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58 Publications

Showing 1-10 of 58 results
05/17/24 | Deep-Tissue Spatial Omics: Imaging Whole-Embryo Transcriptomics and Subcellular Structures at High Spatial Resolution
Gandin V, Kim J, Yang L, Lian Y, Kawase T, Hu A, Rokicki K, Fleishman G, Tillberg P, Aguilera Castrejon A, Stringer C, Preibisch S, Liu ZJ
bioRxiv. 2024 May 17:. doi: 10.1101/2024.05.17.594641

The inherent limitations of fluorescence microscopy, notably the restricted number of color channels, have long constrained comprehensive spatial analysis in biological specimens. Here, we introduce cycleHCR technology that leverages multicycle DNA barcoding and Hybridization Chain Reaction (HCR) to surpass the conventional color barrier. cycleHCR facilitates high-specificity, single-shot imaging per target for RNA and protein species within thick specimens, mitigating the molecular crowding issues encountered with other imaging-based spatial omics techniques. We demonstrate whole-mount transcriptomics imaging of 254 genes within an E6.5\~7.0 mouse embryo, achieving precise three-dimensional gene expression and cell fate mapping across a specimen depth of \~ 310 µm. Utilizing expansion microscopy alongside protein cycleHCR, we unveil the complex network of 10 subcellular structures in primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Furthermore, in mouse hippocampal slice, we image 8 protein targets and profile the transcriptome of 120 genes, uncovering complex gene expression gradients and cell-type specific nuclear structural variances. cycleHCR provides a unifying framework for multiplex RNA and protein imaging, offering a quantitative solution for elucidating spatial regulations in deep tissue contexts for research and potentially diagnostic applications.

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05/16/24 | Correlative single molecule lattice light sheet imaging reveals the dynamic relationship between nucleosomes and the local chromatin environment.
Daugird TA, Shi Y, Holland KL, Rostamian H, Liu Z, Lavis LD, Rodriguez J, Strahl BD, Legant WR
Nat. Commun.. 2024 May 16:. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-48562-0

In the nucleus, biological processes are driven by proteins that diffuse through and bind to a meshwork of nucleic acid polymers. To better understand this interplay, we present an imaging platform to simultaneously visualize single protein dynamics together with the local chromatin environment in live cells. Together with super-resolution imaging, new fluorescent probes, and biophysical modeling, we demonstrate that nucleosomes display differential diffusion and packing arrangements as chromatin density increases whereas the viscoelastic properties and accessibility of the interchromatin space remain constant. Perturbing nuclear functions impacts nucleosome diffusive properties in a manner that is dependent both on local chromatin density and on relative location within the nucleus. Our results support a model wherein transcription locally stabilizes nucleosomes while simultaneously allowing for the free exchange of nuclear proteins. Additionally, they reveal that nuclear heterogeneity arises from both active and passive processes and highlight the need to account for different organizational principles when modeling different chromatin environments.

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05/07/24 | YAP condensates are highly organized hubs
Siyuan Hao , Ye Jin Lee , Nadav Benhamou Goldfajn , Eduardo Flores , Jindayi Liang , Hannah Fuehrer , Justin Demmerle , Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz , Zhe Liu , Shahar Sukenik , Danfeng Cai
iScience. 2024 May 07:109927. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2024.109927

YAP/TEAD signaling is essential for organismal development, cell proliferation, and cancer progression. As a transcriptional coactivator, how YAP activates its downstream target genes is incompletely understood. YAP forms biomolecular condensates in response to hyperosmotic stress, concentrating transcription-related factors to activate downstream target genes. However, whether YAP forms condensates under other signals, how YAP condensates organize and function, and how YAP condensates activate transcription in general are unknown. Here, we report that endogenous YAP forms sub-micron scale condensates in response to Hippo pathway regulation and actin cytoskeletal tension. YAP condensates are stabilized by the transcription factor TEAD1, and recruit BRD4, a coactivator that is enriched at active enhancers. Using single-particle tracking, we found that YAP condensates slowed YAP diffusion within condensate boundaries, a possible mechanism for promoting YAP target search. These results reveal that YAP condensate formation is a highly regulated process that is critical for YAP/TEAD target gene expression.

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03/06/24 | Assessing the impact of Brd2 depletion on chromatin compartmentalization
Advait Athreya , Liangqi Xie , Robert Tjian , Bin Zhang , Zhe J. Liu
bioRxiv. 2024 Mar 6:. doi: 10.1101/2024.03.02.583085

Recent insights into genome organization have emphasized the importance of A/B chromatin compartments. While our previous research showed that Brd2 depletion weakens compartment boundaries and promotes A/B mixing 1, Hinojosa-Gonzalez et al.2 were unable to replicate the findings. In response, we revisited our Micro-C data and successfully replicated the original results using the default parameters in the cooltools software package. We show that, after correcting inconsistencies with the selection and phasing of the compartment profiles, the decrease in B compartment strength persists but the change in compartment identity is to a much lesser extent than originally reported. To further assess the regulatory role of Brd2, we used saddle plots to determine the strength of compartmentalization and observed a consistent decrease of compartment strength especially at B compartments upon Brd2 depletion. This study highlights the importance of selecting appropriate parameters and analytical tools for compartment analysis and carefully interpreting the results.

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01/22/24 | KMT2 family of H3K4 methyltransferases: enzymatic activity-dependent and -independent functions.
Van HT, Xie G, Dong P, Liu Z, Ge K
Journal of Molecular Biology. 2024 Jan 22:168453. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2024.168453

Histone-lysine N-methyltransferase 2 (KMT2) methyltransferases play critical roles in gene regulation, cell differentiation, animal development, and human diseases. KMT2 biological roles are often attributed to their methyltransferase activities on lysine 4 of histone H3 (H3K4). However, recent data indicate that KMT2 proteins also possess non-enzymatic functions. In this review, we discuss the current understanding of KMT2 family, with a focus on their enzymatic activity-dependent and -independent functions. Six mammalian KMT2 proteins of three subgroups, KMT2A/B (MLL1/2), KMT2C/D (MLL3/4), and KMT2F/G (SETD1A/B or SET1A/B), have shared and distinct protein domains, catalytic substrates, genomic localizations, and associated complex subunits. Recent studies have revealed the central role of KMT2C/D in enhancer regulation, differentiation, and development and have highlighted KMT2C/D enzymatic activity-dependent and independent roles in mouse embryonic development and cell differentiation. Catalytic dependent and independent roles for KMT2A/B and KMT2F/G in gene regulation, differentiation, and development are less understood. Finally, we provide our perspectives and lay out future research directions that may help advance the investigation on enzymatic activity-dependent and -independent biological roles and working mechanisms of KMT2 methyltransferases.

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10/16/23 | Optimized Red-Absorbing Dyes for Imaging and Sensing
Grimm JB, Tkachuk AN, Patel R, Hennigan ST, Gutu A, Dong P, Gandin V, Osowski AM, Holland KL, Liu ZJ, Brown TA, Lavis LD
Journal of the American Chemical Society. 2023 Oct 16:. doi: 10.1021/jacs.3c0527310.1021/jacs.3c05273

Rhodamine dyes are excellent scaffolds for developing a broad range of fluorescent probes. A key property of rhodamines is their equilibrium between a colorless lactone and fluorescent zwitterion. Tuning the lactone–zwitterion equilibrium constant (KL–Z) can optimize dye properties for specific biological applications. Here, we use known and novel organic chemistry to prepare a comprehensive collection of rhodamine dyes to elucidate the structure–activity relationships that govern KL–Z. We discovered that the auxochrome substituent strongly affects the lactone–zwitterion equilibrium, providing a roadmap for the rational design of improved rhodamine dyes. Electron-donating auxochromes, such as julolidine, work in tandem with fluorinated pendant phenyl rings to yield bright, red-shifted fluorophores for live-cell single-particle tracking (SPT) and multicolor imaging. The N-aryl auxochrome combined with fluorination yields red-shifted Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) quencher dyes useful for creating a new semisynthetic indicator to sense cAMP using fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM). Together, this work expands the synthetic methods available for rhodamine synthesis, generates new reagents for advanced fluorescence imaging experiments, and describes structure–activity relationships that will guide the design of future probes.

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04/19/23 | DNA-initiated epigenetic cascades driven by C9orf72 hexanucleotide repeat.
Liu Y, Huang Z, Liu H, Ji Z, Arora A, Cai D, Wang H, Liu M, Simko EA, Zhang Y, Periz G, Liu Z, Wang J
Neuron. 2023 Apr 19;111(8):1205-21. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2023.01.022

The C9orf72 hexanucleotide repeat expansion (HRE) is the most frequent genetic cause of the neurodegenerative diseases amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Here, we describe the pathogenic cascades that are initiated by the C9orf72 HRE DNA. The HRE DNA binds to its protein partner DAXX and promotes its liquid-liquid phase separation, which is capable of reorganizing genomic structures. An HRE-dependent nuclear accumulation of DAXX drives chromatin remodeling and epigenetic changes such as histone hypermethylation and hypoacetylation in patient cells. While regulating global gene expression, DAXX plays a key role in the suppression of basal and stress-inducible expression of C9orf72 via chromatin remodeling and epigenetic modifications of the promoter of the major C9orf72 transcript. Downregulation of DAXX or rebalancing the epigenetic modifications mitigates the stress-induced sensitivity of C9orf72-patient-derived motor neurons. These studies reveal a C9orf72 HRE DNA-dependent regulatory mechanism for both local and genomic architectural changes in the relevant diseases.

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02/20/23 | Phase separation of Hippo signalling complexes.
Bonello TT, Cai D, Fletcher GC, Wiengartner K, Pengilly V, Lange KS, Liu Z, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Kavran JM, Thompson BJ
EMBO Journal. 2023 Feb 20;42(6):e112863. doi: 10.15252/embj.2022112863

The Hippo pathway was originally discovered to control tissue growth in Drosophila and includes the Hippo kinase (Hpo; MST1/2 in mammals), scaffold protein Salvador (Sav; SAV1 in mammals) and the Warts kinase (Wts; LATS1/2 in mammals). The Hpo kinase is activated by binding to Crumbs-Expanded (Crb-Ex) and/or Merlin-Kibra (Mer-Kib) proteins at the apical domain of epithelial cells. Here we show that activation of Hpo also involves the formation of supramolecular complexes with properties of a biomolecular condensate, including concentration dependence and sensitivity to starvation, macromolecular crowding, or 1,6-hexanediol treatment. Overexpressing Ex or Kib induces formation of micron-scale Hpo condensates in the cytoplasm, rather than at the apical membrane. Several Hippo pathway components contain unstructured low-complexity domains and purified Hpo-Sav complexes undergo phase separation in vitro. Formation of Hpo condensates is conserved in human cells. We propose that apical Hpo kinase activation occurs in phase separated "signalosomes" induced by clustering of upstream pathway components.

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10/27/22 | Spatial organization of the 3D genome encodes gene co-expression programs in single cells
Peng Dong , Shu Zhang , Liangqi Xie , Lihua Wang , Andrew L. Lemire , Arthur D. Lander , Howard Y. Chang , Zhe J. Liu
bioRxiv. 2022 Oct 27:. doi: 10.1101/2022.10.26.513917

Deconstructing the mechanism by which the 3D genome encodes genetic information to generate diverse cell types during animal development is a major challenge in biology. The contrast between the elimination of chromatin loops and domains upon Cohesin loss and the lack of downstream gene expression changes at the cell population level instigates intense debates regarding the structure-function relationship between genome organization and gene regulation. Here, by analyzing single cells after acute Cohesin removal with sequencing and spatial genome imaging techniques, we discover that, instead of dictating population-wide gene expression levels, 3D genome topology mediated by Cohesin safeguards long-range gene co-expression correlations in single cells. Notably, Cohesin loss induces gene co-activation and chromatin co-opening between active domains in cis up to tens of megabase apart, far beyond the typical length scale of enhancer-promoter communication. In addition, Cohesin separates Mediator protein hubs, prevents active genes in cis from localizing into shared hubs and blocks intersegment transfer of diverse transcriptional regulators. Together, these results support that spatial organization of the 3D genome orchestrates dynamic long-range gene and chromatin co-regulation in single living cells.

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09/19/22 | The evolutionary dynamics of extrachromosomal DNA in human cancers.
Lange JT, Rose JC, Chen CY, Pichugin Y, Xie L, Tang J, Hung KL, Yost KE, Shi Q, Erb ML, Rajkumar U, Wu S, Taschner-Mandl S, Bernkopf M, Swanton C, Liu Z, Huang W, Chang HY, Bafna V, Henssen AG, Werner B, Mischel PS
Nature Genetics. 2022 Sep 19:. doi: 10.1038/s41588-022-01177-x

Oncogene amplification on extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA) is a common event, driving aggressive tumor growth, drug resistance and shorter survival. Currently, the impact of nonchromosomal oncogene inheritance-random identity by descent-is poorly understood. Also unclear is the impact of ecDNA on somatic variation and selection. Here integrating theoretical models of random segregation, unbiased image analysis, CRISPR-based ecDNA tagging with live-cell imaging and CRISPR-C, we demonstrate that random ecDNA inheritance results in extensive intratumoral ecDNA copy number heterogeneity and rapid adaptation to metabolic stress and targeted treatment. Observed ecDNAs benefit host cell survival or growth and can change within a single cell cycle. ecDNA inheritance can predict, a priori, some of the aggressive features of ecDNA-containing cancers. These properties are facilitated by the ability of ecDNA to rapidly adapt genomes in a way that is not possible through chromosomal oncogene amplification. These results show how the nonchromosomal random inheritance pattern of ecDNA contributes to poor outcomes for patients with cancer.

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