The Confocal Imaging Facility (CIF) of the NIA IRP has been in operation since October 2004. This facility started with one older model (Zeiss LSM 410) confocal system and has successfully integrated the Zeiss LSM 510 Meta confocal system in 2005 and the state-of-the-art Zeiss 710 confocal system in 2010. In addition, we have updated the Zeiss Axioskop fluorescent microscope to a dual use system: MCID/QImage analysis system and Metamorph/Coolsnap imaging and analysis system. This expansion and upgrading reflects the extensive use of confocal resources by intramural scientists at different levels of expertise, ranging from principal senior investigators through postdoctoral fellows and intramural research trainees. In FY05 there were 15 users from 5 Labs, while by FY2009 the CIF was used by over 60 researchers from 10 Labs, including 45 investigators trained by the CIF staff to be independent users of the confocal microscopes. These trends have continued, and by FY13 approximately 80 different investigators have used the CIF and over 60 were trained by us. In addition to confocal usage, the MCID imaging system was used by 8 other researchers. In addition, we have held scores of consultations with NIA Lab Chiefs, PIs and researchers to assist with their imaging and image analysis. We have helped users integrate imaging into their experimental systems, perform immunofluorescence studies, and troubleshoot problems encountered by investigators in their projects. 

The following imaging techniques have been used or introduced at the CIF: (a) Precise sub-cellular localization and co-localization of proteins; (b) Investigation of intracellular and intranuclear protein trafficking; (c) Implementation of novel methodology to cause DNA damage to live cell DNA at the sub-micron level by continuous UV laser scanning; (d) Time lapse, FRAP and ratio-metric analysis of cellular processes in live cells; (e) Volumetric (3D) reconstruction of intracellular protein distribution using confocal or deconvolution techniques; (f) Volumetric (3D) reconstruction and surface rendering of human pancreatic islets of Langerhans from optical Z-sections. (g) Evaluation of super-resolution microscope platforms as a research tool for introduction into the NIA IRP. The importance of these techniques is emphasized in our recent research. We have followed the intracellular trafficking of several proteins, together with the precise sub-cellular localization and high-resolution co-localization of these proteins in multi-component protein complexes. Thus, in collaboration with the lab of Dr. Weeraratna (NIA and Wistar Institute), these methods have yielded very important characterizations of invasive melanoma cells: (a) defining Wnt5a (a protein that increases melanoma metastasis) interaction with syndecan which is via sugar chains, and was not amenable to immunonoprecipitation analysis, but which were proven to bind using immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy (See publications 2006-2011, also recently submitted);(b) Using primarily immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy, we show that phosphorylation modifications of the tight junction protein claudin-1 cause its translocation to the cytoplasm and nucleus and that the sub-cellular localization of claudin-1 may dictate the metastatic capacity of melanoma cells. Our findings suggest that nuclear versus cytoplasmic expression of claudin-1 may become a valuable marker for diagnosis of malignant melanoma (French et al., Int. J. Med. Sci. 6:93-101, 2009);(c) Trafficking of EGFR-GFP showed endocytosis to late endosomes and lysosomes in cells expressing filamin A (an actin-binding protein), but not in cells that do not express filamin A, suggesting that filamin A contributes to activation and sorting of EGFR, an important member of the receptor tyrosine kinase family, that is implicated in oncogenesis (Fiori et al., Endocrinology 150:2551-60, 2009).

Another important protein complex was discovered in a different system. In research done in collaboration with the lab of Dr. Biragyn (LI), we used in a T cell system a very nice three-color co-localization technique to provide quantitative evidence for the interaction of CD45 (a phosphatase that regulates Lck), Lck (a Src kinase) and GCR (glucocorticoid receptor) in a cell membrane protein complex that is important for the activation of T cells (Baatar et al., Brain Behav. Immunol. 23:1028-37, 2009).

In intranuclear research we have assisted in defining the interactions of RNA binding proteins (Indig et al., 2012, #1 below) with our collaborators at the University of Maryland. In another important intranuclear imaging project done in collaboration with the lab of Dr. Ko (LG), we performed a major imaging analysis at high resolution of chromosome telomeres that resulted in publication of a research paper in the journal Nature (Zalzman et al., 2010, Nature 464:858-63).

CIF staff (Sarah Subaran, B.Sc.) contributed to another high-profile research paper published last year in the journal Nature Structural and Molecular Biology (Lee et al., 2010, Nat Struct Mol Biol 17:732-9). This research, performed in collaboration with the lab of Dr. Gorospe (LCMB), involves imaging RNA binding proteins that form cytoplasmic structures called stress granules (Lee et al., 2012, PNAS 109:5750-5). These structures are defined exclusively by immunofluorescence, underlying the importance of imaging to the mission of the intramural research at the NIA.

 Currently, the CIF is involved in several project with various labs at the NIA: (1) The investigation of Cannabinoid receptor binding in live cells (with Dr. Wainer, LCI and Dr. Bernier, TGB). This investigation utilizes fluorescently tagged ligands in order to follow receptor binding in live cells. This research has recently been published (#2 below), and another manuscript has been recently submitted for publication. (2) The three-dimensional reconstruction of complete human pancreatic islets from histological sections (with Dr. Egan, LCI). This unpublished work reconstructs islets of Langerhans for the first time using multiple Z-stacks of sequentially sectioned pancreas. (3) Protein trafficking in neurons with Dr. Yao, LNS, published recently (see #3 below). (4) Muscle mitochondria function and distribution, part of the CRB/BLSA Sarcopenia project (with Dr. Ferrucci, TGB, and Dr. Hari Shroff, NIBIB), in which we will apply advanced imaging techniques, such as super-resolution microscopy, to investigate mitochondrial function in aging human muscle tissue. An additional advantage of this project is the examination of different super-resolution systems on human tissue samples in order to evaluate the usefulness of this new technique for research done at the NIA (in collaboration with Dr. Hari Shroff, NIBIB).

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
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Paul, Rajib K; Wnorowski, Artur; Gonzalez-Mariscal, Isabel et al. (2014) (R,R')-4'-methoxy-1-naphthylfenoterol targets GPR55-mediated ligand internalization and impairs cancer cell motility. Biochem Pharmacol 87:547-61
Chen, Kuang-Hueih; Dasgupta, Asish; Ding, Jinhui et al. (2014) Role of mitofusin 2 (Mfn2) in controlling cellular proliferation. FASEB J 28:382-94
Krzysik-Walker, Susan M; González-Mariscal, Isabel; Scheibye-Knudsen, Morten et al. (2013) The biarylpyrazole compound AM251 alters mitochondrial physiology via proteolytic degradation of ERR?. Mol Pharmacol 83:157-66
Petralia, Ronald S; Wang, Ya-Xian; Indig, Fred E et al. (2013) Reduction of AP180 and CALM produces defects in synaptic vesicle size and density. Neuromolecular Med 15:49-60
O'Connell, Michael P; Fiori, Jennifer L; Baugher, Katherine M et al. (2009) Wnt5A activates the calpain-mediated cleavage of filamin A. J Invest Dermatol 129:1782-9
Fiori, Jennifer L; Zhu, Tie-Nian; O'Connell, Michael P et al. (2009) Filamin A modulates kinase activation and intracellular trafficking of epidermal growth factor receptors in human melanoma cells. Endocrinology 150:2551-60
Baatar, Dolgor; Olkhanud, Purevdorj B; Wells, Valerie et al. (2009) Tregs utilize beta-galactoside-binding protein to transiently inhibit PI3K/p21ras activity of human CD8+ T cells to block their TCR-mediated ERK activity and proliferation. Brain Behav Immun 23:1028-37
O'Connell, Michael P; Fiori, Jennifer L; Kershner, Emily K et al. (2009) Heparan sulfate proteoglycan modulation of Wnt5A signal transduction in metastatic melanoma cells. J Biol Chem 284:28704-12
French, Amanda D; Fiori, Jennifer L; Camilli, Tura C et al. (2009) PKC and PKA phosphorylation affect the subcellular localization of claudin-1 in melanoma cells. Int J Med Sci 6:93-101
Ghosh, Manik C; Baatar, Dolgor; Collins, Gary et al. (2009) Dexamethasone augments CXCR4-mediated signaling in resting human T cells via the activation of the Src kinase Lck. Blood 113:575-84