein of interest (POI) can be marked with either a red or cyan fluorescent tag. Different organelles, like the ER, mitochondria and lysosomes, are all involved in different steps of autophagosome formation, and can be marked using a specific tracker dye. Time-lapse microscopy of autophagy in this experimental set up, allows information to be extracted about the fourth dimension, i.e. time. Hence we can follow the contribution of the POI to autophagy in space and time.
16 Related JoVE Articles!
Imaging pHluorin-tagged Receptor Insertion to the Plasma Membrane in Primary Cultured Mouse Neurons
Institutions: The Jackson Laboratory.
A better understanding of the mechanisms governing receptor trafficking between the plasma membrane (PM) and intracellular compartments requires an experimental approach with excellent spatial and temporal resolutions. Moreover, such an approach must also have the ability to distinguish receptors localized on the PM from those in intracellular compartments. Most importantly, detecting receptors in a single vesicle requires outstanding detection sensitivity, since each vesicle carries only a small number of receptors. Standard approaches for examining receptor trafficking include surface biotinylation followed by biochemical detection, which lacks both the necessary spatial and temporal resolutions; and fluorescence microscopy examination of immunolabeled surface receptors, which requires chemical fixation of cells and therefore lacks sufficient temporal resolution1-6
. To overcome these limitations, we and others have developed and employed a new strategy that enables visualization of the dynamic insertion of receptors into the PM with excellent spatial and temporal resolutions 7-17
. The approach includes tagging of a pH-sensitive GFP, the superecliptic pHluorin 18
, to the N-terminal extracellular domain of the receptors. Superecliptic pHluorin has the unique property of being fluorescent at neutral pH and non-fluorescent at acidic pH (pH < 6.0). Therefore, the tagged receptors are non-fluorescent when within the acidic lumen of intracellular trafficking vesicles or endosomal compartments, and they become readily visualized only when exposed to the extracellular neutral pH environment, on the outer surface of the PM. Our strategy consequently allows us to distinguish PM surface receptors from those within intracellular trafficking vesicles. To attain sufficient spatial and temporal resolutions, as well as the sensitivity required to study dynamic trafficking of receptors, we employed total internal reflection fluorescent microscopy (TIRFM), which enabled us to achieve the optimal spatial resolution of optical imaging (~170 nm), the temporal resolution of video-rate microscopy (30 frames/sec), and the sensitivity to detect fluorescence of a single GFP molecule. By imaging pHluorin-tagged receptors under TIRFM, we were able to directly visualize individual receptor insertion events into the PM in cultured neurons. This imaging approach can potentially be applied to any membrane protein with an extracellular domain that could be labeled with superecliptic pHluorin, and will allow dissection of the key detailed mechanisms governing insertion of different membrane proteins (receptors, ion channels, transporters, etc.) to the PM.
Neuroscience, Issue 69, Cellular Biology, Bioengineering, Medicine, primary cultured mouse neuron, superecliptic pHluorin, receptor, plasma membrane insertion, total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, neurons, mice, pHlourin-tagged, plasma membrane
Use of pHluorin to Assess the Dynamics of Axon Guidance Receptors in Cell Culture and in the Chick Embryo
Institutions: University of Lyon.
axon guidance receptors play a crucial role in regulating axons sensitivity to both attractive and repulsive cues. Indeed, activation of the guidance receptors is the first step of the signaling mechanisms allowing axon tips, the growth cones, to respond to the ligands. As such, the modulation of their availability at the cell surface is one of the mechanisms that participate in setting the growth cone sensitivity. We describe here a method to precisely visualize the spatio-temporal cell surface dynamics of an axon guidance receptor both in vitro
and in vivo
in the developing chick spinal cord. We took advantage of the pH-dependent fluorescence property of a green fluorescent protein (GFP) variant to specifically detect the fraction of the axon guidance receptor that is addressed to the plasma membrane. We first describe the in vitro
validation of such pH-dependent constructs and we further detail their use in vivo
, in the chick spinal chord, to assess the spatio-temporal dynamics of the axon guidance receptor of interest.
Neuroscience, Issue 83, Neurons, Axons, Cell Differentiation, Embryonic Development, Life Sciences (General), Axon guidance receptor, trafficking, pHluorin, in ovo electroporation, commissural neurons, Plexin,
A Fluorescence Microscopy Assay for Monitoring Mitophagy in the Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Institutions: Monash University.
Autophagy is important for turnover of cellular components under a range of different conditions. It serves an essential homeostatic function as well as a quality control mechanism that can target and selectively degrade cellular material including organelles1-4. For example, damaged or redundant mitochondria (Fig. 1)
, not disposed of by autophagy, can represent a threat to cellular homeostasis and cell survival. In the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae
, nutrient deprivation (e.g., nitrogen starvation) or damage can promote selective turnover of mitochondria by autophagy in a process termed mitophagy 5-9
We describe a simple fluorescence microscopy approach to assess autophagy. For clarity we restrict our description here to show how the approach can be used to monitor mitophagy in yeast cells. The assay makes use of a fluorescent reporter, Rosella, which is a dual-emission biosensor comprising a relatively pH-stable red fluorescent protein linked to a pH-sensitive green fluorescent protein. The operation of this reporter relies on differences in pH between the vacuole (pH ~ 5.0-5.5) and mitochondria (pH ~ 8.2) in living cells. Under growing conditions, wild type cells exhibit both red and green fluorescence distributed in a manner characteristic of the mitochondria. Fluorescence emission is not associated with the vacuole. When subjected to nitrogen starvation, a condition which induces mitophagy, in addition to red and green fluorescence labeling the mitochondria, cells exhibit the accumulation of red, but not green fluorescence, in the acidic vacuolar lumen representing the delivery of mitochondria to the vacuole. Scoring cells with red, but not green fluorescent vacuoles can be used as a measure of mitophagic activity in cells5,10-12
Cell Biology, Issue 53, autophagy, microscopy, mitochondria, nucleus, yeast
Cecal Ligation and Puncture-induced Sepsis as a Model To Study Autophagy in Mice
Institutions: Brigham and Women's Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, University of Athens Medical School, Evangelismos Hospital, Athens, Greece.
Experimental sepsis can be induced in mice using the cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) method, which causes polymicrobial sepsis. Here, a protocol is provided to induce sepsis of varying severity in mice using the CLP technique. Autophagy is a fundamental tissue response to stress and pathogen invasion. Two current protocols to assess autophagy in vivo
in the context of experimental sepsis are also presented here. (I) Transgenic mice expressing green fluorescence protein (GFP)-LC3 fusion protein are subjected to CLP. Localized enhancement of GFP signal (puncta), as assayed either by immunohistochemical or confocal assays, can be used to detect enhanced autophagosome formation and, thus, altered activation of the autophagy pathway. (II) Enhanced autophagic vacuole (autophagosome) formation per unit tissue area (as a marker of autophagy stimulation) can be quantified using electron microscopy. The study of autophagic responses to sepsis is a critical component of understanding the mechanisms by which tissues respond to infection. Research findings in this area may ultimately contribute towards understanding the pathogenesis of sepsis, which represents a major problem in critical care medicine.
Infection, Issue 84, autophagosome, Autophagy, cecal ligation and puncture, mice, sepsis
Affinity-based Isolation of Tagged Nuclei from Drosophila Tissues for Gene Expression Analysis
Institutions: Purdue University.
embryonic and larval tissues often contain a highly heterogeneous mixture of cell types, which can complicate the analysis of gene expression in these tissues. Thus, to analyze cell-specific gene expression profiles from Drosophila
tissues, it may be necessary to isolate specific cell types with high purity and at sufficient yields for downstream applications such as transcriptional profiling and chromatin immunoprecipitation. However, the irregular cellular morphology in tissues such as the central nervous system, coupled with the rare population of specific cell types in these tissues, can pose challenges for traditional methods of cell isolation such as laser microdissection and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). Here, an alternative approach to characterizing cell-specific gene expression profiles using affinity-based isolation of tagged nuclei, rather than whole cells, is described. Nuclei in the specific cell type of interest are genetically labeled with a nuclear envelope-localized EGFP tag using the Gal4/UAS binary expression system. These EGFP-tagged nuclei can be isolated using antibodies against GFP that are coupled to magnetic beads. The approach described in this protocol enables consistent isolation of nuclei from specific cell types in the Drosophila
larval central nervous system at high purity and at sufficient levels for expression analysis, even when these cell types comprise less than 2% of the total cell population in the tissue. This approach can be used to isolate nuclei from a wide variety of Drosophila
embryonic and larval cell types using specific Gal4 drivers, and may be useful for isolating nuclei from cell types that are not suitable for FACS or laser microdissection.
Biochemistry, Issue 85, Gene Expression, nuclei isolation, Drosophila, KASH, GFP, cell-type specific
Investigating Protein-protein Interactions in Live Cells Using Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer
Institutions: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour.
Assays based on Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET) provide a sensitive and reliable means to monitor protein-protein interactions in live cells. BRET is the non-radiative transfer of energy from a 'donor' luciferase enzyme to an 'acceptor' fluorescent protein. In the most common configuration of this assay, the donor is Renilla reniformis
luciferase and the acceptor is Yellow Fluorescent Protein (YFP). Because the efficiency of energy transfer is strongly distance-dependent, observation of the BRET phenomenon requires that the donor and acceptor be in close proximity. To test for an interaction between two proteins of interest in cultured mammalian cells, one protein is expressed as a fusion with luciferase and the second as a fusion with YFP. An interaction between the two proteins of interest may bring the donor and acceptor sufficiently close for energy transfer to occur. Compared to other techniques for investigating protein-protein interactions, the BRET assay is sensitive, requires little hands-on time and few reagents, and is able to detect interactions which are weak, transient, or dependent on the biochemical environment found within a live cell. It is therefore an ideal approach for confirming putative interactions suggested by yeast two-hybrid or mass spectrometry proteomics studies, and in addition it is well-suited for mapping interacting regions, assessing the effect of post-translational modifications on protein-protein interactions, and evaluating the impact of mutations identified in patient DNA.
Cellular Biology, Issue 87, Protein-protein interactions, Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer, Live cell, Transfection, Luciferase, Yellow Fluorescent Protein, Mutations
Using Caenorhabditis elegans as a Model System to Study Protein Homeostasis in a Multicellular Organism
Institutions: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The folding and assembly of proteins is essential for protein function, the long-term health of the cell, and longevity of the organism. Historically, the function and regulation of protein folding was studied in vitro
, in isolated tissue culture cells and in unicellular organisms. Recent studies have uncovered links between protein homeostasis (proteostasis), metabolism, development, aging, and temperature-sensing. These findings have led to the development of new tools for monitoring protein folding in the model metazoan organism Caenorhabditis elegans
. In our laboratory, we combine behavioral assays, imaging and biochemical approaches using temperature-sensitive or naturally occurring metastable proteins as sensors of the folding environment to monitor protein misfolding. Behavioral assays that are associated with the misfolding of a specific protein provide a simple and powerful readout for protein folding, allowing for the fast screening of genes and conditions that modulate folding. Likewise, such misfolding can be associated with protein mislocalization in the cell. Monitoring protein localization can, therefore, highlight changes in cellular folding capacity occurring in different tissues, at various stages of development and in the face of changing conditions. Finally, using biochemical tools ex vivo
, we can directly monitor protein stability and conformation. Thus, by combining behavioral assays, imaging and biochemical techniques, we are able to monitor protein misfolding at the resolution of the organism, the cell, and the protein, respectively.
Biochemistry, Issue 82, aging, Caenorhabditis elegans, heat shock response, neurodegenerative diseases, protein folding homeostasis, proteostasis, stress, temperature-sensitive
Simultaneous Multicolor Imaging of Biological Structures with Fluorescence Photoactivation Localization Microscopy
Institutions: University of Maine.
Localization-based super resolution microscopy can be applied to obtain a spatial map (image) of the distribution of individual fluorescently labeled single molecules within a sample with a spatial resolution of tens of nanometers. Using either photoactivatable (PAFP) or photoswitchable (PSFP) fluorescent proteins fused to proteins of interest, or organic dyes conjugated to antibodies or other molecules of interest, fluorescence photoactivation localization microscopy (FPALM) can simultaneously image multiple species of molecules within single cells. By using the following approach, populations of large numbers (thousands to hundreds of thousands) of individual molecules are imaged in single cells and localized with a precision of ~10-30 nm. Data obtained can be applied to understanding the nanoscale spatial distributions of multiple protein types within a cell. One primary advantage of this technique is the dramatic increase in spatial resolution: while diffraction limits resolution to ~200-250 nm in conventional light microscopy, FPALM can image length scales more than an order of magnitude smaller. As many biological hypotheses concern the spatial relationships among different biomolecules, the improved resolution of FPALM can provide insight into questions of cellular organization which have previously been inaccessible to conventional fluorescence microscopy. In addition to detailing the methods for sample preparation and data acquisition, we here describe the optical setup for FPALM. One additional consideration for researchers wishing to do super-resolution microscopy is cost: in-house setups are significantly cheaper than most commercially available imaging machines. Limitations of this technique include the need for optimizing the labeling of molecules of interest within cell samples, and the need for post-processing software to visualize results. We here describe the use of PAFP and PSFP expression to image two protein species in fixed cells. Extension of the technique to living cells is also described.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, Microscopy, Super-resolution imaging, Multicolor, single molecule, FPALM, Localization microscopy, fluorescent proteins
Use of Shigella flexneri to Study Autophagy-Cytoskeleton Interactions
Institutions: Imperial College London, Institut Pasteur, Unité Macrophages et Développement de l'Immunité.
is an intracellular pathogen that can escape from phagosomes to reach the cytosol, and polymerize the host actin cytoskeleton to promote its motility and dissemination. New work has shown that proteins involved in actin-based motility are also linked to autophagy, an intracellular degradation process crucial for cell autonomous immunity. Strikingly, host cells may prevent actin-based motility of S. flexneri
by compartmentalizing bacteria inside ‘septin cages’ and targeting them to autophagy. These observations indicate that a more complete understanding of septins, a family of filamentous GTP-binding proteins, will provide new insights into the process of autophagy. This report describes protocols to monitor autophagy-cytoskeleton interactions caused by S. flexneri in vitro
using tissue culture cells and in vivo
using zebrafish larvae. These protocols enable investigation of intracellular mechanisms that control bacterial dissemination at the molecular, cellular, and whole organism level.
Infection, Issue 91, ATG8/LC3, autophagy, cytoskeleton, HeLa cells, p62, septin, Shigella, zebrafish
Measurement of Vacuolar and Cytosolic pH In Vivo in Yeast Cell Suspensions
Institutions: SUNY Upstate Medical University.
Vacuolar and cytosolic pH are highly regulated in yeast cells and occupy a central role in overall pH homeostasis. We describe protocols for ratiometric measurement of pH in vivo
using pH-sensitive fluorophores localized to the vacuole or cytosol. Vacuolar pH is measured using BCECF, which localizes to the vacuole in yeast when introduced into cells in its acetoxymethyl ester form. Cytosolic pH is measured with a pH-sensitive GFP expressed under control of a yeast promoter, yeast pHluorin. Methods for measurement of fluorescence ratios in yeast cell suspensions in a fluorimeter are described. Through these protocols, single time point measurements of pH under different conditions or in different yeast mutants have been compared and changes in pH over time have been monitored. These methods have also been adapted to a fluorescence plate reader format for high-throughput experiments. Advantages of ratiometric pH measurements over other approaches currently in use, potential experimental problems and solutions, and prospects for future use of these techniques are also described.
Molecular Biology, Issue 74, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Cellular Biology, Biophysics, Physiology, Proteins, Vacuoles, Cytosol, Yeasts, Membrane Transport Proteins, Ion Pumps, Fluorometry, yeast, intracellular pH, vacuole, fluorescence, ratiometric, cells
Quantitative Analysis of Autophagy using Advanced 3D Fluorescence Microscopy
Institutions: University of California, Davis , University of California, Davis , University of Tromsø, University of California, Davis , University of California, Davis , University of California, Davis .
Prostate cancer is the leading form of malignancies among men in the U.S. While surgery carries a significant risk of impotence and incontinence, traditional chemotherapeutic approaches have been largely unsuccessful. Hormone therapy is effective at early stage, but often fails with the eventual development of hormone-refractory tumors. We have been interested in developing therapeutics targeting specific metabolic deficiency of tumor cells. We recently showed that prostate tumor cells specifically lack an enzyme (argininosuccinate synthase, or ASS) involved in the synthesis of the amino acid arginine1
. This condition causes the tumor cells to become dependent on exogenous arginine, and they undergo metabolic stress when free arginine is depleted by arginine deiminase (ADI)1,10
. Indeed, we have shown that human prostate cancer cells CWR22Rv1
are effectively killed by ADI with caspase-independent apoptosis and aggressive autophagy
. Autophagy is an evolutionarily-conserved process that allows cells to metabolize unwanted proteins by lysosomal breakdown during nutritional starvation4,5
. Although the essential components of this pathway are well-characterized6,7,8,9
, many aspects of the molecular mechanism are still unclear - in particular, what is the role of autophagy in the death-response of prostate cancer cells after ADI treatment? In order to address this question, we required an experimental method to measure the level and extent of autophagic response in cells - and since there are no known molecular markers that can accurately track this process, we chose to develop an imaging-based approach, using quantitative 3D fluorescence microscopy11,12
Using CWR22Rv1 cells specifically-labeled with fluorescent probes for autophagosomes and lysosomes, we show that 3D image stacks acquired with either widefield deconvolution microscopy (and later, with super-resolution, structured-illumination microscopy) can clearly capture the early stages of autophagy induction. With commercially available digital image analysis applications, we can readily obtain statistical information about autophagosome and lysosome number, size, distribution, and degree of colocalization from any imaged cell. This information allows us to precisely track the progress of autophagy in living cells and enables our continued investigation into the role of autophagy in cancer chemotherapy.
Cellular Biology, Issue 75, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Cancer Biology, Biophysics, Chemical Biology, Proteins, Microscopy, Fluorescence, autophagy, arginine deiminase, prostate cancer, deconvolution microscopy, super-resolution structured-illumination microscopy, live cell imaging, tumors, autophagosomes, lysosomes, cells, cell culture, microscopy, imaging, visualization
Lateral Diffusion and Exocytosis of Membrane Proteins in Cultured Neurons Assessed using Fluorescence Recovery and Fluorescence-loss Photobleaching
Institutions: University of Bristol.
Membrane proteins such as receptors and ion channels undergo active trafficking in neurons, which are highly polarised and morphologically complex. This directed trafficking is of fundamental importance to deliver, maintain or remove synaptic proteins.
Super-ecliptic pHluorin (SEP) is a pH-sensitive derivative of eGFP that has been extensively used for live cell imaging of plasma membrane proteins1-2
. At low pH, protonation of SEP decreases photon absorption and eliminates fluorescence emission. As most intracellular trafficking events occur in compartments with low pH, where SEP fluorescence is eclipsed, the fluorescence signal from SEP-tagged proteins is predominantly from the plasma membrane where the SEP is exposed to a neutral pH extracellular environment. When illuminated at high intensity SEP, like every fluorescent dye, is irreversibly photodamaged (photobleached)3-5
. Importantly, because low pH quenches photon absorption, only surface expressed SEP can be photobleached whereas intracellular SEP is unaffected by the high intensity illumination6-10
FRAP (fluorescence recovery after photobleaching) of SEP-tagged proteins is a convenient and powerful technique for assessing protein dynamics at the plasma membrane. When fluorescently tagged proteins are photobleached in a region of interest (ROI) the recovery in fluorescence occurs due to the movement of unbleached SEP-tagged proteins into the bleached region. This can occur via lateral diffusion and/or from exocytosis of non-photobleached receptors supplied either by de novo
synthesis or recycling (see Fig. 1). The fraction of immobile and mobile protein can be determined and the mobility and kinetics of the diffusible fraction can be interrogated under basal and stimulated conditions such as agonist application or neuronal activation stimuli such as NMDA or KCl application8,10
We describe photobleaching techniques designed to selectively visualize the recovery of fluorescence attributable to exocytosis. Briefly, an ROI is photobleached once as with standard FRAP protocols, followed, after a brief recovery, by repetitive bleaching of the flanking regions. This 'FRAP-FLIP' protocol, developed in our lab, has been used to characterize AMPA receptor trafficking at dendritic spines10
, and is applicable to a wide range of trafficking studies to evaluate the intracellular trafficking and exocytosis.
Neuroscience, Issue 60, Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching, FRAP, Confocal imaging, fluorophore, GFP, Super-ecliptic pHluorin, SEP, fluorescence loss in photobleach, FLIP, neuron, protein traffic, synapse
Enhancement of Apoptotic and Autophagic Induction by a Novel Synthetic C-1 Analogue of 7-deoxypancratistatin in Human Breast Adenocarcinoma and Neuroblastoma Cells with Tamoxifen
Institutions: University of Windsor, Brock University.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers amongst women in North America. Many current anti-cancer treatments, including ionizing radiation, induce apoptosis via DNA damage. Unfortunately, such treatments are non-selective to cancer cells and produce similar toxicity in normal cells. We have reported selective induction of apoptosis in cancer cells by the natural compound pancratistatin (PST). Recently, a novel PST analogue, a C-1 acetoxymethyl derivative of 7-deoxypancratistatin (JCTH-4), was produced by de novo synthesis and it exhibits comparable selective apoptosis inducing activity in several cancer cell lines. Recently, autophagy has been implicated in malignancies as both pro-survival and pro-death mechanisms in response to chemotherapy. Tamoxifen (TAM) has invariably demonstrated induction of pro-survival autophagy in numerous cancers. In this study, the efficacy of JCTH-4 alone and in combination with TAM to induce cell death in human breast cancer (MCF7) and neuroblastoma (SH-SY5Y) cells was evaluated. TAM alone induced autophagy, but insignificant cell death whereas JCTH-4 alone caused significant induction of apoptosis with some induction of autophagy. Interestingly, the combinatory treatment yielded a drastic increase in apoptotic and autophagic induction. We monitored time-dependent morphological changes in MCF7 cells undergoing TAM-induced autophagy, JCTH-4-induced apoptosis and autophagy, and accelerated cell death with combinatorial treatment using time-lapse microscopy. We have demonstrated these compounds to induce apoptosis/autophagy by mitochondrial targeting in these cancer cells. Importantly, these treatments did not affect the survival of noncancerous human fibroblasts. Thus, these results indicate that JCTH-4 in combination with TAM could be used as a safe and very potent anti-cancer therapy against breast cancer and neuroblastoma cells.
Cancer Biology, Issue 63, Medicine, Biochemistry, Breast adenocarcinoma, neuroblastoma, tamoxifen, combination therapy, apoptosis, autophagy
Bimolecular Fluorescence Complementation
Institutions: University of Illinois at Chicago.
Defining the subcellular distribution of signaling complexes is imperative to understanding the output from that complex.
Conventional methods such as immunoprecipitation do not provide information on the spatial localization of complexes. In contrast, BiFC monitors the interaction and subcellular compartmentalization of protein complexes. In this method, a fluororescent protein is split into amino- and carboxy-terminal non-fluorescent fragments which are then fused to two proteins of interest. Interaction of the proteins results in reconstitution of the fluorophore (Figure 1)1,2
. A limitation of BiFC is that once the fragmented fluorophore is reconstituted the complex is irreversible3
. This limitation is advantageous in detecting transient or weak interactions, but precludes a kinetic analysis of complex dynamics. An additional caveat is that the reconstituted flourophore requires 30min to mature and fluoresce, again precluding the observation of real time interactions4
. BiFC is a specific example of the protein fragment complementation assay (PCA) which employs reporter proteins such as green fluorescent protein variants (BiFC), dihydrofolate reductase, b-lactamase, and luciferase to measure protein:protein interactions5,6
. Alternative methods to study protein:protein interactions in cells include fluorescence co-localization and Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)7
. For co-localization, two proteins are individually tagged either directly with a fluorophore or by indirect immunofluorescence. However, this approach leads to high background of non-interacting proteins making it difficult to interpret co-localization data. In addition, due to the limits of resolution of confocal microscopy, two proteins may appear co-localized without necessarily interacting. With BiFC, fluorescence is only observed when the two proteins of interest interact. FRET is another excellent method for studying protein:protein interactions, but can be technically challenging. FRET experiments require the donor and acceptor to be of similar brightness and stoichiometry in the cell. In addition, one must account for bleed through of the donor into the acceptor channel and vice versa. Unlike FRET, BiFC has little background fluorescence, little post processing of image data, does not require high overexpression, and can detect weak or transient interactions. Bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) is a method similar to FRET except the donor is an enzyme (e.g. luciferase) that catalyzes a substrate to become bioluminescent thereby exciting an acceptor. BRET lacks the technical problems of bleed through and high background fluorescence but lacks the ability to provide spatial information due to the lack of substrate localization to specific compartments8
. Overall, BiFC is an excellent method for visualizing subcellular localization of protein complexes to gain insight into compartmentalized signaling.
Cellular Biology, Issue 50, Fluorescence, imaging, compartmentalized signaling, subcellular localization, signal transduction
Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching (FRAP) of Fluorescence Tagged Proteins in Dendritic Spines of Cultured Hippocampal Neurons
Institutions: National Institutes of Health, Bethesda.
FRAP has been used to quantify the mobility of GFP-tagged proteins. Using a strong excitation laser, the fluorescence of a GFP-tagged protein is bleached in the region of interest. The fluorescence of the region recovers when the unbleached GFP-tagged protein from outside of the region diffuses into the region of interest. The mobility of the protein is then analyzed by measuring the fluorescence recovery rate. This technique could be used to characterize protein mobility and turnover rate.
In this study, we express the (enhanced green
fluorescent protein) EGFP vector in cultured hippocampal neurons. Using the Zeiss 710 confocal microscope, we photobleach the fluorescence signal of the GFP protein in a single spine, and then take time lapse images to record the fluorescence recovery after photobleaching. Finally, we estimate the percentage of mobile and immobile fractions of the GFP in spines, by analyzing the imaging data using ImageJ and Graphpad softwares.
This FRAP protocol shows how to perform a basic FRAP experiment as well as how to analyze the data.
Neuroscience, Issue 50, Spine, FRAP, hippocampal neurons, live cell imaging, protein mobility
Fluorescent Labeling of COS-7 Expressing SNAP-tag Fusion Proteins for Live Cell Imaging
Institutions: New England Biolabs.
SNAP-tag and CLIP-tag protein labeling systems enable the specific, covalent attachment of molecules, including fluorescent dyes, to a protein of interest in live cells. These systems offer a broad selection of fluorescent substrates optimized for a range of imaging instrumentation. Once cloned and expressed, the tagged protein can be used with a variety of substrates for numerous downstream applications without having to clone again. There are two steps to using this system: cloning and expression of the protein of interest as a SNAP-tag fusion, and labeling of the fusion with the SNAP-tag substrate of choice. The SNAP-tag is a small protein based on human O6
-alkylguanine-DNA-alkyltransferase (hAGT), a DNA repair protein. SNAP-tag labels are dyes conjugated to guanine or chloropyrimidine leaving groups via a benzyl linker. In the labeling reaction, the substituted benzyl group of the substrate is covalently attached to the SNAP-tag. CLIP-tag is a modified version of SNAP-tag, engineered to react with benzylcytosine rather than benzylguanine derivatives. When used in conjunction with SNAP-tag, CLIP-tag enables the orthogonal and complementary labeling of two proteins simultaneously in the same cells.
Cellular Biology, Issue 39, fluorescence, labeling, imaging, SNAP-tag, tag, microscopy, AGT, surface, intracellular, fusion