Comprehensive and quantitative mapping of RNA-protein interactions across a transcribed eukaryotic genome.

RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) control the fate of nearly every transcript in a cell. However, no existing approach for studying these posttranscriptional gene regulators combines transcriptome-wide throughput and biophysical precision. Here, we describe an assay that accomplishes this. Using commonly available hardware, we built a customizable, open-source platform that leverages the inherent throughput of Illumina technology for direct biophysical measurements. We used the platform to quantitatively measure the binding affinity of the prototypical RBP Vts1 for every transcript in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae genome. The scale and precision of these measurements revealed many previously unknown features of this well-studied RBP. Our transcribed genome array (TGA) assayed both rare and abundant transcripts with equivalent proficiency, revealing hundreds of low-abundance targets missed by previous approaches. These targets regulated diverse biological processes including nutrient sensing and the DNA damage response, and implicated Vts1 in de novo gene "birth." TGA provided single-nucleotide resolution for each binding site and delineated a highly specific sequence and structure motif for Vts1 binding. Changes in transcript levels in vts1Δ cells established the regulatory function of these binding sites. The impact of Vts1 on transcript abundance was largely independent of where it bound within an mRNA, challenging prevailing assumptions about how this RBP drives RNA degradation. TGA thus enables a quantitative description of the relationship between variant RNA structures, affinity, and in vivo phenotype on a transcriptome-wide scale. We anticipate that TGA will provide similarly comprehensive and quantitative insights into the function of virtually any RBP.




Epigenomics of human CD8 T cell differentiation and aging

The efficacy of the adaptive immune response declines markedly with age, but the cell-intrinsic mechanisms driving immune aging in humans remain poorly understood. Immune aging is characterized by a loss of self-renewing naïve cells and the accumulation of differentiated but dysfunctional cells within the CD8 T cell compartment. Using the assay for transposase-accessible chromatin using sequencing, we inferred that the transcription factor binding activities correlated with naïve and central and effector memory CD8 T cell states in young adults. Integrating our results with RNA sequencing, we identified transcription networks associated with CD8 T cell differentiation, with prominent roles implicated for BATF, ETS1, Eomes, and Sp1. Extending our analysis to aged humans, we found that the differences between the memory and naïve CD8 T cell subsets were largely preserved across age but that naïve and central memory cells from older individuals exhibited a shift toward more differentiated patterns of chromatin openness. In addition, aged naïve cells displayed a loss in chromatin accessibility at gene promoters, largely associated with a decrease in nuclear respiratory factor 1 (NRF1) binding. This shift was implicated in a marked drop-off in the ability of the aged naïve cells to transcribe respiratory chain genes, which may explain the reduced capacity of oxidative phosphorylation in older naïve cells. Our findings identify BATF- and NRF1-driven gene regulation as potential targets for delaying CD8 T cell aging and restoring function.




Single-cell epigenomic variability reveals functional cancer heterogeneity

We develop a strategy to bridge the gap between measurement and function in single-cell epigenomics. Using single-cell chromatin accessibility and RNA-seq data in K562 leukemic cells, we identify the cell surface marker CD24 as co-varying with chromatin accessibility changes linked to GATA transcription factors in single cells. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting of CD24 high versus low cells prospectively isolated GATA1 and GATA2 high versus low cells. GATA high versus low cells express differential gene regulatory networks, differential sensitivity to the drug imatinib mesylate, and differential self-renewal capacity. Lineage tracing experiments show that GATA/CD24hi cells have the capability to rapidly reconstitute the heterogeneity within the entire starting population, suggesting that GATA expression levels drive a phenotypically relevant source of epigenomic plasticity.




Landscape of monoallelic DNA accessibility in mouse embryonic stem cells and neural progenitor cells

We developed an allele-specific assay for transposase-accessible chromatin with high-throughput sequencing (ATAC–seq) to genotype and profile active regulatory DNA across the genome. Using a mouse hybrid F1 system, we found that monoallelic DNA accessibility across autosomes was pervasive, developmentally programmed and composed of several patterns. Genetically determined accessibility was enriched at distal enhancers, but random monoallelically accessible (RAMA) elements were enriched at promoters and may act as gatekeepers of monoallelic mRNA expression. Allelic choice at RAMA elements was stable across cell generations and bookmarked through mitosis. RAMA elements in neural progenitor cells were biallelically accessible in embryonic stem cells but premarked with bivalent histone modifications; one allele was silenced during differentiation. Quantitative analysis indicated that allelic choice at the majority of RAMA elements is consistent with a stochastic process; however, up to 30% of RAMA elements may deviate from the expected pattern, suggesting a regulated or counting mechanism.




Variable chromatin structure revealed by in situ spatially correlated DNA cleavage mapping

Chromatin structure at the length scale encompassing local nucleosome–nucleosome interactions is thought to play a crucial role in regulating transcription and access to DNA1, 2, 3. However, this secondary structure of chromatin remains poorly understood compared with the primary structure of single nucleosomes or the tertiary structure of long-range looping interactions4. Here we report the first genome-wide map of chromatin conformation in human cells at the 1–3 nucleosome (50–500 bp) scale, obtained using ionizing radiation-induced spatially correlated cleavage of DNA with sequencing (RICC-seq) to identify DNA–DNA contacts that are spatially proximal. Unbiased analysis of RICC-seq signal reveals regional enrichment of DNA fragments characteristic of alternating rather than adjacent nucleosome interactions in tri-nucleosome units, particularly in H3K9me3-marked heterochromatin. We infer differences in the likelihood of nucleosome–nucleosome contacts among open chromatin, H3K27me3-marked, and H3K9me3-marked repressed chromatin regions. After calibrating RICC-seq signal to three-dimensional distances, we show that compact two-start helical fibre structures with stacked alternating nucleosomes are consistent with RICC-seq fragmentation patterns from H3K9me3-marked chromatin, while non-compact structures and solenoid structures are consistent with open chromatin. Our data support a model of chromatin architecture in intact interphase nuclei consistent with variable longitudinal compaction of two-start helical fibres.




ATAC-see reveals the accessible genome by transposase-mediated imaging and sequencing

Spatial organization of the genome plays a central role in gene expression, DNA replication, and repair. But current epigenomic approaches largely map DNA regulatory elements outside of the native context of the nucleus. Here we report assay of transposase-accessible chromatin with visualization (ATAC-see), a transposase-mediated imaging technology that employs direct imaging of the accessible genome in situ, cell sorting, and deep sequencing to reveal the identity of the imaged elements. ATAC-see revealed the cell-type-specific spatial organization of the accessible genome and the coordinated process of neutrophil chromatin extrusion, termed NETosis. Integration of ATAC-see with flow cytometry enables automated quantitation and prospective cell isolation as a function of chromatin accessibility, and it reveals a cell-cycle dependence of chromatin accessibility that is especially dynamic in G1 phase. The integration of imaging and epigenomics provides a general and scalable approach for deciphering the spatiotemporal architecture of gene control.




HiChIP: efficient and sensitive analysis of protein-directed genome architecture

Genome conformation is central to gene control but challenging to interrogate. Here we present HiChIP, a protein-centric chromatin conformation method. HiChIP improves the yield of conformation-informative reads by over 10-fold and lowers the input requirement over 100-fold relative to that of ChIA-PET. HiChIP of cohesin reveals multiscale genome architecture with greater signal-to-background ratios than those of in situ Hi-C.




Lineage-specific and single-cell chromatin accessibility charts human hematopoiesis and leukemia evolution

We define the chromatin accessibility and transcriptional landscapes in 13 human primary blood cell types that span the hematopoietic hierarchy. Exploiting the finding that the enhancer landscape better reflects cell identity than mRNA levels, we enable 'enhancer cytometry' for enumeration of pure cell types from complex populations. We identify regulators governing hematopoietic differentiation and further show the lineage ontogeny of genetic elements linked to diverse human diseases. In acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chromatin accessibility uncovers unique regulatory evolution in cancer cells with a progressively increasing mutation burden. Single AML cells exhibit distinctive mixed regulome profiles corresponding to disparate developmental stages. A method to account for this regulatory heterogeneity identified cancer-specific deviations and implicated HOX factors as key regulators of preleukemic hematopoietic stem cell characteristics. Thus, regulome dynamics can provide diverse insights into hematopoietic development and disease.




Nfib promotes Metastasis through a Widespread Increase in Chromatin Accessibility

Metastases are the main cause of cancer deaths, but the mechanisms underlying metastatic progression remain poorly understood. We have isolated pure populations of cancer cells from primary tumors and metastases from a genetically engineered mouse model of human small cell lung cancer (SCLC) to investigate the mechanisms that drive the metastatic spread of this lethal cancer. Genome-wide characterization of chromatin accessibility has revealed the opening of large numbers of distal regulatory elements across the genome during metastatic progression. These changes correlate with copy number amplification of the Nfib locus, and differentially accessible sites were highly enriched for Nfib transcription factor binding sites. Nfib is necessary and sufficient to increase chromatin accessibility at a large subset of the intergenic regions. Nfib promotes pro-metastatic neuronal gene expression programs and drives the metastatic ability of SCLC cells. The identification of widespread chromatin changes during SCLC progression reveals an unexpected global reprogramming during metastatic progression.




Identification of significantly mutated regions across cancer types highlights a rich landscape of functional molecular alterations

Cancer sequencing studies have primarily identified cancer driver genes by the accumulation of protein-altering mutations. An improved method would be annotation independent, sensitive to unknown distributions of functions within proteins and inclusive of noncoding drivers. We employed density-based clustering methods in 21 tumor types to detect variably sized significantly mutated regions (SMRs). SMRs reveal recurrent alterations across a spectrum of coding and noncoding elements, including transcription factor binding sites and untranslated regions mutated in up to ~15% of specific tumor types. SMRs demonstrate spatial clustering of alterations in molecular domains and at interfaces, often with associated changes in signaling. Mutation frequencies in SMRs demonstrate that distinct protein regions are differentially mutated across tumor types, as exemplified by a linker region of PIK3CA in which biophysical simulations suggest that mutations affect regulatory interactions. The functional diversity of SMRs underscores both the varied mechanisms of oncogenic misregulation and the advantage of functionally agnostic driver identification.




[Review] Beyond the Linear Genome: Paired-End Sequencing as a Biophysical Tool.

Paired-end sequencing has enabled a variety of new methods for high-throughput interrogation of both genome structure and chromatin architecture. Here, we discuss how the paired-end paradigm can be used to interpret sequencing data as biophysical measurements of in vivo chromatin structure that report on single molecules in single cells.




Structured nucleosome fingerprints enable high-resolution mapping of chromatin architecture within regulatory regions

Transcription factors canonically bind nucleosome-free DNA, making the positioning of nucleosomes within regulatory regions crucial to the regulation of gene expression. Using the assay of transposase accessible chromatin (ATAC-seq), we observe a highly structured pattern of DNA fragment lengths and positions around nucleosomes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and use this distinctive two-dimensional nucleosomal “fingerprint” as the basis for a new nucleosome-positioning algorithm called NucleoATAC. We show that NucleoATAC can identify the rotational and translational positions of nucleosomes with up to base-pair resolution and provide quantitative measures of nucleosome occupancy in S. cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, and human cells. We demonstrate the application of NucleoATAC to a number of outstanding problems in chromatin biology, including analysis of sequence features underlying nucleosome positioning, promoter chromatin architecture across species, identification of transient changes in nucleosome occupancy and positioning during a dynamic cellular response, and integrated analysis of nucleosome occupancy and transcription factor binding.




Individuality and Variation of Personal Regulomes in Primary Human T Cells

Here, we survey variation and dynamics of active regulatory elements genome-wide using longitudinal samples from human individuals. We applied Assay of Transposase Accessible Chromatin with sequencing (ATAC-seq) to map chromatin accessibility in primary CD4+ T cells isolated from standard blood draws from 12 healthy volunteers over time, from cancer patients, and during T-cell activation. Over 4,000 predicted regulatory elements (7.2%) showed reproducible variation in accessibility between individuals. Gender was the most significant attributable source of variation. ATAC-seq revealed previously undescribed elements that escape X chromosome inactivation and predicted gender-specific gene regulatory networks across autosomes, which coordinately affect genes with immune function. Noisy regulatory elements with personal variation in accessibility are significantly enriched for autoimmune disease loci. Over one third of regulome variation lacked genetic variation in cis, suggesting contributions from environmental or epigenetic factors. These results refine concepts of human individuality and provide a foundational reference for comparing disease-associated regulomes.




Transient acquisition of pluripotency during somatic cell transdifferentiation with iPSC reprogramming factors

Somatic cells can be transdifferentiated to other cell types without passing through a pluripotent state by ectopic expression of appropriate transcription factors. Recent reports have proposed an alternative transdifferentiation method in which fibroblasts are directly converted to various mature somatic cell types by brief expression of the induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) reprogramming factors Oct4, Sox2, Klf4 and c-Myc (OSKM) followed by cell expansion in media that promote lineage differentiation. Here we test this method using genetic lineage tracing for expression of endogenous Nanog and Oct4 and for X chromosome reactivation, as these events mark acquisition of pluripotency. We show that the vast majority of reprogrammed cardiomyocytes or neural stem cells obtained from mouse fibroblasts by OSKM-induced 'transdifferentiation' pass through a transient pluripotent state, and that their derivation is molecularly coupled to iPSC formation mechanisms. Our findings underscore the importance of defining trajectories during cell reprogramming by various methods.




Single-cell chromatin accessibility reveals principles of regulatory variation

Cell-to-cell variation is a universal feature of life that affects a wide range of biological phenomena, from developmental plasticity to tumour heterogeneity. Although recent advances have improved our ability to document cellular phenotypic variation, the fundamental mechanisms that generate variability from identical DNA sequences remain elusive. Here we reveal the landscape and principles of mammalian DNA regulatory variation by developing a robust method for mapping the accessible genome of individual cells by assay for transposase-accessible chromatin using sequencing (ATAC-seq) integrated into a programmable microfluidics platform. Single-cell ATAC-seq (scATAC-seq) maps from hundreds of single cells in aggregate closely resemble accessibility profiles from tens of millions of cells and provide insights into cell-to-cell variation. Accessibility variance is systematically associated with specific trans-factors and cis-elements, and we discover combinations of trans-factors associated with either induction or suppression of cell-to-cell variability. We further identify sets of trans-factors associated with cell-type-specific accessibility variance across eight cell types. Targeted perturbations of cell cycle or transcription factor signalling evoke stimulus-specific changes in this observed variability. The pattern of accessibility variation in cis across the genome recapitulates chromosome compartments de novo, linking single-cell accessibility variation to three-dimensional genome organization. Single-cell analysis of DNA accessibility provides new insight into cellular variation of the ‘regulome’.




[Review] Unraveling the 3D genome: genomics tools for multiscale exploration

A decade of rapid method development has begun to yield exciting insights into the 3D architecture of the metazoan genome and the roles it may play in regulating transcription. Here we review core methods and new tools in the modern genomicist's toolbox at three length scales, ranging from single base pairs to megabase-scale chromosomal domains, and discuss the emerging picture of the 3D genome that these tools have revealed. Blind spots remain, especially at intermediate length scales spanning a few nucleosomes, but thanks in part to new technologies that permit targeted alteration of chromatin states and time-resolved studies, the next decade holds great promise for hypothesis-driven research into the mechanisms that drive genome architecture and transcriptional regulation.




ATAC-seq: A Method for Assaying Chromatin Accessibility Genome-Wide

This unit describes Assay for Transposase-Accessible Chromatin with high-throughput sequencing (ATAC-seq), a method for mapping chromatin accessibility genome-wide. This method probes DNA accessibility with hyperactive Tn5 transposase, which inserts sequencing adapters into accessible regions of chromatin. Sequencing reads can then be used to infer regions of increased accessibility, as well as to map regions of transcription-factor binding and nucleosome position. The method is a fast and sensitive alternative to DNase-seq for assaying chromatin accessibility genome-wide, or to MNase-seq for assaying nucleosome positions in accessible regions of the genome.




Assaying the epigenome in limited numbers of cells

Spectacular advances in the throughput of DNA sequencing have allowed genome-wide analysis of epigenetic features such as methylation, nucleosome position and post-translational modification, chromatin accessibility and connectivity, and transcription factor binding. However, for rare or precious biological samples, input requirements of many of these methods limit their application. In this review we discuss recent advances for low-input genome-wide analysis of chromatin immunoprecipitation, methylation, DNA accessibility, and chromatin conformation.




A Conditional System to Specifically Link Disruption of Protein-Coding Function with Reporter Expression in Mice

Transcription by RNA polymerase (RNAP) is interrupted by pauses that play diverse regulatory roles. Although individual pauses have been studied in vitro, the determinants of pauses in vivo and their distribution throughout the bacterial genome remain unknown. Using nascent transcript sequencing we identify a 16-nt consensus pause sequence in E. coli that accounts for known regulatory pause sites as well as ~20,000 new in vivo pause sites. In vitro single-molecule and ensemble analyses demonstrate that these pauses result from RNAP/nucleic-acid interactions that inhibit next-nucleotide addition. The consensus sequence also leads to pausing by RNAPs from diverse lineages and is enriched at translation start sites in both E. coli and B. subtilis. Our results thus reveal a conserved mechanism unifying known and newly identified pause events.




A Pause Sequence Enriched at Translation Start Sites Drives Transcription Dynamics in Vivo

Transcription by RNA polymerase (RNAP) is interrupted by pauses that play diverse regulatory roles. Although individual pauses have been studied in vitro, the determinants of pauses in vivo and their distribution throughout the bacterial genome remain unknown. Using nascent transcript sequencing we identify a 16-nt consensus pause sequence in E. coli that accounts for known regulatory pause sites as well as ~20,000 new in vivo pause sites. In vitro single-molecule and ensemble analyses demonstrate that these pauses result from RNAP/nucleic-acid interactions that inhibit next-nucleotide addition. The consensus sequence also leads to pausing by RNAPs from diverse lineages and is enriched at translation start sites in both E. coli and B. subtilis. Our results thus reveal a conserved mechanism unifying known and newly identified pause events.




Quantitative analysis of RNA-protein interactions on a massively parallel array reveals biophysical and evolutionary landscapes

RNA-protein interactions drive fundamental biological processes and are targets for molecular engineering, yet quantitative and comprehensive understanding of the sequence determinants of affinity remains limited. Here we repurpose a high-throughput sequencing instrument to quantitatively measure binding and dissociation of a fluorescently labeled protein to >10^7 RNA targets generated on a flow-cell surface by in situ transcription and intermolecular tethering of RNA to DNA. Studying the MS2 coat protein, we decompose the binding energy contributions from primary and secondary RNA structure, finding that differences in affinity are often driven by sequence-specific changes in both association and dissociation rates. By analyzing the biophysical constraints and modeling mutational paths describing the molecular evolution of MS2 from low- to high-affinity hairpins, we quantify widespread molecular epistasis and a long-hypothesized, structure-dependent preference for G:U base pairs over C:A intermediates in evolutionary trajectories. Our results suggest that quantitative analysis of RNA on a massively parallel array (RNA-MaP) provides generalizable insight into the biophysical basis and evolutionary consequences of sequence-function relationships.




Exome sequencing identifies a DNAJB6 mutation in a family with dominantly-inherited limb-girdle muscular dystrophy

Limb-girdle muscular dystrophy primarily affects the muscles of the hips and shoulders (the "limb-girdle" muscles), although it is a heterogeneous disorder that can present with varying symptoms. There is currently no cure. We sought to identify the genetic basis of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 1 in an American family of Northern European descent using exome sequencing. Exome sequencing was performed on DNA samples from two affected siblings and one unaffected sibling and resulted in the identification of eleven candidate mutations that co-segregated with the disease. Notably, this list included a previously reported mutation in DNAJB6, p.Phe89Ile, which was recently identified as a cause of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 1D. Additional family members were Sanger sequenced and the mutation in DNAJB6 was only found in affected individuals. Subsequent haplotype analysis indicated that this DNAJB6 p.Phe89Ile mutation likely arose independently of the previously reported mutation. Since other published mutations are located close by in the G/F domain of DNAJB6, this suggests that the area may represent a mutational hotspot. Exome sequencing provided an unbiased and effective method for identifying the genetic etiology of limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 1 in a previously genetically uncharacterized family. This work further confirms the causative role of DNAJB6 mutations in limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 1D.



The future of sequencing: convergence of intelligent design and market Darwinism

A report on the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology meeting held in Marco Island, Florida, USA, on February 12–15, 2014.




Pulling out the 1%: Whole-Genome Capture for the Targeted Enrichment of Ancient DNA Sequencing Libraries

Most ancient specimens contain very low levels of endogenous DNA, precluding the shotgun sequencing of many interesting samples because of cost. Ancient DNA (aDNA) libraries often contain <1% endogenous DNA, with the majority of sequencing capacity taken up by environmental DNA. Here we present a capture-based method for enriching the endogenous component of aDNA sequencing libraries. By using biotinylated RNA baits transcribed from genomic DNA libraries, we are able to capture DNA fragments from across the human genome. We demonstrate this method on libraries created from four Iron Age and Bronze Age human teeth from Bulgaria, as well as bone samples from seven Peruvian mummies and a Bronze Age hair sample from Denmark. Prior to capture, shotgun sequencing of these libraries yielded an average of 1.2% of reads mapping to the human genome (including duplicates). After capture, this fraction increased substantially, with up to 59% of reads mapped to human and enrichment ranging from 6- to 159-fold. Furthermore, we maintained coverage of the majority of regions sequenced in the precapture library. Intersection with the 1000 Genomes Project reference panel yielded an average of 50,723 SNPs (range 3,062–147,243) for the postcapture libraries sequenced with 1 million reads, compared with 13,280 SNPs (range 217–73,266) for the precapture libraries, increasing resolution in population genetic analyses. Our whole-genome capture approach makes it less costly to sequence aDNA from specimens containing very low levels of endogenous DNA, enabling the analysis of larger numbers of samples.



Transposition of native chromatin for fast and sensitive epigenomic profiling of open chromatin, DNA-binding proteins and nucleosome position

We describe an assay for transposase-accessible chromatin using sequencing (ATAC-seq), based on direct in vitro transposition of sequencing adaptors into native chromatin, as a rapid and sensitive method for integrative epigenomic analysis. ATAC-seq captures open chromatin sites using a simple two-step protocol with 500-50,000 cells and reveals the interplay between genomic locations of open chromatin, DNA-binding proteins, individual nucleosomes and chromatin compaction at nucleotide resolution. We discovered classes of DNA-binding factors that strictly avoided, could tolerate or tended to overlap with nucleosomes. Using ATAC-seq maps of human CD4(+) T cells from a proband obtained on consecutive days, we demonstrated the feasibility of analyzing an individual's epigenome on a timescale compatible with clinical decision-making.




Digital polymerase chain reaction in an array of femtoliter polydimethylsiloxane microreactors

We developed a simple, compact microfluidic device to perform high dynamic-range digital polymerase chain reaction (dPCR) in an array of isolated 36-femtoliter microreactors. The density of the microreactors exceeded 20000/mm(2). This device, made from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), allows the samples to be loaded into all microreactors simultaneously. The microreactors are completely sealed through the deformation of a PDMS membrane. The small volume of the microreactors ensures a compact device with high reaction efficiency and low reagent and sample consumption. Future potential applications of this platform include multicolor dPCR and massively parallel dPCR for next generation sequencing library preparation.



Fluorogenic DNA sequencing in PDMS microreactors

We developed a multiplex sequencing-by-synthesis method combining terminal phosphate-labeled fluorogenic nucleotides (TPLFNs) and resealable polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) microreactors. In the presence of phosphatase, primer extension by DNA polymerase using nonfluorescent TPLFNs generates fluorophores, which are confined in the microreactors and detected. We immobilized primed DNA templates in the microreactors, then sequentially introduced one of the four identically labeled TPLFNs, sealed the microreactors and recorded a fluorescence image after template-directed primer extension. With cycle times of <10 min, we demonstrate 30 base reads with ∼99% raw accuracy. Our 'fluorogenic pyrosequencing' offers benefits of pyrosequencing, such as rapid turnaround, one-color detection and generation of native DNA, along with high detection sensitivity and simplicity of parallelization because simultaneous real-time monitoring of all microreactors is not required.



[Chapter] An optical apparatus for rotation and trapping

We present details of the design, construction, and testing of a single-beam optical tweezers apparatus capable of measuring and exerting torque, as well as force, on microfabricated, optically anisotropic particles (an "optical torque wrench"). The control of angular orientation is achieved by rotating the linear polarization of a trapping laser with an electro-optic modulator (EOM), which affords improved performance over previous designs. The torque imparted to the trapped particle is assessed by measuring the difference between left- and right-circular components of the transmitted light, and constant torque is maintained by feeding this difference signal back into a custom-designed electronic servo loop. The limited angular range of the EOM (+/-180 degrees ) is extended by rapidly reversing the polarization once a threshold angle is reached, enabling the torque clamp to function over unlimited, continuous rotations at high bandwidth. In addition, we developed particles suitable for rotation in this apparatus using microfabrication techniques. Altogether, the system allows for the simultaneous application of forces (approximately 0.1-100 pN) and torques (approximately 1-10,000 pN nm) in the study of biomolecules. As a proof of principle, we demonstrate how our instrument can be used to study the supercoiling of single DNA molecules.



Direct observation of hierarchical folding in single riboswitch aptamers

Riboswitches regulate genes through structural changes in ligand-binding RNA aptamers. With the use of an optical-trapping assay based on in situ transcription by a molecule of RNA polymerase, single nascent RNAs containing pbuE adenine riboswitch aptamers were unfolded and refolded. Multiple folding states were characterized by means of both force-extension curves and folding trajectories under constant force by measuring the molecular contour length, kinetics, and energetics with and without adenine. Distinct folding steps correlated with the formation of key secondary or tertiary structures and with ligand binding. Adenine-induced stabilization of the weakest helix in the aptamer, the mechanical switch underlying regulatory action, was observed directly. These results provide an integrated view of hierarchical folding in an aptamer, demonstrating how complex folding can be resolved into constituent parts, and supply further insights into tertiary structure formation.



Applied force reveals mechanistic and energetic details of transcription termination

Transcription termination by bacterial RNA polymerase (RNAP) occurs at sequences coding for a GC-rich RNA hairpin followed by a U-rich tract. We used single-molecule techniques to investigate the mechanism by which three representative terminators (his, t500, and tR2) destabilize the elongation complex (EC). For his and tR2 terminators, loads exerted to bias translocation did not affect termination efficiency (TE). However, the force-dependent kinetics of release and the force-dependent TE of a mutant imply a forward translocation mechanism for the t500 terminator. Tension on isolated U-tracts induced transcript release in a manner consistent with RNA:DNA hybrid shearing. We deduce that different mechanisms, involving hypertranslocation or shearing, operate at terminators with different U-tracts. Tension applied to RNA at terminators suggests that closure of the final 2-3 hairpin bases destabilizes the hybrid and that competing RNA structures modulate TE. We propose a quantitative, energetic model that predicts the behavior for these terminators and mutant variants.



[Review] Single molecule measurements of RNA polymerase: motoring along

Single-molecule techniques have advanced our understanding of transcription by RNA polymerase (RNAP). A new arsenal of approaches, including single-molecule fluorescence, atomic-force microscopy, magnetic tweezers, and optical traps (OTs) have been employed to probe the many facets of the transcription cycle. These approaches supply fresh insights into the means by which RNAP identifies a promoter, initiates transcription, translocates and pauses along the DNA template, proofreads errors, and ultimately terminates transcription. Results from single-molecule experiments complement the knowledge gained from biochemical and genetic assays by facilitating the observation of states that are otherwise obscured by ensemble averaging, such as those resulting from heterogeneity in molecular structure, elongation rate, or pause propensity. Most studies to date have been performed with bacterial RNAP, but work is also being carried out with eukaryotic polymerase (Pol II) and single-subunit polymerases from bacteriophages. We discuss recent progress achieved by single-molecule studies, highlighting some of the unresolved questions and ongoing debates.



[Review] High-resolution, single-molecule measurements of biomolecular motion

Many biologically important macromolecules undergo motions that are essential to their function. Biophysical techniques can now resolve the motions of single molecules down to the nanometer scale or even below, providing new insights into the mechanisms that drive molecular movements. This review outlines the principal approaches that have been used for high-resolution measurements of single-molecule motion, including centroid tracking, fluorescence resonance energy transfer, magnetic tweezers, atomic force microscopy, and optical traps. For each technique, the principles of operation are outlined, the capabilities and typical applications are examined, and various practical issues for implementation are considered. Extensions to these methods are also discussed, with an eye toward future application to outstanding biological problems.



Single-molecule, motion-based DNA sequencing using RNA polymerase

We present a method for sequencing DNA that relies on the motion of single RNA polymerase molecules. When a given nucleotide species limits the rate of transcription, polymerase molecules pause at positions corresponding to the rare base. An ultrastable optical trapping apparatus capable of base pair resolution was used to monitor transcription under limiting amounts of each of the four nucleotide species. From the aligned patterns of pauses recorded from as few as four molecules, we determined the DNA sequence. This proof of principle demonstrates that the motion of a processive nucleic acid enzyme may be used to extract sequence information directly from DNA.



Direct observation of basepair stepping by RNA polymerase

During transcription, RNA polymerase (RNAP) moves processively along a DNA template, creating a complementary RNA. Here we present the development of an ultra-stable optical trapping system with ångström-level resolution, which we used to monitor transcriptional elongation by single molecules of Escherichia coli RNAP. Records showed discrete steps averaging 3.7 +/- 0.6 A, a distance equivalent to the mean rise per base found in B-DNA. By combining our results with quantitative gel analysis, we conclude that RNAP advances along DNA by a single base pair per nucleotide addition to the nascent RNA. We also determined the force-velocity relationship for transcription at both saturating and sub-saturating nucleotide concentrations; fits to these data returned a characteristic distance parameter equivalent to one base pair. Global fits were inconsistent with a model for movement incorporating a power stroke tightly coupled to pyrophosphate release, but consistent with a brownian ratchet model incorporating a secondary NTP binding site.



Passive all-optical force clamp for high resolution laser trapping

Optical traps are useful for studying the effects of forces on single molecules. Feedback-based force clamps are often used to maintain a constant load, but the response time of the feedback limits bandwidth and can introduce instability. We developed a novel force clamp that operates without feedback, taking advantage of the anharmonic region of the trapping potential where the differential stiffness vanishes. We demonstrate the utility of such a force clamp by measuring the unfolding of DNA hairpins and the effect of trap stiffness on opening distance and transition rates.



Atomic force microscopy captures quantized plastic deformation in gold nanowires

Scanning probe microscopy has become a powerful tool to detect structural changes in small clusters of atoms. Herein, we use an atomic force microscope to measure the length of gold nanowire structures during extension and compression cycles. We have found that nanowires elongate under force in quantized steps of up to three integer multiples of 1.76 A and that they shorten spontaneously in steps of 1.52 A. Our results can be explained by the sliding of crystal planes within the gold nanowires creating stacking faults that change the local structure from face-centered cubic to hexagonal close packed. Our data also show that there can be up to three simultaneous slip events, in good agreement with the tetrahedral arrangement of slip planes in a gold crystal. These experiments provide direct evidence for the mechanism underlying the plastic deformation of a nanowire. A similar approach can be used to examine the atomic events underlying the plastic failure of other metals and their alloys.



Artificial cavitation nuclei significantly enhance acoustically induced cell transfection

The efficiency of ultrasound-mediated gene transfection was enhanced three- to fourfold, compared to previous results, through the use of green fluorescent protein reporter gene, cultured immortalized human chondrocytes and artificial cavitation nuclei in the form of Albunex. Cells were exposed to 1.0-MHz ultrasound transmitted through the bottom of six-well culture plates containing immortalized chondrocytes, media, DNA at a concentration of 40 micrograms/mL and Albunex at 50 x 10(6) bubbles/mL. Transfection efficiency increased linearly with ultrasound exposure pressure with a transfection threshold observed at a spatial average peak positive pressure (SAPP) of 0.12 MPa and reaching about 50% of the living cells when exposed to 0.41 MPa SAPP for 20 s. Adding fresh Albunex at 50 x 10(6) bubbles/mL prior to sequential 1-s, 0.32- or 0.41-MPa exposures increased transfection with each exposure, reaching 43% transfection after four exposures. Efficient in vitro and in vivo transfection now appear possible with these enhancements.