Microinjecting recombinant adenoassociated viral (rAAV) vectors expressing Cre recombinase into distinct mouse brain regions to selectively knockout genes of interest allows for enhanced temporally- and regionally-specific control of gene deletion, compared to existing methods. While conditional deletion can also be achieved by mating mice that express Cre recombinase under the control of specific gene promoters with mice carrying a floxed gene, stereotaxic microinjection allows for targeting of discrete brain areas at experimenter-determined time points of interest. In the context of cocaine conditioned place preference, and other cocaine behavioral paradigms such as self-administration or psychomotor sensitization that can involve withdrawal, extinction and/or reinstatement phases, this technique is particularly useful in exploring the unique contribution of target genes to these distinct phases of behavioral models of cocaine-induced plasticity. Specifically, this technique allows for selective ablation of target genes during discrete phases of a behavior to test their contribution to the behavior across time. Ultimately, this understanding allows for more targeted therapeutics that are best able to address the most potent risk factors that present themselves during each phase of addictive behavior.
20 Related JoVE Articles!
Mosaic Analysis of Gene Function in Postnatal Mouse Brain Development by Using Virus-based Cre Recombination
Institutions: Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, University of Southern California, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.
Normal brain function relies not only on embryonic development when major neuronal pathways are established, but also on postnatal
development when neural circuits are matured and refined. Misregulation at this stage may lead to neurological and psychiatric disorders such as autism
. Many genes have been studied in the prenatal brain and found crucial to many developmental processes3-5
. However, their
function in the postnatal brain is largely unknown, partly because their deletion in mice often leads to lethality during neonatal development, and partly because their requirement in early development hampers the postnatal analysis. To overcome these obstacles, floxed alleles of these genes are currently being generated in mice 6
. When combined with transgenic alleles that express Cre recombinase in specific cell types, conditional deletion can be achieved to study gene function in the postnatal brain. However, this method requires additional alleles and extra time (3-6 months) to generate the mice with appropriate genotypes, thereby limiting the expansion of the genetic analysis to a large scale in the mouse brain.
Here we demonstrate a complementary approach that uses virally-expressed Cre to study these floxed alleles rapidly and
systematically in postnatal brain development. By injecting recombinant adeno-associated viruses (rAAVs)7,8
encoding Cre into the neonatal brain,
we are able to delete the gene of interest in different regions of the brain. By controlling the viral titer and coexpressing a fluorescent
protein marker, we can simultaneously achieve mosaic gene inactivation and sparse neuronal labeling. This method bypasses the requirement of
many genes in early development, and allows us to study their cell autonomous function in many critical processes in postnatal brain development,
including axonal and dendritic growth, branching, and tiling, as well as synapse formation and refinement. This method has been used successfully
in our own lab (unpublished results) and others8,9
, and can be extended to other viruses, such as lentivirus 9
, as well as to the expression of
shRNA or dominant active proteins 10
. Furthermore, by combining this technique with electrophysiology as well as recently-developed optical
imaging tools 11
, this method provides a new strategy to study how genetic pathways influence neural circuit development and function in mice
Neuroscience, Issue 54, Adeno-associated virus, Cre, mosaic analysis, sparse labeling, mouse, postnatal, brain development
Principles of Site-Specific Recombinase (SSR) Technology
Institutions: Max Plank Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden.
Site-specific recombinase (SSR) technology allows the manipulation of gene structure to explore gene function and has become an integral tool of molecular biology. Site-specific recombinases are proteins that bind to distinct DNA target sequences. The Cre/lox system was first described in bacteriophages during the 1980's. Cre recombinase is a Type I topoisomerase that catalyzes site-specific recombination of DNA between two loxP (locus of X-over P1) sites. The Cre/lox system does not require any cofactors. LoxP sequences contain distinct binding sites for Cre recombinases that surround a directional core sequence where recombination and rearrangement takes place. When cells contain loxP sites and express the Cre recombinase, a recombination event occurs. Double-stranded DNA is cut at both loxP sites by the Cre recombinase, rearranged, and ligated ("scissors and glue"). Products of the recombination event depend on the relative orientation of the asymmetric sequences.
SSR technology is frequently used as a tool to explore gene function. Here the gene of interest is flanked with Cre target sites loxP ("floxed"). Animals are then crossed with animals expressing the Cre recombinase under the control of a tissue-specific promoter. In tissues that express the Cre recombinase it binds to target sequences and excises the floxed gene. Controlled gene deletion allows the investigation of gene function in specific tissues and at distinct time points. Analysis of gene function employing SSR technology --- conditional mutagenesis -- has significant advantages over traditional knock-outs where gene deletion is frequently lethal.
Cellular Biology, Issue 15, Molecular Biology, Site-Specific Recombinase, Cre recombinase, Cre/lox system, transgenic animals, transgenic technology
Induction of Protein Deletion Through In Utero Electroporation to Define Deficits in Neuronal Migration in Transgenic Models
Institutions: University of Ottawa.
Genetic deletion using the Cre-Lox system in transgenic mouse lines is a powerful tool used to study protein function. However, except in very specific Cre models, deletion of a protein throughout a tissue or cell population often leads to complex phenotypes resulting from multiple interacting mechanisms. Determining whether a phenotype results from disruption of a cell autonomous mechanism, which is intrinsic to the cell in question, or from a non-cell autonomous mechanism, which would result from impairment of that cell’s environment, can be difficult to discern. To gain insight into protein function in an in vivo
context, in utero
electroporation (IUE) enables gene deletion in a small subset of cells within the developing cortex or some other selected brain region. IUE can be used to target specific brain areas, including the dorsal telencephalon, medial telencephalon, hippocampus, or ganglionic eminence. This facilitates observation of the consequences of cell autonomous gene deletion in the context of a healthy environment. The goal of this protocol is to show how IUE can be used to analyze a defect in radial migration in a floxed transgenic mouse line, with an emphasis on distinguishing between the cell autonomous and non-cell autonomous effects of protein deletion. By comparing the phenotype resulting from gene deletion within the entire cortex versus IUE-mediated gene deletion in a limited cell population, greater insight into protein function in brain development can be obtained than by using either technique in isolation.
Developmental Biology, Issue 95, In utero electroporation, brain development, neural migration, transgenic, cell autonomous, mouse model
High Efficiency Differentiation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells to Cardiomyocytes and Characterization by Flow Cytometry
Institutions: Medical College of Wisconsin, Stanford University School of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Hong Kong University, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin.
There is an urgent need to develop approaches for repairing the damaged heart, discovering new therapeutic drugs that do not have toxic effects on the heart, and improving strategies to accurately model heart disease. The potential of exploiting human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) technology to generate cardiac muscle “in a dish” for these applications continues to generate high enthusiasm. In recent years, the ability to efficiently generate cardiomyogenic cells from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) has greatly improved, offering us new opportunities to model very early stages of human cardiac development not otherwise accessible. In contrast to many previous methods, the cardiomyocyte differentiation protocol described here does not require cell aggregation or the addition of Activin A or BMP4 and robustly generates cultures of cells that are highly positive for cardiac troponin I and T (TNNI3, TNNT2), iroquois-class homeodomain protein IRX-4 (IRX4), myosin regulatory light chain 2, ventricular/cardiac muscle isoform (MLC2v) and myosin regulatory light chain 2, atrial isoform (MLC2a) by day 10 across all human embryonic stem cell (hESC) and hiPSC lines tested to date. Cells can be passaged and maintained for more than 90 days in culture. The strategy is technically simple to implement and cost-effective. Characterization of cardiomyocytes derived from pluripotent cells often includes the analysis of reference markers, both at the mRNA and protein level. For protein analysis, flow cytometry is a powerful analytical tool for assessing quality of cells in culture and determining subpopulation homogeneity. However, technical variation in sample preparation can significantly affect quality of flow cytometry data. Thus, standardization of staining protocols should facilitate comparisons among various differentiation strategies. Accordingly, optimized staining protocols for the analysis of IRX4, MLC2v, MLC2a, TNNI3, and TNNT2 by flow cytometry are described.
Cellular Biology, Issue 91, human induced pluripotent stem cell, flow cytometry, directed differentiation, cardiomyocyte, IRX4, TNNI3, TNNT2, MCL2v, MLC2a
Intravenous Injections in Neonatal Mice
Institutions: Ohio State University, Ohio State University.
Intravenous injection is a clinically applicable manner to deliver therapeutics. For adult rodents and larger animals, intravenous injections are technically feasible and routine. However, some mouse models can have early onset of disease with a rapid progression that makes administration of potential therapies difficult. The temporal (or facial) vein is just anterior to the ear bud in mice and is clearly visible for the first two days after birth on either side of the head using a dissecting microscope. During this window, the temporal vein can be injected with volumes up to 50 μl. The injection is safe and well tolerated by both the pups and the dams. A typical injection procedure is completed within 1-2 min, after which the pup is returned to the home cage. By the third postnatal day the vein is difficult to visualize and the injection procedure becomes technically unreliable. This technique has been used for delivery of adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors, which in turn can provide almost body-wide, stable transgene expression for the life of the animal depending on the viral serotype chosen.
Basic Protocol, Issue 93, intravenous injection, systemic delivery, neonate, AAV, gene therapy, brain, spinal cord, muscle, temporal vein
Derivation of Cardiac Progenitor Cells from Embryonic Stem Cells
Institutions: University of Michigan, New York University School of Medicine.
Cardiac progenitor cells (CPCs) have the capacity to differentiate into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells (SMC), and endothelial cells and hold great promise in cell therapy against heart disease. Among various methods to isolate CPCs, differentiation of embryonic stem cell (ESC) into CPCs attracts great attention in the field since ESCs can provide unlimited cell source. As a result, numerous strategies have been developed to derive CPCs from ESCs. In this protocol, differentiation and purification of embryonic CPCs from both mouse and human ESCs is described. Due to the difficulty of using cell surface markers to isolate embryonic CPCs, ESCs are engineered with fluorescent reporters activated by CPC-specific cre recombinase expression. Thus, CPCs can be enriched by fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS). This protocol illustrates procedures to form embryoid bodies (EBs) from ESCs for CPC specification and enrichment. The isolated CPCs can be subsequently cultured for cardiac lineage differentiation and other biological assays. This protocol is optimized for robust and efficient derivation of CPCs from both mouse and human ESCs.
Developmental Biology, Issue 95, embryonic stem cells, embryoid bodies, cardiac progenitor cells, cardiac differentiation, FACS-sorting, fluorescent reporter
Surgical Method for Virally Mediated Gene Delivery to the Mouse Inner Ear through the Round Window Membrane
Institutions: University of California, San Francisco.
Gene therapy, used to achieve functional recovery from sensorineural deafness, promises to grant better understanding of the underlying molecular and genetic mechanisms that contribute to hearing loss. Introduction of vectors into the inner ear must be done in a way that widely distributes the agent throughout the cochlea while minimizing injury to the existing structures. This manuscript describes a post-auricular surgical approach that can be used for mouse cochlear therapy using molecular, pharmacologic, and viral delivery to mice postnatal day 10 and older via the round window membrane (RWM). This surgical approach enables rapid and direct delivery into the scala tympani while minimizing blood loss and avoiding animal mortality. This technique involves negligible or no damage to essential structures of the inner and middle ear as well as neck muscles while wholly preserving hearing. To demonstrate the efficacy of this surgical technique, the vesicular glutamate transporter 3 knockout (VGLUT3 KO) mice will be used as an example of a mouse model of congenital deafness that recovers hearing after delivery of VGLUT3 to the inner ear using an adeno-associated virus (AAV-1).
Neuroscience, Issue 97, Gene therapy, Transfection, Adeno-associated virus (AAV), Mouse, Cochlea, Inner hair cells (IHC), Vesicular glutamate transporter 3 (VGLUT3).
Viral-mediated Labeling and Transplantation of Medial Ganglionic Eminence (MGE) Cells for In Vivo Studies
Institutions: University of California San Francisco, University of California San Francisco.
GABAergic cortical interneurons, derived from the embryonic medial and caudal ganglionic eminences (MGE and CGE), are functionally and morphologically diverse. Inroads have been made in understanding the roles of distinct cortical interneuron subgroups, however, there are still many mechanisms to be worked out that may contribute to the development and maturation of different types of GABAergic cells. Moreover, altered GABAergic signaling may contribute to phenotypes of autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy. Specific Cre-driver lines have begun to parcel out the functions of unique interneuron subgroups. Despite the advances in mouse models, it is often difficult to efficiently study GABAergic cortical interneuron progenitors with molecular approaches in vivo
. One important technique used to study the cell autonomous programming of these cells is transplantation of MGE cells into host cortices. These transplanted cells migrate extensively, differentiate, and functionally integrate. In addition, MGE cells can be efficiently transduced with lentivirus immediately prior to transplantation, allowing for a multitude of molecular approaches. Here we detail a protocol to efficiently transduce MGE cells before transplantation for in vivo
analysis, using available Cre-driver lines and Cre-dependent expression vectors. This approach is advantageous because it combines precise genetic manipulation with the ability of these cells to disperse after transplantation, permitting greater cell-type specific resolution in vivo
Developmental Biology, Issue 98, MGE, interneuron, transplantation, lentivirus, cell labeling, somatostatin, Cre
Use of the TetON System to Study Molecular Mechanisms of Zebrafish Regeneration
Institutions: Ulm University.
The zebrafish has become a very important model organism for studying vertebrate development, physiology, disease, and tissue regeneration. A thorough understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved requires experimental tools that allow for inducible, tissue-specific manipulation of gene expression or signaling pathways. Therefore, we and others have recently adapted the TetON system for use in zebrafish. The TetON system facilitates temporally and spatially-controlled gene expression and we have recently used this tool to probe for tissue-specific functions of Wnt/beta–catenin signaling during zebrafish tail fin regeneration. Here we describe the workflow for using the TetON system to achieve inducible, tissue-specific gene expression in the adult regenerating zebrafish tail fin. This includes the generation of stable transgenic TetActivator and TetResponder lines, transgene induction and techniques for verification of tissue-specific gene expression in the fin regenerate. Thus, this protocol serves as blueprint for setting up a functional TetON system in zebrafish and its subsequent use, in particular for studying fin regeneration.
Developmental Biology, Issue 100, Tetracycline-controlled transcriptional activation, TetON, zebrafish, Regeneration, fin, tissue-specific gene expression, doxycycline, cryosectioning, transgenic, Tol2, I-SceI, anesthesia
Modeling Astrocytoma Pathogenesis In Vitro and In Vivo Using Cortical Astrocytes or Neural Stem Cells from Conditional, Genetically Engineered Mice
Institutions: University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Current astrocytoma models are limited in their ability to define the roles of oncogenic mutations in specific brain cell types during disease pathogenesis and their utility for preclinical drug development. In order to design a better model system for these applications, phenotypically wild-type cortical astrocytes and neural stem cells (NSC) from conditional, genetically engineered mice (GEM) that harbor various combinations of floxed oncogenic alleles were harvested and grown in culture. Genetic recombination was induced in vitro
using adenoviral Cre-mediated recombination, resulting in expression of mutated oncogenes and deletion of tumor suppressor genes. The phenotypic consequences of these mutations were defined by measuring proliferation, transformation, and drug response in vitro
. Orthotopic allograft models, whereby transformed cells are stereotactically injected into the brains of immune-competent, syngeneic littermates, were developed to define the role of oncogenic mutations and cell type on tumorigenesis in vivo
. Unlike most established human glioblastoma cell line xenografts, injection of transformed GEM-derived cortical astrocytes into the brains of immune-competent littermates produced astrocytomas, including the most aggressive subtype, glioblastoma, that recapitulated the histopathological hallmarks of human astrocytomas, including diffuse invasion of normal brain parenchyma. Bioluminescence imaging of orthotopic allografts from transformed astrocytes engineered to express luciferase was utilized to monitor in vivo
tumor growth over time. Thus, astrocytoma models using astrocytes and NSC harvested from GEM with conditional oncogenic alleles provide an integrated system to study the genetics and cell biology of astrocytoma pathogenesis in vitro
and in vivo
and may be useful in preclinical drug development for these devastating diseases.
Neuroscience, Issue 90, astrocytoma, cortical astrocytes, genetically engineered mice, glioblastoma, neural stem cells, orthotopic allograft
Live Cell Imaging of Primary Rat Neonatal Cardiomyocytes Following Adenoviral and Lentiviral Transduction Using Confocal Spinning Disk Microscopy
Institutions: Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Biomedicine and Institute of Cell Biology, Yale Cardiovascular Research Center and Section of Cardiovascular Medicine.
Primary rat neonatal cardiomyocytes are useful in basic in vitro
cardiovascular research because they can be easily isolated in large numbers in a single procedure. Due to advances in microscope technology it is relatively easy to capture live cell images for the purpose of investigating cellular events in real time with minimal concern regarding phototoxicity to the cells. This protocol describes how to take live cell timelapse images of primary rat neonatal cardiomyocytes using a confocal spinning disk microscope following lentiviral and adenoviral transduction to modulate properties of the cell. The application of two different types of viruses makes it easier to achieve an appropriate transduction rate and expression levels for two different genes. Well focused live cell images can be obtained using the microscope’s autofocus system, which maintains stable focus for long time periods. Applying this method, the functions of exogenously engineered proteins expressed in cultured primary cells can be analyzed. Additionally, this system can be used to examine the functions of genes through the use of siRNAs as well as of chemical modulators.
Cellular Biology, Issue 88, live cell imaging, cardiomyocyte, primary cell culture, adenovirus, lentivirus, confocal spinning disk microscopy
Ultrasound-guided Transthoracic Intramyocardial Injection in Mice
Institutions: Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard University.
Murine models of cardiovascular disease are important for investigating pathophysiological mechanisms and exploring potential regenerative therapies. Experiments involving myocardial injection are currently performed by direct surgical access through a thoracotomy. While convenient when performed at the time of another experimental manipulation such as coronary artery ligation, the need for an invasive procedure for intramyocardial delivery limits potential experimental designs. With ever improving ultrasound resolution and advanced noninvasive imaging modalities, it is now feasible to routinely perform ultrasound-guided, percutaneous intramyocardial injection. This modality efficiently and reliably delivers agents to a targeted region of myocardium. Advantages of this technique include the avoidance of surgical morbidity, the facility to target regions of myocardium selectively under ultrasound guidance, and the opportunity to deliver injectate to the myocardium at multiple, predetermined time intervals. With practiced technique, complications from intramyocardial injection are rare, and mice quickly return to normal activity on recovery from anesthetic. Following the steps outlined in this protocol, the operator with basic echocardiography experience can quickly become competent in this versatile, minimally invasive technique.
Medicine, Issue 90, microinjection, mouse, echocardiography, transthoracic, myocardium, percutaneous administration
Isolation, Culture, and Functional Characterization of Adult Mouse Cardiomyoctyes
Institutions: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Sapienza University.
The use of primary cardiomyocytes (CMs) in culture has provided a powerful complement to murine models of heart disease in advancing our understanding of heart disease. In particular, the ability to study ion homeostasis, ion channel function, cellular excitability and excitation-contraction coupling and their alterations in diseased conditions and by disease-causing mutations have led to significant insights into cardiac diseases. Furthermore, the lack of an adequate immortalized cell line to mimic adult CMs, and the limitations of neonatal CMs (which lack many of the structural and functional biomechanics characteristic of adult CMs) in culture have hampered our understanding of the complex interplay between signaling pathways, ion channels and contractile properties in the adult heart strengthening the importance of studying adult isolated cardiomyocytes. Here, we present methods for the isolation, culture, manipulation of gene expression by adenoviral-expressed proteins, and subsequent functional analysis of cardiomyocytes from the adult mouse. The use of these techniques will help to develop mechanistic insight into signaling pathways that regulate cellular excitability, Ca2+
dynamics and contractility and provide a much more physiologically relevant characterization of cardiovascular disease.
Cellular Biology, Issue 79, Medicine, Cardiology, Cellular Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, Mice, Ion Channels, Primary Cell Culture, Cardiac Electrophysiology, adult mouse cardiomyocytes, cell isolation, IonOptix, Cell Culture, adenoviral transfection, patch clamp, fluorescent nanosensor
Isolation and Culture of Neonatal Mouse Cardiomyocytes
Institutions: King’s College London, University of California San Diego .
Cultured neonatal cardiomyocytes have long been used to study myofibrillogenesis and myofibrillar functions. Cultured cardiomyocytes allow for easy investigation and manipulation of biochemical pathways, and their effect on the biomechanical properties of spontaneously beating cardiomyocytes.
The following 2-day protocol describes the isolation and culture of neonatal mouse cardiomyocytes. We show how to easily dissect hearts from neonates, dissociate the cardiac tissue and enrich cardiomyocytes from the cardiac cell-population. We discuss the usage of different enzyme mixes for cell-dissociation, and their effects on cell-viability. The isolated cardiomyocytes can be subsequently used for a variety of morphological, electrophysiological, biochemical, cell-biological or biomechanical assays. We optimized the protocol for robustness and reproducibility, by using only commercially available solutions and enzyme mixes that show little lot-to-lot variability. We also address common problems associated with the isolation and culture of cardiomyocytes, and offer a variety of options for the optimization of isolation and culture conditions.
Cellular Biology, Issue 79, Biomedical Engineering, Bioengineering, Molecular Biology, Cell Culture Techniques, Primary Cell Culture, Cell Culture Techniques, Primary Cell Culture, Cell Culture Techniques, Primary Cell Culture, Cell Culture Techniques, Disease Models, Animal, Models, Cardiovascular, Cell Biology, neonatal mouse, cardiomyocytes, isolation, culture, primary cells, NMC, heart cells, animal model
Isolation of Cardiomyocyte Nuclei from Post-mortem Tissue
Institutions: University of Lund, University of Lund.
Identification of cardiomyocyte nuclei has been challenging in tissue sections as most strategies rely only on cytoplasmic marker proteins1
. Rare events in cardiac myocytes such as proliferation and apoptosis require an accurate identification of cardiac myocyte nuclei to analyze cellular renewal in homeostasis and in pathological conditions2
. Here, we provide a method to isolate cardiomyocyte nuclei from post mortem tissue by density sedimentation and immunolabeling with antibodies against pericentriolar material 1 (PCM-1) and subsequent flow cytometry sorting. This strategy allows a high throughput analysis and isolation with the advantage of working equally well on fresh tissue and frozen archival material. This makes it possible to study material already collected in biobanks. This technique is applicable and tested in a wide range of species and suitable for multiple downstream applications such as carbon-14 dating3
, cell-cycle analysis4
, visualization of thymidine analogues (e.g. BrdU and IdU)4
, transcriptome and epigenetic analysis.
Medicine, Issue 65, Stem Cell Biology, Cardiology, Physiology, Tissue Engineering, cardiomyocyte, post mortem, nuclei isolation, flow cytometry, pericentriolar material 1, PCM-1
A Cre-Lox P Recombination Approach for the Detection of Cell Fusion In Vivo
Institutions: University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The ability of two or more cells of the same type to fuse has been utilized in metazoans throughout evolution to form many complex organs, including skeletal muscle, bone and placenta. Contemporary studies demonstrate fusion of cells of the same type confers enhanced function. For example, when the trophoblast cells of the placenta fuse to form the syncytiotrophoblast, the syncytiotrophoblast is better able to transport nutrients and hormones across the maternal-fetal barrier than unfused trophoblasts1-4
. More recent studies demonstrate fusion of cells of different types can direct cell fate. The "reversion" or modification of cell fate by fusion was once thought to be limited to cell culture systems. But the advent of stem cell transplantation led to the discovery by us and others that stem cells can fuse with somatic cells in vivo
and that fusion facilitates stem cell differentiation5-7
. Thus, cell fusion is a regulated process capable of promoting cell survival and differentiation and thus could be of central importance for development, repair of tissues and even the pathogenesis of disease.
Limiting the study of cell fusion, is lack of appropriate technology to 1) accurately identify fusion products and to 2) track fusion products over time. Here we present a novel approach to address both limitations via induction of bioluminescence upon fusion (Figure 1
); bioluminescence can be detected with high sensitivity in vivo8-15
. We utilize a construct encoding the firefly luciferase (Photinus pyralis) gene placed adjacent to a stop codon flanked by LoxP sequences. When cells expressing this gene fuse with cells expressing the Cre recombinase protein, the LoxP sites are cleaved and the stop signal is excised allowing transcription of luciferase.
Because the signal is inducible, the incidence of false-positive signals is very low. Unlike existing methods which utilize the Cre/LoxP
, we have incorporated a "living" detection signal and thereby afford for the first time the opportunity to track the kinetics of cell fusion in vivo
To demonstrate the approach, mice ubiquitously expressing Cre recombinase served as recipients of stem cells transfected with a construct to express luciferase downstream of a floxed stop codon.
Stem cells were transplanted via intramyocardial injection and after transplantation intravital image analysis was conducted to track the presence of fusion products in the heart and surrounding tissues over time. This approach could be adapted to analyze cell fusion in any tissue type at any stage of development, disease or adult tissue repair.
Bioengineering, Issue 59, Cell fusion, stem cell, fusogen, cre recombinase, biophotonic imaging, cellular transplantation
Adenovirus-mediated Genetic Removal of Signaling Molecules in Cultured Primary Mouse Embryonic Fibroblasts
Institutions: University of Guelph.
The ability to genetically remove specific components of various cell signalling cascades has been an integral tool in modern signal transduction analysis. One particular method to achieve this conditional deletion is via the use of the Cre-loxP system. This method involves flanking the gene of interest with loxP sites, which are specific recognition sequences for the Cre recombinase protein. Exposure of the so-called floxed (flanked by loxP site) DNA to this enzyme results in a Cre-mediated recombination event at the loxP sites, and subsequent excision of the intervening gene3
. Several different methods exist to administer Cre recombinase to the site of interest. In this video, we demonstrate the use of an adenovirus containing the Cre recombinase gene to infect primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) obtained from embryos containing a floxed Rac1 allele1
. Our rationale for selecting Rac1 MEFs for our experiments is that clear morphological changes can be seen upon deletion of Rac1, due to alterations in the actin cytoskeleton2,5
. 72 hours following viral transduction and Cre expression, cells were stained using the actin dye phalloidin and imaged using confocal laser scanning microscopy. It was observed that MEFs which had been exposed to the adeno-Cre virus appeared contracted and elongated in morphology compared to uninfected cells, consistent with previous reports2,5
. The adenovirus method of Cre recombinase delivery is advantageous as the adeno-Cre virus is easily available, and gene deletion via Cre in nearly 100% of the cells can be achieved with optimized adenoviral infection.
Cellular Biology, Issue 43, Cre-loxP, andenovirus, MEF, actin cytoskeleton, cell culture
A Reverse Genetic Approach to Test Functional Redundancy During Embryogenesis
Institutions: Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University.
Gene function during embryogenesis is typically defined by loss-of-function experiments, for example by targeted mutagenesis (knockout) in the mouse. In the zebrafish model, effective reverse genetic techniques have been developed using microinjection of gene-specific antisense morpholinos. Morpholinos target an mRNA through specific base-pairing and block gene function transiently by inhibiting translation or splicing for several days during embryogenesis (knockdown). However, in vertebrates such as mouse or zebrafish, some gene functions can be obscured by these approaches due to the presence of another gene that compensates for the loss. This is especially true for gene families containing sister genes that are co-expressed in the same developing tissues. In zebrafish, functional compensation can be tested in a relatively high-throughput manner, by co-injection of morpholinos that target knockdown of both genes simultaneously. Likewise, using morpholinos, a genetic interaction between any two genes can be demonstrated by knockdown of both genes together at sub-threshold levels. For example, morpholinos can be titrated such that neither individual knockdown generates a phenotype. If, under these conditions, co-injection of both morpholinos causes a phenotype, a genetic interaction is shown. Here we demonstrate how to show functional redundancy in the context of two related GATA transcription factors. GATA factors are essential for specification of cardiac progenitors, but this is revealed only by the loss of both Gata5 and Gata6. We show how to carry out microinjection experiments, validate the morpholinos, and evaluate the compensated phenotype for cardiogenesis.
Developmental Biology, Issue 42, protocol, zebrafish, morpholinos, cardiogenesis,
Molecular Evolution of the Tre Recombinase
Institutions: Max Plank Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden.
Here we report the generation of Tre recombinase through directed, molecular evolution. Tre recombinase recognizes a pre-defined target sequence within the LTR sequences of the HIV-1 provirus, resulting in the excision and eradication of the provirus from infected human cells.
We started with Cre, a 38-kDa recombinase, that recognizes a 34-bp double-stranded DNA sequence known as loxP. Because Cre can effectively eliminate genomic sequences, we set out to tailor a recombinase that could remove the sequence between the 5'-LTR and 3'-LTR of an integrated HIV-1 provirus. As a first step we identified sequences within the LTR sites that were similar to loxP and tested for recombination activity. Initially Cre and mutagenized Cre libraries failed to recombine the chosen loxLTR sites of the HIV-1 provirus. As the start of any directed molecular evolution process requires at least residual activity, the original asymmetric loxLTR sequences were split into subsets and tested again for recombination activity. Acting as intermediates, recombination activity was shown with the subsets. Next, recombinase libraries were enriched through reiterative evolution cycles. Subsequently, enriched libraries were shuffled and recombined. The combination of different mutations proved synergistic and recombinases were created that were able to recombine loxLTR1 and loxLTR2. This was evidence that an evolutionary strategy through intermediates can be successful. After a total of 126 evolution cycles individual recombinases were functionally and structurally analyzed. The most active recombinase -- Tre -- had 19 amino acid changes as compared to Cre. Tre recombinase was able to excise the HIV-1 provirus from the genome HIV-1 infected HeLa cells (see "HIV-1 Proviral DNA Excision Using an Evolved Recombinase", Hauber J., Heinrich-Pette-Institute for Experimental Virology and Immunology, Hamburg, Germany). While still in its infancy, directed molecular evolution will allow the creation of custom enzymes that will serve as tools of "molecular surgery" and molecular medicine.
Cell Biology, Issue 15, HIV-1, Tre recombinase, Site-specific recombination, molecular evolution
Ex Vivo Culture of Pharyngeal Arches to Study Heart and Muscle Progenitors and Their Niche
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The pharyngeal mesoderm of developing embryos contributes to broad regions of head and heart musculature. We have developed a novel method to study head and heart progenitor cell development with pharyngeal arches (also known as branchial arches) ex vivo
. Using this method, we have recently described that the second pharyngeal arch contains self-renewing heart progenitors and serves as a microenvironment for expansion of the progenitors during mouse heart development. The progenitor cells remain undifferentiated and expansive inside the arch, but quickly become functional cardiomyocytes as they migrate out of the arch. We also reported that first pharyngeal arch contains muscle progenitors giving rise to myotubes after leaving the arch. Here, we demonstrate the procedure for the dissection and ex vivo
culture of first and second pharyngeal arches from developing mouse embryos. The method enables one to study head and heart progenitor/muscle development, including cardiomyocyte and myotube formation in detail ex vivo
Developmental Biology, Issue 101, Cardiac Progenitors, Microenvironment, Pharyngeal arch, Cardiogenesis, Head muscle progenitors, Stem cells