Cell Biology


Protocols in Current Issue
Protocols in Past Issues
0 Q&A 1349 Views Apr 5, 2022

Macropinocytosis is an evolutionarily conserved process, which is characterized by the formation of membrane ruffles and the uptake of extracellular fluid. We recently demonstrated a role for CYFIP-related Rac1 Interactor (CYRI) proteins in macropinocytosis. High-molecular weight dextran (70kDa or higher) has generally been used as a marker for macropinocytosis because it is too large to fit in smaller endocytic vesicles, such as those of clathrin or caveolin-mediated endocytosis. Through the use of an image-based dextran uptake assay, we showed that cells lacking CYRI proteins internalise less dextran compared to their wild-type counterparts. Here, we will describe a step-by-step experimentation procedure to detect internalised dextran in cultured cells, and an image pipeline to analyse the acquired images, using the open-access software ImageJ/Fiji. This protocol is detailed yet simple and easily adaptable to different treatment conditions, and the analysis can also be automated for improved processing speed.

0 Q&A 3526 Views Mar 5, 2022

The ability to stain lipid stores in vivo allows for the facile assessment of metabolic status in individuals of a population following genetic and environmental manipulation or pharmacological treatment. In the animal model Caenorhabditis elegans, lipids are stored in and mobilized from intracellular lipid droplets in the intestinal and hypodermal tissues. The abundance, size, and distribution of these lipids can be readily assessed by two staining methods for neutral lipids: Oil Red O (ORO) and Nile Red (NR). ORO and NR can be used to quantitatively measure lipid droplet abundance, while ORO can also define tissue distribution and lipid droplet size. C. elegans are a useful animal model in studying pathways relating to aging, fat storage, and metabolism, as their transparent nature allows for easy microscopic assessment of lipid droplets. This is done by fixation and permeabilization, staining with NR or ORO, image capture on a microscope, and computational identification and quantification of lipid droplets in individuals within a cohort. To ensure reproducibility in lipid measurements, we provide a detailed protocol to measure intracellular lipid dynamics in C. elegans.


Graphic abstract:



Flow chart depicting the preparation of C. elegans for fat staining protocols.


0 Q&A 2090 Views Feb 20, 2022
Three-dimensional (3D) cell culture models are widely used in tumor studies to more accurately reflect cell-cell interactions and tumor growth conditions in vivo. 3D anchorage-independent spheroids derived by culturing cells in ultra-low attachment (ULA) conditions is particularly relevant to ovarian cancer, as such cell clusters are often observed in malignant ascites of late-stage ovarian cancer patients. We and others have found that cells derived from anchorage-independent spheroids vary widely in gene expression profiles, proliferative state, and metabolism compared to cells maintained under attached culture conditions. This includes changes in mitochondrial function, which is most commonly assessed in cultured live cells by measuring oxygen consumption in extracellular flux assays. To measure mitochondrial function in anchorage-independent multicellular aggregates, we have adapted the Agilent Seahorse extracellular flux assay to optimize measurements of oxygen consumption and extracellular acidification of ovarian cancer cell spheroids generated by culture in ULA plates. This protocol includes: (i) Methods for culturing tumor cells as uniform anchorage-independent spheroids; (ii) Optimization for the transfer of spheroids to the Agilent Seahorse cell culture plates; (iii) Adaptations of the mitochondrial and glycolysis stress tests for spheroid extracellular flux analysis; and (iv) Suggestions for optimization of cell numbers, spheroid size, and normalization of oxygen consumption rate (OCR) and extracellular acidification rate (ECAR) values. Using this method, we have found that ovarian cancer cells cultured as anchorage-independent spheroids display altered mitochondrial function compared to monolayer cultures attached to plastic dishes. This method allows for the assessment of mitochondrial function in a more relevant patho/physiological culture condition and can be adapted to evaluate mitochondrial function of various cell types that are able to aggregate into multicellular clusters in anchorage-independence.

Graphic abstract:



Workflow of the Extracellular Flux Assay to Measure Respiration of Anchorage-independent Tumor Cell Spheroids.

0 Q&A 1694 Views Dec 20, 2021

Reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species (RONS) are involved in programmed cell death in the context of numerous degenerative and chronic diseases. In particular, the ability of cells to maintain redox homeostasis is necessary for an adaptive cellular response to adverse conditions that can cause damage to proteins and DNA, resulting in apoptosis and genetic mutations. Here, we focus on the 2',7'-dichlorodihydrofluorescein diacetate (DCFH2-DA) assay to detect RONS. Although this fluorescence-based assay is widely utilized due to its high sensitivity to detect changes in cellular redox status that allow measuring alterations in RONS over time, its validity has been a matter of controversy. If correctly carried out, its limitations are understood and results are correctly interpreted, the DCFH2-DA assay is a valuable tool for cell-based studies.


0 Q&A 2735 Views Oct 5, 2021

Once thought to be a mere consequence of the state of a cell, intermediary metabolism is now recognized as a key regulator of mammalian cell fate and function. In addition, cell metabolism is often disturbed in malignancies such as cancer, and targeting metabolic pathways can provide new therapeutic options. Cell metabolism is mostly studied in cell cultures in vitro, using techniques such as metabolomics, stable isotope tracing, and biochemical assays. Increasing evidence however shows that the metabolic profile of cells is highly dependent on the microenvironment, and metabolic vulnerabilities identified in vitro do not always translate to in vivo settings. Here, we provide a detailed protocol on how to perform in vivo stable isotope tracing in leukemia cells in mice, focusing on glutamine metabolism in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells. This method allows studying the metabolic profile of leukemia cells in their native bone marrow niche.

0 Q&A 3032 Views Jul 5, 2021

The endothelial cells from the microvasculature are key drivers and targets of inflammatory and thrombotic processes in microvascular diseases. The study of bioactive lipids in inflammatory processes has been largely based on two-dimensional endothelial cell cultures. Three-dimensional microvessels-on-a-chip provides an opportunity to monitor the inflammatory phenotype of human microvessels in a more physiological-relevant environment. This protocol describes the culture of endothelial cells as three-dimensional microvessels in the OrganoPlate. The microvessels are treated with tumor necrosis factor alpha to induce inflammation. The collection of samples from the microvessels is optimized for measuring bioactive lipids with liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, providing a more informative metabolic readout as compared with functional assays.

1 Q&A 4329 Views Mar 20, 2021

The activation of the Takeda G-protein receptor 5 (TGR5, also known as the G protein-coupled bile acid receptor 1, GPBAR1) in enteroendocrine L-cells results in secretion of the anti-diabetic hormone Glucagon-Like Peptide 1 (GLP-1) into systemic circulation. Consequently, recent research has focused on identification and development of TGR5 agonists as type 2 diabetes therapeutics. However, the clinical application of TGR5 agonists has been hampered by side effects of these compounds that primarily result from their absorption into circulation. Here we describe an in vitro screening protocol to evaluate the TGR5 agonism, GLP-1 secretion, and gut-restricted properties of small molecules. The protocol involves differentiating gut epithelial and endocrine cells together in transwells to assess both the pharmacodynamics of TGR5 agonists and the toxicity of compounds to the intestinal monolayer. As a proof of concept, we demonstrate the use of the protocol in evaluating properties of naturally occurring bile acid metabolites that are potent TGR5 agonists. This protocol is adapted from Chaudhari et al. (2021).

2 Q&A 5066 Views Mar 5, 2021

The high attrition rate in drug development processes calls for additional human-based model systems. However, in the context of brain disorders, sampling live neuronal cells for compound testing is not applicable. The use of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) has revolutionized the field of neuronal disease modeling and drug discovery. Thanks to the development of iPSC-based neuronal differentiation protocols, including tridimensional cerebral organoids, it is now possible to molecularly dissect human neuronal development and human brain disease pathogenesis in a dish. These approaches may allow dissecting patient-specific treatment efficacy in a disease-relevant cellular context. For drug discovery approaches, however, a highly reproducible and cost-effective cell model is desirable. Here, we describe a step-by-step process for generating robust and expandable neural progenitor cells (NPCs) from human iPSCs. NPCs generated with this protocol are homogeneous and highly proliferative. These features make NPCs suitable for the development of high-throughput compound screenings for drug discovery. Human iPSC-derived NPCs show a metabolism dependent on mitochondrial activity and can therefore be used also to investigate neurological disorders in which mitochondrial function is affected. The protocol covers all steps necessary for the preparation, culture, and characterization of human iPSC-derived NPCs.


Graphic abstract:



Schematic of the protocol for the generation of human iPSC-derived NPCs


0 Q&A 3536 Views Feb 20, 2021

Sphingolipids are major structural components of endomembranes and have also been described as an intracellular second messenger involved in various biological functions in all eukaryotes and a few prokaryotes. Ceramides (Cer), the central molecules of sphingolipids, have been depicted in cell growth arrest, cell differentiation, and apoptosis. With the development of lipidomics, the identification of ceramides has been analyzed in many species, mostly in model insects. However, there is still a lack of research in non-model organisms. Here we describe a relatively simple and sensitive method for the extraction, identification, and quantification of ceramides in Hemiptera Insects (brown planthooper), followed by Ultra-Performance Liquid Chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS). C18 is used as the separation column for quantitative detection and analysis on the triple quadruple liquid mass spectrometer. In this protocol, the standard curve method is adopted to confirm the more accurate quantification of ceramides based on the optional detection conditions.

0 Q&A 3490 Views Sep 20, 2020
As one of the main energy metabolism organs, kidney has been proved to have high energy requirements and are more inclined to fatty acid metabolism as the main energy source. Long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenases (LCAD) and beta-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase (beta-HAD), key enzymes involved in fatty acid oxidation, has been identified as the substrate of acetyltransferase GCN5L1 and deacetylase Sirt3. Acetylation levels of LCAD and beta-HAD regulate its enzymes activity and thus affect fatty acid oxidation rate. Moreover, immunoprecipitation is a key assay for the detection of LCAD and beta-HAD acetylation levels. Here we describe a protocol of immunoprecipitation of acetyl-lysine and western blotting of LCAD and beta-HAD in palmitic acid treated HK-2 cells (human renal tubular epithelial cells). The scheme provides the readers with clear steps so that this method could be applied to detect the acetylation level of various proteins.



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