Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 151 Views Feb 20, 2023

The zebrafish retina is a canonical vertebrate retina. Since the past few years, with the continually growing genetic toolbox and imaging techniques, zebrafish plays a crucial role in retinal research. This protocol describes a method to quantitatively evaluate the expression of Arrestin3a (Arr3a) and G-protein receptor kinase7a (Grk7a) in the adult zebrafish retina at protein levels by infrared fluorescence western blot. Our protocol can be easily adapted to measure protein levels in additional zebrafish tissues.

0 Q&A 507 Views Jan 5, 2023

Molecular characterization of different cell types in rodent brains is a widely used and important approach in neuroscience. Fluorescent detection of transcripts using RNAscope (ACDBio) has quickly became a standard in situ hybridization (ISH) approach. Its sensitivity and specificity allow for the simultaneous detection of between three and forty-eight low abundance mRNAs in single cells (i.e., multiplexing or hiplexing), and, in contrast to other ISH techniques, it is performed in a shorter amount of time. Manual quantification of transcripts is a laborious and time-consuming task even for small portions of a larger tissue section. Herein, we present a protocol for creating high-quality images for quantification of RNAscope-labeled neurons in the rat brain. This protocol uses custom-made scripts within the open-source software QuPath to create an automated workflow for the careful optimization and validation of cell detection parameters. Moreover, we describe a method to derive mRNA signal thresholds using negative controls. This protocol and automated workflow may help scientists to reliably and reproducibly prepare and analyze rodent brain tissue for cell type characterization using RNAscope.

Graphical abstract

0 Q&A 1431 Views Apr 20, 2022

Targeting receptor-mediated transcytosis (RMT) is a successful strategy for drug delivery of biologic agents across the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The recent development of human BBB organoid models is a major advancement to help characterize the mechanisms of RMT and thus accelerate the design of brain delivery technologies. BBB organoids exhibit self-organization, which resembles the architecture of the neurovascular unit, and low paracellular permeability, due to the formation of tight junctions between endothelial cells. However, current methods of organoid generation have low throughput, exhibit substantial heterogeneity across experiments, and require extensive manual handling. These limitations prevent the use of BBB organoids as a screening tool for discovery and optimization of therapeutic molecules. In this protocol, we use hydrogel-based arrays to generate human BBB organoids, with a 35-fold increase in organoid yield as compared to previous protocols using 96-well plates. We incubate BBB organoid arrays with monoclonal antibody-based constructs and use a custom semi-automated imaging assay to assess RMT within the organoid core. The experimental and analytical tools described in this protocol provide a scalable platform that can be incorporated in the early stages of drug discovery to accelerate the development and optimization of brain delivery technologies to cross the BBB.

0 Q&A 1368 Views Apr 5, 2022

Thermotaxis behaviors in C. elegans exhibit experience-dependent plasticity of thermal preference memory. This behavior can be assayed either at population level, on linear temperature gradients, or at the individual animal level, by radial isothermal or microfluidic tracking of orientation. These behaviors are low-throughput as well as variable, due to the inherent sensitivity to environmental perturbations. To facilitate reproducible studies, we describe an updated apparatus design that enables simultaneous runs of three thermal preference assays, instead of single-run assays described previously. By enabling parallel runs of control and experimental conditions, this set-up enables more throughput and rigorous assessment of behavioral variability.

0 Q&A 1504 Views Mar 5, 2022

Optogenetics has the potential to transform the study of the peripheral nervous system (PNS), but the complex anatomy of the PNS poses unique challenges for the focused delivery of light to specific tissues. This protocol describes the fabrication of a wireless telemetry system for studying peripheral sensory pathways. Unlike existing wireless approaches, the low-power wireless telemetry offers organ specificity via a sandwiched pre-curved tether, and enables high-throughput analysis of behavioral experiments with a channel isolation strategy. We describe the technical procedures for the construction of these devices, the wireless power transmission (TX) system with antenna coils, and their implementation for in vivo experimental applications. In total, the timeline of the procedure, including device fabrication, implantation, and preparation to begin in vivo experimentation can be completed in ~2-4 weeks. Implementation of these devices allows for chronic (>1 month) wireless optogenetic manipulation of peripheral neural pathways in freely behaving animals navigating homecage environments (up to 8).

0 Q&A 7058 Views Feb 20, 2022

The blood-brain barrier (BBB), a crucial protection mechanism in the central nervous system (CNS), is a selective barrier comprised of endothelial cells. It hampers the development of therapeutic and diagnostic tools for neurological diseases due to the poor penetration of most of these agents. Rationally engineered nanoparticles (NP) can facilitate the transport of therapeutic and diagnostic agents across the BBB. However, evaluating BBB penetration by NP majorly relies on the use of expensive and time-consuming animal experiments with low throughput. In vitro BBB models composed of brain endothelial cells can be a useful tool to rapidly screen multiple NP formulations to compare their BBB penetration ability and identify optimal formulations for in vivo validation. In this protocol, we present an in vitro model of BBB developed using murine cerebral cortex endothelial cells (bEnd.3). bEnd.3 is a commercially available, easy to manipulate cell line that forms tight junctions with potent paracellular barrier property. The protocol includes culturing of bEnd.3 cells, establishment of the in vitro model, and assessing NP permeability. We believe that, due to its simplicity and consistency, this step-by-step protocol can be easily used by researchers to screen NP-based drug delivery systems for BBB penetration.

Graphic abstract:

0 Q&A 2570 Views Feb 5, 2022

Over the past decade, zebrafish have emerged as a powerful model for the study of vertebrate sleep and wake behaviors. Experimental evidence has demonstrated behavioral, anatomical, genetic, and pharmacological conservation of sleep between zebrafish and mammals, suggesting that discoveries in zebrafish can inform our understanding of mammalian sleep. Here, we describe a protocol for performing sleep behavioral experiments in larval zebrafish, using a high-throughput video tracking system. We explain how to set up a sleep behavioral experiment and provide guidelines on how to analyze the data. Using this protocol, a typical experiment can be completed in less than five days, and this method provides a scalable platform to perform genetic and pharmacological screens in a simple and cost-effective vertebrate model. By combining high-throughput behavioral assays with several advantageous features of zebrafish, this model system provides new opportunities to make discoveries that clarify the genetic and neurological mechanisms that regulate sleep.

0 Q&A 2495 Views Jan 5, 2022

In neurons, local translation in dendritic and axonal compartments allows for the fast and on-demand modification of the local proteome. As the last few years have witnessed dramatic advancements in our appreciation of the brain’s neuronal diversity, it is increasingly relevant to understand how local translation is regulated according to cell type. To this end, both sequencing-based and imaging-based techniques have recently been reported. Here, we present a subcellular single cell RNA sequencing protocol that allows molecular quantification from the soma and dendrites of single neurons, and which can be scaled up for the characterization of several hundreds to thousands of neurons. Somata and dendrites of cultured neurons are dissected using laser capture microdissection, followed by cell lysis to release mRNA content. Reverse transcription is then conducted using an indexed primer that allows the downstream pooling of samples. The pooled cDNA library is prepared for and sequenced in an Illumina platform. Finally, the data generated are processed and converted into a gene vs. cells digital expression table. This protocol provides detailed instructions for both wet lab and bioinformatic steps, as well as insights into controls, data analysis, interpretations, and ways to achieve robust and reproducible results.

Graphic abstract:

Subcellular Single Cell RNA-seq in Neurons.

0 Q&A 1739 Views Dec 20, 2021

Genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors are versatile tools for studying brain metabolism and function in live tissue. The genetic information for these biosensors can be delivered into the brain by stereotaxic injection of engineered adeno-associated viruses (AAVs), which can selectively target different cell types depending on the capsid serotype and/or the viral promoter. Here, we describe a protocol for intracranial injections of two viral vectors encoding the metabolic biosensor Peredox and the calcium biosensor RCaMP1h. When combined with 2-photon microscopy and fluorescence lifetime imaging, this protocol allows the simultaneous quantitative assessment of changes in the cytosolic NADH/NAD+ ratio and the intracellular Ca2+ levels in individual dentate granule cells from acute hippocampal slices.

Graphic abstract:

Workflow diagram for biosensor expression in the mouse hippocampus using intracranial injections of adeno-associated viruses.

0 Q&A 1595 Views Dec 5, 2021

The CRISPR-Cas9 enables efficient gene editing in various cell types, including post-mitotic neurons. However, neuronal ensembles in the same brain region can still be functionally or anatomically different, and such heterogeneity requires gene editing in specific neuronal populations. We recently developed a CRISPR-SaCas9 system-based technique. Combined with activity-dependent cell-labeling methods and anterograde/retrograde adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors, this technique achieves function- and projection-specific gene editing in the mammalian brain. We showed that perturbing cbp (CREB-binding protein) in extinction-ensemble neurons among amygdala-projecting infralimbic cortex (IL) cells impaired fear extinction learning, demonstrating the high efficiency in regulation of extinction learning with CRISPR-Cas9. Here, we describe a detailed protocol of gene perturbation in presynaptic extinction-ensemble neurons in adult rats, including gRNA design, gRNA evaluation in vitro, stereotaxic AAV injection, and contextual fear conditioning. The high specificity and efficiency of projection- and function-specific CRISPR-SaCas9 system can be widely applied in neural circuitry studies.

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