Biological Sciences


Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 666 Views Nov 5, 2022

Ubiquitination is a post-translational modification conserved across eukaryotic species. It contributes to a variety of regulatory pathways, including proteasomal degradation, DNA repair, and cellular differentiation. The ubiquitination of substrate proteins typically requires three ubiquitination enzymes: a ubiquitin-activating E1, a ubiquitin-conjugating E2, and an E3 ubiquitin ligase. Cooperation between E2s and E3s is required for substrate ubiquitination, but some ubiquitin-conjugating E2s are also able to catalyze by themselves the formation of free di-ubiquitin, independently or in cooperation with a ubiquitin E2 variant. Here, we describe a method for assessing (i) di-ubiquitin formation by an E1 together with an E2 and an E2 variant, and (ii) the cooperation of an E3 with an E1 and E2 (with or without the E2 variant). Reaction products are assessed using western blotting with one of two antibodies: the first detects all ubiquitin conjugates, while the second specifically recognizes K63-linked ubiquitin. This allows unambiguous identification of ubiquitinated species and assessment of whether K63 linkages are present. We have developed these methods for studying ubiquitination proteins of Leishmania mexicana, specifically the activities of the E2, UBC2, and the ubiquitin E2 variant UEV1, but we anticipate the assays to be applicable to other ubiquitination systems with UBC2/UEV1 orthologues.

0 Q&A 753 Views Oct 20, 2022

The human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1) consists of a viral membrane surrounding the conical capsid. The capsid is a protein container assembled from approximately 1,500 copies of the viral capsid protein (CA), functioning as a reaction and transport chamber for the viral genome after cell entry. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is a widely used technique for characterizing the ultrastructure of isolated viral capsids after removal of the viral membrane, which otherwise hinders negative staining of structures inside the viral particle for TEM. Here, we provide a protocol to permeabilize the membrane of HIV-1 particles using a pore-forming toxin for negative staining of capsids, which are stabilized with inositol hexakisphosphate to prevent premature capsid disassembly. This approach revealed the pleomorphic nature of capsids with a partially intact membrane surrounding them. The permeabilization strategy using pore-forming toxins can be readily applied to visualize the internal architecture of other enveloped viruses using TEM.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 1210 Views Aug 5, 2022

Cryptococcus neoformans is a human pathogenic fungus that can cause pulmonary infections and meningitis in both immunocompromised and otherwise healthy individuals. Limited treatment options and a high mortality rate underlie the necessity for extensive research of the virulence of C. neoformans. Here we describe a detailed protocol for using the Galleria mellonella (Greater Wax Moth) larvae as a model organism for the virulence analysis of the cryptococcal infections. This protocol describes in detail the evaluation of G. mellonella larvae viability and the alternatives for troubleshooting the infection procedure. This protocol can be easily modified to study different inocula or fungal species, or the effects of a drug or antifungal agent on fungal disease within the larvae. We describe modified alternative versions of the protocol that allow using G. mellonella to study fungal diseases with different inocula and at different temperatures.

0 Q&A 1198 Views Jul 20, 2022

Aging and neuronal deterioration constitute important risk factors for the development of neuronal-related diseases, such as different dementia. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has emerged as a popular model system for studying neurodegeneration diseases, due to its complete neuronal connectivity map. DiI is a red fluorescent dye that can fill the worm amphid neurons and enables the visualization of their neurodegeneration over time. This protocol provides an efficient, fast, and safe method to stain worm amphid neurons to highlight the chemosensory structures of live nematodes.

0 Q&A 1153 Views Jun 5, 2022

Understanding the generation of mutations is fundamental to understanding evolution and genetic disease; however, the rarity of such events makes experimentally identifying them difficult. Mutation accumulation (MA) methods have been widely used. MA lines require serial bottlenecks to fix de novo mutations, followed by whole-genome sequencing. While powerful, this method is not suitable for exploring mutation variation among different genotypes due to its poor scalability with cost and labor. Alternatively, fluctuation assays estimate mutation rate in microorganisms by utilizing a reporter gene, in which Loss-of-function (LOF) mutations can be selected for using drugs toxic to cells containing the WT allele. Traditional fluctuation assays can estimate mutation rates but not their base change compositions. Here, we describe a new protocol that adapts traditional fluctuation assay using CAN1 reporter gene in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, followed by pooled sequencing methods, to identify both the rate and spectra of mutations in different strain backgrounds.

0 Q&A 2128 Views Jan 20, 2022

Rhizoctonia solani is a soil-borne fungus, which rarely produces any spores in culture. Hence, all inoculation procedures are based on mycelia, often as a coat on cereal kernels, placed in close vicinity to the plant to be infected. In this protocol, an inoculation method is described where the fungus is first allowed to infest a perlite-maize flour substrate for 10 days, followed by thorough soil mixing to generate uniform fungal distribution. Pre-grown seedlings are then replanted in the infested soil. Plant materials can be harvested, five (sugar beet) and ten days (Arabidopsis) post infection, followed by a rapid cleaning step ahead of any nucleic acid preparation. Commercial DNA or RNA extraction kits can be used or, if higher DNA yield is required, a CTAB extraction method. Our purpose was to develop a reliable and reproducible protocol to determine the infection levels in planta upon infection with R. solani. This protocol is less laborious compared to previous ones, improves the consistency of plant infection, reproducibility between experiments, and suits both a root crop and Arabidopsis.

Graphic abstract:

Overview of the R. solani infection procedure.

0 Q&A 1432 Views Dec 5, 2021

Pneumococcal (PN) meningitis is a life-threatening disease with high mortality rates that leads to permanent neurological sequelae. Studies of the process of bacterial crossing of the blood brain barrier (BBB) are hampered by the lack of relevant in vitro and in vivo models of meningitis that recapitulate the human disease. PN meningitis involves bacterial access to the bloodstream preceding translocation across the BBB. A large number of PN meningitis models have been developed in mice, with intravenous administration via the lateral tail vein representing the main way to study BBB crossing by PN. While in humans, meningitis is not always associated with bacteremia, PN meningitis after intravenous injection in mice usually develops following sustained and very high bacteremic titers. High grade bacteremia, however, is known to favor inflammation and BBB permeabilization, thereby increasing PN translocation across the BBB and associated damages. Therefore, specific processes associated with early events of PN translocation may be blurred by overall changes in the inflammatory environment and potentially systemic dysfunction in the case of severe sepsis. Here, we report a mouse meningitis model induced by PN injection in the retro-orbital (RO) sinus. We show that, in this model, mice appear to control bacteremic levels during the first 13 h post-infection, while PN crossing of the BBB can be clearly detected by fluorescence confocal microscopy analysis of brain slices as early as 6 h post-infection. Because of the low frequency of events, however, PN translocation across brain parenchymal vessels at early time points requires a rigorous and systematic examination of the brain volume.

0 Q&A 1538 Views Oct 20, 2021

Phototrophic microorganisms are frequently engineered to regulate the expression and the activity of targeted enzymes of interest for specific biotechnological and agricultural applications. This protocol describes a method to evaluate the expression of RuBisCO (ribulose 1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase) in the model cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942, at both the transcript and protein levels by quantitative PCR and Western blot, respectively. We further describe an experimental method to determine photosynthetic activity using an oxygen electrode that measures the rate of molecular oxygen production by cyanobacterial cultures. Our protocol can be utilized to assess the effects of RuBisCO engineering at the metabolic and physiological levels.

0 Q&A 1653 Views Sep 20, 2021

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are the main vectors of many medically relevant arthropod-borne (arbo) viruses, including Zika (ZIKV), dengue (DENV), and yellow fever (YFV). Vector competence studies with Ae. aegypti often involve challenging mosquitoes with an artificial bloodmeal containing virus and later quantifying viral titer or infectious plaque-forming units (PFU) in various mosquito tissues at relevant time points post-infection. However, Ae. aegypti mosquitoes are known to exhibit midgut infection and escape barriers (MIB and MEB, respectively), which influence the prevalence and titer of a disseminated infection and can introduce unwanted variability into studies analyzing tissues such as the salivary glands. To surmount this challenge, we describe herein a protocol for the intrathoracic inoculation of ZIKV in Ae. aegypti. This method bypasses the midgut, which leads to a more rapid and higher proportion of disseminated infections in comparison to oral challenge, and mosquitoes become infected with a consistent dose of virus. Our protocol is advantageous for studies that need a large sample size of infected mosquitoes, need to bypass the midgut, or are analyzing salivary gland infection or escape barriers.

Graphic abstract:

Cartoon depiction of Aedes aegypti intrathoracic inoculation. Figure made with

0 Q&A 2519 Views Sep 5, 2021

Throughout their life cycle, bacteria shed portions of their outermost membrane comprised of proteins, lipids, and a diversity of other biomolecules. These biological nanoparticles have been shown to have a range of highly diverse biological activities, including pathogenesis, community regulation, and cellular defense (among others). In recent publications, we have isolated and characterized membrane vesicles (MVs) from several species of Lactobacilli, microbes classified as commensals within the human gut microbiome (Dean et al., 2019 and 2020). With increasing scientific understanding of host-microbe interactions, the gut-brain axis, and tailored probiotics for therapeutic or performance increasing applications, the protocols described herein will be useful to researchers developing new strategies for gut community engineering or the targeted delivery of bio-active molecules.

Graphic abstract:

Figure 1. Atomic force microscopic image of Lactobacillus casei ATCC 393 bacteria margins (white arrows) and membrane vesicles (black arrows)

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