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209 Publications

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    01/16/16 | Imaging transcription: past, present, and future.
    Coleman RA, Liu Z, Darzacq X, Tjian R, Singer RH, Lionnet T
    Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology. 2015;80:1-8. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2015.80.027201

    Transcription, the first step of gene expression, is exquisitely regulated in higher eukaryotes to ensure correct development and homeostasis. Traditional biochemical, genetic, and genomic approaches have proved successful at identifying factors, regulatory sequences, and potential pathways that modulate transcription. However, they typically only provide snapshots or population averages of the highly dynamic, stochastic biochemical processes involved in transcriptional regulation. Single-molecule live-cell imaging has, therefore, emerged as a complementary approach capable of circumventing these limitations. By observing sequences of molecular events in real time as they occur in their native context, imaging has the power to derive cause-and-effect relationships and quantitative kinetics to build predictive models of transcription. Ongoing progress in fluorescence imaging technology has brought new microscopes and labeling technologies that now make it possible to visualize and quantify the transcription process with single-molecule resolution in living cells and animals. Here we provide an overview of the evolution and current state of transcription imaging technologies. We discuss some of the important concepts they uncovered and present possible future developments that might solve long-standing questions in transcriptional regulation.

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    Egnor Lab
    01/11/16 | The contribution of ultrasonic vocalizations to mouse courtship.
    Egnor SR, Seagraves KM
    Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 2016 Jan 11;38:1-5. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2015.12.009

    Vocalizations transmit information to social partners, and mice use these signals to exchange information during courtship. Ultrasonic vocalizations from adult males are tightly associated with their interactions with females, and vary as a function of male quality. Work in the last decade has established that the spectrotemporal features of male vocalizations are not learned, but that female attention toward specific vocal features is modified by social experience. Additionally, progress has been made on elucidating how mouse vocalizations are encoded in the auditory system, and on the olfactory circuits that trigger their production. Together these findings provide us with important insights into how vocal communication can contribute to social interactions.

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    01/07/16 | Adaptive and background-aware GAL4 expression enhancement of co-registered confocal microscopy images.
    Trapp M, Schulze F, Novikov AA, Tirian L, J Dickson B, Bühler K
    Neuroinformatics. 2016 Jan 7;14(2):221-33. doi: 10.1007/s12021-015-9289-y

    GAL4 gene expression imaging using confocal microscopy is a common and powerful technique used to study the nervous system of a model organism such as Drosophila melanogaster. Recent research projects focused on high throughput screenings of thousands of different driver lines, resulting in large image databases. The amount of data generated makes manual assessment tedious or even impossible. The first and most important step in any automatic image processing and data extraction pipeline is to enhance areas with relevant signal. However, data acquired via high throughput imaging tends to be less then ideal for this task, often showing high amounts of background signal. Furthermore, neuronal structures and in particular thin and elongated projections with a weak staining signal are easily lost. In this paper we present a method for enhancing the relevant signal by utilizing a Hessian-based filter to augment thin and weak tube-like structures in the image. To get optimal results, we present a novel adaptive background-aware enhancement filter parametrized with the local background intensity, which is estimated based on a common background model. We also integrate recent research on adaptive image enhancement into our approach, allowing us to propose an effective solution for known problems present in confocal microscopy images. We provide an evaluation based on annotated image data and compare our results against current state-of-the-art algorithms. The results show that our algorithm clearly outperforms the existing solutions.

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    01/07/16 | The soft touch: low-affinity transcription factor binding sites in development and evolution.
    Crocker J, Preger-Ben Noon E, Stern DL
    Current Topics in Developmental Biology. 2016 Jan 07:. doi: 10.1016/bs.ctdb.2015.11.018

    Transcription factor proteins regulate gene expression by binding to specific DNA regions. Most studies of transcription factor binding sites have focused on the highest affinity sites for each factor. There is abundant evidence, however, that binding sites with a range of affinities, including very low affinities, are critical to gene regulation. Here, we present the theoretical and experimental evidence for the importance of low-affinity sites in gene regulation and development. We also discuss the implications of the widespread use of low-affinity sites in eukaryotic genomes for robustness, precision, specificity, and evolution of gene regulation.

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    01/04/16 | The Dfam database of repetitive DNA families.
    Hubley R, Finn RD, Clements J, Eddy SR, Jones TA, Bao W, Smit AF, Wheeler TJ
    Nucleic Acids Research. 2016 Jan 4;44(D1):D81-9. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkv1272

    Repetitive DNA, especially that due to transposable elements (TEs), makes up a large fraction of many genomes. Dfam is an open access database of families of repetitive DNA elements, in which each family is represented by a multiple sequence alignment and a profile hidden Markov model (HMM). The initial release of Dfam, featured in the 2013 NAR Database Issue, contained 1143 families of repetitive elements found in humans, and was used to produce more than 100 Mb of additional annotation of TE-derived regions in the human genome, with improved speed. Here, we describe recent advances, most notably expansion to 4150 total families including a comprehensive set of known repeat families from four new organisms (mouse, zebrafish, fly and nematode). We describe improvements to coverage, and to our methods for identifying and reducing false annotation. We also describe updates to the website interface. The Dfam website has moved to Seed alignments, profile HMMs, hit lists and other underlying data are available for download.

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    01/03/16 | Spatially resolved proteomic mapping in living cells with the engineered peroxidase APEX2
    Hung V, Udeshi ND, Lam SS, Loh KH, Cox KJ, Pedram K, Carr SA, Ting AY
    Nature Protocols. Jan-03-2016;11(3):456 - 475. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2016.018

    This protocol describes a method to obtain spatially resolved proteomic maps of specific compartments within living mammalian cells. An engineered peroxidase, APEX2, is genetically targeted to a cellular region of interest. Upon the addition of hydrogen peroxide for 1 min to cells preloaded with a biotin-phenol substrate, APEX2 generates biotin-phenoxyl radicals that covalently tag proximal endogenous proteins. Cells are then lysed, and biotinylated proteins are enriched with streptavidin beads and identified by mass spectrometry. We describe the generation of an appropriate APEX2 fusion construct, proteomic sample preparation, and mass spectrometric data acquisition and analysis. A two-state stable isotope labeling by amino acids in cell culture (SILAC) protocol is used for proteomic mapping of membrane-enclosed cellular compartments from which APEX2-generated biotin-phenoxyl radicals cannot escape. For mapping of open cellular regions, we instead use a 'ratiometric' three-state SILAC protocol for high spatial specificity. Isotopic labeling of proteins takes 5–7 cell doublings. Generation of the biotinylated proteomic sample takes 1 d, acquiring the mass spectrometric data takes 2–5 d and analysis of the data to obtain the final proteomic list takes 1 week.

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    Singer Lab
    01/01/16 | Mapping translation 'hot-spots' in live cells by tracking single molecules of mRNA and ribosomes.
    Katz ZB, English BP, Lionnet T, Yoon YJ, Monnier N, Ovryn B, Bathe M, Singer RH
    eLife. 2016;5:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.10415

    Messenger RNA localization is important for cell motility by local protein translation. However, while single mRNAs can be imaged and their movements tracked in single cells, it has not yet been possible to determine whether these mRNAs are actively translating. Therefore, we imaged single β-actin mRNAs tagged with MS2 stem loops colocalizing with labeled ribosomes to determine when polysomes formed. A dataset of tracking information consisting of thousands of trajectories per cell demonstrated that mRNAs co-moving with ribosomes have significantly different diffusion properties from non-translating mRNAs that were exposed to translation inhibitors. These data indicate that ribosome load changes mRNA movement and therefore highly translating mRNAs move slower. Importantly, β-actin mRNA near focal adhesions exhibited sub-diffusive corralled movement characteristic of increased translation. This method can identify where ribosomes become engaged for local protein production and how spatial regulation of mRNA-protein interactions mediates cell directionality.

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    01/01/16 | Non-centrosomal epidermal microtubules act in parallel to LET-502/ROCK to promote C. elegans elongation
    Quintin S, Wang S, Pontabry J, Bender A, Robin F, Hyenne V, Landmann F, Gally C, Oegema K, Labouesse M
    Development. 01/2016;143:160-173. doi: 10.1242/dev.126615

    C. elegans embryonic elongation is a morphogenetic event driven by actomyosin contractility and muscle-induced tension transmitted through hemidesmosomes. A role for the microtubule cytoskeleton has also been proposed, but its contribution remains poorly characterized. Here, we investigate the organization of the non-centrosomal microtubule arrays present in the epidermis and assess their function in elongation. We show that the microtubule regulators γ-tubulin and NOCA-1 are recruited to hemidesmosomes and adherens junctions early in elongation. Several parallel approaches suggest that microtubule nucleation occurs from these sites. Disrupting the epidermal microtubule array by overexpressing the microtubule-severing protein Spastin or by inhibiting the C. elegans ninein homolog NOCA-1 in the epidermis mildly affected elongation. However, microtubules were essential for elongation when hemidesmosomes or the activity of the Rho kinase LET-502/ROCK were partially compromised. Imaging of junctional components and genetic analyses suggest that epidermal microtubules function together with Rho kinase to promote the transport of E-cadherin to adherens junctions and myotactin to hemidesmosomes. Our results indicate that the role of LET-502 in junctional remodeling is likely to be independent of its established function as a myosin II activator, but requires a microtubule-dependent pathway involving the syntaxin SYX-5. Hence, we propose that non-centrosomal microtubules organized by epidermal junctions contribute to elongation by transporting junction remodeling factors, rather than having a mechanical role.

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    01/01/16 | Single-cell coding of sensory, spatial and numerical magnitudes in primate prefrontal, premotor and cingulate motor cortices.
    Eiselt A, Nieder A
    Experimental Brain Research. 2016 Jan;234(1):241-54. doi: 10.1007/s00221-015-4449-8

    The representation of magnitude information enables humans and animal species alike to successfully interact with the external environment. However, how various types of magnitudes are processed by single neurons to guide goal-directed behavior remains elusive. Here, we recorded single-cell activity from the dorsolateral prefrontal (PFC), dorsal premotor (PMd) and cingulate motor (CMA) cortices in monkeys discriminating discrete numerical (numerosity), continuous spatial (line length) and basic sensory (spatial frequency) stimuli. We found that almost exclusively PFC neurons represented the different magnitude types during sample presentation and working memory periods. The frequency of magnitude-selective cells in PMd and CMA did not exceed chance level. The proportion of PFC neurons selectively tuned to each of the three magnitude types were comparable. Magnitude coding was mainly dissociated at the single-neuron level, with individual neurons representing only one of the three tested magnitude types. Neuronal magnitude discriminability, coding strength and temporal evolution were comparable between magnitude types encoded by PFC neuron populations. Our data highlight the importance of PFC neurons in representing various magnitude categories. Such magnitude representations are based on largely distributed coding by single neurons that are anatomically intermingled within the same cortical area.

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