Molecular Biology


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Protocols in Current Issue
0 Q&A 52 Views Apr 20, 2024

The field of oligonucleotide therapeutics is rapidly advancing, particularly for combating orphan diseases and cancer. However, the intrinsic instability of oligonucleotides, especially RNA, poses a substantial challenge in the face of the harsh conditions encountered intracellularly and in circulation. Therefore, evaluating the stability of oligos in serum is of great significance when developing oligonucleotide therapeutics. This protocol outlines a dependable and reproducible method for preparing oligonucleotide duplexes, coupled with confirmation by gel electrophoresis. Subsequently, the protocol defines a mechanism to assess the stability of the oligo duplexes in serum. This protocol seeks to establish a standardized reference for researchers, enabling them to compare the impact of various modifications on oligo stability and assess the degradation kinetics effectively.

0 Q&A 39 Views Apr 20, 2024

DNA methylation is a key epigenetic mechanism underlying many biological processes, and its aberrant regulation has been tightly associated with various human diseases. Precise manipulation of DNA methylation holds the promise to advance our understanding of this critical mechanism and to develop novel therapeutic methods. Previously, we were only able to alter genome-wide DNA methylation by treating with small molecules (e.g., 5-Aza-2-deoxycytidine) or perturbing relevant genes (e.g., DNA methyltransferase) targetlessly, which makes it challenging to investigate the functional significance of this epigenetic mark at specific genomic loci. By fusing the catalytic domain of a key enzyme in the DNA demethylation process (Ten-eleven translocation dioxygenases 1, Tet1) with a reprogrammable sequence-specific DNA-targeting molecular protein, dCas9, we developed a DNA methylation editing tool (dCas9-Tet1) to demethylate specific genomic loci in a targeted manner. This dCas9-Tet1 system allows us to study the role of DNA methylation at almost any given loci with only the replacement of a single-guide RNA. Here, we describe a protocol that enables modular and scalable manipulation of DNA methylation at specific genomic loci in various cell cultures with high efficiency and specificity using the dCas9-Tet1 system.

0 Q&A 39 Views Apr 20, 2024

Precision-cut lung slices (PCLS), ex vivo 3D lung tissue models, have been widely used for various applications in lung research. PCLS serve as an excellent intermediary between in vitro and in vivo models because they retain all resident cell types within their natural niche while preserving the extracellular matrix environment. This protocol describes the TReATS (TAT-Cre recombinase-mediated floxed allele modification in tissue slices) method that enables rapid and efficient gene modification in PCLS derived from adult floxed animals. Here, we present detailed protocols for the TReATS method, consisting of two simple steps: PCLS generation and incubation in a TAT-Cre recombinase solution. Subsequent validation of gene modification involves live staining and imaging of PCLS, quantitative real-time PCR, and cell viability assessment. This four-day protocol eliminates the need for complex Cre-breeding, circumvents issues with premature lethality related to gene mutation, and significantly reduces the use of animals. The TReATS method offers a simple and reproducible solution for gene modification in complex ex vivo tissue-based models, accelerating the study of gene function, disease mechanisms, and the discovery of drug targets.

Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 418 Views Apr 5, 2024

The assessment of peptide–protein interactions is a pivotal aspect of studying the functionality and mechanisms of various bioactive peptides. In this context, it is essential to employ methods that meet specific criteria, including sensitivity, biocompatibility, versatility, simplicity, and the ability to offer real-time monitoring. In cellular contexts, only a few proteins naturally possess inherent fluorescence, specifically those containing aromatic amino acids, particularly tryptophan. Nonetheless, by covalently attaching fluorescent markers, almost all proteins can be modified for monitoring purposes. Among the early extrinsic fluorescent probes designed for this task, dansyl chloride (DNSC) is a notable option due to its versatile nature and reliable performance. DNSC has been the primary choice as a fluorogenic derivatizing reagent for analyzing amino acids in proteins and peptides for an extended period of time. In our work, we have effectively utilized the distinctive properties of dansylated-calmodulin (D-CaM) for monitoring the interaction dynamics between proteins and peptides, particularly in the context of their association with calmodulin (CaM), a calcium-dependent regulatory protein. This technique not only enables us to scrutinize the affinity of diverse ligands but also sheds light on the intricate role played by calcium in these interactions.


Key features

• Dynamic fluorescence and real-time monitoring: dansyl-modified CaM enables sensitive, real-time fluorescence, providing valuable insights into the dynamics of molecular interactions and ligand binding.

• Selective interaction and stable fluorescent adducts: DNSC selectively interacts with primary amino groups, ensuring specific detection and forming stable fluorescent sulfonamide adducts.

• Versatility in research and ease of identification: D-CaM is a versatile tool in biological research, facilitating identification, precise quantification, and drug assessment for therapeutic development.

• Sensitivity to surrounding alterations: D-CaM exhibits sensitivity to its surroundings, particularly ligand-induced changes, offering subtle insights into molecular interactions and environmental influences.


Graphical overview



Fluorescence emission profiles of dansylated-calmodulin (D-CaM) in different states. Fluorescence emission spectra of D-CaM upon excitation at 320 nm are depicted. Conditions include apo-D-CaM (gray), holo-D-CaM (red), apo-D-CaM bound to peptide (blue), and holo-D-CaM bound to peptide (purple). Corresponding structural representations of D-CaM next to each condition are superimposed on the respective spectra along with the hydrophobicity of the dansyl environment, which increases upon binding of peptide or Ca2+ to D-CaM. Upon peptide binding to D-CaM, there is an enhancement in the fluorescent intensity of the spectra; upon Ca2+ binding, there is an enhancement of the intensity and a leftward shift of the spectra.

0 Q&A 320 Views Apr 5, 2024

Camelina sativa, a Brassicaceae family crop, is used for fodder, human food, and biofuels. Its relatively high resistance to abiotic and biotic stresses, as well as being a climate-resilient oilseed crop, has contributed to its popularity. Camelina's seed yield and oil contents have been improved using various technologies like RNAi and CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing. A stable transformation system for protein localization and other cell autonomous investigations, on the other hand, is tedious and time consuming. This study describes a transient gene expression protocol for Camelina sativa cultivar DH55 leaves using Agrobacterium strain C58C1. The method is suitable for subcellular protein localization and colocalization studies and can be used with both constitutive and chemically induced genes. We report the subcellular localization of the N-terminal ER membrane signal anchor region (1–32 aa) of the At3G28580 gene-encoded protein from Arabidopsis in intact leaves and the expression and localization of other known organelle markers. This method offers a fast and convenient way to study proteins in the commercially important Camelina crop system.


Key features

• This method is based on the approach of Zhang et al. [1] and has been optimized for bioenergy crop Camelina species.

• A constitutive and inducible transient gene expression in the hexaploid species Camelina sativa cultivar DH55.

• Requires only 16–18 days to complete with high efficacy.


Graphical overview




Agrobacterium-mediated transient gene expression optimized for Camelina sativa

0 Q&A 327 Views Mar 20, 2024

Erwinia persicina is a gram-negative bacterium that causes diseases in plants. Recently, E. persicina BST187 was shown to exhibit broad-spectrum antibacterial activity due to its inhibitory effects on bacterial acetyl-CoA carboxylase, demonstrating promising potential as a biological control agent. However, the lack of suitable genetic manipulation techniques limits its exploitation and industrial application. Here, we developed an efficient transformation system for E. persicina. Using pET28a as the starting vector, the expression cassette of the red fluorescent protein–encoding gene with the strong promoter J23119 was constructed and transformed into BST187 competent cells to verify the overexpression system. Moreover, suicide plasmid–mediated genome editing systems was developed, and lacZ was knocked out of BST187 genome by parental conjugation transfer using the recombinant suicide vector pKNOCK-sacB-km-lacZ. Therefore, both the transformation and suicide plasmid–mediated genome editing system will greatly facilitate genetic manipulations in E. persicina and promote its development and application.


Key features

• Our studies establish a genetic manipulation system for Erwinia persicina, providing a versatile tool for studying the gene function of non-model microorganisms.

• Requires approximately 6–10 days to complete modification of a chromosome locus.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 284 Views Mar 20, 2024

Understanding protein–protein interactions is crucial for unravelling subcellular protein distribution, contributing to our understanding of cellular organisation. Moreover, interaction studies can reveal insights into the mechanisms that cover protein trafficking within cells. Although various techniques such as Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), co-immunoprecipitation, and fluorescence microscopy are commonly employed to detect protein interactions, their limitations have led to more advanced techniques such as the in situ proximity ligation assay (PLA) for spatial co-localisation analysis. The PLA technique, specifically employed in fixed cells and tissues, utilises species-specific secondary PLA probes linked to DNA oligonucleotides. When proteins are within 40 nm of each other, the DNA oligonucleotides on the probes interact, facilitating circular DNA formation through ligation. Rolling-circle amplification then produces DNA circles linked to the PLA probe. Fluorescently labelled oligonucleotides hybridise to the circles, generating detectable signals for precise co-localisation analysis. We employed PLA to examine the co-localisation of dynein with the Kv7.4 channel protein in isolated vascular smooth muscle cells from rat mesenteric arteries. This method enabled us to investigate whether Kv7.4 channels interact with dynein, thereby providing evidence of their retrograde transport by the microtubule network. Our findings illustrate that PLA is a valuable tool for studying potential novel protein interactions with dynein, and the quantifiable approach offers insights into whether these interactions are changed in disease.

0 Q&A 397 Views Mar 5, 2024

Diatoms serve as a source for a variety of compounds with particularbiotechnological interest. Therefore, redirecting the flow to a specific pathwayrequires the elucidation of the gene’s specific function. The mostcommonly used method in diatoms is biolistic transformation, which is a veryexpensive and time-consuming method. The use of episomes that are maintained asclosed circles at a copy number equivalent to native chromosomes has become auseful genetic system for protein expression that avoids multiple insertions,position-specific effects on expression, and potential knockout of non-targetedgenes. These episomes can be introduced from bacteria into diatoms viaconjugation. Here, we describe a detailed protocol for gene expression thatincludes 1) the gateway cloning strategy and 2) the conjugation protocol for themobilization of plasmids from bacteria to diatoms.

0 Q&A 1185 Views Feb 20, 2024

Signaling pathways are involved in key cellular functions from embryonic development to pathological conditions, with a pivotal role in tissue homeostasis and transformation. Although most signaling pathways have been intensively examined, most studies have been carried out in murine models or simple cell culture. We describe the dissection of the TGF-β signaling pathway in human tissue using CRISPR-Cas9 genetically engineered human keratinocytes (N/TERT-1) in a 3D organotypic skin model combined with quantitative proteomics and phosphoproteomics mass spectrometry. The use of human 3D organotypic cultures and genetic engineering combined with quantitative proteomics and phosphoproteomics is a powerful tool providing insight into signaling pathways in a human setting. The methods are applicable to other gene targets and 3D cell and tissue models.


Key features

• 3D organotypic models with genetically engineered human cells.

• In-depth quantitative proteomics and phosphoproteomics in 2D cell culture.

• Careful handling of cell cultures is critical for the successful formation of theorganotypic cultures.

• For complete details on the use of this protocol, please refer to Ye et al. 2022.

1 Q&A 786 Views Feb 5, 2024

As the most energy- and metabolite-consuming process, protein synthesis is under the control of several intrinsic and extrinsic factors that determine its fine-tuning to the cellular microenvironment. Consequently, variations in protein synthesis rates occur under various physiological and pathological conditions, enabling an adaptive response by the ce•ll. For example, global protein synthesis increases upon mitogenic factors to support biomass generation and cell proliferation, while exposure to low concentrations of oxygen or nutrients require translational repression and reprogramming to avoid energy depletion and cell death. To assess fluctuations in protein synthesis rates, radioactive isotopes or radiolabeled amino acids are often used. Although highly sensitive, these techniques involve the use of potentially toxic radioactive compounds and require specific materials and processes for the use and disposal of these molecules. The development of alternative, non-radioactive methods that can be easily and safely implemented in laboratories has therefore been encouraged to avoid handling radioactivity. In this context, the SUrface SEnsing of Translation (SUnSET) method, based on the classical western blot technique, was developed by Schmidt et al. in 2009. The SUnSET is nowadays recognized as a simple alternative to radioactive methods assessing protein synthesis rates.


Key features

• As a structural analogue of aminoacyl-transfer RNA, puromycin incorporates into the elongating peptide chain.

• Detection of puromycin-labeled peptides by western blotting reflects translation rates without the need for radioactive isotopes.

• The protocol described here for in vitro applications is derived from the SUnSET method originally published by Schmidt et al. (2009).

0 Q&A 824 Views Jan 20, 2024

The auxin-inducible degron (AID) system is a versatile tool in cell biology and genetics, enabling conditional protein regulation through auxin-induced degradation. Integrating CRISPR/Cas9 with AID expedites tagging and depletion of a required protein in human and mouse cells. The mechanism of AID involves interactions between receptors like TIR1 and the AID tag fused to the target protein. The presence of auxin triggers protein ubiquitination, leading to proteasome-mediated degradation. We have used AID to explore the mitotic functions of the replication licensing protein CDT1. Swift CDT1 degradation via AID upon auxin addition achieves precise mitotic inhibition, revealing defects in mitotic spindle structure and chromosome misalignment. Using live imaging, we found that mitosis-specific degradation of CDT1 delayed progression and chromosome mis-segregation. AID-mediated CDT1 inhibition surpasses siRNA-based methods, offering a robust approach to probe CDT1’s mitotic roles. The advantages of AID include targeted degradation and temporal control, facilitating rapid induction and reversal of degradation—contrasting siRNA’s delayed RNA degradation and protein turnover. In summary, the AID technique enhances precision, control, and efficiency in studying protein function and regulation across diverse cellular contexts. In this article, we provide a step-by-step methodology for generating an efficient AID-tagging system, keeping in mind the important considerations that need to be adopted to use it for investigating or characterizing protein function in a temporally controlled manner.


Key features

• The auxin-inducible degron (AID) system serves as a versatile tool, enabling conditional protein regulation through auxin-induced degradation in cell biology and genetics.

• Integration of CRISPR/Cas9 knock-in technology with AID expedites the tagging and depletion of essential proteins in mammalian cells.

• AID’s application extends to exploring the mitotic functions of the replication licensing protein CDT1, achieving precise mitotic inhibition and revealing spindle defects and chromosome misalignment.

• The AID system and its diverse applications advance the understanding of protein function and cellular processes, contributing to the study of protein regulation and function.


Graphical overview



Cdt1–auxin-inducible degron (AID) tagging workflow. (A) Schematic of the cloned Cdt1 gRNA vector and the repair template generated to endogenously tag the Cdt1 genomic locus with YFP and AID at the C-terminal using CRISPR/CAS9-based genome editing. The two plasmids are transfected into DLD1-TIR1 stable cells, followed by sorting and scaling up of YFP-positive single cells. (B) The molecular mechanism of auxin-induced proteasome-mediated degradation of the target protein (CDT1) shown at the bottom of the figure is well worked out.

0 Q&A 485 Views Jan 5, 2024

Fusarium oxysporum can cause many important plant diseases worldwide, such as crown rot, wilt, and root rot. During the development of strawberry crown rot, this pathogenic fungus spreads from the mother plant to the strawberry seedling through the stolon, with obvious characteristics of latent infection. Therefore, the rapid and timely detection of F. oxysporum can significantly help achieve effective disease management. Here, we present a protocol for the recombinase polymerase amplification– lateral flow dipstick (RPA–LFD) detection technique for the rapid detection of F. oxysporum on strawberry, which only takes half an hour. A significant advantage of our RPA–LFD technique is the elimination of the involvement of professional teams and laboratories, which qualifies it for field detection. We test this protocol directly on plant samples with suspected infection by F. oxysporum in the field and greenhouse. It is worth noting that this protocol can quickly, sensitively, and specifically detect F. oxysporum in soils and plants including strawberry.


Key features

• This protocol is used to detect whether plants such as strawberry are infected with F. oxysporum.

• This protocol has potential for application in portable nucleic acid detection.

• It can complete the detection of samples in the field within 30 min.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 736 Views Dec 20, 2023

Many organisms alternate the expression of genes from large gene sets or gene families to adapt to environmental cues or immune pressure. The single-celled protozoan pathogen Trypanosoma brucei spp. periodically changes its homogeneous surface coat of variant surface glycoproteins (VSGs) to evade host antibodies during infection. This pathogen expresses one out of ~2,500 VSG genes at a time from telomeric expression sites (ESs) and periodically changes their expression by transcriptional switching or recombination. Attempts to track VSG switching have previously relied on genetic modifications of ES sequences with drug-selectable markers or genes encoding fluorescent proteins. However, genetic modifications of the ESs can interfere with the binding of proteins that control VSG transcription and/or recombination, thus affecting VSG expression and switching. Other approaches include Illumina sequencing of the VSG repertoire, which shows VSGs expressed in the population rather than cell switching; the Illumina short reads often limit the distinction of the large set of VSG genes. Here, we describe a methodology to study antigenic switching without modifications of the ES sequences. Our protocol enables the detection of VSG switching at nucleotide resolution using multiplexed clonal cell barcoding to track cells and nanopore sequencing to identify cell-specific VSG expression. We also developed a computational pipeline that takes DNA sequences and outputs VSGs expressed by cell clones. This protocol can be adapted to study clonal cell expression of large gene families in prokaryotes or eukaryotes.


Key features

• This protocol enables the analysis of variant surface glycoproteins (VSG) switching in T. brucei without modifying the expression site sequences.

• It uses a streamlined computational pipeline that takes fastq DNA sequences and outputs expressed VSG genes by each parasite clone.

• The protocol leverages the long reads sequencing capacity of the Oxford nanopore sequencing technology, which enables accurate identification of the expressed VSGs.

• The protocol requires approximately eight to nine days to complete.


Graphical overview





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