Tissue stiffness is an important determinant of cellular function, and changes in tissue stiffness are commonly associated with fibrosis, cancer and cardiovascular disease1-11. Traditional cell biological approaches to studying cellular function involve culturing cells on a rigid substratum (plastic dishes or glass coverslips) which cannot account for the effect of an elastic ECM or the variations in ECM stiffness between tissues. To model in vivo tissue compliance conditions in vitro, we and others use ECM-coated hydrogels. In our laboratory, the hydrogels are based on polyacrylamide which can mimic the range of tissue compliances seen biologically12. "Reactive" cover slips are generated by incubation with NaOH followed by addition of 3-APTMS. Glutaraldehyde is used to cross-link the 3-APTMS and the polyacrylamide gel. A solution of acrylamide (AC), bis-acrylamide (Bis-AC) and ammonium persulfate is used for the polymerization of the hydrogel. N-hydroxysuccinimide (NHS) is incorporated into the AC solution to crosslink ECM protein to the hydrogel. Following polymerization of the hydrogel, the gel surface is coated with an ECM protein of choice such as fibronectin, vitronectin, collagen, etc.
The stiffness of a hydrogel can be determined by rheology or atomic force microscopy (AFM) and adjusted by varying the percentage of AC and/or bis-AC in the solution12. In this manner, substratum stiffness can be matched to the stiffness of biological tissues which can also be quantified using rheology or AFM. Cells can then be seeded on these hydrogels and cultured based upon the experimental conditions required. Imaging of the cells and their recovery for molecular analysis is straightforward. For this article, we define soft substrata as those having elastic moduli (E) <3000 Pascal and stiff substrata/tissues as those with E >20,000 Pascal.
27 Related JoVE Articles!
DNA-affinity-purified Chip (DAP-chip) Method to Determine Gene Targets for Bacterial Two component Regulatory Systems
Institutions: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
methods such as ChIP-chip are well-established techniques used to determine global gene targets for transcription factors. However, they are of limited use in exploring bacterial two component regulatory systems with uncharacterized activation conditions. Such systems regulate transcription only when activated in the presence of unique signals. Since these signals are often unknown, the in vitro
microarray based method described in this video article can be used to determine gene targets and binding sites for response regulators. This DNA-affinity-purified-chip method may be used for any purified regulator in any organism with a sequenced genome. The protocol involves allowing the purified tagged protein to bind to sheared genomic DNA and then affinity purifying the protein-bound DNA, followed by fluorescent labeling of the DNA and hybridization to a custom tiling array. Preceding steps that may be used to optimize the assay for specific regulators are also described. The peaks generated by the array data analysis are used to predict binding site motifs, which are then experimentally validated. The motif predictions can be further used to determine gene targets of orthologous response regulators in closely related species. We demonstrate the applicability of this method by determining the gene targets and binding site motifs and thus predicting the function for a sigma54-dependent response regulator DVU3023 in the environmental bacterium Desulfovibrio vulgaris
Genetics, Issue 89, DNA-Affinity-Purified-chip, response regulator, transcription factor binding site, two component system, signal transduction, Desulfovibrio, lactate utilization regulator, ChIP-chip
Detection of Alternative Splicing During Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
Institutions: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Alternative splicing plays a critical role in the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), an essential cellular program that occurs in various physiological and pathological processes. Here we describe a strategy to detect alternative splicing during EMT using an inducible EMT model by expressing the transcription repressor Twist. EMT is monitored by changes in cell morphology, loss of E-cadherin localization at cell-cell junctions, and the switched expression of EMT markers, such as loss of epithelial markers E-cadherin and γ-catenin and gain of mesenchymal markers N-cadherin and vimentin. Using isoform-specific primer sets, the alternative splicing of interested mRNAs are analyzed by quantitative RT-PCR. The production of corresponding protein isoforms is validated by immunoblotting assays. The method of detecting splice isoforms described here is also suitable for the study of alternative splicing in other biological processes.
Cellular Biology, Issue 92, alternative splicing, EMT, RNA, primer design, real time PCR, splice isoforms
Implantation of Fibrin Gel on Mouse Lung to Study Lung-specific Angiogenesis
Institutions: Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
Recent significant advances in stem cell research and bioengineering techniques have made great progress in utilizing biomaterials to regenerate and repair damage in simple tissues in the orthopedic and periodontal fields. However, attempts to regenerate the structures and functions of more complex three-dimensional (3D) organs such as lungs have not been very successful because the biological processes of organ regeneration have not been well explored. It is becoming clear that angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, plays key roles in organ regeneration. Newly formed vasculatures not only deliver oxygen, nutrients and various cell components that are required for organ regeneration but also provide instructive signals to the regenerating local tissues. Therefore, to successfully regenerate lungs in an adult, it is necessary to recapitulate the lung-specific microenvironments in which angiogenesis drives regeneration of local lung tissues. Although conventional in vivo
angiogenesis assays, such as subcutaneous implantation of extracellular matrix (ECM)-rich hydrogels (e.g.
, fibrin or collagen gels or Matrigel - ECM protein mixture secreted by Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm mouse sarcoma cells), are extensively utilized to explore the general mechanisms of angiogenesis, lung-specific angiogenesis has not been well characterized because methods for orthotopic implantation of biomaterials in the lung have not been well established. The goal of this protocol is to introduce a unique method to implant fibrin gel on the lung surface of living adult mouse, allowing for the successful recapitulation of host lung-derived angiogenesis inside the gel. This approach enables researchers to explore the mechanisms by which the lung-specific microenvironment controls angiogenesis and alveolar regeneration in both normal and pathological conditions. Since implanted biomaterials release and supply physical and chemical signals to adjacent lung tissues, implantation of these biomaterials on diseased lung can potentially normalize the adjacent diseased tissues, enabling researchers to develop new therapeutic approaches for various types of lung diseases.
Basic Protocol, Issue 94, lung, angiogenesis, regeneration, fibrin, gel implantation, microenvironment
Isolation of Myofibroblasts from Mouse and Human Esophagus
Institutions: Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.
Murine and human esophageal myofibroblasts are generated via enzymatic digestion. Neonate (8-12 day old) murine esophagus is harvested, minced, washed, and subjected to enzymatic digestion with collagenase and dispase for 25 min. Human esophageal resection specimens are stripped of muscularis propria and adventitia and the remaining mucosa is minced, and subjected to enzymatic digestion with collagenase and dispase for up to 6 hr. Cultured cells express α-SMA and vimentin and express desmin weakly or not at all. Culture conditions are not conducive to growth of epithelial, hematopoietic, or endothelial cells. Culture purity is further confirmed by flow cytometric evaluation of cell surface marker expression of potential contaminating hematopoietic and endothelial cells. The described technique is straightforward and results in consistent generation of non-hematopoieitc, non-endothelial stromal cells. Limitations of this technique are inherent to the use of primary cultures in molecular biology studies, i.e.
, the unavoidable variability encountered among cultures established across different mice or humans. Primary cultures however are a more representative reflection of the in vivo
state compared to cell lines. These methods also provide investigators the ability to isolate and culture stromal cells from different clinical and experimental conditions, allowing comparisons between groups. Characterized esophageal stromal cells can also be used in functional studies investigating epithelial-stromal interactions in esophageal disorders.
Cellular Biology, Issue 95, Cellular biology, mouse, human, esophagus, mesenchymal stromal cells, myofibroblasts, primary cells
Measurement of the Pressure-volume Curve in Mouse Lungs
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University.
In recent decades the mouse has become the primary animal model of a variety of lung diseases. In models of emphysema or fibrosis, the essential phenotypic changes are best assessed by measurement of the changes in lung elasticity. To best understand specific mechanisms underlying such pathologies in mice, it is essential to make functional measurements that can reflect the developing pathology. Although there are many ways to measure elasticity, the classical method is that of the total lung pressure-volume (PV) curve done over the whole range of lung volumes. This measurement has been made on adult lungs from nearly all mammalian species dating back almost 100 years, and such PV curves also played a major role in the discovery and understanding of the function of pulmonary surfactant in fetal lung development. Unfortunately, such total PV curves have not been widely reported in the mouse, despite the fact that they can provide useful information on the macroscopic effects of structural changes in the lung. Although partial PV curves measuring just the changes in lung volume are sometimes reported, without a measure of absolute volume, the nonlinear nature of the total PV curve makes these partial ones very difficult to interpret. In the present study, we describe a standardized way to measure the total PV curve. We have then tested the ability of these curves to detect changes in mouse lung structure in two common lung pathologies, emphysema and fibrosis. Results showed significant changes in several variables consistent with expected structural changes with these pathologies. This measurement of the lung PV curve in mice thus provides a straightforward means to monitor the progression of the pathophysiologic changes over time and the potential effect of therapeutic procedures.
Medicine, Issue 95, Lung compliance, Lung hysteresis, Pulmonary surfactant, Lung elasticity, Quasistatic compliance, Fibrosis, Emphysema
Functional Reconstitution and Channel Activity Measurements of Purified Wildtype and Mutant CFTR Protein
Institutions: Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto, University of Toronto.
The Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator (CFTR) is a unique channel-forming member of the ATP Binding Cassette (ABC) superfamily of transporters. The phosphorylation and nucleotide dependent chloride channel activity of CFTR has been frequently studied in whole cell systems and as single channels in excised membrane patches. Many Cystic Fibrosis-causing mutations have been shown to alter this activity. While a small number of purification protocols have been published, a fast reconstitution method that retains channel activity and a suitable method for studying population channel activity in a purified system have been lacking. Here rapid methods are described for purification and functional reconstitution of the full-length CFTR protein into proteoliposomes of defined lipid composition that retains activity as a regulated halide channel. This reconstitution method together with a novel flux-based assay of channel activity is a suitable system for studying the population channel properties of wild type CFTR and the disease-causing mutants F508del- and G551D-CFTR. Specifically, the method has utility in studying the direct effects of phosphorylation, nucleotides and small molecules such as potentiators and inhibitors on CFTR channel activity. The methods are also amenable to the study of other membrane channels/transporters for anionic substrates.
Biochemistry, Issue 97, Cystic Fibrosis, CFTR, purification, reconstitution, chloride channel, channel function, iodide efflux, potentiation
Bile Duct Ligation in Mice: Induction of Inflammatory Liver Injury and Fibrosis by Obstructive Cholestasis
Institutions: RWTH Aachen University, RWTH Aachen University, RWTH Aachen University.
In most vertebrates, the liver produces bile that is necessary to emulsify absorbed fats and enable the digestion of lipids in the small intestine as well as to excrete bilirubin and other metabolic products. In the liver, the experimental obstruction of the extrahepatic biliary system initiates a complex cascade of pathological events that leads to cholestasis and inflammation resulting in a strong fibrotic reaction originating from the periportal fields. Therefore, surgical ligation of the common bile duct has become the most commonly used model to induce obstructive cholestatic injury in rodents and to study the molecular and cellular events that underlie these pathophysiological mechanisms induced by inappropriate bile flow. In recent years, different surgical techniques have been described that either allow reconnection or reanastomosis after bile duct ligation (BDL), e.g.
, partial BDL, or other microsurgical methods for specific research questions. However, the most frequently used model is the complete obstruction of the common bile duct that induces a strong fibrotic response after 21 to 28 days. The mortality rate can be high due to infectious complications or technical inaccuracies. Here we provide a detailed surgical procedure for the BDL model in mice that induce a highly reproducible fibrotic response in accordance to the 3R rule for animal welfare postulated by Russel and Burch in 1959.
Medicine, Issue 96, bile duct ligation, cholestasis, bile obstruction, hepatic fibrosis, inflammation, extracellular matrix, jaundice, mouse
Three-dimensional Co-culture Model for Tumor-stromal Interaction
Institutions: The University of Tokyo, The University of Tokyo, The University of Tokyo, Nihon University School of Dentistry, Ohu University School of Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Cancer progression (initiation, growth, invasion and metastasis) occurs through interactions between malignant cells and the surrounding tumor stromal cells. The tumor microenvironment is comprised of a variety of cell types, such as fibroblasts, immune cells, vascular endothelial cells, pericytes and bone-marrow-derived cells, embedded in the extracellular matrix (ECM). Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) have a pro-tumorigenic role through the secretion of soluble factors, angiogenesis and ECM remodeling. The experimental models for cancer cell survival, proliferation, migration, and invasion have mostly relied on two-dimensional monocellular and monolayer tissue cultures or Boyden chamber assays. However, these experiments do not precisely reflect the physiological or pathological conditions in a diseased organ. To gain a better understanding of tumor stromal or tumor matrix interactions, multicellular and three-dimensional cultures provide more powerful tools for investigating intercellular communication and ECM-dependent modulation of cancer cell behavior. As a platform for this type of study, we present an experimental model in which cancer cells are cultured on collagen gels embedded with primary cultures of CAFs.
Medicine, Issue 96, Three-dimensional co-culture, cancer, fibroblast, invasion, tumor stroma, collagen
The Multi-organ Chip - A Microfluidic Platform for Long-term Multi-tissue Coculture
Institutions: Technische Universität Berlin, TissUse GmbH, Fraunhofer IWS.
The ever growing amount of new substances released onto the market and the limited predictability of current in vitro
test systems has led to a high need for new solutions for substance testing. Many drugs that have been removed from the market due to drug-induced liver injury released their toxic potential only after several doses of chronic testing in humans. However, a controlled microenvironment is pivotal for long-term multiple dosing experiments, as even minor alterations in extracellular conditions may greatly influence the cell physiology. We focused within our research program on the generation of a microengineered bioreactor, which can be dynamically perfused by an on-chip pump and combines at least two culture spaces for multi-organ applications. This circulatory system mimics the in vivo
conditions of primary cell cultures better and assures a steadier, more quantifiable extracellular relay of signals to the cells.
For demonstration purposes, human liver equivalents, generated by aggregating differentiated HepaRG cells with human hepatic stellate cells in hanging drop plates, were cocultured with human skin punch biopsies for up to 28 days inside the microbioreactor. The use of cell culture inserts enables the skin to be cultured at an air-liquid interface, allowing topical substance exposure. The microbioreactor system is capable of supporting these cocultures at near physiologic fluid flow and volume-to-liquid ratios, ensuring stable and organotypic culture conditions. The possibility of long-term cultures enables the repeated exposure to substances. Furthermore, a vascularization of the microfluidic channel circuit using human dermal microvascular endothelial cells yields a physiologically more relevant vascular model.
Bioengineering, Issue 98, Multi-organ chip, human-on-a-chip, body-on-a-chip, organs-on-a-chip, microphysiological systems, organoids, tissue engineering, in vitro substance testing, toxicity test, liver, skin, vasculature
Human Dupuytren's Ex Vivo Culture for the Study of Myofibroblasts and Extracellular Matrix Interactions
Institutions: Leiden University Medical Center, Academic Medical Center, Academic Medical Center, Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Leiden University Medical Center.
Organ fibrosis or “scarring” is known to account for a high death toll due to the extensive amount of disorders and organs affected (from cirrhosis to cardiovascular diseases). There is no effective treatment and the in vitro
tools available do not mimic the in vivo
situation rendering the progress of the out of control wound healing process still enigmatic.
To date, 2D and 3D cultures of fibroblasts derived from DD patients are the main experimental models available. Primary cell cultures have many limitations; the fibroblasts derived from DD are altered by the culture conditions, lack cellular context and interactions, which are crucial for the development of fibrosis and weakly represent the derived tissue. Real-time PCR analysis of fibroblasts derived from control and DD samples show that little difference is detectable. 3D cultures of fibroblasts include addition of extracellular matrix that alters the native conditions of these cells.
As a way to characterize the fibrotic, proliferative properties of these resection specimens we have developed a 3D culture system, using intact human resections of the nodule part of the cord. The system is based on transwell plates with an attached nitrocellulose membrane that allows contact of the tissue with the medium but not with the plastic, thus, preventing the alteration of the tissue. No collagen gel or other extracellular matrix protein substrate is required. The tissue resection specimens maintain their viability and proliferative properties for 7 days. This is the first “organ” culture system that allows human resection specimens from DD patients to be grown ex vivo
and functionally tested, recapitulating the in vivo
Medicine, Issue 98, Fibrosis, Dupuytren's disease, TGFβ, 3D culture system, Compound screen, Extracellular matrix
Forward Genetics Screens Using Macrophages to Identify Toxoplasma gondii Genes Important for Resistance to IFN-γ-Dependent Cell Autonomous Immunity
Institutions: New York Medical College.
the causative agent of toxoplasmosis, is an obligate intracellular protozoan pathogen. The parasite invades and replicates within virtually any warm blooded vertebrate cell type. During parasite invasion of a host cell, the parasite creates a parasitophorous vacuole (PV) that originates from the host cell membrane independent of phagocytosis within which the parasite replicates. While IFN-dependent-innate and cell mediated immunity is important for eventual control of infection, innate immune cells, including neutrophils, monocytes and dendritic cells, can also serve as vehicles for systemic dissemination of the parasite early in infection. An approach is described that utilizes the host innate immune response, in this case macrophages, in a forward genetic screen to identify parasite mutants with a fitness defect in infected macrophages following activation but normal invasion and replication in naïve macrophages. Thus, the screen isolates parasite mutants that have a specific defect in their ability to resist the effects of macrophage activation. The paper describes two broad phenotypes of mutant parasites following activation of infected macrophages: parasite stasis versus parasite degradation, often in amorphous vacuoles. The parasite mutants are then analyzed to identify the responsible parasite genes specifically important for resistance to induced mediators of cell autonomous immunity. The paper presents a general approach for the forward genetics screen that, in theory, can be modified to target parasite genes important for resistance to specific antimicrobial mediators. It also describes an approach to evaluate the specific macrophage antimicrobial mediators to which the parasite mutant is susceptible. Activation of infected macrophages can also promote parasite differentiation from the tachyzoite to bradyzoite stage that maintains chronic infection. Therefore, methodology is presented to evaluate the importance of the identified parasite gene to establishment of chronic infection.
Immunology, Issue 97, Toxoplasma, macrophages, innate immunity, intracellular pathogen, immune evasion, infectious disease, forward genetics, parasite
Ultrasound Based Assessment of Coronary Artery Flow and Coronary Flow Reserve Using the Pressure Overload Model in Mice
Institutions: Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Chi-Mei Medical Center, Tainan.
Transthoracic Doppler echocardiography (TTDE) is a clinically useful, noninvasive tool for studying coronary artery flow velocity and coronary flow reserve (CFR) in humans. Reduced CFR is accompanied by marked intramyocardial and pericoronary fibrosis and is used as an indication of the severity of dysfunction. This study explores, step-by-step, the real-time changes measured in the coronary flow velocity, CFR and systolic to diastolic peak velocity (S/D) ratio in the setting of an aortic banding model in mice. By using a Doppler transthoracic imaging technique that yields reproducible and reliable data, the method assesses changes in flow in the septal coronary artery (SCA), for a period of over two weeks in mice, that previously either underwent aortic banding or thoracotomy.
During imaging, hyperemia in all mice was induced by isoflurane, an anesthetic that increased coronary flow velocity when compared with resting flow. All images were acquired by a single imager. Two ratios, (1) CFR, the ratio between hyperemic and baseline flow velocities, and (2) systolic (S) to diastolic (D) flow were determined, using a proprietary software and by two independent observers. Importantly, the observed changes in coronary flow preceded LV dysfunction as evidenced by normal LV mass and fractional shortening (FS).
The method was benchmarked against the current gold standard of coronary assessment, histopathology. The latter technique showed clear pathologic changes in the coronary artery in the form of peri-coronary fibrosis that correlated to the flow changes as assessed by echocardiography.
The study underscores the value of using a non-invasive technique to monitor coronary circulation in mouse hearts. The method minimizes redundant use of research animals and demonstrates that advanced ultrasound-based indices, such as CFR and S/D ratios, can serve as viable diagnostic tools in a variety of investigational protocols including drug studies and the study of genetically modified strains.
Medicine, Issue 98, Coronary flow reserve, Doppler echocardiography, non-invasive methodology, use of animals in research, pressure overload, aortic banding
Analysis of Nephron Composition and Function in the Adult Zebrafish Kidney
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish model has emerged as a relevant system to study kidney development, regeneration and disease. Both the embryonic and adult zebrafish kidneys are composed of functional units known as nephrons, which are highly conserved with other vertebrates, including mammals. Research in zebrafish has recently demonstrated that two distinctive phenomena transpire after adult nephrons incur damage: first, there is robust regeneration within existing nephrons that replaces the destroyed tubule epithelial cells; second, entirely new nephrons are produced from renal progenitors in a process known as neonephrogenesis. In contrast, humans and other mammals seem to have only a limited ability for nephron epithelial regeneration. To date, the mechanisms responsible for these kidney regeneration phenomena remain poorly understood. Since adult zebrafish kidneys undergo both nephron epithelial regeneration and neonephrogenesis, they provide an outstanding experimental paradigm to study these events. Further, there is a wide range of genetic and pharmacological tools available in the zebrafish model that can be used to delineate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate renal regeneration. One essential aspect of such research is the evaluation of nephron structure and function. This protocol describes a set of labeling techniques that can be used to gauge renal composition and test nephron functionality in the adult zebrafish kidney. Thus, these methods are widely applicable to the future phenotypic characterization of adult zebrafish kidney injury paradigms, which include but are not limited to, nephrotoxicant exposure regimes or genetic methods of targeted cell death such as the nitroreductase mediated cell ablation technique. Further, these methods could be used to study genetic perturbations in adult kidney formation and could also be applied to assess renal status during chronic disease modeling.
Cellular Biology, Issue 90,
zebrafish; kidney; nephron; nephrology; renal; regeneration; proximal tubule; distal tubule; segment; mesonephros; physiology; acute kidney injury (AKI)
A Novel Stretching Platform for Applications in Cell and Tissue Mechanobiology
Institutions: University of Ottawa, University of Ottawa, University of Calgary, University of Ottawa, University of Ottawa.
Tools that allow the application of mechanical forces to cells and tissues or that can quantify the mechanical properties of biological tissues have contributed dramatically to the understanding of basic mechanobiology. These techniques have been extensively used to demonstrate how the onset and progression of various diseases are heavily influenced by mechanical cues. This article presents a multi-functional biaxial stretching (BAXS) platform that can either mechanically stimulate single cells or quantify the mechanical stiffness of tissues. The BAXS platform consists of four voice coil motors that can be controlled independently. Single cells can be cultured on a flexible substrate that can be attached to the motors allowing one to expose the cells to complex, dynamic, and spatially varying strain fields. Conversely, by incorporating a force load cell, one can also quantify the mechanical properties of primary tissues as they are exposed to deformation cycles. In both cases, a proper set of clamps must be designed and mounted to the BAXS platform motors in order to firmly hold the flexible substrate or the tissue of interest. The BAXS platform can be mounted on an inverted microscope to perform simultaneous transmitted light and/or fluorescence imaging to examine the structural or biochemical response of the sample during stretching experiments. This article provides experimental details of the design and usage of the BAXS platform and presents results for single cell and whole tissue studies. The BAXS platform was used to measure the deformation of nuclei in single mouse myoblast cells in response to substrate strain and to measure the stiffness of isolated mouse aortas. The BAXS platform is a versatile tool that can be combined with various optical microscopies in order to provide novel mechanobiological insights at the sub-cellular, cellular and whole tissue levels.
Bioengineering, Issue 88, cell stretching, tissue mechanics, nuclear mechanics, uniaxial, biaxial, anisotropic, mechanobiology
Strategies for Study of Neuroprotection from Cold-preconditioning
Institutions: The University of Chicago Medical Center.
Neurological injury is a frequent cause of morbidity and mortality from general anesthesia and related surgical procedures that could be alleviated by development of effective, easy to administer and safe preconditioning treatments. We seek to define the neural immune signaling responsible for cold-preconditioning as means to identify novel targets for therapeutics development to protect brain before injury onset. Low-level pro-inflammatory mediator signaling changes over time are essential for cold-preconditioning neuroprotection. This signaling is consistent with the basic tenets of physiological conditioning hormesis, which require that irritative stimuli reach a threshold magnitude with sufficient time for adaptation to the stimuli for protection to become evident.
Accordingly, delineation of the immune signaling involved in cold-preconditioning neuroprotection requires that biological systems and experimental manipulations plus technical capacities are highly reproducible and sensitive. Our approach is to use hippocampal slice cultures as an in vitro
model that closely reflects their in vivo
counterparts with multi-synaptic neural networks influenced by mature and quiescent macroglia / microglia. This glial state is particularly important for microglia since they are the principal source of cytokines, which are operative in the femtomolar range. Also, slice cultures can be maintained in vitro
for several weeks, which is sufficient time to evoke activating stimuli and assess adaptive responses. Finally, environmental conditions can be accurately controlled using slice cultures so that cytokine signaling of cold-preconditioning can be measured, mimicked, and modulated to dissect the critical node aspects. Cytokine signaling system analyses require the use of sensitive and reproducible multiplexed techniques. We use quantitative PCR for TNF-α to screen for microglial activation followed by quantitative real-time qPCR array screening to assess tissue-wide cytokine changes. The latter is a most sensitive and reproducible means to measure multiple cytokine system signaling changes simultaneously. Significant changes are confirmed with targeted qPCR and then protein detection. We probe for tissue-based cytokine protein changes using multiplexed microsphere flow cytometric assays using Luminex technology. Cell-specific cytokine production is determined with double-label immunohistochemistry. Taken together, this brain tissue preparation and style of use, coupled to the suggested investigative strategies, may be an optimal approach for identifying potential targets for the development of novel therapeutics that could mimic the advantages of cold-preconditioning.
Neuroscience, Issue 43, innate immunity, hormesis, microglia, hippocampus, slice culture, immunohistochemistry, neural-immune, gene expression, real-time PCR
Quantitative Measurement of GLUT4 Translocation to the Plasma Membrane by Flow Cytometry
Institutions: Baylor College of Medicine.
Glucose is the main source of energy for the body, requiring constant regulation of its blood concentration. Insulin release by the pancreas induces glucose uptake by insulin-sensitive tissues, most notably the brain, skeletal muscle, and adipocytes. Patients suffering from type-2 diabetes and/or obesity often develop insulin resistance and are unable to control their glucose homeostasis. New insights into the mechanisms of insulin resistance may provide new treatment strategies for type-2 diabetes.
The GLUT family of glucose transporters consists of thirteen members distributed on different tissues throughout the body1
. Glucose transporter type 4 (GLUT4) is the major transporter that mediates glucose uptake by insulin sensitive tissues, such as the skeletal muscle. Upon binding of insulin to its receptor, vesicles containing GLUT4 translocate from the cytoplasm to the plasma membrane, inducing glucose uptake. Reduced GLUT4 translocation is one of the causes of insulin resistance in type-2 diabetes2,3
The translocation of GLUT4 from the cytoplasm to the plasma membrane can be visualized by immunocytochemistry, using fluorophore-conjugated GLUT4-specific antibodies.
Here, we describe a technique to quantify total amounts of GLUT4 translocation to the plasma membrane of cells during a chosen duration, using flow cytometry. This protocol is rapid (less than 4 hours, including incubation with insulin) and allows the analysis of as few as 3,000 cells or as many as 1 million cells per condition in a single experiment. It relies on anti-GLUT4 antibodies directed to an external epitope of the transporter that bind to it as soon as it is exposed to the extracellular medium after translocation to the plasma membrane.
Cellular Biology, Issue 45, Glucose, FACS, Plasma Membrane, Insulin Receptor, myoblast, myocyte, adipocyte
Micro-Mechanical Characterization of Lung Tissue Using Atomic Force Microscopy
Institutions: Harvard School of Public Health.
Matrix stiffness strongly influences growth, differentiation and function of adherent cells1-3
. On the macro scale the stiffness of tissues and organs within the human body span several orders of magnitude4
. Much less is known about how stiffness varies spatially within tissues, and what the scope and spatial scale of stiffness changes are in disease processes that result in tissue remodeling. To better understand how changes in matrix stiffness contribute to cellular physiology in health and disease, measurements of tissue stiffness obtained at a spatial scale relevant to resident cells are needed. This is particularly true for the lung, a highly compliant and elastic tissue in which matrix remodeling is a prominent feature in diseases such as asthma, emphysema, hypertension and fibrosis. To characterize the local mechanical environment of lung parenchyma at a spatial scale relevant to resident cells, we have developed methods to directly measure the local elastic properties of fresh murine lung tissue using atomic force microscopy (AFM) microindentation. With appropriate choice of AFM indentor, cantilever, and indentation depth, these methods allow measurements of local tissue shear modulus in parallel with phase contrast and fluorescence imaging of the region of interest. Systematic sampling of tissue strips provides maps of tissue mechanical properties that reveal local spatial variations in shear modulus. Correlations between mechanical properties and underlying anatomical and pathological features illustrate how stiffness varies with matrix deposition in fibrosis. These methods can be extended to other soft tissues and disease processes to reveal how local tissue mechanical properties vary across space and disease progression.
Biophysics, Issue 54, Atomic force microscopy, indentation, stiffness, fibrosis, extracellular matrix
Biophysical Assays to Probe the Mechanical Properties of the Interphase Cell Nucleus: Substrate Strain Application and Microneedle Manipulation
Institutions: Department of Medicine, Cardiovascular Division, Cornell University.
In most eukaryotic cells, the nucleus is the largest organelle and is typically 2 to 10 times stiffer than the surrounding cytoskeleton; consequently, the physical properties of the nucleus contribute significantly to the overall biomechanical behavior of cells under physiological and pathological conditions. For example, in migrating neutrophils and invading cancer cells, nuclear stiffness can pose a major obstacle during extravasation or passage through narrow spaces within tissues.1
On the other hand, the nucleus of cells in mechanically active tissue such as muscle requires sufficient structural support to withstand repetitive mechanical stress. Importantly, the nucleus is tightly integrated into the cellular architecture; it is physically connected to the surrounding cytoskeleton, which is a critical requirement for the intracellular movement and positioning of the nucleus, for example, in polarized cells, synaptic nuclei at neuromuscular junctions, or in migrating cells.2
Not surprisingly, mutations in nuclear envelope proteins such as lamins and nesprins, which play a critical role in determining nuclear stiffness and nucleo-cytoskeletal coupling, have been shown recently to result in a number of human diseases, including Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy, limb-girdle muscular dystrophy, and dilated cardiomyopathy.3
To investigate the biophysical function of diverse nuclear envelope proteins and the effect of specific mutations, we have developed experimental methods to study the physical properties of the nucleus in single, living cells subjected to global or localized mechanical perturbation. Measuring induced nuclear deformations in response to precisely applied substrate strain application yields important information on the deformability of the nucleus and allows quantitative comparison between different mutations or cell lines deficient for specific nuclear envelope proteins. Localized cytoskeletal strain application with a microneedle is used to complement this assay and can yield additional information on intracellular force transmission between the nucleus and the cytoskeleton. Studying nuclear mechanics in intact living cells preserves the normal intracellular architecture and avoids potential artifacts that can arise when working with isolated nuclei. Furthermore, substrate strain application presents a good model for the physiological stress experienced by cells in muscle or other tissues (e.g., vascular smooth muscle cells exposed to vessel strain). Lastly, while these tools have been developed primarily to study nuclear mechanics, they can also be applied to investigate the function of cytoskeletal proteins and mechanotransduction signaling.
Biophysics, Issue 55, nuclear envelope, nuclear stiffness, nucleo-cytoskeletal coupling, lamin, nesprin, cytoskeleton, biomechanics, nuclear deformation, force transmission
Organotypic Collagen I Assay: A Malleable Platform to Assess Cell Behaviour in a 3-Dimensional Context
Institutions: University of Glasgow, University of Glasgow.
Cell migration is fundamental to many aspects of biology, including development, wound healing, the cellular responses of the immune system, and metastasis of tumor cells. Migration has been studied on glass coverslips in order to make cellular dynamics amenable to investigation by light microscopy. However, it has become clear that many aspects of cell migration depend on features of the local environment including its elasticity, protein composition, and pore size, which are not faithfully represented by rigid two dimensional substrates such as glass and plastic 1
. Furthermore, interaction with other cell types, including stromal fibroblasts 2
and immune cells 3
, has been shown to play a critical role in promoting the invasion of cancer cells. Investigation at the molecular level has increasingly shown that molecular dynamics, including response to drug treatment, of identical cells are significantly different when compared in vitro
and in vivo 4
Ideally, it would be best to study cell migration in its naturally occurring context in living organisms, however this is not always possible. Intermediate tissue culture systems, such as cell derived matrix, matrigel, organotypic culture (described here) tissue explants, organoids, and xenografts, are therefore important experimental intermediates. These systems approximate certain aspects of an in vivo
environment but are more amenable to experimental manipulation such as use of stably transfected cell lines, drug treatment regimes, long term and high-resolution imaging. Such intermediate systems are especially useful as proving grounds to validate probes and establish parameters required to image the dynamic response of cells and fluorescent reporters prior to undertaking imaging in vivo 5
. As such, they can serve an important role in reducing the need for experiments on living animals.
Bioengineering, Issue 56, Organotypic culture, cell migration, invasion, 3-dimensional matrix, Collagen I, second harmonic generation, host-tumor interaction, microenvironment
Induction and Analysis of Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition
Institutions: R&D Systems, Inc., R&D Systems, Inc..
Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is essential for proper morphogenesis during development. Misregulation of this process has been implicated as a key event in fibrosis and the progression of carcinomas to a metastatic state. Understanding the processes that underlie EMT is imperative for the early diagnosis and clinical control of these disease states. Reliable induction of EMT in vitro
is a useful tool for drug discovery as well as to identify common gene expression signatures for diagnostic purposes. Here we demonstrate a straightforward method for the induction of EMT in a variety of cell types. Methods for the analysis of cells pre- and post-EMT induction by immunocytochemistry are also included. Additionally, we demonstrate the effectiveness of this method through antibody-based array analysis and migration/invasion assays.
Molecular Biology, Issue 78, Cellular Biology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Stem Cell Biology, Cancer Biology, Medicine, Bioengineering, Anatomy, Physiology, biology (general), Pathological Conditions, Signs and Symptoms, Wounds and Injuries, Neoplasms, Diagnosis, Therapeutics, Epithelial to mesenchymal transition, EMT, cancer, metastasis, cancer stem cell, cell, assay, immunohistochemistry
Microwave-assisted Functionalization of Poly(ethylene glycol) and On-resin Peptides for Use in Chain Polymerizations and Hydrogel Formation
Institutions: University of Rochester, University of Rochester, University of Rochester Medical Center.
One of the main benefits to using poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) macromers in hydrogel formation is synthetic versatility. The ability to draw from a large variety of PEG molecular weights and configurations (arm number, arm length, and branching pattern) affords researchers tight control over resulting hydrogel structures and properties, including Young’s modulus and mesh size. This video will illustrate a rapid, efficient, solvent-free, microwave-assisted method to methacrylate PEG precursors into poly(ethylene glycol) dimethacrylate (PEGDM). This synthetic method provides much-needed starting materials for applications in drug delivery and regenerative medicine. The demonstrated method is superior to traditional methacrylation methods as it is significantly faster and simpler, as well as more economical and environmentally friendly, using smaller amounts of reagents and solvents. We will also demonstrate an adaptation of this technique for on-resin methacrylamide functionalization of peptides. This on-resin method allows the N-terminus of peptides to be functionalized with methacrylamide groups prior to deprotection and cleavage from resin. This allows for selective addition of methacrylamide groups to the N-termini of the peptides while amino acids with reactive side groups (e.g.
primary amine of lysine, primary alcohol of serine, secondary alcohols of threonine, and phenol of tyrosine) remain protected, preventing functionalization at multiple sites. This article will detail common analytical methods (proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy (;
H-NMR) and Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time of Flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-ToF)) to assess the efficiency of the functionalizations. Common pitfalls and suggested troubleshooting methods will be addressed, as will modifications of the technique which can be used to further tune macromer functionality and resulting hydrogel physical and chemical properties. Use of synthesized products for the formation of hydrogels for drug delivery and cell-material interaction studies will be demonstrated, with particular attention paid to modifying hydrogel composition to affect mesh size, controlling hydrogel stiffness and drug release.
Chemistry, Issue 80, Poly(ethylene glycol), peptides, polymerization, polymers, methacrylation, peptide functionalization, 1H-NMR, MALDI-ToF, hydrogels, macromer synthesis
Engineering Fibrin-based Tissue Constructs from Myofibroblasts and Application of Constraints and Strain to Induce Cell and Collagen Reorganization
Institutions: Eindhoven University of Technology.
Collagen content and organization in developing collagenous tissues can be influenced by local tissue strains and tissue constraint. Tissue engineers aim to use these principles to create tissues with predefined collagen architectures. A full understanding of the exact underlying processes of collagen remodeling to control the final tissue architecture, however, is lacking. In particular, little is known about the (re)orientation of collagen fibers in response to changes in tissue mechanical loading conditions. We developed an in vitro
model system, consisting of biaxially-constrained myofibroblast-seeded fibrin constructs, to further elucidate collagen (re)orientation in response to i) reverting biaxial to uniaxial static loading conditions and ii) cyclic uniaxial loading of the biaxially-constrained constructs before and after a change in loading direction, with use of the Flexcell FX4000T loading device. Time-lapse confocal imaging is used to visualize collagen (re)orientation in a nondestructive manner.
Cell and collagen organization in the constructs can be visualized in real-time, and an internal reference system allows us to relocate cells and collagen structures for time-lapse analysis. Various aspects of the model system can be adjusted, like cell source or use of healthy and diseased cells. Additives can be used to further elucidate mechanisms underlying collagen remodeling, by for example adding MMPs or blocking integrins. Shape and size of the construct can be easily adapted to specific needs, resulting in a highly tunable model system to study cell and collagen (re)organization.
Bioengineering, Issue 80, Connective Tissue, Myofibroblasts, Heart Valves, Heart Valve Diseases, Mechanotransduction, Cellular, Adaptation, Biological, Cellular Microenvironment, collagen remodeling, fibrin-based tissues, tissue engineering, cardiovascular
Preparation of Hydroxy-PAAm Hydrogels for Decoupling the Effects of Mechanotransduction Cues
Institutions: Université de Mons.
It is now well established that many cellular functions are regulated by interactions of cells with physicochemical and mechanical cues of their extracellular matrix (ECM) environment. Eukaryotic cells constantly sense their local microenvironment through surface mechanosensors to transduce physical changes of ECM into biochemical signals, and integrate these signals to achieve specific changes in gene expression. Interestingly, physicochemical and mechanical parameters of the ECM can couple with each other to regulate cell fate. Therefore, a key to understanding mechanotransduction is to decouple the relative contribution of ECM cues on cellular functions.
Here we present a detailed experimental protocol to rapidly and easily generate biologically relevant hydrogels for the independent tuning of mechanotransduction cues in vitro
. We chemically modified polyacrylamide hydrogels (PAAm) to surmount their intrinsically non-adhesive properties by incorporating hydroxyl-functionalized acrylamide monomers during the polymerization. We obtained a novel PAAm hydrogel, called hydroxy-PAAm, which permits immobilization of any desired nature of ECM proteins. The combination of hydroxy-PAAm hydrogels with microcontact printing allows to independently control the morphology of single-cells, the matrix stiffness, the nature and the density of ECM proteins. We provide a simple and rapid method that can be set up in every biology lab to study in vitro
cell mechanotransduction processes. We validate this novel two-dimensional platform by conducting experiments on endothelial cells that demonstrate a mechanical coupling between ECM stiffness and the nucleus.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, hydrogels, mechanotransduction, polyacrylamide, microcontact printing, cell shape, stiffness, durotaxis, cell-ligand density
Setting-up an In Vitro Model of Rat Blood-brain Barrier (BBB): A Focus on BBB Impermeability and Receptor-mediated Transport
Institutions: VECT-HORUS SAS, CNRS, NICN UMR 7259.
The blood brain barrier (BBB) specifically regulates molecular and cellular flux between the blood and the nervous tissue. Our aim was to develop and characterize a highly reproducible rat syngeneic in vitro
model of the BBB using co-cultures of primary rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC) and astrocytes to study receptors involved in transcytosis across the endothelial cell monolayer. Astrocytes were isolated by mechanical dissection following trypsin digestion and were frozen for later co-culture. RBEC were isolated from 5-week-old rat cortices. The brains were cleaned of meninges and white matter, and mechanically dissociated following enzymatic digestion. Thereafter, the tissue homogenate was centrifuged in bovine serum albumin to separate vessel fragments from nervous tissue. The vessel fragments underwent a second enzymatic digestion to free endothelial cells from their extracellular matrix. The remaining contaminating cells such as pericytes were further eliminated by plating the microvessel fragments in puromycin-containing medium. They were then passaged onto filters for co-culture with astrocytes grown on the bottom of the wells. RBEC expressed high levels of tight junction (TJ) proteins such as occludin, claudin-5 and ZO-1 with a typical localization at the cell borders. The transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of brain endothelial monolayers, indicating the tightness of TJs reached 300 ohm·cm2
on average. The endothelial permeability coefficients (Pe) for lucifer yellow (LY) was highly reproducible with an average of 0.26 ± 0.11 x 10-3
cm/min. Brain endothelial cells organized in monolayers expressed the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp), showed a polarized transport of rhodamine 123, a ligand for P-gp, and showed specific transport of transferrin-Cy3 and DiILDL across the endothelial cell monolayer. In conclusion, we provide a protocol for setting up an in vitro
BBB model that is highly reproducible due to the quality assurance methods, and that is suitable for research on BBB transporters and receptors.
Medicine, Issue 88, rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC), mouse, spinal cord, tight junction (TJ), receptor-mediated transport (RMT), low density lipoprotein (LDL), LDLR, transferrin, TfR, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER),
Tissue Engineering of Tumor Stromal Microenvironment with Application to Cancer Cell Invasion
Institutions: University of Dundee, A*Star, Singapore.
3D organotypic cultures of epithelial cells on a matrix embedded with mesenchymal cells are widely used to study epithelial cell differentiation and invasion. Rat tail type I collagen and/or matrix derived from Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm mouse sarcoma cells have been traditionally employed as the substrates to model the matrix or stromal microenvironment into which mesenchymal cells (usually fibroblasts) are populated. Although experiments using such matrices are very informative, it can be argued that due to an overriding presence of a single protein (such as in type I Collagen) or a high content of basement membrane components and growth factors (such as in matrix derived from mouse sarcoma cells), these substrates do not best reflect the contribution to matrix composition made by the stromal cells themselves. To study native matrices produced by primary dermal fibroblasts isolated from patients with a tumor prone, genetic blistering disorder (recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa), we have adapted an existing native matrix protocol to study tumor cell invasion. Fibroblasts are induced to produce their own matrix over a prolonged period in culture. This native matrix is then detached from the culture dish and epithelial cells are seeded onto it before the entire coculture is raised to the air-liquid interface. Cellular differentiation and/or invasion can then be assessed over time. This technique provides the ability to assess epithelial-mesenchymal cell interactions in a 3D setting without the need for a synthetic or foreign matrix with the only disadvantage being the prolonged period of time required to produce the native matrix. Here we describe the application of this technique to assess the ability of a single molecule expressed by fibroblasts, type VII collagen, to inhibit tumor cell invasion.
Biomedical Engineering, Issue 85, tumor microenvironment, stromal fibroblasts, extracellular matrix, tissue engineering, dermal equivalent, collagen, native matrix
Long-term Intravital Immunofluorescence Imaging of Tissue Matrix Components with Epifluorescence and Two-photon Microscopy
Institutions: École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Oregon Health & Science University.
Besides being a physical scaffold to maintain tissue morphology, the extracellular matrix (ECM) is actively involved in regulating cell and tissue function during development and organ homeostasis. It does so by acting via biochemical, biomechanical, and biophysical signaling pathways, such as through the release of bioactive ECM protein fragments, regulating tissue tension, and providing pathways for cell migration. The extracellular matrix of the tumor microenvironment undergoes substantial remodeling, characterized by the degradation, deposition and organization of fibrillar and non-fibrillar matrix proteins. Stromal stiffening of the tumor microenvironment can promote tumor growth and invasion, and cause remodeling of blood and lymphatic vessels. Live imaging of matrix proteins, however, to this point is limited to fibrillar collagens that can be detected by second harmonic generation using multi-photon microscopy, leaving the majority of matrix components largely invisible. Here we describe procedures for tumor inoculation in the thin dorsal ear skin, immunolabeling of extracellular matrix proteins and intravital imaging of the exposed tissue in live mice using epifluorescence and two-photon microscopy. Our intravital imaging method allows for the direct detection of both fibrillar and non-fibrillar matrix proteins in the context of a growing dermal tumor. We show examples of vessel remodeling caused by local matrix contraction. We also found that fibrillar matrix of the tumor detected with the second harmonic generation is spatially distinct from newly deposited matrix components such as tenascin C. We also showed long-term (12 hours) imaging of T-cell interaction with tumor cells and tumor cells migration along the collagen IV of basement membrane. Taken together, this method uniquely allows for the simultaneous detection of tumor cells, their physical microenvironment and the endogenous tissue immune response over time, which may provide important insights into the mechanisms underlying tumor progression and ultimate success or resistance to therapy.
Bioengineering, Issue 86, Intravital imaging, epifluorescence, two-photon imaging, Tumor matrix, Matrix remodeling
Simple Polyacrylamide-based Multiwell Stiffness Assay for the Study of Stiffness-dependent Cell Responses
Institutions: Saint Louis University.
Currently, most of the in vitro
cell research is performed on rigid tissue culture polystyrene (~1 GPa), while most cells in the body are attached to a matrix that is elastic and much softer (0.1 – 100 kPa). Since such stiffness mismatch greatly affects cell responses, there is a strong interest in developing hydrogel materials that span a wide range of stiffness to serve as cell substrates. Polyacrylamide gels, which are inexpensive and cover the stiffness range of all soft tissues in the body, are the hydrogel of choice for many research groups. However, polyacrylamide gel preparation is lengthy, tedious, and only suitable for small batches. Here, we describe an assay which by utilizing a permanent flexible plastic film as a structural support for the gels, enables the preparation of polyacrylamide gels in a multiwell plate format. The technique is faster, more efficient, and less costly than current methods and permits the preparation of gels of custom sizes not otherwise available. As it doesn’t require any specialized equipment, the method could be easily adopted by any research laboratory and would be particularly useful in research focused on understanding stiffness-dependent cell responses.
Bioengineering, Issue 97, Multiwell, substrate stiffness, drug screening, polyacrylamide, Young’s modulus, high-throughput