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A Methodology for the Development of RESTful Semantic Web Services for Gene Expression Analysis.
PUBLISHED: 07-25-2015
Gene expression studies are generally performed through multi-step analysis processes, which require the integrated use of a number of analysis tools. In order to facilitate tool/data integration, an increasing number of analysis tools have been developed as or adapted to semantic web services. In recent years, some approaches have been defined for the development and semantic annotation of web services created from legacy software tools, but these approaches still present many limitations. In addition, to the best of our knowledge, no suitable approach has been defined for the functional genomics domain. Therefore, this paper aims at defining an integrated methodology for the implementation of RESTful semantic web services created from gene expression analysis tools and the semantic annotation of such services. We have applied our methodology to the development of a number of services to support the analysis of different types of gene expression data, including microarray and RNASeq. All developed services are publicly available in the Gene Expression Analysis Services (GEAS) Repository at Additionally, we have used a number of the developed services to create different integrated analysis scenarios to reproduce parts of two gene expression studies documented in the literature. The first study involves the analysis of one-color microarray data obtained from multiple sclerosis patients and healthy donors. The second study comprises the analysis of RNA-Seq data obtained from melanoma cells to investigate the role of the remodeller BRG1 in the proliferation and morphology of these cells. Our methodology provides concrete guidelines and technical details in order to facilitate the systematic development of semantic web services. Moreover, it encourages the development and reuse of these services for the creation of semantically integrated solutions for gene expression analysis.
Jared Leadbetter takes us for a nature walk through the diversity of life resident in the termite hindgut - a microenvironment containing 250 different species found nowhere else on Earth. Jared reveals that the symbiosis exhibited by this system is multi-layered and involves not only a relationship between the termite and its gut inhabitants, but also involves a complex web of symbiosis among the gut microbes themselves.
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From Voxels to Knowledge: A Practical Guide to the Segmentation of Complex Electron Microscopy 3D-Data
Authors: Wen-Ting Tsai, Ahmed Hassan, Purbasha Sarkar, Joaquin Correa, Zoltan Metlagel, Danielle M. Jorgens, Manfred Auer.
Institutions: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Modern 3D electron microscopy approaches have recently allowed unprecedented insight into the 3D ultrastructural organization of cells and tissues, enabling the visualization of large macromolecular machines, such as adhesion complexes, as well as higher-order structures, such as the cytoskeleton and cellular organelles in their respective cell and tissue context. Given the inherent complexity of cellular volumes, it is essential to first extract the features of interest in order to allow visualization, quantification, and therefore comprehension of their 3D organization. Each data set is defined by distinct characteristics, e.g., signal-to-noise ratio, crispness (sharpness) of the data, heterogeneity of its features, crowdedness of features, presence or absence of characteristic shapes that allow for easy identification, and the percentage of the entire volume that a specific region of interest occupies. All these characteristics need to be considered when deciding on which approach to take for segmentation. The six different 3D ultrastructural data sets presented were obtained by three different imaging approaches: resin embedded stained electron tomography, focused ion beam- and serial block face- scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM, SBF-SEM) of mildly stained and heavily stained samples, respectively. For these data sets, four different segmentation approaches have been applied: (1) fully manual model building followed solely by visualization of the model, (2) manual tracing segmentation of the data followed by surface rendering, (3) semi-automated approaches followed by surface rendering, or (4) automated custom-designed segmentation algorithms followed by surface rendering and quantitative analysis. Depending on the combination of data set characteristics, it was found that typically one of these four categorical approaches outperforms the others, but depending on the exact sequence of criteria, more than one approach may be successful. Based on these data, we propose a triage scheme that categorizes both objective data set characteristics and subjective personal criteria for the analysis of the different data sets.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, 3D electron microscopy, feature extraction, segmentation, image analysis, reconstruction, manual tracing, thresholding
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Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation and Simultaneous Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Authors: Marcus Meinzer, Robert Lindenberg, Robert Darkow, Lena Ulm, David Copland, Agnes Flöel.
Institutions: University of Queensland, Charité Universitätsmedizin.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a noninvasive brain stimulation technique that uses weak electrical currents administered to the scalp to manipulate cortical excitability and, consequently, behavior and brain function. In the last decade, numerous studies have addressed short-term and long-term effects of tDCS on different measures of behavioral performance during motor and cognitive tasks, both in healthy individuals and in a number of different patient populations. So far, however, little is known about the neural underpinnings of tDCS-action in humans with regard to large-scale brain networks. This issue can be addressed by combining tDCS with functional brain imaging techniques like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or electroencephalography (EEG). In particular, fMRI is the most widely used brain imaging technique to investigate the neural mechanisms underlying cognition and motor functions. Application of tDCS during fMRI allows analysis of the neural mechanisms underlying behavioral tDCS effects with high spatial resolution across the entire brain. Recent studies using this technique identified stimulation induced changes in task-related functional brain activity at the stimulation site and also in more distant brain regions, which were associated with behavioral improvement. In addition, tDCS administered during resting-state fMRI allowed identification of widespread changes in whole brain functional connectivity. Future studies using this combined protocol should yield new insights into the mechanisms of tDCS action in health and disease and new options for more targeted application of tDCS in research and clinical settings. The present manuscript describes this novel technique in a step-by-step fashion, with a focus on technical aspects of tDCS administered during fMRI.
Behavior, Issue 86, noninvasive brain stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), anodal stimulation (atDCS), cathodal stimulation (ctDCS), neuromodulation, task-related fMRI, resting-state fMRI, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), inferior frontal gyrus (IFG)
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Rapid and Low-cost Prototyping of Medical Devices Using 3D Printed Molds for Liquid Injection Molding
Authors: Philip Chung, J. Alex Heller, Mozziyar Etemadi, Paige E. Ottoson, Jonathan A. Liu, Larry Rand, Shuvo Roy.
Institutions: University of California, San Francisco, University of California, San Francisco, University of Southern California.
Biologically inert elastomers such as silicone are favorable materials for medical device fabrication, but forming and curing these elastomers using traditional liquid injection molding processes can be an expensive process due to tooling and equipment costs. As a result, it has traditionally been impractical to use liquid injection molding for low-cost, rapid prototyping applications. We have devised a method for rapid and low-cost production of liquid elastomer injection molded devices that utilizes fused deposition modeling 3D printers for mold design and a modified desiccator as an injection system. Low costs and rapid turnaround time in this technique lower the barrier to iteratively designing and prototyping complex elastomer devices. Furthermore, CAD models developed in this process can be later adapted for metal mold tooling design, enabling an easy transition to a traditional injection molding process. We have used this technique to manufacture intravaginal probes involving complex geometries, as well as overmolding over metal parts, using tools commonly available within an academic research laboratory. However, this technique can be easily adapted to create liquid injection molded devices for many other applications.
Bioengineering, Issue 88, liquid injection molding, reaction injection molding, molds, 3D printing, fused deposition modeling, rapid prototyping, medical devices, low cost, low volume, rapid turnaround time.
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A Next-generation Tissue Microarray (ngTMA) Protocol for Biomarker Studies
Authors: Inti Zlobec, Guido Suter, Aurel Perren, Alessandro Lugli.
Institutions: University of Bern.
Biomarker research relies on tissue microarrays (TMA). TMAs are produced by repeated transfer of small tissue cores from a ‘donor’ block into a ‘recipient’ block and then used for a variety of biomarker applications. The construction of conventional TMAs is labor intensive, imprecise, and time-consuming. Here, a protocol using next-generation Tissue Microarrays (ngTMA) is outlined. ngTMA is based on TMA planning and design, digital pathology, and automated tissue microarraying. The protocol is illustrated using an example of 134 metastatic colorectal cancer patients. Histological, statistical and logistical aspects are considered, such as the tissue type, specific histological regions, and cell types for inclusion in the TMA, the number of tissue spots, sample size, statistical analysis, and number of TMA copies. Histological slides for each patient are scanned and uploaded onto a web-based digital platform. There, they are viewed and annotated (marked) using a 0.6-2.0 mm diameter tool, multiple times using various colors to distinguish tissue areas. Donor blocks and 12 ‘recipient’ blocks are loaded into the instrument. Digital slides are retrieved and matched to donor block images. Repeated arraying of annotated regions is automatically performed resulting in an ngTMA. In this example, six ngTMAs are planned containing six different tissue types/histological zones. Two copies of the ngTMAs are desired. Three to four slides for each patient are scanned; 3 scan runs are necessary and performed overnight. All slides are annotated; different colors are used to represent the different tissues/zones, namely tumor center, invasion front, tumor/stroma, lymph node metastases, liver metastases, and normal tissue. 17 annotations/case are made; time for annotation is 2-3 min/case. 12 ngTMAs are produced containing 4,556 spots. Arraying time is 15-20 hr. Due to its precision, flexibility and speed, ngTMA is a powerful tool to further improve the quality of TMAs used in clinical and translational research.
Medicine, Issue 91, tissue microarray, biomarkers, prognostic, predictive, digital pathology, slide scanning
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A Manual Small Molecule Screen Approaching High-throughput Using Zebrafish Embryos
Authors: Shahram Jevin Poureetezadi, Eric K. Donahue, Rebecca A. Wingert.
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
Zebrafish have become a widely used model organism to investigate the mechanisms that underlie developmental biology and to study human disease pathology due to their considerable degree of genetic conservation with humans. Chemical genetics entails testing the effect that small molecules have on a biological process and is becoming a popular translational research method to identify therapeutic compounds. Zebrafish are specifically appealing to use for chemical genetics because of their ability to produce large clutches of transparent embryos, which are externally fertilized. Furthermore, zebrafish embryos can be easily drug treated by the simple addition of a compound to the embryo media. Using whole-mount in situ hybridization (WISH), mRNA expression can be clearly visualized within zebrafish embryos. Together, using chemical genetics and WISH, the zebrafish becomes a potent whole organism context in which to determine the cellular and physiological effects of small molecules. Innovative advances have been made in technologies that utilize machine-based screening procedures, however for many labs such options are not accessible or remain cost-prohibitive. The protocol described here explains how to execute a manual high-throughput chemical genetic screen that requires basic resources and can be accomplished by a single individual or small team in an efficient period of time. Thus, this protocol provides a feasible strategy that can be implemented by research groups to perform chemical genetics in zebrafish, which can be useful for gaining fundamental insights into developmental processes, disease mechanisms, and to identify novel compounds and signaling pathways that have medically relevant applications.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, zebrafish, chemical genetics, chemical screen, in vivo small molecule screen, drug discovery, whole mount in situ hybridization (WISH), high-throughput screening (HTS), high-content screening (HCS)
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Investigating the Effects of Antipsychotics and Schizotypy on the N400 Using Event-Related Potentials and Semantic Categorization
Authors: Vivian Gu, Ola Mohamed Ali, Katherine L'Abbée Lacas, J. Bruno Debruille.
Institutions: McGill University, McGill University, McGill University, McGill University.
Within the field of cognitive neuroscience, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a popular method of visualizing brain function. This is in part because of its excellent spatial resolution, which allows researchers to identify brain areas associated with specific cognitive processes. However, in the quest to localize brain functions, it is relevant to note that many cognitive, sensory, and motor processes have temporal distinctions that are imperative to capture, an aspect that is left unfulfilled by fMRI’s suboptimal temporal resolution. To better understand cognitive processes, it is thus advantageous to utilize event-related potential (ERP) recording as a method of gathering information about the brain. Some of its advantages include its fantastic temporal resolution, which gives researchers the ability to follow the activity of the brain down to the millisecond. It also directly indexes both excitatory and inhibitory post-synaptic potentials by which most brain computations are performed. This sits in contrast to fMRI, which captures an index of metabolic activity. Further, the non-invasive ERP method does not require a contrast condition: raw ERPs can be examined for just one experimental condition, a distinction from fMRI where control conditions must be subtracted from the experimental condition, leading to uncertainty in associating observations with experimental or contrast conditions. While it is limited by its poor spatial and subcortical activity resolution, ERP recordings’ utility, relative cost-effectiveness, and associated advantages offer strong rationale for its use in cognitive neuroscience to track rapid temporal changes in neural activity. In an effort to foster increase in its use as a research imaging method, and to ensure proper and accurate data collection, the present article will outline – in the framework of a paradigm using semantic categorization to examine the effects of antipsychotics and schizotypy on the N400 – the procedure and key aspects associated with ERP data acquisition.
Behavior, Issue 93, Electrical brain activity, Semantic categorization, Event-related brain potentials, Neuroscience, Cognition, Psychiatry, Antipsychotic medication, N400, Schizotypy, Schizophrenia.
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Subcloning Plus Insertion (SPI) - A Novel Recombineering Method for the Rapid Construction of Gene Targeting Vectors
Authors: Thimma R. Reddy, Emma J. Kelsall, Léna M.S. Fevat, Sarah E. Munson, Shaun M. Cowley.
Institutions: University of Leicester, Center for Fisheries, Environment and Aquaculture Sciences, University of Leicester.
Gene targeting refers to the precise modification of a genetic locus using homologous recombination. The generation of novel cell lines and transgenic mouse models using this method necessitates the construction of a ‘targeting’ vector, which contains homologous DNA sequences to the target gene, and has for many years been a limiting step in the process. Vector construction can be performed in vivo in Escherichia coli cells using homologous recombination mediated by phage recombinases using a technique termed recombineering. Recombineering is the preferred technique to subclone the long homology sequences (>4kb) and various targeting elements including selection markers that are required to mediate efficient allelic exchange between a targeting vector and its cognate genomic locus. Typical recombineering protocols follow an iterative scheme of step-wise integration of the targeting elements and require intermediate purification and transformation steps. Here, we present a novel recombineering methodology of vector assembly using a multiplex approach. Plasmid gap repair is performed by the simultaneous capture of genomic sequence from mouse Bacterial Artificial Chromosome libraries and the insertion of dual bacterial and mammalian selection markers. This subcloning plus insertion method is highly efficient and yields a majority of correct recombinants. We present data for the construction of different types of conditional gene knockout, or knock-in, vectors and BAC reporter vectors that have been constructed using this method. SPI vector construction greatly extends the repertoire of the recombineering toolbox and provides a simple, rapid and cost-effective method of constructing these highly complex vectors.
Molecular Biology, Issue 95, recombineering, gap-repair, subcloning plus insertion, transgene, knockout, mouse
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Enhanced Reduced Representation Bisulfite Sequencing for Assessment of DNA Methylation at Base Pair Resolution
Authors: Francine E. Garrett-Bakelman, Caroline K. Sheridan, Thadeous J. Kacmarczyk, Jennifer Ishii, Doron Betel, Alicia Alonso, Christopher E. Mason, Maria E. Figueroa, Ari M. Melnick.
Institutions: Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Cornell Medical College, University of Michigan.
DNA methylation pattern mapping is heavily studied in normal and diseased tissues. A variety of methods have been established to interrogate the cytosine methylation patterns in cells. Reduced representation of whole genome bisulfite sequencing was developed to detect quantitative base pair resolution cytosine methylation patterns at GC-rich genomic loci. This is accomplished by combining the use of a restriction enzyme followed by bisulfite conversion. Enhanced Reduced Representation Bisulfite Sequencing (ERRBS) increases the biologically relevant genomic loci covered and has been used to profile cytosine methylation in DNA from human, mouse and other organisms. ERRBS initiates with restriction enzyme digestion of DNA to generate low molecular weight fragments for use in library preparation. These fragments are subjected to standard library construction for next generation sequencing. Bisulfite conversion of unmethylated cytosines prior to the final amplification step allows for quantitative base resolution of cytosine methylation levels in covered genomic loci. The protocol can be completed within four days. Despite low complexity in the first three bases sequenced, ERRBS libraries yield high quality data when using a designated sequencing control lane. Mapping and bioinformatics analysis is then performed and yields data that can be easily integrated with a variety of genome-wide platforms. ERRBS can utilize small input material quantities making it feasible to process human clinical samples and applicable in a range of research applications. The video produced demonstrates critical steps of the ERRBS protocol.
Genetics, Issue 96, Epigenetics, bisulfite sequencing, DNA methylation, genomic DNA, 5-methylcytosine, high-throughput
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Chitosan/Interfering RNA Nanoparticle Mediated Gene Silencing in Disease Vector Mosquito Larvae
Authors: Xin Zhang, Keshava Mysore, Ellen Flannery, Kristin Michel, David W. Severson, Kun Yan Zhu, Molly Duman-Scheel.
Institutions: Kansas State University, Indiana University School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame, Kansas State University.
Vector mosquitoes inflict more human suffering than any other organismand kill more than one million people each year. The mosquito genome projects facilitated research in new facets of mosquito biology, including functional genetic studies in the primary African malaria vector Anopheles gambiae and the dengue and yellow fever vector Aedes aegypti. RNA interference- (RNAi-) mediated gene silencing has been used to target genes of interest in both of these disease vector mosquito species. Here, we describe a procedure for preparation of chitosan/interfering RNA nanoparticles that are combined with food and ingested by larvae. This technically straightforward, high-throughput, and relatively inexpensive methodology, which is compatible with long double stranded RNA (dsRNA) or small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules, has been used for the successful knockdown of a number of different genes in A. gambiae and A. aegypti larvae. Following larval feedings, knockdown, which is verified through qRT-PCR or in situ hybridization, can persist at least through the late pupal stage. This methodology may be applicable to a wide variety of mosquito and other insect species, including agricultural pests, as well as other non-model organisms. In addition to its utility in the research laboratory, in the future, chitosan, an inexpensive, non-toxic and biodegradable polymer, could potentially be utilized in the field.
Molecular Biology, Issue 97, vector biology, RNA interference, Anopheles gambiae, Aedes aegypti, dsRNA, siRNA, knockdown, ingestion, mosquito, larvae, development, disease
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Pairwise Growth Competition Assay for Determining the Replication Fitness of Human Immunodeficiency Viruses
Authors: Siriphan Manocheewa, Erinn C. Lanxon-Cookson, Yi Liu, J. Victor Swain, Jan McClure, Ushnal Rao, Brandon Maust, Wenjie Deng, Justine E. Sunshine, Moon Kim, Morgane Rolland, James I. Mullins.
Institutions: University of Washington, University of Washington, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Henry M. Jackson Foundation.
In vitro fitness assays are essential tools for determining viral replication fitness for viruses such as HIV-1. Various measurements have been used to extrapolate viral replication fitness, ranging from the number of viral particles per infectious unit, growth rate in cell culture, and relative fitness derived from multiple-cycle growth competition assays. Growth competition assays provide a particularly sensitive measurement of fitness since the viruses are competing for cellular targets under identical growth conditions. There are several experimental factors to consider when conducting growth competition assays, including the multiplicity of infection (MOI), sampling times, and viral detection and fitness calculation methods. Each factor can affect the end result and hence must be considered carefully during the experimental design. The protocol presented here includes steps from constructing a new recombinant HIV-1 clone to performing growth competition assays and analyzing the experimental results. This protocol utilizes experimental parameter values previously shown to yield consistent and robust results. Alternatives are discussed, as some parameters need to be adjusted according to the cell type and viruses being studied. The protocol contains two alternative viral detection methods to provide flexibility as the availability of instruments, reagents and expertise varies between laboratories.
Immunology, Issue 99, HIV-1, Recombinant, Mutagenesis, Viral replication fitness, Growth competition, Fitness calculation
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Comprehensive Analysis of Transcription Dynamics from Brain Samples Following Behavioral Experience
Authors: Hagit Turm, Diptendu Mukherjee, Doron Haritan, Maayan Tahor, Ami Citri.
Institutions: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The encoding of experiences in the brain and the consolidation of long-term memories depend on gene transcription. Identifying the function of specific genes in encoding experience is one of the main objectives of molecular neuroscience. Furthermore, the functional association of defined genes with specific behaviors has implications for understanding the basis of neuropsychiatric disorders. Induction of robust transcription programs has been observed in the brains of mice following various behavioral manipulations. While some genetic elements are utilized recurrently following different behavioral manipulations and in different brain nuclei, transcriptional programs are overall unique to the inducing stimuli and the structure in which they are studied1,2. In this publication, a protocol is described for robust and comprehensive transcriptional profiling from brain nuclei of mice in response to behavioral manipulation. The protocol is demonstrated in the context of analysis of gene expression dynamics in the nucleus accumbens following acute cocaine experience. Subsequent to a defined in vivo experience, the target neural tissue is dissected; followed by RNA purification, reverse transcription and utilization of microfluidic arrays for comprehensive qPCR analysis of multiple target genes. This protocol is geared towards comprehensive analysis (addressing 50-500 genes) of limiting quantities of starting material, such as small brain samples or even single cells. The protocol is most advantageous for parallel analysis of multiple samples (e.g. single cells, dynamic analysis following pharmaceutical, viral or behavioral perturbations). However, the protocol could also serve for the characterization and quality assurance of samples prior to whole-genome studies by microarrays or RNAseq, as well as validation of data obtained from whole-genome studies.
Behavior, Issue 90, Brain, behavior, RNA, transcription, nucleus accumbens, cocaine, high-throughput qPCR, experience-dependent plasticity, gene regulatory networks, microdissection
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Flat Mount Preparation for Observation and Analysis of Zebrafish Embryo Specimens Stained by Whole Mount In situ Hybridization
Authors: Christina N. Cheng, Yue Li, Amanda N. Marra, Valerie Verdun, Rebecca A. Wingert.
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish embryo is now commonly used for basic and biomedical research to investigate the genetic control of developmental processes and to model congenital abnormalities. During the first day of life, the zebrafish embryo progresses through many developmental stages including fertilization, cleavage, gastrulation, segmentation, and the organogenesis of structures such as the kidney, heart, and central nervous system. The anatomy of a young zebrafish embryo presents several challenges for the visualization and analysis of the tissues involved in many of these events because the embryo develops in association with a round yolk mass. Thus, for accurate analysis and imaging of experimental phenotypes in fixed embryonic specimens between the tailbud and 20 somite stage (10 and 19 hours post fertilization (hpf), respectively), such as those stained using whole mount in situ hybridization (WISH), it is often desirable to remove the embryo from the yolk ball and to position it flat on a glass slide. However, performing a flat mount procedure can be tedious. Therefore, successful and efficient flat mount preparation is greatly facilitated through the visual demonstration of the dissection technique, and also helped by using reagents that assist in optimal tissue handling. Here, we provide our WISH protocol for one or two-color detection of gene expression in the zebrafish embryo, and demonstrate how the flat mounting procedure can be performed on this example of a stained fixed specimen. This flat mounting protocol is broadly applicable to the study of many embryonic structures that emerge during early zebrafish development, and can be implemented in conjunction with other staining methods performed on fixed embryo samples.
Developmental Biology, Issue 89, animals, vertebrates, fishes, zebrafish, growth and development, morphogenesis, embryonic and fetal development, organogenesis, natural science disciplines, embryo, whole mount in situ hybridization, flat mount, deyolking, imaging
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Microfluidic Chips Controlled with Elastomeric Microvalve Arrays
Authors: Nianzhen Li, Chris Sip, Albert Folch.
Institutions: University of Washington.
Miniaturized microfluidic systems provide simple and effective solutions for low-cost point-of-care diagnostics and high-throughput biomedical assays. Robust flow control and precise fluidic volumes are two critical requirements for these applications. We have developed microfluidic chips featuring elastomeric polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microvalve arrays that: 1) need no extra energy source to close the fluidic path, hence the loaded device is highly portable; and 2) allow for microfabricating deep (up to 1 mm) channels with vertical sidewalls and resulting in very precise features. The PDMS microvalves-based devices consist of three layers: a fluidic layer containing fluidic paths and microchambers of various sizes, a control layer containing the microchannels necessary to actuate the fluidic path with microvalves, and a middle thin PDMS membrane that is bound to the control layer. Fluidic layer and control layers are made by replica molding of PDMS from SU-8 photoresist masters, and the thin PDMS membrane is made by spinning PDMS at specified heights. The control layer is bonded to the thin PDMS membrane after oxygen activation of both, and then assembled with the fluidic layer. The microvalves are closed at rest and can be opened by applying negative pressure (e.g., house vacuum). Microvalve closure and opening are automated via solenoid valves controlled by computer software. Here, we demonstrate two microvalve-based microfluidic chips for two different applications. The first chip allows for storing and mixing precise sub-nanoliter volumes of aqueous solutions at various mixing ratios. The second chip allows for computer-controlled perfusion of microfluidic cell cultures. The devices are easy to fabricate and simple to control. Due to the biocompatibility of PDMS, these microchips could have broad applications in miniaturized diagnostic assays as well as basic cell biology studies.
Cellular Biology, Issue 8, BioMEMs, Microvalves, Soft lithography, PDMS, Parallel Mixer, Integrated microfluidic system, Herringbone mixer, Diffusion Gradients, Bioengineering
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Mouse Mammary Epithelial Cells form Mammospheres During Lactogenic Differentiation
Authors: Bethanie Morrison, Mary Lou Cutler.
Institutions: F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD.
A phenotypic measure commonly used to determine the degree of lactogenic differentiation in mouse mammary epithelial cell cultures is the formation of dome shaped cell structures referred to as mammospheres 1. The HC11 cell line has been employed as a model system for the study of regulation of mammary lactogenic differentiation both in vitro and in vivo 2. The HC11 cells differentiate and synthesize milk proteins in response to treatment with lactogenic hormones. Following the growth of HC11 mouse mammary epithelial cells to confluence, lactogenic differentiation was induced by the addition of a combination of lactogenic hormones including dexamethasone, insulin, and prolactin, referred to as DIP. The HC11 cells induced to differentiate were photographed at times up to 120 hours post induction of differentiation and the number of mammospheres that appeared in each culture was enumerated. The size of the individual mammospheres correlates with the degree of differentiation and this is depicted in the images of the differentiating cells.
Cellular Biology, Issue 32, Mammospheres, HC11, lactogenic differentiation, mammary
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Using Visual and Narrative Methods to Achieve Fair Process in Clinical Care
Authors: Laura S. Lorenz, Jon A. Chilingerian.
Institutions: Brandeis University, Brandeis University.
The Institute of Medicine has targeted patient-centeredness as an important area of quality improvement. A major dimension of patient-centeredness is respect for patient's values, preferences, and expressed needs. Yet specific approaches to gaining this understanding and translating it to quality care in the clinical setting are lacking. From a patient perspective quality is not a simple concept but is best understood in terms of five dimensions: technical outcomes; decision-making efficiency; amenities and convenience; information and emotional support; and overall patient satisfaction. Failure to consider quality from this five-pronged perspective results in a focus on medical outcomes, without considering the processes central to quality from the patient's perspective and vital to achieving good outcomes. In this paper, we argue for applying the concept of fair process in clinical settings. Fair process involves using a collaborative approach to exploring diagnostic issues and treatments with patients, explaining the rationale for decisions, setting expectations about roles and responsibilities, and implementing a core plan and ongoing evaluation. Fair process opens the door to bringing patient expertise into the clinical setting and the work of developing health care goals and strategies. This paper provides a step by step illustration of an innovative visual approach, called photovoice or photo-elicitation, to achieve fair process in clinical work with acquired brain injury survivors and others living with chronic health conditions. Applying this visual tool and methodology in the clinical setting will enhance patient-provider communication; engage patients as partners in identifying challenges, strengths, goals, and strategies; and support evaluation of progress over time. Asking patients to bring visuals of their lives into the clinical interaction can help to illuminate gaps in clinical knowledge, forge better therapeutic relationships with patients living with chronic conditions such as brain injury, and identify patient-centered goals and possibilities for healing. The process illustrated here can be used by clinicians, (primary care physicians, rehabilitation therapists, neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychologists, and others) working with people living with chronic conditions such as acquired brain injury, mental illness, physical disabilities, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, or post-traumatic stress, and by leaders of support groups for the types of patients described above and their family members or caregivers.
Medicine, Issue 48, person-centered care, participatory visual methods, photovoice, photo-elicitation, narrative medicine, acquired brain injury, disability, rehabilitation, palliative care
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Performing Custom MicroRNA Microarray Experiments
Authors: Xiaoxiao Zhang, Yan Zeng.
Institutions: University of Minnesota , University of Minnesota .
microRNAs (miRNAs) are a large family of ˜ 22 nucleotides (nt) long RNA molecules that are widely expressed in eukaryotes 1. Complex genomes encode at least hundreds of miRNAs, which primarily inhibit the expression of a vast number of target genes post-transcriptionally 2, 3. miRNAs control a broad range of biological processes 1. In addition, altered miRNA expression has been associated with human diseases such as cancers, and miRNAs may serve as biomarkers for diseases and prognosis 4, 5. It is important, therefore, to understand the expression and functions of miRNAs under many different conditions. Three major approaches have been employed to profile miRNA expression: real-time PCR, microarray, and deep sequencing. The technique of miRNA microarray has the advantage of being high-throughput, generally less expensive, and most of the experimental and analysis steps can be carried out in a molecular biology laboratory at most universities, medical schools and associated hospitals. Here, we describe a method for performing custom miRNA microarray experiments. A miRNA probe set will be printed on glass slides to produce miRNA microarrays. RNA is isolated using a method or reagent that preserves small RNA species, and then labeled with a fluorescence dye. As a control, reference DNA oligonucleotides corresponding to a subset of miRNAs are also labeled with a different fluorescence dye. The reference DNA will serve to demonstrate the quality of the slide and hybridization and will also be used for data normalization. The RNA and DNA are mixed and hybridized to a microarray slide containing probes for most of the miRNAs in the database. After washing, the slide is scanned to obtain images, and intensities of the individual spots quantified. These raw signals will be further processed and analyzed as the expression data of the corresponding miRNAs. Microarray slides can be stripped and regenerated to reduce the cost of microarrays and to enhance the consistency of microarray experiments. The same principles and procedures are applicable to other types of custom microarray experiments.
Molecular Biology, Issue 56, Genetics, microRNA, custom microarray, oligonucleotide probes, RNA labeling
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Annotation of Plant Gene Function via Combined Genomics, Metabolomics and Informatics
Authors: Takayuki Tohge, Alisdair R. Fernie.
Institutions: Max-Planck-Institut.
Given the ever expanding number of model plant species for which complete genome sequences are available and the abundance of bio-resources such as knockout mutants, wild accessions and advanced breeding populations, there is a rising burden for gene functional annotation. In this protocol, annotation of plant gene function using combined co-expression gene analysis, metabolomics and informatics is provided (Figure 1). This approach is based on the theory of using target genes of known function to allow the identification of non-annotated genes likely to be involved in a certain metabolic process, with the identification of target compounds via metabolomics. Strategies are put forward for applying this information on populations generated by both forward and reverse genetics approaches in spite of none of these are effortless. By corollary this approach can also be used as an approach to characterise unknown peaks representing new or specific secondary metabolites in the limited tissues, plant species or stress treatment, which is currently the important trial to understanding plant metabolism.
Plant Biology, Issue 64, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Metabolomics, Plant metabolism, Transcriptome analysis, Functional annotation, Computational biology, Plant biology, Theoretical biology, Spectroscopy and structural analysis
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Surgical Implantation of Chronic Neural Electrodes for Recording Single Unit Activity and Electrocorticographic Signals
Authors: Gregory J. Gage, Colin R. Stoetzner, Thomas Richner, Sarah K. Brodnick, Justin C. Williams, Daryl R. Kipke.
Institutions: University of Michigan , University of Wisconsin-Madison, NeuroNexus Technologies.
The success of long-term electrophysiological recordings often depends on the quality of the implantation surgery. Here we provide useful information for surgeons who are learning the process of implanting electrode systems. We demonstrate the implantation procedure of both a penetrating and a surface electrode. The surgical process is described from start to finish, including detailed descriptions of each step throughout the procedure. It should also be noted that this video guide is focused towards procedures conducted in rodent models and other small animal models. Modifications of the described procedures are feasible for other animal models.
Neuroscience, Issue 60, chronic, silicon electrode, thin film surface electrode, microECoG, surgery, survival, electrophysiology
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Primary Microglia Isolation from Mixed Glial Cell Cultures of Neonatal Rat Brain Tissue
Authors: Tami T. Tamashiro, Clifton Lee Dalgard, Kimberly R. Byrnes.
Institutions: Uniformed Services University, Uniformed Services University, Uniformed Services University.
Microglia account for approximately 12% of the total cellular population in the mammalian brain. While neurons and astrocytes are considered the major cell types of the nervous system, microglia play a significant role in normal brain physiology by monitoring tissue for debris and pathogens and maintaining homeostasis in the parenchyma via phagocytic activity 1,2. Microglia are activated during a number of injury and disease conditions, including neurodegenerative disease, traumatic brain injury, and nervous system infection 3. Under these activating conditions, microglia increase their phagocytic activity, undergo morpohological and proliferative change, and actively secrete reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, pro-inflammatory chemokines and cytokines, often activating a paracrine or autocrine loop 4-6. As these microglial responses contribute to disease pathogenesis in neurological conditions, research focused on microglia is warranted. Due to the cellular heterogeneity of the brain, it is technically difficult to obtain sufficient microglial sample material with high purity during in vivo experiments. Current research on the neuroprotective and neurotoxic functions of microglia require a routine technical method to consistently generate pure and healthy microglia with sufficient yield for study. We present, in text and video, a protocol to isolate pure primary microglia from mixed glia cultures for a variety of downstream applications. Briefly, this technique utilizes dissociated brain tissue from neonatal rat pups to produce mixed glial cell cultures. After the mixed glial cultures reach confluency, primary microglia are mechanically isolated from the culture by a brief duration of shaking. The microglia are then plated at high purity for experimental study. The principle and protocol of this methodology have been described in the literature 7,8. Additionally, alternate methodologies to isolate primary microglia are well described 9-12. Homogenized brain tissue may be separated by density gradient centrifugation to yield primary microglia 12. However, the centrifugation is of moderate length (45 min) and may cause cellular damage and activation, as well as, cause enriched microglia and other cellular populations. Another protocol has been utilized to isolate primary microglia in a variety of organisms by prolonged (16 hr) shaking while in culture 9-11. After shaking, the media supernatant is centrifuged to isolate microglia. This longer two-step isolation method may also perturb microglial function and activation. We chiefly utilize the following microglia isolation protocol in our laboratory for a number of reasons: (1) primary microglia simulate in vivo biology more faithfully than immortalized rodent microglia cell lines, (2) nominal mechanical disruption minimizes potential cellular dysfunction or activation, and (3) sufficient yield can be obtained without passage of the mixed glial cell cultures. It is important to note that this protocol uses brain tissue from neonatal rat pups to isolate microglia and that using older rats to isolate microglia can significantly impact the yield, activation status, and functional properties of isolated microglia. There is evidence that aging is linked with microglia dysfunction, increased neuroinflammation and neurodegenerative pathologies, so previous studies have used ex vivo adult microglia to better understand the role of microglia in neurodegenerative diseases where aging is important parameter. However, ex vivo microglia cannot be kept in culture for prolonged periods of time. Therefore, while this protocol extends the life of primary microglia in culture, it should be noted that the microglia behave differently from adult microglia and in vitro studies should be carefully considered when translated to an in vivo setting.
Immunology, Issue 66, Neuroscience, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Cell Culture, isolation, microglia, mixed glial cell, traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative disease
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Efficient Agroinfiltration of Plants for High-level Transient Expression of Recombinant Proteins
Authors: Kahlin Leuzinger, Matthew Dent, Jonathan Hurtado, Jake Stahnke, Huafang Lai, Xiaohong Zhou, Qiang Chen.
Institutions: Arizona State University .
Mammalian cell culture is the major platform for commercial production of human vaccines and therapeutic proteins. However, it cannot meet the increasing worldwide demand for pharmaceuticals due to its limited scalability and high cost. Plants have shown to be one of the most promising alternative pharmaceutical production platforms that are robust, scalable, low-cost and safe. The recent development of virus-based vectors has allowed rapid and high-level transient expression of recombinant proteins in plants. To further optimize the utility of the transient expression system, we demonstrate a simple, efficient and scalable methodology to introduce target-gene containing Agrobacterium into plant tissue in this study. Our results indicate that agroinfiltration with both syringe and vacuum methods have resulted in the efficient introduction of Agrobacterium into leaves and robust production of two fluorescent proteins; GFP and DsRed. Furthermore, we demonstrate the unique advantages offered by both methods. Syringe infiltration is simple and does not need expensive equipment. It also allows the flexibility to either infiltrate the entire leave with one target gene, or to introduce genes of multiple targets on one leaf. Thus, it can be used for laboratory scale expression of recombinant proteins as well as for comparing different proteins or vectors for yield or expression kinetics. The simplicity of syringe infiltration also suggests its utility in high school and college education for the subject of biotechnology. In contrast, vacuum infiltration is more robust and can be scaled-up for commercial manufacture of pharmaceutical proteins. It also offers the advantage of being able to agroinfiltrate plant species that are not amenable for syringe infiltration such as lettuce and Arabidopsis. Overall, the combination of syringe and vacuum agroinfiltration provides researchers and educators a simple, efficient, and robust methodology for transient protein expression. It will greatly facilitate the development of pharmaceutical proteins and promote science education.
Plant Biology, Issue 77, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Virology, Microbiology, Bioengineering, Plant Viruses, Antibodies, Monoclonal, Green Fluorescent Proteins, Plant Proteins, Recombinant Proteins, Vaccines, Synthetic, Virus-Like Particle, Gene Transfer Techniques, Gene Expression, Agroinfiltration, plant infiltration, plant-made pharmaceuticals, syringe agroinfiltration, vacuum agroinfiltration, monoclonal antibody, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Nicotiana benthamiana, GFP, DsRed, geminiviral vectors, imaging, plant model
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Characterization of Complex Systems Using the Design of Experiments Approach: Transient Protein Expression in Tobacco as a Case Study
Authors: Johannes Felix Buyel, Rainer Fischer.
Institutions: RWTH Aachen University, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.
Plants provide multiple benefits for the production of biopharmaceuticals including low costs, scalability, and safety. Transient expression offers the additional advantage of short development and production times, but expression levels can vary significantly between batches thus giving rise to regulatory concerns in the context of good manufacturing practice. We used a design of experiments (DoE) approach to determine the impact of major factors such as regulatory elements in the expression construct, plant growth and development parameters, and the incubation conditions during expression, on the variability of expression between batches. We tested plants expressing a model anti-HIV monoclonal antibody (2G12) and a fluorescent marker protein (DsRed). We discuss the rationale for selecting certain properties of the model and identify its potential limitations. The general approach can easily be transferred to other problems because the principles of the model are broadly applicable: knowledge-based parameter selection, complexity reduction by splitting the initial problem into smaller modules, software-guided setup of optimal experiment combinations and step-wise design augmentation. Therefore, the methodology is not only useful for characterizing protein expression in plants but also for the investigation of other complex systems lacking a mechanistic description. The predictive equations describing the interconnectivity between parameters can be used to establish mechanistic models for other complex systems.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, design of experiments (DoE), transient protein expression, plant-derived biopharmaceuticals, promoter, 5'UTR, fluorescent reporter protein, model building, incubation conditions, monoclonal antibody
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Expression, Isolation, and Purification of Soluble and Insoluble Biotinylated Proteins for Nerve Tissue Regeneration
Authors: Aleesha M. McCormick, Natalie A. Jarmusik, Elizabeth J. Endrizzi, Nic D. Leipzig.
Institutions: University of Akron.
Recombinant protein engineering has utilized Escherichia coli (E. coli) expression systems for nearly 4 decades, and today E. coli is still the most widely used host organism. The flexibility of the system allows for the addition of moieties such as a biotin tag (for streptavidin interactions) and larger functional proteins like green fluorescent protein or cherry red protein. Also, the integration of unnatural amino acids like metal ion chelators, uniquely reactive functional groups, spectroscopic probes, and molecules imparting post-translational modifications has enabled better manipulation of protein properties and functionalities. As a result this technique creates customizable fusion proteins that offer significant utility for various fields of research. More specifically, the biotinylatable protein sequence has been incorporated into many target proteins because of the high affinity interaction between biotin with avidin and streptavidin. This addition has aided in enhancing detection and purification of tagged proteins as well as opening the way for secondary applications such as cell sorting. Thus, biotin-labeled molecules show an increasing and widespread influence in bioindustrial and biomedical fields. For the purpose of our research we have engineered recombinant biotinylated fusion proteins containing nerve growth factor (NGF) and semaphorin3A (Sema3A) functional regions. We have reported previously how these biotinylated fusion proteins, along with other active protein sequences, can be tethered to biomaterials for tissue engineering and regenerative purposes. This protocol outlines the basics of engineering biotinylatable proteins at the milligram scale, utilizing  a T7 lac inducible vector and E. coli expression hosts, starting from transformation to scale-up and purification.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, protein engineering, recombinant protein production, AviTag, BirA, biotinylation, pET vector system, E. coli, inclusion bodies, Ni-NTA, size exclusion chromatography
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Phage Phenomics: Physiological Approaches to Characterize Novel Viral Proteins
Authors: Savannah E. Sanchez, Daniel A. Cuevas, Jason E. Rostron, Tiffany Y. Liang, Cullen G. Pivaroff, Matthew R. Haynes, Jim Nulton, Ben Felts, Barbara A. Bailey, Peter Salamon, Robert A. Edwards, Alex B. Burgin, Anca M. Segall, Forest Rohwer.
Institutions: San Diego State University, San Diego State University, San Diego State University, San Diego State University, San Diego State University, Argonne National Laboratory, Broad Institute.
Current investigations into phage-host interactions are dependent on extrapolating knowledge from (meta)genomes. Interestingly, 60 - 95% of all phage sequences share no homology to current annotated proteins. As a result, a large proportion of phage genes are annotated as hypothetical. This reality heavily affects the annotation of both structural and auxiliary metabolic genes. Here we present phenomic methods designed to capture the physiological response(s) of a selected host during expression of one of these unknown phage genes. Multi-phenotype Assay Plates (MAPs) are used to monitor the diversity of host substrate utilization and subsequent biomass formation, while metabolomics provides bi-product analysis by monitoring metabolite abundance and diversity. Both tools are used simultaneously to provide a phenotypic profile associated with expression of a single putative phage open reading frame (ORF). Representative results for both methods are compared, highlighting the phenotypic profile differences of a host carrying either putative structural or metabolic phage genes. In addition, the visualization techniques and high throughput computational pipelines that facilitated experimental analysis are presented.
Immunology, Issue 100, phenomics, phage, viral metagenome, Multi-phenotype Assay Plates (MAPs), continuous culture, metabolomics
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