One of the most important goals in neuroscience is to understand the molecular cues that instruct early stages of synapse formation. As such it has become imperative to develop objective approaches to quantify changes in synaptic connectivity. Starting from sample fixation, this protocol details how to quantify synapse number both in dissociated neuronal culture and in brain sections using immunocytochemistry. Using compartment-specific antibodies, we label presynaptic terminals as well as sites of postsynaptic specialization. We define synapses as points of colocalization between the signals generated by these markers. The number of these colocalizations is quantified using a plug in Puncta Analyzer (written by Bary Wark, available upon request, firstname.lastname@example.org) under the ImageJ analysis software platform. The synapse assay described in this protocol can be applied to any neural tissue or culture preparation for which you have selective pre- and postsynaptic markers. This synapse assay is a valuable tool that can be widely utilized in the study of synaptic development.
21 Related JoVE Articles!
Presynaptically Silent Synapses Studied with Light Microscopy
Institutions: Washington University School of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine.
Synaptic plasticity likely underlies the nervous system's ability to learn and remember and may also represent an adaptability that prevents otherwise damaging insults from becoming neurotoxic. We have been studying a form of presynaptic plasticity that is interesting in part because it is expressed as a digital switching on and off of a presynaptic terminal s ability to release vesicles containing the neurotransmitter glutamate. Here we demonstrate a protocol for visualizing the activity status of presynaptic terminals in dissociated cell cultures prepared from the rodent hippocampus. The method relies on detecting active synapses using staining with a fixable form of the styryl dye FM1-43, commonly used to label synaptic vesicles. This staining profile is compared with immunostaining of the same terminals with an antibody directed against the vesicular glutamate transporter 1 (vGluT-1), a stain designed to label all glutamate synapses regardless of activation status. We find that depolarizing stimuli induce presynaptic silencing. The population of synapses that is silent under baseline conditions can be activated by prolonged electrical silencing or by activation of cAMP signaling pathways.
Neurobiology, Issue 35, glutamate, synaptic plasticity, cAMP, excitotoxicity, homeostasis, FM1-43, presynaptic plasticity
Cut-loading: A Useful Tool for Examining the Extent of Gap Junction Tracer Coupling Between Retinal Neurons
Institutions: Ohio State University College of Medicine, University of Texas Medical School.
In addition to chemical synaptic transmission, neurons that are connected by gap junctions can also communicate rapidly via electrical synaptic transmission. Increasing evidence indicates that gap junctions not only permit electrical current flow and synchronous activity between interconnected or coupled cells, but that the strength or effectiveness of electrical communication between coupled cells can be modulated to a great extent1,2
. In addition, the large internal diameter (~1.2 nm) of many gap junction channels permits not only electric current flow, but also the diffusion of intracellular signaling molecules and small metabolites between interconnected cells, so that gap junctions may also mediate metabolic and chemical communication. The strength of gap junctional communication between neurons and its modulation by neurotransmitters and other factors can be studied by simultaneously electrically recording from coupled cells and by determining the extent of diffusion of tracer molecules, which are gap junction permeable, but not membrane permeable, following iontophoretic injection into single cells. However, these procedures can be extremely difficult to perform on neurons with small somata in intact neural tissue.
Numerous studies on electrical synapses and the modulation of electrical communication have been conducted in the vertebrate retina, since each of the five retinal neuron types is electrically connected by gap junctions3,4
. Increasing evidence has shown that the circadian (24-hour) clock in the retina and changes in light stimulation regulate gap junction coupling3-8
. For example, recent work has demonstrated that the retinal circadian clock decreases gap junction coupling between rod and cone photoreceptor cells during the day by increasing dopamine D2 receptor activation, and dramatically increases rod-cone coupling at night by reducing D2 receptor activation7,8
. However, not only are these studies extremely difficult to perform on neurons with small somata in intact neural retinal tissue, but it can be difficult to adequately control the illumination conditions during the electrophysiological study of single retinal neurons to avoid light-induced changes in gap junction conductance.
Here, we present a straightforward method of determining the extent of gap junction tracer coupling between retinal neurons under different illumination conditions and at different times of the day and night. This cut-loading technique is a modification of scrape loading9-12
, which is based on dye loading and diffusion through open gap junction channels. Scrape loading works well in cultured cells, but not in thick slices such as intact retinas. The cut-loading technique has been used to study photoreceptor coupling in intact fish and mammalian retinas7, 8,13
, and can be used to study coupling between other retinal neurons, as described here.
Neuroscience, Issue 59, retina, photoreceptors, gap junctions, tracer coupling, neurobiotin, labeling
An Isolated Retinal Preparation to Record Light Response from Genetically Labeled Retinal Ganglion Cells
Institutions: University of Minnesota.
The first steps in vertebrate vision take place when light stimulates the rod and cone photoreceptors of the retina 1
. This information is then segregated into what are known as the ON and OFF pathways. The photoreceptors signal light information to the bipolar cells (BCs), which depolarize in response to increases (On BCs) or decreases (Off BCs) in light intensity. This segregation of light information is maintained at the level of the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which have dendrites stratifying in either the Off sublamina of the inner plexiform layer (IPL), where they receive direct excitatory input from Off BCs, or stratifying in the On sublamina of the IPL, where they receive direct excitatory input from On BCs. This segregation of information regarding increases or decreases in illumination (the On and Off pathways) is conserved and signaled to the brain in parallel.
The RGCs are the output cells of the retina, and are thus an important cell to study in order to understand how light information is signaled to visual nuclei in the brain. Advances in mouse genetics over recent decades have resulted in a variety of fluorescent reporter mouse lines where specific RGC populations are labeled with a fluorescent protein to allow for identification of RGC subtypes 2 3 4
and specific targeting for electrophysiological recording. Here, we present a method for recording light responses from fluorescently labeled ganglion cells in an intact, isolated retinal preparation. This isolated retinal preparation allows for recordings from RGCs where the dendritic arbor is intact and the inputs across the entire RGC dendritic arbor are preserved. This method is applicable across a variety of ganglion cell subtypes and is amenable to a wide variety of single-cell physiological techniques.
Neuroscience, Issue 47, isolated, retina, ganglion cell, electrophysiology, patch clamp, transgenic, mouse, fluorescent
An Optic Nerve Crush Injury Murine Model to Study Retinal Ganglion Cell Survival
Institutions: NIH, The Second Hospital of Harbin Medical University.
Injury to the optic nerve can lead to axonal degeneration, followed by a gradual death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which results in irreversible vision loss. Examples of such diseases in human include traumatic optic neuropathy and optic nerve degeneration in glaucoma. It is characterized by typical changes in the optic nerve head, progressive optic nerve degeneration, and loss of retinal ganglion cells, if uncontrolled, leading to vision loss and blindness.
The optic nerve crush (ONC) injury mouse model is an important experimental disease model for traumatic optic neuropathy, glaucoma, etc. In this model, the crush injury to the optic nerve leads to gradual retinal ganglion cells apoptosis. This disease model can be used to study the general processes and mechanisms of neuronal death and survival, which is essential for the development of therapeutic measures. In addition, pharmacological and molecular approaches can be used in this model to identify and test potential therapeutic reagents to treat different types of optic neuropathy.
Here, we provide a step by step demonstration of (I) Baseline retrograde labeling of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) at day 1, (II) Optic nerve crush injury at day 4, (III) Harvest the retinae and analyze RGC survival at day 11, and (IV) Representative result.
Neuroscience, Issue 50, optic nerve crush injury, retinal ganglion cell, glaucoma, optic neuropathy, retrograde labeling
Slow-release Drug Delivery through Elvax 40W to the Rat Retina: Implications for the Treatment of Chronic Conditions
Institutions: University of L'Aquila, ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science, Australian National University, Australian National University.
Diseases of the retina are difficult to treat as the retina lies deep within the eye. Invasive methods of drug delivery are often needed to treat these diseases. Chronic retinal diseases such as retinal oedema or neovascularization usually require multiple intraocular injections to effectively treat the condition. However, the risks associated with these injections increase with repeated delivery of the drug. Therefore, alternative delivery methods need to be established in order to minimize the risks of reinjection. Several other investigations have developed methods to deliver drugs over extended time, through materials capable of releasing chemicals slowly into the eye. In this investigation, we outline the use of Elvax 40W, a copolymer resin, to act as a vehicle for drug delivery to the adult rat retina. The resin is made and loaded with the drug. The drug-resin complex is then implanted into the vitreous cavity, where it will slowly release the drug over time. This method was tested using 2-amino-4-phosphonobutyrate (APB), a glutamate analogue that blocks the light response of the retina. It was demonstrated that the APB was slowly released from the resin, and was able to block the retinal response by 7 days after implantation. This indicates that slow-release drug delivery using this copolymer resin is effective for treating the retina, and could be used therapeutically with further testing.
Medicine, Issue 91, slow-release drug delivery, Elvax 40W, co-polymer resin, eye, retina, rat, APB, retinal degeneration, treatment of chronic retinal conditions
Subretinal Transplantation of MACS Purified Photoreceptor Precursor Cells into the Adult Mouse Retina
Institutions: Technische Universität Dresden.
Vision impairment and blindness due to the loss of the light-sensing cells of the retina, i.e.
photoreceptors, represents the main reason for disability in industrialized countries. Replacement of degenerated photoreceptors by cell transplantation represents a possible treatment option in future clinical applications. Indeed, recent preclinical studies demonstrated that immature photoreceptors, isolated from the neonatal mouse retina at postnatal day 4, have the potential to integrate into the adult mouse retina following subretinal transplantation. Donor cells generated a mature photoreceptor morphology including inner and outer segments, a round cell body located at the outer nuclear layer, and synaptic terminals in close proximity to endogenous bipolar cells. Indeed, recent reports demonstrated that donor photoreceptors functionally integrate into the neural circuitry of host mice. For a future clinical application of such cell replacement approach, purified suspensions of the cells of choice have to be generated and placed at the correct position for proper integration into the eye. For the enrichment of photoreceptor precursors, sorting should be based on specific cell surface antigens to avoid genetic reporter modification of donor cells. Here we show magnetic-associated cell sorting (MACS) - enrichment of transplantable rod photoreceptor precursors isolated from the neonatal retina of photoreceptor-specific reporter mice based on the cell surface marker CD73. Incubation with anti-CD73 antibodies followed by micro-bead conjugated secondary antibodies allowed the enrichment of rod photoreceptor precursors by MACS to approximately 90%. In comparison to flow cytometry, MACS has the advantage that it can be easier applied to GMP standards and that high amounts of cells can be sorted in relative short time periods. Injection of enriched cell suspensions into the subretinal space of adult wild-type mice resulted in a 3-fold higher integration rate compared to unsorted cell suspensions.
Medicine, Issue 84, Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate, Retinal Degeneration, Regeneration, retina, magnetic associated cell sorting (MACS), transplantation, regenerative therapy
Preparation of Acute Hippocampal Slices from Rats and Transgenic Mice for the Study of Synaptic Alterations during Aging and Amyloid Pathology
Institutions: University of Kentucky College of Public Health, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, University of Kentucky College of Medicine.
The rodent hippocampal slice preparation is perhaps the most broadly used tool for investigating mammalian synaptic function and plasticity. The hippocampus can be extracted quickly and easily from rats and mice and slices remain viable for hours in oxygenated artificial cerebrospinal fluid. Moreover, basic electrophysisologic techniques are easily applied to the investigation of synaptic function in hippocampal slices and have provided some of the best biomarkers for cognitive impairments. The hippocampal slice is especially popular for the study of synaptic plasticity mechanisms involved in learning and memory. Changes in the induction of long-term potentiation and depression (LTP and LTD) of synaptic efficacy in hippocampal slices (or lack thereof) are frequently used to describe the neurologic phenotype of cognitively-impaired animals and/or to evaluate the mechanism of action of nootropic compounds. This article outlines the procedures we use for preparing hippocampal slices from rats and transgenic mice for the study of synaptic alterations associated with brain aging and Alzheimer's disease (AD)1-3
. Use of aged rats and AD model mice can present a unique set of challenges to researchers accustomed to using younger rats and/or mice in their research. Aged rats have thicker skulls and tougher connective tissue than younger rats and mice, which can delay brain extraction and/or dissection and consequently negate or exaggerate real age-differences in synaptic function and plasticity. Aging and amyloid pathology may also exacerbate hippocampal damage sustained during the dissection procedure, again complicating any inferences drawn from physiologic assessment. Here, we discuss the steps taken during the dissection procedure to minimize these problems. Examples of synaptic responses acquired in "healthy" and "unhealthy" slices from rats and mice are provided, as well as representative synaptic plasticity experiments. The possible impact of other methodological factors on synaptic function in these animal models (e.g. recording solution components, stimulation parameters) are also discussed. While the focus of this article is on the use of aged rats and transgenic mice, novices to slice physiology should find enough detail here to get started on their own studies, using a variety of rodent models.
Neuroscience, Issue 49, aging, amyloid, hippocampal slice, synaptic plasticity, Ca2+, CA1, electrophysiology
Improved Preparation and Preservation of Hippocampal Mouse Slices for a Very Stable and Reproducible Recording of Long-term Potentiation
Institutions: University of Mons.
Long-term potentiation (LTP) is a type of synaptic plasticity characterized by an increase in synaptic strength and believed to be involved in memory encoding. LTP elicited in the CA1 region of acute hippocampal slices has been extensively studied. However the molecular mechanisms underlying the maintenance phase of this phenomenon are still poorly understood. This could be partly due to the various experimental conditions used by different laboratories. Indeed, the maintenance phase of LTP is strongly dependent on external parameters like oxygenation, temperature and humidity. It is also dependent on internal parameters like orientation of the slicing plane and slice viability after dissection.
The optimization of all these parameters enables the induction of a very reproducible and very stable long-term potentiation. This methodology offers the possibility to further explore the molecular mechanisms involved in the stable increase in synaptic strength in hippocampal slices. It also highlights the importance of experimental conditions in in vitro
investigation of neurophysiological phenomena.
Neuroscience, Issue 76, Neurobiology, Anatomy, Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, Surgery, Memory Disorders, Learning, Memory, Neurosciences, Neurophysiology, hippocampus, long-term potentiation, mice, acute slices, synaptic plasticity, in vitro, electrophysiology, animal model
Optimized Protocol for Retinal Wholemount Preparation for Imaging and Immunohistochemistry
Institutions: Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
Working with delicate tissue can be a complicating factor when performing immunohistochemical assessment. Here, we present a method that utilizes a ring-supported hydrophilized PTFE membrane to provide structural support to both living and fixed tissue during immunohistochemical processing, which allows for the use of a variety of protocols that would otherwise cause damage to the tissue. First, this is demonstrated with bolus loading of fluorescent markers into living retinal tissue. This method allows for quick visualization of targeted structures, while the membrane support maintains tissue integrity during the injection and allows for easy transfer of the preparation for further imaging or processing.
Second, a procedure for antibody staining in tissue fixed with carbodiimide is described. Though paraformaldehyde fixation is more common, carbodiimide fixation provides a superior substrate for the visualization of synaptic proteins. A limitation of carbodiimide is that the resulting fixed tissue is relatively fragile; however, this is overcome with the use of the supporting membrane. Retinal tissue is used to demonstrate these techniques, but they may be applied to any fragile tissue.
Basic Protocol, Issue 82, hydrophilized PTFE membrane, retina, bolus loading, carbodiimide fixation, immunohistochemistry, antibody staining, microscopy
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),
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
Patch-clamp Capacitance Measurements and Ca2+ Imaging at Single Nerve Terminals in Retinal Slices
Institutions: Oregon Health and Science University.
Visual stimuli are detected and conveyed over a wide dynamic range of light intensities and frequency changes by specialized neurons in the vertebrate retina. Two classes of retinal neurons, photoreceptors and bipolar cells, accomplish this by using ribbon-type active zones, which enable sustained and high-throughput neurotransmitter release over long time periods. ON-type mixed bipolar cell (Mb) terminals in the goldfish retina, which depolarize to light stimuli and receive mixed rod and cone photoreceptor input, are suitable for the study of ribbon-type synapses both due to their large size (~10-12 μm diameter) and to their numerous lateral and reciprocal synaptic connections with amacrine cell dendrites. Direct access to Mb bipolar cell terminals in goldfish retinal slices with the patch-clamp technique allows the measurement of presynaptic Ca2+
currents, membrane capacitance changes, and reciprocal synaptic feedback inhibition mediated by GABAA
receptors expressed on the terminals. Presynaptic membrane capacitance measurements of exocytosis allow one to study the short-term plasticity of excitatory neurotransmitter release 14,15
. In addition, short-term and long-term plasticity of inhibitory neurotransmitter release from amacrine cells can also be investigated by recordings of reciprocal feedback inhibition arriving at the Mb terminal 21
. Over short periods of time (e.g. ~10 s), GABAergic reciprocal feedback inhibition from amacrine cells undergoes paired-pulse depression via GABA vesicle pool depletion 11
. The synaptic dynamics of retinal microcircuits in the inner plexiform layer of the retina can thus be directly studied.
The brain-slice technique was introduced more than 40 years ago but is still very useful for the investigation of the electrical properties of neurons, both at the single cell soma, single dendrite or axon, and microcircuit synaptic level 19
. Tissues that are too small to be glued directly onto the slicing chamber are often first embedded in agar (or placed onto a filter paper) and then sliced 20, 23, 18, 9
. In this video, we employ the pre-embedding agar technique using goldfish retina. Some of the giant bipolar cell terminals in our slices of goldfish retina are axotomized (axon-cut) during the slicing procedure. This allows us to isolate single presynaptic nerve terminal inputs, because recording from axotomized terminals excludes the signals from the soma-dendritic compartment. Alternatively, one can also record from intact Mb bipolar cells, by recording from terminals attached to axons that have not been cut during the slicing procedure. Overall, use of this experimental protocol will aid in studies of retinal synaptic physiology, microcircuit functional analysis, and synaptic transmission at ribbon synapses.
Neuroscience, Issue 59, synaptic physiology, axon terminal, synaptic ribbon, retina microcircuits, goldfish, zebrafish, brain slices, patch-clamp, membrane capacitance measurements, calcium-imaging, exocytosis, transmitter release
Simultaneous Whole-cell Recordings from Photoreceptors and Second-order Neurons in an Amphibian Retinal Slice Preparation
Institutions: University of Nebraska Medical Center , University of Nebraska Medical Center .
One of the central tasks in retinal neuroscience is to understand the circuitry of retinal neurons and how those connections are responsible for shaping the signals transmitted to the brain. Photons are detected in the retina by rod and cone photoreceptors, which convert that energy into an electrical signal, transmitting it to other retinal neurons, where it is processed and communicated to central targets in the brain via the optic nerve. Important early insights into retinal circuitry and visual processing came from the histological studies of Cajal1,2
and, later, from electrophysiological recordings of the spiking activity of retinal ganglion cells - the output cells of the retina3,4
A detailed understanding of visual processing in the retina requires an understanding of the signaling at each step in the pathway from photoreceptor to retinal ganglion cell. However, many retinal cell types are buried deep in the tissue and therefore relatively inaccessible for electrophysiological recording. This limitation can be overcome by working with vertical slices, in which cells residing within each of the retinal layers are clearly visible and accessible for electrophysiological recording.
Here, we describe a method for making vertical sections of retinas from larval tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum
). While this preparation was originally developed for recordings with sharp microelectrodes5,6
, we describe a method for dual whole-cell voltage clamp recordings from photoreceptors and second-order horizontal and bipolar cells in which we manipulate the photoreceptor's membrane potential while simultaneously recording post-synaptic responses in horizontal or bipolar cells. The photoreceptors of the tiger salamander are considerably larger than those of mammalian species, making this an ideal preparation in which to undertake this technically challenging experimental approach. These experiments are described with an eye toward probing the signaling properties of the synaptic ribbon - a specialized synaptic structure found in a only a handful of neurons, including rod and cone photoreceptors, that is well suited for maintaining a high rate of tonic neurotransmitter release7,8
- and how it contributes to the unique signaling properties of this first retinal synapse.
Neuroscience, Issue 76, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Anatomy, Physiology, Ophthalmology, Retina, electrophysiology, paired recording, patch clamp, synaptic ribbon, photoreceptor, bipolar cell, horizontal cell, tiger salamander, animal model
Optimized Negative Staining: a High-throughput Protocol for Examining Small and Asymmetric Protein Structure by Electron Microscopy
Institutions: The Molecular Foundry.
Structural determination of proteins is rather challenging for proteins with molecular masses between 40 - 200 kDa. Considering that more than half of natural proteins have a molecular mass between 40 - 200 kDa1,2
, a robust and high-throughput method with a nanometer resolution capability is needed. Negative staining (NS) electron microscopy (EM) is an easy, rapid, and qualitative approach which has frequently been used in research laboratories to examine protein structure and protein-protein interactions. Unfortunately, conventional NS protocols often generate structural artifacts on proteins, especially with lipoproteins that usually form presenting rouleaux artifacts. By using images of lipoproteins from cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) as a standard, the key parameters in NS specimen preparation conditions were recently screened and reported as the optimized NS protocol (OpNS), a modified conventional NS protocol 3
. Artifacts like rouleaux can be greatly limited by OpNS, additionally providing high contrast along with reasonably high‐resolution (near 1 nm) images of small and asymmetric proteins. These high-resolution and high contrast images are even favorable for an individual protein (a single object, no average) 3D reconstruction, such as a 160 kDa antibody, through the method of electron tomography4,5
. Moreover, OpNS can be a high‐throughput tool to examine hundreds of samples of small proteins. For example, the previously published mechanism of 53 kDa cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) involved the screening and imaging of hundreds of samples 6
. Considering cryo-EM rarely successfully images proteins less than 200 kDa has yet to publish any study involving screening over one hundred sample conditions, it is fair to call OpNS a high-throughput method for studying small proteins. Hopefully the OpNS protocol presented here can be a useful tool to push the boundaries of EM and accelerate EM studies into small protein structure, dynamics and mechanisms.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 90, small and asymmetric protein structure, electron microscopy, optimized negative staining
In vivo Imaging of Optic Nerve Fiber Integrity by Contrast-Enhanced MRI in Mice
Institutions: Jena University Hospital, Fritz Lipmann Institute, Jena, Jena University Hospital.
The rodent visual system encompasses retinal ganglion cells and their axons that form the optic nerve to enter thalamic and midbrain centers, and postsynaptic projections to the visual cortex. Based on its distinct anatomical structure and convenient accessibility, it has become the favored structure for studies on neuronal survival, axonal regeneration, and synaptic plasticity. Recent advancements in MR imaging have enabled the in vivo
visualization of the retino-tectal part of this projection using manganese mediated contrast enhancement (MEMRI). Here, we present a MEMRI protocol for illustration of the visual projection in mice, by which resolutions of (200 µm)3
can be achieved using common 3 Tesla scanners. We demonstrate how intravitreal injection of a single dosage of 15 nmol MnCl2
leads to a saturated enhancement of the intact projection within 24 hr. With exception of the retina, changes in signal intensity are independent of coincided visual stimulation or physiological aging. We further apply this technique to longitudinally monitor axonal degeneration in response to acute optic nerve injury, a paradigm by which Mn2+
transport completely arrests at the lesion site. Conversely, active Mn2+
transport is quantitatively proportionate to the viability, number, and electrical activity of axon fibers. For such an analysis, we exemplify Mn2+
transport kinetics along the visual path in a transgenic mouse model (NF-κB p50KO
) displaying spontaneous atrophy of sensory, including visual, projections. In these mice, MEMRI indicates reduced but not delayed Mn2+
transport as compared to wild type mice, thus revealing signs of structural and/or functional impairments by NF-κB mutations.
In summary, MEMRI conveniently bridges in vivo
assays and post mortem
histology for the characterization of nerve fiber integrity and activity. It is highly useful for longitudinal studies on axonal degeneration and regeneration, and investigations of mutant mice for genuine or inducible phenotypes.
Neuroscience, Issue 89, manganese-enhanced MRI, mouse retino-tectal projection, visual system, neurodegeneration, optic nerve injury, NF-κB
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
Examination of Synaptic Vesicle Recycling Using FM Dyes During Evoked, Spontaneous, and Miniature Synaptic Activities
Institutions: University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine, University of Bath.
Synaptic vesicles in functional nerve terminals undergo exocytosis and endocytosis. This synaptic vesicle recycling can be effectively analyzed using styryl FM dyes, which reveal membrane turnover. Conventional protocols for the use of FM dyes were designed for analyzing neurons following stimulated (evoked) synaptic activity. Recently, protocols have become available for analyzing the FM signals that accompany weaker synaptic activities, such as spontaneous or miniature synaptic events. Analysis of these small changes in FM signals requires that the imaging system is sufficiently sensitive to detect small changes in intensity, yet that artifactual changes of large amplitude are suppressed. Here we describe a protocol that can be applied to evoked, spontaneous, and miniature synaptic activities, and use cultured hippocampal neurons as an example. This protocol also incorporates a means of assessing the rate of photobleaching of FM dyes, as this is a significant source of artifacts when imaging small changes in intensity.
Neuroscience, Issue 85, Presynaptic Terminals, Synaptic Vesicles, Microscopy, Biological Assay, Nervous System, Endocytosis, exocytosis, fluorescence imaging, FM dye, neuron, photobleaching
Transretinal ERG Recordings from Mouse Retina: Rod and Cone Photoresponses
Institutions: Washington University School of Medicine.
There are two distinct classes of image-forming photoreceptors in the vertebrate retina: rods and cones. Rods are able to detect single photons of light whereas cones operate continuously under rapidly changing bright light conditions. Absorption of light by rod- and cone-specific visual pigments in the outer segments of photoreceptors triggers a phototransduction cascade that eventually leads to closure of cyclic nucleotide-gated channels on the plasma membrane and cell hyperpolarization. This light-induced change in membrane current and potential can be registered as a photoresponse, by either classical suction electrode recording technique1,2
or by transretinal electroretinogram recordings (ERG) from isolated retinas with pharmacologically blocked postsynaptic response components3-5
. The latter method allows drug-accessible long-lasting recordings from mouse photoreceptors and is particularly useful for obtaining stable photoresponses from the scarce and fragile mouse cones. In the case of cones, such experiments can be performed both in dark-adapted conditions and following intense illumination that bleaches essentially all visual pigment, to monitor the process of cone photosensitivity recovery during dark adaptation6,7
. In this video, we will show how to perform rod- and M/L-cone-driven transretinal recordings from dark-adapted mouse retina. Rod recordings will be carried out using retina of wild type (C57Bl/6) mice. For simplicity, cone recordings will be obtained from genetically modified rod transducin α-subunit knockout (Tα-/-
) mice which lack rod signaling8
Neuroscience, Issue 61, Rod and cone photoreceptors, retina, phototransduction, electrophysiology, vision, mouse
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
Patch Clamp Recordings from Mouse Retinal Neurons in a Dark-adapted Slice Preparation
Institutions: University of Southern California, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine.
Our visual experience is initiated when the visual pigment in our retinal photoreceptors absorbs photons of light energy and initiates a cascade of intracellular events that lead to closure of cyclic-nucleotide-gated channels in the cell membrane. The resulting change in membrane potential leads in turn to reductions in the amount of neurotransmitter release from both rod and cone synaptic terminals. To measure how the light-evoked change in photoreceptor membrane potential leads to downstream activity in the retina, scientists have made electrophysiological recordings from retinal slice preparations for decades1,2
. In the past these slices have been cut manually with a razor blade on retinal tissue that is attached to filter paper; in recent years another method of slicing has been developed whereby retinal tissue is embedded in low gelling temperature agar and sliced in cool solution with a vibrating microtome3,4
. This preparation produces retinal slices with less surface damage and very robust light-evoked responses. Here we document how this procedure can be done under infrared light to avoid bleaching the visual pigment.
Neuroscience, Issue 43, vision, mice, retina, photoreceptor, bipolar cell, slice preparation, patch clamp
Institutions: University of Utah.
A limitation of traditional full-field electroretinograms (ERG) for the diagnosis of retinopathy is lack of sensitivity. Generally, ERG results are normal unless more than approximately 20% of the retina is affected. In practical terms, a patient might be legally blind as a result of macular degeneration or other scotomas and still appear normal, according to traditional full field ERG. An important development in ERGs is the multifocal ERG (mfERG). Erich Sutter adapted the mathematical sequences called binary m-sequences enabling the isolation from a single electrical signal an electroretinogram representing less than each square millimeter of retina in response to a visual stimulus1
Results that are generated by mfERG appear similar to those generated by flash ERG. In contrast to flash ERG, which best generates data appropriate for whole-eye disorders. The basic mfERG result is based on the calculated mathematical average of an approximation of the positive deflection component of traditional ERG response, known as the b-wave1
. Multifocal ERG programs measure electrical activity from more than a hundred retinal areas per eye, in a few minutes. The enhanced spatial resolution enables scotomas and retinal dysfunction to be mapped and quantified.
In the protocol below, we describe the recording of mfERGs using a bipolar speculum contact lens.
Components of mfERG systems vary between manufacturers. For the presentation of visible stimulus, some suitable CRT monitors are available but most systems have adopted the use of flat-panel liquid crystal displays (LCD). The visual stimuli depicted here, were produced by a LCD microdisplay subtending 35 - 40 degrees horizontally and 30 - 35 degrees vertically of visual field, and calibrated to produce multifocal flash intensities of 2.7 cd s m-2
. Amplification was 50K. Lower and upper bandpass limits were 10 and 300 Hz. The software packages used were VERIS versions 5 and 6.
Medicine, Issue 58, Multifocal electroretinogram, mfERG, electroretinogram, ERG