Basic Sciences Publications

Search and Filter

Nucleosomes remember where they were

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

2019 Henikoff, Steven, PhD Steven Henikoff


In vivo measurements reveal a single 5 '-intron is sufficient to increase protein expression level in Caenorhabditis elegans

Scientific Reports

2019 Brent, Roger, PhD Roger Brent

Introns can increase gene expression levels using a variety of mechanisms collectively referred to as Intron Mediated Enhancement (IME). IME has been measured in cell culture and plant models by quantifying expression of intronless and intron-bearing reporter genes in vitro. We developed hardware and software to implement microfluidic chip-based gene expression quantification in vivo. We altered position, number and sequence of introns in reporter genes controlled by the hsp-90 promoter. Consistent with plant and mammalian studies, we determined a single, natural or synthetic, 5'-intron is sufficient for the full IME effect conferred by three synthetic introns, while a 3'-intron is not. We found coding sequence can affect IME; the same three synthetic introns that increase mcherry protein concentration by approximately 50%, increase mEGFP by 80%. We determined IME effect size is not greatly affected by the stronger vit-2 promoter. Our microfluidic imaging approach should facilitate screens for factors affecting IME and other intron-dependent processes.

Disentangling strictly self-serving mutations from win-win mutations in a mutualistic microbial community


2019 Shou, Wenying, PhD Wenying Shou

Mutualisms can be promoted by pleiotropic win-win mutations which directly benefit self (self-serving) and partner (partner-serving). Intuitively, partner-serving phenotype could be quantified as an individual's benefit supply rate to partners. Here, we demonstrate the inadequacy of this thinking, and propose an alternative. Specifically, we evolved well-mixed mutualistic communities where two engineered yeast strains exchanged essential metabolites lysine and hypoxanthine. Among cells that consumed lysine and released hypoxanthine, a chromosome duplication mutation seemed win-win: it improved cell's affinity for lysine (self-serving), and increased hypoxanthine release rate per cell (partner-serving). However, increased release rate was due to increased cell size accompanied by increased lysine utilization per birth. Consequently, total hypoxanthine release rate per lysine utilization (defined as 'exchange ratio') remained unchanged. Indeed, this mutation did not increase the steady state growth rate of partner, and is thus solely self-serving during long-term growth. By extension, reduced benefit production rate by an individual may not imply cheating.

The generation of granule cells during the development and evolution of the cerebellum

Developmental dynamics : an official publication of the American Association of Anatomists

2019 Moens, Cecilia B, PhD Cecilia B Moens

The cerebellum co-ordinates vestibular input into the hindbrain to control balance and movement, and its anatomical complexity is increasingly viewed as a high throughput-processing centre for sensory and cognitive functions. Cerebellum development however is relatively simple, and arises from a specialized structure in the anterior hindbrain called the rhombic lip, which along with the ventricular zone of the rostral-most dorsal hindbrain region, give rise to the distinct cell types that constitute the cerebellum. Granule cells, being the most numerous cell types, arise from the rhombic lip and form a dense and distinct layer of the cerebellar cortex. In this short review, we describe the various strategies used by amniotes and anamniotes to generate and diversify granule cell types during cerebellar development. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Unraveling quiescence-specific repressive chromatin domains

Curr Genet

2019 Tsukiyama, Toshio, PhD, DVM Toshio Tsukiyama

Quiescence is a highly conserved inactive life stage in which the cell reversibly exits the cell cycle in response to external cues. Quiescence is essential for diverse processes such as the maintenance of adult stem cell stores, stress resistance, and longevity, and its misregulation has been implicated in cancer. Although the non-cycling nature of quiescent cells has made obtaining sufficient quantities of quiescent cells for study difficult, the development of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae model of quiescence has recently enabled detailed investigation into mechanisms underlying the quiescent state. Like their metazoan counterparts, quiescent budding yeast exhibit widespread transcriptional silencing and dramatic chromatin condensation. We have recently found that the structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) complex condensin binds throughout the quiescent budding yeast genome and induces the formation of large chromatin loop domains. In the absence of condensin, quiescent cell chromatin is decondensed and transcription is de-repressed. Here, we briefly discuss our findings in the larger context of the genome organization field.

Microbial coexistence through chemical-mediated interactions

Nature communications

2019 Shou, Wenying, PhD Wenying Shou

Many microbial functions happen within communities of interacting species. Explaining how species with disparate growth rates can coexist is important for applications such as manipulating host-associated microbiota or engineering industrial communities. Here, we ask how microbes interacting through their chemical environment can achieve coexistence in a continuous growth setup (similar to an industrial bioreactor or gut microbiota) where external resources are being supplied. We formulate and experimentally constrain a model in which mediators of interactions (e.g. metabolites or waste-products) are explicitly incorporated. Our model highlights facilitation and self-restraint as interactions that contribute to coexistence, consistent with our intuition. When interactions are strong, we observe that coexistence is determined primarily by the topology of facilitation and inhibition influences not their strengths. Importantly, we show that consumption or degradation of chemical mediators moderates interaction strengths and promotes coexistence. Our results offer insights into how to build or restructure microbial communities of interest.

Determinants of Zika virus host tropism uncovered by deep mutational scanning

Nature Microbiology

2019 Bloom, Jesse D, PhD Jesse Bloom

Arboviruses cycle between, and replicate in, both invertebrate and vertebrate hosts, which for Zika virus (ZIKV) involves Aedes mosquitoes and primates(1). The viral determinants required for replication in such obligate hosts are under strong purifying selection during natural virus evolution, making it challenging to resolve which determinants are optimal for viral fitness in each host. Herein we describe a deep mutational scanning (DMS) strategy(2-5) whereby a viral cDNA library was constructed containing all codon substitutions in the C-terminal 204 amino acids of ZIKV envelope protein (E). The cDNA library was transfected into C6/36 (Aedes) and Vero (primate) cells, with subsequent deep sequencing and computational analyses of recovered viruses showing that substitutions K316Q and S461G, or Q350L and T397S, conferred substantial replicative advantages in mosquito and primate cells, respectively. A 316Q/461G virus was constructed and shown to be replication-defective in mammalian cells due to severely compromised virus particle formation and secretion. The 316Q/461G virus was also highly attenuated in human brain organoids, and illustrated utility as a vaccine in mice. This approach can thus imitate evolutionary selection in a matter of days and identify amino acids key to the regulation of virus replication in specific host environments.

Glia-Neuron Interactions in Caenorhabditis elegans

Annu Rev Neurosci

2019 Singhvi, Aakanksha, PhD Aakanksha Singhvi

Glia are abundant components of animal nervous systems. Recognized 170 years ago, concerted attempts to understand these cells began only recently. From these investigations glia, once considered passive filler material in the brain, have emerged as active players in neuron development and activity. Glia are essential for nervous system function, and their disruption leads to disease. The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans possesses glial types similar to vertebrate glia, based on molecular, morphological, and functional criteria, and has become a powerful model in which to study glia and their neuronal interactions. Facile genetic and transgenic methods in this animal allow the discovery of genes required for glial functions, and effects of glia at single synapses can be monitored by tracking neuron shape, physiology, or animal behavior. Here, we review recent progress in understanding glia-neuron interactions in C. elegans. We highlight similarities with glia in other animals, and suggest conserved emerging principles of glial function. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Neuroscience Volume 42 is July 8, 2019. Please see for revised estimates.

The splicing factor U2AF1 contributes to cancer progression through a noncanonical role in translation regulation

Genes & development

2019 Bradley, Robert K, PhD Robert Bradley

Somatic mutations in the genes encoding components of the spliceosome occur frequently in human neoplasms, including myeloid dysplasias and leukemias, and less often in solid tumors. One of the affected factors, U2AF1, is involved in splice site selection, and the most common change, S34F, alters a conserved nucleic acid-binding domain, recognition of the 3' splice site, and alternative splicing of many mRNAs. However, the role that this mutation plays in oncogenesis is still unknown. Here, we uncovered a noncanonical function of U2AF1, showing that it directly binds mature mRNA in the cytoplasm and negatively regulates mRNA translation. This splicing-independent role of U2AF1 is altered by the S34F mutation, and polysome profiling indicates that the mutation affects translation of hundreds of mRNA. One functional consequence is increased synthesis of the secreted chemokine interleukin 8, which contributes to metastasis, inflammation, and cancer progression in mice and humans.

The PLOS Biology XV Collection: 15 Years of Exceptional Science Highlighted across 12 Months

PLoS biology

2019 Malik, Harmit S, PhD Harmit Malik