Neuroscience


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0 Q&A 861 Views Apr 20, 2023

Palmitoylation is a unique and reversible posttranslational lipid modification (PTM) that plays a critical role in many cellular events, including protein stability, activity, membrane association, and protein–protein interactions. The dynamic nature of palmitoylation dictates the efficient sorting of various retinal proteins to specific subcellular compartments. However, the underlying mechanism through which palmitoylation supports efficient protein trafficking in the retina remains unclear. Recent studies show that palmitoylation can also function as a signaling PTM, underlying epigenetic regulation and homeostasis in the retina. Efficient isolation of retinal palmitoyl proteome will pave the way to a better understanding of the role(s) for palmitoylation in visual function. The standard methods for detecting palmitoylated proteins employ 3H- or 14C-radiolabeled palmitic acid and have many limitations, including poor sensitivity. Relatively recent studies use thiopropyl Sepharose 6B resin, which offers efficient detection of palmitoylated proteome but is now discontinued from the market. Here, we describe a modified acyl resin–assisted capture (Acyl-RAC) method using agarose S3 high-capacity resin to purify palmitoylated proteins from the retina and other tissues, which is greatly compatible with downstream processing by LC-MS/MS. Unlike other palmitoylation assays, the present protocol is easy to perform and cost-effective.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 1071 Views Jul 20, 2022

The retina is a thin neuronal multilayer responsible for the detection of visual information. The first step in visual transduction occurs in the photoreceptor outer segment. The studies on photoreception and visual biochemistry have often utilized rod outer segments (OS) or OS disks purified from mammalian eyes. Literature reports several OS and disk purification procedures that rarely specify the procedure utilized to collect the retina from the eye. Some reports suggest the use of scissors, while others do not mention the issue as they declare to utilize frozen retinas. Because the OS are deeply embedded in the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE), the detachment of the retina by a harsh pull-out can cause the fracture of the photoreceptor cilium. Here, we present a protocol maximizing OS yield. Eye semi-cups, obtained by hemisecting the eyeball and discarding the anterior chamber structures and the vitreous, are filled with Mammalian Ringer. After 10–15 min of incubation, the retinas spontaneously detach with their wealth of OS almost intact. The impressive ability of the present protocol to minimize the number of OS stuck inside the RPE, and therefore lost, compared with the classic procedure, is shown by confocal laser scanning microscopy analysis of samples stained ex vivo with a dye (MitoTracker deep red) that stains both retinal mitochondria and OS. Total protein assay of OS disks purified by either procedure also shows a 300% total protein yield improvement. The advantage of the protocol presented is its higher yield of photoreceptor OS for subsequent purification procedures, while maintaining the physiological features of the retina.

0 Q&A 1675 Views May 20, 2022

The vestibular sensory apparatus contained in the inner ear is a marvelous evolutionary adaptation for sensing movement in 3 dimensions and is essential for an animal’s sense of orientation in space, head movement, and balance. Damage to these systems through injury or disease can lead to vertigo, Meniere’s disease, and other disorders that are profoundly debilitating. One challenge in studying vestibular organs is their location within the boney inner ear and their small size, especially in mice, which have become an advantageous mammalian model. This protocol describes the dissection procedure of the five vestibular organs from the inner ear of adult mice, followed by immunohistochemical labeling of a whole mount preparation using antibodies to label endogenous proteins such as calretinin to label Type I hair cells or to amplify genetically expressed fluorescent proteins for confocal microscopic imaging. Using typical lab equipment and reagents, a patient technician, student, or postdoc can learn to dissect and immunolabel mouse vestibular organs to investigate their structure in health and disease.

0 Q&A 1581 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 1428 Views Mar 5, 2022

The search for safe and efficient chronic pain treatments is dampened by the lack of reliable models that faithfully reproduce current pharmacological treatments for chronic spontaneous pain in humans. Preclinical models often assess the antinociceptive efficacy of non-contingent pharmacological treatments evaluated in the short-term. Here, we provide a protocol of contingent operant self-medication in mice, which allows the estimation of spontaneous pain relief and drug abuse liability in models of persistent pain. This paradigm requires preliminary habituation and animal handling, followed by training of mice in operant conditioning boxes, to allow subsequent analgesic drug self-administration. After the initial acquisition of food-maintained operant behavior, a chronic pain sensitization is induced. Posterior intravenous jugular catheterization and coupling of operant conditioning boxes to perfusion pumps allow quantification of operant responding for intravenous drug self-administration. All mice show an initial operant drug self-administration behavior associated with the previous food-maintained operant training. This initial operant responding is extinguished after administration of ineffective treatments, but continues when the compounds have analgesic efficacy or intrinsic reinforcing properties. The identification of a significant drug self-administration selectively expressed in mice exposed to the chronic pain condition is indicative of analgesic drug effects, whereas persistent self-administration in control mice is indicative of abuse liability. The present protocol provides the behavioral and surgical procedures needed to assess spontaneous pain relief and potential for abuse of pharmacological treatments, through contingent analgesic self-medication in mice.


Graphic abstract:



Experimental design. Animals are subjected to a 5-day food self-administration protocol with a fixed ratio of reinforcement of 1 (FR1, 1 interaction with the active nose-poke causes the release of 1 reinforcer/infusion), to acquire the operant behavior. After this training, mice are subjected to the chronic pain or sham procedure, and four days later an intravenous (i.v.) catheterization is performed, to allow self-administration with the selected compound or its vehicle. Three days after the catheterization, animals start the drug/vehicle self-administration protocol at FR1. The patency of the catheter is evaluated with the thiopental test after the last self-administration session. Adapted from Bura et al. (2018).


0 Q&A 2460 Views Jan 5, 2022

Spiral ganglion neurons (SGN) are the primary neuronal pathway for transmitting sensory information from the inner ear to the brainstem. Recent studies have revealed significant biophysical and molecular diversity indicating that auditory neurons are comprised of sub-groups whose intrinsic properties contribute to their diverse functions. Previous approaches for studying the intrinsic biophysical properties of spiral ganglion neurons relied on patch-clamp and molecular analysis of cultured somata that were disconnected from their pre-synaptic hair cell partners. In the absence of the information provided by cell-to-cell connectivity, such studies could not associate biophysical diversity with functional sub-groups. Here we describe a protocol for preparing, recording, and labeling spiral ganglion neurons in a semi-intact ex-vivo preparation. In these preparations, the cell bodies of spiral ganglion neurons remain connected to their hair cell partners. The recordings are completed within 4 hours of euthanasia, alleviating concerns about whether long culture times and culture conditions change the intrinsic properties of neurons.


0 Q&A 1239 Views Dec 20, 2021

Assessment of corticospinal excitability (CSE) is an essential component of experiments designed to induce or study neuronal plasticity in the motor system. Common examples are paired associative stimulation (PAS), theta-burst stimulation (TBS), intensive motor training, or any methods aimed at potentiating the corticomotor system in the hope of promoting better recovery after neurological insult. To date, rodent models of CSE assessment have mostly been completed under anaesthesia, which greatly affects the level of CSE, as well as the mechanisms of plasticity. Experiments in awake animals are difficult because the ongoing state of behavior affects the excitability of the motor system and complicates the assessment of CSE. To address this issue, we have designed a novel approach for CSE assessment in awake behaving rodents, enabling a reliable measure of evoked motor responses obtained from cortical microstimulation in repeatable conditions of ongoing motor activity. The system relies on chronically implanted intracortical and intramuscular electrodes and a custom-made software control system, enabling the user to require that precise parameters of EMG activity be met before cortical stimulation probes are delivered. This approach could be used for further studies of PAS, TBS or other interventions requiring the assessment of CSE under repeatable conditions. We provide fabrication schematics and a list of materials for the implant, as well as instructions for running a custom-made MATLAB codebase, customizing the PAS protocol, and performing the complete analysis of experimental data. We hope these tools can further facilitate animal research in the field of neuroplasticity and neurorehabilitation.


0 Q&A 2853 Views Nov 20, 2021

Visual impairments, notably loss of contrast sensitivity and color vision, were documented in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients yet are critically understudied. This protocol describes a novel visual-stimuli four-arm maze (ViS4M; also called visual x-maze), which is a versatile x-shaped maze equipped with spectrum- and intensity-controlled light-emitting diode (LED) sources and dynamic grayscale objects. The ViS4M is designed to allow the assessment of color and contrast vision along with locomotor and cognitive functions in mice. In the color testing mode, the spectral distributions of the LED lights create four homogenous spaces that differ in chromaticity and luminance, corresponding to the mouse visual system. In the contrast sensitivity test, the four grayscale objects are placed in the middle of each arm, contrasting against the black walls and the white floors of the maze. Upon entering the maze, healthy wild-type (WT) mice tend to spontaneously alternate between arms, even under equiluminant conditions of illumination, suggesting that cognitively and visually intact mice use both color and brightness as cues to navigate the maze. Evaluation of the double-transgenic APPSWE/PS1ΔE9 mouse model of AD (AD+ mice) reveals substantial deficits to alternate in both color and contrast modes at an early age, when hippocampal-based memory and learning is still intact. Profiling of timespan, entries, and transition patterns between the different arms uncovers variable aging and AD-associated impairments in color discrimination and contrast sensitivity. The analysis of arm sequences of alternation reveals different pathways of exploration in young WT, old WT, and AD+ mice, which can be used as color and contrast imprints of functionally intact versus impaired mice. Overall, we describe the utility of a novel visual x-maze test to identify behavioral changes in mice related to cognition, as well as color and contrast vision, with high precision and reproducibility.


Graphic abstract:



Exploratory behavior of AD+ mice versus age- and sex-matched WT mice is tracked (top left: trajectory from a 5-min video file) in a novel visual-stimuli four-arm maze (ViS4M; also named visual x-maze) equipped with spectrum- and intensity-controlled LED sources or grayscale objects. Consecutive arm entries reveal that APPSWE/PS1ΔE9 (AD+) mice alternate less between arms, as opposed to WT mice. Sequence analysis, according to the three alternation pathways (depicted by white, yellow, and brown arrows) under different conditions of illumination, uncovers specific deficits linked to color vision in AD+ mice, evidenced by a color imprint chart.


0 Q&A 2545 Views Nov 5, 2021

The neuromuscular junction (NMJ) is a specialized synapse that connects the terminal end of a motor neuron and a skeletal muscle fiber. Defects in NMJ cause abnormalities of neuromuscular transmission, leading to NMJ disorders. The mammalian diaphragm muscle is essential for respiration and has been widely used to study NMJ formation. Here, we provide a simple and straightforward protocol for preparing diaphragms from embryonic, neonatal, and adult mice and for subsequent NMJ staining.

0 Q&A 2402 Views Oct 5, 2021

Müller cells, the major glial cells of the retina, play vital roles in maintaining redox homeostasis and retinal metabolism. An immortalized human Müller cell line (MIO-M1) is widely used as an in vitro model to study Müller cells’ function, but they may not be exactly the same as primarily cultured human Müller cells. The use of human primary Müller cells (huPMCs) in culture has been limited by the requirement for complicated culture systems or particular age ranges of donors. We have successfully grown huPMCs using our established protocol. The cell type was pure, and cultured cells expressed Müller cell-specific markers strongly. The cultured huPMCs were used for morphologic, metabolic, transcriptomic, and functional studies.


Graphic abstract:



Timeline for human primary Müller cell (huPMC) culture





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