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Lavis Lab / Publications
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4 Publications

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    10/24/16 | Bright photoactivatable fluorophores for single-molecule imaging.
    Lavis LD, Grimm JB, English BP, Choi H, Muthusamy AK, Mehl BP, Dong P, Brown TA, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Liu Z, Lionnet T
    Nature Methods. 2016 Oct 24;13(12):985-8. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.4034

    Small molecule fluorophores are important tools for advanced imaging experiments. The development of self-labeling protein tags such as the HaloTag and SNAP-tag has expanded the utility of chemical dyes in live-cell microscopy. We recently described a general method for improving the brightness and photostability of small, cell-permeable fluorophores, resulting in the novel azetidine-containing "Janelia Fluor" (JF) dyes. Here, we refine and extend the utility of the JF dyes by synthesizing photoactivatable derivatives that are compatible with live cell labeling strategies. These compounds retain the superior brightness of the JF dyes once activated, but their facile photoactivation also enables improved single-particle tracking and localization microscopy experiments.

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    09/15/16 | Rapid dynamics of general transcription factor TFIIB binding during preinitiation complex assembly revealed by single-molecule analysis.
    Zhang Z, English BP, Grimm JB, Kazane SA, Hu W, Tsai A, Inouye C, You C, Piehler J, Schultz PG, Lavis LD, Revyakin A, Tjian R
    Genes and Development. 2016 Sep 15;30:2106-18. doi: 10.1101/gad.285395.116

    Transcription of protein-encoding genes in eukaryotic cells requires the coordinated action of multiple general transcription factors (GTFs) and RNA polymerase II (Pol II). A “step-wise” preinitiation complex (PIC) assembly model has been suggested based on conventional ensemble biochemical measurements, in which protein factors bind stably to the promoter DNA sequentially to build a functional PIC. However, recent dynamic measurements in live cells suggest that transcription factors mostly interact with chromatin DNA rather transiently. To gain a clearer dynamic picture of PIC assembly, we established an integrated in vitro single-molecule transcription platform reconstituted from highly purified human transcription factors and complemented it by live-cell imaging. Here we performed real-time measurements of the hierarchal promoter-specific binding of TFIID, TFIIA, and TFIIB. Surprisingly, we found that while promoter binding of TFIID and TFIIA is stable, promoter binding by TFIIB is highly transient and dynamic (with an average residence time of 1.5 sec). Stable TFIIB–promoter association and progression beyond this apparent PIC assembly checkpoint control occurs only in the presence of Pol II–TFIIF. This transient-to-stable transition of TFIIB-binding dynamics has gone undetected previously and underscores the advantages of single-molecule assays for revealing the dynamic nature of complex biological reactions.

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    05/05/16 | Real-time quantification of single RNA translation dynamics in living cells.
    Morisaki T, Lyon K, DeLuca KF, DeLuca JG, English BP, Zhang Z, Lavis LD, Grimm JB, Viswanathan S, Looger LL
    Science. 2016 May 05;352(6292):1425-9. doi: 10.1126/science.aaf0899

    Although mRNA translation is a fundamental biological process, it has never been imaged in real-time with single molecule precision in vivo. To achieve this, we developed Nascent Chain Tracking (NCT), a technique that uses multi-epitope tags and antibody-based fluorescent probes to quantify single mRNA protein synthesis dynamics. NCT reveals an elongation rate of ~10 amino acids per second, with initiation occurring stochastically every ~30 s. Polysomes contain ~1 ribosome every 200-900 nucleotides and are globular rather than elongated in shape. By developing multi-color probes, we show most polysomes act independently; however, a small fraction (~5%) form complexes in which two distinct mRNAs can be translated simultaneously. The sensitivity and versatility of NCT make it a powerful new tool for quantifying mRNA translation kinetics.

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    05/03/16 | RNA Polymerase II cluster dynamics predict mRNA output in living cells.
    Cho W, Jayanth N, English BP, Inoue T, Andrews JO, Conway W, Grimm JB, Spille J, Lavis LD, Lionnet T, Cisse II
    eLife. 2016 May 03;5:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.13617

    Protein clustering is a hallmark of genome regulation in mammalian cells. However, the dynamic molecular processes involved make it difficult to correlate clustering with functional consequences in vivo. We developed a live-cell super-resolution approach to uncover the correlation between mRNA synthesis and the dynamics of RNA Polymerase II (Pol II) clusters at a gene locus. For endogenous β-actin genes in mouse embryonic fibroblasts, we observe that short-lived (~8 s) Pol II clusters correlate with basal mRNA output. During serum stimulation, a stereotyped increase in Pol II cluster lifetime correlates with a proportionate increase in the number of mRNAs synthesized. Our findings suggest that transient clustering of Pol II may constitute a pre-transcriptional regulatory event that predictably modulates nascent mRNA output.

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