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10 Janelia Publications

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    07/01/21 | Biomolecular Condensates and Their Links to Cancer Progression.
    Cai D, Liu Z, Lippincott-Schwartz J
    Trends in Biochemical Sciences. 2021 Jul 01;46(7):535-549. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2021.01.002

    Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) has emerged in recent years as an important physicochemical process for organizing diverse processes within cells via the formation of membraneless organelles termed biomolecular condensates. Emerging evidence now suggests that the formation and regulation of biomolecular condensates are also intricately linked to cancer formation and progression. We review the most recent literature linking the existence and/or dissolution of biomolecular condensates to different hallmarks of cancer formation and progression. We then discuss the opportunities that this condensate perspective provides for cancer research and the development of novel therapeutic approaches, including the perturbation of condensates by small-molecule inhibitors.

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    05/24/21 | A general method to improve fluorophores using deuterated auxochromes.
    Grimm JB, Xie L, Casler JC, Patel R, Tkachuk AN, Falco N, Choi H, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Brown TA, Glick BS, Liu Z, Lavis LD
    JACS Au. 2021 May 24;1(5):690-6. doi: 10.1021/jacsau.1c00006

    Fluorescence microscopy relies on dyes that absorb and then emit photons. In addition to fluorescence, fluorophores can undergo photochemical processes that decrease quantum yield or result in spectral shifts and irreversible photobleaching. Chemical strategies that suppress these undesirable pathways—thereby increasing the brightness and photostability of fluorophores—are crucial for advancing the frontier of bioimaging. Here, we describe a general method to improve small-molecule fluorophores by incorporating deuterium into the alkylamino auxochromes of rhodamines and other dyes. This strategy increases fluorescence quantum yield, inhibits photochemically induced spectral shifts, and slows irreparable photobleaching, yielding next-generation labels with improved performance in cellular imaging experiments.

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    02/10/21 | Biomolecular Condensates and Their Links to Cancer Progression.
    Cai D, Liu Z, Lippincott-Schwartz J
    Trends in Biochemical Sciences. 2021 Feb 10:. doi: 10.1016/j.tibs.2021.01.002

    Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) has emerged in recent years as an important physicochemical process for organizing diverse processes within cells via the formation of membraneless organelles termed biomolecular condensates. Emerging evidence now suggests that the formation and regulation of biomolecular condensates are also intricately linked to cancer formation and progression. We review the most recent literature linking the existence and/or dissolution of biomolecular condensates to different hallmarks of cancer formation and progression. We then discuss the opportunities that this condensate perspective provides for cancer research and the development of novel therapeutic approaches, including the perturbation of condensates by small-molecule inhibitors.

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    07/27/20 | A general method to optimize and functionalize red-shifted rhodamine dyes.
    Grimm JB, Tkachuk AN, Xie L, Choi H, Mohar B, Falco N, Schaefer K, Patel R, Zheng Q, Liu Z, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Brown TA, Lavis LD
    Nature Methods. 2020 Jul 27:. doi: 10.1038/s41592-020-0909-6

    Expanding the palette of fluorescent dyes is vital to push the frontier of biological imaging. Although rhodamine dyes remain the premier type of small-molecule fluorophore owing to their bioavailability and brightness, variants excited with far-red or near-infrared light suffer from poor performance due to their propensity to adopt a lipophilic, nonfluorescent form. We report a framework for rationalizing rhodamine behavior in biological environments and a general chemical modification for rhodamines that optimizes long-wavelength variants and enables facile functionalization with different chemical groups. This strategy yields red-shifted 'Janelia Fluor' (JF) dyes useful for biological imaging experiments in cells and in vivo.

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    12/18/19 | Phase separation of YAP reorganizes genome topology for long-term YAP target gene expression.
    Cai D, Feliciano D, Dong P, Flores E, Gruebele M, Porat-Shliom N, Sukenik S, Liu Z, Lippincott-Schwartz J
    Nature Cell Biology. 2019 Dec;21(12):1578-1589. doi: 10.1038/s41556-019-0433-z

    Yes-associated protein (YAP) is a transcriptional co-activator that regulates cell proliferation and survival by binding to a select set of enhancers for target gene activation. How YAP coordinates these transcriptional responses is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that YAP forms liquid-like condensates in the nucleus. Formed within seconds of hyperosmotic stress, YAP condensates compartmentalized the YAP transcription factor TEAD1 and other YAP-related co-activators, including TAZ, and subsequently induced the transcription of YAP-specific proliferation genes. Super-resolution imaging using assay for transposase-accessible chromatin with photoactivated localization microscopy revealed that the YAP nuclear condensates were areas enriched in accessible chromatin domains organized as super-enhancers. Initially devoid of RNA polymerase II, the accessible chromatin domains later acquired RNA polymerase II, transcribing RNA. The removal of the intrinsically-disordered YAP transcription activation domain prevented the formation of YAP condensates and diminished downstream YAP signalling. Thus, dynamic changes in genome organization and gene activation during YAP reprogramming is mediated by liquid-liquid phase separation.

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    09/01/19 | A neuron-glia Co-culture system for studying intercellular lipid transport.
    Ioannou MS, Liu Z, Lippincott-Schwartz J
    Curr Protoc Cell Biol. 2019 Sep 01;84(1):e95. doi: 10.1002/cpcb.95

    Neurons and glia operate in a highly coordinated fashion in the brain. Although glial cells have long been known to supply lipids to neurons via lipoprotein particles, new evidence reveals that lipid transport between neurons and glia is bidirectional. Here, we describe a co-culture system to study transfer of lipids and lipid-associated proteins from neurons to glia. The assay entails culturing neurons and glia on separate coverslips, pulsing the neurons with fluorescently labeled fatty acids, and then incubating the coverslips together. As astrocytes internalize and store neuron-derived fatty acids in lipid droplets, analyzing the number, size, and fluorescence intensity of lipid droplets containing the fluorescent fatty acids provides an easy and quantifiable measure of fatty acid transport. © 2019 The Authors.

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    06/21/19 | Spastin tethers lipid droplets to peroxisomes and directs fatty acid trafficking through ESCRT-III.
    Chang C, Weigel AV, Ioannou MS, Pasolli HA, Xu CS, Peale DR, Shtengel G, Freeman M, Hess HF, Blackstone C, Lippincott-Schwartz J
    Journal of Cell Biology. 2019 Jun 21;218(8):2583-99. doi: 10.1101/544023

    Lipid droplets (LDs) are neutral lipid storage organelles that transfer lipids to various organelles including peroxisomes. Here, we show that the hereditary spastic paraplegia protein M1 Spastin, a membrane-bound AAA ATPase found on LDs, coordinates fatty acid (FA) trafficking from LDs to peroxisomes through two inter-related mechanisms. First, M1 Spastin forms a tethering complex with peroxisomal ABCD1 to promote LD-peroxisome contact formation. Second, M1 Spastin recruits the membrane-shaping ESCRT-III proteins IST1 and CHMP1B to LDs via its MIT domain to facilitate LD-to-peroxisome FA trafficking, possibly through IST1 and CHMP1B modifying LD membrane morphology. Furthermore, M1 Spastin, IST1 and CHMP1B are all required to relieve LDs of lipid peroxidation. The roles of M1 Spastin in tethering LDs to peroxisomes and in recruiting ESCRT-III components to LD-peroxisome contact sites for FA trafficking may help explain the pathogenesis of diseases associated with defective FA metabolism in LDs and peroxisomes.

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    06/14/19 | NDP52 tunes cortical actin interaction with astral microtubules for accurate spindle orientation.
    Yu H, Yang F, Dong P, Liao S, Liu WR, Zhao G, Qin B, Dou Z, Liu Z, Liu W, Zang J, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Liu X, Yao X
    Cell Research. 2019 Jun 14;29(8):666-79. doi: 10.1038/s41422-019-0189-9

    Oriented cell divisions are controlled by a conserved molecular cascade involving Gαi, LGN, and NuMA. Here, we show that NDP52 regulates spindle orientation via remodeling the polar cortical actin cytoskeleton. siRNA-mediated NDP52 suppression surprisingly revealed a ring-like compact subcortical F-actin architecture surrounding the spindle in prophase/prometaphase cells, which resulted in severe defects of astral microtubule growth and an aberrant spindle orientation. Remarkably, NDP52 recruited the actin assembly factor N-WASP and regulated the dynamics of the subcortical F-actin ring in mitotic cells. Mechanistically, NDP52 was found to bind to phosphatidic acid-containing vesicles, which absorbed cytoplasmic N-WASP to regulate local filamentous actin growth at the polar cortex. Our TIRFM analyses revealed that NDP52-containing vesicles anchored N-WASP and shortened the length of actin filaments in vitro. Based on these results we propose that NDP52-containing vesicles regulate cortical actin dynamics through N-WASP to accomplish a spatiotemporal regulation between astral microtubules and the actin network for proper spindle orientation and precise chromosome segregation. In this way, intracellular vesicles cooperate with microtubules and actin filaments to regulate proper mitotic progression. Since NDP52 is absent from yeast, we reason that metazoans have evolved an elaborate spindle positioning machinery to ensure accurate chromosome segregation in mitosis.

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    05/30/19 | Neuron-astrocyte metabolic coupling protects against activity-induced fatty acid toxicity.
    Ioannou MS, Jackson J, Sheu S, Chang C, Weigel AV, Liu H, Pasolli HA, Xu CS, Pang S, Matthies D, Hess HF, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Liu Z
    Cell. 2019 May 30;177(6):1522-1535.e14. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.04.001

    Metabolic coordination between neurons and astrocytes is critical for the health of the brain. However, neuron-astrocyte coupling of lipid metabolism, particularly in response to neural activity, remains largely uncharacterized. Here, we demonstrate that toxic fatty acids (FAs) produced in hyperactive neurons are transferred to astrocytic lipid droplets by ApoE-positive lipid particles. Astrocytes consume the FAs stored in lipid droplets via mitochondrial β-oxidation in response to neuronal activity and turn on a detoxification gene expression program. Our findings reveal that FA metabolism is coupled in neurons and astrocytes to protect neurons from FA toxicity during periods of enhanced activity. This coordinated mechanism for metabolizing FAs could underlie both homeostasis and a variety of disease states of the brain.

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    10/24/16 | Bright photoactivatable fluorophores for single-molecule imaging.
    Lavis LD, Grimm JB, English BP, Choi H, Muthusamy AK, Mehl BP, Dong P, Brown TA, Lippincott-Schwartz J, Liu Z, Lionnet T
    Nature Methods. 2016 Oct 24;13(12):985-8. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.4034

    Small molecule fluorophores are important tools for advanced imaging experiments. The development of self-labeling protein tags such as the HaloTag and SNAP-tag has expanded the utility of chemical dyes in live-cell microscopy. We recently described a general method for improving the brightness and photostability of small, cell-permeable fluorophores, resulting in the novel azetidine-containing "Janelia Fluor" (JF) dyes. Here, we refine and extend the utility of the JF dyes by synthesizing photoactivatable derivatives that are compatible with live cell labeling strategies. These compounds retain the superior brightness of the JF dyes once activated, but their facile photoactivation also enables improved single-particle tracking and localization microscopy experiments.

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