Small RNAs are widespread in plants and animals. They largely include microRNAs (miRNAs) and short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), and they play key roles in gene and chromatin regulations. Here we describe in detail the method for an effective construction of the recently developed short tandem target mimic (STTM) technology to block small RNA functions in plants and animals. STTM is a powerful technology complementing the previous target mimic (TM) in plants and the miRNA sponge, as well as the recently defined endogenous competing RNA (CeRNA) in animals. We expect STTM will not only be effective in blocking small RNA functions in plants but will also become a popular approach in animals.
Small RNA; miRNA; miR165/166; miR-30d; Short tandem target mimic (STTM); Target mimic; miRNA sponge; CeRNA
Among the many unsolved problems of calcium signalling, the role of calcium elevations in apoptotic and necrotic cell death has been a focus of research in recent years. Evidence has been presented that calcium oscillations can effectively trigger apoptosis under certain conditions and that dysregulation of calcium signalling is a common cause of cell death. These effects are regularly mediated through calcium signal propagation to the mitochondria and the ensuing mitochondrial membrane permeabilization and release of pro-apoptotic factors from mitochondria to the cytoplasm. The progress in this area depended on the development of (1) fluorescent/luminescent probes, including fluorescent proteins that can be genetically targeted to different intracellular locations and (2) the digital imaging technology, fluorescence-activated cell sorting and fluorescent high through put approaches, which allowed dynamic measurements of both [Ca2+] in the intracellular compartments of interest and the downstream processes. Fluorescence single cell imaging has been the only possible approach to resolve the cell-to-cell heterogeneity and the complex subcellular spatiotemporal organization of the cytoplasmic and mitochondrial calcium signals and downstream events. We outline here fluorometric and fluorescence imaging protocols that we set up for the study of calcium in the context of apoptosis.
Calcium; Mitochondria; ER; Apoptosis; Wave; ROS; Cytochrome c; Caspase
Cellular transcripts of all types, including coding messenger (m)RNAsx and noncoding (nc)RNAs, are subject to extensive post-transcriptional regulation. Among the factors that elicit post-transcriptional control, microRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as a major class of small regulatory RNAs. Since RNA-RNA interactions can be modeled computationally, several excellent programs have been developed to predict the interaction of miRNAs with target transcripts. However, many such predictions are not realized for different reasons, including absent or low-abundance expression of the miRNA in the cell, the existence of competing factors or conformational changes masking the microRNA site, and the possibility that target transcripts are not present in the prediction databases, as is the case for long ncRNAs. Here, we provide a systematic approach termed MS2-TRAP (tagged RNA affinity purification) for identifying miRNAs associated with a target transcript in the cellular context. We illustrate the use of this methodology by identifying microRNAs that associate with a long intergenic (li)ncRNA, based on the expression of the lincRNA tagged with MS2 RNA hairpins (lincRNA-p21-MS2) and the concomitant expression of a fusion protein recognizing the MS2 RNA hairpins, MS2-GST. After affinity pulldown of the ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex comprising [MS2-GST / lincRNA-p21-MS2], the RNA in the pulldown material was isolated and reverse transcribed (RT). Subsequent assessment of the microRNAs present in the pulldown complex by using real-time quantitative (q)PCR analysis led to the identification of bona fide miRNAs that interact with and control the abundance of lincRNA-p21. We describe alternative designs and applications of this approach, and discuss its implications in deciphering post-transcriptional gene regulatory schemes.
Cell-free microRNAs (miRNAs) that circulate in the blood are promising surrogate biomarkers of disease and physiological processes. The ease of quantifying specific miRNA species using made-to-order approaches based on Taq-polymerase has led to numerous studies that have identified changes in the abundance of circulating cell-free miRNA species that correlate with pathology or other events. The growing interest in developing miRNAs as blood biomarkers necessitates the careful consideration of the unique properties of such body fluids that can make the reproducible and quantitative assessment of RNA abundance challenging. For example, enzymes involved in the amplification and analysis of RNA can be affected by blood components that copurify with miRNA. Thus, if miRNAs are to be effectively utilized as biomarkers, it is important to establish standardized protocols for blood collection and miRNA analysis to ensure accurate quantitation. Here we outline several considerations, including the type of collection tube used in sampling, the influence of added anticoagulants and stabilizers, sample processing, enrichment of vesicular and other miRNA species, RNA extraction approaches and enzyme selection, that affect quantitation of miRNA isolated from plasma and should be considered in order to achieve reproducible, sensitive and accurate quantitation.
Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), once relegated to junk products of the genome, are becoming better appreciated for the myriad functions they play in cellular processes. It is clear that for most of the cases studied, lncRNAs carry out their functions at least in part through interactions with proteins. Here we present two complementary biochemical methods for the analysis of lncRNA-containing ribonucleoprotein complexes, hereafter referred to as RNPs. The first strategy offers users the ability to purify RNPs based on a protein component and to analyze the spectrum of lncRNAs, other proteins, and, if present, other types of RNAs that are bound to it. The second makes use of a bacteriophage MS2 binding-site affinity-handle grafted onto a lncRNA of interest to investigate the proteins and RNAs that co-purify with the tagged RNA.
long non-coding RNA (lncRNA); immunoprecipitation; MS2 coat-binding protein; ribonucleoprotein complex (RNP); RT-PCR; biochemistry
The characterization of post-transcriptional gene regulation by small regulatory RNAs of 20–30 nt length, particularly miRNAs and piRNAs, has become a major focus of research in recent years. A prerequisite for the characterization of small RNAs is their identification and quantification across different developmental stages, normal and diseased tissues, as well as model cell lines. Here we present a step-by-step protocol for the bioinformatic analysis of barcoded cDNA libraries for small RNA profiling generated by Illumina sequencing, thereby facilitating miRNA and other small RNA profiling of large sample collections.
Bioinformatic analysis; Small RNA; miRNA; Barcoding; Next-generation sequencing; Nucleotide variation
The burgeoning of phosphoinositide-binding domains and proteins in cellular signaling and trafficking has drawn laboratories from a wide variety of fields into the study of lipid interactions with peripheral membrane proteins. Many different approaches have been developed to assess phosphoinositide binding, some of which are more problematic than others, and some of which can be quantitated more readily than others. With a focus on the methods used in our laboratory, we describe here the considerations that need to be taken into account when establishing – and quantitating – the specific binding of a protein or domain to phosphoinositides in membranes. We also discuss briefly a few examples in which no clear consensus has yet been reached as to the specificity of a given domain or protein because of discrepancies between different commonly-used approaches.
phosphoinositide; PH domain; surface plasmon resonance; centrifugation; lipid binding; vesicle; membrane; inositol
The article reviews the application of biomolecular simulation methods to understand the structure, dynamics and interactions of nucleic acids with a focus on explicit solvent molecular dynamics simulations of guanine quadruplex (G-DNA and G-RNA) molecules. While primarily dealing with these exciting and highly relevant four-stranded systems, where recent and past simulations have provided several interesting results and novel insight into G-DNA structure, the review provides some general perspectives on the applicability of the simulation techniques to nucleic acids.
Molecular dynamics simulations; Guanine quadruplex; DNA ligand binding; Force field limitations; Force field development
Video processing is increasingly becoming a standard procedure in zebrafish behavior investigations as it enables higher research throughput and new or better measures. This trend, fostered by the ever increasing performance-to-price ratio of the required recording and processing equipment, should be expected to continue in the foreseeable future, with video-processing based methods permeating more and more experiments and, as a result, expanding the very role of behavioral studies in zebrafish research. To assess whether the routine video tracking of zebrafish larvae directly in the Petri dish is a capability that can be expected in the near future, the key processing concepts are discussed and illustrated on published zebrafish studies when available or other animals when not.
Zebrafish; Tracking; Motion; Representations; Sampling; Processing; Articulated and skeleton models; Frame-to-frame association
Rhesus monkeys, whose typical lifespan can be as long as 30 years in the presence of veterinary care, undergo a cognitive decline as a function of age. While cortical neurons are largely preserved in the cerebral cortex, including primary motor and visual cortex as well as prefrontal association cortex there is marked breakdown of axonal myelin and an overall reduction in white matter predominantly in the frontal and temporal lobes. Whether the myelin breakdown is diffuse or specific to individual white matter fiber pathways is important to be known with certainty. To this end the delineation and quantification of specific frontotemporal fiber pathways within the frontal and temporal lobes is essential to determine which structures are altered and the extent to which these alterations correlate with behavioral findings. The capability of studying the living brain non-invasively with MRI opens up a new window in structural-functional and anatomic-clinical relationships allowing the integration of information derived from different scanning modalities in the same subject. For instance, for any particular voxel in the cerebrum we can obtain structural T1-, diffusion- and magnetization transfer-magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) based information. Moreover, it is thus possible to follow any observed changes longitudinally over time. These acquisitions of multidimensional data in the same individual within the same MRI experimental setting would enable the creation of a data base of integrated structural MRI-behavioral correlations for normal aging monkeys to elucidate the underlying neurobiological mechanisms of functional senescence in the aging non-human primate.
image segmentation; volumetric analysis; topographic analysis; diffusion tensor imaging; magnetic resonance imaging; volume; quantitative brain anatomy; morphometry; monkeys; aging; methods
Quantitative measurement of the major regulatory proteins in signaling networks poses several technical challenges, including low abundance, the presence of post-translational modifications (PTMs), and the lack of suitable affinity detection reagents. Using the innate immune response (IIR) as a model signaling pathway, we illustrate the approach of stable isotopic dilution (SID)-selected reaction monitoring (SRM)-mass spectrometry (MS) assays for quantification of low abundance signaling proteins. A work flow for SID-SRM-MS assay development is established for proteins with experimentally observed MS spectra and for those without. Using the interferon response factor (IRF)-3 transcription factor as an example, we illustrate the steps in high responding signature peptide identification, SID-SRM-MS assay optimization, and evaluation. SRM assays for normalization of IIR abundance to invariant housekeeping proteins are presented. We provide an example of SID-SRM assay development for post-translational modification (PTM) detection using an activating phospho-Ser modified NF-κB/RelA transcription factor, and describe challenges inherent in PTM-SID-SRM-MS assay development. Application of highly qualified quantitative, SID-SRM-MS assays will enable a systems-level approach to understanding the dynamics and kinetics of signaling in host cells, such as the IIR.
Selected Reaction Monitoring; Innate Immune Response; Stable Isotopic Dilution; Interferon Response Factor (IRF); Nuclear Factor-κB (NF-κB); Post Translational Modification
Selected Reaction Monitoring (SRM) is a method of choice for accurate quantitation of low-abundance proteins in complex backgrounds. This strategy is, however, sensitive to interference from other components in the sample that have the same precursor and fragment masses as the monitored transitions. We present here an approach to detect interference by using the expected relative intensity of SRM transitions. We also designed an algorithm to automatically detect the linear range of calibration curves. These approaches were applied to the experimental data of Clinical Proteomic Tumor Analysis Consortium (CPTAC) Verification Work Group Study 7 and show that the corrected measurements provide more accurate quantitation than the uncorrected data.
A major goal in the study of autoimmune disease is the identification of biomarkers of disease to allow early diagnosis and initiation of treatment. The production of autoantibodies is the key feature of most autoimmune disease, so much effort has focused on characterizing the antigens reactive with these antibodies. However, even for the most well understood autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, identification of antigens that detect autoantibodies in all patients have yet to be discovered. We describe a novel strategy for deriving mimotopes to disease-specific serum antibodies by selecting anti-idiotypic monobodies from a large molecular diversity library. Monobodies are derived by partial randomization of two surface exposed loops of a fibronectin domain scaffold in a phage display vector. The phage library is selected for binding to serum antibodies using a subtractive panning strategy. We evaluated this strategy by selecting the monobody library on a pool of serum immunoglobulin derived from a group of rheumatoid arthritis patients and evaluated selected clones for multi-patient reactivity and specificity for rheumatoid arthritis. The use of the fibronectin scaffold to derive stable, easy to produce molecular probes for diagnosis of autoimmune disease could be of significant value in improving diagnostic assays for virtually any disease that exhibits a characteristic immune response.
Autoantibodies; Phage Display; Scaffold Protein; Mimotopes
Site-directed mutagenesis is routinely performed in protein engineering experiments. One method, termed Kunkel mutagenesis, is frequently used for constructing libraries of peptide or protein variants in M13 bacteriophage, followed by affinity selection of phage particles. To make this method more efficient, the following two modifications were introduced: culture was incubated at 25°C for phage replication, which yielded 2- to 7-fold more single-stranded DNA template compared to growth at 37°C, and restriction endonuclease recognition sites were used to remove non-recombinants. With both of the improvements, we could construct primary libraries of high complexity and that were 99-100% recombinant. Finally, with a third modification to the standard protocol of Kunkel mutagenesis, two secondary (mutagenic) libraries of a fibronectin type III (FN3) monobody were constructed with DNA segments that were amplified by error-prone and asymmetric PCR. Two advantages of this modification are that it bypasses the lengthy steps of restriction enzyme digestion and ligation, and that the pool of phage clones, recovered after affinity selection, can be used directly to generate a secondary library. Screening one of the two mutagenic libraries yielded variants that bound 2- to 4-fold tighter to human Pak1 kinase than the starting clone. The protocols described in this study should accelerate the discovery of phage-displayed recombinant affinity reagents.
Affinity selection; asymmetric PCR; diversity; error-prone PCR; FN3 monobody; Kunkel mutagenesis; library construction; M13 bacteriophage; mutation rate; Mutazyme II; phage display; single-stranded DNA
Open reading frame (ORF) phage display is a new branch of phage display aimed at improving its efficiency to identify cellular proteins with specific binding or functional activities. Despite the success of phage display with antibody libraries and random peptide libraries, phage display with cDNA libraries of cellular proteins identifies a high percentage of non-ORF clones encoding unnatural short peptides with minimal biological implications. This is mainly because of the uncontrollable reading frames of cellular proteins in conventional cDNA libraries. ORF phage display solves this problem by eliminating non-ORF clones to generate ORF cDNA libraries. Here I summarize the procedures of ORF phage display, discuss the factors influencing its efficiency, present examples of its versatile applications, and highlight evidence of its capability of identifying biologically relevant cellular proteins. ORF phage display coupled with different selection strategies is capable of delineating diverse functions of cellular proteins with unique advantages.
Open reading frame phage display; ORF phage display; Protein-protein interaction; Phagocytosis ligand; Functional proteomics
Intrinsic affinity tags are useful tools for the study of macromolecular targets. Although polypeptide affinity tags are routinely used in purification and detection of protein complexes, there has been a relative lack of powerful RNA affinity tags that can be embedded within RNA sequences. Here, the preparation and use of two RNA affinity tags against Sephadex or streptavidin are described. The two tags have different strengths that make them appropriate for slightly different uses. One is a high-affinity ligand for streptavidin that can be specifically eluted by competition with biotin under otherwise native binding conditions. The other tag binds selectively to Sephadex beads, and can be eluted by competition with the soluble dextran that composes Sephadex. When properly placed within another RNA molecule, the tags can be used to effect dramatic purification of RNA or ribonucleoprotein complexes from complex mixtures of cellular RNA.
Aptamer; SELEX; RNA tag; Streptavidin; RNA purification; Ribonucleoprotein
Fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) is a sensitive and flexible method for studying protein-protein interactions. Here it is applied to the GroEL-GroES chaperonin system to examine the ATP-driven dynamics that underlie protein folding by this chaperone. Relying on the known structures of GroEL and GroES, sites for attachment of fluorescent probes are designed into the sequence of both proteins. Because these sites are brought close in space when GroEL and GroES form a complex, excitation energy can pass from a donor to an acceptor chromophore by FRET. While in ideal circumstances FRET can be used to measure distances, significant population heterogeneity in the donor-to-acceptor distances in the GroEL-GroES complex makes distance determination difficult. This is due to incomplete labeling of these large, oligomeric proteins and to their rotational symmetry. It is shown, however, that FRET can still be used to follow protein-protein interaction dynamics even in a case such as this, where distance measurements are either not practical or not meaningful. In this way, the FRET signal is used as a simple proximity sensor to score the interaction between GroEL and GroES. Similarly, FRET can also be used to follow interactions between GroEL and a fluorescently labeled substrate polypeptide. Thus, while knowledge of molecular structure aids enormously in the design of FRET experiments, structural information is not necessarily required if the aim is to measure the thermodynamics or kinetics of a protein interaction event by following changes in the binding proximity of two components.
The zebrafish mutation project (ZMP) aims to generate a loss of function allele for every protein-coding gene, but importantly to also characterise the phenotypes of these alleles during the first five days of development. Such a large-scale screen requires a systematic approach both to identifying phenotypes, and also to linking those phenotypes to specific mutations. This phenotyping pipeline simultaneously assesses the consequences of multiple alleles in a two-step process. First, mutations that do not produce a visible phenotype during the first five days of development are identified, while a second round of phenotyping focuses on detailed analysis of those alleles that are suspected to cause a phenotype. Allele-specific PCR single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) assays are used to genotype F2 parents and individual F3 fry for mutations known to be present in the F1 founder. With this method specific phenotypes can be linked to induced mutations. In addition a method is described for cryopreserving sperm samples of mutagenised males and their subsequent use for in vitro fertilisation to generate F2 families for phenotyping. Ultimately this approach will lead to the functional annotation of the zebrafish genome, which will deepen our understanding of gene function in development and disease.
Zebrafish; Knockout; Screen; Model organism; Phenomics; Cryopreservation
Since its development about two decades ago, the yeast one-hybrid (Y1H) assay has become an important technique for detecting physical interactions between sequence-specific regulatory transcription factor proteins (TFs) and their DNA target sites. Multiple versions of the Y1H methodology have been developed, each with technical differences and unique advantages. We will discuss several of these technical variations in detail, and also provide some ideas for how Y1H assays can be further improved.
Metabolites comprise the molar majority of chemical substances in living cells, and metabolite-protein interactions are expected to be quite common. Many interactions have already been identified and have been shown to be involved in the regulation of different types of cellular processes including signaling events, enzyme activities, protein localizations and interactions. Recent technological advances have greatly facilitated the detection of metabolite-protein interactions at high sensitivity and some of these have been applied on a large scale. In this manuscript, we review the available in vitro, in silico and in vivo technologies for mapping small-molecule-protein interactions. Although some of these were developed for drug-protein interactions they can be applied for mapping metabolite-protein interactions. Information gained from the use of these approaches can be applied to the manipulation of cellular processes and therapeutic applications.
Metabolite-protein interaction; metabolite detection; protein separation; technique
To understand how mitotic kinesins contribute to the assembly and function of the mitotic spindle, we need to purify these motors and analyze their biochemical and ultrastructural properties. Here we briefly review our use of microtubule (MT) affinity and biochemical fractionation to obtain information about the oligomeric state of native mitotic kinesin holoenzymes from eggs and early embryos. We then detail the methods we use to purify full length recombinant Drosophila embryo mitotic kinesins, using the baculovirus expression system, in sufficient yields for detailed in vitro assays. These two approaches provide complementary biochemical information on the basic properties of these key mitotic proteins, and permit assays of critical motor activities, such as MT-MT crosslinking and sliding, that are not revealed by assaying motor domain subfragments.
Bioinformatic approaches to the identification of genomic sequences having G-quadruplex forming potential (QFP) has enabled important tests of the structure of these sequences in vitro and of their behavior under conditions where the formation or function of G-quadruplexes is modulated in vivo. Several similar approaches to identifying intramolecular QFP (i.e. forming among G-runs on one strand of DNA) have been developed previously, but none appears to perfectly predict G-quadruplex formation. Here we describe a new approach, which complements and differs from prior approaches in that it identifies motifs containing G-runs on both strands of duplex DNA that could contribute to G-quadruplex structures. We call these motifs duplex-derived interstrand QFP (ddiQFP), and illustrate their potential applications by describing their genomic distribution and an example of their correspondence to loci targeted by a G-quadruplex-unwinding DNA helicase in yeast.
G-quadruplex; G4 DNA; interstrand G-quadruplex; ddiQFP; Bioinformatics
Highly effective vaccines have yet to be identified for many widespread infectious diseases including HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Many vaccine candidates for these diseases have been designed to induce both cellular and humoral immunity, and measurement of the induced cellular immune response and antibody response is critical for monitoring immunogenicity. The flow cytometric intracellular cytokine staining assay is one of the primary assays for enumerating vaccine-induced T cells in vaccine clinical trials. The assay is flexible, allowing for measurement of various cytokines or functions and phenotyping markers, and the assay can be validated. Changes in other cell types such as innate immune cells are monitored by flow cytometric phenotyping assays. Cell sorting of vaccine-induced T cells and B cells is used to allow genomic and transcriptional analysis of these cells. Thus, flow cytometric methods are commonly used in trials testing the next generation of vaccines.
Flow cytometry; vaccine; T cell; immunogenicity; intracellular cytokine staining
Since the invention of flow cytometry in the 1960’s, advances in the technology have come hand-in-hand with advances in the recognition and characterization of new leukocyte subsets. In the early years, with the advent of one- and two-color flow cytometers, major lymphocyte lineages comprising the cellular arm (T-cells) and the humoral arm (B-cells) were identified1, 2. Through the 1980’s, the ability to perform three- and four-color flow cytometry experiments enabled the enumeration of cells expressing combinations of CD3, CD4, and CD8 from a single tube; this was a necessity driven by the clinical demands of the emerging HIV epidemic3. The following decade saw continued development in multicolor technology and immunology, with the advent of polychromatic flow cytometry (detection of 5 or more markers simultaneously) enabling identification of naïve and memory T-cell subsets4 and detailed functional characterization of antigen-specific lymphocytes (such as measurement of multiple cytokine production from individual cells5). Most recently, the new millennium brought 12–18 color technology6, 7 and an unprecedented resolution to immune analysis (including the identification of regulatory T-cells8, follicular helper T-cells9, TH17 cells10, and the ability to combine functional and phenotypic analyses11; Figure 1). The ongoing development of flow cytometry technology has left its mark on the analysis of hematopoetic development, cell signaling networks, and leukemia/lymphoma diagnoses.
Flow cytometry; Single-cell analysis; Data analysis; Polychromatic Flow Cytometry; Fluorescence Reagents
Written Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are an important tool to assure that recurring tasks in a laboratory are performed in a consistent manner. When the procedure covered in the SOP involves a high-risk activity such as sorting unfixed cells using a jet-in-air sorter, safety elements are critical components of the document. The details on sort sample handling, sorter set-up, validation, operation, troubleshooting, and maintenance, personal protective equipment (PPE), and operator training, outlined in the SOP are to be based on careful risk assessment of the procedure. This review provides background information on the hazards associated with sorting of unfixed cells and the process used to arrive at the appropriate combination of facility design, instrument placement, safety equipment, and practices to be followed.
cell sorting; biosafety; occupational health; aerosol testing