Carbon fiber electrodes are crucial for the detection of catecholamine release from vesicles in single cells for amperometry measurements. Here, we describe the techniques needed to generate low noise (<0.5 pA) electrodes. The techniques have been modified from published descriptions by previous researchers (1,2). Electrodes are made by preparing carbon fibers and threading them individually into each capillary tube by using a vacuum with a filter to aspirate the fiber. Next, the capillary tube with fiber is pulled by an electrode puller, creating two halves, each with a fine-pointed tip. The electrodes are dipped in hot, liquid epoxy mixed with hardener to create an epoxy-glass seal. Lastly, the electrodes are placed in an oven to cure the epoxy. Careful handling of the electrodes is critical to ensure that they are made consistently and without damage. This protocol shows how to fabricate and cut amperometric electrodes for recording from single cells.
26 Related JoVE Articles!
Visualization of ATP Synthase Dimers in Mitochondria by Electron Cryo-tomography
Institutions: Max Planck Institute of Biophysics.
Electron cryo-tomography is a powerful tool in structural biology, capable of visualizing the three-dimensional structure of biological samples, such as cells, organelles, membrane vesicles, or viruses at molecular detail. To achieve this, the aqueous sample is rapidly vitrified in liquid ethane, which preserves it in a close-to-native, frozen-hydrated state. In the electron microscope, tilt series are recorded at liquid nitrogen temperature, from which 3D tomograms are reconstructed. The signal-to-noise ratio of the tomographic volume is inherently low. Recognizable, recurring features are enhanced by subtomogram averaging, by which individual subvolumes are cut out, aligned and averaged to reduce noise. In this way, 3D maps with a resolution of 2 nm or better can be obtained. A fit of available high-resolution structures to the 3D volume then produces atomic models of protein complexes in their native environment. Here we show how we use electron cryo-tomography to study the in situ
organization of large membrane protein complexes in mitochondria. We find that ATP synthases are organized in rows of dimers along highly curved apices of the inner membrane cristae, whereas complex I is randomly distributed in the membrane regions on either side of the rows. By subtomogram averaging we obtained a structure of the mitochondrial ATP synthase dimer within the cristae membrane.
Structural Biology, Issue 91, electron microscopy, electron cryo-tomography, mitochondria, ultrastructure, membrane structure, membrane protein complexes, ATP synthase, energy conversion, bioenergetics
Towards Biomimicking Wood: Fabricated Free-standing Films of Nanocellulose, Lignin, and a Synthetic Polycation
Institutions: Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech, Illinois Institute of Technology- Moffett Campus, University of Guadalajara, Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech.
Woody materials are comprised of plant cell walls that contain a layered secondary cell wall composed of structural polymers of polysaccharides and lignin. Layer-by-layer (LbL) assembly process which relies on the assembly of oppositely charged molecules from aqueous solutions was used to build a freestanding composite film of isolated wood polymers of lignin and oxidized nanofibril cellulose (NFC). To facilitate the assembly of these negatively charged polymers, a positively charged polyelectrolyte, poly(diallyldimethylammomium chloride) (PDDA), was used as a linking layer to create this simplified model cell wall. The layered adsorption process was studied quantitatively using quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D) and ellipsometry. The results showed that layer mass/thickness per adsorbed layer increased as a function of total number of layers. The surface coverage of the adsorbed layers was studied with atomic force microscopy (AFM). Complete coverage of the surface with lignin in all the deposition cycles was found for the system, however, surface coverage by NFC increased with the number of layers. The adsorption process was carried out for 250 cycles (500 bilayers) on a cellulose acetate (CA) substrate. Transparent free-standing LBL assembled nanocomposite films were obtained when the CA substrate was later dissolved in acetone. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of the fractured cross-sections showed a lamellar structure, and the thickness per adsorption cycle (PDDA-Lignin-PDDA-NC) was estimated to be 17 nm for two different lignin types used in the study. The data indicates a film with highly controlled architecture where nanocellulose and lignin are spatially deposited on the nanoscale (a polymer-polymer nanocomposites), similar to what is observed in the native cell wall.
Plant Biology, Issue 88, nanocellulose, thin films, quartz crystal microbalance, layer-by-layer, LbL
In vivo Optogenetic Stimulation of the Rodent Central Nervous System
Institutions: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Stanford University.
The ability to probe defined neural circuits in awake, freely-moving animals with cell-type specificity, spatial precision, and high temporal resolution has been a long sought tool for neuroscientists in the systems-level search for the neural circuitry governing complex behavioral states. Optogenetics is a cutting-edge tool that is revolutionizing the field of neuroscience and represents one of the first systematic approaches to enable causal testing regarding the relation between neural signaling events and behavior. By combining optical and genetic approaches, neural signaling can be bi-directionally controlled through expression of light-sensitive ion channels (opsins) in mammalian cells. The current protocol describes delivery of specific wavelengths of light to opsin-expressing cells in deep brain structures of awake, freely-moving rodents for neural circuit modulation. Theoretical principles of light transmission as an experimental consideration are discussed in the context of performing in vivo
optogenetic stimulation. The protocol details the design and construction of both simple and complex laser configurations and describes tethering strategies to permit simultaneous stimulation of multiple animals for high-throughput behavioral testing.
Neuroscience, Issue 95, optogenetics, rodent, behavior, opsin, channelrhodopsin, brain, fiber optics, laser, neural circuits
Fundamental Technical Elements of Freeze-fracture/Freeze-etch in Biological Electron Microscopy
Institutions: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Freeze-fracture/freeze-etch describes a process whereby specimens, typically biological or nanomaterial in nature, are frozen, fractured, and replicated to generate a carbon/platinum “cast” intended for examination by transmission electron microscopy. Specimens are subjected to ultrarapid freezing rates, often in the presence of cryoprotective agents to limit ice crystal formation, with subsequent fracturing of the specimen at liquid nitrogen cooled temperatures under high vacuum. The resultant fractured surface is replicated and stabilized by evaporation of carbon and platinum from an angle that confers surface three-dimensional detail to the cast. This technique has proved particularly enlightening for the investigation of cell membranes and their specializations and has contributed considerably to the understanding of cellular form to related cell function. In this report, we survey the instrument requirements and technical protocol for performing freeze-fracture, the associated nomenclature and characteristics of fracture planes, variations on the conventional procedure, and criteria for interpretation of freeze-fracture images. This technique has been widely used for ultrastructural investigation in many areas of cell biology and holds promise as an emerging imaging technique for molecular, nanotechnology, and materials science studies.
Biophysics, Issue 91, Freeze-fracture; Freeze-etch; Membranes; Intercellular junctions; Materials science; Nanotechnology; Electron microscopy
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
Tandem High-pressure Freezing and Quick Freeze Substitution of Plant Tissues for Transmission Electron Microscopy
Institutions: University of Tennessee, Knoxville, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Since the 1940s transmission electron microscopy (TEM) has been providing biologists with ultra-high resolution images of biological materials. Yet, because of laborious and time-consuming protocols that also demand experience in preparation of artifact-free samples, TEM is not considered a user-friendly technique. Traditional sample preparation for TEM used chemical fixatives to preserve cellular structures. High-pressure freezing is the cryofixation of biological samples under high pressures to produce very fast cooling rates, thereby restricting ice formation, which is detrimental to the integrity of cellular ultrastructure. High-pressure freezing and freeze substitution are currently the methods of choice for producing the highest quality morphology in resin sections for TEM. These methods minimize the artifacts normally associated with conventional processing for TEM of thin sections. After cryofixation the frozen water in the sample is replaced with liquid organic solvent at low temperatures, a process called freeze substitution. Freeze substitution is typically carried out over several days in dedicated, costly equipment. A recent innovation allows the process to be completed in three hours, instead of the usual two days. This is typically followed by several more days of sample preparation that includes infiltration and embedding in epoxy resins before sectioning. Here we present a protocol combining high-pressure freezing and quick freeze substitution that enables plant sample fixation to be accomplished within hours. The protocol can readily be adapted for working with other tissues or organisms. Plant tissues are of special concern because of the presence of aerated spaces and water-filled vacuoles that impede ice-free freezing of water. In addition, the process of chemical fixation is especially long in plants due to cell walls impeding the penetration of the chemicals to deep within the tissues. Plant tissues are therefore particularly challenging, but this protocol is reliable and produces samples of the highest quality.
Plant Biology, Issue 92, High-pressure freezing, freeze substitution, transmission electron microscopy, ultrastructure, Nicotiana benthamiana, Arabidopsis thaliana, imaging, cryofixation, dehydration
The Neuromuscular Junction: Measuring Synapse Size, Fragmentation and Changes in Synaptic Protein Density Using Confocal Fluorescence Microscopy
Institutions: University of Sydney, Macquarie University, University of Sydney.
The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is the large, cholinergic relay synapse through which mammalian motor neurons control voluntary muscle contraction. Structural changes at the NMJ can result in neurotransmission failure, resulting in weakness, atrophy and even death of the muscle fiber. Many studies have investigated how genetic modifications or disease can alter the structure of the mouse NMJ. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to directly compare findings from these studies because they often employed different parameters and analytical methods. Three protocols are described here. The first uses maximum intensity projection confocal images to measure the area of acetylcholine receptor (AChR)-rich postsynaptic membrane domains at the endplate and the area of synaptic vesicle staining in the overlying presynaptic nerve terminal. The second protocol compares the relative intensities of immunostaining for synaptic proteins in the postsynaptic membrane. The third protocol uses Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) to detect changes in the packing of postsynaptic AChRs at the endplate. The protocols have been developed and refined over a series of studies. Factors that influence the quality and consistency of results are discussed and normative data are provided for NMJs in healthy young adult mice.
Neuroscience, Issue 94, neuromuscular, motor endplate, motor control, sarcopenia, myasthenia gravis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, morphometry, confocal, immunofluorescence
Mosaic Zebrafish Transgenesis for Functional Genomic Analysis of Candidate Cooperative Genes in Tumor Pathogenesis
Institutions: Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Center for Individualized Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, Mayo Clinic.
Comprehensive genomic analysis has uncovered surprisingly large numbers of genetic alterations in various types of cancers. To robustly and efficiently identify oncogenic “drivers” among these tumors and define their complex relationships with concurrent genetic alterations during tumor pathogenesis remains a daunting task. Recently, zebrafish have emerged as an important animal model for studying human diseases, largely because of their ease of maintenance, high fecundity, obvious advantages for in vivo
imaging, high conservation of oncogenes and their molecular pathways, susceptibility to tumorigenesis and, most importantly, the availability of transgenic techniques suitable for use in the fish. Transgenic zebrafish models of cancer have been widely used to dissect oncogenic pathways in diverse tumor types. However, developing a stable transgenic fish model is both tedious and time-consuming, and it is even more difficult and more time-consuming to dissect the cooperation of multiple genes in disease pathogenesis using this approach, which requires the generation of multiple transgenic lines with overexpression of the individual genes of interest followed by complicated breeding of these stable transgenic lines. Hence, use of a mosaic transient transgenic approach in zebrafish offers unique advantages for functional genomic analysis in vivo
. Briefly, candidate transgenes can be coinjected into one-cell-stage wild-type or transgenic zebrafish embryos and allowed to integrate together into each somatic cell in a mosaic pattern that leads to mixed genotypes in the same primarily injected animal. This permits one to investigate in a faster and less expensive manner whether and how the candidate genes can collaborate with each other to drive tumorigenesis. By transient overexpression of activated ALK
in the transgenic fish overexpressing MYCN
, we demonstrate here the cooperation of these two oncogenes in the pathogenesis of a pediatric cancer, neuroblastoma that has resisted most forms of contemporary treatment.
Developmental Biology, Issue 97, zebrafish, animal model, mosaic transgenesis, coinjection, functional genomics, tumor initiation
Electrospun Nanofiber Scaffolds with Gradations in Fiber Organization
Institutions: University of Nebraska Medical Center, Marshall University.
The goal of this protocol is to report a simple method for generating nanofiber scaffolds with gradations in fiber organization and test their possible applications in controlling cell morphology/orientation. Nanofiber organization is controlled with a new fabrication apparatus that enables the gradual decrease of fiber organization in a scaffold. Changing the alignment of fibers is achieved through decreasing deposition time of random electrospun fibers on a uniaxially aligned fiber mat. By covering the collector with a moving barrier/mask, along the same axis as fiber deposition, the organizational structure is easily controlled. For tissue engineering purposes, adipose-derived stem cells can be seeded to these scaffolds. Stem cells undergo morphological changes as a result of their position on the varied organizational structure, and can potentially differentiate into different cell types depending on their locations. Additionally, the graded organization of fibers enhances the biomimicry of nanofiber scaffolds so they more closely resemble the natural orientations of collagen nanofibers at tendon-to-bone insertion site compared to traditional scaffolds. Through nanoencapsulation, the gradated fibers also afford the possibility to construct chemical gradients in fiber scaffolds, and thereby further strengthen their potential applications in fast screening of cell-materials interaction and interfacial tissue regeneration. This technique enables the production of continuous gradient scaffolds, but it also can potentially produce fibers in discrete steps by controlling the movement of the moving barrier/mask in a discrete fashion.
Bioengineering, Issue 98, Electrospinning, Nanofiber scaffolds, Gradations, Stem cells, Tissue engineering, Nanoencapsulation
Prescribed 3-D Direct Writing of Suspended Micron/Sub-micron Scale Fiber Structures via a Robotic Dispensing System
Institutions: University of Louisville.
A 3-axis dispensing system is utilized to control the initiating and terminating fiber positions and trajectory via the dispensing software. The polymer fiber length and orientation is defined by the spatial positioning of the dispensing system 3-axis stages. The fiber diameter is defined by the prescribed dispense time of the dispensing system valve, the feed rate (the speed at which the stage traverses from an initiating to a terminating position), the gauge diameter of the dispensing tip, the viscosity and surface tension of the polymer solution, and the programmed drawing length. The stage feed rate affects the polymer solution’s evaporation rate and capillary breakup of the filaments. The dispensing system consists of a pneumatic valve controller, a droplet-dispensing valve and a dispensing tip. Characterization of the direct write process to determine the optimum combination of factors leads to repeatedly acquiring the desired range of fiber diameters. The advantage of this robotic dispensing system is the ease of obtaining a precise range of micron/sub-micron fibers onto a desired, programmed location via automated process control. Here, the discussed self-assembled micron/sub-micron scale 3D structures have been employed to fabricate suspended structures to create micron/sub-micron fluidic devices and bioengineered scaffolds.
Engineering, Issue 100, Direct write, precise control, micro/sub-micron scale fibers, 3-axis robot, dispensing system
Correlative Confocal and 3D Electron Microscopy of a Specific Sensory Cell
Institutions: Duke University Medical Center, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Renovo Neural Incorporated.
Delineation of a cell’s ultrastructure is important for understanding its function. This can be a daunting project for rare cell types diffused throughout tissues made of diverse cell types, such as enteroendocrine cells of the intestinal epithelium. These gastrointestinal sensors of food and bacteria have been difficult to study because they are dispersed among other epithelial cells at a ratio of 1:1,000. Recently, transgenic reporter mice have been generated to identify enteroendocrine cells by means of fluorescence. One of those is the peptide YY-GFP mouse. Using this mouse, we developed a method to correlate confocal and serial block-face scanning electron microscopy. We named the method cocem3D and applied it to identify a specific enteroendocrine cell in tissue and unveil the cell’s ultrastructure in 3D. The resolution of cocem3D is sufficient to identify organelles as small as secretory vesicles and to distinguish cell membranes for volume rendering. Cocem3D can be easily adapted to study the 3D ultrastructure of other specific cell types in their native tissue.
Cellular Biology, Issue 101, Gut-Brain neurobiology, 3D electron microscopy, serial block-face scanning electron microscopy, chemosensory cell, neuropod, nutrient-sensing, gastrointestinal chemosensation
Microfluidic Fabrication of Polymeric and Biohybrid Fibers with Predesigned Size and Shape
Institutions: US Naval Research Laboratory, North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
A “sheath” fluid passing through a microfluidic channel at low Reynolds number can be directed around another “core” stream and used to dictate the shape as well as the diameter of a core stream. Grooves in the top and bottom of a microfluidic channel were designed to direct the sheath fluid and shape the core fluid. By matching the viscosity and hydrophilicity of the sheath and core fluids, the interfacial effects are minimized and complex fluid shapes can be formed. Controlling the relative flow rates of the sheath and core fluids determines the cross-sectional area of the core fluid. Fibers have been produced with sizes ranging from 300 nm to ~1 mm, and fiber cross-sections can be round, flat, square, or complex as in the case with double anchor fibers. Polymerization of the core fluid downstream from the shaping region solidifies the fibers. Photoinitiated click chemistries are well suited for rapid polymerization of the core fluid by irradiation with ultraviolet light. Fibers with a wide variety of shapes have been produced from a list of polymers including liquid crystals, poly(methylmethacrylate), thiol-ene and thiol-yne resins, polyethylene glycol, and hydrogel derivatives. Minimal shear during the shaping process and mild polymerization conditions also makes the fabrication process well suited for encapsulation of cells and other biological components.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, hydrodynamic focusing, polymer fiber, biohybrid, microfabrication, sheath flow, click chemistry
Designing Silk-silk Protein Alloy Materials for Biomedical Applications
Institutions: Rowan University, Rowan University, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Rowan University.
Fibrous proteins display different sequences and structures that have been used for various applications in biomedical fields such as biosensors, nanomedicine, tissue regeneration, and drug delivery. Designing materials based on the molecular-scale interactions between these proteins will help generate new multifunctional protein alloy biomaterials with tunable properties. Such alloy material systems also provide advantages in comparison to traditional synthetic polymers due to the materials biodegradability, biocompatibility, and tenability in the body. This article used the protein blends of wild tussah silk (Antheraea pernyi
) and domestic mulberry silk (Bombyx mori
) as an example to provide useful protocols regarding these topics, including how to predict protein-protein interactions by computational methods, how to produce protein alloy solutions, how to verify alloy systems by thermal analysis, and how to fabricate variable alloy materials including optical materials with diffraction gratings, electric materials with circuits coatings, and pharmaceutical materials for drug release and delivery. These methods can provide important information for designing the next generation multifunctional biomaterials based on different protein alloys.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, protein alloys, biomaterials, biomedical, silk blends, computational simulation, implantable electronic devices
Preparation of Primary Neurons for Visualizing Neurites in a Frozen-hydrated State Using Cryo-Electron Tomography
Institutions: Baylor College of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, University of California at San Diego, Baylor College of Medicine.
Neurites, both dendrites and axons, are neuronal cellular processes that enable the conduction of electrical impulses between neurons. Defining the structure of neurites is critical to understanding how these processes move materials and signals that support synaptic communication. Electron microscopy (EM) has been traditionally used to assess the ultrastructural features within neurites; however, the exposure to organic solvent during dehydration and resin embedding can distort structures. An important unmet goal is the formulation of procedures that allow for structural evaluations not impacted by such artifacts.
Here, we have established a detailed and reproducible protocol for growing and flash-freezing whole neurites of different primary neurons on electron microscopy grids followed by their examination with cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET). This technique allows for 3-D visualization of frozen, hydrated neurites at nanometer resolution, facilitating assessment of their morphological differences. Our protocol yields an unprecedented view of dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurites, and a visualization of hippocampal neurites in their near-native state. As such, these methods create a foundation for future studies on neurites of both normal neurons and those impacted by neurological disorders.
Neuroscience, Issue 84, Neurons, Cryo-electron Microscopy, Electron Microscope Tomography, Brain, rat, primary neuron culture, morphological assay
DNA Transfection of Mammalian Skeletal Muscles using In Vivo Electroporation
Institutions: David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles.
A growing interest in cell biology is to express transgenically modified forms of essential proteins (e.g. fluorescently tagged constructs and/or mutant variants) in order to investigate their endogenous distribution and functional relevance. An interesting approach that has been implemented to fulfill this objective in fully differentiated cells is the in vivo
transfection of plasmids by various methods into specific tissues such as liver1
, skeletal muscle2,3
, and even the brain4
. We present here a detailed description of the steps that must be followed in order to efficiently transfect genetic material into fibers of the flexor digitorum brevis
(FDB) and interosseus
(IO) muscles of adult mice using an in vivo
electroporation approach. The experimental parameters have been optimized so as to maximize the number of muscle fibers transfected while minimizing tissue damages that may impair the quality and quantity of the proteins expressed in individual fibers. We have verified that the implementation of the methodology described in this paper results in a high yield of soluble proteins, i.e. EGFP and ECFP3
, calpain, FKBP12, β2a-DHPR, etc. ; structural proteins, i.e. minidystrophin and α-actinin; and membrane proteins, i.e. α1s-DHPR, RyR1, cardiac Na/Ca2+
exchanger , NaV1.4 Na channel, SERCA1, etc., when applied to FDB, IO and other muscles of mice and rats. The efficient expression of some of these proteins has been verified with biochemical3
and functional evidence5
. However, by far the most common confirmatory approach used by us are standard fluorescent microscopy and 2-photon laser scanning microscopy (TPLSM), which permit to identify not only the overall expression, but also the detailed intracellular localization, of fluorescently tagged protein constructs. The method could be equally used to transfect plasmids encoding for the expression of proteins of physiological relevance (as shown here), or for interference RNA (siRNA) aiming to suppress the expression of normally expressed proteins (not tested by us yet). It should be noted that the transfection of FDB and IO muscle fibers is particularly relevant for the investigation of mammalian muscle physiology since fibers enzymatically dissociated from these muscles are currently one of the most suitable models to investigate basic mechanisms of excitability and excitation-contraction coupling under current or voltage clamp conditions2,6-8
Cellular Biology, Issue 32, electroporation, skeletal muscle, plasmids, protein expression, mouse, two-photon microscopy, fluorescence, transgenic
Electrospinning Fibrous Polymer Scaffolds for Tissue Engineering and Cell Culture
Institutions: University of Pennsylvania .
As the field of tissue engineering evolves, there is a tremendous demand to produce more suitable materials and processing techniques in order to address the requirements (e.g., mechanics and vascularity) of more intricate organs and tissues. Electrospinning is a popular technique to create fibrous scaffolds that mimic the architecture and size scale of the native extracellular matrix. These fibrous scaffolds are also useful as cell culture substrates since the fibers can be used to direct cellular behavior, including stem cell differentiation (see extensive reviews by Mauck et al.
and Sill et al.
for more information). In this article, we describe the general process of electrospinning polymers and as an example, electrospin a reactive hyaluronic acid capable of crosslinking with light exposure (see Ifkovits et al.
for a review on photocrosslinkable materials). We also introduce further processing capabilities such as photopatterning and multi-polymer scaffold formation. Photopatterning can be used to create scaffolds with channels and multi-scale porosity to increase cellular infiltration and tissue distribution. Multi-polymer scaffolds are useful to better tune the properties (mechanics and degradation) of a scaffold, including tailored porosity for cellular infiltration. Furthermore, these techniques can be extended to include a wide array of polymers and reactive macromers to create complex scaffolds that provide the cues necessary for the development of successful tissue engineered constructs.
Cellular Biology, Issue 32, Electrospinning, Photocrosslinking, Photopatterning, Tissue Engineering, Scaffolds, Biomaterials, Bioengineering
Membrane Potentials, Synaptic Responses, Neuronal Circuitry, Neuromodulation and Muscle Histology Using the Crayfish: Student Laboratory Exercises
Institutions: University of Kentucky, University of Toronto.
The purpose of this report is to help develop an understanding of the effects caused by ion gradients across a biological membrane. Two aspects that influence a cell's membrane potential and which we address in these experiments are: (1) Ion concentration of K+
on the outside of the membrane, and (2) the permeability of the membrane to specific ions. The crayfish abdominal extensor muscles are in groupings with some being tonic (slow) and others phasic (fast) in their biochemical and physiological phenotypes, as well as in their structure; the motor neurons that innervate these muscles are correspondingly different in functional characteristics. We use these muscles as well as the superficial, tonic abdominal flexor muscle to demonstrate properties in synaptic transmission. In addition, we introduce a sensory-CNS-motor neuron-muscle circuit to demonstrate the effect of cuticular sensory stimulation as well as the influence of neuromodulators on certain aspects of the circuit. With the techniques obtained in this exercise, one can begin to answer many questions remaining in other experimental preparations as well as in physiological applications related to medicine and health. We have demonstrated the usefulness of model invertebrate preparations to address fundamental questions pertinent to all animals.
Neuroscience, Issue 47, Invertebrate, Crayfish, neurophysiology, muscle, anatomy, electrophysiology
TransFLP — A Method to Genetically Modify Vibrio cholerae Based on Natural Transformation and FLP-recombination
Institutions: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL).
Several methods are available to manipulate bacterial chromosomes1-3
. Most of these protocols rely on the insertion of conditionally replicative plasmids (e.g.
harboring pir-dependent or temperature-sensitive replicons1,2
). These plasmids are integrated into bacterial chromosomes based on homology-mediated recombination. Such insertional mutants are often directly used in experimental settings. Alternatively, selection for plasmid excision followed by its loss can be performed, which for Gram-negative bacteria often relies on the counter-selectable levan sucrase enzyme encoded by the sacB
. The excision can either restore the pre-insertion genotype or result in an exchange between the chromosome and the plasmid-encoded copy of the modified gene. A disadvantage of this technique is that it is time-consuming. The plasmid has to be cloned first; it requires horizontal transfer into V. cholerae
(most notably by mating with an E. coli
donor strain) or artificial transformation of the latter; and the excision of the plasmid is random and can either restore the initial genotype or create the desired modification if no positive selection is exerted. Here, we present a method for rapid manipulation of the V. cholerae
). This TransFLP method is based on the recently discovered chitin-mediated induction of natural competence in this organism6
and other representative of the genus Vibrio
such as V. fischeri7
. Natural competence allows the uptake of free DNA including PCR-generated DNA fragments. Once taken up, the DNA recombines with the chromosome given the presence of a minimum of 250-500 bp of flanking homologous region8
. Including a selection marker in-between these flanking regions allows easy detection of frequently occurring transformants.
This method can be used for different genetic manipulations of V. cholerae
and potentially also other naturally competent bacteria. We provide three novel examples on what can be accomplished by this method in addition to our previously published study on single gene deletions and the addition of affinity-tag sequences5
. Several optimization steps concerning the initial protocol of chitin-induced natural transformation6
are incorporated in this TransFLP protocol. These include among others the replacement of crab shell fragments by commercially available chitin flakes8
, the donation of PCR-derived DNA as transforming material9
, and the addition of FLP-recombination target sites (FRT)5
. FRT sites allow site-directed excision of the selection marker mediated by the Flp recombinase10
Immunology, Issue 68, Microbiology, Genetics, natural transformation, DNA uptake, FLP recombination, chitin, Vibrio cholerae
Using Unfixed, Frozen Tissues to Study Natural Mucin Distribution
Institutions: University of California, San Diego , Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Mucins are complex and heavily glycosylated O
-linked glycoproteins, which contain more than 70% carbohydrate by weight1-3
. Secreted mucins, produced by goblet cells and the gastric mucosa, provide the scaffold for a micrometers-thick mucus layer that lines the epithelia of the gut and respiratory tract3,4
. In addition to mucins, mucus layers also contain antimicrobial peptides, cytokines, and immunoglobulins5-9
. The mucus layer is an important part of host innate immunity, and forms the first line of defense against invading microorganisms8,10-12
. As such, the mucus is subject to numerous interactions with microbes, both pathogens and symbionts, and secreted mucins form an important interface for these interactions. The study of such biological interactions usually involves histological methods for tissue collection and staining. The two most commonly used histological methods for tissue collection and preservation in the clinic and in research laboratories are: formalin fixation followed by paraffin embedding, and tissue freezing, followed by embedding in cryo-protectant media.
Paraffin-embedded tissue samples produce sections with optimal qualities for histological visualization including clarity and well-defined morphology. However, during the paraffin embedding process a number of epitopes become altered and in order to study these epitopes, tissue sections have to be further processed with one of many epitope retrieval methods13
. Secreted mucins and lipids are extracted from the tissue during the paraffin-embedding clearing step, which requires prolong incubation with organic solvents (xylene or Citrisolv). Therefore this approach is sub-optimal for studies focusing on the nature and distribution of mucins and mucus in vivo
In contrast, freezing tissues in Optimal Cutting Temperature (OCT) embedding medium avoids dehydration and clearing of the sample, and maintains the sample hydration. This allows for better preservation of the hydrated mucus layer, and thus permits the study of the numerous roles of mucins in epithelial biology. As this method requires minimal processing of the tissue, the tissue is preserved in a more natural state. Therefore frozen tissues sections do not require any additional processing prior to staining and can be readily analyzed using immunohistochemistry methods.
We demonstrate the preservation of micrometers-thick secreted mucus layer in frozen colon samples. This layer is drastically reduced when the same tissues are embedded in paraffin. We also demonstrate immunofluorescence staining of glycan epitopes presented on mucins using plant lectins. The advantage of this approach is that it does not require the use of special fixatives and allows utilizing frozen tissues that may already be preserved in the laboratory.
Medicine, Issue 67, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Immunology, Biomedical Engineering, mucus, lectins, OCT, imaging, sialic acids, glycosylation
Procedure for Fabricating Biofunctional Nanofibers
Institutions: Clark Atlanta University, Clark Atlanta University, Cornell University.
Electrospinning is an effective processing method for preparing nanofibers decorated with functional groups. Nanofibers decorated with functional groups may be utilized to study material-biomarker interactions i.e.
act as biosensors with potential as single molecule detectors. We have developed an effective approach for preparing functional polymers where the functionality has the capacity of specifically binding with a model protein. In our model system, the functional group is 2,4-dinitrophenyl (DNP) and the protein is anti-DNP IgE (Immunoglobulin E). The functional polymer, α,ω-bi[2,4-dinitrophenyl caproic][poly(ethylene oxide)-b-poly(2-methoxystyrene)-b-poly(ethylene oxide)] (CDNP-PEO-P2MS-PEO-CDNP), is prepared by anionic living polymerization. The difunctional initiator utilized in the polymerization was prepared by electron transfer reaction of α-methylstyrene and potassium (mirror) metal. The 2-methoxystyrene monomer was added first to the initiator, followed by the addition of the second monomer, ethylene oxide, and finally the living polymer was terminated by methanol. The α,ω-dihydroxyl polymer [HO-PEO-P2MS-PEO-OH] was reacted with N-2,4-DNP-∈-amino caproic acid, by DCC coupling, resulting in the formation of α,ω-bi[2,4-dinitrophenylcaproic][poly(ethyleneoxide)-b-poly(2-methoxystyrene)-b-poly(ethylene oxide)] (CDNP-PEO-P2MS-PEO-CDNP). The polymers were characterized by FT-IR, 1
H NMR and Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC). The molecular weight distributions of the polymers were narrow (1.1-1.2) and polymers with molecular weights greater than 50,000 was used in this study. The polymers were yellow powders and soluble in tetrahydrofuran. A water soluble CDNP-PEO-P2MS-PEO-CDNP/ DMEG (dimethoxyethylene glycol) complex binds and achieves steady state binding with solution IgE within a few seconds. Higher molecular weight (water insoluble i.e.
around 50,000) CDNP-PEO-P2MS-PEO-CDNP polymers, containing 1% single wall carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) were processed into electroactive nanofibers (100 nm to 500 nm in diameter) on silicon substrate. Fluorescence spectroscopy shows that anti-DNP IgE interacts with the nanofibers by binding with the DNP functional groups decorating the fibers. These observations suggest that appropriately functionalized nanofibers hold promise for developing biomarker detection device.
Chemistry, Issue 67, Bioengineering, Physics, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Living polymerization, NMR Spectroscopy, Electrospinning, Nanofibers, I-V behavior, Biosensor, confocal microscopy
Reconstitution of a Kv Channel into Lipid Membranes for Structural and Functional Studies
Institutions: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
To study the lipid-protein interaction in a reductionistic fashion, it is necessary to incorporate the membrane proteins into membranes of well-defined lipid composition. We are studying the lipid-dependent gating effects in a prototype voltage-gated potassium (Kv) channel, and have worked out detailed procedures to reconstitute the channels into different membrane systems. Our reconstitution procedures take consideration of both detergent-induced fusion of vesicles and the fusion of protein/detergent micelles with the lipid/detergent mixed micelles as well as the importance of reaching an equilibrium distribution of lipids among the protein/detergent/lipid and the detergent/lipid mixed micelles. Our data suggested that the insertion of the channels in the lipid vesicles is relatively random in orientations, and the reconstitution efficiency is so high that no detectable protein aggregates were seen in fractionation experiments. We have utilized the reconstituted channels to determine the conformational states of the channels in different lipids, record electrical activities of a small number of channels incorporated in planar lipid bilayers, screen for conformation-specific ligands from a phage-displayed peptide library, and support the growth of 2D crystals of the channels in membranes. The reconstitution procedures described here may be adapted for studying other membrane proteins in lipid bilayers, especially for the investigation of the lipid effects on the eukaryotic voltage-gated ion channels.
Molecular Biology, Issue 77, Biochemistry, Genetics, Cellular Biology, Structural Biology, Biophysics, Membrane Lipids, Phospholipids, Carrier Proteins, Membrane Proteins, Micelles, Molecular Motor Proteins, life sciences, biochemistry, Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, lipid-protein interaction, channel reconstitution, lipid-dependent gating, voltage-gated ion channel, conformation-specific ligands, lipids
Process of Making Three-dimensional Microstructures using Vaporization of a Sacrificial Component
Institutions: University of California, Irvine, University of California, Irvine.
Vascular structures in natural systems are able to provide high mass transport through high surface areas and optimized structure. Few synthetic material fabrication techniques are able to mimic the complexity of these structures while maintaining scalability. The Vaporization of a Sacrificial Component (VaSC) process is able to do so. This process uses sacrificial fibers as a template to form hollow, cylindrical microchannels embedded within a matrix. Tin (II) oxalate (SnOx) is embedded within poly(lactic) acid (PLA) fibers which facilitates the use of this process. The SnOx catalyzes the depolymerization of the PLA fibers at lower temperatures. The lactic acid monomers are gaseous at these temperatures and can be removed from the embedded matrix at temperatures that do not damage the matrix. Here we show a method for aligning these fibers using micromachined plates and a tensioning device to create complex patterns of three-dimensionally arrayed microchannels. The process allows the exploration of virtually any arrangement of fiber topologies and structures.
Physics, Issue 81, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Silicone Elastomers, Micro-Electrical-Mechanical Systems, Biomimetic Materials, chemical processing (general), materials (general), heat exchangers (aerospace applications), mass transfer, Massive microfabrication, high surface area structures, 3-dimensional micro exchange devices, biomimetics
Self-reporting Scaffolds for 3-Dimensional Cell Culture
Institutions: University of Nottingham, University of Nottingham, University of Nottingham.
Culturing cells in 3D on appropriate scaffolds is thought to better mimic the in vivo
microenvironment and increase cell-cell interactions. The resulting 3D cellular construct can often be more relevant to studying the molecular events and cell-cell interactions than similar experiments studied in 2D. To create effective 3D cultures with high cell viability throughout the scaffold the culture conditions such as oxygen and pH need to be carefully controlled as gradients in analyte concentration can exist throughout the 3D construct. Here we describe the methods of preparing biocompatible pH responsive sol-gel nanosensors and their incorporation into poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) electrospun scaffolds along with their subsequent preparation for the culture of mammalian cells. The pH responsive scaffolds can be used as tools to determine microenvironmental pH within a 3D cellular construct. Furthermore, we detail the delivery of pH responsive nanosensors to the intracellular environment of mammalian cells whose growth was supported by electrospun PLGA scaffolds. The cytoplasmic location of the pH responsive nanosensors can be utilized to monitor intracellular pH (pHi) during ongoing experimentation.
Bioengineering, Issue 81, Biocompatible Materials, Nanosensors, scaffold, electrospinning, 3D cell culture, PLGA
Fabrication and Characterization of Disordered Polymer Optical Fibers for Transverse Anderson Localization of Light
Institutions: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Corning Incorporated, Corning, New York.
We develop and characterize a disordered polymer optical fiber that uses transverse Anderson localization as a novel waveguiding mechanism. The developed polymer optical fiber is composed of 80,000 strands of poly (methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) and polystyrene (PS) that are randomly mixed and drawn into a square cross section optical fiber with a side width of 250 μm. Initially, each strand is 200 μm in diameter and 8-inches long. During the mixing process of the original fiber strands, the fibers cross over each other; however, a large draw ratio guarantees that the refractive index profile is invariant along the length of the fiber for several tens of centimeters. The large refractive index difference of 0.1 between the disordered sites results in a small localized beam radius that is comparable to the beam radius of conventional optical fibers. The input light is launched from a standard single mode optical fiber using the butt-coupling method and the near-field output beam from the disordered fiber is imaged using a 40X objective and a CCD camera. The output beam diameter agrees well with the expected results from the numerical simulations. The disordered optical fiber presented in this work is the first device-level implementation of 2D Anderson localization, and can potentially be used for image transport and short-haul optical communication systems.
Physics, Issue 77, Chemistry, Optics, Physics (General), Transverse Anderson Localization, Polymer Optical Fibers, Scattering, Random Media, Optical Fiber Materials, electromagnetism, optical fibers, optical materials, optical waveguides, photonics, wave propagation (optics), fiber optics
Simultaneous Multicolor Imaging of Biological Structures with Fluorescence Photoactivation Localization Microscopy
Institutions: University of Maine.
Localization-based super resolution microscopy can be applied to obtain a spatial map (image) of the distribution of individual fluorescently labeled single molecules within a sample with a spatial resolution of tens of nanometers. Using either photoactivatable (PAFP) or photoswitchable (PSFP) fluorescent proteins fused to proteins of interest, or organic dyes conjugated to antibodies or other molecules of interest, fluorescence photoactivation localization microscopy (FPALM) can simultaneously image multiple species of molecules within single cells. By using the following approach, populations of large numbers (thousands to hundreds of thousands) of individual molecules are imaged in single cells and localized with a precision of ~10-30 nm. Data obtained can be applied to understanding the nanoscale spatial distributions of multiple protein types within a cell. One primary advantage of this technique is the dramatic increase in spatial resolution: while diffraction limits resolution to ~200-250 nm in conventional light microscopy, FPALM can image length scales more than an order of magnitude smaller. As many biological hypotheses concern the spatial relationships among different biomolecules, the improved resolution of FPALM can provide insight into questions of cellular organization which have previously been inaccessible to conventional fluorescence microscopy. In addition to detailing the methods for sample preparation and data acquisition, we here describe the optical setup for FPALM. One additional consideration for researchers wishing to do super-resolution microscopy is cost: in-house setups are significantly cheaper than most commercially available imaging machines. Limitations of this technique include the need for optimizing the labeling of molecules of interest within cell samples, and the need for post-processing software to visualize results. We here describe the use of PAFP and PSFP expression to image two protein species in fixed cells. Extension of the technique to living cells is also described.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, Microscopy, Super-resolution imaging, Multicolor, single molecule, FPALM, Localization microscopy, fluorescent proteins
Adapting the Electrospinning Process to Provide Three Unique Environments for a Tri-layered In Vitro Model of the Airway Wall
Institutions: University of Nottingham, University of Nottingham, University of Nottingham, University of Nottingham, University of Leicester, Loughborough University.
Electrospinning is a highly adaptable method producing porous 3D fibrous scaffolds that can be exploited in in vitro
cell culture. Alterations to intrinsic parameters within the process allow a high degree of control over scaffold characteristics including fiber diameter, alignment and porosity. By developing scaffolds with similar dimensions and topographies to organ- or tissue-specific extracellular matrices (ECM), micro-environments representative to those that cells are exposed to in situ
can be created.
The airway bronchiole wall, comprised of three main micro-environments, was selected as a model tissue. Using decellularized airway ECM as a guide, we electrospun the non-degradable polymer, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), by three different protocols to produce three individual electrospun scaffolds optimized for epithelial, fibroblast or smooth muscle cell-culture. Using a commercially available bioreactor system, we stably co-cultured the three cell-types to provide an in vitro
model of the airway wall over an extended time period.
This model highlights the potential for such methods being employed in in vitro
diagnostic studies investigating important inter-cellular cross-talk mechanisms or assessing novel pharmaceutical targets, by providing a relevant platform to allow the culture of fully differentiated adult cells within 3D, tissue-specific environments.
Bioengineering, Issue 101, Electrospinning, 3D Cell Culture, Bioreactor, Airway, Tissue Engineering, In Vitro Model