The split hand phenomenon refers to predominant wasting of thenar muscles and is an early and specific feature of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). A novel split hand index (SI) was developed to quantify the split hand phenomenon, and its diagnostic utility was assessed in ALS patients. The split hand index was derived by dividing the product of the compound muscle action potential (CMAP) amplitude recorded over the abductor pollicis brevis and first dorsal interosseous muscles by the CMAP amplitude recorded over the abductor digiti minimi muscle. In order to assess the diagnostic utility of the split hand index, ALS patients were prospectively assessed and their results were compared to neuromuscular disorder patients. The split hand index was significantly reduced in ALS when compared to neuromuscular disorder patients (P<0.0001). Limb-onset ALS patients exhibited the greatest reduction in the split hand index, and a value of 5.2 or less reliably differentiated ALS from other neuromuscular disorders. Consequently, the split hand index appears to be a novel diagnostic biomarker for ALS, perhaps facilitating an earlier diagnosis.
22 Related JoVE Articles!
Dissection of the Transversus Abdominis Muscle for Whole-mount Neuromuscular Junction Analysis
Institutions: Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, University of Edinburgh.
Analysis of neuromuscular junction morphology can give important insight into the physiological status of a given motor neuron. Analysis of thin flat muscles can offer significant advantage over traditionally used thicker muscles, such as those from the hind limb (e.g
). Thin muscles allow for comprehensive overview of the entire innervation pattern for a given muscle, which in turn permits identification of selectively vulnerable pools of motor neurons. These muscles also allow analysis of parameters such as motor unit size, axonal branching, and terminal/nodal sprouting. A common obstacle in using such muscles is gaining the technical expertise to dissect them. In this video, we detail the protocol for dissecting the transversus abdominis
(TVA) muscle from young mice and performing immunofluorescence to visualize axons and neuromuscular junctions (NMJs). We demonstrate that this technique gives a complete overview of the innervation pattern of the TVA muscle and can be used to investigate NMJ pathology in a mouse model of the childhood motor neuron disease, spinal muscular atrophy.
Neuroscience, Issue 83, Transversus Abdominis, neuromuscular junction, NMJ, dissection, mouse, immunofluorescence
ALS - Motor Neuron Disease: Mechanism and Development of New Therapies
Institutions: Johns Hopkins University.
Medicine, Issue 6, Translational Research, Neuroscience, ALS, stem cells, brain, neuron, upper motor neuron, transplantation
Transplantation of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-derived Mesoangioblast-like Myogenic Progenitors in Mouse Models of Muscle Regeneration
Institutions: University College London, San Raffaele Hospital.
Patient-derived iPSCs could be an invaluable source of cells for future autologous cell therapy protocols. iPSC-derived myogenic stem/progenitor cells similar to pericyte-derived mesoangioblasts (iPSC-derived mesoangioblast-like stem/progenitor cells: IDEMs) can be established from iPSCs generated from patients affected by different forms of muscular dystrophy. Patient-specific IDEMs can be genetically corrected with different strategies (e.g.
lentiviral vectors, human artificial chromosomes) and enhanced in their myogenic differentiation potential upon overexpression of the myogenesis regulator MyoD. This myogenic potential is then assessed in vitro
with specific differentiation assays and analyzed by immunofluorescence. The regenerative potential of IDEMs is further evaluated in vivo
, upon intramuscular and intra-arterial transplantation in two representative mouse models displaying acute and chronic muscle regeneration. The contribution of IDEMs to the host skeletal muscle is then confirmed by different functional tests in transplanted mice. In particular, the amelioration of the motor capacity of the animals is studied with treadmill tests. Cell engraftment and differentiation are then assessed by a number of histological and immunofluorescence assays on transplanted muscles. Overall, this paper describes the assays and tools currently utilized to evaluate the differentiation capacity of IDEMs, focusing on the transplantation methods and subsequent outcome measures to analyze the efficacy of cell transplantation.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, Skeletal Muscle, Muscle Cells, Muscle Fibers, Skeletal, Pericytes, Stem Cells, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs), Muscular Dystrophies, Cell Differentiation, animal models, muscle stem/progenitor cells, mesoangioblasts, muscle regeneration, iPSC-derived mesoangioblasts (IDEMs)
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
Comprehensive Analysis of Transcription Dynamics from Brain Samples Following Behavioral Experience
Institutions: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The encoding of experiences in the brain and the consolidation of long-term memories depend on gene transcription. Identifying the function of specific genes in encoding experience is one of the main objectives of molecular neuroscience. Furthermore, the functional association of defined genes with specific behaviors has implications for understanding the basis of neuropsychiatric disorders. Induction of robust transcription programs has been observed in the brains of mice following various behavioral manipulations. While some genetic elements are utilized recurrently following different behavioral manipulations and in different brain nuclei, transcriptional programs are overall unique to the inducing stimuli and the structure in which they are studied1,2
In this publication, a protocol is described for robust and comprehensive transcriptional profiling from brain nuclei of mice in response to behavioral manipulation. The protocol is demonstrated in the context of analysis of gene expression dynamics in the nucleus accumbens following acute cocaine experience. Subsequent to a defined in vivo
experience, the target neural tissue is dissected; followed by RNA purification, reverse transcription and utilization of microfluidic arrays for comprehensive qPCR analysis of multiple target genes. This protocol is geared towards comprehensive analysis (addressing 50-500 genes) of limiting quantities of starting material, such as small brain samples or even single cells.
The protocol is most advantageous for parallel analysis of multiple samples (e.g.
single cells, dynamic analysis following pharmaceutical, viral or behavioral perturbations). However, the protocol could also serve for the characterization and quality assurance of samples prior to whole-genome studies by microarrays or RNAseq, as well as validation of data obtained from whole-genome studies.
Behavior, Issue 90,
Brain, behavior, RNA, transcription, nucleus accumbens, cocaine, high-throughput qPCR, experience-dependent plasticity, gene regulatory networks, microdissection
Behavioral and Locomotor Measurements Using an Open Field Activity Monitoring System for Skeletal Muscle Diseases
Institutions: Children's National Medical Center, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
The open field activity monitoring system comprehensively assesses locomotor and behavioral activity levels of mice. It is a useful tool for assessing locomotive impairment in animal models of neuromuscular disease and efficacy of therapeutic drugs that may improve locomotion and/or muscle function. The open field activity measurement provides a different measure than muscle strength, which is commonly assessed by grip strength measurements. It can also show how drugs may affect other body systems as well when used with additional outcome measures. In addition, measures such as total distance traveled mirror the 6 min walk test, a clinical trial outcome measure. However, open field activity monitoring is also associated with significant challenges: Open field activity measurements vary according to animal strain, age, sex, and circadian rhythm. In addition, room temperature, humidity, lighting, noise, and even odor can affect assessment outcomes. Overall, this manuscript provides a well-tested and standardized open field activity SOP for preclinical trials in animal models of neuromuscular diseases. We provide a discussion of important considerations, typical results, data analysis, and detail the strengths and weaknesses of open field testing. In addition, we provide recommendations for optimal study design when using open field activity in a preclinical trial.
Behavior, Issue 91, open field activity, functional testing, behavioral testing, skeletal muscle, congenital muscular dystrophy, muscular dystrophy
Sublingual Immunotherapy as an Alternative to Induce Protection Against Acute Respiratory Infections
Institutions: Universidad de la República, Trinity College Dublin.
Sublingual route has been widely used to deliver small molecules into the bloodstream and to modulate the immune response at different sites. It has been shown to effectively induce humoral and cellular responses at systemic and mucosal sites, namely the lungs and urogenital tract. Sublingual vaccination can promote protection against infections at the lower and upper respiratory tract; it can also promote tolerance to allergens and ameliorate asthma symptoms. Modulation of lung’s immune response by sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is safer than direct administration of formulations by intranasal route because it does not require delivery of potentially harmful molecules directly into the airways. In contrast to intranasal delivery, side effects involving brain toxicity or facial paralysis are not promoted by SLIT. The immune mechanisms underlying SLIT remain elusive and its use for the treatment of acute lung infections has not yet been explored. Thus, development of appropriate animal models of SLIT is needed to further explore its potential advantages.
This work shows how to perform sublingual administration of therapeutic agents in mice to evaluate their ability to protect against acute pneumococcal pneumonia. Technical aspects of mouse handling during sublingual inoculation, precise identification of sublingual mucosa, draining lymph nodes and isolation of tissues, bronchoalveolar lavage and lungs are illustrated. Protocols for single cell suspension preparation for FACS analysis are described in detail. Other downstream applications for the analysis of the immune response are discussed. Technical aspects of the preparation of Streptococcus pneumoniae
inoculum and intranasal challenge of mice are also explained.
SLIT is a simple technique that allows screening of candidate molecules to modulate lungs’ immune response. Parameters affecting the success of SLIT are related to molecular size, susceptibility to degradation and stability of highly concentrated formulations.
Medicine, Issue 90, Sublingual immunotherapy, Pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Lungs, Flagellin, TLR5, NLRC4
The Neuromuscular Junction: Measuring Synapse Size, Fragmentation and Changes in Synaptic Protein Density Using Confocal Fluorescence Microscopy
Institutions: University of Sydney, Macquarie University, University of Sydney.
The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is the large, cholinergic relay synapse through which mammalian motor neurons control voluntary muscle contraction. Structural changes at the NMJ can result in neurotransmission failure, resulting in weakness, atrophy and even death of the muscle fiber. Many studies have investigated how genetic modifications or disease can alter the structure of the mouse NMJ. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to directly compare findings from these studies because they often employed different parameters and analytical methods. Three protocols are described here. The first uses maximum intensity projection confocal images to measure the area of acetylcholine receptor (AChR)-rich postsynaptic membrane domains at the endplate and the area of synaptic vesicle staining in the overlying presynaptic nerve terminal. The second protocol compares the relative intensities of immunostaining for synaptic proteins in the postsynaptic membrane. The third protocol uses Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) to detect changes in the packing of postsynaptic AChRs at the endplate. The protocols have been developed and refined over a series of studies. Factors that influence the quality and consistency of results are discussed and normative data are provided for NMJs in healthy young adult mice.
Neuroscience, Issue 94, neuromuscular, motor endplate, motor control, sarcopenia, myasthenia gravis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, morphometry, confocal, immunofluorescence
Investigating the Spreading and Toxicity of Prion-like Proteins Using the Metazoan Model Organism C. elegans
Institutions: Northwestern University.
Prions are unconventional self-propagating proteinaceous particles, devoid of any coding nucleic acid. These proteinaceous seeds serve as templates for the conversion and replication of their benign cellular isoform. Accumulating evidence suggests that many protein aggregates can act as self-propagating templates and corrupt the folding of cognate proteins. Although aggregates can be functional under certain circumstances, this process often leads to the disruption of the cellular protein homeostasis (proteostasis), eventually leading to devastating diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s disease (PD), Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). The exact mechanisms of prion propagation and cell-to-cell spreading of protein aggregates are still subjects of intense investigation. To further this knowledge, recently a new metazoan model in Caenorhabditis elegans
, for expression of the prion domain of the cytosolic yeast prion protein Sup35 has been established. This prion model offers several advantages, as it allows direct monitoring of the fluorescently tagged prion domain in living animals and ease of genetic approaches. Described here are methods to study prion-like behavior of protein aggregates and to identify modifiers of prion-induced toxicity using C. elegans
Cellular Biology, Issue 95, Caenorhabditis elegans, neurodegenerative diseases, protein misfolding diseases, prion-like spreading, cell-to-cell transmission, protein aggregation, non-cell autonomous toxicity, proteostasis
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
Purification of Transcripts and Metabolites from Drosophila Heads
Institutions: University of Florida , University of Florida , University of Florida , University of Florida .
For the last decade, we have tried to understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms of neuronal degeneration using Drosophila
as a model organism. Although fruit flies provide obvious experimental advantages, research on neurodegenerative diseases has mostly relied on traditional techniques, including genetic interaction, histology, immunofluorescence, and protein biochemistry. These techniques are effective for mechanistic, hypothesis-driven studies, which lead to a detailed understanding of the role of single genes in well-defined biological problems. However, neurodegenerative diseases are highly complex and affect multiple cellular organelles and processes over time. The advent of new technologies and the omics age provides a unique opportunity to understand the global cellular perturbations underlying complex diseases. Flexible model organisms such as Drosophila
are ideal for adapting these new technologies because of their strong annotation and high tractability. One challenge with these small animals, though, is the purification of enough informational molecules (DNA, mRNA, protein, metabolites) from highly relevant tissues such as fly brains. Other challenges consist of collecting large numbers of flies for experimental replicates (critical for statistical robustness) and developing consistent procedures for the purification of high-quality biological material. Here, we describe the procedures for collecting thousands of fly heads and the extraction of transcripts and metabolites to understand how global changes in gene expression and metabolism contribute to neurodegenerative diseases. These procedures are easily scalable and can be applied to the study of proteomic and epigenomic contributions to disease.
Genetics, Issue 73, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Neurobiology, Neuroscience, Bioengineering, Cellular Biology, Anatomy, Neurodegenerative Diseases, Biological Assay, Drosophila, fruit fly, head separation, purification, mRNA, RNA, cDNA, DNA, transcripts, metabolites, replicates, SCA3, neurodegeneration, NMR, gene expression, animal model
Simultaneous Intracellular Recording of a Lumbar Motoneuron and the Force Produced by its Motor Unit in the Adult Mouse In vivo
Institutions: Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The spinal motoneuron has long been a good model system for studying neural function because it is a neuron of the central nervous system with the unique properties of (1) having readily identifiable targets (the muscle fibers) and therefore having a very well-known function (to control muscle contraction); (2) being the convergent target of many spinal and descending networks, hence the name of "final common pathway"; and (3) having a large soma which makes it possible to penetrate them with sharp intracellular electrodes. Furthermore, when studied in vivo
, it is possible to record simultaneously the electrical activity of the motoneurons and the force developed by their muscle targets. Performing intracellular recordings of motoneurons in vivo
therefore put the experimentalist in the unique position of being able to study, at the same time, all the compartments of the "motor unit" (the name given to the motoneuron, its axon, and the muscle fibers it innervates1
): the inputs impinging on the motoneuron, the electrophysiological properties of the motoneuron, and the impact of these properties on the physiological function of the motoneurons, i.e.
the force produced by its motor unit. However, this approach is very challenging because the preparation cannot be paralyzed and thus the mechanical stability for the intracellular recording is reduced. Thus, this kind of experiments has only been achieved in cats and in rats. However, the study of spinal motor systems could make a formidable leap if it was possible to perform similar experiments in normal and genetically modified mice.
For technical reasons, the study of the spinal networks in mice has mostly been limited to neonatal in vitro
preparations, where the motoneurons and the spinal networks are immature, the motoneurons are separated from their targets, and when studied in slices, the motoneurons are separated from most of their inputs. Until recently, only a few groups had managed to perform intracellular recordings of motoneurons in vivo2-4
, including our team who published a new preparation which allowed us to obtain very stable recordings of motoneurons in vivo
in adult mice5,6
. However, these recordings were obtained in paralyzed animals, i.e.
without the possibility to record the force output of these motoneurons. Here we present an extension of this original preparation in which we were able to obtain simultaneous recordings of the electrophysiological properties of the motoneurons and of the force developed by their motor unit. This is an important achievement, as it allows us to identify the different types of motoneurons based on their force profile, and thereby revealing their function. Coupled with genetic models disturbing spinal segmental circuitry7-9
, or reproducting human disease10,11
, we expect this technique to be an essential tool for the study of spinal motor system.
Neuroscience, Issue 70, Physiology, Biophysics, Anatomy, Medicine, Motor System, Spinal Cord, Intracellular Recordings, Motoneurons, EMG, Force, lumbar, neuron, brain, mouse, animal model
A Simple Composite Phenotype Scoring System for Evaluating Mouse Models of Cerebellar Ataxia
Institutions: University of Washington, University of Washington, University of California, San Diego - Rady Children’s Hospital.
We describe a protocol for the rapid and sensitive quantification of disease severity in mouse models of cerebella ataxia. It is derived from previously published phenotype assessments in several disease models, including spinocerebellar ataxias, Huntington s disease and spinobulbar muscular atrophy. Measures include hind limb clasping, ledge test, gait and kyphosis. Each measure is recorded on a scale of 0-3, with a combined total of 0-12 for all four measures. The results effectively discriminate between affected and non-affected individuals, while also quantifying the temporal progression of neurodegenerative disease phenotypes. Measures may be analyzed individually or combined into a composite phenotype score for greater statistical power. The ideal combination of the four described measures will depend upon the disorder in question. We present an example of the protocol used to assess disease severity in a transgenic mouse model of spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7).
Albert R. La Spada and Gwenn A. Garden contributed to this manuscript equally.
JoVE Neuroscience, Issue 39, Neurodegeneration, Mouse behavior assay, cerebellar ataxia, polyglutamine disease
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
A Strategy to Identify de Novo Mutations in Common Disorders such as Autism and Schizophrenia
Institutions: Universite de Montreal, Universite de Montreal, Universite de Montreal.
There are several lines of evidence supporting the role of de novo
mutations as a mechanism for common disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia. First, the de novo
mutation rate in humans is relatively high, so new mutations are generated at a high frequency in the population. However, de novo
mutations have not been reported in most common diseases. Mutations in genes leading to severe diseases where there is a strong negative selection against the phenotype, such as lethality in embryonic stages or reduced reproductive fitness, will not be transmitted to multiple family members, and therefore will not be detected by linkage gene mapping or association studies. The observation of very high concordance in monozygotic twins and very low concordance in dizygotic twins also strongly supports the hypothesis that a significant fraction of cases may result from new mutations. Such is the case for diseases such as autism and schizophrenia. Second, despite reduced reproductive fitness1
and extremely variable environmental factors, the incidence of some diseases is maintained worldwide at a relatively high and constant rate. This is the case for autism and schizophrenia, with an incidence of approximately 1% worldwide. Mutational load can be thought of as a balance between selection for or against a deleterious mutation and its production by de novo
mutation. Lower rates of reproduction constitute a negative selection factor that should reduce the number of mutant alleles in the population, ultimately leading to decreased disease prevalence. These selective pressures tend to be of different intensity in different environments. Nonetheless, these severe mental disorders have been maintained at a constant relatively high prevalence in the worldwide population across a wide range of cultures and countries despite a strong negative selection against them2
. This is not what one would predict in diseases with reduced reproductive fitness, unless there was a high new mutation rate. Finally, the effects of paternal age: there is a significantly increased risk of the disease with increasing paternal age, which could result from the age related increase in paternal de novo
mutations. This is the case for autism and schizophrenia3
. The male-to-female ratio of mutation rate is estimated at about 4–6:1, presumably due to a higher number of germ-cell divisions with age in males. Therefore, one would predict that de novo
mutations would more frequently come from males, particularly older males4
. A high rate of new mutations may in part explain why genetic studies have so far failed to identify many genes predisposing to complexes diseases genes, such as autism and schizophrenia, and why diseases have been identified for a mere 3% of genes in the human genome. Identification for de novo
mutations as a cause of a disease requires a targeted molecular approach, which includes studying parents and affected subjects. The process for determining if the genetic basis of a disease may result in part from de novo
mutations and the molecular approach to establish this link will be illustrated, using autism and schizophrenia as examples.
Medicine, Issue 52, de novo mutation, complex diseases, schizophrenia, autism, rare variations, DNA sequencing
Measuring the Strength of Mice
Institutions: University of Oxford .
devised the inverted screen test and published it in 1964. It is a test of muscle strength using all four limbs. Most normal mice easily score maximum on this task; it is a quick but insensitive gross screen, and the weights test described in this article will provide a finer measure of muscular strength.
There are also several strain gauge-based pieces of apparatus available commercially that will provide more graded data than the inverted screen test, but their cost may put them beyond the reach of many laboratories which do not specialize in strength testing. Hence in 2000 a cheap and simple apparatus was devised by the author. It consists of a series of chain links of increasing length, attached to a "fur collector" a ball of fine wire mesh sold for preventing limescale build up in hard water areas. An accidental observation revealed that mice could grip these very tightly, so they proved ideal as a grip point for a weight-lifting apparatus. A common fault with commercial strength meters is that the bar or other grip feature is not thin enough for mice to exert a maximum grip. As a general rule, the thinner the wire or bar, the better a mouse can grip with its small claws.
This is a pure test of strength, although as for any test motivational factors could potentially play a role. The use of scale collectors, however, seems to minimize motivational problems as the motivation appears to be very high for most normal young adult mice.
Medicine, Issue 76, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Anatomy, Physiology, Behavior, Psychology, Mice, strength, motor, inverted screen, weight lifting, animal model
Utilizing Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to Study the Human Neuromuscular System
Institutions: Ohio University.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been in use for more than 20 years 1
, and has grown exponentially in popularity over the past decade. While the use of TMS has expanded to the study of many systems and processes during this time, the original application and perhaps one of the most common uses of TMS involves studying the physiology, plasticity and function of the human neuromuscular system. Single pulse TMS applied to the motor cortex excites pyramidal neurons transsynaptically 2
(Figure 1) and results in a measurable electromyographic response that can be used to study and evaluate the integrity and excitability of the corticospinal tract in humans 3
. Additionally, recent advances in magnetic stimulation now allows for partitioning of cortical versus spinal excitability 4,5
. For example, paired-pulse TMS can be used to assess intracortical facilitatory and inhibitory properties by combining a conditioning stimulus and a test stimulus at different interstimulus intervals 3,4,6-8
. In this video article we will demonstrate the methodological and technical aspects of these techniques. Specifically, we will demonstrate single-pulse and paired-pulse TMS techniques as applied to the flexor carpi radialis (FCR) muscle as well as the erector spinae (ES) musculature. Our laboratory studies the FCR muscle as it is of interest to our research on the effects of wrist-hand cast immobilization on reduced muscle performance6,9
, and we study the ES muscles due to these muscles clinical relevance as it relates to low back pain8
. With this stated, we should note that TMS has been used to study many muscles of the hand, arm and legs, and should iterate that our demonstrations in the FCR and ES muscle groups are only selected examples of TMS being used to study the human neuromuscular system.
Medicine, Issue 59, neuroscience, muscle, electromyography, physiology, TMS, strength, motor control. sarcopenia, dynapenia, lumbar
Growth Assays to Assess Polyglutamine Toxicity in Yeast
Institutions: Boston Biomedical Research Institute.
Protein misfolding is associated with many human diseases, particularly neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's disease 1
. Huntington's disease (HD) is caused by the abnormal expansion of a polyglutamine (polyQ) region within the protein huntingtin. The polyQ-expanded huntingtin protein attains an aberrant conformation (i.e. it misfolds) and causes cellular toxicity 2
. At least eight further neurodegenerative diseases are caused by polyQ-expansions, including the Spinocerebellar Ataxias and Kennedy’s disease 3
The model organism yeast has facilitated significant insights into the cellular and molecular basis of polyQ-toxicity, including the impact of intra- and inter-molecular factors of polyQ-toxicity, and the identification of cellular pathways that are impaired in cells expressing polyQ-expansion proteins 3-8
. Importantly, many aspects of polyQ-toxicity that were found in yeast were reproduced in other experimental systems and to some extent in samples from HD patients, thus demonstrating the significance of the yeast model for the discovery of basic mechanisms underpinning polyQ-toxicity.
A direct and relatively simple way to determine polyQ-toxicity in yeast is to measure growth defects of yeast cells expressing polyQ-expansion proteins. This manuscript describes three complementary experimental approaches to determine polyQ-toxicity in yeast by measuring the growth of yeast cells expressing polyQ-expansion proteins. The first two experimental approaches monitor yeast growth on plates, the third approach monitors the growth of liquid yeast cultures using the BioscreenC instrument.
Furthermore, this manuscript describes experimental difficulties that can occur when handling yeast polyQ models and outlines strategies that will help to avoid or minimize these difficulties. The protocols described here can be used to identify and to characterize genetic pathways and small molecules that modulate polyQ-toxicity. Moreover, the described assays may serve as templates for accurate analyses of the toxicity caused by other disease-associated misfolded proteins in yeast models.
Molecular Biology, Issue 61, Protein misfolding, yeast, polyglutamine diseases, growth assays
A Functional Motor Unit in the Culture Dish: Co-culture of Spinal Cord Explants and Muscle Cells
Institutions: University of Basel.
Human primary muscle cells cultured aneurally in monolayer rarely contract spontaneously because, in the absence of a nerve component, cell differentiation is limited and motor neuron stimulation is missing1
. These limitations hamper the in vitro
study of many neuromuscular diseases in cultured muscle cells. Importantly, the experimental constraints of monolayered, cultured muscle cells can be overcome by functional innervation of myofibers with spinal cord explants in co-cultures.
Here, we show the different steps required to achieve an efficient, proper innervation of human primary muscle cells, leading to complete differentiation and fiber contraction according to the method developed by Askanas2
. To do so, muscle cells are co-cultured with spinal cord explants of rat embryos at ED 13.5, with the dorsal root ganglia still attached to the spinal cord slices. After a few days, the muscle fibers start to contract and eventually become cross-striated through innervation by functional neurites projecting from the spinal cord explants that connecting to the muscle cells. This structure can be maintained for many months, simply by regular exchange of the culture medium.
The applications of this invaluable tool are numerous, as it represents a functional model for multidisciplinary analyses of human muscle development and innervation. In fact, a complete de novo
neuromuscular junction installation occurs in a culture dish, allowing an easy measurement of many parameters at each step, in a fundamental and physiological context.
Just to cite a few examples, genomic and/or proteomic studies can be performed directly on the co-cultures. Furthermore, pre- and post-synaptic effects can be specifically and separately assessed at the neuromuscular junction, because both components come from different species, rat and human, respectively. The nerve-muscle co-culture can also be performed with human muscle cells isolated from patients suffering from muscle or neuromuscular diseases3
, and thus can be used as a screening tool for candidate drugs. Finally, no special equipment but a regular BSL2 facility is needed to reproduce a functional motor unit in a culture dish. This method thus is valuable for both the muscle as well as the neuromuscular research communities for physiological and mechanistic studies of neuromuscular function, in a normal and disease context.
Neuroscience, Issue 62, Human primary muscle cells, embryonic spinal cord explants, neurites, innervation, contraction, cell culture
Clinical Testing and Spinal Cord Removal in a Mouse Model for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Institutions: University Medicine Göttingen, Göttingen, Germany.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder resulting in progressive degeneration of motoneurons. Peak of onset is around 60 years for the sporadic disease and around 50 years for the familial disease. Due to its progressive course, 50% of the patients die within 30 months of symptom onset. In order to evaluate novel treatment options for this disease, genetic mouse models of ALS have been generated based on human familial mutations in the SOD gene, such as the SOD1 (G93A) mutation. Most important aspects that have to be evaluated in the model are overall survival, clinical course and motor function. Here, we demonstrate the clinical evaluation, show the conduction of two behavioural motor tests and provide quantitative scoring systems for all parameters. Because an in depth analysis of the ALS mouse model usually requires an immunohistochemical examination of the spinal cord, we demonstrate its preparation in detail applying the dorsal laminectomy method. Exemplary histological findings are demonstrated. The comprehensive application of the depicted examination methods in studies on the mouse model of ALS will enable the researcher to reliably test future therapeutic options which can provide a basis for later human clinical trials.
Medicine, Issue 61, neuroscience, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, spinal cord, mouse, rotarod, hanging wire
Ex Vivo Assessment of Contractility, Fatigability and Alternans in Isolated Skeletal Muscles
Institutions: UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Ohio State University .
Described here is a method to measure contractility of isolated skeletal muscles. Parameters such as muscle force, muscle power, contractile kinetics, fatigability, and recovery after fatigue can be obtained to assess specific aspects of the excitation-contraction coupling (ECC) process such as excitability, contractile machinery and Ca2+
handling ability. This method removes the nerve and blood supply and focuses on the isolated skeletal muscle itself. We routinely use this method to identify genetic components that alter the contractile property of skeletal muscle though modulating Ca2+
signaling pathways. Here, we describe a newly identified skeletal muscle phenotype, i.e.
, mechanic alternans, as an example of the various and rich information that can be obtained using the in vitro
muscle contractility assay. Combination of this assay with single cell assays, genetic approaches and biochemistry assays can provide important insights into the mechanisms of ECC in skeletal muscle.
Physiology, Issue 69, extensor digitorum longus, soleus, in vitro contractility, calcium signaling, muscle-tendon complex, mechanic alternans
Chitosan/Interfering RNA Nanoparticle Mediated Gene Silencing in Disease Vector Mosquito Larvae
Institutions: Kansas State University, Indiana University School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame, Kansas State University.
Vector mosquitoes inflict more human suffering than any other organism—
and kill more than one million people each year. The mosquito genome projects facilitated research in new facets of mosquito biology, including functional genetic studies in the primary African malaria vector Anopheles gambiae
and the dengue and yellow fever vector Aedes aegypti
. RNA interference- (RNAi-) mediated gene silencing has been used to target genes of interest in both of these disease vector mosquito species. Here, we describe a procedure for preparation of chitosan/interfering RNA nanoparticles that are combined with food and ingested by larvae. This technically straightforward, high-throughput, and relatively inexpensive methodology, which is compatible with long double stranded RNA (dsRNA) or small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules, has been used for the successful knockdown of a number of different genes in A. gambiae
and A. aegypti
Following larval feedings, knockdown, which is verified through qRT-PCR or in situ
can persist at least through the late pupal stage. This methodology may be applicable to a wide variety of mosquito and other insect species, including agricultural pests, as well as other non-model organisms. In addition to its utility in the research laboratory, in the future, chitosan, an inexpensive, non-toxic and biodegradable polymer, could potentially be utilized in the field.
Molecular Biology, Issue 97, vector biology, RNA interference, Anopheles gambiae, Aedes aegypti, dsRNA, siRNA, knockdown, ingestion, mosquito, larvae, development, disease