Neuroscience


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0 Q&A 1470 Views Feb 20, 2024

Astrocytes are increasingly recognized for their important role in neurodegenerative diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In ALS, astrocytes shift from their primary function of providing neuronal homeostatic support towards a reactive and toxic role, which overall contributes to neuronal toxicity and cell death. Currently, our knowledge on these processes is incomplete, and time-efficient and reproducible model systems in a human context are therefore required to understand and therapeutically modulate the toxic astrocytic response for future treatment options. Here, we present an efficient and straightforward protocol to generate human induced pluripotent stem cell (hiPSC)-derived astrocytes implementing a differentiation scheme based on small molecules. Through an initial 25 days, hiPSCs are differentiated into astrocytes, which are matured for 4+ weeks. The hiPSC-derived astrocytes can be cryopreserved at every passage during differentiation and maturation. This provides convenient pauses in the protocol as well as cell banking opportunities, thereby limiting the need to continuously start from hiPSCs. The protocol has already proven valuable in ALS research but can be adapted to any desired research field where astrocytes are of interest.


Key features

• This protocol requires preexisting experience in hiPSC culturing for a successful outcome.

• The protocol relies on a small molecule differentiation scheme and an easy-to-follow methodology, which can be paused at several time points.

• The protocol generates >50 × 106 astrocytes per differentiation, which can be cryopreserved at every passage, ensuring a large-scale experimental output.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 384 Views Jun 20, 2023

There are more than 40 types of spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA), most of which are caused by abnormal expansion of short tandem repeats at various gene loci. These phenotypically similar disorders require molecular testing at multiple loci by fluorescent PCR and capillary electrophoresis to identify the causative repeat expansion. We describe a simple strategy to screen for the more common SCA1, SCA2, and SCA3 by rapidly detecting the abnormal CAG repeat expansion at the ATXN1, ATXN2, and ATXN3 loci using melting curve analysis of triplet-primed PCR products. Each of the three separate assays employs a plasmid DNA carrying a known repeat size to generate a threshold melt peak temperature, which effectively distinguishes expansion-positive samples from those without a repeat expansion. Samples that are screened positive based on their melt peak profiles are subjected to capillary electrophoresis for repeat sizing and genotype confirmation. These screening assays are robust and provide accurate detection of the repeat expansion while eliminating the need for fluorescent PCR and capillary electrophoresis for every sample.

0 Q&A 1205 Views May 20, 2022

Repeat expansion diseases, including fragile X syndrome, Huntington’s disease, and C9orf72-related motor neuron disease and frontotemporal dementia, are a group of disorders associated with polymorphic expansions of tandem repeat nucleotide sequences. These expansions are highly repetitive and often hundreds to thousands of repeats in length, making accurate identification and determination of repeat length via PCR or sequencing challenging. Here we describe a protocol for monitoring repeat length in Drosophila models carrying 1,000 repeat C9orf72-related dipeptide repeat transgenes using Southern blotting. This protocol has been used regularly to check the length of these lines for over 100 generations with robust and repeatable results and can be implemented for monitoring any repeat expansion in Drosophila.

0 Q&A 2306 Views Feb 20, 2022

Transfer RNAs (tRNAs) are highly abundant species and, along their biosynthetic and functional path, they establish interactions with a plethora of proteins. The high number of nucleobase modifications in tRNAs renders conventional RNA quantification approaches unsuitable to study protein-tRNA interactions and their associated functional roles in the cell. We present an immunoprecipitation-based approach to quantify tRNA bound to its interacting protein partner(s). The tRNA-protein complexes are immunoprecipitated from cells or tissues and tRNAs are identified by northern blot and quantified by tRNA-specific fluorescent labeling. The tRNA interacting protein is quantified by an automated western blot and the tRNA amount is presented per unit of the interacting protein. We tested the approach to quantify tRNAGly associated with mutant glycyl-tRNA-synthetase implicated in Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. This simple and versatile protocol can be easily adapted to any other tRNA binding proteins.


Graphic abstract:



Figure 1. Schematic of the tRNA-Immunoprecipitation approach.


0 Q&A 1782 Views Dec 5, 2021

To determine the molecular and functional interactions between RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) and their targets RNAs, is of fundamental importance to understand the dynamic organization of the nervous system in health and disease. Nevertheless, this task has remained elusive due to the lack of specific protocols and experimental systems that would allow the combination of biochemical analysis with in vivo functional genetics. In this manuscript, we describe a trustworthy and detailed methodology to establish the molecular organization and intracellular function of RBPs/RNA multimeric complexes in a cell type-defined manner by using the powerful GAL4/UAS system for gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster.



Graphic abstract:



Immunoprecipitation for protein-RNA interaction in Drosophila.


0 Q&A 6454 Views Aug 20, 2021

The phenomenon of reversible liquid-liquid phase separation of proteins underlies the formation of membraneless organelles, which are crucial for cellular processes such as signalling and transport. In addition, it is also of great interest to uncover the mechanisms of further irreversible maturation of the functional dense liquid phase into aberrant insoluble assemblies due to its implication in human disease. Recent advances in methods based on atomic force microscopy (AFM) have made it possible to study protein condensates at the nanometer level, providing unprecedented information on the nature of the intermolecular interactions governing phase separation. Here, we provide an in-depth description of a protocol for the characterisation of the morphology, stiffness, and chemical properties of protein condensates using infrared nanospectroscopy (AFM-IR).

0 Q&A 2603 Views Jan 5, 2021

The subretinal layer between retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and photoreceptors is a region involved in inflammation and angiogenesis during the procession of diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. The current protocols of whole mounts (retina and RPE) are unable to address the intact view of the subretinal layer because the separation between retina and RPE is required, and each separate tissue is then stained. Non-separate Sclerochoroid/RPE/Retina whole mount staining was recently developed and reported. The method can be further combined and optimized with melanin bleaching and tissue clearing. Here, we describe steps of both non-pigmented and pigmented mouse Sclerochoroid/RPE/Retina whole mount including eyeball preparation, staining, mounting and confocal scanning. In addition, we present the confocal images of RPE, subretinal microglia and the neighboring photoreceptors in Sclerochoroid/RPE/Retina whole mounts.

0 Q&A 3836 Views Dec 5, 2020

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) has long been associated with accumulation of extracellular amyloid plaques (Aβ) originating from the Amyloid Precursor Protein. Plaques have, however, been discovered in healthy individuals and not all AD brains show plaques, suggesting that extracellular Aβ aggregates may play a smaller role than anticipated. One limitation to studying Aβ peptide in vivo during disease progression is the inability to induce aggregation in a controlled manner. We developed an optogenetic method to induce Aβ aggregation and tested its biological influence in three model organisms–D. melanogaster, C. elegans and D. rerio. We generated a fluorescently labeled, optogenetic Aβ peptide that oligomerizes rapidly in vivo in the presence of blue light in all organisms. Here, we detail the procedures for expressing this fusion protein in animal models, investigating the effects on the nervous system using time lapse light-sheet microscopy, and performing metabolic assays to measure changes due to intracellular Aβ aggregation. This method, employing optogenetics to study the pathology of AD, allows spatial and temporal control in vivo that cannot be achieved by any other method at present.

0 Q&A 3937 Views Aug 20, 2020
The study of RNA-binding proteins (RBP) offers insight into the mechanisms of pathologic protein aggregation in neurodegenerative diseases. We developed a protocol for purifying an RBP FUS and a nuclear import receptor (NIR) Kapβ2 and testing the ability of Kapβ2 to mitigate FUS aggregation and liquid-liquid phase separation.
0 Q&A 3895 Views Jun 20, 2020
Nucleocytoplasmic transport deficits are suggested to play a role in neurodegenerative disorders, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Given the importance and complexity of this process, understanding when these aberrations occur and which pathways are involved is of great importance. Here, we make use of CRISPR-Cas9 technology to design cell lines stably expressing fluorophore proteins shuttling between the nucleus and cytoplasm by karyopherins of choice. To validate this protocol, we measured an ALS-associated nucleocytoplasmic transport pathway in the presence of the disease-associated peptide poly-PR. This technique allows measuring a particular active nucleocytoplasmic transport pathway in intact cells in a neurodegenerative disease-associated context. Moreover, these experiments can be performed without the need for expensive equipment and have the potential to be upscaled for high-throughput screening purposes.



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