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89 Janelia Publications

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    12/23/14 | Regulation of RNA granule dynamics by phosphorylation of serine-rich, intrinsically disordered proteins in C. elegans.
    Wang JT, Smith J, Chen B, Schmidt H, Rasoloson D, Paix A, Lambrus BG, Calidas D, Betzig E, Seydoux G
    eLife. 2014 Dec 23;4:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.04591

    RNA granules have been likened to liquid droplets whose dynamics depend on the controlled dissolution and condensation of internal components. The molecules and reactions that drive these dynamics in vivo are not well understood. In this study, we present evidence that a group of intrinsically disordered, serine-rich proteins regulate the dynamics of P granules in C. elegans embryos. The MEG (maternal-effect germline defective) proteins are germ plasm components that are required redundantly for fertility. We demonstrate that MEG-1 and MEG-3 are substrates of the kinase MBK-2/DYRK and the phosphatase PP2A(PPTR-½). Phosphorylation of the MEGs promotes granule disassembly and dephosphorylation promotes granule assembly. Using lattice light sheet microscopy on live embryos, we show that GFP-tagged MEG-3 localizes to a dynamic domain that surrounds and penetrates each granule. We conclude that, despite their liquid-like behavior, P granules are non-homogeneous structures whose assembly in embryos is regulated by phosphorylation.

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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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    05/19/14 | Nonmuscle myosin II isoforms coassemble in living cells.
    Beach JR, Shao L, Remmert K, Li D, Betzig E, Hammer JA
    Current Biology. 2014 May 19;24(10):1160-6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.071

    Nonmuscle myosin II (NM II) powers myriad developmental and cellular processes, including embryogenesis, cell migration, and cytokinesis [1]. To exert its functions, monomers of NM II assemble into bipolar filaments that produce a contractile force on the actin cytoskeleton. Mammalian cells express up to three isoforms of NM II (NM IIA, IIB, and IIC), each of which possesses distinct biophysical properties and supports unique as well as redundant cellular functions [2-8]. Despite previous efforts [9-13], it remains unclear whether NM II isoforms assemble in living cells to produce mixed (heterotypic) bipolar filaments or whether filaments consist entirely of a single isoform (homotypic). We addressed this question using fluorescently tagged versions of NM IIA, IIB, and IIC, isoform-specific immunostaining of the endogenous proteins, and two-color total internal reflection fluorescence structured-illumination microscopy, or TIRF-SIM, to visualize individual myosin II bipolar filaments inside cells. We show that NM II isoforms coassemble into heterotypic filaments in a variety of settings, including various types of stress fibers, individual filaments throughout the cell, and the contractile ring. We also show that the differential distribution of NM IIA and NM IIB typically seen in confocal micrographs of well-polarized cells is reflected in the composition of individual bipolar filaments. Interestingly, this differential distribution is less pronounced in freshly spread cells, arguing for the existence of a sorting mechanism acting over time. Together, our work argues that individual NM II isoforms are potentially performing both isoform-specific and isoform-redundant functions while coassembled with other NM II isoforms.

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    05/01/14 | 3D live fluorescence imaging of cellular dynamics using Bessel beam plane illumination microscopy.
    Gao L, Shao L, Chen B, Betzig E
    Nature Protocols. 2014 May;9:1083-101. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2014.087

    3D live imaging is important for a better understanding of biological processes, but it is challenging with current techniques such as spinning-disk confocal microscopy. Bessel beam plane illumination microscopy allows high-speed 3D live fluorescence imaging of living cellular and multicellular specimens with nearly isotropic spatial resolution, low photobleaching and low photodamage. Unlike conventional fluorescence imaging techniques that usually have a unique operation mode, Bessel plane illumination has several modes that offer different performance with different imaging metrics. To achieve optimal results from this technique, the appropriate operation mode needs to be selected and the experimental setting must be optimized for the specific application and associated sample properties. Here we explain the fundamental working principles of this technique, discuss the pros and cons of each operational mode and show through examples how to optimize experimental parameters. We also describe the procedures needed to construct, align and operate a Bessel beam plane illumination microscope by using our previously reported system as an example, and we list the necessary equipment to build such a microscope. Assuming all components are readily available, it would take a person skilled in optical instrumentation \~{}1 month to assemble and operate a microscope according to this protocol.

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    04/14/14 | A contractile and counterbalancing adhesion system controls the 3D shape of crawling cells.
    Burnette DT, Shao L, Ott C, Pasapera AM, Fischer RS, Baird MA, Der Loughian C, Delanoe-Ayari H, Paszek MJ, Davidson MW, Betzig E, Lippincott-Schwartz J
    Journal of Cell Biology. 2014 Apr 14;205(1):83-96. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201311104

    How adherent and contractile systems coordinate to promote cell shape changes is unclear. Here, we define a counterbalanced adhesion/contraction model for cell shape control. Live-cell microscopy data showed a crucial role for a contractile meshwork at the top of the cell, which is composed of actin arcs and myosin IIA filaments. The contractile actin meshwork is organized like muscle sarcomeres, with repeating myosin II filaments separated by the actin bundling protein α-actinin, and is mechanically coupled to noncontractile dorsal actin fibers that run from top to bottom in the cell. When the meshwork contracts, it pulls the dorsal fibers away from the substrate. This pulling force is counterbalanced by the dorsal fibers' attachment to focal adhesions, causing the fibers to bend downward and flattening the cell. This model is likely to be relevant for understanding how cells configure themselves to complex surfaces, protrude into tight spaces, and generate three-dimensional forces on the growth substrate under both healthy and diseased conditions.

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    04/01/14 | Rapid adaptive optical recovery of optimal resolution over large volumes.
    Wang K, Milkie DE, Saxena A, Engerer P, Misgeld T, Bronner ME, Mumm J, Betzig E
    Nature Methods. 2014 Apr;11:625-8. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.2925

    Using a descanned, laser-induced guide star and direct wavefront sensing, we demonstrate adaptive correction of complex optical aberrations at high numerical aperture (NA) and a 14-ms update rate. This correction permits us to compensate for the rapid spatial variation in aberration often encountered in biological specimens and to recover diffraction-limited imaging over large volumes (>240 mm per side). We applied this to image fine neuronal processes and subcellular dynamics within the zebrafish brain.

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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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    10/29/13 | Fast structural responses of gap junction membrane domains to AB5 toxins.
    Majoul IV, Gao L, Betzig E, Onichtchouk D, Butkevich E, Kozlov Y, Bukauskas F, Bennett MV, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Duden R
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2013 Oct 29;110(44):E4125-33. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1315850110

    Gap junctions (GJs) represent connexin-rich membrane domains that connect interiors of adjoining cells in mammalian tissues. How fast GJs can respond to bacterial pathogens has not been known previously. Using Bessel beam plane illumination and confocal spinning disk microscopy, we found fast ( 500 ms) formation of connexin-depleted regions (CDRs) inside GJ plaques between cells exposed to AB5 toxins. CDR formation appears as a fast redistribution of connexin channels within GJ plaques with minor changes in outline or geometry. CDR formation does not depend on membrane trafficking or submembrane cytoskeleton and has no effect on GJ conductance. However, CDR responses depend on membrane lipids, can be modified by cholesterol-clustering agents and extracellular K(+) ion concentration, and influence cAMP signaling. The CDR response of GJ plaques to bacterial toxins is a phenomenon observed for all tested connexin isoforms. Through signaling, the CDR response may enable cells to sense exposure to AB5 toxins. CDR formation may reflect lipid-phase separation events in the biological membrane of the GJ plaque, leading to increased connexin packing and lipid reorganization. Our data demonstrate very fast dynamics (in the millisecond-to-second range) within GJ plaques, which previously were considered to be relatively stable, long-lived structures.

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    04/24/13 | Carbofluoresceins and carborhodamines as scaffolds for high-contrast fluorogenic probes.
    Grimm JB, Sung AJ, Legant WR, Hulamm P, Matlosz SM, Betzig E, Lavis LD
    ACS Chemical Biology. 2013 Apr 24;8(6):1303-10. doi: 10.1021/cb4000822

    Fluorogenic molecules are important tools for advanced biochemical and biological experiments. The extant collection of fluorogenic probes is incomplete, however, leaving regions of the electromagnetic spectrum unutilized. Here, we synthesize green-excited fluorescent and fluorogenic analogues of the classic fluorescein and rhodamine 110 fluorophores by replacement of the xanthene oxygen with a quaternary carbon. These anthracenyl "carbofluorescein" and "carborhodamine 110" fluorophores exhibit excellent fluorescent properties and can be masked with enzyme- and photolabile groups to prepare high-contrast fluorogenic molecules useful for live cell imaging experiments and super-resolution microscopy. Our divergent approach to these red-shifted dye scaffolds will enable the preparation of numerous novel fluorogenic probes with high biological utility.

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    03/22/13 | A localized Wnt signal orients asymmetric stem cell division in vitro.
    Habib SJ, Chen B, Tsai F, Anastassiadis K, Meyer T, Betzig E, Nusse R
    Science. 2013 Mar 22;339(6126):1445-8. doi: 10.1126/science.1231077

    Developmental signals such as Wnts are often presented to cells in an oriented manner. To examine the consequences of local Wnt signaling, we immobilized Wnt proteins on beads and introduced them to embryonic stem cells in culture. At the single-cell level, the Wnt-bead induced asymmetric distribution of Wnt-β-catenin signaling components, oriented the plane of mitotic division, and directed asymmetric inheritance of centrosomes. Before cytokinesis was completed, the Wnt-proximal daughter cell expressed high levels of nuclear β-catenin and pluripotency genes, whereas the distal daughter cell acquired hallmarks of differentiation. We suggest that a spatially restricted Wnt signal induces an oriented cell division that generates distinct cell fates at predictable positions relative to the Wnt source.

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