Microbiology


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0 Q&A 258 Views Mar 5, 2024

The genome of the dengue virus codes for a single polypeptide that yields three structural and seven non-structural (NS) proteins upon post-translational modifications. Among them, NS protein-3 (NS3) possesses protease activity, involved in the processing of the self-polypeptide and in the cleavage of host proteins. Identification and analysis of such host proteins as substrates of this protease facilitate the development of specific drugs. In vitro cleavage analysis has been applied, which requires homogeneously purified components. However, the expression and purification of both S3 and erythroid differentiation regulatory factor 1 (EDRF1) are difficult and unsuccessful on many occasions. EDRF1 was identified as an interacting protein of dengue virus protease (NS3). The amino acid sequence analysis indicates the presence of NS3 cleavage sites in this protein. As EDRF1 is a high-molecular-weight (~138 kDa) protein, it is difficult to express and purify the complete protein. In this protocol, we clone the domain of the EDRF1 protein (C-terminal end) containing the cleavage site and the NS3 into two different eukaryotic expression vectors containing different tags. These recombinant vectors are co-transfected into mammalian cells. The cell lysate is subjected to SDS-PAGE followed by western blotting with anti-tag antibodies. Data suggest the disappearance of the EDRF1 band in the lane co-transfected along with NS3 protease but present in the lane transfected with only EDRF1, suggesting EDRF1 as a novel substrate of NS3 protease. This protocol is useful in identifying the substrates of viral-encoded proteases using ex vivo conditions. Further, this protocol can be used to screen anti-protease molecules.


Key features

• This protocol requires the cloning of protease and substrate into two different eukaryotic expression vectors with different tags.

• Involves the transfection and co-transfection of both the above recombinant vectors individually and together.

• Involves western blotting of the same PVDF membrane containing total proteins of the cell lysate with two different antibodies.

• Does not require purified proteins for the analysis of cleavage of any suspected substrate by the protease.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 841 Views Dec 20, 2023

Advanced immunoassays are crucial in assessing antibody responses, serving immune surveillance goals, characterising immunological responses to evolving viral variants, and guiding subsequent vaccination initiatives. This protocol outlines an indirect ELISA protocol to detect and quantify virus-specific antibodies in plasma or serum after exposure to viral antigens. The assay enables the measurement of IgG, IgA, and IgM antibodies specific to the virus of interest, providing qualitative and quantitative optical densities and concentration data. Although this protocol refers to SARS-CoV-2, its methodology is versatile and can be modified to assess antibody responses for various viral infections and to evaluate vaccine trial outcomes.


Key features

• This protocol builds upon previously described methodology [1] explicitly tailored for SARS-CoV-2 and broadens its applicability to other viral infections.

• The protocol outlines establishing antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 infections by determining optical densities and concentrations from blood plasma or serum.


Graphical overview




Summary of the conventional ELISA (A) vs. sensitive ELISA (B) procedures. In both A and B, wells are coated with a capture antigen, such as the spike protein, while in (C) they are coated with human Kappa and Lambda capture antibodies. For the conventional ELISA (A), wells with immobilised capture antigens receive serum/plasma containing the target antibody (A1 and B1). This is followed by an HRP-conjugated detection antibody specific to the captured antibody (A2 and B2) and then a substrate solution that reacts with the HRP, producing a colour proportional to the concentration of the antibody in the serum/plasma (A3 and B3). The reaction is halted, and absorbance is measured. In the sensitive ELISA (B), after the serum/plasma addition (A1 and B1), a Biotin-conjugated primary detection antibody is introduced (A2 and B2). Depending on the target antibody, a secondary streptavidin-HRP conjugated detection antibody is added for IgG or IgM (3a) or a poly-HRP 40 detection antibody for IgA (3b). A substrate is introduced, producing a colour change proportional to the antibody concentration (A4 and B4). The reaction is then stopped, and absorbance is measured. In Panel C, wells are coated with human Kappa and Lambda capture antibodies. Serial dilutions of a known antibody standard are introduced. After undergoing the standard ELISA steps, a detection antibody is added, specifically binding to the Ig standard antibody. Subsequently, a substrate solution causes a colour change proportional to the antibody concentration in the serum/plasma. The reaction is halted, and the absorbance of each well is measured. The resulting optical densities from the coated wells form the standard curve, plotting the absorbance against concentrations.

0 Q&A 1155 Views Aug 20, 2023

Lipids can play diverse roles in metabolism, signaling, transport across membranes, regulating body temperature, and inflammation. Some viruses have evolved to exploit lipids in human cells to promote viral entry, fusion, replication, assembly, and energy production through fatty acid beta-oxidation. Hence, studying the virus–lipid interactions provides an opportunity to understand the biological processes involved in the viral life cycle, which can facilitate the development of antivirals. Due to the diversity and complexity of lipids, the assessment of lipid utilization in infected host cells can be challenging. However, the development of mass spectrometry, bioenergetics profiling, and bioinformatics has significantly advanced our knowledge on the study of lipidomics. Herein, we describe the detailed methods for lipid extraction, mass spectrometry, and assessment of fatty acid oxidation on cellular bioenergetics, as well as the bioinformatics approaches for detailed lipid analysis and utilization in host cells. These methods were employed for the investigation of lipid alterations in TMEM41B- and VMP1-deficient cells, where we previously found global dysregulations of the lipidome in these cells. Furthermore, we developed a web app to plot clustermaps or heatmaps for mass spectrometry data that is open source and can be hosted locally or at https://kuanrongchan-lipid-metabolite-analysis-app-k4im47.streamlit.app/. This protocol provides an efficient step-by-step methodology to assess lipid composition and usage in host cells.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 745 Views Jul 20, 2023

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is a global public health concern. During chronic infection, the HBV small-surface antigen is expressed in large excess as non-infectious spherical subviral particles (SVPs), which possess strong immunogenicity. To date, attempts at understanding the structure of HBV spherical SVP have been restricted to 12–30 Å with contradictory conclusions regarding its architecture. We have used cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) and 3D image reconstruction to solve the HBV spherical SVP to 6.3 Å. Here, we present an extended protocol on combining AlphaFold2 prediction with a moderate-resolution cryo-EM density map to build a reliable 3D model. This protocol utilizes multiple software packages that are routinely used in the cryo-EM community. The workflow includes 3D model prediction, model evaluation, rigid-body fitting, flexible fitting, real-space refinement, model validation, and model adjustment. Finally, the described protocol can also be applied to high-resolution cryo-EM datasets (2–4 Å).

0 Q&A 859 Views Mar 20, 2023

Co-immunoprecipitation or pull-down assays are frequently used to analyze protein–protein interactions. In these experiments, western blotting is commonly used to detect prey proteins. However, sensitivity and quantification problems remain in this detection system. Recently, the HiBiT-tag-dependent NanoLuc luciferase system was developed as a highly sensitive detection system for small amounts of proteins. In this report, we introduce the method of using HiBiT technology for the detection of prey protein in a pull-down assay. Using this protocol, we demonstrate the formation of a ternary complex consisting of Japanese encephalitis virus NS4B and two host factors, namely valosin-containing protein, and nuclear protein localization protein 4, which is a critical biological event during flavivirus replication in cells.

0 Q&A 4207 Views Jul 5, 2022

Profiling the specificities of antibodies can reveal a wealth of information about humoral immune responses and the antigens they target. Here, we present a protocol for VirScan, an application of the phage immunoprecipitation sequencing (PhIP-Seq) method for profiling the specificities of human antiviral antibodies. Accompanying this protocol is a video of the experimental procedure. VirScan and, more generally, PhIP-Seq are techniques that enable high-throughput antibody profiling by combining high-throughput DNA oligo synthesis and bacteriophage display with next-generation sequencing. In the VirScan method, human sera samples are screened against a library of peptides spanning the entire human viral proteome. Bound phage are immunoprecipitated and sequenced, identifying the viral peptides recognized by the antibodies. VirScan Is a powerful tool for uncovering individual viral exposure histories, mapping the epitope landscape of viruses of interest, and studying fundamental mechanisms of viral immunity.


Graphical abstract:



0 Q&A 1273 Views May 5, 2022

Although herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) is a well-studied virus, how the virus invades its human host via skin and mucosa to reach its receptors and initiate infection remains an open question. For studies of HSV-1 infection in skin, mice have been used as animal models. Murine skin infection can be induced after injection or scratching of the skin, which provides insights into disease pathogenesis but is clearly distinct from the natural entry route in human tissue. To explore the invasion route of HSV-1 on the tissue level, we established an ex vivo infection assay using skin explants. Here, we detail a protocol allowing the investigation of how the virus overcomes mechanical barriers in human skin to penetrate in keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts. The protocol includes the preparation of total skin samples, skin shaves, and of separated epidermis and dermis, which is followed by incubation in virus suspension. The ex vivo infection assay allows the visualization, quantification, and characterization of single infected cells in the epidermis and dermis prior to viral replication and the virus-induced tissue damage. Hence, this experimental approach enables the identification of primary viral entry portals.


Graphical abstract:




0 Q&A 1968 Views Apr 20, 2022

The absence of long term, primary untransformed in vitro models that support hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection and replication have hampered HBV pre-clinical research, which was reflected in the absence of a curative therapy until recently. One of the limitations for in vitro HBV research has been the absence of high titer and pure recombinant HBV stocks, which, as we describe here, can be generated using simple, and reproducible protocols. In addition to infection of more conventional in vitro and in vivo liver model systems, recombinant high titer purified HBV stocks can also be used to efficiently infect differentiated human liver organoids, whose generation, maintenance, and infection is discussed in detail in a companion organoid protocol. Here, we also describe the protocols for the detection of specific viral read-outs, including HBV DNA in the supernatant of the cultures, covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA) from intracellular DNA preparations, and HBV viral proteins and viral RNA, which can be detected within the cells, demonstrating the presence of a complete viral replication cycle in infected liver organoids. Although an evolving platform, the human liver organoid model system presents great potential as an exciting new tool to study HBV infection and progression to hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in primary cells, when combined with the use of high-titer and pure recombinant HBV stock for infection.


Graphical abstract:



0 Q&A 1680 Views Mar 20, 2022

The ubiquitous and cancer-associated Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with nearly all cases of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). Nasopharyngeal tissue is comprised of both pseudostratified and stratified epithelium, which are modeled in three-dimensional (3-D) cell culture. The cellular origin of EBV-associated NPC is as yet unknown, but both latent and lytic infections are likely important for preneoplastic mechanisms and replenishing the compartmentalized viral reservoir. Conventional 2-D cultures of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells (as primary cells or immortalized cell lines) are difficult to infect with EBV and cannot mimic the tissue-specific biology of the airway epithelium, which can only be captured in 3-D models. We have shown that EBV can infect the pseudostratified epithelium in air-liquid interface (ALI) culture using primary conditionally reprogrammed cells (CRCs) derived from the nasopharynx. In this protocol, we provide a step-by-step guide for the (i) conditional reprogramming of primary nasopharyngeal cells, (ii) differentiation of CRCs into pseudostratified epithelium in ALI culture (known as pseudo-ALI), and (iii) EBV infection of pseudo-ALI cultures. Additionally, we show that nasopharyngeal CRCs can be grown as organotypic rafts and subjected to EBV infection. These nasopharyngeal-derived 3-D cell cultures can be used to study EBV latent and lytic infection in relation to cell type and donor variation, by immunostaining and single-cell RNA-sequencing methods (Ziegler et al., 2021). These methods are useful for studies of EBV molecular pathogenesis, and can overcome many of the limitations associated with conventional 2-D cell cultures.


Graphic abstract:



Workflow of nasopharyngeal-derived conditionally reprogrammed cells grown into pseudostratified-ALI and organotypic rafts in 3-D cell culture. Created with Biorender.com.


0 Q&A 2461 Views Mar 20, 2022

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection represents a major public health problem infecting approximately 400 million people worldwide. Despite the availability of a preventive vaccine and anti-viral therapies, chronic HBV infection remains a major health issue because it increases the risk of developing liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The lack of a relevant in vitro model for the study of the molecular mechanisms that drive HBV replication and latency, as well as HBV-related carcinogenesis, has been one of the major obstacles to the development of curative strategies. Here, we propose the use of human liver organoids as a platform for modeling HBV infection and related tumorigenesis. Human liver organoids can be seeded from both healthy and cirrhotic liver biopsies. They can be expanded in vitro when culturing in a medium containing a specific set of growth factors. When the culture medium is changed into a new medium containing growth factors that promote differentiation, organoids differentiate into functional hepatocytes, which makes them susceptible to infection with recombinant HBV. The novel in vitro primary model system described in this protocol can be utilized as a platform to study HBV pathogenesis and drug screening. Organoids generated from cirrhotic liver biopsies can be a potential tool for personalized medicine, and for modeling HCC and other liver diseases.


Graphic abstract:






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