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79 Publications

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    Singer Lab
    07/05/13 | Single cell analysis of RNA-mediated histone H3.3 recruitment to a cytomegalovirus promoter-regulated transcription site.
    Newhart A, Rafalska-Metcalf IU, Yang T, Joo LM, Powers SL, Kossenkov AV, Lopez-Jones M, Singer RH, Showe LC, Skordalakes E, Janicki SM
    The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2013 Jul 5;288(27):19882-99. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.473181

    Unlike the core histones, which are incorporated into nucleosomes concomitant with DNA replication, histone H3.3 is synthesized throughout the cell cycle and utilized for replication-independent (RI) chromatin assembly. The RI incorporation of H3.3 into nucleosomes is highly conserved and occurs at both euchromatin and heterochromatin. However, neither the mechanism of H3.3 recruitment nor its essential function is well understood. Several different chaperones regulate H3.3 assembly at distinct sites. The H3.3 chaperone, Daxx, and the chromatin-remodeling factor, ATRX, are required for H3.3 incorporation and heterochromatic silencing at telomeres, pericentromeres, and the cytomegalovirus (CMV) promoter. By evaluating H3.3 dynamics at a CMV promoter-regulated transcription site in a genetic background in which RI chromatin assembly is blocked, we have been able to decipher the regulatory events upstream of RI nucleosomal deposition. We find that at the activated transcription site, H3.3 accumulates with sense and antisense RNA, suggesting that it is recruited through an RNA-mediated mechanism. Sense and antisense transcription also increases after H3.3 knockdown, suggesting that the RNA signal is amplified when chromatin assembly is blocked and attenuated by nucleosomal deposition. Additionally, we find that H3.3 is still recruited after Daxx knockdown, supporting a chaperone-independent recruitment mechanism. Sequences in the H3.3 N-terminal tail and αN helix mediate both its recruitment to RNA at the activated transcription site and its interaction with double-stranded RNA in vitro. Interestingly, the H3.3 gain-of-function pediatric glioblastoma mutations, G34R and K27M, differentially affect H3.3 affinity in these assays, suggesting that disruption of an RNA-mediated regulatory event could drive malignant transformation.

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    Singer Lab
    06/01/13 | The fate of the messenger is pre-determined: a new model for regulation of gene expression.
    Haimovich G, Choder M, Singer RH, Trcek T
    Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA). 2013 Jun-Jul;1829(6-7):643-53. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagrm.2013.01.004

    Recent years have seen a rise in publications demonstrating coupling between transcription and mRNA decay. This coupling most often accompanies cellular processes that involve transitions in gene expression patterns, for example during mitotic division and cellular differentiation and in response to cellular stress. Transcription can affect the mRNA fate by multiple mechanisms. The most novel finding is the process of co-transcriptional imprinting of mRNAs with proteins, which in turn regulate cytoplasmic mRNA stability. Transcription therefore is not only a catalyst of mRNA synthesis but also provides a platform that enables imprinting, which coordinates between transcription and mRNA decay. Here we present an overview of the literature, which provides the evidence of coupling between transcription and decay, review the mechanisms and regulators by which the two processes are coupled, discuss why such coupling is beneficial and present a new model for regulation of gene expression. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: RNA Decay mechanisms.

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    Singer Lab
    05/09/13 | Colocalization of different influenza viral RNA segments in the cytoplasm before viral budding as shown by single-molecule sensitivity FISH analysis.
    Chou Y, Heaton NS, Gao Q, Palese P, Singer RH, Singer R, Lionnet T
    PLoS Pathogens. 2013;9(5):e1003358. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003358

    The Influenza A virus genome consists of eight negative sense, single-stranded RNA segments. Although it has been established that most virus particles contain a single copy of each of the eight viral RNAs, the packaging selection mechanism remains poorly understood. Influenza viral RNAs are synthesized in the nucleus, exported into the cytoplasm and travel to the plasma membrane where viral budding and genome packaging occurs. Due to the difficulties in analyzing associated vRNPs while preserving information about their positions within the cell, it has remained unclear how and where during cellular trafficking the viral RNAs of different segments encounter each other. Using a multicolor single-molecule sensitivity fluorescence in situ hybridization (smFISH) approach, we have quantitatively monitored the colocalization of pairs of influenza viral RNAs in infected cells. We found that upon infection, the viral RNAs from the incoming particles travel together until they reach the nucleus. The viral RNAs were then detected in distinct locations in the nucleus; they are then exported individually and initially remain separated in the cytoplasm. At later time points, the different viral RNA segments gather together in the cytoplasm in a microtubule independent manner. Viral RNAs of different identities colocalize at a high frequency when they are associated with Rab11 positive vesicles, suggesting that Rab11 positive organelles may facilitate the association of different viral RNAs. Using engineered influenza viruses lacking the expression of HA or M2 protein, we showed that these viral proteins are not essential for the colocalization of two different viral RNAs in the cytoplasm. In sum, our smFISH results reveal that the viral RNAs travel together in the cytoplasm before their arrival at the plasma membrane budding sites. This newly characterized step of the genome packaging process demonstrates the precise spatiotemporal regulation of the infection cycle.

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    Singer Lab
    03/01/13 | Temporal and spatial characterization of nonsense-mediated mRNA decay.
    Trcek T, Sato H, Singer RH, Maquat LE
    Genes & Development. 2013 Mar 1;27(5):541-51. doi: 10.1101/gad.209635.112

    Nonsense-mediated mRNA decay (NMD) is a quality control mechanism responsible for "surveying" mRNAs during translation and degrading those that harbor a premature termination codon (PTC). Currently the intracellular spatial location of NMD and the kinetics of its decay step in mammalian cells are under debate. To address these issues, we used single-RNA fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) and measured the NMD of PTC-containing β-globin mRNA in intact single cells after the induction of β-globin gene transcription. This approach preserves temporal and spatial information of the NMD process, both of which would be lost in an ensemble study. We determined that decay of the majority of PTC-containing β-globin mRNA occurs soon after its export into the cytoplasm, with a half-life of <1 min; the remainder is degraded with a half-life of >12 h, similar to the half-life of normal PTC-free β-globin mRNA, indicating that it had evaded NMD. Importantly, NMD does not occur within the nucleoplasm, thus countering the long-debated idea of nuclear degradation of PTC-containing transcripts. We provide a spatial and temporal model for the biphasic decay of NMD targets.

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    Singer Lab
    02/01/13 | Single-molecule analysis of gene expression using two-color RNA labeling in live yeast.
    Hocine S, Raymond P, Zenklusen D, Chao JA, Singer RH
    Nature Methods. 2013 Feb;10(2):119-21. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2305

    Live-cell imaging of mRNA yields important insights into gene expression, but it has generally been limited to the labeling of one RNA species and has never been used to count single mRNAs over time in yeast. We demonstrate a two-color imaging system with single-molecule resolution using MS2 and PP7 RNA labeling. We use this methodology to measure intrinsic noise in mRNA levels and RNA polymerase II kinetics at a single gene.

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    Singer Lab
    01/01/13 | Time-integrated fluorescence cumulant analysis and its application in living cells.
    Wu B, Singer RH, Mueller JD
    Methods in Enzymology. 2013;518:99-119. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-388422-0.00005-4

    Time-integrated fluorescence cumulant analysis (TIFCA) is a data analysis technique for fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy (FFS) that extracts information from the cumulants of the integrated fluorescence intensity. It is the first exact theory that describes the effect of sampling time on FFS experiment. Rebinning of data to longer sampling times helps to increase the signal/noise ratio of the experimental cumulants of the photon counts. The sampling time dependence of the cumulants encodes both brightness and diffusion information of the sample. TIFCA analysis extracts this information by fitting the cumulants to model functions. Generalization of TIFCA to multicolor FFS experiment is straightforward. Here, we present an overview of the theory, its implementation, as well as the benefits and requirements of TIFCA. The questions of why, when, and how to use TIFCA will be discussed. We give several examples of practical applications of TIFCA, particularly focused on measuring molecular interaction in living cells.

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    Singer Lab
    12/14/12 | Nuclear pore component Nup98 is a potential tumor suppressor and regulates posttranscriptional expression of select p53 target genes.
    Singer S, Zhao R, Barsotti AM, Ouwehand A, Fazollahi M, Coutavas E, Breuhahn K, Neumann O, Longerich T, Pusterla T, Powers MA, Giles KM, Leedman PJ, Hess J, Grunwald D, Bussemaker HJ, Singer RH, Schirmacher P, Prives C
    Molecular Cell. 2012 Dec 14;48(5):799-810. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2012.09.020

    The p53 tumor suppressor utilizes multiple mechanisms to selectively regulate its myriad target genes, which in turn mediate diverse cellular processes. Here, using conventional and single-molecule mRNA analyses, we demonstrate that the nucleoporin Nup98 is required for full expression of p21, a key effector of the p53 pathway, but not several other p53 target genes. Nup98 regulates p21 mRNA levels by a posttranscriptional mechanism in which a complex containing Nup98 and the p21 mRNA 3'UTR protects p21 mRNA from degradation by the exosome. An in silico approach revealed another p53 target (14-3-3σ) to be similarly regulated by Nup98. The expression of Nup98 is reduced in murine and human hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) and correlates with p21 expression in HCC patients. Our study elucidates a previously unrecognized function of wild-type Nup98 in regulating select p53 target genes that is distinct from the well-characterized oncogenic properties of Nup98 fusion proteins.

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    Singer Lab
    11/01/12 | Imaging translation in single cells using fluorescent microscopy.
    Chao JA, Yoon YJ, Singer RH
    Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology. 2012 Nov;4(11):. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a012310

    The regulation of translation provides a mechanism to control not only the abundance of proteins, but also the precise time and subcellular location that they are synthesized. Much of what is known concerning the molecular basis for translational control has been gleaned from experiments (e.g., luciferase assays and polysome analysis) that measure average changes in the protein synthesis of a population of cells, however, mechanistic insights can be obscured in ensemble measurements. The development of fluorescent microscopy techniques and reagents has allowed translation to be studied within its cellular context. Here we highlight recent methodologies that can be used to study global changes in protein synthesis or regulation of specific mRNAs in single cells. Imaging of translation has provided direct evidence for local translation of mRNAs at synapses in neurons and will become an important tool for studying translational control.

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    Singer Lab
    09/01/12 | β-Actin mRNA compartmentalization enhances focal adhesion stability and directs cell migration.
    Katz ZB, Wells AL, Park HY, Wu B, Shenoy SM, Singer RH
    Genes & Development. 2012 Sep 1;26(17):1885-90. doi: 10.1101/gad.190413.112

    Directed cell motility is at the basis of biological phenomena such as development, wound healing, and metastasis. It has been shown that substrate attachments mediate motility by coupling the cell's cytoskeleton with force generation. However, it has been unclear how the persistence of cell directionality is facilitated. We show that mRNA localization plays an important role in this process, but the mechanism of action is still unknown. In this study, we show that the zipcode-binding protein 1 transports β-actin mRNA to the focal adhesion compartment, where it dwells for minutes, suggesting a means for associating its localization with motility through the formation of stable connections between adhesions and newly synthesized actin filaments. In order to demonstrate this, we developed an approach for assessing the functional consequences of β-actin mRNA and protein localization by tethering the mRNA to a specific location-in this case, the focal adhesion complex. This approach will have a significant impact on cell biology because it is now possible to forcibly direct any mRNA and its cognate protein to specific locations in the cell. This will reveal the importance of localized protein translation on various cellular processes.

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    Singer Lab
    06/20/12 | Fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy enables quantitative imaging of single mRNAs in living cells.
    Wu B, Chao JA, Singer RH
    Biophysical Journal. 2012 Jun 20;102(12):2936-44. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2012.05.017

    Imaging mRNA with single-molecule sensitivity in live cells has become an indispensable tool for quantitatively studying RNA biology. The MS2 system has been extensively used due to its unique simplicity and sensitivity. However, the levels of the coat protein needed for consistent labeling of mRNAs limits the sensitivity and quantitation of this technology. Here, we applied fluorescence fluctuation spectroscopy to quantitatively characterize and enhance the MS2 system. Surprisingly, we found that a high fluorescence background resulted from inefficient dimerization of fluorescent protein (FP)-labeled MS2 coat protein (MCP). To mitigate this problem, we used a single-chain tandem dimer of MCP (tdMCP) that significantly increased the uniformity and sensitivity of mRNA labeling. Furthermore, we characterized the PP7 coat protein and the binding to its respective RNA stem loop. We conclude that the PP7 system performs better for RNA labeling. Finally, we used these improvements to study endogenous β-actin mRNA, which has 24xMS2 binding sites inserted into the 3' untranslated region. The tdMCP-FP allowed uniform RNA labeling and provided quantitative measurements of endogenous mRNA concentration and diffusion. This work provides a foundation for quantitative spectroscopy and imaging of single mRNAs directly in live cells.

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