Cell Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 666 Views Mar 5, 2024

Autophagy is a conserved homeostatic mechanism involved in cellular homeostasis and many disease processes. Although it was first described in yeast cells undergoing starvation, we have learned over the years that autophagy gets activated in many stress conditions and during development and aging in mammalian cells. Understanding the fundamental mechanisms underlying autophagy effects can bring us closer to better insights into the pathogenesis of many disease conditions (e.g., cardiac muscle necrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic lung injury). Due to the complex and dynamic nature of the autophagic processes, many different techniques (e.g., western blotting, fluorescent labeling, and genetic modifications of key autophagy proteins) have been developed to delineate autophagy effects. Although these methods are valid, they are not well suited for the assessment of time-dependent autophagy kinetics. Here, we describe a novel approach: the use of DAPRed for autophagic flux measurement via live cell imaging, utilizing A549 cells, that can visualize and quantify autophagic flux in real time in single live cells. This approach is relatively straightforward in comparison to other experimental procedures and should be applicable to any in vitro cell/tissue models.

Key features

• Allows real-time qualitative imaging of autophagic flux at single-cell level.

• Primary cells and cell lines can also be utilized with this technique.

• Use of confocal microscopy allows visualization of autophagy without disturbing cellular functions.

0 Q&A 713 Views Sep 5, 2023

Neurons communicate via synapses—specialized structures that consist of a presynaptic terminal of one neuron and a postsynaptic terminal of another. As knowledge is emerging that mutations in molecules that regulate synaptic function underpin many neurological disorders, it is crucial to elucidate the molecular mechanisms regulating synaptic function to understand synaptic strength, plasticity, modulation, and pathology, which ultimately impact neuronal circuit output and behavior. The presynaptic calyx of Held is a large glutamatergic presynaptic terminal in the auditory brainstem, which due to its accessibility and the possibility to selectively perform molecular perturbations on it, is an ideal model to study the role of presynaptic proteins in regulating synaptic function. In this protocol, we describe the use of confocal imaging and three-dimensional reconstruction of the calyx of Held to assess alterations in gross morphology following molecular perturbation. Using viral-vector delivery to perform molecular perturbations at distinct developmental time points, we provide a fast and cost-effective method to investigate how presynaptic proteins regulate gross morphology such as surface area and synapse volume throughout the lifetime of a neuronal circuit.

Key features

• Confocal imaging and 3D reconstruction of presynaptic terminals.

• Used with a virus-mediated expression of mEGFP to achieve efficient, cell-type specific labeling of the presynaptic compartment.

• Protocol was developed with the calyx of Held but is suitable for pre- and postsynaptic compartments of various neurons across multiple mammalian and invertebrate species.

0 Q&A 709 Views Aug 20, 2023

Kidney diseases are a global health concern. Modeling of kidney disease for translational research is often challenging because of species specificities or the postmitotic status of kidney epithelial cells that make primary cultures, for example podocytes. Here, we report a protocol for preparing primary cultures of podocytes based on the isolation and in vitro propagation of immature kidney progenitor cells subsequently differentiated into mature podocytes. This protocol can be useful for studying physiology and pathophysiology of human kidney progenitors and to obtain differentiated podocytes for modeling podocytopathies and other kidney disorders involving podocytes.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 500 Views Jul 20, 2023

Epigenetic modifications of DNA, and especially cytosine, play a crucial role in regulating basic cellular processes and thereby the overall cellular metabolism. Their levels change during organismic and cellular development, but especially also in pathogenic aberrations such as cancer. Levels of respective modifications are often addressed in bulk by specialized mass spectrometry techniques or by employing dedicated ChIP-seq protocols, with the latter giving information about the sequence context of the modification. However, to address modification levels on a single cell basis, high- or low-content microscopy techniques remain the preferred methodology. The protocol presented here describes a straightforward method to detect and quantify different DNA modifications in human cell lines, which can also be adapted to other cultured mammalian cell types. To this end, cells are immunostained against two different cytosine modifications in combination with DNA counterstaining. Image acquisition takes place on a confocal microscopy system. A semi-automated analysis pipeline helps to gather data in a fast and reliable fashion. The protocol is comparatively simple, fast, and cost effective. By employing methodologies that are often well established in most molecular biology laboratories, many researchers are able to apply the described protocol straight away in-house.

0 Q&A 274 Views Jul 5, 2023

The trachea tube is the exclusive route to allow gas exchange between the external environment and the lungs. Recent studies have shown the critical role of mesenchymal cells in tracheal tubulogenesis. Improved methods for studying the dynamics of the tracheal mesenchyme development are needed to investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms during tracheal tubulogenesis. Here, we describe a detailed protocol for a systematic analysis of tracheal tube development to enable observing tracheal smooth muscle (SM) and cartilage ring formation. We describe immunostaining, confocal and stereomicroscopy imaging, and quantitative methods to study the process of tracheal SM and cartilage ring development, including SM cell alignment, polarization, and changes in cell shape as well as mesenchymal condensation. The technologies and approaches described here not only improve analysis of the patterning of the developing trachea but also help uncover the mechanisms underlying airway disease. This protocol also provides a useful technique to analyze cell organization, polarity, and nuclear shape in other organ systems.

0 Q&A 670 Views Mar 20, 2023

Phagoptosis is a prevalent type of programmed cell death (PCD) in adult tissues in which phagocytes non-autonomously eliminate viable cells. Therefore, phagoptosis can only be studied in the context of the entire tissue that includes both the phagocyte executors and the targeted cells doomed to die. Here, we describe an ex vivo live imaging protocol of Drosophila testis to study the dynamics of phagoptosis of germ cell progenitors that are spontaneously removed by neighboring cyst cells. Using this approach, we followed the pattern of exogenous fluorophores with endogenously expressed fluorescent proteins and revealed the sequence of events in germ cell phagoptosis. Although optimized for Drosophila testis, this easy-to-use protocol can be adapted to a wide variety of organisms, tissues, and probes, thus providing a reliable and simple means to study phagoptosis.

0 Q&A 547 Views Feb 5, 2023

Adult muscle stem cells (MuSCs) show remarkable capability in repairing injured tissues. Studying MuSCs in suitable model organisms, which show strong homology with vertebrate counterparts, helps in dissecting the mechanisms regulating their behavior. Additionally, ease of handling and access to technological tools make model organisms well suited for studying biological processes that are conserved across species. MuSCs quiescence, proliferation, and migration are regulated by various input of signals from the surrounding tissues that constitute the MuSCs niche. Observing MuSCs along with their niche in vivo through live imaging provides key information on how MuSCs behave in quiescent and activated states. Drosophila melanogaster is well known for its genetic tool arsenal and the similarity of its different biological processes with vertebrates. Hence, it is widely used to study different types of stem cells. Gained knowledge could then be extrapolated to the vertebrate/mammalian homologous systems to enhance our knowledge in stem cell fields. In this protocol, we discuss how to perform live cell imaging of Drosophila MuSCs, called adult muscle precursors (AMPs) at embryonic stages, using dual-color labelling to visualize both AMPs and the surrounding tissues. This dual-color fluorescent labelling enables the observation of in vivo behavior of two types of cells simultaneously and provides key information on their interactions. The originality of this protocol resides in its biological application to MuSCs and their niche.

0 Q&A 602 Views Jan 20, 2023

Lysosomes play a central role in signaling, nutrient sensing, response to stress, and the degradation and recycling of cellular content. Defects in lysosomal digestive enzymes or structural components can impair lysosomal function with dire consequences to the cell, such as neurodegeneration. A number of methods exist to assess lysosomal stress in the model Drosophila, such as specific driver and reporter strains, transmission electron microscopy, and the investigation of gene expression. These methods, however, can be time consuming and, in some cases, costly. The procedure described here provides a quick, reliable, and low-cost approach to measure lysosomal stress in the Drosophila brain. Using fluorescence confocal microscopy and the LysoTracker staining, this protocol allows for the direct measurement of lysosome size and number. This method can be used to assess lysosomal stress under a number of different genetic and environmental scenarios in the Drosophila brain.

0 Q&A 882 Views Nov 20, 2022

Sphingolipids are important structural components of cellular membranes. They also function as prominent signaling molecules to control a variety of cellular events, such as cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis. Impaired sphingolipid metabolism, particularly defects in sphingolipid degradation, has been associated with many human diseases. Fluorescence sphingolipid analogs have been widely used as efficient probes to study sphingolipid metabolism and intracellular trafficking in living mammalian cells. Compared with nitrobenzoxadiazole fluorophores (NBD FL), the boron dipyrromethene difluoride fluorophores (BODIPY FL) have much higher absorptivity and fluorescence quantum. These features allow more intensive labeling of cells for fluorescence microscopy imaging and flow cytometry analysis. Here, we describe a protocol employing BODIPY FL-labeled sphingolipid analogs to elucidate sphingolipid internalization, trafficking, and endocytosis in mouse embryonic stem cells.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 931 Views Aug 5, 2022

Subcellular structures exhibit diverse behaviors in different cellular processes, including changes in morphology, abundance, and relative spatial distribution. Faithfully tracking and quantifying these changes are essential to understand their functions. However, most freely accessible methods lack integrated features for tracking multiple objects in different spectral channels simultaneously. To overcome these limitations, we have developed TRACES (Tracking of Active Cellular Structures), a customizable and open-source pipeline capable of detecting, tracking, and quantifying fluorescently labeled cellular structures in up to three spectral channels simultaneously at single-cell level. Here, we detail step-by-step instructions for performing the TRACES pipeline, including image acquisition and segmentation, object identification and tracking, and data quantification and visualization. We believe that TRACES will be a valuable tool for cell biologists, enabling them to track and measure the spatiotemporal dynamics of subcellular structures in a robust and semi-automated manner.

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