We have investigated Cu atomic contacts in the presence of H2O both experimentally and theoretically. The conductance measurements showed the formation of H2O/Cu junctions with a fixed conductance value of around 0.1 G0 (G0 = 2e2/h). These structures were found to be stable and could be stretched over 0.5 nm, indicating the formation of an atomic or molecular chain. In agreement with the experimental findings, theoretical calculations revealed that the conductance of H2O/Cu junctions decreases in stages as the junction is stretched, with the formation of a H2O/Cu atomic chain with a conductance of ca. 0.1 G0 prior to junction rupture. Conversely, in the absence of H2O, the conductance of the Cu junction remains close to 1 G0prior to the junction rupture and abrupt conductance drop.
A variety of DNA binding proteins are involved in regulating and shaping the packing of chromatin. They aid the formation of loops in the DNA that function to isolate different structural domains. A recent experimental technique, Hi-C, provides a method for determining the frequency of such looping between all distant parts of the genome. Given that the binding locations of many chromatin associated proteins have also been measured, it has been possible to make estimates for their influence on the long-range interactions as measured by Hi-C. However, a challenge in this analysis is the predominance of non-specific contacts that mask out the specific interactions of interest.
We show that transforming the Hi-C contact frequencies into free energies gives a natural method for separating out the distance dependent non-specific interactions. In particular we apply Principal Component Analysis (PCA) to the transformed free energy matrix to identify the dominant modes of interaction. PCA identifies systematic effects as well as high frequency spatial noise in the Hi-C data which can be filtered out. Thus it can be used as a data driven approach for normalizing Hi-C data. We assess this PCA based normalization approach, along with several other normalization schemes, by fitting the transformed Hi-C data using a pairwise interaction model that takes as input the known locations of bound chromatin factors. The result of fitting is a set of predictions for the coupling energies between the various chromatin factors and their effect on the energetics of looping. We show that the quality of the fit can be used as a means to determine how much PCA filtering should be applied to the Hi-C data.
We find that the different normalizations of the Hi-C data vary in the quality of fit to the pairwise interaction model. PCA filtering can improve the fit, and the predicted coupling energies lead to biologically meaningful insights for how various chromatin bound factors influence the stability of DNA loops in chromatin.
Triple helical collagens are the most abundant structural protein in vertebrates and are widely used as biomaterials for a variety of applications including drug delivery and cellular and tissue engineering. In these applications, the mechanics of this hierarchically structured protein play a key role, as does its chemical composition. To facilitate investigation into how gene mutations of collagen lead to disease as well as the rational development of tunable mechanical and chemical properties of this full-length protein, production of recombinant expressed protein is required.
Here, we present a human type II procollagen expression system that produces full-length procollagen utilizing a previously characterized human fibrosarcoma cell line for production. The system exploits a non-covalently linked fluorescence readout for gene expression to facilitate screening of cell lines. Biochemical and biophysical characterization of the secreted, purified protein are used to demonstrate the proper formation and function of the protein. Assays to demonstrate fidelity include proteolytic digestion, mass spectrometric sequence and posttranslational composition analysis, circular dichroism spectroscopy, single-molecule stretching with optical tweezers, atomic-force microscopy imaging of fibril assembly, and transmission electron microscopy imaging of self-assembled fibrils.
Using a mammalian expression system, we produced full-length recombinant human type II procollagen. The integrity of the collagen preparation was verified by various structural and degradation assays. This system provides a platform from which to explore new directions in collagen manipulation.
Marine bacterium Vibrio alginolyticus uses a single polar flagellum to navigate in an aqueous environment. Similar to Escherichia coli cells, the polar flagellar motor has two states; when the motor is counter-clockwise, the cell swims forward and when the motor is clockwise, the cell swims backward. V. alginolyticus also incorporates a direction randomization step at the start of the forward swimming interval by flicking its flagellum. To gain an understanding on how the polar flagellar motor switch is regulated, distributions of the forward Δf and backward Δb intervals are investigated herein. We found that the steady-state probability density functions, P(Δf) and P(Δb), of freely swimming bacteria are strongly peaked at a finite time, suggesting that the motor switch is not Poissonian. The short-time inhibition is sufficiently strong and long lasting, i.e., several hundred milliseconds for both intervals, which is readily observed and characterized. Treating motor reversal dynamics as a first-passage problem, which results from conformation fluctuations of the motor switch, we calculated P(Δf) and P(Δb) and found good agreement with the measurements.
In many bacteria the ParA-ParB protein system is responsible for actively segregating DNA during replication. ParB proteins move by interacting with DNA bound ParA-ATP, stimulating their unbinding by catalyzing hydrolysis, that leads to rectified motion due to the creation of a wake of depleted ParA. Recent in vitro experiments have shown that a ParB covered magnetic bead can move with constant speed over a DNA covered substrate that is bound by ParA. It has been suggested that the formation of a gradient in ParA leads to diffusion-ratchet like motion of the ParB bead but how it forms and generates a force is still a matter of exploration. Here we develop a deterministic model for the in vitro ParA-ParB system and show that a ParA gradient can spontaneously form due to any amount of initial spatial noise in bound ParA. The speed of the bead is independent of this noise but depends on the ratio of the range of ParA-ParB force on the bead to that of removal of surface bound ParA by ParB. We find that at a particular ratio the speed attains a maximal value. We also consider ParA rebinding (including cooperativity) and ParA surface diffusion independently as mechanisms for ParA recovery on the surface. Depending on whether the DNA covered surface is undersaturated or saturated with ParA, we find that the bead can accelerate persistently or potentially stall. Our model highlights key requirements of the ParA-ParB driving force that are necessary for directed motion in the in vitro system that may provide insight into the in vivo dynamics of the ParA-ParB system.
The honeybee (Apis mellifera) waggle dance, which is performed inside the hive by forager bees, informs hive mates about a potent food source, and recruits them to its location. It consists of a repeated figure-8 pattern: two oppositely directed turns interspersed by a short straight segment, the “waggle run”. The waggle run consists of a single stride emphasized by lateral waggling motions of the abdomen. Directional information pointing to a food source relative to the sun's azimuth is encoded in the angle between the waggle run line and a reference line, which is generally thought to be established by gravity. Yet, there is tantalizing evidence that the local (ambient) geomagnetic field (LGMF) could play a role. We tested the effect of the LGMF on the recruitment success of forager bees by placing observation hives inside large Helmholtz coils, and then either reducing the LGMF to 2% or shifting its apparent declination. Neither of these treatments reduced the number of nest mates that waggle dancing forager bees recruited to a feeding station located 200 m north of the hive. These results indicate that the LGMF does not act as the reference for the alignment of waggle-dancing bees.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the extracellular matrix (ECM), where its structural organization conveys mechanical information to cells. Using optical-tweezers-based microrheology, we investigated mechanical properties both of collagen molecules at a range of concentrations in acidic solution where fibrils cannot form and of gels of collagen fibrils formed at neutral pH, as well as the development of microscale mechanical heterogeneity during the self-assembly process. The frequency scaling of the complex shear modulus even at frequencies of ~10 kHz was not able to resolve the flexibility of collagen molecules in acidic solution. In these solutions, molecular interactions cause significant transient elasticity, as we observed for 5 mg/ml solutions at frequencies above ~200 Hz. We found the viscoelasticity of solutions of collagen molecules to be spatially homogeneous, in sharp contrast to the heterogeneity of self-assembled fibrillar collagen systems, whose elasticity varied by more than an order of magnitude and in power-law behavior at different locations within the sample. By probing changes in the complex shear modulus over 100-minute timescales as collagen self-assembled into fibrils, we conclude that microscale heterogeneity appears during early phases of fibrillar growth and continues to develop further during this growth phase. Experiments in which growing fibrils dislodge microspheres from an optical trap suggest that fibril growth is a force-generating process. These data contribute to understanding how heterogeneities develop during self-assembly, which in turn can help synthesis of new materials for cellular engineering.
Many proteins are observed to localize to the poles within bacterial cells. Some bacteria show unipolar localization, yet under different conditions bipolar patterns can emerge. One mechanism for spontaneous polar localization has been shown to involve the combination of protein aggregation and nucleoid occlusion. Whether the different observed patterns represent global energy minima for the cellular system remains to be determined. In this paper we show that for a model consisting only of protein aggregation along with an excluded volume effect due to the DNA polymer, that unipolar patterns are the global energy ground state regardless of protein concentration and DNA density. We extend the model to allow for proteins to be added to the cellular volume at a constant rate and show that bipolar (or multi-foci) patterns emerge as the result of the system being kinetically trapped in a local energy minimum. Lastly we also consider the situation of a growing cell that starts with a pre-existing aggregate at one of the poles and determine conditions under which either unipolar or bipolar patterns can exist at the point when it is ready to divide. This work sheds new interpretations on recently published experimental data and suggests experiments to test whether such a mechanism can drive patterning in bacteria.
In multicellular organisms one can find examples where a growing tissue divides up until some final fixed cell number. Asymmetric division plays a prevalent feature in tissue differentiation in these organisms, where the daughters of each asymmetric division inherit unequal amounts of a fate determining molecule and as a result follow different developmental fates. In some tissues the accumulation or decrease of cell cycle regulators acts as an intrinsic timing mechanism governing proliferation. Here we present a minimal model based on asymmetric division and dilution of a cell-cycle regulator that can generate any final population size that might be needed. We show that within the model there are a variety of growth mechanisms from linear to non-linear that can lead to the same final cell count. Interestingly, when we include noise at division we find that there are special final cell population sizes that can be generated with high confidence that are flanked by population sizes that are less robust to division noise. When we include further perturbations in the division process we find that these special populations can remain relatively stable and in some cases even improve in their fidelity.
The Bose-Hubbard model is the simplest model of interacting bosons on a lattice. It has recently been the focus of much attention due to the realization of this model with cold atoms in an optical lattice. The ability to tune parameters in the Hamiltonian as a function of time in cold atom systems has opened up the possibility of studying out-of-equilibrium dynamics, including crossing the quantum critical region of the model in a controlled way. In this paper, I give a brief introduction to the Bose Hubbard model, and its experimental realization and then give an account of theoretical and experimental efforts to understand out-of-equilibrium dynamics in this model, focusing on quantum quenches, both instantaneous and of finite duration. I discuss slow dynamics that have been observed theoretically and experimentally for some quenches from the superfluid phase to the Mott insulating phase and the picture of two timescales, one for fast local equilibration and another for slow global equilibration, that appears to characterize this situation. I also discuss the theoretical and experimental observation of the Lieb-Robinson bounds for a variety of quenches and the Kibble-Zurek mechanism in quenches from the Mott insulator to superfluid. I conclude with a discussion of open questions and future directions.