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

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.

Updated February 18, 2015.

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!