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.
22 Related JoVE Articles!
Laser-inflicted Injury of Zebrafish Embryonic Skeletal Muscle
Institutions: Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine.
Various experimental approaches have been used in mouse to induce muscle injury with the aim to study muscle regeneration, including myotoxin injections (bupivacaine, cardiotoxin or notexin), muscle transplantations (denervation-devascularization induced regeneration), intensive exercise, but also murine muscular dystrophy models such as the mdx
mouse (for a review of these approaches see 1
). In zebrafish, genetic approaches include mutants that exhibit muscular dystrophy phenotypes (such as runzel2
) and antisense oligonucleotide morpholinos that block the expression of dystrophy-associated genes4
. Besides, chemical approaches are also possible, e.g.
with Galanthamine, a chemical compound inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, thereby resulting in hypercontraction, which eventually leads to muscular dystrophy5
. However, genetic and pharmacological approaches generally affect all muscles within an individual, whereas the extent of physically inflicted injuries are more easily controlled spatially and temporally1
. Localized physical injury allows the assessment of contralateral muscle as an internal control. Indeed, we recently used laser-mediated cell ablation to study skeletal muscle regeneration in the zebrafish embryo6
, while another group recently reported the use of a two-photon laser (822 nm) to damage very locally the plasma membrane of individual embryonic zebrafish muscle cells7
Here, we report a method for using the micropoint laser (Andor Technology) for skeletal muscle cell injury in the zebrafish embryo. The micropoint laser is a high energy laser which is suitable for targeted cell ablation at a wavelength of 435 nm. The laser is connected to a microscope (in our setup, an optical microscope from Zeiss) in such a way that the microscope can be used at the same time for focusing the laser light onto the sample and for visualizing the effects of the wounding (brightfield or fluorescence). The parameters for controlling laser pulses include wavelength, intensity, and number of pulses.
Due to its transparency and external embryonic development, the zebrafish embryo is highly amenable for both laser-induced injury and for studying the subsequent recovery. Between 1 and 2 days post-fertilization, somitic skeletal muscle cells progressively undergo maturation from anterior to posterior due to the progression of somitogenesis from the trunk to the tail8, 9
. At these stages, embryos spontaneously twitch and initiate swimming. The zebrafish has recently been recognized as an important vertebrate model organism for the study of tissue regeneration, as many types of tissues (cardiac, neuronal, vascular etc.) can be regenerated after injury in the adult zebrafish10, 11
Developmental Biology, Issue 71, Anatomy, Physiology, Medicine, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Genetics, Zebrafish, skeletal muscle, cell ablation, injury, regeneration, damage, laser pulses, tissue, embryos, Danio rerio, animal model
Dissection of the Adult Zebrafish Kidney
Institutions: University of Notre Dame .
Researchers working in the burgeoning field of adult stem cell biology seek to understand the signals that regulate the behavior and function of stem cells during normal homeostasis and disease states. The understanding of adult stem cells has broad reaching implications for the future of regenerative medicine1
. For example, better knowledge about adult stem cell biology can facilitate the design of therapeutic strategies in which organs are triggered to heal themselves or even the creation of methods for growing organs in vitro
that can be transplanted into humans1
. The zebrafish has become a powerful animal model for the study of vertebrate cell biology2
. There has been extensive documentation and analysis of embryonic development in the zebrafish3
. Only recently have scientists sought to document adult anatomy and surgical dissection techniques4
, as there has been a progressive movement within the zebrafish community to broaden the applications of this research organism to adult studies. For example, there are expanding interests in using zebrafish to investigate the biology of adult stem cell populations and make sophisticated adult models of diseases such as cancer5
. Historically, isolation of the zebrafish adult kidney has been instrumental for studying hematopoiesis, as the kidney is the anatomical location of blood cell production in fish6,7
. The kidney is composed of nephron functional units found in arborized arrangements, surrounded by hematopoietic tissue that is dispersed throughout the intervening spaces. The hematopoietic component consists of hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and their progeny that inhabit the kidney until they terminally differentiate8
. In addition, it is now appreciated that a group of renal stem/progenitor cells (RPCs) also inhabit the zebrafish kidney organ and enable both kidney regeneration and growth, as observed in other fish species9-11
. In light of this new discovery, the zebrafish kidney is one organ that houses the location of two exciting opportunities for adult stem cell biology studies. It is clear that many outstanding questions could be well served with this experimental system. To encourage expansion of this field, it is beneficial to document detailed methods of visualizing and then isolating the adult zebrafish kidney organ. This protocol details our procedure for dissection of the adult kidney from both unfixed and fixed animals.
Dissection of the kidney organ can be used to isolate and characterize hematopoietic and renal stem cells and their offspring using established techniques such as histology, fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS)11,12
, expression profiling13,14
, and transplantation11,15
We hope that dissemination of this protocol will provide researchers with the knowledge to implement broader use of zebrafish studies that ultimately can be translated for human application.
Developmental Biology, Issue 54, kidney, blood, zebrafish, regeneration, adult stem cell, dissection
Analysis of Skeletal Muscle Defects in Larval Zebrafish by Birefringence and Touch-evoke Escape Response Assays
Institutions: Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School.
Zebrafish (Danio rerio
) have become a particularly effective tool for modeling human diseases affecting skeletal muscle, including muscular dystrophies1-3
, congenital myopathies4,5
, and disruptions in sarcomeric assembly6,7
, due to high genomic and structural conservation with mammals8
. Muscular disorganization and locomotive impairment can be quickly assessed in the zebrafish over the first few days post-fertilization. Two assays to help characterize skeletal muscle defects in zebrafish are birefringence (structural) and touch-evoked escape response (behavioral).
Birefringence is a physical property in which light is rotated as it passes through ordered matter, such as the pseudo-crystalline array of muscle sarcomeres9
. It is a simple, noninvasive approach to assess muscle integrity in translucent zebrafish larvae early in development. Wild-type zebrafish with highly organized skeletal muscle appear very bright amidst a dark background when visualized between two polarized light filters, whereas muscle mutants have birefringence patterns specific to the primary muscular disorder they model. Zebrafish modeling muscular dystrophies, diseases characterized by myofiber degeneration followed by repeated rounds of regeneration, exhibit degenerative dark patches in skeletal muscle under polarized light. Nondystrophic myopathies are not associated with necrosis or regenerative changes, but result in disorganized myofibers and skeletal muscle weakness. Myopathic zebrafish typically show an overall reduction in birefringence, reflecting the disorganization of sarcomeres.
The touch-evoked escape assay involves observing an embryo's swimming behavior in response to tactile stimulation10-12
. In comparison to wild-type larvae, mutant larvae frequently display a weak escape contraction, followed by slow swimming or other type of impaired motion that fails to propel the larvae more than a short distance12
. The advantage of these assays is that disease progression in the same fish type can be monitored in vivo
for several days, and that large numbers of fish can be analyzed in a short time relative to higher vertebrates.
Physiology, Issue 82, birefringence, dystrophy, myopathy, touch-evoked escape, zebrafish, Danio rerio, microscopy
Assessing Species-specific Contributions To Craniofacial Development Using Quail-duck Chimeras
Institutions: University of California at San Francisco.
The generation of chimeric embryos is a widespread and powerful approach to study cell fates, tissue interactions, and species-specific contributions to the histological and morphological development of vertebrate embryos. In particular, the use of chimeric embryos has established the importance of neural crest in directing the species-specific morphology of the craniofacial complex. The method described herein utilizes two avian species, duck and quail, with remarkably different craniofacial morphology. This method greatly facilitates the investigation of molecular and cellular regulation of species-specific pattern in the craniofacial complex. Experiments in quail and duck chimeric embryos have already revealed neural crest-mediated tissue interactions and cell-autonomous behaviors that regulate species-specific pattern in the craniofacial skeleton, musculature, and integument. The great diversity of neural crest derivatives suggests significant potential for future applications of the quail-duck chimeric system to understanding vertebrate development, disease, and evolution.
Developmental Biology, Issue 87, neural crest, quail-duck chimeras, craniofacial development, epithelial-mesenchymal interactions, tissue transplants, evolutionary developmental biology
Dissection of Organs from the Adult Zebrafish
Institutions: University of Pennsylvania-School of Medicine.
Over the last 20 years, the zebrafish has become a powerful model organism for understanding vertebrate development and disease. Although experimental analysis of the embryo and larva is extensive and the morphology has been well documented, descriptions of adult zebrafish anatomy and studies of development of the adult structures and organs, together with techniques for working with adults are lacking. The organs of the larva undergo significant changes in their overall structure, morphology, and anatomical location during the larval to adult transition. Externally, the transparent larva develops its characteristic adult striped pigment pattern and paired pelvic fins, while internally, the organs undergo massive growth and remodeling. In addition, the bipotential gonad primordium develops into either testis or ovary. This protocol identifies many of the organs of the adult and demonstrates methods for dissection of the brain, gonads, gastrointestinal system, heart, and kidney of the adult zebrafish. The dissected organs can be used for in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, histology, RNA extraction, protein analysis, and other molecular techniques. This protocol will assist in the broadening of studies in the zebrafish to include the remodeling of larval organs, the morphogenesis of organs specific to the adult and other investigations of the adult organ systems.
Developmental Biology, Issue 37, adult, zebrafish, organs, dissection, anatomy
In vivo Clonal Tracking of Hematopoietic Stem and Progenitor Cells Marked by Five Fluorescent Proteins using Confocal and Multiphoton Microscopy
Institutions: NHLBI/NIH, NHLBI/NIH.
We developed and validated a fluorescent marking methodology for clonal tracking of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) with high spatial and temporal resolution to study in vivo
hematopoiesis using the murine bone marrow transplant experimental model. Genetic combinatorial marking using lentiviral vectors encoding fluorescent proteins (FPs) enabled cell fate mapping through advanced microscopy imaging. Vectors encoding five different FPs: Cerulean, EGFP, Venus, tdTomato, and mCherry were used to concurrently transduce HSPCs, creating a diverse palette of color marked cells. Imaging using confocal/two-photon hybrid microscopy enables simultaneous high resolution assessment of uniquely marked cells and their progeny in conjunction with structural components of the tissues. Volumetric analyses over large areas reveal that spectrally coded HSPC-derived cells can be detected non-invasively in various intact tissues, including the bone marrow (BM), for extensive periods of time following transplantation. Live studies combining video-rate multiphoton and confocal time-lapse imaging in 4D demonstrate the possibility of dynamic cellular and clonal tracking in a quantitative manner.
Stem Cell Biology, Issue 90, LeGO imaging, clonal tracking, fluorescent proteins, confocal microscopy, multiphoton microscopy, hematopoiesis, lentiviral vectors, hematopoietic stem cells
Analysis of Embryonic and Larval Zebrafish Skeletal Myofibers from Dissociated Preparations
Institutions: University of Michigan .
The zebrafish has proven to be a valuable model system for exploring skeletal muscle function and for studying human muscle diseases. Despite the many advantages offered by in vivo
analysis of skeletal muscle in the zebrafish, visualizing the complex and finely structured protein milieu responsible for muscle function, especially in whole embryos, can be problematic. This hindrance stems from the small size of zebrafish skeletal muscle (60 μm) and the even smaller size of the sarcomere. Here we describe and demonstrate a simple and rapid method for isolating skeletal myofibers from zebrafish embryos and larvae. We also include protocols that illustrate post preparation techniques useful for analyzing muscle structure and function. Specifically, we detail the subsequent immunocytochemical localization of skeletal muscle proteins and the qualitative analysis of stimulated calcium release via live cell calcium imaging. Overall, this video article provides a straight-forward and efficient method for the isolation and characterization of zebrafish skeletal myofibers, a technique which provides a conduit for myriad subsequent studies of muscle structure and function.
Basic Protocol, Issue 81, Zebrafish, Neuromuscular Diseases, Muscular Diseases, Muscular Dystrophies, Primary Cell Culture, Immunohistochemistry (IHC), skeletal muscle, myofiber, live imaging
Coordinate Mapping of Hyolaryngeal Mechanics in Swallowing
Institutions: Georgia Regents University, New York University, Georgia Regents University, Georgia Regents University.
Characterizing hyolaryngeal movement is important to dysphagia research. Prior methods require multiple measurements to obtain one kinematic measurement whereas coordinate mapping of hyolaryngeal mechanics using Modified Barium Swallow (MBS) uses one set of coordinates to calculate multiple variables of interest. For demonstration purposes, ten kinematic measurements were generated from one set of coordinates to determine differences in swallowing two different bolus types. Calculations of hyoid excursion against the vertebrae and mandible are correlated to determine the importance of axes of reference.
To demonstrate coordinate mapping methodology, 40 MBS studies were randomly selected from a dataset of healthy normal subjects with no known swallowing impairment. A 5 ml thin-liquid bolus and a 5 ml pudding swallows were measured from each subject. Nine coordinates, mapping the cranial base, mandible, vertebrae and elements of the hyolaryngeal complex, were recorded at the frames of minimum and maximum hyolaryngeal excursion. Coordinates were mathematically converted into ten variables of hyolaryngeal mechanics.
Inter-rater reliability was evaluated by Intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC). Two-tailed t-tests were used to evaluate differences in kinematics by bolus viscosity. Hyoid excursion measurements against different axes of reference were correlated. Inter-rater reliability among six raters for the 18 coordinates ranged from ICC = 0.90 - 0.97. A slate of ten kinematic measurements was compared by subject between the six raters. One outlier was rejected, and the mean of the remaining reliability scores was ICC = 0.91, 0.84 - 0.96, 95% CI. Two-tailed t-tests with Bonferroni corrections comparing ten kinematic variables (5 ml thin-liquid vs. 5 ml pudding swallows) showed statistically significant differences in hyoid excursion, superior laryngeal movement, and pharyngeal shortening (p
< 0.005). Pearson correlations of hyoid excursion measurements from two different axes of reference were: r = 0.62, r2
= 0.38, (thin-liquid); r = 0.52, r2
= 0.27, (pudding).
Obtaining landmark coordinates is a reliable method to generate multiple kinematic variables from video fluoroscopic images useful in dysphagia research.
Medicine, Issue 87, videofluoroscopy, modified barium swallow studies, hyolaryngeal kinematics, deglutition, dysphagia, dysphagia research, hyolaryngeal complex
Assessing Signaling Properties of Ectodermal Epithelia During Craniofacial Development
Institutions: University of California San Francisco.
The accessibility of avian embryos has helped experimental embryologists understand the fates of cells during development and the role of tissue interactions that regulate patterning and morphogenesis of vertebrates (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4
). Here, we illustrate a method that exploits this accessibility to test the signaling and patterning properties of ectodermal tissues during facial development. In these experiments, we create quail-chick 5
or mouse-chick 6
chimeras by transplanting the surface cephalic ectoderm that covers the upper jaw from quail or mouse onto either the same region or an ectopic region of chick embryos. The use of quail as donor tissue for transplantation into chicks was developed to take advantage of a nucleolar marker present in quail but not chick cells, thus allowing investigators to distinguish host and donor tissues 7
. Similarly, a repetitive element is present in the mouse genome and is expressed ubiquitously, which allows us to distinguish host and donor tissues in mouse-chick chimeras 8
. The use of mouse ectoderm as donor tissue will greatly extend our understanding of these tissue interactions, because this will allow us to test the signaling properties of ectoderm derived from various mutant embryos.
Developmental Biology, Issue 49, Quail-chick chimera, Ectoderm transplant, FEZ, Mouse-chick chimera
Production of Haploid Zebrafish Embryos by In Vitro Fertilization
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish has become a mainstream vertebrate model that is relevant for many disciplines of scientific study. Zebrafish are especially well suited for forward genetic analysis of developmental processes due to their external fertilization, embryonic size, rapid ontogeny, and optical clarity – a constellation of traits that enable the direct observation of events ranging from gastrulation to organogenesis with a basic stereomicroscope. Further, zebrafish embryos can survive for several days in the haploid state. The production of haploid embryos in vitro
is a powerful tool for mutational analysis, as it enables the identification of recessive mutant alleles present in first generation (F1) female carriers following mutagenesis in the parental (P) generation. This approach eliminates the necessity to raise multiple generations (F2, F3, etc.
) which involves breeding of mutant families, thus saving the researcher time along with reducing the needs for zebrafish colony space, labor, and the husbandry costs. Although zebrafish have been used to conduct forward screens for the past several decades, there has been a steady expansion of transgenic and genome editing tools. These tools now offer a plethora of ways to create nuanced assays for next generation screens that can be used to further dissect the gene regulatory networks that drive vertebrate ontogeny. Here, we describe how to prepare haploid zebrafish embryos. This protocol can be implemented for novel future haploid screens, such as in enhancer and suppressor screens, to address the mechanisms of development for a broad number of processes and tissues that form during early embryonic stages.
Developmental Biology, Issue 89, zebrafish, haploid, in vitro fertilization, forward genetic screen, saturation, recessive mutation, mutagenesis
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)
Preparation of Primary Myogenic Precursor Cell/Myoblast Cultures from Basal Vertebrate Lineages
Institutions: University of Alabama at Birmingham, INRA UR1067, INRA UR1037.
Due to the inherent difficulty and time involved with studying the myogenic program in vivo
, primary culture systems derived from the resident adult stem cells of skeletal muscle, the myogenic precursor cells (MPCs), have proven indispensible to our understanding of mammalian skeletal muscle development and growth. Particularly among the basal taxa of Vertebrata,
however, data are limited describing the molecular mechanisms controlling the self-renewal, proliferation, and differentiation of MPCs. Of particular interest are potential mechanisms that underlie the ability of basal vertebrates to undergo considerable postlarval skeletal myofiber hyperplasia (i.e.
teleost fish) and full regeneration following appendage loss (i.e.
urodele amphibians). Additionally, the use of cultured myoblasts could aid in the understanding of regeneration and the recapitulation of the myogenic program and the differences between them. To this end, we describe in detail a robust and efficient protocol (and variations therein) for isolating and maintaining MPCs and their progeny, myoblasts and immature myotubes, in cell culture as a platform for understanding the evolution of the myogenic program, beginning with the more basal vertebrates. Capitalizing on the model organism status of the zebrafish (Danio rerio
), we report on the application of this protocol to small fishes of the cyprinid clade Danioninae
. In tandem, this protocol can be utilized to realize a broader comparative approach by isolating MPCs from the Mexican axolotl (Ambystomamexicanum
) and even laboratory rodents. This protocol is now widely used in studying myogenesis in several fish species, including rainbow trout, salmon, and sea bream1-4
Basic Protocol, Issue 86, myogenesis, zebrafish, myoblast, cell culture, giant danio, moustached danio, myotubes, proliferation, differentiation, Danioninae, axolotl
Adult and Embryonic Skeletal Muscle Microexplant Culture and Isolation of Skeletal Muscle Stem Cells
Institutions: University of Birmingham.
Cultured embryonic and adult skeletal muscle cells have a number of different uses. The micro-dissected explants technique described in this chapter is a robust and reliable method for isolating relatively large numbers of proliferative skeletal muscle cells from juvenile, adult or embryonic muscles as a source of skeletal muscle stem cells. The authors have used micro-dissected explant cultures to analyse the growth characteristics of skeletal muscle cells in wild-type and dystrophic muscles. Each of the components of tissue growth, namely cell survival, proliferation, senescence and differentiation can be analysed separately using the methods described here. The net effect of all components of growth can be established by means of measuring explant outgrowth rates. The micro-explant method can be used to establish primary cultures from a wide range of different muscle types and ages and, as described here, has been adapted by the authors to enable the isolation of embryonic skeletal muscle precursors.
Uniquely, micro-explant cultures have been used to derive clonal (single cell origin) skeletal muscle stem cell (SMSc) lines which can be expanded and used for in vivo
transplantation. In vivo
transplanted SMSc behave as functional, tissue-specific, satellite cells which contribute to skeletal muscle fibre regeneration but which are also retained (in the satellite cell niche) as a small pool of undifferentiated stem cells which can be re-isolated into culture using the micro-explant method.
Cellular Biology, Issue 43, Skeletal muscle stem cell, embryonic tissue culture, apoptosis, growth factor, proliferation, myoblast, myogenesis, satellite cell, skeletal muscle differentiation, muscular dystrophy
In Vivo Modeling of the Morbid Human Genome using Danio rerio
Institutions: Duke University Medical Center, Duke University, Duke University Medical Center.
Here, we present methods for the development of assays to query potentially clinically significant nonsynonymous changes using in vivo
complementation in zebrafish. Zebrafish (Danio rerio
) are a useful animal system due to their experimental tractability; embryos are transparent to enable facile viewing, undergo rapid development ex vivo,
and can be genetically manipulated.1
These aspects have allowed for significant advances in the analysis of embryogenesis, molecular processes, and morphogenetic signaling. Taken together, the advantages of this vertebrate model make zebrafish highly amenable to modeling the developmental defects in pediatric disease, and in some cases, adult-onset disorders. Because the zebrafish genome is highly conserved with that of humans (~70% orthologous), it is possible to recapitulate human disease states in zebrafish. This is accomplished either through the injection of mutant human mRNA to induce dominant negative or gain of function alleles, or utilization of morpholino (MO) antisense oligonucleotides to suppress genes to mimic loss of function variants. Through complementation of MO-induced phenotypes with capped human mRNA, our approach enables the interpretation of the deleterious effect of mutations on human protein sequence based on the ability of mutant mRNA to rescue a measurable, physiologically relevant phenotype. Modeling of the human disease alleles occurs through microinjection of zebrafish embryos with MO and/or human mRNA at the 1-4 cell stage, and phenotyping up to seven days post fertilization (dpf). This general strategy can be extended to a wide range of disease phenotypes, as demonstrated in the following protocol. We present our established models for morphogenetic signaling, craniofacial, cardiac, vascular integrity, renal function, and skeletal muscle disorder phenotypes, as well as others.
Molecular Biology, Issue 78, Genetics, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine, Developmental Biology, Biochemistry, Anatomy, Physiology, Bioengineering, Genomics, Medical, zebrafish, in vivo, morpholino, human disease modeling, transcription, PCR, mRNA, DNA, Danio rerio, animal model
Tissue Triage and Freezing for Models of Skeletal Muscle Disease
Institutions: Medical College of Wisconsin, The Ohio State University, Virginia Tech, University of Kentucky, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Cure Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, Joshua Frase Foundation, University of Washington, University of Arizona.
Skeletal muscle is a unique tissue because of its structure and function, which requires specific protocols for tissue collection to obtain optimal results from functional, cellular, molecular, and pathological evaluations. Due to the subtlety of some pathological abnormalities seen in congenital muscle disorders and the potential for fixation to interfere with the recognition of these features, pathological evaluation of frozen muscle is preferable to fixed muscle when evaluating skeletal muscle for congenital muscle disease. Additionally, the potential to produce severe freezing artifacts in muscle requires specific precautions when freezing skeletal muscle for histological examination that are not commonly used when freezing other tissues. This manuscript describes a protocol for rapid freezing of skeletal muscle using isopentane (2-methylbutane) cooled with liquid nitrogen to preserve optimal skeletal muscle morphology. This procedure is also effective for freezing tissue intended for genetic or protein expression studies. Furthermore, we have integrated our freezing protocol into a broader procedure that also describes preferred methods for the short term triage of tissue for (1) single fiber functional studies and (2) myoblast cell culture, with a focus on the minimum effort necessary to collect tissue and transport it to specialized research or reference labs to complete these studies. Overall, this manuscript provides an outline of how fresh tissue can be effectively distributed for a variety of phenotypic studies and thereby provides standard operating procedures (SOPs) for pathological studies related to congenital muscle disease.
Basic Protocol, Issue 89,
Tissue, Freezing, Muscle, Isopentane, Pathology, Functional Testing, Cell Culture
Using Whole Mount in situ Hybridization to Link Molecular and Organismal Biology
Institutions: Syracuse University, Syracuse University.
Whole mount in situ
hybridization (WISH) is a common technique in molecular biology laboratories used to study gene expression through the localization of specific mRNA transcripts within whole mount specimen. This technique (adapted from Albertson and Yelick, 2005) was used in an upper level undergraduate Comparative Vertebrate Biology laboratory classroom at Syracuse University. The first two thirds of the Comparative Vertebrate Biology lab course gave students the opportunity to study the embryology and gross anatomy of several organisms representing various chordate taxa primarily via traditional dissections and the use of models. The final portion of the course involved an innovative approach to teaching anatomy through observation of vertebrate development employing molecular techniques in which WISH was performed on zebrafish embryos. A heterozygous fibroblast growth factor 8 a (fgf8a
) mutant line, ace
, was used. Due to Mendelian inheritance, ace intercrosses produced wild type, heterozygous, and homozygous ace/fgf8a
mutants in a 1:2:1 ratio. RNA probes with known expression patterns in the midline and in developing anatomical structures such as the heart, somites, tailbud, myotome, and brain were used. WISH was performed using zebrafish at the 13 somite and prim-6 stages, with students performing the staining reaction in class. The study of zebrafish embryos at different stages of development gave students the ability to observe how these anatomical structures changed over ontogeny. In addition, some ace/fgf8a
mutants displayed improper heart looping, and defects in somite and brain development. The students in this lab observed the normal development of various organ systems using both external anatomy as well as gene expression patterns. They also identified and described embryos displaying improper anatomical development and gene expression (i.e., putative mutants).
For instructors at institutions that do not already own the necessary equipment or where funds for lab and curricular innovation are limited, the financial cost of the reagents and apparatus may be a factor to consider, as will the time and effort required on the part of the instructor regardless of the setting. Nevertheless, we contend that the use of WISH in this type of classroom laboratory setting can provide an important link between developmental genetics and anatomy. As technology advances and the ability to study organismal development at the molecular level becomes easier, cheaper, and increasingly popular, many evolutionary biologists, ecologists, and physiologists are turning to research strategies in the field of molecular biology. Using WISH in a Comparative Vertebrate Biology laboratory classroom is one example of how molecules and anatomy can converge within a single course. This gives upper level college students the opportunity to practice modern biological research techniques, leading to a more diversified education and the promotion of future interdisciplinary scientific research.
Developmental Biology, Issue 49, in situ hybridization, genetics, development, anatomy, vertebrate, undergraduate, education, interdisciplinary
Flat Mount Preparation for Observation and Analysis of Zebrafish Embryo Specimens Stained by Whole Mount In situ Hybridization
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish embryo is now commonly used for basic and biomedical research to investigate the genetic control of developmental processes and to model congenital abnormalities. During the first day of life, the zebrafish embryo progresses through many developmental stages including fertilization, cleavage, gastrulation, segmentation, and the organogenesis of structures such as the kidney, heart, and central nervous system. The anatomy of a young zebrafish embryo presents several challenges for the visualization and analysis of the tissues involved in many of these events because the embryo develops in association with a round yolk mass. Thus, for accurate analysis and imaging of experimental phenotypes in fixed embryonic specimens between the tailbud and 20 somite stage (10 and 19 hours post fertilization (hpf), respectively), such as those stained using whole mount in situ
hybridization (WISH), it is often desirable to remove the embryo from the yolk ball and to position it flat on a glass slide. However, performing a flat mount procedure can be tedious. Therefore, successful and efficient flat mount preparation is greatly facilitated through the visual demonstration of the dissection technique, and also helped by using reagents that assist in optimal tissue handling. Here, we provide our WISH protocol for one or two-color detection of gene expression in the zebrafish embryo, and demonstrate how the flat mounting procedure can be performed on this example of a stained fixed specimen. This flat mounting protocol is broadly applicable to the study of many embryonic structures that emerge during early zebrafish development, and can be implemented in conjunction with other staining methods performed on fixed embryo samples.
Developmental Biology, Issue 89, animals, vertebrates, fishes, zebrafish, growth and development, morphogenesis, embryonic and fetal development, organogenesis, natural science disciplines, embryo, whole mount in situ hybridization, flat mount, deyolking, imaging
High Efficiency Differentiation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells to Cardiomyocytes and Characterization by Flow Cytometry
Institutions: Medical College of Wisconsin, Stanford University School of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin, Hong Kong University, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Medical College of Wisconsin.
There is an urgent need to develop approaches for repairing the damaged heart, discovering new therapeutic drugs that do not have toxic effects on the heart, and improving strategies to accurately model heart disease. The potential of exploiting human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC) technology to generate cardiac muscle “in a dish” for these applications continues to generate high enthusiasm. In recent years, the ability to efficiently generate cardiomyogenic cells from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) has greatly improved, offering us new opportunities to model very early stages of human cardiac development not otherwise accessible. In contrast to many previous methods, the cardiomyocyte differentiation protocol described here does not require cell aggregation or the addition of Activin A or BMP4 and robustly generates cultures of cells that are highly positive for cardiac troponin I and T (TNNI3, TNNT2), iroquois-class homeodomain protein IRX-4 (IRX4), myosin regulatory light chain 2, ventricular/cardiac muscle isoform (MLC2v) and myosin regulatory light chain 2, atrial isoform (MLC2a) by day 10 across all human embryonic stem cell (hESC) and hiPSC lines tested to date. Cells can be passaged and maintained for more than 90 days in culture. The strategy is technically simple to implement and cost-effective. Characterization of cardiomyocytes derived from pluripotent cells often includes the analysis of reference markers, both at the mRNA and protein level. For protein analysis, flow cytometry is a powerful analytical tool for assessing quality of cells in culture and determining subpopulation homogeneity. However, technical variation in sample preparation can significantly affect quality of flow cytometry data. Thus, standardization of staining protocols should facilitate comparisons among various differentiation strategies. Accordingly, optimized staining protocols for the analysis of IRX4, MLC2v, MLC2a, TNNI3, and TNNT2 by flow cytometry are described.
Cellular Biology, Issue 91, human induced pluripotent stem cell, flow cytometry, directed differentiation, cardiomyocyte, IRX4, TNNI3, TNNT2, MCL2v, MLC2a
A Manual Small Molecule Screen Approaching High-throughput Using Zebrafish Embryos
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
Zebrafish have become a widely used model organism to investigate the mechanisms that underlie developmental biology and to study human disease pathology due to their considerable degree of genetic conservation with humans. Chemical genetics entails testing the effect that small molecules have on a biological process and is becoming a popular translational research method to identify therapeutic compounds. Zebrafish are specifically appealing to use for chemical genetics because of their ability to produce large clutches of transparent embryos, which are externally fertilized. Furthermore, zebrafish embryos can be easily drug treated by the simple addition of a compound to the embryo media. Using whole-mount in situ
hybridization (WISH), mRNA expression can be clearly visualized within zebrafish embryos. Together, using chemical genetics and WISH, the zebrafish becomes a potent whole organism context in which to determine the cellular and physiological effects of small molecules. Innovative advances have been made in technologies that utilize machine-based screening procedures, however for many labs such options are not accessible or remain cost-prohibitive. The protocol described here explains how to execute a manual high-throughput chemical genetic screen that requires basic resources and can be accomplished by a single individual or small team in an efficient period of time. Thus, this protocol provides a feasible strategy that can be implemented by research groups to perform chemical genetics in zebrafish, which can be useful for gaining fundamental insights into developmental processes, disease mechanisms, and to identify novel compounds and signaling pathways that have medically relevant applications.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, zebrafish, chemical genetics, chemical screen, in vivo small molecule screen, drug discovery, whole mount in situ hybridization (WISH), high-throughput screening (HTS), high-content screening (HCS)
Quantitative Analysis of Chromatin Proteomes in Disease
Institutions: David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Nora Eccles Harrison Cardiovascular Research and Training Institute, University of Utah.
In the nucleus reside the proteomes whose functions are most intimately linked with gene regulation. Adult mammalian cardiomyocyte nuclei are unique due to the high percentage of binucleated cells,1
the predominantly heterochromatic state of the DNA, and the non-dividing nature of the cardiomyocyte which renders adult nuclei in a permanent state of interphase.2
Transcriptional regulation during development and disease have been well studied in this organ,3-5
but what remains relatively unexplored is the role played by the nuclear proteins responsible for DNA packaging and expression, and how these proteins control changes in transcriptional programs that occur during disease.6
In the developed world, heart disease is the number one cause of mortality for both men and women.7
Insight on how nuclear proteins cooperate to regulate the progression of this disease is critical for advancing the current treatment options.
Mass spectrometry is the ideal tool for addressing these questions as it allows for an unbiased annotation of the nuclear proteome and relative quantification for how the abundance of these proteins changes with disease. While there have been several proteomic studies for mammalian nuclear protein complexes,8-13
there has been only one study examining the cardiac nuclear proteome, and it considered the entire nucleus, rather than exploring the proteome at the level of nuclear sub compartments.15
In large part, this shortage of work is due to the difficulty of isolating cardiac nuclei. Cardiac nuclei occur within a rigid and dense actin-myosin apparatus to which they are connected via multiple extensions from the endoplasmic reticulum, to the extent that myocyte contraction alters their overall shape.16
Additionally, cardiomyocytes are 40% mitochondria by volume17
which necessitates enrichment of the nucleus apart from the other organelles. Here we describe a protocol for cardiac nuclear enrichment and further fractionation into biologically-relevant compartments. Furthermore, we detail methods for label-free quantitative mass spectrometric dissection of these fractions-techniques amenable to in vivo
experimentation in various animal models and organ systems where metabolic labeling is not feasible.
Medicine, Issue 70, Molecular Biology, Immunology, Genetics, Genomics, Physiology, Protein, DNA, Chromatin, cardiovascular disease, proteomics, mass spectrometry
Electroporation of Craniofacial Mesenchyme
Institutions: King's College London.
Electroporation is an efficient method of delivering DNA and other charged macromolecules into tissues at precise time points and in precise locations. For example, electroporation has been used with great success to study neural and retinal development in Xenopus
, chicken and mouse 1-10
. However, it is important to note that in all of these studies, investigators were not targeting soft tissues. Because we are interested in craniofacial development, we adapted a method to target facial mesenchyme.
When we searched the literature, we found, to our surprise, very few reports of successful gene transfer into cartilaginous tissue. The majority of these studies were gene therapy studies, such as siRNA or protein delivery into chondrogenic cell lines, or, animal models of arthritis 11-13
. In other systems, such as chicken or mouse, electroporation of facial mesenchyme has been challenging (personal communications, Dept of Craniofacial Development, KCL). We hypothesized that electroporation into procartilaginous and cartilaginous tissues in Xenopus
might work better. In our studies, we show that gene transfer into the facial cartilages occurs efficiently at early stages (28), when the facial primordium is still comprised of soft tissue prior to cartilage differentiation.
is a very accessible vertebrate system for analysis of craniofacial development. Craniofacial structures are more readily visible in Xenopus
than in any other vertebrate model, primarily because Xenopus
embryos are fertilized externally, allowing analyses of the earliest stages, and facilitating live imaging at single cell resolution, as well as reuse of the mothers 14
. Among vertebrate models developing externally, Xenopus
is more useful for craniofacial analysis than zebrafish, as Xenopus
larvae are larger and easier to dissect, and the developing facial region is more accessible to imaging than the equivalent region in fish. In addition, Xenopus
is evolutionarily closer to humans than zebrafish (˜100 million years closer) 15
. Finally, at these stages, Xenopus
tadpoles are transparent, and concurrent expression of fluorescent proteins or molecules will allow easy visualization of the developing cartilages. We anticipate that this approach will allow us to rapidly and efficiently test candidate molecules in an in vivo
Developmental Biology, Issue 57, craniofacial, electroporation, Xenopus laevis, frog, cartilage, mesenchyme
Paired Patch Clamp Recordings from Motor-neuron and Target Skeletal Muscle in Zebrafish
Institutions: Oregon Health and Sciences University.
Larval zebrafish represent the first vertebrate model system to allow simultaneous patch clamp recording from a spinal motor-neuron and target muscle. This is a direct consequence of the accessibility to both cell types and ability to visually distinguish the single segmental CaP motor-neuron on the basis of morphology and location. This video demonstrates the microscopic methods used to identify a CaP motor-neuron and target muscle cells as well as the methodologies for recording from each cell type. Identification of the CaP motor-neuron type is confirmed by either dye filling or by the biophysical features such as action potential waveform and cell input resistance. Motor-neuron recordings routinely last for one hour permitting long-term recordings from multiple different target muscle cells. Control over the motor-neuron firing pattern enables measurements of the frequency-dependence of synaptic transmission at the neuromuscular junction. Owing to a large quantal size and the low noise provided by whole cell voltage clamp, all of the unitary events can be resolved in muscle. This feature permits study of basic synaptic properties such as release properties, vesicle recycling, as well as synaptic depression and facilitation. The advantages offered by this in vivo
preparation eclipse previous neuromuscular model systems studied wherein the motor-neurons are usually stimulated by extracellular electrodes and the muscles are too large for whole cell patch clamp. The zebrafish preparation is amenable to combining electrophysiological analysis with a wide range of approaches including transgenic lines, morpholino knockdown, pharmacological intervention and in vivo
imaging. These approaches, coupled with the growing number of neuromuscular disease models provided by mutant lines of zebrafish, open the door for new understanding of human neuromuscular disorders.
Neuroscience, Issue 45, Zebrafish, synapse, electrophysiology, patch clamp, acetylcholine receptor, neuromuscular, cholinergic/action potential, myasthenic syndrome, motor control