Monitor Protein Levels and Phosphorylation with Quantitative Multiplexed Western Blots

Molecular profiling reveals diversity of stress signal transduction cascades in highly penetrant Alzheimer’s disease human skin fibroblasts.

Mendonsa, G., et al. PLoS ONE 4(2): e4655. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004655

Aberrant signal transduction is associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In skin fibroblasts of AD patients, exaggerated signal transduction occurs in response to bradykinin (BK), an inflammatory neuropeptide. BK-induced PKC signaling causes stimulation of tau phosphorylation on serine residues in AD fibroblasts, but not in normal skin fibroblasts. Quantitative Western blotting with multiplex fluorescent detection (Odyssey Imager; LI-COR Biosciences) was used to monitor protein levels and phosphorylation.

To explore the roles of inflammatory and oxidative stress in AD pathology, this study profiled the effects of these stresses on MAPK signaling cascades in human skin fibroblasts of familial AD patients. AD fibroblasts of different genetic origins express presenilin (PS-1 or PS-2) mutated at a variety of sites. These mutations caused diverse responses to stress induced by BK or H2O2, with unique profiles of stress-induced MAPK activation, caspase-3 cleavage, and survival pathway activation. These results indicate that AD research must consider a broad spectrum of inflammatory, oxidative, and other stress factors and intracellular signaling responses.
Reduced ERK activation in PS-1 (M146L) Alzheimer's disease fibroblasts stimulated with bradykinin.

Figure 1. Reduced ERK activation in PS-1 (M146L) Alzheimer’s disease fibroblasts stimulated with bradykinin (BK). These fibroblasts carry a mutation in presenilin-1 associated with aberrant signaling. Mutant and control human skin fibroblasts were treated with 250 nM BK and immunoblotted for active and total ERK. Odyssey Imager was used, and fold activation was quantified. Total ERK is shown in green, and phospho-ERK in red; overlapping signals (active ERK) are shown in yellow. ERK activation was greatly reduced in PS-1 (M146L) AD fibroblasts. Graphs show mean + S.E. *p < 0.05 and **p < 0.005; n = 4. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004655

NEW! COX IV Primary Antibody Offers Normalization for Low-Expressing Proteins

COX IV Rabbit Monoclonal Primary Antibody, PN 926-42214The COX IV primary antibody can be used for detection of COX IV by Western blot, or as a normalization antibody when performing two-color detection. Its target molecular weight is 17 kDa. Detection of this primary antibody can be achieved with IRDye® Goat Anti-Rabbit or IRDye Donkey Anti-Rabbit secondary antibodies. LI-COR® also carries beta-actin, alpha-tubulin, and beta-tubulin primary antibodies for normalization when performing quantitative Western blots or In-Cell Western Assays.

Western Blot Linearity of COX IV vs. Actin in Cell Lysate

Figure 1. Linearity comparison of COX IV rabbit monoclonal primary antibody (P/N 926-42214) to β-Actin rabbit monoclonal (P/N 926-42210). Primary antibodies were compared by Western blot and detected with IRDye 800CW Goat anti-Rabbit (P/N 926-32211). The COX IV antibody can be used as a mitochondrial loading control and a loading control for normalizing low expressing target proteins. This COX IV primary antibody remains linear with increasing concentrations of lysate, making it ideal for normalization.

COX IV Rabbit Monoclonal Antibody Pack Insert

In-Cell Western™ Assay Webinar – Applications Review

In-Cell Western Assays - Fluorescent ImmunoassaysFor those of you that like to watch videos and listen to information, here is a great webinar on In-Cell Western Assays.

In this In-Cell Western webinar, the basics of ICW assays are covered and these applications:

For more information on these plate-based fluorescent immunoassays, go to the In-Cell Western assay application page. There are also several sample protocols and information on how to set up, optimize, and analyze ICW assays.

In-Cell Western™ Assay Application: Response of COS-7 Cells to Hydroxyurea

Application: Detecting phospho-p53 in COS cells in response to Hydroxyurea


Example of In-Cell Western Assay: Effects of Hydroxyurea on phospho-p53 on COS-7 cells

In this In-Cell Western assay application, the response of COS-7 cells to increasing doses of hydroxyurea was measured by a specific antibody (Anti-phospho-p53 from Cell Signaling Technology, P/N 9286) that detects phosphorylated-p53 (Ser16). Total ERK1 was used for normalization. The image represents a 96-well two-color In-Cell Western with the 700 and 800 nm channels detecting phosphorylated-p53 (Ser16) and total ERK1, respectively. Background wells were incubated with secondary antibody but no primary antibody. IRDye® 680RD secondary antibodies were used for detection in the 700nm channel and IRDye 800CW secondary antibodies were usd for detection in the 800nm channel.

Dose response graph of % induction of p53 phosphorylation with hydroxyurea in COS-7 cells

The graph represents the average of four sets of quantitative data, demonstrating the percent induction of phosphorylated-p53 (Ser16). Plate-based assays such as this can be imaged on the Odyssey® CLx or Odyssey Sa Infrared Imaging System.

For more uses of In-Cell Westerns Assays, visit our website.

Cells in Suspension for Quantitative Cell Signaling Analysis using In-Cell Western™ Assays

In-Cell Western Assays - Fluorescent Immunoassays

So I’ve talked about how to ensure that suspension cells attach to plates, when to know you have a monolayer, and why round bottom plates are the best when doing In-Cell Western Assays with suspension cells in the 23-May-12 blog post. On 29-May-12 post, the post discussed how to wash your microplates so that you don’t lose cells plus some troubleshooting tips. I hope you found both of those posts helpful.

Here is the last post in this series on using non-adherent cells for ICW assays. These are a few additional questions you may have about using suspension cells for this powerful immunofluorescent assay.

  1. What suspension cell lines have been tested for use in In-Cell Westerns?
    Suspension cell lines tested include Jurkat, K-562, and THP-1.
  2. What pathways have been tested?
    Pathways tested include ERK activation and apoptosis using cleaved caspase-3 as a marker (Figure 1). A sample protocol can be downloaded here.

Do you have other questions? Super! Please contact us and let us know how we can help you in your research. And stop by this blog again for more technical tips and troubleshooting hints on other applications.

Anisomycin induced Apoptosis in Jurkat Cells

Figure 1. Anisomycin-induced apoptosis in Jurkat cells. The image represents a 96-well two-color In-Cell Western assay with the 700 and 800 nm channels detecting TO-PRO®-3 DNA staining and cleaved caspase-3 (Asp175), respectively. The image was scanned using the Odyssey® Sa Infrared Imaging system with scan setting of 200 μm resolution, focus offset of 3.5, and intensity of 3.5 (700 channel) and 4 (800 channel). Background (B) wells were incubated with a secondary antibody but no primary antibody. The graph represents normalized quantitative data demonstrating the increase in caspase-3 cleavage in response to anisomycin treatment for 3 hours in Jurkat cells.

Additional resources:
In-Cell Western Assays: FAQs when Using Suspension Cells
Complete Sample Protocol for PMA-Induced ERK Activation in Suspension Cell Lines
LI-COR BIO Website

Fast, Cost-Effective Cell-Based Assays for Quantitative Cell Signaling Analysis

In-Cell Western Assay Kits for Quantitative Cell Signaling Analysis
The In-Cell Western™ Assay is an immunocytochemical assay that uses near-infrared fluorescence to detect and quantify proteins in fixed cells. Detecting proteins in their cellular context increases quantification precision. Proteins in fixed, cultured cells are detected directly in microplates, which yields higher throughput compared to Western blotting and eliminates typical Western blotting steps such as cell lysate preparation, electrophoresis, and membrane transfer. Using the In-Cell Western Assay kits, the cost per well for secondary screening is reduced to a fraction of the cost of typical screening methods. Watch an introductory webinar to In-Cell Western Assays.

The CellTag™ 700 Stain ICW Kits provide antibodies, blocking buffer, and CellTag 700 Stain to normalize well-to-well variations in cell number for forty 96-well plates or ten 384-well plates. Using protein stains reduces the cost per assay compared to performing the assay using two secondary antibodies. Any potential interference caused by using two antibodies is also eliminated.
Phospho-ERK Analysis with Sapphire700/DRAQ5 for Normalization

Additional Resources:

Other In-Cell Western Assay Protocols are available on our Technical Resources Library. Visit our In-Cell Western Application Pages for more examples of how researchers have used these immunocytochemical assays.

Updated February 18, 2015.

Now Use the Same Primary Antibody for Immunoprecipitation AND Western Blotting!

Quick Western Kit - IRDye 680RD, PN 926-68100

LI-COR® has just rolled out a new way that the recently-released Quick Western Kit – IRDye® 680RD (see Would you like to save at least 90 minutes the next time you do a Western blot?) can be used in your research.

Not only can the Quick Western Kit reduce Western blotting time by 90 min, the kit ALSO serves as a detection solution for post-immunoprecipitation samples by Western blot because it does not bind to denatured mouse monoclonal or rabbit monoclonal antibodies. The key benefit is the ability to use the same antibody for immunoprecipitation and post-immunoprecipitation detection by Western blot. Seriously, how cool is that!!??!!

Using the same primary antibody for IP and Western blotting with the Quick Western Kit

Figure 1. A431 cell lysates were immunoprecipitated overnight with a monoclonal antibody against p53. The resulting immunoprecipitates were separated by SDS-PAGE. Lane 1: Negative IP control; Lane 2: Test sample ; Lane 3: A431 cell lysate positive control. Western blotting was performed using the same p53 monoclonal antibody and incubated with IRDye 680RD Immunoprecipitation Detection Reagent.

Protocol: Detection of post-immunoprecipitation proteins by Western blot using the Quick Western Kit – IRDye 680RD

For more information, visit our website. Here’s the kit pack insert. To order this product (online ordering available in select countries), go to our ecommerce site.

Are You Studying Phosphorylation or Quantitative Cell Signaling Analysis? How About for IC50 Determinations?

In-Cell Western Assays - Fluorescent Immunoassays

In a previous post, I talked about how In-Cell Western™ assays could be used when studying apoptosis. So, you may be asking yourself, for what other applications can quantitative cell signaling analysis be used? GREAT QUESTION!!

Well, In-Cell ELISAs (as these immunofluorescent assays are also called) have been used successfully in studying protein phosphorylation. Whether you are looking at the effects of drug compounds on signaling pathways, or the timing/kinetics of signal transduction, or trying to determine the IC50 of compounds, In-Cell Western assays are a valuable tool.

Here are two examples of data from IC50 and EC50 determination experiments.
Use of labeling for In-Cell Western Assay normalization.
Figure 1. Use of cell labeling for In-Cell Western normalization. A) HeLa cells were treated with increasing amounts of rapamycin in a 384-well format. Fixed cells were stained with phospho-rpS6 antibody and NHS-ester reactive dye (for cell number). Dose dependent inhibition of phospho-rpS6-staining yielded an IC50 of 224 pM (n=4). B) Raw microplate image. For details, see Hoffman, GR et al. Assay Drug Dev Tech 8(2):186-99 (2010).

Dose titration of Wnt3a treatment of mouse L-cells.  An In-Cell Western Assay Application.
Figure 2. Dose titration of Wnt3a treatment of mouse L-cells. Half-maximal activation (EC50) of cellular beta-catenin levels occurs at 33 ng/ml ligand. Hannoush, RN. PLoS One. 3(10):e3498 (2008). Creative Commons license 2.5.

To help you get started in designing your experiment, here is a complete sample protocol for measuring IC50 of the inhibitor PD168393 in A431 cells responding to epidermal growth factor (EGF).

Check here for future blog posts on other applications of quantitative cell signaling analysis!

Seeding Cells in Microplates for In-Cell Western™ Assays – Hints & Tips

In-Cell Western Assays - Fluorescent Immunoassays
One of the first steps in an In-Cell Western Assay experiment is to seed cells into the wells of a tissue culture microplate. Cell density is more important for some cell lines than others. In particular, cells that depend more on extracellular activity for proliferation (such as epithelial cells) are affected to a greater extent by initial growth conditions. There are three factors to consider when seeding cells:

  1. Plates: For most adherent cells that stick to wells tightly (e.g. A431, HeLa, HEK293, CHO), we recommend regular tissue culture microplates with low auto-fluorescence, such as Nunc P/N 167008. For adherent cells that could detach from wells during In-Cell Western assay wash steps (e.g. NIH/3T3), we recommend Poly-D-lysine coated 96-well microplates.
  2. Cell seeding density: Typically, 15,000 to 40,000 cells are seeded per well. Two to three days are usually required for cells to reach the appropriate confluency, depending on growth rate. Seeding with low cell numbers is recommended if you plan to culture for several days before use. Plates seeded with higher cell numbers will be ready to use earlier.
  3. Confluence: To obtain maximal fluorescent signals, complete or near complete confluency is recommended for cells that stick to wells tightly. For cells that adhere loosely to wells, such as NIH3T3, 70% confluency should be used. Please note that cell type and experimental conditions may affect the acceptable level of growth confluency.

The example below illustrates the importance of cell seeding density for A431 cells. As shown in the corresponding graph, cell growth is greatly inhibited when there are too few neighboring cells.

cell seed plate

Graph showing why Seeding Plates for ICW Assays is Important

Use Quantitative Cell Signaling to Study Apoptosis

AGAIN with the quantitative cell signaling! YES! because it is so versatile!! I am sure you will find that this will become a valuable technique to use in your research.

This quantitative immunofluorescent assay – the one that we call an In-Cell Western™ (ICW) Assay – can be used to study a variety of mechanisms. Here is an example of an ICW used to study apoptosis.

As you may already know, there are two major apoptosis signaling pathways: the death receptor (extrinsic) pathway and the mitochondrial (intrinsic) pathway. Under most circumstances, activation of either pathway leads to proteolytic cleavage and activation of caspases, a family of cysteine proteases that act as common death effector molecules. The In-Cell Western Assay is a very helpful research tool for scientists who are quantifying cell signaling.

Time Course of Caspase-3 Activation in SP2 Cells Performed using an In-Cell Western Assay

Figure 1. Time course of caspase-3 activation in S2 cells. (A-C) In-Cell Western analysis of S2 cells treated with Actinomycin D (Act D) to induce apoptosis. Each time point was measured in triplicate and stained for anti-active-caspase-3 (A; green) and f-actin (B; red, stained with near-infrared fluorescent phalloidin). Panel C shows merged pseudocolor images. (D) Active-caspase-3 protein levels from (A) were quantified and normalized to f-actin levels in (B) for each time point. The active caspase-3:f-actin ratio at 0min Actinomycin D exposure was designated as 1, and all other ratios are shown relative to this value. Error bars represent the standard error of each independent measurement. Exposure of S2 cells to Actinomycin D increased the relative levels of active caspase-3 over time. Reprinted with permission from Bond, D.et al. Biol Proced Online. 10(1):20-28(2008).

Here is our complete apoptosis assay example protocol of the HeLa cellular response to anisomycin treatment (detailing the seeding, induction, and detection).