生物物理学


分类

现刊
0 Q&A 245 Views May 20, 2024

Understanding dendritic excitability is essential for a complete and precise characterization of neurons’ input-output relationships. Theoretical and experimental work demonstrates that the electrotonic and nonlinear properties of dendrites can alter the amplitude (e.g., through amplification) and latency of synaptic inputs as viewed in the axosomatic region where spike timing is determined. The gold-standard technique to study dendritic excitability is using dual-patch recordings with a high-resistance electrode used to patch a piece of distal dendrite in addition to a somatic patch electrode. However, this approach is often impractical when distal dendrites are too fine to patch. Therefore, we developed a technique that utilizes the expression of Channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) to study dendritic excitability in acute brain slices through the combination of a somatic patch electrode and optogenetic activation. The protocol describes how to prepare acute slices from mice that express ChR2 in specific cell types, and how to use two modes of light stimulation: proximal (which activates the soma and proximal dendrites in a ~100 µm diameter surrounding the soma) with the use of a high-magnification objective and full-field stimulation through a low-magnification objective (which activates the entire somato-dendritic field of the neuron). We use this technique in conjunction with various stimulation protocols to estimate model-based spectral components of dendritic filtering and the impact of dendrites on phase response curves, peri-stimulus time histograms, and entrainment of pacemaking neurons. This technique provides a novel use of optogenetics to study intrinsic dendritic excitability through the use of standard patch-clamp slice physiology.

往期刊物
0 Q&A 923 Views Feb 20, 2024

Mechanosensory organelles (MOs) are specialized subcellular entities where force-sensitive channels and supporting structures (e.g., microtubule cytoskeleton) are organized in an orderly manner. The delicate structure of MOs needs to be resolved to understand the mechanisms by which they detect forces and how they are formed. Here, we describe a protocol that allows obtaining detailed information about the nanoscopic ultrastructure of fly MOs by using serial section electron tomography (SS-ET). To preserve fine structural details, the tissues are cryo-immobilized using a high-pressure freezer followed by freeze-substitution at low temperature and embedding in resin at room temperature. Then, sample sections are prepared and used to acquire the dual-axis tilt series images, which are further processed for tomographic reconstruction. Finally, tomograms of consecutive sections are combined into a single larger volume using microtubules as fiducial markers. Using this protocol, we managed to reconstruct the sensory organelles, which provide novel molecular insights as to how fly mechanosensory organelles work and are formed. Based on our experience, we think that, with minimal modifications, this protocol can be adapted to a wide range of applications using different cell and tissue samples.


Key features

• Resolving the high-resolution 3D ultrastructure of subcellular organelles using serial section electron tomography (SS-ET).

• Compared with single-axis tilt series, dual-axis tilt series provides a much wider coverage of Fourier space, improving resolution and features in the reconstructed tomograms.

• The use of high-pressure freezing and freeze-substitution maximally preserves the fine structural details.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 930 Views Feb 20, 2024

Coiled-coil domains (CCDs) are structural motifs observed in proteins in all organisms that perform several crucial functions. The computational identification of CCD segments over a protein sequence is of great importance for its functional characterization. This task can essentially be divided into three separate steps: the detection of segment boundaries, the annotation of the heptad repeat pattern along the segment, and the classification of its oligomerization state. Several methods have been proposed over the years addressing one or more of these predictive steps. In this protocol, we illustrate how to make use of CoCoNat, a novel approach based on protein language models, to characterize CCDs. CoCoNat is, at its release (August 2023), the state of the art for CCD detection. The web server allows users to submit input protein sequences and visualize the predicted domains after a few minutes. Optionally, precomputed segments can be provided to the model, which will predict the oligomerization state for each of them. CoCoNat can be easily integrated into biological pipelines by downloading the standalone version, which provides a single executable script to produce the output.


Key features

• Web server for the prediction of coiled-coil segments from a protein sequence.

• Three different predictions from a single tool (segment position, heptad repeat annotation, oligomerization state).

• Possibility to visualize the results online or to download the predictions in different formats for further processing.

• Easy integration in automated pipelines with the local version of the tool.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 367 Views Jan 5, 2024

Proteolysis is a critical biochemical process yet a challenging field to study experimentally due to the self-degradation of a protease and the complex, dynamic degradation steps of a substrate. Mass spectrometry (MS) is the traditional way for proteolytic studies, yet it is challenging when time-resolved, step-by-step details of the degradation process are needed. We recently found a way to resolve the cleavage site, preference/selectivity of cleavage regions, and proteolytic kinetics by combining site-directed spin labeling (SDSL) of protein substrate, time-resolved two-dimensional (2D) electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) spectroscopy, protease immobilization via metal–organic materials (MOMs), and MS. The method has been demonstrated on a model substrate and protease, yet there is a lack of details on the practical operations to carry out our strategy. Thus, this protocol summarizes the key steps and considerations when carrying out the EPR/MS study on proteolytic processes, which can be generalized to study other protein/polypeptide substrates in proteolysis. Details for the experimental operation and cautions of each step are reported with figures illustrating the concepts. This protocol provides an effective approach to understanding the proteolytic process with the advantages of offering time-resolved, residue-level resolution of structural basis underlying the process. Such information is important for revealing the cleavage site and proteolytic mechanisms of unknown proteases. The advantage of EPR, probing the target substrate regardless of the complexities caused by the proteases and their self-degradation, offers a practically effective, rapid, and easy-to-operate approach to studying proteolysis.


Key features

• Combining protease immobilization, EPR, spin labeling, and MS experimental methods allows for the analysis of proteolysis process in real time.

• Reveals cleavage site, kinetics of product generation, and preference of cleavage regions via time-resolved SDSL-EPR.

• MS confirms EPR findings and helps depict the sequences and populations of the cleaved segments in real time.

• The demonstrated method can be generalized to other proteins or polypeptide substrates upon proteolysis by other proteases.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 1990 Views Dec 20, 2023

In situ cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) is the most current, state-of-the-art technique to study cell machinery in its hydrated near-native state. The method provides ultrastructural details at sub-nanometer resolution for many components within the cellular context. Making use of recent advances in sample preparation techniques and combining this method with correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM) approaches have enabled targeted molecular visualization. Nevertheless, the implementation has also added to the complexity of the workflow and introduced new obstacles in the way of streamlining and achieving high throughput, sample yield, and sample quality. Here, we report a detailed protocol by combining multiple newly available technologies to establish an integrated, high-throughput, optimized, and streamlined cryo-CLEM workflow for improved sample yield.


Key features

• PRIMO micropatterning allows precise cell positioning and maximum number of cell targets amenable to thinning with cryo focused-ion-beam–scanning electron microscopy.

• CERES ice shield ensures that the lamellae remain free of ice contamination during the batch milling process.

• METEOR in-chamber fluorescence microscope facilitates the targeted cryo focused-ion-beam (cryo FIB) milling of these targets.

• Combining the three technologies into one cryo-CLEM workflow maximizes sample yield, throughput, and efficiency.


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 258 Views Nov 5, 2023

Measuring the action potential (AP) propagation velocity in axons is critical for understanding neuronal computation. This protocol describes the measurement of propagation velocity using a combination of somatic whole cell and axonal loose patch recordings in brain slice preparations. The axons of neurons filled with fluorescent dye via somatic whole-cell pipette can be targeted under direct optical control using the fluorophore-filled pipette. The propagation delays between the soma and 5–7 axonal locations can be obtained by analyzing the ensemble averages of 500–600 sweeps of somatic APs aligned at times of maximal rate-of-rise (dV/dtmax) and axonal action currents from these locations. By plotting the propagation delays against the distance, the location of the AP initiation zone becomes evident as the site exhibiting the greatest delay relative to the soma. Performing linear fitting of the delays obtained from sites both proximal and distal from the trigger zone allows the determination of the velocities of AP backward and forward propagation, respectively.


Key features

• Ultra-thin axons in cortical slices are targeted under direct optical control using the SBFI-filled pipette.

• Dual somatic whole cell and axonal loose patch recordings from 5–7 axonal locations.

• Ensemble averaging of 500–600 sweeps of somatic APs and axonal action currents.

• Plotting the propagation delays against the distance enables the determination of the trigger zone's position and velocities of AP backward and forward propagation.

0 Q&A 466 Views Oct 5, 2023

Tracking macrophages by non-invasive molecular imaging can provide useful insights into the immunobiology of inflammatory disorders in preclinical disease models. Perfluorocarbon nanoemulsions (PFC-NEs) have been well documented in their ability to be taken up by macrophages through phagocytosis and serve as 19F magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tracers of inflammation in vivo and ex vivo. Incorporation of near-infrared fluorescent (NIRF) dyes in PFC-NEs can help monitor the spatiotemporal distribution of macrophages in vivo during inflammatory processes, using NIRF imaging as a complementary methodology to MRI. Here, we discuss in depth how both colloidal and fluorescence stabilities of the PFC-NEs are essential for successful and reliable macrophage tracking in vivo and for their detection in excised tissues ex vivo by NIRF imaging. Furthermore, PFC-NE quality assures NIRF imaging reproducibility and reliability across preclinical studies, providing insights into inflammation progression and therapeutic response. Previous studies focused on assessments of colloidal property changes in response to stress and during storage as a means of quality control. We recently focused on the joint evaluation of both colloidal and fluorescence properties and their relationship to NIRF imaging outcomes. In this protocol, we summarize the key assessments of the fluorescent dye–labeled nanoemulsions, which include long-term particle size distribution monitoring as the measure of colloidal stability and monitoring of the fluorescence signal. Due to its simplicity and reproducibility, our protocols are easy to adopt for researchers to assess the quality of PFC-NEs for in vivo NIRF imaging applications.

0 Q&A 361 Views Oct 5, 2023

Disruptions and perturbations of the cellular plasma membrane by peptides have garnered significant interest in the elucidation of biological phenomena. Typically, these complex processes are studied using liposomes as model membranes—either by encapsulating a fluorescent dye or by other spectroscopic approaches, such as nuclear magnetic resonance. Despite incorporating physiologically relevant lipids, no synthetic model truly recapitulates the full complexity and molecular diversity of the plasma membrane. Here, biologically representative membrane models, giant plasma membrane vesicles (GPMVs), are prepared from eukaryotic cells by inducing a budding event with a chemical stressor. The GPMVs are then isolated, and bilayers are labelled with fluorescent lipophilic tracers and incubated in a microplate with a membrane-active peptide. As the membranes become damaged and/or aggregate, the resulting fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between the two tracers increases and is measured periodically in a microplate. This approach offers a particularly useful way to detect perturbations when the membrane complexity is an important variable to consider. Additionally, it provides a way to kinetically detect damage to the plasma membrane, which can be correlated with the kinetics of peptide self-assembly or structural rearrangements.


Key features

• Allows testing of various peptide–membrane interaction conditions (peptide:phospholipid ratio, ionic strength, buffer, etc.) at once.

• Uses intact plasma membrane vesicles that can be prepared from a variety of cell lines.

• Can offer comparable throughput as with traditional synthetic lipid models (e.g., dye-encapsulated liposomes).


Graphical overview



0 Q&A 427 Views Sep 20, 2023

Device-induced thrombosis remains a major complication of extracorporeal life support (ECLS). To more thoroughly understand how blood components interact with the artificial surfaces of ECLS circuit components, assessment of clot deposition on these surfaces following clinical use is urgently needed. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM), which produces high-resolution images at nanoscale level, allows visualization and characterization of thrombotic deposits on ECLS circuitry. However, methodologies to increase the quantifiability of SEM analysis of ECLS circuit components have yet to be applied clinically. To address these issues, we developed a protocol to quantify clot deposition on ECLS membrane oxygenator gas transfer fiber sheets through digital and SEM imaging techniques. In this study, ECLS membrane oxygenator fiber sheets were obtained, fixed, and imaged after use. Following a standardized process, the percentage of clot deposition on both digital images and SEM images was quantified using ImageJ through blind reviews. The interrater reliability of quantitative analysis among reviewers was evaluated. Although this protocol focused on the analysis of ECLS membrane oxygenators, it is also adaptable to other components of the ECLS circuits such as catheters and tubing.


Key features

• Quantitative analysis of clot deposition using digital and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) techniques

• High-resolution images at nanoscale level

• Extracorporeal life support (ECLS) devices

• Membrane oxygenators

• Blood-contacting surfaces


Graphical overview


0 Q&A 526 Views Mar 5, 2023

Lipid droplets (LD), triglycerides and sterol esters among them, are well known for their capacity as lipid storage organelles. Recently, they have emerged as critical cytoplasmic structures involved in numerous biological functions. LD storage is generated de novo by the cell and provides an energy reserve, lipid precursors, and cell protection. Moreover, LD accumulation can be observed in some pathologies as obesity, atherosclerosis, or lung diseases. Fluorescence imaging techniques are the most widely used techniques to visualize cellular compartments in live cells, including LD. Nevertheless, presence of fluorophores can damage subcellular components and induce cytotoxicity, or even alter the dynamics of the organelles. As an alternative to fluorescence microscopy, label-free techniques such as stimulated Raman scattering and coherent anti-stokes Raman scattering microscopy offer a solution to avoid the undesirable effects caused by dyes and fluorescent proteins, but are expensive and complex. Here, we describe a label-free method using live-cell imaging by 3D holotomographic microscopy (Nanolive) to visualize LD accumulation in the MH-S alveolar macrophage cell line after treatment with oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that promotes lipid accumulation.

0 Q&A 662 Views Feb 20, 2023

The cell surfaceome is of vital importance across physiology, developmental biology, and disease states alike. The precise identification of proteins and their regulatory mechanisms at the cell membrane has been challenging and is typically determined using confocal microscopy, two-photon microscopy, or total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM). Of these, TIRFM is the most precise, as it harnesses the generation of a spatially delimited evanescent wave at the interface of two surfaces with distinct refractive indices. The limited penetration of the evanescent wave illuminates a narrow specimen field, which facilitates the localization of fluorescently tagged proteins at the cell membrane but not inside of the cell. In addition to constraining the depth of the image, TIRFM also significantly enhances the signal-to-noise ratio, which is particularly valuable in the study of live cells. Here, we detail a protocol for micromirror TIRFM analysis of optogenetically activated protein kinase C-ϵ in HEK293-T cells, as well as data analysis to demonstrate the translocation of this construct to the cell-surface following optogenetic activation.


Graphic abstract