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4 Janelia Publications

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    09/15/16 | Rapid dynamics of general transcription factor TFIIB binding during preinitiation complex assembly revealed by single-molecule analysis.
    Zhang Z, English BP, Grimm JB, Kazane SA, Hu W, Tsai A, Inouye C, You C, Piehler J, Schultz PG, Lavis LD, Revyakin A, Tjian R
    Genes and Development. 2016 Sep 15;30:2106-18. doi: 10.1101/gad.285395.116

    Transcription of protein-encoding genes in eukaryotic cells requires the coordinated action of multiple general transcription factors (GTFs) and RNA polymerase II (Pol II). A “step-wise” preinitiation complex (PIC) assembly model has been suggested based on conventional ensemble biochemical measurements, in which protein factors bind stably to the promoter DNA sequentially to build a functional PIC. However, recent dynamic measurements in live cells suggest that transcription factors mostly interact with chromatin DNA rather transiently. To gain a clearer dynamic picture of PIC assembly, we established an integrated in vitro single-molecule transcription platform reconstituted from highly purified human transcription factors and complemented it by live-cell imaging. Here we performed real-time measurements of the hierarchal promoter-specific binding of TFIID, TFIIA, and TFIIB. Surprisingly, we found that while promoter binding of TFIID and TFIIA is stable, promoter binding by TFIIB is highly transient and dynamic (with an average residence time of 1.5 sec). Stable TFIIB–promoter association and progression beyond this apparent PIC assembly checkpoint control occurs only in the presence of Pol II–TFIIF. This transient-to-stable transition of TFIIB-binding dynamics has gone undetected previously and underscores the advantages of single-molecule assays for revealing the dynamic nature of complex biological reactions.

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    01/16/16 | Imaging transcription: past, present, and future.
    Coleman RA, Liu Z, Darzacq X, Tjian R, Singer RH, Lionnet T
    Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology. 2015;80:1-8. doi: 10.1101/sqb.2015.80.027201

    Transcription, the first step of gene expression, is exquisitely regulated in higher eukaryotes to ensure correct development and homeostasis. Traditional biochemical, genetic, and genomic approaches have proved successful at identifying factors, regulatory sequences, and potential pathways that modulate transcription. However, they typically only provide snapshots or population averages of the highly dynamic, stochastic biochemical processes involved in transcriptional regulation. Single-molecule live-cell imaging has, therefore, emerged as a complementary approach capable of circumventing these limitations. By observing sequences of molecular events in real time as they occur in their native context, imaging has the power to derive cause-and-effect relationships and quantitative kinetics to build predictive models of transcription. Ongoing progress in fluorescence imaging technology has brought new microscopes and labeling technologies that now make it possible to visualize and quantify the transcription process with single-molecule resolution in living cells and animals. Here we provide an overview of the evolution and current state of transcription imaging technologies. We discuss some of the important concepts they uncovered and present possible future developments that might solve long-standing questions in transcriptional regulation.

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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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    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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