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7 Janelia Publications

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    10/30/09 | Analysis of cell fate from single-cell gene expression profiles in C. elegans.
    Liu X, Long F, Peng H, Aerni SJ, Jiang M, Sánchez-Blanco A, Murray JI, Preston E, Mericle B, Batzoglou S, Myers EW, Kim SK
    Cell. 2009 Oct 30;139(3):623-33. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2009.08.044

    The C. elegans cell lineage provides a unique opportunity to look at how cell lineage affects patterns of gene expression. We developed an automatic cell lineage analyzer that converts high-resolution images of worms into a data table showing fluorescence expression with single-cell resolution. We generated expression profiles of 93 genes in 363 specific cells from L1 stage larvae and found that cells with identical fates can be formed by different gene regulatory pathways. Molecular signatures identified repeating cell fate modules within the cell lineage and enabled the generation of a molecular differentiation map that reveals points in the cell lineage when developmental fates of daughter cells begin to diverge. These results demonstrate insights that become possible using computational approaches to analyze quantitative expression from many genes in parallel using a digital gene expression atlas.

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    10/30/09 | T cells require Foxo1 to populate the peripheral lymphoid organs.
    Gubbels Bupp MR, Edwards B, Guo C, Wei D, Chen G, Wong B, Masteller E, Peng SL
    Eur J Immunol. 2009 Oct 30;39(11):2991-9. doi: 10.1002/eji.200939427

    Forkhead transcription factors play critical roles in leukocyte homeostasis. To study further the immunological functions of Foxo1, we generated mice that selectively lack Foxo1 in T cells (Foxo1(flox/flox) Lck.cre(+)conditional knockout mice (cKO)). Although thymocyte development appeared relatively normal, Foxo1 cKO mice harbored significantly increased percentages of mature single positive T cells in the thymus as compared with WT mice, yet possessed smaller lymph nodes and spleens that contained fewer T cells. Foxo1 cKO T cells were not more prone to apoptosis, but instead were characterized by a CD62L(lo) CCR7(lo) CD44(hi) surface phenotype, a poorly populated lymphoid compartment in the periphery, and were relatively refractory to TCR stimulation, all of which were associated with reduced expression of Sell, Klf2, Ccr7, and S1pr1. Thus, Foxo1 is critical for naïve T cells to populate the peripheral lymphoid organs by coordinating a molecular program that maintains homeostasis and regulates trafficking.

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    Magee Lab
    10/16/09 | Fast synaptic subcortical control of hippocampal circuits.
    Varga V, Losonczy A, Zemelman BV, Borhegyi Z, Nyiri G, Domonkos A, Hangya B, Holderith N, Magee JC, Freund TF
    Science. 2009 Oct 16;326(5951):449-53. doi: 10.1126/science.1178307

    Cortical information processing is under state-dependent control of subcortical neuromodulatory systems. Although this modulatory effect is thought to be mediated mainly by slow nonsynaptic metabotropic receptors, other mechanisms, such as direct synaptic transmission, are possible. Yet, it is currently unknown if any such form of subcortical control exists. Here, we present direct evidence of a strong, spatiotemporally precise excitatory input from an ascending neuromodulatory center. Selective stimulation of serotonergic median raphe neurons produced a rapid activation of hippocampal interneurons. At the network level, this subcortical drive was manifested as a pattern of effective disynaptic GABAergic inhibition that spread throughout the circuit. This form of subcortical network regulation should be incorporated into current concepts of normal and pathological cortical function.

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    10/15/09 | Reverse engineering the mouse brain.
    O’Connor DH, Huber D, Svoboda K
    Nature. 2009 Oct 15;461:923-9. doi: 10.1038/nature08539

    Behaviour is governed by activity in highly structured neural circuits. Genetically targeted sensors and switches facilitate measurement and manipulation of activity in vivo, linking activity in defined nodes of neural circuits to behaviour. Because of access to specific cell types, these molecular tools will have the largest impact in genetic model systems such as the mouse. Emerging assays of mouse behaviour are beginning to rival those of behaving monkeys in terms of stimulus and behavioural control. We predict that the confluence of new behavioural and molecular tools in the mouse will reveal the logic of complex mammalian circuits.

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    Eddy/Rivas Lab
    10/01/09 | A new generation of homology search tools based on probabilistic inference.
    Eddy SR
    Genome Informatics. International Conference on Genome Informatics. 2009 Oct;23(1):205-11

    Many theoretical advances have been made in applying probabilistic inference methods to improve the power of sequence homology searches, yet the BLAST suite of programs is still the workhorse for most of the field. The main reason for this is practical: BLAST’s programs are about 100-fold faster than the fastest competing implementations of probabilistic inference methods. I describe recent work on the HMMER software suite for protein sequence analysis, which implements probabilistic inference using profile hidden Markov models. Our aim in HMMER3 is to achieve BLAST’s speed while further improving the power of probabilistic inference based methods. HMMER3 implements a new probabilistic model of local sequence alignment and a new heuristic acceleration algorithm. Combined with efficient vector-parallel implementations on modern processors, these improvements synergize. HMMER3 uses more powerful log-odds likelihood scores (scores summed over alignment uncertainty, rather than scoring a single optimal alignment); it calculates accurate expectation values (E-values) for those scores without simulation using a generalization of Karlin/Altschul theory; it computes posterior distributions over the ensemble of possible alignments and returns posterior probabilities (confidences) in each aligned residue; and it does all this at an overall speed comparable to BLAST. The HMMER project aims to usher in a new generation of more powerful homology search tools based on probabilistic inference methods.

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    Riddiford Lab
    10/01/09 | Comparative endocrinology in the 21st century.
    Denver RJ, Hopkins PM, McCormick SD, Propper CR, Riddiford L, Sower SA, Wingfield JC
    Integrative and Comparative Biology. 2009 Oct;49(4):339-48. doi: 10.1093/icb/icp082

    Hormones coordinate developmental, physiological, and behavioral processes within and between all living organisms. They orchestrate and shape organogenesis from early in development, regulate the acquisition, assimilation, and utilization of nutrients to support growth and metabolism, control gamete production and sexual behavior, mediate organismal responses to environmental change, and allow for communication of information between organisms. Genes that code for hormones; the enzymes that synthesize, metabolize, and transport hormones; and hormone receptors are important targets for natural selection, and variation in their expression and function is a major driving force for the evolution of morphology and life history. Hormones coordinate physiology and behavior of populations of organisms, and thus play key roles in determining the structure of populations, communities, and ecosystems. The field of endocrinology is concerned with the study of hormones and their actions. This field is rooted in the comparative study of hormones in diverse species, which has provided the foundation for the modern fields of evolutionary, environmental, and biomedical endocrinology. Comparative endocrinologists work at the cutting edge of the life sciences. They identify new hormones, hormone receptors and mechanisms of hormone action applicable to diverse species, including humans; study the impact of habitat destruction, pollution, and climatic change on populations of organisms; establish novel model systems for studying hormones and their functions; and develop new genetic strains and husbandry practices for efficient production of animal protein. While the model system approach has dominated biomedical research in recent years, and has provided extraordinary insight into many basic cellular and molecular processes, this approach is limited to investigating a small minority of organisms. Animals exhibit tremendous diversity in form and function, life-history strategies, and responses to the environment. A major challenge for life scientists in the 21st century is to understand how a changing environment impacts all life on earth. A full understanding of the capabilities of organisms to respond to environmental variation, and the resilience of organisms challenged by environmental changes and extremes, is necessary for understanding the impact of pollution and climatic change on the viability of populations. Comparative endocrinologists have a key role to play in these efforts.

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    10/01/09 | Enzyme stabilization by domain insertion into a thermophilic protein.
    Kim C, Pierre B, Ostermeier M, Looger LL, Kim JR
    Protein Engineering, Design & Selection : PEDS. 2009 Oct;22(10):615-23. doi: 10.1093/protein/gzp044

    Insufficient kinetic stability of exoinulinase (EI) restricts its application in many areas including enzymatic transformation of inulin for production of ultra-high fructose syrup and oligofructan, as well as fermentation of inulin into bioethanol. The conventional method for enzyme stabilization involves mutagenesis and therefore risks alteration of an enzyme’s desired properties, such as activity. Here, we report a novel method for stabilization of EI without any modification of its primary sequence. Our method employs domain insertion of an entire EI domain into a thermophilic scaffold protein. Insertion of EI into a loop of a thermophilic maltodextrin-binding protein from Pyrococcus furiosus (PfMBP) resulted in improvement of kinetic stability (the duration over which an enzyme remains active) at 37 degrees C without any compromise in EI activity. Our analysis suggests that the improved kinetic stability at 37 degrees C might originate from a raised kinetic barrier for irreversible conversion of unfolded intermediates to completely inactivated species, rather than an increased energy difference between the folded and unfolded forms.

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