Cryptococcosis is a life-threatening infection caused by pathogenic fungi of the genus Cryptococcus. Infection occurs upon inhalation of spores, which are able to replicate in the deep lung. Phagocytosis of Cryptococcus by macrophages is one of the ways that the disease is able to spread into the central nervous system to cause lethal meningoencephalitis. Therefore, study of the association between Cryptococcus and macrophages is important to understanding the progression of the infection. The present study describes a step-by-step protocol to study macrophage infectivity by C. neoformansin vitro. Using this protocol, the role of host sterols on host-pathogen interactions is studied. Different concentrations of methyl--cyclodextrin (MCD) were used to deplete cholesterol from murine reticulum sarcoma macrophage-like cell line J774A.1. Cholesterol depletion was confirmed and quantified using both a commercially available cholesterol quantification kit and thin layer chromatography. Cholesterol depleted cells were activated using Lipopolysacharide (LPS) and Interferon gamma (IFNγ) and infected with antibody-opsonized Cryptococcus neoformans wild-type H99 cells at an effector-to-target ratio of 1:1. Infected cells were monitored after 2 hr of incubation with C. neoformans and their phagocytic index was calculated. Cholesterol depletion resulted in a significant reduction in the phagocytic index. The presented protocols offer a convenient method to mimic the initiation of the infection process in a laboratory environment and study the role of host lipid composition on infectivity.
Immunology; Issue 94; Infection; phagocytosis; Cryptococcus; cholesterol; cyclodextrin; macrophages
Sinoatrial node myocytes (SAMs) act as the natural pacemakers of the heart, initiating each heart beat by generating spontaneous action potentials (APs). These pacemaker APs reflect the coordinated activity of numerous membrane currents and intracellular calcium cycling. However the precise mechanisms that drive spontaneous pacemaker activity in SAMs remain elusive. Acutely isolated SAMs are an essential preparation for experiments to dissect the molecular basis of cardiac pacemaking. However, the indistinct anatomy, complex microdissection, and finicky enzymatic digestion conditions have prevented widespread use of acutely isolated SAMs. In addition, methods were not available until recently to permit longer-term culture of SAMs for protein expression studies. Here we provide a step-by-step protocol and video demonstration for the isolation of SAMs from adult mice. A method is also demonstrated for maintaining adult mouse SAMs in vitro and for expression of exogenous proteins via adenoviral infection. Acutely isolated and cultured SAMs prepared via these methods are suitable for a variety of electrophysiological and imaging studies.
Cellular Biology; Issue 116; Sinoatrial node; pacemaking; cell culture; adenovirus; electrophysiology; funny current
This protocol demonstrates how to perform whole-cell patch clamp recording on retinal neurons from a flat-mount preparation.
The mammalian retina is a layered tissue composed of multiple neuronal types. To understand how visual signals are processed within its intricate synaptic network, electrophysiological recordings are frequently used to study connections among individual neurons. We have optimized a flat-mount preparation for patch clamp recording of genetically marked neurons in both GCL (ganglion cell layer) and INL (inner nuclear layer) of mouse retinas. Recording INL neurons in flat-mounts is favored over slices because both vertical and lateral connections are preserved in the former configuration, allowing retinal circuits with large lateral components to be studied. We have used this procedure to compare responses of mirror-partnered neurons in retinas such as the cholinergic starburst amacrine cells (SACs).
Mammalian retina; whole-cell patch clamp; photoreceptor degeneration; inner retinal hyperactivity; flat-mount preparation; inner nuclear layer; starburst amacrine cell
The zebrafish is a highly relevant model organism for understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in neurogenesis and brain regeneration in vertebrates. However, an in-depth analysis of the molecular mechanisms underlying zebrafish adult neurogenesis has been limited due to the lack of a reliable protocol for isolating and culturing neural adult stem/progenitor cells. Here we provide a reproducible method to examine adult neurogenesis using a neurosphere assay derived from zebrafish whole brain or from the telencephalon, tectum and cerebellum regions of the adult zebrafish brain. The protocol involves, first the microdissection of zebrafish adult brain, then single cell dissociation and isolation of self-renewing multipotent neural stem/progenitor cells. The entire procedure takes eight days. Additionally, we describe how to manipulate gene expression in zebrafish neurospheres, which will be particularly useful to test the role of specific signaling pathways during adult neural stem/progenitor cell proliferation and differentiation in zebrafish.
Developmental Biology; Issue 108; Zebrafish; neurogenesis; neural adult stem/progenitor cells; neurosphere assay; miRNA; genetic manipulation
Harmonic Motion Imaging for Focused Ultrasound (HMIFU) is a technique that can perform and monitor high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) ablation. An oscillatory motion is generated at the focus of a 93—element and 4.5 MHz center frequency HIFU transducer by applying a 25 Hz amplitude-modulated signal using a function generator. A 64-element and 2.5 MHz imaging transducer with 68kPa peak pressure is confocally placed at the center of the HIFU transducer to acquire the radio-frequency (RF) channel data. In this protocol, real-time monitoring of thermal ablation using HIFU with an acoustic power of 7W on canine livers in vitro is described. HIFU treatment is applied on the tissue during 2 min and the ablated region is imaged in real-time using diverging or plane wave imaging up to 1000 frames/second. The matrix of RF channel data is multiplied by a sparse matrix for image reconstruction. The reconstructed field of view is of 90° for diverging wave and 20 mm for plane wave imaging and the data are sampled at 80 MHz. The reconstruction is performed on a Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) in order to image in real-time at a 4.5 display frame rate. 1-D normalized cross-correlation of the reconstructed RF data is used to estimate axial displacements in the focal region. The magnitude of the peak-to-peak displacement at the focal depth decreases during the thermal ablation which denotes stiffening of the tissue due to the formation of a lesion. The displacement signal-to-noise ratio (SNRd) at the focal area for plane wave was 1.4 times higher than for diverging wave showing that plane wave imaging appears to produce better displacement maps quality for HMIFU than diverging wave imaging.
HIFU ablation; Harmonic motion imaging; Real-time monitoring; High frame rate imaging; Elastography; Lesion monitoring; Liver ablation; Canine liver
Tendon connects muscle and bone, facilitating movement of nearly the entire body. In the hand, flexor tendons enable flexion of the fingers and general hand function. Injuries to the flexor tendons are common, and satisfactory healing is impaired due to excess scar tissue and adhesions between the tendon and surrounding tissue. However, very little is known about the molecular and cellular components of flexor tendon repair. To that end, we have previously described a murine model of flexor tendon repair that recapitulates many aspects of healing in humans including impaired range of motion and decreased mechanical properties. Here we provide an in-depth description and demonstration of this surgical procedure to completely transect and repair the flexor digitorum longus (FDL) tendon in the hind paw of the mouse. This technique can be used to conduct lineage analysis of different cell types, assess the effects of gene gain or loss-of-function, and to test the efficacy of pharmacological interventions in the healing process. However, there are two primary limitations to this model: i) the FDL tendon in the mid-portion of the murine hind paw, where the transection and repair occur, is not surrounded by a synovial sheath. Therefore this model does not account for the potential contribution of the sheath the scar formation process. ii) To protect the integrity of the repair site, the tendon is release at the myotendinous junction, decreasing the mechanical forces of the tendon, likely contributing to increased scar formation. In addition, we demonstrate the use of the cytospin method to identify and quantify different cell populations during healing. Isolation of sufficient cells during the healing process for flow cytometric analysis has proved quite challenging; cytospin requires far fewer cells but allows for simple immunofluorescent labeling and quantification of cells or proteins of interest.
Flexor tendons in the hand are commonly injured, leading to impaired hand function. However, the scar-tissue healing response is not well characterized. Here, we demonstrate a murine model of flexor tendon healing. This model can enhance our understanding of the healing process and assess therapeutic approaches to improve healing.
tendon; mouse; orthopaedics; adhesions; scar tissue; cytospin; surgery
Surgical parabiosis of two animals of different genetic backgrounds creates a unique scenario to study cell-intrinsic versus cell-extrinsic roles for candidate genes of interest, migratory behaviors of cells, and secreted signals in distinct genetic settings. Because parabiotic animals share a common circulation, any blood or blood-borne factor from one animal will be exchanged with its partner and vice versa. Thus, cells and molecular factors derived from one genetic background can be studied in the context of a second genetic background. Parabiosis of adult mice has been used extensively to research aging, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and brain development. More recently, parabiosis of zebrafish embryos has been used to study the developmental biology of hematopoiesis. In contrast to mice, the transparent nature of zebrafish embryos permits the direct visualization of cells in the parabiotic context, making it a uniquely powerful method for investigating fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms. The utility of this technique, however, is limited by a steep learning curve for generating the parabiotic zebrafish embryos. This protocol provides a step-by-step method on how to surgically fuse the blastulae of two zebrafish embryos of different genetic backgrounds to investigate the role of candidate genes of interest. In addition, the parabiotic zebrafish embryos are tolerant to heat shock, making temporal control of gene expression possible. This method does not require a sophisticated set-up and has broad applications for studying cell migration, fate specification, and differentiation in vivo during embryonic development.
Parabiosis; Conjoined Embryos; Zebrafish; Hematopoietic Stem Cell; Zebrafish Chimera; Cell-Intrinsic and Cell-Extrinsic Functions
Here, we describe a robust protocol for human cardiomyocyte derivation that combines small molecule-modulated cardiac differentiation and glucose deprivation-mediated cardiomyocyte purification, enabling production of purified cardiomyocytes for the purposes of cardiovascular disease modeling and drug screening.
Human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hiPSC-CMs) have become an important cell source to address the lack of primary cardiomyocytes available for basic research and translational applications. To differentiate hiPSCs into cardiomyocytes, various protocols including embryoid body (EB)-based differentiation and growth factor induction have been developed. However, these protocols are inefficient and highly variable in their ability to generate purified cardiomyocytes. Recently, a small molecule-based protocol utilizing modulation of Wnt/β-Catenin signaling was shown to promote cardiac differentiation with high efficiency. With this protocol, greater than 50–60% of differentiated cells were cardiac troponin-positive cardiomyocytes were consistently observed. To further increase cardiomyocyte purity, the differentiated cells were subjected to glucose starvation to specifically eliminate non-cardiomyocytes based on the metabolic differences between cardiomyocytes and non-cardiomyocytes. Using this selection strategy, we consistently obtained a greater than 30% increase in the ratio of cardiomyocytes to non-cardiomyocytes in a population of differentiated cells. These highly purified cardiomyocytes should enhance the reliability of results from human iPSC-based in vitro disease modeling studies and drug screening assays.
Human induced pluripotent stem cells; cardiac differentiation; small molecule compounds; cardiomyocytes; glucose starvation
Although microfluidics provides exquisite control of the cellular microenvironment, culturing cells within microfluidic devices can be challenging. 3D culture of cells in collagen type I gels helps to stabilize cell morphology and function, which is necessary for creating microfluidic tissue models in microdevices. Translating traditional 3D culture techniques for tissue culture plates to microfluidic devices is often difficult because of the limited channel dimensions. In this method, we describe a technique for modifying native type I collagen to generate polycationic and polyanionic collagen solutions that can be used with layer-by-layer deposition to create ultrathin collagen assemblies on top of cells cultured in microfluidic devices. These thin collagen layers stabilize cell morphology and function, as shown using primary hepatocytes as an example cell, allowing for the long term culture of microtissues in microfluidic devices.
Bioengineering; Issue 103; Collagen; layer-by-layer deposition; microfluidics; hepatocyte; methylation; succinylation; liver microtissue
DNA methylation is capable of maintaining stable levels of gene expression as well as allowing for dynamic changes in gene expression in response to a variety of stimuli. We detail techniques that allow the study of gene-specific changes in DNA methylation and the effect of these changes on gene expression.
DNA methylation serves to regulate gene expression through the covalent attachment of a methyl group onto the C5 position of a cytosine in a cytosine-guanine dinucleotide. While DNA methylation provides long-lasting and stable changes in gene expression, patterns and levels of DNA methylation are also subject to change based on a variety of signals and stimuli. As such, DNA methylation functions as a powerful and dynamic regulator of gene expression. The study of neuroepigenetics has revealed a variety of physiological and pathological states that are associated with both global and gene-specific changes in DNA methylation. Specifically, striking correlations between changes in gene expression and DNA methylation exist in neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, during synaptic plasticity, and following CNS injury. However, as the field of neuroepigenetics continues to expand its understanding of the role of DNA methylation in CNS physiology, delineating causal relationships in regards to changes in gene expression and DNA methylation are essential. Moreover, in regards to the larger field of neuroscience, the presence of vast region and cell-specific differences requires techniques that address these variances when studying the transcriptome, proteome, and epigenome. Here we describe FACS sorting of cortical astrocytes that allows for subsequent examination of a both RNA transcription and DNA methylation. Furthermore, we detail a technique to examine DNA methylation, methylation sensitive high resolution melt analysis (MS-HRMA) as well as a luciferase promoter assay. Through the use of these combined techniques one is able to not only explore correlative changes between DNA methylation and gene expression, but also directly assess if changes in the DNA methylation status of a given gene region are sufficient to affect transcriptional activity.
DNA methylation; MS-HRMA; Luciferase promoter assay; FACS; Astrocytes; Kir4.1; KCNJ10
Two-photon (2P) microscopy is utilized to reveal cellular dynamics and interactions deep within living, intact tissues. Here, we present a method for live-cell imaging in the murine spinal cord. This technique is uniquely suited to analyze neural precursor cell (NPC) dynamics following transplantation into spinal cords undergoing neuroinflammatory demyelinating disorders. NPCs migrate to sites of axonal damage, proliferate, differentiate into oligodendrocytes, and participate in direct remyelination. NPCs are thereby a promising therapeutic treatment to ameliorate chronic demyelinating diseases. Because transplanted NPCs migrate to the damaged areas on the ventral side of the spinal cord, traditional intravital 2P imaging is impossible, and only information on static interactions was previously available using histochemical staining approaches. Although this method was generated to image transplanted NPCs in the ventral spinal cord, it can be applied to numerous studies of transplanted and endogenous cells throughout the entire spinal cord. In this article, we demonstrate the preparation and imaging of a spinal cord with enhanced yellow fluorescent protein-expressing axons and enhanced green fluorescent protein-expressing transplanted NPCs.
Neuroscience; Issue 96; spinal cord; two-photon microscopy; ex vivo; transplantation; cellular dynamics; axons; neural precursor cells; remyelination; neuroinflammation
Growth centers of craniofacial bones have long been hypothesized but never directly visualized. We applied multi-spectral cell labeling and in vivo live imaging to visualize chondrocyte intercalation and directional proliferation in zebrafish Meckel’s. This innovation allowed us to follow clonal cell populations to directly visualize the mandibular growth centers.
Development of the vertebrate craniofacial structures requires precise coordination of cell migration, proliferation, adhesion and differentiation. Patterning of the mandible, a first pharyngeal arch derivative, involves the migration of cranial neural crest (CNC) cells and the progressive partitioning, proliferation and organization of differentiated chondrocytes. Several studies have described CNC migration during mandible morphogenesis, but the details of how the chondrocytes achieve organization in the growth and extension of Meckel’s cartilage remains unclear. The sox10 restricted and chemically induced Cre recombinase-mediated recombination generates permutations of distinct fluorescent proteins (RFP, YFP and CFP), thereby creating a multi-spectral labeling of progenitor cells and their progeny, reflecting distinct clonal populations. Using confocal time-lapse photography, we are able to observe the chondrocytes behavior during the development of the zebrafish Meckel’s cartilage.
Multispectral cell labeling has enabled us to demonstrate unidirectional extension of the Meckel’s chondrocytes in a proximal to distal direction, emanating from specified paired growth centers near the condyles that coalesce from the leading domains of the mandibular prominence. During extension phase of the Meckel’s cartilage, which prefigures the mandible, chondrocytes intercalate to effect extension as they stack in an organized single-cell layered row. Failure of this organized intercalating process to mediate cell extension provides the cellular mechanistic explanation for hypoplastic mandible that we observe in mandibular malformations.
Craniofacial development; cranial neural crest; confocal microscopy; fate mapping; multi-spectral clonal analysis; sox10; Zebrabow; zebrafish; lower jaw; Meckel’s cartilage
During bacteremia Streptococcus pneumoniae can translocate across the vascular endothelium into the myocardium and form discrete bacteria-filled microscopic lesions (microlesions) that are remarkable due to the absence of infiltrating immune cells. Due to their release of cardiotoxic products, S. pneumoniae within microlesions are thought to contribute to the heart failure that is frequently observed during fulminate invasive pneumococcal disease in adults. Herein is demonstrated a protocol for experimental mouse infection that leads to reproducible cardiac microlesion formation within 30 hr. Instruction is provided on microlesion identification in hematoxylin & eosin stained heart sections and the morphological distinctions between early and late microlesions are highlighted. Instruction is provided on a protocol for verification of S. pneumoniae within microlesions using antibodies against pneumococcal capsular polysaccharide and immunofluorescent microscopy. Last, a protocol for antibiotic intervention that rescues infected mice and for the detection and assessment of scar formation in the hearts of convalescent mice is provided. Together, these protocols will facilitate the investigation of the molecular mechanisms underlying pneumococcal cardiac invasion, cardiomyocyte death, cardiac remodeling as a result of exposure to S. pneumoniae, and the immune response to the pneumococci in the heart.
Medicine; Issue 98; Streptococcus pneumoniae; pneumonia; bacteremia; heart failure; invasion; cardiac microlesion; abscess; fluorescent microscopy
The development of more predictive and biologically relevant in vitro assays is predicated on the advancement of versatile cell culture systems which facilitate the functional assessment of the seeded cells. To that end, microscale cantilever technology offers a platform with which to measure the contractile functionality of a range of cell types, including skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle cells, through assessment of contraction induced substrate bending. Application of multiplexed cantilever arrays provides the means to develop moderate to high-throughput protocols for assessing drug efficacy and toxicity, disease phenotype and progression, as well as neuromuscular and other cell-cell interactions. This manuscript provides the details for fabricating reliable cantilever arrays for this purpose, and the methods required to successfully culture cells on these surfaces. Further description is provided on the steps necessary to perform functional analysis of contractile cell types maintained on such arrays using a novel laser and photo-detector system. The representative data provided highlights the precision and reproducible nature of the analysis of contractile function possible using this system, as well as the wide range of studies to which such technology can be applied. Successful widespread adoption of this system could provide investigators with the means to perform rapid, low cost functional studies in vitro, leading to more accurate predictions of tissue performance, disease development and response to novel therapeutic treatment.
Cantilever; in vitro; contraction; skeletal muscle; NMJ; cardiomyocytes; functional
Small non-coding RNAs (miRNAs) have been implicated in a variety of human diseases including metabolic syndromes. They may be utilized as biomarkers for diagnosis and prognosis or may serve as targets for drug development, respectively. Recently it has been shown that miRNAs are carried in lipoproteins, particularly high density lipoproteins (HDL) and are delivered to recipient cells for uptake. This raises the possibility that miRNAs play a critical and pivotal role in cellular and organ function via regulation of gene expression as well as messenger for cell-cell communications and crosstalk between organs. Current methods for miRNA isolation from purified HDL are impractical when utilizing small samples on a large scale. This is largely due to the time consuming and laborious methods used for lipoprotein isolation. We have developed a simplified approach to rapidly isolate purified HDL suitable for miRNA analysis from plasma samples. This method should facilitate investigations into the role of miRNAs in health and disease and in particular provide new insights into the variety of biological functions, outside of the reverse cholesterol transport, that have been ascribed to HDL. Also, the miRNA species which are present in HDL can provide valuable information of clinical biomarkers for diagnosis of various diseases.
Molecular Biology; Issue 113; High density lipoprotein; isolation; density gradient ultracentrifugation; plasma; microRNA; exosomes
We describe how to deliver proteins and cell-impermeable small molecules into cultured mammalian cells by a simple co-incubation protocol with a reagent that causes endocytic organelles to become leaky.
Macromolecular delivery strategies typically utilize the endocytic pathway as a route of cellular entry. However, endosomal entrapment severely limits the efficiency with which macromolecules penetrate the cytosolic space of cells. Recently, we have circumvented this problem by identifying the reagent dfTAT, a disulfide bond dimer of the peptide TAT labeled with the fluorophore tetramethylrhodamine. dfTAT, penetrates live cells by escaping from endosomes with a particularly high efficiency. By mediating endosomal leakage, dfTAT also delivers small molecules, peptides, and proteins into cultured cells after a simple co-incubation procedure. In this report, we describe the protocols involved in dfTAT synthesis and cellular delivery. We describe how to control the amount of protein that penetrates cells by varying the extracellular protein concentration while keeping dfTAT concentration constant. Finally, we discuss the current limitations of this new technology and steps involved in validating delivery. The described protocols should be extremely useful for cell-based assays as well as for the ex vivo manipulation and reprogramming of cells.
Cell-penetrating peptide; cytosolic delivery; protein; fluorescence microscopy; cell culture
The isolation of adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) is an important method in the field of adipose tissue biology, adipogenesis, and extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling. In vivo, ECM-rich environment consisting of fibrillar collagens provides a structural support to adipose tissues during the progression and regression of obesity. Physiological ECM remodeling mediated by matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) plays a major role in regulating adipose tissue size and function1, 2. The loss of physiological collagenolytic ECM remodeling may lead to excessive collagen accumulation (tissue fibrosis), macrophage infiltration, and ultimately, a loss of metabolic homeostasis including insulin resistance3, 4. When a phenotypic change of the adipose tissue is observed in gene-targeted mouse models, isolating primary ASCs from fat depots for in vitro studies is an effective approach to define the role of the specific gene in regulating the function of ASCs. In the following, we define an immunomagnetic separation of Sca1high ASCs.
Adipogenesis; adipose stem cell; ASC; ECM; collagen; magnetic cell separation; MMP; preadipocyte; Sca1; SVF
In the tumor microenvironment, host stromal cells interact with tumor cells to promote tumor progression, angiogenesis, tumor cell dissemination and metastasis. Multicellular interactions in the tumor microenvironment can lead to transient events including directional tumor cell motility and vascular permeability. Quantification of tumor vascular permeability has frequently used end-point experiments to measure extravasation of vascular dyes. However, due to the transient nature of multicellular interactions and vascular permeability, the kinetics of these dynamic events cannot be discerned. By labeling cells and vasculature with injectable dyes or fluorescent proteins, high-resolution time-lapse intravital microscopy has allowed the direct, real-time visualization of transient events in the tumor microenvironment. Here we describe a method for using multiphoton microscopy to perform extended intravital imaging in live mice to directly visualize multicellular dynamics in the tumor microenvironment. This method details cellular labeling strategies, the surgical preparation of a mammary skin flap, the administration of injectable dyes or proteins by tail vein catheter and the acquisition of time-lapse images. The time-lapse sequences obtained from this method facilitate the visualization and quantitation of the kinetics of cellular events of motility and vascular permeability in the tumor microenvironment.
Medicine; Issue 112; intravital imaging; vascular permeability; fluorescent protein; tumor microenvironment; time-lapse; cancer biology
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a leading cause of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in developed countries, and animal models that reliably reproduce the human disease are necessary to develop new therapies for this disease. The mouse hindlimb ischemia model has been widely used for this purpose, but the standard practice of inducing acute limb ischemia by ligation of the femoral artery can result in substantial tissue necrosis, compromising investigators' ability to study the vascular and skeletal muscle tissue responses to ischemia. An alternative approach to femoral artery ligation is the induction of gradual femoral artery occlusion through the use of ameroid constrictors. When placed around the femoral artery in the same or different locations as the sites of femoral artery ligation, these devices occlude the artery over 1-3 days, resulting in more gradual, subacute ischemia. This results in less substantial skeletal muscle tissue necrosis, which may more closely mimic the responses seen in human PAD. Because genetic background influences outcomes in both the acute and subacute ischemia models, consideration of the mouse strain being studied is important in choosing the best model. This paper describes the proper procedure and anatomical placement of ligatures or ameroid constrictors on the mouse femoral artery to induce subacute or acute hindlimb ischemia in the mouse.
Ischemia; peripheral artery disease; angiogenesis; skeletal muscle regeneration; atherosclerosis; vascular surgery; mouse hindlimb; ameroid constrictor
We present a protocol on how to utilize high-throughput cryo-electron tomography to determine high resolution in situ structures of molecular machines. The protocol permits large amounts of data to be processed, avoids common bottlenecks and reduces resource downtime, allowing the user to focus on important biological questions.
Cryo-electron tomography (Cryo-ET) is a powerful three-dimensional (3-D) imaging technique for visualizing macromolecular complexes in their native context at a molecular level. The technique involves initially preserving the sample in its native state by rapidly freezing the specimen in vitreous ice, then collecting a series of micrographs from different angles at high magnification, and finally computationally reconstructing a 3-D density map. The frozen-hydrated specimen is extremely sensitive to the electron beam and so micrographs are collected at very low electron doses to limit the radiation damage. As a result, the raw cryo-tomogram has a very low signal to noise ratio characterized by an intrinsically noisy image. To better visualize subjects of interest, conventional imaging analysis and sub-tomogram averaging in which sub-tomograms of the subject are extracted from the initial tomogram and aligned and averaged are utilized to improve both contrast and resolution. Large datasets of tilt-series are essential to understanding and resolving the complexes at different states, conditions, or mutations as well as obtaining a large enough collection of sub-tomograms for averaging and classification. Collecting and processing this data can be a major obstacle preventing further analysis. Here we describe a high-throughput cryo-ET protocol based on a computer-controlled 300kV cryo-electron microscope, a direct detection device (DDD) camera and a highly effective, semi-automated image-processing pipeline software wrapper library tomoauto developed in-house. This protocol has been effectively utilized to visualize the intact type III secretion system (T3SS) in Shigella flexneri minicells. It can be applicable to any project suitable for cryo-ET.
In situ structural biology; electron cryotomography; bacterial pathogen; minicell; protein secretion; injectisome; molecular machinery; high throughput image analysis
The pharyngeal mesoderm of developing embryos contributes to broad regions of head and heart musculature. We have developed a novel method to study head and heart progenitor cell development with pharyngeal arches (also known as branchial arches) ex vivo. Using this method, we have recently described that the second pharyngeal arch contains self-renewing heart progenitors and serves as a microenvironment for expansion of the progenitors during mouse heart development. The progenitor cells remain undifferentiated and expansive inside the arch, but quickly become functional cardiomyocytes as they migrate out of the arch. We also reported that first pharyngeal arch contains muscle progenitors giving rise to myotubes after leaving the arch. Here, we demonstrate the procedure for the dissection and ex-vivo culture of first and second pharyngeal arches from developing mouse embryos. The method enables one to study head and heart progenitor/muscle development, including cardiomyocyte and myotube formation in detail ex vivo.
Cardiac Progenitors; Microenvironment; Pharyngeal arch; Cardiogenesis; Head muscle progenitors; Stem cells
There are a variety of techniques to monitor extracellular activity of single neuronal units. However, monitoring this activity from deep brain structures in behaving animals remains a technical challenge, especially if the structures must be targeted stereotaxically. This protocol describes convenient surgical and electrophysiological techniques that maintain the animal's head in the stereotaxic plane and unambiguously isolate the spiking activity of single neurons. The protocol combines head restraint of alert rodents, juxtacellular monitoring with micropipette electrodes, and iontophoretic dye injection to identify the neuron location in post-hoc histology. While each of these techniques is in itself well-established, the protocol focuses on the specifics of their combined use in a single experiment. These neurophysiological and neuroanatomical techniques are combined with behavioral monitoring. In the present example, the combined techniques are used to determine how self-generated vibrissa movements are encoded in the activity of neurons within the somatosensory thalamus. More generally, it is straightforward to adapt this protocol to monitor neuronal activity in conjunction with a variety of behavioral tasks in rats, mice, and other animals. Critically, the combination of these methods allows the experimenter to directly relate neuroanatomy and neurophysiology to behavior.
This protocol describes the design and surgical implantation of a head-restraining mechanism to monitor neuronal activity in sub-cortical brain structures in alert rats. It also delineates procedures to isolate single neurons in the juxtacellular configuration and to efficiently identify their anatomical locations.
electrophysiology; juxtacellular; vibrissa; thalamus
Urinary tract infections (UTI) are highly prevalent, a significant cause of morbidity and are increasingly resistant to treatment with antibiotics. Females are disproportionately afflicted by UTI: 50% of all women will have a UTI in their lifetime. Additionally, 20-40% of these women who have an initial UTI will suffer a recurrence with some suffering frequent recurrences with serious deterioration in the quality of life, pain and discomfort, disruption of daily activities, increased healthcare costs, and few treatment options other than long-term antibiotic prophylaxis. Uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) is the primary causative agent of community acquired UTI. Catheter-associated UTI (CAUTI) is the most common hospital acquired infection accounting for a million occurrences in the US annually and dramatic healthcare costs. While UPEC is also the primary cause of CAUTI, other causative agents are of increased significance including Enterococcus faecalis. Here we utilize two well-established mouse models that recapitulate many of the clinical characteristics of these human diseases. For UTI, a C3H/HeN model recapitulates many of the features of UPEC virulence observed in humans including host responses, IBC formation and filamentation. For CAUTI, a model using C57BL/6 mice, which retain catheter bladder implants, has been shown to be susceptible to E. faecalis bladder infection. These representative models are being used to gain striking new insights into the pathogenesis of UTI disease, which is leading to the development of novel therapeutics and management or prevention strategies.
Medicine; Issue 100; Escherichia coli; UPEC; Enterococcus faecalis; uropathogenic; catheter; urinary tract infection; IBC; chronic cystitis
Early defense against mucosal pathogens consists of both an epithelial barrier and innate immune cells. The immunocompetency of both, and their intercommunication, are paramount for the protection against infections. The interactions of epithelial and innate immune cells with a pathogen are best investigated in vivo, where complex behavior unfolds over time and space. However, existing models do not allow for easy spatio-temporal imaging of the battle with pathogens at the mucosal level.
The model developed here creates a mucosal infection by direct injection of the fungal pathogen, Candida albicans, into the swimbladder of juvenile zebrafish. The resulting infection enables high-resolution imaging of epithelial and innate immune cell behavior throughout the development of mucosal disease. The versatility of this method allows for interrogation of the host to probe the detailed sequence of immune events leading to phagocyte recruitment and to examine the roles of particular cell types and molecular pathways in protection. In addition, the behavior of the pathogen as a function of immune attack can be imaged simultaneously by using fluorescent protein-expressing C. albicans. Increased spatial resolution of the host-pathogen interaction is also possible using the described rapid swimbladder dissection technique.
The mucosal infection model described here is straightforward and highly reproducible, making it a valuable tool for the study of mucosal candidiasis. This system may also be broadly translatable to other mucosal pathogens such as mycobacterial, bacterial or viral microbes that normally infect through epithelial surfaces.
Immunology; Issue 93; Zebrafish; mucosal candidiasis; mucosal infection; epithelial barrier; epithelial cells; innate immunity; swimbladder; Candida albicans; in vivo
Multi-tissue paraffin blocks provide high throughput analysis with increased efficiency, experimental uniformity, and reduced time and cost. Tissue microarrays make up the majority of multi-tissue paraffin blocks, but increasingly, researchers are using non-arrayed blocks containing larger tissues from multiple individuals which can provide many of the advantages of tissue microarrays without substantial investment in planning and equipment. A critical component of any multi-tissue analysis is the orientation method used to identify each individual tissue. Although methods exist to maintain proper orientation and identification of tissues in multi-tissue blocks, most are not well-suited to non-arrayed blocks, may consume valuable space within an array and/or are difficult to produce in the standard histology laboratory. The Specimen Orientation Tag (SpOT) is a simple, low cost orientation tool that is clearly visible in paraffin blocks and all tissue sections for reliable specimen identification in arrayed and non-arrayed layouts. The SpOT provides advantages over existing orientation methods for non-arrayed blocks as it does not require any direct modification to the tissue and allows for flexibility in the arrangement of tissue pieces.
Tissue Microarrays; Multi-Tissue Paraffin Blocks; Tissue Orientation; Histology; Immunohistochemistry