Live Cell DNA Labeling and Multiphoton/Confocal Microscopy
Techniques for the discrimination and location of DNA, chromatin architecture, chromosomes, nuclear superstructures, and cell nuclei in their various forms through the cell cycle are of increasing interest in the biosciences and the generation of automated screening systems. The appropriate selection of a DNA-labeling dye may also be important for tracking events in microscale devices (e.g., lab on a chip). Here the critical issue is the transmittance advantage of longer wavelengths using external laser excitation or an incorporated source (e.g., a red laser diode within an optical biochip).
Advanced microscopy methods such as multiphoton excitation laser scanning (MPLSM) are now becoming more generally accessible, as they provide significant advantages in live cell studies. Although it is apparent that MPLSM technology will evolve, providing more convenient and adaptable systems, the principles discussed here will still apply. Currently, MPLSM instrumentation usually consists of a tuneable femtosecond pulsed infrared (IR) laser attached to a scanning microscope with IR-compatible optics to ensure efficient transfer of long wavelength light (690-1000nm). Such a laser configuration provides virtually simultaneous delivery of two photons to a focal point of the microscope objective lens, achieving volume limited excitation by two or more photons of any fluorophor molecule with appropriate absorption characteristics. The advantages of this approach compared to confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) are numerous. Because photons are only emitted from the "in focus" plane, all the photons can be collected via a nondescanning route, including those photons scattered by the sample and usually rejected at the confocal aperture. This provides a massively improved efficiency of emission light collection, an important consideration in photon-limited systems (White and Errington, 2002). Importantly, infrared light penetrates biological material further than shorter wavelengths and the potential damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV)-visible wavelengths are avoided. Reviews of the subject and information on two-photon fluorescence excitation cross sections are available (e.g., Denk et al., 1995; Williams et al., 2001; Albota et al., 1998). However, a pragmatic outcome of the combined advantages of MPLSM is a resurgence of the use of W-excited fluorescent probes, although these have pitfalls for use with GFP-based fluorophors (see later). Two-photon fluorescence absorption and emission spectra have been obtained for DNA probes relevant for live cell work. The technique of multi-photon excitation of a fluorophore, using a pulsed laser light source, provides solutions to several problems associated with continuous wave excitation via single photon absorption. Typically for multi-photon excitation the sample is illuminated with light of a wavelength which is approximately twice (or three times) the wavelenghth of the absorption peak of the fluorophore in use (Errington et al., 2005) (Bestvater et al., 2002; Smith et al., 2000; van Zandvoort et al., 2002) and a selection is shown in Table I.
DNA offers a highly attractive substrate for chemical and biophysical probe interactions and there are excellent references for the chemical descriptions and cytometric applications of a wide range of DNA dyes (Darzynkiewicz et al., 1990; Latt and Langlois, 1990; Waggoner, 1990). The forms of interaction range from covalent binding, inter- and intrastrand cross-linking, adduct formation, to ternary complex formation with DNA-binding proteins. Additionally, major or minor groove residence are potentially stabilized through hydrogen bonding and van der Waals forces, phosphate group interactions, and various levels of intercalation between the base pairs. A restricted number of agents are now available for DNA labeling in live cell systems and MPLSM. The most frequently used are UV-excitable fluorochromes such as the bisbenzimidazole dyes Hoechst 33258 and Hoechst 33342, and the agent DAPI (4', 6-diamidino-2-phenylindole). Cellpermeant, acridine orange displays metachromatic staining of nucleic acids that precludes its convenient use as an exclusively DNA-discriminating probe. The introduction of cell-permeant cyanine SYTO nucleic acid stains (Frey, 1995; Frey et al., 1995) has provided many different reagents with a wide range of spectral characteristics. These agents passively diffuse through the membrane of most cells and can be excited by UV or visible light but stain RNA and DNA in both live and dead eukaryotic cells. Such dyes would be accessible to two-photon excitation (Table I). Their extremely low intrinsic fluorescence, with quantum yields typically less than 0.01 unbound (>0.4 when bound to nucleic acids), reduces the need to remove extracellular dye prior to imaging. It has been stressed that the highly versatile SYTO dyes do not act exclusively as nuclear stains in live cells and that they should not be equated in this regard with compounds such as DAPI or the Hoechst 33258 and Hoechst 33342 dyes.
At the other end of the fluorescence spectrum, DRAQ5, a DNA-binding anthraquinone derivative, can provide sufficient discrimination of cellular DNA content in multiparameter fluorescence studies. Anthraquinones are a group of synthetic DNAintercalating agents (Lown et al., 1985) but are only weakly fluorescence (Bell, 1988). DRAQ5 is a modified anthraquinone with enhanced DNA affinity and intracellular selectivity for nuclear DNA (Smith et al., 1999, 2000). DRAQ5 appears to achieve its live cell nuclear discrimination by its high affinity for DNA. Excitation at the 647-nm wavelength, close to the Exλmax, produces a fluorescence spectrum extending from 665-nm out to beyond 780-nm wavelengths. Thus the emission spectrum is beyond that of fluorescein, phycoeryrthrin, Texas Red, Cy 3, and, perhaps most importantly, EGFP. (Waggoner, 1990) DRAQ5 enters cells and nuclei rapidly, the broad excitation spectrum of DRAQ5 means that flow cytometric applications can utilize excitation wavelengths down to 488nm (Smith et al., 2000); two-photon excitation is also permissible at wavelengths >1047nm. The two-photon dark excitation region of DRAQ5 (720-860nm) permits detection of low-intensity intracellular fluorescence of other probes by MPLSM and then definition of nuclear location by CLSM. This article provides simple procedures for two DNA-specific probes for living cells and their use in MPLSM studies. These dyes sit at either end of the excitation spectrum, Hoechst 33342 (UV excitable) and DRAQ5 (far red excitable), and therefore offer maximum flexibility in multiprobe analyses.
II. MATERIALS AND INSTRUMENTATION
DRAQ5 (molecular weight 412.54) dye is supplied as an aqueous stock solution of 5mM (Biostatus Ltd) and can be diluted in aqueous buffers or added directly to full culture medium. DRAQ5 is stable at room temperature as a stock solution but can be stored routinely at 4°C although freezing of the stock solution should be avoided. 33342 Hoechst (H-3570; termed here Hoechst 33342) has a molecular weight of 615.99 in the trihydrochloride/trihydrate form and is supplied by Molecular Probes Inc. as a 10-mg/ml stock solution in water in a light-excluding container. It is routinely stored at 4°C without freezing. With both DNA dyes, appropriate safety information is available from the suppliers. Because both agents have the potential to damage DNA, they should be considered both cytotoxic and potentially mutagenic. Currently available information indicates that although they are not listed as carcinogens by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the dyes should be treated as such. Mitotracker Orange CMTMRos (M7510) is supplied by Molecular Probes in 20 × 50-µg aliquots, stored at-20°C Before use a stock solution is made by the addition of 50 gl dry dimethyl sulfoticle, which can be subsequently frozen; however, repeated freeze-thawing is not recommended. Zinquin ethyl ester [Zinquin E, [2-methyl-8- (4-methylphenylsulfonylamino) quinolinyl] oxyacetic acid ethyl ester] (Alexis Corporation, Nottingham, UK) is stored as a 5 mM stock solution in ethanol at 4°C The HEPES buffer (1M) (Sigma; H-0887) filter-sterilized solution is stored at 4°C Stock preparations of 8% paraformaldehyde (Sigma; P 6148) are made up in phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) lacking calcium and magnesium and are kept in aliquots of 20ml at -20°C All live cell work is conducted with cells seeded onto Nunc Lab-tek (#1 coverglass) chambered wells, appropriate for high-resolution imaging and recommended when handling cytotoxic agents.
The flow cytometry system is a FACS Vantage cell sorter (Becton Dickinson Inc., Cowley, UK) incorporating two lasers: (1) a Coherent Enterprise II laser simultaneously emitting at multiline UV (350- to 360- nm range) and 488-nm wavelengths and (2) a Spectra Physics 127-35 helium-neon laser (maximum 35-mW output) emitting at 633 nm with a temporal separation of about 25g from that of the primary 488-nm beam for the UV or red lines. Light scatter signals are collected as standard. The analysis optics are (i) primary beam-originating signals analyzed at FL3 (barrier filter of LP715nm) after reflection at a SP610 dichroic and (ii) delayed beam-originating signals analyzed at FL4 (barrier filter of LP695nm for DRAQ5 emission or DF660/20nm for Hoechst 33342 emission) or at FL5 (barrier filter of DF424/44 nm for Hoechst 33342 emission). Forward and 90° light scatter are analyzed to exclude any cell debris. Optical filters are originally sourced from Becton Dickinson Inc. or Melles Griot Inc.). All parameters are analyzed using CellQuest software (Becton Dickinson Inc.).
Multiphoton excitation at wavelengths between 720 and 980 nm uses a laser-scanning microscope comprising a 1024 MP scanning unit controlled by LaserSharp software (Bio-Rad Cell Science Division) attached to a Zeiss Axiovert 135 (Carl Zeiss Ltd.). MPLSM mode is achieved with a Verdi- Mira excitation source (Coherent UK Ltd.). The Mira Optima 900-F (Coherent UK Ltd.) is a simple, stable titanium:sapphire, KLM mode-locking system with X-wave optics, a broadband, single optics set tuning 700-1000nm, and a purged enclosure. The continuous wave diode pump laser (Verdi) operates at 5 W at 532nm. CLSM mode is achieved using the same scanning unit and 488-, 568-, and 647-nm lines of a krypton-argon laser. All images are collected with either a ×63, 1.4 NA oil immersion lens or a ×40 1.3 NA oil immersion lens. Typically, each optical slice consists of 512 × 512 (x,y resolution = 0.35gm, z resolution is approximately 1 µm). Multiphoton excitation at 1047nm uses a similar BioRad 1024MP system incorporating an all solid-state excitation source Nd:YLF laser (Coherent UK Ltd.) and mode-locked femtosecond pulsed laser providing twophoton excitation of DRAQ5 at a 1047-nm wavelength at 15 mW with detection of fluorescence in the far red.
A. General Considerations
Hoechst 33342 is more lipophilic than Hoechst 33258 and is the form recommended for live cell studies showing high affinity for A-T base pairs through noncovalent binding in the minor groove of DNA. The ligand shows fluorescence enhancement upon binding. DRAQ5 is weakly fluorescent but has high DNA affinity and intracellular selectivity for nuclear DNA due to increased AT base pair preference but with no apparent fluorescence enhancement upon binding. When considering live cell labeling, the performance status of the cell is the most critical issue for achieving optimal staining. There is a subtle shift in the violet to red bias in the emission spectrum of Hoechst 33342 upon DNA binding. A small (approximately 10 nm) red shift in peak wavelength also occurs upon DRAQ5 binding. Nuclear staining is straightforward and most cultured cells label well in full culture medium (containing 10% fetal calf serum) supplemented with 10mM HEPES, reaching equilibrium over some 5-60min for concentrations in the 1-20µM range. Staining in phosphate buffers is less efficient. Staining rate is enhanced at 37°C. The following procedures are for generic uses of the dyes.
B. Two-Photon Excitation of Hoechst 33342
C. Two-Photon Coexcitation of Different Fluorophors
D. Hoechst 33342 Staining Kinetics and Population Spectral Shift Analysis
E. Two-Photon Excitation of Hoechst 33342 and Spectral Shift Analysis
F. One-Photon Excitation of DRAQ5 for Live and Persistence in Fixed Cells
G. DRAQ5 Staining Kinetics and DNA Content Analysis
H. Discrimination of the Intracellular Location of Two-Photon Excited Fluorophors using DRAQ5
This work was funded by Research Councils (GR/s23483), BBSRC (75/E19292), AICR (00-292) and SBRI (19666).
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