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0 Q&A 2060 Views Dec 20, 2023

In situ cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) is the most current, state-of-the-art technique to study cell machinery in its hydrated near-native state. The method provides ultrastructural details at sub-nanometer resolution for many components within the cellular context. Making use of recent advances in sample preparation techniques and combining this method with correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM) approaches have enabled targeted molecular visualization. Nevertheless, the implementation has also added to the complexity of the workflow and introduced new obstacles in the way of streamlining and achieving high throughput, sample yield, and sample quality. Here, we report a detailed protocol by combining multiple newly available technologies to establish an integrated, high-throughput, optimized, and streamlined cryo-CLEM workflow for improved sample yield.

Key features

• PRIMO micropatterning allows precise cell positioning and maximum number of cell targets amenable to thinning with cryo focused-ion-beam–scanning electron microscopy.

• CERES ice shield ensures that the lamellae remain free of ice contamination during the batch milling process.

• METEOR in-chamber fluorescence microscope facilitates the targeted cryo focused-ion-beam (cryo FIB) milling of these targets.

• Combining the three technologies into one cryo-CLEM workflow maximizes sample yield, throughput, and efficiency.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 431 Views Jul 20, 2023

Microtubule structure is commonly investigated using single-particle analysis (SPA) or subtomogram averaging (STA), whose main objectives are to gather high-resolution information on the αβ-tubulin heterodimer and on its interactions with neighboring molecules within the microtubule lattice. The maps derived from SPA approaches usually delineate a continuous organization of the αβ-tubulin heterodimer that alternate regularly head-to-tail along protofilaments, and that share homotypic lateral interactions between monomers (α-α, β-β), except at one unique region called the seam, made of heterotypic ones (α-β, β-α). However, this textbook description of the microtubule lattice has been challenged over the years by several studies that revealed the presence of multi-seams in microtubules assembled in vitro from purified tubulin. To analyze in deeper detail their intrinsic structural heterogeneity, we have developed a segmented subtomogram averaging (SSTA) strategy on microtubules decorated with kinesin motor-domains that bind every αβ-tubulin heterodimer. Individual protofilaments and microtubule centers are modeled, and sub-volumes are extracted at every kinesin motor domain position to obtain full subtomogram averages of the microtubules. The model is divided into shorter segments, and subtomogram averages of each segment are calculated using the main parameters of the full-length microtubule settings as a template. This approach reveals changes in the number and location of seams within individual microtubules assembled in vitro from purified tubulin and in Xenopus egg cytoplasmic extracts.

Key features

• This protocol builds upon the method developed by J.M. Heumann to perform subtomogram averages of microtubules and extends it to divide them into shorter segments.

• Microtubules are decorated with kinesin motor-domains to determine the underlying organization of its constituent αβ-tubulin heterodimers.

• The SSTA approach allows analysis of the structural heterogeneity of individual microtubules and reveals multi-seams and changes in their number and location within their shaft.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 989 Views Nov 5, 2022

Cytochrome P450 reductase (CPR) is a multi-domain protein that acts as a redox partner of cytochrome P450s. The CPR contains a flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD)–binding domain, a flavin mononucleotide (FMN)-binding domain, and a connecting domain. To achieve catalytic events, the FMN-binding domain needs to move relative to the FAD-binding domain, and this high flexibility complicates structural determination in high-resolution by X-ray crystallography. Here, we demonstrate a seeding technique of sorghum CPR crystals for resolution improvement, which can be applied to other poorly diffracting protein crystals. Protein expression is completed using an E. coli cell line with a high protein yield and purified using chromatography techniques. Crystals are screened using an automated 96-well plating robot. Poorly diffracting crystals are originally grown using a hanging drop method from successful trials observed in sitting drops. A macro seeding technique is applied by transferring crystal clusters to fresh conditions without nucleation to increase crystal size. Prior to diffraction, a dehydration technique is applied by serial transfer to higher precipitant concentrations. Thus, an increase in resolution by 7 Å is achieved by limiting the inopportune effects of the flexibility inherent to the domains of CPR, and secondary structures of SbCPR2c are observed.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 2168 Views Apr 20, 2022

Bsoft is a software package primarily developed for processing electron micrographs, with the goal of determining the structures of biologically relevant molecules, molecular assemblies, and parts of cells. However, it incorporates many ways to deal with images, from the mundane to very sophisticated algorithms. This article is an introduction into its use, illustrating that it is an extensive toolbox, for manipulating and understanding images. Bsoft has over 150 programs, allowing the user an infinite number of ways to process images. These programs can be executed on the command line, or through the interactive program called brun. The main visualization program is bshow, providing numerous ways to manipulate and interpret images. The primary aim is to provide the user with powerful capabilities, including processing large numbers of images. An important additional aim is to make it as accessible as possible, making it easier to deal with image formats and features, and enhance productivity.

0 Q&A 2417 Views Jul 20, 2021

Protein filaments are dynamic entities that respond to external stimuli by slightly or substantially modifying the internal binding geometries between successive protomers. This results in overall changes in the filament architecture, which are difficult to model due to the helical character of the system. Here, we describe how distortions in RecA nucleofilaments and their consequences on the filament-DNA and bound DNA-DNA interactions at different stages of the homologous recombination process can be modeled using the PTools/Heligeom software and subsequent molecular dynamics simulation with NAMD. Modeling methods dealing with helical macromolecular objects typically rely on symmetric assemblies and take advantage of known symmetry descriptors. Other methods dealing with single objects, such as MMTK or VMD, do not integrate the specificities of regular assemblies. By basing the model building on binding geometries at the protomer-protomer level, PTools/Heligeom frees the building process from a priori knowledge of the system topology and enables irregular architectures and symmetry disruption to be accounted for.

Graphical abstract:

Model of ATP hydrolysis-induced distortions in the recombinant nucleoprotein, obtained by combining RecA-DNA and two RecA-RecA binding geometries.

0 Q&A 3282 Views Feb 5, 2021

Several in-cell spectroscopic techniques have been developed recently to investigate the structure and mechanism of proteins in their native environment. Conditions in vivo differ dramatically from those selected for in vitro experiments. Accordingly, the cellular environment can affect the protein mechanism for example by molecular crowding or binding of small molecules. Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) difference spectroscopy is a well-suited method to study the light-induced structural responses of photoreceptors including changes in cofactor, side chains and secondary structure. Here, we describe a protocol to study the response of cofactor and protein in living E. coli cells via in-cell infrared difference (ICIRD) spectroscopy using the attenuated total reflection (ATR) configuration. Proteins are overexpressed in E. coli, the cells are transferred into saline solution and the copy number per cell is determined using fluorescence spectroscopy. The suspension is centrifuged and the concentrated cells transferred onto the ATR cell inside the FTIR spectrometer. The thermostatted cell is sealed and illuminated from the top with an LED. Intensity spectra are recorded before and after illumination to generate the difference spectrum of the receptor inside the living cell. With ICIRD spectroscopy, structural changes of soluble photoreceptors are resolved in a near-native environment. The approach works in H2O at ambient conditions, is label free, without any limitations in protein size and does not require any purification step.

Graphic abstract:

In-cell infrared difference spectroscopy on photoreceptors in living E. coli using attenuated total reflection.

0 Q&A 4155 Views Oct 20, 2020
This protocol illustrates the modelling of a protein-peptide complex using the synergic combination of in silico analysis and experimental results. To this end, we use the integrative modelling software HADDOCK, which possesses the powerful ability to incorporate experimental data, such as NMR Chemical Shift Perturbations and biochemical protein-peptide interaction data, as restraints to guide the docking process. Based on the modelling results, a rational mutagenesis approach is used to validate the generated models. The experimental results allow to select a final structural model best representing the bona fide protein-peptide complex. The described protocol can also be applied to model protein-protein complexes. There is no size limit for the macromolecular complexes that can be characterized by HADDOCK as long as the 3D structures of the individual components are available.
0 Q&A 4718 Views May 5, 2020
Template-based modeling, the process of predicting the tertiary structure of a protein by using homologous protein structures, is useful when good templates can be available. Indeed, modern homology detection methods can find remote homologs with high sensitivity. However, the accuracy of template-based models generated from the homology-detection-based alignments is often lower than that from ideal alignments. In this study, we propose a new method that generates pairwise sequence alignments for more accurate template-based modeling. Our method trains a machine learning model using the structural alignment of known homologs. When calculating sequence alignments, instead of a fixed substitution matrix, this method dynamically predicts a substitution score from the trained model.
0 Q&A 4628 Views Nov 5, 2019
Understanding the molecular mechanism governing the higher-order regulation of actin dynamics requires chemically-defined and quantitative assays. Recently, the membrane remodeling large GTPase, dynamin, has been identified as a new actin cross-linking molecule. Dynamin regulates actin cytoskeleton through binding to, self-assembling around, and aligning them into actin bundles. Here we utilize dynamin as an example and present a simple protocol to analyze the actin bundling activity in vitro. This protocol details the method for F-actin reconstitution as well as quantitative and qualitative analyses for actin bundling activity of dynamins. Measurement of the actin bundling activity of other actin-binding proteins may also be applied to this protocol with appropriate adjustments depending on the protein of interest.
0 Q&A 3884 Views Jun 20, 2019
Transporters are dynamic membrane proteins that are essential to the physiology of cells. To function, transporters must cycle between various conformational states, so to understand their mechanistic details, it is critical to characterize how their structure changes during the transport cycle. One approach to studying the dynamics of transporters takes advantage of the chemistry of cysteine by using sulfhydryl-reactive, bi-functional cross-linkers to probe changes in the distance between two specific residues that have been substituted to cysteine. This approach is mostly used to study transporters in vitro, not in their natural cellular environment. Here we describe a protocol based on structure-guided cysteine cross-linking and proteolysis-coupled gel analysis to probe conformational changes of a target transporter in live Escherichia coli cells. Although cross-linking approaches have been used to probe the proximity between transmembrane segments in membrane proteins in vivo, to our knowledge this protocol is the first to be used to interrogate transporter dynamics in cells. The use of this protocol is optimal for proteins with known or modeled structures to guide the replacement of specific residues with cysteines and the selection of cross-linking agents with various spacer arm lengths. This protocol allows for discriminating easily cross-linked and uncross-linked species and does not require the often difficult or unavailable reconstitution of transport activity in an in vitro system. In addition, this protocol could be used to probe the conformation of transporters in cells treated with transport inhibitors in order to better understand their mechanism of action, and potentially dynamic interactions between domains in proteins that are not transporters.

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