Neuroscience


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 547 Views Oct 5, 2022

Late-gestation transient intrauterine hypoxia is a common cause of birth injury. It can lead to long-term neurodevelopmental disabilities even in the absence of gross anatomic injury. Currently, postnatal models of hypoxia–ischemia are most commonly used to study the effect of oxygen deprivation in the fetal brain. These models, however, are unable to take into account placental factors that influence the response to hypoxia, exhibit levels of cell death not seen in many human patients, and are unable to model preterm hypoxia. To address this gap in research, we have developed a protocol to induce transient hypoxia in fetal mice. A pregnant dam at gestational day 17.5 is placed into a hypoxia chamber. Over 30 min, the inspired oxygen is titrated from 21% (ambient air) to 5%. The dam remains in the chamber for up to 8 h, after which fetal brains can be collected or pups delivered for postnatal studies. This protocol recapitulates phenotypes seen in human patients exposed to transient in utero hypoxia and is readily reproducible by researchers.


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0 Q&A 1259 Views Jul 20, 2022

To optimize differentiation protocols for stem cell-based in vitro modeling applications, it is essential to assess the change in gene expression during the differentiation process. This allows controlling its differentiation efficiency into the target cell types. While RNA transcriptomics provides detail at a larger scale, timing and cost are prohibitive to include such analyses in the optimization process. In contrast, expression analysis of individual genes is cumbersome and lengthy.


Here, we developed a versatile and cost-efficient SYBR Green array of 27 markers along with two housekeeping genes to quickly screen for differentiation efficiency of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) into excitatory cortical neurons. We first identified relevant pluripotency, neuroprogenitor, and neuronal markers for the array by literature search, and designed primers with a product size of 80-120 bp length, an annealing temperature of 60°C, and minimal predicted secondary structures. We spotted combined forward and reverse primers on 96-well plates and dried them out overnight. These plates can be prepared in advance in batches and stored at room temperature until use. Next, we added the SYBR Green master mix and complementary DNA (cDNA) to the plate in triplicates, ran quantitative PCR (qPCR) on a Quantstudio 6 Flex, and analyzed results with QuantStudio software.


We compared the expression of genes for pluripotency, neuroprogenitor cells, cortical neurons, and synaptic markers in a 96-well format at four different time points during the cortical differentiation. We found a sharp reduction of pluripotency genes within the first three days of pre-differentiation and a steady increase of neuronal markers and synaptic markers over time. In summary, we built a gene expression array that is customizable, fast, medium-throughput, and cost-efficient, ideally suited for optimization of differentiation protocols for stem cell-based in vitro modeling.


2 Q&A 5079 Views Mar 5, 2021

The high attrition rate in drug development processes calls for additional human-based model systems. However, in the context of brain disorders, sampling live neuronal cells for compound testing is not applicable. The use of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) has revolutionized the field of neuronal disease modeling and drug discovery. Thanks to the development of iPSC-based neuronal differentiation protocols, including tridimensional cerebral organoids, it is now possible to molecularly dissect human neuronal development and human brain disease pathogenesis in a dish. These approaches may allow dissecting patient-specific treatment efficacy in a disease-relevant cellular context. For drug discovery approaches, however, a highly reproducible and cost-effective cell model is desirable. Here, we describe a step-by-step process for generating robust and expandable neural progenitor cells (NPCs) from human iPSCs. NPCs generated with this protocol are homogeneous and highly proliferative. These features make NPCs suitable for the development of high-throughput compound screenings for drug discovery. Human iPSC-derived NPCs show a metabolism dependent on mitochondrial activity and can therefore be used also to investigate neurological disorders in which mitochondrial function is affected. The protocol covers all steps necessary for the preparation, culture, and characterization of human iPSC-derived NPCs.


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Schematic of the protocol for the generation of human iPSC-derived NPCs


0 Q&A 3380 Views Aug 20, 2020
The deposition of misfolded, aggregated tau protein is a hallmark of several neurodegenerative diseases, collectively termed “tauopathies”. Tau pathology spreads throughout the brain along connected pathways in a prion-like manner. The process of tau pathology propagation across circuits is a focus of intense research and has been investigated in vivo in human post-mortem brain and in mouse models of the diseases, in vitro in diverse cellular systems including primary neurons, and in cell free assays using purified recombinant tau protein. Here we describe a protocol that takes advantage of a minimalistic neuronal circuit arrayed within a microfluidic device to follow the propagation of tau misfolding from a presynaptic to a postsynaptic neuron. This assay allows high-resolution imaging as well as individual manipulation of the releasing and receiving neuron, and is therefore beneficial for investigating the propagation of tau and other misfolded proteins in vitro.
0 Q&A 5077 Views Jul 20, 2020
Lipid membranes are involved in regulating biochemical and biological processes and in modulating the selective permeability of cells, organelles, and vesicles. Membrane composition, charge, curvature, and fluidity all have concerted effects on cellular signaling and homeostasis. The ability to prepare artificial lipid assemblies that mimic biological membranes has enabled investigators to obtain considerable insight into biomolecule-membrane interactions. Lipid nanoscale assemblies can vary greatly in size and composition and can consist of a single lipid monolayer, a bilayer, or other more complex assemblies. This structural diversity makes liposomes suitable for a wide variety of biochemical and clinical applications. Here, we describe a calcein dye leakage assay that we have developed to monitor phospholipid vesicle disruption by alpha-synuclein (αSyn), a presynaptic protein that plays a central role in Parkinson’s disease (PD). We present data showing the effect of adenylylation of αSyn on αSyn-mediated vesicle disruption as an example. This assay can be used to study the effect of mutations or post-translational modifications on αSyn-membrane interactions, to identify protein binding partners or chemical entities that perturb these interactions, and to study the effects of different lipids on the permeabilization activity of αSyn or any other protein.
0 Q&A 4182 Views Mar 20, 2020
Mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mROS) are naturally produced signalling molecules extremely relevant for understanding both health- and disease-associated biological processes. The study of mROS in the brain is currently underway to decipher their physiopathological roles and contributions in neurological diseases. Recent advances in this field have highlighted the importance of studying mROS signalling and redox biology at the cellular level. Neurons are especially sensitive to the harmful effects of excess mROS while astrocytic mROS have been shown to play a relevant physiological role in cerebral homeostasis and behaviour. However, given the complexity of the brain, investigating mROS formation in a specific cell-type in adult animals is methodologically challenging. Here we propose an approach to specifically assess mROS abundance in astrocytes that combines i) a targeting strategy based on the use of adeno-associated virus (AAV) vectors expressing the green fluorescent protein (GFP) under an astrocyte (glial fibrillary acidic protein or GFAP) promoter, along with, ii) a robust and widely extended protocol for the measurement of mROS by flow cytometry using commercial probes. The significance of this work is that it allows the selective study of astrocytic mROS abundance by means of easily accessible technology.
0 Q&A 2978 Views Feb 20, 2020
Transgenic mice have been used to make valuable contributions to the field of neuroscience and model neurological diseases. The simultaneous functional analysis of hippocampal cell activity combined with hippocampal dependent innate task evaluations provides a reliable experimental approach to detect fine changes during early phases of neurodegeneration. To this aim, we used a merge of patch-clamp with two hippocampal innate behavior tasks. With this experimental approach, whole-cell recordings of CA1 pyramidal cells, combined with hippocampal-dependent innate behaviors, have been crucial for evaluating the early mechanism of neurodegeneration and its consequences. Here, we present our protocol for ex vivo whole-cell recordings of CA1 pyramidal cells and hippocampal dependent innate behaviors in an adolescent (p30) mice.
0 Q&A 4119 Views Dec 5, 2019
Mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with a number of human diseases. As an example, we recently established in vivo Drosophila models of IBMPFD (Inclusion body myopathy, Paget disease, and frontotemporal dementia), and uncovered that human disease mutations of the p97/VCP (Valosin Containing Protein) gene behave as hyperactive alleles associated with mitochondrial defects. Pharmacologic inhibition of VCP strongly suppressed disease and mitochondrial pathology in these animal models. In this protocol, we describe a method to evaluate mitochondrial respiratory function in IBMPFD patient-derived fibroblasts, as well as investigate the role of pharmacologic treatments. These experiments complement work done in animal models by investigating mitochondrial biology and the pharmacologic response in a human cell-based model of the disease. In principle, this technique can be used to investigate mitochondrial respiratory function for any disease in which patient-derived fibroblasts are available.
1 Q&A 7112 Views Nov 20, 2018
Dysfunction of the microtubule-associated protein Tau (encoded by the MAPT gene) has been implicated in more than twenty neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s. As such, the physiological and disease-relevant functions of Tau have garnered great interest in the research community. One barrier hampering investigations into the functions of Tau and the generation of pharmacological agents targeting Tau has been the difficulty of obtaining soluble Tau protein in purified form. Here, we describe a protocol that uses dual affinity tag purification to selectively purify soluble recombinant Tau protein from bacteria that is functionally active for downstream applications including immunization, microtubule binding assays, and protein-protein interaction studies.
0 Q&A 6208 Views Jul 20, 2018
Cost-effective and efficient, the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) has been used to make many key discoveries in the field of neuroscience and to model a number of neurological disorders. Great strides in understanding have been made using sophisticated molecular genetic tools and behavioral assays. Functional analysis of neural activity was initially limited to the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) and in the central nervous system (CNS) of embryos and larvae. Elucidating the cellular mechanisms underlying neurological processes and disorders in the mature nervous system have been more challenging due to difficulty in recording from neurons in adult brains. To this aim we developed an ex vivo preparation in which a whole brain is isolated from the head capsule of an adult fly and placed in a recording chamber. With this preparation, whole cell recording of identified neurons in the adult brain can be combined with genetic, pharmacological and environmental manipulations to explore cellular mechanisms of neuronal function and dysfunction. It also serves as an important platform for evaluating the mechanism of action of new therapies identified through behavioral assays for treating neurological diseases. Here we present our protocol for ex vivo preparations and whole-cell recordings in the adult Drosophila brain.



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