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35 Janelia Publications

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    09/25/19 | Rational design of fluorogenic and spontaneously blinking labels for super-resolution imaging.
    Zheng Q, Ayala AX, Chung I, Weigel AV, Ranjan A, Falco N, Grimm JB, Tkachuk AN, Wu C, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Singer RH, Lavis LD
    ACS Central Science. 2019 Sep 25;5(9):1602-1613. doi: 10.1021/acscentsci.9b00676

    Rhodamine dyes exist in equilibrium between a fluorescent zwitterion and a nonfluorescent lactone. Tuning this equilibrium toward the nonfluorescent lactone form can improve cell-permeability and allow creation of "fluorogenic" compounds-ligands that shift to the fluorescent zwitterion upon binding a biomolecular target. An archetype fluorogenic dye is the far-red tetramethyl-Si-rhodamine (SiR), which has been used to create exceptionally useful labels for advanced microscopy. Here, we develop a quantitative framework for the development of new fluorogenic dyes, determining that the lactone-zwitterion equilibrium constant () is sufficient to predict fluorogenicity. This rubric emerged from our analysis of known fluorophores and yielded new fluorescent and fluorogenic labels with improved performance in cellular imaging experiments. We then designed a novel fluorophore-Janelia Fluor 526 (JF)-with SiR-like properties but shorter fluorescence excitation and emission wavelengths. JF is a versatile scaffold for fluorogenic probes including ligands for self-labeling tags, stains for endogenous structures, and spontaneously blinking labels for super-resolution immunofluorescence. JF constitutes a new label for advanced microscopy experiments, and our quantitative framework will enable the rational design of other fluorogenic probes for bioimaging.

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    09/23/19 | Mamo decodes hierarchical temporal gradients into terminal neuronal fate.
    Liu L, Long X, Yang C, Miyares RL, Sugino K, Singer RH, Lee T
    Elife. 2019 Sep 23;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.48056

    Temporal patterning is a seminal method of expanding neuronal diversity. Here we unravel a mechanism decoding neural stem cell temporal gene expression and transforming it into discrete neuronal fates. This mechanism is characterized by hierarchical gene expression. First, neuroblasts express opposing temporal gradients of RNA-binding proteins, Imp and Syp. These proteins promote or inhibit translation, yielding a descending neuronal gradient. Together, first and second-layer temporal factors define a temporal expression window of BTB-zinc finger nuclear protein, Mamo. The precise temporal induction of Mamo is achieved via both transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation. Finally, Mamo is essential for the temporally defined, terminal identity of α'/β' mushroom body neurons and identity maintenance. We describe a straightforward paradigm of temporal fate specification where diverse neuronal fates are defined via integrating multiple layers of gene regulation. The neurodevelopmental roles of orthologous/related mammalian genes suggest a fundamental conservation of this mechanism in brain development.

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    03/26/19 | Neurotransmitter identity is acquired in a lineage-restricted manner in the Drosophila CNS.
    Lacin H, Chen H, Long X, Singer RH, Lee T, Truman JW
    Elife. 2019 Mar 26;8:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.43701

    The vast majority of the adult fly ventral nerve cord is composed of 34 hemilineages, which are clusters of lineally related neurons. Neurons in these hemilineages use one of the three fast-acting neurotransmitters (acetylcholine, GABA, or glutamate) for communication. We generated a comprehensive neurotransmitter usage map for the entire ventral nerve cord. We did not find any cases of neurons using more than one neurotransmitter, but found that the acetylcholine specific gene ChAT is transcribed in many glutamatergic and GABAergic neurons, but these transcripts typically do not leave the nucleus and are not translated. Importantly, our work uncovered a simple rule: All neurons within a hemilineage use the same neurotransmitter. Thus, neurotransmitter identity is acquired at the stem cell level. Our detailed transmitter- usage/lineage identity map will be a great resource for studying the developmental basis of behavior and deciphering how neuronal circuits function to regulate behavior.

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    03/08/19 | Neural evolution of context-dependent fly song.
    Ding Y, Lillvis JL, Cande J, Berman GJ, Arthur BJ, Long X, Xu M, Dickson BJ, Stern DL
    Current Biology : CB. 2019 Mar 08;29(7):1089-99. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.019

    It is unclear where in the nervous system evolutionary changes tend to occur. To localize the source of neural evolution that has generated divergent behaviors, we developed a new approach to label and functionally manipulate homologous neurons across Drosophila species. We examined homologous descending neurons that drive courtship song in two species that sing divergent song types and localized relevant evolutionary changes in circuit function downstream of the intrinsic physiology of these descending neurons. This evolutionary change causes different species to produce divergent motor patterns in similar social contexts. Artificial stimulation of these descending neurons drives multiple song types, suggesting that multifunctional properties of song circuits may facilitate rapid evolution of song types.

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    12/18/18 | Mapping Neurotransmitter Identity in the Whole-Mount Brain Using Multiplex High-Throughput Fluorescence Hybridization.
    Meissner GW, Nern A, Singer RH, Wong AM, Malkesman O, Long X
    Genetics. 2018 Dec 18;211(2):473-82. doi: 10.1534/genetics.118.301749

    Identifying the neurotransmitters used by specific neurons is a critical step in understanding the function of neural circuits. However, methods for the consistent and efficient detection of neurotransmitter markers remain limited. Fluorescence hybridization (FISH) enables direct labeling of type-specific mRNA in neurons. Recent advances in FISH allow this technique to be carried out in intact tissue samples such as whole-mount brains. Here, we present a FISH platform for high-throughput detection of eight common neurotransmitter phenotypes in brains. We greatly increase FISH throughput by processing samples mounted on coverslips and optimizing fluorophore choice for each probe to facilitate multiplexing. As application examples, we demonstrate cases of neurotransmitter co-expression, reveal neurotransmitter phenotypes of specific cell types and explore the onset of neurotransmitter expression in the developing optic lobe. Beyond neurotransmitter markers, our protocols can in principle be used for large scale FISH detection of any mRNA in whole-mount fly brains.

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    12/04/18 | Allatostatin-C/AstC-R2 is a novel pathway to modulate the circadian activity pattern in Drosophila.
    Díaz MM, Schlichting M, Abruzzi KC, Long X, Rosbash M
    Current Biology : CB. 2018 Dec 04;29(1):13-22. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.11.005

    Seven neuropeptides are expressed within the Drosophila brain circadian network. Our previous mRNA profiling suggested that Allatostatin-C (AstC) is an eighth neuropeptide and specifically expressed in dorsal clock neurons (DN1s). Our results here show that AstC is, indeed, expressed in DN1s, where it oscillates. AstC is also expressed in two less well-characterized circadian neuronal clusters, the DN3s and lateral-posterior neurons (LPNs). Behavioral experiments indicate that clock-neuron-derived AstC is required to mediate evening locomotor activity under short (winter-like) and long (summer-like) photoperiods. The AstC-Receptor 2 (AstC-R2) is expressed in LNds, the clock neurons that drive evening locomotor activity, and AstC-R2 is required in these neurons to modulate the same short photoperiod evening phenotype. Ex vivo calcium imaging indicates that AstC directly inhibits a single LNd. The results suggest that a novel AstC/AstC-R2 signaling pathway, from dorsal circadian neurons to an LNd, regulates the evening phase in Drosophila.

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    06/20/18 | A transgenic mouse for imaging activity-dependent dynamics of endogenous Arc mRNA in live neurons.
    Das S, Moon HC, Singer RH, Park HY
    Science Advances. 2018 Jun;4(6):eaar3448. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aar3448

    Localized translation plays a crucial role in synaptic plasticity and memory consolidation. However, it has not been possible to follow the dynamics of memory-associated mRNAs in living neurons in response to neuronal activity in real time. We have generated a novel mouse model where the endogenous Arc/Arg3.1 gene is tagged in its 3' untranslated region with stem-loops that bind a bacteriophage PP7 coat protein (PCP), allowing visualization of individual mRNAs in real time. The physiological response of the tagged gene to neuronal activity is identical to endogenous Arc and reports the true dynamics of Arc mRNA from transcription to degradation. The transcription dynamics of Arc in cultured hippocampal neurons revealed two novel results: (i) A robust transcriptional burst with prolonged ON state occurs after stimulation, and (ii) transcription cycles continue even after initial stimulation is removed. The correlation of stimulation with Arc transcription and mRNA transport in individual neurons revealed that stimulus-induced Ca activity was necessary but not sufficient for triggering Arc transcription and that blocking neuronal activity did not affect the dendritic transport of newly synthesized Arc mRNAs. This mouse will provide an important reagent to investigate how individual neurons transduce activity into spatiotemporal regulation of gene expression at the synapse.

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    05/20/18 | Imaging mRNA in vivo, from birth to death.
    Tutucci E, Livingston NM, Singer RH, Wu B
    Annual Review of Biophysics. 2018 May 20;47:85-106. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biophys-070317-033037

    RNA is the fundamental information transfer system in the cell. The ability to follow single messenger RNAs (mRNAs) from transcription to degradation with fluorescent probes gives quantitative information about how the information is transferred from DNA to proteins. This review focuses on the latest technological developments in the field of single-mRNA detection and their usage to study gene expression in both fixed and live cells. By describing the application of these imaging tools, we follow the journey of mRNA from transcription to decay in single cells, with single-molecule resolution. We review current theoretical models for describing transcription and translation that were generated by single-molecule and single-cell studies. These methods provide a basis to study how single-molecule interactions generate phenotypes, fundamentally changing our understating of gene expression regulation.

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    04/19/18 | Transvection Goes Live-Visualizing Enhancer-Promoter Communication between Chromosomes.
    Tsai A, Singer RH, Crocker J
    Molecular Cell. 2018 Apr 19;70(2):195-196. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2018.04.004

    Lim et al. (2018) use live imaging in Drosophila embryos to show that enhancers can drive transcription from promoters on another chromosome when they are in close proximity. In addition, they show that multiple promoters can access the same enhancer without competition, potentially sharing a pool of factors in a transcriptional "hub."

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    11/02/17 | Nuclear microenvironments modulate transcription from low-affinity enhancers.
    Tsai A, Muthusamy AK, Alves MR, Lavis LD, Singer RH, Stern DL, Crocker J
    eLife. 2017 Nov 02;6:. doi: 10.7554/eLife.28975

    Transcription factors bind low-affinity DNA sequences for only short durations. It is not clear how brief, low-affinity interactions can drive efficient transcription. Here we report that the transcription factor Ultrabithorax (Ubx) utilizes low-affinity binding sites in the Drosophila melanogastershavenbaby (svb) locus and related enhancers in nuclear microenvironments of high Ubx concentrations. Related enhancers colocalize to the same microenvironments independently of their chromosomal location, suggesting that microenvironments are highly differentiated transcription domains. Manipulating the affinity of svb enhancers revealed an inverse relationship between enhancer affinity and Ubx concentration required for transcriptional activation. The Ubx cofactor, Homothorax (Hth), was co-enriched with Ubx near enhancers that require Hth, even though Ubx and Hth did not co-localize throughout the nucleus. Thus, microenvironments of high local transcription factor and cofactor concentrations could help low-affinity sites overcome their kinetic inefficiency. Mechanisms that generate these microenvironments could be a general feature of eukaryotic transcriptional regulation.

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