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10 Janelia Publications

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    08/31/15 | CASFISH: CRISPR/Cas9-mediated in situ labeling of genomic loci in fixed cells.
    Deng W, Shi X, Tjian R, Lionnet T, Singer RH
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2015 Aug 31;112(38):11870-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1515692112

    Direct visualization of genomic loci in the 3D nucleus is important for understanding the spatial organization of the genome and its association with gene expression. Various DNA FISH methods have been developed in the past decades, all involving denaturing dsDNA and hybridizing fluorescent nucleic acid probes. Here we report a novel approach that uses in vitro constituted nuclease-deficient clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated caspase 9 (Cas9) complexes as probes to label sequence-specific genomic loci fluorescently without global DNA denaturation (Cas9-mediated fluorescence in situ hybridization, CASFISH). Using fluorescently labeled nuclease-deficient Cas9 (dCas9) protein assembled with various single-guide RNA (sgRNA), we demonstrated rapid and robust labeling of repetitive DNA elements in pericentromere, centromere, G-rich telomere, and coding gene loci. Assembling dCas9 with an array of sgRNAs tiling arbitrary target loci, we were able to visualize nonrepetitive genomic sequences. The dCas9/sgRNA binary complex is stable and binds its target DNA with high affinity, allowing sequential or simultaneous probing of multiple targets. CASFISH assays using differently colored dCas9/sgRNA complexes allow multicolor labeling of target loci in cells. In addition, the CASFISH assay is remarkably rapid under optimal conditions and is applicable for detection in primary tissue sections. This rapid, robust, less disruptive, and cost-effective technology adds a valuable tool for basic research and genetic diagnosis.

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    08/21/15 | A three-camera imaging microscope for high-speed single-molecule tracking and super-resolution imaging in living cells.
    English BP, Singer RH
    Proceedings of SPIE. 2015 Aug 21;9550:955008 . doi: 10.1117/12.2190246

    Our aim is to develop quantitative single-molecule assays to study when and where molecules are interacting inside living cells and where enzymes are active. To this end we present a three-camera imaging microscope for fast tracking of multiple interacting molecules simultaneously, with high spatiotemporal resolution. The system was designed around an ASI RAMM frame using three separate tube lenses and custom multi-band dichroics to allow for enhanced detection efficiency. The frame times of the three Andor iXon Ultra EMCCD cameras are hardware synchronized to the laser excitation pulses of the three excitation lasers, such that the fluorophores are effectively immobilized during frame acquisitions and do not yield detections that are motion-blurred. Stroboscopic illumination allows robust detection from even rapidly moving molecules while minimizing bleaching, and since snapshots can be spaced out with varying time intervals, stroboscopic illumination enables a direct comparison to be made between fast and slow molecules under identical light dosage. We have developed algorithms that accurately track and co-localize multiple interacting biomolecules. The three-color microscope combined with our co-movement algorithms have made it possible for instance to simultaneously image and track how the chromosome environment affects diffusion kinetics or determine how mRNAs diffuse during translation. Such multiplexed single-molecule measurements at a high spatiotemporal resolution inside living cells will provide a major tool for testing models relating molecular architecture and biological dynamics.

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    08/01/15 | Single-molecule insights into mRNA dynamics in neurons.
    Buxbaum AR, Yoon YJ, Singer RH, Park HY
    Trends in Cell Biology. 2015 Aug;25(8):468-75. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2015.05.005

    Targeting of mRNAs to neuronal dendrites and axons plays an integral role in intracellular signaling, development, and synaptic plasticity. Single-molecule imaging of mRNAs in neurons and brain tissue has led to enhanced understanding of mRNA dynamics. Here we discuss aspects of mRNA regulation as revealed by single-molecule detection, which has led to quantitative analyses of mRNA diversity, localization, transport, and translation. These exciting new discoveries propel our understanding of the life of an mRNA in a neuron and how its activity is regulated at the single-molecule level.

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    07/20/15 | Inferring transient particle transport dynamics in live cells.
    Monnier N, Barry Z, Park HY, Su K, Katz Z, English BP, Dey A, Pan K, Cheeseman IM, Singer RH, Bathe M
    Nature Methods. 2015 Jul 20;12(9):838-40. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3483

    Live-cell imaging and particle tracking provide rich information on mechanisms of intracellular transport. However, trajectory analysis procedures to infer complex transport dynamics involving stochastic switching between active transport and diffusive motion are lacking. We applied Bayesian model selection to hidden Markov modeling to infer transient transport states from trajectories of mRNA-protein complexes in live mouse hippocampal neurons and metaphase kinetochores in dividing human cells. The software is available at

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    05/28/15 | BigDataViewer: visualization and processing for large image data sets.
    Pietzsch T, Saalfeld S, Preibisch S, Tomancak P
    Nature Methods. 2015 May 28;12(6):481-3. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3392
    05/25/15 | Nuclear accessibility of β-actin mRNA is measured by 3D single-molecule real-time tracking.
    Smith CS, Preibisch S, Joseph A, Abrahamsson S, Rieger B, Myers E, Singer RH, Grunwald D
    Journal of Cell Biology. 2015 May 25;209(4):609-19. doi: 10.1083/jcb.201411032

    Imaging single proteins or RNAs allows direct visualization of the inner workings of the cell. Typically, three-dimensional (3D) images are acquired by sequentially capturing a series of 2D sections. The time required to step through the sample often impedes imaging of large numbers of rapidly moving molecules. Here we applied multifocus microscopy (MFM) to instantaneously capture 3D single-molecule real-time images in live cells, visualizing cell nuclei at 10 volumes per second. We developed image analysis techniques to analyze messenger RNA (mRNA) diffusion in the entire volume of the nucleus. Combining MFM with precise registration between fluorescently labeled mRNA, nuclear pore complexes, and chromatin, we obtained globally optimal image alignment within 80-nm precision using transformation models. We show that β-actin mRNAs freely access the entire nucleus and fewer than 60% of mRNAs are more than 0.5 µm away from a nuclear pore, and we do so for the first time accounting for spatial inhomogeneity of nuclear organization.

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    04/07/15 | Cellular levels of signaling factors are sensed by β-actin alleles to modulate transcriptional pulse intensity.
    Kalo A, Kanter I, Shraga A, Sheinberger J, Tzemach H, Kinor N, Singer RH, Lionnet T, Shav-Tal Y
    Cell Reports. 2015 Apr 7;11(3):419-32. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.03.039

    The transcriptional response of β-actin to extra-cellular stimuli is a paradigm for transcription factor complex assembly and regulation. Serum induction leads to a precisely timed pulse of β-actin transcription in the cell population. Actin protein is proposed to be involved in this response, but it is not known whether cellular actin levels affect nuclear β-actin transcription. We perturbed the levels of key signaling factors and examined the effect on the induced transcriptional pulse by following endogenous β-actin alleles in single living cells. Lowering serum response factor (SRF) protein levels leads to loss of pulse integrity, whereas reducing actin protein levels reveals positive feedback regulation, resulting in elevated gene activation and a prolonged transcriptional response. Thus, transcriptional pulse fidelity requires regulated amounts of signaling proteins, and perturbations in factor levels eliminate the physiological response, resulting in either tuning down or exaggeration of the transcriptional pulse.

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    03/20/15 | Translation. An RNA biosensor for imaging the first round of translation from single cells to living animals.
    Halstead JM, Lionnet T, Wilbertz JH, Wippich F, Ephrussi A, Singer RH, Chao JA
    Science. 2015 Mar 20;347(6228):1367-671. doi: 10.1126/science.aaa3380

    Analysis of single molecules in living cells has provided quantitative insights into the kinetics of fundamental biological processes; however, the dynamics of messenger RNA (mRNA) translation have yet to be addressed. We have developed a fluorescence microscopy technique that reports on the first translation events of individual mRNA molecules. This allowed us to examine the spatiotemporal regulation of translation during normal growth and stress and during Drosophila oocyte development. We have shown that mRNAs are not translated in the nucleus but translate within minutes after export, that sequestration within P-bodies regulates translation, and that oskar mRNA is not translated until it reaches the posterior pole of the oocyte. This methodology provides a framework for studying initiation of protein synthesis on single mRNAs in living cells.

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    02/02/15 | Tracking surface glycans on live cancer cells with single-molecule sensitivity.
    Jiang H, English BP, Hazan RB, Wu P, Ovryn B
    Angewandte Chemie International Edition English. 2015 Feb 2;54(6):1765-9. doi: 10.1002/anie.201407976

    Using a combination of metabolically labeled glycans, a bioorthogonal copper(I)-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition, and the controlled bleaching of fluorescent probes conjugated to azide- or alkyne-tagged glycans, a sufficiently low spatial density of dye-labeled glycans was achieved, enabling dynamic single-molecule tracking and super-resolution imaging of N-linked sialic acids and O-linked N-acetyl galactosamine (GalNAc) on the membrane of live cells. Analysis of the trajectories of these dye-labeled glycans in mammary cancer cells revealed constrained diffusion of both N- and O-linked glycans, which was interpreted as reflecting the mobility of the glycan rather than to be caused by transient immobilization owing to spatial inhomogeneities on the plasma membrane. Stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM) imaging revealed the structure of dynamic membrane nanotubes.

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    01/19/15 | A general method to improve fluorophores for live-cell and single-molecule microscopy.
    Grimm JB, English BP, Chen J, Slaughter JP, Zhang Z, Revyakin A, Patel R, Macklin JJ, Normanno D, Singer RH, Lionnet T, Lavis LD
    Nature Methods. 2015 Jan 19;12(3):244-50. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3256

    Specific labeling of biomolecules with bright fluorophores is the keystone of fluorescence microscopy. Genetically encoded self-labeling tag proteins can be coupled to synthetic dyes inside living cells, resulting in brighter reporters than fluorescent proteins. Intracellular labeling using these techniques requires cell-permeable fluorescent ligands, however, limiting utility to a small number of classic fluorophores. Here we describe a simple structural modification that improves the brightness and photostability of dyes while preserving spectral properties and cell permeability. Inspired by molecular modeling, we replaced the N,N-dimethylamino substituents in tetramethylrhodamine with four-membered azetidine rings. This addition of two carbon atoms doubles the quantum efficiency and improves the photon yield of the dye in applications ranging from in vitro single-molecule measurements to super-resolution imaging. The novel substitution is generalizable, yielding a palette of chemical dyes with improved quantum efficiencies that spans the UV and visible range.

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