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1.  Wide-field Fluorescent Microscopy and Fluorescent Imaging Flow Cytometry on a Cell-phone 
Fluorescent microscopy and flow cytometry are widely used tools in biomedical research and clinical diagnosis. However these devices are in general relatively bulky and costly, making them less effective in the resource limited settings. To potentially address these limitations, we have recently demonstrated the integration of wide-field fluorescent microscopy and imaging flow cytometry tools on cell-phones using compact, lightweight, and cost-effective opto-fluidic attachments. In our flow cytometry design, fluorescently labeled cells are flushed through a microfluidic channel that is positioned above the existing cell-phone camera unit. Battery powered light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are butt-coupled to the side of this microfluidic chip, which effectively acts as a multi-mode slab waveguide, where the excitation light is guided to uniformly excite the fluorescent targets. The cell-phone camera records a time lapse movie of the fluorescent cells flowing through the microfluidic channel, where the digital frames of this movie are processed to count the number of the labeled cells within the target solution of interest. Using a similar opto-fluidic design, we can also image these fluorescently labeled cells in static mode by e.g. sandwiching the fluorescent particles between two glass slides and capturing their fluorescent images using the cell-phone camera, which can achieve a spatial resolution of e.g. ~ 10 μm over a very large field-of-view of ~ 81 mm2. This cell-phone based fluorescent imaging flow cytometry and microscopy platform might be useful especially in resource limited settings, for e.g. counting of CD4+ T cells toward monitoring of HIV+ patients or for detection of water-borne parasites in drinking water.
PMCID: PMC3654336  PMID: 23603893
Bioengineering; Issue 74; Biomedical Engineering; Medicine; Cellular Biology; Molecular Biology; Electrical Engineering; Telemedicine; Diagnostic Techniques and Procedures; Diagnostic Imaging; Microscopy; Optics and Photonics; Optics; fluorescent microscopy; imaging flow-cytometry; cell-phone microscopy; tele-medicine; global health; wireless health; clinical techniques
2.  New tools to expand regulatory T cells from HIV-1 infected individuals 
CD4+ Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are potent immune modulators and serve an important function in human immune homeostasis. Depletion of Tregs has led to measurable increases in antigen-specific T cell responses in vaccine settings for cancer and infectious pathogens. However, their role in HIV-1 immuno-pathogenesis remains controversial, as they could either serve to suppress deleterious HIV-1-associated immune activation and thus slow HIV-1 disease progression or alternatively suppress HIV-1-specific immunity and thereby promote virus spread. Understanding and modulating Treg function in the context of HIV-1 could lead to potential new strategies for immunotherapy or HIV vaccines. However, important open questions remain on their role in the context of HIV-1 infection, which needs to be carefully studied.
Representing roughly 5% of human CD4+ T cells in the peripheral blood, studying the Treg population has proven to be difficult, especially in HIV-1 infected individuals where HIV-1-associated CD4 T cell and with that Treg depletion occurs. The characterization of regulatory T cells in individuals with advanced HIV-1 disease or tissue samples, for which only very small biological samples can be obtained, is therefore extremely challenging. We propose a technical solution to overcome these limitations using isolation and expansion of Tregs from HIV-1-positive individuals.
Here we describe an easy and robust method to successfully expand Tregs isolated from HIV-1-infected individuals in vitro. Flow-sorted CD3+CD4+CD25+CD127low Tregs were stimulated with anti-CD3/anti-CD28 coated beads and cultured in the presence of IL-2. The expanded Tregs expressed high levels of FOXP3, CTLA4 and HELIOS compared to conventional T cells and were shown to be highly suppressive. Easier access to large numbers of Tregs will allow researchers to address important questions concerning their role in HIV-1 immunopathogenesis. We believe answering these questions may provide useful insight for the development of an effective HIV-1 vaccine.
PMCID: PMC3724687  PMID: 23748671
HIV; flow cytometry; cell culture; Treg expansion; regulatory T cells
3.  Immunohistochemical Staining of B7-H1 (PD-L1) on Paraffin-embedded Slides of Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma Tissue 
B7-H1/PD-L1, a member of the B7 family of immune-regulatory cell-surface proteins, plays an important role in the negative regulation of cell-mediated immune responses through its interaction with its receptor, programmed death-1 (PD-1) 1,2. Overexpression of B7-H1 by tumor cells has been noted in a number of human cancers, including melanoma, glioblastoma, and carcinomas of the lung, breast, colon, ovary, and renal cells, and has been shown to impair anti-tumor T-cell immunity3–8.
Recently, B7-H1 expression by pancreatic adenocarcinoma tissues has been identified as a potential prognostic marker9,10. Additionally, blockade of B7-H1 in a mouse model of pancreatic cancer has been shown to produce an anti-tumor response11. These data suggest the importance of B7-H1 as a potential therapeutic target. Anti-B7-H1 blockade antibodies are therefore being tested in clinical trials for multiple human solid tumors including melanoma and cancers of lung, colon, kidney, stomach and pancreas12.
In order to eventually be able to identify the patients who will benefit from B7-H1 targeting therapies, it is critical to investigate the correlation between expression and localization of B7-H1 and patient response to treatment with B7-H1 blockade antibodies. Examining the expression of B7-H1 in human pancreatic adenocarcinoma tissues through immunohistochemistry will give a better understanding of how this co-inhibitory signaling molecule contributes to the suppression of antitumor immunity in the tumor’s microenvironment. The anti-B7-H1 monoclonal antibody (clone 5H1) developed by Chen and coworkers has been shown to produce reliable staining results in cryosections of multiple types of human neoplastic tissues4,8, but staining on paraffin-embedded slides had been a challenge until recently13–18. We have developed the B7-H1 staining protocol for paraffin-embedded slides of pancreatic adenocarcinoma tissues. The B7-H1 staining protocol described here produces consistent membranous and cytoplasmic staining of B7-H1 with little background.
PMCID: PMC3582653  PMID: 23328703
Cancer Biology; Issue 71; Medicine; Immunology; Biochemistry; Molecular Biology; Cellular Biology; Chemistry; Oncology; immunohistochemistry; B7-H1 (PD-L1); pancreatic adenocarcinoma; pancreatic cancer; pancreas; tumor; T-cell immunity; cancer
4.  Trypsin Digest Protocol to Analyze the Retinal Vasculature of a Mouse Model 
Trypsin digest is the gold standard method to analyze the retinal vasculature 1–5. It allows visualization of the entire network of complex three-dimensional retinal blood vessels and capillaries by creating a two-dimensional flat-mount of the interconnected vascular channels after digestion of the non-vascular components of the retina. This allows one to study various pathologic vascular changes, such as microaneurysms, capillary degeneration, and abnormal endothelial to pericyte ratios. However, the method is technically challenging, especially in mice, which have become the most widely available animal model to study the retina because of the ease of genetic manipulations6,7. In the mouse eye, it is particularly difficult to completely remove the non-vascular components while maintaining the overall architecture of the retinal blood vessels. To date, there is a dearth of literature that describes the trypsin digest technique in detail in the mouse. This manuscript provides a detailed step-by-step methodology of the trypsin digest in mouse retina, while also providing tips on troubleshooting difficult steps.
PMCID: PMC3913093  PMID: 23793268
Neurobiology; Issue 76; Neuroscience; Biomedical Engineering; Medicine; Anatomy; Physiology; Cellular Biology; Molecular Biology; Ophthalmology; Eye; Posterior Eye Segment; Retinal Diseases; Eye Enucleation; trypsin digest; mouse; rat; rodent; retina; vasculature; blood vessel; histology; diabetes; tissue; animal model
5.  Laser-scanning photostimulation of optogenetically targeted forebrain circuits 
The sensory forebrain is composed of intricately connected cell types, of which functional properties have yet to be fully elucidated. Understanding the interactions of these forebrain circuits has been aided recently by the development of optogenetic methods for light-mediated modulation of neuronal activity. Here, we describe a protocol for examining the functional organization of forebrain circuits in vitro using laser-scanning photostimulation of channelrhodopsin, expressed optogenetically via viral-mediated transfection. This approach also exploits the utility of cre-lox recombination in transgenic mice to target expression in specific neuronal cell types. Following transfection, neurons are physiologically recorded in slice preparations using whole-cell patch clamp to measure their evoked responses to laser-scanning photostimulation of channelrhodopsin expressing fibers. This approach enables an assessment of functional topography and synaptic properties. Morphological correlates can be obtained by imaging the neuroanatomical expression of channelrhodopsin expressing fibers using confocal microscopy of the live slice or post-fixed tissue. These methods enable functional investigations of forebrain circuits that expand upon more conventional approaches.
PMCID: PMC3966657  PMID: 24430760
optogenetics; cortex; thalamus; channelrhodopsin; photostimulation; auditory; visual; somatosensory
6.  Two- and Three-Dimensional Live Cell Imaging of the DNA Damage Response 
Short Abstract
This protocol describes a method for visualizing a DNA double-strand break signaling protein activated in response to DNA damage as well as its localization during mitosis.
Long Abstract
Double-strand breaks (DSBs) are the most deleterious DNA lesions a cell can encounter. If left unrepaired, DSBs harbor great potential to generate mutations and chromosomal aberrations (Jackson & Bartek, 2009). To prevent this trauma from catalyzing genomic instability, it is crucial for cells to detect DSBs, activate the DNA damage response (DDR), and repair the DNA. Once switched on, the DDR works to preserve genomic integrity by triggering cell cycle arrest to allow for repair to take place or force the cell to undergo apoptosis or cell death. The predominant mechanisms of DSB repair occur through nonhomologous end-joining (NHEJ) and homologous recombination repair (HRR) (reviewed in (Valerie & Povirk, 2003)). There are many proteins whose activities must be precisely orchestrated for the DDR to function properly. Herein, we describe a method for 2- and 3-dimensional (D) visualization of one of these proteins, 53BP1.
The p53-binding protein 1 (53BP1) localizes to areas of DSBs by binding to modified histones (Botuyan et al, 2006; Huyen et al, 2004), forming foci within 5–15 minutes (Schultz et al, 2000). The histone modifications and recruitment of 53BP1 and other DDR proteins to DSB sites are believed to facilitate the structural rearrangement of chromatin around areas of damage and contribute to DNA repair (Giunta et al, 2010). Beyond direct participation in repair, additional roles have been described for 53BP1 in the DDR. It has been implicated in regulating an intra-S checkpoint, a G2/M checkpoint, and activation of downstream DDR proteins (Nakamura et al, 2006; Wang et al, 2002; Ward et al, 2003). Recently, it was discovered that 53BP1 does not form foci in response to DNA damage induced during mitosis, instead waiting for cells to enter G1 before localizing to the vicinity of DSBs (Giunta et al, 2010). DDR proteins such as 53BP1 have been found to associate with mitotic structures (such as kinetochores) during the progression through mitosis (Giunta & Jackson, 2011).
In this protocol we describe the use of 2- and 3-D live cell imaging to visualize the formation of 53BP1 foci in response to the DNA damaging agent camptothecin (CPT), as well as 53BP1’s behavior during mitosis. Camptothecin is a topoisomerase I inhibitor that primarily causes DSBs during DNA replication. To accomplish this, we used a previously described 53BP1-mCherry fluorescent fusion protein construct consisting of a 53BP1 protein domain able to bind DSBs (Dimitrova et al, 2008). In addition, we used a histone H2B-GFP fluorescent fusion protein construct able to monitor chromatin dynamics throughout the cell cycle but in particular during mitosis (Kanda et al, 1998). Live cell imaging in multiple dimensions is an excellent tool to deepen our understanding of the function of DDR proteins in eukaryotic cells.
PMCID: PMC3490244  PMID: 23052275
7.  Examining BCL-2 Family Function with Large Unilamellar Vesicles 
The BCL-2 (B cell CLL/Lymphoma) family is comprised of approximately twenty proteins that collaborate to either maintain cell survival or initiate apoptosis1. Following cellular stress (e.g., DNA damage), the pro-apoptotic BCL-2 family effectors BAK (BCL-2 antagonistic killer 1) and/or BAX (BCL-2 associated X protein) become activated and compromise the integrity of the outer mitochondrial membrane (OMM), though the process referred to as mitochondrial outer membrane permeabilization (MOMP)1. After MOMP occurs, pro-apoptotic proteins (e.g., cytochrome c) gain access to the cytoplasm, promote caspase activation, and apoptosis rapidly ensues2.
In order for BAK/BAX to induce MOMP, they require transient interactions with members of another pro-apoptotic subset of the BCL-2 family, the BCL-2 homology domain 3 (BH3)-only proteins, such as BID (BH3-interacting domain agonist)3-6. Anti-apoptotic BCL-2 family proteins (e.g., BCL-2 related gene, long isoform, BCL-xL; myeloid cell leukemia 1, MCL-1) regulate cellular survival by tightly controlling the interactions between BAK/BAX and the BH3-only proteins capable of directly inducing BAK/BAX activation7,8. In addition, anti-apoptotic BCL-2 protein availability is also dictated by sensitizer/de-repressor BH3-only proteins, such as BAD (BCL-2 antagonist of cell death) or PUMA (p53 upregulated modulator of apoptosis), which bind and inhibit anti-apoptotic members7,9. As most of the anti-apoptotic BCL-2 repertoire is localized to the OMM, the cellular decision to maintain survival or induce MOMP is dictated by multiple BCL-2 family interactions at this membrane.
Large unilamellar vesicles (LUVs) are a biochemical model to explore relationships between BCL-2 family interactions and membrane permeabilization10. LUVs are comprised of defined lipids that are assembled in ratios identified in lipid composition studies from solvent extracted Xenopus mitochondria (46.5% phosphatidylcholine, 28.5% phosphatidylethanoloamine, 9% phosphatidylinositol, 9% phosphatidylserine, and 7% cardiolipin)10. This is a convenient model system to directly explore BCL-2 family function because the protein and lipid components are completely defined and tractable, which is not always the case with primary mitochondria. While cardiolipin is not usually this high throughout the OMM, this model does faithfully mimic the OMM to promote BCL-2 family function. Furthermore, a more recent modification of the above protocol allows for kinetic analyses of protein interactions and real-time measurements of membrane permeabilization, which is based on LUVs containing a polyanionic dye (ANTS: 8-aminonaphthalene-1,3,6-trisulfonic acid) and cationic quencher (DPX: p-xylene-bis-pyridinium bromide)11. As the LUVs permeabilize, ANTS and DPX diffuse apart, and a gain in fluorescence is detected. Here, commonly used recombinant BCL-2 family protein combinations and controls using the LUVs containing ANTS/DPX are described.
PMCID: PMC3490295  PMID: 23070252
Cancer Biology; Issue 68; Genetics; Molecular Biology; Apoptosis; BAX; BCL-2 family; large unilamellar vesicles; MOMP; outer mitochondrial membrane
8.  Feeding of Ticks on Animals for Transmission and Xenodiagnosis in Lyme Disease Research 
Transmission of the etiologic agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, occurs by the attachment and blood feeding of Ixodes species ticks on mammalian hosts. In nature, this zoonotic bacterial pathogen may use a variety of reservoir hosts, but the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) is the primary reservoir for larval and nymphal ticks in North America. Humans are incidental hosts most frequently infected with B. burgdorferi by the bite of ticks in the nymphal stage. B. burgdorferi adapts to its hosts throughout the enzootic cycle, so the ability to explore the functions of these spirochetes and their effects on mammalian hosts requires the use of tick feeding. In addition, the technique of xenodiagnosis (using the natural vector for detection and recovery of an infectious agent) has been useful in studies of cryptic infection. In order to obtain nymphal ticks that harbor B. burgdorferi, ticks are fed live spirochetes in culture through capillary tubes. Two animal models, mice and nonhuman primates, are most commonly used for Lyme disease studies involving tick feeding. We demonstrate the methods by which these ticks can be fed upon, and recovered from animals for either infection or xenodiagnosis.
PMCID: PMC3857350  PMID: 24022694
Infection; Issue 78; Medicine; Immunology; Infectious Diseases; Biomedical Engineering; Primates; Muridae; Ticks; Borrelia; Borrelia Infections; Ixodes; ticks; Lyme disease; xenodiagnosis; Borrelia; burgdorferi; mice; nonhuman primates; animal model
9.  Giant Liposome Preparation for Imaging and Patch-Clamp Electrophysiology 
The reconstitution of ion channels into chemically defined lipid membranes for electrophysiological recording has been a powerful technique to identify and explore the function of these important proteins. However, classical preparations, such as planar bilayers, limit the manipulations and experiments that can be performed on the reconstituted channel and its membrane environment. The more cell-like structure of giant liposomes permits traditional patch-clamp experiments without sacrificing control of the lipid environment.
Electroformation is an efficient mean to produce giant liposomes >10 μm in diameter which relies on the application of alternating voltage to a thin, ordered lipid film deposited on an electrode surface. However, since the classical protocol calls for the lipids to be deposited from organic solvents, it is not compatible with less robust membrane proteins like ion channels and must be modified. Recently, protocols have been developed to electroform giant liposomes from partially dehydrated small liposomes, which we have adapted to protein-containing liposomes in our laboratory.
We present here the background, equipment, techniques, and pitfalls of electroformation of giant liposomes from small liposome dispersions. We begin with the classic protocol, which should be mastered first before attempting the more challenging protocols that follow. We demonstrate the process of controlled partial dehydration of small liposomes using vapor equilibrium with saturated salt solutions. Finally, we demonstrate the process of electroformation itself. We will describe simple, inexpensive equipment that can be made in-house to produce high-quality liposomes, and describe visual inspection of the preparation at each stage to ensure the best results.
PMCID: PMC3728302  PMID: 23851612
Physiology; Issue 76; Biophysics; Molecular Biology; Biochemistry; Genetics; Cellular Biology; Proteins; Membranes; Artificial; Lipid Bilayers; Liposomes; Phospholipids; biochemistry; Lipids; Giant Unilamellar Vesicles; liposome; electrophysiology; electroformation; reconstitution; patch clamp
10.  Mass spectrometric analysis of glycosphingolipid antigens for NKT cells 
Short Abstract
A specific and sensitive method to gain insight into the expression profile of glycosphingolipid antigens in immune organs and cells is described. The method takes advantage of the ion trap mass spectrometry allowing step-wise fragmentation of glycosphingolipid molecules for structural analysis in comparison to chemically synthesized standards.
Long Abstract
Glycosphingolipids (GSL’s) belong to the glycoconjugate class of biomarcromolecules, which bear structural information for significant biological processes such as embryonic development, signal transduction, and immune receptor recognition1–2. They contain complex sugar moieties in the form of isomers, and lipid moieties with variations including fatty acyl chain length, unsaturation, and hydroxylation. Both carbohydrate and ceramide portions may be basis of biological significance. For example, tri-hexosylceramides include globotriaosylceramide (Galα4Galβ4Glcβ1Cer) and isoglobotriaosylceramide (Galα3Galβ4Glcβ1Cer), which have identical molecular masses but distinct sugar linkages of carbohydrate moiety, responsible for completely different biological functions3–4. In another example, it has been demonstrated that modification of the ceramide part of alpha-galactosylceramide, a potent agonist ligand for invariant NKT cells, changes their cytokine secretion profiles and function in animal models of cancer and auto-immune diseases5. The difficulty in performing a structural analysis of isomers in immune organs and cells serve as a barrier for determining many biological functions6.
Here, we present a visualized version of a method for relatively simple, rapid, and sensitive analysis of glycosphingolipid profiles in immune cells7–9. This method is based on extraction and chemical modification (permethylation, see below Figure 5A, all OH groups of hexose were replaced by MeO after permethylation reaction) of glycosphingolipids10–15, followed by subsequent analysis using matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF/MS) and ion trap mass spectometry. This method requires 50 million immune cells for a complete analysis. The experiments can be completed within a week. The relative abundance of the various glycosphingolipids can be delineated by comparison to synthetic standards. This method has a sensitivity of measuring 1% iGb3 among Gb3 isomers, when 2 fmol of total iGb3/Gb3 mixture is present9.
Ion trap mass spectrometry can be used to analyze isomers. For example, to analyze the presence of globotriaosylceramide and isoglobtriaosylceramide in the same sample, one can use the fragmentation of glycosphingolipid molecules to structurally discriminate between the two (see below Figure 5). Furthermore, chemical modification of the sugar moieties (through a permethylation reaction) improves the ionization and fragmentation efficiencies for higher sensitivity and specificity, and increases the stability of sialic acid residues. The extraction and chemical modification of glycosphingolipids can be performed in a classic certified chemical hood, and the mass spectrometry can be performed by core facilities with ion trap MS instruments.
PMCID: PMC3664971  PMID: 23628911
Functional glycomics; glycosphingolipids; antigens; natural killer T cells; MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry; LTQ ion trap mass spectrometer
11.  Protease- and acid-catalyzed labeling workflows employing 18O-enriched water 
Short abstract
Stable isotope labeling workflows employing 18O-enriched water (LeO-workflows) are versatile tools for quantitative and qualitative proteomics studies. In protease-assisted (PALeO) workflows, 18O-atoms are introduced by proteolytic cleavage and carboxyl oxygen exchange reactions mediated by proteases. In the acid-catalyzed (ALeO) workflow, 18O-atoms are introduced by carboxyl oxygen exchange at low pH.
Long abstract
Stable isotopes are essential tools in biological mass spectrometry. Historically, 18O-stable isotopes have been extensively used to study the catalytic mechanisms of proteolytic enzymes1–3. With the advent of mass spectrometry-based proteomics, the enzymatically-catalyzed incorporation of 18O-atoms from stable isotopically enriched water has become a popular method to quantitatively compare protein expression levels (reviewed by Fenselau and Yao4, Miyagi and Rao5 and Ye et al.6). 18O-labeling constitutes a simple and low-cost alternative to chemical (e.g., iTRAQ, ICAT) and metabolic (e.g., SILAC) labeling techniques7. Depending on the protease utilized, 18O-labeling can result in the incorporation of up to two 18O-atoms in the C-terminal carboxyl group of the cleavage product3. The labeling reaction can be subdivided into two independent processes, the peptide bond cleavage and the carboxyl oxygen exchange reaction8. In our PALeO (protease-assisted labeling employing 18O-enriched water) adaptation of enzymatic 18O-labeling, we utilized 50% 18O-enriched water to yield distinctive isotope signatures. In combination with high-resolution matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight tandem mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF/TOF MS/MS), the characteristic isotope envelopes can be used to identify cleavage products with a high level of specificity. We previously have used the PALeO-methodology to detect and characterize endogenous proteases9 and monitor proteolytic reactions10–11. Since PALeO encodes the very essence of the proteolytic cleavage reaction, the experimental setup is simple and biochemical enrichment steps of cleavage products can be circumvented. The PALeO-method can easily be extended to (i) time course experiments that monitor the dynamics of proteolytic cleavage reactions and (ii) the analysis of proteolysis in complex biological samples that represent physiological conditions. PALeO-TimeCourse experiments help identifying rate-limiting processing steps and reaction intermediates in complex proteolytic pathway reactions. Furthermore, the PALeO-reaction allows us to identify proteolytic enzymes such as the serine protease trypsin that is capable to rebind its cleavage products and catalyze the incorporation of a second 18O-atom. Such “double-labeling” enzymes can be used for postdigestion 18O-labeling, in which peptides are exclusively labeled by the carboxyl oxygen exchange reaction. Our third strategy extends labeling employing 18O-enriched water beyond enzymes and uses acidic pH conditions to introduce 18O-stable isotope signatures into peptides.
PMCID: PMC3605716  PMID: 23462971
MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry; proteomics; proteolysis; quantification; stable isotope labeling
12.  Quantification of Atherosclerotic Plaque Activity and Vascular Inflammation using [18-F] Fluorodeoxyglucose Positron Emission Tomography (PET)/Computed Tomography (CT) 
Conventional non-invasive imaging modalities of atherosclerosis such as coronary artery calcium (CAC)1 and carotid intimal medial thickness (C-IMT)2 provide information about the burden of disease. However, despite multiple validation studies of CAC3–5, and C-IMT2,6, these modalities do not accurately assess plaque characteristics7,8, and the composition and inflammatory state of the plaque determine its stability and, therefore, the risk of clinical events9–13.
[18F]-2-fluoro-2-deoxy-D-glucose (FDG) imaging using positron-emission tomography (PET)/computed tomography (CT) has been extensively studied in oncologic metabolism14,15. Studies using animal models and immunohistochemistry in humans show that FDG-PET/CT is exquisitely sensitive for detecting macrophage activity16, an important source of cellular inflammation in vessel walls. More recently, we17,18 and others have shown that FDG-PET/CT enables highly precise, novel measurements of inflammatory activity of activity of atherosclerotic plaques in large and medium-sized arteries9,16,19,20. FDG-PET/CT studies have many advantages over other imaging modalities: 1) high contrast resolution; 2) quantification of plaque volume and metabolic activity allowing for multi-modal atherosclerotic plaque quantification; 3) dynamic, real-time, in vivo imaging; 4) minimal operator dependence. Finally, vascular inflammation detected by FDG-PET/CT has been shown to predict cardiovascular (CV) events independent of traditional risk factors21,22 and is also highly associated with overall burden of atherosclerosis23. Plaque activity by FDG-PET/CT is modulated by known beneficial CV interventions such as short term (12 week) statin therapy24 as well as longer term therapeutic lifestyle changes (16 months)25.
The current methodology for quantification of FDG uptake in atherosclerotic plaque involves measurement of the standardized uptake value (SUV) of an artery of interest and of the venous blood pool in order to calculate a target to background ratio (TBR), which is calculated by dividing the arterial SUV by the venous blood pool SUV. This method has shown to represent a stable, reproducible phenotype over time, has a high sensitivity for detection of vascular inflammation, and also has high inter-and intra-reader reliability26. Here we present our methodology for patient preparation, image acquisition, and quantification of atherosclerotic plaque activity and vascular inflammation using SUV, TBR, and a global parameter called the metabolic volumetric product (MVP). These approaches may be applied to assess vascular inflammation in various study samples of interest in a consistent fashion as we have shown in several prior publications9,20,27,28
PMCID: PMC3466935  PMID: 22588186
FDG-PET/CT; atherosclerosis; vascular inflammation; quantitative radiology
13.  Renal Capsule Xenografting and Subcutaneous Pellet Implantation for the Evaluation of Prostate Carcinogenesis and Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia 
New therapies for two common prostate diseases, prostate cancer (PrCa) and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), depend critically on experiments evaluating their hormonal regulation. Sex steroid hormones (notably androgens and estrogens) are important in PrCa and BPH; we probe their respective roles in inducing prostate growth and carcinogenesis in mice with experiments using compressed hormone pellets. Hormone and/or drug pellets are easily manufactured with a pellet press, and surgically implanted into the subcutaneous tissue of the male mouse host. We also describe a protocol for the evaluation of hormonal carcinogenesis by combining subcutaneous hormone pellet implantation with xenografting of prostate cell recombinants under the renal capsule of immunocompromised mice. Moreover, subcutaneous hormone pellet implantation, in combination with renal capsule xenografting of BPH tissue, is useful to better understand hormonal regulation of benign prostate growth, and to test new therapies targeting sex steroid hormone pathways.
PMCID: PMC3856856  PMID: 24022657
Medicine; Issue 78; Cancer Biology; Prostatic Hyperplasia; Prostatic Neoplasms; Neoplastic Processes; Estradiol; Testosterone; Transplantation; Heterologous; Growth; Xenotransplantation; Heterologous Transplantation; Hormones; Prostate; Testosterone; 17beta-Estradiol; Benign prostatic hyperplasia; Prostate Cancer; animal model
14.  Experimental Endocarditis Model of Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in Rat 
Endovascular infections, including endocarditis, are life-threatening infectious syndromes1–3. Staphylococcus aureus is the most common world-wide cause of such syndromes with unacceptably high morbidity and mortality even with appropriate antimicrobial agent treatments4–6. The increase in infections due to methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA), the high rates of vancomycin clinical treatment failures and growing problems of linezolid and daptomycin resistance have all further complicated the management of patients with such infections, and led to high healthcare costs7, 8. In addition, it should be emphasized that most recent studies with antibiotic treatment outcomes have been based in clinical settings, and thus might well be influenced by host factors varying from patient-to-patient. Therefore, a relevant animal model of endovascular infection in which host factors are similar from animal-to-animal is more crucial to investigate microbial pathogenesis, as well as the efficacy of novel antimicrobial agents. Endocarditis in rat is a well-established experimental animal model that closely approximates human native valve endocarditis. This model has been used to examine the role of particular staphylococcal virulence factors and the efficacy of antibiotic treatment regimens for staphylococcal endocarditis. In this report, we describe the experimental endocarditis model due to MRSA that could be used to investigate bacterial pathogenesis and response to antibiotic treatment.
PMCID: PMC3471301  PMID: 22711072
Infection; Issue 64; Immunology; Staphylococcus aureus; endocarditis; animal model; methicillin resistance; MRSA; rat
15.  Optical Frequency Domain Imaging of Ex Vivo Pulmonary Resection Specimens: Obtaining One to One Image to Histology Correlation 
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths1. Squamous cell and small cell cancers typically arise in association with the conducting airways, whereas adenocarcinomas are typically more peripheral in location. Lung malignancy detection early in the disease process may be difficult due to several limitations: radiological resolution, bronchoscopic limitations in evaluating tissue underlying the airway mucosa and identifying early pathologic changes, and small sample size and/or incomplete sampling in histology biopsies. High resolution imaging modalities, such as optical frequency domain imaging (OFDI), provide non-destructive, large area 3-dimensional views of tissue microstructure to depths approaching 2 mm in real time (Fig. 1)2–6. OFDI has been utilized in a variety of applications, including evaluation of coronary artery atherosclerosis6,7 and esophageal intestinal metaplasia and dysplasia6,8–10.
Bronchoscopic OCT/OFDI has been demonstrated as a safe in vivo imaging tool for evaluating the pulmonary airways11–23 (Animation). OCT has been assessed in pulmonary airways16,23 and parenchyma17,22 of animal models and in vivo human airway14,15. OCT imaging of normal airway has demonstrated visualization of airway layering and alveolar attachments, and evaluation of dysplastic lesions has been found useful in distinguishing grades of dysplasia in the bronchial mucosa11,12,20,21. OFDI imaging of bronchial mucosa was demonstrated in a short bronchial segment (0.8 cm)18. Additionally, volumetric OFDI spanning multiple airway generations in swine and human pulmonary airways in vivo has been described19. Endobronchial OCT/OFDI is typically performed using thin, flexible catheters, which are compatible with standard bronchoscopic access ports. Additionally, OCT and OFDI needle-based probes have recently been developed, which may be used to image regions of the lung beyond the airway wall or pleural surface17.
While OCT/OFDI has been utilized and demonstrated as feasible for in vivo pulmonary imaging, no studies with precisely matched one-to-one OFDI:histology have been performed. Therefore, specific imaging criteria for various pulmonary pathologies have yet to be developed. Histopathological counterparts obtained in vivo consist of only small biopsy fragments, which are difficult to correlate with large OFDI datasets. Additionally, they do not provide the comprehensive histology needed for registration with large volume OFDI. As a result, specific imaging features of pulmonary pathology cannot be developed in the in vivo setting. Precisely matched, one-to-one OFDI and histology correlation is vital to accurately evaluating features seen in OFDI against histology as a gold standard in order to derive specific image interpretation criteria for pulmonary neoplasms and other pulmonary pathologies. Once specific imaging criteria have been developed and validated ex vivo with matched one-to-one histology, the criteria may then be applied to in vivo imaging studies. Here, we present a method for precise, one to one correlation between high resolution optical imaging and histology in ex vivo lung resection specimens. Throughout this manuscript, we describe the techniques used to match OFDI images to histology. However, this method is not specific to OFDI and can be used to obtain histology-registered images for any optical imaging technique. We performed airway centered OFDI with a specialized custom built bronchoscopic 2.4 French (0.8 mm diameter) catheter. Tissue samples were marked with tissue dye, visible in both OFDI and histology, and used careful orientation procedures to precisely correlate imaging and histological sampling locations. The techniques outlined in this manuscript were used to conduct the first demonstration of volumetric OFDI with precise correlation to tissue-based diagnosis for evaluating pulmonary pathology24. This straightforward, effective technique may be extended to other tissue types to provide precise imaging to histology correlation needed to determine fine imaging features of both normal and diseased tissues.
PMCID: PMC3582683  PMID: 23381470
Bronchoscopic imaging; In vivo optical microscopy; Optical imaging; Optical coherence tomography; Optical frequency domain imaging; Histology correlation
16.  Isolation and characterization of chimeric human Fc-expressing proteins using protein A membrane adsorbers and a streamlined workflow 
Laboratory scale to industrial scale purification of biomolecules from cell culture supernatants and lysed cell solutions can be accomplished using affinity chromatography. While affinity chromatography using porous protein A agarose beads packed in columns is arguably the most common method of laboratory scale isolation of antibodies and recombinant proteins expressing Fc fragments of IgG, it can be a time consuming and expensive process. Time and financial constraints are especially daunting in small basic science labs that must recover hundreds of micrograms to milligram quantities of protein from dilute solutions, yet lack access to high pressure liquid delivery systems and/or personnel with expertise in bioseparations. Moreover, product quantification and characterization may also excessively lengthen processing time over several workdays and inflate expenses (consumables, wages, etc.). Therefore, a fast, inexpensive, yet effective protocol is needed for laboratory scale isolation and characterization of antibodies and other proteins possessing an Fc fragment. To this end, we have devised a protocol that can be completed by limited-experience technical staff in less than 9 hours (roughly one workday) and as quickly as 4 hours, as opposed to traditional methods that demand 20+ work hours. Most required equipment is readily available in standard biomedical science, biochemistry, and (bio)chemical engineering labs, and all reagents are commercially available. To demonstrate this protocol, representative results are presented in which chimeric murine galectin-1 fused to human Fc (Gal-1hFc) from cell culture supernatant was isolated using a protein A membrane adsorber. Purified Gal-1hFc was quantified using an expedited Western blotting analysis procedure and characterized using flow cytometry. The streamlined workflow can be modified for other Fc-expressing proteins, such as antibodies, and/or altered to incorporate alternative quantification and characterization methods.
PMCID: PMC3894637  PMID: 24429389
affinity chromatography; membrane adsorber; bioseparations; protein A; galectin-1; Gal-1hFc
17.  Staphylococcus aureus growth using human hemoglobin as an iron source 
Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE  2013;10.3791/50072 50072.
Short abstract
Here we describe a growth assay for Staphylococcus aureus using hemoglobin as the sole source of available nutrient iron. This assay establishes the role of bacterial factors involved in hemoglobin-derived iron acquisition.
Long abstract
S. aureus is a pathogenic bacterium that requires iron to carry out vital metabolic functions and cause disease. The most abundant reservoir of iron inside the human host is heme, which is the cofactor of hemoglobin. To acquire iron from hemoglobin, S. aureus utilizes an elaborate system known as the iron-regulated surface determinant (Isd) system1. Components of the Isd system first bind host hemoglobin, then extract and import heme, and finally liberate iron from heme in the bacterial cytoplasm2,3. This pathway has been dissected through numerous in vitro studies4–9. Further, the contribution of the Isd system to infection has been repeatedly demonstrated in mouse models8,10–14. Establishing the contribution of the Isd system to hemoglobin-derived iron acquisition and growth has proven to be more challenging. Growth assays using hemoglobin as a sole iron source are complicated by the instability of commercially available hemoglobin, contaminating free iron in the growth medium, and toxicity associated with iron chelators. Here we present a method that overcomes these limitations. High quality hemoglobin is prepared from fresh blood and is stored in liquid nitrogen. Purified hemoglobin is supplemented into iron-deplete medium mimicking the iron-poor environment encountered by pathogens inside the vertebrate host. By starving S. aureus of free iron and supplementing with a minimally manipulated form of hemoglobin we induce growth in a manner that is entirely dependent on the ability to bind hemoglobin, extract heme, pass heme through the bacterial cell envelope and degrade heme in the cytoplasm. This assay will be useful for researchers seeking to elucidate the mechanisms of hemoglobin-/heme-derived iron acquisition in S. aureus and possibly other bacterial pathogens.
PMCID: PMC3600743  PMID: 23426144
Staphylococcus aureus; iron acquisition; hemoglobin; bacterial growth
18.  Dual-phase Cone-beam Computed Tomography to See, Reach, and Treat Hepatocellular Carcinoma during Drug-eluting Beads Transarterial Chemoembolization 
The advent of cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) in the angiography suite has been revolutionary in interventional radiology. CBCT offers 3 dimensional (3D) diagnostic imaging in the interventional suite and can enhance minimally-invasive therapy beyond the limitations of 2D angiography alone. The role of CBCT has been recognized in transarterial chemo-embolization (TACE) treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The recent introduction of a CBCT technique: dual-phase CBCT (DP-CBCT) improves intra-arterial HCC treatment with drug-eluting beads (DEB-TACE). DP-CBCT can be used to localize liver tumors with the diagnostic accuracy of multi-phasic multidetector computed tomography (M-MDCT) and contrast enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (CE-MRI) (See the tumor), to guide intra-arterially guidewire and microcatheter to the desired location for selective therapy (Reach the tumor), and to evaluate treatment success during the procedure (Treat the tumor). The purpose of this manuscript is to illustrate how DP-CBCT is used in DEB-TACE to see, reach, and treat HCC.
PMCID: PMC3910428  PMID: 24326874
Medicine; Issue 82; Carcinoma; Hepatocellular; Tomography; X-Ray Computed; Surgical Procedures; Minimally Invasive; Digestive System Diseases; Diagnosis; Therapeutics; Surgical Procedures; Operative; Equipment and Supplies; Transarterial chemo-embolization; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Dual-phase cone-beam computed tomography; 3D roadmap; Drug-Eluting Beads
19.  Real-Time Analyses of Retinol Transport by the Membrane Receptor of Plasma Retinol Binding Protein 
Vitamin A is essential for vision and the growth/differentiation of almost all human organs. Plasma retinol binding protein (RBP) is the principle and specific carrier of vitamin A in the blood. Here we describe an optimized technique to produce and purify holo-RBP and two real-time monitoring techniques to study the transport of vitamin A by the high-affinity RBP receptor STRA6. The first technique makes it possible to produce a large quantity of high quality holo-RBP (100%-loaded with retinol) for vitamin A transport assays. High quality RBP is essential for functional assays because misfolded RBP releases vitamin A readily and bacterial contamination in RBP preparation can cause artifacts. Real-time monitoring techniques like electrophysiology have made critical contributions to the studies of membrane transport. The RBP receptor-mediated retinol transport has not been analyzed in real time until recently. The second technique described here is the real-time analysis of STRA6-catalyzed retinol release or loading. The third technique is real-time analysis of STRA6-catalyzed retinol transport from holo-RBP to cellular retinol binding protein I (CRBP-I). These techniques provide high sensitivity and resolution in revealing RBP receptor’s vitamin A uptake mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3582664  PMID: 23407361
Vitamin A; retinoid; membrane transport; membrane receptor; STRA6; retinol binding protein
20.  Reverse Yeast Two-hybrid System to Identify Mammalian Nuclear Receptor Residues that Interact with Ligands and/or Antagonists 
As a critical regulator of drug metabolism and inflammation, Pregnane X Receptor (PXR), plays an important role in disease pathophysiology linking metabolism and inflammation (e.g. hepatic steatosis)1,2. There has been much progress in the identification of agonist ligands for PXR, however, there are limited descriptions of drug-like antagonists and their binding sites on PXR3,4,5. A critical barrier has been the inability to efficiently purify full-length protein for structural studies with antagonists despite the fact that PXR was cloned and characterized in 1998. Our laboratory developed a novel high throughput yeast based two-hybrid assay to define an antagonist, ketoconazole’s, binding residues on PXR6. Our method involves creating mutational libraries that would rescue the effect of single mutations on the AF-2 surface of PXR expected to interact with ketoconazole. Rescue or “gain-of-function” second mutations can be made such that conclusions regarding the genetic interaction of ketoconazole and the surface residue(s) on PXR are feasible. Thus, we developed a high throughput two-hybrid yeast screen of PXR mutants interacting with its coactivator, SRC-1. Using this approach, in which the yeast was modified to accommodate the study of the antifungal drug, ketoconazole, we could demonstrate specific mutations on PXR enriched in clones unable to bind to ketoconazole. By reverse logic, we conclude that the original residues are direct interaction residues with ketoconazole. This assay represents a novel, tractable genetic assay to screen for antagonist binding sites on nuclear receptor surfaces. This assay could be applied to any drug regardless of its cytotoxic potential to yeast as well as to cellular protein(s) that cannot be studied using standard structural biology or proteomic based methods. Potential pitfalls include interpretation of data (complementary methods useful), reliance on single Y2H method, expertise in handling yeast or performing yeast two-hybrid assays, and assay optimization.
PMCID: PMC3904218  PMID: 24300333
Biochemistry; Issue 81; Orphan nuclear receptor; ketoconazole; yeast two-hybrid; Pregnane X Receptor; ligand; antatogist; coactivators SRC-1 (steroid receptor coactivator 1); drug-receptor interaction
21.  Handwriting Analysis Indicates Spontaneous Dyskinesias in Neuroleptic Naïve Adolescents at High Risk for Psychosis 
Growing evidence suggests that movement abnormalities are a core feature of psychosis. One marker of movement abnormality, dyskinesia, is a result of impaired neuromodulation of dopamine in fronto-striatal pathways. The traditional methods for identifying movement abnormalities include observer-based reports and force stability gauges. The drawbacks of these methods are long training times for raters, experimenter bias, large site differences in instrumental apparatus, and suboptimal reliability. Taking these drawbacks into account has guided the development of better standardized and more efficient procedures to examine movement abnormalities through handwriting analysis software and tablet. Individuals at risk for psychosis showed significantly more dysfluent pen movements (a proximal measure for dyskinesia) in a handwriting task. Handwriting kinematics offers a great advance over previous methods of assessing dyskinesia, which could clearly be beneficial for understanding the etiology of psychosis.
PMCID: PMC3902788  PMID: 24300590
Behavior; Issue 81; Schizophrenia; Disorders with Psychotic Features; Psychology; Clinical; Psychopathology; behavioral sciences; Movement abnormalities; Ultra High Risk; psychosis; handwriting; computer tablet; dyskinesia
22.  Development Of An Audio-based Virtual Gaming Environment To Assist With Navigation Skills In The Blind 
Audio-based Environment Simulator (AbES) is virtual environment software designed to improve real world navigation skills in the blind. Using only audio based cues and set within the context of a video game metaphor, users gather relevant spatial information regarding a building’s layout. This allows the user to develop an accurate spatial cognitive map of a large-scale three-dimensional space that can be manipulated for the purposes of a real indoor navigation task. After game play, participants are then assessed on their ability to navigate within the target physical building represented in the game. Preliminary results suggest that early blind users were able to acquire relevant information regarding the spatial layout of a previously unfamiliar building as indexed by their performance on a series of navigation tasks. These tasks included path finding through the virtual and physical building, as well as a series of drop off tasks. We find that the immersive and highly interactive nature of the AbES software appears to greatly engage the blind user to actively explore the virtual environment. Applications of this approach may extend to larger populations of visually impaired individuals.
PMCID: PMC3641639  PMID: 23568182
Behavior and Behavior Mechanisms; Technology; Industry; Agriculture; virtual environments; action video games; blind; audio; rehabilitation; indoor navigation; spatial cognitive map
23.  Isolation and Culture of Rat Embryonic Neural Cells: A Quick Protocol 
We are describing a quick method to dissociate and culture hippocampal or cortical neurons from E15-17 rat embryos. The procedure can be applied successfully to the isolation of mouse and human primary neurons and neural progenitors. Dissociated neurons are maintained in serum-free medium up to several weeks. These cultures can be used for nucleofection, immunocytochemistry, nucleic acids preparation, as well as electrophysiology. Older neuronal cultures can also be transfected with a good efficiency rate by lentiviral transduction and, less efficiently, with calcium phosphate or lipid-based methods such as lipofectamine.
PMCID: PMC3466945  PMID: 22664838
Neuroscience; Issue 63; Cell culture; neuron; cortex; rat; brain; isolation
24.  In Vivo Modeling of the Morbid Human Genome using Danio rerio 
Here, we present methods for the development of assays to query potentially clinically significant nonsynonymous changes using in vivo complementation in zebrafish. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are a useful animal system due to their experimental tractability; embryos are transparent to enable facile viewing, undergo rapid development ex vivo, and can be genetically manipulated.1 These aspects have allowed for significant advances in the analysis of embryogenesis, molecular processes, and morphogenetic signaling. Taken together, the advantages of this vertebrate model make zebrafish highly amenable to modeling the developmental defects in pediatric disease, and in some cases, adult-onset disorders. Because the zebrafish genome is highly conserved with that of humans (~70% orthologous), it is possible to recapitulate human disease states in zebrafish. This is accomplished either through the injection of mutant human mRNA to induce dominant negative or gain of function alleles, or utilization of morpholino (MO) antisense oligonucleotides to suppress genes to mimic loss of function variants. Through complementation of MO-induced phenotypes with capped human mRNA, our approach enables the interpretation of the deleterious effect of mutations on human protein sequence based on the ability of mutant mRNA to rescue a measurable, physiologically relevant phenotype. Modeling of the human disease alleles occurs through microinjection of zebrafish embryos with MO and/or human mRNA at the 1-4 cell stage, and phenotyping up to seven days post fertilization (dpf). This general strategy can be extended to a wide range of disease phenotypes, as demonstrated in the following protocol. We present our established models for morphogenetic signaling, craniofacial, cardiac, vascular integrity, renal function, and skeletal muscle disorder phenotypes, as well as others.
PMCID: PMC3856313  PMID: 23995499
Molecular Biology; Issue 78; Genetics; Biomedical Engineering; Medicine; Developmental Biology; Biochemistry; Anatomy; Physiology; Bioengineering; Genomics; Medical; zebrafish; in vivo; morpholino; human disease modeling; transcription; PCR; mRNA; DNA; Danio rerio; animal model
25.  Quantitative, Real-time Analysis of Base Excision Repair Activity in Cell Lysates Utilizing Lesion-specific Molecular Beacons 
We describe a method for the quantitative, real-time measurement of DNA glycosylase and AP endonuclease activities in cell nuclear lysates using base excision repair (BER) molecular beacons. The substrate (beacon) is comprised of a deoxyoligonucleotide containing a single base lesion with a 6-Carboxyfluorescein (6-FAM) moiety conjugated to the 5'end and a Dabcyl moiety conjugated to the 3' end of the oligonucleotide. The BER molecular beacon is 43 bases in length and the sequence is designed to promote the formation of a stem-loop structure with 13 nucleotides in the loop and 15 base pairs in the stem1,2. When folded in this configuration the 6-FAM moiety is quenched by Dabcyl in a non-fluorescent manner via Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET)3,4. The lesion is positioned such that following base lesion removal and strand scission the remaining 5 base oligonucleotide containing the 6-FAM moiety is released from the stem. Release and detachment from the quencher (Dabcyl) results in an increase of fluorescence that is proportionate to the level of DNA repair. By collecting multiple reads of the fluorescence values, real-time assessment of BER activity is possible. The use of standard quantitative real-time PCR instruments allows the simultaneous analysis of numerous samples. The design of these BER molecular beacons, with a single base lesion, is amenable to kinetic analyses, BER quantification and inhibitor validation and is adaptable for quantification of DNA Repair activity in tissue and tumor cell lysates or with purified proteins. The analysis of BER activity in tumor lysates or tissue aspirates using these molecular beacons may be applicable to functional biomarker measurements. Further, the analysis of BER activity with purified proteins using this quantitative assay provides a rapid, high-throughput method for the discovery and validation of BER inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3476757  PMID: 22895410
Molecular Biology; Issue 66; Genetics; Cancer Biology; Base excision repair; DNA glycosylase; AP endonuclease; fluorescent; real-time; activity assay; molecular beacon; biomarker; DNA Damage; base lesion

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