Cell Biology

Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 1279 Views Nov 5, 2022

Cryo-focused ion beam (FIB) milling of vitrified specimens is emerging as a powerful method for in situ specimen preparation. It allows for the preservation of native and near-native conditions in cells, and can reveal the molecular structure of protein complexes when combined with cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) and sub-tomogram averaging. Cryo-FIB milling is often performed on plunge-frozen specimens of limited thickness. However, this approach may have several disadvantages, including low throughput for cells that are small, or at low concentration, or poorly distributed across accessible areas of the grid, as well as for samples that may adopt a preferred orientation. Here, we present a detailed description of the “Waffle Method” protocol for vitrifying thick specimens followed by a semi-automated milling procedure using the Thermo Fisher Scientific (TFS) Aquilos 2 cryo-FIB/scanning electron microscope (SEM) instrument and AutoTEM Cryo software to produce cryo-lamellae. With this protocol, cryo-lamellae may be generated from specimens, such as microsporidia spores, yeast, bacteria, and mammalian cells, as well as purified proteins and protein complexes. An experienced lab can perform the entire protocol presented here within an 8-hour working day, resulting in two to three cryo-lamellae with target thicknesses of 100–200 nm and dimensions of approximately 12 μm width and 15–20 μm length. For cryo-FIB/SEMs with particularly low-contamination chambers, the protocol can be extended to overnight milling, resulting in up to 16 cryo-lamellae in 24 h.

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0 Q&A 1083 Views Mar 20, 2022

Several filamentous cyanobacteria like Nostoc differentiate specialized cells in response to changes in environmental factors, such as low light or nutrient starvation. These specialized cells are termed heterocysts and akinetes. Under conditions of nitrogen limitation, nitrogen-fixing heterocysts form in a semi-regular pattern and provide the filament with organic nitrogen compounds. Akinetes are spore-like dormant cells, which allow survival during adverse unfavorable conditions. Both cell types possess multilayered thick envelopes mainly composed of an outermost polysaccharide layer and inner layers of glycolipids, that are important for stress adaptation. To study these envelope glycolipids, a method for the isolation, separation and analysis of lipids from heterocysts and akinetes is essential. The present protocol describes a method involving the extraction of lipids from cyanobacteria using solvents and their separation and visualization on silica plates, to render analysis simple and easy. This protocol is relevant for studying mutants that are defective in glycolipid layer formation and for the comparison of glycolipid composition of heterocysts and akinetes under different environmental stresses.

0 Q&A 2575 Views Jul 5, 2021

Mammalian orthoreoviruses (reoviruses) are nonenveloped, double-stranded RNA viruses that replicate and assemble in cytoplasmic membranous organelles called viral inclusions (VIs). To define the cellular compartments involved in nonlytic reovirus egress, we imaged viral egress in infected, nonpolarized human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMECs). Electron and confocal microscopy showed that reovirus mature virions are recruited from VIs to modified lysosomes termed sorting organelles (SOs). Later in infection, membranous carriers (MCs) emerge from SOs and transport new virions to the plasma membrane for nonlytic egress. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) combined with electron tomography (ET) and three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction revealed that these compartments are connected and form the exit pathway. Connections are established by channels through which mature virions are transported from VIs to MCs. In the last step, MCs travel across the cytoplasm and fuse with the plasma membrane, which facilitates reovirus egress. This bio-protocol describes the combination of imaging approaches (TEM, ET, and 3D reconstruction) to analyze reovirus egress zones. The spatial information present in the 3D reconstructions, along with the higher resolution relative to 2D projections, allowed us to identify components of a new nonlytic viral egress pathway.

0 Q&A 3395 Views Jun 5, 2021

Cryo-scanning electron microscopy (cryo-SEM) was first introduced for scientific use in the 1980s. Since then, cryo-SEM has become a routine technique for studying the surfaces and internal structures of biological samples with a high water content. In contrast to traditional SEM, cryo-SEM requires no sample pretreatment processes; thus, we can obtain the most authentic images of the sample shape and structure. Cryo-SEM has two main steps: cryoprocessing of samples and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) observation. The cryoprocessing step includes preparation of the cooled slushing station, cooling of the preparation chamber, sample preparation, and sputtering. The sample is then transferred to an SEM cold stage for observation. We used cryo-SEM to study rice root hair tissues, but the methods and protocols can be applied to other root systems. This protocol optimizes the two key operation steps of reducing the humidity in the growth chamber and previewing the samples before sputtering and can more quickly obtain high-quality images.

0 Q&A 3040 Views Jun 5, 2021

Over the years, studying the ultrastructure of the eukaryotic cilia/flagella using electron microscopy (EM) has contributed significantly toward our understanding of ciliary function. Major complexes in the cilia, such as inner and outer dynein arms, radial spokes, and dynein regulatory complexes, were originally discovered by EM. Classical resin-embedding EM or cryo-electron tomography can be performed directly on the isolated cilia or in some cases, cilia directly attached to the cell body. Recently, single particle cryo-EM has emerged as a powerful structural technique to elucidate high-resolution structures of macromolecular complexes; however, single particle cryo-EM requires non-overlapping complexes, i.e., the doublet microtubule of the cilia. Here, we present a protocol to separate the doublet microtubule from the isolated cilia bundle of two species, Tetrahymena thermophila and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, using ATP reactivation and sonication. Our approach produces good distribution and random orientation of the doublet microtubule fragments, which is suitable for single particle cryo-EM analysis.

1 Q&A 3820 Views Jan 20, 2020
Cell surface protrusions include F-actin rich, wave-like ruffles that are erected transiently in response to stimuli and during cell migration. Macrophages are innate immune cells that ruffle constitutively and more dramatically in cells activated by pathogens. Dorsal ruffles and their resulting macropinosomes are key sites for environmental sampling, pathogen detection and immune signaling. Quantitative assessment of ruffling is important for assessing pathogen responses in macrophages and for analysis of growth factor responses in other cell types but automated and quantitative methods are lacking, and rely on manual and qualitative assessments. Here we present an automated ImageJ macro for quantifying dorsal cell surface protrusions from 3D microscope images. The assay presented here is suitable for high-throughput screening applications to detect drug, pathogen, or growth factor induced changes in cell ruffling by measuring ruffle area and intensity and providing normalized values in an easy to read combined spreadsheet.
0 Q&A 5034 Views Nov 5, 2019
The composition and mechanical properties of the cellular microenvironment along with the resulting distribution of cellular devolved forces can affect cellular function and behavior. Traction Force Microscopy (TFM) provides a method to measure the forces applied to a surface by adherent cells. Numerous TFM systems have been described in literature. Broadly, these involve culturing cells on a flexible substrate with embedded fluorescent markers which are imaged before and after relaxion of cell forces. From these images, a displacement field is calculated, and from the displacement field, a traction field. Here we describe a TFM system using polyacrylamide substrates and a microarray spotter to fabricate arrays of multicellular islands on various combinations of extra cellular matrix (ECM) proteins or other biomolecules. A microscope with an automated stage is used to image each of the cellular islands before and after lysing cells with a detergent. These images are analyzed in a semi-automated fashion using a series of MATLAB scripts which produce the displacement and traction fields, and summary data. By combining microarrays with a semi-automated implementation of TFM analysis, this protocol enables evaluation of the impact of substrate stiffness, matrix composition, and tissue geometry on cellular mechanical behavior in high throughput.
0 Q&A 3632 Views Oct 20, 2019
The plant cell wall is a complicated network that is mainly constituted of polysaccharides, such as cellulose, hemicellulose and pectin. Many noncellulosic polysaccharides are further acetylated, which confers these polymers flexible physicochemical properties. Due to the significance of cell wall in plant growth and development, the analytic platform has been the focus for a long time. Here, we use internodes/culms, an important organ to provide mechanical support for rice plants, as an experimental sample to explore the method for cell wall composition analysis. The method includes preparation of cell wall residues, sequential extraction of polysaccharides, and measurement of cellulose. The procedure for acetate examination is also described. This method is applicable to determine the composition of individual cell wall polymers and the modifier acetates, and is suitable to identify cell wall relevant mutants based on the advantages in high throughput, precision and repeatability.
0 Q&A 4605 Views Aug 20, 2019
All bacteria, fungi and plant cells are surrounded by a cell wall. This complex network of polysaccharides and glycoproteins provides mechanical support, defines cell shape, controls cell growth and influences the exchange of substances between the cell and its surroundings. Despite its name, the cell wall is a flexible, dynamic structure. However, due to the lack of non-invasive methods to probe the structure, relatively little is known about the synthesis and dynamic remodeling of cell walls. Here, we describe a non-invasive method that quantifies a key physiological parameter of cell walls, the porosity, i.e., the size of spaces between cell wall components. This method measures the porosity-dependent decrease of the plasma membrane-localized fluorescent dye FM4-64 in the presence of the extracellular quencher Trypan blue. This method is applied to bacteria, fungi and plant cell walls to detect dynamic changes of porosity in response to environmental cues.
0 Q&A 5213 Views Oct 5, 2018
Microcracks in materials reflect their mechanical properties. The quantification of the number or orientation of such cracks is thus essential in many fields, including engineering and geology. In biology, cracks in soft tissues can reflect adhesion defects, and the analysis of their pattern can help to deduce the magnitude and orientation of tensions in organs and tissues. Here, we describe a semi-automatic method amenable to analyze cell separations occurring in the epidermis of Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings. Our protocol is applicable to any image exhibiting small cracks, and thus also adapted to the analysis of emerging cracks in animal tissues and materials.

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