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50 Publications

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    10/26/22 | Rapid reconstruction of neural circuits using tissue expansion and lattice light sheet microscopy
    Joshua L. Lillvis , Hideo Otsuna , Xiaoyu Ding , Igor Pisarev , Takashi Kawase , Jennifer Colonell , Konrad Rokicki , Cristian Goina , Ruixuan Gao , Amy Hu , Kaiyu Wang , John Bogovic , Daniel E. Milkie , Edward S. Boyden , Stephan Saalfeld , Paul W. Tillberg , Barry J. Dickson
    eLife. 2022 Oct 26:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.81248

    Electron microscopy (EM) allows for the reconstruction of dense neuronal connectomes but suffers from low throughput, limiting its application to small numbers of reference specimens. We developed a protocol and analysis pipeline using tissue expansion and lattice light-sheet microscopy (ExLLSM) to rapidly reconstruct selected circuits across many samples with single synapse resolution and molecular contrast. We validate this approach in Drosophila, demonstrating that it yields synaptic counts similar to those obtained by EM, can be used to compare counts across sex and experience, and to correlate structural connectivity with functional connectivity. This approach fills a critical methodological gap in studying variability in the structure and function of neural circuits across individuals within and between species.

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    08/23/22 | Transverse endoplasmic reticulum expansion in hereditary spastic paraplegia corticospinal axons.
    Zhu P, Hung H, Batchenkova N, Nixon-Abell J, Henderson J, Zheng P, Renvoisé B, Pang S, Xu CS, Saalfeld S, Funke J, Xie Y, Svara F, Hess HF, Blackstone C
    Human Molecular Genetics. 2022 Aug 23;31(16):2779-2795. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddac072

    Hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSPs) comprise a large group of inherited neurologic disorders affecting the longest corticospinal axons (SPG1-86 plus others), with shared manifestations of lower extremity spasticity and gait impairment. Common autosomal dominant HSPs are caused by mutations in genes encoding the microtubule-severing ATPase spastin (SPAST; SPG4), the membrane-bound GTPase atlastin-1 (ATL1; SPG3A) and the reticulon-like, microtubule-binding protein REEP1 (REEP1; SPG31). These proteins bind one another and function in shaping the tubular endoplasmic reticulum (ER) network. Typically, mouse models of HSPs have mild, later onset phenotypes, possibly reflecting far shorter lengths of their corticospinal axons relative to humans. Here, we have generated a robust, double mutant mouse model of HSP in which atlastin-1 is genetically modified with a K80A knock-in (KI) missense change that abolishes its GTPase activity, whereas its binding partner Reep1 is knocked out. Atl1KI/KI/Reep1-/- mice exhibit early onset and rapidly progressive declines in several motor function tests. Also, ER in mutant corticospinal axons dramatically expands transversely and periodically in a mutation dosage-dependent manner to create a ladder-like appearance, on the basis of reconstructions of focused ion beam-scanning electron microscopy datasets using machine learning-based auto-segmentation. In lockstep with changes in ER morphology, axonal mitochondria are fragmented and proportions of hypophosphorylated neurofilament H and M subunits are dramatically increased in Atl1KI/KI/Reep1-/- spinal cord. Co-occurrence of these findings links ER morphology changes to alterations in mitochondrial morphology and cytoskeletal organization. Atl1KI/KI/Reep1-/- mice represent an early onset rodent HSP model with robust behavioral and cellular readouts for testing novel therapies.

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    07/26/22 | A scalable and modular automated pipeline for stitching of large electron microscopy datasets.
    Mahalingam G, Torres R, Kapner D, Trautman ET, Fliss T, Seshamani S, Perlman E, Young R, Kinn S, Buchanan J, Takeno MM, Yin W, Bumbarger DJ, Gwinn RP, Nyhus J, Lein E, Smith SJ, Reid RC, Khairy KA, Saalfeld S, Collman F, Macarico da Costa N
    eLife. 2022 Jul 26;11:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.76534

    Serial-section electronmicroscopy (ssEM) is themethod of choice for studyingmacroscopic biological samples at extremely high resolution in three dimensions. In the nervous system, nanometer-scale images are necessary to reconstruct dense neural wiring diagrams in the brain, so called connectomes. In order to use this data, consisting of up to 10 individual EM images, it must be assembled into a volume, requiring seamless 2D stitching from each physical section followed by 3D alignment of the stitched sections. The high throughput of ssEM necessitates 2D stitching to be done at the pace of imaging, which currently produces tens of terabytes per day. To achieve this, we present a modular volume assembly software pipeline ASAP (Assembly Stitching and Alignment Pipeline) that is scalable to datasets containing petabytes of data and parallelized to work in a distributed computational environment. The pipeline is built on top of the Render (27) services used in the volume assembly of the brain of adult Drosophilamelanogaster (30). It achieves high throughput by operating on themeta-data and transformations of each image stored in a database, thus eliminating the need to render intermediate output. ASAP ismodular, allowing for easy incorporation of new algorithms without significant changes in the workflow. The entire software pipeline includes a complete set of tools for stitching, automated quality control, 3D section alignment, and final rendering of the assembled volume to disk. ASAP has been deployed for continuous stitching of several large-scale datasets of the mouse visual cortex and human brain samples including one cubic millimeter of mouse visual cortex (28; 8) at speeds that exceed imaging. The pipeline also has multi-channel processing capabilities and can be applied to fluorescence and multi-modal datasets like array tomography.

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    07/08/22 | Architecture and dynamics of a novel desmosome-endoplasmic reticulum organelle
    Navaneetha Krishnan Bharathan , William Giang , Jesse S. Aaron , Satya Khuon , Teng-Leong Chew , Stephan Preibisch , Eric T. Trautman , Larissa Heinrich , John Bogovic , Davis Bennett , David Ackerman , Woohyun Park , Alyson Petruncio , Aubrey V. Weigel , Stephan Saalfeld , COSEM Project Team , A. Wayne Vogl , Sara N. Stahley , Andrew P. Kowalczyk
    bioRxiv. 2022 Jul 08:. doi: 10.1101/2022.07.07.499185

    The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) forms a dynamic network that contacts other cellular membranes to regulate stress responses, calcium signaling, and lipid transfer. Using high-resolution volume electron microscopy, we find that the ER forms a previously unknown association with keratin intermediate filaments and desmosomal cell-cell junctions. Peripheral ER assembles into mirror image-like arrangements at desmosomes and exhibits nanometer proximity to keratin filaments and the desmosome cytoplasmic plaque. ER tubules exhibit stable associations with desmosomes, and perturbation of desmosomes or keratin filaments alters ER organization and mobility. These findings indicate that desmosomes and the keratin cytoskeleton pattern the distribution of the ER network. Overall, this study reveals a previously unknown subcellular architecture defined by the structural integration of ER tubules with an epithelial intercellular junction.

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    03/27/22 | Petascale pipeline for precise alignment of images from serial section electron microscopy.
    Sergiy Popovych , Thomas Macrina , Nico Kemnitz , Manuel Castro , Barak Nehoran , Zhen Jia , J. Alexander Bae , Eric Mitchell , Shang Mu , Eric T. Trautman , Stephan Saalfeld , Kai Li , Sebastian Seung
    bioRxiv. 2022 Mar 27:. doi: 10.1101/2022.03.25.485816

    The reconstruction of neural circuits from serial section electron microscopy (ssEM) images is being accelerated by automatic image segmentation methods. Segmentation accuracy is often limited by the preceding step of aligning 2D section images to create a 3D image stack. Precise and robust alignment in the presence of image artifacts is challenging, especially as datasets are attaining the petascale. We present a computational pipeline for aligning ssEM images with several key elements. Self-supervised convolutional nets are trained via metric learning to encode and align image pairs, and they are used to initialize iterative fine-tuning of alignment. A procedure called vector voting increases robustness to image artifacts or missing image data. For speedup the series is divided into blocks that are distributed to computational workers for alignment. The blocks are aligned to each other by composing transformations with decay, which achieves a global alignment without resorting to a time-consuming global optimization. We apply our pipeline to a whole fly brain dataset, and show improved accuracy relative to prior state of the art. We also demonstrate that our pipeline scales to a cubic millimeter of mouse visual cortex. Our pipeline is publicly available through two open source Python packages.

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    03/26/22 | Transverse endoplasmic reticulum expansion in hereditary spastic paraplegia corticospinal axons.
    Zhu P, Hung H, Batchenkova N, Nixon-Abell J, Henderson J, Zheng P, Renvoisé B, Pang S, Xu CS, Saalfeld S, Funke J, Xie Y, Svara F, Hess HF, Blackstone C
    Human Molecular Genetics. 2022 Mar 26:. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddac072

    Hereditary spastic paraplegias (HSPs) comprise a large group of inherited neurologic disorders affecting the longest corticospinal axons (SPG1-86 plus others), with shared manifestations of lower extremity spasticity and gait impairment. Common autosomal dominant HSPs are caused by mutations in genes encoding the microtubule-severing ATPase spastin (SPAST; SPG4), the membrane-bound GTPase atlastin-1 (ATL1; SPG3A), and the reticulon-like, microtubule-binding protein REEP1 (REEP1; SPG31). These proteins bind one another and function in shaping the tubular endoplasmic reticulum (ER) network. Typically, mouse models of HSPs have mild, later-onset phenotypes, possibly reflecting far shorter lengths of their corticospinal axons relative to humans. Here, we have generated a robust, double mutant mouse model of HSP in which atlastin-1 is genetically modified with a K80A knock-in (KI) missense change that abolishes its GTPase activity, while its binding partner Reep1 is knocked out. Atl1KI/KI/Reep1-/- mice exhibit early-onset and rapidly progressive declines in several motor function tests. Also, ER in mutant corticospinal axons dramatically expands transversely and periodically in a mutation dosage-dependent manner to create a ladder-like appearance, based on reconstructions of focused ion beam-scanning electron microscopy datasets using machine learning-based auto-segmentation. In lockstep with changes in ER morphology, axonal mitochondria are fragmented and proportions of hypophosphorylated neurofilament H and M subunits are dramatically increased in Atl1KI/KI/Reep1-/- spinal cord. Co-occurrence of these findings links ER morphology changes to alterations in mitochondrial morphology and cytoskeletal organization. Atl1KI/KI/Reep1-/- mice represent an early-onset rodent HSP model with robust behavioral and cellular readouts for testing novel therapies.

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    Svoboda LabSaalfeld LabSternson LabTillberg Lab
    12/01/21 | EASI-FISH for thick tissue defines lateral hypothalamus spatio-molecular organization.
    Wang Y, Eddison M, Fleishman G, Weigert M, Xu S, Wang T, Rokicki K, Goina C, Henry FE, Lemire AL, Schmidt U, Yang H, Svoboda K, Myers EW, Saalfeld S, Korff W, Sternson SM, Tillberg PW
    Cell. 2021 Dec 01;184(26):6361. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2021.11.024

    Determining the spatial organization and morphological characteristics of molecularly defined cell types is a major bottleneck for characterizing the architecture underpinning brain function. We developed Expansion-Assisted Iterative Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (EASI-FISH) to survey gene expression in brain tissue, as well as a turnkey computational pipeline to rapidly process large EASI-FISH image datasets. EASI-FISH was optimized for thick brain sections (300 μm) to facilitate reconstruction of spatio-molecular domains that generalize across brains. Using the EASI-FISH pipeline, we investigated the spatial distribution of dozens of molecularly defined cell types in the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA), a brain region with poorly defined anatomical organization. Mapping cell types in the LHA revealed nine spatially and molecularly defined subregions. EASI-FISH also facilitates iterative reanalysis of scRNA-seq datasets to determine marker-genes that further dissociated spatial and morphological heterogeneity. The EASI-FISH pipeline democratizes mapping molecularly defined cell types, enabling discoveries about brain organization.

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    11/01/21 | Whole-cell organelle segmentation in volume electron microscopy.
    Heinrich L, Bennett D, Ackerman D, Park W, Bogovic J, Eckstein N, Petruncio A, Clements J, Pang S, Xu CS, Funke J, Korff W, Hess HF, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Saalfeld S, Weigel AV, COSEM Project Team
    Nature. 2021 Nov 01;599(7883):141-46. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03977-3

    Cells contain hundreds of organelles and macromolecular assemblies. Obtaining a complete understanding of their intricate organization requires the nanometre-level, three-dimensional reconstruction of whole cells, which is only feasible with robust and scalable automatic methods. Here, to support the development of such methods, we annotated up to 35 different cellular organelle classes-ranging from endoplasmic reticulum to microtubules to ribosomes-in diverse sample volumes from multiple cell types imaged at a near-isotropic resolution of 4 nm per voxel with focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM). We trained deep learning architectures to segment these structures in 4 nm and 8 nm per voxel FIB-SEM volumes, validated their performance and showed that automatic reconstructions can be used to directly quantify previously inaccessible metrics including spatial interactions between cellular components. We also show that such reconstructions can be used to automatically register light and electron microscopy images for correlative studies. We have created an open data and open-source web repository, 'OpenOrganelle', to share the data, computer code and trained models, which will enable scientists everywhere to query and further improve automatic reconstruction of these datasets.

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    07/01/21 | Automatic Detection of Synaptic Partners in a Whole-Brain Drosophila EM Dataset
    Buhmann J, Sheridan A, Gerhard S, Krause R, Nguyen T, Heinrich L, Schlegel P, Lee WA, Wilson R, Saalfeld S, Jefferis G, Bock D, Turaga S, Cook M, Funke J
    Nature Methods. 2021 Jul 1;18(7):771-4. doi: 10.1038/s41592-021-01183-7

    The study of neural circuits requires the reconstruction of neurons and the identification of synaptic connections between them. To scale the reconstruction to the size of whole-brain datasets, semi-automatic methods are needed to solve those tasks. Here, we present an automatic method for synaptic partner identification in insect brains, which uses convolutional neural networks to identify post-synaptic sites and their pre-synaptic partners. The networks can be trained from human generated point annotations alone and requires only simple post-processing to obtain final predictions. We used our method to extract 244 million putative synaptic partners in the fifty-teravoxel full adult fly brain (FAFB) electron microscopy (EM) dataset and evaluated its accuracy on 146,643 synapses from 702 neurons with a total cable length of 312 mm in four different brain regions. The predicted synaptic connections can be used together with a neuron segmentation to infer a connectivity graph with high accuracy: 96% of edges between connected neurons are correctly classified as weakly connected (less than five synapses) and strongly connected (at least five synapses). Our synaptic partner predictions for the FAFB dataset are publicly available, together with a query library allowing automatic retrieval of up- and downstream neurons.

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    03/08/21 | Expansion-Assisted Iterative-FISH defines lateral hypothalamus spatio-molecular organization
    Yuhan Wang , Mark Eddison , Greg Fleishman , Martin Weigert , Shengjin Xu , Frederick E. Henry , Tim Wang , Andrew L. Lemire , Uwe Schmidt , Hui Yang , Konrad Rokicki , Cristian Goina , Karel Svoboda , Eugene W. Myers , Stephan Saalfeld , Wyatt Korff , Scott M. Sternson , Paul W. Tillberg
    bioRxiv. 2021 Mar 8:. doi: 10.1101/2021.03.08.434304

    Determining the spatial organization and morphological characteristics of molecularly defined cell types is a major bottleneck for characterizing the architecture underpinning brain function. We developed Expansion-Assisted Iterative Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (EASI-FISH) to survey gene expression in brain tissue, as well as a turnkey computational pipeline to rapidly process large EASI-FISH image datasets. EASI-FISH was optimized for thick brain sections (300 µm) to facilitate reconstruction of spatio-molecular domains that generalize across brains. Using the EASI-FISH pipeline, we investigated the spatial distribution of dozens of molecularly defined cell types in the lateral hypothalamic area (LHA), a brain region with poorly defined anatomical organization. Mapping cell types in the LHA revealed nine novel spatially and molecularly defined subregions. EASI-FISH also facilitates iterative re-analysis of scRNA-Seq datasets to determine marker-genes that further dissociated spatial and morphological heterogeneity. The EASI-FISH pipeline democratizes mapping molecularly defined cell types, enabling discoveries about brain organization.

    View Publication Page