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55 Publications

Showing 41-50 of 55 results
03/21/16 | Emerging imaging and genomic tools for developmental systems biology.
Liu Z, Keller PJ
Developmental Cell. 2016 Mar 21;36(6):597-610. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2016.02.016

Animal development is a complex and dynamic process orchestrated by exquisitely timed cell lineage commitment, divisions, migration, and morphological changes at the single-cell level. In the past decade, extensive genetic, stem cell, and genomic studies provided crucial insights into molecular underpinnings and the functional importance of genetic pathways governing various cellular differentiation processes. However, it is still largely unknown how the precise coordination of these pathways is achieved at the whole-organism level and how the highly regulated spatiotemporal choreography of development is established in turn. Here, we discuss the latest technological advances in imaging and single-cell genomics that hold great promise for advancing our understanding of this intricate process. We propose an integrated approach that combines such methods to quantitatively decipher in vivo cellular dynamic behaviors and their underlying molecular mechanisms at the systems level with single-cell, single-molecule resolution.

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01/16/16 | Imaging transcription: past, present, and future.
Coleman RA, Liu Z, Darzacq X, Tjian R, Singer RH, Lionnet T
Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology. 2015;80:1-8. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2015.80.027201

Transcription, the first step of gene expression, is exquisitely regulated in higher eukaryotes to ensure correct development and homeostasis. Traditional biochemical, genetic, and genomic approaches have proved successful at identifying factors, regulatory sequences, and potential pathways that modulate transcription. However, they typically only provide snapshots or population averages of the highly dynamic, stochastic biochemical processes involved in transcriptional regulation. Single-molecule live-cell imaging has, therefore, emerged as a complementary approach capable of circumventing these limitations. By observing sequences of molecular events in real time as they occur in their native context, imaging has the power to derive cause-and-effect relationships and quantitative kinetics to build predictive models of transcription. Ongoing progress in fluorescence imaging technology has brought new microscopes and labeling technologies that now make it possible to visualize and quantify the transcription process with single-molecule resolution in living cells and animals. Here we provide an overview of the evolution and current state of transcription imaging technologies. We discuss some of the important concepts they uncovered and present possible future developments that might solve long-standing questions in transcriptional regulation.

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11/13/15 | Dynamics of CRISPR-Cas9 genome interrogation in living cells.
Knight SC, Xie L, Deng W, Guglielmi B, Witkowsky LB, Bosanac L, Zhang ET, El Beheiry M, Masson J, Dahan M, Liu Z, Doudna JA, Tjian R
Science (New York, N.Y.). 2015 Nov 13;350(6262):823-6. doi: 10.1126/science.aac6572

The RNA-guided CRISPR-associated protein Cas9 is used for genome editing, transcriptional modulation, and live-cell imaging. Cas9-guide RNA complexes recognize and cleave double-stranded DNA sequences on the basis of 20-nucleotide RNA-DNA complementarity, but the mechanism of target searching in mammalian cells is unknown. Here, we use single-particle tracking to visualize diffusion and chromatin binding of Cas9 in living cells. We show that three-dimensional diffusion dominates Cas9 searching in vivo, and off-target binding events are, on average, short-lived (<1 second). Searching is dependent on the local chromatin environment, with less sampling and slower movement within heterochromatin. These results reveal how the bacterial Cas9 protein interrogates mammalian genomes and navigates eukaryotic chromatin structure.

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09/22/15 | A specific E3 ligase/deubiquitinase pair modulates TBP protein levels during muscle differentiation.
Li L, Martinez SS, Hu W, Liu Z, Tjian R
eLife. 2015;4:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.08536

TFIID-a complex of TATA-binding protein (TBP) and TBP-associated factors (TAFs)-is a central component of the Pol II promoter recognition apparatus. Recent studies have revealed significant downregulation of TFIID subunits in terminally differentiated myocytes, hepatocytes and adipocytes. Here, we report that TBP protein levels are tightly regulated by the ubiquitin-proteasome system. Using an in vitro ubiquitination assay coupled with biochemical fractionation, we identified Huwe1 as an E3 ligase targeting TBP for K48-linked ubiquitination and proteasome-mediated degradation. Upregulation of Huwe1 expression during myogenesis induces TBP degradation and myotube differentiation. We found that Huwe1 activity on TBP is antagonized by the deubiquitinase USP10, which protects TBP from degradation. Thus, modulating the levels of both Huwe1 and USP10 appears to fine-tune the requisite degradation of TBP during myogenesis. Together, our study unmasks a previously unknown interplay between an E3 ligase and a deubiquitinating enzyme regulating TBP levels during cellular differentiation.

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08/13/15 | Lighting up genes in single cells at scale.
Liu Z
Cell. 2015 Aug 13;162(4):705-7. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.07.052
05/21/15 | Imaging live-cell dynamics and structure at the single-molecule level.
Liu Z, Lavis LD, Betzig E
Molecular Cell. 2015 May 21;58(4):644-59. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2015.02.033

Observation of molecular processes inside living cells is fundamental to a quantitative understanding of how biological systems function. Specifically, decoding the complex behavior of single molecules enables us to measure kinetics, transport, and self-assembly at this fundamental level that is often veiled in ensemble experiments. In the past decade, rapid developments in fluorescence microscopy, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, and fluorescent labeling techniques have enabled new experiments to investigate the robustness and stochasticity of diverse molecular mechanisms with high spatiotemporal resolution. This review discusses the concepts and strategies of structural and functional imaging in living cells at the single-molecule level with minimal perturbations to the specimen.

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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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10/24/14 | Lattice light-sheet microscopy: imaging molecules to embryos at high spatiotemporal resolution.
Chen B, Legant WR, Wang K, Shao L, Milkie DE, Davidson MW, Janetopoulos C, Wu XS, Hammer JA, Liu Z, English BP, Mimori-Kiyosue Y, Romero DP, Ritter AT, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Fritz-Laylin L, Mullins RD, Mitchell DM, Bembenek JN, Reymann A, Böhme R, Grill SW, Wang JT, Seydoux G, Tulu US, Kiehart DP, Betzig E
Science. 2014 Oct 24;346(6208):1257998. doi: 10.1126/science.1257998

Although fluorescence microscopy provides a crucial window into the physiology of living specimens, many biological processes are too fragile, are too small, or occur too rapidly to see clearly with existing tools. We crafted ultrathin light sheets from two-dimensional optical lattices that allowed us to image three-dimensional (3D) dynamics for hundreds of volumes, often at subsecond intervals, at the diffraction limit and beyond. We applied this to systems spanning four orders of magnitude in space and time, including the diffusion of single transcription factor molecules in stem cell spheroids, the dynamic instability of mitotic microtubules, the immunological synapse, neutrophil motility in a 3D matrix, and embryogenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster. The results provide a visceral reminder of the beauty and the complexity of living systems.

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03/13/14 | Single-molecule dynamics of enhanceosome assembly in embryonic stem cells.
Chen J, Zhang Z, Li Li , Chen B, Revyakin A, Hajj B, Legant W, Dahan M, Lionnet T, Betzig E, Tjian R, Liu Z
Cell. 2014 Mar 13;156:1274-85. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.01.062

Enhancer-binding pluripotency regulators (Sox2 and Oct4) play a seminal role in embryonic stem (ES) cell-specific gene regulation. Here, we combine in vivo and in vitro single-molecule imaging, transcription factor (TF) mutagenesis, and ChIP-exo mapping to determine how TFs dynamically search for and assemble on their cognate DNA target sites. We find that enhanceosome assembly is hierarchically ordered with kinetically favored Sox2 engaging the target DNA first, followed by assisted binding of Oct4. Sox2/Oct4 follow a trial-and-error sampling mechanism involving 84-97 events of 3D diffusion (3.3-3.7 s) interspersed with brief nonspecific collisions (0.75-0.9 s) before acquiring and dwelling at specific target DNA (12.0-14.6 s). Sox2 employs a 3D diffusion-dominated search mode facilitated by 1D sliding along open DNA to efficiently locate targets. Our findings also reveal fundamental aspects of gene and developmental regulation by fine-tuning TF dynamics and influence of the epigenome on target search parameters.

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Tjian LabLiu (Zhe) Lab
03/10/14 | Charting Brachyury-mediated developmental pathways during early mouse embryogenesis.
Lolas M, Valenzuela PD, Tjian R, Liu Z
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2014 Mar 10;111(12):4478-83. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1402612111

To gain insights into coordinated lineage-specification and morphogenetic processes during early embryogenesis, here we report a systematic identification of transcriptional programs mediated by a key developmental regulator-Brachyury. High-resolution chromosomal localization mapping of Brachyury by ChIP sequencing and ChIP-exonuclease revealed distinct sequence signatures enriched in Brachyury-bound enhancers. A combination of genome-wide in vitro and in vivo perturbation analysis and cross-species evolutionary comparison unveiled a detailed Brachyury-dependent gene-regulatory network that directly links the function of Brachyury to diverse developmental pathways and cellular housekeeping programs. We also show that Brachyury functions primarily as a transcriptional activator genome-wide and that an unexpected gene-regulatory feedback loop consisting of Brachyury, Foxa2, and Sox17 directs proper stem-cell lineage commitment during streak formation. Target gene and mRNA-sequencing correlation analysis of the T(c) mouse model supports a crucial role of Brachyury in up-regulating multiple key hematopoietic and muscle-fate regulators. Our results thus chart a comprehensive map of the Brachyury-mediated gene-regulatory network and how it influences in vivo developmental homeostasis and coordination.

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