Education & Certifications
Bachelor of Arts, Lewis & Clark College, Biochemistry & Molecular Biol. (2009)
Improving brightness and photostability of green and red fluorescent proteins for live cell imaging and FRET reporting
Many genetically encoded biosensors use Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) to dynamically report biomolecular activities. While pairs of cyan and yellow fluorescent proteins (FPs) are most commonly used as FRET partner fluorophores, respectively, green and red FPs offer distinct advantages for FRET, such as greater spectral separation, less phototoxicity, and lower autofluorescence. We previously developed the green-red FRET pair Clover and mRuby2, which improves responsiveness in intramolecular FRET reporters with different designs. Here we report the engineering of brighter and more photostable variants, mClover3 and mRuby3. mClover3 improves photostability by 60% and mRuby3 by 200% over the previous generation of fluorophores. Notably, mRuby3 is also 35% brighter than mRuby2, making it both the brightest and most photostable monomeric red FP yet characterized. Furthermore, we developed a standardized methodology for assessing FP performance in mammalian cells as stand-alone markers and as FRET partners. We found that mClover3 or mRuby3 expression in mammalian cells provides the highest fluorescence signals of all jellyfish GFP or coral RFP derivatives, respectively. Finally, using mClover3 and mRuby3, we engineered an improved version of the CaMKIIα reporter Camuiα with a larger response amplitude.
View details for DOI 10.1038/srep20889
View details for Web of Science ID 000370196500001
View details for PubMedID 26879144
Tunable and reversible drug control of protein production via a self-excising degron.
Nature chemical biology
2015; 11 (9): 713-720
An effective method for direct chemical control over the production of specific proteins would be widely useful. We describe small molecule-assisted shutoff (SMASh), a technique in which proteins are fused to a degron that removes itself in the absence of drug, resulting in the production of an untagged protein. Clinically tested HCV protease inhibitors can then block degron removal, inducing rapid degradation of subsequently synthesized copies of the protein. SMASh allows reversible and dose-dependent shutoff of various proteins in multiple mammalian cell types and in yeast. We also used SMASh to confer drug responsiveness onto an RNA virus for which no licensed inhibitors exist. As SMASh does not require the permanent fusion of a large domain, it should be useful when control over protein production with minimal structural modification is desired. Furthermore, as SMASh involves only a single genetic modification and does not rely on modulating protein-protein interactions, it should be easy to generalize to multiple biological contexts.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nchembio.1869
View details for PubMedID 26214256
Hindered submicron mobility and long-term storage of presynaptic dense-core granules revealed by single-particle tracking
2012; 72 (9): 1181-1195
Dense-core granules (DCGs) are organelles found in neuroendocrine cells and neurons that house, transport, and release a number of important peptides and proteins. In neurons, DCG cargo can include the secreted neuromodulatory proteins tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) and/or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which play a key role in modulating synaptic efficacy in the hippocampus. This function has spurred interest in DCGs that localize to synaptic contacts between hippocampal neurons, and several studies recently have established that DCGs localize to, and undergo regulated exocytosis from, postsynaptic sites. To complement this work, we have studied presynaptically localized DCGs in hippocampal neurons, which are much more poorly understood than their postsynaptic analogs. Moreover, to enhance relevance, we visualized DCGs via fluorescence labeling of exogenous and endogenous tPA and BDNF. Using single-particle tracking, we determined trajectories of more than 150 presynaptically localized DCGs. These trajectories reveal that mobility of DCGs in presynaptic boutons is highly hindered and that storage is long-lived. We also computed mean-squared displacement curves, which can be used to elucidate mechanisms of transport. Over shorter time windows, most curves are linear, demonstrating that DCG transport in boutons is driven predominantly by diffusion. The remaining curves plateau with time, consistent with motion constrained by a submicron-sized corral. These results have relevance to recent models of presynaptic organization and to recent hypotheses about DCG cargo function. The results also provide estimates for transit times to the presynaptic plasma membrane that are consistent with measured times for onset of neurotrophin release from synaptically localized DCGs.
View details for DOI 10.1002/dneu.20984
View details for Web of Science ID 000307166400001
View details for PubMedID 21976424
Efficient copackaging and cotransport yields postsynaptic colocalization of Neuromodulators associated with synaptic plasticity
2008; 68 (10): 1243-1256
Recent data suggest that tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) influences long-term plasticity at hippocampal synapses by converting plasminogen into plasmin, which then generates mature brain-derived neurotrophic factor (mBDNF) from its precursor, proBDNF. Motivated by this hypothesis, we used fluorescent chimeras, expressed in hippocampal neurons, to elucidate (1) mechanisms underlying plasminogen secretion from hippocampal neurons, (2) if tPA, plasminogen, and proBDNF are copackaged and cotransported in hippocampal neurons, especially within dendritic spines, and (3) mechanisms mediating the transport of these neuromodulators to sites of release. We find that plasminogen chimeras traffic through the regulated secretory pathway of hippocampal neurons in dense-core granules (DCGs) and that tPA, plasminogen, and proBDNF chimeras are extensively copackaged in DCGs throughout hippocampal neurons. We also find that 80% of spines that contain DCGs contain chimeras of these neuromodulators in the same DCG. Finally, we demonstrate, for the first time, that neuromodulators undergo cotransport along dendrites in rapidly mobile DCGs, indicating that neuromodulators can be efficiently recruited into active spines. These results support the hypothesis that tPA mediates synaptic activation of BDNF by demonstrating that tPA, plasminogen, and proBDNF colocalize in DCGs in spines, where these neuromodulators can undergo activity-dependent release and then interact and/or mediate changes that influence synaptic efficacy. The results also raise the possibility that frequency-dependent changes in extents of neuromodulator release from DCGs influence the direction of plasticity at hippocampal synapses by altering the relative proportions of two proteins, mBDNF and proBDNF, that exert opposing effects on synaptic efficacy.
View details for Web of Science ID 000258259300003
View details for PubMedID 18563704