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5 Publications

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    09/25/19 | Rational design of fluorogenic and spontaneously blinking labels for super-resolution imaging.
    Zheng Q, Ayala AX, Chung I, Weigel AV, Ranjan A, Falco N, Grimm JB, Tkachuk AN, Wu C, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Singer RH, Lavis LD
    ACS Central Science. 2019 Sep 25;5(9):1602-1613. doi: 10.1021/acscentsci.9b00676

    Rhodamine dyes exist in equilibrium between a fluorescent zwitterion and a nonfluorescent lactone. Tuning this equilibrium toward the nonfluorescent lactone form can improve cell-permeability and allow creation of "fluorogenic" compounds-ligands that shift to the fluorescent zwitterion upon binding a biomolecular target. An archetype fluorogenic dye is the far-red tetramethyl-Si-rhodamine (SiR), which has been used to create exceptionally useful labels for advanced microscopy. Here, we develop a quantitative framework for the development of new fluorogenic dyes, determining that the lactone-zwitterion equilibrium constant () is sufficient to predict fluorogenicity. This rubric emerged from our analysis of known fluorophores and yielded new fluorescent and fluorogenic labels with improved performance in cellular imaging experiments. We then designed a novel fluorophore-Janelia Fluor 526 (JF)-with SiR-like properties but shorter fluorescence excitation and emission wavelengths. JF is a versatile scaffold for fluorogenic probes including ligands for self-labeling tags, stains for endogenous structures, and spontaneously blinking labels for super-resolution immunofluorescence. JF constitutes a new label for advanced microscopy experiments, and our quantitative framework will enable the rational design of other fluorogenic probes for bioimaging.

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    11/02/17 | Nuclear microenvironments modulate transcription from low-affinity enhancers.
    Tsai A, Muthusamy AK, Alves MR, Lavis LD, Singer RH, Stern DL, Crocker J
    eLife. 2017 Nov 02;6:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.28975

    Transcription factors bind low-affinity DNA sequences for only short durations. It is not clear how brief, low-affinity interactions can drive efficient transcription. Here we report that the transcription factor Ultrabithorax (Ubx) utilizes low-affinity binding sites in the Drosophila melanogastershavenbaby (svb) locus and related enhancers in nuclear microenvironments of high Ubx concentrations. Related enhancers colocalize to the same microenvironments independently of their chromosomal location, suggesting that microenvironments are highly differentiated transcription domains. Manipulating the affinity of svb enhancers revealed an inverse relationship between enhancer affinity and Ubx concentration required for transcriptional activation. The Ubx cofactor, Homothorax (Hth), was co-enriched with Ubx near enhancers that require Hth, even though Ubx and Hth did not co-localize throughout the nucleus. Thus, microenvironments of high local transcription factor and cofactor concentrations could help low-affinity sites overcome their kinetic inefficiency. Mechanisms that generate these microenvironments could be a general feature of eukaryotic transcriptional regulation.

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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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    Lavis LabSinger Lab
    09/13/16 | Glutamate-induced RNA localization and translation in neurons.
    Yoon YJ, Wu B, Buxbaum AR, Das S, Tsai A, English BP, Grimm JB, Lavis LD, Singer RH
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2016 Sep 13:. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1614267113

    Localization of mRNA is required for protein synthesis to occur within discrete intracellular compartments. Neurons represent an ideal system for studying the precision of mRNA trafficking because of their polarized structure and the need for synapse-specific targeting. To investigate this targeting, we derived a quantitative and analytical approach. Dendritic spines were stimulated by glutamate uncaging at a diffraction-limited spot, and the localization of single β-actin mRNAs was measured in space and time. Localization required NMDA receptor activity, a dynamic actin cytoskeleton, and the transacting RNA-binding protein, Zipcode-binding protein 1 (ZBP1). The ability of the mRNA to direct newly synthesized proteins to the site of localization was evaluated using a Halo-actin reporter so that RNA and protein were detected simultaneously. Newly synthesized Halo-actin was enriched at the site of stimulation, required NMDA receptor activity, and localized preferentially at the periphery of spines. This work demonstrates that synaptic activity can induce mRNA localization and local translation of β-actin where the new actin participates in stabilizing the expanding synapse in dendritic spines.

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    01/19/15 | A general method to improve fluorophores for live-cell and single-molecule microscopy.
    Grimm JB, English BP, Chen J, Slaughter JP, Zhang Z, Revyakin A, Patel R, Macklin JJ, Normanno D, Singer RH, Lionnet T, Lavis LD
    Nature Methods. 2015 Jan 19;12(3):244-50. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3256

    Specific labeling of biomolecules with bright fluorophores is the keystone of fluorescence microscopy. Genetically encoded self-labeling tag proteins can be coupled to synthetic dyes inside living cells, resulting in brighter reporters than fluorescent proteins. Intracellular labeling using these techniques requires cell-permeable fluorescent ligands, however, limiting utility to a small number of classic fluorophores. Here we describe a simple structural modification that improves the brightness and photostability of dyes while preserving spectral properties and cell permeability. Inspired by molecular modeling, we replaced the N,N-dimethylamino substituents in tetramethylrhodamine with four-membered azetidine rings. This addition of two carbon atoms doubles the quantum efficiency and improves the photon yield of the dye in applications ranging from in vitro single-molecule measurements to super-resolution imaging. The novel substitution is generalizable, yielding a palette of chemical dyes with improved quantum efficiencies that spans the UV and visible range.

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