Spinal cord injury (SCI) is often accompanied by osteoporosis in the sublesional regions of the pelvis and lower extremities, leading to a higher frequency of fractures 1. As these fractures often occur in regions that have lost normal sensory function, the patient is at a greater risk of fracture-dependent pathologies, including death. SCI-dependent loss in both bone mineral density (BMD, grams/cm2) and bone mineral content (BMC, grams) has been attributed to mechanical disuse 2, aberrant neuronal signaling 3 and hormonal changes 4. The use of rodent models of SCI-induced osteoporosis can provide invaluable information regarding the mechanisms underlying the development of osteoporosis following SCI as well as a test environment for the generation of new therapies 5-7 (and reviewed in 8). Mouse models of SCI are of great interest as they permit a reductionist approach to mechanism-based assessment through the use of null and transgenic mice. While such models have provided important data, there is still a need for minimally-invasive, reliable, reproducible, and quantifiable methods in determining the extent of bone loss following SCI, particularly over time and within the same cohort of experimental animals, to improve diagnosis, treatment methods, and/or prevention of SCI-induced osteoporosis.
An ideal method for measuring bone density in rodents would allow multiple, sequential (over time) exposures to low-levels of X-ray radiation. This study describes the use of a new whole-animal scanner, the IVIS Lumina XR (Caliper Instruments) that can be used to provide low-energy (1-3 milligray (mGy)) high-resolution, high-magnification X-ray images of mouse hind limb bones over time following SCI. Significant bone density loss was seen in the tibiae of mice by 10 days post-spinal transection when compared to uninjured, age-matched control (naïve) mice (13% decrease, p<0.0005). Loss of bone density in the distal femur was also detectable by day 10 post-SCI, while a loss of density in the proximal femur was not detectable until 40 days post injury (7% decrease, p<0.05). SCI-dependent loss of mouse femur density was confirmed post-mortem through the use of Dual-energy X-ray Absorptiometry (DXA), the current "gold standard" for bone density measurements. We detect a 12% loss of BMC in the femurs of mice at 40 days post-SCI using the IVIS Lumina XR. This compares favorably with a previously reported BMC loss of 13.5% by Picard and colleagues who used DXA analysis on mouse femurs post-mortem 30 days post-SCI 9. Our results suggest that the IVIS Lumina XR provides a novel, high-resolution/high-magnification method for performing long-term, longitudinal measurements of hind limb bone density in the mouse following SCI.
24 Related JoVE Articles!
Adjustable Stiffness, External Fixator for the Rat Femur Osteotomy and Segmental Bone Defect Models
Institutions: Queensland University of Technology, RISystem AG.
The mechanical environment around the healing of broken bone is very important as it determines the way the fracture will heal. Over the past decade there has been great clinical interest in improving bone healing by altering the mechanical environment through the fixation stability around the lesion. One constraint of preclinical animal research in this area is the lack of experimental control over the local mechanical environment within a large segmental defect as well as osteotomies as they heal. In this paper we report on the design and use of an external fixator to study the healing of large segmental bone defects or osteotomies. This device not only allows for controlled axial stiffness on the bone lesion as it heals, but it also enables the change of stiffness during the healing process in vivo.
The conducted experiments have shown that the fixators were able to maintain a 5 mm femoral defect gap in rats in vivo
during unrestricted cage activity for at least 8 weeks. Likewise, we observed no distortion or infections, including pin infections during the entire healing period. These results demonstrate that our newly developed external fixator was able to achieve reproducible and standardized stabilization, and the alteration of the mechanical environment of in vivo
rat large bone defects and various size osteotomies. This confirms that the external fixation device is well suited for preclinical research investigations using a rat model in the field of bone regeneration and repair.
Medicine, Issue 92, external fixator, bone healing, small animal model, large bone defect and osteotomy model, rat model, mechanical environment, mechanobiology.
Feeder-free Derivation of Neural Crest Progenitor Cells from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells
Institutions: Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research, The Rockefeller University.
Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) have great potential for studying human embryonic development, for modeling human diseases in the dish and as a source of transplantable cells for regenerative applications after disease or accidents. Neural crest (NC) cells are the precursors for a large variety of adult somatic cells, such as cells from the peripheral nervous system and glia, melanocytes and mesenchymal cells. They are a valuable source of cells to study aspects of human embryonic development, including cell fate specification and migration. Further differentiation of NC progenitor cells into terminally differentiated cell types offers the possibility to model human diseases in vitro
, investigate disease mechanisms and generate cells for regenerative medicine. This article presents the adaptation of a currently available in vitro
differentiation protocol for the derivation of NC cells from hPSCs. This new protocol requires 18 days of differentiation, is feeder-free, easily scalable and highly reproducible among human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines as well as human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) lines. Both old and new protocols yield NC cells of equal identity.
Neuroscience, Issue 87, Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs), Pluripotent Stem Cells, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs), Neural Crest, Peripheral Nervous System (PNS), pluripotent stem cells, neural crest cells, in vitro differentiation, disease modeling, differentiation protocol, human embryonic stem cells, human pluripotent stem cells
A Novel in vivo Gene Transfer Technique and in vitro Cell Based Assays for the Study of Bone Loss in Musculoskeletal Disorders
Institutions: University of California, Davis, Shriners Hospitals for Children - Northern California, University of California, Davis.
Differentiation and activation of osteoclasts play a key role in the development of musculoskeletal diseases as these cells are primarily involved in bone resorption. Osteoclasts can be generated in vitro
from monocyte/macrophage precursor cells in the presence of certain cytokines, which promote survival and differentiation. Here, both in vivo
and in vitro
techniques are demonstrated, which allow scientists to study different cytokine contributions towards osteoclast differentiation, signaling, and activation. The minicircle DNA delivery gene transfer system provides an alternative method to establish an osteoporosis-related model is particularly useful to study the efficacy of various pharmacological inhibitors in vivo
. Similarly, in vitro
culturing protocols for producing osteoclasts from human precursor cells in the presence of specific cytokines enables scientists to study osteoclastogenesis in human cells for translational applications. Combined, these techniques have the potential to accelerate drug discovery efforts for osteoclast-specific targeted therapeutics, which may benefit millions of osteoporosis and arthritis patients worldwide.
Medicine, Issue 88, osteoclast, arthritis, minicircle DNA, macrophages, cell culture, hydrodynamic delivery
Rapid Genotyping of Animals Followed by Establishing Primary Cultures of Brain Neurons
Institutions: University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, EZ BioResearch LLC.
High-resolution analysis of the morphology and function of mammalian neurons often requires the genotyping of individual animals followed by the analysis of primary cultures of neurons. We describe a set of procedures for: labeling newborn mice to be genotyped, rapid genotyping, and establishing low-density cultures of brain neurons from these mice. Individual mice are labeled by tattooing, which allows for long-term identification lasting into adulthood. Genotyping by the described protocol is fast and efficient, and allows for automated extraction of nucleic acid with good reliability. This is useful under circumstances where sufficient time for conventional genotyping is not available, e.g.,
in mice that suffer from neonatal lethality. Primary neuronal cultures are generated at low density, which enables imaging experiments at high spatial resolution. This culture method requires the preparation of glial feeder layers prior to neuronal plating. The protocol is applied in its entirety to a mouse model of the movement disorder DYT1 dystonia (ΔE-torsinA knock-in mice), and neuronal cultures are prepared from the hippocampus, cerebral cortex and striatum of these mice. This protocol can be applied to mice with other genetic mutations, as well as to animals of other species. Furthermore, individual components of the protocol can be used for isolated sub-projects. Thus this protocol will have wide applications, not only in neuroscience but also in other fields of biological and medical sciences.
Neuroscience, Issue 95, AP2, genotyping, glial feeder layer, mouse tail, neuronal culture, nucleic-acid extraction, PCR, tattoo, torsinA
Surgical Fixation of Sternal Fractures: Preoperative Planning and a Safe Surgical Technique Using Locked Titanium Plates and Depth Limited Drilling
Institutions: University Hospital Erlangen, University Hospital Erlangen, St.-Theresien Hospital, University Erlangen-Nuremberg.
Different ways to stabilize a sternal fracture are described in literature. Respecting different mechanisms of trauma such as the direct impact to the anterior chest wall or the flexion-compression injury of the trunk, there is a need to retain each sternal fragment in the correct position while neutralizing shearing forces to the sternum. Anterior sternal plating provides the best stability and is therefore increasingly used in most cases. However, many surgeons are reluctant to perform sternal osteosynthesis due to possible complications such as difficulties in preoperative planning, severe injuries to mediastinal organs, or failure of the performed method.
This manuscript describes one possible safe way to stabilize different types of sternal fractures in a step by step guidance for anterior sternal plating using low profile locking titanium plates. Before surgical treatment, a detailed survey of the patient and a three dimensional reconstructed computed tomography is taken out to get detailed information of the fracture’s morphology. The surgical approach is usually a midline incision. Its position can be described by measuring the distance from upper sternal edge to the fracture and its length can be approximated by the summation of 60 mm for the basis incision, the thickness of presternal soft tissue and the greatest distance between the fragments in case of multiple fractures.
Performing subperiosteal dissection along the sternum while reducing the fracture, using depth limited drilling, and fixing the plates prevents injuries to mediastinal organs and vessels.
Transverse fractures and oblique fractures at the corpus sterni are plated longitudinally, whereas oblique fractures of manubrium, sternocostal separation and any longitudinally fracture needs to be stabilized by a transverse plate from rib to sternum to rib. Usually the high convenience of a patient is seen during follow up as well as a precise reconstruction of the sternal morphology.
Medicine, Issue 95, Sternal fracture, sternum fracture, locked plate, low profile plate, MatrixRib, depth limited drilling, surgical procedure, preoperative CT planning
Isolation and Transplantation of Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs)
Institutions: Harvard Medical School.
Cellular Biology, Issue 2, HSC, stem cells, bone marrow
A Simple Critical-sized Femoral Defect Model in Mice
Institutions: Texas A&M Health Science Center, University of Texas Medical Branch, Texas A&M Health Science Center.
While bone has a remarkable capacity for regeneration, serious bone trauma often results in damage that does not properly heal. In fact, one tenth of all limb bone fractures fail to heal completely due to the extent of the trauma, disease, or age of the patient. Our ability to improve bone regenerative strategies is critically dependent on the ability to mimic serious bone trauma in test animals, but the generation and stabilization of large bone lesions is technically challenging. In most cases, serious long bone trauma is mimicked experimentally by establishing a defect that will not naturally heal. This is achieved by complete removal of a bone segment that is larger than 1.5 times the diameter of the bone cross-section. The bone is then stabilized with a metal implant to maintain proper orientation of the fracture edges and allow for mobility.
Due to their small size and the fragility of their long bones, establishment of such lesions in mice are beyond the capabilities of most research groups. As such, long bone defect models are confined to rats and larger animals. Nevertheless, mice afford significant research advantages in that they can be genetically modified and bred as immune-compromised strains that do not reject human cells and tissue.
Herein, we demonstrate a technique that facilitates the generation of a segmental defect in mouse femora using standard laboratory and veterinary equipment. With practice, fabrication of the fixation device and surgical implantation is feasible for the majority of trained veterinarians and animal research personnel. Using example data, we also provide methodologies for the quantitative analysis of bone healing for the model.
Medicine, Issue 97, Bone injury model, critical sized defect, mice, femur, tissue engineering, comparative medicine, medullary pin.
A Multi-detection Assay for Malaria Transmitting Mosquitoes
Institutions: School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California - Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis.
The Anopheles gambiae
species complex includes the major malaria transmitting mosquitoes in Africa. Because these species are of such medical importance, several traits are typically characterized using molecular assays to aid in epidemiological studies. These traits include species identification, insecticide resistance, parasite infection status, and host preference. Since populations of the Anopheles gambiae
complex are morphologically indistinguishable, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is traditionally used to identify species. Once the species is known, several downstream assays are routinely performed to elucidate further characteristics. For instance, mutations known as KDR in a para gene confer resistance against DDT and pyrethroid insecticides. Additionally, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) or Plasmodium
parasite DNA detection PCR assays are used to detect parasites present in mosquito tissues. Lastly, a combination of PCR and restriction enzyme digests can be used to elucidate host preference (e.g.
, human vs. animal blood) by screening the mosquito bloodmeal for host-specific DNA. We have developed a multi-detection assay (MDA) that combines all of the aforementioned assays into a single multiplex reaction genotyping 33SNPs for 96 or 384 samples at a time. Because the MDA includes multiple markers for species, Plasmodium
detection, and host blood identification, the likelihood of generating false positives or negatives is greatly reduced from previous assays that include only one marker per trait. This robust and simple assay can detect these key mosquito traits cost-effectively and in a fraction of the time of existing assays.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 96, Mosquito, SNP genotyping, multiplex assay, iPLEX, MALDI-TOF, insecticide resistance, speciation islands, species diagnosis, parasite detection, blood source detection, host preference, infection status
Automated Quantification of Hematopoietic Cell – Stromal Cell Interactions in Histological Images of Undecalcified Bone
Institutions: German Rheumatism Research Center, a Leibniz Institute, German Rheumatism Research Center, a Leibniz Institute, Max-Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine, Wimasis GmbH, Charité - University of Medicine.
Confocal microscopy is the method of choice for the analysis of localization of multiple cell types within complex tissues such as the bone marrow. However, the analysis and quantification of cellular localization is difficult, as in many cases it relies on manual counting, thus bearing the risk of introducing a rater-dependent bias and reducing interrater reliability. Moreover, it is often difficult to judge whether the co-localization between two cells results from random positioning, especially when cell types differ strongly in the frequency of their occurrence. Here, a method for unbiased quantification of cellular co-localization in the bone marrow is introduced. The protocol describes the sample preparation used to obtain histological sections of whole murine long bones including the bone marrow, as well as the staining protocol and the acquisition of high-resolution images. An analysis workflow spanning from the recognition of hematopoietic and non-hematopoietic cell types in 2-dimensional (2D) bone marrow images to the quantification of the direct contacts between those cells is presented. This also includes a neighborhood analysis, to obtain information about the cellular microenvironment surrounding a certain cell type. In order to evaluate whether co-localization of two cell types is the mere result of random cell positioning or reflects preferential associations between the cells, a simulation tool which is suitable for testing this hypothesis in the case of hematopoietic as well as stromal cells, is used. This approach is not limited to the bone marrow, and can be extended to other tissues to permit reproducible, quantitative analysis of histological data.
Developmental Biology, Issue 98, Image analysis, neighborhood analysis, bone marrow, stromal cells, bone marrow niches, simulation, bone cryosectioning, bone histology
Forward Genetics Screens Using Macrophages to Identify Toxoplasma gondii Genes Important for Resistance to IFN-γ-Dependent Cell Autonomous Immunity
Institutions: New York Medical College.
the causative agent of toxoplasmosis, is an obligate intracellular protozoan pathogen. The parasite invades and replicates within virtually any warm blooded vertebrate cell type. During parasite invasion of a host cell, the parasite creates a parasitophorous vacuole (PV) that originates from the host cell membrane independent of phagocytosis within which the parasite replicates. While IFN-dependent-innate and cell mediated immunity is important for eventual control of infection, innate immune cells, including neutrophils, monocytes and dendritic cells, can also serve as vehicles for systemic dissemination of the parasite early in infection. An approach is described that utilizes the host innate immune response, in this case macrophages, in a forward genetic screen to identify parasite mutants with a fitness defect in infected macrophages following activation but normal invasion and replication in naïve macrophages. Thus, the screen isolates parasite mutants that have a specific defect in their ability to resist the effects of macrophage activation. The paper describes two broad phenotypes of mutant parasites following activation of infected macrophages: parasite stasis versus parasite degradation, often in amorphous vacuoles. The parasite mutants are then analyzed to identify the responsible parasite genes specifically important for resistance to induced mediators of cell autonomous immunity. The paper presents a general approach for the forward genetics screen that, in theory, can be modified to target parasite genes important for resistance to specific antimicrobial mediators. It also describes an approach to evaluate the specific macrophage antimicrobial mediators to which the parasite mutant is susceptible. Activation of infected macrophages can also promote parasite differentiation from the tachyzoite to bradyzoite stage that maintains chronic infection. Therefore, methodology is presented to evaluate the importance of the identified parasite gene to establishment of chronic infection.
Immunology, Issue 97, Toxoplasma, macrophages, innate immunity, intracellular pathogen, immune evasion, infectious disease, forward genetics, parasite
Methods for Culturing Human Femur Tissue Explants to Study Breast Cancer Cell Colonization of the Metastatic Niche
Institutions: Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine.
Bone is the most common site of breast cancer metastasis. Although it is widely accepted that the microenvironment influences cancer cell behavior, little is known about breast cancer cell properties and behaviors within the native microenvironment of human bone tissue.
We have developed approaches to track, quantify and modulate human breast cancer cells within the microenvironment of cultured human bone tissue fragments isolated from discarded femoral heads following total hip replacement surgeries. Using breast cancer cells engineered for luciferase and enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) expression, we are able to reproducibly quantitate migration and proliferation patterns using bioluminescence imaging (BLI), track cell interactions within the bone fragments using fluorescence microscopy, and evaluate breast cells after colonization with flow cytometry. The key advantages of this model include: 1) a native, architecturally intact tissue microenvironment that includes relevant human cell types, and 2) direct access to the microenvironment, which facilitates rapid quantitative and qualitative monitoring and perturbation of breast and bone cell properties, behaviors and interactions. A primary limitation, at present, is the finite viability of the tissue fragments, which confines the window of study to short-term culture. Applications of the model system include studying the basic biology of breast cancer and other bone-seeking malignancies within the metastatic niche, and developing therapeutic strategies to effectively target breast cancer cells in bone tissues.
Medicine, Issue 97, Metastatic niche, bone microenvironment, breast cancer metastasis, human bone, osteotropism, ex vivo model, explant culture system, bioluminescence imaging
Sequential In vivo Imaging of Osteogenic Stem/Progenitor Cells During Fracture Repair
Institutions: Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Harvard Medical School.
Bone turns over continuously and is highly regenerative following injury. Osteogenic stem/progenitor cells have long been hypothesized to exist, but in vivo
demonstration of such cells has only recently been attained. Here, in vivo
imaging techniques to investigate the role of endogenous osteogenic stem/progenitor cells (OSPCs) and their progeny in bone repair are provided. Using osteo-lineage cell tracing models and intravital imaging of induced microfractures in calvarial bone, OSPCs can be directly observed during the first few days after injury, in which critical events in the early repair process occur. Injury sites can be sequentially imaged revealing that OSPCs relocate to the injury, increase in number and differentiate into bone forming osteoblasts. These methods offer a means of investigating the role of stem cell-intrinsic and extrinsic molecular regulators for bone regeneration and repair.
Medicine, Issue 87, Osteogenic Stem Cells, In vivo Imaging, Lineage tracking, Bone regeneration, Fracture repair, Mx1.
Oscillation and Reaction Board Techniques for Estimating Inertial Properties of a Below-knee Prosthesis
Institutions: University of Northern Colorado, Arizona State University, Iowa State University.
The purpose of this study was two-fold: 1) demonstrate a technique that can be used to directly estimate the inertial properties of a below-knee prosthesis, and 2) contrast the effects of the proposed technique and that of using intact limb inertial properties on joint kinetic estimates during walking in unilateral, transtibial amputees. An oscillation and reaction board system was validated and shown to be reliable when measuring inertial properties of known geometrical solids. When direct measurements of inertial properties of the prosthesis were used in inverse dynamics modeling of the lower extremity compared with inertial estimates based on an intact shank and foot, joint kinetics at the hip and knee were significantly lower during the swing phase of walking. Differences in joint kinetics during stance, however, were smaller than those observed during swing. Therefore, researchers focusing on the swing phase of walking should consider the impact of prosthesis inertia property estimates on study outcomes. For stance, either one of the two inertial models investigated in our study would likely lead to similar outcomes with an inverse dynamics assessment.
Bioengineering, Issue 87, prosthesis inertia, amputee locomotion, below-knee prosthesis, transtibial amputee
Culture of myeloid dendritic cells from bone marrow precursors
Institutions: McMaster University, McMaster University, University of Waterloo.
Myeloid dendritic cells (DCs) are frequently used to study the interactions between innate and adaptive immune mechanisms and the early response to infection. Because these are the most potent antigen presenting cells, DCs are being increasingly used as a vaccine vector to study the induction of antigen-specific immune responses. In this video, we demonstrate the procedure for harvesting tibias and femurs from a donor mouse, processing the bone marrow and differentiating DCs in vitro. The properties of DCs change following stimulation: immature dendritic cells are potent phagocytes, whereas mature DCs are capable of antigen presentation and interaction with CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. This change in functional activity corresponds with the upregulation of cell surface markers and cytokine production. Many agents can be used to mature DCs, including cytokines and toll-like receptor ligands. In this video, we demonstrate flow cytometric comparisons of expression of two co-stimulatory molecules, CD86 and CD40, and the cytokine, IL-12, following overnight stimulation with CpG or mock treatment. After differentiation, DCs can be further manipulated for use as a vaccine vector or to generate antigen-specific immune responses by in vitro pulsing using peptides or proteins, or transduced using recombinant viral vectors.
Immunology, Issue 17, dendritic cells, GM-CSF, culture, bone marrow
An Allele-specific Gene Expression Assay to Test the Functional Basis of Genetic Associations
Institutions: University of Oxford.
The number of significant genetic associations with common complex traits is constantly increasing. However, most of these associations have not been understood at molecular level. One of the mechanisms mediating the effect of DNA variants on phenotypes is gene expression, which has been shown to be particularly relevant for complex traits1
This method tests in a cellular context the effect of specific DNA sequences on gene expression. The principle is to measure the relative abundance of transcripts arising from the two alleles of a gene, analysing cells which carry one copy of the DNA sequences associated with disease (the risk variants)2,3
. Therefore, the cells used for this method should meet two fundamental genotypic requirements: they have to be heterozygous both for DNA risk variants and for DNA markers, typically coding polymorphisms, which can distinguish transcripts based on their chromosomal origin (Figure 1). DNA risk variants and DNA markers do not need to have the same allele frequency but the phase (haplotypic) relationship of the genetic markers needs to be understood. It is also important to choose cell types which express the gene of interest. This protocol refers specifically to the procedure adopted to extract nucleic acids from fibroblasts but the method is equally applicable to other cells types including primary cells.
DNA and RNA are extracted from the selected cell lines and cDNA is generated. DNA and cDNA are analysed with a primer extension assay, designed to target the coding DNA markers4
. The primer extension assay is carried out using the MassARRAY (Sequenom)5
platform according to the manufacturer's specifications. Primer extension products are then analysed by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF/MS). Because the selected markers are heterozygous they will generate two peaks on the MS profiles. The area of each peak is proportional to the transcript abundance and can be measured with a function of the MassARRAY Typer software to generate an allelic ratio (allele 1: allele 2) calculation. The allelic ratio obtained for cDNA is normalized using that measured from genomic DNA, where the allelic ratio is expected to be 1:1 to correct for technical artifacts. Markers with a normalised allelic ratio significantly different to 1 indicate that the amount of transcript generated from the two chromosomes in the same cell is different, suggesting that the DNA variants associated with the phenotype have an effect on gene expression. Experimental controls should be used to confirm the results.
Cellular Biology, Issue 45, Gene expression, regulatory variant, haplotype, association study, primer extension, MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, single nucleotide polymorphism, allele-specific
Identifying the Effects of BRCA1 Mutations on Homologous Recombination using Cells that Express Endogenous Wild-type BRCA1
Institutions: The Ohio State University, Tohoku University.
The functional analysis of missense mutations can be complicated by the presence in the cell of the endogenous protein. Structure-function analyses of the BRCA1 have been complicated by the lack of a robust assay for the full length BRCA1 protein and the difficulties inherent in working with cell lines that express hypomorphic BRCA1 protein1,2,3,4,5
. We developed a system whereby the endogenous BRCA1 protein in a cell was acutely depleted by RNAi targeting the 3'-UTR of the BRCA1 mRNA and replaced by co-transfecting a plasmid expressing a BRCA1 variant. One advantage of this procedure is that the acute silencing of BRCA1 and simultaneous replacement allow the cells to grow without secondary mutations or adaptations that might arise over time to compensate for the loss of BRCA1 function. This depletion and add-back procedure was done in a HeLa-derived cell line that was readily assayed for homologous recombination activity. The homologous recombination assay is based on a previously published method whereby a recombination substrate is integrated into the genome (Figure 1)6,7,8,9
. This recombination substrate has the rare-cutting I-SceI restriction enzyme site inside an inactive GFP allele, and downstream is a second inactive GFP allele. Transfection of the plasmid that expresses I-SceI results in a double-stranded break, which may be repaired by homologous recombination, and if homologous recombination does repair the break it creates an active GFP allele that is readily scored by flow cytometry for GFP protein expression. Depletion of endogenous BRCA1 resulted in an 8-10-fold reduction in homologous recombination activity, and add-back of wild-type plasmid fully restored homologous recombination function. When specific point mutants of full length BRCA1 were expressed from co-transfected plasmids, the effect of the specific missense mutant could be scored. As an example, the expression of the BRCA1(M18T) protein, a variant of unknown clinical significance10
, was expressed in these cells, it failed to restore BRCA1-dependent homologous recombination. By contrast, expression of another variant, also of unknown significance, BRCA1(I21V) fully restored BRCA1-dependent homologous recombination function. This strategy of testing the function of BRCA1 missense mutations has been applied to another biological system assaying for centrosome function (Kais et al, unpublished observations). Overall, this approach is suitable for the analysis of missense mutants in any gene that must be analyzed recessively.
Cell Biology, Issue 48, BRCA1, homologous recombination, breast cancer, RNA interference, DNA repair
A Strategy to Identify de Novo Mutations in Common Disorders such as Autism and Schizophrenia
Institutions: Universite de Montreal, Universite de Montreal, Universite de Montreal.
There are several lines of evidence supporting the role of de novo
mutations as a mechanism for common disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia. First, the de novo
mutation rate in humans is relatively high, so new mutations are generated at a high frequency in the population. However, de novo
mutations have not been reported in most common diseases. Mutations in genes leading to severe diseases where there is a strong negative selection against the phenotype, such as lethality in embryonic stages or reduced reproductive fitness, will not be transmitted to multiple family members, and therefore will not be detected by linkage gene mapping or association studies. The observation of very high concordance in monozygotic twins and very low concordance in dizygotic twins also strongly supports the hypothesis that a significant fraction of cases may result from new mutations. Such is the case for diseases such as autism and schizophrenia. Second, despite reduced reproductive fitness1
and extremely variable environmental factors, the incidence of some diseases is maintained worldwide at a relatively high and constant rate. This is the case for autism and schizophrenia, with an incidence of approximately 1% worldwide. Mutational load can be thought of as a balance between selection for or against a deleterious mutation and its production by de novo
mutation. Lower rates of reproduction constitute a negative selection factor that should reduce the number of mutant alleles in the population, ultimately leading to decreased disease prevalence. These selective pressures tend to be of different intensity in different environments. Nonetheless, these severe mental disorders have been maintained at a constant relatively high prevalence in the worldwide population across a wide range of cultures and countries despite a strong negative selection against them2
. This is not what one would predict in diseases with reduced reproductive fitness, unless there was a high new mutation rate. Finally, the effects of paternal age: there is a significantly increased risk of the disease with increasing paternal age, which could result from the age related increase in paternal de novo
mutations. This is the case for autism and schizophrenia3
. The male-to-female ratio of mutation rate is estimated at about 4–6:1, presumably due to a higher number of germ-cell divisions with age in males. Therefore, one would predict that de novo
mutations would more frequently come from males, particularly older males4
. A high rate of new mutations may in part explain why genetic studies have so far failed to identify many genes predisposing to complexes diseases genes, such as autism and schizophrenia, and why diseases have been identified for a mere 3% of genes in the human genome. Identification for de novo
mutations as a cause of a disease requires a targeted molecular approach, which includes studying parents and affected subjects. The process for determining if the genetic basis of a disease may result in part from de novo
mutations and the molecular approach to establish this link will be illustrated, using autism and schizophrenia as examples.
Medicine, Issue 52, de novo mutation, complex diseases, schizophrenia, autism, rare variations, DNA sequencing
Isolation of Fidelity Variants of RNA Viruses and Characterization of Virus Mutation Frequency
Institutions: Institut Pasteur .
RNA viruses use RNA dependent RNA polymerases to replicate their genomes. The intrinsically high error rate of these enzymes is a large contributor to the generation of extreme population diversity that facilitates virus adaptation and evolution. Increasing evidence shows that the intrinsic error rates, and the resulting mutation frequencies, of RNA viruses can be modulated by subtle amino acid changes to the viral polymerase. Although biochemical assays exist for some viral RNA polymerases that permit quantitative measure of incorporation fidelity, here we describe a simple method of measuring mutation frequencies of RNA viruses that has proven to be as accurate as biochemical approaches in identifying fidelity altering mutations. The approach uses conventional virological and sequencing techniques that can be performed in most biology laboratories. Based on our experience with a number of different viruses, we have identified the key steps that must be optimized to increase the likelihood of isolating fidelity variants and generating data of statistical significance. The isolation and characterization of fidelity altering mutations can provide new insights into polymerase structure and function1-3
. Furthermore, these fidelity variants can be useful tools in characterizing mechanisms of virus adaptation and evolution4-7
Immunology, Issue 52, Polymerase fidelity, RNA virus, mutation frequency, mutagen, RNA polymerase, viral evolution
Creating Rigidly Stabilized Fractures for Assessing Intramembranous Ossification, Distraction Osteogenesis, or Healing of Critical Sized Defects
Institutions: University of California, San Francisco .
Assessing modes of skeletal repair is essential for developing therapies to be used clinically to treat fractures. Mechanical stability plays a large role in healing of bone injuries. In the worst-case scenario mechanical instability can lead to delayed or non-union in humans. However, motion can also stimulate the healing process. In fractures that have motion cartilage forms to stabilize the fracture bone ends, and this cartilage is gradually replaced by bone through recapitulation of the developmental process of endochondral ossification. In contrast, if a bone fracture is rigidly stabilized bone forms directly via intramembranous ossification. Clinically, both endochondral and intramembranous ossification occur simultaneously. To effectively replicate this process investigators insert a pin into the medullary canal of the fractured bone as described by Bonnarens4
. This experimental method provides excellent lateral stability while allowing rotational instability to persist. However, our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate these two distinct processes can also be enhanced by experimentally isolating each of these processes. We have developed a stabilization protocol that provides rotational and lateral stabilization. In this model, intramembranous ossification is the only mode of healing that is observed, and healing parameters can be compared among different strains of genetically modified mice 5-7
, after application of bioactive molecules 8,9
, after altering physiological parameters of healing 10
, after modifying the amount or time of stabilization 11
, after distraction osteogenesis 12
, after creation of a non-union 13
, or after creation of a critical sized defect. Here, we illustrate how to apply the modified Ilizarov fixators for studying tibial fracture healing and distraction osteogenesis in mice.
Medicine, Issue 62, Bone fracture, intramembranous ossification, distraction osteogenesis, bone healing
Rapid Fibroblast Removal from High Density Human Embryonic Stem Cell Cultures
Institutions: University of California, Merced.
Mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) were used to establish human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) cultures after blastocyst isolation1
. This feeder system maintains hESCs from undergoing spontaneous differentiation during cell expansion. However, this co-culture method is labor intensive, requires highly trained personnel, and yields low hESC purity4
. Many laboratories have attempted to minimize the number of feeder cells in hESC cultures (i.e.
incorporating matrix-coated dishes or other feeder cell types5-8
). These modified culture systems have shown some promise, but have not supplanted the standard method for culturing hESCs with mitomycin C-treated mouse embyronic fibroblasts in order to retard unwanted spontaneous differentiation of the hESC cultures. Therefore, the feeder cells used in hESC expansion should be removed during differentiation experiments. Although several techniques are available for purifying the hESC colonies (FACS, MACS, or use of drug resistant vectors) from feeders, these techniques are labor intensive, costly and/or destructive to the hESC. The aim of this project was to invent a method of purification that enables the harvesting of a purer population of hESCs. We have observed that in a confluent hESC culture, the MEF population can be removed using a simple and rapid aspiration of the MEF sheet. This removal is dependent on several factors, including lateral cell-to-cell binding of MEFs that have a lower binding affinity to the styrene culture dish, and the ability of the stem cell colonies to push the fibroblasts outward during the generation of their own "niche". The hESC were then examined for SSEA-4, Oct3/4 and Tra 1-81 expression up to 10 days after MEF removal to ensure maintenance of pluripotency. Moreover, hESC colonies were able to continue growing from into larger formations after MEF removal, providing an additional level of hESC expansion.
Cellular Biology, Issue 68, Human Embryonic Stem Cells, Cell Culture, Cell Isolation, Oct, Cell Purification, MEF Removal, SSEA-4
In Vivo Modeling of the Morbid Human Genome using Danio rerio
Institutions: Duke University Medical Center, Duke University, Duke University Medical Center.
Here, we present methods for the development of assays to query potentially clinically significant nonsynonymous changes using in vivo
complementation in zebrafish. Zebrafish (Danio rerio
) are a useful animal system due to their experimental tractability; embryos are transparent to enable facile viewing, undergo rapid development ex vivo,
and can be genetically manipulated.1
These aspects have allowed for significant advances in the analysis of embryogenesis, molecular processes, and morphogenetic signaling. Taken together, the advantages of this vertebrate model make zebrafish highly amenable to modeling the developmental defects in pediatric disease, and in some cases, adult-onset disorders. Because the zebrafish genome is highly conserved with that of humans (~70% orthologous), it is possible to recapitulate human disease states in zebrafish. This is accomplished either through the injection of mutant human mRNA to induce dominant negative or gain of function alleles, or utilization of morpholino (MO) antisense oligonucleotides to suppress genes to mimic loss of function variants. Through complementation of MO-induced phenotypes with capped human mRNA, our approach enables the interpretation of the deleterious effect of mutations on human protein sequence based on the ability of mutant mRNA to rescue a measurable, physiologically relevant phenotype. Modeling of the human disease alleles occurs through microinjection of zebrafish embryos with MO and/or human mRNA at the 1-4 cell stage, and phenotyping up to seven days post fertilization (dpf). This general strategy can be extended to a wide range of disease phenotypes, as demonstrated in the following protocol. We present our established models for morphogenetic signaling, craniofacial, cardiac, vascular integrity, renal function, and skeletal muscle disorder phenotypes, as well as others.
Molecular Biology, Issue 78, Genetics, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Developmental Biology, Biochemistry, Anatomy, Physiology, Bioengineering, Genomics, Medical, zebrafish, in vivo, morpholino, human disease modeling, transcription, PCR, mRNA, DNA, Danio rerio, animal model
Infinium Assay for Large-scale SNP Genotyping Applications
Institutions: Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
Genotyping variants in the human genome has proven to be an efficient method to identify genetic associations with phenotypes. The distribution of variants within families or populations can facilitate identification of the genetic factors of disease. Illumina's panel of genotyping BeadChips allows investigators to genotype thousands or millions of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) or to analyze other genomic variants, such as copy number, across a large number of DNA samples. These SNPs can be spread throughout the genome or targeted in specific regions in order to maximize potential discovery. The Infinium assay has been optimized to yield high-quality, accurate results quickly. With proper setup, a single technician can process from a few hundred to over a thousand DNA samples per week, depending on the type of array. This assay guides users through every step, starting with genomic DNA and ending with the scanning of the array. Using propriety reagents, samples are amplified, fragmented, precipitated, resuspended, hybridized to the chip, extended by a single base, stained, and scanned on either an iScan or Hi Scan high-resolution optical imaging system. One overnight step is required to amplify the DNA. The DNA is denatured and isothermally amplified by whole-genome amplification; therefore, no PCR is required. Samples are hybridized to the arrays during a second overnight step. By the third day, the samples are ready to be scanned and analyzed. Amplified DNA may be stockpiled in large quantities, allowing bead arrays to be processed every day of the week, thereby maximizing throughput.
Basic Protocol, Issue 81, genomics, SNP, Genotyping, Infinium, iScan, HiScan, Illumina
Training Synesthetic Letter-color Associations by Reading in Color
Institutions: University of Amsterdam.
Synesthesia is a rare condition in which a stimulus from one modality automatically and consistently triggers unusual sensations in the same and/or other modalities. A relatively common and well-studied type is grapheme-color synesthesia, defined as the consistent experience of color when viewing, hearing and thinking about letters, words and numbers. We describe our method for investigating to what extent synesthetic associations between letters and colors can be learned by reading in color in nonsynesthetes. Reading in color is a special method for training associations in the sense that the associations are learned implicitly while the reader reads text as he or she normally would and it does not require explicit computer-directed training methods. In this protocol, participants are given specially prepared books to read in which four high-frequency letters are paired with four high-frequency colors. Participants receive unique sets of letter-color pairs based on their pre-existing preferences for colored letters. A modified Stroop task is administered before and after reading in order to test for learned letter-color associations and changes in brain activation. In addition to objective testing, a reading experience questionnaire is administered that is designed to probe for differences in subjective experience. A subset of questions may predict how well an individual learned the associations from reading in color. Importantly, we are not claiming that this method will cause each individual to develop grapheme-color synesthesia, only that it is possible for certain individuals to form letter-color associations by reading in color and these associations are similar in some aspects to those seen in developmental grapheme-color synesthetes. The method is quite flexible and can be used to investigate different aspects and outcomes of training synesthetic associations, including learning-induced changes in brain function and structure.
Behavior, Issue 84, synesthesia, training, learning, reading, vision, memory, cognition
Quantifying Learning in Young Infants: Tracking Leg Actions During a Discovery-learning Task
Institutions: University of Southern California, Temple University, Niigata University of Health and Welfare.
Task-specific actions emerge from spontaneous movement during infancy. It has been proposed that task-specific actions emerge through a discovery-learning process. Here a method is described in which 3-4 month old infants learn a task by discovery and their leg movements are captured to quantify the learning process. This discovery-learning task uses an infant activated mobile that rotates and plays music based on specified leg action of infants. Supine infants activate the mobile by moving their feet vertically across a virtual threshold. This paradigm is unique in that as infants independently discover that their leg actions activate the mobile, the infants’ leg movements are tracked using a motion capture system allowing for the quantification of the learning process. Specifically, learning is quantified in terms of the duration of mobile activation, the position variance of the end effectors (feet) that activate the mobile, changes in hip-knee coordination patterns, and changes in hip and knee muscle torque. This information describes infant exploration and exploitation at the interplay of person and environmental constraints that support task-specific action. Subsequent research using this method can investigate how specific impairments of different populations of infants at risk for movement disorders influence the discovery-learning process for task-specific action.
Behavior, Issue 100, infant, discovery-learning, motor learning, motor control, kinematics, kinetics