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17 Publications

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    06/27/23 | An engineered biosensor enables dynamic aspartate measurements in living cells
    Kristian Davidsen , Jonathan S Marvin , Abhi Aggarwal , Timothy A Brown , Lucas B Sullivan
    bioRxiv. 2023 Jun 27:. doi: 10.1101/2023.06.27.546775

    Intracellular levels of the amino acid aspartate are responsive to changes in metabolism in mammalian cells and can correspondingly alter cell function, highlighting the need for robust tools to measure aspartate abundance. However, comprehensive understanding of aspartate metabolism has been limited by the throughput, cost, and static nature of the mass spectrometry based measurements that are typically employed to measure aspartate levels. To address these issues, we have developed a GFP-based sensor of aspartate (jAspSnFR3), where the fluorescence intensity corresponds to aspartate concentration. As a purified protein, the sensor has a 20-fold increase in fluorescence upon aspartate saturation, with dose dependent fluorescence changes covering a physiologically relevant aspartate concentration range and no significant off target binding. Expressed in mammalian cell lines, sensor intensity correlated with aspartate levels measured by mass spectrometry and could resolve temporal changes in intracellular aspartate from genetic, pharmacological, and nutritional manipulations. These data demonstrate the utility of jAspSnFR3 and highlight the opportunities it provides for temporally resolved and high throughput applications of variables that affect aspartate levels.

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    06/05/23 | Direct measurement of dynamic attractant gradients reveals breakdown of the Patlak-Keller-Segel chemotaxis model
    Trung V. Phan , Henry H. Mattingly , Lam Vo , Jonathan S. Marvin , Loren L. Looger , Thierry Emonet
    bioRxiv. 2023 Jun 05:. doi: 10.1101/2023.06.01.543315

    Chemotactic bacteria not only navigate chemical gradients, but also shape their environments by consuming and secreting attractants. Investigating how these processes influence the dynamics of bacterial populations has been challenging because of a lack of experimental methods for measuring spatial profiles of chemoattractants in real time. Here, we use a fluorescent sensor for aspartate to directly measure bacterially generated chemoattractant gradients during collective migration. Our measurements show that the standard Patlak-Keller-Segel model for collective chemotactic bacterial migration breaks down at high cell densities. To address this, we propose modifications to the model that consider the impact of cell density on bacterial chemotaxis and attractant consumption. With these changes, the model explains our experimental data across all cell densities, offering new insight into chemotactic dynamics. Our findings highlight the significance of considering cell density effects on bacterial behavior, and the potential for fluorescent metabolite sensors to shed light on the complex emergent dynamics of bacterial communities.

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    06/01/23 | Glutamate indicators with improved activation kinetics and localization for imaging synaptic transmission.
    Aggarwal A, Liu R, Chen Y, Ralowicz AJ, Bergerson SJ, Tomaska F, Mohar B, Hanson TL, Hasseman JP, Reep D, Tsegaye G, Yao P, Ji X, Kloos M, Walpita D, Patel R, Mohr MA, Tillberg PW, GENIE Project Team , Looger LL, Marvin JS, Hoppa MB, Konnerth A, Kleinfeld D, Schreiter ER, Podgorski K
    Nature Methods. 2023 Jun 01;20(6):. doi: 10.1038/s41592-023-01863-6

    The fluorescent glutamate indicator iGluSnFR enables imaging of neurotransmission with genetic and molecular specificity. However, existing iGluSnFR variants exhibit low in vivo signal-to-noise ratios, saturating activation kinetics and exclusion from postsynaptic densities. Using a multiassay screen in bacteria, soluble protein and cultured neurons, we generated variants with improved signal-to-noise ratios and kinetics. We developed surface display constructs that improve iGluSnFR's nanoscopic localization to postsynapses. The resulting indicator iGluSnFR3 exhibits rapid nonsaturating activation kinetics and reports synaptic glutamate release with decreased saturation and increased specificity versus extrasynaptic signals in cultured neurons. Simultaneous imaging and electrophysiology at individual boutons in mouse visual cortex showed that iGluSnFR3 transients report single action potentials with high specificity. In vibrissal sensory cortex layer 4, we used iGluSnFR3 to characterize distinct patterns of touch-evoked feedforward input from thalamocortical boutons and both feedforward and recurrent input onto L4 cortical neuron dendritic spines.

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    03/15/23 | Fast and sensitive GCaMP calcium indicators for imaging neural populations.
    Zhang Y, Rozsa M, Liang Y, Bushey D, Wei Z, Zheng J, Reep D, Broussard GJ, Tsang A, Tsegaye G, Narayan S, Obara CJ, Lim J, Patel R, Zhang R, Ahrens MB, Turner GC, Wang SS, Korff WL, Schreiter ER, Svoboda K, Hasseman JP, Kolb I, Looger LL
    Nature. 2023 Mar 15:. doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-05828-9

    Calcium imaging with protein-based indicators is widely used to follow neural activity in intact nervous systems, but current protein sensors report neural activity at timescales much slower than electrical signalling and are limited by trade-offs between sensitivity and kinetics. Here we used large-scale screening and structure-guided mutagenesis to develop and optimize several fast and sensitive GCaMP-type indicators. The resulting 'jGCaMP8' sensors, based on the calcium-binding protein calmodulin and a fragment of endothelial nitric oxide synthase, have ultra-fast kinetics (half-rise times of 2 ms) and the highest sensitivity for neural activity reported for a protein-based calcium sensor. jGCaMP8 sensors will allow tracking of large populations of neurons on timescales relevant to neural computation.

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    11/13/22 | Brain-wide measurement of protein turnover with high spatial and temporal resolution
    Boaz Mohar , Jonathan B. Grimm , Ronak Patel , Timothy A. Brown , Paul Tillberg , Luke D. Lavis , Nelson Spruston , Karel Svoboda
    bioRxiv. 2022 Nov 13:. doi: 10.1101/2022.11.12.516226

    Cells regulate function by synthesizing and degrading proteins. This turnover ranges from minutes to weeks, as it varies across proteins, cellular compartments, cell types, and tissues. Current methods for tracking protein turnover lack the spatial and temporal resolution needed to investigate these processes, especially in the intact brain, which presents unique challenges. We describe a pulse-chase method (DELTA) for measuring protein turnover with high spatial and temporal resolution throughout the body, including the brain. DELTA relies on rapid covalent capture by HaloTag of fluorophores that were optimized for bioavailability in vivo. The nuclear protein MeCP2 showed brain region- and cell type-specific turnover. The synaptic protein PSD95 was destabilized in specific brain regions by behavioral enrichment. A novel variant of expansion microscopy further facilitated turnover measurements at individual synapses. DELTA enables studies of adaptive and maladaptive plasticity in brain-wide neural circuits.

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    06/15/22 | 2,7-Diaminobenzopyrylium Dyes Are Live-Cell Mitochondrial Stains2,7-Diaminobenzopyrylium Dyes Are Live-Cell Mitochondrial Stains
    Banala S, Tkachuk AN, Patel R, Kumar P, Brown TA, Lavis LD
    ACS Bio & Med Chem Au. 2022 Jun 15;2(3):307-12. doi: 10.1021/acsbiomedchemau.1c00068

    Small-molecule fluorescent stains enable the imaging of cellular structures without the need for genetic manipulation. Here, we introduce 2,7-diaminobenzopyrylium (DAB) dyes as live-cell mitochondrial stains excited with violet light. This amalgam of the coumarin and rhodamine fluorophore structures yields dyes with high photostability and tunable spectral properties.

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    09/01/21 | Direct detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA using high-contrast pH-sensitive dyes.
    Timothy A. Brown , Katherine S. Schaefer , Arthur Tsang , Hyun Ah Yi , Jonathan B. Grimm , Andrew L. Lemire , Fadi M. Jradi , Charles Kim , Kevin McGowan , Kimberly Ritola , Derek T. Armstrong , Heba H. Mostafa , Wyatt Korff , Ronald D. Vale , Luke D. Lavis
    Journal of Biomolecular Techniques. 2021 Sep 01;32(3):121-133. doi:

    The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on health, healthcare infrastructure, social structure, and economics. One of the limiting factors in containing the spread of this virus has been the lack of widespread availability of fast, inexpensive, and reliable methods for testing of individuals. Frequent screening for infected and often asymptomatic people is a cornerstone of pandemic management plans. Here, we introduce two pH sensitive ‘LAMPshade’ dyes as novel readouts in an isothermal RT- LAMP amplification assay for SARS-CoV-2 RNA. The resulting JaneliaLAMP (jLAMP) assay is robust, simple, inexpensive, has low technical requirements and we describe its use and performance in direct testing of contrived and clinical samples without RNA extraction.

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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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    11/11/20 | Optimized Vivid-derived Magnets photodimerizers for subcellular optogenetics in mammalian cells.
    Benedetti L, Marvin JS, Falahati H, Guillén-Samander A, Looger LL, De Camilli P
    Elife. 2020 Nov 11;9:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.63230

    Light-inducible dimerization protein modules enable precise temporal and spatial control of biological processes in non-invasive fashion. Among them, Magnets are small modules engineered from the photoreceptor Vivid by orthogonalizing the homodimerization interface into complementary heterodimers. Both Magnets components, which are well-tolerated as protein fusion partners, are photoreceptors requiring simultaneous photoactivation to interact, enabling high spatiotemporal confinement of dimerization with a single-excitation wavelength. However, Magnets require concatemerization for efficient responses and cell preincubation at 28C to be functional. Here we overcome these limitations by engineering an optimized Magnets pair requiring neither concatemerization nor low temperature preincubation. We validated these 'enhanced' Magnets (eMags) by using them to rapidly and reversibly recruit proteins to subcellular organelles, to induce organelle contacts, and to reconstitute OSBP-VAP ER-Golgi tethering implicated in phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate transport and metabolism. eMags represent a very effective tool to optogenetically manipulate physiological processes over whole cells or in small subcellular volumes.

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    08/20/20 | Rational design of bioavailable photosensitizers for manipulation and imaging of biological systems.
    Binns TC, Ayala AX, Grimm JB, Tkachuk AN, Castillon GA, Phan S, Zhang L, Brown TA, Liu Z, Adams SR, Ellisman MH, Koyama M, Lavis LD
    Cell Chemical Biology. 2020 Aug 20;27(8):1063-72. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2020.07.001

    Light-mediated chemical reactions are powerful methods for manipulating and interrogating biological systems. Photosensitizers, compounds that generate reactive oxygen species upon excitation with light, can be utilized for numerous biological experiments, but the repertoire of bioavailable photosensitizers is limited. Here, we describe the synthesis, characterization, and utility of two photosensitizers based upon the widely used rhodamine scaffold and demonstrate their efficacy for chromophore-assisted light inactivation, cell ablation in culture and in vivo, and photopolymerization of diaminobenzidine for electron microscopy. These chemical tools will facilitate a broad range of applications spanning from targeted destruction of proteins to high-resolution imaging.

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