Cell Biology


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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 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 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 2010 Views Dec 20, 2023

Clearance of dying cells, named efferocytosis, is a pivotal function of professional phagocytes that impedes the accumulation of cell debris. Efferocytosis can be experimentally assessed by differentially tagging the target cells and professional phagocytes and analyzing by cell imaging or flow cytometry. Here, we describe an assay to evaluate the uptake of apoptotic cells (ACs) by human macrophages in vitro by labeling the different cells with commercially available dyes and analysis by flow cytometry. We detail the methods to prepare and label human macrophages and apoptotic lymphocytes and the in vitro approach to determine AC uptake. This protocol is based on previously published literature and allows for in vitro modeling of the efficiency of AC engulfment during continual efferocytosis process. Also, it can be modified to evaluate the clearance of different cell types by diverse professional phagocytes.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 526 Views Oct 20, 2023

The cell cycle is a vital process of cell division that is required to sustain life. Since faithful cell division is critical for the proper growth and development of an organism, the study of the cell cycle becomes a fundamental research objective. Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been an excellent unicellular system for unraveling the secrets of cell division, and the process of synchronization in budding yeast has been standardized. Cell synchronization is a crucial step of cell cycle analysis, where cells in a culture at different stages of the cell cycle are arrested to the same phase and, upon release, they progress synchronously. The cellular synchronization of S. cerevisiae is easily achieved by a pheromone or other chemicals like hydroxyurea treatment; however, such methodologies seem to be ineffective in synchronizing cells of multimorphic fungi such as Candida albicans. C. albicans is a human pathogen that can grow in yeast, pseudohyphal, and hyphal forms; these forms differ in morphology as well as cell cycle progression. More importantly, upon subjecting to DNA replication inhibitors for synchronization, C. albicans develops hyphal structures and grows asynchronously. Therefore, here we describe a simple and easy method to synchronize C. albicans cells in the G1 phase and the subsequent analysis of cell cycle progression by using flow cytometry.

0 Q&A 1044 Views Sep 20, 2023

Gammaherpesviruses such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) are major modulators of the immune responses of their hosts. In the related study (PMID: 35857578), we investigated the role for Ly6Chi monocytes in shaping the function of effector CD4+ T cells in the context of a murine gammaherpesvirus infection (Murid gammaherpesvirus 4) as a model of human EBV. In order to unravel the polyfunctional properties of CD4+ T-cell subsets, we used multiparametric flow cytometry to perform intracellular staining on lung cells. As such, we have developed herein an intracellular staining workflow to identify on the same samples the cytotoxic and/or regulatory properties of CD4+ lymphocytes at the single-cell level. Briefly, following perfusion, collection, digestion, and filtration of the lung to obtain a single-cell suspension, lung cells were cultured for 4 h with protein transport inhibitors and specific stimulation media to accumulate cytokines of interest and/or cytotoxic granules. After multicolor surface labeling, fixation, and mild permeabilization, lung cells were stained for intracytoplasmic antigens and analyzed with a Fortessa 4-laser cytometer. This method of quantifying cytotoxic mediators as well as pro- or anti-inflammatory cytokines by flow cytometry has allowed us to decipher at high resolution the functional heterogeneity of lung CD4+ T cells recruited after a viral infection. Therefore, this analysis provided a better understanding of the importance of CD4+ T-cell regulation to prevent the development of virus-induced immunopathologies in the lung.


Key features

• High-resolution profiling of the functional properties of lung-infiltrating CD4+ T cells after viral infection using conventional multiparametric flow cytometry.

• Detailed protocol for mouse lung dissection, preparation of single-cell suspension, and setup of multicolor surface/intracellular staining.

• Summary of optimal ex vivo restimulation conditions for investigating the functional polarization and cytokine production of lung-infiltrating CD4+ T cells.

• Comprehensive compilation of necessary biological and technical controls to ensure reliable data analysis and interpretation.


Graphical overview



Graphical abstract depicting the interactions between immune cells infiltrating the alveolar niche and the lung during respiratory infection with a gammaherpesvirus (Murid herpesvirus 4, MuHV-4). Two distinct situations are represented: the inflammatory response developed during viral replication in the lung, either in the presence (WT mice) or absence of regulatory monocytes (CCR2KO mice). Sequential process of the experiment is represented, starting from intratracheal instillation of MuHV-4 virions to tissue dissociation and multicolor staining for flow cytometry analysis.

0 Q&A 1020 Views Aug 20, 2023

Myeloid cells, specifically microglia and macrophages, are activated in retinal diseases and can improve or worsen retinopathy outcomes based on their inflammatory phenotype. However, assessing the myeloid cell response after retinal injury in mice remains challenging due to the small tissue size and the challenges of distinguishing microglia from infiltrating macrophages. In this protocol paper, we describe a flow cytometry–based protocol to assess retinal microglia/macrophage and their inflammatory phenotype after injury. The protocol is amenable to the incorporation of other markers of interest to other researchers.


Key features

• This protocol describes a flow cytometry–based method to analyze the myeloid cell response in retinopathy mouse models.

• The protocol can distinguish between microglia- and monocyte-derived macrophages.

• It can be modified to incorporate markers of interest.

We show representative results from three different retinopathy models, namely ischemia-reperfusion injury, endotoxin-induced uveitis, and oxygen-induced retinopathy.

0 Q&A 298 Views Aug 5, 2023

Presentation of the variant antigen Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (EMP1) at the surface of infected red blood cells (RBCs) underpins the malaria parasite’s pathogenicity. The transport of EMP1 to the RBC surface is facilitated by a parasite-derived trafficking system, in which over 500 parasite proteins are exported into the host cell cytoplasm. To understand how genetic ablation of selected exported proteins affects EMP1 transport, several EMP1 surface presentation assays have been developed, including: 1) trypsinization of surface-exposed EMP1 and analysis by SDS-PAGE and immunoblotting; and 2) infected RBC binding assays, to determine binding efficiency to immobilized ligand under physiological flow conditions. Here, we describe a third EMP1 surface presentation assay, where antibodies to the ectodomain of EMP1 and flow cytometry are used to quantify surface-exposed EMP1 in live cells. The advantages of this assay include higher throughput capacity and data better suited for robust quantitative analysis. This protocol can also be applied to other cellular contexts where an antibody can be developed for the ectodomain of the protein of interest.

0 Q&A 856 Views Apr 20, 2023

RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) transcribes DNA into mRNA and thereby plays a critical role in cellular protein production. In addition, RNAPII plays a central role in DNA damage responses. Measurements of RNAPII on chromatin may thus give insight into several essential processes in eukaryotic cells. During transcription, the C-terminal domain of RNAPII becomes post-translationally modified, and phosphorylation on serine 5 and serine 2 can be used as markers for the promoter proximal and productively elongating forms of RNAPII, respectively. Here, we provide a detailed protocol for the detection of chromatin-bound RNAPII and its serine 5– and serine 2–phosphorylated forms in individual human cells through the cell cycle. We have recently shown that this method can be used to study the effects of ultraviolet DNA damage on RNAPII chromatin binding and that it can even be used to reveal new knowledge about the transcription cycle itself. Other commonly used methods to study RNAPII chromatin binding include chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing or chromatin fractionation followed by western blotting. However, such methods are frequently based on lysates made from a large number of cells, which may mask population heterogeneity, e.g., due to cell cycle phase. With strengths such as single-cell analysis, speed of use, and accurate quantitative readouts, we envision that our flow cytometry method can be widely used as a complementary approach to sequencing-based methods to study effects of different stimuli and inhibitors on RNAPII-mediated transcription.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 1891 Views Oct 5, 2022

The sirtuin 6 has emerged as a regulator of acute and chronic immune responses. Recent findings show that SIRT6 is necessary for mounting an active inflammatory response in macrophages. In vitro studies revealed that SIRT6 is stabilized in the cytoplasm to promote tumor necrosis factor (TNFα) secretion. Notably, SIRT6 also promotes TNFα secretion by resident peritoneal macrophages upon lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation in vivo. Although many studies have investigated SIRT6 function in the immune response through different genetic and pharmacological approaches, direct measurements of in vivo SIRT6 expression in immune cells by flow cytometry have not yet been performed. Here, we describe a step-by-step protocol for peritoneal fluid extraction, isolation, and preparation of peritoneal cavity cells, intracellular SIRT6 staining, and flow cytometry analysis to measure SIRT6 levels in mice peritoneal macrophages. By providing a robust method to quantify SIRT6 levels in different populations of macrophages, this method will contribute to deepening our understanding of the role of SIRT6 in immunity, as well as in other cellular processes regulated by SIRT6.


Graphical abstract:







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