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Lavis Lab / Publications
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7 Publications

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    12/24/14 | 3D imaging of Sox2 enhancer clusters in embryonic stem cells.
    Liu Z, Legant WR, Chen B, Li L, Grimm JB, Lavis LD, Betzig E, Tjian R
    eLife. 2014 Dec 24;3:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.04236

    Combinatorial cis-regulatory networks encoded in animal genomes represent the foundational gene expression mechanism for directing cell-fate commitment and maintenance of cell identity by transcription factors (TFs). However, the 3D spatial organization of cis-elements and how such sub-nuclear structures influence TF activity remain poorly understood. Here, we combine lattice light-sheet imaging, single-molecule tracking, numerical simulations, and ChIP-exo mapping to localize and functionally probe Sox2 enhancer-organization in living embryonic stem cells. Sox2 enhancers form 3D-clusters that are segregated from heterochromatin but overlap with a subset of Pol II enriched regions. Sox2 searches for specific binding targets via a 3D-diffusion dominant mode when shuttling long-distances between clusters while chromatin-bound states predominate within individual clusters. Thus, enhancer clustering may reduce global search efficiency but enables rapid local fine-tuning of TF search parameters. Our results suggest an integrated model linking cis-element 3D spatial distribution to local-versus-global target search modalities essential for regulating eukaryotic gene transcription.

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    12/12/14 | Evolved differences in larval social behavior mediated by novel pheromones.
    Mast JD, De Moraes CM, Alborn HT, Lavis LD, Stern DL
    eLife. 2014 Dec 12;3:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.04205

    Pheromones, chemical signals that convey social information, mediate many insect social behaviors, including navigation and aggregation. Several studies have suggested that behavior during the immature larval stages of Drosophila development is influenced by pheromones, but none of these compounds or the pheromone-receptor neurons that sense them have been identified. Here we report a larval pheromone-signaling pathway. We found that larvae produce two novel long-chain fatty acids that are attractive to other larvae. We identified a single larval chemosensory neuron that detects these molecules. Two members of the pickpocket family of DEG/ENaC channel subunits (ppk23 and ppk29) are required to respond to these pheromones. This pheromone system is evolving quickly, since the larval exudates of D. simulans, the sister species of D. melanogaster, are not attractive to other larvae. Our results define a new pheromone signaling system in Drosophila that shares characteristics with pheromone systems in a wide diversity of insects.

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    11/07/14 | Making biology transparent.
    Höckendorf B, Lavis LD, Keller PJ
    Nature Biotechnology. 2014 Nov 7;32(11):1104-5. doi: 10.1038/nbt.3061

    The molecular and cellular architecture of the organs in a whole mouse is revealed through optical clearing.

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    10/29/14 | Distinct substrate selectivity of a metabolic hydrolase from Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
    Lukowski JK, Savas CP, Gehring AM, McKary MG, Adkins CT, Lavis LD, Hoops GC, Johnson RJ
    Biochemistry. 2014 Oct 29;53(47):7386-95. doi: 10.1021/bi501108u

    The transition between dormant and active Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection requires reorganization of its lipid metabolism and activation of a battery of serine hydrolase enzymes. Among these serine hydrolases, Rv0045c is a mycobacterial-specific serine hydrolase with limited sequence homology outside mycobacteria but structural homology to divergent bacterial hydrolase families. Herein, we determined the global substrate specificity of Rv0045c against a library of fluorogenic hydrolase substrates, constructed a combined experimental and computational model for its binding pocket, and performed comprehensive substitutional analysis to develop a structural map of its binding pocket. Rv0045c showed strong substrate selectivity toward short, straight chain alkyl esters with the highest activity toward four atom chains. This strong substrate preference was maintained through the combined action of residues in a flexible loop connecting the cap and α/β hydrolase domains and in residues close to the catalytic triad. Two residues bracketing the substrate-binding pocket (Gly90 and His187) were essential to maintaining the narrow substrate selectivity of Rv0045c toward various acyl ester substituents, as independent conversion of these residues significantly increased its catalytic activity and broadened its substrate specificity. Focused saturation mutagenesis of position 187 implicated this residue, as the differentiation point between the substrate specificity of Rv0045c and the structurally homologous ybfF hydrolase family. Insertion of the analogous tyrosine residue from ybfF hydrolases into Rv0045c increased the catalytic activity of Rv0045 by over 20-fold toward diverse ester substrates. The unique binding pocket structure and selectivity of Rv0045c provide molecular indications of its biological role and evidence for expanded substrate diversity in serine hydrolases from M. tuberculosis.

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    Looger LabLavis Lab
    07/29/14 | Integrated action of pheromone signals in promoting courtship behavior in male mice.
    Haga-Yamanaka S, Ma L, He J, Qiu Q, Lavis LD, Looger LL, Yu CR
    eLife. 2014 Jul 29;3:e03025. doi: 10.7554/eLife.03025

    The mammalian vomeronasal organ encodes pheromone information about gender, reproductive status, genetic background and individual differences. It remains unknown how pheromone information interacts to trigger innate behaviors. In this study, we identify vomeronasal receptors responsible for detecting female pheromones. A sub-group of V1re clade members recognizes gender-identifying cues in female urine. Multiple members of the V1rj clade are cognate receptors for urinary estrus signals, as well as for sulfated estrogen (SE) compounds. In both cases, the same cue activates multiple homologous receptors, suggesting redundancy in encoding female pheromone cues. Neither gender-specific cues nor SEs alone are sufficient to promote courtship behavior in male mice, whereas robust courtship behavior can be induced when the two cues are applied together. Thus, integrated action of different female cues is required in pheromone-triggered mating behavior. These results suggest a gating mechanism in the vomeronasal circuit in promoting specific innate behavior.DOI:

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    03/20/14 | Bright building blocks for chemical biology.
    Lavis LD, Raines RT
    ACS Chemical Biology. 2014 Mar 20;9(4):855-66. doi: 10.1021/cb500078u

    Small-molecule fluorophores manifest the ability of chemistry to solve problems in biology. As we noted in a previous review (Lavis, L. D.; Raines, R. T. ACS Chem. Biol. 2008, 3, 142-155), the extant collection of fluorescent probes is built on a modest set of "core" scaffolds that evolved during a century of academic and industrial research. Here, we survey traditional and modern synthetic routes to small-molecule fluorophores and highlight recent biological insights attained with customized fluorescent probes. Our intent is to inspire the design and creation of new high-precision tools that empower chemical biologists.

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    01/28/14 | Single-molecule tracking of the transcription cycle by sub-second RNA detection.
    Zhang Z, Revyakin A, Grimm JB, Lavis LD, Tjian R
    eLife. 2014 Jan 28;3:e01775. doi: 10.7554/eLife.01775

    Transcription is an inherently stochastic, noisy, and multi-step process, in which fluctuations at every step can cause variations in RNA synthesis, and affect physiology and differentiation decisions in otherwise identical cells. However, it has been an experimental challenge to directly link the stochastic events at the promoter to transcript production. Here we established a fast fluorescence in situ hybridization (fastFISH) method that takes advantage of intrinsically unstructured nucleic acid sequences to achieve exceptionally fast rates of specific hybridization (\~{}10e7 M(-1)s(-1)), and allows deterministic detection of single nascent transcripts. Using a prototypical RNA polymerase, we demonstrated the use of fastFISH to measure the kinetic rates of promoter escape, elongation, and termination in one assay at the single-molecule level, at sub-second temporal resolution. The principles of fastFISH design can be used to study stochasticity in gene regulation, to select targets for gene silencing, and to design nucleic acid nanostructures. DOI:

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