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6 Janelia Publications

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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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    10/24/17 | Intercellular mRNA trafficking via membrane nanotube-like extensions in mammalian cells.
    Haimovich G, Ecker CM, Dunagin MC, Eggan E, Raj A, Gerst JE, Singer RH
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2017 Oct 24;114(46):E9873-E9882. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1706365114

    RNAs have been shown to undergo transfer between mammalian cells, although the mechanism behind this phenomenon and its overall importance to cell physiology is not well understood. Numerous publications have suggested that RNAs (microRNAs and incomplete mRNAs) undergo transfer via extracellular vesicles (e.g., exosomes). However, in contrast to a diffusion-based transfer mechanism, we find that full-length mRNAs undergo direct cell-cell transfer via cytoplasmic extensions characteristic of membrane nanotubes (mNTs), which connect donor and acceptor cells. By employing a simple coculture experimental model and using single-molecule imaging, we provide quantitative data showing that mRNAs are transferred between cells in contact. Examples of mRNAs that undergo transfer include those encoding GFP, mouse β-actin, and human Cyclin D1, BRCA1, MT2A, and HER2. We show that intercellular mRNA transfer occurs in all coculture models tested (e.g., between primary cells, immortalized cells, and in cocultures of immortalized human and murine cells). Rapid mRNA transfer is dependent upon actin but is independent of de novo protein synthesis and is modulated by stress conditions and gene-expression levels. Hence, this work supports the hypothesis that full-length mRNAs undergo transfer between cells through a refined structural connection. Importantly, unlike the transfer of miRNA or RNA fragments, this process of communication transfers genetic information that could potentially alter the acceptor cell proteome. This phenomenon may prove important for the proper development and functioning of tissues as well as for host-parasite or symbiotic interactions.

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    09/21/17 | Genomic probes.
    Singer RH, Deng W, Lionnet T
    USPTO. 2017 Sep 21;A1:

    Labeled probes, and methods of use thereof, comprise a Cas polypeptide conjugated to gRNA that is specific for target nucleic acid sequences, including genomic DNA sequences. The probes and methods can be used to label nucleic acid sequences without global DNA denaturation. The presently-disclosed subject matter meets some or all of the above identified needs, as will become evident to those of ordinary skill in the art after a study of information provided in this document.

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    06/05/17 | Quantitative mRNA imaging throughout the entire Drosophila brain.
    Long X, Colonell J, Wong AM, Singer RH, Lionnet T
    Nature Methods. 2017 Jun 05;14(7):703-6. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.4309

    We describe a fluorescence in situ hybridization method that permits detection of the localization and abundance of single mRNAs (smFISH) in cleared whole-mount adult Drosophila brains. The approach is rapid and multiplexable and does not require molecular amplification; it allows facile quantification of mRNA expression with subcellular resolution on a standard confocal microscope. We further demonstrate single-mRNA detection across the entire brain using a custom Bessel beam structured illumination microscope (BB-SIM).

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    03/07/17 | Imaging mRNA and protein interactions within neurons.
    Eliscovich C, Shenoy SM, Singer RH
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2017 Mar 07;114(10):E1875-E1884. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1621440114

    RNA-protein interactions are essential for proper gene expression regulation, particularly in neurons with unique spatial constraints. Currently, these interactions are defined biochemically, but a method is needed to evaluate them quantitatively within morphological context. Colocalization of two-color labels using wide-field microscopy is a method to infer these interactions. However, because of chromatic aberrations in the objective lens, this approach lacks the resolution to determine whether two molecules are physically in contact or simply nearby by chance. Here, we developed a robust super registration methodology that corrected the chromatic aberration across the entire image field to within 10 nm, which is capable of determining whether two molecules are physically interacting or simply in proximity by random chance. We applied this approach to image single-molecule FISH in combination with immunofluorescence (smFISH-IF) and determined whether the association between an mRNA and binding protein(s) within a neuron was significant or accidental. We evaluated several mRNA-binding proteins identified from RNA pulldown assays to determine which of these exhibit bona fide interactions. Surprisingly, many known mRNA-binding proteins did not bind the mRNA in situ, indicating that adventitious interactions are significant using existing technology. This method provides an ability to evaluate two-color registration compatible with the scale of molecular interactions.

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    02/28/17 | RNP transport in cell biology: the long and winding road.
    Eliscovich C, Singer RH
    Current Opinion in Cell Biology. 2017 Feb 28;45:38-46. doi: 10.1016/j.ceb.2017.02.008

    Regulation of gene expression is key determinant to cell structure and function. RNA localization, where specific mRNAs are transported to subcellular regions and then translated, is highly conserved in eukaryotes ranging from yeast to extremely specialized and polarized cells such as neurons. Messenger RNA and associated proteins (mRNP) move from the site of transcription in the nucleus to their final destination in the cytoplasm both passively through diffusion and actively via directed transport. Dysfunction of RNA localization, transport and translation machinery can lead to pathology. Single-molecule live-cell imaging techniques have revealed unique features of this journey with unprecedented resolution. In this review, we highlight key recent findings that have been made using these approaches and possible implications for spatial control of gene function.

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