Cellular and Molecular Biology Core

Director: Nada Abumrad, PhD

Contact: Terri Pietka
Phone: 314-362-8459
Email: tpietka@wustl.edu


The Cellular and Molecular Biology Core (CMBC) occupies 1747 square feet of space on the 2nd floor of the West Building within the main NORC and the Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Sciences main space and can be reached by most NORC members by a short 5 to 10 minute walk through adjoining hallways and a 2nd floor pedestrian link that connects major research buildings.

The Cellular and Molecular Biology Core’s purpose is to stimulate and support leading-edge nutrition/obesity research that requires detailed tissue and cellular analyses. The strong expertise of the core directors in cellular metabolism, cell biology and molecular nutrition, the technical experience of the staff, and the array of well-maintained specialized equipment provide NORC investigators with the ability to study mechanisms in cell and tissue systems and enhance both basic and clinical research activities.

The specific aims of the Cellular and Molecular Biology Core (CMBC) are to:

  • Assist investigators in the conduct of specialized metabolic studies essential for evaluating cellular energy regulation. These studies require expertise that is not available in any other Core facilities at Washington University and include:
    • Evaluation of adipose tissue morphology (cell size, macrophage infiltration and fibrosis),
    • Functional assays of cellular transport, utilization and storage of substrate (fatty acids and glucose), lipolysis and autophagy,
    • Cell respiration and mitochondrial function, and
    • Cell/organelle imaging to visualize substrate metabolism.
  • Provide NORC investigators with access to and training in the use of specialized equipment needed for metabolic research that is too costly for individual investigators and that is not easily available elsewhere in the institution. This equipment is maintained and kept up to date by the CMBC for investigators or technical staff adequately trained in its use. Access to this equipment is particularly important for young investigators seeking to collect data for submitting research funding applications and for clinical investigators seeking to conduct molecular research to complement in vivo research.
  • Provide expert consultation and training services in order to help clinical investigators unfamiliar with basic research, young investigators seeking to establish research programs in molecular nutrition and established investigators new to nutritional research, in determining the most appropriate experimental approaches and CMBC services needed for gaining more comprehensive answers to their nutrition/metabolism related research questions. The CMBC also provides practical training including one-on-one hands-on instructions, written standard procedures, and help in troubleshooting technical issues.
  • Partner with other core facilities at Washington University to foster research related to nutrition and its impact on obesity and associated metabolic pathology. The Cellular and Molecular Biology Core works closely with the Animal Model Research Core (AMRC) and the Clinical Science Research Core (CSRC) in conducting its activities. The CMBC also interacts frequently with other cores at the School of Medicine, including the Immunoassay Core managed by the Diabetes Research Center (DRC) and the Advanced Imaging and Tissue Analysis Core (AITAC) managed by the Digestive Diseases Research Core Center (DDRCC) to ensure the most efficient ways to assist NORC investigators and enhance their research.


The major equipment items available through the Cellular and Molecular Biology Core are:

  • 2 ABI 7500 Fast real-time PCR machines
  • 1 Nikon TE2000u Inverted Microscope with an automated stage for immunofluorescence analyses
  • 2 Oroboros Oxygraph 2K respirometry systems for mitochondrial physiology studies
  • 1 Beckman Coulter Multisizer III for adipocyte sizing
  • 1 Bio-Tek Synergy II multi-mode plate reader
  • 1 Nanodrop ND-1000 spectrophotometer
  • 1 Li-Cor Odyssey Near IR protein detection system
  • 1 Qiagen TissueLyser II
  • 1 Beckman liquid scintillation counter

The core also contains assorted small equipment for sample processing (vortexers, heating blocks, water baths, analytical balances, stir plates, microfuges, etc.), centrifuges, refrigerators and liquid nitrogen cell freezers.

The CMBC also provides a tissue and cell culture facility, equipped with:

  • 3 NuAire laminar flow hoods
  • 4 NuAire CO2 incubators
  • 1 Lonza Amaxa Nucleofector II transfection system
  • 1 Nikon TS100 fluorescent microscope
  • 1 Nikon TMS-F light microscope
  • 1 Life Technologies Countess automated cell counter

The core also contains assorted refrigerators, freezers, water baths and centrifuges used solely for cell culture.

Services available

The Cellular and Molecular Biology Core is committed to providing access to specialized equipment and technical services to facilitate nutrition and obesity research. If you have any questions regarding the CMBC for cost structure, please feel free to contact us.

Contact: Terri Pietka
Phone: 314-362-8459
Email: tpietka@wustl.edu 

Download CMBC Service Request form (pdf)

See a list of available services below.

1. Cells for Culture

  • 3T3-L1
  • 3T3-F442A
  • OP9
  • HIB1B
  • LS14
  • LiSa-2
  • SBGS
  • C2C12
  • HSMM

2. Adipose Tissue Morphology

3. Gene Expression Analysis and RNA Extraction

Pathways of Interest:

  • Autophagy
  • Fatty acid metabolism
  • Glucose metabolism
  • Endoplasmic reticulum stress
  • ECM/Fibrosis
  • Angiogenesis
  • Inflammation

4. Protein Expression Analyses and Lysate Preparation

Pathways of Interest:

  • mTOR signaling
  • Insulin signaling
  • Endoplasmic reticulum stress
  • Inflammation

5. Substrate Metabolic Assays

  • Glucose uptake
  • Glycolysis
  • Glucose oxidation
  • Glycogenesis
  • Fatty acid uptake
  • Fatty acid oxidation
  • Lipid incorporation
  • Lipolysis

6. Mitochondrial Physiology


  • Glutamate/Malate
  • Oligomycin
  • Pyruvate
  • Rotenone
  • Succinate
  • Antimycin A
  • Uncoupling

7. Microscopy/Cell imaging

8. Training

  • Biochemical characterization assays
  • Mitochondrial function and physiology assays
  • Cellular trafficking and imaging
  • Autophagy analysis

9. Project consultation

10. Equipment Usage

  • ABI-7500 Fast
  • LiCor Odyssey
  • Tissue Culture Facility
  • Nikon TE2000U Microscope
  • Spectroscopy (Bio-Tek/NanoDrop)
  • Oxygraph 2K
  • Qiagen TissueLyser II

To learn more about Core services, please visit Washington University’s OVCR Core Facilities website

Please acknowledge the Washington University NORC, Nutrition Obesity Research Center,  in your publications by: “Supported by NIH grant P30 DK056341 (Nutrition Obesity Research Center).”