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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 30, 2024
  2. Abstract Due to commonalities in pathophysiology, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) represents a uniquely accessible model to investigate therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, leading us to examine whether pathways of disease progression are shared across neurodegenerative conditions. Here we use single-nucleus RNA sequencing to profile lesions from 11 postmortem human retinas with age-related macular degeneration and 6 control retinas with no history of retinal disease. We create a machine-learning pipeline based on recent advances in data geometry and topology and identify activated glial populations enriched in the early phase of disease. Examining single-cell data from Alzheimer’s disease and progressive multiple sclerosis with our pipeline, we find a similar glial activation profile enriched in the early phase of these neurodegenerative diseases. In late-stage age-related macular degeneration, we identify a microglia-to-astrocyte signaling axis mediated by interleukin-1 β which drives angiogenesis characteristic of disease pathogenesis. We validated this mechanism using in vitro and in vivo assays in mouse, identifying a possible new therapeutic target for AMD and possibly other neurodegenerative conditions. Thus, due to shared glial states, the retina provides a potential system for investigating therapeutic approaches in neurodegenerative diseases. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  3. Collective cell migration is an essential process throughout the lives of multicellular organisms, for example in embryonic development, wound healing and tumour metastasis. Substrates or interfaces associated with these processes are typically curved, with radii of curvature comparable to many cell lengths. Using both artificial geometries and lung alveolospheres derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells, here we show that cells sense multicellular-scale curvature and that it plays a role in regulating collective cell migration. As the curvature of a monolayer increases, cells reduce their collectivity and the multicellular flow field becomes more dynamic. Furthermore, hexagonally shaped cells tend to aggregate in solid-like clusters surrounded by non-hexagonal cells that act as a background fluid. We propose that cells naturally form hexagonally organized clusters to minimize free energy, and the size of these clusters is limited by a bending energy penalty. We observe that cluster size grows linearly as sphere radius increases, which further stabilizes the multicellular flow field and increases cell collectivity. As a result, increasing curvature tends to promote the fluidity in multicellular monolayer. Together, these findings highlight the potential for a fundamental role of curvature in regulating both spatial and temporal characteristics of three-dimensional multicellular systems. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    One of the long-standing holy grails of molecular evolution has been the ability to predict an organism’s fitness directly from its genotype. With such predictive abilities in hand, researchers would be able to more accurately forecast how organisms will evolve and how proteins with novel functions could be engineered, leading to revolutionary advances in medicine and biotechnology. In this work, we assemble the largest reported set of experimental TEM-1 β-lactamase folding free energies and use this data in conjunction with previously acquired fitness data and computational free energy predictions to determine how much of the fitness of β-lactamase can be directly predicted by thermodynamic folding and binding free energies. We focus upon β-lactamase because of its long history as a model enzyme and its central role in antibiotic resistance. Based upon a set of 21 β-lactamase single and double mutants expressly designed to influence protein folding, we first demonstrate that modeling software designed to compute folding free energies such as FoldX and PyRosetta can meaningfully, although not perfectly, predict the experimental folding free energies of single mutants. Interestingly, while these techniques also yield sensible double mutant free energies, we show that they do so for the wrong physical reasons. We then go on to assess how well both experimental and computational folding free energies explain single mutant fitness. We find that folding free energies account for, at most, 24% of the variance in β-lactamase fitness values according to linear models and, somewhat surprisingly, complementing folding free energies with computationally-predicted binding free energies of residues near the active site only increases the folding-only figure by a few percent. This strongly suggests that the majority of β-lactamase’s fitness is controlled by factors other than free energies. Overall, our results shed a bright light on to what extent the community is justified in using thermodynamic measures to infer protein fitness as well as how applicable modern computational techniques for predicting free energies will be to the large data sets of multiply-mutated proteins forthcoming 
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  5. null (Ed.)