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 (http://www.proteinwisdom.org), 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.
23 Related JoVE Articles!
A Microfluidic Device with Groove Patterns for Studying Cellular Behavior
Institutions: Brigham and Women's Hospital.
We describe a microfluidic device with microgrooved patterns for studying cellular behavior. This microfluidic platform consists of a top fluidic channel and a bottom microgrooved substrate. To fabricate the microgrooved channels, a top poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) mold containing the impression of the microfluidic channels was aligned and bonded to a microgrooved substrate. Using this device, mouse fibroblast cells were immobilized and patterned within microgrooved substrates (25, 50, 75, and 100 μm wide). To study apoptosis in a microfluidic device, media containing hydrogen peroxide, Annexin V, and propidium iodide was perfused into the fluidic channel for 2 hours. We found that cells exposed to the oxidative stress became apoptotic. These apoptotic cells were confirmed by Annexin V that bound to phosphatidylserine at the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane during the apoptosis process. Using this microfluidic device with microgrooved patterns, the apoptosis process was observed in real-time and analyzed by using an inverted microscope containing an incubation chamber (37°C, 5% CO2
). Therefore, this microfluidic device incorporated with microgrooved substrates could be useful for studying the cellular behavior and performing high-throughput drug screening.
Issue 7, Cell Biology, tissue engineering, microfluidic, apoptosis
Synthesis of an Intein-mediated Artificial Protein Hydrogel
Institutions: Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas A&M University, College Station.
We present the synthesis of a highly stable protein hydrogel mediated by a split-intein-catalyzed protein trans
-splicing reaction. The building blocks of this hydrogel are two protein block-copolymers each containing a subunit of a trimeric protein that serves as a crosslinker and one half of a split intein. A highly hydrophilic random coil is inserted into one of the block-copolymers for water retention. Mixing of the two protein block copolymers triggers an intein trans
-splicing reaction, yielding a polypeptide unit with crosslinkers at either end that rapidly self-assembles into a hydrogel. This hydrogel is very stable under both acidic and basic conditions, at temperatures up to 50 °C, and in organic solvents. The hydrogel rapidly reforms after shear-induced rupture. Incorporation of a "docking station peptide" into the hydrogel building block enables convenient incorporation of "docking protein"-tagged target proteins. The hydrogel is compatible with tissue culture growth media, supports the diffusion of 20 kDa molecules, and enables the immobilization of bioactive globular proteins. The application of the intein-mediated protein hydrogel as an organic-solvent-compatible biocatalyst was demonstrated by encapsulating the horseradish peroxidase enzyme and corroborating its activity.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, split-intein, self-assembly, shear-thinning, enzyme, immobilization, organic synthesis
Novel 3D/VR Interactive Environment for MD Simulations, Visualization and Analysis
Institutions: University of California Merced.
The increasing development of computing (hardware and software) in the last decades has impacted scientific research in many fields including materials science, biology, chemistry and physics among many others. A new computational system for the accurate and fast simulation and 3D/VR visualization of nanostructures is presented here, using the open-source molecular dynamics (MD) computer program LAMMPS. This alternative computational method uses modern graphics processors, NVIDIA CUDA technology and specialized scientific codes to overcome processing speed barriers common to traditional computing methods. In conjunction with a virtual reality system used to model materials, this enhancement allows the addition of accelerated MD simulation capability. The motivation is to provide a novel research environment which simultaneously allows visualization, simulation, modeling and analysis. The research goal is to investigate the structure and properties of inorganic nanostructures (e.g.,
silica glass nanosprings) under different conditions using this innovative computational system. The work presented outlines a description of the 3D/VR Visualization System and basic components, an overview of important considerations such as the physical environment, details on the setup and use of the novel system, a general procedure for the accelerated MD enhancement, technical information, and relevant remarks. The impact of this work is the creation of a unique computational system combining nanoscale materials simulation, visualization and interactivity in a virtual environment, which is both a research and teaching instrument at UC Merced.
Physics, Issue 94, Computational systems, visualization and immersive environments, interactive learning, graphical processing unit accelerated simulations, molecular dynamics simulations, nanostructures.
Inducing Plasticity of Astrocytic Receptors by Manipulation of Neuronal Firing Rates
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
Rapid and Low-cost Prototyping of Medical Devices Using 3D Printed Molds for Liquid Injection Molding
Institutions: University of California, San Francisco, University of California, San Francisco, University of Southern California.
Biologically inert elastomers such as silicone are favorable materials for medical device fabrication, but forming and curing these elastomers using traditional liquid injection molding processes can be an expensive process due to tooling and equipment costs. As a result, it has traditionally been impractical to use liquid injection molding for low-cost, rapid prototyping applications. We have devised a method for rapid and low-cost production of liquid elastomer injection molded devices that utilizes fused deposition modeling 3D printers for mold design and a modified desiccator as an injection system. Low costs and rapid turnaround time in this technique lower the barrier to iteratively designing and prototyping complex elastomer devices. Furthermore, CAD models developed in this process can be later adapted for metal mold tooling design, enabling an easy transition to a traditional injection molding process. We have used this technique to manufacture intravaginal probes involving complex geometries, as well as overmolding over metal parts, using tools commonly available within an academic research laboratory. However, this technique can be easily adapted to create liquid injection molded devices for many other applications.
Bioengineering, Issue 88, liquid injection molding, reaction injection molding, molds, 3D printing, fused deposition modeling, rapid prototyping, medical devices, low cost, low volume, rapid turnaround time.
Bladder Smooth Muscle Strip Contractility as a Method to Evaluate Lower Urinary Tract Pharmacology
Institutions: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
We describe an in vitro
method to measure bladder smooth muscle contractility, and its use for investigating physiological and pharmacological properties of the smooth muscle as well as changes induced by pathology. This method provides critical information for understanding bladder function while overcoming major methodological difficulties encountered in in vivo
experiments, such as surgical and pharmacological manipulations that affect stability and survival of the preparations, the use of human tissue, and/or the use of expensive chemicals. It also provides a way to investigate the properties of each bladder component (i.e.
smooth muscle, mucosa, nerves) in healthy and pathological conditions.
The urinary bladder is removed from an anesthetized animal, placed in Krebs solution and cut into strips. Strips are placed into a chamber filled with warm Krebs solution. One end is attached to an isometric tension transducer to measure contraction force, the other end is attached to a fixed rod. Tissue is stimulated by directly adding compounds to the bath or by electric field stimulation electrodes that activate nerves, similar to triggering bladder contractions in vivo
. We demonstrate the use of this method to evaluate spontaneous smooth muscle contractility during development and after an experimental spinal cord injury, the nature of neurotransmission (transmitters and receptors involved), factors involved in modulation of smooth muscle activity, the role of individual bladder components, and species and organ differences in response to pharmacological agents. Additionally, it could be used for investigating intracellular pathways involved in contraction and/or relaxation of the smooth muscle, drug structure-activity relationships and evaluation of transmitter release.
The in vitro
smooth muscle contractility method has been used extensively for over 50 years, and has provided data that significantly contributed to our understanding of bladder function as well as to pharmaceutical development of compounds currently used clinically for bladder management.
Medicine, Issue 90, Krebs, species differences, in vitro, smooth muscle contractility, neural stimulation
Analysis of Tubular Membrane Networks in Cardiac Myocytes from Atria and Ventricles
Institutions: Heart Research Center Goettingen, University Medical Center Goettingen, German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) partner site Goettingen, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
In cardiac myocytes a complex network of membrane tubules - the transverse-axial tubule system (TATS) - controls deep intracellular signaling functions. While the outer surface membrane and associated TATS membrane components appear to be continuous, there are substantial differences in lipid and protein content. In ventricular myocytes (VMs), certain TATS components are highly abundant contributing to rectilinear tubule networks and regular branching 3D architectures. It is thought that peripheral TATS components propagate action potentials from the cell surface to thousands of remote intracellular sarcoendoplasmic reticulum (SER) membrane contact domains, thereby activating intracellular Ca2+
release units (CRUs). In contrast to VMs, the organization and functional role of TATS membranes in atrial myocytes (AMs) is significantly different and much less understood. Taken together, quantitative structural characterization of TATS membrane networks in healthy and diseased myocytes is an essential prerequisite towards better understanding of functional plasticity and pathophysiological reorganization. Here, we present a strategic combination of protocols for direct quantitative analysis of TATS membrane networks in living VMs and AMs. For this, we accompany primary cell isolations of mouse VMs and/or AMs with critical quality control steps and direct membrane staining protocols for fluorescence imaging of TATS membranes. Using an optimized workflow for confocal or superresolution TATS image processing, binarized and skeletonized data are generated for quantitative analysis of the TATS network and its components. Unlike previously published indirect regional aggregate image analysis strategies, our protocols enable direct characterization of specific components and derive complex physiological properties of TATS membrane networks in living myocytes with high throughput and open access software tools. In summary, the combined protocol strategy can be readily applied for quantitative TATS network studies during physiological myocyte adaptation or disease changes, comparison of different cardiac or skeletal muscle cell types, phenotyping of transgenic models, and pharmacological or therapeutic interventions.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, cardiac myocyte, atria, ventricle, heart, primary cell isolation, fluorescence microscopy, membrane tubule, transverse-axial tubule system, image analysis, image processing, T-tubule, collagenase
High Efficiency Differentiation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells to Cardiomyocytes and Characterization by Flow Cytometry
Institutions: Medical College of Wisconsin, Stanford University School of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Hong Kong University, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin.
There is an urgent need to develop approaches for repairing the damaged heart, discovering new therapeutic drugs that do not have toxic effects on the heart, and improving strategies to accurately model heart disease. The potential of exploiting human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) technology to generate cardiac muscle “in a dish” for these applications continues to generate high enthusiasm. In recent years, the ability to efficiently generate cardiomyogenic cells from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) has greatly improved, offering us new opportunities to model very early stages of human cardiac development not otherwise accessible. In contrast to many previous methods, the cardiomyocyte differentiation protocol described here does not require cell aggregation or the addition of Activin A or BMP4 and robustly generates cultures of cells that are highly positive for cardiac troponin I and T (TNNI3, TNNT2), iroquois-class homeodomain protein IRX-4 (IRX4), myosin regulatory light chain 2, ventricular/cardiac muscle isoform (MLC2v) and myosin regulatory light chain 2, atrial isoform (MLC2a) by day 10 across all human embryonic stem cell (hESC) and hiPSC lines tested to date. Cells can be passaged and maintained for more than 90 days in culture. The strategy is technically simple to implement and cost-effective. Characterization of cardiomyocytes derived from pluripotent cells often includes the analysis of reference markers, both at the mRNA and protein level. For protein analysis, flow cytometry is a powerful analytical tool for assessing quality of cells in culture and determining subpopulation homogeneity. However, technical variation in sample preparation can significantly affect quality of flow cytometry data. Thus, standardization of staining protocols should facilitate comparisons among various differentiation strategies. Accordingly, optimized staining protocols for the analysis of IRX4, MLC2v, MLC2a, TNNI3, and TNNT2 by flow cytometry are described.
Cellular Biology, Issue 91, human induced pluripotent stem cell, flow cytometry, directed differentiation, cardiomyocyte, IRX4, TNNI3, TNNT2, MCL2v, MLC2a
Disrupting Reconsolidation of Fear Memory in Humans by a Noradrenergic β-Blocker
Institutions: University of Amsterdam.
The basic design used in our human fear-conditioning studies on disrupting reconsolidation includes testing over different phases across three consecutive days. On day 1 - the fear acquisition
phase, healthy participants are exposed to a series of picture presentations. One picture stimulus (CS1+) is repeatedly paired with an aversive electric stimulus (US), resulting in the acquisition of a fear association, whereas another picture stimulus (CS2-) is never followed by an US. On day 2 - the memory reactivation
phase, the participants are re-exposed to the conditioned stimulus without the US (CS1-), which typically triggers a conditioned fear response. After the memory reactivation we administer an oral dose of 40 mg of propranolol HCl, a β-adrenergic receptor antagonist that indirectly targets the protein synthesis required for reconsolidation by inhibiting the noradrenaline-stimulated CREB phosphorylation. On day 3 - the test phase, the participants are again exposed to the unreinforced conditioned stimuli (CS1- and CS2-) in order to measure the fear-reducing effect of the manipulation. This retention test is followed by an extinction procedure and the presentation of situational triggers to test for the return of fear. Potentiation of the eye blink startle reflex is measured as an index for conditioned fear responding. Declarative knowledge of the fear association is measured through online US expectancy ratings during each CS presentation. In contrast to extinction learning, disrupting reconsolidation targets the original fear memory thereby preventing the return of fear. Although the clinical applications are still in their infancy, disrupting reconsolidation of fear memory seems to be a promising new technique with the prospect to persistently dampen the expression of fear memory in patients suffering from anxiety disorders and other psychiatric disorders.
Behavior, Issue 94, Fear memory, reconsolidation, noradrenergic β-blocker, human fear conditioning, startle potentiation, translational research.
A Rat Model of Ventricular Fibrillation and Resuscitation by Conventional Closed-chest Technique
Institutions: Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.
A rat model of electrically-induced ventricular fibrillation followed by cardiac resuscitation using a closed chest technique that incorporates the basic components of cardiopulmonary resuscitation in humans is herein described. The model was developed in 1988 and has been used in approximately 70 peer-reviewed publications examining a myriad of resuscitation aspects including its physiology and pathophysiology, determinants of resuscitability, pharmacologic interventions, and even the effects of cell therapies. The model featured in this presentation includes: (1) vascular catheterization to measure aortic and right atrial pressures, to measure cardiac output by thermodilution, and to electrically induce ventricular fibrillation; and (2) tracheal intubation for positive pressure ventilation with oxygen enriched gas and assessment of the end-tidal CO2
. A typical sequence of intervention entails: (1) electrical induction of ventricular fibrillation, (2) chest compression using a mechanical piston device concomitantly with positive pressure ventilation delivering oxygen-enriched gas, (3) electrical shocks to terminate ventricular fibrillation and reestablish cardiac activity, (4) assessment of post-resuscitation hemodynamic and metabolic function, and (5) assessment of survival and recovery of organ function. A robust inventory of measurements is available that includes – but is not limited to – hemodynamic, metabolic, and tissue measurements. The model has been highly effective in developing new resuscitation concepts and examining novel therapeutic interventions before their testing in larger and translationally more relevant animal models of cardiac arrest and resuscitation.
Medicine, Issue 98, Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, Hemodynamics, Myocardial ischemia, Rats, Reperfusion, Ventilation, Ventricular fibrillation, Ventricular function, Translational medical research
Isolation and Functional Characterization of Human Ventricular Cardiomyocytes from Fresh Surgical Samples
Institutions: University of Florence, University of Florence.
Cardiomyocytes from diseased hearts are subjected to complex remodeling processes involving changes in cell structure, excitation contraction coupling and membrane ion currents. Those changes are likely to be responsible for the increased arrhythmogenic risk and the contractile alterations leading to systolic and diastolic dysfunction in cardiac patients. However, most information on the alterations of myocyte function in cardiac diseases has come from animal models.
Here we describe and validate a protocol to isolate viable myocytes from small surgical samples of ventricular myocardium from patients undergoing cardiac surgery operations. The protocol is described in detail. Electrophysiological and intracellular calcium measurements are reported to demonstrate the feasibility of a number of single cell measurements in human ventricular cardiomyocytes obtained with this method.
The protocol reported here can be useful for future investigations of the cellular and molecular basis of functional alterations of the human heart in the presence of different cardiac diseases. Further, this method can be used to identify novel therapeutic targets at cellular level and to test the effectiveness of new compounds on human cardiomyocytes, with direct translational value.
Medicine, Issue 86, cardiology, cardiac cells, electrophysiology, excitation-contraction coupling, action potential, calcium, myocardium, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, cardiac patients, cardiac disease
Optimized Negative Staining: a High-throughput Protocol for Examining Small and Asymmetric Protein Structure by Electron Microscopy
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
Assessment of Right Ventricular Structure and Function in Mouse Model of Pulmonary Artery Constriction by Transthoracic Echocardiography
Institutions: Harvard Medical School, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital.
Emerging clinical data support the notion that RV dysfunction is critical to the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease and heart failure1-3
. Moreover, the RV is significantly affected in pulmonary diseases such as pulmonary artery hypertension (PAH). In addition, the RV is remarkably sensitive to cardiac pathologies, including left ventricular (LV) dysfunction, valvular disease or RV infarction4
. To understand the role of RV in the pathogenesis of cardiac diseases, a reliable and noninvasive method to access the RV structurally and functionally is essential.
A noninvasive trans-thoracic echocardiography (TTE) based methodology was established and validated for monitoring dynamic changes in RV structure and function in adult mice. To impose RV stress, we employed a surgical model of pulmonary artery constriction (PAC) and measured the RV response over a 7-day period using a high-frequency ultrasound microimaging system. Sham operated mice were used as controls. Images were acquired in lightly anesthetized mice at baseline (before surgery), day 0 (immediately post-surgery), day 3, and day 7 (post-surgery). Data was analyzed offline using software.
Several acoustic windows (B, M, and Color Doppler modes), which can be consistently obtained in mice, allowed for reliable and reproducible measurement of RV structure (including RV wall thickness, end-diastolic and end-systolic dimensions), and function (fractional area change, fractional shortening, PA peak velocity, and peak pressure gradient) in normal mice and following PAC.
Using this method, the pressure-gradient resulting from PAC was accurately measured in real-time using Color Doppler mode and was comparable to direct pressure measurements performed with a Millar high-fidelity microtip catheter. Taken together, these data demonstrate that RV measurements obtained from various complimentary views using echocardiography are reliable, reproducible and can provide insights regarding RV structure and function. This method will enable a better understanding of the role of RV cardiac dysfunction.
Medicine, Issue 84, Trans-thoracic echocardiography (TTE), right ventricle (RV), pulmonary artery constriction (PAC), peak velocity, right ventricular systolic pressure (RVSP)
Gene Transfer for Ischemic Heart Failure in a Preclinical Model
Institutions: Mount Sinai School of Medicine .
Various emerging technologies are being developed for patients with heart failure. Well-established preclinical evaluations are necessary to determine their efficacy and safety.
Gene therapy using viral vectors is one of the most promising approaches for treating cardiac diseases. Viral delivery of various different genes by changing the carrier gene has immeasurable therapeutic potential.
In this video, the full process of an animal model of heart failure creation followed by gene transfer is presented using a swine model. First, myocardial infarction is created by occluding the proximal left anterior descending coronary artery. Heart remodeling results in chronic heart failure. Unique to our model is a fairly large scar which truly reflects patients with severe heart failure who require aggressive therapy for positive outcomes. After myocardial infarct creation and development of scar tissue, an intracoronary injection of virus is demonstrated with simultaneous nitroglycerine infusion. Our injection method provides simple and efficient gene transfer with enhanced gene expression. This combination of a myocardial infarct swine model with intracoronary virus delivery has proven to be a consistent and reproducible methodology, which helps not only to test the effect of individual gene, but also compare the efficacy of many genes as therapeutic candidates.
Medicine, Issue 51, Myocardial infarction, Gene therapy, Intracoronary injection, Viral vector, Ischemic heart failure
A Protocol for Computer-Based Protein Structure and Function Prediction
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
The ITS2 Database
Institutions: University of Würzburg, University of Würzburg.
The internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) has been used as a phylogenetic marker for more than two decades. As ITS2 research mainly focused on the very variable ITS2 sequence, it confined this marker to low-level phylogenetics only. However, the combination of the ITS2 sequence and its highly conserved secondary structure improves the phylogenetic resolution1
and allows phylogenetic inference at multiple taxonomic ranks, including species delimitation2-8
The ITS2 Database9
presents an exhaustive dataset of internal transcribed spacer 2 sequences from NCBI GenBank11
. Following an annotation by profile Hidden Markov Models (HMMs), the secondary structure of each sequence is predicted. First, it is tested whether a minimum energy based fold12
(direct fold) results in a correct, four helix conformation. If this is not the case, the structure is predicted by homology modeling13
. In homology modeling, an already known secondary structure is transferred to another ITS2 sequence, whose secondary structure was not able to fold correctly in a direct fold.
The ITS2 Database is not only a database for storage and retrieval of ITS2 sequence-structures. It also provides several tools to process your own ITS2 sequences, including annotation, structural prediction, motif detection and BLAST14
search on the combined sequence-structure information. Moreover, it integrates trimmed versions of 4SALE15,16
for multiple sequence-structure alignment calculation and Neighbor Joining18
tree reconstruction. Together they form a coherent analysis pipeline from an initial set of sequences to a phylogeny based on sequence and secondary structure.
In a nutshell, this workbench simplifies first phylogenetic analyses to only a few mouse-clicks, while additionally providing tools and data for comprehensive large-scale analyses.
Genetics, Issue 61, alignment, internal transcribed spacer 2, molecular systematics, secondary structure, ribosomal RNA, phylogenetic tree, homology modeling, phylogeny
Measurement of Antibody Effects on Cellular Function of Isolated Cardiomyocytes
Institutions: University Medicine Greifswald.
Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is one of the main causes for heart failure in younger adults1
. Although genetic disposition and exposition to toxic substances are known causes for this disease in about one third of the patients, the origin of DCM remains largely unclear. In a substantial number of these patients, autoantibodies against cardiac epitopes have been detected and are suspected to play a pivotal role in the onset and progression of the disease2,3
. The importance of cardiac autoantibodies is underlined by a hemodynamic improvement observed in DCM patients after elimination of autoantibodies by immunoadsorption3-5
. A variety of specific antigens have already been identified2,3
and antibodies against these targets may be detected by immunoassays. However, these assays cannot discriminate between stimulating (and therefore functionally effective) and blocking autoantibodies. There is increasing evidence that this distinction is crucial6,7
. It can also be assumed that the targets for a number of cardiotropic antibodies are still unidentified and therefore cannot be detected by immunoassays. Therefore, we established a method for the detection of functionally active cardiotropic antibodies, independent of their respective antigen. The background for the method is the high homology usually observed for functional regions of cardiac proteins in between mammals8,9
. This suggests that cardiac antibodies directed against human antigens will cross-react with non-human target cells, which allows testing of IgG from DCM patients on adult rat cardiomyocytes. Our method consists of 3 steps: first, IgG is isolated from patient plasma using sepharose coupled anti-IgG antibodies obtained from immunoadsorption columns (PlasmaSelect, Teterow, Germany). Second, adult cardiomyocytes are isolated by collagenase perfusion in a Langendorff perfusion apparatus using a protocol modified from previous works10,11
. The obtained cardiomyocytes are attached to laminin-coated chambered coverglasses and stained with Fura-2, a calcium-selective fluorescent dye which can be easily brought into the cell to observe intracellular calcium (Ca2+
. In the last step, the effect of patient IgG on the cell shortening and Ca2+
transients of field stimulated cardiomyocytes is monitored online using a commercial myocyte calcium and contractility monitoring system (IonOptix, Milton, MA, USA) connected to a standard inverse fluorescent microscope.
Immunology, Issue 73, Medicine, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Physiology, Anatomy, Cardiology, cardiomyocytes, cell shortening, intracellular Ca2+, Fura-2, antibodies, dilated cardiomyopathy, DCM, IgG, cardiac proteins, Langendorff perfusion, electrode, immunoassay, assay, cell culture, animal model
Reduction in Left Ventricular Wall Stress and Improvement in Function in Failing Hearts using Algisyl-LVR
Institutions: UCSF/VA Medical Center, LoneStar Heart, Inc..
Injection of Algisyl-LVR, a treatment under clinical development, is intended to treat patients with dilated cardiomyopathy. This treatment was recently used for the first time in patients who had symptomatic heart failure. In all patients, cardiac function of the left ventricle (LV) improved significantly, as manifested by consistent reduction of the LV volume and wall stress. Here we describe this novel treatment procedure and the methods used to quantify its effects on LV wall stress and function.
Algisyl-LVR is a biopolymer gel consisting of Na+
-Alginate and Ca2+
-Alginate. The treatment procedure was carried out by mixing these two components and then combining them into one syringe for intramyocardial injections. This mixture was injected at 10 to 19 locations mid-way between the base and apex of the LV free wall in patients.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), together with mathematical modeling, was used to quantify the effects of this treatment in patients before treatment and at various time points during recovery. The epicardial and endocardial surfaces were first digitized from the MR images to reconstruct the LV geometry at end-systole and at end-diastole. Left ventricular cavity volumes were then measured from these reconstructed surfaces.
Mathematical models of the LV were created from these MRI-reconstructed surfaces to calculate regional myofiber stress. Each LV model was constructed so that 1) it deforms according to a previously validated stress-strain relationship of the myocardium, and 2) the predicted LV cavity volume from these models matches the corresponding MRI-measured volume at end-diastole and end-systole. Diastolic filling was simulated by loading the LV endocardial surface with a prescribed end-diastolic pressure. Systolic contraction was simulated by concurrently loading the endocardial surface with a prescribed end-systolic pressure and adding active contraction in the myofiber direction. Regional myofiber stress at end-diastole and end-systole was computed from the deformed LV based on the stress-strain relationship.
Medicine, Issue 74, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Biophysics, Molecular Biology, Surgery, Cardiology, Cardiovascular Diseases, bioinjection, ventricular wall stress, mathematical model, heart failure, cardiac function, myocardium, left ventricle, LV, MRI, imaging, clinical techniques
Patient-specific Modeling of the Heart: Estimation of Ventricular Fiber Orientations
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University.
Patient-specific simulations of heart (dys)function aimed at personalizing cardiac therapy are hampered by the absence of in vivo
imaging technology for clinically acquiring myocardial fiber orientations. The objective of this project was to develop a methodology to estimate cardiac fiber orientations from in vivo
images of patient heart geometries. An accurate representation of ventricular geometry and fiber orientations was reconstructed, respectively, from high-resolution ex vivo structural magnetic resonance (MR) and diffusion tensor (DT) MR images of a normal human heart, referred to as the atlas. Ventricular geometry of a patient heart was extracted, via
semiautomatic segmentation, from an in vivo
computed tomography (CT) image. Using image transformation algorithms, the atlas ventricular geometry was deformed to match that of the patient. Finally, the deformation field was applied to the atlas fiber orientations to obtain an estimate of patient fiber orientations. The accuracy of the fiber estimates was assessed using six normal and three failing canine hearts. The mean absolute difference between inclination angles of acquired and estimated fiber orientations was 15.4 °. Computational simulations of ventricular activation maps and pseudo-ECGs in sinus rhythm and ventricular tachycardia indicated that there are no significant differences between estimated and acquired fiber orientations at a clinically observable level.The new insights obtained from the project will pave the way for the development of patient-specific models of the heart that can aid physicians in personalized diagnosis and decisions regarding electrophysiological interventions.
Bioengineering, Issue 71, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology, Cardiology, Myocytes, Cardiac, Image Processing, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, MRI, Diffusion Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Cardiac Electrophysiology, computerized simulation (general), mathematical modeling (systems analysis), Cardiomyocyte, biomedical image processing, patient-specific modeling, Electrophysiology, simulation
RNA Secondary Structure Prediction Using High-throughput SHAPE
Institutions: Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research.
Understanding the function of RNA involved in biological processes requires a thorough knowledge of RNA structure. Toward this end, the methodology dubbed "high-throughput selective 2' hydroxyl acylation analyzed by primer extension", or SHAPE, allows prediction of RNA secondary structure with single nucleotide resolution. This approach utilizes chemical probing agents that preferentially acylate single stranded or flexible regions of RNA in aqueous solution. Sites of chemical modification are detected by reverse transcription of the modified RNA, and the products of this reaction are fractionated by automated capillary electrophoresis (CE). Since reverse transcriptase pauses at those RNA nucleotides modified by the SHAPE reagents, the resulting cDNA library indirectly maps those ribonucleotides that are single stranded in the context of the folded RNA. Using ShapeFinder software, the electropherograms produced by automated CE are processed and converted into nucleotide reactivity tables that are themselves converted into pseudo-energy constraints used in the RNAStructure (v5.3) prediction algorithm. The two-dimensional RNA structures obtained by combining SHAPE probing with in silico
RNA secondary structure prediction have been found to be far more accurate than structures obtained using either method alone.
Genetics, Issue 75, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Virology, Cancer Biology, Medicine, Genomics, Nucleic Acid Probes, RNA Probes, RNA, High-throughput SHAPE, Capillary electrophoresis, RNA structure, RNA probing, RNA folding, secondary structure, DNA, nucleic acids, electropherogram, synthesis, transcription, high throughput, sequencing
Designing a Bio-responsive Robot from DNA Origami
Institutions: Bar-Ilan University.
Nucleic acids are astonishingly versatile. In addition to their natural role as storage medium for biological information1
, they can be utilized in parallel computing2,3
, recognize and bind molecular or cellular targets4,5
, catalyze chemical reactions6,7
, and generate calculated responses in a biological system8,9
. Importantly, nucleic acids can be programmed to self-assemble into 2D and 3D structures10-12
, enabling the integration of all these remarkable features in a single robot linking the sensing of biological cues to a preset response in order to exert a desired effect.
Creating shapes from nucleic acids was first proposed by Seeman13
, and several variations on this theme have since been realized using various techniques11,12,14,15
. However, the most significant is perhaps the one proposed by Rothemund, termed scaffolded DNA origami16
. In this technique, the folding of a long (>7,000 bases) single-stranded DNA 'scaffold'
is directed to a desired shape by hundreds of short complementary strands termed 'staples'
. Folding is carried out by temperature annealing ramp. This technique was successfully demonstrated in the creation of a diverse array of 2D shapes with remarkable precision and robustness. DNA origami was later extended to 3D as well17,18
The current paper will focus on the caDNAno 2.0 software19
developed by Douglas and colleagues. caDNAno is a robust, user-friendly CAD tool enabling the design of 2D and 3D DNA origami shapes with versatile features. The design process relies on a systematic and accurate abstraction scheme for DNA structures, making it relatively straightforward and efficient.
In this paper we demonstrate the design of a DNA origami nanorobot that has been recently described20
. This robot is 'robotic' in the sense that it links sensing to actuation, in order to perform a task. We explain how various sensing schemes can be integrated into the structure, and how this can be relayed to a desired effect. Finally we use Cando21
to simulate the mechanical properties of the designed shape. The concept we discuss can be adapted to multiple tasks and settings.
Bioengineering, Issue 77, Genetics, Biomedical Engineering, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Genomics, Nanotechnology, Nanomedicine, DNA origami, nanorobot, caDNAno, DNA, DNA Origami, nucleic acids, DNA structures, CAD, sequencing
Mechanical Stimulation-induced Calcium Wave Propagation in Cell Monolayers: The Example of Bovine Corneal Endothelial Cells
Institutions: KU Leuven.
Intercellular communication is essential for the coordination of physiological processes between cells in a variety of organs and tissues, including the brain, liver, retina, cochlea and vasculature. In experimental settings, intercellular Ca2+
-waves can be elicited by applying a mechanical stimulus to a single cell. This leads to the release of the intracellular signaling molecules IP3
that initiate the propagation of the Ca2+
-wave concentrically from the mechanically stimulated cell to the neighboring cells. The main molecular pathways that control intercellular Ca2+
-wave propagation are provided by gap junction channels through the direct transfer of IP3
and by hemichannels through the release of ATP. Identification and characterization of the properties and regulation of different connexin and pannexin isoforms as gap junction channels and hemichannels are allowed by the quantification of the spread of the intercellular Ca2+
-wave, siRNA, and the use of inhibitors of gap junction channels and hemichannels. Here, we describe a method to measure intercellular Ca2+
-wave in monolayers of primary corneal endothelial cells loaded with Fluo4-AM in response to a controlled and localized mechanical stimulus provoked by an acute, short-lasting deformation of the cell as a result of touching the cell membrane with a micromanipulator-controlled glass micropipette with a tip diameter of less than 1 μm. We also describe the isolation of primary bovine corneal endothelial cells and its use as model system to assess Cx43-hemichannel activity as the driven force for intercellular Ca2+
-waves through the release of ATP. Finally, we discuss the use, advantages, limitations and alternatives of this method in the context of gap junction channel and hemichannel research.
Cellular Biology, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Biophysics, Immunology, Ophthalmology, Gap Junctions, Connexins, Connexin 43, Calcium Signaling, Ca2+, Cell Communication, Paracrine Communication, Intercellular communication, calcium wave propagation, gap junctions, hemichannels, endothelial cells, cell signaling, cell, isolation, cell culture
Nucleocapsid Annealing-Mediated Electrophoresis (NAME) Assay Allows the Rapid Identification of HIV-1 Nucleocapsid Inhibitors
Institutions: University of Padova, SUNY Albany.
RNA or DNA folded in stable tridimensional folding are interesting targets in the development of antitumor or antiviral drugs. In the case of HIV-1, viral proteins involved in the regulation of the virus activity recognize several nucleic acids. The nucleocapsid protein NCp7 (NC) is a key protein regulating several processes during virus replication. NC is in fact a chaperone destabilizing the secondary structures of RNA and DNA and facilitating their annealing. The inactivation of NC is a new approach and an interesting target for anti-HIV therapy. The N
lectrophoresis (NAME) assay was developed to identify molecules able to inhibit the melting and annealing of RNA and DNA folded in thermodynamically stable tridimensional conformations, such as hairpin structures of TAR and cTAR elements of HIV, by the nucleocapsid protein of HIV-1. The new assay employs either the recombinant or the synthetic protein, and oligonucleotides without the need of their previous labeling. The analysis of the results is achieved by standard polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE) followed by conventional nucleic acid staining. The protocol reported in this work describes how to perform the NAME assay with the full-length protein or its truncated version lacking the basic N-terminal domain, both competent as nucleic acids chaperones, and how to assess the inhibition of NC chaperone activity by a threading intercalator. Moreover, NAME can be performed in two different modes, useful to obtain indications on the putative mechanism of action of the identified NC inhibitors.
Immunology, Issue 95, HIV-1, Nucleocapsid protein, NCp7, TAR-RNA, DNA, oligonucleotides, annealing, Gel electrophoresis, NAME