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0 Q&A 671 Views Jan 20, 2024

Cholesterol is oxygenated by a variety of cholesterol hydroxylases; oxysterols play diverse important roles in physiological and pathophysiological conditions by regulating several transcription factors and cell-surface receptors. Each oxysterol has distinct and overlapping functions. The expression of cholesterol hydroxylases is highly regulated, but their physiological and pathophysiological roles are not fully understood. Although the activity of cholesterol hydroxylases has been characterized biochemically using radiolabeled cholesterol as the substrate, their specificities remain to be comprehensively determined quantitatively. To better understand their roles, a highly sensitive method to measure the amount of various oxysterols synthesized by cholesterol hydroxylases in living mammalian cells is required. Our method described here, with gas chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (GC–MS/MS), can quantitatively determine a series of oxysterols endogenously synthesized by forced expression of one of the four major cholesterol hydroxylases—CH25H, CYP7A1, CYP27A1, and CYP46A1—or induction of CH25H expression by a physiological stimulus. This protocol can also simultaneously measure the amount of intermediate sterols, which serve as markers for cellular cholesterol synthesis activity.

Key features

• Allows measuring the amount of a variety of oxysterols synthesized endogenously by cholesterol hydroxylases using GC–MS/MS.

• Comprehensive and quantitative analysis of cholesterol hydroxylase specificities in living mammalian cells.

• Simultaneous quantification of intermediate sterols to assess cholesterol synthesis activity.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 493 Views Jan 5, 2024

Autophagy is an essential catabolic pathway used to sequester and engulf cytosolic substrates via a unique double-membrane structure, called an autophagosome. The ubiquitin-like ATG8 proteins play an important role in mediating autophagosome membrane expansion. They are covalently conjugated to phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) on the autophagosomes via a ubiquitin-like conjugation system called ATG8 lipidation. In vitro reconstitution of ATG8 lipidation with synthetic liposomes has been previously established and used widely to characterise the function of the E1 ATG7, the E2 ATG3, and the E3 complex ATG12–ATG5-ATG16L1. However, there is still a lack of a tool to provide kinetic measurements of this enzymatic reaction. In this protocol, we describe a real-time lipidation assay using NBD-labelled ATG8. This real-time assay can distinguish the formation of ATG8 intermediates (ATG7~ATG8 and/or ATG3~ATG8) and, finally, ATG8-PE conjugation. It allows kinetic characterisation of the activity of ATG7, ATG3, and the E3 complex during ATG8 lipidation. Furthermore, this protocol can be adapted to characterise the upstream regulators that may affect protein activity in ATG8 lipidation reaction with a kinetic readout.

Key features

• Preparation of ATG7 E1 from insect cells (Sf9 cells).

• Preparation of ATG3 E2 from bacteria (E. coli).

• Preparation of LC3B S3C from bacteria (E. coli).

• Preparation of liposomes to monitor the kinetics of ATG8 lipidation in a real-time manner.

Graphical overview

Experimental design to track the full reaction of ATG8 lipidation, described in this protocol

0 Q&A 355 Views Nov 20, 2023

The lipid bilayers of the cell are composed of various lipid classes and species. These engage in cell signaling and regulation by recruiting cytosolic proteins to the membrane and interacting with membrane-embedded proteins to alternate their activity and stability. Like lipids, membrane proteins are amphipathic and are stabilized by the hydrophobic forces of the lipid bilayer. Membrane protein–lipid interactions are difficult to investigate since membrane proteins need to be reconstituted in a lipid-mimicking environment. A common and well-established approach is the detergent-based solubilization of the membrane proteins in detergent micelles. Nowadays, nanodiscs and liposomes are used to mimic the lipid bilayer and enable the work with membrane proteins in a more natural environment. However, these protocols need optimization and are labor intensive. The present protocol describes straightforward instructions on how the preparation of lipids is performed and how the lipid detergent mixture is integrated with the membrane protein MARCH5. The lipidation protocol was performed prior to an activity assay specific to membrane-bound E3 ubiquitin ligases and a stability assay that could be used for any membrane protein of choice.

0 Q&A 340 Views Oct 5, 2023

Disruptions and perturbations of the cellular plasma membrane by peptides have garnered significant interest in the elucidation of biological phenomena. Typically, these complex processes are studied using liposomes as model membranes—either by encapsulating a fluorescent dye or by other spectroscopic approaches, such as nuclear magnetic resonance. Despite incorporating physiologically relevant lipids, no synthetic model truly recapitulates the full complexity and molecular diversity of the plasma membrane. Here, biologically representative membrane models, giant plasma membrane vesicles (GPMVs), are prepared from eukaryotic cells by inducing a budding event with a chemical stressor. The GPMVs are then isolated, and bilayers are labelled with fluorescent lipophilic tracers and incubated in a microplate with a membrane-active peptide. As the membranes become damaged and/or aggregate, the resulting fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between the two tracers increases and is measured periodically in a microplate. This approach offers a particularly useful way to detect perturbations when the membrane complexity is an important variable to consider. Additionally, it provides a way to kinetically detect damage to the plasma membrane, which can be correlated with the kinetics of peptide self-assembly or structural rearrangements.

Key features

• Allows testing of various peptide–membrane interaction conditions (peptide:phospholipid ratio, ionic strength, buffer, etc.) at once.

• Uses intact plasma membrane vesicles that can be prepared from a variety of cell lines.

• Can offer comparable throughput as with traditional synthetic lipid models (e.g., dye-encapsulated liposomes).

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 873 Views Sep 20, 2023

Dietary saturated fatty acids (SFAs) are upregulated in the blood circulation following digestion. A variety of circulating lipid species have been implicated in metabolic and inflammatory diseases; however, due to the extreme variability in serum or plasma lipid concentrations found in human studies, established reference ranges are still lacking, in addition to lipid specificity and diagnostic biomarkers. Mass spectrometry is widely used for identification of lipid species in the plasma, and there are many differences in sample extraction methods within the literature. We used ultra-high performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) coupled to a high-resolution hybrid triple quadrupole-time-of-flight (QToF) mass spectrometry (MS) to compare relative peak abundance of specific lipid species within the following lipid classes: free fatty acids (FFAs), triglycerides (TAGs), phosphatidylcholines (PCs), and sphingolipids (SGs), in the plasma of mice fed a standard chow (SC; low in SFAs) or ketogenic diet (KD; high in SFAs) for two weeks. In this protocol, we used Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and R to visualize how individual mice clustered together according to their diet, and we found that KD-fed mice displayed unique blood profiles for many lipid species identified within each lipid class compared to SC-fed mice. We conclude that two weeks of KD feeding is sufficient to significantly alter circulating lipids, with PCs being the most altered lipid class, followed by SGs, TAGs, and FFAs, including palmitic acid (PA) and PA-saturated lipids. This protocol is needed to advance knowledge on the impact that SFA-enriched diets have on concentrations of specific lipids in the blood that are known to be associated with metabolic and inflammatory diseases.

Key features

• Analysis of relative plasma lipid concentrations from mice on different diets using R.

• Lipidomics data collected via ultra-high performance liquid chromatography (UPLC) coupled to a high-resolution hybrid triple quadrupole-time-of-flight (QToF) mass spectrometry (MS).

• Allows for a comprehensive comparison of diet-dependent plasma lipid profiles, including a variety of specific lipid species within several different lipid classes.

• Accumulation of certain free fatty acids, phosphatidylcholines, triglycerides, and sphingolipids are associated with metabolic and inflammatory diseases, and plasma concentrations may be clinically useful.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 739 Views Aug 5, 2023

Integral membrane proteins are an important class of cellular proteins. These take part in key cellular processes such as signaling transducing receptors to transporters, many operating within the plasma membrane. More than half of the FDA-approved protein-targeting drugs operate via interaction with proteins that contain at least one membrane-spanning region, yet the characterization and study of their native interactions with therapeutic agents remains a significant challenge. This challenge is due in part to such proteins often being present in small quantities within a cell. Effective solubilization of membrane proteins is also problematic, with the detergents typically employed in solubilizing membranes leading to a loss of functional activity and key interacting partners. In recent years, alternative methods to extract membrane proteins within their native lipid environment have been investigated, with the aim of producing functional nanodiscs, maintaining protein–protein and protein–lipid interactions. A promising approach involves extracting membrane proteins in the form of styrene maleic acid lipid particles (SMALPs) that allow the retention of their native conformation. This extraction method offers many advantages for further protein analysis and allows the study of the protein interactions with other molecules, such as drugs. Here, we describe a protocol for efficient SMALP extraction of functionally active membrane protein complexes within nanodiscs. We showcase the method on the isolation of a low copy number plasma membrane receptor complex, the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR), from adult Drosophila melanogaster heads. We demonstrate that these nanodiscs can be used to study native receptor–ligand interactions. This protocol can be applied across many biological scenarios to extract the native conformations of low copy number integral membrane proteins.

0 Q&A 1010 Views Jul 20, 2023

Loss of plasma membrane lipid asymmetry contributes to many cellular functions and responses, including apoptosis, blood coagulation, and cell fusion. In this protocol, we describe the use of fluorescently labeled annexin V to detect loss of lipid asymmetry in the plasma membrane of adherent living cells by fluorescence microscopy. The approach provides a simple, sensitive, and reproducible method to detect changes in lipid asymmetry but is limited by low sample throughput. The protocol can also be adapted to other fluorescently labeled lipid-binding proteins or peptide probes. To validate the lipid binding properties of such probes, we additionally describe here the preparation and use of giant unilamellar vesicles as simple model membrane systems that have a size comparable to cells.

Key features

• Monitoring loss of lipid asymmetry in the plasma membrane via confocal microscopy.

• Protocol can be applied to any type of cell that is adherent in culture, including primary cells.

• Assay can be adapted to other fluorescently labeled lipid-binding proteins or peptide probes.

• Giant unilamellar vesicles serve as a tool to validate the lipid binding properties of such probes.

Graphical overview

Imaging the binding of fluorescent annexin V to adherent mammalian cells and giant vesicles by confocal microscopy. Annexin V labeling is a useful method for detecting a loss of plasma membrane lipid asymmetry in cells (top image, red); DAPI can be used to identify nuclei (top image, blue). Giant vesicles are used as a tool to validate the lipid binding properties of annexin V to anionic lipids (lower image, red).

0 Q&A 477 Views Jul 5, 2023

Eukaryotic cells use a series of membrane transporters to control the movement of lipids across their plasma membrane. Several tools and techniques have been developed to analyze the activity of these transporters in the plasma membrane of mammalian cells. Among them, assays based on fluorescence microscopy in combination with fluorescent lipid probes are particularly suitable, allowing visualization of lipid internalization in living cells. Here, we provide a step-by-step protocol for mammalian cell culture, lipid probe preparation, cell labeling, and confocal imaging to monitor lipid internalization by lipid flippases at the plasma membrane based on lipid probes carrying a fluorophore at a short-chain fatty acid. The protocol allows studying a wide range of mammalian cell lines, to test the impact of gene knockouts on lipid internalization at the plasma membrane and changes in lipid uptake during cell differentiation.

Key features

• Visualization and quantification of lipid internalization by lipid flippases at the plasma membrane based on confocal microscopy.

• Assay is performed on living adherent mammalian cells in culture.

• The protocol can be easily modified to a wide variety of mammalian cell lines.

Graphical overview

Analysis of NBD-lipid uptake in adherent mammalian cells by confocal microscopy. Scale bar, 30 μm.

0 Q&A 684 Views Jul 5, 2023

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a condition characterized by inflammation and hepatic injury/fibrosis caused by the accumulation of ectopic fats in the liver. Recent advances in lipidomics have allowed the identification and characterization of lipid species and have revealed signature patterns of various diseases. Here, we describe a lipidomics workflow to assess the lipid profiles of liver homogenates taken from a NASH mouse model. The protocol described below was used to extract and analyze the metabolites from the livers of mice with NASH by liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS); however, it can be applied to other tissue homogenate samples. Using this method, over 1,000 species of lipids from five classes can be analyzed in a single run on the LC-MS. Also, partial elucidation of the identity of neutral lipid (triacylglycerides and diacylglycerides) aliphatic chains can be performed with this simple LC-MS setup.

Key features

• Over 1,000 lipid species (sphingolipids, cholesteryl esters, neutral lipids, phospholipids, fatty acids) are analyzed in one run.

• Analysis of liver lipids in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) mouse model.

• Normal-phase chromatography coupled to a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer.

Graphical overview

Schematic procedure for the homogenization and extraction of mouse liver tissue in preparation for LC-MS analysis (Created with

0 Q&A 597 Views Jun 5, 2023

Lipid-conjugated pH sensors based on fluorophores coupled to lipids are a powerful tool for monitoring pH gradients in biological microcompartments and reconstituted membrane systems. This protocol describes the synthesis of pH sensors based on amine-reactive pHrodo esters and the amino phospholipid phosphatidylethanolamine. The major features of this sensor include efficient partitioning into membranes and strong fluorescence under acidic conditions. The protocol described here can be used as a template to couple other amine-reactive fluorophores to phosphatidylethanolamines.

Graphical overview

Synthesis of lipid-conjugated pH sensors based on amine-reactive fluorophore esters and the aminophospholipid phosphoethanolamine (PE)

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