Molecular Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
0 Q&A 42 Views Jun 5, 2023

Polysome profiling is widely used to isolate and analyze polysome fractions, which consist of actively translating mRNAs and ribosomes. Compared to ribosome profiling and translating ribosome affinity purification, polysome profiling is simpler and less time consuming in sample preparation and library constructions. Spermiogenesis, i.e., the post-meiotic phase of male germ cell development, is a highly coordinated developmental process in which transcription and translation are decoupled because of nuclear condensation, resulting in translation regulation as the major mode for the regulation of gene expression in post-meiotic spermatids. To understand the translation regulation during spermiogenesis, an overview of translational state of spermiogenic mRNAs is required. Here, we describe a protocol to identify translating mRNAs using polysome profiling. Briefly, mouse testes are gently homogenized to release polysomes containing translating mRNAs, following polysome-bound mRNAs isolated by sucrose density gradient purification and characterized by RNA-seq. This protocol allows to quickly isolate translating mRNAs from testes and analyze the discrepancy of translational efficiency in mouse testes from different mouse lines.

Key features

• Quickly obtain polysome RNAs from testes.

• Omit RNase digestion and RNA recovery from gel.

• High efficiency and robustness compared to ribo-seq.

Graphical overview

Schematic illustrating the experimental design for polysome profiling in mouse testes. Mouse testes are homogenized and lysed in Sample preparation, and polysome RNAs are enriched by sucrose gradient centrifugation and used to calculate translation efficiency in Sample analysis.

0 Q&A 63 Views Jun 5, 2023

Cell populations and tissues exhibit unique gene expression profiles, which allow for characterizing and distinguishing cellular subtypes. Monitoring gene expression of cell type–specific markers can indicate cell status such as proliferation, stress, quiescence, or maturation. Quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (qRT-PCR) allows quantifying RNA expression of cell type–specific markers and distinguishing one cell type from another. However, qRT-PCR methods such as TaqMan technology require fluorescent reporters to characterize target genes and are challenging to scale up as they need different probes for each reaction. Bulk or single-cell RNA transcriptomics is time-consuming and expensive. Processing RNA sequencing data can take several weeks, which is not optimal for quality control and monitoring gene expression, e.g., during a differentiation paradigm of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into a specialized cell type.

A more cost-effective assay is based on SYBR Green technology. SYBR Green is a nucleic acid dye that binds to double-stranded DNA, absorbs blue light at 497 nm, and emits green light at 520 nm up to 1,000-fold upon intercalation with double-stranded DNA. Amplification of a region of interest can be quantified based on the level of fluorescence intensity when normalized to a housekeeping gene and compared to control conditions. Previously, we established a SYBR Green qRT-PCR protocol to characterize samples using a limited set of markers plated on a 96-well plate.

Here, we optimize the process and increase throughput to a 384-well format and compare mRNA expression to distinguish iPSC-derived neuronal subtypes from each other by increasing the number of genes, cell types, and differentiation time points. In this protocol, we develop the following: i) using the command-line version of Primer3 software, we design primers more easily and quickly for the gene of interest; ii) using a 384-well plate format, electronic multichannel pipettes, and pipetting robots, we analyze four times more genes on a single plate while using the same volume of reagents as in a 96-well plate. The advantages of this protocol are the increased throughput of this SYBR Green assay while limiting pipetting errors/inconsistencies, reagent use, cost, and time.

Graphical overview

Figure 1. Overall optimized SYBR Green qRT-PCR workflow. (A) Primers are designed through the command-line version of Primer3. The program takes a couple of files as arguments: 1) an input file containing a sequence of the region of interest and a target, and 2) settings file with custom settings and primer picking conditions. The results are saved to a text file, checked for secondary and tertiary structures, then synthesized. (B) Primers are then plated using either multichannel pipettes with a pipetting aid or an automated pipetting robot. Plates are left to dry at room temperature and can be stored for an indefinite time. (C) Meanwhile, RNA is extracted from cell samples, reverse-transcribed into cDNA, then plated onto pre-coated 384-well plates. SYBR Green qRT-PCR is run and analyzed with QuantStudio software and Microsoft Excel.
0 Q&A 130 Views Jun 5, 2023

Individual nucleotide resolution UV cross-linking and immunoprecipitation followed by high-throughput sequencing (iCLIP-seq) is a powerful technique that is used to identify RNA-binding proteins’ (RBP) binding sites on target RNAs and to characterize the molecular basis of posttranscriptional regulatory pathways. Several variants of CLIP have been developed to improve its efficiency and simplify the protocol [e.g., iCLIP2 and enhanced CLIP (eCLIP)]. We have recently reported that transcription factor SP1 functions in the regulation of alternative cleavage and polyadenylation through direct RNA binding. We utilized a modified iCLIP method to identify RNA-binding sites for SP1 and several of the cleavage and polyadenylation complex subunits, including CFIm25, CPSF7, CPSF100, CPSF2, and Fip1. Our revised protocol takes advantage of several features of the eCLIP procedure and also improves on certain steps of the original iCLIP method, including optimization of circularization of cDNA. Herein, we describe a step-by-step procedure for our revised iCLIP-seq protocol, that we designate as iCLIP-1.5, and provide alternative approaches for certain difficult-to-CLIP proteins.

Key features

• Identification of RNA-binding sites of RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) at nucleotide resolution.

• iCLIP-seq provides precise positional and quantitative information on the RNA-binding sites of RBPs in living cells.

• iCLIP facilitates the identification of sequence motifs recognized by RBPs.

• Allows quantitative analysis of genome-wide changes in protein-RNA interactions.

• Revised iCLIP-1.5 protocol is more efficient and highly robust; it provides higher coverage even for low-input samples.

Graphical overview

Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 389 Views May 20, 2023

Mitochondria play decisive roles in bioenergetics and intracellular communication. These organelles contain a circular mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) genome that is duplicated within one to two hours by a mitochondrial replisome, independently from the nuclear replisome. mtDNA stability is regulated in part at the level of mtDNA replication. Consequently, mutations in mitochondrial replisome components result in mtDNA instability and are associated with diverse disease phenotypes, including premature aging, aberrant cellular energetics, and developmental defects. The mechanisms ensuring mtDNA replication stability are not completely understood. Thus, there remains a need to develop tools to specifically and quantifiably examine mtDNA replication. To date, methods for labeling mtDNA have relied on prolonged exposures of 5′-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU) or 5′-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine (EdU). However, labeling with these nucleoside analogs for a sufficiently short time in order to monitor nascent mtDNA replication, such as under two hours, does not produce signals suited for efficient or accurate quantitative analysis. The assay system described here, termed Mitochondrial Replication Assay (MIRA), utilizes proximity ligation assay (PLA) combined with EdU-coupled Click-IT chemistry to address this limitation, thereby enabling sensitive and quantitative analysis of nascent in situ mtDNA replication with single-cell resolution. This method can be further paired with conventional immunofluorescence (IF) for multi-parameter cell analysis. By enabling monitoring nascent mtDNA prior to the complete replication of the entire mtDNA genome, this new assay system allowed the discovery of a new mitochondrial stability pathway, mtDNA fork protection. Moreover, a modification in primary antibodies application allows the adaptation of our previously described in situ protein Interactions with nascent DNA Replication Forks (SIRF) for the detection of proteins of interest to nascent mtDNA replication forks on a single molecule level (mitoSIRF).

Graphical overview

Schematic overview of Mitochondrial Replication Assay (MIRA). 5′-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine (EdU; green) incorporated in DNA is tagged with biotin (blue) using Click-IT chemistry. Subsequent proximity ligation assay (PLA, pink circles) using antibodies against biotin allows the fluorescent tagging of the nascent EdU and amplification of the signal sufficient for visualization by standard immunofluorescence. PLA signals outside the nucleus denote mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) signals. Ab, antibody. In in situ protein interactions with nascent DNA replication forks (mitoSIRF), one of the primary antibodies is directed against a protein of interest, while the other detects nascent biotinylated EdU, thus enabling in situ protein interactions with nascent mtDNA.

0 Q&A 211 Views May 20, 2023

Fast and accurate detection of pathogenic bacterial infection in patients with severe pneumonia is significant to its treatment. The traditional culture method currently used by most medical institutions relies on a time-consuming culture process (over two days) that is unable to meet clinical needs. Rapid, accurate, and convenient species-specific bacterial detector (SSBD) has been developed to provide timely information on pathogenic bacteria. The SSBD was designed based on the fact that Cas12a indiscriminately cleaves any DNA following the binding of the crRNA-Cas12a complex to the target DNA molecule. SSBD involves two processes, starting with PCR of the target DNA using primers specific for the pathogen, followed by detection of the existence of pathogen target DNA in the PCR product using the corresponding crRNA and Cas12a protein. Compared to the culture test, the SSBD can obtain accurate pathogenic information in only a few hours, dramatically shortening the detection time and allowing more patients to benefit from timely clinical treatment.

0 Q&A 263 Views May 20, 2023

Skeletal muscle consists of a mixture of fiber types with different functional and metabolic characteristics. The relative composition of these muscle fiber types has implications for muscle performance, whole-body metabolism, and health. However, analyses of muscle samples in a fiber type–dependent manner are very time consuming. Therefore, these are often neglected in favor of more time-efficient analyses on mixed muscle samples. Methods such as western blot and myosin heavy chain separation by SDS-PAGE have previously been utilized to fiber type–isolated muscle fibers. More recently, the introduction of the dot blot method significantly increased the speed of fiber typing. However, despite recent advancements, none of the current methodologies are feasible for large-scale investigations because of their time requirements. Here, we present the protocol for a new method, which we have named THRIFTY (high-THRoughput Immunofluorescence Fiber TYping), that enables rapid fiber type identification using antibodies towards the different myosin heavy chain (MyHC) isoforms of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers. First, a short segment (<1 mm) is cut off from isolated muscle fibers and mounted on a customized gridded microscope slide holding up to 200 fiber segments. Second, the fiber segments attached to the microscope slide are stained with MyHC-specific antibodies and then visualized using a fluorescence microscope. Lastly, the remaining pieces of the fibers can either be collected individually or pooled together with fibers of the same type for subsequent analyses. The THRIFTY protocol is approximately three times as fast as the dot blot method, which enables not only time-sensitive assays to be performed but also increases the feasibility to conduct large-scale investigations into fiber type specific physiology.

Graphical Overview

Graphical overview of the THRIFTY workflow. Cut off a small segment (0.5 mm) of an individually dissected muscle fiber and mount it onto the customized microscope slide containing a printed grid system. Using a Hamilton syringe, fixate the fiber segment by applying a small droplet of distilled water on the segment and let it fully dry (1A). The remaining large segment of the fiber should be placed in the corresponding square on a black A4 paper (1B). Once the microscope slide has been fully mounted with fiber segments, submerge the slide in a polypropylene slide mailer (illustrated as a Coplin jar in the figure) containing acetone to permeabilize the fiber segments. Thereafter, incubate the slide with primary antibodies targeting MyHC-I and MyHC-II. Following washes in PBS solution, incubate the slides with fluorescently labeled secondary antibodies, wash again, and mount with a cover glass and antifade reagent (2). Identification of fiber type can be performed using a digital fluorescence microscope (3), whereafter the remaining pieces of the fiber segments (large) are pooled together according to their fiber type or individually collected for experiments on single fibers (4). Image modified from Horwath et al. (2022).

0 Q&A 541 Views May 20, 2023

Cotton is a significant industrial crop, playing an essential role in the global economy that suffers several setbacks due to biotic and abiotic adversities. Despite such problems, biotechnological advances in cotton are limited because of genetic transformation and regeneration limitations. Here, we present a detailed protocol optimized based on previously published papers, along with our modifications. These involve changes in Agrobacterium concentration, co-cultivation time and temperature, hormones used for regeneration, media manipulation for embryogenic callus production, and efficient rescue of deformed embryos. Further, this protocol has been used in genetic studies on biotic and abiotic stress in cotton. This protocol assures a reproducible stable transgenic cotton development procedure via somatic embryogenesis that can be used by researchers worldwide.

0 Q&A 747 Views May 5, 2023

Western blotting is a universally used technique to identify specific proteins from a heterogeneous and complex mixture. However, there is no clear and common procedure to quantify the results obtained, resulting in variations due to the different software and protocols used in each laboratory. Here, we have developed a procedure based on the increase in chemiluminescent signal to obtain a representative value for each band to be quantified. Images were processed with ImageJ and subsequently compared using R software. The result is a linear regression model in which we use the slope of the signal increase within the combined linear range of detection to compare between samples. This approach allows to quantify and compare protein levels from different conditions in a simple and reproducible way.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 212 Views May 5, 2023

During infection, complement plays a critical role in inflammation, opsonisation, and destruction of microorganisms. This presents a challenge for pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus to overcome when invading the host. Our current knowledge on the mechanisms that evolved to counteract and disable this system is limited by the molecular tools available. Present techniques utilise labelled complement-specific antibodies to detect deposition upon the bacterial surface, a method not compatible with pathogens such as S. aureus, which are equipped with immunoglobulin-binding proteins, Protein A and Sbi. This protocol uses a novel antibody-independent probe, derived from the C3 binding domain of staphylococcal protein Sbi, in combination with flow cytometry, to quantify complement deposition. Sbi-IV is biotinylated, and deposition is quantified with fluorophore-labelled streptavidin. This novel method allows observation of wild-type cells without the need to disrupt key immune modulating proteins, presenting the opportunity to analyse the complement evasion mechanism used by clinical isolates. Here, we describe a step-by-step protocol for the expression and purification of Sbi-IV protein, quantification and biotinylation of the probe, and finally, optimisation of flow cytometry to detect complement deposition using normal human serum (NHS) and both Lactococcus lactis and S. aureus.

0 Q&A 307 Views Apr 20, 2023

The CRISPR/Cas9 system is a powerful tool for gene repair that holds great potential for gene therapy to cure monogenic diseases. Despite intensive improvement, the safety of this system remains a major clinical concern. In contrast to Cas9 nuclease, Cas9 nickases with a pair of short-distance (38–68 bp) PAM-out single-guide RNAs (sgRNAs) preserve gene repair efficiency while strongly reducing off-target effects. However, this approach still leads to efficient unwanted on-target mutations that may cause tumorigenesis or abnormal hematopoiesis. We establish a precise and safe spacer-nick gene repair approach that combines Cas9D10A nickase with a pair of PAM-out sgRNAs at a distance of 200–350 bp. In combination with adeno-associated virus (AAV) serotype 6 donor templates, this approach leads to efficient gene repair with minimal unintended on- and off-target mutations in human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs). Here, we provide detailed protocols to use the spacer-nick approach for gene repair and to assess the safety of this system in human HSPCs. The spacer-nick approach enables efficient gene correction for repair of disease-causing mutations with increased safety and suitability for gene therapy.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 312 Views Apr 5, 2023

Interleukin-22 (IL-22) has been demonstrated as a critical regulator of epithelial homeostasis and repair; it showed an anti-inflammatory effect against ulcerative colitis. Local microinjection of IL-22 cDNA vector has been shown to be effective in treating ulcerative colitis in mouse models. However, microinjection comes with multiple technical challenges for routine colon-targeted drug delivery. In contrast, oral administration can get around these challenges and provide comparable efficacy. We showed in previous studies that oral administration of new lipid nanoparticles (nLNP)-encapsulated IL-22 mRNA targets the colon region and efficiently ameliorates colitis. This protocol describes the details of preparing and characterizing the nLNP-encapsulated IL-22 mRNA using three major lipids that mimic the natural ginger-derived nanoparticles. It provides an nLNP platform that can be used to orally deliver other types of nucleic acids to the colon.

0 Q&A 198 Views Apr 5, 2023

Zebrafish is an excellent model to study vertebrate neurobiology, but its synaptic components that mediate and regulate fast electrical synaptic transmission are largely unidentified. Here, we describe methods to solubilize and immunoprecipitate adult zebrafish brain homogenate under conditions to preserve electrical synapse protein complexes. The methods presented are well-suited to probe electrical synapse immunocomplexes, and potentially other brain-derived immunocomplexes, for candidate interactors from zebrafish brain.

0 Q&A 783 Views Mar 20, 2023

E-cigarette (E-cig) inhalation affects health status by modulating inflammation profiles in several organs, including the brain, lung, heart, and colon. The effect of flavored fourth-generation pod-based E-cigs (JUUL) on murine gut inflammation is modulated by both flavor and exposure period. Exposure of mice to JUUL mango and JUUL mint for one month upregulated inflammatory cytokines, particularly TNF-α, IL-6, and Cxcl-1 (IL-8). JUUL Mango effects were more prominent than those incurred by JUUL Mint after one month of exposure. However, JUUL Mango reduced the expression of colonic inflammatory cytokines after three months of exposure. In this protocol, we detail the process of RNA isolation from the mouse colon and the use of extracted RNA in profiling the inflammatory milieu. Efficient RNA extraction from the murine colon is the most important step in the evaluation of inflammatory transcripts in the colon.

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