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79 Publications

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    Singer Lab
    06/26/11 | Variegated gene expression caused by cell-specific long-range DNA interactions.
    Noordermeer D, de Wit E, Klous P, van de Werken H, Simonis M, Lopez-Jones M, Eussen B, de Klein A, Singer RH, de Laat W
    Nature Cell Biology. 2011 Aug;13(8):944-51. doi: 10.1038/ncb2278

    Mammalian genomes contain numerous regulatory DNA sites with unknown target genes. We used mice with an extra β-globin locus control region (LCR) to investigate how a regulator searches the genome for target genes. We find that the LCR samples a restricted nuclear subvolume, wherein it preferentially contacts genes controlled by shared transcription factors. No contacted gene is detectably upregulated except for endogenous β-globin genes located on another chromosome. This demonstrates genetically that mammalian trans activation is possible, but suggests that it will be rare. Trans activation occurs not pan-cellularly, but in 'jackpot' cells enriched for the interchromosomal interaction. Therefore, cell-specific long-range DNA contacts can cause variegated expression.

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    Singer Lab
    05/01/11 | Qualification of a new and precise automatic tool for the assessment of hair diameters in phototrichograms.
    Scheede S, Herpens A, Burmeister F, Oltrogge B, Saenger K, Schmidt-Rose T, Schreiner V, Wenck H, Knieps T, Berlage T
    Skin Research & Technology. 2011 May;17(2):186-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0846.2010.00482.x

    BACKGROUND/PURPOSE: To automatically assess hair growth during cosmetic trials, incorporating parameters such as anagen-to-telogen rate, growth rate, and especially hair diameter.

    METHODS: We designed and qualified a new and automatic phototrichogram system based on a high-resolution DSLR camera system (theoretical resolution of 2.557 μm/pixel) and modular macrolens system with fixed focus, combined with a trainable pattern recognition software for automated analysis.

    RESULTS: We improved the standard routine for dermatological phototrichogram technique to overcome inaccuracy in thickness measurements due to hair swelling by using an alternative immersion fluid, and increased the effective resolution for hair size and thickness measurement to <4 μm. After having qualified manual measurements as gold standard for the determination of hair diameters, we established a new trainable automatic picture analysis software able to locate and measure individual hairs in length and thickness even in picture series taken from the same skin area at different time points. Comparisons between manual and automatic measurements of the same hairs showed a >90% correlation, and by comparing the automatic results with manual measurements of the same images without individual hair annotation, we could find a correlation of at least 80%.

    CONCLUSION: According to the results and findings generated in this qualification study, we have a reliable tool now that enables us to test cosmetic products for hair treatment in a highly automated way with a sufficient degree of precision and accuracy to detect even small changes in hair diameter during cosmetic trials.

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    04/22/11 | Real-time observation of transcription initiation and elongation on an endogenous yeast gene.
    Larson DR, Zenklusen D, Wu B, Chao JA, Singer RH
    Science. 2011 Apr 22;332(6028):475-8. doi: 10.1126/science.1202142

    Cellular messenger RNA levels are achieved by the combinatorial complexity of factors controlling transcription, yet the small number of molecules involved in these pathways fluctuates stochastically. It has not yet been experimentally possible to observe the activity of single polymerases on an endogenous gene to elucidate how these events occur in vivo. Here, we describe a method of fluctuation analysis of fluorescently labeled RNA to measure dynamics of nascent RNA–including initiation, elongation, and termination–at an active yeast locus. We find no transcriptional memory between initiation events, and elongation speed can vary by threefold throughout the cell cycle. By measuring the abundance and intranuclear mobility of an upstream transcription factor, we observe that the gene firing rate is directly determined by trans-activating factor search times.

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    Singer Lab
    03/09/11 | The survival of motor neuron (SMN) protein interacts with the mRNA-binding protein HuD and regulates localization of poly(A) mRNA in primary motor neuron axons.
    Fallini C, Zhang H, Su Y, Silani V, Singer RH, Rossoll W, Bassell GJ
    The Journal of Neuroscience. 2011 Mar 9;31(10):3914-25. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3631-10.2011

    Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) results from reduced levels of the survival of motor neuron (SMN) protein, which has a well characterized function in spliceosomal small nuclear ribonucleoprotein assembly. Currently, it is not understood how deficiency of a housekeeping protein leads to the selective degeneration of spinal cord motor neurons. Numerous studies have shown that SMN is present in neuronal processes and has many interaction partners, including mRNA-binding proteins, suggesting a potential noncanonical role in axonal mRNA metabolism. In this study, we have established a novel technological approach using bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) and quantitative image analysis to characterize SMN-protein interactions in primary motor neurons. Consistent with biochemical studies on the SMN complex, BiFC analysis revealed that SMN dimerizes and interacts with Gemin2 in nuclear gems and axonal granules. In addition, using pull down assays, immunofluorescence, cell transfection, and BiFC, we characterized a novel interaction between SMN and the neuronal mRNA-binding protein HuD, which was dependent on the Tudor domain of SMN. A missense mutation in the SMN Tudor domain, which is known to cause SMA, impaired the interaction with HuD, but did not affect SMN axonal localization or self-association. Furthermore, time-lapse microscopy revealed SMN cotransport with HuD in live motor neurons. Importantly, SMN knockdown in primary motor neurons resulted in a specific reduction of both HuD protein and poly(A) mRNA levels in the axonal compartment. These findings reveal a noncanonical role for SMN whereby its interaction with mRNA-binding proteins may facilitate the localization of associated poly(A) mRNAs into axons.

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    02/01/11 | A transgenic mouse for in vivo detection of endogenous labeled mRNA.
    Lionnet T, Czaplinski K, Darzacq X, Shav-Tal Y, Wells AL, Chao JA, Park HY, de Turris V, Lopez-Jones M, Singer RH
    Nature Methods. 2011 Feb;8(2):165-70. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.1551

    Live-cell single mRNA imaging is a powerful tool but has been restricted in higher eukaryotes to artificial cell lines and reporter genes. We describe an approach that enables live-cell imaging of single endogenous labeled mRNA molecules transcribed in primary mammalian cells and tissue. We generated a knock-in mouse line with an MS2 binding site (MBS) cassette targeted to the 3’ untranslated region of the essential β-actin gene. As β-actin-MBS was ubiquitously expressed, we could uniquely address endogenous mRNA regulation in any tissue or cell type. We simultaneously followed transcription from the β-actin alleles in real time and observed transcriptional bursting in response to serum stimulation with precise temporal resolution. We tracked single endogenous labeled mRNA particles being transported in primary hippocampal neurons. The MBS cassette also enabled high-sensitivity fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), allowing detection and localization of single β-actin mRNA molecules in various mouse tissues.

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    Singer Lab
    01/01/11 | A nucleoporin, Nup60p, affects the nuclear and cytoplasmic localization of ASH1 mRNA in S. cerevisiae.
    Powrie EA, Zenklusen D, Singer RH
    RNA. 2011 Jan;17(1):134-44. doi: 10.1261/rna.1210411

    The biogenesis of a localization-competent mRNP begins in the nucleus. It is thought that the coordinated action of nuclear and cytoplasmic components of the localization machinery is required for the efficient export and subsequent subcellular localization of these mRNAs in the cytoplasm. Using quantitative poly(A)(+) and transcript-specific fluorescent in situ hybridization, we analyzed different nonessential nucleoporins and nuclear pore-associated proteins for their potential role in mRNA export and localization. We found that Nup60p, a nuclear pore protein located on the nucleoplasmic side of the nuclear pore complex, was required for the mRNA localization pathway. In a Δnup60 background, localized mRNAs were preferentially retained within the nucleus compared to nonlocalized transcripts. However, the export block was only partial and some transcripts could still reach the cytoplasm. Importantly, downstream processes were also affected. Localization of ASH1 and IST2 mRNAs to the bud was impaired in the Δnup60 background, suggesting that the assembly of a localization competent mRNP ("locasome") was inhibited when NUP60 was deleted. These results demonstrate transcript specificity of a nuclear mRNA retention defect and identify a specific nucleoporin as a functional component of the localization pathway in budding yeast.

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    Singer Lab
    01/01/11 | Transcription of functionally related constitutive genes is not coordinated.
    Gandhi SJ, Zenklusen D, Lionnet T, Singer RH
    Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. 2011 Jan;18(1):27-34. doi: 10.1038/nsmb.1934

    Expression of an individual gene can vary considerably among genetically identical cells because of stochastic fluctuations in transcription. However, proteins comprising essential complexes or pathways have similar abundances and lower variability. It is not known whether coordination in the expression of subunits of essential complexes occurs at the level of transcription, mRNA abundance or protein expression. To directly measure the level of coordination in the expression of genes, we used highly sensitive fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to count individual mRNAs of functionally related and unrelated genes within single Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells. Our results revealed that transcript levels of temporally induced genes are highly correlated in individual cells. In contrast, transcription of constitutive genes encoding essential subunits of complexes is not coordinated because of stochastic fluctuations. The coordination of these functional complexes therefore must occur post-transcriptionally, and likely post-translationally.

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    01/01/10 | Nuclear physics: quantitative single-cell approaches to nuclear organization and gene expression.
    Lionnet T, Wu B, Grünwald D, Singer RH, Larson DR
    Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology. 2010;75:113-26. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2010.75.057

    The internal workings of the nucleus remain a mystery. A list of component parts exists, and in many cases their functional roles are known for events such as transcription, RNA processing, or nuclear export. Some of these components exhibit structural features in the nucleus, regions of concentration or bodies that have given rise to the concept of functional compartmentalization–that there are underlying organizational principles to be described. In contrast, a picture is emerging in which transcription appears to drive the assembly of the functional components required for gene expression, drawing from pools of excess factors. Unifying this seemingly dual nature requires a more rigorous approach, one in which components are tracked in time and space and correlated with onset of specific nuclear functions. In this chapter, we anticipate tools that will address these questions and provide the missing kinetics of nuclear function. These tools are based on analyzing the fluctuations inherent in the weak signals of endogenous nuclear processes and determining values for them. In this way, it will be possible eventually to provide a computational model describing the functional relationships of essential components.

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    Tjian LabSinger LabTranscription Imaging
    02/03/09 | Imaging transcription in living cells.
    Darzacq X, Yao J, Larson DR, Causse SZ, Bosanac L, de Turris V, Ruda VM, Lionnet T, Zenklusen D, Guglielmi B, Tjian R, Singer RH
    Annual Review of Biophysics. 2009 Feb 3;38:173-96. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100640108

    The advent of new technologies for the imaging of living cells has made it possible to determine the properties of transcription, the kinetics of polymerase movement, the association of transcription factors, and the progression of the polymerase on the gene. We report here the current state of the field and the progress necessary to achieve a more complete understanding of the various steps in transcription. Our Consortium is dedicated to developing and implementing the technology to further this understanding.

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