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  1. Abstract

    To prevent damage to the host or its commensal microbiota, epithelial tissues must match the intensity of the immune response to the severity of a biological threat. Toll-like receptors allow epithelial cells to identify microbe associated molecular patterns. However, the mechanisms that mitigate biological noise in single cells to ensure quantitatively appropriate responses remain unclear. Here we address this question using single cell and single molecule approaches in mammary epithelial cells and primary organoids. We find that epithelial tissues respond to bacterial microbe associated molecular patterns by activating a subset of cells in an all-or-nothing (i.e. digital) manner. The maximum fraction of responsive cells is regulated by a bimodal epigenetic switch that licenses the TLR2 promoter for transcription across multiple generations. This mechanism confers a flexible memory of inflammatory events as well as unique spatio-temporal control of epithelial tissue-level immune responses. We propose that epigenetic licensing in individual cells allows for long-term, quantitative fine-tuning of population-level responses.

  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  3. CRISPR-Cas systems provide versatile tools for programmable genome editing. Here, we developed a caged RNA strategy that allows Cas9 to bind DNA but not cleave until light-induced activation. This approach, referred to as very fast CRISPR (vfCRISPR), creates double-strand breaks (DSBs) at the submicrometer and second scales. Synchronized cleavage improved kinetic analysis of DNA repair, revealing that cells respond to Cas9-induced DSBs within minutes and can retain MRE11 after DNA ligation. Phosphorylation of H2AX after DNA damage propagated more than 100 kilobases per minute, reaching up to 30 megabases. Using single-cell fluorescence imaging, we characterized multiple cycles of 53BP1 repair foci formation and dissolution, with the first cycle taking longer than subsequent cycles and its duration modulated by inhibition of repair. Imaging-guided subcellular Cas9 activation further facilitated genomic manipulation with single-allele resolution. vfCRISPR enables DNA-repair studies at high resolution in space, time, and genomic coordinates.
  4. HIV-1 full-length RNA (HIV-1 RNA) plays a central role in viral replication, serving as a template for Gag/Gag-Pol translation and as a genome for the progeny virion. To gain a better understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of HIV-1 replication, we adapted a recently described system to visualize and track translation from individual HIV-1 RNA molecules in living cells. We found that, on average, half of the cytoplasmic HIV-1 RNAs are being actively translated at a given time. Furthermore, translating and nontranslating RNAs are well mixed in the cytoplasm; thus, Gag biogenesis occurs throughout the cytoplasm without being constrained to particular subcellular locations. Gag is an RNA binding protein that selects and packages HIV-1 RNA during virus assembly. A long-standing question in HIV-1 gene expression is whether Gag modulates HIV-1 RNA translation. We observed that despite its RNA-binding ability, Gag expression does not alter the proportion of translating HIV-1 RNA. Using single-molecule tracking, we found that both translating and nontranslating RNAs exhibit dynamic cytoplasmic movement and can reach the plasma membrane, the major HIV-1 assembly site. However, Gag selectively packages nontranslating RNA into the assembly complex. These studies illustrate that although HIV-1 RNA serves two functions, as a translation template andmore »as a viral genome, individual RNA molecules carry out only one function at a time. These studies shed light on previously unknown aspects of HIV-1 gene expression and regulation.« less
  5. The heritability of chromatin states through cell division is a potential contributor to the epigenetic maintenance of cellular memory of prior states. The macroH2A histone variant has properties of a regulator of epigenetic cell memory, including roles controlling gene silencing and cell differentiation. Its mechanisms of regional genomic targeting and maintenance through cell division are unknown. Here, we combined in vivo imaging with biochemical and genomic approaches to show that human macroH2A is incorporated into chromatin in the G1 phase of the cell cycle following DNA replication. The newly incorporated macroH2A retargets the same large heterochromatic domains where macroH2A was already enriched in the previous cell cycle. It remains heterotypic, targeting individual nucleosomes that do not already contain a macroH2A molecule. The pattern observed resembles that of a new deposition of centromeric histone variants during the cell cycle, indicating mechanistic similarities for macrodomain-scale regulation of epigenetic properties of the cell.