Showing 1 - 9 of 9 results
TopBP1 assembles nuclear condensates to switch on ATR signaling.
ATR checkpoint signaling is crucial for cellular responses to DNA replication impediments. Using an optogenetic platform, we show that TopBP1, the main activator of ATR, self-assembles extensively to yield micrometer-sized condensates. These opto-TopBP1 condensates are functional entities organized in tightly packed clusters of spherical nano-particles. TopBP1 condensates are reversible, occasionally fuse, and co-localize with TopBP1 partner proteins. We provide evidence that TopBP1 condensation is a molecular switch that amplifies ATR activity to phosphorylate checkpoint kinase 1 (Chk1) and slow down replication forks. Single amino acid substitutions of key residues in the intrinsically disordered ATR activation domain disrupt TopBP1 condensation and consequently ATR/Chk1 signaling. In physiologic salt concentration and pH, purified TopBP1 undergoes liquid-liquid phase separation in vitro. We propose that the actuation mechanism of ATR signaling is the assembly of TopBP1 condensates driven by highly regulated multivalent and cooperative interactions.
Continued Activity of the Pioneer Factor Zelda Is Required to Drive Zygotic Genome Activation.
Reprogramming cell fate during the first stages of embryogenesis requires that transcriptional activators gain access to the genome and remodel the zygotic transcriptome. Nonetheless, it is not clear whether the continued activity of these pioneering factors is required throughout zygotic genome activation or whether they are only required early to establish cis-regulatory regions. To address this question, we developed an optogenetic strategy to rapidly and reversibly inactivate the master regulator of genome activation in Drosophila, Zelda. Using this strategy, we demonstrate that continued Zelda activity is required throughout genome activation. We show that Zelda binds DNA in the context of nucleosomes and suggest that this allows Zelda to occupy the genome despite the rapid division cycles in the early embryo. These data identify a powerful strategy to inactivate transcription factor function during development and suggest that reprogramming in the embryo may require specific, continuous pioneering functions to activate the genome.
An Optogenetic Platform for Real-Time, Single-Cell Interrogation of Stochastic Transcriptional Regulation.
Transcription is a highly regulated and inherently stochastic process. The complexity of signal transduction and gene regulation makes it challenging to analyze how the dynamic activity of transcriptional regulators affects stochastic transcription. By combining a fast-acting, photo-regulatable transcription factor with nascent RNA quantification in live cells and an experimental setup for precise spatiotemporal delivery of light inputs, we constructed a platform for the real-time, single-cell interrogation of transcription in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We show that transcriptional activation and deactivation are fast and memoryless. By analyzing the temporal activity of individual cells, we found that transcription occurs in bursts, whose duration and timing are modulated by transcription factor activity. Using our platform, we regulated transcription via light-driven feedback loops at the single-cell level. Feedback markedly reduced cell-to-cell variability and led to qualitative differences in cellular transcriptional dynamics. Our platform establishes a flexible method for studying transcriptional dynamics in single cells.
New approaches for solving old problems in neuronal protein trafficking.
Fundamental cellular properties are determined by the repertoire and abundance of proteins displayed on the cell surface. As such, the trafficking mechanisms for establishing and maintaining the surface proteome must be tightly regulated for cells to respond appropriately to extracellular cues, yet plastic enough to adapt to ever-changing environments. Not only are the identity and abundance of surface proteins critical, but in many cases, their regulated spatial positioning within surface nanodomains can greatly impact their function. In the context of neuronal cell biology, surface levels and positioning of ion channels and neurotransmitter receptors play essential roles in establishing important properties, including cellular excitability and synaptic strength. Here we review our current understanding of the trafficking pathways that control the abundance and localization of proteins important for synaptic function and plasticity, as well as recent technological advances that are allowing the field to investigate protein trafficking with increasing spatiotemporal precision.
Shedding light on the role of cAMP in mammalian sperm physiology.
Mammalian fertilization relies on sperm finding the egg and penetrating the egg vestments. All steps in a sperm's lifetime crucially rely on changes in the second messenger cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate). In recent years, it has become clear that signal transduction in sperm is not a continuum, but rather organized in subcellular domains, e.g. the sperm head and the sperm flagellum, with the latter being further separated into the midpiece, principal piece, and endpiece. To understand the underlying signaling pathways controlling sperm function in more detail, experimental approaches are needed that allow to study sperm signaling with spatial and temporal precision. Here, we will give a comprehensive overview on cAMP signaling in mammalian sperm, describing the molecular players involved in these pathways and the sperm functions that are controlled by cAMP. Furthermore, we will highlight recent advances in analyzing and manipulating sperm signaling with spatio-temporal precision using light.
Tracing Information Flow from Erk to Target Gene Induction Reveals Mechanisms of Dynamic and Combinatorial Control.
Cell signaling networks coordinate specific patterns of protein expression in response to external cues, yet the logic by which signaling pathway activity determines the eventual abundance of target proteins is complex and poorly understood. Here, we describe an approach for simultaneously controlling the Ras/Erk pathway and monitoring a target gene’s transcription and protein accumulation in single live cells. We apply our approach to dissect how Erk activity is decoded by immediate early genes (IEGs). We find that IEG transcription decodes Erk dynamics through a shared band-pass filtering circuit; repeated Erk pulses transcribe IEGs more efficiently than sustained Erk inputs. However, despite highly similar transcriptional responses, each IEG exhibits dramatically different protein-level accumulation, demonstrating a high degree of post-transcriptional regulation by combinations of multiple pathways. Our results demonstrate that the Ras/Erk pathway is decoded by both dynamic filters and logic gates to shape target gene responses in a context-specific manner.
The optogenetic promise for oncology: Episode I.
As light-based control of fundamental signaling pathways is becoming a reality, the field of optogenetics is rapidly moving beyond neuroscience. We have recently developed receptor tyrosine kinases that are activated by light and control cell proliferation, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and angiogenic sprouting-cell behaviors central to cancer progression.
Illuminating cell signalling with optogenetic tools.
The light-based control of ion channels has been transformative for the neurosciences, but the optogenetic toolkit does not stop there. An expanding number of proteins and cellular functions have been shown to be controlled by light, and the practical considerations in deciding between reversible optogenetic systems (such as systems that use light-oxygen-voltage domains, phytochrome proteins, cryptochrome proteins and the fluorescent protein Dronpa) are well defined. The field is moving beyond proof of concept to answering real biological questions, such as how cell signalling is regulated in space and time, that were difficult or impossible to address with previous tools.
Stochastic ERK activation induced by noise and cell-to-cell propagation regulates cell density-dependent proliferation.
The extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) plays a central role in the signaling cascades of cell growth. Here, we show that stochastic ERK activity pulses regulate cell proliferation rates in a cell density-dependent manner. A fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) biosensor revealed that stochastic ERK activity pulses fired spontaneously or propagated from adjacent cells. Frequency, but not amplitude, of ERK activity pulses exhibited a bell-shaped response to the cell density and correlated with cell proliferation rates. Consistently, synthetic ERK activity pulses generated by a light-switchable CRaf protein accelerated cell proliferation. A mathematical model clarified that 80% and 20% of ERK activity pulses are generated by the noise and cell-to-cell propagation, respectively. Finally, RNA sequencing analysis of cells subjected to the synthetic ERK activity pulses suggested the involvement of serum responsive factor (SRF) transcription factors in the gene expression driven by the ERK activity pulses.