Genome sequencing projects have ciphered millions of protein sequence, which require knowledge of their structure and function to improve the understanding of their biological role. Although experimental methods can provide detailed information for a small fraction of these proteins, computational modeling is needed for the majority of protein molecules which are experimentally uncharacterized. The I-TASSER server is an on-line workbench for high-resolution modeling of protein structure and function. Given a protein sequence, a typical output from the I-TASSER server includes secondary structure prediction, predicted solvent accessibility of each residue, homologous template proteins detected by threading and structure alignments, up to five full-length tertiary structural models, and structure-based functional annotations for enzyme classification, Gene Ontology terms and protein-ligand binding sites. All the predictions are tagged with a confidence score which tells how accurate the predictions are without knowing the experimental data. To facilitate the special requests of end users, the server provides channels to accept user-specified inter-residue distance and contact maps to interactively change the I-TASSER modeling; it also allows users to specify any proteins as template, or to exclude any template proteins during the structure assembly simulations. The structural information could be collected by the users based on experimental evidences or biological insights with the purpose of improving the quality of I-TASSER predictions. The server was evaluated as the best programs for protein structure and function predictions in the recent community-wide CASP experiments. There are currently >20,000 registered scientists from over 100 countries who are using the on-line I-TASSER server.
23 Related JoVE Articles!
Protocol for Recombinant RBD-based SARS Vaccines: Protein Preparation, Animal Vaccination and Neutralization Detection
Institutions: New York Blood Center.
Based on their safety profile and ability to induce potent immune responses against infections, subunit vaccines have been used as candidates for a wide variety of pathogens 1-3
. Since the mammalian cell system is capable of post-translational modification, thus forming properly folded and glycosylated proteins, recombinant proteins expressed in mammalian cells have shown the greatest potential to maintain high antigenicity and immunogenicity 4-6
Although no new cases of SARS have been reported since 2004, future outbreaks are a constant threat; therefore, the development of vaccines against SARS-CoV is a prudent preventive step and should be carried out. The RBD of SARS-CoV S protein plays important roles in receptor binding and induction of specific neutralizing antibodies against virus infection 7-9
. Therefore, in this protocol, we describe novel methods for developing a RBD-based subunit vaccine against SARS. Briefly, the recombinant RBD protein (rRBD) was expressed in culture supernatant of mammalian 293T cells to obtain a correctly folded protein with proper conformation and high immunogenicity 6
. The transfection of the recombinant plasmid encoding RBD to the cells was then performed using a calcium phosphate transfection method 6,10
with some modifications. Compared with the lipid transfection method 11,12
, this modified calcium phosphate transfection method is cheaper, easier to handle, and has the potential to reach high efficacy once a transfection complex with suitable size and shape is formed 13,14
. Finally, a SARS pseudovirus neutralization assay was introduced in the protocol and used to detect the neutralizing activity of sera of mice vaccinated with rRBD protein. This assay is relatively safe, does not involve an infectious SARS-CoV, and can be performed without the requirement of a biosafety-3 laboratory 15
The protocol described here can also be used to design and study recombinant subunit vaccines against other viruses with class I fusion proteins, for example, HIV, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), Ebola virus, influenza virus, as well as Nipah and Handra viruses. In addition, the methods for generating a pseudovirus and subsequently establishing a pseudovirus neutralization assay can be applied to all these viruses.
Immunology, Issue 51, SARS, receptor-binding domain, subunit vaccines, immunization, neutralization detection
Measuring the Kinetics of mRNA Transcription in Single Living Cells
Institutions: Bar-Ilan University.
The transcriptional activity of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) is a dynamic process and therefore measuring the kinetics of the transcriptional process in vivo
is of importance. Pol II kinetics have been measured using biochemical or molecular methods.1-3
In recent years, with the development of new visualization methods, it has become possible to follow transcription as it occurs in real time in single living cells.4
Herein we describe how to perform analysis of Pol II elongation kinetics on a specific gene in living cells.5, 6
Using a cell line in which a specific gene locus (DNA), its mRNA product, and the final protein product can be fluorescently labeled and visualized in vivo
, it is possible to detect the actual transcription of mRNAs on the gene of interest.7, 8
The mRNA is fluorescently tagged using the MS2 system for tagging mRNAs in vivo
, where the 3'UTR of the mRNA transcripts contain 24 MS2 stem-loop repeats, which provide highly specific binding sites for the YFP-MS2 coat protein that labels the mRNA as it is transcribed.9
To monitor the kinetics of transcription we use the Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching (FRAP) method. By photobleaching the YFP-MS2-tagged nascent transcripts at the site of transcription and then following the recovery of this signal over time, we obtain the synthesis rate of the newly made mRNAs.5
In other words, YFP-MS2 fluorescence recovery reflects the generation of new MS2 stem-loops in the nascent transcripts and their binding by fluorescent free YFP-MS2 molecules entering from the surrounding nucleoplasm. The FRAP recovery curves are then analyzed using mathematical mechanistic models formalized by a series of differential equations, in order to retrieve the kinetic time parameters of transcription.
Cell Biology, Issue 54, mRNA transcription, nucleus, live-cell imaging, cellular dynamics, FRAP
Detection of Protein Interactions in Plant using a Gateway Compatible Bimolecular Fluorescence Complementation (BiFC) System
Institutions: University of Western Ontario, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
We have developed a BiFC technique to test the interaction between two proteins in vivo
. This is accomplished by splitting a yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) into two non-overlapping fragments. Each fragment is cloned in-frame to a gene of interest. These constructs can then be co-transformed into Nicotiana benthamiana
mediated transformation, allowing the transit expression of fusion proteins. The reconstitution of YFP signal only occurs when the inquest proteins interact 1-7
. To test and validate the protein-protein interactions, BiFC can be used together with yeast two hybrid (Y2H) assay. This may detect indirect interactions which can be overlooked in the Y2H. Gateway technology is a universal platform that enables researchers to shuttle the gene of interest (GOI) into as many expression and functional analysis systems as possible8,9
. Both the orientation and reading frame can be maintained without using restriction enzymes or ligation to make expression-ready clones. As a result, one can eliminate all the re-sequencing steps to ensure consistent results throughout the experiments. We have created a series of Gateway compatible BiFC and Y2H vectors which provide researchers with easy-to-use tools to perform both BiFC and Y2H assays10
. Here, we demonstrate the ease of using our BiFC system to test protein-protein interactions in N. benthamiana
Plant Biology, Issue 55, protein interaction, Gateway, Bimolecular fluorescence complementation, Confocal microscope, Agrobacterium, Nicotiana benthamiana, Arabidopsis
Assays for the Identification of Novel Antivirals against Bluetongue Virus
Institutions: University of Alabama at Birmingham, Auburn University.
To identify potential antivirals against BTV, we have developed, optimized and validated three assays presented here. The CPE-based assay was the first assay developed to evaluate whether a compound showed any antiviral efficacy and have been used to screen large compound library. Meanwhile, cytotoxicity of antivirals could also be evaluated using the CPE-based assay. The dose-response assay was designed to determine the range of efficacy for the selected antiviral, i.e.
50% inhibitory concentration (IC50
) or effective concentration (EC50
), as well as its range of cytotoxicity (CC50
). The ToA assay was employed for the initial MoA study to determine the underlying mechanism of the novel antivirals during BTV viral lifecycle or the possible effect on host cellular machinery. These assays are vital for the evaluation of antiviral efficacy in cell culture system, and have been used for our recent researches leading to the identification of a number of novel antivirals against BTV.
Immunology, Issue 80, Drug Discovery, Drug Evaluation, Preclinical, Evaluation Studies as Topic, Drug Evaluation, Feasibility Studies, Biological Assay, Technology, Pharmaceutical, High-Throughput Screening Assays, Animal Diseases, Investigative Techniques, Antiviral, Efficacy, Bluetongue Virus, Cytopathic effect, Dose response, Time-of-Addition, Mechanism-of-Action
Isolation of CA1 Nuclear Enriched Fractions from Hippocampal Slices to Study Activity-dependent Nuclear Import of Synapto-nuclear Messenger Proteins
Institutions: Leibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Utrecht University.
Studying activity dependent protein expression, subcellular translocation, or phosphorylation is essential to understand the underlying cellular mechanisms of synaptic plasticity. Long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD) induced in acute hippocampal slices are widely accepted as cellular models of learning and memory. There are numerous studies that use live cell imaging or immunohistochemistry approaches to visualize activity dependent protein dynamics. However these methods rely on the suitability of antibodies for immunocytochemistry or overexpression of fluorescence-tagged proteins in single neurons. Immunoblotting of proteins is an alternative method providing independent confirmation of the findings. The first limiting factor in preparation of subcellular fractions from individual tetanized hippocampal slices is the low amount of material. Second, the handling procedure is crucial because even very short and minor manipulations of living slices might induce activation of certain signaling cascades. Here we describe an optimized workflow in order to obtain sufficient quantity of nuclear enriched fraction of sufficient purity from the CA1 region of acute hippocampal slices from rat brain. As a representative example we show that the ERK1/2 phosphorylated form of the synapto-nuclear protein messenger Jacob actively translocates to the nucleus upon induction of LTP and can be detected in a nuclear enriched fraction from CA1 neurons.
Neuroscience, Issue 90, Hippocampal slices, long-term potentiation LTP, nucleus, NMDA receptors, NLS, immunoblotting, Jacob, nuclear enriched protein preparations
A Simple and Efficient Method to Detect Nuclear Factor Activation in Human Neutrophils by Flow Cytometry
Institutions: University of Alberta, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
Neutrophils are the most abundant leukocytes in peripheral blood. These cells are the first to appear at sites of inflammation and infection, thus becoming the first line of defense against invading microorganisms. Neutrophils possess important antimicrobial functions such as phagocytosis, release of lytic enzymes, and production of reactive oxygen species. In addition to these important defense functions, neutrophils perform other tasks in response to infection such as production of proinflammatory cytokines and inhibition of apoptosis. Cytokines recruit other leukocytes that help clear the infection, and inhibition of apoptosis allows the neutrophil to live longer at the site of infection. These functions are regulated at the level of transcription. However, because neutrophils are short-lived cells, the study of transcriptionally regulated responses in these cells cannot be performed with conventional reporter gene methods since there are no efficient techniques for neutrophil transfection. Here, we present a simple and efficient method that allows detection and quantification of nuclear factors in isolated and immunolabeled nuclei by flow cytometry. We describe techniques to isolate pure neutrophils from human peripheral blood, stimulate these cells with anti-receptor antibodies, isolate and immunolabel nuclei, and analyze nuclei by flow cytometry. The method has been successfully used to detect NF-κB and Elk-1 nuclear factors in nuclei from neutrophils and other cell types. Thus, this method represents an option for analyzing activation of transcription factors in isolated nuclei from a variety of cell types.
Immunology, Issue 74, Biochemistry, Infection, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Neutrophils, Neutrophil, Monocyte, PMN, NF- κB, ERK, integrin, Signal Transduction, inflammation, flow cytometry, immunolabeling, nuclear factors, cytokines, cells, assay
Direct Imaging of ER Calcium with Targeted-Esterase Induced Dye Loading (TED)
Institutions: University of Wuerzburg, Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich.
Visualization of calcium dynamics is important to understand the role of calcium in cell physiology. To examine calcium dynamics, synthetic fluorescent Ca2+
indictors have become popular. Here we demonstrate TED (= targeted-esterase induced dye loading), a method to improve the release of Ca2+
indicator dyes in the ER lumen of different cell types. To date, TED was used in cell lines, glial cells, and neurons in vitro
. TED bases on efficient, recombinant targeting of a high carboxylesterase activity to the ER lumen using vector-constructs that express Carboxylesterases (CES). The latest TED vectors contain a core element of CES2 fused to a red fluorescent protein, thus enabling simultaneous two-color imaging. The dynamics of free calcium in the ER are imaged in one color, while the corresponding ER structure appears in red. At the beginning of the procedure, cells are transduced with a lentivirus. Subsequently, the infected cells are seeded on coverslips to finally enable live cell imaging. Then, living cells are incubated with the acetoxymethyl ester (AM-ester) form of low-affinity Ca2+
indicators, for instance Fluo5N-AM, Mag-Fluo4-AM, or Mag-Fura2-AM. The esterase activity in the ER cleaves off hydrophobic side chains from the AM form of the Ca2+
indicator and a hydrophilic fluorescent dye/Ca2+
complex is formed and trapped in the ER lumen. After dye loading, the cells are analyzed at an inverted confocal laser scanning microscope. Cells are continuously perfused with Ringer-like solutions and the ER calcium dynamics are directly visualized by time-lapse imaging. Calcium release from the ER is identified by a decrease in fluorescence intensity in regions of interest, whereas the refilling of the ER calcium store produces an increase in fluorescence intensity. Finally, the change in fluorescent intensity over time is determined by calculation of ΔF/F0
Cellular Biology, Issue 75, Neurobiology, Neuroscience, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Engineering, Bioengineering, Virology, Medicine, Anatomy, Physiology, Surgery, Endoplasmic Reticulum, ER, Calcium Signaling, calcium store, calcium imaging, calcium indicator, metabotropic signaling, Ca2+, neurons, cells, mouse, animal model, cell culture, targeted esterase induced dye loading, imaging
Synthesis of an Intein-mediated Artificial Protein Hydrogel
Institutions: Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas A&M University, College Station.
We present the synthesis of a highly stable protein hydrogel mediated by a split-intein-catalyzed protein trans
-splicing reaction. The building blocks of this hydrogel are two protein block-copolymers each containing a subunit of a trimeric protein that serves as a crosslinker and one half of a split intein. A highly hydrophilic random coil is inserted into one of the block-copolymers for water retention. Mixing of the two protein block copolymers triggers an intein trans
-splicing reaction, yielding a polypeptide unit with crosslinkers at either end that rapidly self-assembles into a hydrogel. This hydrogel is very stable under both acidic and basic conditions, at temperatures up to 50 °C, and in organic solvents. The hydrogel rapidly reforms after shear-induced rupture. Incorporation of a "docking station peptide" into the hydrogel building block enables convenient incorporation of "docking protein"-tagged target proteins. The hydrogel is compatible with tissue culture growth media, supports the diffusion of 20 kDa molecules, and enables the immobilization of bioactive globular proteins. The application of the intein-mediated protein hydrogel as an organic-solvent-compatible biocatalyst was demonstrated by encapsulating the horseradish peroxidase enzyme and corroborating its activity.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, split-intein, self-assembly, shear-thinning, enzyme, immobilization, organic synthesis
An Efficient Method for Quantitative, Single-cell Analysis of Chromatin Modification and Nuclear Architecture in Whole-mount Ovules in Arabidopsis
Institutions: University of Zürich, Université de Montpellier II.
In flowering plants, the somatic-to-reproductive cell fate transition is marked by the specification of spore mother cells (SMCs) in floral organs of the adult plant. The female SMC (megaspore mother cell, MMC) differentiates in the ovule primordium and undergoes meiosis. The selected haploid megaspore then undergoes mitosis to form the multicellular female gametophyte, which will give rise to the gametes, the egg cell and central cell, together with accessory cells. The limited accessibility of the MMC, meiocyte and female gametophyte inside the ovule is technically challenging for cytological and cytogenetic analyses at single cell level. Particularly, direct or indirect immunodetection of cellular or nuclear epitopes is impaired by poor penetration of the reagents inside the plant cell and single-cell imaging is demised by the lack of optical clarity in whole-mount tissues.
Thus, we developed an efficient method to analyze the nuclear organization and chromatin modification at high resolution of single cell in whole-mount embedded Arabidopsis
ovules. It is based on dissection and embedding of fixed ovules in a thin layer of acrylamide gel on a microscopic slide. The embedded ovules are subjected to chemical and enzymatic treatments aiming at improving tissue clarity and permeability to the immunostaining reagents. Those treatments preserve cellular and chromatin organization, DNA and protein epitopes. The samples can be used for different downstream cytological analyses, including chromatin immunostaining, fluorescence in situ
hybridization (FISH), and DNA staining for heterochromatin analysis. Confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) imaging, with high resolution, followed by 3D reconstruction allows for quantitative measurements at single-cell resolution.
Plant Biology, Issue 88, Arabidopsis thaliana, ovule, chromatin modification, nuclear architecture, immunostaining, Fluorescence in situ Hybridization, FISH, DNA staining, Heterochromatin
FtsZ Polymerization Assays: Simple Protocols and Considerations
Institutions: University of Groningen.
During bacterial cell division, the essential protein FtsZ assembles in the middle of the cell to form the so-called Z-ring. FtsZ polymerizes into long filaments in the presence of GTP in vitro
, and polymerization is regulated by several accessory proteins. FtsZ polymerization has been extensively studied in vitro
using basic methods including light scattering, sedimentation, GTP hydrolysis assays and electron microscopy. Buffer conditions influence both the polymerization properties of FtsZ, and the ability of FtsZ to interact with regulatory proteins. Here, we describe protocols for FtsZ polymerization studies and validate conditions and controls using Escherichia coli
and Bacillus subtilis
FtsZ as model proteins. A low speed sedimentation assay is introduced that allows the study of the interaction of FtsZ with proteins that bundle or tubulate FtsZ polymers. An improved GTPase assay protocol is described that allows testing of GTP hydrolysis over time using various conditions in a 96-well plate setup, with standardized incubation times that abolish variation in color development in the phosphate detection reaction. The preparation of samples for light scattering studies and electron microscopy is described. Several buffers are used to establish suitable buffer pH and salt concentration for FtsZ polymerization studies. A high concentration of KCl is the best for most of the experiments. Our methods provide a starting point for the in vitro
characterization of FtsZ, not only from E. coli
and B. subtilis
but from any other bacterium. As such, the methods can be used for studies of the interaction of FtsZ with regulatory proteins or the testing of antibacterial drugs which may affect FtsZ polymerization.
Basic Protocols, Issue 81, FtsZ, protein polymerization, cell division, GTPase, sedimentation assay, light scattering
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
Using Microwave and Macroscopic Samples of Dielectric Solids to Study the Photonic Properties of Disordered Photonic Bandgap Materials
Institutions: San Francisco State University.
Recently, disordered photonic materials have been suggested as an alternative to periodic crystals for the formation of a complete photonic bandgap (PBG). In this article we will describe the methods for constructing and characterizing macroscopic disordered photonic structures using microwaves. The microwave regime offers the most convenient experimental sample size to build and test PBG media. Easily manipulated dielectric lattice components extend flexibility in building various 2D structures on top of pre-printed plastic templates. Once built, the structures could be quickly modified with point and line defects to make freeform waveguides and filters. Testing is done using a widely available Vector Network Analyzer and pairs of microwave horn antennas. Due to the scale invariance property of electromagnetic fields, the results we obtained in the microwave region can be directly applied to infrared and optical regions. Our approach is simple but delivers exciting new insight into the nature of light and disordered matter interaction.
Our representative results include the first experimental demonstration of the existence of a complete and isotropic PBG in a two-dimensional (2D) hyperuniform disordered dielectric structure. Additionally we demonstrate experimentally the ability of this novel photonic structure to guide electromagnetic waves (EM) through freeform waveguides of arbitrary shape.
Physics, Issue 91, optics and photonics, photonic crystals, photonic bandgap, hyperuniform, disordered media, waveguides
Analysis of mRNA Nuclear Export Kinetics in Mammalian Cells by Microinjection
Institutions: University of Toronto.
In eukaryotes, messenger RNA (mRNA) is transcribed in the nucleus and must be exported into the cytoplasm to access the translation machinery. Although the nuclear export of mRNA has been studied extensively in Xenopus oocytes1
and genetically tractable organisms such as yeast2
and the Drosophila
derived S2 cell line3
, few studies had been conducted in mammalian cells. Furthermore the kinetics of mRNA export in mammalian somatic cells could only be inferred indirectly4,5
. In order to measure the nuclear export kinetics of mRNA in mammalian tissue culture cells, we have developed an assay that employs the power of microinjection coupled with fluorescent in situ
hybridization (FISH). These assays have been used to demonstrate that in mammalian cells, the majority of mRNAs are exported in a splicing dependent manner6,7
, or in manner that requires specific RNA sequences such as the signal sequence coding region (SSCR) 6
. In this assay, cells are microinjected with either in vitro
synthesized mRNA or plasmid DNA containing the gene of interest. The microinjected cells are incubated for various time points then fixed and the sub-cellular localization of RNA is assessed using FISH. In contrast to transfection, where transcription occurs several hours after the addition of nucleic acids, microinjection of DNA or mRNA allows for rapid expression and allows for the generation of precise kinetic data.
Cellular Biology, Issue 46, mRNA nuclear export, microinjection, microscopy, fluorescent in situ hybridization, cell biology
Heterokaryon Technique for Analysis of Cell Type-specific Localization
Institutions: Worcester Polytechnic Institute- WPI.
A significant number of proteins are regulated by subcellular trafficking or nucleocytolasmic shuttling. These proteins display a diverse array of cellular functions including nuclear import/export of RNA and protein, transcriptional regulation, and apoptosis. Interestingly, major cellular reorganizations including cell division, differentiation and transformation, often involve such activities3,4,8,10
. The detailed study of these proteins and their respective regulatory mechanisms can be challenging as the stimulation for these localization changes can be elusive, and the movements themselves can be quite dynamic and difficult to track. Studies involving cellular oncogenesis, for example, continue to benefit from understanding pathways and protein activities that differ between normal primary cells and transformed cells6,7,11,12
. As many proteins show altered localization during transformation or as a result of transformation, methods to efficiently characterize these proteins and the pathways in which they participate stand to improve the understanding of oncogenesis and open new areas for drug targeting.
Here we present a method for the analysis of protein trafficking and shuttling activity between primary and transformed mammalian cells. This method combines the generation of heterokaryon fusions with fluorescence microscopy to provide a flexible protocol that can be used to detect steady-state or dynamic protein localizations. As shown in Figure 1, two separate cell types are transiently transfected with plasmid constructs bearing a fluoroprotein gene attached to the gene of interest. After expression, the cells are fused using polyethylene glycol, and protein localizations may then be imaged using a variety of methods. The protocol presented here is a fundamental approach to which specialized techniques may be added.
Cellular Biology, Issue 49, Heterokaryon, fluorescence microscopy, localization, cell fusion, nucleocytoplasmic shuttling
Analysis of Nephron Composition and Function in the Adult Zebrafish Kidney
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish model has emerged as a relevant system to study kidney development, regeneration and disease. Both the embryonic and adult zebrafish kidneys are composed of functional units known as nephrons, which are highly conserved with other vertebrates, including mammals. Research in zebrafish has recently demonstrated that two distinctive phenomena transpire after adult nephrons incur damage: first, there is robust regeneration within existing nephrons that replaces the destroyed tubule epithelial cells; second, entirely new nephrons are produced from renal progenitors in a process known as neonephrogenesis. In contrast, humans and other mammals seem to have only a limited ability for nephron epithelial regeneration. To date, the mechanisms responsible for these kidney regeneration phenomena remain poorly understood. Since adult zebrafish kidneys undergo both nephron epithelial regeneration and neonephrogenesis, they provide an outstanding experimental paradigm to study these events. Further, there is a wide range of genetic and pharmacological tools available in the zebrafish model that can be used to delineate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate renal regeneration. One essential aspect of such research is the evaluation of nephron structure and function. This protocol describes a set of labeling techniques that can be used to gauge renal composition and test nephron functionality in the adult zebrafish kidney. Thus, these methods are widely applicable to the future phenotypic characterization of adult zebrafish kidney injury paradigms, which include but are not limited to, nephrotoxicant exposure regimes or genetic methods of targeted cell death such as the nitroreductase mediated cell ablation technique. Further, these methods could be used to study genetic perturbations in adult kidney formation and could also be applied to assess renal status during chronic disease modeling.
Cellular Biology, Issue 90,
zebrafish; kidney; nephron; nephrology; renal; regeneration; proximal tubule; distal tubule; segment; mesonephros; physiology; acute kidney injury (AKI)
Microwave-assisted Functionalization of Poly(ethylene glycol) and On-resin Peptides for Use in Chain Polymerizations and Hydrogel Formation
Institutions: University of Rochester, University of Rochester, University of Rochester Medical Center.
One of the main benefits to using poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) macromers in hydrogel formation is synthetic versatility. The ability to draw from a large variety of PEG molecular weights and configurations (arm number, arm length, and branching pattern) affords researchers tight control over resulting hydrogel structures and properties, including Young’s modulus and mesh size. This video will illustrate a rapid, efficient, solvent-free, microwave-assisted method to methacrylate PEG precursors into poly(ethylene glycol) dimethacrylate (PEGDM). This synthetic method provides much-needed starting materials for applications in drug delivery and regenerative medicine. The demonstrated method is superior to traditional methacrylation methods as it is significantly faster and simpler, as well as more economical and environmentally friendly, using smaller amounts of reagents and solvents. We will also demonstrate an adaptation of this technique for on-resin methacrylamide functionalization of peptides. This on-resin method allows the N-terminus of peptides to be functionalized with methacrylamide groups prior to deprotection and cleavage from resin. This allows for selective addition of methacrylamide groups to the N-termini of the peptides while amino acids with reactive side groups (e.g.
primary amine of lysine, primary alcohol of serine, secondary alcohols of threonine, and phenol of tyrosine) remain protected, preventing functionalization at multiple sites. This article will detail common analytical methods (proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectroscopy (;
H-NMR) and Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization Time of Flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-ToF)) to assess the efficiency of the functionalizations. Common pitfalls and suggested troubleshooting methods will be addressed, as will modifications of the technique which can be used to further tune macromer functionality and resulting hydrogel physical and chemical properties. Use of synthesized products for the formation of hydrogels for drug delivery and cell-material interaction studies will be demonstrated, with particular attention paid to modifying hydrogel composition to affect mesh size, controlling hydrogel stiffness and drug release.
Chemistry, Issue 80, Poly(ethylene glycol), peptides, polymerization, polymers, methacrylation, peptide functionalization, 1H-NMR, MALDI-ToF, hydrogels, macromer synthesis
Simultaneous Multicolor Imaging of Biological Structures with Fluorescence Photoactivation Localization Microscopy
Institutions: University of Maine.
Localization-based super resolution microscopy can be applied to obtain a spatial map (image) of the distribution of individual fluorescently labeled single molecules within a sample with a spatial resolution of tens of nanometers. Using either photoactivatable (PAFP) or photoswitchable (PSFP) fluorescent proteins fused to proteins of interest, or organic dyes conjugated to antibodies or other molecules of interest, fluorescence photoactivation localization microscopy (FPALM) can simultaneously image multiple species of molecules within single cells. By using the following approach, populations of large numbers (thousands to hundreds of thousands) of individual molecules are imaged in single cells and localized with a precision of ~10-30 nm. Data obtained can be applied to understanding the nanoscale spatial distributions of multiple protein types within a cell. One primary advantage of this technique is the dramatic increase in spatial resolution: while diffraction limits resolution to ~200-250 nm in conventional light microscopy, FPALM can image length scales more than an order of magnitude smaller. As many biological hypotheses concern the spatial relationships among different biomolecules, the improved resolution of FPALM can provide insight into questions of cellular organization which have previously been inaccessible to conventional fluorescence microscopy. In addition to detailing the methods for sample preparation and data acquisition, we here describe the optical setup for FPALM. One additional consideration for researchers wishing to do super-resolution microscopy is cost: in-house setups are significantly cheaper than most commercially available imaging machines. Limitations of this technique include the need for optimizing the labeling of molecules of interest within cell samples, and the need for post-processing software to visualize results. We here describe the use of PAFP and PSFP expression to image two protein species in fixed cells. Extension of the technique to living cells is also described.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, Microscopy, Super-resolution imaging, Multicolor, single molecule, FPALM, Localization microscopy, fluorescent proteins
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
In Vitro Nuclear Assembly Using Fractionated Xenopus Egg Extracts
Institutions: Emory University.
Nuclear membrane assembly is an essential step in the cell division cycle; this process can be replicated in the test tube by combining Xenopus sperm chromatin, cytosol, and light membrane fractions. Complete nuclei are formed, including nuclear membranes with pore complexes, and these reconstituted nuclei are capable of normal nuclear processes.
Cellular Biology, Issue 19, Current Protocols Wiley, Xenopus Egg Extracts, Nuclear Assembly, Nuclear Membrane
Identification of protein complexes with quantitative proteomics in S. cerevisiae
Institutions: University of British Columbia - UBC, University of British Columbia - UBC.
Lipids are the building blocks of cellular membranes that function as barriers and in compartmentalization of cellular processes, and recently, as important intracellular signalling molecules. However, unlike proteins, lipids are small hydrophobic molecules that traffic primarily by poorly described nonvesicular routes, which are hypothesized to occur at membrane contact sites (MCSs). MCSs are regions where the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) makes direct physical contact with a partnering organelle, e.g., plasma membrane (PM). The ER portion of ER-PM MCSs is enriched in lipid-synthesizing enzymes, suggesting that lipid synthesis is directed to these sites and implying that MCSs are important for lipid traffic. Yeast is an ideal model to study ER-PM MCSs because of their abundance, with over 1000 contacts per cell, and their conserved nature in all eukaryotes. Uncovering the proteins that constitute MCSs is critical to understanding how lipids traffic is accomplished in cells, and how they act as signaling molecules. We have found that an ER called Scs2p localize to ER-PM MCSs and is important for their formation. We are focused on uncovering the molecular partners of Scs2p. Identification of protein complexes traditionally relies on first resolving purified protein samples by gel electrophoresis, followed by in-gel digestion of protein bands and analysis of peptides by mass spectrometry. This often limits the study to a small subset of proteins. Also, protein complexes are exposed to denaturing or non-physiological conditions during the procedure. To circumvent these problems, we have implemented a large-scale quantitative proteomics technique to extract unbiased and quantified data. We use stable isotope labeling with amino acids in cell culture (SILAC) to incorporate staple isotope nuclei in proteins in an untagged control strain. Equal volumes of tagged culture and untagged, SILAC-labeled culture are mixed together and lysed by grinding in liquid nitrogen. We then carry out an affinity purification procedure to pull down protein complexes. Finally, we precipitate the protein sample, which is ready for analysis by high-performance liquid chromatography/ tandem mass spectrometry. Most importantly, proteins in the control strain are labeled by the heavy isotope and will produce a mass/ charge shift that can be quantified against the unlabeled proteins in the bait strain. Therefore, contaminants, or unspecific binding can be easily eliminated. By using this approach, we have identified several novel proteins that localize to ER-PM MCSs. Here we present a detailed description of our approach.
Biochemistry, Issue 25, Quantitative proteomics, Stable isotope, Amino acid labeling, SILAC, Isotope-coded affinity tag, Isotope labeling, Quantitation, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, ER polarization
Single-Molecule Imaging of Nuclear Transport
Institutions: Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green State University.
The utility of single molecule fluorescence microscopy approaches has been proven to be of a great avail in understanding biological reactions over the last decade. The investigation of molecular interactions with high temporal and spatial resolutions deep within cells has remained challenging due to the inherently weak signals arising from individual molecules. Recent works by Yang et al. demonstrated that narrow-field epifluorescence microscopy allows visualization of nucleocytoplasmic transport at the single molecule level. By the single molecule approach, important kinetics, such as nuclear transport time and efficiency, for signal-dependent and independent cargo molecules have been obtained. Here we described a protocol for the methodological approach with an improved spatiotemporal resolution of 0.4 ms and 12 nm. The improved resolution enabled us to capture transient active transport and passive diffusion events through the nuclear pore complexes (NPC) in semi-intact cells. We expect this method to be used in elucidating other binding and trafficking events within cells.
Cellular Biology, Issue 40, Single molecule fluorescence, Nuclear transport, Particle tracking, Narrow-field epifluorescence microscopy, Cell imaging
Microinjection of Xenopus Laevis Oocytes
Institutions: University of British Columbia - UBC.
Microinjection of Xenopus laevis
oocytes followed by thin-sectioning electron microscopy (EM) is an excellent system for studying nucleocytoplasmic transport. Because of its large nucleus and high density of nuclear pore complexes (NPCs), nuclear transport can be easily visualized in the Xenopus
oocyte. Much insight into the mechanisms of nuclear import and export has been gained through use of this system (reviewed by Panté, 2006). In addition, we have used microinjection of Xenopus
oocytes to dissect the nuclear import pathways of several viruses that replicate in the host nucleus.
Here we demonstrate the cytoplasmic microinjection of Xenopus
oocytes with a nuclear import substrate. We also show preparation of the injected oocytes for visualization by thin-sectioning EM, including dissection, dehydration, and embedding of the oocytes into an epoxy embedding resin. Finally, we provide representative results for oocytes that have been microinjected with the capsid of the baculovirus Autographa californica nucleopolyhedrovirus
(AcMNPV) or the parvovirus Minute Virus of Mice (MVM), and discuss potential applications of the technique.
Cellular biology, Issue 24, nuclear import, nuclear pore complex, Xenopus oocyte, microinjection, electron microscopy, nuclear membrane, nuclear import of viruses
Visualization of Endoplasmic Reticulum Localized mRNAs in Mammalian Cells
Institutions: University of Toronto.
In eukaryotes, most of the messenger RNAs (mRNAs) that encode secreted and membrane proteins are localized to the surface of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). However, the visualization of these mRNAs can be challenging. This is especially true when only a fraction of the mRNA is ER-associated and their distribution to this organelle is obstructed by non-targeted (i.e.
"free") transcripts. In order to monitor ER-associated mRNAs, we have developed a method in which cells are treated with a short exposure to a digitonin extraction solution that selectively permeabilizes the plasma membrane, and thus removes the cytoplasmic contents, while simultaneously maintaining the integrity of the ER. When this method is coupled with fluorescent in situ
hybridization (FISH), one can clearly visualize ER-bound mRNAs by fluorescent microscopy. Using this protocol the degree of ER-association for either bulk poly(A) transcripts or specific mRNAs can be assessed and even quantified. In the process, one can use this assay to investigate the nature of mRNA-ER interactions.
Cellular Biology, Issue 70, Biochemistry, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Genomics, mRNA localization, RNA, digitonin extraction, cell fractionation, endoplasmic reticulum, secretion, microscopy, imaging, fluorescent in situ hybridization, FISH, cell biology