Autophagy is a cellular response triggered by the lack of nutrients, especially the absence of amino acids. Autophagy is defined by the formation of double membrane structures, called autophagosomes, that sequester cytoplasm, long-lived proteins and protein aggregates, defective organelles, and even viruses or bacteria. Autophagosomes eventually fuse with lysosomes leading to bulk degradation of their content, with the produced nutrients being recycled back to the cytoplasm. Therefore, autophagy is crucial for cell homeostasis, and dysregulation of autophagy can lead to disease, most notably neurodegeneration, ageing and cancer.
Autophagosome formation is a very elaborate process, for which cells have allocated a specific group of proteins, called the core autophagy machinery. The core autophagy machinery is functionally complemented by additional proteins involved in diverse cellular processes, e.g. in membrane trafficking, in mitochondrial and lysosomal biology. Coordination of these proteins for the formation and degradation of autophagosomes constitutes the highly dynamic and sophisticated response of autophagy. Live cell imaging allows one to follow the molecular contribution of each autophagy-related protein down to the level of a single autophagosome formation event and in real time, therefore this technique offers a high temporal and spatial resolution.
Here we use a cell line stably expressing GFP-DFCP1, to establish a spatial and temporal context for our analysis. DFCP1 marks omegasomes, which are precursor structures leading to autophagosomes formation. A protein of interest (POI) can be marked with either a red or cyan fluorescent tag. Different organelles, like the ER, mitochondria and lysosomes, are all involved in different steps of autophagosome formation, and can be marked using a specific tracker dye. Time-lapse microscopy of autophagy in this experimental set up, allows information to be extracted about the fourth dimension, i.e. time. Hence we can follow the contribution of the POI to autophagy in space and time.
12 Related JoVE Articles!
Use of LysoTracker to Detect Programmed Cell Death in Embryos and Differentiating Embryonic Stem Cells
Institutions: University of Southern California.
Programmed cell death (PCD) occurs in adults to maintain normal tissue homeostasis and during embryological development to shape tissues and organs1,2,6,7
. During development, toxic chemicals or genetic alterations can cause an increase in PCD or change PCD patterns resulting in developmental abnormalities and birth defects3-5
. To understand the etiology of these defects, the study of embryos can be complemented with in vitro
assays that use differentiating embryonic stem (ES) cells.
Apoptosis is a well-studied form of PCD that involves both intrinsic and extrinsic signaling to activate the caspase enzyme cascade. Characteristic cell changes include membrane blebbing, nuclear shrinking, and DNA fragmentation. Other forms of PCD do not involve caspase activation and may be the end-result of prolonged autophagy. Regardless of the PCD pathway, dying cells need to be removed. In adults, the immune cells perform this function, while in embryos, where the immune system has not yet developed, removal occurs by an alternative mechanism. This mechanism involves neighboring cells (called "non-professional phagocytes") taking on a phagocytic role-they recognize the 'eat me' signal on the surface of the dying cell and engulf it8-10
. After engulfment, the debris is brought to the lysosome for degradation. Thus regardless of PCD mechanism, an increase in lysosomal activity can be correlated with increased cell death.
To study PCD, a simple assay to visualize lysosomes in thick tissues and multilayer differentiating cultures can be useful. LysoTracker dye is a highly soluble small molecule that is retained in acidic subcellular compartments such as the lysosome11-13
. The dye is taken up by diffusion and through the circulation. Since penetration is not a hindrance, visualization of PCD in thick tissues and multi-layer cultures is possible12,13
. In contrast, TUNEL (Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling) analysis14
, is limited to small samples, histological sections, and monolayer cultures because the procedure requires the entry/permeability of a terminal transferase.
In contrast to Aniline blue, which diffuses and is dissolved by solvents, LysoTracker Red DND-99 is fixable, bright, and stable. Staining can be visualized with standard fluorescent or confocal microscopy in whole-mount or section using aqueous or solvent-based mounting media12,13
. Here we describe protocols using this dye to look at PCD in normal and sonic hedgehog
null mouse embryos. In addition, we demonstrate analysis of PCD in differentiating ES cell cultures and present a simple quantification method. In summary, LysoTracker staining can be a great complement to other methods of detecting PCD.
Developmental Biology, Issue 68, Molecular Biology, Stem Cell Biology, Cellular Biology, mouse embryo, embryonic stem cells, lysosome, programmed cell death, imaging, sonic hedgehog
Quantitative Analysis of Autophagy using Advanced 3D Fluorescence Microscopy
Institutions: University of California, Davis , University of California, Davis , University of Tromsø, University of California, Davis , University of California, Davis , University of California, Davis .
Prostate cancer is the leading form of malignancies among men in the U.S. While surgery carries a significant risk of impotence and incontinence, traditional chemotherapeutic approaches have been largely unsuccessful. Hormone therapy is effective at early stage, but often fails with the eventual development of hormone-refractory tumors. We have been interested in developing therapeutics targeting specific metabolic deficiency of tumor cells. We recently showed that prostate tumor cells specifically lack an enzyme (argininosuccinate synthase, or ASS) involved in the synthesis of the amino acid arginine1
. This condition causes the tumor cells to become dependent on exogenous arginine, and they undergo metabolic stress when free arginine is depleted by arginine deiminase (ADI)1,10
. Indeed, we have shown that human prostate cancer cells CWR22Rv1
are effectively killed by ADI with caspase-independent apoptosis and aggressive autophagy
. Autophagy is an evolutionarily-conserved process that allows cells to metabolize unwanted proteins by lysosomal breakdown during nutritional starvation4,5
. Although the essential components of this pathway are well-characterized6,7,8,9
, many aspects of the molecular mechanism are still unclear - in particular, what is the role of autophagy in the death-response of prostate cancer cells after ADI treatment? In order to address this question, we required an experimental method to measure the level and extent of autophagic response in cells - and since there are no known molecular markers that can accurately track this process, we chose to develop an imaging-based approach, using quantitative 3D fluorescence microscopy11,12
Using CWR22Rv1 cells specifically-labeled with fluorescent probes for autophagosomes and lysosomes, we show that 3D image stacks acquired with either widefield deconvolution microscopy (and later, with super-resolution, structured-illumination microscopy) can clearly capture the early stages of autophagy induction. With commercially available digital image analysis applications, we can readily obtain statistical information about autophagosome and lysosome number, size, distribution, and degree of colocalization from any imaged cell. This information allows us to precisely track the progress of autophagy in living cells and enables our continued investigation into the role of autophagy in cancer chemotherapy.
Cellular Biology, Issue 75, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Medicine, Cancer Biology, Biophysics, Chemical Biology, Proteins, Microscopy, Fluorescence, autophagy, arginine deiminase, prostate cancer, deconvolution microscopy, super-resolution structured-illumination microscopy, live cell imaging, tumors, autophagosomes, lysosomes, cells, cell culture, microscopy, imaging, visualization
A Protocol to Infect Caenorhabditis elegans with Salmonella typhimurium
Institutions: Florida Atlantic University.
In the last decade, C. elegans
has emerged as an invertebrate organism to study interactions between hosts and pathogens, including the host defense against gram-negative bacterium Salmonella typhimurium. Salmonella
establishes persistent infection in the intestine of C. elegans
and results in early death of infected animals. A number of immunity mechanisms have been identified in C. elegans
to defend against Salmonella
infections. Autophagy, an evolutionarily conserved lysosomal degradation pathway, has been shown to limit the Salmonella
replication in C. elegans
and in mammals. Here, a protocol is described to infect C. elegans
with Salmonella typhimurium
, in which the worms are exposed to Salmonella
for a limited time, similar to Salmonella
infection in humans. Salmonella
infection significantly shortens the lifespan of C. elegans
. Using the essential autophagy gene bec-1
as an example, we combined this infection method with C. elegans
RNAi feeding approach and showed this protocol can be used to examine the function of C. elegans
host genes in defense against Salmonella
infection. Since C. elegans
whole genome RNAi libraries are available, this protocol makes it possible to comprehensively screen for C. elegans
genes that protect against Salmonella
and other intestinal pathogens using genome-wide RNAi libraries.
Immunology, Issue 88, C. elegans, Salmonella typhimurium, autophagy, infection, pathogen, host, RNAi
Analysis of Fatty Acid Content and Composition in Microalgae
Institutions: Wageningen University and Research Center, Wageningen University and Research Center, Wageningen University and Research Center.
A method to determine the content and composition of total fatty acids present in microalgae is described. Fatty acids are a major constituent of microalgal biomass. These fatty acids can be present in different acyl-lipid classes. Especially the fatty acids present in triacylglycerol (TAG) are of commercial interest, because they can be used for production of transportation fuels, bulk chemicals, nutraceuticals (ω-3 fatty acids), and food commodities. To develop commercial applications, reliable analytical methods for quantification of fatty acid content and composition are needed. Microalgae are single cells surrounded by a rigid cell wall. A fatty acid analysis method should provide sufficient cell disruption to liberate all acyl lipids and the extraction procedure used should be able to extract all acyl lipid classes.
With the method presented here all fatty acids present in microalgae can be accurately and reproducibly identified and quantified using small amounts of sample (5 mg) independent of their chain length, degree of unsaturation, or the lipid class they are part of.
This method does not provide information about the relative abundance of different lipid classes, but can be extended to separate lipid classes from each other.
The method is based on a sequence of mechanical cell disruption, solvent based lipid extraction, transesterification of fatty acids to fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs), and quantification and identification of FAMEs using gas chromatography (GC-FID). A TAG internal standard (tripentadecanoin) is added prior to the analytical procedure to correct for losses during extraction and incomplete transesterification.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 80, chemical analysis techniques, Microalgae, fatty acid, triacylglycerol, lipid, gas chromatography, cell disruption
Cecal Ligation and Puncture-induced Sepsis as a Model To Study Autophagy in Mice
Institutions: Brigham and Women's Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, University of Athens Medical School, Evangelismos Hospital, Athens, Greece.
Experimental sepsis can be induced in mice using the cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) method, which causes polymicrobial sepsis. Here, a protocol is provided to induce sepsis of varying severity in mice using the CLP technique. Autophagy is a fundamental tissue response to stress and pathogen invasion. Two current protocols to assess autophagy in vivo
in the context of experimental sepsis are also presented here. (I) Transgenic mice expressing green fluorescence protein (GFP)-LC3 fusion protein are subjected to CLP. Localized enhancement of GFP signal (puncta), as assayed either by immunohistochemical or confocal assays, can be used to detect enhanced autophagosome formation and, thus, altered activation of the autophagy pathway. (II) Enhanced autophagic vacuole (autophagosome) formation per unit tissue area (as a marker of autophagy stimulation) can be quantified using electron microscopy. The study of autophagic responses to sepsis is a critical component of understanding the mechanisms by which tissues respond to infection. Research findings in this area may ultimately contribute towards understanding the pathogenesis of sepsis, which represents a major problem in critical care medicine.
Infection, Issue 84, autophagosome, Autophagy, cecal ligation and puncture, mice, sepsis
A Fluorescence Microscopy Assay for Monitoring Mitophagy in the Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Institutions: Monash University.
Autophagy is important for turnover of cellular components under a range of different conditions. It serves an essential homeostatic function as well as a quality control mechanism that can target and selectively degrade cellular material including organelles1-4. For example, damaged or redundant mitochondria (Fig. 1)
, not disposed of by autophagy, can represent a threat to cellular homeostasis and cell survival. In the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae
, nutrient deprivation (e.g., nitrogen starvation) or damage can promote selective turnover of mitochondria by autophagy in a process termed mitophagy 5-9
We describe a simple fluorescence microscopy approach to assess autophagy. For clarity we restrict our description here to show how the approach can be used to monitor mitophagy in yeast cells. The assay makes use of a fluorescent reporter, Rosella, which is a dual-emission biosensor comprising a relatively pH-stable red fluorescent protein linked to a pH-sensitive green fluorescent protein. The operation of this reporter relies on differences in pH between the vacuole (pH ~ 5.0-5.5) and mitochondria (pH ~ 8.2) in living cells. Under growing conditions, wild type cells exhibit both red and green fluorescence distributed in a manner characteristic of the mitochondria. Fluorescence emission is not associated with the vacuole. When subjected to nitrogen starvation, a condition which induces mitophagy, in addition to red and green fluorescence labeling the mitochondria, cells exhibit the accumulation of red, but not green fluorescence, in the acidic vacuolar lumen representing the delivery of mitochondria to the vacuole. Scoring cells with red, but not green fluorescent vacuoles can be used as a measure of mitophagic activity in cells5,10-12
Cell Biology, Issue 53, autophagy, microscopy, mitochondria, nucleus, yeast
Use of Shigella flexneri to Study Autophagy-Cytoskeleton Interactions
Institutions: Imperial College London, Institut Pasteur, Unité Macrophages et Développement de l'Immunité.
is an intracellular pathogen that can escape from phagosomes to reach the cytosol, and polymerize the host actin cytoskeleton to promote its motility and dissemination. New work has shown that proteins involved in actin-based motility are also linked to autophagy, an intracellular degradation process crucial for cell autonomous immunity. Strikingly, host cells may prevent actin-based motility of S. flexneri
by compartmentalizing bacteria inside ‘septin cages’ and targeting them to autophagy. These observations indicate that a more complete understanding of septins, a family of filamentous GTP-binding proteins, will provide new insights into the process of autophagy. This report describes protocols to monitor autophagy-cytoskeleton interactions caused by S. flexneri in vitro
using tissue culture cells and in vivo
using zebrafish larvae. These protocols enable investigation of intracellular mechanisms that control bacterial dissemination at the molecular, cellular, and whole organism level.
Infection, Issue 91, ATG8/LC3, autophagy, cytoskeleton, HeLa cells, p62, septin, Shigella, zebrafish
Enhancement of Apoptotic and Autophagic Induction by a Novel Synthetic C-1 Analogue of 7-deoxypancratistatin in Human Breast Adenocarcinoma and Neuroblastoma Cells with Tamoxifen
Institutions: University of Windsor, Brock University.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers amongst women in North America. Many current anti-cancer treatments, including ionizing radiation, induce apoptosis via DNA damage. Unfortunately, such treatments are non-selective to cancer cells and produce similar toxicity in normal cells. We have reported selective induction of apoptosis in cancer cells by the natural compound pancratistatin (PST). Recently, a novel PST analogue, a C-1 acetoxymethyl derivative of 7-deoxypancratistatin (JCTH-4), was produced by de novo synthesis and it exhibits comparable selective apoptosis inducing activity in several cancer cell lines. Recently, autophagy has been implicated in malignancies as both pro-survival and pro-death mechanisms in response to chemotherapy. Tamoxifen (TAM) has invariably demonstrated induction of pro-survival autophagy in numerous cancers. In this study, the efficacy of JCTH-4 alone and in combination with TAM to induce cell death in human breast cancer (MCF7) and neuroblastoma (SH-SY5Y) cells was evaluated. TAM alone induced autophagy, but insignificant cell death whereas JCTH-4 alone caused significant induction of apoptosis with some induction of autophagy. Interestingly, the combinatory treatment yielded a drastic increase in apoptotic and autophagic induction. We monitored time-dependent morphological changes in MCF7 cells undergoing TAM-induced autophagy, JCTH-4-induced apoptosis and autophagy, and accelerated cell death with combinatorial treatment using time-lapse microscopy. We have demonstrated these compounds to induce apoptosis/autophagy by mitochondrial targeting in these cancer cells. Importantly, these treatments did not affect the survival of noncancerous human fibroblasts. Thus, these results indicate that JCTH-4 in combination with TAM could be used as a safe and very potent anti-cancer therapy against breast cancer and neuroblastoma cells.
Cancer Biology, Issue 63, Medicine, Biochemistry, Breast adenocarcinoma, neuroblastoma, tamoxifen, combination therapy, apoptosis, autophagy
A Simple and Rapid Protocol for Measuring Neutral Lipids in Algal Cells Using Fluorescence
Institutions: University of Alberta, University of Calgary.
Algae are considered excellent candidates for renewable fuel sources due to their natural lipid storage capabilities. Robust monitoring of algal fermentation processes and screening for new oil-rich strains requires a fast and reliable protocol for determination of intracellular lipid content. Current practices rely largely on gravimetric methods to determine oil content, techniques developed decades ago that are time consuming and require large sample volumes. In this paper, Nile Red, a fluorescent dye that has been used to identify the presence of lipid bodies in numerous types of organisms, is incorporated into a simple, fast, and reliable protocol for measuring the neutral lipid content of Auxenochlorella protothecoides
, a green alga. The method uses ethanol, a relatively mild solvent, to permeabilize the cell membrane before staining and a 96 well micro-plate to increase sample capacity during fluorescence intensity measurements. It has been designed with the specific application of monitoring bioprocess performance. Previously dried samples or live samples from a growing culture can be used in the assay.
Chemistry, Issue 87, engineering (general), microbiology, bioengineering (general), Eukaryota Algae, Nile Red, Fluorescence, Oil Content, Oil Extraction, Oil Quantification, Neutral Lipids, Optical Microscope, biomass
Single Drosophila Ommatidium Dissection and Imaging
Institutions: King's College London.
The fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster
has made invaluable contributions to neuroscience research and has been used widely as a model for neurodegenerative diseases because of its powerful genetics1
. The fly eye in particular has been the organ of choice for neurodegeneration research, being the most accessible and life-dispensable part of the Drosophila
nervous system. However the major caveat of intact eyes is the difficulty, because of the intense autofluorescence of the pigment, in imaging intracellular events, such as autophagy dynamics2
, which are paramount to understanding of neurodegeneration.
We have recently used the dissection and culture of single ommatidia3
that has been essential for our understanding of autophagic dysfunctions in a fly model of Dentatorubro-Pallidoluysian Atrophy (DRPLA)3, 4
We now report a comprehensive description of this technique (Fig. 1), adapted from electrophysiological studies5
, which is likely to expand dramatically the possibility of fly models for neurodegeneration. This method can be adapted to image live subcellular events and to monitor effective drug administration onto photoreceptor cells (Fig. 2). If used in combination with mosaic techniques6-8
, the responses of genetically different cells can be assayed in parallel (Fig. 2).
Neuroscience, Issue 54, Drosophila, cell biology, neuroscience, autophagy
Optimize Flue Gas Settings to Promote Microalgae Growth in Photobioreactors via Computer Simulations
Institutions: Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Wuhan University of China, Washington University in St. Louis.
Flue gas from power plants can promote algal cultivation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions1
. Microalgae not only capture solar energy more efficiently than plants3
, but also synthesize advanced biofuels2-4
. Generally, atmospheric CO2
is not a sufficient source for supporting maximal algal growth5
. On the other hand, the high concentrations of CO2
in industrial exhaust gases have adverse effects on algal physiology. Consequently, both cultivation conditions (such as nutrients and light) and the control of the flue gas flow into the photo-bioreactors are important to develop an efficient “flue gas to algae” system. Researchers have proposed different photobioreactor configurations4,6
and cultivation strategies7,8
with flue gas. Here, we present a protocol that demonstrates how to use models to predict the microalgal growth in response to flue gas settings. We perform both experimental illustration and model simulations to determine the favorable conditions for algal growth with flue gas. We develop a Monod-based model coupled with mass transfer and light intensity equations to simulate the microalgal growth in a homogenous photo-bioreactor. The model simulation compares algal growth and flue gas consumptions under different flue-gas settings. The model illustrates: 1) how algal growth is influenced by different volumetric mass transfer coefficients of CO2
; 2) how we can find optimal CO2
concentration for algal growth via the dynamic optimization approach (DOA); 3) how we can design a rectangular on-off flue gas pulse to promote algal biomass growth and to reduce the usage of flue gas. On the experimental side, we present a protocol for growing Chlorella
under the flue gas (generated by natural gas combustion). The experimental results qualitatively validate the model predictions that the high frequency flue gas pulses can significantly improve algal cultivation.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 80, Microbiology, Cellular Biology, Marine Biology, Primary Cell Culture, Chlorella, CO2, mass transfer, Monod model, On-off pulse, Simulink
Interview: Protein Folding and Studies of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Institutions: MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In this interview, Dr. Lindquist describes relationships between protein folding, prion diseases and neurodegenerative disorders. The problem of the protein folding is at the core of the modern biology. In addition to their traditional biochemical functions, proteins can mediate transfer of biological information and therefore can be considered a genetic material. This recently discovered function of proteins has important implications for studies of human disorders. Dr. Lindquist also describes current experimental approaches to investigate the mechanism of neurodegenerative diseases based on genetic studies in model organisms.
Neuroscience, issue 17, protein folding, brain, neuron, prion, neurodegenerative disease, yeast, screen, Translational Research