Larval zebrafish are emerging as a model for describing the development and function of simple neural circuits. Due to their external fertilization, rapid development, and translucency, zebrafish are particularly well suited for optogenetic approaches to investigate neural circuit function. In this approach, light-sensitive ion channels are expressed in specific neurons, enabling the experimenter to activate or inhibit them at will and thus assess their contribution to specific behaviors. Applying these methods in larval zebrafish is conceptually simple but requires the optimization of technical details. Here we demonstrate a procedure for expressing a channelrhodopsin variant in larval zebrafish somatosensory neurons, photo-activating single cells, and recording the resulting behaviors. By introducing a few modifications to previously established methods, this approach could be used to elicit behavioral responses from single neurons activated up to at least 4 days post-fertilization (dpf). Specifically, we created a transgene using a somatosensory neuron enhancer, CREST3, to drive the expression of the tagged channelrhodopsin variant, ChEF-tdTomato. Injecting this transgene into 1-cell stage embryos results in mosaic expression in somatosensory neurons, which can be imaged with confocal microscopy. Illuminating identified cells in these animals with light from a 473 nm DPSS laser, guided through a fiber optic cable, elicits behaviors that can be recorded with a high-speed video camera and analyzed quantitatively. This technique could be adapted to study behaviors elicited by activating any zebrafish neuron. Combining this approach with genetic or pharmacological perturbations will be a powerful way to investigate circuit formation and function.
21 Related JoVE Articles!
Laser-scanning Photostimulation of Optogenetically Targeted Forebrain Circuits
Institutions: Louisiana State University, University of Chicago.
The sensory forebrain is composed of intricately connected cell types, of which functional properties have yet to be fully elucidated. Understanding the interactions of these forebrain circuits has been aided recently by the development of optogenetic methods for light-mediated modulation of neuronal activity. Here, we describe a protocol for examining the functional organization of forebrain circuits in vitro
using laser-scanning photostimulation of channelrhodopsin, expressed optogenetically via viral-mediated transfection. This approach also exploits the utility of cre-lox recombination in transgenic mice to target expression in specific neuronal cell types. Following transfection, neurons are physiologically recorded in slice preparations using whole-cell patch clamp to measure their evoked responses to laser-scanning photostimulation of channelrhodopsin expressing fibers. This approach enables an assessment of functional topography and synaptic properties. Morphological correlates can be obtained by imaging the neuroanatomical expression of channelrhodopsin expressing fibers using confocal microscopy of the live slice or post-fixed tissue. These methods enable functional investigations of forebrain circuits that expand upon more conventional approaches.
Neuroscience, Issue 82, optogenetics, cortex, thalamus, channelrhodopsin, photostimulation, auditory, visual, somatosensory
One-channel Cell-attached Patch-clamp Recording
Institutions: University at Buffalo, SUNY, University at Buffalo, SUNY, The Scripps Research Institute, University at Buffalo, SUNY.
Ion channel proteins are universal devices for fast communication across biological membranes. The temporal signature of the ionic flux they generate depends on properties intrinsic to each channel protein as well as the mechanism by which it is generated and controlled and represents an important area of current research. Information about the operational dynamics of ion channel proteins can be obtained by observing long stretches of current produced by a single molecule. Described here is a protocol for obtaining one-channel cell-attached patch-clamp current recordings for a ligand gated ion channel, the NMDA receptor, expressed heterologously in HEK293 cells or natively in cortical neurons. Also provided are instructions on how to adapt the method to other ion channels of interest by presenting the example of the mechano-sensitive channel PIEZO1. This method can provide data regarding the channel’s conductance properties and the temporal sequence of open-closed conformations that make up the channel’s activation mechanism, thus helping to understand their functions in health and disease.
Neuroscience, Issue 88, biophysics, ion channels, single-channel recording, NMDA receptors, gating, electrophysiology, patch-clamp, kinetic analysis
Membrane Potentials, Synaptic Responses, Neuronal Circuitry, Neuromodulation and Muscle Histology Using the Crayfish: Student Laboratory Exercises
Institutions: University of Kentucky, University of Toronto.
The purpose of this report is to help develop an understanding of the effects caused by ion gradients across a biological membrane. Two aspects that influence a cell's membrane potential and which we address in these experiments are: (1) Ion concentration of K+
on the outside of the membrane, and (2) the permeability of the membrane to specific ions. The crayfish abdominal extensor muscles are in groupings with some being tonic (slow) and others phasic (fast) in their biochemical and physiological phenotypes, as well as in their structure; the motor neurons that innervate these muscles are correspondingly different in functional characteristics. We use these muscles as well as the superficial, tonic abdominal flexor muscle to demonstrate properties in synaptic transmission. In addition, we introduce a sensory-CNS-motor neuron-muscle circuit to demonstrate the effect of cuticular sensory stimulation as well as the influence of neuromodulators on certain aspects of the circuit. With the techniques obtained in this exercise, one can begin to answer many questions remaining in other experimental preparations as well as in physiological applications related to medicine and health. We have demonstrated the usefulness of model invertebrate preparations to address fundamental questions pertinent to all animals.
Neuroscience, Issue 47, Invertebrate, Crayfish, neurophysiology, muscle, anatomy, electrophysiology
Using Affordable LED Arrays for Photo-Stimulation of Neurons
Institutions: Institut Pasteur and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).
Standard slice electrophysiology has allowed researchers to probe individual components of neural circuitry by recording electrical responses of single cells in response to electrical or pharmacological manipulations1,2
. With the invention of methods to optically control genetically targeted neurons (optogenetics), researchers now have an unprecedented level of control over specific groups of neurons in the standard slice preparation. In particular, photosensitive channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) allows researchers to activate neurons with light3,4
. By combining careful calibration of LED-based photostimulation of ChR2 with standard slice electrophysiology, we are able to probe with greater detail the role of adult-born interneurons in the olfactory bulb, the first central relay of the olfactory system. Using viral expression of ChR2-YFP specifically in adult-born neurons, we can selectively control young adult-born neurons in a milieu of older and mature neurons. Our optical control uses a simple and inexpensive LED system, and we show how this system can be calibrated to understand how much light is needed to evoke spiking activity in single neurons. Hence, brief flashes of blue light can remotely control the firing pattern of ChR2-transduced newborn cells.
Neuroscience, Issue 57, Adult neurogenesis, Channelrhodopsin, Neural stem cells, Plasticity, Synapses, Electrophysiology
Antibody Profiling by Luciferase Immunoprecipitation Systems (LIPS)
Institutions: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health.
Technologies for comprehensively understanding and quantifying antibody profiles to autoantigens and infectious agents may yield new insights into disease mechanisms and may elucidate new markers to substratify disease with different clinical features and better understand pathogenesis. We have developed a highly quantitative method called Luciferase Immunoprecipitation Systems (LIPS) for profiling patient sera antibody responses to autoantigens and pathogen antigens associated with infection. Unlike ELISAs, the highly sensitive LIPS is easily implemented to survey humoral serological response profiles to different antigens in a universal format and produces dynamic antibody titer ranges up to 6 log10
for some antigens. In these studies, quantitative profiling by LIPS of patient humoral responses against panels of antigens or even the entire proteome of some pathogens (i.e. HIV), is typically more informative than testing a single antigen by ELISA. In addition, LIPS also eliminates time and effort needed to produce highly purified antigens as well as the labor-intensive assay optimization steps needed for standard ELISAs. Here we provide a detailed protocol describing the technical aspects of performing LIPS assays for readily profiling antibody responses to single or multiple antigens.
Immunology, Issue 32, Antigen, Autoantibodies, Biomarker, Diagnostic, ELISA, Proteome
Simultaneous Electroencephalography, Real-time Measurement of Lactate Concentration and Optogenetic Manipulation of Neuronal Activity in the Rodent Cerebral Cortex
Institutions: Washington State University.
Although the brain represents less than 5% of the body by mass, it utilizes approximately one quarter of the glucose used by the body at rest1
. The function of non rapid eye movement sleep (NREMS), the largest portion of sleep by time, is uncertain. However, one salient feature of NREMS is a significant reduction in the rate of cerebral glucose utilization relative to wakefulness2-4
. This and other findings have led to the widely held belief that sleep serves a function related to cerebral metabolism. Yet, the mechanisms underlying the reduction in cerebral glucose metabolism during NREMS remain to be elucidated.
One phenomenon associated with NREMS that might impact cerebral metabolic rate is the occurrence of slow waves, oscillations at frequencies less than 4 Hz, in the electroencephalogram5,6
. These slow waves detected at the level of the skull or cerebral cortical surface reflect the oscillations of underlying neurons between a depolarized/up state and a hyperpolarized/down state7
. During the down state, cells do not undergo action potentials for intervals of up to several hundred milliseconds. Restoration of ionic concentration gradients subsequent to action potentials represents a significant metabolic load on the cell8
; absence of action potentials during down states associated with NREMS may contribute to reduced metabolism relative to wake.
Two technical challenges had to be addressed in order for this hypothetical relationship to be tested. First, it was necessary to measure cerebral glycolytic metabolism with a temporal resolution reflective of the dynamics of the cerebral EEG (that is, over seconds rather than minutes). To do so, we measured the concentration of lactate, the product of aerobic glycolysis, and therefore a readout of the rate of glucose metabolism in the brains of mice. Lactate was measured using a lactate oxidase based real time sensor embedded in the frontal cortex. The sensing mechanism consists of a platinum-iridium electrode surrounded by a layer of lactate oxidase molecules. Metabolism of lactate by lactate oxidase produces hydrogen peroxide, which produces a current in the platinum-iridium electrode. So a ramping up of cerebral glycolysis provides an increase in the concentration of substrate for lactate oxidase, which then is reflected in increased current at the sensing electrode. It was additionally necessary to measure these variables while manipulating the excitability of the cerebral cortex, in order to isolate this variable from other facets of NREMS.
We devised an experimental system for simultaneous measurement of neuronal activity via the elecetroencephalogram, measurement of glycolytic flux via a lactate biosensor, and manipulation of cerebral cortical neuronal activity via optogenetic activation of pyramidal neurons. We have utilized this system to document the relationship between sleep-related electroencephalographic waveforms and the moment-to-moment dynamics of lactate concentration in the cerebral cortex. The protocol may be useful for any individual interested in studying, in freely behaving rodents, the relationship between neuronal activity measured at the electroencephalographic level and cellular energetics within the brain.
Neuroscience, Issue 70, Physiology, Anatomy, Medicine, Pharmacology, Surgery, Sleep, rapid eye movement, glucose, glycolysis, pyramidal neurons, channelrhodopsin, optogenetics, optogenetic stimulation, electroencephalogram, EEG, EMG, brain, animal model
Selective Viral Transduction of Adult-born Olfactory Neurons for Chronic in vivo Optogenetic Stimulation
Institutions: Institut Pasteur and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).
Local interneurons are continuously regenerated in the olfactory bulb of adult rodents1-3
. In this process, called adult neurogenesis, neural stem cells in the walls of the lateral ventricle give rise to neuroblasts that migrate for several millimeters along the rostral migratory stream (RMS) to reach and incorporate into the olfactory bulb. To study the different steps and the impact of adult-born neuron integration into preexisting olfactory circuits, it is necessary to selectively label and manipulate the activity of this specific population of neurons. The recent development of optogenetic technologies offers the opportunity to use light to precisely activate this specific cohort of neurons without affecting surrounding neurons4,5
. Here, we present a series of procedures to virally express Channelrhodopsin2(ChR2)-YFP in a temporally restricted cohort of neuroblasts in the RMS before they reach the olfactory bulb and become adult-born neurons. In addition, we show how to implant and calibrate a miniature LED for chronic in vivo
stimulation of ChR2-expressing neurons.
Neuroscience, Issue 58, Olfactory bulb, Olfactory neurons, in vivo, viral transduction, mouse, LED
Flash Photolysis of Caged Compounds in the Cilia of Olfactory Sensory Neurons
Institutions: International School for Advanced Studies, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italian Institute of Technology.
Photolysis of caged compounds allows the production of rapid and localized increases in the concentration of various physiologically active compounds1
. Caged compounds are molecules made physiologically inactive by a chemical cage that can be broken by a flash of ultraviolet light. Here, we show how to obtain patch-clamp recordings combined with photolysis of caged compounds for the study of olfactory transduction in dissociated mouse olfactory sensory neurons. The process of olfactory transduction (Figure 1) takes place in the cilia of olfactory sensory neurons, where odorant binding to receptors leads to the increase of cAMP that opens cyclic nucleotide-gated (CNG) channels2
. Ca entry through CNG channels activates Ca-activated Cl channels. We show how to dissociate neurons from the mouse olfactory epithelium3
and how to activate CNG channels or Ca-activated Cl channels by photolysis of caged cAMP4
or caged Ca5
. We use a flash lamp6,7
to apply ultraviolet flashes to the ciliary region to uncage cAMP or Ca while patch-clamp recordings are taken to measure the current in the whole-cell voltage-clamp configuration8-11
Neuroscience, Issue 55, caged compounds, caged cAMP, caged Ca, olfactory sensory neuron, olfaction, whole-cell patch-clamp, flash photolysis, flash lampc
Inducing Plasticity of Astrocytic Receptors by Manipulation of Neuronal Firing Rates
Institutions: University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside, University of California Riverside.
Close to two decades of research has established that astrocytes in situ
and in vivo
express numerous G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that can be stimulated by neuronally-released transmitter. However, the ability of astrocytic receptors to exhibit plasticity in response to changes in neuronal activity has received little attention. Here we describe a model system that can be used to globally scale up or down astrocytic group I metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) in acute brain slices. Included are methods on how to prepare parasagittal hippocampal slices, construct chambers suitable for long-term slice incubation, bidirectionally manipulate neuronal action potential frequency, load astrocytes and astrocyte processes with fluorescent Ca2+
indicator, and measure changes in astrocytic Gq GPCR activity by recording spontaneous and evoked astrocyte Ca2+
events using confocal microscopy. In essence, a “calcium roadmap” is provided for how to measure plasticity of astrocytic Gq GPCRs. Applications of the technique for study of astrocytes are discussed. Having an understanding of how astrocytic receptor signaling is affected by changes in neuronal activity has important implications for both normal synaptic function as well as processes underlying neurological disorders and neurodegenerative disease.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, astrocyte, plasticity, mGluRs, neuronal Firing, electrophysiology, Gq GPCRs, Bolus-loading, calcium, microdomains, acute slices, Hippocampus, mouse
Modeling Astrocytoma Pathogenesis In Vitro and In Vivo Using Cortical Astrocytes or Neural Stem Cells from Conditional, Genetically Engineered Mice
Institutions: University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Current astrocytoma models are limited in their ability to define the roles of oncogenic mutations in specific brain cell types during disease pathogenesis and their utility for preclinical drug development. In order to design a better model system for these applications, phenotypically wild-type cortical astrocytes and neural stem cells (NSC) from conditional, genetically engineered mice (GEM) that harbor various combinations of floxed oncogenic alleles were harvested and grown in culture. Genetic recombination was induced in vitro
using adenoviral Cre-mediated recombination, resulting in expression of mutated oncogenes and deletion of tumor suppressor genes. The phenotypic consequences of these mutations were defined by measuring proliferation, transformation, and drug response in vitro
. Orthotopic allograft models, whereby transformed cells are stereotactically injected into the brains of immune-competent, syngeneic littermates, were developed to define the role of oncogenic mutations and cell type on tumorigenesis in vivo
. Unlike most established human glioblastoma cell line xenografts, injection of transformed GEM-derived cortical astrocytes into the brains of immune-competent littermates produced astrocytomas, including the most aggressive subtype, glioblastoma, that recapitulated the histopathological hallmarks of human astrocytomas, including diffuse invasion of normal brain parenchyma. Bioluminescence imaging of orthotopic allografts from transformed astrocytes engineered to express luciferase was utilized to monitor in vivo
tumor growth over time. Thus, astrocytoma models using astrocytes and NSC harvested from GEM with conditional oncogenic alleles provide an integrated system to study the genetics and cell biology of astrocytoma pathogenesis in vitro
and in vivo
and may be useful in preclinical drug development for these devastating diseases.
Neuroscience, Issue 90, astrocytoma, cortical astrocytes, genetically engineered mice, glioblastoma, neural stem cells, orthotopic allograft
Optogenetic Stimulation of the Auditory Nerve
Institutions: University Medical Center Goettingen, University of Goettingen, University Medical Center Goettingen, University of Goettingen, University of Guanajuato.
Direct electrical stimulation of spiral ganglion neurons (SGNs) by cochlear implants (CIs) enables open speech comprehension in the majority of implanted deaf subjects1-6
. Nonetheless, sound coding with current CIs has poor frequency and intensity resolution due to broad current spread from each electrode contact activating a large number of SGNs along the tonotopic axis of the cochlea7-9
. Optical stimulation is proposed as an alternative to electrical stimulation that promises spatially more confined activation of SGNs and, hence, higher frequency resolution of coding. In recent years, direct infrared illumination of the cochlea has been used to evoke responses in the auditory nerve10
. Nevertheless it requires higher energies than electrical stimulation10,11
and uncertainty remains as to the underlying mechanism12
. Here we describe a method based on optogenetics to stimulate SGNs with low intensity blue light, using transgenic mice with neuronal expression of channelrhodopsin 2 (ChR2)13
or virus-mediated expression of the ChR2-variant CatCh14
. We used micro-light emitting diodes (µLEDs) and fiber-coupled lasers to stimulate ChR2-expressing SGNs through a small artificial opening (cochleostomy) or the round window. We assayed the responses by scalp recordings of light-evoked potentials (optogenetic auditory brainstem response: oABR) or by microelectrode recordings from the auditory pathway and compared them with acoustic and electrical stimulation.
Neuroscience, Issue 92, hearing, cochlear implant, optogenetics, channelrhodopsin, optical stimulation, deafness
Optogenetic Stimulation of Escape Behavior in Drosophila melanogaster
Institutions: Stanford University .
A growing number of genetically encoded tools are becoming available that allow non-invasive manipulation of the neural activity of specific neurons in Drosophila melanogaster1
. Chief among these are optogenetic tools, which enable the activation or silencing of specific neurons in the intact and freely moving animal using bright light. Channelrhodopsin (ChR2) is a light-activated cation channel that, when activated by blue light, causes depolarization of neurons that express it. ChR2 has been effective for identifying neurons critical for specific behaviors, such as CO2
avoidance, proboscis extension and giant-fiber mediated startle response2-4
. However, as the intense light sources used to stimulate ChR2 also stimulate photoreceptors, these optogenetic techniques have not previously been used in the visual system. Here, we combine an optogenetic approach with a mutation that impairs phototransduction to demonstrate that activation of a cluster of loom-sensitive neurons in the fly's optic lobe, Foma-1 neurons, can drive an escape behavior used to avoid collision. We used a null allele of a critical component of the phototransduction cascade, phospholipase C-β, encoded by the norpA
gene, to render the flies blind and also use the Gal4-UAS transcriptional activator system to drive expression of ChR2 in the Foma-1 neurons. Individual flies are placed on a small platform surrounded by blue LEDs. When the LEDs are illuminated, the flies quickly take-off into flight, in a manner similar to visually driven loom-escape behavior. We believe that this technique can be easily adapted to examine other behaviors in freely moving flies.
Neurobiology, Issue 71, Neuroscience, Genetics, Anatomy, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Behavior, optogenetics, channelrhodopsin, ChR2, escape behavior, neurons, fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, animal model
Optogenetic Perturbation of Neural Activity with Laser Illumination in Semi-intact Drosophila Larvae in Motion
Institutions: The University of Tokyo, The University of Tokyo.
larval locomotion is a splendid model system in developmental and physiological neuroscience, by virtue of the genetic accessibility of the underlying neuronal components in the circuits1-6
. Application of optogenetics7,8
in the larval neural circuit allows us to manipulate neuronal activity in spatially and temporally patterned ways9-13
. Typically, specimens are broadly illuminated with a mercury lamp or LED, so specificity of the target neurons is controlled by binary gene expression systems such as the Gal4-UAS system14,15
. In this work, to improve the spatial resolution to "sub-genetic resolution", we locally illuminated a subset of neurons in the ventral nerve cord using lasers implemented in a conventional confocal microscope. While monitoring the motion of the body wall of the semi-intact larvae, we interactively activated or inhibited neural activity with channelrhodopsin16,17
, respectively. By spatially and temporally restricted illumination of the neural tissue, we can manipulate the activity of specific neurons in the circuit at a specific phase of behavior. This method is useful for studying the relationship between the activities of a local neural assembly in the ventral nerve cord and the spatiotemporal pattern of motor output.
Neuroscience, Issue 77, Molecular Biology, Neurobiology, Developmental Biology, Bioengineering, Cellular Biology, Motor Neurons, Neurosciences, Drosophila, Optogenetics, Channelrhodopsin-2, Halorhodopsin, laser, confocal microscopy, animal model
A Method for High Fidelity Optogenetic Control of Individual Pyramidal Neurons In vivo
Institutions: University of Colorado Boulder, University of Colorado Boulder.
Optogenetic methods have emerged as a powerful tool for elucidating neural circuit activity underlying a diverse set of behaviors across a broad range of species. Optogenetic tools of microbial origin consist of light-sensitive membrane proteins that are able to activate (e.g.
, channelrhodopsin-2, ChR2) or silence (e.g.
, halorhodopsin, NpHR) neural activity ingenetically-defined cell types over behaviorally-relevant timescales. We first demonstrate a simple approach for adeno-associated virus-mediated delivery of ChR2
transgenes to the dorsal subiculum and prelimbic region of the prefrontal cortex in rat. Because ChR2 and NpHR are genetically targetable, we describe the use of this technology to control the electrical activity of specific populations of neurons (i.e.
, pyramidal neurons) embedded in heterogeneous tissue with high temporal precision. We describe herein the hardware, custom software user interface, and procedures that allow for simultaneous light delivery and electrical recording from transduced pyramidal neurons in an anesthetized in vivo
preparation. These light-responsive tools provide the opportunity for identifying the causal contributions of different cell types to information processing and behavior.
Neuroscience, Issue 79, Genetic Techniques, Genetics, Behavioral, Biological Science Disciplines, Neurosciences, genetics (animal and plant), Investigative Techniques, Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms, Behavioral Disciplines and Activities, Natural Science Disciplines, Optogenetics, prefrontal cortex, subiculum, virus injection, in vivo recording, Neurophysiology, prelimbic, optrode, molecular neurogenetics, Gene targeting
Design and Fabrication of Ultralight Weight, Adjustable Multi-electrode Probes for Electrophysiological Recordings in Mice
Institutions: New York University Langone Medical Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The number of physiological investigations in the mouse, mus musculus
, has experienced a recent surge, paralleling the growth in methods of genetic targeting for microcircuit dissection and disease modeling. The introduction of optogenetics, for example, has allowed for bidirectional manipulation of genetically-identified neurons, at an unprecedented temporal resolution. To capitalize on these tools and gain insight into dynamic interactions among brain microcircuits, it is essential that one has the ability to record from ensembles of neurons deep within the brain of this small rodent, in both head-fixed and freely behaving preparations. To record from deep structures and distinct cell layers requires a preparation that allows precise advancement of electrodes towards desired brain regions. To record neural ensembles, it is necessary that each electrode be independently movable, allowing the experimenter to resolve individual cells while leaving neighboring electrodes undisturbed. To do both in a freely behaving mouse requires an electrode drive that is lightweight, resilient, and highly customizable for targeting specific brain structures.
A technique for designing and fabricating miniature, ultralight weight, microdrive electrode arrays that are individually customizable and easily assembled from commercially available parts is presented. These devices are easily scalable and can be customized to the structure being targeted; it has been used successfully to record from thalamic and cortical regions in a freely behaving animal during natural behavior.
Neuroscience, Issue 91, multi-electrode, micro-drives, electrophysiology, single units, brain circuit recording, deep brain structure
Investigating Protein-protein Interactions in Live Cells Using Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer
Institutions: Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour.
Assays based on Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET) provide a sensitive and reliable means to monitor protein-protein interactions in live cells. BRET is the non-radiative transfer of energy from a 'donor' luciferase enzyme to an 'acceptor' fluorescent protein. In the most common configuration of this assay, the donor is Renilla reniformis
luciferase and the acceptor is Yellow Fluorescent Protein (YFP). Because the efficiency of energy transfer is strongly distance-dependent, observation of the BRET phenomenon requires that the donor and acceptor be in close proximity. To test for an interaction between two proteins of interest in cultured mammalian cells, one protein is expressed as a fusion with luciferase and the second as a fusion with YFP. An interaction between the two proteins of interest may bring the donor and acceptor sufficiently close for energy transfer to occur. Compared to other techniques for investigating protein-protein interactions, the BRET assay is sensitive, requires little hands-on time and few reagents, and is able to detect interactions which are weak, transient, or dependent on the biochemical environment found within a live cell. It is therefore an ideal approach for confirming putative interactions suggested by yeast two-hybrid or mass spectrometry proteomics studies, and in addition it is well-suited for mapping interacting regions, assessing the effect of post-translational modifications on protein-protein interactions, and evaluating the impact of mutations identified in patient DNA.
Cellular Biology, Issue 87, Protein-protein interactions, Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer, Live cell, Transfection, Luciferase, Yellow Fluorescent Protein, Mutations
High-throughput Functional Screening using a Homemade Dual-glow Luciferase Assay
Institutions: Massachusetts General Hospital.
We present a rapid and inexpensive high-throughput screening protocol to identify transcriptional regulators of alpha-synuclein, a gene associated with Parkinson's disease. 293T cells are transiently transfected with plasmids from an arrayed ORF expression library, together with luciferase reporter plasmids, in a one-gene-per-well microplate format. Firefly luciferase activity is assayed after 48 hr to determine the effects of each library gene upon alpha-synuclein transcription, normalized to expression from an internal control construct (a hCMV promoter directing Renilla
luciferase). This protocol is facilitated by a bench-top robot enclosed in a biosafety cabinet, which performs aseptic liquid handling in 96-well format. Our automated transfection protocol is readily adaptable to high-throughput lentiviral library production or other functional screening protocols requiring triple-transfections of large numbers of unique library plasmids in conjunction with a common set of helper plasmids. We also present an inexpensive and validated alternative to commercially-available, dual luciferase reagents which employs PTC124, EDTA, and pyrophosphate to suppress firefly luciferase activity prior to measurement of Renilla
luciferase. Using these methods, we screened 7,670 human genes and identified 68 regulators of alpha-synuclein. This protocol is easily modifiable to target other genes of interest.
Cellular Biology, Issue 88, Luciferases, Gene Transfer Techniques, Transfection, High-Throughput Screening Assays, Transfections, Robotics
Inhibitory Synapse Formation in a Co-culture Model Incorporating GABAergic Medium Spiny Neurons and HEK293 Cells Stably Expressing GABAA Receptors
Institutions: University College London.
Inhibitory neurons act in the central nervous system to regulate the dynamics and spatio-temporal co-ordination of neuronal networks. GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is the predominant inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. It is released from the presynaptic terminals of inhibitory neurons within highly specialized intercellular junctions known as synapses, where it binds to GABAA
Rs) present at the plasma membrane of the synapse-receiving, postsynaptic neurons. Activation of these GABA-gated ion channels leads to influx of chloride resulting in postsynaptic potential changes that decrease the probability that these neurons will generate action potentials.
During development, diverse types of inhibitory neurons with distinct morphological, electrophysiological and neurochemical characteristics have the ability to recognize their target neurons and form synapses which incorporate specific GABAA
Rs subtypes. This principle of selective innervation of neuronal targets raises the question as to how the appropriate synaptic partners identify each other.
To elucidate the underlying molecular mechanisms, a novel in vitro
co-culture model system was established, in which medium spiny GABAergic neurons, a highly homogenous population of neurons isolated from the embryonic striatum, were cultured with stably transfected HEK293 cell lines that express different GABAA
R subtypes. Synapses form rapidly, efficiently and selectively in this system, and are easily accessible for quantification. Our results indicate that various GABAA
R subtypes differ in their ability to promote synapse formation, suggesting that this reduced in vitro
model system can be used to reproduce, at least in part, the in vivo
conditions required for the recognition of the appropriate synaptic partners and formation of specific synapses. Here the protocols for culturing the medium spiny neurons and generating HEK293 cells lines expressing GABAA
Rs are first described, followed by detailed instructions on how to combine these two cell types in co-culture and analyze the formation of synaptic contacts.
Neuroscience, Issue 93, Developmental neuroscience, synaptogenesis, synaptic inhibition, co-culture, stable cell lines, GABAergic, medium spiny neurons, HEK 293 cell line
Application of a NMDA Receptor Conductance in Rat Midbrain Dopaminergic Neurons Using the Dynamic Clamp Technique
Institutions: University of Texas San Antonio - UTSA.
Neuroscientists study the function of the brain by investigating how neurons in the brain communicate. Many investigators look at changes in the electrical activity of one or more neurons in response to an experimentally-controlled input. The electrical activity of neurons can be recorded in isolated brain slices using patch clamp techniques with glass micropipettes. Traditionally, experimenters can mimic neuronal input by direct injection of current through the pipette, electrical stimulation of the other cells or remaining axonal connections in the slice, or pharmacological manipulation by receptors located on the neuronal membrane of the recorded cell.
Direct current injection has the advantages of passing a predetermined current waveform with high temporal precision at the site of the recording (usually the soma). However, it does not change the resistance of the neuronal membrane as no ion channels are physically opened. Current injection usually employs rectangular pulses and thus does not model the kinetics of ion channels. Finally, current injection cannot mimic the chemical changes in the cell that occurs with the opening of ion channels.
Receptors can be physically activated by electrical or pharmacological stimulation. The experimenter has good temporal precision of receptor activation with electrical stimulation of the slice. However, there is limited spatial precision of receptor activation and the exact nature of what is activated upon stimulation is unknown. This latter problem can be partially alleviated by specific pharmacological agents. Unfortunately, the time course of activation of pharmacological agents is typically slow and the spatial precision of inputs onto the recorded cell is unknown.
The dynamic clamp technique allows an experimenter to change the current passed directly into the cell based on real-time feedback of the membrane potential of the cell (Robinson and Kawai 1993, Sharp et al.
, 1993a,b; for review, see Prinz et al.
2004). This allows an experimenter to mimic the electrical changes that occur at the site of the recording in response to activation of a receptor. Real-time changes in applied current are determined by a mathematical equation implemented in hardware.
We have recently used the dynamic clamp technique to investigate the generation of bursts of action potentials by phasic activation of NMDA receptors in dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta (Deister et al.
, 2009; Lobb et al.
, 2010). In this video, we demonstrate the procedures needed to apply a NMDA receptor conductance into a dopaminergic neuron.
Neuroscience, Issue 46, electrophysiology, dynamic clamp, rat, dopamine, burst, RTXI
In vivo Bioluminescent Imaging of Mammary Tumors Using IVIS Spectrum
Institutions: Caliper Life Sciences.
4T1 mouse mammary tumor cells can be implanted sub-cutaneously in nu/nu mice to form palpable tumors in 15 to 20 days. This xenograft tumor model system is valuable for the pre-clinical in vivo
evaluation of putative antitumor compounds.
The 4T1 cell line has been engineered to constitutively express the firefly luciferase gene (luc2). When mice carrying 4T1-luc2 tumors are injected with Luciferin the tumors emit a visual light signal that can be monitored using a sensitive optical imaging system like the IVIS Spectrum. The photon flux from the tumor is proportional to the number of light emitting cells and the signal can be measured to monitor tumor growth and development. IVIS is calibrated to enable absolute quantitation of the bioluminescent signal and longitudinal studies can be performed over many months and over several orders of signal magnitude without compromising the quantitative result.
Tumor growth can be monitored for several days by bioluminescence before the tumor size becomes palpable or measurable by traditional physical means. This rapid monitoring can provide insight into early events in tumor development or lead to shorter experimental procedures.
Tumor cell death and necrosis due to hypoxia or drug treatment is indicated early by a reduction in the bioluminescent signal. This cell death might not be accompanied by a reduction in tumor size as measured by physical means. The ability to see early events in tumor necrosis has significant impact on the selection and development of therapeutic agents.
Quantitative imaging of tumor growth using IVIS provides precise quantitation and accelerates the experimental process to generate results.
Cellular Biology, Issue 26, tumor, mammary, mouse, bioluminescence, in vivo, imaging, IVIS, luciferase, luciferin
Channelrhodopsin2 Mediated Stimulation of Synaptic Potentials at Drosophila Neuromuscular Junctions
larval neuromuscular preparation has proven to be a useful tool for studying synaptic physiology1,2,3
. Currently, the only means available to evoke excitatory junctional potentials (EJPs) in this preparation involves the use of suction electrodes. In both research and teaching labs, students often have difficulty maneuvering and manipulating this type of stimulating electrode. In the present work, we show how to remotely stimulate synaptic potentials at the larval NMJ without the use of suction electrodes. By expressing channelrhodopsin2 (ChR2) 4,5,6
motor neurons using the GAL4-UAS
, and making minor changes to a basic electrophysiology rig, we were able to reliably evoke EJPs with pulses of blue light. This technique could be of particular use in neurophysiology teaching labs where student rig practice time and resources are limited.
Neuroscience, Issue 25, Intracellular neurophysiology, Drosophila melanogaster larvae, Channelrhodopsin2