The Meyer lab seeks to understand how human cells sense hormones, growth factors and stress and how they integrate and transduce these signals to make decisions to polarize, move or divide. We investigate these cellular regulatory systems by identifying the key signaling components and measuring when and where signaling occurs as we watch cells decide to move forward or enter the cell cycle. We have been intrigued by the near universal importance of locally acting Ca2+ and phosphoinositide lipid second messenger signals, Rho and Ras family small GTPases and protein kinases in controlling these decision processes. Our projects are focused on understanding the general principles of how signal transduction systems work which often requires the development of new experimental and analysis tools involving fluorescent microscopy, small molecule and light perturbations, systematic siRNA screens, bioinformatics, genomics and quantitative modeling of signaling pathways.
Many developing neurons transition through a multi-polar state with many competing neurites before assuming a unipolar state with one axon and multiple dendrites. Hallmarks of the multi-polar state are large fluctuations in microtubule-based transport into and outgrowth of different neurites, although what drives these fluctuations remains elusive. We show that actin waves, which stochastically migrate from the cell body towards neurite tips, direct microtubule-based transport during the multi-polar state. Our data argue for a mechanical control system whereby actin waves transiently widen the neurite shaft to allow increased microtubule polymerization to direct Kinesin-based transport and create bursts of neurite extension. Actin waves also require microtubule polymerization, arguing that positive feedback links these two components. We propose that actin waves create large stochastic fluctuations in microtubule-based transport and neurite outgrowth, promoting competition between neurites as they explore the environment until sufficient external cues can direct one to become the axon.
Neutrophils and other amoeboid cells chemotax by steering their front ends towards chemoattractant. Although Ras, Rac, Cdc42 and RhoA small GTPases all regulate chemotaxis, it has been unclear how they spatiotemporally control polarization and steering. Using fluorescence biosensors in neutrophil-like PLB-985 cells and photorelease of chemoattractant, we show that local Cdc42 signals, but not those of Rac, RhoA or Ras, precede cell turning during chemotaxis. Furthermore, pre-existing local Cdc42 signals in morphologically unpolarized cells predict the future direction of movement on uniform stimulation. Moreover, inhibition of actin polymerization uncovers recurring local Cdc42 activity pulses, suggesting that Cdc42 has the excitable characteristic of the compass activity proposed in models of chemotaxis. Globally, Cdc42 antagonizes RhoA, and maintains a steep spatial activity gradient during migration, whereas Ras and Rac form shallow gradients. Thus, chemotactic steering and de novo polarization are both directed by locally excitable Cdc42 signals.
January 2016: A new postdoc joins the lab
Marielle Koeberlin joined the Meyer lab as a postdoctoral fellow. Welcome aboard Marielle
Alterations in Hedgehog (Hh) signaling lead to birth defects and cancers including medulloblastoma, the most common pediatric brain tumor. Although inhibitors targeting the membrane protein Smoothened suppress Hh signaling, acquired drug resistance and tumor relapse call for additional therapeutic targets. Here we show that phosphodiesterase 4D (PDE4D) acts downstream of Neuropilins to control Hh transduction and medulloblastoma growth. PDE4D interacts directly with Neuropilins, positive regulators of Hh pathway. The Neuropilin ligand Semaphorin3 enhances this interaction, promoting PDE4D translocation to the plasma membrane and cAMP degradation. The consequent inhibition of protein kinase A (PKA) enhances Hh transduction. In the developing cerebellum, genetic removal of Neuropilins reduces Hh signaling activity and suppresses proliferation of granule neuron precursors. In mouse medulloblastoma allografts, PDE4D inhibitors suppress Hh transduction and inhibit tumor growth. Our findings reveal a new regulatory mechanism of Hh transduction, and highlight PDE4D as a promising target to treat Hh-related tumors.
Information about functional connections between genes can be derived from patterns of coupled loss of their homologs across multiple species. This comparative approach, termed phylogenetic profiling, has been successfully used to infer genetic interactions in bacteria and eukaryotes. Rapid progress in sequencing eukaryotic species has enabled the recent phylogenetic profiling of the human genome, resulting in systematic functional predictions for uncharacterized human genes. Importantly, groups of co-evolving genes reveal widespread modularity in the underlying genetic network, facilitating experimental analyses in human cells as well as comparative studies of conserved functional modules across species. This strategy is particularly successful in identifying novel metabolic proteins and components of multi-protein complexes. The targeted sequencing of additional key eukaryotes and the incorporation of improved methods to generate and compare phylogenetic profiles will further boost the predictive power and utility of this evolutionary approach to the functional analysis of gene interaction networks.
June 2015: Two new grad students join the lab
Anjali Bisaria and Yilin Fan join the lab as grad students. Welcome aboard Anjali and Yilin
May 2015: New MD/PhD student joins the lab
Leighton Daigh joins the lab as a grad student. Welcome aboard Leighton
Numerous molecular components have been identified that regulate the directed migration of eukaryotic cells toward sources of chemoattractant. However, how the components of this system are wired together to coordinate multiple aspects of the response, such as directionality, speed, and sensitivity to stimulus, remains poorly understood. Here we developed a method to shape chemoattractant gradients optically and analyze cellular chemotaxis responses of hundreds of living cells per well in 96‐well format by measuring speed changes and directional accuracy. We then systematically characterized migration and chemotaxis phenotypes for 285 siRNA perturbations. A key finding was that the G‐protein Giα subunit selectively controls the direction of migration while the receptor and Gβ subunit proportionally control both speed and direction. Furthermore, we demonstrate that neutrophils chemotax persistently in response to gradients of fMLF but only transiently in response to gradients of ATP. The method we introduce is applicable for diverse chemical cues and systematic perturbations, can be used to measure multiple cell migration and signaling parameters, and is compatible with low‐ and high‐resolution fluorescence microscopy.
Functional links between genes can be predicted using phylogenetic profiling, by correlating the appearance and loss of homologs in subsets of species. However, effective genome-wide phylogenetic profiling has been hindered by the large fraction of human genes related to each other through historical duplication events. Here, we overcame this challenge by automatically profiling over 30,000 groups of homologous human genes (orthogroups) representing the entire protein-coding genome across 177 eukaryotic species (hOP profiles). By generating a full pairwise orthogroup phylogenetic co-occurrence matrix, we derive unbiased genome-wide predictions of functional modules (hOP modules). Our approach predicts functions for hundreds of poorly characterized genes. The results suggest evolutionary constraints that lead components of protein complexes and metabolic pathways to co-evolve while genes in signaling and transcriptional networks do not. As a proof of principle, we validated two subsets of candidates experimentally for their predicted link to the actin-nucleating WASH complex and cilia/basal body function. Check out the web server accompanying the paper
November 2014: A new postdoc joins the lab
Damien Garbett joined the Meyer lab as a postdoctoral fellow. Welcome aboard Damien
August 2014: Sean and Sabrina are opening their own labs
Contratulations to Sean who got a position in UC Davis and to Sabrina who is opening her lab in UC Boulder. Good luck in your new ways! we will miss you.
Protein concentrations are often regulated by dynamic changes in translation rates. Nevertheless, it has been challenging to directly monitor changes in translation in living cells. We have developed a reporter system to measure real-time changes of translation rates in human or mouse individual cells by conjugating translation regulatory motifs to sequences encoding a nuclear targeted fluorescent protein and a controllable destabilization domain. Application of the method showed that individual cells undergo marked fluctuations in the translation rate of mRNAs whose 5′ terminal oligopyrimidine (5′ TOP) motif regulates the synthesis of ribosomal proteins. Furthermore, we show that small reductions in amino acid levels signal through different mTOR-dependent pathways to control TOP mRNA translation, whereas larger reductions in amino acid levels control translation through eIF2A. Our study demonstrates that dynamic measurements of single-cell activities of translation regulatory motifs can be used to identify and investigate fundamental principles of translation.
Mammalian cells have a remarkable capacity to compensate for heterozygous gene loss or extra gene copies. One exception is Down syndrome (DS), where a third copy of chromosome 21 mediates neurogenesis defects and lowers the frequency of solid tumors. Here we combine live-cell imaging and single-cell analysis to show that increased dosage of chromosome 21-localized Dyrk1a steeply increases G1 cell cycle duration through direct phosphorylation and degradation of cyclin D1 (CycD1). DS-derived fibroblasts showed analogous cell cycle changes that were reversed by Dyrk1a inhibition. Furthermore, reducing Dyrk1a activity increased CycD1 expression to force a bifurcation, with one subpopulation of cells accelerating proliferation and the other arresting proliferation by costabilizing CycD1 and the CDK inhibitor p21. Thus, dosage of Dyrk1a repositions cells within a p21-CycD1 signaling map, directing each cell to either proliferate or to follow two distinct cell cycle exit pathways characterized by high or low CycD1 and p21 levels.
Tissue homeostasis in metazoans is regulated by transitions of cells between quiescence and proliferation. The hallmark of proliferating populations is progression through the cell cycle, which is driven by cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) activity. Here, we introduce a live-cell sensor for CDK2 activity and unexpectedly found that proliferating cells bifurcate into two populations as they exit mitosis. Many cells immediately commit to the next cell cycle by building up CDK2 activity from an intermediate level, while other cells lack CDK2 activity and enter a transient state of quiescence. This bifurcation is directly controlled by the CDK inhibitor p21 and is regulated by mitogens during a restriction window at the end of the previous cell cycle. Thus, cells decide at the end of mitosis to either start the next cell cycle by immediately building up CDK2 activity or to enter a transient G0-like state by suppressing CDK2 activity.
Last modified Thursday, 26-May-2016 15:02:33 PDT