In vivo animal models are an important tool for the understanding of human development and disease. Studies using the frog Xenopus have made remarkable contributions to our understanding of fundamental processes such as cell cycle regulation,transcription, translation and many other topics. Xenopus is remarkable for studying development and disease,including birth defects, cancer, and stem cell biology. Because Xenopus are easy to raise, producing many thousands of eggs per day, these frogs have emerged as a premiere model for understanding of human biology from the fundamental building blocks to the whole organism.
The recent development of CRISPR/Cas9 technology has made it easy to target genes of interest using Xenopus. This course has been designed with that in mind. Our goal is for each student to design a set of experiments focusing on their gene or biological interest. Prior to starting the course, students will be expected to choose gene(s) of interest, and the instructors will generate sgRNAs targeting these genes. These can be the students’ own genes, or chosen from a bank provided by the instructors.
During the course, the students will analyze any phenotypes generated from CRISPR/Cas9 based gene depletion while learning the diverse array of techniques available in Xenopus. In previous courses, we have guided students in the ablation of a wide variety of genes and helped them design suitable assays for their biological interests. Most recently, students have targeted autism genes, thyroid genes and immune modulators, several of which have already led to publications. Approaches covered will include microinjection and molecular manipulations such as CRISPR/Cas9 knockouts, antisense morpholino-based depletions, transgenics, and mRNA overexpression. In addition, students can combine these techniques with explant and transplant methods to simplify or test tissue level interactions. Additional methods include mRNA in situ hybridization and protein immunohistochemistry as well as basic bioinformatic techniques for gene comparison and functional analysis. Biochemical approaches such as proteomics and mass spectrometry and biomechanical concepts will also be discussed. Finally, to visualize subcellular and intercellular activities, we will introduce a variety of imaging methods including time-lapse, fluorescent imaging, optical coherence tomography and confocal microscopy. These are facilitated by state-of-the-art equipment from Nikon, Leica, Thorlabs, and Bruker.
Due to the tailored nature of this course, it is suitable for those new to the Xenopus field, as well as for more advanced students who are interested in emerging technologies. Please feel free to contact the instructors for informal guidance.