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J Vis Exp. 2014 Oct 30;(92):e52029. doi: 10.3791/52029.

Characterizing the composition of molecular motors on moving axonal cargo using "cargo mapping" analysis.

Author information

1
Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, Dorris Neuroscience Center, The Scripps Research Institute.
2
Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California San Diego; Department of Bioengineering, University of California San Diego.
3
Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California San Diego; Department of Neurosciences, University of California San Diego School of Medicine.
4
Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine, Dorris Neuroscience Center, The Scripps Research Institute; encalada@scripps.edu.

Abstract

Understanding the mechanisms by which molecular motors coordinate their activities to transport vesicular cargoes within neurons requires the quantitative analysis of motor/cargo associations at the single vesicle level. The goal of this protocol is to use quantitative fluorescence microscopy to correlate ("map") the position and directionality of movement of live cargo to the composition and relative amounts of motors associated with the same cargo. "Cargo mapping" consists of live imaging of fluorescently labeled cargoes moving in axons cultured on microfluidic devices, followed by chemical fixation during recording of live movement, and subsequent immunofluorescence (IF) staining of the exact same axonal regions with antibodies against motors. Colocalization between cargoes and their associated motors is assessed by assigning sub-pixel position coordinates to motor and cargo channels, by fitting Gaussian functions to the diffraction-limited point spread functions representing individual fluorescent point sources. Fixed cargo and motor images are subsequently superimposed to plots of cargo movement, to "map" them to their tracked trajectories. The strength of this protocol is the combination of live and IF data to record both the transport of vesicular cargoes in live cells and to determine the motors associated to these exact same vesicles. This technique overcomes previous challenges that use biochemical methods to determine the average motor composition of purified heterogeneous bulk vesicle populations, as these methods do not reveal compositions on single moving cargoes. Furthermore, this protocol can be adapted for the analysis of other transport and/or trafficking pathways in other cell types to correlate the movement of individual intracellular structures with their protein composition. Limitations of this protocol are the relatively low throughput due to low transfection efficiencies of cultured primary neurons and a limited field of view available for high-resolution imaging. Future applications could include methods to increase the number of neurons expressing fluorescently labeled cargoes.

PMID:
25406537
PMCID:
PMC4353387
DOI:
10.3791/52029
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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