Molecular Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 1433 Views Dec 5, 2022

RNA is a vital component of the cell and is involved in a diverse range of cellular processes through a variety of functions. However, many of these functions cannot be performed without interactions with proteins. There are currently several techniques used to study protein–RNA interactions, such as electrophoretic mobility shift assay, fluorescence anisotropy, and filter binding. RNA-pulldown is a technique that uses biotinylated RNA probes to capture protein–RNA complexes of interest. First, the RNA probe and a recombinant protein are incubated to allow the in vitro interaction to occur. The fraction of bound protein is then captured by a biotin pull-down using streptavidin-agarose beads, followed by elution and immunoblotting for the recombinant protein with a His-tag–reactive probe. Overall, this method does not require specialized equipment outside what is typically found in a modern molecular laboratory and easily facilitates the maintenance of an RNase-free environment.

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0 Q&A 1483 Views Aug 20, 2022

RNA granules are conserved, non-membranous, biphasic structures predominantly composed of RNA and RNA-binding proteins. RNA granules often assemble as a result of cellular responses to a variety of stresses, including infection. Two types of RNA granules are best characterized: stress granules (SGs) and processing bodies (P-bodies). The mechanism of RNA granule assembly and disassembly is still understudied because of its complex composition and dynamic behavior. The assembly of RNA granules is driven by a process known as phase separation of granule components. Edc3 is a conserved decapping activator and an essential P-body component in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Phase separation of P-body proteins has been poorly explored. This protocol will enable the visualization of the phase transition behavior of Edc3, since it is tagged to mCherry. It further describes using small molecules and other proteins to study P-body dynamics. In addition to the assembly of Edc3, this assay also lays the foundation to study disassembly of phase-separated assemblies in vitro, which was not explored earlier. We have devised the assay to describe the use of one such protein that acts as a disassembly factor. Overall, this protocol is simple to perform and can potentially be combined with analyzing these assemblies using other approaches.

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1 Q&A 1671 Views May 20, 2022

Kinetoplastids are unicellular eukaryotic parasites responsible for human pathologies such as Chagas disease, sleeping sickness or Leishmaniasis, caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, Trypanosoma brucei, and various Leishmania spp., respectively. They harbor a single large mitochondrion that is essential for the survival of the parasite. Interestingly, most of the mitochondrial gene expression machineries and processes present significant differences from their nuclear and cytosolic counterparts. A striking example concerns their mitochondrial ribosomes, in charge of translating the few essential mRNAs encoded by mitochondrial genomes. Here, we present a detailed protocol including the specific procedures to isolate mitochondria from two species of kinetoplastids, T. cruzi and L. tarentolae, by differential centrifugations. Then, we detail the protocol to purify mitochondrial ribosomal complexes from these two species of parasites (including ribosomal maturating complexes) by a sucrose gradient approach. Finally, we describe how to prepare cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) grids from these two sorts of samples. This protocol will be useful for further studies aiming at analyzing mitochondrial translation regulation.

0 Q&A 2218 Views Feb 20, 2022
Ribosome profiling (Ribo-Seq) is a highly sensitive method to quantify ribosome occupancies along individual mRNAs on a genome-wide scale. Hereby, ribosome-protected fragments (= footprints) are generated by nuclease digestion, isolated, and sequenced together with the corresponding randomly fragmented input samples, to determine ribosome densities (RD). For library preparation, equal amounts of total RNA are used. Subsequently, all transcript fragments are subjected to linker ligation, cDNA synthesis, and PCR amplification. Importantly, the number of reads obtained for every transcript in input and footprint samples during sequencing depends on sequencing depth and library size, as well as the relative abundance of the transcript in the sample. However, the information pertaining to the absolute amount of input and footprint sequences is lost during sample preparation, hence ruling out any conclusion whether translation is generally suppressed or activated in one condition over the other. Therefore, the RD fold-changes determined for individual genes do not reflect absolute regulation, but have to be interpreted as relative to bulk mRNA translation. Here, we modified the original ribosome profiling protocol that was first established by Ingolia et al. (2009), by adding small amounts of yeast lysate to the mammalian lysates of interest as a spike-in. This allows us to not only detect changes in the RD of specific transcripts relative to each other, but also to simultaneously measure global differences in RD (normalized ribosome density values) between samples.

Graphic abstract:

Global changes in translation efficiency can be detected with polysome profiling, where the proportion of polysomal ribosomes is interpreted as a proxy for ribosome density (RD) on bulk mRNA.
Ribo-Seq measures changes in RD of specific mRNAs relative to bulk mRNA. The addition of a yeast-lysate, as a spike-in for normalization of read counts, allows for an absolute measurement of changes in RD.
0 Q&A 2971 Views Feb 20, 2022

Mapping networks of RNA-protein interactions in cells is essential for understanding the inner workings of many biological processes, including RNA processing, trafficking, and translation. Current in vivo methods for studying protein-RNA interactions rely mostly on purification of poly(A) transcripts, which represent only ~2–3% of total RNAs (Figure 1). Alternate robust methods for tagging RNA molecules with an RNA aptamer (e.g., MS2-, U1A- and biotin-RNA aptamer) and capturing the RNA-protein complex by the respective aptamer-specific partner are not extensively studied. Here, we describe a protocol (Figure 2) in which a biotin-RNA aptamer, referred to as the RNA mimic of biotin (RMB), was conjugated separately to two small RNA secondary structures that contribute to trafficking and translating HAC1 mRNA in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The RMB-tagged RNA was expressed in yeast cells from a constitutive promoter. The biotinylated RNA bound to proteins was pulled down from the cell lysate by streptavidin agarose beads. RNA was detected by RT-PCR (Figure 3) and associated proteins by mass spectrometry (Figure 4). Our findings show that an RNA aptamer tag to RNA molecule is an effective method to explore the functional roles of RNA-protein networks in vivo.

2 Q&A 2434 Views Jan 5, 2022

RNA-RNA and RNA-protein interactions are involved in the regulation of gene expression. Here, we describe an updated and extended version of our RNA purification and protein identification (RaPID) protocol for the pulldown of aptamer-tagged mRNAs by affinity purification. The method takes advantage of the high affinity interaction between the MS2 RNA aptamer and the MS2 coat protein (MCP), as well as that between streptavidin-binding peptide (SBP) and streptavidin. Thus, it employs MCP-SBP fusions to affinity purify MS2-tagged target RNAs of interest over immobilized streptavidin. Purified aptamer-tagged mRNAs, along with any associated RNAs and proteins, are then sent for RNA sequencing (RaPID-seq) or mass spectrometry (RaPID-MS), which allows for the identification of bound cohort RNAs and proteins, respectively.

0 Q&A 3617 Views Aug 5, 2021

Polysome profile analysis is a popular method for separating polysomes and ribosomal subunits and is typically achieved using a sucrose density gradient (SDG). This has remained the gold standard method since ribosomes were first discovered; however, this method is time-consuming and requires multiple steps from making the gradient and long ultracentrifugation to collecting and analyzing the fractions. Each of these steps in the SDG workflow can introduce potential technical variation that affects the reproducibility of gradient profiles between samples. To address these limitations, we have developed a flexible, alternative approach for analyzing polysomes and ribosomal subunits based on size-exclusion chromatography (SEC), termed ‘Ribo Mega-SEC.’ In comparison with the SDG method, Ribo Mega-SEC involves a single step using ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography (uHPLC). The entire workflow, from injecting the lysate to collecting the fractions, can be performed in as little as 15 min, with high reproducibility. By varying the pore size of the SEC column, polysomes and ribosomal subunits can be separated using extracts from either human or mouse cultured cell lines or from tissue samples, Drosophila embryos, or budding yeast. The resulting separated fractions are suitable for analysis using a wide range of subsequent analytical techniques including mass spectrometry (MS)-based proteomics, RNA-Seq, electron microscopy (EM), and multiple biochemical assays.

0 Q&A 2778 Views Jul 20, 2021

Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are a large family of noncoding RNA molecules that have emerged as novel regulators of gene expression by sequestering microRNAs (miRNAs) and RNA-binding proteins (RBPs). Several computational tools have been developed to predict circRNA interaction with target miRNAs and RBPs with a view to studying their potential effect on downstream target genes and cellular physiology. Biochemical assays, including reporter assays, AGO2 pulldown, ribonucleoprotein pulldown, and biotin-labeled RNA pulldown, are used to capture the association of miRNAs and RBPs with circRNAs. Only a few studies have used circRNA pulldown assays to capture the associated miRNAs and RBPs under physiological conditions. In this detailed protocol, the circRNA of interest (e.g., circHipk2) was captured using a biotin-labeled antisense oligo (ASO) targeting the circHipk2 backsplice junction sequence followed by pulldown with streptavidin-conjugated magnetic beads. The specific enrichment of circRNA was analyzed using reverse transcription quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR). Furthermore, the ASO pulldown assay can be coupled to miRNA RT-qPCR and western blotting analysis to confirm the association of miRNAs and RBPs predicted to interact with the target circRNA. In summary, the specific pulldown of circRNA using this quick and easy method makes it a useful tool for identifying and validating circRNA interaction with specific miRNAs and RBPs.

0 Q&A 8647 Views May 20, 2021

Proximity-based protein labeling has been developed to identify protein-nucleic acid interactions. We have reported a novel method termed CRUIS (CRISPR-based RNA-United Interacting System), which captures RNA-protein interactions in living cells by combining the RNA-binding capacity of CRISPR/Cas13 and the proximity-tagging activity of PUP-IT. Enzymatically deactivated Cas13a (dCas13a) is fused to the proximity labeling enzyme PafA. In the presence of a guide RNA, dCas13a binds specific target RNA region, while the fused PafA mediates the labeling of biotin-tagged Pup on proximal proteins. The labeled proteins can be enriched by streptavidin pull-down and identified by mass spectrometry. Here we describe the general procedure for capturing RNA-protein interactions using this method.

2 Q&A 4731 Views Jun 5, 2020
RNA binding proteins (RBPs) interact with cellular mRNAs, controlling various steps throughout the lifetime of these transcripts, including transcription, cellular transport, subcellular localization, translation and degradation. In addition to binding mRNA transcripts, a growing number of RBPs are shown to bind long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), controlling key cellular processes, including gene expression and translation of proteins. Current methodologies aimed at identifying and characterizing protein binding partners of specific RNAs of interest typically rely on tagging of the RNA with affinity aptamers, using in vitro transcribed RNA or immobilized oligonucleotides to capture RNA-protein complexes under native conditions. These assays are coupled with mass spectrometry or Western Blot analysis to identify or/and confirm interacting proteins. Here, we describe an alternative approach to identify protein binding partners of mRNAs and large long noncoding RNAs. This approach relies on biochemical pulldown of specific target RNAs and interacting protein partners from cellular lysates coupled with mass spectrometry to identify novel interacting proteins. By using 24-48 ~20 mer biotinylated DNA probes that hybridize to the target RNA, the method ensures high specificity and minimal off target binding. This approach is reproducible and fast and serves as a base for discovery studies to identify proteins that bind to RNAs of interest.

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