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Methods Enzymol. 2006;414:348-63.

Multiplex analysis of inflammatory signaling pathways using a high-content imaging system.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Astra Zeneca R&D, Lund, Sweden.


This chapter describes a robust high-content cellular screening assay to simultaneously analyze the spatiotemporal activation of three different kinase-associated signaling pathways involving NF-kappaB, JNK, and p38, all of which are closely implicated in proliferative and proinflammatory responses. Signal transduction is dependent on the translocation of NF-kappaB p65 and phosphorylated c-Jun and p38 from the cytosol to the nucleus, and fluorescent immunolabeling was used to monitor changes in their cellular distribution. Cellular screening, data acquisition, and data interpretation were conducted on the ArrayScan HCS Reader (Cellomics Inc., Pittsburgh, PA). Assay adaptation to various cellular systems is feasible when sufficient separation of the nuclear and cytosolic compartment can be achieved and if cell adhesion properties permit proper attachment to the culture plates. Substitution of NF-kappaB p65 and phosphorylated forms of c-Jun and p38 as targets to analyze other translocating components is possible and is limited primarily by antibody specificity and the risk of fluorescent bleed-through between emission channels. Because assay validity is particularly confounded by inadequate spectral separation of the detection dyes in multicolor labeling assays, means of eliminating or counterbalancing staining artifacts are illustrated. Also, protocol parameter settings important for imaging and image processing are described, including object identification, image exposure settings, separation of cytosolic and nuclear regions, number of cells sufficient for analysis, and the use of gating thresholds critical for cell sorting and subpopulation analysis. This assay is a useful tool to investigate the interplay between signaling pathways and the mode of action, potency, and selectivity of compound inhibition of specific target molecules in a cellular context.

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