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Rxivist combines preprints from bioRxiv with data from Twitter to help you find the papers being discussed in your field. Currently indexing 52,506 bioRxiv papers from 243,425 authors.

Most downloaded bioRxiv papers, since beginning of last month

in category biophysics

2,146 results found. For more information, click each entry to expand.

1: HIV-1 Gag specifically restricts PI(4,5)P2 and cholesterol mobility in living cells creating a nanodomain platform for virus assembly.
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Posted to bioRxiv 21 Feb 2019

HIV-1 Gag specifically restricts PI(4,5)P2 and cholesterol mobility in living cells creating a nanodomain platform for virus assembly.
1,105 downloads biophysics

Cyril Favard, Jakub Chojnacki, Peggy Merida, Naresh Yandrapalli, Johnson Mak, Christian Eggeling, Delphine Muriaux

HIV-1 Gag protein self-assembles at the plasma membrane of infected cells for viral particle formation. Gag targets lipids, mainly the phosphatidylinositol (4,5) bisphosphate, at the inner leaflet of this membrane. Here, we address the question whether Gag is able to trap specifically PI(4,5)P2 or other lipids during HIV-1 assembly in the host CD4+ T lymphocytes. Lipid dynamics within and away from HIV-1 assembly sites was determined using super-resolution STED microscopy coupled with scanning Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy in living T cells. Analysis of HIV-1 infected cells revealed that, upon assembly, HIV-1 is able to specifically trap PI(4,5)P2, and cholesterol, but not phosphatidylethanolamine or sphingomyelin. Furthermore, our data show that Gag is the main driving force to restrict PI(4,5)P2 and cholesterol mobility at the cell plasma membrane. This is first direct evidence showing that HIV-1 creates its own specific lipid environment by selectively recruiting PI(4,5)P2 and cholesterol, as a membrane nano-platform for virus assembly.

2: Single molecule localization microscopy with autonomous feedback loops for ultrahigh precision
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Posted to bioRxiv 05 Dec 2018

Single molecule localization microscopy with autonomous feedback loops for ultrahigh precision
1,083 downloads biophysics

Simao Coelho, Jongho baek, Matthew S Graus, James M Halstead, Philip R Nicovich, Kristen Feher, Hetvi Gandhi, Katharina Gaus

Single-molecule localization microscopy (SMLM) promises to provide truly molecular scale images of biological specimens. However, mechanical instabilities in the instrument, readout errors and sample drift constitute significant challenges and severely limit both the useable data acquisition length and the localization accuracy of single molecule emitters. Here, we developed an actively stabilized total internal fluorescence (TIRF) microscope that performs 3D real-time drift corrections and achieves a stability of ≤1 nm. Self-alignment of the emission light path and corrections of readout errors of the camera automate channel alignment and ensure localization precisions of 1-4 nm in DNA origami structures and cells for different labels. We used Feedback SMLM to measure the separation distance of signaling receptors and phosphatases in T cells. Thus, an improved SMLM enables direct distance measurements between molecules in intact cells on the scale between 1-20 nm, potentially replacing Forster resonance energy transfer (FRET) to quantify molecular interactions. In summary, by overcoming the major bottlenecks in SMLM imaging, it is possible to generate molecular images with nanometer accuracy and conduct distance measurements on the biological relevant length scales.

3: Shake-it-off: A simple ultrasonic cryo-EM specimen preparation device
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Posted to bioRxiv 09 May 2019

Shake-it-off: A simple ultrasonic cryo-EM specimen preparation device
890 downloads biophysics

John L Rubinstein, Hui Guo, Zev A Ripstein, Ali Haydaroglu, Aaron Au, Christopher M. Yip, Justin M Di Trani, Samir Benlekbir, Timothy Kwok

Although microscopes and image analysis software for electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) have improved dramatically in recent years, specimen preparation methods have lagged behind. Most strategies still rely on blotting microscope grids with paper to produce a thin film of solution suitable for vitrification. This approach loses more than 99.9% of the applied sample and requires several seconds, leading to problematic air-water interface interactions for macromolecules in the resulting thin film of solution and complicating time-resolved studies. Recently developed self-wicking EM grids allow use of small volumes of sample, with nanowires on the grid bars removing excess solution to produce a thin film within tens of milliseconds from sample application to freezing. Here we present a simple cryo-EM specimen preparation device that uses components from an ultrasonic humidifier to transfer protein solution onto a self-wicking EM grid. The device is controlled by a Raspberry Pi single board computer and all components are either widely available or can be manufactured by online services, allowing the device to be constructed in laboratories that specialize in cryo-EM, rather than instrument design. The simple open-source design permits straightforward customization of the instrument for specialized experiments.

4: Mechanically Resolved Imaging of Bacteria using Expansion Microscopy
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Posted to bioRxiv 29 Apr 2019

Mechanically Resolved Imaging of Bacteria using Expansion Microscopy
869 downloads biophysics

Youngbin Lim, Margarita Khariton, Keara M Lane, Anthony L Shiver, Katharine M Ng, Samuel R Bray, Jian Qin, Kerwyn Casey Huang, Bo Wang

Imaging dense and diverse microbial communities has broad applications in basic microbiology and medicine, but remains a grand challenge due to the fact that many species adopt similar morphologies. While prior studies have relied on techniques involving spectral labeling, we have developed an expansion microscopy method (µExM) in which cells are physically expanded prior imaging and their expansion patterns depend on the structural and mechanical properties of their cell walls, which vary across species and conditions. We use this phenomenon as a quantitative and sensitive phenotypic imaging contrast orthogonal to spectral separation in order to resolve bacterial cells of different species or in distinct physiological states. Focusing on host-microbe interactions that are difficult to quantify through fluorescence alone, we demonstrate the ability of µExM to distinguish species within a dense community through in vivo imaging of a model gut microbiota, and to sensitively detect cell-envelope damage caused by antibiotics or previously unrecognized cell-to-cell phenotypic heterogeneity among pathogenic bacteria as they infect macrophages.

5: RELION-3: new tools for automated high-resolution cryo-EM structure determination
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Posted to bioRxiv 19 Sep 2018

RELION-3: new tools for automated high-resolution cryo-EM structure determination
680 downloads biophysics

Jasenko Zivanov, Takanori Nakane, Bjorn Forsberg, Dari Kimanius, Wim J.H. Hagen, Erik Lindahl, Sjors Scheres

Here, we describe the third major release of RELION. CPU-based vector acceleration has been added in addition to GPU support, which provides flexibility in use of resources and avoids memory limitations. Reference-free autopicking with Laplacian-of-Gaussian filtering and execution of jobs from python allows non-interactive processing during acquisition, including 2D-classification, de novo model generation and 3D-classification. Per-particle refinement of CTF parameters and correction of estimated beam tilt provides higher-resolution reconstructions when particles are at different heights in the ice, and/or coma-free alignment has not been optimal. Ewald sphere curvature correction improves resolution for large particles. We illustrate these developments with publicly available data sets: together with a Bayesian approach to beam-induced motion correction it leads to resolution improvements of 0.2-0.7 Å compared to previous RELION versions.

6: Automated cryo-EM sample preparation by pin-printing and jet vitrification
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Posted to bioRxiv 28 May 2019

Automated cryo-EM sample preparation by pin-printing and jet vitrification
562 downloads biophysics

Raimond B.G. Ravelli, Frank J.T. Nijpels, Rene J.M. Henderikx, Giulia Weissenberger, Sanne Thewessem, Abril Gijsbers, Bart W.A.M.M. Beulen, Carmen Lopez-Iglesias, Peter Peters

The increasing demand for cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) reveals drawbacks in current sample preparation protocols, such as sample waste and lack of reproducibility. Here, we present several technical developments that provide controlled and efficient sample preparation for cryo-EM studies. Pin printing substantially reduces sample waste by depositing only a sub-nanoliter volume of sample on the carrier surface. Sample evaporation is mitigated by dewpoint control feedback loops. The deposited sample is vitrified by jets of cryogen followed by submersion into a cryogen bath. Because the cryogen jets cool the sample from the center, premounted autogrids can be used and loaded directly into automated cryo-EMs. We integrated these steps into a single device, named VitroJet. The device's performance was validated by resolving 4 standard proteins (apoferritin, GroEL, worm hemoglobin, beta-galactosidase) to ~3 Å resolution using a 200-kV electron microscope. The VitroJet offers a promising solution for improved automated sample preparation in cryo-EM studies.

7: Non-Uniformity of Projection Distributions Attenuates Resolution in Cryo-EM
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Posted to bioRxiv 13 May 2019

Non-Uniformity of Projection Distributions Attenuates Resolution in Cryo-EM
557 downloads biophysics

Philip Baldwin, Dmitry Lyumkis

Virtually every single-particle cryo-EM experiment currently suffers from specimen adherence to the air-water interface, leading to a non-uniform distribution in the set of projection views. Whereas it is well accepted that uniform projection distributions can lead to high-resolution reconstructions, non-uniform (anisotropic) distributions can negatively affect map quality, elongate structural features, and in some cases, prohibit interpretation altogether. Although some consequences of non-uniform sampling have been described qualitatively, we know little about how sampling quantitatively affects resolution in cryo-EM, especially given the numerous different projection schemes that can arise in experimental situations. Here, we show how inhomogeneity in any projection distribution scheme attenuates the global Fourier Shell Correlation (FSC) in relation to the number of particles and a single geometrical parameter, which we term the sampling compensation factor (SCF). The reciprocal of the SCF is defined as the average over Fourier shells of the reciprocal of the per-particle sampling and normalized to unity for uniform distributions. The SCF therefore ranges from one to zero, with values close to the latter implying large regions of poorly sampled or completely missing data in Fourier space. Using two synthetic test cases, influenza hemagglutinin and human apoferritin, we demonstrate how any amount of sampling inhomogeneity always attenuates the FSC compared to a uniform distribution. We advocate quantitative evaluation of the SCF criterion to approximate the effect of non-uniform sampling on resolution within experimental single-particle cryo-EM reconstructions.

8: Structural insights into ligand efficacy and activation of the glucagon receptor
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Posted to bioRxiv 05 Jun 2019

Structural insights into ligand efficacy and activation of the glucagon receptor
532 downloads biophysics

Daniel Hilger, Kaavya Krishna Kumar, Hongli Hu, Mie Fabricius Pedersen, Lise Giehm, Jesper Mosolff Mathiesen, Georgios Skiniotis, Brian K Kobilka

The glucagon receptor family comprises Class B G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) that play a crucial role in regulating blood sugar levels. Receptors of this family represent important therapeutic targets for the treatment of diabetes and obesity. Despite intensive structural studies, we only have a poor understanding of the mechanism of peptide hormone-induced Class B receptor activation. This process involves the formation of a sharp kink in transmembrane helix 6 that moves out to allow formation of the nucleotide-free G protein complex. Here, we present the cryo-EM structure of the glucagon receptor (GCGR), a prototypical Class B GPCR, in complex with an engineered soluble glucagon derivative and the heterotrimeric G-protein, Gs. Comparison with the previously determined crystal structures of GCGR bound to a partial agonist reveals a structural framework to explain the molecular basis of ligand efficacy that is further supported by mutagenesis data.

9: General and robust covalently linked graphene oxide affinity grids for high-resolution cryo-EM
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Posted to bioRxiv 02 Jun 2019

General and robust covalently linked graphene oxide affinity grids for high-resolution cryo-EM
447 downloads biophysics

Feng Wang, Yanxin Liu, Zanlin Yu, Sam Li, Yifan Cheng, David Agard

Despite their great potential to facilitate rapid preparation of quite impure samples, affinity grids have not yet been widely employed in single particle cryo-EM. Here, we chemically functionalize graphene oxide coated grids and use a highly specific covalent affinity tag system. Importantly, our polyethylene glycol spacer keeps particles away from the air-water interface and graphene oxide surface, protecting them from denaturation or aggregation and permits high-resolution reconstructions of small particles.

10: Computational design of a modular protein sense/response system
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Posted to bioRxiv 24 May 2019

Computational design of a modular protein sense/response system
423 downloads biophysics

Anum A. Glasgow, Yao-Ming Huang, Daniel J. Mandell, Michael Thompson, Ryan Ritterson, Amanda L. Loshbaugh, Jenna Pellegrino, Cody Krivacic, Roland A. Pache, Kyle Barlow, Noah Ollikainen, Deborah Jeon, Mark J S Kelly, James S. Fraser, Tanja Kortemme

Sensing and responding to signals is a fundamental ability of living systems, but despite remarkable progress in computational design of new protein structures, there is no general approach for engineering arbitrary new protein sensors. Here we describe a generalizable computational strategy for designing sensor/actuator proteins by building binding sites de novo into heterodimeric protein-protein interfaces and coupling ligand sensing to modular actuation via split reporters. Using this approach, we designed protein sensors that respond to farnesyl pyrophosphate, a metabolic intermediate in the production of valuable compounds. The sensors are functional in vitro and in cells, and the crystal structure of the engineered binding site matches the design model with atomic accuracy. Our computational design strategy opens broad avenues to link biological outputs to new signals.

11: Photoactivation of silicon rhodamines via a light-induced protonation
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Posted to bioRxiv 04 May 2019

Photoactivation of silicon rhodamines via a light-induced protonation
418 downloads biophysics

Michelle S. Frei, Philipp Hoess, Marko Lampe, Bianca Nijmeijer-Winter, Moritz Kueblbeck, Jan Ellenberg, Jonas Ries, Stefan Pitsch, Luc Reymond, Kai Johnsson

We present a new type of photoactivatable fluorophore that forms a bright silicon rhodamine derivative through a light-dependent isomerization followed by protonation. In contrast to other photoactivatable fluorophores, no caging groups are required, nor are there any undesired side-products released. Using this photoactivatable fluorophore, we created probes for HaloTag and actin for live-cell single-molecule localization microscopy and single-particle tracking experiments. The unusual mechanism of photoactivation and the fluorophore's outstanding spectroscopic properties make it a powerful tool for live-cell super-resolution microscopy.

12: Energy landscapes reveal agonist's control of GPCR activation via microswitches
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Posted to bioRxiv 04 May 2019

Energy landscapes reveal agonist's control of GPCR activation via microswitches
400 downloads biophysics

Oliver Fleetwood, Pierre Matricon, Jens Carlsson, Lucie Delemotte

Agonist binding to the extracellular part of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) leads to conformational changes in the transmembrane region that activate cytosolic signalling pathways. Although high resolution structures of the inactive and active receptor states are available, the allosteric coupling that transmits the signal across the membrane is not fully understood. We calculated free energy landscapes of the β2 adrenergic receptor using atomistic molecular dynamics simulations in an optimized string-of-swarms framework, which sheds new light on the roles of microswitches involved in activation. Contraction of the extracellular binding site in the presence of agonist is obligatorily coupled to conformational changes in a connector motif located in the core of the transmembrane region. In turn, the connector is probabilistically coupled to the conformation of the intracellular region. An active connector promotes desolvation of a buried solvent-filled cavity and a twist of the conserved NPxxY motif, which leads to a larger population of active-like states at the G protein binding site. This effect is further augmented by protonation of the strongly conserved Asp79, which locks the NPxxY motif and solvent cavity in active-like conformations. The agonist binding site hence communicates with the intracellular region via a cascade of locally connected switches and the free energy landscapes along these contributes to understanding of how ligands can stabilize distinct receptor states. We demonstrate that the developed simulation protocol is transferable to other class A GPCRs and anticipate that it will become a useful tool in design of drugs with specific signaling properties.

13: Organization and Regulation of Chromatin by Liquid-Liquid Phase Separation
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Posted to bioRxiv 18 Jan 2019

Organization and Regulation of Chromatin by Liquid-Liquid Phase Separation
398 downloads biophysics

Bryan A Gibson, Lynda K Doolittle, Liv E Jensen, Nathan Gamarra, Sy Redding, Michael K. Rosen

Genomic DNA is highly compacted in the nucleus of eukaryotic cells as a nucleoprotein assembly called chromatin. The basic unit of chromatin is the nucleosome, where ~146 base pair increments of the genome are wrapped and compacted around the core histone proteins. Further genomic organization and compaction occur through higher order assembly of nucleosomes. This organization regulates many nuclear processes, and is controlled in part by histone post-transtranslational modifications and chromatin-binding proteins. Mechanisms that regulate the assembly and compaction of the genome remain unclear. Here we show that in the presence of physiologic concentrations of mono- and divalent salts, histone tail-driven interactions drive liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) of nucleosome arrays, resulting in substantial condensation. Phase separation of nucleosomal arrays is inhibited by histone acetylation, whereas histone H1 promotes phase separation, further compaction, and decreased dynamics within droplets, mirroring the relationship between these modulators and the accessibility of the genome in cells. These results indicate that under physiologically relevant conditions, LLPS is an intrinsic behavior of the chromatin polymer, and suggest a model in which the condensed phase reflects a genomic 'ground state' that can produce chromatin organization and compaction in vivo. The dynamic nature of this state could enable known modulators of chromatin structure, such as post-translational modifications and chromatin binding proteins, to act upon it and consequently control nuclear processes such as transcription and DNA repair. Our data suggest an important role for LLPS of chromatin in the organization of the eukaryotic genome.

14: An RNA-binding region regulates CTCF clustering and chromatin looping
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Posted to bioRxiv 13 Dec 2018

An RNA-binding region regulates CTCF clustering and chromatin looping
387 downloads biophysics

Anders Sejr Hansen, Tsung-Han S Hsieh, Claudia Cattoglio, Iryna Pustova, Xavier Darzacq, Robert Tjian

Mammalian genomes are folded into Topologically Associating Domains (TADs), consisting of cell-type specific chromatin loops anchored by CTCF and cohesin. Since CTCF and cohesin are expressed ubiquitously, how cell-type specific CTCF-mediated loops are formed poses a paradox. Here we show RNase-sensitive CTCF self-association in vitro and that an RNA-binding region (RBR) mediates CTCF clustering in vivo. Intriguingly, deleting the RBR abolishes or impairs almost half of all chromatin loops in mouse embryonic stem cells. Disrupted loop formation correlates with abrogated clustering and diminished chromatin binding of the RBR mutant CTCF protein, which in turn results in a failure to halt cohesin-mediated extrusion. Thus, CTCF loops fall into at least 2 classes: RBR-independent and RBR-dependent loops. We suggest that evidence for distinct classes of RBR-dependent loops may provide a mechanism for establishing cell-specific CTCF loops regulated by RNAs and other RBR partners.

15: Nonreciprocal and Conditional Cooperativity Directs the Pioneer Activity of Pluripotency Transcription Factors
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Posted to bioRxiv 09 May 2019

Nonreciprocal and Conditional Cooperativity Directs the Pioneer Activity of Pluripotency Transcription Factors
381 downloads biophysics

Sai Li, Eric Bo Zheng, Li Zhao, Shixin Liu

Cooperative binding of transcription factors (TFs) to chromatin orchestrates gene expression programming and cell fate specification. However the biophysical principles of TF cooperativity remain incompletely understood. Here we use single-molecule fluorescence microscopy to study the partnership between Sox2 and Oct4, two core members of the pluripotency gene regulatory network. We find that the pioneer activity of Sox2 (the ability to target DNA inside nucleosomes) is strongly affected by the translational and rotational positioning of its binding motif, while Oct4 can access nucleosomal sites with equal capacities. Furthermore, the Sox2-Oct4 pair displays nonreciprocal cooperativity, with Oct4 modulating the binding of Sox2 to the nucleosome but not vice versa. Such cooperativity is conditional upon the composite motif residing at specific nucleosomal locations. These results reveal that pioneer factors possess distinct properties of nucleosome targeting and suggest that the same set of TFs may differentially regulate transcriptional activity in a gene-specific manner on the basis of their motif positioning in the nucleosomal context.

16: Mitochondrial dynamics quantitatively revealed by STED nanoscopy with an enhanced squaraine variant probe
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Posted to bioRxiv 22 May 2019

Mitochondrial dynamics quantitatively revealed by STED nanoscopy with an enhanced squaraine variant probe
370 downloads biophysics

Xusan Yang, Zhigang Yang, Ying He, Chunyan Shan, Wei Yan, Zhaoyang Wu, Peiyuan Chai, Junlin Teng, Junle Qu, Peng Xi

Mitochondria play a critical role in generating energy to support the entire lifecycle of biological cells, yet it is still unclear how their morphological structures evolve to regulate their functionality. Conventional fluorescence microscopy can only provide ~300 nm resolution, which is insufficient to visualize mitochondrial cristae. Here, we developed an enhanced squaraine variant dye (MitoESq-635) to study the dynamic structures of mitochondrial cristae in live cells at superresolution. The low saturation intensity and high photostability make it ideal for long-term, high-resolution STED nanoscopy. We demonstrate the time-lapsed imaging of the mitochondrial inner membrane over 50 minutes in living HeLa cells at 35.2 nm resolution for the first time. The forms of the cristae during mitochondrial fusion and fission can be clearly resolved. Our study demonstrates the emerging capability of optical STED nanoscopy to investigate intracellular physiological processes at nanoscale resolution for long periods of time with minimal phototoxicity.

17: 3D super-resolution microscopy performance and quantitative analysis assessment using DNA-PAINT and DNA origami test samples
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Posted to bioRxiv 03 May 2019

3D super-resolution microscopy performance and quantitative analysis assessment using DNA-PAINT and DNA origami test samples
368 downloads biophysics

Ruisheng Lin, Tobias Lutz, Alexander H Clowsley, David Baddeley, Christian Soeller

Assessment of the imaging quality in localisation-based super-resolution techniques relies on an accurate characterisation of the imaging setup and analysis procedures. Test samples can provide regular feedback on system performance and facilitate the implementation of new methods. While multiple test samples for regular, 2D imaging are available, they are not common for more specialised imaging modes. Here, we analyse robust test samples for 3D and quantitative super-resolution imaging, which are straightforward to use, are time-and cost-effective and do not require experience beyond basic laboratory and imaging skills. We present two options for assessment of 3D imaging quality, the use of microspheres functionalised for DNA-PAINT and a commercial DNA origami sample. A method to establish and assess a qPAINT workflow for quantitative imaging is demonstrated with a second, commercially available DNA origami sample.

18: Biophysical principles of choanoflagellate self-organization
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Posted to bioRxiv 04 Jun 2019

Biophysical principles of choanoflagellate self-organization
355 downloads biophysics

Ben T. Larson, Teresa Ruiz-Herrero, Stacey Lee, Sanjay Kumar, L Mahadevan, Nicole King

Inspired by the patterns of multicellularity in choanoflagellates, the closest living relatives of animals, we quantify the biophysical processes underlying the morphogenesis of rosette colonies in the choanoflagellate Salpingoeca rosetta. We find that rosettes reproducibly transition from an early stage of 2D growth to a later stage of 3D growth, despite the underlying stochasticity of the cell lineages. We postulate that the extracellular matrix (ECM) exerts a physical constraint on the packing of proliferating cells, thereby sculpting rosette morphogenesis. Our perturbative experiments coupled with biophysical simulations demonstrates the fundamental importance of a basally-secreted ECM for rosette morphogenesis. In addition, this yields a morphospace for the shapes of these multicellular colonies, consistent with observations of a range of choanoflagellates. Overall, our biophysical perspective on rosette development complements previous genetic perspectives and thus helps illuminate the interplay between cell biology and physics in regulating morphogenesis.

19: A New Model for Single-Molecule Tracking Analysis of Transcription Factor Dynamics
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Posted to bioRxiv 14 May 2019

A New Model for Single-Molecule Tracking Analysis of Transcription Factor Dynamics
340 downloads biophysics

David A Garcia, Gregory Fettweis, Diego M Presman, Ville Paakinaho, Christopher Jarzynski, Arpita Upadhyaya, Gordon L Hager

Single-molecule tracking allows the study of transcription factor dynamics in the nucleus, giving important information regarding the search and binding behavior of these proteins with chromatin in vivo. However, these experiments suffer from limitations due to photobleaching of the tracked protein and assumptions about the exponential behavior required for data interpretation, potentially leading to serious artifacts. Here, we developed an improved method to account for photobleaching effects, theory-based models to accurately describe transcription factor dynamics, and an unbiased model selection approach to determine the best predicting model. A new biological interpretation of transcriptional regulation emerges from the proposed models wherein transcription factor searching and binding on the DNA results in a broad distribution of binding affinities and accounts for the power-law behavior of transcription factor residence times.

20: Transduction of the Geomagnetic Field as Evidenced from Alpha-band Activity in the Human Brain
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Posted to bioRxiv 20 Oct 2018

Transduction of the Geomagnetic Field as Evidenced from Alpha-band Activity in the Human Brain
336 downloads biophysics

Connie X Wang, Isaac A Hilburn, Daw-An Wu, Yuki Mizuhara, Christopher P Cousté, Jacob N. H. Abrahams, Sam E Bernstein, Ayumu Matani, Shinsuke Shimojo, Joseph L Kirschvink

Magnetoreception, the perception of the geomagnetic field, is a sensory modality well-established across all major groups of vertebrates and some invertebrates, but its presence in humans has been tested rarely, yielding inconclusive results. We report here a strong, specific human brain response to ecologically-relevant rotations of Earth-strength magnetic fields. Following geomagnetic stimulation, a drop in amplitude of EEG alpha oscillations (8-13 Hz) occurred in a repeatable manner. Termed alpha event-related desynchronization (alpha-ERD), such a response is associated with sensory and cognitive processing of external stimuli. Biophysical tests showed that the neural response was sensitive to the dynamic components and axial alignment of the field but also to the static components and polarity of the field. This pattern of results implicates ferromagnetism as the biophysical basis for the sensory transduction and provides a basis to start the behavioral exploration of human magnetoreception.

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