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Melanin-Like Pigment Synthesis by Soil Bacillus weihenstephanensis Isolates from Northeastern Poland.
PUBLISHED: 04-27-2015
Although melanin is known for protecting living organisms from harmful physical and chemical factors, its synthesis is rarely observed among endospore-forming Bacillus cereus sensu lato. Here, for the first time, we reported that psychrotolerant Bacillus weihenstephanensis from Northeastern Poland can produce melanin-like pigment. We assessed physicochemical properties of the pigment and the mechanism of its synthesis in relation to B. weihenstephanensis genotypic and phenotypic characteristics. Electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy displayed a stable free radical signal of the pigment from environmental isolates which are consistent with the commercial melanin. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) and physicochemical tests indicated the phenolic character of the pigment. Several biochemical tests showed that melanin-like pigment synthesis by B. weihenstephanensis was associated with laccase activity. The presence of the gene encoding laccase was confirmed by the next generation whole genome sequencing of one B. weihenstephanensis strain. Biochemical (API 20E and 50CHB tests) and genetic (Multi-locus Sequence Typing, 16S rRNA sequencing, and Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis) characterization of the isolates revealed their close relation to the psychrotrophic B. weihenstephanensis DSMZ 11821 reference strain. The ability to synthesize melanin-like pigment by soil B. weihenstephanensis isolates and their psychrotrophic character seemed to be a local adaptation to a specific niche. Detailed genetic and biochemical analyses of melanin-positive environmental B. weihenstephanensis strains shed some light on the evolution and ecological adaptation of these bacteria. Moreover, our study raised new biotechnological possibilities for the use of water-soluble melanin-like pigment naturally produced by B. weihenstephanensis as an alternative to commercial non-soluble pigment.
Authors: Elizabeth Anne Shank.
Published: 10-31-2013
In nature, bacteria rarely exist in isolation; they are instead surrounded by a diverse array of other microorganisms that alter the local environment by secreting metabolites. These metabolites have the potential to modulate the physiology and differentiation of their microbial neighbors and are likely important factors in the establishment and maintenance of complex microbial communities. We have developed a fluorescence-based coculture screen to identify such chemically mediated microbial interactions. The screen involves combining a fluorescent transcriptional reporter strain with environmental microbes on solid media and allowing the colonies to grow in coculture. The fluorescent transcriptional reporter is designed so that the chosen bacterial strain fluoresces when it is expressing a particular phenotype of interest (i.e. biofilm formation, sporulation, virulence factor production, etc.) Screening is performed under growth conditions where this phenotype is not expressed (and therefore the reporter strain is typically nonfluorescent). When an environmental microbe secretes a metabolite that activates this phenotype, it diffuses through the agar and activates the fluorescent reporter construct. This allows the inducing-metabolite-producing microbe to be detected: they are the nonfluorescent colonies most proximal to the fluorescent colonies. Thus, this screen allows the identification of environmental microbes that produce diffusible metabolites that activate a particular physiological response in a reporter strain. This publication discusses how to: a) select appropriate coculture screening conditions, b) prepare the reporter and environmental microbes for screening, c) perform the coculture screen, d) isolate putative inducing organisms, and e) confirm their activity in a secondary screen. We developed this method to screen for soil organisms that activate biofilm matrix-production in Bacillus subtilis; however, we also discuss considerations for applying this approach to other genetically tractable bacteria.
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Pharmacologic Induction of Epidermal Melanin and Protection Against Sunburn in a Humanized Mouse Model
Authors: Alexandra Amaro-Ortiz, Jillian C. Vanover, Timothy L. Scott, John A. D'Orazio.
Institutions: University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
Fairness of skin, UV sensitivity and skin cancer risk all correlate with the physiologic function of the melanocortin 1 receptor, a Gs-coupled signaling protein found on the surface of melanocytes. Mc1r stimulates adenylyl cyclase and cAMP production which, in turn, up-regulates melanocytic production of melanin in the skin. In order to study the mechanisms by which Mc1r signaling protects the skin against UV injury, this study relies on a mouse model with "humanized skin" based on epidermal expression of stem cell factor (Scf). K14-Scf transgenic mice retain melanocytes in the epidermis and therefore have the ability to deposit melanin in the epidermis. In this animal model, wild type Mc1r status results in robust deposition of black eumelanin pigment and a UV-protected phenotype. In contrast, K14-Scf animals with defective Mc1r signaling ability exhibit a red/blonde pigmentation, very little eumelanin in the skin and a UV-sensitive phenotype. Reasoning that eumelanin deposition might be enhanced by topical agents that mimic Mc1r signaling, we found that direct application of forskolin extract to the skin of Mc1r-defective fair-skinned mice resulted in robust eumelanin induction and UV protection 1. Here we describe the method for preparing and applying a forskolin-containing natural root extract to K14-Scf fair-skinned mice and report a method for measuring UV sensitivity by determining minimal erythematous dose (MED). Using this animal model, it is possible to study how epidermal cAMP induction and melanization of the skin affect physiologic responses to UV exposure.
Medicine, Issue 79, Skin, Inflammation, Photometry, Ultraviolet Rays, Skin Pigmentation, melanocortin 1 receptor, Mc1r, forskolin, cAMP, mean erythematous dose, skin pigmentation, melanocyte, melanin, sunburn, UV, inflammation
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Interview: Protein Folding and Studies of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Authors: Susan Lindquist.
Institutions: MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In this interview, Dr. Lindquist describes relationships between protein folding, prion diseases and neurodegenerative disorders. The problem of the protein folding is at the core of the modern biology. In addition to their traditional biochemical functions, proteins can mediate transfer of biological information and therefore can be considered a genetic material. This recently discovered function of proteins has important implications for studies of human disorders. Dr. Lindquist also describes current experimental approaches to investigate the mechanism of neurodegenerative diseases based on genetic studies in model organisms.
Neuroscience, issue 17, protein folding, brain, neuron, prion, neurodegenerative disease, yeast, screen, Translational Research
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Scalable High Throughput Selection From Phage-displayed Synthetic Antibody Libraries
Authors: Shane Miersch, Zhijian Li, Rachel Hanna, Megan E. McLaughlin, Michael Hornsby, Tet Matsuguchi, Marcin Paduch, Annika Sääf, Jim Wells, Shohei Koide, Anthony Kossiakoff, Sachdev S. Sidhu.
Institutions: The Recombinant Antibody Network, University of Toronto, University of California, San Francisco at Mission Bay, The University of Chicago.
The demand for antibodies that fulfill the needs of both basic and clinical research applications is high and will dramatically increase in the future. However, it is apparent that traditional monoclonal technologies are not alone up to this task. This has led to the development of alternate methods to satisfy the demand for high quality and renewable affinity reagents to all accessible elements of the proteome. Toward this end, high throughput methods for conducting selections from phage-displayed synthetic antibody libraries have been devised for applications involving diverse antigens and optimized for rapid throughput and success. Herein, a protocol is described in detail that illustrates with video demonstration the parallel selection of Fab-phage clones from high diversity libraries against hundreds of targets using either a manual 96 channel liquid handler or automated robotics system. Using this protocol, a single user can generate hundreds of antigens, select antibodies to them in parallel and validate antibody binding within 6-8 weeks. Highlighted are: i) a viable antigen format, ii) pre-selection antigen characterization, iii) critical steps that influence the selection of specific and high affinity clones, and iv) ways of monitoring selection effectiveness and early stage antibody clone characterization. With this approach, we have obtained synthetic antibody fragments (Fabs) to many target classes including single-pass membrane receptors, secreted protein hormones, and multi-domain intracellular proteins. These fragments are readily converted to full-length antibodies and have been validated to exhibit high affinity and specificity. Further, they have been demonstrated to be functional in a variety of standard immunoassays including Western blotting, ELISA, cellular immunofluorescence, immunoprecipitation and related assays. This methodology will accelerate antibody discovery and ultimately bring us closer to realizing the goal of generating renewable, high quality antibodies to the proteome.
Immunology, Issue 95, Bacteria, Viruses, Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, Nucleic Acids, Nucleotides, and Nucleosides, Life Sciences (General), phage display, synthetic antibodies, high throughput, antibody selection, scalable methodology
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A Restriction Enzyme Based Cloning Method to Assess the In vitro Replication Capacity of HIV-1 Subtype C Gag-MJ4 Chimeric Viruses
Authors: Daniel T. Claiborne, Jessica L. Prince, Eric Hunter.
Institutions: Emory University, Emory University.
The protective effect of many HLA class I alleles on HIV-1 pathogenesis and disease progression is, in part, attributed to their ability to target conserved portions of the HIV-1 genome that escape with difficulty. Sequence changes attributed to cellular immune pressure arise across the genome during infection, and if found within conserved regions of the genome such as Gag, can affect the ability of the virus to replicate in vitro. Transmission of HLA-linked polymorphisms in Gag to HLA-mismatched recipients has been associated with reduced set point viral loads. We hypothesized this may be due to a reduced replication capacity of the virus. Here we present a novel method for assessing the in vitro replication of HIV-1 as influenced by the gag gene isolated from acute time points from subtype C infected Zambians. This method uses restriction enzyme based cloning to insert the gag gene into a common subtype C HIV-1 proviral backbone, MJ4. This makes it more appropriate to the study of subtype C sequences than previous recombination based methods that have assessed the in vitro replication of chronically derived gag-pro sequences. Nevertheless, the protocol could be readily modified for studies of viruses from other subtypes. Moreover, this protocol details a robust and reproducible method for assessing the replication capacity of the Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses on a CEM-based T cell line. This method was utilized for the study of Gag-MJ4 chimeric viruses derived from 149 subtype C acutely infected Zambians, and has allowed for the identification of residues in Gag that affect replication. More importantly, the implementation of this technique has facilitated a deeper understanding of how viral replication defines parameters of early HIV-1 pathogenesis such as set point viral load and longitudinal CD4+ T cell decline.
Infectious Diseases, Issue 90, HIV-1, Gag, viral replication, replication capacity, viral fitness, MJ4, CEM, GXR25
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Understanding Early Organogenesis Using a Simplified In Situ Hybridization Protocol in Xenopus
Authors: Steven J. Deimling, Rami R. Halabi, Stephanie A. Grover, Jean H. Wang, Thomas A. Drysdale.
Institutions: Hospital for Sick Children, University of Western Ontario, University of Western Ontario, Hospital for Sick Children, University of Western Ontario.
Organogenesis is the study of how organs are specified and then acquire their specific shape and functions during development. The Xenopuslaevis embryo is very useful for studying organogenesis because their large size makes them very suitable for identifying organs at the earliest steps in organogenesis. At this time, the primary method used for identifying a specific organ or primordium is whole mount in situ hybridization with labeled antisense RNA probes specific to a gene that is expressed in the organ of interest. In addition, it is relatively easy to manipulate genes or signaling pathways in Xenopus and in situ hybridization allows one to then assay for changes in the presence or morphology of a target organ. Whole mount in situ hybridization is a multi-day protocol with many steps involved. Here we provide a simplified protocol with reduced numbers of steps and reagents used that works well for routine assays. In situ hybridization robots have greatly facilitated the process and we detail how and when we utilize that technology in the process. Once an in situ hybridization is complete, capturing the best image of the result can be frustrating. We provide advice on how to optimize imaging of in situ hybridization results. Although the protocol describes assessing organogenesis in Xenopus laevis, the same basic protocol can almost certainly be adapted to Xenopus tropicalis and other model systems.
Developmental Biology, Issue 95, Xenopus, organogenesis, in situ hybridization, RNA methods, embryology, imaging, whole mount
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Experimental Protocol for Manipulating Plant-induced Soil Heterogeneity
Authors: Angela J. Brandt, Gaston A. del Pino, Jean H. Burns.
Institutions: Case Western Reserve University.
Coexistence theory has often treated environmental heterogeneity as being independent of the community composition; however biotic feedbacks such as plant-soil feedbacks (PSF) have large effects on plant performance, and create environmental heterogeneity that depends on the community composition. Understanding the importance of PSF for plant community assembly necessitates understanding of the role of heterogeneity in PSF, in addition to mean PSF effects. Here, we describe a protocol for manipulating plant-induced soil heterogeneity. Two example experiments are presented: (1) a field experiment with a 6-patch grid of soils to measure plant population responses and (2) a greenhouse experiment with 2-patch soils to measure individual plant responses. Soils can be collected from the zone of root influence (soils from the rhizosphere and directly adjacent to the rhizosphere) of plants in the field from conspecific and heterospecific plant species. Replicate collections are used to avoid pseudoreplicating soil samples. These soils are then placed into separate patches for heterogeneous treatments or mixed for a homogenized treatment. Care should be taken to ensure that heterogeneous and homogenized treatments experience the same degree of soil disturbance. Plants can then be placed in these soil treatments to determine the effect of plant-induced soil heterogeneity on plant performance. We demonstrate that plant-induced heterogeneity results in different outcomes than predicted by traditional coexistence models, perhaps because of the dynamic nature of these feedbacks. Theory that incorporates environmental heterogeneity influenced by the assembling community and additional empirical work is needed to determine when heterogeneity intrinsic to the assembling community will result in different assembly outcomes compared with heterogeneity extrinsic to the community composition.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 85, Coexistence, community assembly, environmental drivers, plant-soil feedback, soil heterogeneity, soil microbial communities, soil patch
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In Vitro Reconstitution of Light-harvesting Complexes of Plants and Green Algae
Authors: Alberto Natali, Laura M. Roy, Roberta Croce.
Institutions: VU University Amsterdam.
In plants and green algae, light is captured by the light-harvesting complexes (LHCs), a family of integral membrane proteins that coordinate chlorophylls and carotenoids. In vivo, these proteins are folded with pigments to form complexes which are inserted in the thylakoid membrane of the chloroplast. The high similarity in the chemical and physical properties of the members of the family, together with the fact that they can easily lose pigments during isolation, makes their purification in a native state challenging. An alternative approach to obtain homogeneous preparations of LHCs was developed by Plumley and Schmidt in 19871, who showed that it was possible to reconstitute these complexes in vitro starting from purified pigments and unfolded apoproteins, resulting in complexes with properties very similar to that of native complexes. This opened the way to the use of bacterial expressed recombinant proteins for in vitro reconstitution. The reconstitution method is powerful for various reasons: (1) pure preparations of individual complexes can be obtained, (2) pigment composition can be controlled to assess their contribution to structure and function, (3) recombinant proteins can be mutated to study the functional role of the individual residues (e.g., pigment binding sites) or protein domain (e.g., protein-protein interaction, folding). This method has been optimized in several laboratories and applied to most of the light-harvesting complexes. The protocol described here details the method of reconstituting light-harvesting complexes in vitro currently used in our laboratory, and examples describing applications of the method are provided.
Biochemistry, Issue 92, Reconstitution, Photosynthesis, Chlorophyll, Carotenoids, Light Harvesting Protein, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, Arabidopsis thaliana
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Use of MALDI-TOF Mass Spectrometry and a Custom Database to Characterize Bacteria Indigenous to a Unique Cave Environment (Kartchner Caverns, AZ, USA)
Authors: Lin Zhang, Katleen Vranckx, Koen Janssens, Todd R. Sandrin.
Institutions: Arizona State University, Applied Maths NV.
MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry has been shown to be a rapid and reliable tool for identification of bacteria at the genus and species, and in some cases, strain levels. Commercially available and open source software tools have been developed to facilitate identification; however, no universal/standardized data analysis pipeline has been described in the literature. Here, we provide a comprehensive and detailed demonstration of bacterial identification procedures using a MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer. Mass spectra were collected from 15 diverse bacteria isolated from Kartchner Caverns, AZ, USA, and identified by 16S rDNA sequencing. Databases were constructed in BioNumerics 7.1. Follow-up analyses of mass spectra were performed, including cluster analyses, peak matching, and statistical analyses. Identification was performed using blind-coded samples randomly selected from these 15 bacteria. Two identification methods are presented: similarity coefficient-based and biomarker-based methods. Results show that both identification methods can identify the bacteria to the species level.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 95, Identification, environmental bacteria, MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, BioNumerics, fingerprint, database, similarity coefficient, biomarker
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Large-Scale Purification of Porcine or Bovine Photoreceptor Outer Segments for Phagocytosis Assays on Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells
Authors: Célia Parinot, Quentin Rieu, Jonathan Chatagnon, Silvia C. Finnemann, Emeline F. Nandrot.
Institutions: INSERM, U968, Institut de la Vision, CNRS, UMR_7210, Fordham University.
Analysis of one of the vital functions of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, the phagocytosis of spent aged distal fragments of photoreceptor outer segments (POS) can be performed in vitro. Photoreceptor outer segments with stacks of membranous discs containing the phototransduction machinery are continuously renewed in the retina. Spent POS are eliminated daily by RPE cells. Rodent, porcine/bovine and human RPE cells recognize POS from various species in a similar manner. To facilitate performing large series of experiments with little variability, a large stock of POS can be isolated from porcine eyes and stored frozen in aliquots. This protocol takes advantage of the characteristic of photopigments that display an orange color when kept in the dark. Under dim red light, retinae are collected in a buffer from opened eyecups cut in halves. The retinal cell suspension is homogenized, filtered and loaded onto a continuous sucrose gradient. After centrifugation, POS are located in a discrete band in the upper part of the gradient that has a characteristic orange color. POS are then collected, spun, resuspended sequentially in wash buffers, counted and aliquoted. POS obtained this way can be used for phagocytosis assays and analysis of protein activation, localization or interaction at various times after POS challenge. Alternatively, POS can be labeled with fluorophores, e.g., FITC, before aliquoting for subsequent fluorescence quantification of POS binding or engulfment. Other possible applications include the use of modified POS or POS challenge combined with stress conditions to study the effect of oxidative stress or aging on RPE cells.
Immunology, Issue 94, Retina, photoreceptor, outer segment, sucrose gradient, purification, ultracentrifugation, phagocytosis assay, retinal pigment epithelium
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Purifying the Impure: Sequencing Metagenomes and Metatranscriptomes from Complex Animal-associated Samples
Authors: Yan Wei Lim, Matthew Haynes, Mike Furlan, Charles E. Robertson, J. Kirk Harris, Forest Rohwer.
Institutions: San Diego State University, DOE Joint Genome Institute, University of Colorado, University of Colorado.
The accessibility of high-throughput sequencing has revolutionized many fields of biology. In order to better understand host-associated viral and microbial communities, a comprehensive workflow for DNA and RNA extraction was developed. The workflow concurrently generates viral and microbial metagenomes, as well as metatranscriptomes, from a single sample for next-generation sequencing. The coupling of these approaches provides an overview of both the taxonomical characteristics and the community encoded functions. The presented methods use Cystic Fibrosis (CF) sputum, a problematic sample type, because it is exceptionally viscous and contains high amount of mucins, free neutrophil DNA, and other unknown contaminants. The protocols described here target these problems and successfully recover viral and microbial DNA with minimal human DNA contamination. To complement the metagenomics studies, a metatranscriptomics protocol was optimized to recover both microbial and host mRNA that contains relatively few ribosomal RNA (rRNA) sequences. An overview of the data characteristics is presented to serve as a reference for assessing the success of the methods. Additional CF sputum samples were also collected to (i) evaluate the consistency of the microbiome profiles across seven consecutive days within a single patient, and (ii) compare the consistency of metagenomic approach to a 16S ribosomal RNA gene-based sequencing. The results showed that daily fluctuation of microbial profiles without antibiotic perturbation was minimal and the taxonomy profiles of the common CF-associated bacteria were highly similar between the 16S rDNA libraries and metagenomes generated from the hypotonic lysis (HL)-derived DNA. However, the differences between 16S rDNA taxonomical profiles generated from total DNA and HL-derived DNA suggest that hypotonic lysis and the washing steps benefit in not only removing the human-derived DNA, but also microbial-derived extracellular DNA that may misrepresent the actual microbial profiles.
Molecular Biology, Issue 94, virome, microbiome, metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, cystic fibrosis, mucosal-surface
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Physical, Chemical and Biological Characterization of Six Biochars Produced for the Remediation of Contaminated Sites
Authors: Mackenzie J. Denyes, Michèle A. Parisien, Allison Rutter, Barbara A. Zeeb.
Institutions: Royal Military College of Canada, Queen's University.
The physical and chemical properties of biochar vary based on feedstock sources and production conditions, making it possible to engineer biochars with specific functions (e.g. carbon sequestration, soil quality improvements, or contaminant sorption). In 2013, the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) made publically available their Standardized Product Definition and Product Testing Guidelines (Version 1.1) which set standards for physical and chemical characteristics for biochar. Six biochars made from three different feedstocks and at two temperatures were analyzed for characteristics related to their use as a soil amendment. The protocol describes analyses of the feedstocks and biochars and includes: cation exchange capacity (CEC), specific surface area (SSA), organic carbon (OC) and moisture percentage, pH, particle size distribution, and proximate and ultimate analysis. Also described in the protocol are the analyses of the feedstocks and biochars for contaminants including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), metals and mercury as well as nutrients (phosphorous, nitrite and nitrate and ammonium as nitrogen). The protocol also includes the biological testing procedures, earthworm avoidance and germination assays. Based on the quality assurance / quality control (QA/QC) results of blanks, duplicates, standards and reference materials, all methods were determined adequate for use with biochar and feedstock materials. All biochars and feedstocks were well within the criterion set by the IBI and there were little differences among biochars, except in the case of the biochar produced from construction waste materials. This biochar (referred to as Old biochar) was determined to have elevated levels of arsenic, chromium, copper, and lead, and failed the earthworm avoidance and germination assays. Based on these results, Old biochar would not be appropriate for use as a soil amendment for carbon sequestration, substrate quality improvements or remediation.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 93, biochar, characterization, carbon sequestration, remediation, International Biochar Initiative (IBI), soil amendment
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Monitoring Intraspecies Competition in a Bacterial Cell Population by Cocultivation of Fluorescently Labelled Strains
Authors: Lorena Stannek, Richard Egelkamp, Katrin Gunka, Fabian M. Commichau.
Institutions: Georg-August University.
Many microorganisms such as bacteria proliferate extremely fast and the populations may reach high cell densities. Small fractions of cells in a population always have accumulated mutations that are either detrimental or beneficial for the cell. If the fitness effect of a mutation provides the subpopulation with a strong selective growth advantage, the individuals of this subpopulation may rapidly outcompete and even completely eliminate their immediate fellows. Thus, small genetic changes and selection-driven accumulation of cells that have acquired beneficial mutations may lead to a complete shift of the genotype of a cell population. Here we present a procedure to monitor the rapid clonal expansion and elimination of beneficial and detrimental mutations, respectively, in a bacterial cell population over time by cocultivation of fluorescently labeled individuals of the Gram-positive model bacterium Bacillus subtilis. The method is easy to perform and very illustrative to display intraspecies competition among the individuals in a bacterial cell population.
Cellular Biology, Issue 83, Bacillus subtilis, evolution, adaptation, selective pressure, beneficial mutation, intraspecies competition, fluorophore-labelling, Fluorescence Microscopy
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High-throughput Fluorometric Measurement of Potential Soil Extracellular Enzyme Activities
Authors: Colin W. Bell, Barbara E. Fricks, Jennifer D. Rocca, Jessica M. Steinweg, Shawna K. McMahon, Matthew D. Wallenstein.
Institutions: Colorado State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Colorado.
Microbes in soils and other environments produce extracellular enzymes to depolymerize and hydrolyze organic macromolecules so that they can be assimilated for energy and nutrients. Measuring soil microbial enzyme activity is crucial in understanding soil ecosystem functional dynamics. The general concept of the fluorescence enzyme assay is that synthetic C-, N-, or P-rich substrates bound with a fluorescent dye are added to soil samples. When intact, the labeled substrates do not fluoresce. Enzyme activity is measured as the increase in fluorescence as the fluorescent dyes are cleaved from their substrates, which allows them to fluoresce. Enzyme measurements can be expressed in units of molarity or activity. To perform this assay, soil slurries are prepared by combining soil with a pH buffer. The pH buffer (typically a 50 mM sodium acetate or 50 mM Tris buffer), is chosen for the buffer's particular acid dissociation constant (pKa) to best match the soil sample pH. The soil slurries are inoculated with a nonlimiting amount of fluorescently labeled (i.e. C-, N-, or P-rich) substrate. Using soil slurries in the assay serves to minimize limitations on enzyme and substrate diffusion. Therefore, this assay controls for differences in substrate limitation, diffusion rates, and soil pH conditions; thus detecting potential enzyme activity rates as a function of the difference in enzyme concentrations (per sample). Fluorescence enzyme assays are typically more sensitive than spectrophotometric (i.e. colorimetric) assays, but can suffer from interference caused by impurities and the instability of many fluorescent compounds when exposed to light; so caution is required when handling fluorescent substrates. Likewise, this method only assesses potential enzyme activities under laboratory conditions when substrates are not limiting. Caution should be used when interpreting the data representing cross-site comparisons with differing temperatures or soil types, as in situ soil type and temperature can influence enzyme kinetics.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 81, Ecological and Environmental Phenomena, Environment, Biochemistry, Environmental Microbiology, Soil Microbiology, Ecology, Eukaryota, Archaea, Bacteria, Soil extracellular enzyme activities (EEAs), fluorometric enzyme assays, substrate degradation, 4-methylumbelliferone (MUB), 7-amino-4-methylcoumarin (MUC), enzyme temperature kinetics, soil
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Patch Clamp Recordings from Mouse Retinal Neurons in a Dark-adapted Slice Preparation
Authors: A. Cyrus Arman, Alapakkam P. Sampath.
Institutions: University of Southern California, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.
Our visual experience is initiated when the visual pigment in our retinal photoreceptors absorbs photons of light energy and initiates a cascade of intracellular events that lead to closure of cyclic-nucleotide-gated channels in the cell membrane. The resulting change in membrane potential leads in turn to reductions in the amount of neurotransmitter release from both rod and cone synaptic terminals. To measure how the light-evoked change in photoreceptor membrane potential leads to downstream activity in the retina, scientists have made electrophysiological recordings from retinal slice preparations for decades1,2. In the past these slices have been cut manually with a razor blade on retinal tissue that is attached to filter paper; in recent years another method of slicing has been developed whereby retinal tissue is embedded in low gelling temperature agar and sliced in cool solution with a vibrating microtome3,4. This preparation produces retinal slices with less surface damage and very robust light-evoked responses. Here we document how this procedure can be done under infrared light to avoid bleaching the visual pigment.
Neuroscience, Issue 43, vision, mice, retina, photoreceptor, bipolar cell, slice preparation, patch clamp
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Preparation of Living Isolated Vertebrate Photoreceptor Cells for Fluorescence Imaging
Authors: Nicholas P. Boyer, Chunhe Chen, Yiannis Koutalos.
Institutions: Medical University of South Carolina.
In the vertebrate retina, phototransduction, the conversion of light to an electrical signal, is carried out by the rod and cone photoreceptor cells1-4. Rod photoreceptors are responsible for vision in dim light, cones in bright light. Phototransduction takes place in the outer segment of the photoreceptor cell, a specialized compartment that contains a high concentration of visual pigment, the primary light detector. The visual pigment is composed of a chromophore, 11-cis retinal, attached to a protein, opsin. A photon absorbed by the visual pigment isomerizes the chromophore from 11-cis to all-trans. This photoisomerization brings about a conformational change in the visual pigment that initiates a cascade of reactions culminating in a change in membrane potential, and bringing about the transduction of the light stimulus to an electrical signal. The recovery of the cell from light stimulation involves the deactivation of the intermediates activated by light, and the reestablishment of the membrane potential. Ca2+ modulates the activity of several of the enzymes involved in phototransduction, and its concentration is reduced upon light stimulation. In this way, Ca2+ plays an important role in the recovery of the cell from light stimulation and its adaptation to background light. Another essential part of the recovery process is the regeneration of the visual pigment that has been destroyed during light-detection by the photoisomerization of its 11-cis chromophore to all-trans5-7. This regeneration begins with the release of all-trans retinal by the photoactivated pigment, leaving behind the apo-protein opsin. The released all-trans retinal is rapidly reduced in a reaction utilizing NADPH to all- trans retinol, and opsin combines with fresh 11-cis retinal brought into the outer segment to reform the visual pigment. All-trans retinol is then transferred out of the outer segment and into neighboring cells by the specialized carrier Interphotoreceptor Retinoid Binding Protein (IRBP). Fluorescence imaging of single photoreceptor cells can be used to study their physiology and cell biology. Ca2+-sensitive fluorescent dyes can be used to examine in detail the interplay between outer segment Ca2+ changes and response to light8-12 as well as the role of inner segment Ca2+ stores in Ca2+ homeostasis13,14. Fluorescent dyes can also be used for measuring Mg2+ concentration15, pH, and as tracers of aqueous and membrane compartments16. Finally, the intrinsic fluorescence of all-trans retinol (vitamin A) can be used to monitor the kinetics of its formation and removal in single photoreceptor cells17-19.
Neuroscience, Issue 52, retina, rods, cones, vision, fluorescence
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Aseptic Laboratory Techniques: Plating Methods
Authors: Erin R. Sanders.
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles .
Microorganisms are present on all inanimate surfaces creating ubiquitous sources of possible contamination in the laboratory. Experimental success relies on the ability of a scientist to sterilize work surfaces and equipment as well as prevent contact of sterile instruments and solutions with non-sterile surfaces. Here we present the steps for several plating methods routinely used in the laboratory to isolate, propagate, or enumerate microorganisms such as bacteria and phage. All five methods incorporate aseptic technique, or procedures that maintain the sterility of experimental materials. Procedures described include (1) streak-plating bacterial cultures to isolate single colonies, (2) pour-plating and (3) spread-plating to enumerate viable bacterial colonies, (4) soft agar overlays to isolate phage and enumerate plaques, and (5) replica-plating to transfer cells from one plate to another in an identical spatial pattern. These procedures can be performed at the laboratory bench, provided they involve non-pathogenic strains of microorganisms (Biosafety Level 1, BSL-1). If working with BSL-2 organisms, then these manipulations must take place in a biosafety cabinet. Consult the most current edition of the Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories (BMBL) as well as Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for Infectious Substances to determine the biohazard classification as well as the safety precautions and containment facilities required for the microorganism in question. Bacterial strains and phage stocks can be obtained from research investigators, companies, and collections maintained by particular organizations such as the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC). It is recommended that non-pathogenic strains be used when learning the various plating methods. By following the procedures described in this protocol, students should be able to: ● Perform plating procedures without contaminating media. ● Isolate single bacterial colonies by the streak-plating method. ● Use pour-plating and spread-plating methods to determine the concentration of bacteria. ● Perform soft agar overlays when working with phage. ● Transfer bacterial cells from one plate to another using the replica-plating procedure. ● Given an experimental task, select the appropriate plating method.
Basic Protocols, Issue 63, Streak plates, pour plates, soft agar overlays, spread plates, replica plates, bacteria, colonies, phage, plaques, dilutions
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A Protocol for Detecting and Scavenging Gas-phase Free Radicals in Mainstream Cigarette Smoke
Authors: Long-Xi Yu, Boris G. Dzikovski, Jack H. Freed.
Institutions: CDCF-AOX Lab, Cornell University.
Cigarette smoking is associated with human cancers. It has been reported that most of the lung cancer deaths are caused by cigarette smoking 5,6,7,12. Although tobacco tars and related products in the particle phase of cigarette smoke are major causes of carcinogenic and mutagenic related diseases, cigarette smoke contains significant amounts of free radicals that are also considered as an important group of carcinogens9,10. Free radicals attack cell constituents by damaging protein structure, lipids and DNA sequences and increase the risks of developing various types of cancers. Inhaled radicals produce adducts that contribute to many of the negative health effects of tobacco smoke in the lung3. Studies have been conducted to reduce free radicals in cigarette smoke to decrease risks of the smoking-induced damage. It has been reported that haemoglobin and heme-containing compounds could partially scavenge nitric oxide, reactive oxidants and carcinogenic volatile nitrosocompounds of cigarette smoke4. A 'bio-filter' consisted of haemoglobin and activated carbon was used to scavenge the free radicals and to remove up to 90% of the free radicals from cigarette smoke14. However, due to the cost-ineffectiveness, it has not been successfully commercialized. Another study showed good scavenging efficiency of shikonin, a component of Chinese herbal medicine8. In the present study, we report a protocol for introducing common natural antioxidant extracts into the cigarette filter for scavenging gas phase free radicals in cigarette smoke and measurement of the scavenge effect on gas phase free radicals in mainstream cigarette smoke (MCS) using spin-trapping Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) Spectroscopy1,2,14. We showed high scavenging capacity of lycopene and grape seed extract which could point to their future application in cigarette filters. An important advantage of these prospective scavengers is that they can be obtained in large quantities from byproducts of tomato or wine industry respectively11,13
Bioengineering, Issue 59, Cigarette smoke, free radical, spin-trap, ESR
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Establishment of Microbial Eukaryotic Enrichment Cultures from a Chemically Stratified Antarctic Lake and Assessment of Carbon Fixation Potential
Authors: Jenna M. Dolhi, Nicholas Ketchum, Rachael M. Morgan-Kiss.
Institutions: Miami University .
Lake Bonney is one of numerous permanently ice-covered lakes located in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. The perennial ice cover maintains a chemically stratified water column and unlike other inland bodies of water, largely prevents external input of carbon and nutrients from streams. Biota are exposed to numerous environmental stresses, including year-round severe nutrient deficiency, low temperatures, extreme shade, hypersalinity, and 24-hour darkness during the winter 1. These extreme environmental conditions limit the biota in Lake Bonney almost exclusively to microorganisms 2. Single-celled microbial eukaryotes (called "protists") are important players in global biogeochemical cycling 3 and play important ecological roles in the cycling of carbon in the dry valley lakes, occupying both primary and tertiary roles in the aquatic food web. In the dry valley aquatic food web, protists that fix inorganic carbon (autotrophy) are the major producers of organic carbon for organotrophic organisms 4, 2. Phagotrophic or heterotrophic protists capable of ingesting bacteria and smaller protists act as the top predators in the food web 5. Last, an unknown proportion of the protist population is capable of combined mixotrophic metabolism 6, 7. Mixotrophy in protists involves the ability to combine photosynthetic capability with phagotrophic ingestion of prey microorganisms. This form of mixotrophy differs from mixotrophic metabolism in bacterial species, which generally involves uptake dissolved carbon molecules. There are currently very few protist isolates from permanently ice-capped polar lakes, and studies of protist diversity and ecology in this extreme environment have been limited 8, 4, 9, 10, 5. A better understanding of protist metabolic versatility in the simple dry valley lake food web will aid in the development of models for the role of protists in the global carbon cycle. We employed an enrichment culture approach to isolate potentially phototrophic and mixotrophic protists from Lake Bonney. Sampling depths in the water column were chosen based on the location of primary production maxima and protist phylogenetic diversity 4, 11, as well as variability in major abiotic factors affecting protist trophic modes: shallow sampling depths are limited for major nutrients, while deeper sampling depths are limited by light availability. In addition, lake water samples were supplemented with multiple types of growth media to promote the growth of a variety of phototrophic organisms. RubisCO catalyzes the rate limiting step in the Calvin Benson Bassham (CBB) cycle, the major pathway by which autotrophic organisms fix inorganic carbon and provide organic carbon for higher trophic levels in aquatic and terrestrial food webs 12. In this study, we applied a radioisotope assay modified for filtered samples 13 to monitor maximum carboxylase activity as a proxy for carbon fixation potential and metabolic versatility in the Lake Bonney enrichment cultures.
Microbiology, Issue 62, Antarctic lake, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Enrichment cultivation, Microbial eukaryotes, RubisCO
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Isolating Primary Melanocyte-like Cells from the Mouse Heart
Authors: Hayoung Hwang, Fang Liu, Mark D. Levin, Vickas V. Patel.
Institutions: University of Pennsylvania .
We identified a novel population of melanocyte-like cells (also known as cardiac melanocytes) in the hearts of mice and humans that contribute to atrial arrhythmia triggers in mice. To investigate the electrical and biological properties of cardiac melanocytes we developed a procedure to isolate them from mouse hearts that we derived from those designed to isolate neonatal murine cardiomyocytes. In order to obtain healthier cardiac melanocytes suitable for more extensive patch clamp or biochemical studies, we developed a refined procedure for isolating and plating cardiac melanocytes based on those originally designed to isolate cutaneous melanocytes. The refined procedure is demonstrated in this review and produces larger numbers of healthy melanocyte-like cells that can be plated as a pure population or with cardiomyocytes.
Cellular Biology, Issue 91, melanocyte-like cells, heart, mouse, atrial myocytes, primary isolation
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Integrated Photoacoustic Ophthalmoscopy and Spectral-domain Optical Coherence Tomography
Authors: Wei Song, Qing Wei, Shuliang Jiao, Hao F. Zhang.
Institutions: Northwestern University, Harbin Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, Northwestern University.
Both the clinical diagnosis and fundamental investigation of major ocular diseases greatly benefit from various non-invasive ophthalmic imaging technologies. Existing retinal imaging modalities, such as fundus photography1, confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (cSLO)2, and optical coherence tomography (OCT)3, have significant contributions in monitoring disease onsets and progressions, and developing new therapeutic strategies. However, they predominantly rely on the back-reflected photons from the retina. As a consequence, the optical absorption properties of the retina, which are usually strongly associated with retinal pathophysiology status, are inaccessible by the traditional imaging technologies. Photoacoustic ophthalmoscopy (PAOM) is an emerging retinal imaging modality that permits the detection of the optical absorption contrasts in the eye with a high sensitivity4-7 . In PAOM nanosecond laser pulses are delivered through the pupil and scanned across the posterior eye to induce photoacoustic (PA) signals, which are detected by an unfocused ultrasonic transducer attached to the eyelid. Because of the strong optical absorption of hemoglobin and melanin, PAOM is capable of non-invasively imaging the retinal and choroidal vasculatures, and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) melanin at high contrasts 6,7. More importantly, based on the well-developed spectroscopic photoacoustic imaging5,8 , PAOM has the potential to map the hemoglobin oxygen saturation in retinal vessels, which can be critical in studying the physiology and pathology of several blinding diseases 9 such as diabetic retinopathy and neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Moreover, being the only existing optical-absorption-based ophthalmic imaging modality, PAOM can be integrated with well-established clinical ophthalmic imaging techniques to achieve more comprehensive anatomic and functional evaluations of the eye based on multiple optical contrasts6,10 . In this work, we integrate PAOM and spectral-domain OCT (SD-OCT) for simultaneously in vivo retinal imaging of rat, where both optical absorption and scattering properties of the retina are revealed. The system configuration, system alignment and imaging acquisition are presented.
Biomedical Engineering, Issue 71, Bioengineering, Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology, Opthalmology, Physics, Biophysics, Photoacoustic ophthalmology, ophthalmoscopy, optical coherence tomography, retinal imaging, spectral-domain, tomography, rat, animal model, imaging
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The Insect Galleria mellonella as a Powerful Infection Model to Investigate Bacterial Pathogenesis
Authors: Nalini Ramarao, Christina Nielsen-Leroux, Didier Lereclus.
Institutions: INRA, Micalis UMR1319, France.
The study of bacterial virulence often requires a suitable animal model. Mammalian models of infection are costly and may raise ethical issues. The use of insects as infection models provides a valuable alternative. Compared to other non-vertebrate model hosts such as nematodes, insects have a relatively advanced system of antimicrobial defenses and are thus more likely to produce information relevant to the mammalian infection process. Like mammals, insects possess a complex innate immune system1. Cells in the hemolymph are capable of phagocytosing or encapsulating microbial invaders, and humoral responses include the inducible production of lysozyme and small antibacterial peptides2,3. In addition, analogies are found between the epithelial cells of insect larval midguts and intestinal cells of mammalian digestive systems. Finally, several basic components essential for the bacterial infection process such as cell adhesion, resistance to antimicrobial peptides, tissue degradation and adaptation to oxidative stress are likely to be important in both insects and mammals1. Thus, insects are polyvalent tools for the identification and characterization of microbial virulence factors involved in mammalian infections. Larvae of the greater wax moth Galleria mellonella have been shown to provide a useful insight into the pathogenesis of a wide range of microbial infections including mammalian fungal (Fusarium oxysporum, Aspergillus fumigatus, Candida albicans) and bacterial pathogens, such as Staphylococcus aureus, Proteus vulgaris, Serratia marcescens Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Listeria monocytogenes or Enterococcus faecalis4-7. Regardless of the bacterial species, results obtained with Galleria larvae infected by direct injection through the cuticle consistently correlate with those of similar mammalian studies: bacterial strains that are attenuated in mammalian models demonstrate lower virulence in Galleria, and strains causing severe human infections are also highly virulent in the Galleria model8-11. Oral infection of Galleria is much less used and additional compounds, like specific toxins, are needed to reach mortality. G. mellonella larvae present several technical advantages: they are relatively large (last instar larvae before pupation are about 2 cm long and weight 250 mg), thus enabling the injection of defined doses of bacteria; they can be reared at various temperatures (20 °C to 30 °C) and infection studies can be conducted between 15 °C to above 37 °C12,13, allowing experiments that mimic a mammalian environment. In addition, insect rearing is easy and relatively cheap. Infection of the larvae allows monitoring bacterial virulence by several means, including calculation of LD5014, measurement of bacterial survival15,16 and examination of the infection process17. Here, we describe the rearing of the insects, covering all life stages of G. mellonella. We provide a detailed protocol of infection by two routes of inoculation: oral and intra haemocoelic. The bacterial model used in this protocol is Bacillus cereus, a Gram positive pathogen implicated in gastrointestinal as well as in other severe local or systemic opportunistic infections18,19.
Infection, Issue 70, Microbiology, Immunology, Molecular Biology, Bacteriology, Entomology, Bacteria, Galleria mellonella, greater wax moth, insect larvae, intra haemocoelic injection, ingestion, animal model, host pathogen interactions
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Isolation of Native Soil Microorganisms with Potential for Breaking Down Biodegradable Plastic Mulch Films Used in Agriculture
Authors: Graham Bailes, Margaret Lind, Andrew Ely, Marianne Powell, Jennifer Moore-Kucera, Carol Miles, Debra Inglis, Marion Brodhagen.
Institutions: Western Washington University, Washington State University Northwestern Research and Extension Center, Texas Tech University.
Fungi native to agricultural soils that colonized commercially available biodegradable mulch (BDM) films were isolated and assessed for potential to degrade plastics. Typically, when formulations of plastics are known and a source of the feedstock is available, powdered plastic can be suspended in agar-based media and degradation determined by visualization of clearing zones. However, this approach poorly mimics in situ degradation of BDMs. First, BDMs are not dispersed as small particles throughout the soil matrix. Secondly, BDMs are not sold commercially as pure polymers, but rather as films containing additives (e.g. fillers, plasticizers and dyes) that may affect microbial growth. The procedures described herein were used for isolates acquired from soil-buried mulch films. Fungal isolates acquired from excavated BDMs were tested individually for growth on pieces of new, disinfested BDMs laid atop defined medium containing no carbon source except agar. Isolates that grew on BDMs were further tested in liquid medium where BDMs were the sole added carbon source. After approximately ten weeks, fungal colonization and BDM degradation were assessed by scanning electron microscopy. Isolates were identified via analysis of ribosomal RNA gene sequences. This report describes methods for fungal isolation, but bacteria also were isolated using these methods by substituting media appropriate for bacteria. Our methodology should prove useful for studies investigating breakdown of intact plastic films or products for which plastic feedstocks are either unknown or not available. However our approach does not provide a quantitative method for comparing rates of BDM degradation.
Microbiology, Issue 75, Plant Biology, Environmental Sciences, Agricultural Sciences, Soil Science, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Genetics, Mycology, Fungi, Bacteria, Microorganisms, Biodegradable plastic, biodegradable mulch, compostable plastic, compostable mulch, plastic degradation, composting, breakdown, soil, 18S ribosomal DNA, isolation, culture
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Modifying the Bank Erosion Hazard Index (BEHI) Protocol for Rapid Assessment of Streambank Erosion in Northeastern Ohio
Authors: Sara E. Newton, Deanna M. Drenten.
Institutions: Cleveland Metroparks, Case Western Reserve University.
Understanding the source of pollution in a stream is vital to preserving, restoring, and maintaining the stream’s function and habitat it provides. Sediments from highly eroding streambanks are a major source of pollution in a stream system and have the potential to jeopardize habitat, infrastructure, and stream function. Watershed management practices throughout the Cleveland Metroparks attempt to locate and inventory the source and rate the risk of potential streambank erosion to assist in formulating effect stream, riparian, and habitat management recommendations. The Bank Erosion Hazard Index (BEHI), developed by David Rosgen of Wildland Hydrology is a fluvial geomorphic assessment procedure used to evaluate the susceptibility of potential streambank erosion based on a combination of several variables that are sensitive to various processes of erosion. This protocol can be time consuming, difficult for non-professionals, and confined to specific geomorphic regions. To address these constraints and assist in maintaining consistency and reducing user bias, modifications to this protocol include a “Pre-Screening Questionnaire”, elimination of the Study Bank-Height Ratio metric including the bankfull determination, and an adjusted scoring system. This modified protocol was used to assess several high priority streams within the Cleveland Metroparks. The original BEHI protocol was also used to confirm the results of the modified BEHI protocol. After using the modified assessment in the field, and comparing it to the original BEHI method, the two were found to produce comparable BEHI ratings of the streambanks, while significantly reducing the amount of time and resources needed to complete the modified protocol.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 96, Streambank erosion, bankfull, alluvial boundaries, sediment, geomorphic assessment, non-point source pollution, Bank Erosion Hazard Index
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