skip to main content


Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Waxham, M. Neal"

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. The development of electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) has evolved immensely in the last several decades and is now well-established in the analysis of protein structure both in isolation and in their cellular context. This review focuses on the history and application of cryo-EM to the analysis of membrane architecture. Parallels between the levels of organization of protein structure are useful in organizing the discussion of the unique parameters that influence membrane structure and function. Importantly, the timescales of lipid motion in bilayers with respect to the timescales of sample vitrification is discussed and reveals what types of membrane structure can be reliably extracted in cryo-EM images of vitrified samples. Appreciating these limitations, a review of the application of cryo-EM to examine the lateral organization of ordered and disordered domains in reconstituted and biologically derived membranes is provided. Finally, a brief outlook for further development and application of cryo-EM to the analysis of membrane architecture is provided. 
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
  3. The nanoscale organization of biological membranes into structurally and compositionally distinct lateral domains is believed to be central to membrane function. The nature of this organization has remained elusive due to a lack of methods to directly probe nanoscopic membrane features. We show here that cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) can be used to directly image coexisting nanoscopic domains in synthetic and bioderived membranes without extrinsic probes. Analyzing a series of single-component liposomes composed of synthetic lipids of varying chain lengths, we demonstrate that cryo-EM can distinguish bilayer thickness differences as small as 0.5 Å, comparable to the resolution of small-angle scattering methods. Simulated images from computational models reveal that features in cryo-EM images result from a complex interplay between the atomic distribution normal to the plane of the bilayer and imaging parameters. Simulations of phase-separated bilayers were used to predict two sources of contrast between coexisting ordered and disordered phases within a single liposome, namely differences in membrane thickness and molecular density. We observe both sources of contrast in biomimetic membranes composed of saturated lipids, unsaturated lipids, and cholesterol. When extended to isolated mammalian plasma membranes, cryo-EM reveals similar nanoscale lateral heterogeneities. The methods reported here for direct, probe-free imaging of nanodomains in unperturbed membranes open new avenues for investigation of nanoscopic membrane organization.

     
    more » « less
  4. Dendritic spines are tiny membranous protrusions on the dendrites of neurons. Dendritic spines change shape in response to input signals, thereby strengthening the connections between neurons. The growth and stabilization of dendritic spines is thought to be essential for maintaining long-term memory. Actin cytoskeleton remodeling in spines is a key element of their formation and growth. More speculatively, the aggregation of CPEB3, a functional prion that binds RNA, has been reported to be involved in the maintenance of long-term memory. Here we study the interaction between actin and CPEB3 and propose a molecular model for the complex structure of CPEB3 and an actin filament (F-actin). The results of our computational modeling, including both energetic and structural analyses, are compared with novel data from peptide array experiments. Our model of the CPEB3/F-actin interaction suggests that F-actin potentially triggers the aggregation-prone structural transition of a short CPEB3 sequence by zipping it into a beta-hairpin form. We also propose that the CPEB3/F-actin interaction might be regulated by the SUMOylation of CPEB3, based on bioinformatic searches for potential SUMOylation sites as well as SUMO interacting motifs in CPEB3. On the basis of these results and the existing literature, we put forward a possible molecular mechanism underlying long-term memory that involves CPEB3’s binding to actin, its aggregation, and its regulation by SUMOylation.

     
    more » « less
  5. Actomyosin networks give cells the ability to move and divide. These networks contract and expand while being driven by active energy-consuming processes such as motor protein walking and actin polymerization. Actin dynamics is also regulated by actin-binding proteins, such as the actin-related protein 2/3 (Arp2/3) complex. This complex generates branched filaments, thereby changing the overall organization of the network. In this work, the spatiotemporal patterns of dynamical actin assembly accompanying the branching-induced reorganization caused by Arp2/3 were studied using a computational model (mechanochemical dynamics of active networks [MEDYAN]); this model simulates actomyosin network dynamics as a result of chemical reactions whose rates are modulated by rapid mechanical equilibration. We show that branched actomyosin networks relax significantly more slowly than do unbranched networks. Also, branched networks undergo rare convulsive movements, “avalanches,” that release strain in the network. These avalanches are associated with the more heterogeneous distribution of mechanically linked filaments displayed by branched networks. These far-from-equilibrium events arising from the marginal stability of growing actomyosin networks provide a possible mechanism of the “cytoquakes” recently seen in experiments.

     
    more » « less
  6. Calcium/calmodulin-dependent kinase II (CaMKII) plays a key role in the plasticity of dendritic spines. Calcium signals cause calcium−calmodulin to activate CaMKII, which leads to remodeling of the actin filament (F-actin) network in the spine. We elucidate the mechanism of the remodeling by combining computer simulations with protein array experiments and electron microscopic imaging, to arrive at a structural model for the dodecameric complex of CaMKII with F-actin. The binding interface involves multiple domains of CaMKII. This structure explains the architecture of the micrometer-scale CaMKII/F-actin bundles arising from the multivalence of CaMKII. We also show that the regulatory domain of CaMKII may bind either calmodulin or F-actin, but not both. This frustration, along with the multipartite nature of the binding interface, allows calmodulin transiently to strip CaMKII from actin assemblies so that they can reorganize. This observation therefore provides a simple mechanism by which the structural dynamics of CaMKII establishes the link between calcium signaling and the morphological plasticity of dendritic spines. 
    more » « less