Dynamic spreading of chromatin-mediated gene silencing and reactivation between neighboring genes in single cells.
In mammalian cells genes that are in close proximity can be transcriptionally coupled: silencing or activating one gene can affect its neighbors. Understanding these dynamics is important for natural processes, such as heterochromatin spreading during development and aging, and when designing synthetic gene regulation circuits. Here, we systematically dissect this process in single cells by recruiting and releasing repressive chromatin regulators at dual-gene synthetic reporters, and measuring how fast gene silencing and reactivation spread as a function of intergenic distance and configuration of insulator elements. We find that silencing by KRAB, associated with histone methylation, spreads between two genes within hours, with a time delay that increases with distance. This fast KRAB-mediated spreading is not blocked by the classical cHS4 insulators. Silencing by histone deacetylase HDAC4 of the upstream gene can also facilitate background silencing of the downstream gene by PRC2, but with a days-long delay that does not change with distance. This slower silencing can sometimes be stopped by insulators. Gene reactivation of neighboring genes is also coupled, with strong promoters and insulators determining the order of reactivation. Our data can be described by a model of multi-gene regulation that builds upon previous knowledge of heterochromatin spreading, where both gene silencing and gene reactivation can act at a distance, allowing for coordinated dynamics via chromatin regulator recruitment.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.75115
View details for PubMedID 35678392
Live imaging of Aiptasia larvae, a model system for coral and anemone bleaching, using a simple microfluidic device.
2019; 9 (1): 9275
Coral reefs, and their associated diverse ecosystems, are of enormous ecological importance. In recent years, coral health has been severely impacted by environmental stressors brought on by human activity and climate change, threatening the extinction of several major reef ecosystems. Reef damage is mediated by a process called 'coral bleaching' where corals, sea anemones, and other cnidarians lose their photosynthetic algal symbionts (family Symbiodiniaceae) upon stress induction, resulting in drastically decreased host energy harvest and, ultimately, coral death. The mechanism by which this critical cnidarian-algal symbiosis is lost remains poorly understood. The larvae of the sea anemone, Exaiptasia pallida (commonly referred to as 'Aiptasia') are an attractive model organism to study this process, but they are large (100 mm in length, 75 mm in diameter), deformable, and highly motile, complicating long-term imaging and limiting study of this critical endosymbiotic relationship in live organisms. Here, we report 'Traptasia', a simple microfluidic device with multiple traps designed to isolate and image individual, live larvae of Aiptasia and their algal symbionts over extended time courses. Using a trap design parameterized via fluid flow simulations and polymer bead loading tests, we trapped Aiptasia larvae containing algal symbionts and demonstrated stable imaging for >10 hours. We visualized algae within Aiptasia larvae and observed algal expulsion under an environmental stressor. To our knowledge, this device is the first to enable time-lapsed, high-throughput live imaging of cnidarian larvae and their algal symbionts and, in further implementation, could provide important insights into the cellular mechanisms of cnidarian bleaching under different environmental stressors. The 'Traptasia' device is simple to use, requires minimal external equipment and no specialized training to operate, and can easily be adapted using the trap optimization data presented here to study a variety of large, motile organisms.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-019-45167-2
View details for PubMedID 31239506