Cell Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 801 Views Feb 20, 2024

Structural and functional changes in vascular networks play a vital role during development, causing or contributing to the pathophysiology of injury and disease. Current methods to trace and image the vasculature in laboratory settings have proven inconsistent, inaccurate, and labor intensive, lacking the inherent three-dimensional structure of vasculature. Here, we provide a robust and highly reproducible method to image and quantify changes in vascular networks down to the capillary level. The method combines vasculature tracing, tissue clearing, and three-dimensional imaging techniques with vessel segmentation using AI-based convolutional reconstruction to rapidly process large, unsectioned tissue specimens throughout the body with high fidelity. The practicality and scalability of our protocol offer application across various fields of biomedical sciences. Obviating the need for sectioning of samples, this method will expedite qualitative and quantitative analyses of vascular networks. Preparation of the fluorescent gel perfusate takes < 30 min per study. Transcardiac perfusion and vasculature tracing takes approximately 20 min, while dissection of tissue samples ranges from 5 to 15 min depending on the tissue of interest. The tissue clearing protocol takes approximately 24–48 h per whole-tissue sample. Lastly, three-dimensional imaging and analysis can be completed in one day. The entire procedure can be carried out by a competent graduate student or experienced technician.

Key features

• This robust and highly reproducible method allows users to image and quantify changes in vascular networks down to the capillary level.

• Three-dimensional imaging techniques with vessel segmentation enable rapid processing of large, unsectioned tissue specimens throughout the body.

• It takes approximately 2–3 days for sample preparation, three-dimensional imaging, and analysis.

• The user-friendly pipeline can be completed by experienced and non-experienced users.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 424 Views Dec 5, 2023

Neovascular diseases of the retina, such as diabetic retinopathy (DR) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), are proliferative retinopathies involving the growth of new blood vessels on the retina, which in turn causes impairment and potential loss of vision. A drawback of conventional angiogenesis assays is that they are not representative of the angiogenic processes in the retina. In the retina, the new blood vessels grow (from pre-existing blood vessels) and migrate into a non-perfused region of the eye including the inner limiting membrane of the retina and the vitreous, both of which contribute to vision loss. The Matrigel Duplex Assay (MDA) measures the migration of angiogenic capillaries from a primary Matrigel layer to a secondary Matrigel layer, which resembles the pathological angiogenesis in AMD and DR. The methodology of MDA is comprised of two steps. In the first step, the human retinal microvascular endothelial cells (HRMECs) are mixed with phenol red–containing Matrigel (in a 1:1 ratio) and seeded in the center of an 8-well chamber slide. After 24 h, a second layer of phenol red–free Matrigel is overlaid over the first layer. Over the course of the next 24 h, the HRMECs invade from the primary Matrigel layer to the secondary layer. Subsequently, the angiogenic sprouts are visualized by brightfield phase contrast microscopy and quantified by ImageJ software. The present manuscript measures the angiogenesis-inhibitory activity of the Src kinase inhibitor PP2 in primary HRMECs using the MDA. The MDA may be used for multiple applications like screening anti-angiogenic drugs, measuring the pro-angiogenic activity of growth factors, and elucidating signaling pathways underlying retinal angiogenesis in normal and disease states.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 681 Views Oct 20, 2023

Whole-brain clearing and imaging methods are becoming more common in mice but have yet to become standard in rats, at least partially due to inadequate clearing from most available protocols. Here, we build on recent mouse-tissue clearing and light-sheet imaging methods and develop and adapt them to rats. We first used cleared rat brains to create an open-source, 3D rat atlas at 25 μ resolution. We then registered and imported other existing labeled volumes and made all of the code and data available for the community (https://github.com/emilyjanedennis/PRA) to further enable modern, whole-brain neuroscience in the rat.

Key features

• This protocol adapts iDISCO (Renier et al., 2014) and uDISCO (Pan et al., 2016) tissue-clearing techniques to consistently clear rat brains.

• This protocol also decreases the number of working hours per day to fit in an 8 workday.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 402 Views Jul 20, 2023

Tension and force propagation play a central role in tissue morphogenesis, as they enable sub- and supra-cellular shape changes required for the generation of new structures. Force is often generated by the cytoskeleton, which forms complex meshworks that reach cell–cell or cell–extracellular matrix junctions to induce cellular rearrangements. These mechanical properties can be measured through laser microdissection, which concentrates energy in the tissue of interest, disrupting its cytoskeleton. If the tissue is undergoing tension, this cut will induce a recoil in the surrounding regions of the cut. This protocol describes how one can perform laser microdissection experiments and subsequently measure the recoil speed of the sample of interest. While we explain how to carry out these experiments in Drosophila embryos, the recoil calibration and downstream analyses can be applied to other types of preparations.

Key features

• Allows measuring tension in live Drosophila embryos with a relatively simple approach.

• Describes a quick way to mount a high number of embryos.

• Includes a segmentation-free recoil quantification that reduces bias and speeds up analysis.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 250 Views Jul 5, 2023

The trachea tube is the exclusive route to allow gas exchange between the external environment and the lungs. Recent studies have shown the critical role of mesenchymal cells in tracheal tubulogenesis. Improved methods for studying the dynamics of the tracheal mesenchyme development are needed to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms during tracheal tubulogenesis. Here, we describe a detailed protocol for a systematic analysis of tracheal tube development to enable observing tracheal smooth muscle (SM) and cartilage ring formation. We describe immunostaining, confocal and stereomicroscopy imaging, and quantitative methods to study the process of tracheal SM and cartilage ring development, including SM cell alignment, polarization, and changes in cell shape as well as mesenchymal condensation. The technologies and approaches described here not only improve analysis of the patterning of the developing trachea but also help uncover the mechanisms underlying airway disease. This protocol also provides a useful technique to analyze cell organization, polarity, and nuclear shape in other organ systems.

0 Q&A 378 Views Jul 5, 2023

In vitro models are essential for investigating the molecular, biochemical, and cell-biological aspects of skeletal muscle. Still, models that utilize cell lines or embryonic cells do not fully recapitulate mature muscle fibers in vivo. Protein function is best studied in mature differentiated tissue, where biological context is maintained, but this is often difficult when reliable detection reagents, such as antibodies, are not commercially available. Exogenous expression of tagged proteins in vivo solves some of these problems, but this approach can be technically challenging because either a mouse must be engineered for each protein of interest or viral vectors are required for adequate levels of expression. While viral vectors can infect target cells following local administration, they carry the risk of genome integration that may interfere with downstream analyses. Plasmids are another accessible expression system, but they require ancillary means of cell penetration; electroporation is a simple physical method for this purpose that requires minimal training or specialized equipment. Here, we describe a method for in vivo plasmid expression in a foot muscle following electroporation.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 449 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 363 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 1049 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 803 Views Apr 5, 2023

Microinflammation enhances the permeability of specific blood vessel sites through an elevation of local inflammatory mediators, such as interleukin (IL)-6 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. By a two-dimensional immunohistochemistry analysis of tissue sections from mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model for multiple sclerosis (MS), we previously showed that pathogenic immune cells, including CD4+ T cells, specifically accumulate and cause microinflammation at the dorsal vessels of the fifth lumbar cord (L5), resulting in the onset of disease. However, usual pathological analyses by using immunohistochemistry on sections are not effective at identifying the microinflammation sites in organs. Here, we developed a new three-dimensional visualization method of microinflammation using luminescent gold nanoclusters (AuNCs) and the clear, unobstructed brain/body imaging cocktails and computational analysis (CUBIC) tissue-clearing method. Our protocol is based on the detection of leaked AuNCs from the blood vessels due to an enhanced vascular permeability caused by the microinflammation. When we injected ultrasmall coordinated Au13 nanoclusters intravenously (i.v.) to EAE mice, and then subjected the spinal cords to tissue clearing, we detected Au signals leaked from the blood vessels at L5 by light sheet microscopy, which enabled the visualization of complex tissue structures at the whole organ level, consistent with our previous report that microinflammation occurs specifically at this site. Our method will be useful to specify and track the stepwise development of microinflammation in whole organs that is triggered by the recruitment of pathogenic immune cells at specific blood vessels in various inflammatory diseases.

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