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A perspective of the dynamic structure of the nucleus explored at the single-molecule level

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 8:47am

Cellular life can be described as a dynamic equilibrium of a highly complex network of interacting molecules. For this reason, it is no longer sufficient to "only" know the identity of the participants in a cellular process, but questions such as where, when, and for how long also have to be addressed to understand the mechanism being investigated. Additionally, ensemble measurements may not sufficiently describe individual steps of molecular mobility, spatial-temporal resolution, kinetic parameters, and geographical mapping. It is vital to investigate where individual steps exactly occur to enhance our understanding of the living cell. The nucleus, home too many highly complex multi-order processes, such as replication, transcription, splicing, etc., provides a complicated, heterogeneous landscape. Its dynamics were studied to a new level of detail by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS). Single-molecule tracking, while still in its infancy in cell biology, is becoming a more and more attractive method to deduce key elements of this organelle. Here we discuss the potential of tracking single RNAs and proteins in the nucleus. Their dynamics, localization, and interaction rates will be vital to our understanding of cellular life. To demonstrate this, we provide a review of the HIV life cycle, which is an extremely elegant balance of nuclear and cytoplasmic functions and provides an opportunity to study mechanisms deeply integrated within the structure of the nucleus. In summary, we aim to present a specific, dynamic view of nuclear cellular life based on single molecule and FCS data and provide a prospective for the future.

Nuclear physics: quantitative single-cell approaches to nuclear organization and gene expression

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 8:47am

The internal workings of the nucleus remain a mystery. A list of component parts exists, and in many cases their functional roles are known for events such as transcription, RNA processing, or nuclear export. Some of these components exhibit structural features in the nucleus, regions of concentration or bodies that have given rise to the concept of functional compartmentalization--that there are underlying organizational principles to be described. In contrast, a picture is emerging in which transcription appears to drive the assembly of the functional components required for gene expression, drawing from pools of excess factors. Unifying this seemingly dual nature requires a more rigorous approach, one in which components are tracked in time and space and correlated with onset of specific nuclear functions. In this chapter, we anticipate tools that will address these questions and provide the missing kinetics of nuclear function. These tools are based on analyzing the fluctuations inherent in the weak signals of endogenous nuclear processes and determining values for them. In this way, it will be possible eventually to provide a computational model describing the functional relationships of essential components.

Nuclear export dynamics of RNA-protein complexes

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 8:47am

The central dogma of molecular biology - DNA makes RNA makes proteins - is a flow of information that in eukaryotes encounters a physical barrier: the nuclear envelope, which encapsulates, organizes and protects the genome. Nuclear-pore complexes, embedded in the nuclear envelope, regulate the passage of molecules to and from the nucleus, including the poorly understood process of the export of RNAs from the nucleus. Recent imaging approaches focusing on single molecules have provided unexpected insight into this crucial step in the information flow. This review addresses the latest studies of RNA export and presents some models for how this complex process may work.

Multiscale dynamics in nucleocytoplasmic transport

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 8:47am

The nuclear pore complex (NPC) has long been viewed as a point-like entry and exit channel between the nucleus and the cytoplasm. New data support a different view whereby the complex displays distinct spatial dynamics of variable duration ranging from milliseconds to events spanning the entire cell cycle. Discrete interaction sites outside the central channel become apparent, and transport regulation at these sites seems to be of greater importance than currently thought. Nuclear pore components are highly active outside the NPC or impact the fate of cargo transport away from the nuclear pore. The NPC is a highly dynamic, crowded environment-constantly loaded with cargo while providing selectivity based on unfolded proteins. Taken together, this comprises a new paradigm in how we view import/export dynamics and emphasizes the multiscale nature of NPC-mediated cellular transport.

Nuclear pore component Nup98 is a potential tumor suppressor and regulates posttranscriptional expression of select p53 target genes

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 8:47am

The p53 tumor suppressor utilizes multiple mechanisms to selectively regulate its myriad target genes, which in turn mediate diverse cellular processes. Here, using conventional and single-molecule mRNA analyses, we demonstrate that the nucleoporin Nup98 is required for full expression of p21, a key effector of the p53 pathway, but not several other p53 target genes. Nup98 regulates p21 mRNA levels by a posttranscriptional mechanism in which a complex containing Nup98 and the p21 mRNA 3'UTR protects p21 mRNA from degradation by the exosome. An in silico approach revealed another p53 target (14-3-3sigma) to be similarly regulated by Nup98. The expression of Nup98 is reduced in murine and human hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) and correlates with p21 expression in HCC patients. Our study elucidates a previously unrecognized function of wild-type Nup98 in regulating select p53 target genes that is distinct from the well-characterized oncogenic properties of Nup98 fusion proteins.

Measuring image resolution in optical nanoscopy

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 8:47am

Resolution in optical nanoscopy (or super-resolution microscopy) depends on the localization uncertainty and density of single fluorescent labels and on the sample's spatial structure. Currently there is no integral, practical resolution measure that accounts for all factors. We introduce a measure based on Fourier ring correlation (FRC) that can be computed directly from an image. We demonstrate its validity and benefits on two-dimensional (2D) and 3D localization microscopy images of tubulin and actin filaments. Our FRC resolution method makes it possible to compare achieved resolutions in images taken with different nanoscopy methods, to optimize and rank different emitter localization and labeling strategies, to define a stopping criterion for data acquisition, to describe image anisotropy and heterogeneity, and even to estimate the average number of localizations per emitter. Our findings challenge the current focus on obtaining the best localization precision, showing instead how the best image resolution can be achieved as fast as possible.