0 Q&A 2503 Views Apr 20, 2024

The CTC1-STN1-TEN1 (CST) complex is a single-strand DNA-binding protein complex that plays an important role in genome maintenance in various model eukaryotes. Dysfunction of CST is the underlying cause of the rare genetic disorder known as Coats plus disease. In addition, down regulation of STN1 promotes colorectal cancer development in mice. While prior studies have utilized RNAi to knock down CST components in mammalian cells, this approach is associated with off-target effects. Attempts to employ CRISPR/Cas9-based knockout of CST components in somatic cell lines have been unsuccessful due to CST's indispensable role in DNA replication and cell proliferation. To address these challenges, we outline a novel approach utilizing a Cre-loxP-based conditional knockout in mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). This method offers an alternative means to investigate the function and characteristics of the CST complex in mammalian systems, potentially shedding new light on its roles in genome maintenance.

0 Q&A 644 Views Jan 20, 2024

The blood–brain barrier (BBB) is a major obstacle to the diagnostics and treatment of many central nervous system (CNS) diseases. A prime example of this challenge is seen in glioblastoma (GBM), the most aggressive and malignant primary brain tumor. The BBB in brain tumors, or the blood–brain–tumor barrier (BBTB), prevents the efficient delivery of most therapeutics to brain tumors. Current strategies to overcome the BBB for therapeutic delivery, such as using hyperosmotic agents (mannitol), have impeded progress in clinical translation limited by the lack of spatial resolution, high incidences of complications, and potential for toxicity. Focused ultrasound combined with intravenously administered microbubbles enables the transient disruption of the BBB and has progressed to early-phase clinical trials. However, the poor survival with currently approved treatments for GBM highlights the compelling need to develop and validate treatment strategies as well as the screening for more potent anticancer drugs. In this protocol, we introduce an optical method to open the BBTB (OptoBBTB) for therapeutic delivery via ultrashort pulse laser stimulation of vascular targeting plasmonic gold nanoparticles (AuNPs). Specifically, the protocol includes the synthesis and characterization of vascular-targeting AuNPs and a detailed procedure of optoBBTB. We also report the downstream characterization of the drug delivery and tumor treatment efficacy after BBB modulation. Compared with other barrier modulation methods, our optical approach has advantages in high spatial resolution and minimally invasive access to tissues. Overall, optoBBTB allows for the delivery of a variety of therapeutics into the brain and will accelerate drug delivery and screening for CNS disease treatment.

Key features

• Pulsed laser excitation of vascular-targeting gold nanoparticles non-invasively and reversibly modulates the blood–brain barrier permeability.

• OptoBBTB enhances drug delivery in clinically relevant glioblastoma models.

• OptoBBTB has the potential for drug screening and evaluation for superficial brain tumor treatment.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 442 Views Nov 5, 2023

Cell signaling is highly integrated for the process of various cell activities. Although previous studies have shown how individual genes contribute to cell migration, it remains unclear how the integration of these signaling pathways is involved in the modulation of cell migration. In our two-hit migration screen, we revealed that serine-threonine kinase 40 (STK40) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) worked synergistically, and the suppression of both genes could further lead to suppression in cell migration. Furthermore, based on our analysis of cellular focal adhesion (FA) parameters using MATLAB analysis, we are able to find out the synergistic reduction of STK40 and MAPK that further abolished the increased FA by shSTK40. While FA identification in previous studies includes image analysis using manual selection, our protocol provides a semi-automatic manual selection of FAs using MATLAB. Here, we provide a method that can shorten the amount of time required for manual identification of FAs and increase the precision for discerning individual FAs for various analyses, such as FA numbers, area, and mean signals.

0 Q&A 334 Views Nov 5, 2023

Cell migration is an essential biological process for organisms, in processes including embryonic development, immune response, and cancer metastasis. To elucidate the regulatory machinery of this vital process, methods that mimic in vivo migration, including in vitro wound healing assay and random migration assay, are widely used for cell behavior investigation. However, several concerns are raised with traditional cell migration experiment analysis. First, a manually scratched wound often presents irregular edges, causing the speed analysis difficult. Second, only the migration speed of leading cells is considered in the wound healing assay. Here, we provide a reliable analysis method to trace each cell in the time-lapse images, eliminating the concern about wound shape and creating a more comprehensive understanding of cell migration—not only of collective migration speed but also single-cell directionality and coordination between cells.

0 Q&A 972 Views Mar 5, 2023

A rigorous determination of effector contributions of tumor-infiltrating immune cells is critical for identifying targetable molecular mechanisms for the development of novel cancer immunotherapies. A tumor/immune cell–admixture model is an advantageous strategy to study tumor immunology as the fundamental methodology is relatively straightforward, while also being adaptable to scale to address increasingly complex research queries. Ultimately, this method can provide robust experimental information to complement more traditional murine models of tumor immunology. Here, we describe a tumor/macrophage-admixture model using bone marrow–derived macrophages to investigate macrophage-dependent tumorigenesis. Additionally, we provide commentary on potential branch points for optimization with other immune cells, experimental techniques, and cancer types.

0 Q&A 478 Views Mar 5, 2023

Telomeres are structures that cap the ends of linear chromosomes and play critical roles in maintaining genome integrity and establishing the replicative lifespan of cells. In stem and cancer cells, telomeres are actively elongated by either telomerase or the alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) pathway. This pathway is characterized by several hallmark features, including extrachromosomal C-rich circular DNAs that can be probed to assess ALT activity. These so-called C-circles are the product of ALT-associated DNA damage repair processes and simultaneously serve as potential templates for iterative telomere extension. This bifunctional nature makes C-circles highly sensitive and specific markers of ALT. Here, we describe a C-circle assay, adapted from previous reports, that enables the quantitation of C-circle abundance in mammalian cells subjected to a wide range of experimental perturbations. This protocol combines the Quick C-circle Preparation (QCP) method for DNA isolation with fluorometry-based DNA quantification, rolling circle amplification (RCA), and detection of C-circles using quantitative PCR. Moreover, the inclusion of internal standards with well-characterized telomere maintenance mechanisms (TMMs) allows for the reliable benchmarking of cells with unknown TMM status. Overall, our work builds upon existing protocols to create a generalizable workflow for in vitro C-circle quantitation and ascertainment of TMM identity.

0 Q&A 1359 Views Dec 20, 2022

The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a non-cellular network of macromolecules, which provides cells and tissues with structural support and biomechanical feedback to regulate cellular function, tissue tension, and homeostasis. Even subtle changes to ECM abundance, architecture, and organization can affect downstream biological pathways, thereby influencing normal cell and tissue function and also driving disease conditions. For example, in cancer, the ECM is well known to provide both biophysical and biochemical cues that influence cancer initiation, progression, and metastasis, highlighting the need to better understand cell–ECM interactions in cancer and other ECM-enriched diseases. Initial cell-derived matrix (CDM) models were used as an in vitro system to mimic and assess the physiologically relevant three-dimensional (3D) cell–ECM interactions. Here, we describe an expansion to these initial CDM models generated by fibroblasts to assess the effect of genetic or pharmacological intervention on fibroblast-mediated matrix production and organization. Additionally, we highlight current methodologies to quantify changes in the ultrastructure and isotropy of the resulting ECM and also provide protocols for assessing cancer cell interaction with CDMs. Understanding the nature and influence of these complex and heterogeneous processes can offer insights into the biomechanical and biochemical mechanisms, which drive cancer development and metastasis, and how we can target them to improve cancer outcomes.

0 Q&A 1493 Views Dec 20, 2022

CRISPR/Cas9 screening has revolutionized functional genomics in biomedical research and is a widely used approach for the identification of genetic dependencies in cancer cells. Here, we present an efficient and versatile protocol for the cloning of guide RNAs (gRNA) into lentiviral vectors, the production of lentiviral supernatants, and the transduction of target cells in a 96-well format. To assess the effect of gene knockouts on cellular fitness, we describe a competition-based cell proliferation assay using flow cytometry, enabling the screening of many genes at the same time in a fast and reproducible manner. This readout can be extended to any parameter that is accessible to flow-based measurements, such as protein expression and stability, differentiation, cell death, and others. In summary, this protocol allows to functionally assess the effect of a set of 50–300 gene knockouts on various cellular parameters within eight weeks.

Graphical abstract

0 Q&A 373 Views Dec 20, 2022

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

Graphical abstract

Graphical abstract adapted from Schonbrun and Resh (2022)

0 Q&A 1755 Views Dec 5, 2022

N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is the most prevalent internal modification of eukaryotic messenger RNAs (mRNAs), affecting their fold, stability, degradation, and cellular interaction(s) and implicating them in processes such as splicing, translation, export, and decay. The m6A modification is also extensively present in non-coding RNAs, including microRNAs (miRNAs), ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs), and transfer RNAs (tRNAs). Common m6A methylation detection techniques play an important role in understanding the biological function and potential mechanism of m6A, mainly including the quantification and specific localization of m6A modification sites. Here, we describe in detail the dot blotting method for detecting m6A levels in RNA (mRNA as an example), including total RNA extraction, mRNA purification, dot blotting, and data analysis. This protocol can also be used to enrich specific RNAs (such as tRNA, rRNA, or miRNA) by isolation technology to detect the m6A level of single RNA species, so as to facilitate further studies of the role of m6A in biological processes.