In JoVE (1)

Other Publications (18)

Articles by Eric Batchelor in JoVE

Other articles by Eric Batchelor on PubMed

Robustness and the Cycle of Phosphorylation and Dephosphorylation in a Two-component Regulatory System

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Jan, 2003  |  Pubmed ID: 12522261

The EnvZ/OmpR system in Escherichia coli, which regulates the expression of the porins OmpF and OmpC, is one of the simplest and best-characterized examples of two-component signaling. Like many other histidine kinases, EnvZ is bifunctional; it phosphorylates and dephosphorylates the response regulator OmpR. We have analyzed a mathematical model of the EnvZ-mediated cycle of OmpR phosphorylation and dephosphorylation. The model predicts that when EnvZ is much less abundant than OmpR, as is the case in E. coli, the steady-state level of phosphorylated OmpR (OmpR-P) is insensitive to variations in the concentration of EnvZ. The model also predicts that the level of OmpR-P is insensitive to variations in the concentration of OmpR when the OmpR concentration is sufficiently high. To test these predictions, we have perturbed the porin regulatory circuit in E. coli by varying the expression levels of EnvZ and OmpR. We have constructed two-color fluorescent reporter strains in which ompF and ompC transcription can be easily measured in the same culture. Using these strains we have shown that, consistent with the predictions of our model, the transcription of ompC and ompF is indeed robust or insensitive to a wide range of expression levels of both EnvZ and OmpR.

Continuous Control in Bacterial Regulatory Circuits

Journal of Bacteriology. Nov, 2004  |  Pubmed ID: 15516575

We show that for two well-characterized regulatory circuits in Escherichia coli, Tn10 tetracycline resistance and porin osmoregulation, the transcriptional outputs in individual cells are graded functions of the applied stimuli. These systems are therefore examples of naturally occurring regulatory circuits that exhibit continuous control of transcription. Surprisingly, however, we find that porin osmoregulation is open loop; i.e., the porin expression level does not feed back into the regulatory circuit. This mode of control is particularly interesting for an organism such as E. coli, which proliferates in diverse environments, and raises important questions regarding the biologically relevant inputs and outputs for this system.

The Escherichia Coli CpxA-CpxR Envelope Stress Response System Regulates Expression of the Porins OmpF and OmpC

Journal of Bacteriology. Aug, 2005  |  Pubmed ID: 16077119

We performed transposon mutagenesis of a two-color fluorescent reporter strain to identify new regulators of the porin genes ompF and ompC in Escherichia coli. Screening of colonies by fluorescence microscopy revealed numerous mutants that exhibited interesting patterns of porin expression. One mutant harbored an insertion in the gene encoding the histidine kinase CpxA, the sensor for a two-component signaling system that responds to envelope stress. The cpxA mutant exhibited increased transcription of ompC and a very strong decrease in transcription of ompF under conditions in which acetyl phosphate levels were high. Subsequent genetic analysis revealed that this phenotype is dependent on phosphorylation of the response regulator CpxR and that activation of CpxA in wild-type cells results in similar regulation of porin expression. Using DNase I footprinting, we demonstrated that CpxR binds upstream of both the ompF and ompC promoters. It thus appears that two distinct two-component systems, CpxA-CpxR and EnvZ-OmpR, converge at the porin promoters. Within the context of envelope stress, outer membrane beta-barrel proteins have generally been associated with the sigma E pathway. However, at least for the classical porins OmpF and OmpC, our results show that the Cpx envelope stress response system plays a role in regulating their expression.

Imaging OmpR Localization in Escherichia Coli

Molecular Microbiology. Mar, 2006  |  Pubmed ID: 16553882

We have used a fusion of GFP to the response regulator OmpR to image the spatial distribution of OmpR in live cells of Escherichia coli. We observed foci of increased OmpR-GFP fluorescence that appear to be due to interactions with the histidine kinase EnvZ. We also observed colocalization of OmpR-GFP with clusters of plasmids carrying OmpR binding sites, which enabled us to develop a simple method for imaging the binding of OmpR to DNA in live cells. We used the peak fluorescence intensity within cells to quantify the extent of OmpR-GFP localization either due to interactions with EnvZ or due to binding DNA. With these assays we compared the effects of osmolarity and procaine, both of which are believed to modulate EnvZ activity. Our results suggest that, at least under our growth conditions, procaine activates EnvZ-OmpR signalling whereas osmolarity has, at best, a weak effect on the EnvZ-OmpR system.

Recurrent Initiation: a Mechanism for Triggering P53 Pulses in Response to DNA Damage

Molecular Cell. May, 2008  |  Pubmed ID: 18471974

DNA damage initiates a series of p53 pulses. Although much is known about the interactions surrounding p53, little is known about which interactions contribute to p53's dynamical behavior. The simplest explanation is that these pulses are oscillations intrinsic to the p53/Mdm2 negative feedback loop. Here we present evidence that this simple mechanism is insufficient to explain p53 pulses; we show that p53 pulses are externally driven by pulses in the upstream signaling kinases, ATM and Chk2, and that the negative feedback between p53 and ATM, via Wip1, is essential for maintaining the uniform shape of p53 pulses. We propose that p53 pulses result from repeated initiation by ATM, which is reactivated by persistent DNA damage. Our study emphasizes the importance of collecting quantitative dynamic information at high temporal resolution for understanding the regulation of signaling pathways and opens new ways to manipulate p53 pulses to ask questions about their function in response to DNA damage.

The Ups and Downs of P53: Understanding Protein Dynamics in Single Cells

Nature Reviews. Cancer. 05, 2009  |  Pubmed ID: 19360021

Cells living in a complex environment must constantly detect, process and appropriately respond to changing signals. Therefore, all cellular information processing is dynamic in nature. As a consequence, understanding the process of signal transduction often requires detailed quantitative analysis of dynamic behaviours. Here, we focus on the oscillatory dynamics of the tumour suppressor protein p53 as a model for studying protein dynamics in single cells to better understand its regulation and function.

Basal Dynamics of P53 Reveal Transcriptionally Attenuated Pulses in Cycling Cells

Cell. Jul, 2010  |  Pubmed ID: 20598361

The tumor suppressor p53 is activated by stress and leads to cellular outcomes such as apoptosis and cell-cycle arrest. Its activation must be highly sensitive to ensure that cells react appropriately to damage. However, proliferating cells often encounter transient damage during normal growth, where cell-cycle arrest or apoptosis may be unfavorable. How does the p53 pathway achieve the right balance between high sensitivity and tolerance to intrinsic damage? Using quantitative time-lapse microscopy of individual human cells, we found that proliferating cells show spontaneous pulses of p53, which are triggered by an excitable mechanism during cell-cycle phases associated with intrinsic DNA damage. However, in the absence of sustained damage, posttranslational modifications keep p53 inactive, preventing it from inducing p21 expression and cell-cycle arrest. Our approach of quantifying basal dynamics in individual cells can now be used to study how other pathways in human cells achieve sensitivity in noisy environments.

Fourier Analysis and Systems Identification of the P53 Feedback Loop

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Jul, 2010  |  Pubmed ID: 20622152

A key circuit in the response of cells to damage is the p53-mdm2 feedback loop. This circuit shows sustained, noisy oscillations in individual human cells following DNA breaks. Here, we apply an engineering approach known as systems identification to quantify the in vivo interactions in the circuit on the basis of accurate measurements of its power spectrum. We obtained oscillation time courses of p53 and Mdm2 protein levels from several hundred cells and analyzed their Fourier spectra. We find characteristic spectra with distinct low-frequency components that are well-described by a third-order linear model with white noise. The model identifies the sign and strength of the known interactions, including a negative feedback loop between p53 and its upstream regulator. It also implies that noise can trigger and maintain the oscillations. The model also captures the power spectra of p53 dynamics without DNA damage. Parameters such as noise amplitudes and protein lifetimes are estimated. This approach employs natural biological noise as a diagnostic that stimulates the system at many frequencies at once. It seems to be a useful way to find the in vivo design of circuits and may be applied to other systems by monitoring their power spectrum in individual cells.

A Synthetic-natural Hybrid Oscillator in Human Cells

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Sep, 2010  |  Pubmed ID: 20837528

Recent studies have shown that many cell-signaling networks contain interactions and feedback loops that give rise to complex dynamics. Synthetic biology has allowed researchers to construct and analyze well-defined signaling circuits exhibiting behavior that can be predicted and quantitatively understood. Combining these approaches--wiring natural network components together with engineered interactions--has the potential to precisely modulate the dynamics of endogenous signaling processes and control the cell decisions they influence. Here, we focus on the p53 signaling pathway as a template for constructing a tunable oscillator comprised of both natural and synthetic components in mammalian cells. We find that a reduced p53 circuit implementing a single feedback loop preserves some features of the full network's dynamics, exhibiting pulses of p53 with tightly controlled timing. However, in contrast to the full natural p53 network, these pulses are damped in individual cells, with amplitude that depends on the input strength. Guided by a computational model of the reduced circuit, we constructed and analyzed circuit variants supplemented with synthetic positive and negative feedback loops and subjected to chemical perturbation. Our work demonstrates that three important features of oscillator dynamics--amplitude, period, and the rate of damping--can be controlled by manipulating stimulus level, interaction strength, and feedback topology. The approaches taken here may be useful for the rational design of synthetic networks with defined dynamics, and for identifying perturbations that control dynamics in natural biological circuits for research or therapeutic purposes.

Stimulus-dependent Dynamics of P53 in Single Cells

Molecular Systems Biology. May, 2011  |  Pubmed ID: 21556066

Many biological networks respond to various inputs through a common signaling molecule that triggers distinct cellular outcomes. One potential mechanism for achieving specific input-output relationships is to trigger distinct dynamical patterns in response to different stimuli. Here we focused on the dynamics of p53, a tumor suppressor activated in response to cellular stress. We quantified the dynamics of p53 in individual cells in response to UV and observed a single pulse that increases in amplitude and duration in proportion to the UV dose. This graded response contrasts with the previously described series of fixed pulses in response to γ-radiation. We further found that while γ-triggered p53 pulses are excitable, the p53 response to UV is not excitable and depends on continuous signaling from the input-sensing kinases. Using mathematical modeling and experiments, we identified feedback loops that contribute to specific features of the stimulus-dependent dynamics of p53, including excitability and input-duration dependency. Our study shows that different stresses elicit different temporal profiles of p53, suggesting that modulation of p53 dynamics might be used to achieve specificity in this network.

Suppressing Variation in Synthetic Circuits

Molecular Systems Biology. Aug, 2011  |  Pubmed ID: 21811231

P53 Dynamics Control Cell Fate

Science (New York, N.Y.). Jun, 2012  |  Pubmed ID: 22700930

Cells transmit information through molecular signals that often show complex dynamical patterns. The dynamic behavior of the tumor suppressor p53 varies depending on the stimulus; in response to double-strand DNA breaks, it shows a series of repeated pulses. Using a computational model, we identified a sequence of precisely timed drug additions that alter p53 pulses to instead produce a sustained p53 response. This leads to the expression of a different set of downstream genes and also alters cell fate: Cells that experience p53 pulses recover from DNA damage, whereas cells exposed to sustained p53 signaling frequently undergo senescence. Our results show that protein dynamics can be an important part of a signal, directly influencing cellular fate decisions.

Modeling Cell Heterogeneity: from Single-cell Variations to Mixed Cells

Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing. Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing. 2013  |  Pubmed ID: 23424148

Emerging technologies such as single cell gene expression analysis and single cell genome sequencing provide an unprecedented opportunity to quantitatively probe biological interactions at the single cell level. This new level of insight has begun to reveal a more accurate picture of cellular behavior, and to highlight the importance of understanding cellular variation in a wide range of biological contexts. The aim of this workshop is to bring together researchers working on identifying and modeling cell heterogeneity that arises by a variety of mechanisms, including but not limited to cell-to-cell noise, cell-state switches and cell differentiation, heterogeneity in immune responses, cancer evolution, and heterogeneity in disease progression.

Promoter Decoding of Transcription Factor Dynamics

Molecular Systems Biology. Nov, 2013  |  Pubmed ID: 24189398

Using Computational Modeling and Experimental Synthetic Perturbations to Probe Biological Circuits

Methods in Molecular Biology (Clifton, N.J.). 2015  |  Pubmed ID: 25487101

This chapter describes approaches for using computational modeling of synthetic biology perturbations to analyze endogenous biological circuits, with a particular focus on signaling and metabolic pathways. We describe a bottom-up approach in which ordinary differential equations are constructed to model the core interactions of a pathway of interest. We then discuss methods for modeling synthetic perturbations that can be used to investigate properties of the natural circuit. Keeping in mind the importance of the interplay between modeling and experimentation, we next describe experimental methods for constructing synthetic perturbations to test the computational predictions. Finally, we present a case study of the p53 tumor-suppressor pathway, illustrating the process of modeling the core network, designing informative synthetic perturbations in silico, and testing the predictions in vivo.

Far Upstream Element Binding Protein Plays a Crucial Role in Embryonic Development, Hematopoiesis, and Stabilizing Myc Expression Levels

The American Journal of Pathology. Mar, 2016  |  Pubmed ID: 26774856

The transcription factor far upstream element binding protein (FBP) binds and activates the MYC promoter when far upstream element is via TFIIH helicase activity early in the transcription cycle. The fundamental biology and pathology of FBP are complex. In some tumors FBP seems pro-oncogenic, whereas in others it is a tumor suppressor. We generated an FBP knockout (Fubp1(-/-)) mouse to study FBP deficiency. FBP is embryo lethal from embryonic day 10.5 to birth. A spectrum of pathology is associated with FBP loss; besides cerebral hyperplasia and pulmonary hypoplasia, pale livers, hypoplastic spleen, thymus, and bone marrow, cardiac hypertrophy, placental distress, and small size were all indicative of anemia. Immunophenotyping of hematopoietic cells in wild-type versus knockout livers revealed irregular trilineage anemia, with deficits in colony formation. Despite normal numbers of hematopoietic stem cells, transplantation of Fubp1(-/-) hematopoietic stem cells into irradiated mice entirely failed to reconstitute hematopoiesis. In competitive transplantation assays against wild-type donor bone marrow, Fubp1(-/-) hematopoietic stem cells functioned only sporadically at a low level. Although cultures of wild-type mouse embryo fibroblasts set Myc levels precisely, Myc levels of mouse varied wildly between fibroblasts harvested from different Fubp1(-/-) embryos, suggesting that FBP contributes to Myc set point fixation. FBP helps to hold multiple physiologic processes to close tolerances, at least in part by constraining Myc expression.

P53 Pulses Diversify Target Gene Expression Dynamics in an MRNA Half-Life-Dependent Manner and Delineate Co-regulated Target Gene Subnetworks

Cell Systems. Apr, 2016  |  Pubmed ID: 27135539

The transcription factor p53 responds to DNA double-strand breaks by increasing in concentration in a series of pulses of fixed amplitude, duration, and period. How p53 pulses influence the dynamics of p53 target gene expression is not understood. Here, we show that, in bulk cell populations, patterns of p53 target gene expression cluster into groups with stereotyped temporal behaviors, including pulsing and rising dynamics. These behaviors correlate statistically with the mRNA decay rates of target genes: short mRNA half-lives produce pulses of gene expression. This relationship can be recapitulated by mathematical models of p53-dependent gene expression in single cells and cell populations. Single-cell transcriptional profiling demonstrates that expression of a subset of p53 target genes is coordinated across time within single cells; p53 pulsing attenuates this coordination. These results help delineate how p53 orchestrates the complex DNA damage response and give insight into the function of pulsatile signaling pathways.

Disabled Cell Density Sensing Leads to Dysregulated Cholesterol Synthesis in Glioblastoma

Oncotarget. Jan, 2017  |  Pubmed ID: 28118603

A hallmark of cellular transformation is the evasion of contact-dependent inhibition of growth. To find new therapeutic targets for glioblastoma, we looked for pathways that are inhibited by high cell density in astrocytes but not in glioma cells. Here we report that glioma cells have disabled the normal controls on cholesterol synthesis. At high cell density, astrocytes turn off cholesterol synthesis genes and have low cholesterol levels, but glioma cells keep this pathway on and maintain high cholesterol. Correspondingly, cholesterol pathway upregulation is associated with poor prognosis in glioblastoma patients. Densely-plated glioma cells increase oxygen consumption, aerobic glycolysis, and the pentose phosphate pathway to synthesize cholesterol, resulting in a decrease in reactive oxygen species, TCA cycle intermediates, and ATP. This constitutive cholesterol synthesis is controlled by the cell cycle, as it can be turned off by cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors and it correlates with disabled cell cycle control though loss of p53 and RB. Finally, glioma cells, but not astrocytes, are sensitive to cholesterol synthesis inhibition downstream of the mevalonate pathway, suggesting that specifically targeting cholesterol synthesis might be an effective treatment for glioblastoma.

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