ResearchPad - General Chemical Engineering Default RSS Feed en-us © 2020 Newgen KnowledgeWorks <![CDATA[Quantification of Site-specific Protein Lysine Acetylation and Succinylation Stoichiometry Using Data-independent Acquisition Mass Spectrometry]]>

Post-translational modification (PTM) of protein lysine residues by NƐ-acylation induces structural changes that can dynamically regulate protein functions, for example, by changing enzymatic activity or by mediating interactions. Precise quantification of site-specific protein acylation occupancy, or stoichiometry, is essential for understanding the functional consequences of both global low-level stoichiometry and individual high-level acylation stoichiometry of specific lysine residues. Other groups have reported measurement of lysine acetylation stoichiometry by comparing the ratio of peptide precursor isotopes from endogenous, natural abundance acylation and exogenous, heavy isotope-labeled acylation introduced after quantitative chemical acetylation of proteins using stable isotope-labeled acetic anhydride. This protocol describes an optimized approach featuring several improvements, including: (1) increased chemical acylation efficiency, (2) the ability to measure protein succinylation in addition to acetylation, and (3) improved quantitative accuracy due to reduced interferences using fragment ion quantification from data-independent acquisitions (DIA) instead of precursor ion signal from data-dependent acquisition (DDA). The use of extracted peak areas from fragment ions for quantification also uniquely enables differentiation of site-level acylation stoichiometry from proteolytic peptides containing more than one lysine residue, which is not possible using precursor ion signals for quantification. Data visualization in Skyline, an open source quantitative proteomics environment, allows for convenient data inspection and review. Together, this workflow offers unbiased, precise, and accurate quantification of site-specific lysine acetylation and succinylation occupancy of an entire proteome, which may reveal and prioritize biologically relevant acylation sites.

<![CDATA[In Vivo Imaging of Muscle-tendon Morphogenesis in Drosophila Pupae]]>

Muscles together with tendons and the skeleton enable animals including humans to move their body parts. Muscle morphogenesis is highly conserved from animals to humans. Therefore, the powerful Drosophila model system can be used to study concepts of muscle-tendon development that can also be applied to human muscle biology. Here, we describe in detail how morphogenesis of the adult muscle-tendon system can be easily imaged in living, developing Drosophila pupae. Hence, the method allows investigating proteins, cells and tissues in their physiological environment. In addition to a step-by-step protocol with helpful tips, we provide a comprehensive overview of fluorescently tagged marker proteins that are suitable for studying the muscle-tendon system. To highlight the versatile applications of the protocol, we show example movies ranging from visualization of long-term morphogenetic events – occurring on the time scale of hours and days – to visualization of short-term dynamic processes like muscle twitching occurring on time scale of seconds. Taken together, this protocol should enable the reader to design and perform live-imaging experiments for investigating muscle-tendon morphogenesis in the intact organism.

<![CDATA[Simple Generation of a High Yield Culture of Induced Neurons from Human Adult Skin Fibroblasts]]>

Induced neurons (iNs), the product of somatic cells directly converted to neurons, are a way to obtain patient-derived neurons from tissue that is easily accessible. Through this route, mature neurons can be obtained in a matter of a few weeks. Here, we describe a straightforward and rapid one-step protocol to obtain iNs from dermal fibroblasts obtained through biopsy samples from adult human donors. We explain each step of the process, including the maintenance of the dermal fibroblasts, the freezing procedure to build a stock of the cell line, seeding of the cells for reprogramming, as well as the culture conditions during the conversion process. In addition, we describe the preparation of glass coverslips for electrophysiological recordings, long-term coating conditions, and fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS). We also illustrate examples of the results to be expected. The protocol described here is easy to perform and can be applied to human fibroblasts derived from human skin biopsies from patients with various different diagnoses and ages. This protocol generates a sufficient amount of iNs which can be used for a wide array of biomedical applications, including disease modeling, drug screening, and target validation.

<![CDATA[Bioprinting of Cartilage and Skin Tissue Analogs Utilizing a Novel Passive Mixing Unit Technique for Bioink Precellularization]]>

Bioprinting is a powerful technique for the rapid and reproducible fabrication of constructs for tissue engineering applications. In this study, both cartilage and skin analogs were fabricated after bioink pre-cellularization utilizing a novel passive mixing unit technique. This technique was developed with the aim to simplify the steps involved in the mixing of a cell suspension into a highly viscous bioink. The resolution of filaments deposited through bioprinting necessitates the assurance of uniformity in cell distribution prior to printing to avoid the deposition of regions without cells or retention of large cell clumps that can clog the needle. We demonstrate the ability to rapidly blend a cell suspension with a bioink prior to bioprinting of both cartilage and skin analogs. Both tissue analogs could be cultured for up to 4 weeks. Histological analysis demonstrated both cell viability and deposition of tissue specific extracellular matrix (ECM) markers such as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) and collagen I respectively.

<![CDATA[Hybrid Perovskites: Prospects for Concentrator Solar Cells]]>


Perovskite solar cells have shown a meteoric rise of power conversion efficiency and a steady pace of improvements in their stability of operation. Such rapid progress has triggered research into approaches that can boost efficiencies beyond the Shockley–Queisser limit stipulated for a single‐junction cell under normal solar illumination conditions. The tandem solar cell architecture is one concept here that has recently been successfully implemented. However, the approach of solar concentration has not been sufficiently explored so far for perovskite photovoltaics, despite its frequent use in the area of inorganic semiconductor solar cells. Here, the prospects of hybrid perovskites are assessed for use in concentrator solar cells. Solar cell performance parameters are theoretically predicted as a function of solar concentration levels, based on representative assumptions of charge‐carrier recombination and extraction rates in the device. It is demonstrated that perovskite solar cells can fundamentally exhibit appreciably higher energy‐conversion efficiencies under solar concentration, where they are able to exceed the Shockley–Queisser limit and exhibit strongly elevated open‐circuit voltages. It is therefore concluded that sufficient material and device stability under increased illumination levels will be the only significant challenge to perovskite concentrator solar cell applications.

<![CDATA[Break Down in Order To Build Up: Decomposing Small Molecules for Fragment-Based Drug Design with eMolFrag]]>


Constructing high-quality libraries of molecular building blocks is essential for successful fragment-based drug discovery. In this communication, we describe eMolFrag, a new open-source software to decompose organic compounds into nonredundant fragments retaining molecular connectivity information. Given a collection of molecules, eMolFrag generates a set of unique fragments comprising larger moieties, bricks, and smaller linkers connecting bricks. These building blocks can subsequently be used to construct virtual screening libraries for targeted drug discovery. The robustness and computational performance of eMolFrag is assessed against the Directory of Useful Decoys, Enhanced database conducted in serial and parallel modes with up to 16 computing cores. Further, the application of eMolFrag in de novo drug design is illustrated using the adenosine receptor. eMolFrag is implemented in Python, and it is available as stand-alone software and a web server at and

<![CDATA[Contents: (Adv. Sci. 12/2017)]]> ]]> <![CDATA[Experimental and Kinetic Modeling Studies on the Conversion of Sucrose to Levulinic Acid and 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural Using Sulfuric Acid in Water]]>


We here report experimental and kinetic modeling studies on the conversion of sucrose to levulinic acid (LA) and 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) in water using sulfuric acid as the catalyst. Both compounds are versatile building blocks for the synthesis of various biobased (bulk) chemicals. A total of 24 experiments were performed in a temperature window of 80–180 °C, a sulfuric acid concentration between 0.005 and 0.5 M, and an initial sucrose concentration between 0.05 and 0.5 M. Glucose, fructose, and HMF were detected as the intermediate products. The maximum LA yield was 61 mol %, obtained at 160 °C, an initial sucrose concentration of 0.05 M, and an acid concentration of 0.2 M. The maximum HMF yield (22 mol %) was found for an acid concentration of 0.05 M, an initial sucrose concentration of 0.05 M, and a temperature of 140 °C. The experimental data were modeled using a number of possible reaction networks. The best model was obtained when using a first order approach in substrates (except for the reversion of glucose) and agreement between experiment and model was satisfactorily. The implication of the model regarding batch optimization is also discussed.

<![CDATA[pH Responsive and Oxidation Resistant Wet Adhesive based on Reversible Catechol–Boronate Complexation]]> <![CDATA[Local Protein Structure Refinement via Molecular Dynamics Simulations with locPREFMD]]> <![CDATA[Magnetic Tweezers for the Measurement of Twist and Torque]]>

Single-molecule techniques make it possible to investigate the behavior of individual biological molecules in solution in real time. These techniques include so-called force spectroscopy approaches such as atomic force microscopy, optical tweezers, flow stretching, and magnetic tweezers. Amongst these approaches, magnetic tweezers have distinguished themselves by their ability to apply torque while maintaining a constant stretching force. Here, it is illustrated how such a “conventional” magnetic tweezers experimental configuration can, through a straightforward modification of its field configuration to minimize the magnitude of the transverse field, be adapted to measure the degree of twist in a biological molecule. The resulting configuration is termed the freely-orbiting magnetic tweezers. Additionally, it is shown how further modification of the field configuration can yield a transverse field with a magnitude intermediate between that of the “conventional” magnetic tweezers and the freely-orbiting magnetic tweezers, which makes it possible to directly measure the torque stored in a biological molecule. This configuration is termed the magnetic torque tweezers. The accompanying video explains in detail how the conversion of conventional magnetic tweezers into freely-orbiting magnetic tweezers and magnetic torque tweezers can be accomplished, and demonstrates the use of these techniques. These adaptations maintain all the strengths of conventional magnetic tweezers while greatly expanding the versatility of this powerful instrument.

<![CDATA[Prediction of Substrates for Glutathione Transferases by Covalent Docking]]>


Enzymes in the glutathione transferase (GST) superfamily catalyze the conjugation of glutathione (GSH) to electrophilic substrates. As a consequence they are involved in a number of key biological processes, including protection of cells against chemical damage, steroid and prostaglandin biosynthesis, tyrosine catabolism, and cell apoptosis. Although virtual screening has been used widely to discover substrates by docking potential noncovalent ligands into active site clefts of enzymes, docking has been rarely constrained by a covalent bond between the enzyme and ligand. In this study, we investigate the accuracy of docking poses and substrate discovery in the GST superfamily, by docking 6738 potential ligands from the KEGG and MetaCyc compound libraries into 14 representative GST enzymes with known structures and substrates using the PLOP program [JacobsonProteins2004, 55, 35115048827]. For X-ray structures as receptors, one of the top 3 ranked models is within 3 Å all-atom root mean square deviation (RMSD) of the native complex in 11 of the 14 cases; the enrichment LogAUC value is better than random in all cases, and better than 25 in 7 of 11 cases. For comparative models as receptors, near-native ligand–enzyme configurations are often sampled but difficult to rank highly. For models based on templates with the highest sequence identity, the enrichment LogAUC is better than 25 in 5 of 11 cases, not significantly different from the crystal structures. In conclusion, we show that covalent docking can be a useful tool for substrate discovery and point out specific challenges for future method improvement.

<![CDATA[An Unbiased Method To Build Benchmarking Sets for Ligand-Based Virtual Screening and its Application To GPCRs]]>


Benchmarking data sets have become common in recent years for the purpose of virtual screening, though the main focus had been placed on the structure-based virtual screening (SBVS) approaches. Due to the lack of crystal structures, there is great need for unbiased benchmarking sets to evaluate various ligand-based virtual screening (LBVS) methods for important drug targets such as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs). To date these ready-to-apply data sets for LBVS are fairly limited, and the direct usage of benchmarking sets designed for SBVS could bring the biases to the evaluation of LBVS. Herein, we propose an unbiased method to build benchmarking sets for LBVS and validate it on a multitude of GPCRs targets. To be more specific, our methods can (1) ensure chemical diversity of ligands, (2) maintain the physicochemical similarity between ligands and decoys, (3) make the decoys dissimilar in chemical topology to all ligands to avoid false negatives, and (4) maximize spatial random distribution of ligands and decoys. We evaluated the quality of our Unbiased Ligand Set (ULS) and Unbiased Decoy Set (UDS) using three common LBVS approaches, with Leave-One-Out (LOO) Cross-Validation (CV) and a metric of average AUC of the ROC curves. Our method has greatly reduced the “artificial enrichment” and “analogue bias” of a published GPCRs benchmarking set, i.e., GPCR Ligand Library (GLL)/GPCR Decoy Database (GDD). In addition, we addressed an important issue about the ratio of decoys per ligand and found that for a range of 30 to 100 it does not affect the quality of the benchmarking set, so we kept the original ratio of 39 from the GLL/GDD.

<![CDATA[An Orthotopic Mouse Model of Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma]]>

Several types of animal models of human thyroid carcinomas have been established, including subcutaneous xenograft and orthotopic implantation of cancer cells into immunodeficient mice. Subcutaneous xenograft models have been valuable for preclinical screening and evaluation of new therapeutic treatments. There are a number of advantages to using a subcutaneous model; 1) rapid, 2) reproducible, and 3) tumor establishment, growth, and response to therapeutic agents may be monitored by visual inspection. However, substantial evidence has shed light on the short-comings of subcutaneous xenograft models1-3. For instance, medicinal treatments demonstrating curative properties in subcutaneous xenograft models often have no notable impact on the human disease. The microenvironment of the site of xenographic transplantation or injection lies at the heart of this dissimilarity.

Orthotopic tumor xenograft models provide a more biologically relevant context in which to study the disease. The advantages of implanting diseased cells or tissue into their anatomical origin equivalent within a host animal includes a suitable site for tumor-host interactions, development of disease-related metastases and the ability to examine site-specific influence on investigational therapeutic remedies. Therefore, orthotopic xenograft models harbor far more clinical value because they closely reproduce human disease. For these reasons, a number of groups have taken advantage of an orthotopic thyroid cancer model as a research tool4-7.

Here, we describe an approach that establishes an orthotopic model for the study of anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC), which is highly invasive, resists treatment, and is virtually fatal in all diagnosed patients. Cultured ATC cells are prepared as a dissociated cellular suspension in a solution containing a basement membrane matrix. A small volume is slowly injected into the right thyroid gland. Overall appearance and health of the mice are monitored to ensure minimal post-operative complications and to gauge pathological penetrance of the cancer. Mice are sacrificed at 4 weeks, and tissue is collected for histological analysis. Animals may be taken at later time-points to examine more advance progression of the disease. Production of this orthotopic mouse model establishes a platform that accomplishes two objectives: 1) further our understanding of ATC pathology, and 2) screen current and future therapeutic agents for efficacy in combating ATC.

<![CDATA[Development of a Virtual Reality Assessment of Everyday Living Skills]]>

Cognitive impairments affect the majority of patients with schizophrenia and these impairments predict poor long term psychosocial outcomes.  Treatment studies aimed at cognitive impairment in patients with schizophrenia not only require demonstration of improvements on cognitive tests, but also evidence that any cognitive changes lead to clinically meaningful improvements.  Measures of “functional capacity” index the extent to which individuals have the potential to perform skills required for real world functioning.  Current data do not support the recommendation of any single instrument for measurement of functional capacity.  The Virtual Reality Functional Capacity Assessment Tool (VRFCAT) is a novel, interactive gaming based measure of functional capacity that uses a realistic simulated environment to recreate routine activities of daily living. Studies are currently underway to evaluate and establish the VRFCAT’s sensitivity, reliability, validity, and practicality. This new measure of functional capacity is practical, relevant, easy to use, and has several features that improve validity and sensitivity of measurement of function in clinical trials of patients with CNS disorders.

<![CDATA[An Orthotopic Murine Model of Human Prostate Cancer Metastasis]]>

Our laboratory has developed a novel orthotopic implantation model of human prostate cancer (PCa). As PCa death is not due to the primary tumor, but rather the formation of distinct metastasis, the ability to effectively model this progression pre-clinically is of high value. In this model, cells are directly implanted into the ventral lobe of the prostate in Balb/c athymic mice, and allowed to progress for 4-6 weeks. At experiment termination, several distinct endpoints can be measured, such as size and molecular characterization of the primary tumor, the presence and quantification of circulating tumor cells in the blood and bone marrow, and formation of metastasis to the lung. In addition to a variety of endpoints, this model provides a picture of a cells ability to invade and escape the primary organ, enter and survive in the circulatory system, and implant and grow in a secondary site. This model has been used effectively to measure metastatic response to both changes in protein expression as well as to response to small molecule therapeutics, in a short turnaround time.

<![CDATA[Human T Lymphocyte Isolation, Culture and Analysis of Migration In Vitro]]> <![CDATA[Errata]]> ]]> <![CDATA[Multi-target Chromogenic Whole-mount In Situ Hybridization for Comparing Gene Expression Domains in Drosophila Embryos]]>

To analyze gene regulatory networks active during embryonic development and organogenesis it is essential to precisely define how the different genes are expressed in spatial relation to each other in situ. Multi-target chromogenic whole-mount in situ hybridization (MC-WISH) greatly facilitates the instant comparison of gene expression patterns, as it allows distinctive visualization of different mRNA species in contrasting colors in the same sample specimen. This provides the possibility to relate gene expression domains topographically to each other with high accuracy and to define unique and overlapping expression sites. In the presented protocol, we describe a MC-WISH procedure for comparing mRNA expression patterns of different genes in Drosophila embryos. Up to three RNA probes, each specific for another gene and labeled by a different hapten, are simultaneously hybridized to the embryo samples and subsequently detected by alkaline phosphatase-based colorimetric immunohistochemistry. The described procedure is detailed here for Drosophila, but works equally well with zebrafish embryos.

<![CDATA[Optogenetic Perturbation of Neural Activity with Laser Illumination in Semi-intact Drosophila Larvae in Motion]]>

Drosophila larval locomotion is a splendid model system in developmental and physiological neuroscience, by virtue of the genetic accessibility of the underlying neuronal components in the circuits1-6. Application of optogenetics7,8 in the larval neural circuit allows us to manipulate neuronal activity in spatially and temporally patterned ways9-13. Typically, specimens are broadly illuminated with a mercury lamp or LED, so specificity of the target neurons is controlled by binary gene expression systems such as the Gal4-UAS system14,15. In this work, to improve the spatial resolution to "sub-genetic resolution", we locally illuminated a subset of neurons in the ventral nerve cord using lasers implemented in a conventional confocal microscope. While monitoring the motion of the body wall of the semi-intact larvae, we interactively activated or inhibited neural activity with channelrhodopsin16,17 or halorhodopsin18-20, respectively. By spatially and temporally restricted illumination of the neural tissue, we can manipulate the activity of specific neurons in the circuit at a specific phase of behavior. This method is useful for studying the relationship between the activities of a local neural assembly in the ventral nerve cord and the spatiotemporal pattern of motor output.