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4 Janelia Publications

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    08/03/16 | Real-time imaging of Huntingtin aggregates diverting target search and gene transcription.
    Li L, Liu H, Dong P, Li D, Legant WR, Grimm JB, Lavis LD, Betzig E, Tjian R, Liu Z
    eLife. 2016 Aug 03;5:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.17056

    The presumptive altered dynamics of transient molecular interactions in vivo contributing to neurodegenerative diseases have remained elusive. Here, using single-molecule localization microscopy, we show that disease-inducing Huntingtin (mHtt) protein fragments display three distinct dynamic states in living cells - 1) fast diffusion, 2) dynamic clustering and 3) stable aggregation. Large, stable aggregates of mHtt exclude chromatin and form 'sticky' decoy traps that impede target search processes of key regulators involved in neurological disorders. Functional domain mapping based on super-resolution imaging reveals an unexpected role of aromatic amino acids in promoting protein-mHtt aggregate interactions. Genome-wide expression analysis and numerical simulation experiments suggest mHtt aggregates reduce transcription factor target site sampling frequency and impair critical gene expression programs in striatal neurons. Together, our results provide insights into how mHtt dynamically forms aggregates and disrupts the finely-balanced gene control mechanisms in neuronal cells.

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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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    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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    03/15/11 | Subnuclear segregation of genes and core promoter factors in myogenesis. (With commentary)
    Yao J, Fetter RD, Hu P, Betzig E, Tjian R
    Genes & Development. 2011 Mar 15;25(6):569-80. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100640108

    Recent findings implicate alternate core promoter recognition complexes in regulating cellular differentiation. Here we report a spatial segregation of the alternative core factor TAF3, but not canonical TFIID subunits, away from the nuclear periphery, where the key myogenic gene MyoD is preferentially localized in myoblasts. This segregation is correlated with the differential occupancy of TAF3 versus TFIID at the MyoD promoter. Loss of this segregation by modulating either the intranuclear location of the MyoD gene or TAF3 protein leads to altered TAF3 occupancy at the MyoD promoter. Intriguingly, in differentiated myotubes, the MyoD gene is repositioned to the nuclear interior, where TAF3 resides. The specific high-affinity recognition of H3K4Me3 by the TAF3 PHD (plant homeodomain) finger appears to be required for the sequestration of TAF3 to the nuclear interior. We suggest that intranuclear sequestration of core transcription components and their target genes provides an additional mechanism for promoter selectivity during differentiation.

    Commentary: Jie Yao in Bob Tijan’s lab used a combination of confocal microscopy and dual label PALM in thin sections cut from resin-embedded cells to show that certain core transcription components and their target genes are spatially segregated in myoblasts, but not in differentiated myotubes, suggesting that such spatial segregation may play a role in guiding cellular differentiation.


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