0 Q&A 1427 Views Mar 20, 2024

Proliferating cells need to cope with extensive cytoskeletal and nuclear remodeling as they prepare to divide. These events are tightly regulated by the nuclear translocation of the cyclin B1-CDK1 complex, that is partly dependent on nuclear tension. Standard experimental approaches do not allow the manipulation of forces acting on cells in a time-resolved manner. Here, we describe a protocol that enables dynamic mechanical manipulation of single cells with high spatial and temporal resolution and its application in the context of cell division. In addition, we also outline a method for the manipulation of substrate stiffness using polyacrylamide hydrogels. Finally, we describe a static cell confinement setup, which can be used to study the impact of prolonged mechanical stimulation in populations of cells.

Key features

• Protocol for microfabrication of confinement devices.

• Single-cell dynamic confinement coupled with high-resolution microscopy.

• Static cell confinement protocol that can be combined with super-resolution STED microscopy.

• Analysis of the mechanical control of mitotic entry in a time-resolved manner.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 933 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 371 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 2803 Views Nov 5, 2022

Cryo-focused ion beam (FIB) milling of vitrified specimens is emerging as a powerful method for in situ specimen preparation. It allows for the preservation of native and near-native conditions in cells, and can reveal the molecular structure of protein complexes when combined with cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) and sub-tomogram averaging. Cryo-FIB milling is often performed on plunge-frozen specimens of limited thickness. However, this approach may have several disadvantages, including low throughput for cells that are small, or at low concentration, or poorly distributed across accessible areas of the grid, as well as for samples that may adopt a preferred orientation. Here, we present a detailed description of the “Waffle Method” protocol for vitrifying thick specimens followed by a semi-automated milling procedure using the Thermo Fisher Scientific (TFS) Aquilos 2 cryo-FIB/scanning electron microscope (SEM) instrument and AutoTEM Cryo software to produce cryo-lamellae. With this protocol, cryo-lamellae may be generated from specimens, such as microsporidia spores, yeast, bacteria, and mammalian cells, as well as purified proteins and protein complexes. An experienced lab can perform the entire protocol presented here within an 8-hour working day, resulting in two to three cryo-lamellae with target thicknesses of 100–200 nm and dimensions of approximately 12 μm width and 15–20 μm length. For cryo-FIB/SEMs with particularly low-contamination chambers, the protocol can be extended to overnight milling, resulting in up to 16 cryo-lamellae in 24 h.

Graphical abstract:

0 Q&A 1232 Views Mar 20, 2022

Several filamentous cyanobacteria like Nostoc differentiate specialized cells in response to changes in environmental factors, such as low light or nutrient starvation. These specialized cells are termed heterocysts and akinetes. Under conditions of nitrogen limitation, nitrogen-fixing heterocysts form in a semi-regular pattern and provide the filament with organic nitrogen compounds. Akinetes are spore-like dormant cells, which allow survival during adverse unfavorable conditions. Both cell types possess multilayered thick envelopes mainly composed of an outermost polysaccharide layer and inner layers of glycolipids, that are important for stress adaptation. To study these envelope glycolipids, a method for the isolation, separation and analysis of lipids from heterocysts and akinetes is essential. The present protocol describes a method involving the extraction of lipids from cyanobacteria using solvents and their separation and visualization on silica plates, to render analysis simple and easy. This protocol is relevant for studying mutants that are defective in glycolipid layer formation and for the comparison of glycolipid composition of heterocysts and akinetes under different environmental stresses.

0 Q&A 2761 Views Jul 5, 2021

Mammalian orthoreoviruses (reoviruses) are nonenveloped, double-stranded RNA viruses that replicate and assemble in cytoplasmic membranous organelles called viral inclusions (VIs). To define the cellular compartments involved in nonlytic reovirus egress, we imaged viral egress in infected, nonpolarized human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMECs). Electron and confocal microscopy showed that reovirus mature virions are recruited from VIs to modified lysosomes termed sorting organelles (SOs). Later in infection, membranous carriers (MCs) emerge from SOs and transport new virions to the plasma membrane for nonlytic egress. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) combined with electron tomography (ET) and three-dimensional (3D) reconstruction revealed that these compartments are connected and form the exit pathway. Connections are established by channels through which mature virions are transported from VIs to MCs. In the last step, MCs travel across the cytoplasm and fuse with the plasma membrane, which facilitates reovirus egress. This bio-protocol describes the combination of imaging approaches (TEM, ET, and 3D reconstruction) to analyze reovirus egress zones. The spatial information present in the 3D reconstructions, along with the higher resolution relative to 2D projections, allowed us to identify components of a new nonlytic viral egress pathway.

0 Q&A 3755 Views Jun 5, 2021

Cryo-scanning electron microscopy (cryo-SEM) was first introduced for scientific use in the 1980s. Since then, cryo-SEM has become a routine technique for studying the surfaces and internal structures of biological samples with a high water content. In contrast to traditional SEM, cryo-SEM requires no sample pretreatment processes; thus, we can obtain the most authentic images of the sample shape and structure. Cryo-SEM has two main steps: cryoprocessing of samples and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) observation. The cryoprocessing step includes preparation of the cooled slushing station, cooling of the preparation chamber, sample preparation, and sputtering. The sample is then transferred to an SEM cold stage for observation. We used cryo-SEM to study rice root hair tissues, but the methods and protocols can be applied to other root systems. This protocol optimizes the two key operation steps of reducing the humidity in the growth chamber and previewing the samples before sputtering and can more quickly obtain high-quality images.

0 Q&A 3172 Views Jun 5, 2021

Over the years, studying the ultrastructure of the eukaryotic cilia/flagella using electron microscopy (EM) has contributed significantly toward our understanding of ciliary function. Major complexes in the cilia, such as inner and outer dynein arms, radial spokes, and dynein regulatory complexes, were originally discovered by EM. Classical resin-embedding EM or cryo-electron tomography can be performed directly on the isolated cilia or in some cases, cilia directly attached to the cell body. Recently, single particle cryo-EM has emerged as a powerful structural technique to elucidate high-resolution structures of macromolecular complexes; however, single particle cryo-EM requires non-overlapping complexes, i.e., the doublet microtubule of the cilia. Here, we present a protocol to separate the doublet microtubule from the isolated cilia bundle of two species, Tetrahymena thermophila and Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, using ATP reactivation and sonication. Our approach produces good distribution and random orientation of the doublet microtubule fragments, which is suitable for single particle cryo-EM analysis.

1 Q&A 3994 Views Jan 20, 2020
Cell surface protrusions include F-actin rich, wave-like ruffles that are erected transiently in response to stimuli and during cell migration. Macrophages are innate immune cells that ruffle constitutively and more dramatically in cells activated by pathogens. Dorsal ruffles and their resulting macropinosomes are key sites for environmental sampling, pathogen detection and immune signaling. Quantitative assessment of ruffling is important for assessing pathogen responses in macrophages and for analysis of growth factor responses in other cell types but automated and quantitative methods are lacking, and rely on manual and qualitative assessments. Here we present an automated ImageJ macro for quantifying dorsal cell surface protrusions from 3D microscope images. The assay presented here is suitable for high-throughput screening applications to detect drug, pathogen, or growth factor induced changes in cell ruffling by measuring ruffle area and intensity and providing normalized values in an easy to read combined spreadsheet.
0 Q&A 5285 Views Nov 5, 2019
The composition and mechanical properties of the cellular microenvironment along with the resulting distribution of cellular devolved forces can affect cellular function and behavior. Traction Force Microscopy (TFM) provides a method to measure the forces applied to a surface by adherent cells. Numerous TFM systems have been described in literature. Broadly, these involve culturing cells on a flexible substrate with embedded fluorescent markers which are imaged before and after relaxion of cell forces. From these images, a displacement field is calculated, and from the displacement field, a traction field. Here we describe a TFM system using polyacrylamide substrates and a microarray spotter to fabricate arrays of multicellular islands on various combinations of extra cellular matrix (ECM) proteins or other biomolecules. A microscope with an automated stage is used to image each of the cellular islands before and after lysing cells with a detergent. These images are analyzed in a semi-automated fashion using a series of MATLAB scripts which produce the displacement and traction fields, and summary data. By combining microarrays with a semi-automated implementation of TFM analysis, this protocol enables evaluation of the impact of substrate stiffness, matrix composition, and tissue geometry on cellular mechanical behavior in high throughput.