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192 Publications

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    Singer Lab
    12/01/22 | Inhibition of coronavirus HCoV-OC43 by targeting the eIF4F complex.
    Feng Y, Grotegut S, Jovanovic P, Gandin V, Olson SH, Murad R, Beall A, Colayco S, De-Jesus P, Chanda S, English BP, Singer RH, Jackson M, Topisirovic I, Ronai ZA
    Frontiers in Pharmacology. 2022 Dec 01;13:1029093. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2022.1029093

    The translation initiation complex 4F (eIF4F) is a rate-limiting factor in protein synthesis. Alterations in eIF4F activity are linked to several diseases, including cancer and infectious diseases. To this end, coronaviruses require eIF4F complex activity to produce proteins essential for their life cycle. Efforts to target coronaviruses by abrogating translation have been largely limited to repurposing existing eIF4F complex inhibitors. Here, we report the results of a high throughput screen to identify small molecules that disrupt eIF4F complex formation and inhibit coronavirus RNA and protein levels. Of 338,000 small molecules screened for inhibition of the eIF4F-driven, CAP-dependent translation, we identified SBI-1232 and two structurally related analogs, SBI-5844 and SBI-0498, that inhibit human coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43; OC43) with minimal cell toxicity. Notably, gene expression changes after OC43 infection of Vero E6 or A549 cells were effectively reverted upon treatment with SBI-5844 or SBI-0498. Moreover, SBI-5844 or SBI-0498 treatment effectively impeded the eIF4F complex assembly, with concomitant inhibition of newly synthesized OC43 nucleocapsid protein and OC43 RNA and protein levels. Overall, we identify SBI-5844 and SBI-0498 as small molecules targeting the eIF4F complex that may limit coronavirus transcripts and proteins, thereby representing a basis for developing novel therapeutic modalities against coronaviruses.

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    12/01/22 | Practical considerations for quantitative light sheet fluorescence microscopy.
    Hobson CM, Guo M, Vishwasrao HD, Wu Y, Shroff H, Chew T
    Nature Methods. 2022 Dec 01;19(12):1538-49. doi: 10.1038/s41592-022-01632-x

    Fluorescence microscopy has evolved from a purely observational tool to a platform for quantitative, hypothesis-driven research. As such, the demand for faster and less phototoxic imaging modalities has spurred a rapid growth in light sheet fluorescence microscopy (LSFM). By restricting the excitation to a thin plane, LSFM reduces the overall light dose to a specimen while simultaneously improving image contrast. However, the defining characteristics of light sheet microscopes subsequently warrant unique considerations in their use for quantitative experiments. In this Perspective, we outline many of the pitfalls in LSFM that can compromise analysis and confound interpretation. Moreover, we offer guidance in addressing these caveats when possible. In doing so, we hope to provide a useful resource for life scientists seeking to adopt LSFM to quantitatively address complex biological hypotheses.

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    12/01/22 | Recent insights into mammalian natural and synthetic ex utero embryogenesis
    Bernardo Oldak , Alejandro Aguilera-Castrejon , Jacob H Hanna
    Current Opinion in Genetics & Development. 12/2022;77:101988. doi:

    Research on early postimplantation mammalian development has been limited by the small size and intrauterine confinement of the developing embryos. Owing to the inability to observe and manipulate living embryos at these stages in utero, the establishment of robust ex utero embryo-culture systems that capture prolonged periods of mouse development has been an important research goal. In the last few years, these methods have been significantly improved by the optimization and enhancement of in vitro culture systems sustaining embryo development during peri-implantation stages for several species, and more recently, proper growth of natural mouse embryos from pregastrulation to late organogenesis stages and of embryonic stem cell (ES)-derived synthetic embryo models until early organogenesis stages. Here, we discuss the most recent ex utero embryo-culture systems established to date for rodents, nonhuman primates, and humans. We emphasize their technical aspects and developmental timeframe and provide insights into the new opportunities that these methods will contribute to the study of natural and synthetic mammalian embryogenesis and the stem-cell field.

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    04/01/23 | From primordial clocks to circadian oscillators
    Warintra Pitsawong , Ricardo A. P. Pádua , Timothy Grant , Marc Hoemberger , Renee Otten , Niels Bradshaw , Nikolaus Grigorieff , Dorothee Kern
    Nature. 2023 Apr 01:. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-05836-9

    Circadian rhythms play an essential role in many biological processes and surprisingly only three prokaryotic proteins are required to constitute a true post-translational circadian oscillator. The evolutionary history of the three Kai proteins indicates that KaiC is the oldest member and central component of the clock, with subsequent additions of KaiB and KaiA to regulate its phosphorylation state for time synchronization. The canonical KaiABC system in cyanobacteria is well understood, but little is known about more ancient systems that possess just KaiBC, except for reports that they might exhibit a basic, hourglass-like timekeeping mechanism. Here, we investigate the primordial circadian clock in Rhodobacter sphaeroides (RS) that contains only KaiBC to elucidate its inner workings despite the missing KaiA. Using a combination X-ray crystallography and cryo-EM we find a novel dodecameric fold for KaiCRS where two hexamers are held together by a coiled-coil bundle of 12 helices. This interaction is formed by the C-terminal extension of KaiCRS and serves as an ancient regulatory moiety later superseded by KaiA. A coiled-coil register shift between daytime- and nighttime-conformations is connected to the phosphorylation sites through a long-range allosteric network that spans over 160 Å. Our kinetic data identify the difference in ATP-to-ADP ratio between day and night as the environmental cue that drives the clock and further unravels mechanistic details that shed light on the evolution of self-sustained oscillators.

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    11/29/22 | Oligodendrocyte precursor cells ingest axons in the mouse neocortex.
    Buchanan J, Elabbady L, Collman F, Jorstad NL, Bakken TE, Ott C, Glatzer J, Bleckert AA, Bodor AL, Brittain D, Bumbarger DJ, Mahalingam G, Seshamani S, Schneider-Mizell C, Takeno MM, Torres R, Yin W, Hodge RD, Castro M, Dorkenwald S, Ih D, Jordan CS, Kemnitz N, Lee K, Lu R, Macrina T, Mu S, Popovych S, Silversmith WM, Tartavull I, Turner NL, Wilson AM, Wong W, Wu J, Zlateski A, Zung J, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Lein ES, Seung HS, Bergles DE, Reid RC, da Costa NM
    Proceedings of the National Academies of Science of the U.S.A.. 2022 Nov 29;119(48):e2202580119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2202580119

    Neurons in the developing brain undergo extensive structural refinement as nascent circuits adopt their mature form. This physical transformation of neurons is facilitated by the engulfment and degradation of axonal branches and synapses by surrounding glial cells, including microglia and astrocytes. However, the small size of phagocytic organelles and the complex, highly ramified morphology of glia have made it difficult to define the contribution of these and other glial cell types to this crucial process. Here, we used large-scale, serial section transmission electron microscopy (TEM) with computational volume segmentation to reconstruct the complete 3D morphologies of distinct glial types in the mouse visual cortex, providing unprecedented resolution of their morphology and composition. Unexpectedly, we discovered that the fine processes of oligodendrocyte precursor cells (OPCs), a population of abundant, highly dynamic glial progenitors, frequently surrounded small branches of axons. Numerous phagosomes and phagolysosomes (PLs) containing fragments of axons and vesicular structures were present inside their processes, suggesting that OPCs engage in axon pruning. Single-nucleus RNA sequencing from the developing mouse cortex revealed that OPCs express key phagocytic genes at this stage, as well as neuronal transcripts, consistent with active axon engulfment. Although microglia are thought to be responsible for the majority of synaptic pruning and structural refinement, PLs were ten times more abundant in OPCs than in microglia at this stage, and these structures were markedly less abundant in newly generated oligodendrocytes, suggesting that OPCs contribute substantially to the refinement of neuronal circuits during cortical development.

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    11/25/22 | SMP30-mediated synthesis of vitamin C activates the liver PPARα/FGF21 axis to regulate thermogenesis in mice.
    Lee B, An HJ, Kim DH, Lee M, Jeong HH, Chung KW, Go Y, Seo AY, Kim IY, Seong JK, Yu BP, Lee J, Im E, Lee I, Lee M, Yamada K, Chung HY
    Experimental and Molecular Medicine. 2022 Nov 25;54(11):2036-2046. doi: 10.1038/s12276-022-00888-9

    The vitamin-C-synthesizing enzyme senescent marker protein 30 (SMP30) is a cold resistance gene in Drosophila, and vitamin C concentration increases in brown adipose tissue post-cold exposure. However, the roles of SMP30 in thermogenesis are unknown. Here, we tested the molecular mechanism of thermogenesis using wild-type (WT) and vitamin C-deficient SMP30-knockout (KO) mice. SMP30-KO mice gained more weight than WT mice without a change in food intake in response to short-term high-fat diet feeding. Indirect calorimetry and cold-challenge experiments indicated that energy expenditure is lower in SMP30-KO mice, which is associated with decreased thermogenesis in adipose tissues. Therefore, SMP30-KO mice do not lose weight during cold exposure, whereas WT mice lose weight markedly. Mechanistically, the levels of serum FGF21 were notably lower in SMP30-KO mice, and vitamin C supplementation in SMP30-KO mice recovered FGF21 expression and thermogenesis, with a marked reduction in body weight during cold exposure. Further experiments revealed that vitamin C activates PPARα to upregulate FGF21. Our findings demonstrate that SMP30-mediated synthesis of vitamin C activates the PPARα/FGF21 axis, contributing to the maintenance of thermogenesis in mice.

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    Looger Lab
    11/24/22 | Ketamine triggers a switch in excitatory neuronal activity across neocortex.
    Cichon J, Wasilczuk AZ, Looger LL, Contreras D, Kelz MB, Proekt A
    Nature Neuroscience. 2022 Nov 24:. doi: 10.1038/s41593-022-01203-5

    The brain can become transiently disconnected from the environment while maintaining vivid, internally generated experiences. This so-called 'dissociated state' can occur in pathological conditions and under the influence of psychedelics or the anesthetic ketamine (KET). The cellular and circuit mechanisms producing the dissociative state remain poorly understood. We show in mice that KET causes spontaneously active neurons to become suppressed while previously silent neurons become spontaneously activated. This switch occurs in all cortical layers and different cortical regions, is induced by both systemic and cortical application of KET and is mediated by suppression of parvalbumin and somatostatin interneuron activity and inhibition of NMDA receptors and HCN channels. Combined, our results reveal two largely non-overlapping cortical neuronal populations-one engaged in wakefulness, the other contributing to the KET-induced brain state-and may lay the foundation for understanding how the brain might become disconnected from the surrounding environment while maintaining internal subjective experiences.

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    11/23/22 | The 3D ultrastructure of the chordotonal organs in the antenna of a microwasp remains complex although simplified.
    Diakova AV, Makarova AA, Pang S, Xu CS, Hess H, Polilov AA
    Scientific Reports. 2022 Nov 23;12(1):20172. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-24390-4

    Insect antennae are astonishingly versatile and have multiple sensory modalities. Audition, detection of airflow, and graviception are combined in the antennal chordotonal organs. The miniaturization of these complex multisensory organs has never been investigated. Here we present a comprehensive study of the structure and scaling of the antennal chordotonal organs of the extremely miniaturized parasitoid wasp Megaphragma viggianii based on 3D electron microscopy. Johnston's organ of M. viggianii consists of 19 amphinematic scolopidia (95 cells); the central organ consists of five scolopidia (20 cells). Plesiomorphic composition includes one accessory cell per scolopidium, but in M. viggianii this ratio is only 0.3. Scolopale rods in Johnston's organ have a unique structure. Allometric analyses demonstrate the effects of scaling on the antennal chordotonal organs in insects. Our results not only shed light on the universal principles of miniaturization of sense organs, but also provide context for future interpretation of the M. viggianii connectome.

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    Looger Lab
    11/20/22 | Fluorescence Screens for Identifying Central Nervous System-Acting Drug-Biosensor Pairs for Subcellular and Supracellular Pharmacokinetics.
    Beatty ZG, Muthusamy AK, Unger EK, Dougherty DA, Tian L, Looger LL, Shivange AV, Bera K, Lester HA, Nichols AL
    Bio-Protocol. 2022 Nov 20;12(22):. doi: 10.21769/BioProtoc.4551

    Subcellular pharmacokinetic measurements have informed the study of central nervous system (CNS)-acting drug mechanisms. Recent investigations have been enhanced by the use of genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors for drugs of interest at the plasma membrane and in organelles. We describe screening and validation protocols for identifying hit pairs comprising a drug and biosensor, with each screen including 13-18 candidate biosensors and 44-84 candidate drugs. After a favorable hit pair is identified and validated via these protocols, the biosensor is then optimized, as described in other papers, for sensitivity and selectivity to the drug. We also show sample hit pair data that may lead to future intensity-based drug-sensing fluorescent reporters (iDrugSnFRs). These protocols will assist scientists to use fluorescence responses as criteria in identifying favorable fluorescent biosensor variants for CNS-acting drugs that presently have no corresponding biosensor partner. eLife (2022), DOI: 10.7554/eLife.74648 Graphical abstract.

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    11/18/22 | TEMPO enables sequential genetic labeling and manipulation of vertebrate cell lineages.
    Espinosa-Medina I, Feliciano D, Belmonte-Mateos C, Linda Miyares R, Garcia-Marques J, Foster B, Lindo S, Pujades C, Koyama M, Lee T
    Neuron. 2022 Nov 18:. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2022.10.035

    During development, regulatory factors appear in a precise order to determine cell fates over time. Consequently, to investigate complex tissue development, it is necessary to visualize and manipulate cell lineages with temporal control. Current strategies for tracing vertebrate cell lineages lack genetic access to sequentially produced cells. Here, we present TEMPO (Temporal Encoding and Manipulation in a Predefined Order), an imaging-readable genetic tool allowing differential labeling and manipulation of consecutive cell generations in vertebrates. TEMPO is based on CRISPR and powered by a cascade of gRNAs that drive orderly activation and inactivation of reporters and/or effectors. Using TEMPO to visualize zebrafish and mouse neurogenesis, we recapitulated birth-order-dependent neuronal fates. Temporally manipulating cell-cycle regulators in mouse cortex progenitors altered the proportion and distribution of neurons and glia, revealing the effects of temporal gene perturbation on serial cell fates. Thus, TEMPO enables sequential manipulation of molecular factors, crucial to study cell-type specification.

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