Schildknecht, Stefan


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Profiling of Human Neural Crest Chemoattractant Activity as a Replacement of Fetal Bovine Serum for In Vitro Chemotaxis Assays

2021-09-18, Dolde, Xenia, Karreman, Christiaan, Wiechers, Marianne F., Schildknecht, Stefan, Leist, Marcel

Fetal bovine serum (FBS) is the only known stimulus for the migration of human neural crest cells (NCCs). Non-animal chemoattractants are desirable for the optimization of chemotaxis as-says to be incorporated in a test battery for reproductive and developmental toxicity. We con-firmed here in an optimized transwell assay that FBS triggers directed migration along a con-centration gradient. The responsible factor was found to be a protein in the 30-100 kDa size range. In a targeted approach, we tested a large panel of serum constituents known to be chem-otactic for NCCs in animal models (e.g., VEGF, PDGF, FGF, SDF-1/CXCL12, ephrins, endothelin, Wnt, BMPs). None of the corresponding human proteins showed any effect in our chemotaxis assays based on human NCCs. We then examined, whether human cells would produce any fac-tor able to trigger NCC migration in a broad screening approach. We found that HepG2 hepa-toma cells produced chemotaxis-triggering activity (CTA). Using chromatographic methods and by employing the NCC chemotaxis test as bioassay, the responsible protein was enriched by up to 5000-fold. We also explored human serum and platelets as a direct source, independent of any cell culture manipulations. A CTA was enriched from platelet lysates several thousand-fold. Its temperature and protease sensitivity suggested also a protein component. The capacity of this factor to trigger chemotaxis was confirmed by single-cell video-tracking analysis of migrating NCCs. The human CTA characterized here may be employed in the future for the setup of assays testing for the disturbance of directed NCC migration by toxicants.


Synuclein Family Members Prevent Membrane Damage by Counteracting α-Synuclein Aggregation

2021-08, Scheibe, Christian, Karreman, Christiaan, Schildknecht, Stefan, Leist, Marcel, Hauser, Karin

The 140 amino acid protein α-synuclein (αS) is an intrinsically disordered protein (IDP) with various roles and locations in healthy neurons that plays a key role in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Contact with biomembranes can lead to α-helical conformations, but can also act as s seeding event for aggregation and a predominant β-sheet conformation. In PD patients, αS is found to aggregate in various fibrillary structures, and the shift in aggregation and localization is associated with disease progression. Besides full-length αS, several related polypeptides are present in neurons. The role of many αS-related proteins in the aggregation of αS itself is not fully understood Two of these potential aggregation modifiers are the αS splicing variant αS Δexon3 (Δ3) and the paralog β-synuclein (βS). Here, polarized ATR-FTIR spectroscopy was used to study the membrane interaction of these proteins individually and in various combinations. The method allowed a continuous monitoring of both the lipid structure of biomimetic membranes and the aggregation state of αS and related proteins. The use of polarized light also revealed the orientation of secondary structure elements. While αS led to a destruction of the lipid membrane upon membrane-catalyzed aggregation, βS and Δ3 aggregated significantly less, and they did not harm the membrane. Moreover, the latter proteins reduced the membrane damage triggered by αS. There were no major differences in the membrane interaction for the different synuclein variants. In combination, these observations suggest that the formation of particular protein aggregates is the major driving force for αS-driven membrane damage. The misbalance of αS, βS, and Δ3 might therefore play a crucial role in neurodegenerative disease.