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.
26 Related JoVE Articles!
Production of Apolipoprotein C-III Knockout Rabbits using Zinc Finger Nucleases
Institutions: University of Michigan Medical Center, University of Yamanashi.
Apolipoprotein (Apo) C-III (ApoCIII) resides on the surface of plasma chylomicron (CM), very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL). It has been recognized that high levels of plasma ApoCIII constitutea risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Elevated plasma ApoCIII level often correlates with insulin resistance, obesity, and hypertriglyceridemia. Invaluable knowledge on the roles of ApoCIIIin lipid metabolisms and CVD has been obtained from transgenic mouse models including ApoCIII knockout (KO) mice; however, it is noted that the metabolism of lipoprotein in mice is different from that of humans in many aspects. It is not known until now whether elevated plasma ApoCIII is directly atherogenic. We worked to develop ApoCIII KO rabbits in the present study based on the hypothesis that rabbits can serve as a reasonablemodelfor studying human lipid metabolism and atherosclerosis. Zinc finger nuclease (ZFN) sets targeting rabbit ApoCIIIgene were subjected to in vitro
validation prior to embryo microinjection. The mRNA was injected to the cytoplasm of 35 rabbit pronuclear stage embryos, and evaluated the mutation rates at the blastocyst state. Of sixteen blastocysts that were assayed, a satisfactory 50% mutation rate (8/16) at the targeting site was achieved, supporting the use of Set 1 for in vivo
experiments. Next, we microinjected 145 embryos with Set 1 mRNA, and transferred these embryos to 7 recipient rabbits. After 30 days gestation, 21 kits were born, out of which five were confirmed as ApoCIII KO rabbits after PCR sequencing assays. The KO animal rate (#KO kits/total born) was 23.8%. The overall production efficiency is 3.4% (5 kits/145 embryos transferred). The present work demonstrated that ZFN is a highly efficient method to produce KO rabbits. These ApoCIII KO rabbits are novel resources to study the roles of ApoCIII in lipid metabolisms.
Medicine, Issue 81, Apolipoprotein C-III, rabbits, knockout, zinc finger nuclease, cardiovascular diseases, lipid metabolism, ApoCIII
Reverse Yeast Two-hybrid System to Identify Mammalian Nuclear Receptor Residues that Interact with Ligands and/or Antagonists
Institutions: Albert Einstein College of Medicine , Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
As a critical regulator of drug metabolism and inflammation, Pregnane X Receptor (PXR), plays an important role in disease pathophysiology linking metabolism and inflammation (e.g.
. There has been much progress in the identification of agonist ligands for PXR, however, there are limited descriptions of drug-like antagonists and their binding sites on PXR3,4,5
. A critical barrier has been the inability to efficiently purify full-length protein for structural studies with antagonists despite the fact that PXR was cloned and characterized in 1998. Our laboratory developed a novel high throughput yeast based two-hybrid assay to define an antagonist, ketoconazole's, binding residues on PXR6
. Our method involves creating mutational libraries that would rescue the effect of single mutations on the AF-2 surface of PXR expected to interact with ketoconazole. Rescue or "gain-of-function" second mutations can be made such that conclusions regarding the genetic interaction of ketoconazole and the surface residue(s) on PXR are feasible. Thus, we developed a high throughput two-hybrid yeast screen of PXR mutants interacting with its coactivator, SRC-1. Using this approach, in which the yeast was modified to accommodate the study of the antifungal drug, ketoconazole, we could demonstrate specific mutations on PXR enriched in clones unable to bind to ketoconazole. By reverse logic, we conclude that the original residues are direct interaction residues with ketoconazole. This assay represents a novel, tractable genetic assay to screen for antagonist binding sites on nuclear receptor surfaces. This assay could be applied to any drug regardless of its cytotoxic potential to yeast as well as to cellular protein(s) that cannot be studied using standard structural biology or proteomic based methods. Potential pitfalls include interpretation of data (complementary methods useful), reliance on single Y2H method, expertise in handling yeast or performing yeast two-hybrid assays, and assay optimization.
Biochemistry, Issue 81, Orphan nuclear receptor, ketoconazole, yeast two-hybrid, Pregnane X Receptor, ligand, antatogist, coactivators SRC-1 (steroid receptor coactivator 1), drug-receptor interaction
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
Isolation of Cellular Lipid Droplets: Two Purification Techniques Starting from Yeast Cells and Human Placentas
Institutions: University of Tennessee, University of Tennessee.
Lipid droplets are dynamic organelles that can be found in most eukaryotic and certain prokaryotic cells. Structurally, the droplets consist of a core of neutral lipids surrounded by a phospholipid monolayer. One of the most useful techniques in determining the cellular roles of droplets has been proteomic identification of bound proteins, which can be isolated along with the droplets. Here, two methods are described to isolate lipid droplets and their bound proteins from two wide-ranging eukaryotes: fission yeast and human placental villous cells. Although both techniques have differences, the main method - density gradient centrifugation - is shared by both preparations. This shows the wide applicability of the presented droplet isolation techniques.
In the first protocol, yeast cells are converted into spheroplasts by enzymatic digestion of their cell walls. The resulting spheroplasts are then gently lysed in a loose-fitting homogenizer. Ficoll is added to the lysate to provide a density gradient, and the mixture is centrifuged three times. After the first spin, the lipid droplets are localized to the white-colored floating layer of the centrifuge tubes along with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), the plasma membrane, and vacuoles. Two subsequent spins are used to remove these other three organelles. The result is a layer that has only droplets and bound proteins.
In the second protocol, placental villous cells are isolated from human term placentas by enzymatic digestion with trypsin and DNase I. The cells are homogenized in a loose-fitting homogenizer. Low-speed and medium-speed centrifugation steps are used to remove unbroken cells, cellular debris, nuclei, and mitochondria. Sucrose is added to the homogenate to provide a density gradient and the mixture is centrifuged to separate the lipid droplets from the other cellular fractions.
The purity of the lipid droplets in both protocols is confirmed by Western Blot analysis. The droplet fractions from both preps are suitable for subsequent proteomic and lipidomic analysis.
Bioengineering, Issue 86, Lipid droplet, lipid body, fat body, oil body, Yeast, placenta, placental villous cells, isolation, purification, density gradient centrifugation
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
A High-throughput-compatible FRET-based Platform for Identification and Characterization of Botulinum Neurotoxin Light Chain Modulators
Institutions: The Scripps Research Institute, The Scripps Research Institute.
Botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) is a potent and potentially lethal bacterial toxin that binds to host motor neurons, is internalized into the cell, and cleaves intracellular proteins that are essential for neurotransmitter release. BoNT is comprised of a heavy chain (HC), which mediates host cell binding and internalization, and a light chain (LC), which cleaves intracellular host proteins essential for acetylcholine release. While therapies that inhibit toxin binding/internalization have a small time window of administration, compounds that target intracellular LC activity have a much larger time window of administrations, particularly relevant given the extremely long half-life of the toxin. In recent years, small molecules have been heavily analyzed as potential LC inhibitors based on their increased cellular permeability relative to larger therapeutics (peptides, aptamers, etc.
). Lead identification often involves high-throughput screening (HTS), where large libraries of small molecules are screened based on their ability to modulate therapeutic target function. Here we describe a FRET-based assay with a commercial BoNT/A LC substrate and recombinant LC that can be automated for HTS of potential BoNT inhibitors. Moreover, we describe a manual technique that can be used for follow-up secondary screening, or for comparing the potency of several candidate compounds.
Chemistry, Issue 82, BoNT/A, botulinum neurotoxin, high-throughput screening, FRET, inhibitor, FRET peptide substrate, activator
Pre-clinical Evaluation of Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors for Treatment of Acute Leukemia
Institutions: University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, University Hospital of Essen.
Receptor tyrosine kinases have been implicated in the development and progression of many cancers, including both leukemia and solid tumors, and are attractive druggable therapeutic targets. Here we describe an efficient four-step strategy for pre-clinical evaluation of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) in the treatment of acute leukemia. Initially, western blot analysis is used to confirm target inhibition in cultured leukemia cells. Functional activity is then evaluated using clonogenic assays in methylcellulose or soft agar cultures. Experimental compounds that demonstrate activity in cell culture assays are evaluated in vivo
using NOD-SCID-gamma (NSG) mice transplanted orthotopically with human leukemia cell lines. Initial in vivo
pharmacodynamic studies evaluate target inhibition in leukemic blasts isolated from the bone marrow. This approach is used to determine the dose and schedule of administration required for effective target inhibition. Subsequent studies evaluate the efficacy of the TKIs in vivo
using luciferase expressing leukemia cells, thereby allowing for non-invasive bioluminescent monitoring of leukemia burden and assessment of therapeutic response using an in vivo
bioluminescence imaging system. This strategy has been effective for evaluation of TKIs in vitro
and in vivo
and can be applied for identification of molecularly-targeted agents with therapeutic potential or for direct comparison and prioritization of multiple compounds.
Medicine, Issue 79, Leukemia, Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases, Molecular Targeted Therapy, Therapeutics, novel small molecule inhibitor, receptor tyrosine kinase, leukemia
Cell Death Associated with Abnormal Mitosis Observed by Confocal Imaging in Live Cancer Cells
Institutions: Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv University, Ecole Superieure de Biotechnologie Strasbourg, Tel-Aviv University.
Phenanthrene derivatives acting as potent PARP1 inhibitors prevented the bi-focal clustering of supernumerary centrosomes in multi-centrosomal human cancer cells in mitosis. The phenanthridine PJ-34 was the most potent molecule. Declustering of extra-centrosomes causes mitotic failure and cell death in multi-centrosomal cells. Most solid human cancers have high occurrence of extra-centrosomes. The activity of PJ-34 was documented in real-time by confocal imaging of live human breast cancer MDA-MB-231 cells transfected with vectors encoding for fluorescent γ-tubulin, which is highly abundant in the centrosomes and for fluorescent histone H2b present in the chromosomes. Aberrant chromosomes arrangements and de-clustered γ-tubulin foci representing declustered centrosomes were detected in the transfected MDA-MB-231 cells after treatment with PJ-34. Un-clustered extra-centrosomes in the two spindle poles preceded their cell death. These results linked for the first time the recently detected exclusive cytotoxic activity of PJ-34 in human cancer cells with extra-centrosomes de-clustering in mitosis, and mitotic failure leading to cell death. According to previous findings observed by confocal imaging of fixed cells, PJ-34 exclusively eradicated cancer cells with multi-centrosomes without impairing normal cells undergoing mitosis with two centrosomes and bi-focal spindles. This cytotoxic activity of PJ-34 was not shared by other potent PARP1 inhibitors, and was observed in PARP1 deficient MEF harboring extracentrosomes, suggesting its independency of PARP1 inhibition. Live confocal imaging offered a useful tool for identifying new molecules eradicating cells during mitosis.
Cancer Biology, Issue 78, Medicine, Cellular Biology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Genetics, Neoplastic Processes, Pharmacologic Actions, Live confocal imaging, Extra-centrosomes clustering/de-clustering, Mitotic Catastrophe cell death, PJ-34, myocardial infarction, microscopy, imaging
Isolation, Culture, and Imaging of Human Fetal Pancreatic Cell Clusters
Institutions: University of California, San Diego.
For almost 30 years, scientists have demonstrated that human fetal ICCs transplanted under the kidney capsule of nude mice matured into functioning endocrine cells, as evidenced by a significant increase in circulating human C-peptide following glucose stimulation1-9
. However in vitro,
genesis of insulin producing cells from human fetal ICCs is low10
; results reminiscent of recent experiments performed with human embryonic stem cells (hESC), a renewable source of cells that hold great promise as a potential therapeutic treatment for type 1 diabetes. Like ICCs, transplantation of partially differentiated hESC generate glucose responsive, insulin producing cells, but in vitro
genesis of insulin producing cells from hESC is much less robust11-17
. A complete understanding of the factors that influence the growth and differentiation of endocrine precursor cells will likely require data generated from both ICCs and hESC. While a number of protocols exist to generate insulin producing cells from hESC in vitro11-22
, far fewer exist for ICCs10,23,24
. Part of that discrepancy likely comes from the difficulty of working with human fetal pancreas. Towards that end, we have continued to build upon existing methods to isolate fetal islets from human pancreases with gestational ages ranging from 12 to 23 weeks, grow the cells as a monolayer or in suspension, and image for cell proliferation, pancreatic markers and human hormones including glucagon and C-peptide. ICCs generated by the protocol described below result in C-peptide release after transplantation under the kidney capsule of nude mice that are similar to C-peptide levels obtained by transplantation of fresh tissue6
. Although the examples presented here focus upon the pancreatic endoderm proliferation and β cell genesis, the protocol can be employed to study other aspects of pancreatic development, including exocrine, ductal, and other hormone producing cells.
Medicine, Issue 87, human fetal pancreas, islet cell cluster (ICC), transplantation, immunofluorescence, endocrine cell proliferation, differentiation, C-peptide
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
Monitoring the Assembly of a Secreted Bacterial Virulence Factor Using Site-specific Crosslinking
Institutions: National Institutes of Health.
This article describes a method to detect and analyze dynamic interactions between a protein of interest and other factors in vivo
. Our method is based on the amber suppression technology that was originally developed by Peter Schultz and colleagues1
. An amber mutation is first introduced at a specific codon of the gene encoding the protein of interest. The amber mutant is then expressed in E. coli
together with genes encoding an amber suppressor tRNA and an amino acyl-tRNA synthetase derived from Methanococcus jannaschii
. Using this system, the photo activatable amino acid analog p-benzoylphenylalanine (Bpa) is incorporated at the amber codon. Cells are then irradiated with ultraviolet light to covalently link the Bpa residue to proteins that are located within 3-8 Å. Photocrosslinking is performed in combination with pulse-chase labeling and immunoprecipitation of the protein of interest in order to monitor changes in protein-protein interactions that occur over a time scale of seconds to minutes. We optimized the procedure to study the assembly of a bacterial virulence factor that consists of two independent domains, a domain that is integrated into the outer membrane and a domain that is translocated into the extracellular space, but the method can be used to study many different assembly processes and biological pathways in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. In principle interacting factors and even specific residues of interacting factors that bind to a protein of interest can be identified by mass spectrometry.
Immunology, Issue 82, Autotransporters, Bam complex, Molecular chaperones, protein-protein interactions, Site-specific photocrosslinking
Detection of Invasive Pulmonary Aspergillosis in Haematological Malignancy Patients by using Lateral-flow Technology
Institutions: University of Exeter, Queen Mary University of London, St. Bartholomew's Hospital and The London NHS Trust.
Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in haematological malignancy patients and hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients1
. Detection of IPA represents a formidable diagnostic challenge and, in the absence of a 'gold standard', relies on a combination of clinical data and microbiology and histopathology where feasible. Diagnosis of IPA must conform to the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Mycology Study Group (EORTC/MSG) consensus defining "proven", "probable", and "possible" invasive fungal diseases2
. Currently, no nucleic acid-based tests have been externally validated for IPA detection and so polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is not included in current EORTC/MSG diagnostic criteria.
Identification of Aspergillus
in histological sections is problematic because of similarities in hyphal morphologies with other invasive fungal pathogens3
, and proven identification requires isolation of the etiologic agent in pure culture. Culture-based approaches rely on the availability of biopsy samples, but these are not always accessible in sick patients, and do not always yield viable propagules for culture when obtained.
An important feature in the pathogenesis of Aspergillus
is angio-invasion, a trait that provides opportunities to track the fungus immunologically using tests that detect characteristic antigenic signatures molecules in serum and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluids. This has led to the development of the Platelia enzyme immunoassay (GM-EIA) that detects Aspergillus
galactomannan and a 'pan-fungal' assay (Fungitell test) that detects the conserved fungal cell wall component (1 →3)-β-D-glucan, but not in the mucorales that lack this component in their cell walls1,4
. Issues surrounding the accuracy of these tests1,4-6
has led to the recent development of next-generation monoclonal antibody (MAb)-based assays that detect surrogate markers of infection1,5
recently described the generation of an Aspergillus
-specific MAb (JF5) using hybridoma technology and its use to develop an immuno-chromatographic lateral-flow device (LFD) for the point-of-care (POC) diagnosis of IPA. A major advantage of the LFD is its ability to detect activity since MAb JF5 binds to an extracellular glycoprotein antigen that is secreted during active growth of the fungus only5
. This is an important consideration when using fluids such as lung BAL for diagnosing IPA since Aspergillus
spores are a common component of inhaled air. The utility of the device in diagnosing IPA has been demonstrated using an animal model of infection, where the LFD displayed improved sensitivity and specificity compared to the Platelia GM and Fungitell (1 → 3)-β-D-glucan assays7
Here, we present a simple LFD procedure to detect Aspergillus
antigen in human serum and BAL fluids. Its speed and accuracy provides a novel adjunct point-of-care test for diagnosis of IPA in haematological malignancy patients.
Immunology, Issue 61, Invasive pulmonary aspergillosis, acute myeloid leukemia, bone marrow transplant, diagnosis, monoclonal antibody, lateral-flow technology
Identifying Protein-protein Interaction Sites Using Peptide Arrays
Institutions: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Protein-protein interactions mediate most of the processes in the living cell and control homeostasis of the organism. Impaired protein interactions may result in disease, making protein interactions important drug targets. It is thus highly important to understand these interactions at the molecular level. Protein interactions are studied using a variety of techniques ranging from cellular and biochemical assays to quantitative biophysical assays, and these may be performed either with full-length proteins, with protein domains or with peptides. Peptides serve as excellent tools to study protein interactions since peptides can be easily synthesized and allow the focusing on specific interaction sites. Peptide arrays enable the identification of the interaction sites between two proteins as well as screening for peptides that bind the target protein for therapeutic purposes. They also allow high throughput SAR studies. For identification of binding sites, a typical peptide array usually contains partly overlapping 10-20 residues peptides derived from the full sequences of one or more partner proteins of the desired target protein. Screening the array for binding the target protein reveals the binding peptides, corresponding to the binding sites in the partner proteins, in an easy and fast method using only small amount of protein.
In this article we describe a protocol for screening peptide arrays for mapping the interaction sites between a target protein and its partners. The peptide array is designed based on the sequences of the partner proteins taking into account their secondary structures. The arrays used in this protocol were Celluspots arrays prepared by INTAVIS Bioanalytical Instruments. The array is blocked to prevent unspecific binding and then incubated with the studied protein. Detection using an antibody reveals the binding peptides corresponding to the specific interaction sites between the proteins.
Molecular Biology, Issue 93, peptides, peptide arrays, protein-protein interactions, binding sites, peptide synthesis, micro-arrays
A Protocol for Computer-Based Protein Structure and Function Prediction
Institutions: University of Michigan , University of Kansas.
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.
Biochemistry, Issue 57, On-line server, I-TASSER, protein structure prediction, function prediction
Setting-up an In Vitro Model of Rat Blood-brain Barrier (BBB): A Focus on BBB Impermeability and Receptor-mediated Transport
Institutions: VECT-HORUS SAS, CNRS, NICN UMR 7259.
The blood brain barrier (BBB) specifically regulates molecular and cellular flux between the blood and the nervous tissue. Our aim was to develop and characterize a highly reproducible rat syngeneic in vitro
model of the BBB using co-cultures of primary rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC) and astrocytes to study receptors involved in transcytosis across the endothelial cell monolayer. Astrocytes were isolated by mechanical dissection following trypsin digestion and were frozen for later co-culture. RBEC were isolated from 5-week-old rat cortices. The brains were cleaned of meninges and white matter, and mechanically dissociated following enzymatic digestion. Thereafter, the tissue homogenate was centrifuged in bovine serum albumin to separate vessel fragments from nervous tissue. The vessel fragments underwent a second enzymatic digestion to free endothelial cells from their extracellular matrix. The remaining contaminating cells such as pericytes were further eliminated by plating the microvessel fragments in puromycin-containing medium. They were then passaged onto filters for co-culture with astrocytes grown on the bottom of the wells. RBEC expressed high levels of tight junction (TJ) proteins such as occludin, claudin-5 and ZO-1 with a typical localization at the cell borders. The transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of brain endothelial monolayers, indicating the tightness of TJs reached 300 ohm·cm2
on average. The endothelial permeability coefficients (Pe) for lucifer yellow (LY) was highly reproducible with an average of 0.26 ± 0.11 x 10-3
cm/min. Brain endothelial cells organized in monolayers expressed the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp), showed a polarized transport of rhodamine 123, a ligand for P-gp, and showed specific transport of transferrin-Cy3 and DiILDL across the endothelial cell monolayer. In conclusion, we provide a protocol for setting up an in vitro
BBB model that is highly reproducible due to the quality assurance methods, and that is suitable for research on BBB transporters and receptors.
Medicine, Issue 88, rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC), mouse, spinal cord, tight junction (TJ), receptor-mediated transport (RMT), low density lipoprotein (LDL), LDLR, transferrin, TfR, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER),
Bladder Smooth Muscle Strip Contractility as a Method to Evaluate Lower Urinary Tract Pharmacology
Institutions: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
We describe an in vitro
method to measure bladder smooth muscle contractility, and its use for investigating physiological and pharmacological properties of the smooth muscle as well as changes induced by pathology. This method provides critical information for understanding bladder function while overcoming major methodological difficulties encountered in in vivo
experiments, such as surgical and pharmacological manipulations that affect stability and survival of the preparations, the use of human tissue, and/or the use of expensive chemicals. It also provides a way to investigate the properties of each bladder component (i.e.
smooth muscle, mucosa, nerves) in healthy and pathological conditions.
The urinary bladder is removed from an anesthetized animal, placed in Krebs solution and cut into strips. Strips are placed into a chamber filled with warm Krebs solution. One end is attached to an isometric tension transducer to measure contraction force, the other end is attached to a fixed rod. Tissue is stimulated by directly adding compounds to the bath or by electric field stimulation electrodes that activate nerves, similar to triggering bladder contractions in vivo
. We demonstrate the use of this method to evaluate spontaneous smooth muscle contractility during development and after an experimental spinal cord injury, the nature of neurotransmission (transmitters and receptors involved), factors involved in modulation of smooth muscle activity, the role of individual bladder components, and species and organ differences in response to pharmacological agents. Additionally, it could be used for investigating intracellular pathways involved in contraction and/or relaxation of the smooth muscle, drug structure-activity relationships and evaluation of transmitter release.
The in vitro
smooth muscle contractility method has been used extensively for over 50 years, and has provided data that significantly contributed to our understanding of bladder function as well as to pharmaceutical development of compounds currently used clinically for bladder management.
Medicine, Issue 90, Krebs, species differences, in vitro, smooth muscle contractility, neural stimulation
Polymerase Chain Reaction: Basic Protocol Plus Troubleshooting and Optimization Strategies
Institutions: University of California, Los Angeles .
In the biological sciences there have been technological advances that catapult the discipline into golden ages of discovery. For example, the field of microbiology was transformed with the advent of Anton van Leeuwenhoek's microscope, which allowed scientists to visualize prokaryotes for the first time. The development of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is one of those innovations that changed the course of molecular science with its impact spanning countless subdisciplines in biology. The theoretical process was outlined by Keppe and coworkers in 1971; however, it was another 14 years until the complete PCR procedure was described and experimentally applied by Kary Mullis while at Cetus Corporation in 1985. Automation and refinement of this technique progressed with the introduction of a thermal stable DNA polymerase from the bacterium Thermus aquaticus
, consequently the name Taq
PCR is a powerful amplification technique that can generate an ample supply of a specific segment of DNA (i.e., an amplicon) from only a small amount of starting material (i.e., DNA template or target sequence). While straightforward and generally trouble-free, there are pitfalls that complicate the reaction producing spurious results. When PCR fails it can lead to many non-specific DNA products of varying sizes that appear as a ladder or smear of bands on agarose gels. Sometimes no products form at all. Another potential problem occurs when mutations are unintentionally introduced in the amplicons, resulting in a heterogeneous population of PCR products. PCR failures can become frustrating unless patience and careful troubleshooting are employed to sort out and solve the problem(s). This protocol outlines the basic principles of PCR, provides a methodology that will result in amplification of most target sequences, and presents strategies for optimizing a reaction. By following this PCR guide, students should be able to:
● Set up reactions and thermal cycling conditions for a conventional PCR experiment
● Understand the function of various reaction components and their overall effect on a PCR experiment
● Design and optimize a PCR experiment for any DNA template
● Troubleshoot failed PCR experiments
Basic Protocols, Issue 63, PCR, optimization, primer design, melting temperature, Tm, troubleshooting, additives, enhancers, template DNA quantification, thermal cycler, molecular biology, genetics
Designing Silk-silk Protein Alloy Materials for Biomedical Applications
Institutions: Rowan University, Rowan University, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Rowan University.
Fibrous proteins display different sequences and structures that have been used for various applications in biomedical fields such as biosensors, nanomedicine, tissue regeneration, and drug delivery. Designing materials based on the molecular-scale interactions between these proteins will help generate new multifunctional protein alloy biomaterials with tunable properties. Such alloy material systems also provide advantages in comparison to traditional synthetic polymers due to the materials biodegradability, biocompatibility, and tenability in the body. This article used the protein blends of wild tussah silk (Antheraea pernyi
) and domestic mulberry silk (Bombyx mori
) as an example to provide useful protocols regarding these topics, including how to predict protein-protein interactions by computational methods, how to produce protein alloy solutions, how to verify alloy systems by thermal analysis, and how to fabricate variable alloy materials including optical materials with diffraction gratings, electric materials with circuits coatings, and pharmaceutical materials for drug release and delivery. These methods can provide important information for designing the next generation multifunctional biomaterials based on different protein alloys.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, protein alloys, biomaterials, biomedical, silk blends, computational simulation, implantable electronic devices
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)
Physical, Chemical and Biological Characterization of Six Biochars Produced for the Remediation of Contaminated Sites
Institutions: Royal Military College of Canada, Queen's University.
The physical and chemical properties of biochar vary based on feedstock sources and production conditions, making it possible to engineer biochars with specific functions (e.g.
carbon sequestration, soil quality improvements, or contaminant sorption). In 2013, the International Biochar Initiative (IBI) made publically available their Standardized Product Definition and Product Testing Guidelines (Version 1.1) which set standards for physical and chemical characteristics for biochar. Six biochars made from three different feedstocks and at two temperatures were analyzed for characteristics related to their use as a soil amendment. The protocol describes analyses of the feedstocks and biochars and includes: cation exchange capacity (CEC), specific surface area (SSA), organic carbon (OC) and moisture percentage, pH, particle size distribution, and proximate and ultimate analysis. Also described in the protocol are the analyses of the feedstocks and biochars for contaminants including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), metals and mercury as well as nutrients (phosphorous, nitrite and nitrate and ammonium as nitrogen). The protocol also includes the biological testing procedures, earthworm avoidance and germination assays. Based on the quality assurance / quality control (QA/QC) results of blanks, duplicates, standards and reference materials, all methods were determined adequate for use with biochar and feedstock materials. All biochars and feedstocks were well within the criterion set by the IBI and there were little differences among biochars, except in the case of the biochar produced from construction waste materials. This biochar (referred to as Old biochar) was determined to have elevated levels of arsenic, chromium, copper, and lead, and failed the earthworm avoidance and germination assays. Based on these results, Old biochar would not be appropriate for use as a soil amendment for carbon sequestration, substrate quality improvements or remediation.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 93, biochar, characterization, carbon sequestration, remediation, International Biochar Initiative (IBI), soil amendment
In Situ SIMS and IR Spectroscopy of Well-defined Surfaces Prepared by Soft Landing of Mass-selected Ions
Institutions: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Soft landing of mass-selected ions onto surfaces is a powerful approach for the highly-controlled preparation of materials that are inaccessible using conventional synthesis techniques. Coupling soft landing with in situ
characterization using secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) and infrared reflection absorption spectroscopy (IRRAS) enables analysis of well-defined surfaces under clean vacuum conditions. The capabilities of three soft-landing instruments constructed in our laboratory are illustrated for the representative system of surface-bound organometallics prepared by soft landing of mass-selected ruthenium tris(bipyridine) dications, [Ru(bpy)3
(bpy = bipyridine), onto carboxylic acid terminated self-assembled monolayer surfaces on gold (COOH-SAMs). In situ
time-of-flight (TOF)-SIMS provides insight into the reactivity of the soft-landed ions. In addition, the kinetics of charge reduction, neutralization and desorption occurring on the COOH-SAM both during and after ion soft landing are studied using in situ
Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR)-SIMS measurements. In situ
IRRAS experiments provide insight into how the structure of organic ligands surrounding metal centers is perturbed through immobilization of organometallic ions on COOH-SAM surfaces by soft landing. Collectively, the three instruments provide complementary information about the chemical composition, reactivity and structure of well-defined species supported on surfaces.
Chemistry, Issue 88, soft landing, mass selected ions, electrospray, secondary ion mass spectrometry, infrared spectroscopy, organometallic, catalysis
Analyzing Protein Dynamics Using Hydrogen Exchange Mass Spectrometry
Institutions: University of Heidelberg.
All cellular processes depend on the functionality of proteins. Although the functionality of a given protein is the direct consequence of its unique amino acid sequence, it is only realized by the folding of the polypeptide chain into a single defined three-dimensional arrangement or more commonly into an ensemble of interconverting conformations. Investigating the connection between protein conformation and its function is therefore essential for a complete understanding of how proteins are able to fulfill their great variety of tasks. One possibility to study conformational changes a protein undergoes while progressing through its functional cycle is hydrogen-1
H-exchange in combination with high-resolution mass spectrometry (HX-MS). HX-MS is a versatile and robust method that adds a new dimension to structural information obtained by e.g.
crystallography. It is used to study protein folding and unfolding, binding of small molecule ligands, protein-protein interactions, conformational changes linked to enzyme catalysis, and allostery. In addition, HX-MS is often used when the amount of protein is very limited or crystallization of the protein is not feasible. Here we provide a general protocol for studying protein dynamics with HX-MS and describe as an example how to reveal the interaction interface of two proteins in a complex.
Chemistry, Issue 81, Molecular Chaperones, mass spectrometers, Amino Acids, Peptides, Proteins, Enzymes, Coenzymes, Protein dynamics, conformational changes, allostery, protein folding, secondary structure, mass spectrometry
In Vitro Pancreas Organogenesis from Dispersed Mouse Embryonic Progenitors
Institutions: Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, University of Copenhagen.
The pancreas is an essential organ that regulates glucose homeostasis and secretes digestive enzymes. Research on pancreas embryogenesis has led to the development of protocols to produce pancreatic cells from stem cells 1
. The whole embryonic organ can be cultured at multiple stages of development 2-4
. These culture methods have been useful to test drugs and to image developmental processes. However the expansion of the organ is very limited and morphogenesis is not faithfully recapitulated since the organ flattens.
We propose three-dimensional (3D) culture conditions that enable the efficient expansion of dissociated mouse embryonic pancreatic progenitors. By manipulating the composition of the culture medium it is possible to generate either hollow spheres, mainly composed of pancreatic progenitors expanding in their initial state, or, complex organoids which progress to more mature expanding progenitors and differentiate into endocrine, acinar and ductal cells and which spontaneously self-organize to resemble the embryonic pancreas.
We show here that the in vitro
process recapitulates many aspects of natural pancreas development. This culture system is suitable to investigate how cells cooperate to form an organ by reducing its initial complexity to few progenitors. It is a model that reproduces the 3D architecture of the pancreas and that is therefore useful to study morphogenesis, including polarization of epithelial structures and branching. It is also appropriate to assess the response to mechanical cues of the niche such as stiffness and the effects on cell´s tensegrity.
Developmental Biology, Issue 89, Pancreas, Progenitors, Branching Epithelium, Development, Organ Culture, 3D Culture, Diabetes, Differentiation, Morphogenesis, Cell organization, Beta Cell.
Principles of Site-Specific Recombinase (SSR) Technology
Institutions: Max Plank Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden.
Site-specific recombinase (SSR) technology allows the manipulation of gene structure to explore gene function and has become an integral tool of molecular biology. Site-specific recombinases are proteins that bind to distinct DNA target sequences. The Cre/lox system was first described in bacteriophages during the 1980's. Cre recombinase is a Type I topoisomerase that catalyzes site-specific recombination of DNA between two loxP (locus of X-over P1) sites. The Cre/lox system does not require any cofactors. LoxP sequences contain distinct binding sites for Cre recombinases that surround a directional core sequence where recombination and rearrangement takes place. When cells contain loxP sites and express the Cre recombinase, a recombination event occurs. Double-stranded DNA is cut at both loxP sites by the Cre recombinase, rearranged, and ligated ("scissors and glue"). Products of the recombination event depend on the relative orientation of the asymmetric sequences.
SSR technology is frequently used as a tool to explore gene function. Here the gene of interest is flanked with Cre target sites loxP ("floxed"). Animals are then crossed with animals expressing the Cre recombinase under the control of a tissue-specific promoter. In tissues that express the Cre recombinase it binds to target sequences and excises the floxed gene. Controlled gene deletion allows the investigation of gene function in specific tissues and at distinct time points. Analysis of gene function employing SSR technology --- conditional mutagenesis -- has significant advantages over traditional knock-outs where gene deletion is frequently lethal.
Cellular Biology, Issue 15, Molecular Biology, Site-Specific Recombinase, Cre recombinase, Cre/lox system, transgenic animals, transgenic technology
A Strategy to Identify de Novo Mutations in Common Disorders such as Autism and Schizophrenia
Institutions: Universite de Montreal, Universite de Montreal, Universite de Montreal.
There are several lines of evidence supporting the role of de novo
mutations as a mechanism for common disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia. First, the de novo
mutation rate in humans is relatively high, so new mutations are generated at a high frequency in the population. However, de novo
mutations have not been reported in most common diseases. Mutations in genes leading to severe diseases where there is a strong negative selection against the phenotype, such as lethality in embryonic stages or reduced reproductive fitness, will not be transmitted to multiple family members, and therefore will not be detected by linkage gene mapping or association studies. The observation of very high concordance in monozygotic twins and very low concordance in dizygotic twins also strongly supports the hypothesis that a significant fraction of cases may result from new mutations. Such is the case for diseases such as autism and schizophrenia. Second, despite reduced reproductive fitness1
and extremely variable environmental factors, the incidence of some diseases is maintained worldwide at a relatively high and constant rate. This is the case for autism and schizophrenia, with an incidence of approximately 1% worldwide. Mutational load can be thought of as a balance between selection for or against a deleterious mutation and its production by de novo
mutation. Lower rates of reproduction constitute a negative selection factor that should reduce the number of mutant alleles in the population, ultimately leading to decreased disease prevalence. These selective pressures tend to be of different intensity in different environments. Nonetheless, these severe mental disorders have been maintained at a constant relatively high prevalence in the worldwide population across a wide range of cultures and countries despite a strong negative selection against them2
. This is not what one would predict in diseases with reduced reproductive fitness, unless there was a high new mutation rate. Finally, the effects of paternal age: there is a significantly increased risk of the disease with increasing paternal age, which could result from the age related increase in paternal de novo
mutations. This is the case for autism and schizophrenia3
. The male-to-female ratio of mutation rate is estimated at about 4–6:1, presumably due to a higher number of germ-cell divisions with age in males. Therefore, one would predict that de novo
mutations would more frequently come from males, particularly older males4
. A high rate of new mutations may in part explain why genetic studies have so far failed to identify many genes predisposing to complexes diseases genes, such as autism and schizophrenia, and why diseases have been identified for a mere 3% of genes in the human genome. Identification for de novo
mutations as a cause of a disease requires a targeted molecular approach, which includes studying parents and affected subjects. The process for determining if the genetic basis of a disease may result in part from de novo
mutations and the molecular approach to establish this link will be illustrated, using autism and schizophrenia as examples.
Medicine, Issue 52, de novo mutation, complex diseases, schizophrenia, autism, rare variations, DNA sequencing
Using SCOPE to Identify Potential Regulatory Motifs in Coregulated Genes
Institutions: Dartmouth College.
SCOPE is an ensemble motif finder that uses three component algorithms in parallel to identify potential regulatory motifs by over-representation and motif position preference1
. Each component algorithm is optimized to find a different kind of motif. By taking the best of these three approaches, SCOPE performs better than any single algorithm, even in the presence of noisy data1
. In this article, we utilize a web version of SCOPE2
to examine genes that are involved in telomere maintenance. SCOPE has been incorporated into at least two other motif finding programs3,4
and has been used in other studies5-8
The three algorithms that comprise SCOPE are BEAM9
, which finds non-degenerate motifs (ACCGGT), PRISM10
, which finds degenerate motifs (ASCGWT), and SPACER11
, which finds longer bipartite motifs (ACCnnnnnnnnGGT). These three algorithms have been optimized to find their corresponding type of motif. Together, they allow SCOPE to perform extremely well.
Once a gene set has been analyzed and candidate motifs identified, SCOPE can look for other genes that contain the motif which, when added to the original set, will improve the motif score. This can occur through over-representation or motif position preference. Working with partial gene sets that have biologically verified transcription factor binding sites, SCOPE was able to identify most of the rest of the genes also regulated by the given transcription factor.
Output from SCOPE shows candidate motifs, their significance, and other information both as a table and as a graphical motif map. FAQs and video tutorials are available at the SCOPE web site which also includes a "Sample Search" button that allows the user to perform a trial run.
Scope has a very friendly user interface that enables novice users to access the algorithm's full power without having to become an expert in the bioinformatics of motif finding. As input, SCOPE can take a list of genes, or FASTA sequences. These can be entered in browser text fields, or read from a file. The output from SCOPE contains a list of all identified motifs with their scores, number of occurrences, fraction of genes containing the motif, and the algorithm used to identify the motif. For each motif, result details include a consensus representation of the motif, a sequence logo, a position weight matrix, and a list of instances for every motif occurrence (with exact positions and "strand" indicated). Results are returned in a browser window and also optionally by email. Previous papers describe the SCOPE algorithms in detail1,2,9-11
Genetics, Issue 51, gene regulation, computational biology, algorithm, promoter sequence motif