Doctor of Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University (2014)
Bachelor of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2005)
Tim Stearns, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
The ABCs of Centriole Architecture: The Form and Function of Triplet Microtubules.
Cold Spring Harbor symposia on quantitative biology
The centriole is a defining feature of many eukaryotic cells. It nucleates a cilium, organizes microtubules as part of the centrosome, and is duplicated in coordination with the cell cycle. Centrioles have a remarkable structure, consisting of microtubules arranged in a barrel with ninefold radial symmetry. At their base, or proximal end, centrioles have unique triplet microtubules, formed from three microtubules linked to each other. This microtubule organization is not found anywhere else in the cell, is conserved in all major branches of the eukaryotic tree, and likely was present in the last eukaryotic common ancestor. At their tip, or distal end, centrioles have doublet microtubules, which template the cilium. Here, we consider the structures of the compound microtubules in centrioles and discuss potential mechanisms for their formation and their function. We propose that triplet microtubules are required for the structural integrity of centrioles, allowing the centriole to serve as the essential nucleator of the cilium.
View details for PubMedID 29540555
Centriole triplet microtubules are required for stable centriole formation and inheritance in human cells.
Centrioles are composed of long-lived microtubules arranged in nine triplets. However, the contribution of triplet microtubules to mammalian centriole formation and stability is unknown. Little is known of the mechanism of triplet microtubule formation, but experiments in unicellular eukaryotes indicate that delta-tubulin and epsilon-tubulin, two less-studied tubulin family members, are required. Here, we report that centrioles in delta-tubulin and epsilon-tubulin null mutant human cells lack triplet microtubules and fail to undergo centriole maturation. These aberrant centrioles are formed de novo each cell cycle, but are unstable and do not persist to the next cell cycle, leading to a futile cycle of centriole formation and--- disintegration. Disintegration can be suppressed by paclitaxel treatment. Delta-tubulin and epsilon-tubulin physically interact, indicating that these tubulins act together to maintain triplet microtubules and that these are necessary for inheritance of centrioles from one cell cycle to the next.
View details for PubMedID 28906251
Regulation of RNA granule dynamics by phosphorylation of serine-rich, intrinsically-disordered proteins in C-elegans
RNA granules have been likened to liquid droplets whose dynamics depend on the controlled dissolution and condensation of internal components. The molecules and reactions that drive these dynamics in vivo are not well understood. In this study, we present evidence that a group of intrinsically disordered, serine-rich proteins regulate the dynamics of P granules in C. elegans embryos. The MEG (maternal-effect germline defective) proteins are germ plasm components that are required redundantly for fertility. We demonstrate that MEG-1 and MEG-3 are substrates of the kinase MBK-2/DYRK and the phosphatase PP2A(PPTR-½). Phosphorylation of the MEGs promotes granule disassembly and dephosphorylation promotes granule assembly. Using lattice light sheet microscopy on live embryos, we show that GFP-tagged MEG-3 localizes to a dynamic domain that surrounds and penetrates each granule. We conclude that, despite their liquid-like behavior, P granules are non-homogeneous structures whose assembly in embryos is regulated by phosphorylation.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.04591
View details for Web of Science ID 000346771000010
View details for PubMedID 25535836
Lattice light-sheet microscopy: Imaging molecules to embryos at high spatiotemporal resolution
2014; 346 (6208): 439-439
Although fluorescence microscopy provides a crucial window into the physiology of living specimens, many biological processes are too fragile, are too small, or occur too rapidly to see clearly with existing tools. We crafted ultrathin light sheets from two-dimensional optical lattices that allowed us to image three-dimensional (3D) dynamics for hundreds of volumes, often at subsecond intervals, at the diffraction limit and beyond. We applied this to systems spanning four orders of magnitude in space and time, including the diffusion of single transcription factor molecules in stem cell spheroids, the dynamic instability of mitotic microtubules, the immunological synapse, neutrophil motility in a 3D matrix, and embryogenesis in Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster. The results provide a visceral reminder of the beauty and the complexity of living systems.
View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1257998
View details for Web of Science ID 000343822900033
View details for PubMedID 25342811
- P granules. Current biology 2014; 24 (14): R637-8
Identification of Suppressors of mbk-2/DYRK by Whole-Genome Sequencing
G3-GENES GENOMES GENETICS
2014; 4 (2): 231-241
Screening for suppressor mutations is a powerful method to isolate genes that function in a common pathway or process. Because suppressor mutations often do not have phenotypes on their own, cloning of suppressor loci can be challenging. A method combining whole-genome sequencing (WGS) and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mapping (WGS/SNP mapping) was developed to identify mutations with visible phenotypes in C. elegans. We show here that WGS/SNP mapping is an efficient method to map suppressor mutations without the need for previous phenotypic characterization. Using RNA-mediated interference to test candidate loci identified by WGS/SNP mapping, we identified 10 extragenic and six intragenic suppressors of mbk-2, a DYRK family kinase required for the transition from oocyte to zygote. Remarkably, seven suppressors are mutations in cell-cycle regulators that extend the timing of the oocyte-to-zygote transition.
View details for DOI 10.1534/g3.113.009126
View details for Web of Science ID 000331614800004
View details for PubMedID 24347622
Germ Cell Specification
GERM CELL DEVELOPMENT IN C. ELEGANS
2013; 757: 17-39
The germline of Caenorhabditis elegans derives from a single founder cell, the germline blastomere P(4). P(4) is the product of four asymmetric cleavages that divide the zygote into distinct somatic and germline (P) lineages. P(4) inherits a specialized cytoplasm ("germ plasm") containing maternally encoded proteins and RNAs. The germ plasm has been hypothesized to specify germ cell fate, but the mechanisms involved remain unclear. Three processes stand out: (1) inhibition of mRNA transcription to prevent activation of somatic development, (2) translational regulation of the nanos homolog nos-2 and of other germ plasm mRNAs, and (3) establishment of a unique, partially repressive chromatin. Together, these processes ensure that the daughters of P(4), the primordial germ cells Z2 and Z3, gastrulate inside the embryo, associate with the somatic gonad, initiate the germline transcriptional program, and proliferate during larval development to generate ∼2,000 germ cells by adulthood.
View details for DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-4015-4_2
View details for Web of Science ID 000334218600002
View details for PubMedID 22872473
Structure of Sir2Tm bound to a propionylated peptide
2011; 20 (1): 131-139
Lysine propionylation is a recently identified post-translational modification that has been observed in proteins such as p53 and histones and is thought to play a role similar to acetylation in modulating protein activity. Members of the sirtuin family of deacetylases have been shown to have depropionylation activity, although the way in which the sirtuin catalytic site accommodates the bulkier propionyl group is not clear. We have determined the 1.8 Å structure of a Thermotoga maritima sirtuin, Sir2Tm, bound to a propionylated peptide derived from p53. A comparison with the structure of Sir2Tm bound to an acetylated peptide shows that hydrophobic residues in the active site shift to accommodate the bulkier propionyl group. Isothermal titration calorimetry data show that Sir2Tm binds propionylated substrates more tightly than acetylated substrates, but kinetic assays reveal that the catalytic rate of Sir2Tm deacylation of propionyl-lysine is slightly reduced to acetyl-lysine. These results serve to broaden our understanding of the newly identified propionyl-lysine modification and the ability of sirtuins to depropionylate, as well as deacetylate, substrates.
View details for DOI 10.1002/pro.544
View details for Web of Science ID 000285882800014
View details for PubMedID 21080423
Cytoplasmic Partitioning of P Granule Components Is Not Required to Specify the Germline in C. elegans
2010; 330 (6011): 1685-1689
Asymmetric segregation of P granules during the first four divisions of the Caenorhabditis elegans embryo is a classic example of cytoplasmic partitioning of germline determinants. It is thought that asymmetric partitioning of P granule components during mitosis is essential to distinguish germline from soma. We have identified a mutant (pptr-1) in which P granules become unstable during mitosis and P granule proteins and RNAs are distributed equally to somatic and germline blastomeres. Despite symmetric partitioning of P granule components, pptr-1 mutants segregate a germline that uniquely expresses P granules during postembryonic development. pptr-1 mutants are fertile, except at high temperatures. Hence, asymmetric partitioning of maternal P granules is not essential to specify germ cell fate. Instead, it may serve to protect the nascent germline from stress.
View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1193697
View details for Web of Science ID 000285390500069
View details for PubMedID 21127218
Vesicular stomatitis virus mRNA capping machinery requires specific cis-acting signals in the RNA
JOURNAL OF VIROLOGY
2007; 81 (20): 11499-11506
Many viruses of eukaryotes that use mRNA cap-dependent translation strategies have evolved alternate mechanisms to generate the mRNA cap compared to their hosts. The most divergent of these mechanisms are those used by nonsegmented negative-sense (NNS) RNA viruses, which evolved a capping enzyme that transfers RNA onto GDP, rather than GMP onto the 5' end of the RNA. Working with vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a prototype of the NNS RNA viruses, we show that mRNA cap formation is further distinct, requiring a specific cis-acting signal in the RNA. Using recombinant VSV, we determined the function of the eight conserved positions of the gene-start sequence in mRNA initiation and cap formation. Alterations to this sequence compromised mRNA initiation and separately formation of the GpppA cap structure. These studies provide genetic and biochemical evidence that the mRNA capping apparatus of VSV evolved an RNA capping machinery that functions in a sequence-specific manner.
View details for DOI 10.1128/JVI.01057-07
View details for Web of Science ID 000250019400063
View details for PubMedID 17686869
A unique strategy for mRNA cap methylation used by vesicular stomatitis virus
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
2006; 103 (22): 8493-8498
Nonsegmented negative-sense (nsNS) RNA viruses typically replicate within the host cell cytoplasm and do not have access to the host mRNA capping machinery. These viruses have evolved a unique mechanism for mRNA cap formation in that the guanylyltransferase transfers GDP rather than GMP onto the 5' end of the RNA. Working with vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a prototype nsNS RNA virus, we now provide genetic and biochemical evidence that its mRNA cap methylase activities are also unique. Using recombinant VSV, we determined the function in mRNA cap methylation of a predicted binding site in the polymerase for the methyl donor, S-adenosyl-l-methionine. We found that amino acid substitutions to this site disrupted methylation at the guanine-N-7 (G-N-7) position or at both the G-N-7 and ribose-2'-O (2'-O) positions of the mRNA cap. These studies provide genetic evidence that the two methylase activities share an S-adenosyl-l-methionine-binding site and show that, in contrast to other cap methylation reactions, methylation of the G-N-7 position is not required for 2'-O methylation. These findings suggest that VSV evolved an unusual strategy of mRNA cap methylation that may be shared by other nsNS RNA viruses.
View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0509821103
View details for Web of Science ID 000238206800036
View details for PubMedID 16709677