Genome sequencing projects have ciphered millions of protein sequence, which require knowledge of their structure and function to improve the understanding of their biological role. Although experimental methods can provide detailed information for a small fraction of these proteins, computational modeling is needed for the majority of protein molecules which are experimentally uncharacterized. The I-TASSER server is an on-line workbench for high-resolution modeling of protein structure and function. Given a protein sequence, a typical output from the I-TASSER server includes secondary structure prediction, predicted solvent accessibility of each residue, homologous template proteins detected by threading and structure alignments, up to five full-length tertiary structural models, and structure-based functional annotations for enzyme classification, Gene Ontology terms and protein-ligand binding sites. All the predictions are tagged with a confidence score which tells how accurate the predictions are without knowing the experimental data. To facilitate the special requests of end users, the server provides channels to accept user-specified inter-residue distance and contact maps to interactively change the I-TASSER modeling; it also allows users to specify any proteins as template, or to exclude any template proteins during the structure assembly simulations. The structural information could be collected by the users based on experimental evidences or biological insights with the purpose of improving the quality of I-TASSER predictions. The server was evaluated as the best programs for protein structure and function predictions in the recent community-wide CASP experiments. There are currently >20,000 registered scientists from over 100 countries who are using the on-line I-TASSER server.
24 Related JoVE Articles!
Forward Genetic Approaches in Chlamydia trachomatis
Institutions: Duke University Medical Center.
, the etiological agent of sexually transmitted diseases and ocular infections, remains poorly characterized due to its intractability to experimental transformation with recombinant DNA. We developed an approach to perform genetic analysis in C. trachomatis
despite the lack of molecular genetic tools. Our method involves: i.) chemical mutagenesis to rapidly generate comprehensive libraries of genetically-defined mutants with distinct phenotypes; ii.) whole-genome sequencing (WGS) to map the underlying genetic lesions and to find associations between mutated gene(s) and a common phenotype; iii.) generation of recombinant strains through co-infection of mammalian cells with mutant and wild type bacteria. Accordingly, we were able to establish causal relationships between genotypes and phenotypes. The coupling of chemically-induced gene variation and WGS to establish correlative genotype–phenotype associations should be broadly applicable to the large list of medically and environmentally important microorganisms currently intractable to genetic analysis.
Immunology, Issue 80, genetics, chemical mutagenesis, whole genome sequencing
Fluorescence-microscopy Screening and Next-generation Sequencing: Useful Tools for the Identification of Genes Involved in Organelle Integrity
Institutions: Michigan State University.
This protocol describes a fluorescence microscope-based screening of Arabidopsis
seedlings and describes how to map recessive mutations that alter the subcellular distribution of a specific tagged fluorescent marker in the secretory pathway. Arabidopsis
is a powerful biological model for genetic studies because of its genome size, generation time, and conservation of molecular mechanisms among kingdoms. The array genotyping as an approach to map the mutation in alternative to the traditional method based on molecular markers is advantageous because it is relatively faster and may allow the mapping of several mutants in a really short time frame. This method allows the identification of proteins that can influence the integrity of any organelle in plants. Here, as an example, we propose a screen to map genes important for the integrity of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Our approach, however, can be easily extended to other plant cell organelles (for example see1,2
), and thus represents an important step toward understanding the molecular basis governing other subcellular structures.
Genetics, Issue 62, EMS mutagenesis, secretory pathway, mapping, confocal screening
Identifying the Effects of BRCA1 Mutations on Homologous Recombination using Cells that Express Endogenous Wild-type BRCA1
Institutions: The Ohio State University, Tohoku University.
The functional analysis of missense mutations can be complicated by the presence in the cell of the endogenous protein. Structure-function analyses of the BRCA1 have been complicated by the lack of a robust assay for the full length BRCA1 protein and the difficulties inherent in working with cell lines that express hypomorphic BRCA1 protein1,2,3,4,5
. We developed a system whereby the endogenous BRCA1 protein in a cell was acutely depleted by RNAi targeting the 3'-UTR of the BRCA1 mRNA and replaced by co-transfecting a plasmid expressing a BRCA1 variant. One advantage of this procedure is that the acute silencing of BRCA1 and simultaneous replacement allow the cells to grow without secondary mutations or adaptations that might arise over time to compensate for the loss of BRCA1 function. This depletion and add-back procedure was done in a HeLa-derived cell line that was readily assayed for homologous recombination activity. The homologous recombination assay is based on a previously published method whereby a recombination substrate is integrated into the genome (Figure 1)6,7,8,9
. This recombination substrate has the rare-cutting I-SceI restriction enzyme site inside an inactive GFP allele, and downstream is a second inactive GFP allele. Transfection of the plasmid that expresses I-SceI results in a double-stranded break, which may be repaired by homologous recombination, and if homologous recombination does repair the break it creates an active GFP allele that is readily scored by flow cytometry for GFP protein expression. Depletion of endogenous BRCA1 resulted in an 8-10-fold reduction in homologous recombination activity, and add-back of wild-type plasmid fully restored homologous recombination function. When specific point mutants of full length BRCA1 were expressed from co-transfected plasmids, the effect of the specific missense mutant could be scored. As an example, the expression of the BRCA1(M18T) protein, a variant of unknown clinical significance10
, was expressed in these cells, it failed to restore BRCA1-dependent homologous recombination. By contrast, expression of another variant, also of unknown significance, BRCA1(I21V) fully restored BRCA1-dependent homologous recombination function. This strategy of testing the function of BRCA1 missense mutations has been applied to another biological system assaying for centrosome function (Kais et al, unpublished observations). Overall, this approach is suitable for the analysis of missense mutants in any gene that must be analyzed recessively.
Cell Biology, Issue 48, BRCA1, homologous recombination, breast cancer, RNA interference, DNA repair
Genetic Studies of Human DNA Repair Proteins Using Yeast as a Model System
Institutions: National Institute on Aging, NIH.
Understanding the roles of human DNA repair proteins in genetic pathways is a formidable challenge to many researchers. Genetic studies in mammalian systems have been limited due to the lack of readily available tools including defined mutant genetic cell lines, regulatory expression systems, and appropriate selectable markers. To circumvent these difficulties, model genetic systems in lower eukaryotes have become an attractive choice for the study of functionally conserved DNA repair proteins and pathways. We have developed a model yeast system to study the poorly defined genetic functions of the Werner syndrome helicase-nuclease (WRN
) in nucleic acid metabolism. Cellular phenotypes associated with defined genetic mutant backgrounds can be investigated to clarify the cellular and molecular functions of WRN
through its catalytic activities and protein interactions. The human WRN
gene and associated variants, cloned into DNA plasmids for expression in yeast, can be placed under the control of a regulatory plasmid element. The expression construct can then be transformed into the appropriate yeast mutant background, and genetic function assayed by a variety of methodologies. Using this approach, we determined that WRN
, like its related RecQ family members BLM and Sgs1, operates in a Top3-dependent pathway that is likely to be important for genomic stability. This is described in our recent publication  at www.impactaging.com. Detailed methods of specific assays for genetic complementation studies in yeast are provided in this paper.
Microbiology, Issue 37, Werner syndrome, helicase, topoisomerase, RecQ, Bloom's syndrome, Sgs1, genomic instability, genetics, DNA repair, yeast
Generation of an Immortalized Murine Brain Microvascular Endothelial Cell Line as an In Vitro Blood Brain Barrier Model
Institutions: University of Wurzburg.
Epithelial and endothelial cells (EC) are building paracellular barriers which protect the tissue from the external and internal environment. The blood-brain barrier (BBB) consisting of EC, astrocyte end-feet, pericytes and the basal membrane is responsible for the protection and homeostasis of the brain parenchyma. In vitro
BBB models are common tools to study the structure and function of the BBB at the cellular level. A considerable number of different in vitro
BBB models have been established for research in different laboratories to date. Usually, the cells are obtained from bovine, porcine, rat or mouse brain tissue (discussed in detail in the review by Wilhelm et al. 1
). Human tissue samples are available only in a restricted number of laboratories or companies 2,3
. While primary cell preparations are time consuming and the EC cultures can differ from batch to batch, the establishment of immortalized EC lines is the focus of scientific interest.
Here, we present a method for establishing an immortalized brain microvascular EC line from neonatal mouse brain. We describe the procedure step-by-step listing the reagents and solutions used. The method established by our lab allows the isolation of a homogenous immortalized endothelial cell line within four to five weeks. The brain microvascular endothelial cell lines termed cEND 4
(from cerebral cortex) and cerebEND 5
(from cerebellar cortex), were isolated according to this procedure in the Förster laboratory and have been effectively used for explanation of different physiological and pathological processes at the BBB. Using cEND and cerebEND we have demonstrated that these cells respond to glucocorticoid- 4,6-9
and estrogen-treatment 10
as well as to pro-infammatory mediators, such as TNFalpha 5,8
. Moreover, we have studied the pathology of multiple sclerosis 11
and hypoxia 12,13
on the EC-level. The cEND and cerebEND lines can be considered as a good tool for studying the structure and function of the BBB, cellular responses of ECs to different stimuli or interaction of the EC with lymphocytes or cancer cells.
Immunology, Issue 66, Neuroscience, Blood-brain barrier, in vitro cell culture models, brain, microvascular endothelial cells, immortalization, cEND
Forward Genetics Screens Using Macrophages to Identify Toxoplasma gondii Genes Important for Resistance to IFN-γ-Dependent Cell Autonomous Immunity
Institutions: New York Medical College.
the causative agent of toxoplasmosis, is an obligate intracellular protozoan pathogen. The parasite invades and replicates within virtually any warm blooded vertebrate cell type. During parasite invasion of a host cell, the parasite creates a parasitophorous vacuole (PV) that originates from the host cell membrane independent of phagocytosis within which the parasite replicates. While IFN-dependent-innate and cell mediated immunity is important for eventual control of infection, innate immune cells, including neutrophils, monocytes and dendritic cells, can also serve as vehicles for systemic dissemination of the parasite early in infection. An approach is described that utilizes the host innate immune response, in this case macrophages, in a forward genetic screen to identify parasite mutants with a fitness defect in infected macrophages following activation but normal invasion and replication in naïve macrophages. Thus, the screen isolates parasite mutants that have a specific defect in their ability to resist the effects of macrophage activation. The paper describes two broad phenotypes of mutant parasites following activation of infected macrophages: parasite stasis versus parasite degradation, often in amorphous vacuoles. The parasite mutants are then analyzed to identify the responsible parasite genes specifically important for resistance to induced mediators of cell autonomous immunity. The paper presents a general approach for the forward genetics screen that, in theory, can be modified to target parasite genes important for resistance to specific antimicrobial mediators. It also describes an approach to evaluate the specific macrophage antimicrobial mediators to which the parasite mutant is susceptible. Activation of infected macrophages can also promote parasite differentiation from the tachyzoite to bradyzoite stage that maintains chronic infection. Therefore, methodology is presented to evaluate the importance of the identified parasite gene to establishment of chronic infection.
Immunology, Issue 97, Toxoplasma, macrophages, innate immunity, intracellular pathogen, immune evasion, infectious disease, forward genetics, parasite
A Genetic Screen to Isolate Toxoplasma gondii Host-cell Egress Mutants
Institutions: Boston College.
The widespread, obligate intracellular, protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii
causes opportunistic disease in immuno-compromised patients and causes birth defects upon congenital infection. The lytic replication cycle is characterized by three stages: 1. active invasion of a nucleated host cell; 2. replication inside the host cell; 3. active egress from the host cell. The mechanism of egress is increasingly being appreciated as a unique, highly regulated process, which is still poorly understood at the molecular level. The signaling pathways underlying egress have been characterized through the use of pharmacological agents acting on different aspects of the pathways1-5
. As such, several independent triggers of egress have been identified which all converge on the release of intracellular Ca2+
, a signal that is also critical for host cell invasion6-8
. This insight informed a candidate gene approach which led to the identification of plant like calcium dependent protein kinase (CDPK) involved in egress9
. In addition, several recent breakthroughs in understanding egress have been made using (chemical) genetic approaches10-12
. To combine the wealth of pharmacological information with the increasing genetic accessibility of Toxoplasma
we recently established a screen permitting the enrichment for parasite mutants with a defect in host cell egress13
. Although chemical mutagenesis using N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) or ethyl methanesulfonate (EMS) has been used for decades in the study of Toxoplasma
, only recently has genetic mapping of mutations underlying the phenotypes become routine16-18
. Furthermore, by generating temperature-sensitive mutants, essential processes can be dissected and the underlying genes directly identified. These mutants behave as wild-type under the permissive temperature (35 °C), but fail to proliferate at the restrictive temperature (40 °C) as a result of the mutation in question. Here we illustrate a new phenotypic screening method to isolate mutants with a temperature-sensitive egress phenotype13
. The challenge for egress screens is to separate egressed from non-egressed parasites, which is complicated by fast re-invasion and general stickiness of the parasites to host cells. A previously established egress screen was based on a cumbersome series of biotinylation steps to separate intracellular from extracellular parasites11
. This method also did not generate conditional mutants resulting in weak phenotypes. The method described here overcomes the strong attachment of egressing parasites by including a glycan competitor, dextran sulfate (DS), that prevents parasites from sticking to the host cell19
. Moreover, extracellular parasites are specifically killed off by pyrrolidine dithiocarbamate (PDTC), which leaves intracellular parasites unharmed20
. Therefore, with a new phenotypic screen to specifically isolate parasite mutants with defects in induced egress, the power of genetics can now be fully deployed to unravel the molecular mechanisms underlying host cell egress.
Immunology, Issue 60, Genetics, Toxoplasma gondii, chemical mutagenesis, egress, genetic screen
Identifying DNA Mutations in Purified Hematopoietic Stem/Progenitor Cells
Institutions: UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio.
In recent years, it has become apparent that genomic instability is tightly related to many developmental disorders, cancers, and aging. Given that stem cells are responsible for ensuring tissue homeostasis and repair throughout life, it is reasonable to hypothesize that the stem cell population is critical for preserving genomic integrity of tissues. Therefore, significant interest has arisen in assessing the impact of endogenous and environmental factors on genomic integrity in stem cells and their progeny, aiming to understand the etiology of stem-cell based diseases.
transgenic mice carry a recoverable λ phage vector encoding the LacI
reporter system, in which the LacI
gene serves as the mutation reporter. The result of a mutated LacI
gene is the production of β-galactosidase that cleaves a chromogenic substrate, turning it blue. The LacI
reporter system is carried in all cells, including stem/progenitor cells and can easily be recovered and used to subsequently infect E. coli
. After incubating infected E. coli
on agarose that contains the correct substrate, plaques can be scored; blue plaques indicate a mutant LacI
gene, while clear plaques harbor wild-type. The frequency of blue (among clear) plaques indicates the mutant frequency in the original cell population the DNA was extracted from. Sequencing the mutant LacI
gene will show the location of the mutations in the gene and the type of mutation.
transgenic mouse model is well-established as an in vivo
mutagenesis assay. Moreover, the mice and the reagents for the assay are commercially available. Here we describe in detail how this model can be adapted to measure the frequency of spontaneously occurring DNA mutants in stem cell-enriched Lin-
(LSK) cells and other subpopulations of the hematopoietic system.
Infection, Issue 84, In vivo mutagenesis, hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells, LacI mouse model, DNA mutations, E. coli
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
Methylnitrosourea (MNU)-induced Retinal Degeneration and Regeneration in the Zebrafish: Histological and Functional Characteristics
Institutions: University of Bern, University Hospital of Basel, University of Fribourg.
Retinal degenerative diseases, e.g.
retinitis pigmentosa, with resulting photoreceptor damage account for the majority of vision loss in the industrial world. Animal models are of pivotal importance to study such diseases. In this regard the photoreceptor-specific toxin N
-nitrosourea (MNU) has been widely used in rodents to pharmacologically induce retinal degeneration. Previously, we have established a MNU-induced retinal degeneration model in the zebrafish, another popular model system in visual research.
A fascinating difference to mammals is the persistent neurogenesis in the adult zebrafish retina and its regeneration after damage. To quantify this observation we have employed visual acuity measurements in the adult zebrafish. Thereby, the optokinetic reflex was used to follow functional changes in non-anesthetized fish. This was supplemented with histology as well as immunohistochemical staining for apoptosis (TUNEL) and proliferation (PCNA) to correlate the developing morphological changes.
In summary, apoptosis of photoreceptors occurs three days after MNU treatment, which is followed by a marked reduction of cells in the outer nuclear layer (ONL). Thereafter, proliferation of cells in the inner nuclear layer (INL) and ONL is observed. Herein, we reveal that not only a complete histological but also a functional regeneration occurs over a time course of 30 days. Now we illustrate the methods to quantify and follow up zebrafish retinal de- and regeneration using MNU in a video-format.
Cellular Biology, Issue 92, N-methyl-N-nitrosourea (MNU), retina, degeneration, photoreceptors, Müller cells, regeneration, zebrafish, visual function
Transfection and Mutagenesis of Target Genes in Mosquito Cells by Locked Nucleic Acid-modified Oligonucleotides
Institutions: University of California, Davis, Université Paris Descartes.
parasites, the causative agent of malaria, are transmitted through the bites of infected Anopheles
mosquitoes resulting in over 250 million new infections each year. Despite decades of research, there is still no vaccine against malaria, highlighting the need for novel control strategies. One innovative approach is the use of genetically modified mosquitoes to effectively control malaria parasite transmission. Deliberate alterations of cell signaling pathways in the mosquito, via targeted mutagenesis, have been found to regulate parasite development 1
. From these studies, we can begin to identify potential gene targets for transformation. Targeted mutagenesis has traditionally relied upon the homologous recombination between a target gene and a large DNA molecule. However, the construction and use of such complex DNA molecules for generation of stably transformed cell lines is costly, time consuming and often inefficient. Therefore, a strategy using locked nucleic acid-modified oligonucleotides (LNA-ONs) provides a useful alternative for introducing artificial single nucleotide substitutions into episomal and chromosomal DNA gene targets (reviewed in 2
). LNA-ON-mediated targeted mutagenesis has been used to introduce point mutations into genes of interest in cultured cells of both yeast and mice 3,4
. We show here that LNA-ONs can be used to introduce a single nucleotide change in a transfected episomal target that results in a switch from blue fluorescent protein (BFP) expression to green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression in both Anopheles gambiae
and Anopheles stephensi
cells. This conversion demonstrates for the first time that effective mutagenesis of target genes in mosquito cells can be mediated by LNA-ONs and suggests that this technique may be applicable to mutagenesis of chromosomal targets in vitro
and in vivo
Infectious Disease, Issue 46, Anopheles, transfection, oligonucleotides, mosquito
Isolation of Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells (HUVEC)
Institutions: University of California, Irvine (UCI).
Angiogenesis is a complex multi-step process, where in response to angiogenic stimuli, new vessels are created from the existing vasculature. These steps include: degradation of the basement membrane, proliferation and migration (sprouting) of endothelial cells (EC) into the extracellular matrix, alignment of EC into cords, lumen formation, anastomosis, and formation of a new basement membrane. Many in vitro assays have been developed to study this process, but most only mimic certain stages of angiogenesis, and morphologically the vessels often do not resemble vessels in vivo. Here we demonstrate an optimized in vitro angiogenesis assay that utilizes human umbilical vein EC and fibroblasts. This model recapitulates all of the key early stages of angiogenesis, and importantly the vessels display patent intercellular lumens surrounded by polarized EC. Vessels can be easily observed by phase-contrast and time-lapse microscopy, and recovered in pure form for downstream applications.
Cellular Biology, Issue 3, angiogenesis, endothelial, HUVEC, umbilical
Optimized Fibrin Gel Bead Assay for the Study of Angiogenesis
Institutions: University of California, Irvine (UCI).
Angiogenesis is a complex multi-step process, where, in response to angiogenic stimuli, new vessels are created from the existing vasculature. These steps include: degradation of the basement membrane, proliferation and migration (sprouting) of endothelial cells (EC) into the extracellular matrix, alignment of EC into cords, branching, lumen formation, anastomosis, and formation of a new basement membrane. Many in vitro assays have been developed to study this process, but most only mimic certain stages of angiogenesis, and morphologically the vessels within the assays often do not resemble vessels in vivo. Based on earlier work by Nehls and Drenckhahn, we have optimized an in vitro angiogenesis assay that utilizes human umbilical vein EC and fibroblasts. This model recapitulates all of the key early stages of angiogenesis and, importantly, the vessels display patent intercellular lumens surrounded by polarized EC. EC are coated onto cytodex microcarriers and embedded into a fibrin gel. Fibroblasts are layered on top of the gel where they provide necessary soluble factors that promote EC sprouting from the surface of the beads. After several days, numerous vessels are present that can easily be observed under phase-contrast and time-lapse microscopy. This video demonstrates the key steps in setting up these cultures.
Cellular Biology, Issue 3, angiogenesis, fibrin, endothelial, in vitro, fibroblasts
Transgenic Rodent Assay for Quantifying Male Germ Cell Mutant Frequency
Institutions: Environmental Health Centre.
mutations arise mostly in the male germline and may contribute to adverse health outcomes in subsequent generations. Traditional methods for assessing the induction of germ cell mutations require the use of large numbers of animals, making them impractical. As such, germ cell mutagenicity is rarely assessed during chemical testing and risk assessment. Herein, we describe an in vivo
male germ cell mutation assay using a transgenic rodent model that is based on a recently approved Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) test guideline. This method uses an in vitro
positive selection assay to measure in vivo
mutations induced in a transgenic λgt10 vector bearing a reporter gene directly in the germ cells of exposed males. We further describe how the detection of mutations in the transgene recovered from germ cells can be used to characterize the stage-specific sensitivity of the various spermatogenic cell types to mutagen exposure by controlling three experimental parameters: the duration of exposure (administration time), the time between exposure and sample collection (sampling time), and the cell population collected for analysis. Because a large number of germ cells can be assayed from a single male, this method has superior sensitivity compared with traditional methods, requires fewer animals and therefore much less time and resources.
Genetics, Issue 90, sperm, spermatogonia, male germ cells, spermatogenesis, de novo mutation, OECD TG 488, transgenic rodent mutation assay, N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea, genetic toxicology
Combining Magnetic Sorting of Mother Cells and Fluctuation Tests to Analyze Genome Instability During Mitotic Cell Aging in Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Institutions: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
has been an excellent model system for examining mechanisms and consequences of genome instability. Information gained from this yeast model is relevant to many organisms, including humans, since DNA repair and DNA damage response factors are well conserved across diverse species. However, S. cerevisiae
has not yet been used to fully address whether the rate of accumulating mutations changes with increasing replicative (mitotic) age due to technical constraints. For instance, measurements of yeast replicative lifespan through micromanipulation involve very small populations of cells, which prohibit detection of rare mutations. Genetic methods to enrich for mother cells in populations by inducing death of daughter cells have been developed, but population sizes are still limited by the frequency with which random mutations that compromise the selection systems occur. The current protocol takes advantage of magnetic sorting of surface-labeled yeast mother cells to obtain large enough populations of aging mother cells to quantify rare mutations through phenotypic selections. Mutation rates, measured through fluctuation tests, and mutation frequencies are first established for young cells and used to predict the frequency of mutations in mother cells of various replicative ages. Mutation frequencies are then determined for sorted mother cells, and the age of the mother cells is determined using flow cytometry by staining with a fluorescent reagent that detects bud scars formed on their cell surfaces during cell division. Comparison of predicted mutation frequencies based on the number of cell divisions to the frequencies experimentally observed for mother cells of a given replicative age can then identify whether there are age-related changes in the rate of accumulating mutations. Variations of this basic protocol provide the means to investigate the influence of alterations in specific gene functions or specific environmental conditions on mutation accumulation to address mechanisms underlying genome instability during replicative aging.
Microbiology, Issue 92, Aging, mutations, genome instability, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, fluctuation test, magnetic sorting, mother cell, replicative aging
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
Production of Haploid Zebrafish Embryos by In Vitro Fertilization
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish has become a mainstream vertebrate model that is relevant for many disciplines of scientific study. Zebrafish are especially well suited for forward genetic analysis of developmental processes due to their external fertilization, embryonic size, rapid ontogeny, and optical clarity – a constellation of traits that enable the direct observation of events ranging from gastrulation to organogenesis with a basic stereomicroscope. Further, zebrafish embryos can survive for several days in the haploid state. The production of haploid embryos in vitro
is a powerful tool for mutational analysis, as it enables the identification of recessive mutant alleles present in first generation (F1) female carriers following mutagenesis in the parental (P) generation. This approach eliminates the necessity to raise multiple generations (F2, F3, etc.
) which involves breeding of mutant families, thus saving the researcher time along with reducing the needs for zebrafish colony space, labor, and the husbandry costs. Although zebrafish have been used to conduct forward screens for the past several decades, there has been a steady expansion of transgenic and genome editing tools. These tools now offer a plethora of ways to create nuanced assays for next generation screens that can be used to further dissect the gene regulatory networks that drive vertebrate ontogeny. Here, we describe how to prepare haploid zebrafish embryos. This protocol can be implemented for novel future haploid screens, such as in enhancer and suppressor screens, to address the mechanisms of development for a broad number of processes and tissues that form during early embryonic stages.
Developmental Biology, Issue 89, zebrafish, haploid, in vitro fertilization, forward genetic screen, saturation, recessive mutation, mutagenesis
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
FtsZ Polymerization Assays: Simple Protocols and Considerations
Institutions: University of Groningen.
During bacterial cell division, the essential protein FtsZ assembles in the middle of the cell to form the so-called Z-ring. FtsZ polymerizes into long filaments in the presence of GTP in vitro
, and polymerization is regulated by several accessory proteins. FtsZ polymerization has been extensively studied in vitro
using basic methods including light scattering, sedimentation, GTP hydrolysis assays and electron microscopy. Buffer conditions influence both the polymerization properties of FtsZ, and the ability of FtsZ to interact with regulatory proteins. Here, we describe protocols for FtsZ polymerization studies and validate conditions and controls using Escherichia coli
and Bacillus subtilis
FtsZ as model proteins. A low speed sedimentation assay is introduced that allows the study of the interaction of FtsZ with proteins that bundle or tubulate FtsZ polymers. An improved GTPase assay protocol is described that allows testing of GTP hydrolysis over time using various conditions in a 96-well plate setup, with standardized incubation times that abolish variation in color development in the phosphate detection reaction. The preparation of samples for light scattering studies and electron microscopy is described. Several buffers are used to establish suitable buffer pH and salt concentration for FtsZ polymerization studies. A high concentration of KCl is the best for most of the experiments. Our methods provide a starting point for the in vitro
characterization of FtsZ, not only from E. coli
and B. subtilis
but from any other bacterium. As such, the methods can be used for studies of the interaction of FtsZ with regulatory proteins or the testing of antibacterial drugs which may affect FtsZ polymerization.
Basic Protocols, Issue 81, FtsZ, protein polymerization, cell division, GTPase, sedimentation assay, light scattering
Analyzing the Effects of Stromal Cells on the Recruitment of Leukocytes from Flow
Institutions: University of Birmingham, University of Birmingham, University of Birmingham.
Stromal cells regulate the recruitment of circulating leukocytes during inflammation through cross-talk with neighboring endothelial cells. Here we describe two in vitro
“vascular” models for studying the recruitment of circulating neutrophils from flow by inflamed endothelial cells. A major advantage of these models is the ability to analyze each step in the leukocyte adhesion cascade in order, as would occur in vivo
. We also describe how both models can be adapted to study the role of stromal cells, in this case mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), in regulating leukocyte recruitment.
Primary endothelial cells were cultured alone or together with human MSC in direct contact on Ibidi microslides or on opposite sides of a Transwell filter for 24 hr. Cultures were stimulated with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) for 4 hr and incorporated into a flow-based adhesion assay. A bolus of neutrophils was perfused over the endothelium for 4 min. The capture of flowing neutrophils and their interactions with the endothelium was visualized by phase-contrast microscopy.
In both models, cytokine-stimulation increased endothelial recruitment of flowing neutrophils in a dose-dependent manner. Analysis of the behavior of recruited neutrophils showed a dose-dependent decrease in rolling and a dose-dependent increase in transmigration through the endothelium. In co-culture, MSC suppressed neutrophil adhesion to TNFα-stimulated endothelium.
Our flow based-adhesion models mimic the initial phases of leukocyte recruitment from the circulation. In addition to leukocytes, they can be used to examine the recruitment of other cell types, such as therapeutically administered MSC or circulating tumor cells. Our multi-layered co-culture models have shown that MSC communicate with endothelium to modify their response to pro-inflammatory cytokines, altering the recruitment of neutrophils. Further research using such models is required to fully understand how stromal cells from different tissues and conditions (inflammatory disorders or cancer) influence the recruitment of leukocytes during inflammation.
Immunology, Issue 95, Endothelial cells, leukocytes, mesenchymal stromal cells, mesenchymal stem cells, co-culture, adhesion, inflammation, recruitment, flow based adhesion assay, Ibidi microslide, neutrophil
Isolation of Fidelity Variants of RNA Viruses and Characterization of Virus Mutation Frequency
Institutions: Institut Pasteur .
RNA viruses use RNA dependent RNA polymerases to replicate their genomes. The intrinsically high error rate of these enzymes is a large contributor to the generation of extreme population diversity that facilitates virus adaptation and evolution. Increasing evidence shows that the intrinsic error rates, and the resulting mutation frequencies, of RNA viruses can be modulated by subtle amino acid changes to the viral polymerase. Although biochemical assays exist for some viral RNA polymerases that permit quantitative measure of incorporation fidelity, here we describe a simple method of measuring mutation frequencies of RNA viruses that has proven to be as accurate as biochemical approaches in identifying fidelity altering mutations. The approach uses conventional virological and sequencing techniques that can be performed in most biology laboratories. Based on our experience with a number of different viruses, we have identified the key steps that must be optimized to increase the likelihood of isolating fidelity variants and generating data of statistical significance. The isolation and characterization of fidelity altering mutations can provide new insights into polymerase structure and function1-3
. Furthermore, these fidelity variants can be useful tools in characterizing mechanisms of virus adaptation and evolution4-7
Immunology, Issue 52, Polymerase fidelity, RNA virus, mutation frequency, mutagen, RNA polymerase, viral evolution
Genetic Manipulation in Δku80 Strains for Functional Genomic Analysis of Toxoplasma gondii
Institutions: The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.
Targeted genetic manipulation using homologous recombination is the method of choice for functional genomic analysis to obtain a detailed view of gene function and phenotype(s). The development of mutant strains with targeted gene deletions, targeted mutations, complemented gene function, and/or tagged genes provides powerful strategies to address gene function, particularly if these genetic manipulations can be efficiently targeted to the gene locus of interest using integration mediated by double cross over homologous recombination.
Due to very high rates of nonhomologous recombination, functional genomic analysis of Toxoplasma gondii
has been previously limited by the absence of efficient methods for targeting gene deletions and gene replacements to specific genetic loci. Recently, we abolished the major pathway of nonhomologous recombination in type I and type II strains of T. gondii
by deleting the gene encoding the KU80 protein1,2
. The Δku80
strains behave normally during tachyzoite (acute) and bradyzoite (chronic) stages in vitro
and in vivo
and exhibit essentially a 100% frequency of homologous recombination. The Δku80
strains make functional genomic studies feasible on the single gene as well as on the genome scale1-4
Here, we report methods for using type I and type II Δku80Δhxgprt
strains to advance gene targeting approaches in T. gondii
. We outline efficient methods for generating gene deletions, gene replacements, and tagged genes by targeted insertion or deletion of the hypoxanthine-xanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (HXGPRT
) selectable marker. The described gene targeting protocol can be used in a variety of ways in Δku80
strains to advance functional analysis of the parasite genome and to develop single strains that carry multiple targeted genetic manipulations. The application of this genetic method and subsequent phenotypic assays will reveal fundamental and unique aspects of the biology of T. gondii
and related significant human pathogens that cause malaria (Plasmodium
sp.) and cryptosporidiosis (Cryptosporidium
Infectious Diseases, Issue 77, Genetics, Microbiology, Infection, Medicine, Immunology, Molecular Biology, Cellular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Bioengineering, Genomics, Parasitology, Pathology, Apicomplexa, Coccidia, Toxoplasma, Genetic Techniques, Gene Targeting, Eukaryota, Toxoplasma gondii, genetic manipulation, gene targeting, gene deletion, gene replacement, gene tagging, homologous recombination, DNA, sequencing
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
Methods to Assess Subcellular Compartments of Muscle in C. elegans
Institutions: University of Nottingham.
Muscle is a dynamic tissue that responds to changes in nutrition, exercise, and disease state. The loss of muscle mass and function with disease and age are significant public health burdens. We currently understand little about the genetic regulation of muscle health with disease or age. The nematode C. elegans
is an established model for understanding the genomic regulation of biological processes of interest. This worm’s body wall muscles display a large degree of homology with the muscles of higher metazoan species. Since C. elegans
is a transparent organism, the localization of GFP to mitochondria and sarcomeres allows visualization of these structures in vivo
. Similarly, feeding animals cationic dyes, which accumulate based on the existence of a mitochondrial membrane potential, allows the assessment of mitochondrial function in vivo
. These methods, as well as assessment of muscle protein homeostasis, are combined with assessment of whole animal muscle function, in the form of movement assays, to allow correlation of sub-cellular defects with functional measures of muscle performance. Thus, C. elegans
provides a powerful platform with which to assess the impact of mutations, gene knockdown, and/or chemical compounds upon muscle structure and function. Lastly, as GFP, cationic dyes, and movement assays are assessed non-invasively, prospective studies of muscle structure and function can be conducted across the whole life course and this at present cannot be easily investigated in vivo
in any other organism.
Developmental Biology, Issue 93, Physiology, C. elegans, muscle, mitochondria, sarcomeres, ageing