Cell Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
1 Q&A 525 Views Jun 20, 2024

Microglia, the brain's primary resident immune cell, exists in various phenotypic states depending on intrinsic and extrinsic signaling. Distinguishing between these phenotypes can offer valuable biological insights into neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative processes. Recent advances in single-cell transcriptomic profiling have allowed for increased granularity and better separation of distinct microglial states. While techniques such as immunofluorescence and single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) are available to differentiate microglial phenotypes and functions, these methods present notable limitations, including challenging quantification methods, high cost, and advanced analytical techniques. This protocol addresses these limitations by presenting an optimized cell preparation procedure that prevents ex vivo activation and a flow cytometry panel to distinguish four distinct microglial states from murine brain tissue. Following cell preparation, fluorescent antibodies were applied to label 1) homeostatic, 2) disease-associated (DAM), 3) interferon response (IRM), and 4) lipid-droplet accumulating (LDAM) microglia, based on gene markers identified in previous scRNA-Seq studies. Stained cells were analyzed by flow cytometry to assess phenotypic distribution as a function of age and sex. A key advantage of this procedure is its adaptability, allowing the panel provided to be enhanced using additional markers with an appropriate cell analyzer (i.e., Cytek Aurora 5 laser spectral flow cytometer) and interrogating different brain regions or disease models. Additionally, this protocol does not require microglial cell sorting, resulting in a relatively quick and straightforward experiment. Ultimately, this protocol can compare the distribution of microglial phenotypic states between various experimental groups, such as disease state or age, with a lower cost and higher throughput than scRNA-seq.

0 Q&A 7589 Views Jun 20, 2024

Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) are synthetic fusion proteins that can reprogram immune cells to target specific antigens. CAR-expressing T cells have emerged as an effective treatment method for hematological cancers; despite this success, the mechanisms and structural properties that govern CAR responses are not fully understood. Here, we provide a simple assay to assess cellular avidity using a standard flow cytometer. This assay measures the interaction kinetics of CAR-expressing T cells and targets antigen-expressing target cells. By co-culturing stably transfected CAR Jurkat cells with target positive and negative cells for short periods of time in a varying effector–target gradient, we were able to observe the formation of CAR-target cell doublets, providing a readout of actively bound cells. When using the optimized protocol reported here, we observed unique cellular binding curves that varied between CAR constructs with differing antigen binding domains. The cellular binding kinetics of unique CARs remained consistent, were dependent on specific target antigen expression, and required active biological signaling. While existing literature is not clear at this time whether higher or lower CAR cell binding is beneficial to CAR therapeutic activity, the application of this simplified protocol for assessing CAR binding could lead to a better understanding of the proximal signaling events that regulate CAR functionality.

0 Q&A 364 Views Jun 5, 2024

Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are a heterogeneous group of nanoparticles possessing a lipid bilayer membrane that plays a significant role in intercellular communication by transferring their cargoes, consisting of peptides, proteins, fatty acids, DNA, and RNA, to receiver cells. Isolation of EVs is cumbersome and time-consuming due to their nano size and the co-isolation of small molecules along with EVs. This is why current protocols for the isolation of EVs are unable to provide high purity. So far, studies have focused on EVs derived from cell supernatants or body fluids but are associated with a number of limitations. Cell lines with a high passage number cannot be considered as representative of the original cell type, and EVs isolated from those can present distinct properties and characteristics. Additionally, cultured cells only have a single cell type and do not possess any cellular interactions with other types of cells, which normally exist in the tissue microenvironment. Therefore, studies involving the direct EVs isolation from whole tissues can provide a better understanding of intercellular communication in vivo. This underscores the critical need to standardize and optimize protocols for isolating and characterizing EVs from tissues. We have developed a differential centrifugation-based technique to isolate and characterize EVs from whole adipose tissue, which can be potentially applied to other types of tissues. This may help us to better understand the role of EVs in the tissue microenvironment in both diseased and normal conditions.

0 Q&A 1191 Views May 20, 2024

The cell–cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin has been intensively studied due to its prevalence in tissue function and its spatiotemporal regulation during epithelial-to-mesenchymal cell transition. Nonetheless, regulating and studying the dynamics of it has proven challenging. We developed a photoswitchable version of E-cadherin, named opto-E-cadherin, which can be toggled OFF with blue light illumination and back ON in the dark. Herein, we describe easy-to-use methods to test and characterise opto-E-cadherin cell clones for downstream experiments.

0 Q&A 313 Views May 5, 2024

The cation-independent mannose 6-phosphate receptors (CI-M6PR) bind newly synthesized mannose 6-phosphate (Man-6-P)-tagged enzymes in the Golgi and transport them to late endosomes/lysosomes, providing them with degradative functions. Following the cargo delivery, empty receptors are recycled via early/recycling endosomes back to the trans-Golgi network (TGN) retrogradely in a dynein-dependent motion. One of the most widely used methods for studying the retrograde trafficking of CI-M6PR involves employing the CD8α-CI-M6PR chimera. This chimera, comprising a CD8 ectodomain fused with the cytoplasmic tail of the CI-M6PR receptor, allows for labeling at the plasma membrane, followed by trafficking only in a retrograde direction. Previous studies utilizing the CD8α-CI-M6PR chimera have focused mainly on colocalization studies with various endocytic markers under steady-state conditions. This protocol extends the application of the CD8α-CI-M6PR chimera to live cell imaging, followed by a quantitative analysis of its motion towards the Golgi. Additionally, we present an approach to quantify parameters such as speed and track lengths associated with the motility of CD8α-CI-M6PR endosomes using the Fiji plugin TrackMate.

0 Q&A 305 Views May 5, 2024

Apolipoprotein B (APOB) is the primary structural protein of atherogenic lipoproteins, which drive atherogenesis and thereby lead to deadly cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). Plasma levels of APOB-containing lipoproteins are tightly modulated by LDL receptor–mediated endocytic trafficking and cargo receptor–initiated exocytic route; the latter is much less well understood. This protocol aims to present an uncomplicated yet effective method for detecting APOB/lipoprotein secretion. We perform primary mouse hepatocyte isolation and culture coupled with well-established techniques such as immunoblotting for highly sensitive, specific, and semi-quantitative analysis of the lipoprotein secretion process. Its inherent simplicity facilitates ease of operation, rendering it a valuable tool widely utilized to explore the intricate landscape of cellular lipid metabolism and unravel the mechanistic complexities underlying lipoprotein-related diseases.

0 Q&A 437 Views May 5, 2024

Plasma membrane proteins mediate important aspects of physiology, including nutrient acquisition, cell–cell interactions, and monitoring homeostasis. The trafficking of these proteins, involving internalisation from and/or recycling back to the cell surface, is often critical to their functions. These processes can vary among different proteins and cell types and states and are still being elucidated. Current strategies to measure surface protein internalisation and recycling are typically microscopy or biochemical assays; these are accurate but generally limited to analysing a homogenous cell population and are often low throughput. Here, we present flow cytometry–based methods involving probe-conjugated antibodies that enable quantification of internalisation or recycling rates at the single-cell level in complex samples. To measure internalisation, we detail an assay where the protein of interest is labelled with a specific antibody conjugated to a fluorescent oligonucleotide-labelled probe. To measure recycling, a specific antibody conjugated to a cleavable biotin group is employed. These probes permit the differentiation of molecules that have been internalised or recycled from those that have not. When combined with cell-specific marker panels, these methods allow the quantitative study of plasma membrane protein trafficking dynamics in a heterogenous cell mixture at the single-cell level.

0 Q&A 1325 Views Mar 20, 2024

Stem cell–based therapies have evolved to become a key component of regenerative medicine approaches to human pathologies. Exogenous stem cell transplantation takes advantage of the potential of stem cells to self-renew, differentiate, home to sites of injury, and sufficiently evade the immune system to remain viable for the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors. Common to many pathologies is the exacerbation of inflammation at the injury site by proinflammatory macrophages. An increasing body of evidence has demonstrated that mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) can influence the immunophenotype and function of myeloid lineage cells to promote therapeutic effects. Understanding the degree to which MSCs can modulate the phenotype of macrophages within an inflammatory environment is of interest when considering strategies for targeted cell therapies. There is a critical need for potency assays to elucidate these intercellular interactions in vitro and provide insight into potential mechanisms of action attributable to the immunomodulatory and polarizing capacities of MSCs, as well as other cells with immunomodulatory potential. However, the complexity of the responses, in terms of cell phenotypes and characteristics, timing of these interactions, and the degree to which cell contact is involved, have made the study of these interactions challenging. To provide a research tool to study the direct interactions between MSCs and macrophages, we developed a potency assay that directly co-cultures MSCs with naïve macrophages under proinflammatory conditions. Using this assay, we demonstrated changes in the macrophage secretome and phenotype, which can be used to evaluate the abilities of the cell samples to influence the cell microenvironment. These results suggest the immunomodulatory effects of MSCs on macrophages while revealing key cytokines and phenotypic changes that may inform their efficacy as potential cellular therapies.

Key features

• The protocol uses monocytes differentiated into naïve macrophages, which are loosely adherent, have a relatively homogeneous genetic background, and resemble peripheral blood mononuclear cells–derived macrophages.

• The protocol requires a plate reader and a flow cytometer with the ability to detect six fluorophores.

• The protocol provides a quantitative measurement of co-culture conditions by the addition of a fixed number of freshly thawed or culture-rescued MSCs to macrophages.

• This protocol uses assessment of the secretome and cell harvest to independently verify the nature of the interactions between macrophages and MSCs.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 1443 Views Mar 20, 2024

Proliferating cells need to cope with extensive cytoskeletal and nuclear remodeling as they prepare to divide. These events are tightly regulated by the nuclear translocation of the cyclin B1-CDK1 complex, that is partly dependent on nuclear tension. Standard experimental approaches do not allow the manipulation of forces acting on cells in a time-resolved manner. Here, we describe a protocol that enables dynamic mechanical manipulation of single cells with high spatial and temporal resolution and its application in the context of cell division. In addition, we also outline a method for the manipulation of substrate stiffness using polyacrylamide hydrogels. Finally, we describe a static cell confinement setup, which can be used to study the impact of prolonged mechanical stimulation in populations of cells.

Key features

• Protocol for microfabrication of confinement devices.

• Single-cell dynamic confinement coupled with high-resolution microscopy.

• Static cell confinement protocol that can be combined with super-resolution STED microscopy.

• Analysis of the mechanical control of mitotic entry in a time-resolved manner.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 321 Views Mar 5, 2024

The genome of the dengue virus codes for a single polypeptide that yields three structural and seven non-structural (NS) proteins upon post-translational modifications. Among them, NS protein-3 (NS3) possesses protease activity, involved in the processing of the self-polypeptide and in the cleavage of host proteins. Identification and analysis of such host proteins as substrates of this protease facilitate the development of specific drugs. In vitro cleavage analysis has been applied, which requires homogeneously purified components. However, the expression and purification of both S3 and erythroid differentiation regulatory factor 1 (EDRF1) are difficult and unsuccessful on many occasions. EDRF1 was identified as an interacting protein of dengue virus protease (NS3). The amino acid sequence analysis indicates the presence of NS3 cleavage sites in this protein. As EDRF1 is a high-molecular-weight (~138 kDa) protein, it is difficult to express and purify the complete protein. In this protocol, we clone the domain of the EDRF1 protein (C-terminal end) containing the cleavage site and the NS3 into two different eukaryotic expression vectors containing different tags. These recombinant vectors are co-transfected into mammalian cells. The cell lysate is subjected to SDS-PAGE followed by western blotting with anti-tag antibodies. Data suggest the disappearance of the EDRF1 band in the lane co-transfected along with NS3 protease but present in the lane transfected with only EDRF1, suggesting EDRF1 as a novel substrate of NS3 protease. This protocol is useful in identifying the substrates of viral-encoded proteases using ex vivo conditions. Further, this protocol can be used to screen anti-protease molecules.

Key features

• This protocol requires the cloning of protease and substrate into two different eukaryotic expression vectors with different tags.

• Involves the transfection and co-transfection of both the above recombinant vectors individually and together.

• Involves western blotting of the same PVDF membrane containing total proteins of the cell lysate with two different antibodies.

• Does not require purified proteins for the analysis of cleavage of any suspected substrate by the protease.

Graphical overview

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