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1.  Nanoscale Imaging of RNA with Expansion Microscopy 
Nature methods  2016;13(8):679-684.
The ability to image RNA identity and location with nanoscale precision in intact tissues is of great interest for defining cell types and states in normal and pathological biological settings. Here, we present a strategy for expansion microscopy (ExM) of RNA. We developed a small molecule linker that enables RNA to be covalently attached to a swellable polyelectrolyte gel synthesized throughout a biological specimen. Then, post-expansion, fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) imaging of RNA can be performed with high yield and specificity, with single molecule precision, in both cultured cells and intact brain tissue. Expansion FISH (ExFISH) de-crowds RNAs and supports amplification of single molecule signals (i.e., via hybridization chain reaction (HCR)) as well as multiplexed RNA FISH readout. ExFISH thus enables super-resolution imaging of RNA structure and location with diffraction-limited microscopes in thick specimens, such as intact brain tissue and other tissues of importance to biology and medicine.
PMCID: PMC4965288  PMID: 27376770
2.  Neutralizing antibodies against West Nile virus identified directly from human B cells by single-cell analysis and next generation sequencing 
West Nile virus infection (WNV) is an emerging mosquito-borne disease that can lead to severe neurological illness and currently has no available treatment or vaccine. Using microengraving, an integrated single-cell analysis method, we analyzed a cohort of subjects infected with WNV - recently infected and post-convalescent subjects - and efficiently identified four novel WNV neutralizing antibodies. We also assessed the humoral response to WNV on a single-cell and repertoire level by integrating next generation sequencing (NGS) into our analysis. The results from single-cell analysis indicate persistence of WNV-specific memory B cells and antibody-secreting cells in post-convalescent subjects. These cells exhibited class-switched antibody isotypes. Furthermore, the results suggest that the antibody response itself does not predict the clinical severity of the disease (asymptomatic or symptomatic). Using the nucleotide coding sequences for WNV-specific antibodies derived from single cells, we revealed the ontogeny of expanded WNV-specific clones in the repertoires of recently infected subjects through NGS and bioinformatic analysis. This analysis also indicated that the humoral response to WNV did not depend on an anamnestic response, due to an unlikely previous exposure to the virus. The innovative and integrative approach presented here to analyze the evolution of neutralizing antibodies from natural infection on a single-cell and repertoire level can also be applied to vaccine studies, and could potentially aid the development of therapeutic antibodies and our basic understanding of other infectious diseases.
PMCID: PMC4754972  PMID: 26481611
Emerging infectious disease; flavivirus; humoral immunity; antigen specific; microengraving; repertoire sequencing
3.  An ethnically relevant consensus Korean reference genome is a step towards personal reference genomes 
Nature Communications  2016;7:13637.
Human genomes are routinely compared against a universal reference. However, this strategy could miss population-specific and personal genomic variations, which may be detected more efficiently using an ethnically relevant or personal reference. Here we report a hybrid assembly of a Korean reference genome (KOREF) for constructing personal and ethnic references by combining sequencing and mapping methods. We also build its consensus variome reference, providing information on millions of variants from 40 additional ethnically homogeneous genomes from the Korean Personal Genome Project. We find that the ethnically relevant consensus reference can be beneficial for efficient variant detection. Systematic comparison of human assemblies shows the importance of assembly quality, suggesting the necessity of new technologies to comprehensively map ethnic and personal genomic structure variations. In the era of large-scale population genome projects, the leveraging of ethnicity-specific genome assemblies as well as the human reference genome will accelerate mapping all human genome diversity.
The utility of a universal reference sequence for human genome comparisons is dependent on the ethnic origins of the individuals being sequenced. Here the authors report a Korean reference genome and consensus variome, and show that an ethnically-relevant reference can improve variant detection.
PMCID: PMC5123046  PMID: 27882922
4.  Crispr-mediated Gene Targeting of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells 
Current protocols in stem cell biology  2015;2015(Suppl 35):5A.8.1-5A.8.22.
CRISPR / Cas9 nuclease systems can create double-stranded DNA breaks at specific sequences to efficiently and precisely disrupt, excise, mutate, insert, or replace genes. However, human embryonic stem or induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are more difficult to transfect and less resilient to DNA damage than immortalized tumor cell lines. Here, we describe an optimized protocol for genome engineering of human iPSCs using a simple transient transfection of plasmids and/or single-stranded oligonucleotides. With this protocol, we achieve transfection efficiencies greater than 60%, with gene disruption efficiencies from 1-25% and gene insertion / replacement efficiencies from 0.5-10% without any further selection or enrichment steps. We also describe how to design and assess optimal sgRNA target sites and donor targeting vectors; cloning individual iPSC by single cell FACS sorting, and genotyping successfully edited cells.
PMCID: PMC4772967  PMID: 26949444
gene targeting; CRISPR / Cas9 nuclease; human induced pluripotent stem cells; transfection; genome engineering
5.  Complete mitochondrial genomes of living and extinct pigeons revise the timing of the columbiform radiation 
Pigeons and doves (Columbiformes) are one of the oldest and most diverse extant lineages of birds. However, the nature and timing of the group’s evolutionary radiation remains poorly resolved, despite recent advances in DNA sequencing and assembly and the growing database of pigeon mitochondrial genomes. One challenge has been to generate comparative data from the large number of extinct pigeon lineages, some of which are morphologically unique and therefore difficult to place in a phylogenetic context.
We used ancient DNA and next generation sequencing approaches to assemble complete mitochondrial genomes for eleven pigeons, including the extinct Ryukyu wood pigeon (Columba jouyi), the thick-billed ground dove (Alopecoenas salamonis), the spotted green pigeon (Caloenas maculata), the Rodrigues solitaire (Pezophaps solitaria), and the dodo (Raphus cucullatus). We used a Bayesian approach to infer the evolutionary relationships among 24 species of living and extinct pigeons and doves.
Our analyses indicate that the earliest radiation of the Columbidae crown group most likely occurred during the Oligocene, with continued divergence of major clades into the Miocene, suggesting that diversification within the Columbidae occurred more recently than has been reported previously.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12862-016-0800-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5080718  PMID: 27782796
Columbidae; Ancient DNA; time calibrated phylogeny; Pezophaps solitaria; Raphus cucullatus; Passenger pigeon
6.  The whole genome sequences and experimentally phased haplotypes of over 100 personal genomes 
GigaScience  2016;5:42.
Since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, it is estimated that more than 200,000 individual whole human genomes have been sequenced. A stunning accomplishment in such a short period of time. However, most of these were sequenced without experimental haplotype data and are therefore missing an important aspect of genome biology. In addition, much of the genomic data is not available to the public and lacks phenotypic information.
As part of the Personal Genome Project, blood samples from 184 participants were collected and processed using Complete Genomics’ Long Fragment Read technology. Here, we present the experimental whole genome haplotyping and sequencing of these samples to an average read coverage depth of 100X. This is approximately three-fold higher than the read coverage applied to most whole human genome assemblies and ensures the highest quality results. Currently, 114 genomes from this dataset are freely available in the GigaDB repository and are associated with rich phenotypic data; the remaining 70 should be added in the near future as they are approved through the PGP data release process. For reproducibility analyses, 20 genomes were sequenced at least twice using independent LFR barcoded libraries. Seven genomes were also sequenced using Complete Genomics’ standard non-barcoded library process. In addition, we report 2.6 million high-quality, rare variants not previously identified in the Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms database or the 1000 Genomes Project Phase 3 data.
These genomes represent a unique source of haplotype and phenotype data for the scientific community and should help to expand our understanding of human genome evolution and function.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13742-016-0148-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC5057367  PMID: 27724973
Complete genomics; Haplotypes; Long fragment read; LFR; Personal Genome Project; PGP; Whole genome sequencing
7.  Engineering an allosteric transcription factor to respond to new ligands 
Nature methods  2015;13(2):177-183.
Genetic regulatory proteins inducible by small molecules are useful synthetic biology tools as sensors and switches. Bacterial allosteric transcription factors (aTFs) are a major class of regulatory proteins, but few aTFs have been redesigned to respond to new effectors beyond natural aTF-inducer pairs. Altering inducer specificity in these proteins is difficult because substitutions that affect inducer binding may also disrupt allostery. We engineered an aTF, the Escherichia coli lac repressor, LacI, to respond to one of four new inducer molecules: fucose, gentiobiose, lactitol or sucralose. Using computational protein design, single-residue saturation mutagenesis or random mutagenesis, along with multiplex assembly, we identified new variants comparable in specificity and induction to wild-type LacI with its inducer, isopropyl β-D-1-thiogalactopyranoside (IPTG). The ability to create designer aTFs will enable applications including dynamic control of cell metabolism, cell biology and synthetic gene circuits.
PMCID: PMC4907361  PMID: 26689263
8.  A general strategy to construct small molecule biosensors in eukaryotes 
eLife  null;4:e10606.
Biosensors for small molecules can be used in applications that range from metabolic engineering to orthogonal control of transcription. Here, we produce biosensors based on a ligand-binding domain (LBD) by using a method that, in principle, can be applied to any target molecule. The LBD is fused to either a fluorescent protein or a transcriptional activator and is destabilized by mutation such that the fusion accumulates only in cells containing the target ligand. We illustrate the power of this method by developing biosensors for digoxin and progesterone. Addition of ligand to yeast, mammalian, or plant cells expressing a biosensor activates transcription with a dynamic range of up to ~100-fold. We use the biosensors to improve the biotransformation of pregnenolone to progesterone in yeast and to regulate CRISPR activity in mammalian cells. This work provides a general methodology to develop biosensors for a broad range of molecules in eukaryotes.
eLife digest
Small molecules play essential roles in organisms, and so methods to sense these molecules within living cells could have wide-ranging uses in both biology and biotechnology. However, current methods for making new “biosensors” are limited and only a narrow range of small molecules can be detected.
One approach to biosensor design in yeast and other eukaryotic organisms uses proteins called ligand-binding domains, which bind to small molecules. Here, Feng, Jester, Tinberg, Mandell et al. have developed a new method to make biosensors from ligand-binding domains that could, in principle, be applied to any target small molecule. The new method involves taking a ligand-binding domain that is either engineered or occurs in nature and linking it to something that can be readily detected, such as a protein that fluoresces or that controls gene expression. This combined biosensor protein is then engineered, via mutations, such that it is unstable unless it binds to the small molecule. This means that, in the absence of the small molecule, these proteins are destroyed inside living cells. However, the binding of a target molecule to one of these proteins protects it from degradation, which allows the signal to be detected.
Feng, Jester, Tinberg, Mandell et al. use this method to create biosensors for a human hormone called progesterone and a drug called digoxin, which is used to treat heart disease. Further experiments used the biosensors to optimize the production of progesterone in yeast and to regulate the activity of a gene editing protein called Cas9 in human cells. The biosensors can be also used to produce long-term environmental sensors in plant cells.
This approach makes it possible to produce a wide variety of biosensors for different organisms. The next step is to continue to explore the ability of various proteins to be converted into biosensors, and to find out how easy it is to transfer a biosensor produced in one species to another.
PMCID: PMC4739774  PMID: 26714111
biosensor; metabolic engineering; CRISPR; A. thaliana; Human; S. cerevisiae
9.  In vivo gene editing in dystrophic mouse muscle and muscle stem cells# 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2015;351(6271):407-411.
Frame-disrupting mutations in the DMD gene, encoding dystrophin, compromise myofiber integrity and drive muscle deterioration in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Removing one or more exons from the mutated transcript can produce an in-frame mRNA and a truncated but still functional protein. In this study, we develop and test a direct gene editing approach to induce exon deletion and recover dystrophin expression in the mdx mouse model of DMD. Delivery by adeno-associated virus (AAV) of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 endonucleases coupled with paired guide RNAs flanking the mutated Dmd exon23 resulted in excision of intervening DNA and restored Dystrophin reading frame in myofibers, cardiomyocytes and muscle stem cells following local or systemic delivery. AAV-Dmd CRISPR-treatment partially recovered muscle functional deficiencies and generated a pool of endogenously corrected myogenic precursors in mdx mouse muscle.
PMCID: PMC4924477  PMID: 26721686
10.  Genomically Recoded Organisms Expand Biological Functions 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2013;342(6156):357-360.
We describe the construction and characterization of a genomically recoded organism (GRO). We replaced all known UAG stop codons in Escherichia coli MG1655 with synonymous UAA codons, which permitted the deletion of release factor 1 and reassignment of UAG translation function. This GRO exhibited improved properties for incorporation of nonstandard amino acids that expand the chemical diversity of proteins in vivo. The GRO also exhibited increased resistance to T7 bacteriophage, demonstrating that new genetic codes could enable increased viral resistance.
PMCID: PMC4924538  PMID: 24136966
11.  Extensive sequencing of seven human genomes to characterize benchmark reference materials 
Scientific Data  2016;3:160025.
The Genome in a Bottle Consortium, hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is creating reference materials and data for human genome sequencing, as well as methods for genome comparison and benchmarking. Here, we describe a large, diverse set of sequencing data for seven human genomes; five are current or candidate NIST Reference Materials. The pilot genome, NA12878, has been released as NIST RM 8398. We also describe data from two Personal Genome Project trios, one of Ashkenazim Jewish ancestry and one of Chinese ancestry. The data come from 12 technologies: BioNano Genomics, Complete Genomics paired-end and LFR, Ion Proton exome, Oxford Nanopore, Pacific Biosciences, SOLiD, 10X Genomics GemCode WGS, and Illumina exome and WGS paired-end, mate-pair, and synthetic long reads. Cell lines, DNA, and data from these individuals are publicly available. Therefore, we expect these data to be useful for revealing novel information about the human genome and improving sequencing technologies, SNP, indel, and structural variant calling, and de novo assembly.
PMCID: PMC4896128  PMID: 27271295
Next-generation sequencing; Genomics; Genome assembly algorithms; Standards
12.  Safeguarding CRISPR-Cas9 gene drives in yeast 
Nature biotechnology  2015;33(12):1250-1255.
RNA-guided gene drives capable of spreading genomic alterations made in laboratory organisms through wild populations in an inheritable way could be used to control populations of organisms that cause environmental and public health problems. However, the possibility of unintended genome editing through the escape of strains from laboratories, coupled with the prospect of unanticipated ecological change, demands caution. We report the efficacy of CRISPR-Cas9 gene drive systems in wild and laboratory strains of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Furthermore, we address concerns surrounding accidental genome editing by developing and validating methods of molecular confinement that minimize the risk of unwanted genome editing. We also present a drive system capable of overwriting the changes introduced by an earlier gene drive. These molecular safeguards should enable the development of safe CRISPR gene drives for diverse organisms.
PMCID: PMC4675690  PMID: 26571100
13.  Efficient Reassignment of a Frequent Serine Codon in Wild-Type Escherichia coli 
ACS synthetic biology  2015;5(2):163-171.
Expansion of the genetic code through engineering the translation machinery has greatly increased the chemical repertoire of the proteome. This has been accomplished mainly by read-through of UAG or UGA stop codons by the noncanonical aminoacyl-tRNA of choice. While stop codon read-through involves competition with the translation release factors, sense codon reassignment entails competition with a large pool of endogenous tRNAs. We used an engineered pyrrolysyl-tRNA synthetase to incorporate 3-iodo-l-phenylalanine (3-I-Phe) at a number of different serine and leucine codons in wild-type Escherichia coli. Quantitative LC-MS/MS measurements of amino acid incorporation yields carried out in a selected reaction monitoring experiment revealed that the 3-I-Phe abundance at the Ser208AGU codon in superfolder GFP was 65 ± 17%. This method also allowed quantification of other amino acids (serine, 33 ± 17%; phenylalanine, 1 ± 1%; threonine, 1 ± 1%) that compete with 3-I-Phe at both the aminoacylation and decoding steps of translation for incorporation at the same codon position. Reassignments of different serine (AGU, AGC, UCG) and leucine (CUG) codons with the matching tRNAPyl anticodon variants were met with varying success, and our findings provide a guideline for the choice of sense codons to be reassigned. Our results indicate that the 3-iodo-l-phenylalanyl-tRNA synthetase (IFRS)/tRNAPyl pair can efficiently outcompete the cellular machinery to reassign select sense codons in wild-type E. coli.
Graphical abstract
PMCID: PMC4807657  PMID: 26544153
genetic code; sense codons reassignment; pyrrolysyl-tRNA synthetase (PylRS); 3-iodo-l-phenylalanyl-tRNA synthetase (IFRS); aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase (aaRS); noncanonical amino acid (ncAA); tRNA competition; quantitative proteomic analysis; selected reaction monitoring (SRM)
15.  Simulating Serial-Target Antibacterial Drug Synergies Using Flux Balance Analysis 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(1):e0147651.
Flux balance analysis (FBA) is an increasingly useful approach for modeling the behavior of metabolic systems. However, standard FBA modeling of genetic knockouts cannot predict drug combination synergies observed between serial metabolic targets, even though such synergies give rise to some of the most widely used antibiotic treatments. Here we extend FBA modeling to simulate responses to chemical inhibitors at varying concentrations, by diverting enzymatic flux to a waste reaction. This flux diversion yields very similar qualitative predictions to prior methods for single target activity. However, we find very different predictions for combinations, where flux diversion, which mimics the kinetics of competitive metabolic inhibitors, can explain serial target synergies between metabolic enzyme inhibitors that we confirmed in Escherichia coli cultures. FBA flux diversion opens the possibility for more accurate genome-scale predictions of drug synergies, which can be used to suggest treatments for infections and other diseases.
PMCID: PMC4731467  PMID: 26821252
16.  Functional characterization of the antibiotic resistance reservoir in the human microflora 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2009;325(5944):1128-1131.
To understand the process by which antibiotic resistance genes are acquired by human pathogens, we functionally characterized the resistance reservoir in the microbial flora of healthy individuals. Most of the resistance genes we identified using culture independent sampling have not been previously identified and are evolutionarily distant from known resistance genes. By contrast, nearly half of the resistance genes we identified in cultured aerobic gut isolates (a small subset of the gut microbiome) are identical to resistance genes harbored by major pathogens. The immense diversity of resistance genes in the human microbiome could contribute to future emergence of antibiotic resistance in human pathogens.
PMCID: PMC4720503  PMID: 19713526
17.  Engineering Allostery 
Trends in genetics : TIG  2014;30(12):521-528.
Allosteric proteins have great potential in synthetic biology, but our limited understanding of the molecular underpinnings of allostery has hindered the development of designer molecules, including transcription factors with new DNA-binding or ligand-binding specificities that respond appropriately to inducers. Such allosteric proteins could function as novel switches in complex circuits, metabolite sensors, or orthogonal regulators for independent, inducible control of multiple genes. Advances in DNA synthesis and next-generation sequencing technologies have enabled the assessment of millions of mutants in a single experiment, providing new opportunities to study allostery. Using the classic LacI protein as an example, we describe a genetic selection system using a bidirectional reporter to capture mutants in both allosteric states, allowing the positions most critical for allostery to be identified. This approach is not limited to bacterial transcription factors, and could reveal new mechanistic insights and facilitate engineering of other major classes of allosteric proteins such as nuclear receptors, two-component systems, G-protein coupled receptors and protein kinases.
PMCID: PMC4254034  PMID: 25306102
18.  Genome editing assessment using CRISPR Genome Analyzer (CRISPR-GA) 
Bioinformatics  2014;30(20):2968-2970.
Summary: Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-based technologies have revolutionized human genome engineering and opened countless possibilities to basic science, synthetic biology and gene therapy. Albeit the enormous potential of these tools, their performance is far from perfect. It is essential to perform a posterior careful analysis of the gene editing experiment. However, there are no computational tools for genome editing assessment yet, and current experimental tools lack sensitivity and flexibility.
We present a platform to assess the quality of a genome editing experiment only with three mouse clicks. The method evaluates next-generation data to quantify and characterize insertions, deletions and homologous recombination. CRISPR Genome Analyzer provides a report for the locus selected, which includes a quantification of the edited site and the analysis of the different alterations detected. The platform maps the reads, estimates and locates insertions and deletions, computes the allele replacement efficiency and provides a report integrating all the information.
Availability and implementation: CRISPR-GA Web is available at Documentation on CRISPR-GA instructions can be found at
PMCID: PMC4184265  PMID: 24990609
19.  Programming cells by multiplex genome engineering and accelerated evolution 
Nature  2009;460(7257):894-898.
The breadth of genomic diversity found among organisms in nature allows populations to adapt to diverse environments1,2. However, genomic diversity is difficult to generate in the laboratory and new phenotypes do not easily arise on practical timescales3. Although in vitro and directed evolution methods4–9 have created genetic variants with usefully altered phenotypes, these methods are limited to laborious and serial manipulation of single genes and are not used for parallel and continuous directed evolution of gene networks or genomes. Here, we describe multiplex automated genome engineering (MAGE) for large-scale programming and evolution of cells. MAGE simultaneously targets many locations on the chromosome for modification in a single cell or across a population of cells, thus producing combinatorial genomic diversity. Because the process is cyclical and scalable, we constructed prototype devices that automate the MAGE technology to facilitate rapid and continuous generation of a diverse set of genetic changes (mismatches, insertions, deletions). We applied MAGE to optimize the 1-deoxy-d-xylulose-5-phosphate (DXP) biosynthesis pathway in Escherichia coli to overproduce the industrially important isoprenoid lycopene. Twenty-four genetic components in the DXP pathway were modified simultaneously using a complex pool of synthetic DNA, creating over 4.3 billion combinatorial genomic variants per day. We isolated variants with more than fivefold increase in lycopene production within 3 days, a significant improvement over existing metabolic engineering techniques. Our multiplex approach embraces engineering in the context of evolution by expediting the design and evolution of organisms with new and improved properties.
PMCID: PMC4590770  PMID: 19633652
21.  Multi-kilobase homozygous targeted gene replacement in human induced pluripotent stem cells 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;43(3):e21.
Sequence-specific nucleases such as TALEN and the CRISPR/Cas9 system have so far been used to disrupt, correct or insert transgenes at precise locations in mammalian genomes. We demonstrate efficient ‘knock-in’ targeted replacement of multi-kilobase genes in human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC). Using a model system replacing endogenous human genes with their mouse counterpart, we performed a comprehensive study of targeting vector design parameters for homologous recombination. A 2.7 kilobase (kb) homozygous gene replacement was achieved in up to 11% of iPSC without selection. The optimal homology arm length was around 2 kb, with homology length being especially critical on the arm not adjacent to the cut site. Homologous sequence inside the cut sites was detrimental to targeting efficiency, consistent with a synthesis-dependent strand annealing (SDSA) mechanism. Using two nuclease sites, we observed a high degree of gene excisions and inversions, which sometimes occurred more frequently than indel mutations. While homozygous deletions of 86 kb were achieved with up to 8% frequency, deletion frequencies were not solely a function of nuclease activity and deletion size. Our results analyzing the optimal parameters for targeting vector design will inform future gene targeting efforts involving multi-kilobase gene segments, particularly in human iPSC.
PMCID: PMC4330342  PMID: 25414332
22.  Fluorescent in situ sequencing (FISSEQ) of RNA for gene expression profiling in intact cells and tissues 
Nature protocols  2015;10(3):442-458.
RNA sequencing measures the quantitative change in gene expression over the whole transcriptome, but it lacks spatial context. On the other hand, in situ hybridization provides the location of gene expression, but only for a small number of genes. Here we detail a protocol for genome-wide profiling of gene expression in situ in fixed cells and tissues, in which RNA is converted into cross-linked cDNA amplicons and sequenced manually on a confocal microscope. Unlike traditional RNA-seq our method enriches for context-specific transcripts over house-keeping and/or structural RNA, and it preserves the tissue architecture for RNA localization studies. Our protocol is written for researchers experienced in cell microscopy with minimal computing skills. Library construction and sequencing can be completed within 14 d, with image analysis requiring an additional 2 d.
PMCID: PMC4327781  PMID: 25675209
In situ; RNA-seq; gene expression; FISSEQ; RNA localization; sequencing-by-ligation
23.  Puzzle Imaging: Using Large-Scale Dimensionality Reduction Algorithms for Localization 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0131593.
Current high-resolution imaging techniques require an intact sample that preserves spatial relationships. We here present a novel approach, “puzzle imaging,” that allows imaging a spatially scrambled sample. This technique takes many spatially disordered samples, and then pieces them back together using local properties embedded within the sample. We show that puzzle imaging can efficiently produce high-resolution images using dimensionality reduction algorithms. We demonstrate the theoretical capabilities of puzzle imaging in three biological scenarios, showing that (1) relatively precise 3-dimensional brain imaging is possible; (2) the physical structure of a neural network can often be recovered based only on the neural connectivity matrix; and (3) a chemical map could be reproduced using bacteria with chemosensitive DNA and conjugative transfer. The ability to reconstruct scrambled images promises to enable imaging based on DNA sequencing of homogenized tissue samples.
PMCID: PMC4507868  PMID: 26192446
24.  Concerning RNA-guided gene drives for the alteration of wild populations 
eLife  2014;3:e03401.
Gene drives may be capable of addressing ecological problems by altering entire populations of wild organisms, but their use has remained largely theoretical due to technical constraints. Here we consider the potential for RNA-guided gene drives based on the CRISPR nuclease Cas9 to serve as a general method for spreading altered traits through wild populations over many generations. We detail likely capabilities, discuss limitations, and provide novel precautionary strategies to control the spread of gene drives and reverse genomic changes. The ability to edit populations of sexual species would offer substantial benefits to humanity and the environment. For example, RNA-guided gene drives could potentially prevent the spread of disease, support agriculture by reversing pesticide and herbicide resistance in insects and weeds, and control damaging invasive species. However, the possibility of unwanted ecological effects and near-certainty of spread across political borders demand careful assessment of each potential application. We call for thoughtful, inclusive, and well-informed public discussions to explore the responsible use of this currently theoretical technology.
PMCID: PMC4117217  PMID: 25035423
gene drive; ecological engineering; population engineering; cas9; CRISPR; emerging technology; none
25.  Synthetic biosensors for precise gene control and real-time monitoring of metabolites 
Nucleic Acids Research  2015;43(15):7648-7660.
Characterization and standardization of inducible transcriptional regulators has transformed how scientists approach biology by allowing precise and tunable control of gene expression. Despite their utility, only a handful of well-characterized regulators exist, limiting the complexity of engineered biological systems. We apply a characterization pipeline to four genetically encoded sensors that respond to acrylate, glucarate, erythromycin and naringenin. We evaluate how the concentration of the inducing chemical relates to protein expression, how the extent of induction affects protein expression kinetics, and how the activation behavior of single cells relates to ensemble measurements. We show that activation of each sensor is orthogonal to the other sensors, and to other common inducible systems. We demonstrate independent control of three fluorescent proteins in a single cell, chemically defining eight unique transcriptional states. To demonstrate biosensor utility in metabolic engineering, we apply the glucarate biosensor to monitor product formation in a heterologous glucarate biosynthesis pathway and identify superior enzyme variants. Doubling the number of well-characterized inducible systems makes more complex synthetic biological circuits accessible. Characterizing sensors that transduce the intracellular concentration of valuable metabolites into fluorescent readouts enables high-throughput screening of biological catalysts and alleviates the primary bottleneck of the metabolic engineering design-build-test cycle.
PMCID: PMC4551912  PMID: 26152303

Results 1-25 (134)