SCIENCE EDUCATION > Advanced Biology

Cell Biology

This collection provides a glimpse into the field of cell biology and profiles five important cellular phenomena: cell division; motility; endocytosis and exocytosis; metabolism; and cell death.

  • Cell Biology

    10:05
    An Introduction to Cell Division

    Cell division is the process by which a parent cell divides and gives rise to two or more daughter cells. It is a means of reproduction for single-cell organisms. In multicellular organisms, cell division contributes to growth, development, repair, and the generation of reproductive cells (sperms and eggs). Cell division is a tightly regulated process, and aberrant cell division can cause diseases, notably cancer.

    JoVE's Introduction to Cell Division will cover a brief history of the landmark discoveries in the field. We then discuss several key questions and methods, such as cell cycle analysis and live cell imaging. Finally, we showcase some current applications of these techniques in cell division research.

  • Cell Biology

    09:31
    Cell Cycle Analysis

    Cell cycle refers to the set of events through which a cell grows, replicates its genome, and ultimately divides into two daughter cells through the process of mitosis. Because the amount of DNA in a cell shows characteristic changes throughout the cycle, techniques known as cell cycle analysis can be used to separate a population of cells according to the different phases of cell cycle they are in, based on their varying DNA content.This video will cover the principles behind cell cycle analysis via DNA-staining. We will review a generalized protocol for performing this staining using bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU, a thymidine analog that is incorporated into newly synthesized DNA strands) and propidium iodide (PI, a DNA dye that stains all DNA), followed by analysis of the stained cells with flow cytometry. During flow cytometry, a single cell suspension of fluorescently labeled cells is passed through an instrument with a laser beam and the fluorescence of each cell is read. We will then discuss how to interpret data from flow cytometric scatter plots, and finally, look at a few applications of this technique.

  • Cell Biology

    09:56
    Live Cell Imaging of Mitosis

    Mitosis is a form of cell division in which a cell’s genetic material is divided equally between two daughter cells. Mitosis can be broken down into six phases, during each of which the cell’s components, such as its chromosomes, show visually distinct characteristics. Advances in fluorescence live cell imaging have allowed scientists to study this process in great detail, providing important insights into the biological control of this process and how it might go wrong in diseases such as cancer. We begin this video by breaking down the phases of mitosis, and introducing some important considerations for optimal visualization of the process using live cell imaging. We then walk through the steps for running a live cell mitosis imaging experiment and discuss various analysis methods, including the generation of montages, movies, and 3D recreations. Finally, we take a look at how visualizing the mitotic process can be applied to answering questions in cell biology.

  • Cell Biology

    08:51
    An Introduction to Cell Motility and Migration

    Cell motility and migration play important roles in both normal biology and in disease. On one hand, migration allows cells to generate complex tissues and organs during development, but on the other hand, the same mechanisms are used by tumor cells to move and spread in a process known as cancer metastasis. One of the primary cellular machineries that make cell movement possible is an intracellular network of myosin and actin molecules, together known as “actomyosin”, which creates a contractile force to pull a cell in different directions.In this video, JoVE presents a historical overview of the field of cell migration, noting how early work on muscle contraction led to the discovery of the actomyosin apparatus. We then explore some of the questions researchers are still asking about cell motility, and review techniques used to study different aspects of this phenomenon. Finally, we look at how researchers are currently studying cell migration, for example, to better understand metastasis.

  • Cell Biology

    08:23
    The Transwell Migration Assay

    Cells migration in response to chemical cues is crucial to development, immunity and disease states such as cancer. To quantify cell migration, a simple assay was developed in 1961 by Dr. Stephen Boyden, which is now known as the transwell migration assay or Boyden chamber assay. This set-up consists an insert which separates the wells of a multiwell plate into top and bottom compartments. Cells whose migration is to be studied are seeded into the top compartment and the chemoattractant solution is placed in the bottom compartment. After incubation, counting the cells in the bottom compartment allows quantification of migration induced by chemoattractants. This video will review the commonly used experimental set-up for cell migration studies. Then we'll highlight a few key considerations, and outline a generalized protocol for running an experiment involving adherent cells. Lastly, we'll review various adaptations of this set-up currently being used to study different factors that affect migration.

  • Cell Biology

    07:57
    Invasion Assay Using 3D Matrices

    The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a network of molecules that provide a structural framework for cells and tissues and helps facilitate intercellular communication. Three-dimensional cell culture techniques have been developed to more accurately model this extracellular environment for in vitro study. While many cell processes during migration through 3D matrices are similar to those required for movement across rigid 2D surfaces, including adherence, migration through ECM also requires cells to modulate and invade this polymeric-mesh of ECM. In this video, we will present the structure and function of ECM and the basic mechanisms of how cells migrate through it. Then, we will examine the protocol of an assay for tube formation by endothelial cells, whose steps can be generalized to other experiments based on 3D matrices. We will finish by exploring several other biological questions that can be addressed using ECM invasion assays.

  • Cell Biology

    09:26
    An Introduction to Endocytosis and Exocytosis

    Cells can take in substances from the extracellular environment by endocytosis and actively release molecules into it by exocytosis. Such processes involve lipid membrane-bound sacs called vesicles. Knowledge of the molecular architecture and mechanisms of both is key to understanding normal cell physiology, as well as the disease states that arise when they become defective.

    This video will first briefly review a few pivotal discoveries in the history of endo- and exocytosis research. Next, some key questions will be examined, followed by a discussion of the prominent methods used to investigate these problems, including cell labeling, fusion assays, and fluorescence imaging. Finally, it will explore current research being conducted by scientists in the field today.

  • Cell Biology

    09:12
    Cell-surface Biotinylation Assay

    A cell can regulate the amount of particular proteins on its cell membrane through endocytosis, following which cell surface proteins are effectively sequestered in the cytoplasm. Once within a cell, these surface proteins can be either destroyed or “recycled” back to the membrane. The cell surface biotinylation assay provides researchers with a way to study these phenomena. The technique makes use of a derivative of the small molecule biotin, which can label surface proteins and then be chemically cleaved. However, if the surface protein is endocytosed, the biotin derivative will be protected from cleavage. Thus, by analyzing the uncleaved, endocytosed biotin label, scientists can assess the amounts of internalized surface proteins.In this video, we review the concepts behind the biotinylation assay, delving into the chemical structure of the biotin derivative and the mechanism of its cleavage. This is followed by a generalized protocol of the technique, and finally, a description of how researchers are currently using it to study the dynamics of different cell surface proteins.

  • Cell Biology

    08:35
    FM Dyes in Vesicle Recycling

    FM dyes are a class of fluorescent molecules that has found important use in studying the vesicle recycling process. By virtue of a chemical structure, these molecules can insert themselves into the outer leaflet of phospholipid bilayer membranes. After membrane insertion, they are internalized into the cell via endocytosed vesicles, and released when these vesicles recycle back to the membrane. Since, these dyes fluoresce strongly in the hydrophobic environment within membranes and weakly in the extracellular compartment, FM fluorescence levels can be used to track vesicular activity throughout the recycling process.This video provides an introduction to the use of FM dyes in experiments aimed to examine vesicle recycling. We first review the biochemistry of FM dyes and how their properties permit their use in these experiments. We then go through a general protocol for using FM dyes in such studies, and finally, discuss some recent research that makes use of these unique molecules.

  • Cell Biology

    10:18
    An Introduction to Cell Metabolism

    In cells, critical molecules are either built by joining together individual units like amino acids or nucleotides, or broken down into smaller components. Respectively, the reactions responsible for this are referred to as anabolic and catabolic. These reactions require or produce energy typically in the form of a “high-energy” molecule called ATP. Together, these processes make up “Cell Metabolism,” and are hallmarks of healthy, living cells.JoVE’s introduction to cell metabolism briefly reviews the rich history of this field, ranging from early studies on photosynthesis to more recent discoveries pertaining to energy production in all cells. This is followed by a discussion of some key questions asked by scientists studying metabolism, and common methods that they apply to answer these questions. Finally, we’ll explore how current researchers are studying alterations in metabolism that accompany metabolic disorders, or that occur following exposure to environmental stressors.

  • Cell Biology

    08:31
    The ATP Bioluminescence Assay

    In fireflies, the luciferase enzyme converts a compound called luciferin into oxyluciferin, and produces light or “luminescence” as a result. This reaction requires energy derived from ATP in order to proceed, so researchers have exploited the luciferase-luciferin interaction to gauge ATP levels in cells. Given ATP’s role as the cell’s currency of energy, the ATP bioluminescence assay can provide insight into cellular metabolism and overall cell health.In this video, JoVE discusses cellular respiration, specifically reviewing how glucose metabolism results in ATP production. This is followed by principles behind the ATP bioluminescence assay and a generalized protocol for this technique. Finally, a survey of how researchers are currently using the ATP bioluminescence assay to evaluate cell viability in a variety of experimental conditions.

  • Cell Biology

    09:07
    Detecting Reactive Oxygen Species

    Reactive oxygen species are chemically active, oxygen-derived molecules capable of oxidizing other molecules. Because of their reactive nature, there are many deleterious effects associated with unchecked ROS production, including structural damage to DNA and other biological molecules. However, ROS can also be mediators of physiological signaling. There is accumulating evidence that ROS play significant roles in everything from activation of transcription factors to the mediation of inflammatory toxicity that kills foreign pathogens and defend the body.In this video we will delve into the associations between ROS, metabolism and disease. After establishing their significance, we will discuss the principles and a protocol of a commonly used methodology for measuring ROS levels in cells: the use of non-fluorescent probes that become fluorescent upon oxidation. Lastly, we will review some current applications of this technique in cell biology research.

  • Cell Biology

    10:05
    An Introduction to Cell Death

    Necrosis, apoptosis, and autophagic cell death are all manners in which cells can die, and these mechanisms can be induced by different stimuli, such as cell injury, low nutrient levels, or signaling proteins. Whereas necrosis is considered to be an “accidental” or unexpected form of cell death, evidence exists that apoptosis and autophagy are both programmed and “planned” by cells.

    In this introductory video, JoVE highlights key discoveries pertaining to cell death, including recent work done in worms that helped identify genes involved in apoptosis. We then explore questions asked by scientists studying cell death, some of which look at different death pathways and their interactions. Finally, several methods to assess cell death are discussed, and we note how researchers are applying these techniques in their experiments today.

  • Cell Biology

    08:11
    The TUNEL Assay

    One of the hallmarks of apoptosis is the nuclear DNA fragmentation by nucleases. These enzymes are activated by caspases, the family of proteins that execute the cell death program. TUNEL assay is a method that takes advantage of this feature to detect apoptotic cells. In this assay, an enzyme called terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase catalyzes the addition of dUTP nucleotides to the free 3’ ends of fragmented DNA. By using dUTPs that are labeled with chemical tags that can produce fluorescence or color, apoptotic cells can be specifically identified. JoVE’s video on the TUNEL assay begins by discussing how this technique can be used to detect apoptotic cells. We then go through a general protocol for performing TUNEL assays on tissue sections and visualizing the results using fluorescence microscopy. Finally, several applications of the assay to current research will be covered.

  • Cell Biology

    09:08
    Annexin V and Propidium Iodide Labeling

    Staining with annexin V and propidium iodide (PI) provides researchers with a way to identify different types of cell death—either necrosis or apoptosis. This technique relies on two components. The first, annexin V, is a protein that binds certain phospholipids called phosphatidylserines, which normally occur only in the inner, cytoplasm-facing leaflet of a cell’s membrane, but become “flipped” to the outer leaflet during the early stages of apoptosis. The second component is the DNA-binding dye molecule PI, which can only enter cells when their membranes are ruptured—a characteristic of both necrosis and late apoptosis.This video article begins with a review of the concepts behind annexin V and PI staining, and emphasizes how differential patterns of staining can be used to distinguish between cells progressing down different death pathways. We then review a generalized protocol for this technique, followed by a description of how researchers are currently using annexin V and PI staining to better understand cell death.

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