Protocols in Current Issue
0 Q&A 158 Views Sep 20, 2023

Dietary saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are upregulated in the blood circulation following digestion. A variety of circulating lipid species have been implicated in metabolic and inflammatory diseases; however, due to the extreme variability in serum or plasma lipid concentrations found in human studies, established reference ranges are still lacking, in addition to lipid specificity and diagnostic biomarkers. Mass spectrometry is widely used for identification of lipid species in the plasma, and there are many differences in sample extraction methods within the literature. We used ultra-high performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) coupled to a high-resolution hybrid triple quadrupole-time-of-flight (QToF) mass spectrometry (MS) to compare relative peak abundance of specific lipid species within the following lipid classes: free fatty acids (FFAs), triglycerides (TAGs), phosphatidylcholines (PCs), and sphingolipids (SGs), in the plasma of mice fed a standard chow (SC; low in SFAs) or ketogenic diet (KD; high in SFAs) for two weeks. In this protocol, we used Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and R to visualize how individual mice clustered together according to their diet, and we found that KD-fed mice displayed unique blood profiles for many lipid species identified within each lipid class compared to SC-fed mice. We conclude that two weeks of KD feeding is sufficient to significantly alter circulating lipids, with PCs being the most altered lipid class, followed by SGs, TAGs, and FFAs, including palmitic acid (PA) and PA-saturated lipids. This protocol is needed to advance knowledge on the impact that SFA-enriched diets have on concentrations of specific lipids in the blood that are known to be associated with metabolic and inflammatory diseases.

Key features

• Analysis of relative plasma lipid concentrations from mice on different diets using R.

• Lipidomics data collected via ultra-high performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) coupled to a high-resolution hybrid triple quadrupole-time-of-flight (QToF) mass spectrometry (MS).

• Allows for a comprehensive comparison of diet-dependent plasma lipid profiles, including a variety of specific lipid species within several different lipid classes.

• Accumulation of certain free fatty acids, phosphatidylcholines, triglycerides, and sphingolipids are associated with metabolic and inflammatory diseases, and plasma concentrations may be clinically useful.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 83 Views Sep 20, 2023

Eukaryotic cells have different types of proteasomes that differ in size. The smallest proteolytically active particle is the 20S proteasome, which degrades damaged and oxidized proteins; the most common larger particle is the 26S proteasome, which degrades ubiquitylated proteins. The 26S proteasome is formed by a 20S particle capped with one or two regulatory particles, named 19S. While proteasome particles function in the cytoplasm, endoplasmic reticulum, and nucleus, our understanding of their abundance and activity in different cellular compartments is still limited. We provide a three-step protocol that first involves detergent-based fractionation of the cytoplasmic and nuclear compartments, maintaining the integrity and activity of proteasome complexes. Second, the protocol employs native gel separation of large multiprotein complexes in the fractions and a fluorescence-based in-gel quantitation of the activity and different proteasome particles. Finally, the protocol involves protein in-gel denaturation and transfer to a PVDF membrane. Western blotting then detects and quantifies the different proteasome particles. Therefore, the protocol allows for sensitive measurements of activity and abundance of individual proteasome particles from different cellular compartments. It has been optimized for motor neurons induced from mouse embryonic stem cells but can be applied to a variety of mammalian cell lines.

Key features

• Protocol for fractionation of active nuclear and cytoplasmic proteasome complexes.

• Native electrophoresis and fluorescence-based in-gel activity assay, which allows the visualization and quantification of active complexes within the acrylamide gel matrix.

• In-gel protein denaturation followed by transfer of complexes to PVDF membrane, which allows the analysis of complexes’ abundance using antibodies.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 61 Views Sep 20, 2023

Matriglycan is a linear polysaccharide of alternating xylose and glucuronic acid units [-Xyl-α1,3-GlcA-β1,3]n that is uniquely synthesized on α-dystroglycan (α-DG) and is essential for neuromuscular function and brain development. It binds several extracellular matrix proteins that contain laminin-globular domains and is a receptor for Old World arenaviruses such as Lassa Fever virus. Monoclonal antibodies such as IIH6 are commonly used to detect matriglycan on α-DG. However, endogenous expression levels are not sufficient to detect and analyze matriglycan by mass spectrometry approaches. Thus, there is a growing need to independently confirm the presence of matriglycan on α-DG and possibly other proteins. We used an enzymatic approach to detect matriglycan, which involved digesting it with two thermophilic exoglycosidases: β-Glucuronidase from Thermotoga maritima and α-xylosidase from Sulfolobus solfataricus. This allowed us to identify and categorize matriglycan on α-DG by studying post-digestion changes in the molecular weight of α-DG using SDS-PAGE followed by western blotting with anti-matriglycan antibodies, anti-core α-DG antibodies, and/or laminin binding assay. In some tissues, matriglycan is capped by a sulfate group, which renders it resistant to digestion by these dual exoglycosidases. Thus, this method can be used to determine the capping status of matriglycan. To date, matriglycan has only been identified on vertebrate α-DG. We anticipate that this method will facilitate the discovery of matriglycan on α-DG in other species and possibly on other proteins.

Key features

• Analysis of endogenous matriglycan on dystroglycan from any animal tissue.

• Matriglycan is digested using thermophilic enzymes, which require optimum thermophilic conditions.

• Western blotting is used to assay the success and extent of digestion.

• Freshly purified enzymes work best to digest matriglycan.

Graphical overview

α-Dystroglycan (α-DG) from muscle is shown here modified by a phosphorylated core M3 glycan, which extends further and terminates in a repeating disaccharide of xylose (Xyl) and glucuronic acid (GlcA) called matriglycan. β-glucuronidase (Bgus) and α-xylosidase (Xyls) hydrolyze the β-1,3-linked GlcA and α-1,3 linked-Xyl, starting from the terminal residues.

Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 171 Views Sep 5, 2023

Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) is a label-free optical technique to assess protein–protein interaction kinetics and affinities in a real-time setting. Traditionally, Biacore SPR employs a continuous film of gold to detect any change in the angle of re-emitted light when the refractive index of a ligand conjugated to the flat gold surface is altered by its interaction with a local analyte. In contrast, the Nicoya Lifesciences’ OpenSPR technology uses gold nanoparticles to detect small changes in the absorbance peak wavelength of a conjugated ligand after its engagement by an analyte. Specifically, when broadband white light is shone onto the gold nanoparticles, it produces a strong resonance absorbance peak corresponding to the refractive index of a ligand conjugated to the surface of gold nanoparticles. Upon its interaction with an analyte, however, the absorbance wavelength peak of the conjugated ligand will be changed and timely recorded as sensorgrams of dynamic ligand–analyte interactions. Thus, the improvement in the detection method (from traditional detection of changes in the angle of re-emitted light to the contemporary detection of changes in the wavelength of the absorbance peak) features OpenSPR as a cost-effective and user-friendly technique for in-depth characterization of protein–protein interactions. Here, we describe the detailed method that we used to characterize procathepsin L (pCTS-L) interactions with two putative pattern recognition receptors (TLR4 and RAGE) using the 1st generation of Nicoya Lifesciences’ OpenSPR instrument with a 1-channel detection.

Key features

• Nicoya OpenSPR is a benchtop small-size equipment that provides in-depth label-free binding kinetics and affinity measurement for protein–protein interactions in real-time fashion.

• This technology is relatively intuitive and user-friendly for scientists at any skill level.

• OpenSPR sensors employ nanotechnology to reduce the cost of manufacturing complex optical hardware and Sensor Chips, and similarly reduce the consumption of precious analyte samples.

• The manufacturer provides online training for OpenSPR (Catalog: TRAIN-REMOTE) and TraceDrawer (Catalog: TRAIN-TD) to customer scientists.

0 Q&A 255 Views Sep 5, 2023

Biomolecular condensates are membrane-less assemblies of proteins and nucleic acids formed through liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS). These assemblies are known to temporally and spatially regulate numerous biological activities and cellular processes in plants and animals. In vitro phase separation assay using recombinant proteins represents one of the standard ways to examine the properties of proteins undergoing LLPS. Here, we present a detailed protocol to investigate in vitro LLPS using in vitro expressed and purified recombinant proteins.

0 Q&A 175 Views Aug 20, 2023

Chloroplast NADP-dependent malate dehydrogenase (NADP-MDH) is a redox regulated enzyme playing an important role in plant redox homeostasis. Leaf NADP-MDH activation level is considered a proxy for the chloroplast redox status. NADP-MDH enzyme activity is commonly assayed spectrophotometrically by following oxaloacetate-dependent NADPH oxidation at 340 nm. We have developed a plate-adapted protocol to monitor NADP-MDH activity allowing faster data production and lower reagent consumption compared to the classic cuvette format of a spectrophotometer. We provide a detailed procedure to assay NADP-MDH activity and measure the enzyme activation state in purified protein preparations or in leaf extracts. This protocol is provided together with a semi-automatized data analysis procedure using an R script.

0 Q&A 452 Views Aug 20, 2023

This protocol describes a method for detecting and quantifying calcium ions in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and cytoplasm of cultured cells using fluorescent reporter proteins and ImageJ software. Genetically engineered fluorescent reporter proteins, such as G-CEPIA1er and GCaMP6f, localize to intracellular regions of interest (i.e., ER and cytoplasm) and emit green fluorescence upon binding to calcium ions. In this way, the fluorescence brightness of cells transfected with expression vectors for these reporters reflects the calcium ion concentration in each intracellular region. Here, we describe procedures for observing cultured cells expressing these fluorescent reporters under a fluorescence microscope, analyzing the obtained image using the free image analysis software ImageJ (, and determining the average fluorescence brightness of multiple cells present in the image. The current method allows us to quickly and easily quantify calcium ions on an image containing multiple cells and to determine whether there are relative differences in intracellular calcium ion concentration among experiments with different conditions.

Key features

• Detection and quantification of calcium ions in the ER and cytoplasm using fluorescent reporter proteins

• Quick and easy verification of measurement results using ImageJ

• Simultaneous comparison between various experimental conditions (drug treatment, mutants, etc.)

0 Q&A 385 Views Aug 20, 2023

Nitrate (NO3) is an essential element and nutrient for plants and animals. Despite extensive studies on the regulation of nitrate uptake and downstream responses in various cells, our knowledge of the distribution of nitrogen forms in different root cell types and their cellular compartments is still limited. Previous physiological models have relied on in vitro biochemistry and metabolite level analysis, which limits the ability to differentiate between cell types and compartments. Here, to address this, we report a nuclear-localized, genetically encoded fluorescent biosensor, which we named nlsNitraMeter3.0, for the quantitative visualization of nitrate concentration and distribution at the cellular level in Arabidopsis thaliana. This biosensor was specifically designed for nitrate measurements, not nitrite. Through genetic engineering to create and select sensors using yeast, Xenopus oocyte, and Arabidopsis expression systems, we developed a reversible and highly specific nitrate sensor. This method, combined with fluorescence imaging systems such as confocal microscopy, allows for the understanding and monitoring of nitrate transporter activity in plant root cells in a minimally invasive manner. Furthermore, this approach enables the functional analysis of nitrate transporters and the measurement of nitrate distribution in plants, providing a valuable tool for plant biology research. In summary, we provide a protocol for sensor development and a biosensor that can be used to monitor nitrate levels in plants.

Key features

• This protocol builds upon the concept of FRET biosensors for in vivo visualization of spatiotemporal nitrate levels at a cellular resolution.

• Nitrate levels can be quantified utilizing the biosensor in conjunction with either a plate reader or a fluorescence microscope.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 204 Views Aug 20, 2023

Pectin is a complex polysaccharide present in the plant cell wall, whose composition is constantly remodelled to adapt to environmental or developmental changes. Mutants with altered pectin composition have been reported to exhibit altered stress or pathogen resistance. Understanding the link between mutant phenotypes and their pectin composition requires robust analytical methods to detect changes in the relative monosaccharide composition. Here, we describe a quick and efficient gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS)-based method that allows the differential analysis of pectin monosaccharide composition in plants under different conditions or between mutant plants and their respective wild types. Pectin is extracted from seed mucilage or from the alcohol-insoluble residue prepared from leaves or other organs and is subsequently hydrolysed with trifluoracetic acid. The resulting acidic and neutral monosaccharides are then derivatised and measured simultaneously by GC–MS.

Key features

• Comparative analysis of monosaccharide content in Arabidopsis-derived pectin between different genotypes or different treatments.

• Procedures for two sources of pectin are shown: seed coat mucilage and alcohol-insoluble residue.

• Allows quick analyses of neutral and acidic monosaccharides simultaneously.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 406 Views Aug 5, 2023

Integral membrane proteins are an important class of cellular proteins. These take part in key cellular processes such as signaling transducing receptors to transporters, many operating within the plasma membrane. More than half of the FDA-approved protein-targeting drugs operate via interaction with proteins that contain at least one membrane-spanning region, yet the characterization and study of their native interactions with therapeutic agents remains a significant challenge. This challenge is due in part to such proteins often being present in small quantities within a cell. Effective solubilization of membrane proteins is also problematic, with the detergents typically employed in solubilizing membranes leading to a loss of functional activity and key interacting partners. In recent years, alternative methods to extract membrane proteins within their native lipid environment have been investigated, with the aim of producing functional nanodiscs, maintaining protein–protein and protein–lipid interactions. A promising approach involves extracting membrane proteins in the form of styrene maleic acid lipid particles (SMALPs) that allow the retention of their native conformation. This extraction method offers many advantages for further protein analysis and allows the study of the protein interactions with other molecules, such as drugs. Here, we describe a protocol for efficient SMALP extraction of functionally active membrane protein complexes within nanodiscs. We showcase the method on the isolation of a low copy number plasma membrane receptor complex, the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR), from adult Drosophila melanogaster heads. We demonstrate that these nanodiscs can be used to study native receptor–ligand interactions. This protocol can be applied across many biological scenarios to extract the native conformations of low copy number integral membrane proteins.

0 Q&A 286 Views Aug 5, 2023

The chloroplast lumen contains at least 80 proteins whose function and regulation are not yet fully understood. Isolating the chloroplast lumen enables the characterization of the lumenal proteins. The lumen can be isolated in several ways through thylakoid disruption using a Yeda press or sonication, or through thylakoid solubilization using a detergent. Here, we present a simple procedure to isolate thylakoid lumen by sonication using leaves of the plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The step-by-step procedure is as follows: thylakoids are isolated from chloroplasts, loosely associated thylakoid surface proteins from the stroma are removed, and the lumen fraction is collected in the supernatant following sonication and centrifugation. Compared to other procedures, this method is easy to implement and saves time, plant material, and cost. Lumenal proteins are obtained in high quantity and purity; however, some stromal membrane–associated proteins are released to the lumen fraction, so this method could be further adapted if needed by decreasing sonication power and/or time.

0 Q&A 431 Views Aug 5, 2023

Blockade of the programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1)/PD-ligand 1 (PD-L1) axis is a promising strategy for cancer immunotherapy. Although antibody-based PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors have shown remarkable results in clinical cancer studies, their inherent limitations underscore the significance of developing novel PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors. Small molecule inhibitors have several advantages over antibody-based inhibitors, including favorable tumor penetration and oral bioavailability, fewer side effects, easier administration, preferred biological half-life, and lower cost. However, small molecule inhibitors that directly target the PD-1/PD-L1 interaction are still in the early development stage, partially due to the lack of reliable biophysical assays. Herein, we present a novel PD-1/PD-L1 blockade assay using a surface plasmon resonance (SPR)-based technique. This blockade assay immobilizes human PD-1 on a sensor chip, which interacts with PD-L1 inhibitors or negative PD-L1 binders with human PD-L1 protein at a range of molecular ratios. The binding kinetics of PD-L1 to PD-1 and the blockade rates of small molecules were determined. Compared to other techniques such as PD-1/PD-L1 pair enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and AlphaLISA immunoassays, our SPR-based method offers real-time and label-free detection with advantages including shorter experimental runs and smaller sample quantity requirements.

Key features

• A SPR protocol screens compounds for their capacity to block the PD-1/PD-L1 interaction.

• Validation of PD-1/PD-L1 interaction, followed by assessing blockade effects with known inhibitors BMS-1166 and BMS-202, and a negative control NO-Losartan A.

• Analysis of percentage blockade of PD-1/PD-L1 of the samples to obtain the IC50.

• Broad applications in the discovery of small molecule–based PD-1/PD-L1 inhibitors for cancer immunotherapy.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 309 Views Jul 20, 2023

Microtubule structure is commonly investigated using single-particle analysis (SPA) or subtomogram averaging (STA), whose main objectives are to gather high-resolution information on the αβ-tubulin heterodimer and on its interactions with neighboring molecules within the microtubule lattice. The maps derived from SPA approaches usually delineate a continuous organization of the αβ-tubulin heterodimer that alternate regularly head-to-tail along protofilaments, and that share homotypic lateral interactions between monomers (α-α, β-β), except at one unique region called the seam, made of heterotypic ones (α-β, β-α). However, this textbook description of the microtubule lattice has been challenged over the years by several studies that revealed the presence of multi-seams in microtubules assembled in vitro from purified tubulin. To analyze in deeper detail their intrinsic structural heterogeneity, we have developed a segmented subtomogram averaging (SSTA) strategy on microtubules decorated with kinesin motor-domains that bind every αβ-tubulin heterodimer. Individual protofilaments and microtubule centers are modeled, and sub-volumes are extracted at every kinesin motor domain position to obtain full subtomogram averages of the microtubules. The model is divided into shorter segments, and subtomogram averages of each segment are calculated using the main parameters of the full-length microtubule settings as a template. This approach reveals changes in the number and location of seams within individual microtubules assembled in vitro from purified tubulin and in Xenopus egg cytoplasmic extracts.

Key features

• This protocol builds upon the method developed by J.M. Heumann to perform subtomogram averages of microtubules and extends it to divide them into shorter segments.

• Microtubules are decorated with kinesin motor-domains to determine the underlying organization of its constituent αβ-tubulin heterodimers.

• The SSTA approach allows analysis of the structural heterogeneity of individual microtubules and reveals multi-seams and changes in their number and location within their shaft.

Graphical overview

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