Developmental Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
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0 Q&A 421 Views Jul 5, 2023

In vitro models are essential for investigating the molecular, biochemical, and cell-biological aspects of skeletal muscle. Still, models that utilize cell lines or embryonic cells do not fully recapitulate mature muscle fibers in vivo. Protein function is best studied in mature differentiated tissue, where biological context is maintained, but this is often difficult when reliable detection reagents, such as antibodies, are not commercially available. Exogenous expression of tagged proteins in vivo solves some of these problems, but this approach can be technically challenging because either a mouse must be engineered for each protein of interest or viral vectors are required for adequate levels of expression. While viral vectors can infect target cells following local administration, they carry the risk of genome integration that may interfere with downstream analyses. Plasmids are another accessible expression system, but they require ancillary means of cell penetration; electroporation is a simple physical method for this purpose that requires minimal training or specialized equipment. Here, we describe a method for in vivo plasmid expression in a foot muscle following electroporation.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 555 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 3074 Views Jun 20, 2022

Chromatin accessibility is a key determinant of gene expression that can be altered under different physiological and disease conditions. Skeletal muscle is made up of myofibers that are highly plastic and adaptive. Therefore, assessing the genome-wide chromatin state of myofibers under various conditions is very important to gain insight into the epigenetic state of myonuclei. The rigid nature of myofibers, as well as the low number of myonuclei that they contain, have rendered genome-wide studies with myofibers challenging. In recent years, ATAC-Seq from whole muscle and single nucleus ATAC-Seq have been performed. However, these techniques cannot distinguish between different fiber and cell types present in the muscle. In addition, due to the limited depth capacity obtained from single nucleus ATAC-Seq, an extensive comparative analysis cannot be performed. Here, we introduce a protocol where we combine the isolation of a single myofiber with OMNI ATAC-Seq. This protocol allows for genome-wide analysis of accessible chromatin regions of a selected single myofiber at a sufficient depth for comparative analysis under various physiological and disease conditions. This protocol can also allow for a specific myofiber to be selected, such as a regenerating myofiber. In the future, this protocol can help identify global changes in chromatin state under various conditions, as well as between different types of myofibers.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 2392 Views Jun 5, 2022

Our ability to move and breathe requires an efficient communication between nerve and muscle that mainly takes place at the neuromuscular junctions (NMJs), a highly specialized synapse that links the axon of a motor neuron to a muscle fiber. When NMJs or axons are disrupted, the control of muscle fiber contraction is lost and muscle are paralyzed. Understanding the adaptation of the neuromuscular system to permanent or transient denervation is a challenge to understand the pathophysiology of many neuromuscular diseases. There is still a lack of in vitro models that fully recapitulate the in vivo situation, and in vivo denervation, carried out by transiently or permanently severing the nerve afferent to a muscle, remains a method of choice to evaluate reinnervation and/or the consequences of the loss of innervation. We describe here a simple surgical intervention performed at the hip zone to expose the sciatic nerve in order to obtain either permanent denervation (nerve-cut) or transient and reversible denervation (nerve-crush). These two methods provide a convenient in vivo model to study adaptation to denervation.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 1909 Views Jan 5, 2022

Muscle stem cells (satellite cells), located on the surface of myofibers, are rapidly activated from a quiescent state following skeletal muscle injury. Although satellite cell activation is an initial step in muscle regeneration, the stimulation of satellite cell activation by muscle injury remains to be elucidated. We recently established an in vitro mechanical damage model of myofibers, to analyze quiescent and activated satellite cells associated with myofibers isolated from the extensor digitorum longus muscle in mice. Here, we described a protocol for the mechanical damage of myofibers and co-culture of intact healthy myofibers with damaged myofibers in a floating condition. This in vitro myofiber damage model allowed us to investigate the mechanism of satellite cell activation without contamination by interstitial cells, such as blood vessel cells and fibroblasts, as well as understand how damaged myofiber-derived factors (DMDFs) activate satellite cells.

0 Q&A 2171 Views Nov 5, 2021

LncRNAs have been recently implicated in the epigenetic control of muscle differentiation and their functional characterization has traditionally relied upon in vitro models of myogenic differentiation. However, the use of experimental paradigms to specifically target lncRNAs expression in muscle stem cells (MuSCs), also known as satellite cells, represents an important requisite to interrogate their function in more physiological contexts. Since isolation and culture of single myofibers preserves satellite cells within their physiological niche underneath the surrounding basal lamina, this procedure represents the optimal approach to follow satellite cell dynamics ex-vivo, such as activation from quiescence, expansion of committed progenitors, differentiation, and self-renewal. Here, we detail an optimized protocol to isolate viable single myofibers from the extensor digitorum longus (EDL) skeletal muscle of adult mice and to manipulate the expression of lncRNAs by antisense LNA GapmeRs-mediated knock-down (KD). Furthermore, we describe a method of EdU incorporation that, coupled to lncRNA KD and subsequent immunofluorescence analysis of proliferating, differentiating, and satellite cell-specific markers, permits the inference of lncRNAs function on muscle stem cells dynamics.

Graphic abstract:

Graphical representation of the single myofiber isolation method. Experimental workflow showing the main steps of the protocol procedure: EDL muscle harvesting from the mouse hindlimb; EDL digestion into single myofibers; transfection with antisense oligos and culture for 96h; immunofluorescence protocol and image outcome.

0 Q&A 3393 Views Oct 5, 2021

Advances in C. elegans research have allowed scientists to recapitulate different human disorders, from neurodegenerative diseases to muscle dysfunction, in these nematodes. Concomitantly, the interest in visualizing organs affected by these conditions has grown, leading to the establishment of different antibody- and dye-based staining protocols to verify tissue morphology. In particular, the quality of muscle tissue has been largely used in nematodes as a readout for fitness and healthspan. Phalloidin derivatives, which are commonly used to stain actin filaments in cells and tissues, have been implemented in the context of C. elegans research for visualization of muscle fibers. However, the majority of the phalloidin-based protocols depend on fixation steps using harmful compounds, preparation of specific buffers, and large amounts of worms. Herein, we implemented a safer and more flexible experimental procedure to stain actin filaments in C. elegans using phalloidin-based dyes. Lyophilization of the worms followed by their acetone permeabilization allows bypassing the fixation process while also providing the opportunity to suspend the experiment at different steps. Moreover, by using conventional buffers throughout our protocol, we avoid the additional preparation of solutions. Finally, our protocol requires a limited number of worms, making it suitable for slow-growing C. elegans strains. Overall, this protocol provides an efficient, fast, and safer method to stain actin filaments and visualize muscle fibers in C. elegans.

Graphic abstract:

Schematic overview of phalloidin staining in C. elegans for assessing muscle fiber morphology.

0 Q&A 4576 Views Sep 5, 2021

Skeletal muscles generate force throughout life and require maintenance and repair to ensure efficiency. The population of resident muscle stem cells (MuSCs), termed satellite cells, dwells beneath the basal lamina of adult myofibres and contributes to both muscle growth and regeneration. Upon exposure to activating signals, MuSCs proliferate to generate myoblasts that differentiate and fuse to grow or regenerate myofibres. This myogenic progression resembles aspects of muscle formation and development during embryogenesis. Therefore, the study of MuSCs and their associated myofibres permits the exploration of muscle stem cell biology, including the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying muscle formation, maintenance and repair. As most aspects of MuSC biology have been described in rodents, their relevance to other species, including humans, is unclear and would benefit from comparison to an alternative vertebrate system. Here, we describe a procedure for the isolation and immunolabelling or culture of adult zebrafish myofibres that allows examination of both myofibre characteristics and MuSC biology ex vivo. Isolated myofibres can be analysed for morphometric characteristics such as the myofibre volume and myonuclear domain to assess the dynamics of muscle growth. Immunolabelling for canonical stemness markers or reporter transgenes identifies MuSCs on isolated myofibres for cellular/molecular studies. Furthermore, viable myofibres can be plated, allowing MuSC myogenesis and analysis of proliferative and differentiative dynamics in primary progenitor cells. In conclusion, we provide a comparative system to amniote models for the study of vertebrate myogenesis, which will reveal fundamental genetic and cellular mechanisms of MuSC biology and inform aquaculture.

Graphic abstract:

Schematic of Myofibre Isolation and Culture of Muscle Stem Cells from Adult Zebrafish.

0 Q&A 3695 Views Mar 5, 2020
Lipid mixing (redistribution of lipid probes between fusing membranes) has been widely used to study early stages of relatively fast viral and intracellular fusion processes that take seconds to minutes. Lipid mixing assays are especially important for identification of hemifusion intermediates operationally defined as lipid mixing without content mixing. Due to unsynchronized character and the slow rate of the differentiation processes that prime the cells for cell-cell fusion processes in myogenesis, osteoclastogenesis and placentogenesis, these fusions take days. Application of lipid mixing assays to detect early fusion intermediates in these very slow fusion processes must consider the continuous turnover of plasma membrane components and potential fusion-unrelated exchange of the lipid probes between the membranes. Here we describe the application of lipid mixing assay in our work on myoblast fusion stage in development and regeneration of skeletal muscle cells. Our approach utilizes conventional in vitro model of myogenic differentiation and fusion based on murine C2C12 cells. When we observe the appearance of first multinucleated cells, we lift the cells and label them with either fluorescent lipid DiI as a membrane probe or CellTrackerTM Green as a content probe. Redistribution of the probes between the cells is scored by fluorescence microscopy. Hemifused cells are identified as mononucleated cells labeled with both content- and membrane probes. The interpretation must be supported by a system of negative controls with fusion-incompetent cells to account for and minimize contributions of fusion-unrelated exchange of the lipid probes. This approach with minor modifications has been used for investigating fusion of primary murine myoblasts, osteoclast precursors and fusion mediated by a gamete fusogen HAP2, and likely can be adopted for other slow cell-cell fusion processes.
0 Q&A 5511 Views Feb 20, 2020
Whole transcriptome analysis is a key method in biology that allows researchers to determine the effect a condition has on gene regulation. One difficulty in RNA sequencing of muscle is that traditional methods are performed on the whole muscle, but this captures non-myogenic cells that are part of the muscle. In order to analyze only the transcriptome of myofibers we combine single myofiber isolation with SMART-Seq to provide high resolution genome wide expression of a single myofiber.

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