Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 3225 Views Apr 20, 2024

The advent of single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) has enabled in-depth gene expression analysis of several thousand cells isolated from tissues. We recently reported the application of scRNAseq toward the dissection of the tumor-infiltrating T-cell repertoire in human pancreatic cancer samples. In this study, we demonstrated that combined whole transcriptome and T-cell receptor (TCR) sequencing provides an effective way to identify tumor-reactive TCR clonotypes on the basis of gene expression signatures. An important aspect in this respect was the experimental validation of TCR-mediated anti-tumor reactivity by means of an in vitro functional assay, which is the subject of the present protocol. This assay involves the transient transfection of mRNA gene constructs encoding TCRα/β pairs into a well-defined human T-cell line, followed by co-cultivation with the tumor cells of interest and detection of T-cell activation by flow cytometry. Due to the high transfectability and the low background reactivity of the mock-transfected T-cell line to a wide variety of tumor cells, this assay offers a highly robust and versatile platform for the functional screening of large numbers of TCR clonotypes as identified in scRNAseq data sets. Whereas the assay was initially developed to test TCRs of human origin, it was more recently also applied successfully for the screening of TCRs of murine origin.

0 Q&A 1201 Views Mar 20, 2024

Stem cell–based therapies have evolved to become a key component of regenerative medicine approaches to human pathologies. Exogenous stem cell transplantation takes advantage of the potential of stem cells to self-renew, differentiate, home to sites of injury, and sufficiently evade the immune system to remain viable for the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors. Common to many pathologies is the exacerbation of inflammation at the injury site by proinflammatory macrophages. An increasing body of evidence has demonstrated that mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) can influence the immunophenotype and function of myeloid lineage cells to promote therapeutic effects. Understanding the degree to which MSCs can modulate the phenotype of macrophages within an inflammatory environment is of interest when considering strategies for targeted cell therapies. There is a critical need for potency assays to elucidate these intercellular interactions in vitro and provide insight into potential mechanisms of action attributable to the immunomodulatory and polarizing capacities of MSCs, as well as other cells with immunomodulatory potential. However, the complexity of the responses, in terms of cell phenotypes and characteristics, timing of these interactions, and the degree to which cell contact is involved, have made the study of these interactions challenging. To provide a research tool to study the direct interactions between MSCs and macrophages, we developed a potency assay that directly co-cultures MSCs with naïve macrophages under proinflammatory conditions. Using this assay, we demonstrated changes in the macrophage secretome and phenotype, which can be used to evaluate the abilities of the cell samples to influence the cell microenvironment. These results suggest the immunomodulatory effects of MSCs on macrophages while revealing key cytokines and phenotypic changes that may inform their efficacy as potential cellular therapies.

Key features

• The protocol uses monocytes differentiated into naïve macrophages, which are loosely adherent, have a relatively homogeneous genetic background, and resemble peripheral blood mononuclear cells–derived macrophages.

• The protocol requires a plate reader and a flow cytometer with the ability to detect six fluorophores.

• The protocol provides a quantitative measurement of co-culture conditions by the addition of a fixed number of freshly thawed or culture-rescued MSCs to macrophages.

• This protocol uses assessment of the secretome and cell harvest to independently verify the nature of the interactions between macrophages and MSCs.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 1645 Views Mar 20, 2024

CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing is a widely used tool for creating genetic knock-ins, which allow for endogenous tagging of genes. This is in contrast with random insertion using viral vectors, where expression of the inserted transgene changes the total copy number of a gene in a cell and does not reflect the endogenous chromatin environment or any trans-acting regulation experienced at a locus. There are very few protocols for endogenous fluorescent tagging in macrophages. Here, we describe a protocol to design and test CRISPR guide RNAs and donor plasmids, to transfect them into RAW 264.7 mouse macrophage-like cells using the Neon transfection system and to grow up clonal populations of cells containing the endogenous knock-in at various loci. We have used this protocol to create endogenous fluorescent knock-ins in at least six loci, including both endogenously tagging genes and inserting transgenes in the Rosa26 and Tigre safe harbor loci. This protocol uses circular plasmid DNA as the donor template and delivers the sgRNA and Cas9 as an all-in-one expression plasmid. We designed this protocol for fluorescent protein knock-ins; it is best used when positive clones can be identified by fluorescence. However, it may be possible to adapt the protocol for non-fluorescent knock-ins. This protocol allows for the fairly straightforward creation of clonal populations of macrophages with tags at the endogenous loci of genes. We also describe how to set up imaging experiments in 24-well plates to track fluorescence in the edited cells over time.

Key features

• CRISPR knock-in of fluorescent proteins in RAW 264.7 mouse macrophages at diverse genomic loci.

• This protocol is optimized for the use of the Neon transfection system.

• Includes instructions for growing up edited clonal populations from single cells with one single-cell sorting step and efficient growth in conditioned media after cell sorting.

• Designed for knocking in fluorescent proteins and screening transfected cells byFACS, but modification for non-fluorescent knock-ins may be possible.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 580 Views Feb 20, 2024

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is characterized by an aberrant immune response against microbiota. It is well established that T cells play a critical role in mediating the pathology. Assessing the contribution of each subset of T cells in mediating the pathology is crucial in order to design better therapeutic strategies. This protocol presents a method to identify the specific effector T-cell population responsible for intestinal immunopathologies in bone marrow–engrafted mouse models. Here, we used anti-CD4 and anti-CD8β depleting antibodies in bone marrow–engrafted mouse models to identify the effector T-cell population responsible for intestinal damage in a genetic mouse model of chronic intestinal inflammation..

Key features

• This protocol allows addressing the role of CD4+ or CD8αβ+ in an engrafted model of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

• This protocol can easily be adapted to address the role of other immune cells or molecules that may play a role in IBD.

0 Q&A 1196 Views Feb 20, 2024

Biomaterials are designed to interact with biological systems to replace, support, enhance, or monitor their function. However, there are challenges associated with traditional biomaterials’ development due to the lack of underlying theory governing cell response to materials’ chemistry. This leads to the time-consuming process of testing different materials plus the adverse reactions in the body such as cytotoxicity and foreign body response. High-throughput screening (HTS) offers a solution to these challenges by enabling rapid and simultaneous testing of a large number of materials to determine their bio-interactions and biocompatibility. Secreted proteins regulate many physiological functions and determine the success of implanted biomaterials through directing cell behaviour. However, the majority of biomaterials’ HTS platforms are suitable for microscopic analyses of cell behaviour and not for investigating non-adherent cells or measuring cell secretions. Here, we describe a multi-well platform adaptable to robotic printing of polymers and suitable for secretome profiling of both adherent and non-adherent cells. We detail the platform's development steps, encompassing the preparation of individual cell culture chambers, polymer printing, and the culture environment, as well as examples to demonstrate surface chemical characterisation and biological assessments of secreted mediators. Such platforms will no doubt facilitate the discovery of novel biomaterials and broaden their scope by adapting wider arrays of cell types and incorporating assessments of both secretome and cell-bound interactions.

Key features

• Detailed protocols for preparation of substrate for contact printing of acrylate-based polymers including O2 plasma etching, functionalisation process, and Poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) (pHEMA) dip coating.

• Preparations of 7 mm × 7 mm polymers employing pin printing system.

• Provision of confined area for each polymer using ProPlate® multi-well chambers.

• Compatibility of this platform was validated using adherent cells [primary human monocyte–derived macrophages (MDMs)) and non-adherent cells (primary human monocyte–derived dendritic cells (moDCs)].

• Examples of the adaptability of the platform for secretome analysis including five different cytokines using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA, DuoSet®).

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 506 Views Feb 5, 2024

Macrophages are at the center of innate immunity and iron metabolism. In the case of an infection, macrophages adapt their cellular iron metabolism to deprive iron from invading bacteria to combat intracellular bacterial proliferation. A concise evaluation of the cellular iron content upon an infection with bacterial pathogens and diverse cellular stimuli is necessary to identify underlying mechanisms concerning iron homeostasis in macrophages. For the characterization of cellular iron levels during infection, we established an in vitro infection model where the murine macrophage cell line J774A.1 is infected with Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium (, the mouse counterpart to S. enterica serovar Typhi, under normal and iron-overload conditions using ferric chloride (FeCl3) treatment. To evaluate the effect of infection and iron stimulation on cellular iron levels, the macrophages are stained with FerroOrange. This fluorescent probe specifically detects Fe2+ ions and its fluorescence can be quantified photometrically in a plate reader. Importantly, FerroOrange fluorescence does not increase with chelated iron or other bivalent metal ions. In this protocol, we present a simple and reliable method to quantify cellular Fe2+ levels in cultured macrophages by applying a highly specific fluorescence probe (FerroOrange) in a TECAN Spark microplate reader. Compared to already established techniques, our protocol allows assessing cellular iron levels in innate immune cells without the use of radioactive iron isotopes or extensive sample preparation, exposing the cells to stress.

Key features

• Easy quantification of Fe2+ in cultured macrophages with a fluorescent probe.

• Analysis of iron in living cells without the need for fixation.

• Performed on a plate reader capable of 540 nm excitation and 585 nm emission by trained employees for handling biosafety level 2 bacteria.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 423 Views Jan 5, 2024

γδ T cells play a critical role in homeostasis and diseases such as infectious diseases and tumors in both mice and humans. They can be categorized into two main functional subsets: IFN-γ-producing γδT1 cells and IL-17-producing γδT17 cells. While CD27 expression segregates these two subsets in mice, little is known about human γδT17 cell differentiation and expansion. Previous studies have identified γδT17 cells in human skin and mucosal tissues, including the oral cavity and colon. However, human γδ T cells from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) primarily produce IFN-γ. In this protocol, we describe a method for in vitro expansion and polarization of human γδT17 cells from PBMCs.

Key Features

• Expansion of γδ T cells from peripheral blood mononuclear cells.

• Human IL-17A-producing γδ T-cell differentiation and expansion using IL-7 and anti-γδTCR.

• Analysis of IL-17A production post γδ T-cell expansion.

0 Q&A 1768 Views Dec 20, 2023

Clearance of dying cells, named efferocytosis, is a pivotal function of professional phagocytes that impedes the accumulation of cell debris. Efferocytosis can be experimentally assessed by differentially tagging the target cells and professional phagocytes and analyzing by cell imaging or flow cytometry. Here, we describe an assay to evaluate the uptake of apoptotic cells (ACs) by human macrophages in vitro by labeling the different cells with commercially available dyes and analysis by flow cytometry. We detail the methods to prepare and label human macrophages and apoptotic lymphocytes and the in vitro approach to determine AC uptake. This protocol is based on previously published literature and allows for in vitro modeling of the efficiency of AC engulfment during continual efferocytosis process. Also, it can be modified to evaluate the clearance of different cell types by diverse professional phagocytes.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 915 Views Dec 20, 2023

Advanced immunoassays are crucial in assessing antibody responses, serving immune surveillance goals, characterising immunological responses to evolving viral variants, and guiding subsequent vaccination initiatives. This protocol outlines an indirect ELISA protocol to detect and quantify virus-specific antibodies in plasma or serum after exposure to viral antigens. The assay enables the measurement of IgG, IgA, and IgM antibodies specific to the virus of interest, providing qualitative and quantitative optical densities and concentration data. Although this protocol refers to SARS-CoV-2, its methodology is versatile and can be modified to assess antibody responses for various viral infections and to evaluate vaccine trial outcomes.

Key features

• This protocol builds upon previously described methodology [1] explicitly tailored for SARS-CoV-2 and broadens its applicability to other viral infections.

• The protocol outlines establishing antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 infections by determining optical densities and concentrations from blood plasma or serum.

Graphical overview

Summary of the conventional ELISA (A) vs. sensitive ELISA (B) procedures. In both A and B, wells are coated with a capture antigen, such as the spike protein, while in (C) they are coated with human Kappa and Lambda capture antibodies. For the conventional ELISA (A), wells with immobilised capture antigens receive serum/plasma containing the target antibody (A1 and B1). This is followed by an HRP-conjugated detection antibody specific to the captured antibody (A2 and B2) and then a substrate solution that reacts with the HRP, producing a colour proportional to the concentration of the antibody in the serum/plasma (A3 and B3). The reaction is halted, and absorbance is measured. In the sensitive ELISA (B), after the serum/plasma addition (A1 and B1), a Biotin-conjugated primary detection antibody is introduced (A2 and B2). Depending on the target antibody, a secondary streptavidin-HRP conjugated detection antibody is added for IgG or IgM (3a) or a poly-HRP 40 detection antibody for IgA (3b). A substrate is introduced, producing a colour change proportional to the antibody concentration (A4 and B4). The reaction is then stopped, and absorbance is measured. In Panel C, wells are coated with human Kappa and Lambda capture antibodies. Serial dilutions of a known antibody standard are introduced. After undergoing the standard ELISA steps, a detection antibody is added, specifically binding to the Ig standard antibody. Subsequently, a substrate solution causes a colour change proportional to the antibody concentration in the serum/plasma. The reaction is halted, and the absorbance of each well is measured. The resulting optical densities from the coated wells form the standard curve, plotting the absorbance against concentrations.

0 Q&A 383 Views Dec 5, 2023

The innate immune system can remember previous inflammatory insults, enabling long-term heightened responsiveness to secondary immune challenges in a process termed “trained immunity.” Trained innate immune cells undergo metabolic and epigenetic remodelling and, upon a secondary challenge, provide enhanced protection with therapeutic potential. Trained immunity has largely been studied in innate immune cells in vitro or following ex vivo re-stimulation where the primary insult is typically injected into a mouse, adult zebrafish, or human. While highly informative, there is an opportunity to investigate trained immunity entirely in vivo within an unperturbed, intact whole organism. The exclusively innate immune response of larval zebrafish offers an attractive system to model trained immunity. Larval zebrafish have a functional innate immune system by 2 days post fertilisation (dpf) and are amenable to high-resolution, high-throughput analysis. This, combined with their optical transparency, conserved antibacterial responses, and availability of transgenic reporter lines, makes them an attractive alternative model to study trained immunity in vivo. We have devised a protocol where β-glucan (one of the most widely used experimental triggers of trained immunity) is systemically delivered into larval zebrafish using microinjection to stimulate a trained-like phenotype. Following stimulation, larvae are assessed for changes in gene expression, which indicate the stimulatory effect of β-glucan. This protocol describes a robust delivery method of one of the gold standard stimulators of trained immunity into a model organism that is highly amenable to several non-invasive downstream analyses.

Key features

• This protocol outlines the delivery of one of the most common experimental stimulators of trained immunity into larval zebrafish.

• The protocol enables the assessment of a trained-like phenotype in vivo.

• This protocol can be applied to transgenic or mutant zebrafish lines to investigate cells or genes of interest in response to β-glucan stimulation.

Graphical overview

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