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50 Publications

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    10/27/22 | Spatial organization of the 3D genome encodes gene co-expression programs in single cells
    Peng Dong , Shu Zhang , Liangqi Xie , Lihua Wang , Andrew L. Lemire , Arthur D. Lander , Howard Y. Chang , Zhe J. Liu
    bioRxiv. 2022 Oct 27:. doi: 10.1101/2022.10.26.513917

    Deconstructing the mechanism by which the 3D genome encodes genetic information to generate diverse cell types during animal development is a major challenge in biology. The contrast between the elimination of chromatin loops and domains upon Cohesin loss and the lack of downstream gene expression changes at the cell population level instigates intense debates regarding the structure-function relationship between genome organization and gene regulation. Here, by analyzing single cells after acute Cohesin removal with sequencing and spatial genome imaging techniques, we discover that, instead of dictating population-wide gene expression levels, 3D genome topology mediated by Cohesin safeguards long-range gene co-expression correlations in single cells. Notably, Cohesin loss induces gene co-activation and chromatin co-opening between active domains in cis up to tens of megabase apart, far beyond the typical length scale of enhancer-promoter communication. In addition, Cohesin separates Mediator protein hubs, prevents active genes in cis from localizing into shared hubs and blocks intersegment transfer of diverse transcriptional regulators. Together, these results support that spatial organization of the 3D genome orchestrates dynamic long-range gene and chromatin co-regulation in single living cells.

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    09/19/22 | The evolutionary dynamics of extrachromosomal DNA in human cancers.
    Lange JT, Rose JC, Chen CY, Pichugin Y, Xie L, Tang J, Hung KL, Yost KE, Shi Q, Erb ML, Rajkumar U, Wu S, Taschner-Mandl S, Bernkopf M, Swanton C, Liu Z, Huang W, Chang HY, Bafna V, Henssen AG, Werner B, Mischel PS
    Nature Genetics. 2022 Sep 19:. doi: 10.1038/s41588-022-01177-x

    Oncogene amplification on extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA) is a common event, driving aggressive tumor growth, drug resistance and shorter survival. Currently, the impact of nonchromosomal oncogene inheritance-random identity by descent-is poorly understood. Also unclear is the impact of ecDNA on somatic variation and selection. Here integrating theoretical models of random segregation, unbiased image analysis, CRISPR-based ecDNA tagging with live-cell imaging and CRISPR-C, we demonstrate that random ecDNA inheritance results in extensive intratumoral ecDNA copy number heterogeneity and rapid adaptation to metabolic stress and targeted treatment. Observed ecDNAs benefit host cell survival or growth and can change within a single cell cycle. ecDNA inheritance can predict, a priori, some of the aggressive features of ecDNA-containing cancers. These properties are facilitated by the ability of ecDNA to rapidly adapt genomes in a way that is not possible through chromosomal oncogene amplification. These results show how the nonchromosomal random inheritance pattern of ecDNA contributes to poor outcomes for patients with cancer.

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    06/06/22 | Direct Observation of Compartment-Specific Localization and Dynamics of Voltage-Gated Sodium Channels.
    Liu H, Wang H, Pitt GS, Liu ZJ
    Journal of Neuroscience. 2022 Jun 06:. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0086-22.2022

    Brain enriched voltage-gated sodium channel (VGSC) Na1.2 and Na1.6 are critical for electrical signaling in the central nervous system. Previous studies have extensively characterized cell-type specific expression and electrophysiological properties of these two VGSCs and how their differences contribute to fine-tuning of neuronal excitability. However, due to lack of reliable labeling and imaging methods, the sub-cellular localization and dynamics of these homologous Na1.2 and Na1.6 channels remain understudied. To overcome this challenge, we combined genome editing, super-resolution and live-cell single molecule imaging to probe subcellular composition, relative abundances and trafficking dynamics of Na1.2 and Na1.6 in cultured mouse and rat neurons and in male and female mouse brain. We discovered a previously uncharacterized trafficking pathway that targets Na1.2 to the distal axon of unmyelinated neurons. This pathway utilizes distinct signals residing in the intracellular loop 1 (ICL1) between transmembrane domain I and II to suppress the retention of Na1.2 in the axon initial segment (AIS) and facilitate its membrane loading at the distal axon. As mouse pyramidal neurons undergo myelination, Na1.2 is gradually excluded from the distal axon as Na1.6 becomes the dominant VGSC in the axon initial segment and nodes of Ranvier. In addition, we revealed exquisite developmental regulation of Na1.2 and Na1.6 localizations in the axon initial segment and dendrites, clarifying the molecular identity of sodium channels in these subcellular compartments. Together, these results unveiled compartment-specific localizations and trafficking mechanisms for VGSCs, which could be regulated separately to modulate membrane excitability in the brain.Direct observation of endogenous voltage-gated sodium channels reveals a previously uncharacterized distal axon targeting mechanism and the molecular identity of sodium channels in distinct subcellular compartments.

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    05/29/22 | Plasticity-induced actin polymerization in the dendritic shaft regulates intracellular AMPA receptor trafficking.
    V. C. Wong , P.R. Houlihan , H. Liu , D. Walpita , M.C. DeSantis , Z. Liu , E. K. O’Shea
    bioRxiv. 2022 May 29:. doi: 10.1101/2022.05.29.493906

    AMPA-type receptors (AMPARs) are rapidly inserted into synapses undergoing long-term potentiation (LTP) to increase synaptic transmission, but how AMPAR-containing vesicles are selectively trafficked to these synapses during LTP is not known. Here we developed a strategy to label AMPAR GluA1 subunits expressed from the endogenous loci of rat hippocampal neurons such that the motion of GluA1-containing vesicles in time-lapse sequences can be characterized using single-particle tracking and mathematical modeling. We find that GluA1-containing vesicles are confined and concentrated near sites of stimulation-induced plasticity. We show that confinement is mediated by actin polymerization, which hinders the active transport of GluA1-containing vesicles along the length of the dendritic shaft by modulating the rheological properties of the cytoplasm. Actin polymerization also facilitates myosin-mediated transport of GluA1-containing vesicles to exocytic sites. We conclude that neurons utilize F-actin to increase vesicular GluA1 reservoirs and promote exocytosis proximal to the sites of neuronal activity.

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    04/11/22 | BRD2 compartmentalizes the accessible genome.
    Xie L, Dong P, Qi Y, Hsieh TS, English BP, Jung S, Chen X, De Marzio M, Casellas R, Chang HY, Zhang B, Tjian R, Liu Z
    Nature Genetics. 2022 Apr 11;54(4):481-491. doi: 10.1038/s41588-022-01044-9

    Mammalian chromosomes are organized into megabase-sized compartments that are further subdivided into topologically associating domains (TADs). While the formation of TADs is dependent on cohesin, the mechanism behind compartmentalization remains enigmatic. Here, we show that the bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) family scaffold protein BRD2 promotes spatial mixing and compartmentalization of active chromatin after cohesin loss. This activity is independent of transcription but requires BRD2 to recognize acetylated targets through its double bromodomain and interact with binding partners with its low-complexity domain. Notably, genome compartmentalization mediated by BRD2 is antagonized on the one hand by cohesin and on the other hand by the BET homolog protein BRD4, both of which inhibit BRD2 binding to chromatin. Polymer simulation of our data supports a BRD2-cohesin interplay model of nuclear topology, in which genome compartmentalization results from a competition between loop extrusion and chromatin-state-specific affinity interactions.

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    12/01/21 | ecDNA hubs drive cooperative intermolecular oncogene expression.
    Hung KL, Yost KE, Xie L, Shi Q, Helmsauer K, Luebeck J, Schöpflin R, Lange JT, Chamorro González R, Weiser NE, Chen C, Valieva ME, Wong IT, Wu S, Dehkordi SR, Duffy CV, Kraft K, Tang J, Belk JA, Rose JC, Corces MR, Granja JM, Li R, Rajkumar U, Friedlein J, Bagchi A, Satpathy AT, Tjian R, Mundlos S, Bafna V, Henssen AG, Mischel PS, Liu Z, Chang HY
    Nature. 2021 Dec 01;600(7890):731-6. doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-04116-8

    Extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA) is prevalent in human cancers and mediates high expression of oncogenes through gene amplification and altered gene regulation. Gene induction typically involves cis-regulatory elements that contact and activate genes on the same chromosome. Here we show that ecDNA hubs-clusters of around 10-100 ecDNAs within the nucleus-enable intermolecular enhancer-gene interactions to promote oncogene overexpression. ecDNAs that encode multiple distinct oncogenes form hubs in diverse cancer cell types and primary tumours. Each ecDNA is more likely to transcribe the oncogene when spatially clustered with additional ecDNAs. ecDNA hubs are tethered by the bromodomain and extraterminal domain (BET) protein BRD4 in a MYC-amplified colorectal cancer cell line. The BET inhibitor JQ1 disperses ecDNA hubs and preferentially inhibits ecDNA-derived-oncogene transcription. The BRD4-bound PVT1 promoter is ectopically fused to MYC and duplicated in ecDNA, receiving promiscuous enhancer input to drive potent expression of MYC. Furthermore, the PVT1 promoter on an exogenous episome suffices to mediate gene activation in trans by ecDNA hubs in a JQ1-sensitive manner. Systematic silencing of ecDNA enhancers by CRISPR interference reveals intermolecular enhancer-gene activation among multiple oncogene loci that are amplified on distinct ecDNAs. Thus, protein-tethered ecDNA hubs enable intermolecular transcriptional regulation and may serve as units of oncogene function and cooperative evolution and as potential targets for cancer therapy.

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    09/27/21 | A dominant-negative SOX18 mutant disrupts multiple regulatory layers essential to transcription factor activity.
    McCann AJ, Lou J, Moustaqil M, Graus MS, Blum A, Fontaine F, Liu H, Luu W, Rudolffi-Soto P, Koopman P, Sierecki E, Gambin Y, Meunier FA, Liu Z, Hinde E, Francois M
    Nucleic Acids Research. 2021 Sep 27:. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkab820

    Few genetically dominant mutations involved in human disease have been fully explained at the molecular level. In cases where the mutant gene encodes a transcription factor, the dominant-negative mode of action of the mutant protein is particularly poorly understood. Here, we studied the genome-wide mechanism underlying a dominant-negative form of the SOX18 transcription factor (SOX18RaOp) responsible for both the classical mouse mutant Ragged Opossum and the human genetic disorder Hypotrichosis-lymphedema-telangiectasia-renal defect syndrome. Combining three single-molecule imaging assays in living cells together with genomics and proteomics analysis, we found that SOX18RaOp disrupts the system through an accumulation of molecular interferences which impair several functional properties of the wild-type SOX18 protein, including its target gene selection process. The dominant-negative effect is further amplified by poisoning the interactome of its wild-type counterpart, which perturbs regulatory nodes such as SOX7 and MEF2C. Our findings explain in unprecedented detail the multi-layered process that underpins the molecular aetiology of dominant-negative transcription factor function.

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    07/01/21 | Biomolecular Condensates and Their Links to Cancer Progression.
    Cai D, Liu Z, Lippincott-Schwartz J
    Trends in Biochemical Sciences. 2021 Jul 01;46(7):535-549. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2021.01.002

    Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) has emerged in recent years as an important physicochemical process for organizing diverse processes within cells via the formation of membraneless organelles termed biomolecular condensates. Emerging evidence now suggests that the formation and regulation of biomolecular condensates are also intricately linked to cancer formation and progression. We review the most recent literature linking the existence and/or dissolution of biomolecular condensates to different hallmarks of cancer formation and progression. We then discuss the opportunities that this condensate perspective provides for cancer research and the development of novel therapeutic approaches, including the perturbation of condensates by small-molecule inhibitors.

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    07/01/21 | Single-cell imaging of genome organization and dynamics.
    Xie L, Liu Z
    Molecular Systems Biology. 2021 Jul 01;17(7):e9653. doi: 10.15252/msb.20209653

    Probing the architecture, mechanism, and dynamics of genome folding is fundamental to our understanding of genome function in homeostasis and disease. Most chromosome conformation capture studies dissect the genome architecture with population- and time-averaged snapshots and thus have limited capabilities to reveal 3D nuclear organization and dynamics at the single-cell level. Here, we discuss emerging imaging techniques ranging from light microscopy to electron microscopy that enable investigation of genome folding and dynamics at high spatial and temporal resolution. Results from these studies complement genomic data, unveiling principles underlying the spatial arrangement of the genome and its potential functional links to diverse biological activities in the nucleus.

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    05/24/21 | A general method to improve fluorophores using deuterated auxochromes.
    Grimm JB, Xie L, Casler JC, Patel R, Tkachuk AN, Falco N, Choi H, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Brown TA, Glick BS, Liu Z, Lavis LD
    JACS Au. 2021 May 24;1(5):690-6. doi: 10.1021/jacsau.1c00006

    Fluorescence microscopy relies on dyes that absorb and then emit photons. In addition to fluorescence, fluorophores can undergo photochemical processes that decrease quantum yield or result in spectral shifts and irreversible photobleaching. Chemical strategies that suppress these undesirable pathways—thereby increasing the brightness and photostability of fluorophores—are crucial for advancing the frontier of bioimaging. Here, we describe a general method to improve small-molecule fluorophores by incorporating deuterium into the alkylamino auxochromes of rhodamines and other dyes. This strategy increases fluorescence quantum yield, inhibits photochemically induced spectral shifts, and slows irreparable photobleaching, yielding next-generation labels with improved performance in cellular imaging experiments.

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