Cell Biology

Protocols in Current Issue
0 Q&A 128 Views Jan 20, 2023

Targeted protein degradation (TPD) facilitates the selective elimination of unwanted and pathological cellular cargoes via the proteasome or the lysosome, ranging from proteins to organelles and pathogens, both within and outside the cell. Currently, there are several in vitro and in vivo protocols that assess the degradative potency of a given degrader towards a myriad of targets, most notably soluble, monomeric oncoproteins. However, there is a clear deficiency of methodologies to assess the degradative potency of heterobifunctional chimeric degraders, especially those in the autophagy space, against pathological, mutant tau species, such as detergent-insoluble oligomers and high-molecular aggregates. The protocol below describes both in vitro and in vivo biochemical assays to induce tau aggregation, as well as to qualitatively and quantitatively measure the degradative potency of a given degrader towards said aggregates, with specific applications of the AUTOTAC (AUTOphagy-TArgeting Chimera) platform provided as an example. A well-defined set of methodologies to assess TPD-mediated degradation of pathological tau species will help expand the scope of the TPD technology to neurodegeneration and other proteinopathies, in both the lab and the clinic.

Graphical abstract

Overview of assays observing elimination of tauP301L aggregates with AUTOTAC. (A) Description of the biological working mechanism of heterobifunctional chimeric AUTOTAC degraders. (B) Schematic illustration of assays described in this paper.

0 Q&A 135 Views Jan 20, 2023

Primary hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC)-derived megakaryocytes are a valuable tool for translational research interrogating disease pathogenesis and developing new therapeutic avenues for patients with hematologic disorders including myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs). Thrombopoietin (TPO)-independent proliferation and megakaryocyte differentiation play a central role in the pathogenesis of essential thrombocythemia and myelofibrosis, two MPN subtypes that are characterized by increased numbers of bone marrow megakaryocytes and somatic mutations in either JAK2, CALR, or MPL. However, current culture strategies generally use healthy HSPCs for megakaryocyte production and are not optimized for the investigation of TPO-independent or TPO-hypersensitive growth and megakaryocyte-directed differentiation of primary patient–derived HSPCs. Here, we describe a detailed protocol covering all necessary steps for the isolation of CD34+ HSPCs from the peripheral blood of MPN patients and the subsequent TPO-independent differentiation into CD41+ megakaryocytes using both a collagen-based colony assay and a liquid culture assay. This protocol provides a novel, reproducible, and cost-effective approach for investigating megakaryocyte growth and differentiation properties from primary MPN patient cells that can be easily adapted for research on other megakaryocyte-related disorders.

Graphical abstract

Schematic representation of the isolation of CD34+ progenitor cells and subsequent TPO-independent megakaryocyte differentiation

0 Q&A 102 Views Jan 20, 2023

Lysosomes play a central role in signaling, nutrient sensing, response to stress, and the degradation and recycling of cellular content. Defects in lysosomal digestive enzymes or structural components can impair lysosomal function with dire consequences to the cell, such as neurodegeneration. A number of methods exist to assess lysosomal stress in the model Drosophila, such as specific driver and reporter strains, transmission electron microscopy, and the investigation of gene expression. These methods, however, can be time consuming and, in some cases, costly. The procedure described here provides a quick, reliable, and low-cost approach to measure lysosomal stress in the Drosophila brain. Using fluorescence confocal microscopy and the LysoTracker staining, this protocol allows for the direct measurement of lysosome size and number. This method can be used to assess lysosomal stress under a number of different genetic and environmental scenarios in the Drosophila brain.

0 Q&A 370 Views Jan 20, 2023

Combining two different plants together through grafting is one of the oldest horticultural techniques. In order to survive, both partners must communicate via the formation of de novo connections between the scion and the rootstock. Despite the importance of grafting, the ultrastructural processes occurring at the graft interface remain elusive due to the difficulty of locating the exact interface at the ultrastructural level. To date, only studies with interfamily grafts showing enough ultrastructural differences were able to reliably localize the grafting interface at the ultrastructural level under electron microscopy. Thanks to the implementation of correlative light electron microscopy (CLEM) approaches where the grafted partners were tagged with fluorescent proteins of different colors, the graft interface was successfully and reliably targeted. Here, we describe a protocol for CLEM for the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which unambiguously targets the graft interface at the ultrastructural level. Moreover, this protocol is compatible with immunolocalization and electron tomography acquisition to achieve a three-dimensional view of the ultrastructural events of interest in plant tissues.

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Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 218 Views Jan 5, 2023

Skeletal muscle, one of the most abundant tissue in the body, is a highly regenerative tissue. Indeed, compared to other tissues that are not able to regenerate after injury, skeletal muscle can fully regenerate upon mechanically, chemically, and infection-induced trauma. Several injury models have been developed to thoroughly investigate the physiological mechanisms regulating skeletal muscle regeneration. This protocol describes how to induce muscle regeneration by taking advantage of a cardiotoxin (CTX)-induced muscle injury model. The overall steps include CTX injection of tibialis anterior (TA) muscles of BL6N mice, collection of regenerating muscles at different time points after CTX injury, and histological characterization of regenerating muscles. Our protocol, compared with others such as those for freeze-induced injury models, avoids laceration or infections of the muscles since it involves neither surgery nor suture. In addition, our protocol is highly reproducible, since it causes homogenous myonecrosis of the whole muscle, and further reduces animal pain and stress.

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0 Q&A 214 Views Jan 5, 2023

Utilizingresources available from the mother's body to guarantee healthy offspring growth is the fundamental reproductive strategy. Recently, we showed that a class of the largest extracellular vesicles known as exophers, which are responsible for the removal of neurotoxic components from neurons (Melentijevic et al., 2017) and damaged mitochondria from cardiomyocytes (Nicolás-Ávila et al., 2020), are released by the Caenorhabditis elegans hermaphrodite body wall muscles (BWM), to support embryonic growth (Turek et al., 2021). Employing worms expressing fluorescent reporters in BWM cells, we found that exopher formation (exophergenesis) is sex-specific and fertility-dependent. Moreover, exophergenesis is regulated by the developing embryo in utero, and exophers serve as transporters for muscle-generated yolk proteins, which can be used to nourish the next generation. Given the specific regulation of muscular exophergenesis, and the fact that muscle-generated exophers are much larger than neuronal ones and have different targeting, their identification and quantification required a modified approach from that designed for neuronal-derived exophers (Arnold et al., 2020). Here, we present a methodology for assessing and quantifying muscle-derived exophers that can be easily extended to determine their function and regulation in various biological contexts.

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0 Q&A 339 Views Jan 5, 2023

Traditional drug safety assessments often fail to predict complications in humans, especially when the drug targets the immune system. Rodent-based preclinical animal models are often ill-suited for predicting immunotherapy-mediated adverse events in humans, in part because of the fundamental differences in immunological responses between species and the human relevant expression profile of the target antigen, if it is expected to be present in normal, healthy tissue. While human-relevant cell-based models of tissues and organs promise to bridge this gap, conventional in vitro two-dimensional models fail to provide the complexity required to model the biological mechanisms of immunotherapeutic effects. Also, like animal models, they fail to recapitulate physiologically relevant levels and patterns of organ-specific proteins, crucial for capturing pharmacology and safety liabilities. Organ-on-Chip models aim to overcome these limitations by combining micro-engineering with cultured primary human cells to recreate the complex multifactorial microenvironment and functions of native tissues and organs. In this protocol, we show the unprecedented capability of two human Organs-on-Chip models to evaluate the safety profile of T cell–bispecific antibodies (TCBs) targeting tumor antigens. These novel tools broaden the research options available for a mechanistic understanding of engineered therapeutic antibodies and for assessing safety in tissues susceptible to adverse events.

Graphical abstract

Figure 1. Graphical representation of the major steps in target-dependent T cell–bispecific antibodies engagement and immunomodulation, as performed in the Colon Intestine-Chip

0 Q&A 201 Views Jan 5, 2023

Molecular characterization of different cell types in rodent brains is a widely used and important approach in neuroscience. Fluorescent detection of transcripts using RNAscope (ACDBio) has quickly became a standard in situ hybridization (ISH) approach. Its sensitivity and specificity allow for the simultaneous detection of between three and forty-eight low abundance mRNAs in single cells (i.e., multiplexing or hiplexing), and, in contrast to other ISH techniques, it is performed in a shorter amount of time. Manual quantification of transcripts is a laborious and time-consuming task even for small portions of a larger tissue section. Herein, we present a protocol for creating high-quality images for quantification of RNAscope-labeled neurons in the rat brain. This protocol uses custom-made scripts within the open-source software QuPath to create an automated workflow for the careful optimization and validation of cell detection parameters. Moreover, we describe a method to derive mRNA signal thresholds using negative controls. This protocol and automated workflow may help scientists to reliably and reproducibly prepare and analyze rodent brain tissue for cell type characterization using RNAscope.

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0 Q&A 404 Views Dec 20, 2022

Mitochondria are cellular organelles essential for the function and survival of eukaryotic cells. Nearly all mitochondrial proteins are nuclear-encoded and require mitochondrial import upon their synthesis in the cytosol. Various approaches have been described to study mitochondrial protein import, such as monitoring the entry of radiolabeled proteins into purified mitochondria or quantifying newly synthesized proteins within mitochondria by proteomics. Here, we provide a detailed protocol for a commonly used and straightforward assay that quantitatively examines mitochondrial protein import by monitoring the co-localization of mitochondrially targeted enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) with the mitochondrial fluorescence dye MitoTracker TM Deep Red FM by live cell imaging. We describe the preparation and use of a stable mammalian cell line inducibly expressing a mitochondrial targeting sequence (MTS)-eGFP, followed by quantitative image analysis using an open-source ImageJ-based plugin. This inducible expression system avoids the need for transient transfection while enabling titration of MTS-eGFP expression and thereby avoiding protein folding stress. Overall, the assay provides a simple and robust approach to assess mitochondrial import capacity of cells in various disease-related settings.

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0 Q&A 535 Views Dec 20, 2022

Conjunctival disorders are multivariate degenerative ocular surface diseases that can jeopardize ocular function and impair visual capacity in severe cases. The recent development of stem cell technologies has shed a new light on the treatment of conjunctival disorders as the regenerative medicine using endogenous stem cells becomes a potential therapeutic strategy. However, the efficient in vitro expansion of the endogenous stem cells dominating the conjunctival regeneration, the conjunctival stem cells (CjSCs), remains challenging. Existing protocols largely adopted primary culture using feeder layers, which has limited efficiency and risk of contamination. Here, we report a protocol for the isolation and expansion of primary CjSCs derived from human or animal tissues. This protocol adopts collagenase-based enzymatic digestion to release the primary cells from conjunctival tissues and utilizes a feeder-free culture strategy based on a small molecule inhibitor cocktail that stimulates the expansion of CjSCs. The CjSCs generated with this method were rapidly dividing and highly homogeneous. They also expressed characteristic stem cell markers and exhibited differentiation potency. These findings marked an important step forward in building stable CjSCs in vitro expansion, which will help researchers better understand the biology of ocular surface stem cells and develop innovative regenerative medicine approaches for ocular surface diseases.

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0 Q&A 667 Views Dec 20, 2022

The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a non-cellular network of macromolecules, which provides cells and tissues with structural support and biomechanical feedback to regulate cellular function, tissue tension, and homeostasis. Even subtle changes to ECM abundance, architecture, and organization can affect downstream biological pathways, thereby influencing normal cell and tissue function and also driving disease conditions. For example, in cancer, the ECM is well known to provide both biophysical and biochemical cues that influence cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis, highlighting the need to better understand cell–ECM interactions in cancer and other ECM-enriched diseases. Initial cell-derived matrix (CDM) models were used as an in vitro system to mimic and assess the physiologically relevant three-dimensional (3D) cell–ECM interactions. Here, we describe an expansion to these initial CDM models generated by fibroblasts to assess the effect of genetic or pharmacological intervention on fibroblast-mediated matrix production and organization. Additionally, we highlight current methodologies to quantify changes in the ultrastructure and isotropy of the resulting ECM and also provide protocols for assessing cancer cell interaction with CDMs. Understanding the nature and influence of these complex and heterogeneous processes can offer insights into the biomechanical and biochemical mechanisms, which drive cancer development and metastasis, and how we can target them to improve cancer outcomes.

0 Q&A 186 Views Dec 20, 2022

Periodontal disease is a chronic multifactorial disease triggered by a complex of bacterial species. These interact with host tissues to cause the release of a broad array of pro-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and tissue remodelers, such as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which lead to the destruction of periodontal tissues. Patients with severe forms of periodontitis are left with a persistent pro-inflammatory transcriptional profile throughout the periodontium, even after clinical intervention, leading to the destruction of teeth-supporting tissues. The oral spirochete, Treponema denticola , is consistently found at significantly elevated levels at sites with advanced periodontal disease. Of all T. denticola virulence factors that have been described, its chymotrypsin-like protease complex, also called dentilisin, has demonstrated a multitude of cytopathic effects consistent with periodontal disease pathogenesis, including alterations in cellular adhesion activity, degradation of various endogenous extracellular matrix–substrates, degradation of host chemokines and cytokines, and ectopic activation of host MMPs. Thus, the following model of T. denticola –human periodontal ligament cell interactions may provide new knowledge about the mechanisms that drive the chronicity of periodontal disease at the protein, transcriptional, and epigenetic levels, which could afford new putative therapeutic targets.

0 Q&A 323 Views Dec 5, 2022

Graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) is a significant complication of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. In order to develop new therapeutic approaches, there is a need to recapitulate GvHD effects in pre-clinical, in vivo systems, such as mouse and humanized mouse models. In humanized mouse models of GvHD, mice are reconstituted with human immune cells, which become activated by xenogeneic (xeno) stimuli, causing a multi-system disorder known as xenoGvHD. Testing the ability of new therapies to prevent or delay the development of xenoGvHD is often used as pre-clinical, proof-of-concept data, creating the need for standardized methodology to induce, monitor, and report xenoGvHD. Here, we describe detailed methods for how to induce xenoGvHD by injecting human peripheral blood mononuclear cells into immunodeficient NOD SCID gamma mice. We provide comprehensive details on methods for human T cell preparation and injection, mouse monitoring, data collection, interpretation, and reporting. Additionally, we provide an example of the potential utility of the xenoGvHD model to assess the biological activity of a regulatory T-cell therapy. Use of this protocol will allow better standardization of this model and comparison of datasets across different studies.

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0 Q&A 480 Views Dec 5, 2022

Cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) is a formidable technique to observe the inner workings of vitrified cells at a nanometric resolution in near-native conditions and in three-dimensions. One consequent drawback of this technique is the sample thickness, for two reasons: i) achieving proper vitrification of the sample gets increasingly difficult with sample thickness, and ii) cryo-ET relies on transmission electron microscopy (TEM), requiring thin samples for proper electron transmittance (<500 nm). For samples exceeding this thickness limit, thinning methods can be used to render the sample amenable for cryo-ET. Cryo-focused ion beam (cryo-FIB) milling is one of them and despite having hugely benefitted the fields of animal cell biology, virology, microbiology, and even crystallography, plant cells are still virtually unexplored by cryo-ET, in particular because they are generally orders of magnitude bigger than bacteria, viruses, or animal cells (at least 10 μm thick) and difficult to process by cryo-FIB milling. Here, we detail a preparation method where abaxial epidermal onion cell wall peels are separated from the epidermal cells and subsequently plunge frozen, cryo-FIB milled, and screened by cryo-ET in order to acquire high resolution tomographic data for analyzing the organization of the cell wall.

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