Cell Biology


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Protocols in Current Issue
0 Q&A 353 Views May 20, 2023

Live imaging is commonly used to study dynamic processes in cells. Many labs carrying out live imaging in neurons use kymographs as a tool. Kymographs display time-dependent microscope data (time-lapsed images) in two-dimensional representations showing position vs. time. Extraction of quantitative data from kymographs, often done manually, is time-consuming and not standardized across labs. We describe here our recent methodology for quantitatively analyzing single color kymographs. We discuss the challenges and solutions of reliably extracting quantifiable data from single-channel kymographs. When acquiring in two fluorescent channels, the challenge becomes analyzing two objects that may co-traffic together. One must carefully examine the kymographs from both channels and decide which tracks are the same or try to identify the coincident tracks from an overlay of the two channels. This process is laborious and time consuming. The difficulty in finding an available tool for such analysis has led us to create a program to do so, called KymoMerge. KymoMerge semi-automates the process of identifying co-located tracks in multi-channel kymographs and produces a co-localized output kymograph that can be analyzed further. We describe our analysis, caveats, and challenges of two-color imaging using KymoMerge.

0 Q&A 242 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 220 Views May 20, 2023

Here, we present an in vivo drug screening protocol using a zebrafish model of metastasis for the identification of anti-metastatic drugs. A tamoxifen-controllable Twist1a-ERT2 transgenic zebrafish line was established to serve as a platform for the identification. By crossing Twist1a-ERT2 with xmrk (a homolog of hyperactive form of the epidermal growth factor receptor) transgenic zebrafish, which develop hepatocellular carcinoma, approximately 80% of the double transgenic zebrafish show spontaneous cell dissemination of mCherry-labeled hepatocytes from the liver to the entire abdomen and tail regions in five days, through induction of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT). This rapid and high-frequency induction of cell dissemination makes it possible to perform an in vivo drug screen for the identification of anti-metastatic drugs targeting metastatic dissemination of cancer cells. The protocol evaluates the suppressor effect of a test drug on metastasis in five days, by comparing the frequencies of the fish showing abdominal and distant dissemination patterns in the test drug–treated group with those in the vehicle-treated group. Our study previously identified that adrenosterone, an inhibitor for hydroxysteroid (11-beta) dehydrogenase 1 (HSD11β1), has a suppressor effect on cell dissemination in the model. Furthermore, we validated that a pharmacologic and genetic inhibition of HSD11β1 suppressed metastatic dissemination of highly metastatic human cell lines in a zebrafish xenotransplantation model. Taken together, this protocol opens new routes for the identification of anti-metastatic drugs.


Graphical overview




Timing

Day 0: Zebrafish spawning

Day 8: Primary tumor induction

Day 11: Chemical treatment

Day 11.5: Metastatic dissemination induction in the presence of a test chemical

Day 16: Data analysis

Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 381 Views May 5, 2023

Management of neuropathic pain is notoriously difficult; current analgesics, including anti-inflammatory- and opioid-based medications, are generally ineffective and can pose serious side effects. There is a need to uncover non-addictive and safe analgesics to combat neuropathic pain. Here, we describe the setup of a phenotypic screen whereby the expression of an algesic gene, Gch1, is targeted. GCH1 is the rate-limiting enzyme in the de novo synthesis of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), a metabolite linked to neuropathic pain in both animal models and in human chronic pain sufferers. Gch1 is induced in sensory neurons after nerve injury and its upregulation is responsible for increased BH4 levels. GCH1 protein has proven to be a difficult enzyme to pharmacologically target with small molecule inhibition. Thus, by establishing a platform to monitor and target induced Gch1 expression in individual injured dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons in vitro, we can screen for compounds that regulate its expression levels. This approach also allows us to gain valuable biological insights into the pathways and signals regulating GCH1 and BH4 levels upon nerve injury. This protocol is compatible with any transgenic reporter system in which the expression of an algesic gene (or multiple genes) can be monitored fluorescently. Such an approach can be scaled up for high-throughput compound screening and is amenable to transgenic mice as well as human stem cell–derived sensory neurons.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 168 Views May 5, 2023

Sleep is a conserved biological process in the animal kingdom. Understanding the neural mechanisms underlying sleep state transitions is a fundamental goal of neurobiology, important for the development of new treatments for insomnia and other sleep-related disorders. Yet, brain circuits controlling this process remain poorly understood. A key technique in sleep research is to monitor in vivo neuronal activity in sleep-related brain regions across different sleep states. These sleep-related regions are usually located deeply in the brain. Here, we describe technical details and protocols for in vivo calcium imaging in the brainstem of sleeping mice. In this system, sleep-related neuronal activity in the ventrolateral medulla (VLM) is measured using simultaneous microendoscopic calcium imaging and electroencephalogram (EEG) recording. By aligning calcium and EEG signals, we demonstrate that VLM glutamatergic neurons display increased activity during the transition from wakefulness to non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. The protocol described here can be applied to study neuronal activity in other deep brain regions involved in REM or NREM sleep.

0 Q&A 170 Views May 5, 2023

X-ray computed microtomography (µCT) is a powerful tool to reveal the 3D structure of tissues and organs. Compared with the traditional sectioning, staining, and microscopy image acquisition, it allows a better understanding of the morphology and a precise morphometric analysis. Here, we describe a method for 3D visualization and morphometric analysis by µCT scanning of the embryonic heart of iodine-stained E15.5 mouse embryos.

0 Q&A 286 Views May 5, 2023

Visualization of cell structure with fluorescent dye for characterizing cell size, shape, and arrangement is a common method to study tissue morphology and morphogenesis. In order to observe shoot apical meristem (SAM) in Arabidopsis thaliana by laser scanning confocal microscopy, we modified the pseudo-Schiff propidium iodide staining method by adding a series solution treatment to stain the deep cells. The advantage of this method is mainly reflected by the direct observation of the clearly bounded cell arrangement and the typical three-layer cells in SAM without the traditional tissue slicing.

0 Q&A 174 Views May 5, 2023

A basic function of the nervous system is to confer the ability to detect external stimuli and generate appropriate behavioral and physiological responses. These can be modulated when parallel streams of information are provided to the nervous system and neural activity is appropriately altered. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans utilizes a simple and well characterized neural circuit to mediate avoidance or attraction responses to stimuli, such as the volatile odorant octanol or diacetyl (DA), respectively. Aging and neurodegeneration constitute two important factors altering the ability to detect external signals and, therefore, changing behavior. Here, we present a modified protocol to assess avoidance or attraction responses to diverse stimuli in healthy and worm models associated with neurodegenerative diseases.

0 Q&A 344 Views May 5, 2023

Three-dimensional bioprinting utilizes additive manufacturing processes that combine cells and a bioink to create living tissue models that mimic tissues found in vivo. Stem cells can regenerate and differentiate into specialized cell types, making them valuable for research concerning degenerative diseases and their potential treatments. 3D bioprinting stem cell–derived tissues have an advantage over other cell types because they can be expanded in large quantities and then differentiated to multiple cell types. Using patient-derived stem cells also enables a personalized medicine approach to the study of disease progression. In particular, mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are an attractive cell type for bioprinting because they are easier to obtain from patients in comparison to pluripotent stem cells, and their robust characteristics make them desirable for bioprinting. Currently, both MSC bioprinting protocols and cell culturing protocols exist separately, but there is a lack of literature that combines the culturing of the cells with the bioprinting process. This protocol aims to bridge that gap by describing the bioprinting process in detail, starting with how to culture cells pre-printing, to 3D bioprinting the cells, and finally to the culturing process post-printing. Here, we outline the process of culturing MSCs to produce cells for 3D bioprinting. We also describe the process of preparing Axolotl Biosciences TissuePrint - High Viscosity (HV) and Low Viscosity (LV) bioink, the incorporation of MSCs to the bioink, setting up the BIO X and the Aspect RX1 bioprinters, and necessary computer-aided design (CAD) files. We also detail the differentiation of 2D and 3D cell cultures of MSC to dopaminergic neurons, including media preparation. We have also included the protocols for viability, immunocytochemistry, electrophysiology, and performing a dopamine enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), along with the statistical analysis.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 271 Views May 5, 2023

Accidental wounding of the peripheral nervous system leads to acute neural dysfunction. Normally, chronic deficits are overcome because peripheral nerves naturally regenerate. However, various genetic and metabolic defects can impair their natural regenerative capacity, which may be due to neuron-extrinsic mechanisms. Therefore, characterizing the behavior of multiple cells during nerve injury and repair in vivo is a pressing need in regenerative medicine. Here, we detail a method for precise wounding of sensory axons in zebrafish, followed by high-resolution in toto long-term quantitative videomicroscopy of neurons, Schwann cells, and macrophages. This protocol can be easily adapted to study the effects of targeted genetic or metabolic disruptions in zebrafish and other suitable organisms, as well as for screening pharmacological agents with therapeutic potential.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 272 Views May 5, 2023

Skeletal muscle is the most abundant tissue in the human body and has a tremendous capability to regenerate in response to muscle injuries and diseases. Induction of acute muscle injury is a common method to study muscle regeneration in vivo. Cardiotoxin (CTX) belongs to the family of snake venom toxins and is one of the most common reagents to induce muscle injury. Intramuscular injection of CTX causes overwhelming muscle contraction and lysis of myofibers. The induced acute muscle injury triggers muscle regeneration, allowing in-depth studies on muscle regeneration. This protocol describes a detailed procedure of intramuscular injection of CTX to induce acute muscle injury that could be also applied in other mammalian models.

0 Q&A 399 Views Apr 20, 2023

A robust in vitro model of the human respiratory epithelium, including the alveolar and the airway epithelium, is essential for understanding the biology and pathology of the human respiratory system. We previously described a protocol to derive human lung organoids from primary lung tissues. We now describe a protocol to induce bidirectional differentiation to generate mature alveolar or airway organoids. The lung organoids are consecutively expanded for over one year with high stability, while the differentiated alveolar and airway organoids morphologically and functionally simulate the human alveolar and airway epithelium to a near-physiological level. Thus, we establish a robust organoid culture system of the entire human respiratory epithelium, the first two-phase bipotential organoid culture system that enables long-term expansion and bidirectional differentiation of respiratory epithelial cells. The long-term expandable lung organoids and differentiated organoids generate a stable and renewable source of respiratory epithelial cells, enabling scientists to reconstruct and expand the human respiratory epithelium in culture dishes. The respiratory organoid system provides a unique and physiologically active in vitro model of the human respiratory epithelium for various applications, including studying respiratory viral infection, disease modeling, drug screening, and pre-clinical testing.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 487 Views Apr 20, 2023

RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) transcribes DNA into mRNA and thereby plays a critical role in cellular protein production. In addition, RNAPII plays a central role in DNA damage responses. Measurements of RNAPII on chromatin may thus give insight into several essential processes in eukaryotic cells. During transcription, the C-terminal domain of RNAPII becomes post-translationally modified, and phosphorylation on serine 5 and serine 2 can be used as markers for the promoter proximal and productively elongating forms of RNAPII, respectively. Here, we provide a detailed protocol for the detection of chromatin-bound RNAPII and its serine 5– and serine 2–phosphorylated forms in individual human cells through the cell cycle. We have recently shown that this method can be used to study the effects of ultraviolet DNA damage on RNAPII chromatin binding and that it can even be used to reveal new knowledge about the transcription cycle itself. Other commonly used methods to study RNAPII chromatin binding include chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing or chromatin fractionation followed by western blotting. However, such methods are frequently based on lysates made from a large number of cells, which may mask population heterogeneity, e.g., due to cell cycle phase. With strengths such as single-cell analysis, speed of use, and accurate quantitative readouts, we envision that our flow cytometry method can be widely used as a complementary approach to sequencing-based methods to study effects of different stimuli and inhibitors on RNAPII-mediated transcription.


Graphical overview





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