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Liu Lab / Publications
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30 Publications

Showing 1-10 of 30 results
09/01/19 | A neuron-glia Co-culture system for studying intercellular lipid transport.
Ioannou MS, Liu Z, Lippincott-Schwartz J
Curr Protoc Cell Biol. 2019 Sep 01;84(1):e95. doi: 10.1002/cpcb.95

Neurons and glia operate in a highly coordinated fashion in the brain. Although glial cells have long been known to supply lipids to neurons via lipoprotein particles, new evidence reveals that lipid transport between neurons and glia is bidirectional. Here, we describe a co-culture system to study transfer of lipids and lipid-associated proteins from neurons to glia. The assay entails culturing neurons and glia on separate coverslips, pulsing the neurons with fluorescently labeled fatty acids, and then incubating the coverslips together. As astrocytes internalize and store neuron-derived fatty acids in lipid droplets, analyzing the number, size, and fluorescence intensity of lipid droplets containing the fluorescent fatty acids provides an easy and quantifiable measure of fatty acid transport. © 2019 The Authors.

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08/13/19 | Bright and photostable chemigenetic indicators for extended in vivo voltage imaging.
Abdelfattah AS, Kawashima T, Singh A, Novak O, Liu H, Shuai Y, Huang Y, Campagnola L, Seeman SC, Yu J, Zheng J, Grimm JB, Patel R, Friedrich J, Mensh BD, Paninski L, Macklin JJ, Murphy GJ, Podgorski K, Lin B, Chen T, Turner GC, Liu Z, Koyama M, Svoboda K, Ahrens MB, Lavis LD, Schreiter ER
Science. 2019 Aug 13;365(6454):699-704. doi: 10.1126/science.aav6416

Imaging changes in membrane potential using genetically encoded fluorescent voltage indicators (GEVIs) has great potential for monitoring neuronal activity with high spatial and temporal resolution. Brightness and photostability of fluorescent proteins and rhodopsins have limited the utility of existing GEVIs. We engineered a novel GEVI, "Voltron", that utilizes bright and photostable synthetic dyes instead of protein-based fluorophores, extending the combined duration of imaging and number of neurons imaged simultaneously by more than tenfold relative to existing GEVIs. We used Voltron for in vivo voltage imaging in mice, zebrafish, and fruit flies. In mouse cortex, Voltron allowed single-trial recording of spikes and subthreshold voltage signals from dozens of neurons simultaneously, over 15 min of continuous imaging. In larval zebrafish, Voltron enabled the precise correlation of spike timing with behavior.

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06/21/19 | Spastin tethers lipid droplets to peroxisomes and directs fatty acid trafficking through ESCRT-III.
Chang C, Weigel AV, Ioannou MS, Pasolli HA, Xu CS, Peale DR, Shtengel G, Freeman M, Hess HF, Blackstone C, Lippincott-Schwartz J
Journal of Cell Biology. 2019 Jun 21;218(8):2583-99. doi: 10.1101/544023

Lipid droplets (LDs) are neutral lipid storage organelles that transfer lipids to various organelles including peroxisomes. Here, we show that the hereditary spastic paraplegia protein M1 Spastin, a membrane-bound AAA ATPase found on LDs, coordinates fatty acid (FA) trafficking from LDs to peroxisomes through two inter-related mechanisms. First, M1 Spastin forms a tethering complex with peroxisomal ABCD1 to promote LD-peroxisome contact formation. Second, M1 Spastin recruits the membrane-shaping ESCRT-III proteins IST1 and CHMP1B to LDs via its MIT domain to facilitate LD-to-peroxisome FA trafficking, possibly through IST1 and CHMP1B modifying LD membrane morphology. Furthermore, M1 Spastin, IST1 and CHMP1B are all required to relieve LDs of lipid peroxidation. The roles of M1 Spastin in tethering LDs to peroxisomes and in recruiting ESCRT-III components to LD-peroxisome contact sites for FA trafficking may help explain the pathogenesis of diseases associated with defective FA metabolism in LDs and peroxisomes.

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06/14/19 | NDP52 tunes cortical actin interaction with astral microtubules for accurate spindle orientation.
Yu H, Yang F, Dong P, Liao S, Liu WR, Zhao G, Qin B, Dou Z, Liu Z, Liu W, Zang J, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Liu X, Yao X
Cell Research. 2019 Jun 14;29(8):666-79. doi: 10.1038/s41422-019-0189-9

Oriented cell divisions are controlled by a conserved molecular cascade involving Gαi, LGN, and NuMA. Here, we show that NDP52 regulates spindle orientation via remodeling the polar cortical actin cytoskeleton. siRNA-mediated NDP52 suppression surprisingly revealed a ring-like compact subcortical F-actin architecture surrounding the spindle in prophase/prometaphase cells, which resulted in severe defects of astral microtubule growth and an aberrant spindle orientation. Remarkably, NDP52 recruited the actin assembly factor N-WASP and regulated the dynamics of the subcortical F-actin ring in mitotic cells. Mechanistically, NDP52 was found to bind to phosphatidic acid-containing vesicles, which absorbed cytoplasmic N-WASP to regulate local filamentous actin growth at the polar cortex. Our TIRFM analyses revealed that NDP52-containing vesicles anchored N-WASP and shortened the length of actin filaments in vitro. Based on these results we propose that NDP52-containing vesicles regulate cortical actin dynamics through N-WASP to accomplish a spatiotemporal regulation between astral microtubules and the actin network for proper spindle orientation and precise chromosome segregation. In this way, intracellular vesicles cooperate with microtubules and actin filaments to regulate proper mitotic progression. Since NDP52 is absent from yeast, we reason that metazoans have evolved an elaborate spindle positioning machinery to ensure accurate chromosome segregation in mitosis.

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05/30/19 | Neuron-astrocyte metabolic coupling protects against activity-induced fatty acid toxicity.
Ioannou MS, Jackson J, Sheu S, Chang C, Weigel AV, Liu H, Pasolli HA, Xu CS, Pang S, Matthies D, Hess HF, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Liu Z
Cell. 2019 May 30;177(6):1522-1535.e14. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.04.001

Metabolic coordination between neurons and astrocytes is critical for the health of the brain. However, neuron-astrocyte coupling of lipid metabolism, particularly in response to neural activity, remains largely uncharacterized. Here, we demonstrate that toxic fatty acids (FAs) produced in hyperactive neurons are transferred to astrocytic lipid droplets by ApoE-positive lipid particles. Astrocytes consume the FAs stored in lipid droplets via mitochondrial β-oxidation in response to neuronal activity and turn on a detoxification gene expression program. Our findings reveal that FA metabolism is coupled in neurons and astrocytes to protect neurons from FA toxicity during periods of enhanced activity. This coordinated mechanism for metabolizing FAs could underlie both homeostasis and a variety of disease states of the brain.

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06/21/18 | Imaging dynamic and selective low-complexity domain interactions that control gene transcription.
Chong S, Dugast-Darzacq C, Liu Z, Dong P, Dailey GM, Cattoglio C, Heckert A, Banala S, Lavis L, Darzacq X, Tjian R
Science (New York, N.Y.). 2018 Jun 21;361(6400):eaar2555. doi: 10.1126/science.aar2555

Many eukaryotic transcription factors (TFs) contain intrinsically disordered low-complexity domains (LCDs), but how they drive transactivation remains unclear. Here, live-cell single-molecule imaging reveals that TF-LCDs form local high-concentration interaction hubs at synthetic and endogenous genomic loci. TF-LCD hubs stabilize DNA binding, recruit RNA polymerase II (Pol II), and activate transcription. LCD-LCD interactions within hubs are highly dynamic, display selectivity with binding partners, and are differentially sensitive to disruption by hexanediols. Under physiological conditions, rapid and reversible LCD-LCD interactions occur between TFs and the Pol II machinery without detectable phase separation. Our findings reveal fundamental mechanisms underpinning transcriptional control and suggest a framework for developing single-molecule imaging screens for novel drugs targeting gene regulatory interactions implicated in disease.

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03/18/18 | Model-free quantification and visualization of colocalization in fluorescence images.
Taylor AB, Ioannou MS, Aaron J, Chew T
Cytometry. Part A : the journal of the International Society for Analytical Cytology. 2018 Mar 13:. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.23356

The spatial association between fluorescently tagged biomolecules in situ provides valuable insight into their biological relationship. Within the limits of diffraction, such association can be measured using either Pearson's Correlation Coefficient (PCC) or Spearman's Rank Coefficient (SRC), which are designed to measure linear and monotonic correlations, respectively. However, the relationship between real biological signals is often more complex than these measures assume, rendering their results difficult to interpret. Here, we have adapted methods from the field of information theory to measure the association between two probes' concentrations based on their statistical dependence. Our approach is mathematically more general than PCC or SRC, making no assumptions about the type of relationship between the probes. We show that when applied to biological images, our measures provide more intuitive results that are also more robust to outliers and the presence of multiple relationships than PCC or SRC. We also devise a display technique to highlight regions in the input images where the probes' association is higher versus lower. We expect that our methods will allow biologists to more accurately and robustly quantify and visualize the association between two probes in a pair of fluorescence images. © 2018 International Society for Advancement of Cytometry.

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01/29/18 | Visualizing transcription factor dynamics in living cells.
Liu Z, Tjian R
The Journal of Cell Biology. 2018 Jan 29;217(4):1181-91. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201710038

The assembly of sequence-specific enhancer-binding transcription factors (TFs) at cis-regulatory elements in the genome has long been regarded as the fundamental mechanism driving cell type-specific gene expression. However, despite extensive biochemical, genetic, and genomic studies in the past three decades, our understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying enhancer-mediated gene regulation remains incomplete. Recent advances in imaging technologies now enable direct visualization of TF-driven regulatory events and transcriptional activities at the single-cell, single-molecule level. The ability to observe the remarkably dynamic behavior of individual TFs in live cells at high spatiotemporal resolution has begun to provide novel mechanistic insights and promises new advances in deciphering causal-functional relationships of TF targeting, genome organization, and gene activation. In this review, we review current transcription imaging techniques and summarize converging results from various lines of research that may instigate a revision of models to describe key features of eukaryotic gene regulation.

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12/04/17 | Visualizing long-term single-molecule dynamics in vivo by stochastic protein labeling.
Liu H, Dong P, Ioannou MS, Li L, Shea J, Pasolli HA, Grimm JB, Rivlin PK, Lavis LD, Koyama M, Liu Z
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2017 Jan 09;115(2):343-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1713895115

Our ability to unambiguously image and track individual molecules in live cells is limited by packing of multiple copies of labeled molecules within the resolution limit. Here we devise a universal genetic strategy to precisely control copy number of fluorescently labeled molecules in a cell. This system has a dynamic titration range of >10,000 fold, enabling sparse labeling of proteins expressed at different abundance levels. Combined with photostable labels, this system extends the duration of automated single-molecule tracking by 2 orders of magnitude. We demonstrate long-term imaging of synaptic vesicle dynamics in cultured neurons as well as in intact zebrafish. We found axon initial segment utilizes a "waterfall" mechanism gating synaptic vesicle transport polarity by promoting anterograde transport processivity. Long-time observation also reveals that transcription factor hops between clustered binding sites in spatially-restricted sub-nuclear regions, suggesting that topological structures in the nucleus shape local gene activities by a sequestering mechanism. This strategy thus greatly expands the spatiotemporal length scales of live-cell single-molecule measurements, enabling new experiments to quantitatively understand complex control of molecular dynamics in vivo.

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09/01/17 | A dynamic interplay of enhancer elements regulates Klf4 expression in naïve pluripotency.
Xie L, Torigoe SE, Xiao J, Mai DH, Li L, Davis FP, Dong P, Marie-Nelly H, Grimm J, Lavis L, Darzacq X, Cattoglio C, Liu Z, Tjian R
Genes & Development. 2017 Sep 01;31(17):1795-1808. doi: 10.1101/gad.303321.117

Transcription factor (TF)-directed enhanceosome assembly constitutes a fundamental regulatory mechanism driving spatiotemporal gene expression programs during animal development. Despite decades of study, we know little about the dynamics or order of events animating TF assembly at cis-regulatory elements in living cells and the long-range molecular "dialog" between enhancers and promoters. Here, combining genetic, genomic, and imaging approaches, we characterize a complex long-range enhancer cluster governing Krüppel-like factor 4 (Klf4) expression in naïve pluripotency. Genome editing by CRISPR/Cas9 revealed that OCT4 and SOX2 safeguard an accessible chromatin neighborhood to assist the binding of other TFs/cofactors to the enhancer. Single-molecule live-cell imaging uncovered that two naïve pluripotency TFs, STAT3 and ESRRB, interrogate chromatin in a highly dynamic manner, in which SOX2 promotes ESRRB target search and chromatin-binding dynamics through a direct protein-tethering mechanism. Together, our results support a highly dynamic yet intrinsically ordered enhanceosome assembly to maintain the finely balanced transcription program underlying naïve pluripotency.

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