Cell Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
1 Q&A 2745 Views Apr 20, 2024

Cultured mammalian cells are a common model system for the study of epithelial biology and mechanics. Epithelia are often considered as pseudo–two dimensional and thus imaged and analyzed with respect to the apical tissue surface. We found that the three-dimensional architecture of epithelial monolayers can vary widely even within small culture wells, and that layers that appear organized in the plane of the tissue can show gross disorganization in the apical-basal plane. Epithelial cell shapes should be analyzed in 3D to understand the architecture and maturity of the cultured tissue to accurately compare between experiments. Here, we present a detailed protocol for the use of our image analysis pipeline, Automated Layer Analysis (ALAn), developed to quantitatively characterize the architecture of cultured epithelial layers. ALAn is based on a set of rules that are applied to the spatial distributions of DNA and actin signals in the apical-basal (depth) dimension of cultured layers obtained from imaging cultured cell layers using a confocal microscope. ALAn facilitates reproducibility across experiments, investigations, and labs, providing users with quantitative, unbiased characterization of epithelial architecture and maturity.

Key features

• This protocol was developed to spatially analyze epithelial monolayers in an automated and unbiased fashion.

• ALAn requires two inputs: the spatial distributions of nuclei and actin in cultured cells obtained using confocal fluorescence microscopy.

• ALAn code is written in Python3 using the Jupyter Notebook interactive format.

• Optimized for use in Marbin-Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK) cells and successfully applied to characterize human MCF-7 mammary gland–derived and Caco-2 colon carcinoma cells.

• This protocol utilizes Imaris software to segment nuclei but may be adapted for an alternative method. ALAn requires the centroid coordinates and volume of nuclei.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 900 Views Feb 20, 2024

Structural and functional changes in vascular networks play a vital role during development, causing or contributing to the pathophysiology of injury and disease. Current methods to trace and image the vasculature in laboratory settings have proven inconsistent, inaccurate, and labor intensive, lacking the inherent three-dimensional structure of vasculature. Here, we provide a robust and highly reproducible method to image and quantify changes in vascular networks down to the capillary level. The method combines vasculature tracing, tissue clearing, and three-dimensional imaging techniques with vessel segmentation using AI-based convolutional reconstruction to rapidly process large, unsectioned tissue specimens throughout the body with high fidelity. The practicality and scalability of our protocol offer application across various fields of biomedical sciences. Obviating the need for sectioning of samples, this method will expedite qualitative and quantitative analyses of vascular networks. Preparation of the fluorescent gel perfusate takes < 30 min per study. Transcardiac perfusion and vasculature tracing takes approximately 20 min, while dissection of tissue samples ranges from 5 to 15 min depending on the tissue of interest. The tissue clearing protocol takes approximately 24–48 h per whole-tissue sample. Lastly, three-dimensional imaging and analysis can be completed in one day. The entire procedure can be carried out by a competent graduate student or experienced technician.

Key features

• This robust and highly reproducible method allows users to image and quantify changes in vascular networks down to the capillary level.

• Three-dimensional imaging techniques with vessel segmentation enable rapid processing of large, unsectioned tissue specimens throughout the body.

• It takes approximately 2–3 days for sample preparation, three-dimensional imaging, and analysis.

• The user-friendly pipeline can be completed by experienced and non-experienced users.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 757 Views Oct 20, 2023

Whole-brain clearing and imaging methods are becoming more common in mice but have yet to become standard in rats, at least partially due to inadequate clearing from most available protocols. Here, we build on recent mouse-tissue clearing and light-sheet imaging methods and develop and adapt them to rats. We first used cleared rat brains to create an open-source, 3D rat atlas at 25 μ resolution. We then registered and imported other existing labeled volumes and made all of the code and data available for the community (https://github.com/emilyjanedennis/PRA) to further enable modern, whole-brain neuroscience in the rat.

Key features

• This protocol adapts iDISCO (Renier et al., 2014) and uDISCO (Pan et al., 2016) tissue-clearing techniques to consistently clear rat brains.

• This protocol also decreases the number of working hours per day to fit in an 8 workday.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 437 Views Jul 20, 2023

Tension and force propagation play a central role in tissue morphogenesis, as they enable sub- and supra-cellular shape changes required for the generation of new structures. Force is often generated by the cytoskeleton, which forms complex meshworks that reach cell–cell or cell–extracellular matrix junctions to induce cellular rearrangements. These mechanical properties can be measured through laser microdissection, which concentrates energy in the tissue of interest, disrupting its cytoskeleton. If the tissue is undergoing tension, this cut will induce a recoil in the surrounding regions of the cut. This protocol describes how one can perform laser microdissection experiments and subsequently measure the recoil speed of the sample of interest. While we explain how to carry out these experiments in Drosophila embryos, the recoil calibration and downstream analyses can be applied to other types of preparations.

Key features

• Allows measuring tension in live Drosophila embryos with a relatively simple approach.

• Describes a quick way to mount a high number of embryos.

• Includes a segmentation-free recoil quantification that reduces bias and speeds up analysis.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 477 Views May 20, 2023

Skeletal muscle consists of a mixture of fiber types with different functional and metabolic characteristics. The relative composition of these muscle fiber types has implications for muscle performance, whole-body metabolism, and health. However, analyses of muscle samples in a fiber type–dependent manner are very time consuming. Therefore, these are often neglected in favor of more time-efficient analyses on mixed muscle samples. Methods such as western blot and myosin heavy chain separation by SDS-PAGE have previously been utilized to fiber type–isolated muscle fibers. More recently, the introduction of the dot blot method significantly increased the speed of fiber typing. However, despite recent advancements, none of the current methodologies are feasible for large-scale investigations because of their time requirements. Here, we present the protocol for a new method, which we have named THRIFTY (high-THRoughput Immunofluorescence Fiber TYping), that enables rapid fiber type identification using antibodies towards the different myosin heavy chain (MyHC) isoforms of fast and slow twitch muscle fibers. First, a short segment (<1 mm) is cut off from isolated muscle fibers and mounted on a customized gridded microscope slide holding up to 200 fiber segments. Second, the fiber segments attached to the microscope slide are stained with MyHC-specific antibodies and then visualized using a fluorescence microscope. Lastly, the remaining pieces of the fibers can either be collected individually or pooled together with fibers of the same type for subsequent analyses. The THRIFTY protocol is approximately three times as fast as the dot blot method, which enables not only time-sensitive assays to be performed but also increases the feasibility to conduct large-scale investigations into fiber type specific physiology.

Graphical Overview

Graphical overview of the THRIFTY workflow. Cut off a small segment (0.5 mm) of an individually dissected muscle fiber and mount it onto the customized microscope slide containing a printed grid system. Using a Hamilton syringe, fixate the fiber segment by applying a small droplet of distilled water on the segment and let it fully dry (1A). The remaining large segment of the fiber should be placed in the corresponding square on a black A4 paper (1B). Once the microscope slide has been fully mounted with fiber segments, submerge the slide in a polypropylene slide mailer (illustrated as a Coplin jar in the figure) containing acetone to permeabilize the fiber segments. Thereafter, incubate the slide with primary antibodies targeting MyHC-I and MyHC-II. Following washes in PBS solution, incubate the slides with fluorescently labeled secondary antibodies, wash again, and mount with a cover glass and antifade reagent (2). Identification of fiber type can be performed using a digital fluorescence microscope (3), whereafter the remaining pieces of the fiber segments (large) are pooled together according to their fiber type or individually collected for experiments on single fibers (4). Image modified from Horwath et al. (2022).

0 Q&A 383 Views May 5, 2023

X-ray computed microtomography (µCT) is a powerful tool to reveal the 3D structure of tissues and organs. Compared with the traditional sectioning, staining, and microscopy image acquisition, it allows a better understanding of the morphology and a precise morphometric analysis. Here, we describe a method for 3D visualization and morphometric analysis by µCT scanning of the embryonic heart of iodine-stained E15.5 mouse embryos.

0 Q&A 857 Views Apr 5, 2023

Microinflammation enhances the permeability of specific blood vessel sites through an elevation of local inflammatory mediators, such as interleukin (IL)-6 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α. By a two-dimensional immunohistochemistry analysis of tissue sections from mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model for multiple sclerosis (MS), we previously showed that pathogenic immune cells, including CD4+ T cells, specifically accumulate and cause microinflammation at the dorsal vessels of the fifth lumbar cord (L5), resulting in the onset of disease. However, usual pathological analyses by using immunohistochemistry on sections are not effective at identifying the microinflammation sites in organs. Here, we developed a new three-dimensional visualization method of microinflammation using luminescent gold nanoclusters (AuNCs) and the clear, unobstructed brain/body imaging cocktails and computational analysis (CUBIC) tissue-clearing method. Our protocol is based on the detection of leaked AuNCs from the blood vessels due to an enhanced vascular permeability caused by the microinflammation. When we injected ultrasmall coordinated Au13 nanoclusters intravenously (i.v.) to EAE mice, and then subjected the spinal cords to tissue clearing, we detected Au signals leaked from the blood vessels at L5 by light sheet microscopy, which enabled the visualization of complex tissue structures at the whole organ level, consistent with our previous report that microinflammation occurs specifically at this site. Our method will be useful to specify and track the stepwise development of microinflammation in whole organs that is triggered by the recruitment of pathogenic immune cells at specific blood vessels in various inflammatory diseases.

0 Q&A 680 Views Mar 20, 2023

Phagoptosis is a prevalent type of programmed cell death (PCD) in adult tissues in which phagocytes non-autonomously eliminate viable cells. Therefore, phagoptosis can only be studied in the context of the entire tissue that includes both the phagocyte executors and the targeted cells doomed to die. Here, we describe an ex vivo live imaging protocol of Drosophila testis to study the dynamics of phagoptosis of germ cell progenitors that are spontaneously removed by neighboring cyst cells. Using this approach, we followed the pattern of exogenous fluorophores with endogenously expressed fluorescent proteins and revealed the sequence of events in germ cell phagoptosis. Although optimized for Drosophila testis, this easy-to-use protocol can be adapted to a wide variety of organisms, tissues, and probes, thus providing a reliable and simple means to study phagoptosis.

0 Q&A 1068 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 3071 Views Jul 5, 2022

Senescence-associated beta-galactosidase (SA-β-GAL) is an enzyme that accumulates in the lysosomes of senescent cells, where it hydrolyses β-galactosides. With p16, it represents a well-recognized biomarker used to assess senescence both in vivo and in cell culture. The use of a chromogenic substrate, such as 5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indoyl-β-d-galactopyranoside (X-Gal), allows the detection of SA-β-GAL activity at pH 6.0 by the release of a visible blue product. Senescence occurs during aging and is part of the aging process itself. We have shown that prematurely aged zebrafish accumulate senescent cells detectable by SA-β-GAL staining in different tissues, including testis and gut. Here, we report a detailed protocol to perform an SA-β-GAL assay to detect senescent cell accumulation across the entire adult zebrafish organism (Danio rerio). We also identify previously unreported organs that show increased cell senescence in telomerase mutants, including the liver and the spinal cord.

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