Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 1247 Views Jan 20, 2023

Single-particle electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) is an effective tool to determine high-resolution structures of macromolecular complexes. Its lower requirements for sample concentration and purity make it an accessible method to determine structures of low-abundant protein complexes, such as those isolated from native sources. While there are many approaches to protein purification for cryo-EM, attaining suitable particle quality and abundance is generally the major bottleneck to the typical single-particle project workflow. Here, we present a protocol using budding yeast (S. cerevisiae), in which a tractable immunoprecipitation tag (3xFLAG) is appended at the endogenous locus of a gene of interest (GOI). The modified gene is expressed under its endogenous promoter, and cells are grown and harvested using standard procedures. Our protocol describes the steps in which the tagged proteins and their associated complexes are isolated within three hours of thawing cell lysates, after which the recovered proteins are used directly for cryo-EM specimen preparation. The prioritization of speed maximizes the ability to recover intact, scarce complexes. The protocol is generalizable to soluble yeast proteins that tolerate C-terminal epitope tags.

Graphical abstract

Overview of lysate-to-grid workflow. Yeast cells are transformed to express a tractable tag on a gene of interest. Following cell culture and lysis, particles of interest are rapidly isolated by co-immunoprecipitation and prepared for cryo-EM imaging (created with

0 Q&A 1355 Views Sep 20, 2022

Understanding the molecular and structural mechanisms that govern the assembly and organization of higher-order actin architecture requires the use of in vitro actin binding and bundling assays. Crosslinking of actin filaments into bundles can be monitored in vitro via several techniques, including negative staining/electron microscopy, low-speed co-sedimentation assay/SDS-PAGE, and fluorescence staining/confocal microscopy. We and others have previously characterized the N-BAR domain of ASAP1, an ADP-ribosylation factor GTPase-activating protein, as an actin-bundling module; we further identified key lysine residues responsible for actin cross-linking. Here, we use the ASAP1 BAR domain as an example and describe a detailed procedure for observing the actin bundle formation by confocal microscopy. This protocol requires small reaction volumes and takes advantage of bright commercially available fluorescent phalloidins, making it an ideal choice for medium-throughput screening of mutants or domain truncations in their ability to bundle actin.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 3731 Views Jul 5, 2021

Non-receptor protein-tyrosine kinases regulate cellular responses to many external signals and are important drug discovery targets for cancer and infectious diseases. While many assays exist for the assessment of kinase activity in vitro, methods that report changes in tyrosine kinase activity in single cells have the potential to provide information about kinase responses at the cell population level. In this protocol, we combined bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC), an established method for the assessment of protein-protein interactions, and immunofluorescence staining with phosphospecific antibodies to characterize changes in host cell tyrosine kinase activity in the presence of an HIV-1 virulence factor, Nef. Specifically, two Tec family kinases (Itk and Btk) as well as Nef were fused to complementary, non-fluorescent fragments of the Venus variant of YFP. Each kinase was expressed in 293T cells in the presence or absence of Nef and immunostained for protein expression and activity with anti-phosphotyrosine (pTyr) antibodies. Multi-color confocal microscopy revealed the interaction of Nef with each kinase (BiFC), kinase activity, and kinase protein expression. Strong BiFC signals were observed when Nef was co-expressed with both Itk and Btk, indicative of interaction, and a strong anti-pTyr immunoreactivity was also seen. The BiFC, pTyr, and kinase expression signals co-localized to the plasma membrane, consistent with Nef-mediated kinase activation in this subcellular compartment. Image analysis allowed calculation of pTyr-to-kinase protein ratios, which showed a range of responses in individual cells across the population that shifted upward in the presence of Nef and back down in the presence of a kinase inhibitor. This method has the potential to reveal changes in steady-state non-receptor tyrosine kinase activity and subcellular localization in a cell population in response to other protein-kinase interactions, information that is not attainable from immunoblotting or other in vitro methods.

0 Q&A 2449 Views Apr 5, 2021

Microtubules (MT) are the most rigid component of the cytoskeleton. Nevertheless, they often appear highly curved in the cellular context and the mechanisms governing their overall shape are poorly understood. Currently, in vitro microtubule analysis relies primarily on electron microscopy for its high resolution and Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy for its ability to image live fluorescently-labelled microtubules and associated proteins. For three-dimensional analyses of microtubules with micrometer curvatures, we have developed an assay in which MTs are polymerized in vitro from MT seeds adhered to a glass slide in a manner similar to conventional TIRF microscopy protocols. Free fluorescent molecules are removed and the MTs are fixed by perfusion. The MTs can then be observed using a confocal microscope with an Airyscan module for higher resolution. This protocol allows the imaging of microtubules that have retained their original three-dimensional shape and is compatible with high-resolution immunofluorescence detection.

0 Q&A 4065 Views Mar 5, 2021

Electrophoresis and Western blot are important tools in protein research for detection and identification of proteins. These traditional techniques separate the proteins based on size and charge differences and identify the proteins by antibody binding. Over the past decade, the emergence of single-molecule techniques has shown great potential in improving the resolution of the traditional protein analysis methods to the single-molecule level. However, such single-molecule techniques measure either size or charge, and it is challenging to measure both at the same time. Recently, we have developed a single-molecule approach to address this problem. We tether the single proteins to a surface with a polymer linker and drive them into oscillation with an electric field. By tracking the electromechanical response of the proteins to the field using an optical imaging method, the size and charge can be obtained simultaneously. Binding of antibodies or ions to the tethered protein also changes the size and charge, which allows us to probe the interactions. This protocol includes fabrication of protein oscillators, configuration of the optical detection system, and analysis of the oscillation signal for quantification of protein size and charge. We wish this protocol will enable researchers to perform comprehensive single-protein analysis on a single platform.

0 Q&A 4175 Views Feb 20, 2021

The molecular mechanisms of P-glycoprotein (P-gp; also known as MDR1 or ABCB1) have been mainly investigated using artificial membranes such as lipid-detergent mixed micelles, artificial lipid bilayers, and membrane vesicles derived from cultured cells. Although these in vitro experiments help illustrate details about the molecular mechanisms of P-gp, they do not reflect physiological membrane environments in terms of lateral pressure, curvature, constituent lipid species, etc. The protocol presented here includes a detailed guide for analyzing the conformational change of human P-gp in living HEK293 cells by using intramolecular fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), in which excitation of the donor fluorophore is transferred to the acceptor without emission of a photon when two fluorescent proteins are in close proximity. Combining FRET analysis with membrane permeabilization, the contribution of small molecules such as nucleotides to the conformational change can be evaluated in living cells.

0 Q&A 2950 Views Nov 5, 2020

The α-β tubulin heterodimer undergoes subtle conformational changes during microtubule assembly. These can be modulated by external factors, whose effects on microtubule structure can be characterized on 2D views obtained by cryo-electron microscopy. Analysis of microtubule images is facilitated if they are straight enough to interpret and filter their image Fourier transform, which provide useful information concerning the arrangement of tubulin molecules inside the microtubule lattice. Here, we describe the use of the TubuleJ software to straighten microtubules and determine their lattice parameters. Basic 3D reconstructions can be performed to evaluate the relevance of these parameters. This approach can be used to analyze the effects of nucleotide analogues, drugs or MAPs on microtubule structure, or to select microtubule images prior to high-resolution 3D reconstructions.

0 Q&A 3667 Views Jan 20, 2020
The goal of cryoEM is to determine the structures of biomolecules from electron micrographs. In many cases the processing is straightforward and can be handled with routine protocols. In other cases, the properties and behavior of the specimen require adaptions to properly interpret the data. Here I describe the protocols for examining the higher order assemblies of the retinal adhesion protein, retinoschisin (RS1), using the Bsoft package. The protocols for micrograph preprocessing, 2D classification and 3D alignment and reconstruction follow the usual patterns for the majority of cryoEM specimens. The interpretation of the results is specific to the branched network of RS1 filaments. The 2D class averages are used to determine the relative positions of the RS1 molecules, thus defining the interacting interfaces in the network. The major interface of the linear filament is then further examined by reconstructing the “unit cell” and fitting the molecular models.
0 Q&A 3644 Views Nov 5, 2019
In our recently published paper, we highlight that during normal aging of C. elegans age-dependent aggregates of proteins form and lead to functional decline of tissues. The protocol described here details the isolation of two proteins from C. elegans in their aggregated amyloid-like form, casein kinase I isoform alpha (KIN-19) and Ras-like GTP-binding protein rhoA (RHO-1). We used nickel beads to isolate His-tagged KIN-19 and RHO-1, and thus permitting the isolation of both small and large aggregated or fibrillary forms of the proteins. We characterized their morphology by transmission electron microscopy. We further expressed RFP-tagged proteins and stained them with a fluorescent molecule, thioflavin T, which identifies β-sheet structures, and which is a defining feature of amyloid fibrils. We further applied structured illumination microscopy to determine the level of colocalization between RFP and thioflavin T.

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