Many researchers, across incredibly diverse foci, are applying phylogenetics to their research question(s). However, many researchers are new to this topic and so it presents inherent problems. Here we compile a practical introduction to phylogenetics for nonexperts. We outline in a step-by-step manner, a pipeline for generating reliable phylogenies from gene sequence datasets. We begin with a user-guide for similarity search tools via online interfaces as well as local executables. Next, we explore programs for generating multiple sequence alignments followed by protocols for using software to determine best-fit models of evolution. We then outline protocols for reconstructing phylogenetic relationships via maximum likelihood and Bayesian criteria and finally describe tools for visualizing phylogenetic trees. While this is not by any means an exhaustive description of phylogenetic approaches, it does provide the reader with practical starting information on key software applications commonly utilized by phylogeneticists. The vision for this article would be that it could serve as a practical training tool for researchers embarking on phylogenetic studies and also serve as an educational resource that could be incorporated into a classroom or teaching-lab.
24 Related JoVE Articles!
A Technique to Screen American Beech for Resistance to the Beech Scale Insect (Cryptococcus fagisuga Lind.)
Institutions: US Forest Service.
Beech bark disease (BBD) results in high levels of initial mortality, leaving behind survivor trees that are greatly weakened and deformed. The disease is initiated by feeding activities of the invasive beech scale insect, Cryptococcus fagisuga
, which creates entry points for infection by one of the Neonectria
species of fungus. Without scale infestation, there is little opportunity for fungal infection. Using scale eggs to artificially infest healthy trees in heavily BBD impacted stands demonstrated that these trees were resistant to the scale insect portion of the disease complex1
. Here we present a protocol that we have developed, based on the artificial infestation technique by Houston2
, which can be used to screen for scale-resistant trees in the field and in smaller potted seedlings and grafts. The identification of scale-resistant trees is an important component of management of BBD through tree improvement programs and silvicultural manipulation.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 87, Forestry, Insects, Disease Resistance, American beech, Fagus grandifolia, beech scale, Cryptococcus fagisuga, resistance, screen, bioassay
Isolation of Neonatal Extrahepatic Cholangiocytes
Institutions: The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
The intra and extrahepatic bile ducts of the liver are developmentally distinct, and may be differentially affected by certain diseases. However, differences between intra and extrahepatic cholangiocytes, and between neonatal and adult cells, are not well understood.
Methods for the isolation of cholangiocytes from intrahepatic bile ducts are well established1-4
. Isolation of extrahepatic ductal cells, especially from the neonate, has not yet been described, although this would be of great benefit in understanding the differences between distinct cholangiocyte populations and in studying diseases such as biliary atresia that appear to target the extrahepatic ducts. Described here is an optimized technique to isolate both neonatal and adult mouse extrahepatic bile duct cells. This technique yields a pure cell population with minimal contamination from mesenchymal cells like fibroblasts.
This method is based on the removal of the extrahepatic ducts and gallbladder, followed by meticulous dissection and scraping to remove fat and fibroblast layers. Structures are embedded in thick layers of collagen and cultured for approximately 3 weeks to allow outgrowth of cholangiocytes in monolayers, which can then be trypsinized and re plated for experimental use.
Medicine, Issue 88, Bile Ducts, Bile Ducts, Extrahepatic, Common Bile Duct, Bile Duct Diseases, Cell culture, bile duct, biliary atresia, Liver, gallbladder, fibrosis
Analysis of Nephron Composition and Function in the Adult Zebrafish Kidney
Institutions: University of Notre Dame.
The zebrafish model has emerged as a relevant system to study kidney development, regeneration and disease. Both the embryonic and adult zebrafish kidneys are composed of functional units known as nephrons, which are highly conserved with other vertebrates, including mammals. Research in zebrafish has recently demonstrated that two distinctive phenomena transpire after adult nephrons incur damage: first, there is robust regeneration within existing nephrons that replaces the destroyed tubule epithelial cells; second, entirely new nephrons are produced from renal progenitors in a process known as neonephrogenesis. In contrast, humans and other mammals seem to have only a limited ability for nephron epithelial regeneration. To date, the mechanisms responsible for these kidney regeneration phenomena remain poorly understood. Since adult zebrafish kidneys undergo both nephron epithelial regeneration and neonephrogenesis, they provide an outstanding experimental paradigm to study these events. Further, there is a wide range of genetic and pharmacological tools available in the zebrafish model that can be used to delineate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate renal regeneration. One essential aspect of such research is the evaluation of nephron structure and function. This protocol describes a set of labeling techniques that can be used to gauge renal composition and test nephron functionality in the adult zebrafish kidney. Thus, these methods are widely applicable to the future phenotypic characterization of adult zebrafish kidney injury paradigms, which include but are not limited to, nephrotoxicant exposure regimes or genetic methods of targeted cell death such as the nitroreductase mediated cell ablation technique. Further, these methods could be used to study genetic perturbations in adult kidney formation and could also be applied to assess renal status during chronic disease modeling.
Cellular Biology, Issue 90,
zebrafish; kidney; nephron; nephrology; renal; regeneration; proximal tubule; distal tubule; segment; mesonephros; physiology; acute kidney injury (AKI)
From Voxels to Knowledge: A Practical Guide to the Segmentation of Complex Electron Microscopy 3D-Data
Institutions: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Modern 3D electron microscopy approaches have recently allowed unprecedented insight into the 3D ultrastructural organization of cells and tissues, enabling the visualization of large macromolecular machines, such as adhesion complexes, as well as higher-order structures, such as the cytoskeleton and cellular organelles in their respective cell and tissue context. Given the inherent complexity of cellular volumes, it is essential to first extract the features of interest in order to allow visualization, quantification, and therefore comprehension of their 3D organization. Each data set is defined by distinct characteristics, e.g.
, signal-to-noise ratio, crispness (sharpness) of the data, heterogeneity of its features, crowdedness of features, presence or absence of characteristic shapes that allow for easy identification, and the percentage of the entire volume that a specific region of interest occupies. All these characteristics need to be considered when deciding on which approach to take for segmentation.
The six different 3D ultrastructural data sets presented were obtained by three different imaging approaches: resin embedded stained electron tomography, focused ion beam- and serial block face- scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM, SBF-SEM) of mildly stained and heavily stained samples, respectively. For these data sets, four different segmentation approaches have been applied: (1) fully manual model building followed solely by visualization of the model, (2) manual tracing segmentation of the data followed by surface rendering, (3) semi-automated approaches followed by surface rendering, or (4) automated custom-designed segmentation algorithms followed by surface rendering and quantitative analysis. Depending on the combination of data set characteristics, it was found that typically one of these four categorical approaches outperforms the others, but depending on the exact sequence of criteria, more than one approach may be successful. Based on these data, we propose a triage scheme that categorizes both objective data set characteristics and subjective personal criteria for the analysis of the different data sets.
Bioengineering, Issue 90, 3D electron microscopy, feature extraction, segmentation, image analysis, reconstruction, manual tracing, thresholding
Cortical Source Analysis of High-Density EEG Recordings in Children
Institutions: UCL Institute of Child Health, University College London.
EEG is traditionally described as a neuroimaging technique with high temporal and low spatial resolution. Recent advances in biophysical modelling and signal processing make it possible to exploit information from other imaging modalities like structural MRI that provide high spatial resolution to overcome this constraint1
. This is especially useful for investigations that require high resolution in the temporal as well as spatial domain. In addition, due to the easy application and low cost of EEG recordings, EEG is often the method of choice when working with populations, such as young children, that do not tolerate functional MRI scans well. However, in order to investigate which neural substrates are involved, anatomical information from structural MRI is still needed. Most EEG analysis packages work with standard head models that are based on adult anatomy. The accuracy of these models when used for children is limited2
, because the composition and spatial configuration of head tissues changes dramatically over development3
In the present paper, we provide an overview of our recent work in utilizing head models based on individual structural MRI scans or age specific head models to reconstruct the cortical generators of high density EEG. This article describes how EEG recordings are acquired, processed, and analyzed with pediatric populations at the London Baby Lab, including laboratory setup, task design, EEG preprocessing, MRI processing, and EEG channel level and source analysis.
Behavior, Issue 88, EEG, electroencephalogram, development, source analysis, pediatric, minimum-norm estimation, cognitive neuroscience, event-related potentials
Changes in Mammary Gland Morphology and Breast Cancer Risk in Rats
Institutions: Georgetown University, University of Turku Medical Faculty.
Studies in rodent models of breast cancer show that exposures to dietary/hormonal factors during the in utero
and pubertal periods, when the mammary gland undergoes extensive modeling and re-modeling, alter susceptibility to carcinogen-induced mammary tumors. Similar findings have been described in humans: for example, high birthweight increases later risk of developing breast cancer, and dietary intake of soy during childhood decreases breast cancer risk. It is thought that these prenatal and postnatal dietary modifications induce persistent morphological changes in the mammary gland that in turn modify breast cancer risk later in life. These morphological changes likely reflect epigenetic modifications, such as changes in DNA methylation, histones and miRNA expression that then affect gene transcription . In this article we describe how changes in mammary gland morphology can predict mammary cancer risk in rats. Our protocol specifically describes how to dissect and remove the rat abdominal mammary gland and how to prepare mammary gland whole mounts. It also describes how to analyze mammary gland morphology according to three end-points (number of terminal end buds, epithelial elongation and differentiation) and to use the data to predict risk of developing mammary cancer.
Medicine, Issue 44, mammary gland morphology, terminal end buds, mammary cancer, maternal dietary exposures, pregnancy, prepubertal dietay exposures
Non-enzymatic, Serum-free Tissue Culture of Pre-invasive Breast Lesions for Spontaneous Generation of Mammospheres
Institutions: George Mason University, Virginia Surgery Associates.
Breast ductal carcinoma in situ
(DCIS), by definition, is proliferation of neoplastic epithelial cells within the confines of the breast duct, without breaching the collagenous basement membrane. While DCIS is a non-obligate precursor to invasive breast cancers, the molecular mechanisms and cell populations that permit progression to invasive cancer are not fully known. To determine if progenitor cells capable of invasion existed within the DCIS cell population, we developed a methodology for collecting and culturing sterile human breast tissue at the time of surgery, without enzymatic disruption of tissue.
Sterile breast tissue containing ductal segments is harvested from surgically excised breast tissue following routine pathological examination. Tissue containing DCIS is placed in nutrient rich, antibiotic-containing, serum free medium, and transported to the tissue culture laboratory. The breast tissue is further dissected to isolate the calcified areas. Multiple breast tissue pieces (organoids) are placed in a minimal volume of serum free medium in a flask with a removable lid and cultured in a humidified CO2
incubator. Epithelial and fibroblast cell populations emerge from the organoid after 10 - 14 days. Mammospheres spontaneously form on and around the epithelial cell monolayer. Specific cell populations can be harvested directly from the flask without disrupting neighboring cells. Our non-enzymatic tissue culture system reliably reveals cytogenetically abnormal, invasive progenitor cells from fresh human DCIS lesions.
Cancer Biology, Issue 93, Breast, ductal carcinoma in situ, epidermal growth factor, mammosphere, organoid, pre-invasive, primary cell culture, serum-free, spheroid
Tracking the Mammary Architectural Features and Detecting Breast Cancer with Magnetic Resonance Diffusion Tensor Imaging
Institutions: Weizmann Institute of Science, Weizmann Institute of Science, Meir Medical Center, Meir Medical Center.
Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer among women worldwide. Early detection of breast cancer has a critical role in improving the quality of life and survival of breast cancer patients. In this paper a new approach for the detection of breast cancer is described, based on tracking the mammary architectural elements using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI).
The paper focuses on the scanning protocols and image processing algorithms and software that were designed to fit the diffusion properties of the mammary fibroglandular tissue and its changes during malignant transformation. The final output yields pixel by pixel vector maps that track the architecture of the entire mammary ductal glandular trees and parametric maps of the diffusion tensor coefficients and anisotropy indices.
The efficiency of the method to detect breast cancer was tested by scanning women volunteers including 68 patients with breast cancer confirmed by histopathology findings. Regions with cancer cells exhibited a marked reduction in the diffusion coefficients and in the maximal anisotropy index as compared to the normal breast tissue, providing an intrinsic contrast for delineating the boundaries of malignant growth. Overall, the sensitivity of the DTI parameters to detect breast cancer was found to be high, particularly in dense breasts, and comparable to the current standard breast MRI method that requires injection of a contrast agent. Thus, this method offers a completely non-invasive, safe and sensitive tool for breast cancer detection.
Medicine, Issue 94, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, breast, breast cancer, diagnosis, water diffusion, diffusion tensor imaging
Porous Silicon Microparticles for Delivery of siRNA Therapeutics
Institutions: Houston Methodist Research Institute, Sun Yat-sen University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, National Center for Nanoscience & Technology of China, Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Cornell Medical College.
Small interfering RNA (siRNA) can be used to suppress gene expression, thereby providing a new avenue for the treatment of various diseases. However, the successful implementation of siRNA therapy requires the use of delivery platforms that can overcome the major challenges of siRNA delivery, such as enzymatic degradation, low intracellular uptake and lysosomal entrapment. Here, a protocol for the preparation and use of a biocompatible and effective siRNA delivery system is presented. This platform consists of polyethylenimine (PEI) and arginine (Arg)-grafted porous silicon microparticles, which can be loaded with siRNA by performing a simple mixing step. The silicon particles are gradually degraded over time, thereby triggering the formation of Arg-PEI/siRNA nanoparticles. This delivery vehicle provides a means for protecting and internalizing siRNA, without causing cytotoxicity. The major steps of polycation functionalization, particle characterization, and siRNA loading are outlined in detail. In addition, the procedures for determining particle uptake, cytotoxicity, and transfection efficacy are also described.
Bioengineering, Issue 95, Porous silicon, siRNA, Nanodelivery system, Cancer therapy, Transfection, Polycation functionalization
Fluorescence-quenching of a Liposomal-encapsulated Near-infrared Fluorophore as a Tool for In Vivo Optical Imaging
Institutions: Jena University Hospital, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Jena University Hospital.
Optical imaging offers a wide range of diagnostic modalities and has attracted a lot of interest as a tool for biomedical imaging. Despite the enormous number of imaging techniques currently available and the progress in instrumentation, there is still a need for highly sensitive probes that are suitable for in vivo
imaging. One typical problem of available preclinical fluorescent probes is their rapid clearance in vivo
, which reduces their imaging sensitivity. To circumvent rapid clearance, increase number of dye molecules at the target site, and thereby reduce background autofluorescence, encapsulation of the near-infrared fluorescent dye, DY-676-COOH in liposomes and verification of its potential for in vivo
imaging of inflammation was done. DY-676 is known for its ability to self-quench at high concentrations. We first determined the concentration suitable for self-quenching, and then encapsulated this quenching concentration into the aqueous interior of PEGylated liposomes. To substantiate the quenching and activation potential of the liposomes we use a harsh freezing method which leads to damage of liposomal membranes without affecting the encapsulated dye. The liposomes characterized by a high level of fluorescence quenching were termed Lip-Q. We show by experiments with different cell lines that uptake of Lip-Q is predominantly by phagocytosis which in turn enabled the characterization of its potential as a tool for in vivo
imaging of inflammation in mice models. Furthermore, we use a zymosan-induced edema model in mice to substantiate the potential of Lip-Q in optical imaging of inflammation in vivo
. Considering possible uptake due to inflammation-induced enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect, an always-on liposome formulation with low, non-quenched concentration of DY-676-COOH (termed Lip-dQ) and the free DY-676-COOH were compared with Lip-Q in animal trials.
Bioengineering, Issue 95, Drug-delivery, Liposomes, Fluorochromes, Fluorescence-quenching, Optical imaging, Inflammation
A Technical Perspective in Modern Tree-ring Research - How to Overcome Dendroecological and Wood Anatomical Challenges
Institutions: Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL.
Dendroecological research uses information stored in tree rings to understand how single trees and even entire forest ecosystems responded to environmental changes and to finally reconstruct such changes. This is done by analyzing growth variations back in time and correlating various plant-specific parameters to (for example) temperature records. Integrating wood anatomical parameters in these analyses would strengthen reconstructions, even down to intra-annual resolution. We therefore present a protocol on how to sample, prepare, and analyze wooden specimen for common macroscopic analyses, but also for subsequent microscopic analyses. Furthermore we introduce a potential solution for analyzing digital images generated from common small and large specimens to support time-series analyses. The protocol presents the basic steps as they currently can be used. Beyond this, there is an ongoing need for the improvement of existing techniques, and development of new techniques, to record and quantify past and ongoing environmental processes. Traditional wood anatomical research needs to be expanded to include ecological information to this field of research. This would support dendro-scientists who intend to analyze new parameters and develop new methodologies to understand the short and long term effects of specific environmental factors on the anatomy of woody plants.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 97, Cell parameters, dendroecology, image analysis, micro sectioning, microtomes, sample preparation, wood anatomy
Profiling of Estrogen-regulated MicroRNAs in Breast Cancer Cells
Institutions: University of Houston.
Estrogen plays vital roles in mammary gland development and breast cancer progression. It mediates its function by binding to and activating the estrogen receptors (ERs), ERα, and ERβ. ERα is frequently upregulated in breast cancer and drives the proliferation of breast cancer cells. The ERs function as transcription factors and regulate gene expression. Whereas ERα's regulation of protein-coding genes is well established, its regulation of noncoding microRNA (miRNA) is less explored. miRNAs play a major role in the post-transcriptional regulation of genes, inhibiting their translation or degrading their mRNA. miRNAs can function as oncogenes or tumor suppressors and are also promising biomarkers. Among the miRNA assays available, microarray and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) have been extensively used to detect and quantify miRNA levels. To identify miRNAs regulated by estrogen signaling in breast cancer, their expression in ERα-positive breast cancer cell lines were compared before and after estrogen-activation using both the µParaflo-microfluidic microarrays and Dual Labeled Probes-low density arrays. Results were validated using specific qPCR assays, applying both Cyanine dye-based and Dual Labeled Probes-based chemistry. Furthermore, a time-point assay was used to identify regulations over time. Advantages of the miRNA assay approach used in this study is that it enables a fast screening of mature miRNA regulations in numerous samples, even with limited sample amounts. The layout, including the specific conditions for cell culture and estrogen treatment, biological and technical replicates, and large-scale screening followed by in-depth confirmations using separate techniques, ensures a robust detection of miRNA regulations, and eliminates false positives and other artifacts. However, mutated or unknown miRNAs, or regulations at the primary and precursor transcript level, will not be detected. The method presented here represents a thorough investigation of estrogen-mediated miRNA regulation.
Medicine, Issue 84, breast cancer, microRNA, estrogen, estrogen receptor, microarray, qPCR
Adaptation of Semiautomated Circulating Tumor Cell (CTC) Assays for Clinical and Preclinical Research Applications
Institutions: London Health Sciences Centre, Western University, London Health Sciences Centre, Lawson Health Research Institute, Western University.
The majority of cancer-related deaths occur subsequent to the development of metastatic disease. This highly lethal disease stage is associated with the presence of circulating tumor cells (CTCs). These rare cells have been demonstrated to be of clinical significance in metastatic breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. The current gold standard in clinical CTC detection and enumeration is the FDA-cleared CellSearch system (CSS). This manuscript outlines the standard protocol utilized by this platform as well as two additional adapted protocols that describe the detailed process of user-defined marker optimization for protein characterization of patient CTCs and a comparable protocol for CTC capture in very low volumes of blood, using standard CSS reagents, for studying in vivo
preclinical mouse models of metastasis. In addition, differences in CTC quality between healthy donor blood spiked with cells from tissue culture versus patient blood samples are highlighted. Finally, several commonly discrepant items that can lead to CTC misclassification errors are outlined. Taken together, these protocols will provide a useful resource for users of this platform interested in preclinical and clinical research pertaining to metastasis and CTCs.
Medicine, Issue 84, Metastasis, circulating tumor cells (CTCs), CellSearch system, user defined marker characterization, in vivo, preclinical mouse model, clinical research
The Analysis of Purkinje Cell Dendritic Morphology in Organotypic Slice Cultures
Institutions: University of Basel.
Purkinje cells are an attractive model system for studying dendritic development, because they have an impressive dendritic tree which is strictly oriented in the sagittal plane and develops mostly in the postnatal period in small rodents 3
. Furthermore, several antibodies are available which selectively and intensively label Purkinje cells including all processes, with anti-Calbindin D28K being the most widely used. For viewing of dendrites in living cells, mice expressing EGFP selectively in Purkinje cells 11
are available through Jackson labs. Organotypic cerebellar slice cultures cells allow easy experimental manipulation of Purkinje cell dendritic development because most of the dendritic expansion of the Purkinje cell dendritic tree is actually taking place during the culture period 4
. We present here a short, reliable and easy protocol for viewing and analyzing the dendritic morphology of Purkinje cells grown in organotypic cerebellar slice cultures. For many purposes, a quantitative evaluation of the Purkinje cell dendritic tree is desirable. We focus here on two parameters, dendritic tree size and branch point numbers, which can be rapidly and easily determined from anti-calbindin stained cerebellar slice cultures. These two parameters yield a reliable and sensitive measure of changes of the Purkinje cell dendritic tree. Using the example of treatments with the protein kinase C (PKC) activator PMA and the metabotropic glutamate receptor 1 (mGluR1) we demonstrate how differences in the dendritic development are visualized and quantitatively assessed. The combination of the presence of an extensive dendritic tree, selective and intense immunostaining methods, organotypic slice cultures which cover the period of dendritic growth and a mouse model with Purkinje cell specific EGFP expression make Purkinje cells a powerful model system for revealing the mechanisms of dendritic development.
Neuroscience, Issue 61, dendritic development, dendritic branching, cerebellum, Purkinje cells
MAME Models for 4D Live-cell Imaging of Tumor: Microenvironment Interactions that Impact Malignant Progression
Institutions: Wayne State University , Wayne State University .
We have developed 3D coculture models, which we term MAME (m
rchitecture and m
ngineering), and used them for live-cell imaging in real-time of cell:cell interactions. Our overall goal was to develop models that recapitulate the architecture of preinvasive breast lesions to study their progression to an invasive phenotype. Specifically, we developed models to analyze interactions among pre-malignant breast epithelial cell variants and other cell types of the tumor microenvironment that have been implicated in enhancing or reducing the progression of preinvasive breast epithelial cells to invasive ductal carcinomas. Other cell types studied to date are myoepithelial cells, fibroblasts, macrophages and blood and lymphatic microvascular endothelial cells. In addition to the MAME models, which are designed to recapitulate the cellular interactions within the breast during cancer progression, we have developed comparable models for the progression of prostate cancers.
Here we illustrate the procedures for establishing the 3D cocultures along with the use of live-cell imaging and a functional proteolysis assay to follow the transition of cocultures of breast ductal carcinoma in situ
(DCIS) cells and fibroblasts to an invasive phenotype over time, in this case over twenty-three days in culture. The MAME cocultures consist of multiple layers. Fibroblasts are embedded in the bottom layer of type I collagen. On that is placed a layer of reconstituted basement membrane (rBM) on which DCIS cells are seeded. A final top layer of 2% rBM is included and replenished with every change of media. To image proteolysis associated with the progression to an invasive phenotype, we use dye-quenched (DQ) fluorescent matrix proteins (DQ-collagen I mixed with the layer of collagen I and DQ-collagen IV mixed with the middle layer of rBM) and observe live cultures using confocal microscopy. Optical sections are captured, processed and reconstructed in 3D with Volocity visualization software. Over the course of 23 days in MAME cocultures, the DCIS cells proliferate and coalesce into large invasive structures. Fibroblasts migrate and become incorporated into these invasive structures. Fluorescent proteolytic fragments of the collagens are found in association with the surface of DCIS structures, intracellularly, and also dispersed throughout the surrounding matrix. Drugs that target proteolytic, chemokine/cytokine and kinase pathways or modifications in the cellular composition of the cocultures can reduce the invasiveness, suggesting that MAME models can be used as preclinical screens for novel therapeutic approaches.
Medicine, Issue 60, Immunology, Breast, cancer, extracellular matrix, invasion, proteolysis, tumor microenvironment
The ITS2 Database
Institutions: University of Würzburg, University of Würzburg.
The internal transcribed spacer 2 (ITS2) has been used as a phylogenetic marker for more than two decades. As ITS2 research mainly focused on the very variable ITS2 sequence, it confined this marker to low-level phylogenetics only. However, the combination of the ITS2 sequence and its highly conserved secondary structure improves the phylogenetic resolution1
and allows phylogenetic inference at multiple taxonomic ranks, including species delimitation2-8
The ITS2 Database9
presents an exhaustive dataset of internal transcribed spacer 2 sequences from NCBI GenBank11
. Following an annotation by profile Hidden Markov Models (HMMs), the secondary structure of each sequence is predicted. First, it is tested whether a minimum energy based fold12
(direct fold) results in a correct, four helix conformation. If this is not the case, the structure is predicted by homology modeling13
. In homology modeling, an already known secondary structure is transferred to another ITS2 sequence, whose secondary structure was not able to fold correctly in a direct fold.
The ITS2 Database is not only a database for storage and retrieval of ITS2 sequence-structures. It also provides several tools to process your own ITS2 sequences, including annotation, structural prediction, motif detection and BLAST14
search on the combined sequence-structure information. Moreover, it integrates trimmed versions of 4SALE15,16
for multiple sequence-structure alignment calculation and Neighbor Joining18
tree reconstruction. Together they form a coherent analysis pipeline from an initial set of sequences to a phylogeny based on sequence and secondary structure.
In a nutshell, this workbench simplifies first phylogenetic analyses to only a few mouse-clicks, while additionally providing tools and data for comprehensive large-scale analyses.
Genetics, Issue 61, alignment, internal transcribed spacer 2, molecular systematics, secondary structure, ribosomal RNA, phylogenetic tree, homology modeling, phylogeny
Polymalic Acid-based Nano Biopolymers for Targeting of Multiple Tumor Markers: An Opportunity for Personalized Medicine?
Institutions: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Tumors with similar grade and morphology often respond differently to the same treatment because of variations in molecular profiling. To account for this diversity, personalized medicine is developed for silencing malignancy associated genes. Nano drugs fit these needs by targeting tumor and delivering antisense oligonucleotides for silencing of genes. As drugs for the treatment are often administered repeatedly, absence of toxicity and negligible immune response are desirable. In the example presented here, a nano medicine is synthesized from the biodegradable, non-toxic and non-immunogenic platform polymalic acid by controlled chemical ligation of antisense oligonucleotides and tumor targeting molecules. The synthesis and treatment is exemplified for human Her2-positive breast cancer using an experimental mouse model. The case can be translated towards synthesis and treatment of other tumors.
Chemistry, Issue 88, Cancer treatment, personalized medicine, polymalic acid, nanodrug, biopolymer, targeting, host compatibility, biodegradability
Intraductal Injection for Localized Drug Delivery to the Mouse Mammary Gland
Institutions: Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Herein we describe a protocol to deliver various reagents to the mouse mammary gland via intraductal injections. Localized drug delivery and knock-down of genes within the mammary epithelium has been difficult to achieve due to the lack of appropriate targeting molecules that are independent of developmental stages such as pregnancy and lactation. Herein, we describe a technique for localized delivery of reagents to the mammary gland at any stage in adulthood via intraductal injection into the nipples of mice. The injections can be performed on live mice, under anesthesia, and allow for a non-invasive and localized drug delivery to the mammary gland. Furthermore, the injections can be repeated over several months without damaging the nipple. Vital dyes such as Evans Blue are very helpful to learn the technique. Upon intraductal injection of the blue dye, the entire ductal tree becomes visible to the eye. Furthermore, fluorescently labeled reagents also allow for visualization and distribution within the mammary gland. This technique is adaptable for a variety of compounds including siRNA, chemotherapeutic agents, and small molecules.
Developmental Biology, Issue 80, Mammary Glands, Animal, Drug Administration Routes, intraductal injection, local drug delivery, siRNA
Oscillation and Reaction Board Techniques for Estimating Inertial Properties of a Below-knee Prosthesis
Institutions: University of Northern Colorado, Arizona State University, Iowa State University.
The purpose of this study was two-fold: 1) demonstrate a technique that can be used to directly estimate the inertial properties of a below-knee prosthesis, and 2) contrast the effects of the proposed technique and that of using intact limb inertial properties on joint kinetic estimates during walking in unilateral, transtibial amputees. An oscillation and reaction board system was validated and shown to be reliable when measuring inertial properties of known geometrical solids. When direct measurements of inertial properties of the prosthesis were used in inverse dynamics modeling of the lower extremity compared with inertial estimates based on an intact shank and foot, joint kinetics at the hip and knee were significantly lower during the swing phase of walking. Differences in joint kinetics during stance, however, were smaller than those observed during swing. Therefore, researchers focusing on the swing phase of walking should consider the impact of prosthesis inertia property estimates on study outcomes. For stance, either one of the two inertial models investigated in our study would likely lead to similar outcomes with an inverse dynamics assessment.
Bioengineering, Issue 87, prosthesis inertia, amputee locomotion, below-knee prosthesis, transtibial amputee
Initiation of Metastatic Breast Carcinoma by Targeting of the Ductal Epithelium with Adenovirus-Cre: A Novel Transgenic Mouse Model of Breast Cancer
Institutions: Wistar Institute, University of Pennsylvania, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania.
Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease involving complex cellular interactions between the developing tumor and immune system, eventually resulting in exponential tumor growth and metastasis to distal tissues and the collapse of anti-tumor immunity. Many useful animal models exist to study breast cancer, but none completely recapitulate the disease progression that occurs in humans. In order to gain a better understanding of the cellular interactions that result in the formation of latent metastasis and decreased survival, we have generated an inducible transgenic mouse model of YFP-expressing ductal carcinoma that develops after sexual maturity in immune-competent mice and is driven by consistent, endocrine-independent oncogene expression. Activation of YFP, ablation of p53, and expression of an oncogenic form of K-ras was achieved by the delivery of an adenovirus expressing Cre-recombinase into the mammary duct of sexually mature, virgin female mice. Tumors begin to appear 6 weeks after the initiation of oncogenic events. After tumors become apparent, they progress slowly for approximately two weeks before they begin to grow exponentially. After 7-8 weeks post-adenovirus injection, vasculature is observed connecting the tumor mass to distal lymph nodes, with eventual lymphovascular invasion of YFP+ tumor cells to the distal axillary lymph nodes. Infiltrating leukocyte populations are similar to those found in human breast carcinomas, including the presence of αβ and γδ T cells, macrophages and MDSCs. This unique model will facilitate the study of cellular and immunological mechanisms involved in latent metastasis and dormancy in addition to being useful for designing novel immunotherapeutic interventions to treat invasive breast cancer.
Medicine, Issue 85, Transgenic mice, breast cancer, metastasis, intraductal injection, latent mutations, adenovirus-Cre
A Venturi Effect Can Help Cure Our Trees
Institutions: Unversity of Padova.
In woody plants, xylem sap moves upwards through the vessels due to a decreasing gradient of water potential from the groundwater to the foliage. According to these factors and their dynamics, small amounts of sap-compatible liquids (i.e.
pesticides) can be injected into the xylem system, reaching their target from inside. This endotherapic method, called "trunk injection" or "trunk infusion" (depending on whether the user supplies an external pressure or not), confines the applied chemicals only within the target tree, thereby making it particularly useful in urban situations. The main factors limiting wider use of the traditional drilling methods are related to negative side effects of the holes that must be drilled around the trunk circumference in order to gain access to the xylem vessels beneath the bark.
The University of Padova (Italy) recently developed a manual, drill-free instrument with a small, perforated blade that enters the trunk by separating the woody fibers with minimal friction. Furthermore, the lenticular shaped blade reduces the vessels' cross section, increasing sap velocity and allowing the natural uptake of an external liquid up to the leaves, when transpiration rate is substantial. Ports partially close soon after the removal of the blade due to the natural elasticity and turgidity of the plant tissues, and the cambial activity completes the healing process in few weeks.
Environmental Sciences, Issue 80, Trunk injection, systemic injection, xylematic injection, endotherapy, sap flow, Bernoulli principle, plant diseases, pesticides, desiccants
Characterization of Complex Systems Using the Design of Experiments Approach: Transient Protein Expression in Tobacco as a Case Study
Institutions: RWTH Aachen University, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.
Plants provide multiple benefits for the production of biopharmaceuticals including low costs, scalability, and safety. Transient expression offers the additional advantage of short development and production times, but expression levels can vary significantly between batches thus giving rise to regulatory concerns in the context of good manufacturing practice. We used a design of experiments (DoE) approach to determine the impact of major factors such as regulatory elements in the expression construct, plant growth and development parameters, and the incubation conditions during expression, on the variability of expression between batches. We tested plants expressing a model anti-HIV monoclonal antibody (2G12) and a fluorescent marker protein (DsRed). We discuss the rationale for selecting certain properties of the model and identify its potential limitations. The general approach can easily be transferred to other problems because the principles of the model are broadly applicable: knowledge-based parameter selection, complexity reduction by splitting the initial problem into smaller modules, software-guided setup of optimal experiment combinations and step-wise design augmentation. Therefore, the methodology is not only useful for characterizing protein expression in plants but also for the investigation of other complex systems lacking a mechanistic description. The predictive equations describing the interconnectivity between parameters can be used to establish mechanistic models for other complex systems.
Bioengineering, Issue 83, design of experiments (DoE), transient protein expression, plant-derived biopharmaceuticals, promoter, 5'UTR, fluorescent reporter protein, model building, incubation conditions, monoclonal antibody
An Improved Method for Accurate and Rapid Measurement of Flight Performance in Drosophila
Institutions: University of Wisconsin-Madison.
has proven to be a useful model system for analysis of behavior, including flight. The initial flight tester involved dropping flies into an oil-coated graduated cylinder; landing height provided a measure of flight performance by assessing how far flies will fall before producing enough thrust to make contact with the wall of the cylinder. Here we describe an updated version of the flight tester with four major improvements. First, we added a "drop tube" to ensure that all flies enter the flight cylinder at a similar velocity between trials, eliminating variability between users. Second, we replaced the oil coating with removable plastic sheets coated in Tangle-Trap, an adhesive designed to capture live insects. Third, we use a longer cylinder to enable more accurate discrimination of flight ability. Fourth we use a digital camera and imaging software to automate the scoring of flight performance. These improvements allow for the rapid, quantitative assessment of flight behavior, useful for large datasets and large-scale genetic screens.
Behavior, Issue 84, Drosophila melanogaster, neuroscience, flight performance, slowpoke mutant flies, wild-type Canton-S flies
Contrast Imaging in Mouse Embryos Using High-frequency Ultrasound
Institutions: University of Toronto, Sunnybrook Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto.
Ultrasound contrast-enhanced imaging can convey essential quantitative information regarding tissue vascularity and perfusion and, in targeted applications, facilitate the detection and measure of vascular biomarkers at the molecular level. Within the mouse embryo, this noninvasive technique may be used to uncover basic mechanisms underlying vascular development in the early mouse circulatory system and in genetic models of cardiovascular disease. The mouse embryo also presents as an excellent model for studying the adhesion of microbubbles to angiogenic targets (including vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2) or αv
) and for assessing the quantitative nature of molecular ultrasound. We therefore developed a method to introduce ultrasound contrast agents into the vasculature of living, isolated embryos. This allows freedom in terms of injection control and positioning, reproducibility of the imaging plane without obstruction and motion, and simplified image analysis and quantification. Late gestational stage (embryonic day (E)16.6 and E17.5) murine embryos were isolated from the uterus, gently exteriorized from the yolk sac and microbubble contrast agents were injected into veins accessible on the chorionic surface of the placental disc. Nonlinear contrast ultrasound imaging was then employed to collect a number of basic perfusion parameters (peak enhancement, wash-in rate and time to peak) and quantify targeted microbubble binding in an endoglin mouse model. We show the successful circulation of microbubbles within living embryos and the utility of this approach in characterizing embryonic vasculature and microbubble behavior.
Developmental Biology, Issue 97, Micro-ultrasound, Molecular imaging, Mouse embryo, Microbubble, Ultrasound contrast agent, Perfusion