Bachelor of Arts, University of California Berkeley (2010)
Doctor of Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2016)
Jan Skotheim, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Current Research and Scholarly Interests
The coordination between cell growth and cell cycle in vivo.
Constitutive expression of a fluorescent protein reports the size of live human cells.
Molecular biology of the cell
Cell size is important for cell physiology because it sets the geometric scale of organelles and biosynthesis. A number of methods exist to measure different aspects of cell size, but each has significant drawbacks. Here, we present an alternative method to measure the size of single human cells using a nuclear localized fluorescent protein expressed from a constitutive promoter. We validate this method by comparing it to several established cell size measurement strategies, including flow cytometry optical scatter, total protein dyes, and quantitative phase microscopy. We directly compare our fluorescent protein measurement to the commonly used measurement of nuclear volume and show that our measurements are more robust and less dependent on image segmentation. We apply our method to examine how cell size impacts the cell division cycle and reaffirm that there is a negative correlation between size at cell birth and G1 duration. Importantly, combining our size reporter with fluorescent labeling of a different protein in a different color channel allows measurement of concentration dynamics using simple wide-field fluorescence imaging. Thus, we expect our method will be of use to researchers interested in how dynamically changing protein concentrations control cell fates. [Media: see text].
View details for DOI 10.1091/mbc.E19-03-0171
View details for PubMedID 31599704
Reversible Disruption of Specific Transcription Factor-DNA Interactions Using CRISPR/Cas9.
2019; 74 (3): 622
The control of gene expression by transcription factor binding sites frequently determines phenotype. However, it is difficult to determine the function of single transcription factor binding sites within larger transcription networks. Here, we use deactivated Cas9 (dCas9) to disrupt binding to specific sites, a method we term CRISPRd. Since CRISPR guide RNAs are longer than transcription factor binding sites, flanking sequence can be used to target specific sites. Targeting dCas9 to an Oct4 site in the Nanog promoter displaced Oct4 from this site, reduced Nanog expression, and slowed division. In contrast, disrupting the Oct4 binding site adjacent to Pax6 upregulated Pax6 transcription and disrupting Nanog binding its own promoter upregulated its transcription. Thus, we can easily distinguish between activating and repressing binding sites and examine autoregulation. Finally, multiple guide RNA expression allows simultaneous inhibition of multiple binding sites, and conditionally destabilized dCas9 allows rapid reversibility.
View details for PubMedID 31051141
Cyclin D-Cdk4,6 Drives Cell-Cycle Progression via the Retinoblastoma Protein's C-Terminal Helix.
The cyclin-dependent kinases Cdk4 and Cdk6 form complexes with D-type cyclins to drive cell proliferation. A well-known target of cyclin D-Cdk4,6 is the retinoblastoma protein Rb, which inhibits cell-cycle progression until its inactivation by phosphorylation. However, the role of Rb phosphorylation by cyclin D-Cdk4,6 in cell-cycle progression is unclear because Rb can be phosphorylated by other cyclin-Cdks, and cyclin D-Cdk4,6 has other targets involved in cell division. Here, we show that cyclin D-Cdk4,6 docks one side of an alpha-helix in theRb C terminus, which is not recognized by cyclins E, A, and B. This helix-based docking mechanism is shared by the p107 and p130 Rb-family members across metazoans. Mutation of the Rb C-terminal helix prevents its phosphorylation, promotes G1 arrest, and enhances Rb's tumor suppressive function. Our work conclusively demonstrates that the cyclin D-Rb interaction drives cell division and expands the diversity of known cyclin-based protein docking mechanisms.
View details for PubMedID 30982746
Loss of G(alpha 12/13) exacerbates apical area dependence of actomyosin contractility
MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF THE CELL
2016; 27 (22): 3526-3536
During development, coordinated cell shape changes alter tissue shape. In the Drosophila ventral furrow and other epithelia, apical constriction of hundreds of epithelial cells folds the tissue. Genes in the Gα12/13 pathway coordinate collective apical constriction, but the mechanism of coordination is poorly understood. Coupling live-cell imaging with a computational approach to identify contractile events, we discovered that differences in constriction behavior are biased by initial cell shape. Disrupting Gα12/13 exacerbates this relationship. Larger apical area is associated with delayed initiation of contractile pulses, lower apical E-cadherin and F-actin levels, and aberrantly mobile Rho-kinase structures. Our results suggest that loss of Gα12/13 disrupts apical actin cortex organization and pulse initiation in a size-dependent manner. We propose that Gα12/13 robustly organizes the apical cortex despite variation in apical area to ensure the timely initiation of contractile pulses in a tissue with heterogeneity in starting cell shape.
View details for DOI 10.1091/mbc.E16-05-0305
View details for Web of Science ID 000387391400014
View details for PubMedID 27489340
RhoA GTPase inhibition organizes contraction during epithelial morphogenesis
JOURNAL OF CELL BIOLOGY
2016; 214 (5): 603–17
During morphogenesis, contraction of the actomyosin cytoskeleton within individual cells drives cell shape changes that fold tissues. Coordination of cytoskeletal contractility is mediated by regulating RhoA GTPase activity. Guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) activate and GTPase-activating proteins (GAPs) inhibit RhoA activity. Most studies of tissue folding, including apical constriction, have focused on how RhoA is activated by GEFs to promote cell contractility, with little investigation as to how GAPs may be important. Here, we identify a critical role for a RhoA GAP, Cumberland GAP (C-GAP), which coordinates with a RhoA GEF, RhoGEF2, to organize spatiotemporal contractility during Drosophila melanogaster apical constriction. C-GAP spatially restricts RhoA pathway activity to a central position in the apical cortex. RhoGEF2 pulses precede myosin, and C-GAP is required for pulsation, suggesting that contractile pulses result from RhoA activity cycling. Finally, C-GAP expression level influences the transition from reversible to irreversible cell shape change, which defines the onset of tissue shape change. Our data demonstrate that RhoA activity cycling and modulating the ratio of RhoGEF2 to C-GAP are required for tissue folding.
View details for DOI 10.1083/jcb.201603077
View details for Web of Science ID 000382597700013
View details for PubMedID 27551058
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5004446
Intracellular signalling and intercellular coupling coordinate heterogeneous contractile events to facilitate tissue folding
2015; 6: 7161
Cellular forces generated in the apical domain of epithelial cells reshape tissues. Recent studies highlighted an important role for dynamic actomyosin contractions, called pulses, that change cell and tissue shape. Net cell shape change depends on whether cell shape is stabilized, or ratcheted, between pulses. Whether there are different classes of contractile pulses in wild-type embryos and how pulses are spatiotemporally coordinated is unknown. Here we develop a computational framework to identify and classify pulses and determine how pulses are coordinated during invagination of the Drosophila ventral furrow. We demonstrate biased transitions in pulse behaviour, where weak or unratcheted pulses transition to ratcheted pulses. The transcription factor Twist directs this transition, with cells in Twist-depleted embryos exhibiting abnormal reversed transitions in pulse behaviour. We demonstrate that ratcheted pulses have higher probability of having neighbouring contractions, and that ratcheting of pulses prevents competition between neighbouring contractions, allowing collective behaviour.
View details for DOI 10.1038/ncomms8161
View details for Web of Science ID 000355534200002
View details for PubMedID 26006267
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4445457