Cancer Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 387 Views Dec 20, 2022

Several assays have been developed to monitor the in vitro catalytic activity of Hedgehog acyltransferase (Hhat), an enzyme critical to the Hedgehog signaling pathway in cells. However, the majority of these previously reported assays involve radioactive fatty acyl donor substrates, multiple steps to achieve product readout, or specialized equipment. To increase safety, efficiency, and convenience, we developed a direct, fluorescent in vitro assay to monitor Hhat activity. Our assay utilizes purified Hhat, a fluorescently labeled fatty acyl-CoA donor substrate, and a Sonic hedgehog (Shh) peptide recipient substrate sufficient for fatty acylation. The protocol is a straightforward process that yields direct readout of fatty acylated Shh peptide via fluorescence detection of the transferred fatty acyl group.

Graphical abstract

Graphical abstract adapted from Schonbrun and Resh (2022)

0 Q&A 1683 Views Apr 5, 2022

Bromodomain-containing protein 4 (BRD4) is an acetyl-lysine reader protein and transcriptional regulator implicated in chromatin dynamics and cancer development. Several BRD4 isoforms have been detected in humans with the long isoform (BRD4-L, aa 1-1,362) playing a tumor-suppressive role and a major short isoform (BRD4-S, aa 1-722) having oncogenic activity in breast cancer development. In vivo demonstration of the opposing functions of BRD4 protein isoforms requires development of mouse models, particularly transgenic mice conditionally expressing human BRD4-L or BRD4-S, which can be selectively induced in different mouse tissues in a spatiotemporal-specific manner. Here, we detail the procedures used to genotype transgenic mouse strains developed to define the effects of conditional human BRD4 isoform expression on polyomavirus middle T antigen (PyMT)-induced mouse mammary tumor growth, and the key steps for Western blot detection of BRD4 protein isoforms in those tumors and in cultured cells. With this protocol as a guide, interpretation of BRD4 isoform functions becomes more feasible and expandable to various biological settings. Adequate tracking of BRD4 isoform distributions in vivo and in vitro is key to understanding their biological roles, as well as avoiding misinterpretation of their functions due to improper use of experimental procedures that fail to detect their spatial and temporal distributions.

Graphic abstract:

0 Q&A 2707 Views Feb 20, 2022

Targeting hard-to-drug proteins, such as proteins functioning by protein-protein interactions (PPIs) with small molecules, is difficult because of the lack of well-defined pockets. Fragment or computational-based methods are usually employed for the discovery of such compounds, but no generic method is available to quickly identify small molecules interfering with PPIs. Here, we provide a protocol describing a generic method to discover small molecules inhibiting the interaction between an intracellular antibody and its target, in particular for proteins that are hard to make in recombinant form. This protocol reports a versatile and generic method that can be applied to any target/intracellular antibody. Because it is a cell-based assay, it identifies chemical matters that are already displaying advantageous cell permeability properties.

Graphic abstract:

Cell-based intracellular antibody-guided small molecule screening.

0 Q&A 2680 Views Feb 5, 2022

Chemoresistance, the ability of cancer cells to overcome therapeutic interventions, is an area of active research. Studies on intrinsic and acquired chemoresistance have partly succeeded in elucidating some of the molecular mechanisms in this elusive phenomenon. Hence, drug-resistant cellular models are routinely developed and used to mimic the clinical scenario in-vitro. In an attempt to identify the underlying molecular mechanisms that allow ovarian cancer cells to gradually acquire chemoresistance, we have developed isogenic cellular models of cisplatin and paclitaxel resistance (singularly and in combination) over six months, using a clinically relevant modified pulse method. These models serve as important tools to investigate the underlying molecular players, modulation in genetics, epigenetics, and relevant signaling pathways, as well as to understand the role of drug detoxification and drug influx-efflux pathways in development of resistance. These models can also be used as screening tools for new therapeutic molecules. Additionally, repurposing therapeutic agents approved for diseases other than cancer have gained significant attention in improving cancer therapy. To investigate the effect of metformin on acquirement of chemoresistance, we have also developed a combinatorial model of metformin and platinum-taxol, using two different strategies. All these models were subsequently used to study modulation in receptor tyrosine kinase pathways, cancer stem cell functionalities, autophagy, metastasis, metabolic signatures, and various biological processes during development of chemoresistance. Herein, we outline the protocols used for developing these intricate resistant cellular models.

Graphic abstract:

Schematic of the step-wise development of cellular chemoresistant model. Schema illustrating the modified pulse method for the development of individual and combinatorial resistant models. Two different cell lines (A2780 and OAW42) were exposed to drug treatment (either alone or in various combinations) of one concentration for three consecutive cycles (3×). Furthermore, the surviving cells were sub-cultured subsequently with increasing drug concentrations. After every treatment cycle, 50% of the cells were cryo-preserved for further experiments. Additionally, to check for the development of chemoresistance and to assess the changes in cell cycle during resistance development, cell viability assays and flow cytometry were performed.

0 Q&A 3334 Views Jan 20, 2022

ATAC-seq (assay for transposase-accessible chromatin with high-throughput sequencing) is a powerful method to evaluate chromatin accessibility and nucleosome positioning at a genome-wide scale. This assay uses a hyperactive Tn5 transposase, to simultaneously cut open chromatin and insert adapter sequences. After sequencing, the reads generated through this technique are generally indicative of transcriptional regulatory elements that are located in accessible chromatin. This method was originally developed by Buenrostro et al. (2013), and since then it has been improved by the same authors several times, until their last update called OMNI ATAC-seq (Corces et al., 2017). Here, we describe an ATAC-seq protocol based on the OMNI-ATAC method, with a special focus on the initial steps of thawing cryopreserved cells, and the final steps of library purification using magnetic beads. This protocol can be of interest for laboratories working in a fast-paced environment.

Graphic abstract:

Flowchart of the protocol

0 Q&A 1986 Views Oct 20, 2021

In the cell, the thermodynamic stability of a protein – and hence its biological activity – can change dramatically as a result of perturbations in its amino acid sequence and the concentration of stabilizing ligands. This interplay is particularly evident in zinc-binding transcription factors such as the p53 tumor suppressor, whose DNA-binding activity can critically depend on levels of intracellular zinc as well as point mutations that alter either metal binding or folding stability. Separate protocols exist for determining a protein’s metal affinity and its folding free energy. These properties, however, are intimately connected, and a technique is needed to integrate these measurements. Our protocols employ common non-fluorescent and fluorescent zinc chelators to control and report on free Zn2+ concentration, respectively, combined with biophysical assays of full-length human p53 and its DNA-binding domain. Fitting the data to equations that contain stability and metal-binding terms results in a more complete picture of how metal-dependent proteins can lose and gain DNA-binding function in a range of physiological conditions.

Graphic abstract:

Figure 1. Raising intracellular zinc can restore tumor-suppressing function to p53 that has been unfolded by missense mutation or cellular conditions

0 Q&A 3154 Views Oct 5, 2021

Once thought to be a mere consequence of the state of a cell, intermediary metabolism is now recognized as a key regulator of mammalian cell fate and function. In addition, cell metabolism is often disturbed in malignancies such as cancer, and targeting metabolic pathways can provide new therapeutic options. Cell metabolism is mostly studied in cell cultures in vitro, using techniques such as metabolomics, stable isotope tracing, and biochemical assays. Increasing evidence however shows that the metabolic profile of cells is highly dependent on the microenvironment, and metabolic vulnerabilities identified in vitro do not always translate to in vivo settings. Here, we provide a detailed protocol on how to perform in vivo stable isotope tracing in leukemia cells in mice, focusing on glutamine metabolism in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells. This method allows studying the metabolic profile of leukemia cells in their native bone marrow niche.

0 Q&A 2828 Views Jul 20, 2021

This protocol illustrates a pipeline for modeling the nonlinear behavior of intracellular signaling pathways. At fixed spatial points, nonlinear signaling dynamics are described by ordinary differential equations (ODEs). At constant parameters, these ODEs may have multiple attractors, such as multiple steady states or limit cycles. Standard optimization procedures fine-tune the parameters for the system trajectories localized within the basin of attraction of only one attractor, usually a stable steady state. The suggested protocol samples the parameter space and captures the overall dynamic behavior by analyzing the number and stability of steady states and the shapes of the assembly of nullclines, which are determined as projections of quasi-steady-state trajectories into different 2D spaces of system variables. Our pipeline allows identifying main qualitative features of the model behavior, perform bifurcation analysis, and determine the borders separating the different dynamical regimes within the assembly of 2D parametric planes. Partial differential equation (PDE) systems describing the nonlinear spatiotemporal behavior are derived by coupling fixed point dynamics with species diffusion.

0 Q&A 4546 Views Apr 5, 2021

We have demonstrated that a specific population of ginger-derived nanoparticles (GDNP-2) could effectively target the colon, reduce colitis, and alleviate colitis-associated colon cancer. Naturally occurring GDNP-2 contains complex bioactive components, including lipids, proteins, miRNAs, and ginger secondary metabolites (gingerols and shogaols). To construct a nanocarrier that is more clearly defined than GDNP-2, we isolated lipids from GDNP-2 and demonstrated that they could self-assemble into ginger lipid-derived nanoparticles (GLDNP) in an aqueous solution. GLDNP can be used as a nanocarrier to deliver drug candidates such as 6-shogaol or its metabolites (M2 and M13) to the colon. To characterize the nanostructure of GLDNP, our lab extensively used atomic force microscopy (AFM) technique as a tool for visualizing the morphology of the drug-loaded GLDNP. Herein, we provide a detailed protocol for demonstrating such a process.

1 Q&A 4810 Views Mar 20, 2021

The activation of the Takeda G-protein receptor 5 (TGR5, also known as the G protein-coupled bile acid receptor 1, GPBAR1) in enteroendocrine L-cells results in secretion of the anti-diabetic hormone Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 (GLP-1) into systemic circulation. Consequently, recent research has focused on identification and development of TGR5 agonists as type 2 diabetes therapeutics. However, the clinical application of TGR5 agonists has been hampered by side effects of these compounds that primarily result from their absorption into circulation. Here we describe an in vitro screening protocol to evaluate the TGR5 agonism, GLP-1 secretion, and gut-restricted properties of small molecules. The protocol involves differentiating gut epithelial and endocrine cells together in transwells to assess both the pharmacodynamics of TGR5 agonists and the toxicity of compounds to the intestinal monolayer. As a proof of concept, we demonstrate the use of the protocol in evaluating properties of naturally occurring bile acid metabolites that are potent TGR5 agonists. This protocol is adapted from Chaudhari et al. (2021).

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