Protocols in Current Issue
0 Q&A 299 Views May 20, 2023

Live imaging is commonly used to study dynamic processes in cells. Many labs carrying out live imaging in neurons use kymographs as a tool. Kymographs display time-dependent microscope data (time-lapsed images) in two-dimensional representations showing position vs. time. Extraction of quantitative data from kymographs, often done manually, is time-consuming and not standardized across labs. We describe here our recent methodology for quantitatively analyzing single color kymographs. We discuss the challenges and solutions of reliably extracting quantifiable data from single-channel kymographs. When acquiring in two fluorescent channels, the challenge becomes analyzing two objects that may co-traffic together. One must carefully examine the kymographs from both channels and decide which tracks are the same or try to identify the coincident tracks from an overlay of the two channels. This process is laborious and time consuming. The difficulty in finding an available tool for such analysis has led us to create a program to do so, called KymoMerge. KymoMerge semi-automates the process of identifying co-located tracks in multi-channel kymographs and produces a co-localized output kymograph that can be analyzed further. We describe our analysis, caveats, and challenges of two-color imaging using KymoMerge.

Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 372 Views May 5, 2023

Management of neuropathic pain is notoriously difficult; current analgesics, including anti-inflammatory- and opioid-based medications, are generally ineffective and can pose serious side effects. There is a need to uncover non-addictive and safe analgesics to combat neuropathic pain. Here, we describe the setup of a phenotypic screen whereby the expression of an algesic gene, Gch1, is targeted. GCH1 is the rate-limiting enzyme in the de novo synthesis of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), a metabolite linked to neuropathic pain in both animal models and in human chronic pain sufferers. Gch1 is induced in sensory neurons after nerve injury and its upregulation is responsible for increased BH4 levels. GCH1 protein has proven to be a difficult enzyme to pharmacologically target with small molecule inhibition. Thus, by establishing a platform to monitor and target induced Gch1 expression in individual injured dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons in vitro, we can screen for compounds that regulate its expression levels. This approach also allows us to gain valuable biological insights into the pathways and signals regulating GCH1 and BH4 levels upon nerve injury. This protocol is compatible with any transgenic reporter system in which the expression of an algesic gene (or multiple genes) can be monitored fluorescently. Such an approach can be scaled up for high-throughput compound screening and is amenable to transgenic mice as well as human stem cell–derived sensory neurons.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 160 Views May 5, 2023

Sleep is a conserved biological process in the animal kingdom. Understanding the neural mechanisms underlying sleep state transitions is a fundamental goal of neurobiology, important for the development of new treatments for insomnia and other sleep-related disorders. Yet, brain circuits controlling this process remain poorly understood. A key technique in sleep research is to monitor in vivo neuronal activity in sleep-related brain regions across different sleep states. These sleep-related regions are usually located deeply in the brain. Here, we describe technical details and protocols for in vivo calcium imaging in the brainstem of sleeping mice. In this system, sleep-related neuronal activity in the ventrolateral medulla (VLM) is measured using simultaneous microendoscopic calcium imaging and electroencephalogram (EEG) recording. By aligning calcium and EEG signals, we demonstrate that VLM glutamatergic neurons display increased activity during the transition from wakefulness to non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. The protocol described here can be applied to study neuronal activity in other deep brain regions involved in REM or NREM sleep.

0 Q&A 165 Views May 5, 2023

A basic function of the nervous system is to confer the ability to detect external stimuli and generate appropriate behavioral and physiological responses. These can be modulated when parallel streams of information are provided to the nervous system and neural activity is appropriately altered. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans utilizes a simple and well characterized neural circuit to mediate avoidance or attraction responses to stimuli, such as the volatile odorant octanol or diacetyl (DA), respectively. Aging and neurodegeneration constitute two important factors altering the ability to detect external signals and, therefore, changing behavior. Here, we present a modified protocol to assess avoidance or attraction responses to diverse stimuli in healthy and worm models associated with neurodegenerative diseases.

0 Q&A 322 Views May 5, 2023

Three-dimensional bioprinting utilizes additive manufacturing processes that combine cells and a bioink to create living tissue models that mimic tissues found in vivo. Stem cells can regenerate and differentiate into specialized cell types, making them valuable for research concerning degenerative diseases and their potential treatments. 3D bioprinting stem cell–derived tissues have an advantage over other cell types because they can be expanded in large quantities and then differentiated to multiple cell types. Using patient-derived stem cells also enables a personalized medicine approach to the study of disease progression. In particular, mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are an attractive cell type for bioprinting because they are easier to obtain from patients in comparison to pluripotent stem cells, and their robust characteristics make them desirable for bioprinting. Currently, both MSC bioprinting protocols and cell culturing protocols exist separately, but there is a lack of literature that combines the culturing of the cells with the bioprinting process. This protocol aims to bridge that gap by describing the bioprinting process in detail, starting with how to culture cells pre-printing, to 3D bioprinting the cells, and finally to the culturing process post-printing. Here, we outline the process of culturing MSCs to produce cells for 3D bioprinting. We also describe the process of preparing Axolotl Biosciences TissuePrint - High Viscosity (HV) and Low Viscosity (LV) bioink, the incorporation of MSCs to the bioink, setting up the BIO X and the Aspect RX1 bioprinters, and necessary computer-aided design (CAD) files. We also detail the differentiation of 2D and 3D cell cultures of MSC to dopaminergic neurons, including media preparation. We have also included the protocols for viability, immunocytochemistry, electrophysiology, and performing a dopamine enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), along with the statistical analysis.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 261 Views May 5, 2023

Accidental wounding of the peripheral nervous system leads to acute neural dysfunction. Normally, chronic deficits are overcome because peripheral nerves naturally regenerate. However, various genetic and metabolic defects can impair their natural regenerative capacity, which may be due to neuron-extrinsic mechanisms. Therefore, characterizing the behavior of multiple cells during nerve injury and repair in vivo is a pressing need in regenerative medicine. Here, we detail a method for precise wounding of sensory axons in zebrafish, followed by high-resolution in toto long-term quantitative videomicroscopy of neurons, Schwann cells, and macrophages. This protocol can be easily adapted to study the effects of targeted genetic or metabolic disruptions in zebrafish and other suitable organisms, as well as for screening pharmacological agents with therapeutic potential.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 413 Views Apr 20, 2023

Palmitoylation is a unique and reversible posttranslational lipid modification (PTM) that plays a critical role in many cellular events, including protein stability, activity, membrane association, and protein–protein interactions. The dynamic nature of palmitoylation dictates the efficient sorting of various retinal proteins to specific subcellular compartments. However, the underlying mechanism through which palmitoylation supports efficient protein trafficking in the retina remains unclear. Recent studies show that palmitoylation can also function as a signaling PTM, underlying epigenetic regulation and homeostasis in the retina. Efficient isolation of retinal palmitoyl proteome will pave the way to a better understanding of the role(s) for palmitoylation in visual function. The standard methods for detecting palmitoylated proteins employ 3H- or 14C-radiolabeled palmitic acid and have many limitations, including poor sensitivity. Relatively recent studies use thiopropyl Sepharose 6B resin, which offers efficient detection of palmitoylated proteome but is now discontinued from the market. Here, we describe a modified acyl resin–assisted capture (Acyl-RAC) method using agarose S3 high-capacity resin to purify palmitoylated proteins from the retina and other tissues, which is greatly compatible with downstream processing by LC-MS/MS. Unlike other palmitoylation assays, the present protocol is easy to perform and cost-effective.

Graphical overview

0 Q&A 443 Views Apr 5, 2023

The trafficking and sorting of proteins through the secretory-endolysosomal system is critical for the proper functioning of neurons. Defects in steps of these pathways are associated with neuronal toxicity in various neurodegenerative disorders. The prion protein (PrP) is a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored protein that follows the secretory pathway before reaching the cell surface. Following endocytosis from the cell surface, PrP sorts into endosomes and lysosomes for further recycling and degradation, respectively. A few detailed protocols using drug treatments and fluorescent dyes have previously allowed the tracking of PrP trafficking routes in real time in non-neuronal cells. Here, we present a protocol optimized for primary neurons that aims to monitor and/or manipulate the trafficking and sorting of PrP particles at several steps during their secretory-endolysosomal itineraries, including (a) ER export, (b) endocytosis, (c) lysosomal degradation, and (d) accumulation in axonal endolysosomes. These primary neuron live assays allow for the robust quantitation of accumulation and/or degradation of PrP or of other membrane-associated proteins that transition from the ER to the Golgi via the cell surface.

Graphical abstract

0 Q&A 186 Views Apr 5, 2023

Zebrafish is an excellent model to study vertebrate neurobiology, but its synaptic components that mediate and regulate fast electrical synaptic transmission are largely unidentified. Here, we describe methods to solubilize and immunoprecipitate adult zebrafish brain homogenate under conditions to preserve electrical synapse protein complexes. The methods presented are well-suited to probe electrical synapse immunocomplexes, and potentially other brain-derived immunocomplexes, for candidate interactors from zebrafish brain.

0 Q&A 118 Views Apr 5, 2023

Eukaryotic cells utilize sub-cellular compartmentalization to restrict reaction components within a defined localization to perform specified biological functions. One way to achieve this is via membrane enclosure; however, many compartments are not bounded with lipid membrane bilayers. In the past few years, it has been increasingly recognized that molecular components in non- or semi-membrane-bound compartments might form biological condensates autonomously (i.e., without requirement of energy input) once threshold concentrations are reached, via a physical chemistry process known as liquid–liquid phase separation. Molecular components within these compartments are stably maintained at high concentrations and separated from the surrounding diluted solution without the need for a physical barrier. Biochemical reconstitution using recombinantly purified proteins has served as an important tool for understanding organizational principles behind these biological condensates. Common techniques include turbidity measurement, fluorescence imaging of 3D droplets, and atomic force microscopy measurements of condensate droplets. Nevertheless, many molecular compartments are semi-membrane-bound with one side attached to the plasma membrane and the other side exposed to the cytoplasm and/or attached to the cytoskeleton; therefore, reconstitution in 3D solution cannot fully recapture their physiological configuration. Here, we utilize a postsynaptic density minimal system to demonstrate that biochemical reconstitution can be applied on supported lipid bilayer (SLB); we have also incorporated actin cytoskeleton into the reconstitution system to mimic the molecular organization in postsynaptic termini. The same system could be adapted to study other membrane-proximal, cytoskeleton-supported condensations.

0 Q&A 344 Views Apr 5, 2023

The developing cerebral cortex of mammals is generated from nascent pyramidal neurons, which radially migrate from their birthplace in the ventral part of the neural tube to the cortical surface. Subtle aberrations in this process may cause significant changes in cortical structure and lead to developmental neurological disorders. During pyramidal neuron migration, we recently showed that the migrating neuron, which bypasses its last preceding neuron, is critical for its proper positioning and contributes to cerebral cortex thickness. Studying this process requires an imaging system with single-cell resolution and a prolonged observation window. Therefore, we built a system to maintain an organotypic brain slice on the stage of a Leica SP5 confocal microscope, which facilitated high-resolution imaging over a 12-hour time-lapse observation period of cellular events during neuron migration. Here, we share our protocol along with guidelines for overcoming difficulties during the setup. This protocol facilitates the observation of, but is not limited to, neurodevelopmental and pathological processes occurring during neuron migration.

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