Molecular Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 595 Views Apr 5, 2024

Camelina sativa, a Brassicaceae family crop, is used for fodder, human food, and biofuels. Its relatively high resistance to abiotic and biotic stresses, as well as being a climate-resilient oilseed crop, has contributed to its popularity. Camelina's seed yield and oil contents have been improved using various technologies like RNAi and CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing. A stable transformation system for protein localization and other cell autonomous investigations, on the other hand, is tedious and time consuming. This study describes a transient gene expression protocol for Camelina sativa cultivar DH55 leaves using Agrobacterium strain C58C1. The method is suitable for subcellular protein localization and colocalization studies and can be used with both constitutive and chemically induced genes. We report the subcellular localization of the N-terminal ER membrane signal anchor region (1–32 aa) of the At3G28580 gene-encoded protein from Arabidopsis in intact leaves and the expression and localization of other known organelle markers. This method offers a fast and convenient way to study proteins in the commercially important Camelina crop system.

Key features

• This method is based on the approach of Zhang et al. [1] and has been optimized for bioenergy crop Camelina species.

• A constitutive and inducible transient gene expression in the hexaploid species Camelina sativa cultivar DH55.

• Requires only 16–18 days to complete with high efficacy.

Graphical overview

Agrobacterium-mediated transient gene expression optimized for Camelina sativa

1 Q&A 982 Views Feb 5, 2024

As the most energy- and metabolite-consuming process, protein synthesis is under the control of several intrinsic and extrinsic factors that determine its fine-tuning to the cellular microenvironment. Consequently, variations in protein synthesis rates occur under various physiological and pathological conditions, enabling an adaptive response by the ce•ll. For example, global protein synthesis increases upon mitogenic factors to support biomass generation and cell proliferation, while exposure to low concentrations of oxygen or nutrients require translational repression and reprogramming to avoid energy depletion and cell death. To assess fluctuations in protein synthesis rates, radioactive isotopes or radiolabeled amino acids are often used. Although highly sensitive, these techniques involve the use of potentially toxic radioactive compounds and require specific materials and processes for the use and disposal of these molecules. The development of alternative, non-radioactive methods that can be easily and safely implemented in laboratories has therefore been encouraged to avoid handling radioactivity. In this context, the SUrface SEnsing of Translation (SUnSET) method, based on the classical western blot technique, was developed by Schmidt et al. in 2009. The SUnSET is nowadays recognized as a simple alternative to radioactive methods assessing protein synthesis rates.

Key features

• As a structural analogue of aminoacyl-transfer RNA, puromycin incorporates into the elongating peptide chain.

• Detection of puromycin-labeled peptides by western blotting reflects translation rates without the need for radioactive isotopes.

• The protocol described here for in vitro applications is derived from the SUnSET method originally published by Schmidt et al. (2009).

0 Q&A 899 Views Jan 20, 2024

The auxin-inducible degron (AID) system is a versatile tool in cell biology and genetics, enabling conditional protein regulation through auxin-induced degradation. Integrating CRISPR/Cas9 with AID expedites tagging and depletion of a required protein in human and mouse cells. The mechanism of AID involves interactions between receptors like TIR1 and the AID tag fused to the target protein. The presence of auxin triggers protein ubiquitination, leading to proteasome-mediated degradation. We have used AID to explore the mitotic functions of the replication licensing protein CDT1. Swift CDT1 degradation via AID upon auxin addition achieves precise mitotic inhibition, revealing defects in mitotic spindle structure and chromosome misalignment. Using live imaging, we found that mitosis-specific degradation of CDT1 delayed progression and chromosome mis-segregation. AID-mediated CDT1 inhibition surpasses siRNA-based methods, offering a robust approach to probe CDT1’s mitotic roles. The advantages of AID include targeted degradation and temporal control, facilitating rapid induction and reversal of degradation—contrasting siRNA’s delayed RNA degradation and protein turnover. In summary, the AID technique enhances precision, control, and efficiency in studying protein function and regulation across diverse cellular contexts. In this article, we provide a step-by-step methodology for generating an efficient AID-tagging system, keeping in mind the important considerations that need to be adopted to use it for investigating or characterizing protein function in a temporally controlled manner.

Key features

• The auxin-inducible degron (AID) system serves as a versatile tool, enabling conditional protein regulation through auxin-induced degradation in cell biology and genetics.

• Integration of CRISPR/Cas9 knock-in technology with AID expedites the tagging and depletion of essential proteins in mammalian cells.

• AID’s application extends to exploring the mitotic functions of the replication licensing protein CDT1, achieving precise mitotic inhibition and revealing spindle defects and chromosome misalignment.

• The AID system and its diverse applications advance the understanding of protein function and cellular processes, contributing to the study of protein regulation and function.

Graphical overview

Cdt1–auxin-inducible degron (AID) tagging workflow. (A) Schematic of the cloned Cdt1 gRNA vector and the repair template generated to endogenously tag the Cdt1 genomic locus with YFP and AID at the C-terminal using CRISPR/CAS9-based genome editing. The two plasmids are transfected into DLD1-TIR1 stable cells, followed by sorting and scaling up of YFP-positive single cells. (B) The molecular mechanism of auxin-induced proteasome-mediated degradation of the target protein (CDT1) shown at the bottom of the figure is well worked out.

0 Q&A 767 Views Dec 5, 2023

Human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) encodes several components of oxidative phosphorylation responsible for the bulk of cellular energy production. The mtDNA is transcribed by a dedicated human mitochondrial RNA polymerase (POLRMT) that is structurally distinct from its nuclear counterparts, instead closely resembling the single-subunit viral RNA polymerases (e.g., T7 RNA polymerase). The initiation of transcription by POLRMT is aided by two initiation factors: transcription factor A, mitochondrial (TFAM), and transcription factor B2, mitochondrial (TFB2M). Although many details of human mitochondrial transcription initiation have been elucidated with in vitro biochemical and structural studies, much remains to be addressed relating to the mechanism and regulation of transcription. Studies of such mechanisms require reliable, high-yield, and high-purity methods for protein production, and this protocol provides the level of detail and troubleshooting tips that are necessary for a novice to generate meaningful amounts of proteins for experimental work. The current protocol describes how to purify recombinant POLRMT, TFAM, and TFB2M from Escherichia coli using techniques such as affinity column chromatography (Ni2+ and heparin), how to remove the solubility tags with TEV protease and recover untagged proteins of interest, and how to overcome commonly encountered challenges in obtaining high yield of each protein.

Key features

• This protocol builds upon purification methods developed by Patel lab (Ramachandran et al., 2017) and others with greater detail than previously published works.

• The protocol requires several days to complete as various steps are designed to be performed overnight.

• The recombinantly purified proteins have been successfully used for in vitro transcription experiments, allowing for finer control of experimental components in a minimalistic system.

0 Q&A 665 Views Oct 20, 2023

The function of a protein within a cell critically depends on its interaction with other proteins as well as its subcellular localization. The expression of mutants of a particular protein that have selective perturbation of specific protein interaction motifs is a very useful strategy for resolving a protein’s mechanism of action in a cellular process. In addition, expression of fluorescent protein fusions is a key strategy for determining the subcellular localization of a protein. These strategies require tight regulation to avoid potential alterations in protein interactions or localizations that can result from protein overexpression. Previous work led to the development of a Sleeping Beauty transposon system that allows doxycycline-inducible expression of protein mutants or fusions; titration of doxycycline allows expression of protein fusions or mutants at near endogenous levels. When used in combination with siRNA gene silencing, this strategy allows for knockdown-rescue experiments to assess the function of specific protein mutants. In this protocol, we describe the use of this Sleeping Beauty strategy for expression of eGFP fusion or mutant proteins in ARPE-19 and MDA-MB-231 cells. This includes design of expression plasmids, transfection, and selection to obtain stable engineered cells, as well as doxycycline treatment for controlled induction of protein expression, either alone or in combination with siRNA silencing for knockdown-rescue experiments. This strategy is advantageous as it allows rapid generation of stable cells for controlled protein expression, suitable for functional studies that require knockdown-rescue as well as various forms of live cell fluorescence imaging.

Key features

• Highly versatile doxycycline-inducible expression system that can be used in various mammalian cell lines.

• Stable integration of transgene allows for sustained and stable expression.

• Titration of doxycycline levels allows expression of transgene at near endogenous levels.

0 Q&A 468 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 1463 Views Jul 5, 2022

Work in cold environments may have a significant impact on occupational health. In these and similar situations, cold exposure localized to the extremities may reduce the temperature of underlying tissues. To investigate the molecular effects of cold exposure in muscle, and since adequate methods were missing, we established two experimental cold exposure models: 1) In vitro exposure to cold (18°C) or control temperature (37°C) of cultured human skeletal muscle cells (myotubes); and 2) unilateral cold exposure of hind limb skeletal muscle in anesthetized rats (intramuscular temperature 18°C), with contralateral control (37°C). This methodology enables studies of muscle responses to local cold exposures at the level of gene expression, but also other molecular outcomes.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 1112 Views Apr 20, 2022

Biotin is an essential vitamin in plants. However, characterization of biotin deficiency has been limited by embryo lethality in mutants, which can only be rescued by supplementation of biotin. Here, we describe a protocol to characterize biotin deficiency in Arabidopsis thaliana through application of the polyamine cadaverine. Cadaverine induces changes in primary root growth. Protein biotinylation in Arabidopsis seedlings can be quantified through an assay similar to a western blot, in which protein biotinylation is detected by a streptavidin probe. This technique provides a chemical means of inhibiting biotin synthesis, allowing for further characterization of biotin deficiency on a physiological and molecular level.

0 Q&A 2199 Views Jan 20, 2022

Recombinant protein expression is extensively used in biological research. Despite this, current protein expression and extraction methods are not readily scalable or amenable for high-throughput applications. Optimization of protein expression conditions using traditional methods, reliant on growth-associated induction, is non-trivial. Similarly, protein extraction methods are predominantly restricted to chemical methods, and mechanical methods reliant on expensive specialized equipment more tuned for large-scale applications. In this article, we outline detailed protocols for the use of an engineered autolysis/autohydrolysis E. coli strain, in two-stage fermentations in shake-flasks. This two-stage fermentation protocol does not require optimization of expression conditions and results in high protein titers. Cell lysis in an engineered strain is tightly controlled and only triggered post-culture by addition of a 0.1% detergent solution. Upon cell lysis, a nuclease digests contaminating host oligonucleotides, which facilitates sample handling. This method has been validated for use at different scales, from microtiter plates to instrumented bioreactors.

Graphic abstract:

Two-stage protein expression, cell autolysis and DNA/RNA autohydrolysis. Reprinted with permission from Menacho-Melgar et al. (2020a). Copyright 2020 John Wiley and Sons.

1 Q&A 2525 Views Jan 5, 2022

Mechanisms that target and destroy foreign nucleic acids are major barriers to horizontal gene transfer (HGT) in prokaryotes. Amongst them, restriction-modification (R-M) systems are found in ≥75% of the sequenced genomes in Bacteria and Archaea. Due to their high target sequence specificity and potent nucleolytic activity, R-M systems are used as a paradigm to elucidate the mechanisms of DNA binding and cleavage. Since these enzymes modulate HGT, they are one of the machineries implicated in the ability of a bacterium to gain antibiotic resistance. This protocol provides a detailed purification strategy for the Type IV restriction endonuclease SauUSI from Staphylococcus aureus. This protocol eventually leads to ≥95% purity of protein which can then be used for crystallographic and biochemical purposes.

Graphic abstract:

Workflow for purification of SauUSI.

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