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Modeling transmembrane domain dimers/trimers of plexin receptors: implications for mechanisms of signal transmission across the membrane.
PUBLISHED: 04-03-2015
Single-pass transmembrane (TM) receptors transmit signals across lipid bilayers by helix association or by configurational changes within preformed dimers. The structure determination for such TM regions is challenging and has mostly been accomplished by NMR spectroscopy. Recently, the computational prediction of TM dimer structures is becoming recognized for providing models, including alternate conformational states, which are important for receptor regulation. Here we pursued a strategy to predict helix oligomers that is based on packing considerations (using the PREDDIMER webserver) and is followed by a refinement of structures, utilizing microsecond all-atom molecular dynamics simulations. We applied this method to plexin TM receptors, a family of 9 human proteins, involved in the regulation of cell guidance and motility. The predicted models show that, overall, the preferences identified by PREDDIMER are preserved in the unrestrained simulations and that TM structures are likely to be diverse across the plexin family. Plexin-B1 and -B3 TM helices are regular and tend to associate, whereas plexin-A1, -A2, -A3, -A4, -C1 and -D1 contain sequence elements, such as poly-Glycine or aromatic residues that distort helix conformation and association. Plexin-B2 does not form stable dimers due to the presence of TM prolines. No experimental structural information on the TM region is available for these proteins, except for plexin-C1 dimeric and plexin-B1 - trimeric structures inferred from X-ray crystal structures of the intracellular regions. Plexin-B1 TM trimers utilize Ser and Thr sidechains for interhelical contacts. We also modeled the juxta-membrane (JM) region of plexin-C1 and plexin-B1 and show that it synergizes with the TM structures. The structure and dynamics of the JM region and TM-JM junction provide determinants for the distance and distribution of the intracellular domains, and for their binding partners relative to the membrane. The structures suggest experimental tests and will be useful for the interpretation of future studies.
Authors: Christy Ogrean, Ben Jackson, James Covino.
Published: 06-17-2010
The Solaris qPCR Gene Expression Assay is a novel type of primer/probe set, designed to simplify the qPCR process while maintaining the sensitivity and accuracy of the assay. These primer/probe sets are pre-designed to >98% of the human and mouse genomes and feature significant improvements from previously available technologies. These improvements were made possible by virtue of a novel design algorithm, developed by Thermo Scientific bioinformatics experts. Several convenient features have been incorporated into the Solaris qPCR Assay to streamline the process of performing quantitative real-time PCR. First, the protocol is similar to commonly employed alternatives, so the methods used during qPCR are likely to be familiar. Second, the master mix is blue, which makes setting the qPCR reactions easier to track. Third, the thermal cycling conditions are the same for all assays (genes), making it possible to run many samples at a time and reducing the potential for error. Finally, the probe and primer sequence information are provided, simplifying the publication process. Here, we demonstrate how to obtain the appropriate Solaris reagents using the GENEius product search feature found on the ordering web site ( and how to use the Solaris reagents for performing qPCR using the standard curve method.
24 Related JoVE Articles!
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Monitoring Activation of the Antiviral Pattern Recognition Receptors RIG-I And PKR By Limited Protease Digestion and Native PAGE
Authors: Michaela Weber, Friedemann Weber.
Institutions: Philipps-University Marburg.
Host defenses to virus infection are dependent on a rapid detection by pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) of the innate immune system. In the cytoplasm, the PRRs RIG-I and PKR bind to specific viral RNA ligands. This first mediates conformational switching and oligomerization, and then enables activation of an antiviral interferon response. While methods to measure antiviral host gene expression are well established, methods to directly monitor the activation states of RIG-I and PKR are only partially and less well established. Here, we describe two methods to monitor RIG-I and PKR stimulation upon infection with an established interferon inducer, the Rift Valley fever virus mutant clone 13 (Cl 13). Limited trypsin digestion allows to analyze alterations in protease sensitivity, indicating conformational changes of the PRRs. Trypsin digestion of lysates from mock infected cells results in a rapid degradation of RIG-I and PKR, whereas Cl 13 infection leads to the emergence of a protease-resistant RIG-I fragment. Also PKR shows a virus-induced partial resistance to trypsin digestion, which coincides with its hallmark phosphorylation at Thr 446. The formation of RIG-I and PKR oligomers was validated by native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE). Upon infection, there is a strong accumulation of RIG-I and PKR oligomeric complexes, whereas these proteins remained as monomers in mock infected samples. Limited protease digestion and native PAGE, both coupled to western blot analysis, allow a sensitive and direct measurement of two diverse steps of RIG-I and PKR activation. These techniques are relatively easy and quick to perform and do not require expensive equipment.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 89, innate immune response, virus infection, pathogen recognition receptor, RIG-I, PKR, IRF-3, limited protease digestion, conformational switch, native PAGE, oligomerization
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Inducing Plasticity of Astrocytic Receptors by Manipulation of Neuronal Firing Rates
Authors: Alison X. Xie, Kelli Lauderdale, Thomas Murphy, Timothy L. Myers, Todd A. Fiacco.
Institutions: University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside.
Close to two decades of research has established that astrocytes in situ and in vivo express numerous G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that can be stimulated by neuronally-released transmitter. However, the ability of astrocytic receptors to exhibit plasticity in response to changes in neuronal activity has received little attention. Here we describe a model system that can be used to globally scale up or down astrocytic group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in acute brain slices. Included are methods on how to prepare parasagittal hippocampal slices, construct chambers suitable for long-term slice incubation, bidirectionally manipulate neuronal action potential frequency, load astrocytes and astrocyte processes with fluorescent Ca2+ indicator, and measure changes in astrocytic Gq GPCR activity by recording spontaneous and evoked astrocyte Ca2+ events using confocal microscopy. In essence, a “calcium roadmap” is provided for how to measure plasticity of astrocytic Gq GPCRs. Applications of the technique for study of astrocytes are discussed. Having an understanding of how astrocytic receptor signaling is affected by changes in neuronal activity has important implications for both normal synaptic function as well as processes underlying neurological disorders and neurodegenerative disease.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, astrocyte, plasticity, mGluRs, neuronal Firing, electrophysiology, Gq GPCRs, Bolus-loading, calcium, microdomains, acute slices, Hippocampus, mouse
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Using Microwave and Macroscopic Samples of Dielectric Solids to Study the Photonic Properties of Disordered Photonic Bandgap Materials
Authors: Seyed Reza Hashemizad, Sam Tsitrin, Polin Yadak, Yingquan He, Daniel Cuneo, Eric Paul Williamson, Devin Liner, Weining Man.
Institutions: San Francisco State University.
Recently, disordered photonic materials have been suggested as an alternative to periodic crystals for the formation of a complete photonic bandgap (PBG). In this article we will describe the methods for constructing and characterizing macroscopic disordered photonic structures using microwaves. The microwave regime offers the most convenient experimental sample size to build and test PBG media. Easily manipulated dielectric lattice components extend flexibility in building various 2D structures on top of pre-printed plastic templates. Once built, the structures could be quickly modified with point and line defects to make freeform waveguides and filters. Testing is done using a widely available Vector Network Analyzer and pairs of microwave horn antennas. Due to the scale invariance property of electromagnetic fields, the results we obtained in the microwave region can be directly applied to infrared and optical regions. Our approach is simple but delivers exciting new insight into the nature of light and disordered matter interaction. Our representative results include the first experimental demonstration of the existence of a complete and isotropic PBG in a two-dimensional (2D) hyperuniform disordered dielectric structure. Additionally we demonstrate experimentally the ability of this novel photonic structure to guide electromagnetic waves (EM) through freeform waveguides of arbitrary shape.
Physics, Issue 91, optics and photonics, photonic crystals, photonic bandgap, hyperuniform, disordered media, waveguides
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One-channel Cell-attached Patch-clamp Recording
Authors: Bruce A. Maki, Kirstie A. Cummings, Meaghan A. Paganelli, Swetha E. Murthy, Gabriela K. Popescu.
Institutions: University at Buffalo, SUNY, University at Buffalo, SUNY, The Scripps Research Institute, University at Buffalo, SUNY.
Ion channel proteins are universal devices for fast communication across biological membranes. The temporal signature of the ionic flux they generate depends on properties intrinsic to each channel protein as well as the mechanism by which it is generated and controlled and represents an important area of current research. Information about the operational dynamics of ion channel proteins can be obtained by observing long stretches of current produced by a single molecule. Described here is a protocol for obtaining one-channel cell-attached patch-clamp current recordings for a ligand gated ion channel, the NMDA receptor, expressed heterologously in HEK293 cells or natively in cortical neurons. Also provided are instructions on how to adapt the method to other ion channels of interest by presenting the example of the mechano-sensitive channel PIEZO1. This method can provide data regarding the channel’s conductance properties and the temporal sequence of open-closed conformations that make up the channel’s activation mechanism, thus helping to understand their functions in health and disease.
Neuroscience, Issue 88, biophysics, ion channels, single-channel recording, NMDA receptors, gating, electrophysiology, patch-clamp, kinetic analysis
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From Voxels to Knowledge: A Practical Guide to the Segmentation of Complex Electron Microscopy 3D-Data
Authors: Wen-Ting Tsai, Ahmed Hassan, Purbasha Sarkar, Joaquin Correa, Zoltan Metlagel, Danielle M. Jorgens, Manfred Auer.
Institutions: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Modern 3D electron microscopy approaches have recently allowed unprecedented insight into the 3D ultrastructural organization of cells and tissues, enabling the visualization of large macromolecular machines, such as adhesion complexes, as well as higher-order structures, such as the cytoskeleton and cellular organelles in their respective cell and tissue context. Given the inherent complexity of cellular volumes, it is essential to first extract the features of interest in order to allow visualization, quantification, and therefore comprehension of their 3D organization. Each data set is defined by distinct characteristics, e.g., signal-to-noise ratio, crispness (sharpness) of the data, heterogeneity of its features, crowdedness of features, presence or absence of characteristic shapes that allow for easy identification, and the percentage of the entire volume that a specific region of interest occupies. All these characteristics need to be considered when deciding on which approach to take for segmentation. The six different 3D ultrastructural data sets presented were obtained by three different imaging approaches: resin embedded stained electron tomography, focused ion beam- and serial block face- scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM, SBF-SEM) of mildly stained and heavily stained samples, respectively. For these data sets, four different segmentation approaches have been applied: (1) fully manual model building followed solely by visualization of the model, (2) manual tracing segmentation of the data followed by surface rendering, (3) semi-automated approaches followed by surface rendering, or (4) automated custom-designed segmentation algorithms followed by surface rendering and quantitative analysis. Depending on the combination of data set characteristics, it was found that typically one of these four categorical approaches outperforms the others, but depending on the exact sequence of criteria, more than one approach may be successful. Based on these data, we propose a triage scheme that categorizes both objective data set characteristics and subjective personal criteria for the analysis of the different data sets.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, 3D electron microscopy, feature extraction, segmentation, image analysis, reconstruction, manual tracing, thresholding
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Determination of Protein-ligand Interactions Using Differential Scanning Fluorimetry
Authors: Mirella Vivoli, Halina R. Novak, Jennifer A. Littlechild, Nicholas J. Harmer.
Institutions: University of Exeter.
A wide range of methods are currently available for determining the dissociation constant between a protein and interacting small molecules. However, most of these require access to specialist equipment, and often require a degree of expertise to effectively establish reliable experiments and analyze data. Differential scanning fluorimetry (DSF) is being increasingly used as a robust method for initial screening of proteins for interacting small molecules, either for identifying physiological partners or for hit discovery. This technique has the advantage that it requires only a PCR machine suitable for quantitative PCR, and so suitable instrumentation is available in most institutions; an excellent range of protocols are already available; and there are strong precedents in the literature for multiple uses of the method. Past work has proposed several means of calculating dissociation constants from DSF data, but these are mathematically demanding. Here, we demonstrate a method for estimating dissociation constants from a moderate amount of DSF experimental data. These data can typically be collected and analyzed within a single day. We demonstrate how different models can be used to fit data collected from simple binding events, and where cooperative binding or independent binding sites are present. Finally, we present an example of data analysis in a case where standard models do not apply. These methods are illustrated with data collected on commercially available control proteins, and two proteins from our research program. Overall, our method provides a straightforward way for researchers to rapidly gain further insight into protein-ligand interactions using DSF.
Biophysics, Issue 91, differential scanning fluorimetry, dissociation constant, protein-ligand interactions, StepOne, cooperativity, WcbI.
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Inhibitory Synapse Formation in a Co-culture Model Incorporating GABAergic Medium Spiny Neurons and HEK293 Cells Stably Expressing GABAA Receptors
Authors: Laura E. Brown, Celine Fuchs, Martin W. Nicholson, F. Anne Stephenson, Alex M. Thomson, Jasmina N. Jovanovic.
Institutions: University College London.
Inhibitory neurons act in the central nervous system to regulate the dynamics and spatio-temporal co-ordination of neuronal networks. GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is released from the presynaptic terminals of inhibitory neurons within highly specialized intercellular junctions known as synapses, where it binds to GABAA receptors (GABAARs) present at the plasma membrane of the synapse-receiving, postsynaptic neurons. Activation of these GABA-gated ion channels leads to influx of chloride resulting in postsynaptic potential changes that decrease the probability that these neurons will generate action potentials. During development, diverse types of inhibitory neurons with distinct morphological, electrophysiological and neurochemical characteristics have the ability to recognize their target neurons and form synapses which incorporate specific GABAARs subtypes. This principle of selective innervation of neuronal targets raises the question as to how the appropriate synaptic partners identify each other. To elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms, a novel in vitro co-culture model system was established, in which medium spiny GABAergic neurons, a highly homogenous population of neurons isolated from the embryonic striatum, were cultured with stably transfected HEK293 cell lines that express different GABAAR subtypes. Synapses form rapidly, efficiently and selectively in this system, and are easily accessible for quantification. Our results indicate that various GABAAR subtypes differ in their ability to promote synapse formation, suggesting that this reduced in vitro model system can be used to reproduce, at least in part, the in vivo conditions required for the recognition of the appropriate synaptic partners and formation of specific synapses. Here the protocols for culturing the medium spiny neurons and generating HEK293 cells lines expressing GABAARs are first described, followed by detailed instructions on how to combine these two cell types in co-culture and analyze the formation of synaptic contacts.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, Developmental neuroscience, synaptogenesis, synaptic inhibition, co-culture, stable cell lines, GABAergic, medium spiny neurons, HEK 293 cell line
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Sedimentation Equilibrium of a Small Oligomer-forming Membrane Protein: Effect of Histidine Protonation on Pentameric Stability
Authors: Wahyu Surya, Jaume Torres.
Institutions: Nanyang Technological University.
Analytical ultracentrifugation (AUC) can be used to study reversible interactions between macromolecules over a wide range of interaction strengths and under physiological conditions. This makes AUC a method of choice to quantitatively assess stoichiometry and thermodynamics of homo- and hetero-association that are transient and reversible in biochemical processes. In the modality of sedimentation equilibrium (SE), a balance between diffusion and sedimentation provides a profile as a function of radial distance that depends on a specific association model. Herein, a detailed SE protocol is described to determine the size and monomer-monomer association energy of a small membrane protein oligomer using an analytical ultracentrifuge. AUC-ES is label-free, only based on physical principles, and can be used on both water soluble and membrane proteins. An example is shown of the latter, the small hydrophobic (SH) protein in the human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV), a 65-amino acid polypeptide with a single α-helical transmembrane (TM) domain that forms pentameric ion channels. NMR-based structural data shows that SH protein has two protonatable His residues in its transmembrane domain that are oriented facing the lumen of the channel. SE experiments have been designed to determine how pH affects association constant and the oligomeric size of SH protein. While the pentameric form was preserved in all cases, its association constant was reduced at low pH. These data are in agreement with a similar pH dependency observed for SH channel activity, consistent with a lumenal orientation of the two His residues in SH protein. The latter may experience electrostatic repulsion and reduced oligomer stability at low pH. In summary, this method is applicable whenever quantitative information on subtle protein-protein association changes in physiological conditions have to be measured.  
Chemistry, Issue 98, Analytical ultracentrifugation, sedimentation equilibrium, molecular weight, membrane proteins, small hydrophobic, respiratory syncytial virus, detergent, density matching, oligomeric size, histidine protonation, oligomer stability
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Determining Membrane Protein Topology Using Fluorescence Protease Protection (FPP)
Authors: Carl White, Alex Nixon, Neil A. Bradbury.
Institutions: Chicago Medical School.
The correct topology and orientation of integral membrane proteins are essential for their proper function, yet such information has not been established for many membrane proteins. A simple technique called fluorescence protease protection (FPP) is presented, which permits the determination of membrane protein topology in living cells. This technique has numerous advantages over other methods for determining protein topology, in that it does not require the availability of multiple antibodies against various domains of the membrane protein, does not require large amounts of protein, and can be performed on living cells. The FPP method employs the spatially confined actions of proteases on the degradation of green fluorescent protein (GFP) tagged membrane proteins to determine their membrane topology and orientation. This simple approach is applicable to a wide variety of cell types, and can be used to determine membrane protein orientation in various subcellular organelles such as the mitochondria, Golgi, endoplasmic reticulum and components of the endosomal/recycling system. Membrane proteins, tagged on either the N-termini or C-termini with a GFP fusion, are expressed in a cell of interest, which is subject to selective permeabilization using the detergent digitonin. Digitonin has the ability to permeabilize the plasma membrane, while leaving intracellular organelles intact. GFP moieties exposed to the cytosol can be selectively degraded through the application of protease, whereas GFP moieties present in the lumen of organelles are protected from the protease and remain intact. The FPP assay is straightforward, and results can be obtained rapidly.
Cellular Biology, Issue 98, Membrane protein, topology, GFP, fluorescence assay, protease, proteolysis, Digitonin
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Trabecular Meshwork Response to Pressure Elevation in the Living Human Eye
Authors: Larry Kagemann, Bo Wang, Gadi Wollstein, Hiroshi Ishikawa, Brandon Mentley, Ian Sigal, Richard A Bilonick, Joel S Schuman.
Institutions: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh.
The mechanical characteristics of the trabecular meshwork (TM) are linked to outflow resistance and intraocular pressure (IOP) regulation. The rationale behind this technique is the direct observation of the mechanical response of the TM to acute IOP elevation. Prior to scanning, IOP is measured at baseline and during IOP elevation. The limbus is scanned by spectral-domain optical coherence tomography at baseline and during IOP elevation (ophthalmodynamometer (ODM) applied at 30 g force). Scans are processed to enhance visualization of the aqueous humor outflow pathway using ImageJ. Vascular landmarks are used to identify corresponding locations in baseline and IOP elevation scan volumes. Schlemm canal (SC) cross-sectional area (SC-CSA) and SC length from anterior to posterior along its long axis are measured manually at 10 locations within a 1 mm segment of SC. Mean inner to outer wall distance (short axis length) is calculated as the area of SC divided by its long axis length. To examine the contribution of adjacent tissues to the effect IOP elevations, measurements are repeated without and with smooth muscle relaxation with instillation of tropicamide. TM migration into SC is resisted by TM stiffness, but is enhanced by the support of its attachment to adjacent smooth muscle within the ciliary body. This technique is the first to measure the living human TM response to pressure elevation in situ under physiological conditions within the human eye.
Medicine, Issue 100, Optical Coherence Tomography, Trabecular Meshwork, Biomechanics, Intraocular Pressure, Regulation, Aqueous Humor Outflow
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Capture Compound Mass Spectrometry - A Powerful Tool to Identify Novel c-di-GMP Effector Proteins
Authors: Benoît-Joseph Laventie, Jutta Nesper, Erik Ahrné, Timo Glatter, Alexander Schmidt, Urs Jenal.
Institutions: Biozentrum of the University of Basel, Biozentrum of the University of Basel.
Considerable progress has been made during the last decade towards the identification and characterization of enzymes involved in the synthesis (diguanylate cyclases) and degradation (phosphodiesterases) of the second messenger c-di-GMP. In contrast, little information is available regarding the molecular mechanisms and cellular components through which this signaling molecule regulates a diverse range of cellular processes. Most of the known effector proteins belong to the PilZ family or are degenerated diguanylate cyclases or phosphodiesterases that have given up on catalysis and have adopted effector function. Thus, to better define the cellular c-di-GMP network in a wide range of bacteria experimental methods are required to identify and validate novel effectors for which reliable in silico predictions fail. We have recently developed a novel Capture Compound Mass Spectrometry (CCMS) based technology as a powerful tool to biochemically identify and characterize c-di-GMP binding proteins. This technique has previously been reported to be applicable to a wide range of organisms1. Here we give a detailed description of the protocol that we utilize to probe such signaling components. As an example, we use Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an opportunistic pathogen in which c-di-GMP plays a critical role in virulence and biofilm control. CCMS identified 74% (38/51) of the known or predicted components of the c-di-GMP network. This study explains the CCMS procedure in detail, and establishes it as a powerful and versatile tool to identify novel components involved in small molecule signaling.
Chemistry, Issue 97, Capture compound, photoactivable crosslinker, mass spectrometry, c-di-GMP effector, EAL, GGDEF, PilZ, Pseudomonas aeruginosa
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Visualization of ATP Synthase Dimers in Mitochondria by Electron Cryo-tomography
Authors: Karen M. Davies, Bertram Daum, Vicki A. M. Gold, Alexander W. Mühleip, Tobias Brandt, Thorsten B. Blum, Deryck J. Mills, Werner Kühlbrandt.
Institutions: Max Planck Institute of Biophysics.
Electron cryo-tomography is a powerful tool in structural biology, capable of visualizing the three-dimensional structure of biological samples, such as cells, organelles, membrane vesicles, or viruses at molecular detail. To achieve this, the aqueous sample is rapidly vitrified in liquid ethane, which preserves it in a close-to-native, frozen-hydrated state. In the electron microscope, tilt series are recorded at liquid nitrogen temperature, from which 3D tomograms are reconstructed. The signal-to-noise ratio of the tomographic volume is inherently low. Recognizable, recurring features are enhanced by subtomogram averaging, by which individual subvolumes are cut out, aligned and averaged to reduce noise. In this way, 3D maps with a resolution of 2 nm or better can be obtained. A fit of available high-resolution structures to the 3D volume then produces atomic models of protein complexes in their native environment. Here we show how we use electron cryo-tomography to study the in situ organization of large membrane protein complexes in mitochondria. We find that ATP synthases are organized in rows of dimers along highly curved apices of the inner membrane cristae, whereas complex I is randomly distributed in the membrane regions on either side of the rows. By subtomogram averaging we obtained a structure of the mitochondrial ATP synthase dimer within the cristae membrane.
Structural Biology, Issue 91, electron microscopy, electron cryo-tomography, mitochondria, ultrastructure, membrane structure, membrane protein complexes, ATP synthase, energy conversion, bioenergetics
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Visualizing Neuroblast Cytokinesis During C. elegans Embryogenesis
Authors: Denise Wernike, Chloe van Oostende, Alisa Piekny.
Institutions: Concordia University.
This protocol describes the use of fluorescence microscopy to image dividing cells within developing Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. In particular, this protocol focuses on how to image dividing neuroblasts, which are found underneath the epidermal cells and may be important for epidermal morphogenesis. Tissue formation is crucial for metazoan development and relies on external cues from neighboring tissues. C. elegans is an excellent model organism to study tissue morphogenesis in vivo due to its transparency and simple organization, making its tissues easy to study via microscopy. Ventral enclosure is the process where the ventral surface of the embryo is covered by a single layer of epithelial cells. This event is thought to be facilitated by the underlying neuroblasts, which provide chemical guidance cues to mediate migration of the overlying epithelial cells. However, the neuroblasts are highly proliferative and also may act as a mechanical substrate for the ventral epidermal cells. Studies using this experimental protocol could uncover the importance of intercellular communication during tissue formation, and could be used to reveal the roles of genes involved in cell division within developing tissues.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, C. elegans, morphogenesis, cytokinesis, neuroblasts, anillin, microscopy, cell division
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Transmembrane Domain Oligomerization Propensity determined by ToxR Assay
Authors: Catherine Joce, Alyssa Wiener, Hang Yin.
Institutions: University of Colorado at Boulder.
The oversimplified view of protein transmembrane domains as merely anchors in phospholipid bilayers has long since been disproven. In many cases membrane-spanning proteins have evolved highly sophisticated mechanisms of action.1-3 One way in which membrane proteins can modulate their structures and functions is by direct and specific contact of hydrophobic helices, forming structured transmembrane oligomers.4,5 Much recent work has focused on the distribution of amino acids preferentially found in the membrane environment in comparison to aqueous solution and the different intermolecular forces that drive protein association.6,7 Nevertheless, studies of molecular recognition at the transmembrane domain of proteins still lags behind those of water-soluble regions. A major hurdle remains: despite the remarkable specificity and affinity that transmembrane oligomerization can achieve,8 direct measurement of their association is challenging. Traditional methodologies applied to the study of integral membrane protein function can be hampered by the inherent insolubility of the sequences under examination. Biophysical insights gained from studying synthetic peptides representing transmembrane domains can provide useful structural insight. However, the biological relevance of the detergent micellar or liposome systems used in these studies to mimic cellular membranes is often questioned; do peptides adopt a native-like structure under these conditions and does their functional behaviour truly reflect the mode of action within a native membrane? In order to study the interactions of transmembrane sequences in natural phospholipid bilayers, the Langosch lab developed ToxR transcriptional reporter assays.9 The transmembrane domain of interest is expressed as a chimeric protein with maltose binding protein for location to the periplasm and ToxR to provide a report of the level of oligomerization (Figure 1). In the last decade, several other groups (e.g. Engelman, DeGrado, Shai) further optimized and applied this ToxR reporter assay.10-13 The various ToxR assays have become a gold standard to test protein-protein interactions in cell membranes. We herein demonstrate a typical experimental operation conducted in our laboratory that primarily follows protocols developed by Langosch. This generally applicable method is useful for the analysis of transmembrane domain self-association in E. coli, where β-galactosidase production is used to assess the TMD oligomerization propensity. Upon TMD-induced dimerization, ToxR binds to the ctx promoter causing up-regulation of the LacZ gene for β-galactosidase. A colorimetric readout is obtained by addition of ONPG to lyzed cells. Hydrolytic cleavage of ONPG by β-galactosidase results in the production of the light absorbing species o-nitrophenolate (ONP) (Figure 2).
Cellular Biology, Issue 51, Transmembrane domain, oligomerization, transcriptional reporter, ToxR, latent membrane protein-1
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A Protocol for Computer-Based Protein Structure and Function Prediction
Authors: Ambrish Roy, Dong Xu, Jonathan Poisson, Yang Zhang.
Institutions: University of Michigan , University of Kansas.
Genome sequencing projects have ciphered millions of protein sequence, which require knowledge of their structure and function to improve the understanding of their biological role. Although experimental methods can provide detailed information for a small fraction of these proteins, computational modeling is needed for the majority of protein molecules which are experimentally uncharacterized. The I-TASSER server is an on-line workbench for high-resolution modeling of protein structure and function. Given a protein sequence, a typical output from the I-TASSER server includes secondary structure prediction, predicted solvent accessibility of each residue, homologous template proteins detected by threading and structure alignments, up to five full-length tertiary structural models, and structure-based functional annotations for enzyme classification, Gene Ontology terms and protein-ligand binding sites. All the predictions are tagged with a confidence score which tells how accurate the predictions are without knowing the experimental data. To facilitate the special requests of end users, the server provides channels to accept user-specified inter-residue distance and contact maps to interactively change the I-TASSER modeling; it also allows users to specify any proteins as template, or to exclude any template proteins during the structure assembly simulations. The structural information could be collected by the users based on experimental evidences or biological insights with the purpose of improving the quality of I-TASSER predictions. The server was evaluated as the best programs for protein structure and function predictions in the recent community-wide CASP experiments. There are currently >20,000 registered scientists from over 100 countries who are using the on-line I-TASSER server.
Biochemistry, Issue 57, On-line server, I-TASSER, protein structure prediction, function prediction
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Production of Disulfide-stabilized Transmembrane Peptide Complexes for Structural Studies
Authors: Pooja Sharma, Mariam Kaywan-Lutfi, Logesvaran Krshnan, Eamon F. X. Byrne, Melissa Joy Call, Matthew Edwin Call.
Institutions: The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, The University of Melbourne.
Physical interactions among the lipid-embedded alpha-helical domains of membrane proteins play a crucial role in folding and assembly of membrane protein complexes and in dynamic processes such as transmembrane (TM) signaling and regulation of cell-surface protein levels. Understanding the structural features driving the association of particular sequences requires sophisticated biophysical and biochemical analyses of TM peptide complexes. However, the extreme hydrophobicity of TM domains makes them very difficult to manipulate using standard peptide chemistry techniques, and production of suitable study material often proves prohibitively challenging. Identifying conditions under which peptides can adopt stable helical conformations and form complexes spontaneously adds a further level of difficulty. Here we present a procedure for the production of homo- or hetero-dimeric TM peptide complexes from materials that are expressed in E. coli, thus allowing incorporation of stable isotope labels for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) or non-natural amino acids for other applications relatively inexpensively. The key innovation in this method is that TM complexes are produced and purified as covalently associated (disulfide-crosslinked) assemblies that can form stable, stoichiometric and homogeneous structures when reconstituted into detergent, lipid or other membrane-mimetic materials. We also present carefully optimized procedures for expression and purification that are equally applicable whether producing single TM domains or crosslinked complexes and provide advice for adapting these methods to new TM sequences.
Biochemistry, Issue 73, Structural Biology, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Biophysics, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Membrane Proteins, Proteins, Molecular Structure, transmembrane domain, peptide chemistry, membrane protein structure, immune receptors, reversed-phase HPLC, HPLC, peptides, lipids, protein, cloning, TFA Elution, CNBr Digestion, NMR, expression, cell culture
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Construction of a Preclinical Multimodality Phantom Using Tissue-mimicking Materials for Quality Assurance in Tumor Size Measurement
Authors: Yongsook C. Lee, Gary D. Fullerton, Beth A. Goins.
Institutions: University of Kansas School of Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
World Health Organization (WHO) and the Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) working groups advocated standardized criteria for radiologic assessment of solid tumors in response to anti-tumor drug therapy in the 1980s and 1990s, respectively. WHO criteria measure solid tumors in two-dimensions, whereas RECIST measurements use only one-dimension which is considered to be more reproducible 1, 2, 3,4,5. These criteria have been widely used as the only imaging biomarker approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 6. In order to measure tumor response to anti-tumor drugs on images with accuracy, therefore, a robust quality assurance (QA) procedures and corresponding QA phantom are needed. To address this need, the authors constructed a preclinical multimodality (for ultrasound (US), computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)) phantom using tissue-mimicking (TM) materials based on the limited number of target lesions required by RECIST by revising a Gammex US commercial phantom 7. The Appendix in Lee et al. demonstrates the procedures of phantom fabrication 7. In this article, all protocols are introduced in a step-by-step fashion beginning with procedures for preparing the silicone molds for casting tumor-simulating test objects in the phantom, followed by preparation of TM materials for multimodality imaging, and finally construction of the preclinical multimodality QA phantom. The primary purpose of this paper is to provide the protocols to allow anyone interested in independently constructing a phantom for their own projects. QA procedures for tumor size measurement, and RECIST, WHO and volume measurement results of test objects made at multiple institutions using this QA phantom are shown in detail in Lee et al. 8.
Biomedical Engineering, Issue 77, Bioengineering, Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology, Cancer Biology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Therapeutics, Chemistry and Materials (General), Composite Materials, Quality Assurance and Reliability, Physics (General), Tissue-mimicking materials, Preclinical, Multimodality, Quality assurance, Phantom, Tumor size measurement, Cancer, Imaging
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Protein WISDOM: A Workbench for In silico De novo Design of BioMolecules
Authors: James Smadbeck, Meghan B. Peterson, George A. Khoury, Martin S. Taylor, Christodoulos A. Floudas.
Institutions: Princeton University.
The aim of de novo protein design is to find the amino acid sequences that will fold into a desired 3-dimensional structure with improvements in specific properties, such as binding affinity, agonist or antagonist behavior, or stability, relative to the native sequence. Protein design lies at the center of current advances drug design and discovery. Not only does protein design provide predictions for potentially useful drug targets, but it also enhances our understanding of the protein folding process and protein-protein interactions. Experimental methods such as directed evolution have shown success in protein design. However, such methods are restricted by the limited sequence space that can be searched tractably. In contrast, computational design strategies allow for the screening of a much larger set of sequences covering a wide variety of properties and functionality. We have developed a range of computational de novo protein design methods capable of tackling several important areas of protein design. These include the design of monomeric proteins for increased stability and complexes for increased binding affinity. To disseminate these methods for broader use we present Protein WISDOM (, a tool that provides automated methods for a variety of protein design problems. Structural templates are submitted to initialize the design process. The first stage of design is an optimization sequence selection stage that aims at improving stability through minimization of potential energy in the sequence space. Selected sequences are then run through a fold specificity stage and a binding affinity stage. A rank-ordered list of the sequences for each step of the process, along with relevant designed structures, provides the user with a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the design. Here we provide the details of each design method, as well as several notable experimental successes attained through the use of the methods.
Genetics, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computational Biology, Genomics, Proteomics, Protein, Protein Binding, Computational Biology, Drug Design, optimization (mathematics), Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, De novo protein and peptide design, Drug design, In silico sequence selection, Optimization, Fold specificity, Binding affinity, sequencing
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Structure and Coordination Determination of Peptide-metal Complexes Using 1D and 2D 1H NMR
Authors: Michal S. Shoshan, Edit Y. Tshuva, Deborah E. Shalev.
Institutions: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Copper (I) binding by metallochaperone transport proteins prevents copper oxidation and release of the toxic ions that may participate in harmful redox reactions. The Cu (I) complex of the peptide model of a Cu (I) binding metallochaperone protein, which includes the sequence MTCSGCSRPG (underlined is conserved), was determined in solution under inert conditions by NMR spectroscopy. NMR is a widely accepted technique for the determination of solution structures of proteins and peptides. Due to difficulty in crystallization to provide single crystals suitable for X-ray crystallography, the NMR technique is extremely valuable, especially as it provides information on the solution state rather than the solid state. Herein we describe all steps that are required for full three-dimensional structure determinations by NMR. The protocol includes sample preparation in an NMR tube, 1D and 2D data collection and processing, peak assignment and integration, molecular mechanics calculations, and structure analysis. Importantly, the analysis was first conducted without any preset metal-ligand bonds, to assure a reliable structure determination in an unbiased manner.
Chemistry, Issue 82, solution structure determination, NMR, peptide models, copper-binding proteins, copper complexes
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The Cell-based L-Glutathione Protection Assays to Study Endocytosis and Recycling of Plasma Membrane Proteins
Authors: Kristine M. Cihil, Agnieszka Swiatecka-Urban.
Institutions: Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Membrane trafficking involves transport of proteins from the plasma membrane to the cell interior (i.e. endocytosis) followed by trafficking to lysosomes for degradation or to the plasma membrane for recycling. The cell based L-glutathione protection assays can be used to study endocytosis and recycling of protein receptors, channels, transporters, and adhesion molecules localized at the cell surface. The endocytic assay requires labeling of cell surface proteins with a cell membrane impermeable biotin containing a disulfide bond and the N-hydroxysuccinimide (NHS) ester at 4 ºC - a temperature at which membrane trafficking does not occur. Endocytosis of biotinylated plasma membrane proteins is induced by incubation at 37 ºC. Next, the temperature is decreased again to 4 ºC to stop endocytic trafficking and the disulfide bond in biotin covalently attached to proteins that have remained at the plasma membrane is reduced with L-glutathione. At this point, only proteins that were endocytosed remain protected from L-glutathione and thus remain biotinylated. After cell lysis, biotinylated proteins are isolated with streptavidin agarose, eluted from agarose, and the biotinylated protein of interest is detected by western blotting. During the recycling assay, after biotinylation cells are incubated at 37 °C to load endocytic vesicles with biotinylated proteins and the disulfide bond in biotin covalently attached to proteins remaining at the plasma membrane is reduced with L-glutathione at 4 ºC as in the endocytic assay. Next, cells are incubated again at 37 °C to allow biotinylated proteins from endocytic vesicles to recycle to the plasma membrane. Cells are then incubated at 4 ºC, and the disulfide bond in biotin attached to proteins that recycled to the plasma membranes is reduced with L-glutathione. The biotinylated proteins protected from L-glutathione are those that did not recycle to the plasma membrane.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, Endocytosis, recycling, plasma membrane, cell surface, EZLink, Sulfo-NHS-SS-Biotin, L-Glutathione, GSH, thiol group, disulfide bond, epithelial cells, cell polarization
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Use of pHluorin to Assess the Dynamics of Axon Guidance Receptors in Cell Culture and in the Chick Embryo
Authors: Céline Delloye-Bourgeois, Arnaud Jacquier, Julien Falk, Valérie Castellani.
Institutions: University of Lyon.
During development, 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,
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Optimized Negative Staining: a High-throughput Protocol for Examining Small and Asymmetric Protein Structure by Electron Microscopy
Authors: Matthew Rames, Yadong Yu, Gang Ren.
Institutions: The Molecular Foundry.
Structural determination of proteins is rather challenging for proteins with molecular masses between 40 - 200 kDa. Considering that more than half of natural proteins have a molecular mass between 40 - 200 kDa1,2, a robust and high-throughput method with a nanometer resolution capability is needed. Negative staining (NS) electron microscopy (EM) is an easy, rapid, and qualitative approach which has frequently been used in research laboratories to examine protein structure and protein-protein interactions. Unfortunately, conventional NS protocols often generate structural artifacts on proteins, especially with lipoproteins that usually form presenting rouleaux artifacts. By using images of lipoproteins from cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) as a standard, the key parameters in NS specimen preparation conditions were recently screened and reported as the optimized NS protocol (OpNS), a modified conventional NS protocol 3 . Artifacts like rouleaux can be greatly limited by OpNS, additionally providing high contrast along with reasonably high‐resolution (near 1 nm) images of small and asymmetric proteins. These high-resolution and high contrast images are even favorable for an individual protein (a single object, no average) 3D reconstruction, such as a 160 kDa antibody, through the method of electron tomography4,5. Moreover, OpNS can be a high‐throughput tool to examine hundreds of samples of small proteins. For example, the previously published mechanism of 53 kDa cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) involved the screening and imaging of hundreds of samples 6. Considering cryo-EM rarely successfully images proteins less than 200 kDa has yet to publish any study involving screening over one hundred sample conditions, it is fair to call OpNS a high-throughput method for studying small proteins. Hopefully the OpNS protocol presented here can be a useful tool to push the boundaries of EM and accelerate EM studies into small protein structure, dynamics and mechanisms.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 90, small and asymmetric protein structure, electron microscopy, optimized negative staining
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Identification of Post-translational Modifications of Plant Protein Complexes
Authors: Sophie J. M. Piquerez, Alexi L. Balmuth, Jan Sklenář, Alexandra M.E. Jones, John P. Rathjen, Vardis Ntoukakis.
Institutions: University of Warwick, Norwich Research Park, The Australian National University.
Plants adapt quickly to changing environments due to elaborate perception and signaling systems. During pathogen attack, plants rapidly respond to infection via the recruitment and activation of immune complexes. Activation of immune complexes is associated with post-translational modifications (PTMs) of proteins, such as phosphorylation, glycosylation, or ubiquitination. Understanding how these PTMs are choreographed will lead to a better understanding of how resistance is achieved. Here we describe a protein purification method for nucleotide-binding leucine-rich repeat (NB-LRR)-interacting proteins and the subsequent identification of their post-translational modifications (PTMs). With small modifications, the protocol can be applied for the purification of other plant protein complexes. The method is based on the expression of an epitope-tagged version of the protein of interest, which is subsequently partially purified by immunoprecipitation and subjected to mass spectrometry for identification of interacting proteins and PTMs. This protocol demonstrates that: i). Dynamic changes in PTMs such as phosphorylation can be detected by mass spectrometry; ii). It is important to have sufficient quantities of the protein of interest, and this can compensate for the lack of purity of the immunoprecipitate; iii). In order to detect PTMs of a protein of interest, this protein has to be immunoprecipitated to get a sufficient quantity of protein.
Plant Biology, Issue 84, plant-microbe interactions, protein complex purification, mass spectrometry, protein phosphorylation, Prf, Pto, AvrPto, AvrPtoB
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Quantification of Cytosolic vs. Vacuolar Salmonella in Primary Macrophages by Differential Permeabilization
Authors: Etienne Meunier, Petr Broz.
Institutions: University of Basel.
Intracellular bacterial pathogens can replicate in the cytosol or in specialized pathogen-containing vacuoles (PCVs). To reach the cytosol, bacteria like Shigella flexneri and Francisella novicida need to induce the rupture of the phagosome. In contrast, Salmonella typhimurium replicates in a vacuolar compartment, known as Salmonella-containing vacuole (SCV). However certain mutants of Salmonella fail to maintain SCV integrity and are thus released into the cytosol. The percentage of cytosolic vs. vacuolar bacteria on the level of single bacteria can be measured by differential permeabilization, also known as phagosome-protection assay. The approach makes use of the property of detergent digitonin to selectively bind cholesterol. Since the plasma membrane contains more cholesterol than other cellular membranes, digitonin can be used to selectively permeabilize the plasma membrane while leaving intracellular membranes intact. In brief, following infection with the pathogen expressing a fluorescent marker protein (e.g. mCherry among others), the plasma membrane of host cells is permeabilized with a short incubation in digitonin containing buffer. Cells are then washed and incubated with a primary antibody (coupled to a fluorophore of choice) directed against the bacterium of choice (e.g. anti-Salmonella-FITC) and washed again. If unmarked bacteria are used, an additional step can be done, in which all membranes are permeabilized and all bacteria stained with a corresponding antibody. Following the staining, the percentage of vacuolar and cytosolic bacteria can be quantified by FACS or microscopy by counting single or double-positive events. Here we provide experimental details for use of this technique with the bacterium Salmonella typhimurium. The advantage of this assay is that, in contrast to other assay, it provides a quantification on the level of single bacteria, and if analyzed by microscopy provides the exact number of cytosolic and vacuolar bacteria in a given cell.
Immunology, Issue 101, pathogen-containing vacuoles, infection, immunity, microbiology, bacteria, vacuolar rupture, microscopy, pathogens, molecular biology, Salmonella typhimurium, macrophages
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