Telomeres are repeating DNA sequences at the tip ends of the chromosomes that are diverse in length and in humans can reach a length of 15,000 base pairs. The telomere serves as a bioprotective mechanism of chromosome attrition at each cell division. At a certain length, telomeres become too short to allow replication, a process that may lead to chromosome instability or cell death. Telomere length is regulated by two opposing mechanisms: attrition and elongation. Attrition occurs as each cell divides. In contrast, elongation is partially modulated by the enzyme telomerase, which adds repeating sequences to the ends of the chromosomes. In this way, telomerase could possibly reverse an aging mechanism and rejuvenates cell viability. These are crucial elements in maintaining cell life and are used to assess cellular aging. In this manuscript we will describe an accurate, short, sophisticated and cheap method to assess telomere length in multiple tissues and species. This method takes advantage of two key elements, the tandem repeat of the telomere sequence and the sensitivity of the qRT-PCR to detect differential copy numbers of tested samples. In addition, we will describe a simple assay to assess telomerase activity as a complementary backbone test for telomere length.
20 Related JoVE Articles!
Telomerase Activity in the Various Regions of Mouse Brain: Non-Radioactive Telomerase Repeat Amplification Protocol (TRAP) Assay
Institutions: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Telomerase, a ribonucleoprotein, is responsible for maintaining the telomere length and therefore promoting genomic integrity, proliferation, and lifespan. In addition, telomerase protects the mitochondria from oxidative stress and confers resistance to apoptosis, suggesting its possible importance for the surviving of non-mitotic, highly active cells such as neurons. We previously demonstrated the ability of novel telomerase activators to increase telomerase activity and expression in the various mouse brain regions and to protect motor neurons cells from oxidative stress. These results strengthen the notion that telomerase is involved in the protection of neurons from various lesions. To underline the role of telomerase in the brain, we here compare the activity of telomerase in male and female mouse brain and its dependence on age. TRAP assay is a standard method for detecting telomerase activity in various tissues or cell lines. Here we demonstrate the analysis of telomerase activity in three regions of the mouse brain by non-denaturing protein extraction using CHAPS lysis buffer followed by modification of the standard TRAP assay.
In this 2-step assay, endogenous telomerase elongates a specific telomerase substrate (TS primer) by adding TTAGGG 6 bp repeats (telomerase reaction). The telomerase reaction products are amplified by PCR reaction creating a DNA ladder of 6 bp increments. The analysis of the DNA ladder is made by 4.5% high resolution agarose gel electrophoresis followed by staining with highly sensitive nucleic acid stain.
Compared to the traditional TRAP assay that utilize 32
P labeled radioactive dCTP's for DNA detection and polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis for resolving the DNA ladder, this protocol offers a non-toxic time saving TRAP assay for evaluating telomerase activity in the mouse brain, demonstrating the ability to detect differences in telomerase activity in the various female and male mouse brain region.
Neuroscience, Issue 91, telomerase, telomeres, TRAP assay, PCR, gel electrophoresis, frontal lobe, cerebellum, brain stem
In vitro Reconstitution of the Active T. castaneum Telomerase
Institutions: University of Pennsylvania.
Efforts to isolate the catalytic subunit of telomerase, TERT, in sufficient quantities for structural studies, have been met with limited success for more than a decade. Here, we present methods for the isolation of the recombinant Tribolium castaneum TERT (Tc
TERT) and the reconstitution of the active T. castaneum
telomerase ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex in vitro
Telomerase is a specialized reverse transcriptase1
that adds short DNA repeats, called telomeres, to the 3' end of linear chromosomes2
that serve to protect them from end-to-end fusion and degradation. Following DNA replication, a short segment is lost at the end of the chromosome3
and without telomerase, cells continue dividing until eventually reaching their Hayflick Limit4
. Additionally, telomerase is dormant in most somatic cells5
in adults, but is active in cancer cells6
where it promotes cell immortality7
The minimal telomerase enzyme consists of two core components: the protein subunit (TERT), which comprises the catalytic subunit of the enzyme and an integral RNA component (TER), which contains the template TERT uses to synthesize telomeres8,9
. Prior to 2008, only structures for individual telomerase domains had been solved10,11
. A major breakthrough in this field came from the determination of the crystal structure of the active12
, catalytic subunit of T. castaneum
Here, we present methods for producing large quantities of the active, soluble Tc
TERT for structural and biochemical studies, and the reconstitution of the telomerase RNP complex in vitro
for telomerase activity assays. An overview of the experimental methods used is shown in Figure 1.
Molecular Biology, Issue 53, Telomerase, protein expression, purification, chromatography, RNA isolation, TRAP
Chromatin Isolation by RNA Purification (ChIRP)
Institutions: Stanford University School of Medicine.
Long noncoding RNAs are key regulators of chromatin states for important biological processes such as dosage compensation, imprinting, and developmental gene expression 1,2,3,4,5,6,7
. The recent discovery of thousands of lncRNAs in association with specific chromatin modification complexes, such as Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) that mediates histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation (H3K27me3), suggests broad roles for numerous lncRNAs in managing chromatin states in a gene-specific fashion 8,9
. While some lncRNAs are thought to work in cis on neighboring genes, other lncRNAs work in trans to regulate distantly located genes. For instance, Drosophila
lncRNAs roX1 and roX2 bind numerous regions on the X chromosome of male cells, and are critical for dosage compensation 10,11
. However, the exact locations of their binding sites are not known at high resolution. Similarly, human lncRNA HOTAIR can affect PRC2 occupancy on hundreds of genes genome-wide 3,12,13
, but how specificity is achieved is unclear. LncRNAs can also serve as modular scaffolds to recruit the assembly of multiple protein complexes. The classic trans-acting RNA scaffold is the TERC RNA that serves as the template and scaffold for the telomerase complex 14
; HOTAIR can also serve as a scaffold for PRC2 and a H3K4 demethylase complex 13
Prior studies mapping RNA occupancy at chromatin have revealed substantial insights 15,16
, but only at a single gene locus at a time. The occupancy sites of most lncRNAs are not known, and the roles of lncRNAs in chromatin regulation have been mostly inferred from the indirect effects of lncRNA perturbation. Just as chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by microarray or deep sequencing (ChIP-chip or ChIP-seq, respectively) has greatly improved our understanding of protein-DNA interactions on a genomic scale, here we illustrate a recently published strategy to map long RNA occupancy genome-wide at high resolution 17
. This method, Chromatin Isolation by RNA Purification (ChIRP) (Figure 1
), is based on affinity capture of target lncRNA:chromatin complex by tiling antisense-oligos, which then generates a map of genomic binding sites at a resolution of several hundred bases with high sensitivity and low background. ChIRP is applicable to many lncRNAs because the design of affinity-probes is straightforward given the RNA sequence and requires no knowledge of the RNA's structure or functional domains.
Genetics, Issue 61, long noncoding RNA (lncRNA), genomics, chromatin binding, high-throughput sequencing, ChIRP
Reconstitution Of β-catenin Degradation In Xenopus Egg Extract
Institutions: Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
egg extract is a well-characterized, robust system for studying the biochemistry of diverse cellular processes. Xenopus
egg extract has been used to study protein turnover in many cellular contexts, including the cell cycle and signal transduction pathways1-3
. Herein, a method is described for isolating Xenopus
egg extract that has been optimized to promote the degradation of the critical Wnt pathway component, β-catenin. Two different methods are described to assess β-catenin protein degradation in Xenopus
egg extract. One method is visually informative ([35
S]-radiolabeled proteins), while the other is more readily scaled for high-throughput assays (firefly luciferase-tagged fusion proteins). The techniques described can be used to, but are not limited to, assess β-catenin protein turnover and identify molecular components contributing to its turnover. Additionally, the ability to purify large volumes of homogenous Xenopus
egg extract combined with the quantitative and facile readout of luciferase-tagged proteins allows this system to be easily adapted for high-throughput screening for modulators of β-catenin degradation.
Molecular Biology, Issue 88, Xenopus laevis, Xenopus egg extracts, protein degradation, radiolabel, luciferase, autoradiography, high-throughput screening
The Use of Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy as a Tool for the Measurement of Bi-hemispheric Transcranial Electric Stimulation Effects on Primary Motor Cortex Metabolism
Institutions: University of Montréal, McGill University, University of Minnesota.
Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a neuromodulation technique that has been increasingly used over the past decade in the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders such as stroke and depression. Yet, the mechanisms underlying its ability to modulate brain excitability to improve clinical symptoms remains poorly understood 33
. To help improve this understanding, proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1
H-MRS) can be used as it allows the in vivo
quantification of brain metabolites such as γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate in a region-specific manner 41
. In fact, a recent study demonstrated that 1
H-MRS is indeed a powerful means to better understand the effects of tDCS on neurotransmitter concentration 34
. This article aims to describe the complete protocol for combining tDCS (NeuroConn MR compatible stimulator) with 1
H-MRS at 3 T using a MEGA-PRESS sequence. We will describe the impact of a protocol that has shown great promise for the treatment of motor dysfunctions after stroke, which consists of bilateral stimulation of primary motor cortices 27,30,31
. Methodological factors to consider and possible modifications to the protocol are also discussed.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy, transcranial direct current stimulation, primary motor cortex, GABA, glutamate, stroke
Analysis of Tubular Membrane Networks in Cardiac Myocytes from Atria and Ventricles
Institutions: Heart Research Center Goettingen, University Medical Center Goettingen, German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK) partner site Goettingen, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
In cardiac myocytes a complex network of membrane tubules - the transverse-axial tubule system (TATS) - controls deep intracellular signaling functions. While the outer surface membrane and associated TATS membrane components appear to be continuous, there are substantial differences in lipid and protein content. In ventricular myocytes (VMs), certain TATS components are highly abundant contributing to rectilinear tubule networks and regular branching 3D architectures. It is thought that peripheral TATS components propagate action potentials from the cell surface to thousands of remote intracellular sarcoendoplasmic reticulum (SER) membrane contact domains, thereby activating intracellular Ca2+
release units (CRUs). In contrast to VMs, the organization and functional role of TATS membranes in atrial myocytes (AMs) is significantly different and much less understood. Taken together, quantitative structural characterization of TATS membrane networks in healthy and diseased myocytes is an essential prerequisite towards better understanding of functional plasticity and pathophysiological reorganization. Here, we present a strategic combination of protocols for direct quantitative analysis of TATS membrane networks in living VMs and AMs. For this, we accompany primary cell isolations of mouse VMs and/or AMs with critical quality control steps and direct membrane staining protocols for fluorescence imaging of TATS membranes. Using an optimized workflow for confocal or superresolution TATS image processing, binarized and skeletonized data are generated for quantitative analysis of the TATS network and its components. Unlike previously published indirect regional aggregate image analysis strategies, our protocols enable direct characterization of specific components and derive complex physiological properties of TATS membrane networks in living myocytes with high throughput and open access software tools. In summary, the combined protocol strategy can be readily applied for quantitative TATS network studies during physiological myocyte adaptation or disease changes, comparison of different cardiac or skeletal muscle cell types, phenotyping of transgenic models, and pharmacological or therapeutic interventions.
Bioengineering, Issue 92, cardiac myocyte, atria, ventricle, heart, primary cell isolation, fluorescence microscopy, membrane tubule, transverse-axial tubule system, image analysis, image processing, T-tubule, collagenase
High-throughput Screening for Broad-spectrum Chemical Inhibitors of RNA Viruses
Institutions: Institut Pasteur, CNRS UMR3569, Institut Pasteur, CNRS UMR3523, Institut Pasteur.
RNA viruses are responsible for major human diseases such as flu, bronchitis, dengue, Hepatitis C or measles. They also represent an emerging threat because of increased worldwide exchanges and human populations penetrating more and more natural ecosystems. A good example of such an emerging situation is chikungunya virus epidemics of 2005-2006 in the Indian Ocean. Recent progresses in our understanding of cellular pathways controlling viral replication suggest that compounds targeting host cell functions, rather than the virus itself, could inhibit a large panel of RNA viruses. Some broad-spectrum antiviral compounds have been identified with host target-oriented assays. However, measuring the inhibition of viral replication in cell cultures using reduction of cytopathic effects as a readout still represents a paramount screening strategy. Such functional screens have been greatly improved by the development of recombinant viruses expressing reporter enzymes capable of bioluminescence such as luciferase. In the present report, we detail a high-throughput screening pipeline, which combines recombinant measles and chikungunya viruses with cellular viability assays, to identify compounds with a broad-spectrum antiviral profile.
Immunology, Issue 87, Viral infections, high-throughput screening assays, broad-spectrum antivirals, chikungunya virus, measles virus, luciferase reporter, chemical libraries
Methods to Assess Subcellular Compartments of Muscle in C. elegans
Institutions: University of Nottingham.
Muscle is a dynamic tissue that responds to changes in nutrition, exercise, and disease state. The loss of muscle mass and function with disease and age are significant public health burdens. We currently understand little about the genetic regulation of muscle health with disease or age. The nematode C. elegans
is an established model for understanding the genomic regulation of biological processes of interest. This worm’s body wall muscles display a large degree of homology with the muscles of higher metazoan species. Since C. elegans
is a transparent organism, the localization of GFP to mitochondria and sarcomeres allows visualization of these structures in vivo
. Similarly, feeding animals cationic dyes, which accumulate based on the existence of a mitochondrial membrane potential, allows the assessment of mitochondrial function in vivo
. These methods, as well as assessment of muscle protein homeostasis, are combined with assessment of whole animal muscle function, in the form of movement assays, to allow correlation of sub-cellular defects with functional measures of muscle performance. Thus, C. elegans
provides a powerful platform with which to assess the impact of mutations, gene knockdown, and/or chemical compounds upon muscle structure and function. Lastly, as GFP, cationic dyes, and movement assays are assessed non-invasively, prospective studies of muscle structure and function can be conducted across the whole life course and this at present cannot be easily investigated in vivo
in any other organism.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, Physiology, C. elegans, muscle, mitochondria, sarcomeres, ageing
Implementing Dynamic Clamp with Synaptic and Artificial Conductances in Mouse Retinal Ganglion Cells
Institutions: University of Sydney , University of Western Sydney, University of Sydney .
Ganglion cells are the output neurons of the retina and their activity reflects the integration of multiple synaptic inputs arising from specific neural circuits. Patch clamp techniques, in voltage clamp and current clamp configurations, are commonly used to study the physiological properties of neurons and to characterize their synaptic inputs. Although the application of these techniques is highly informative, they pose various limitations. For example, it is difficult to quantify how the precise interactions of excitatory and inhibitory inputs determine response output. To address this issue, we used a modified current clamp technique, dynamic clamp, also called conductance clamp 1, 2, 3
and examined the impact of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic inputs on neuronal excitability. This technique requires the injection of current into the cell and is dependent on the real-time feedback of its membrane potential at that time. The injected current is calculated from predetermined excitatory and inhibitory synaptic conductances, their reversal potentials and the cell's instantaneous membrane potential. Details on the experimental procedures, patch clamping cells to achieve a whole-cell configuration and employment of the dynamic clamp technique are illustrated in this video article. Here, we show the responses of mouse retinal ganglion cells to various conductance waveforms obtained from physiological experiments in control conditions or in the presence of drugs. Furthermore, we show the use of artificial excitatory and inhibitory conductances generated using alpha functions to investigate the responses of the cells.
Neuroscience, Issue 75, Neurobiology, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Neurons, Retinal Neurons, Retinal Ganglion Cells, Eye, Retina, Neurosciences, retina, ganglion cells, synaptic conductance, artificial conductance, tetrodotoxin (TTX), patch clamp, dynamic clamp, conductance clamp, electrophysiology, mouse, animal model
A Matrigel-Based Tube Formation Assay to Assess the Vasculogenic Activity of Tumor Cells
Institutions: University of Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts.
Over the past several decades, a tube formation assay using growth factor-reduced Matrigel has been typically employed to demonstrate the angiogenic activity of vascular endothelial cells in vitro1-5
. However, recently growing evidence has shown that this assay is not limited to test vascular behavior for endothelial cells. Instead, it also has been used to test the ability of a number of tumor cells to develop a vascular phenotype6-8
. This capability was consistent with their vasculogenic behavior identified in xenotransplanted animals, a process known as vasculogenic mimicry (VM)9
. There is a multitude of evidence demonstrating that tumor cell-mediated VM plays a vital role in the tumor development, independent of endothelial cell angiogenesis6, 10-13
. For example, tumor cells were found to participate in the blood perfused, vascular channel formation in tissue samples from melanoma and glioblastoma patients8, 10, 11
. Here, we described this tubular network assay as a useful tool in evaluation of vasculogenic activity of tumor cells. We found that some tumor cell lines such as melanoma B16F1 cells, glioblastoma U87 cells, and breast cancer MDA-MB-435 cells are able to form vascular tubules; but some do not such as colon cancer HCT116 cells. Furthermore, this vascular phenotype is dependent on cell numbers plated on the Matrigel. Therefore, this assay may serve as powerful utility to screen the vascular potential of a variety of cell types including vascular cells, tumor cells as well as other cells.
Cancer Biology, Issue 55, tumor, vascular, endothelial, tube formation, Matrigel, in vitro
An Immunofluorescent Method for Characterization of Barrett’s Esophagus Cells
Institutions: St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center.
Esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) has an overall survival rate of less than 17% and incidence of EAC has risen dramatically over the past two decades. One of the primary risk factors of EAC is Barrett’s esophagus (BE), a metaplastic change of the normal squamous esophagus in response to chronic heartburn. Despite the well-established connection between EAC and BE, interrogation of the molecular events, particularly altered signaling pathways involving progression of BE to EAC, are poorly understood. Much of this is due to the lack of suitable in vitro
models available to study these diseases. Recently, immortalized BE cell lines have become commercially available allowing for in vitro
studies of BE. Here, we present a method for immunofluorescent staining of immortalized BE cell lines, allowing in vitro
characterization of cell signaling and structure after exposure to therapeutic compounds. Application of these techniques will help develop insight into the mechanisms involved in BE to EAC progression and provide potential avenues for treatment and prevention of EAC.
Cellular Biology, Issue 89, Barrett's Esophagus, Immunofluorescence, adenocarcinoma, morphology, gastroesophageal reflux disease, immortalized BE cell lines
Measuring Cell Cycle Progression Kinetics with Metabolic Labeling and Flow Cytometry
Institutions: University of British Columbia .
Precise control of the initiation and subsequent progression through the various phases of the cell cycle are of paramount importance in proliferating cells. Cell cycle division is an integral part of growth and reproduction and deregulation of key cell cycle components have been implicated in the precipitating events of carcinogenesis 1,2
. Molecular agents in anti-cancer therapies frequently target biological pathways responsible for the regulation and coordination of cell cycle division 3
. Although cell cycle kinetics tend to vary according to cell type, the distribution of cells amongst the four stages of the cell cycle is rather consistent within a particular cell line due to the consistent pattern of mitogen and growth factor expression. Genotoxic events and other cellular stressors can result in a temporary block of cell cycle progression, resulting in arrest or a temporary pause in a particular cell cycle phase to allow for instigation of the appropriate response mechanism.
The ability to experimentally observe the behavior of a cell population with reference to their cell cycle progression stage is an important advance in cell biology. Common procedures such as mitotic shake off, differential centrifugation or flow cytometry-based sorting are used to isolate cells at specific stages of the cell cycle 4-6
. These fractionated, cell cycle phase-enriched populations are then subjected to experimental treatments. Yield, purity and viability of the separated fractions can often be compromised using these physical separation methods. As well, the time lapse between separation of the cell populations and the start of experimental treatment, whereby the fractionated cells can progress from the selected cell cycle stage, can pose significant challenges in the successful implementation and interpretation of these experiments.
Other approaches to study cell cycle stages include the use of chemicals to synchronize cells. Treatment of cells with chemical inhibitors of key metabolic processes for each cell cycle stage are useful in blocking the progression of the cell cycle to the next stage. For example, the ribonucleotide reductase inhibitor hydroxyurea halts cells at the G1/S juncture by limiting the supply of deoxynucleotides, the building blocks of DNA. Other notable chemicals include treatment with aphidicolin, a polymerase alpha inhibitor for G1 arrest, treatment with colchicine and nocodazole, both of which interfere with mitotic spindle formation to halt cells in M phase and finally, treatment with the DNA chain terminator 5-fluorodeoxyridine to initiate S phase arrest 7-9
. Treatment with these chemicals is an effective means of synchronizing an entire population of cells at a particular phase. With removal of the chemical, cells rejoin the cell cycle in unison. Treatment of the test agent following release from the cell cycle blocking chemical ensures that the drug response elicited is from a uniform, cell cycle stage-specific population. However, since many of the chemical synchronizers are known genotoxic compounds, teasing apart the participation of various response pathways (to the synchronizers vs. the test agents) is challenging.
Here we describe a metabolic labeling method for following a subpopulation of actively cycling cells through their progression from the DNA replication phase, through to the division and separation of their daughter cells. Coupled with flow cytometry quantification, this protocol enables for measurement of kinetic progression of the cell cycle in the absence of either mechanically- or chemically- induced cellular stresses commonly associated with other cell cycle synchronization methodologies 10
. In the following sections we will discuss the methodology, as well as some of its applications in biomedical research.
Cellular Biology, Issue 63, cell cycle, kinetics, metabolic labeling, flow cytometry, biomedical, genetics, DNA replication
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
A Manual Small Molecule Screen Approaching High-throughput Using Zebrafish Embryos
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)
Quantitative, Real-time Analysis of Base Excision Repair Activity in Cell Lysates Utilizing Lesion-specific Molecular Beacons
Institutions: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, The Netherlands Cancer Institute, University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health.
We describe a method for the quantitative, real-time measurement of DNA glycosylase and AP endonuclease activities in cell nuclear lysates using base excision repair (BER) molecular beacons. The substrate (beacon) is comprised of a deoxyoligonucleotide containing a single base lesion with a 6-Carboxyfluorescein (6-FAM) moiety conjugated to the 5'end and a Dabcyl moiety conjugated to the 3' end of the oligonucleotide. The BER molecular beacon is 43 bases in length and the sequence is designed to promote the formation of a stem-loop structure with 13 nucleotides in the loop and 15 base pairs in the stem1,2
. When folded in this configuration the 6-FAM moiety is quenched by Dabcyl in a non-fluorescent manner via Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET)3,4
. The lesion is positioned such that following base lesion removal and strand scission the remaining 5 base oligonucleotide containing the 6-FAM moiety is released from the stem. Release and detachment from the quencher (Dabcyl) results in an increase of fluorescence that is proportionate to the level of DNA repair. By collecting multiple reads of the fluorescence values, real-time assessment of BER activity is possible. The use of standard quantitative real-time PCR instruments allows the simultaneous analysis of numerous samples. The design of these BER molecular beacons, with a single base lesion, is amenable to kinetic analyses, BER quantification and inhibitor validation and is adaptable for quantification of DNA Repair activity in tissue and tumor cell lysates or with purified proteins. The analysis of BER activity in tumor lysates or tissue aspirates using these molecular beacons may be applicable to functional biomarker measurements. Further, the analysis of BER activity with purified proteins using this quantitative assay provides a rapid, high-throughput method for the discovery and validation of BER inhibitors.
Molecular Biology, Issue 66, Genetics, Cancer Biology, Base excision repair, DNA glycosylase, AP endonuclease, fluorescent, real-time, activity assay, molecular beacon, biomarker, DNA Damage, base lesion
Protein WISDOM: A Workbench for In silico De novo Design of BioMolecules
Institutions: Princeton University.
The aim of de novo
protein design is to find the amino acid sequences that will fold into a desired 3-dimensional structure with improvements in specific properties, such as binding affinity, agonist or antagonist behavior, or stability, relative to the native sequence. Protein design lies at the center of current advances drug design and discovery. Not only does protein design provide predictions for potentially useful drug targets, but it also enhances our understanding of the protein folding process and protein-protein interactions. Experimental methods such as directed evolution have shown success in protein design. However, such methods are restricted by the limited sequence space that can be searched tractably. In contrast, computational design strategies allow for the screening of a much larger set of sequences covering a wide variety of properties and functionality. We have developed a range of computational de novo
protein design methods capable of tackling several important areas of protein design. These include the design of monomeric proteins for increased stability and complexes for increased binding affinity.
To disseminate these methods for broader use we present Protein WISDOM (https://www.proteinwisdom.org), a tool that provides automated methods for a variety of protein design problems. Structural templates are submitted to initialize the design process. The first stage of design is an optimization sequence selection stage that aims at improving stability through minimization of potential energy in the sequence space. Selected sequences are then run through a fold specificity stage and a binding affinity stage. A rank-ordered list of the sequences for each step of the process, along with relevant designed structures, provides the user with a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the design. Here we provide the details of each design method, as well as several notable experimental successes attained through the use of the methods.
Genetics, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Bioengineering, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Computational Biology, Genomics, Proteomics, Protein, Protein Binding, Computational Biology, Drug Design, optimization (mathematics), Amino Acids, Peptides, and Proteins, De novo protein and peptide design, Drug design, In silico sequence selection, Optimization, Fold specificity, Binding affinity, sequencing
Experimental Generation of Carcinoma-Associated Fibroblasts (CAFs) from Human Mammary Fibroblasts
Institutions: University of Manchester, Juntendo University.
Carcinomas are complex tissues comprised of neoplastic cells and a non-cancerous compartment referred to as the 'stroma'. The stroma consists of extracellular matrix (ECM) and a variety of mesenchymal cells, including fibroblasts, myofibroblasts, endothelial cells, pericytes and leukocytes 1-3
The tumour-associated stroma is responsive to substantial paracrine signals released by neighbouring carcinoma cells. During the disease process, the stroma often becomes populated by carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) including large numbers of myofibroblasts. These cells have previously been extracted from many different types of human carcinomas for their in vitro
culture. A subpopulation of CAFs is distinguishable through their up-regulation of α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression4,5
. These cells are a hallmark of 'activated fibroblasts' that share similar properties with myofibroblasts commonly observed in injured and fibrotic tissues 6
. The presence of this myofibroblastic CAF subset is highly related to high-grade malignancies and associated with poor prognoses in patients.
Many laboratories, including our own, have shown that CAFs, when injected with carcinoma cells into immunodeficient mice, are capable of substantially promoting tumourigenesis 7-10
. CAFs prepared from carcinoma patients, however, frequently undergo senescence during propagation in culture limiting the extensiveness of their use throughout ongoing experimentation. To overcome this difficulty, we developed a novel technique to experimentally generate immortalised human mammary CAF cell lines (exp-CAFs) from human mammary fibroblasts, using a coimplantation breast tumour xenograft model.
In order to generate exp-CAFs, parental human mammary fibroblasts, obtained from the reduction mammoplasty tissue, were first immortalised with hTERT, the catalytic subunit of the telomerase holoenzyme, and engineered to express GFP and a puromycin resistance gene. These cells were coimplanted with MCF-7 human breast carcinoma cells expressing an activated ras
oncogene (MCF-7-ras cells) into a mouse xenograft. After a period of incubation in vivo
, the initially injected human mammary fibroblasts were extracted from the tumour xenografts on the basis of their puromycin resistance 11
We observed that the resident human mammary fibroblasts have differentiated, adopting a myofibroblastic phenotype and acquired tumour-promoting properties during the course of tumour progression. Importantly, these cells, defined as exp-CAFs, closely mimic the tumour-promoting myofibroblastic phenotype of CAFs isolated from breast carcinomas dissected from patients. Our tumour xenograft-derived exp-CAFs therefore provide an effective model to study the biology of CAFs in human breast carcinomas. The described protocol may also be extended for generating and characterising various CAF populations derived from other types of human carcinomas.
Medicine, Issue 56, cancer, stromal myofibroblasts, experimentally generated carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (exp-CAFs), fibroblast, human mammary carcinomas, tumour xenografts
Examination of the Telomere G-overhang Structure in Trypanosoma brucei
Institutions: Cleveland State University.
The telomere G-overhang structure has been identified in many eukaryotes including yeast, vertebrates, and Trypanosoma brucei
. It serves as the substrate for telomerase for de novo
telomere DNA synthesis and is therefore important for telomere maintenance. T. brucei
is a protozoan parasite that causes sleeping sickness in humans and nagana in cattle. Once infected mammalian host, T. brucei
cell regularly switches its surface antigen to evade the host's immune attack. We have recently demonstrated that the T. brucei
telomere structure plays an essential role in regulation of surface antigen gene expression, which is critical for T. brucei
pathogenesis. However, T. brucei
telomere structure has not been extensively studied due to the limitation of methods for analysis of this specialized structure. We have now successfully adopted the native in-gel hybridization and ligation-mediated primer extension methods for examination of the telomere G-overhang structure and an adaptor ligation method for determination of the telomere terminal nucleotide in T. brucei
cells. Here, we will describe the protocols in detail and compare their different advantages and limitations.
Immunology, Issue 47, Telomeres, telomeric G-overhang structure, native in-gel hybridization, ligation-mediated primer extension, Trypanosoma brucei
Heterotypic Three-dimensional In Vitro Modeling of Stromal-Epithelial Interactions During Ovarian Cancer Initiation and Progression
Institutions: University of Southern California, University College London.
Epithelial ovarian cancers (EOCs) are the leading cause of death from gynecological malignancy in Western societies. Despite advances in surgical treatments and improved platinum-based chemotherapies, there has been little improvement in EOC survival rates for more than four decades 1,2
. Whilst stage I tumors have 5-year survival rates >85%, survival rates for stage III/IV disease are <40%. Thus, the high rates of mortality for EOC could be significantly decreased if tumors were detected at earlier, more treatable, stages 3-5
. At present, the molecular genetic and biological basis of early stage disease development is poorly understood. More specifically, little is known about the role of the microenvironment during tumor initiation; but known risk factors for EOCs (e.g.
age and parity) suggest that the microenvironment plays a key role in the early genesis of EOCs. We therefore developed three-dimensional heterotypic models of both the normal ovary and of early stage ovarian cancers. For the normal ovary, we co-cultured normal ovarian surface epithelial (IOSE) and normal stromal fibroblast (INOF) cells, immortalized by retrovrial transduction of the catalytic subunit of human telomerase holoenzyme (hTERT
) to extend the lifespan of these cells in culture. To model the earliest stages of ovarian epithelial cell transformation, overexpression of the CMYC
oncogene in IOSE cells, again co-cultured with INOF cells. These heterotypic models were used to investigate the effects of aging and senescence on the transformation and invasion of epithelial cells. Here we describe the methodological steps in development of these three-dimensional model; these methodologies aren't specific to the development of normal ovary and ovarian cancer tissues, and could be used to study other tissue types where stromal and epithelial cell interactions are a fundamental aspect of the tissue maintenance and disease development.
Cancer Biology, Issue 66, Medicine, Tissue Engineering, three-dimensional cultures, stromal-epithelial interactions, epithelial ovarian cancer, ovarian surface epithelium, ovarian fibroblasts, tumor initiation
Mapping Bacterial Functional Networks and Pathways in Escherichia Coli using Synthetic Genetic Arrays
Institutions: University of Toronto, University of Toronto, University of Regina.
Phenotypes are determined by a complex series of physical (e.g.
protein-protein) and functional (e.g.
gene-gene or genetic) interactions (GI)1
. While physical interactions can indicate which bacterial proteins are associated as complexes, they do not necessarily reveal pathway-level functional relationships1. GI screens, in which the growth of double mutants bearing two deleted or inactivated genes is measured and compared to the corresponding single mutants, can illuminate epistatic dependencies between loci and hence provide a means to query and discover novel functional relationships2
. Large-scale GI maps have been reported for eukaryotic organisms like yeast3-7
, but GI information remains sparse for prokaryotes8
, which hinders the functional annotation of bacterial genomes. To this end, we and others have developed high-throughput quantitative bacterial GI screening methods9, 10
Here, we present the key steps required to perform quantitative E. coli
Synthetic Genetic Array (eSGA) screening procedure on a genome-scale9
, using natural bacterial conjugation and homologous recombination to systemically generate and measure the fitness of large numbers of double mutants in a colony array format.
Briefly, a robot is used to transfer, through conjugation, chloramphenicol (Cm) - marked mutant alleles from engineered Hfr (High frequency of recombination) 'donor strains' into an ordered array of kanamycin (Kan) - marked F- recipient strains. Typically, we use loss-of-function single mutants bearing non-essential gene deletions (e.g.
the 'Keio' collection11
) and essential gene hypomorphic mutations (i.e.
alleles conferring reduced protein expression, stability, or activity9, 12, 13
) to query the functional associations of non-essential and essential genes, respectively. After conjugation and ensuing genetic exchange mediated by homologous recombination, the resulting double mutants are selected on solid medium containing both antibiotics. After outgrowth, the plates are digitally imaged and colony sizes are quantitatively scored using an in-house automated image processing system14
. GIs are revealed when the growth rate of a double mutant is either significantly better or worse than expected9
. Aggravating (or negative) GIs often result between loss-of-function mutations in pairs of genes from compensatory pathways that impinge on the same essential process2
. Here, the loss of a single gene is buffered, such that either single mutant is viable. However, the loss of both pathways is deleterious and results in synthetic lethality or sickness (i.e.
slow growth). Conversely, alleviating (or positive) interactions can occur between genes in the same pathway or protein complex2
as the deletion of either gene alone is often sufficient to perturb the normal function of the pathway or complex such that additional perturbations do not reduce activity, and hence growth, further. Overall, systematically identifying and analyzing GI networks can provide unbiased, global maps of the functional relationships between large numbers of genes, from which pathway-level information missed by other approaches can be inferred9
Genetics, Issue 69, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Aggravating, alleviating, conjugation, double mutant, Escherichia coli, genetic interaction, Gram-negative bacteria, homologous recombination, network, synthetic lethality or sickness, suppression