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79 Publications

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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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    Tjian LabSinger LabTranscription Imaging
    08/31/15 | CASFISH: CRISPR/Cas9-mediated in situ labeling of genomic loci in fixed cells.
    Deng W, Shi X, Tjian R, Lionnet T, Singer RH
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2015 Aug 31;112(38):11870-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1515692112

    Direct visualization of genomic loci in the 3D nucleus is important for understanding the spatial organization of the genome and its association with gene expression. Various DNA FISH methods have been developed in the past decades, all involving denaturing dsDNA and hybridizing fluorescent nucleic acid probes. Here we report a novel approach that uses in vitro constituted nuclease-deficient clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated caspase 9 (Cas9) complexes as probes to label sequence-specific genomic loci fluorescently without global DNA denaturation (Cas9-mediated fluorescence in situ hybridization, CASFISH). Using fluorescently labeled nuclease-deficient Cas9 (dCas9) protein assembled with various single-guide RNA (sgRNA), we demonstrated rapid and robust labeling of repetitive DNA elements in pericentromere, centromere, G-rich telomere, and coding gene loci. Assembling dCas9 with an array of sgRNAs tiling arbitrary target loci, we were able to visualize nonrepetitive genomic sequences. The dCas9/sgRNA binary complex is stable and binds its target DNA with high affinity, allowing sequential or simultaneous probing of multiple targets. CASFISH assays using differently colored dCas9/sgRNA complexes allow multicolor labeling of target loci in cells. In addition, the CASFISH assay is remarkably rapid under optimal conditions and is applicable for detection in primary tissue sections. This rapid, robust, less disruptive, and cost-effective technology adds a valuable tool for basic research and genetic diagnosis.

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    Singer Lab
    08/21/15 | A three-camera imaging microscope for high-speed single-molecule tracking and super-resolution imaging in living cells.
    English BP, Singer RH
    Proceedings of SPIE. 2015 Aug 21;9550:955008 . doi: 10.1117/12.2190246

    Our aim is to develop quantitative single-molecule assays to study when and where molecules are interacting inside living cells and where enzymes are active. To this end we present a three-camera imaging microscope for fast tracking of multiple interacting molecules simultaneously, with high spatiotemporal resolution. The system was designed around an ASI RAMM frame using three separate tube lenses and custom multi-band dichroics to allow for enhanced detection efficiency. The frame times of the three Andor iXon Ultra EMCCD cameras are hardware synchronized to the laser excitation pulses of the three excitation lasers, such that the fluorophores are effectively immobilized during frame acquisitions and do not yield detections that are motion-blurred. Stroboscopic illumination allows robust detection from even rapidly moving molecules while minimizing bleaching, and since snapshots can be spaced out with varying time intervals, stroboscopic illumination enables a direct comparison to be made between fast and slow molecules under identical light dosage. We have developed algorithms that accurately track and co-localize multiple interacting biomolecules. The three-color microscope combined with our co-movement algorithms have made it possible for instance to simultaneously image and track how the chromosome environment affects diffusion kinetics or determine how mRNAs diffuse during translation. Such multiplexed single-molecule measurements at a high spatiotemporal resolution inside living cells will provide a major tool for testing models relating molecular architecture and biological dynamics.

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    Singer Lab
    08/01/15 | Single-molecule insights into mRNA dynamics in neurons.
    Buxbaum AR, Yoon YJ, Singer RH, Park HY
    Trends in Cell Biology. 2015 Aug;25(8):468-75. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2015.05.005

    Targeting of mRNAs to neuronal dendrites and axons plays an integral role in intracellular signaling, development, and synaptic plasticity. Single-molecule imaging of mRNAs in neurons and brain tissue has led to enhanced understanding of mRNA dynamics. Here we discuss aspects of mRNA regulation as revealed by single-molecule detection, which has led to quantitative analyses of mRNA diversity, localization, transport, and translation. These exciting new discoveries propel our understanding of the life of an mRNA in a neuron and how its activity is regulated at the single-molecule level.

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    Singer Lab
    07/20/15 | Inferring transient particle transport dynamics in live cells.
    Monnier N, Barry Z, Park HY, Su K, Katz Z, English BP, Dey A, Pan K, Cheeseman IM, Singer RH, Bathe M
    Nature Methods. 2015 Jul 20;12(9):838-40. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3483

    Live-cell imaging and particle tracking provide rich information on mechanisms of intracellular transport. However, trajectory analysis procedures to infer complex transport dynamics involving stochastic switching between active transport and diffusive motion are lacking. We applied Bayesian model selection to hidden Markov modeling to infer transient transport states from trajectories of mRNA-protein complexes in live mouse hippocampal neurons and metaphase kinetochores in dividing human cells. The software is available at

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    Saalfeld LabSinger Lab
    05/28/15 | BigDataViewer: visualization and processing for large image data sets.
    Pietzsch T, Saalfeld S, Preibisch S, Tomancak P
    Nature Methods. 2015 May 28;12(6):481-3. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3392
    Singer Lab
    05/25/15 | Nuclear accessibility of β-actin mRNA is measured by 3D single-molecule real-time tracking.
    Smith CS, Preibisch S, Joseph A, Abrahamsson S, Rieger B, Myers E, Singer RH, Grunwald D
    Journal of Cell Biology. 2015 May 25;209(4):609-19. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201411032

    Imaging single proteins or RNAs allows direct visualization of the inner workings of the cell. Typically, three-dimensional (3D) images are acquired by sequentially capturing a series of 2D sections. The time required to step through the sample often impedes imaging of large numbers of rapidly moving molecules. Here we applied multifocus microscopy (MFM) to instantaneously capture 3D single-molecule real-time images in live cells, visualizing cell nuclei at 10 volumes per second. We developed image analysis techniques to analyze messenger RNA (mRNA) diffusion in the entire volume of the nucleus. Combining MFM with precise registration between fluorescently labeled mRNA, nuclear pore complexes, and chromatin, we obtained globally optimal image alignment within 80-nm precision using transformation models. We show that β-actin mRNAs freely access the entire nucleus and fewer than 60% of mRNAs are more than 0.5 µm away from a nuclear pore, and we do so for the first time accounting for spatial inhomogeneity of nuclear organization.

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    Singer Lab
    01/01/12 | Regulation of local expression of cell adhesion and motility-related mRNAs in breast cancer cells by IMP1/ZBP1.
    Gu W, Katz Z, Wu B, Park HY, Li D, Lin S, Wells AL, Singer RH
    The Journal of Cell Science. 2012 Jan 1;125(Pt 1):81-91. doi: 10.1242/jcs.086132

    Metastasis involves tumor cell detachment from the primary tumor, and acquisition of migratory and invasive capabilities. These capabilities are mediated by multiple events, including loss of cell-cell contact, an increase in focal adhesion turnover and failure to maintain a normal cell polarity. We have previously reported that silencing of the expression of the zipcode-binding protein IMP1/ZBP1 in breast tumor patients is associated with metastasis. IMP1/ZBP1 selectively binds to a group of mRNAs that encode important mediators for cell adhesion and motility. Here, we show that in both T47D and MDA231 human breast carcinoma cells IMP1/ZBP1 functions to suppress cell invasion. Binding of ZBP1 to the mRNAs encoding E-cadherin, β-actin, α-actinin and the Arp2/3 complex facilitates localization of the mRNAs, which stabilizes cell-cell connections and focal adhesions. Our studies suggest a novel mechanism through which IMP1/ZBP1 simultaneously regulates the local expression of many cell-motility-related mRNAs to maintain cell adherence and polarity, decrease focal adhesion turnover and maintain a persistent and directional motility.

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    Singer Lab
    04/15/15 | Synonymous modification results in high-fidelity gene expression of repetitive protein and nucleotide sequences.
    Wu B, Miskolci V, Sato H, Tutucci E, Kenworthy CA, Donnelly SK, Yoon YJ, Cox D, Singer RH, Hodgson L
    Genes & Development. 2015 Apr 15;29(8):876-86. doi: 10.1101/gad.259358.115

    Repetitive nucleotide or amino acid sequences are often engineered into probes and biosensors to achieve functional readouts and robust signal amplification. However, these repeated sequences are notoriously prone to aberrant deletion and degradation, impacting the ability to correctly detect and interpret biological functions. Here, we introduce a facile and generalizable approach to solve this often unappreciated problem by modifying the nucleotide sequences of the target mRNA to make them nonrepetitive but still functional ("synonymous"). We first demonstrated the procedure by designing a cassette of synonymous MS2 RNA motifs and tandem coat proteins for RNA imaging and showed a dramatic improvement in signal and reproducibility in single-RNA detection in live cells. The same approach was extended to enhancing the stability of engineered fluorescent biosensors containing a fluorescent resonance energy transfer (FRET) pair of fluorescent proteins on which a great majority of systems thus far in the field are based. Using the synonymous modification to FRET biosensors, we achieved correct expression of full-length sensors, eliminating the aberrant truncation products that often were assumed to be due to nonspecific proteolytic cleavages. Importantly, the biological interpretations of the sensor are significantly different when a correct, full-length biosensor is expressed. Thus, we show here a useful and generally applicable method to maintain the integrity of expressed genes, critical for the correct interpretation of probe readouts.

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    04/07/15 | Cellular levels of signaling factors are sensed by β-actin alleles to modulate transcriptional pulse intensity.
    Kalo A, Kanter I, Shraga A, Sheinberger J, Tzemach H, Kinor N, Singer RH, Lionnet T, Shav-Tal Y
    Cell Reports. 2015 Apr 7;11(3):419-32. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.03.039

    The transcriptional response of β-actin to extra-cellular stimuli is a paradigm for transcription factor complex assembly and regulation. Serum induction leads to a precisely timed pulse of β-actin transcription in the cell population. Actin protein is proposed to be involved in this response, but it is not known whether cellular actin levels affect nuclear β-actin transcription. We perturbed the levels of key signaling factors and examined the effect on the induced transcriptional pulse by following endogenous β-actin alleles in single living cells. Lowering serum response factor (SRF) protein levels leads to loss of pulse integrity, whereas reducing actin protein levels reveals positive feedback regulation, resulting in elevated gene activation and a prolonged transcriptional response. Thus, transcriptional pulse fidelity requires regulated amounts of signaling proteins, and perturbations in factor levels eliminate the physiological response, resulting in either tuning down or exaggeration of the transcriptional pulse.

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