Cancer Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 383 Views Dec 20, 2022

Several assays have been developed to monitor the in vitro catalytic activity of Hedgehog acyltransferase (Hhat), an enzyme critical to the Hedgehog signaling pathway in cells. However, the majority of these previously reported assays involve radioactive fatty acyl donor substrates, multiple steps to achieve product readout, or specialized equipment. To increase safety, efficiency, and convenience, we developed a direct, fluorescent in vitro assay to monitor Hhat activity. Our assay utilizes purified Hhat, a fluorescently labeled fatty acyl-CoA donor substrate, and a Sonic hedgehog (Shh) peptide recipient substrate sufficient for fatty acylation. The protocol is a straightforward process that yields direct readout of fatty acylated Shh peptide via fluorescence detection of the transferred fatty acyl group.

Graphical abstract

Graphical abstract adapted from Schonbrun and Resh (2022)

0 Q&A 1672 Views Apr 5, 2022

Bromodomain-containing protein 4 (BRD4) is an acetyl-lysine reader protein and transcriptional regulator implicated in chromatin dynamics and cancer development. Several BRD4 isoforms have been detected in humans with the long isoform (BRD4-L, aa 1-1,362) playing a tumor-suppressive role and a major short isoform (BRD4-S, aa 1-722) having oncogenic activity in breast cancer development. In vivo demonstration of the opposing functions of BRD4 protein isoforms requires development of mouse models, particularly transgenic mice conditionally expressing human BRD4-L or BRD4-S, which can be selectively induced in different mouse tissues in a spatiotemporal-specific manner. Here, we detail the procedures used to genotype transgenic mouse strains developed to define the effects of conditional human BRD4 isoform expression on polyomavirus middle T antigen (PyMT)-induced mouse mammary tumor growth, and the key steps for Western blot detection of BRD4 protein isoforms in those tumors and in cultured cells. With this protocol as a guide, interpretation of BRD4 isoform functions becomes more feasible and expandable to various biological settings. Adequate tracking of BRD4 isoform distributions in vivo and in vitro is key to understanding their biological roles, as well as avoiding misinterpretation of their functions due to improper use of experimental procedures that fail to detect their spatial and temporal distributions.

Graphic abstract:

0 Q&A 1981 Views Oct 20, 2021

In the cell, the thermodynamic stability of a protein – and hence its biological activity – can change dramatically as a result of perturbations in its amino acid sequence and the concentration of stabilizing ligands. This interplay is particularly evident in zinc-binding transcription factors such as the p53 tumor suppressor, whose DNA-binding activity can critically depend on levels of intracellular zinc as well as point mutations that alter either metal binding or folding stability. Separate protocols exist for determining a protein’s metal affinity and its folding free energy. These properties, however, are intimately connected, and a technique is needed to integrate these measurements. Our protocols employ common non-fluorescent and fluorescent zinc chelators to control and report on free Zn2+ concentration, respectively, combined with biophysical assays of full-length human p53 and its DNA-binding domain. Fitting the data to equations that contain stability and metal-binding terms results in a more complete picture of how metal-dependent proteins can lose and gain DNA-binding function in a range of physiological conditions.

Graphic abstract:

Figure 1. Raising intracellular zinc can restore tumor-suppressing function to p53 that has been unfolded by missense mutation or cellular conditions

0 Q&A 3798 Views Jan 20, 2021

Small GTPases are cellular switches that are switched on when bound to GTP and switched off when bound to GDP. Different small GTPase proteins or those with mutations may bind to GTP or GDP with different relative affinities. However, small GTPases generally have very high affinities for guanine nucleotides, rendering it difficult to compare the relative binding affinities for GTP and GDP. Here we developed a method for comparing the relative binding strength of a protein to GTP and GDP using a mant-GDP dissociation assay, whereby the abilities of GTP and GDP to induce the dissociation of bound mant-GDP are compared. This equilibrium type assay is simple, economic, and much faster than obtaining each protein’s affinity for GDP and GTP. The GDP/GTP preference value obtained is useful for comparing the relative GTP/GDP binding preferences of different GTPases or different mutants, even though it is not the real GDP/GTP affinity ratio (but rather an estimation of the ratio).

0 Q&A 2765 Views Oct 20, 2020
Endocytic trafficking and recycling are fundamental cellular processes that control essential functions such as signaling protein complexes transport and membrane identity. The small GTPase Rabs are indispensable component of the endosomal recycling machinery. The Rabs bind to effectors to mediate their functions, such as protein sorting and degradation, membrane tethering or lipid modification, and organelle motility. Due to the complex and dynamic nature of endosomal compartments and tracking route, detailed multiparametric analyses of three-dimensional data by quantitative methods are challenging. Here, we describe a detailed time-lapse imaging protocol designed for the quantitative tracking of single endosomal vesicles, using GFP-Rab4-positive recycling endosomes. This method permits automated tracking of single endocytic vesicles in three-dimensional live cell imaging, allowing the study of multiple parameters such as abundance, speed, directionality, and subcellular localization, as well as protein colocalization. This protocol can be broadly used in any kind of cellular models, under various contexts, including growth factors stimulation, gene knockdowns, drug treatments, and is suitable for high throughput screens.
0 Q&A 3052 Views Jul 5, 2020
MYC family members, MYC, MYCN, and MYCL, are oncogenic transcription factors that regulate the expression of genes involved in normal development, cell growth, proliferation, metabolism, and survival. While MYC is amplified and/or overexpressed across a variety of tissue types, MYCN is often overexpressed in tumors of the nervous system (neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma) or with neuroendocrine features (neuroendocrine prostate cancer). Given recent reports that MYCN expression is also deregulated in a variety of non-neuronal tissue types, we investigated whether MYCN was also deregulated in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). In contrast to previous individual immuno-fluorescence (IF) stains against higher expressing MYC family isoform protein, we developed an IF stain to simultaneously detect both MYCN- and MYC-expressing cells within the same tumor cell population. Our methodology allows for the detection of low level MYCN and MYC expression and can be multiplexed with additional protein probes. Herein, using tyramide signal amplification (TSA), we present two protocols for the IF detection of MYCN and MYC on formalin-fixed paraffin embedded (FFPE) tumor sections and in cell lines fixed in situ after growth as adherent cultures on chambered microscope slides.
0 Q&A 3802 Views May 5, 2020
The Ras homologous protein (Rho) GTPase subfamily, including RhoA, RhoB, and RhoC are small molecules (~21 kDa) that act as molecular switches in a wide range of signaling pathways to orchestrate biological processes associated with both physiological and tumorigenic cellular states. The Rho GTPases are crucial regulators of actin cytoskeleton rearrangements and FA dynamics and are required for effective cell migration and invasion, as well as cell cycle progression and apoptosis. The Rho GTPases activity is regulated by conformational switching between GTP-bound (active) and GDP-bound (inactive) states. This GTP/GDP cycling is tightly controlled by the guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs), which function as activators by catalyzing the exchange of GDP for GTP and by the GTPase-activating proteins (GAPs), which enable hydrolysis of GTP leading to the Rho GTPase inactivation. Here, we describe a detailed protocol to perform a RhoB G-LISA activation assay to detect the level of GTP-loaded RhoB in vitro. This is the first colorimetric assay designed to specifically measure RhoB activation. This method was developed by adapting the RhoA G-LISA Activation Assay Kit (Cytoskeleton, Inc.) and allow the precise measurement of RhoB activity in less than 3 hours. This rapid methodology can be broadly used to assess the level of GTP-loaded RhoB in any kind of cellular models, to appreciate either the role RhoB activation in physiological processes, diseases, oncogenic transformation or for drug discovery in high throughput screens.
0 Q&A 4526 Views Feb 5, 2020
Development of methods for protein identification is one of the important aspects of proteomics. Here, we report a protocol for the preparation of compound conjugated beads by photo-crosslinking, affinity purification, gel electrophoresis, and highly sensitive mass spectrometric assay for drug-target identification. Although there are several other methods used for drug-target identification, such as biochemical fractionation or radioactive ligand binding assay, affinity purification is widely used for its straight-forward and easy approach. To identify the target protein of an inhibitor of cancer cell-accelerated fibroblast migration, we prepared the inhibitor-conjugated beads by photo-crosslinking. Proteins were pulled down from cell lysates by the compound beads and separated by SDS-PAGE, and a specifically pulled down protein was cut out, trypsin-digested, analyzed using matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization/time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF-MS) and identified by peptide mass fingerprinting (PMF) method. Since the photo-crosslinking enables the immobilization of ligands on an affinity matrix in a functional group-independent manner, we do not have to determine the functional group of the compound to conjugate the matrix. In addition, as compared to other MS techniques such as electrospray ionization, MALDI offers a less complex sample preparation procedure and higher sensitivity, and thus is better suited for the rapid identification of proteins isolated by gel electrophoresis.
0 Q&A 4160 Views Feb 5, 2020
Valosin-containing protein (VCP; also known as p97) is a type II ATPase regulating several cellular processes. Using proteomic techniques, we identified a chemical compound that binds to the D1 ATPase domain of VCP. The protocol described here was to study the effect of the compound on ATPase activity in vitro of purified VCP protein. ATPases are enzymes that hydrolyze ATP in a reaction resulting the release of an inorganic phosphate. This reaction can be measured using several methods, such as colorimetric, fluorescence, and radiometric assays, in addition to the bioluminescence assay mentioned here. Since the remaining ATP level after the reaction was detected using a luciferase assay, the luminescent signal indicates the ATPase activity inversely. This protocol is sensitive, rapid, and can be used for high-throughput screening assays to study the effect of compounds on ATPase function.
0 Q&A 5961 Views Sep 20, 2019
Our understanding of the regulation and functions of cell-surface proteins has progressed rapidly with the advent of advanced optical imaging techniques. In particular, single-molecule tracking (SMT) using bright fluorophores conjugated to antibodies and wide-field microscopy methods such as total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy have become valuable tools to discern how endogenous proteins control cell biology. Yet, some technical challenges remain; in SMT, these revolve around the characteristics of the labeling reagent. A good reagent should have neutrality (in terms of not affecting the target protein’s functions), tagging specificity, and a bright fluorescence signal. In addition, a long shelf-life is desirable due to the time and monetary costs associated with reagent preparation. Semiconductor-based quantum dots (Qdots) or Janelia Fluor (JF) dyes are bright and photostable, and are thus excellent candidates for SMT tagging. Neutral, high-affinity antibodies can selectively bind to target proteins. However, the bivalency of antibodies can cause simultaneous binding to two proteins, and this bridging effect can alter protein functions and behaviors. Bivalency can be avoided using monovalent Fab fragments generated by enzymatic digestion of neutral antibodies. However, conjugation of a Fab with a dye using the chemical cross-linking agent SMCC (succinimidyl 4-(N-maleimidomethyl)cyclohexane-1-carboxylate) requires reduction of the interchain disulfide bond within the Fab fragment, which can decrease the structural stability of the Fab and weaken its antigen-binding capability. To overcome this problem, we perform limited reduction of F(ab’)2 to generate Fab’ fragments using a weak reducer, cysteamine, which yields free sulfhydryl groups in the hinge region, while the interchain disulfide bond in Fab’ is intact. Here, we describe a method that generates Fab’ with high yield from two isoforms of IgG and conjugates the Fab’ fragments with Qdots. This conjugation scheme can be applied easily to other types of dyes with similar chemical characteristics.

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