Michael B Elowitz

Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, Virginia, United States

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Publications (56)1001.12 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The Notch signaling pathway consists of multiple types of receptors and ligands, whose interactions can be tuned by Fringe glycosyltransferases. A major challenge is to determine how these components control the specificity and directionality of Notch signaling in developmental contexts. Here, we analyzed same-cell (cis) Notch-ligand interactions for Notch1, Dll1, and Jag1, and their dependence on Fringe protein expression in mammalian cells. We found that Dll1 and Jag1 can cis-inhibit Notch1, and Fringe proteins modulate these interactions in a way that parallels their effects on trans interactions. Fringe similarly modulated Notch-ligand cis interactions during Drosophila development. Based on these and previously identified interactions, we show how the design of the Notch signaling pathway leads to a restricted repertoire of signaling states that promote heterotypic signaling between distinct cell types, providing insight into the design principles of the Notch signaling system, and the specific developmental process of Drosophila dorsal-ventral boundary formation. - See more at: http://elifesciences.org/content/3/e02950
    eLife Sciences 09/2014; 3:e02950.
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    ABSTRACT: The activation of transcription factors in response to environmental conditions is fundamental to cellular regulation. Recent work has revealed that some transcription factors are activated in stochastic pulses of nuclear localization, rather than at a constant level, even in a constant environment [1-12]. In such cases, signals control the mean activity of the transcription factor by modulating the frequency, duration, or amplitude of these pulses. Although specific pulsatile transcription factors have been identified in diverse cell types, it has remained unclear how prevalent pulsing is within the cell, how variable pulsing behaviors are between genes, and whether pulsing is specific to transcriptional regulators or is employed more broadly. To address these issues, we performed a proteome-wide movie-based screen to systematically identify localization-based pulsing behaviors in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The screen examined all genes in a previously developed fluorescent protein fusion library of 4,159 strains [13] in multiple media conditions. This approach revealed stochastic pulsing in ten proteins, all transcription factors. In each case, pulse dynamics were heterogeneous and unsynchronized among cells in clonal populations. Pulsing is the only dynamic localization behavior that we observed, and it tends to occur in pairs of paralogous and redundant proteins. Taken together, these results suggest that pulsatile dynamics play a pervasive role in yeast and may be similarly prevalent in other eukaryotic species.
    Current biology : CB. 09/2014;
  • Hao Yuan Kueh, Michael Elowitz, Ellen Rothenberg
    Experimental hematology. 08/2014; 42(8S):S16.
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    ABSTRACT: Cell populations can be strikingly heterogeneous, composed of multiple cellular states, each exhibiting stochastic noise in its gene expression. A major challenge is to disentangle these two types of variability and to understand the dynamic processes and mechanisms that control them. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) provide an ideal model system to address this issue because they exhibit heterogeneous and dynamic expression of functionally important regulatory factors. We analyzed gene expression in individual ESCs using single-molecule RNA-FISH and quantitative time-lapse movies. These data discriminated stochastic switching between two coherent (correlated) gene expression states and burst-like transcriptional noise. We further showed that the "2i" signaling pathway inhibitors modulate both types of variation. Finally, we found that DNA methylation plays a key role in maintaining these metastable states. Together, these results show how ESC gene expression states and dynamics arise from a combination of intrinsic noise, coherent cellular states, and epigenetic regulation.
    Molecular cell. 07/2014; 55(2):319-31.
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    ABSTRACT: Synthetic biology, despite still being in its infancy, is increasingly providing valuable information for applications in the clinic, the biotechnology industry and in basic molecular research. Both its unique potential and the challenges it presents have brought together the expertise of an eclectic group of scientists, from cell biologists to engineers. In this Viewpoint article, five experts discuss their views on the future of synthetic biology, on its main achievements in basic and applied science, and on the bioethical issues that are associated with the design of new biological systems.
    Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 03/2014; · 37.16 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Notch signaling pathway consists of multiple types of receptors and ligands, whose interactions can be tuned by Fringe glycosyltransferases. A major challenge is to determine how these components control the specificity and directionality of Notch signaling in developmental contexts. Here, we analyzed same-cell (cis) Notch-ligand interactions for Notch1, Dll1, and Jag1, and their dependence on Fringe protein expression in mammalian cells. We found that Dll1 and Jag1 can cis-inhibit Notch1, and Fringe proteins modulate these interactions in a way that parallels their effects on trans interactions. Fringe similarly modulated Notch-ligand cis interactions during Drosophila development. Based on these and previously identified interactions, we show how the design of the Notch signaling pathway leads to a restricted repertoire of signaling states that promote heterotypic signaling between distinct cell types, providing insight into the design principles of the Notch signaling system, and the specific developmental process of Drosophila dorsal-ventral boundary formation.
    eLife. 01/2014; 3.
  • Joe H Levine, Yihan Lin, Michael B Elowitz
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    ABSTRACT: A fundamental problem in biology is to understand how genetic circuits implement core cellular functions. Time-lapse microscopy techniques are beginning to provide a direct view of circuit dynamics in individual living cells. Unexpectedly, we are discovering that key transcription and regulatory factors pulse on and off repeatedly, and often stochastically, even when cells are maintained in constant conditions. This type of spontaneous dynamic behavior is pervasive, appearing in diverse cell types from microbes to mammalian cells. Here, we review recent work showing how pulsing is generated and controlled by underlying regulatory circuits and how it provides critical capabilities to cells in stress response, signaling, and development. A major theme is the ability of pulsing to enable time-based regulation analogous to strategies used in engineered systems. Thus, pulsatile dynamics is emerging as a central, and still largely unexplored, layer of temporal organization in the cell.
    Science 12/2013; 342(6163):1193-200. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Regulatory gene circuits with positive feedback loops control stem cell differentiation, but several mechanisms can contribute to positive feedback. Here, we dissect feedback mechanisms through which the transcription factor PU.1 controls lymphoid and myeloid differentiation. Quantitative live-cell imaging revealed that developing B cells decrease PU.1 levels by reducing PU.1 transcription, whereas developing macrophages increase PU.1 levels by lengthening their cell cycles, which causes stable PU.1 accumulation. Exogenous PU.1 expression in progenitors increases endogenous PU.1 levels by inducing cell-cycle lengthening, implying positive feedback between a regulatory factor and the cell cycle. Mathematical modeling showed that this cell-cycle coupled feedback architecture effectively stabilizes a slow-dividing differentiated state. These results show that cell-cycle duration functions as an integral part of a positive auto-regulatory circuit to control cell fate.
    Science 07/2013; · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    Jonathan W Young, James C W Locke, Michael B Elowitz
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    ABSTRACT: Cells use general stress response pathways to activate diverse target genes in response to a variety of stresses. However, general stress responses coexist with more specific pathways that are activated by individual stresses, provoking the fundamental question of whether and how cells control the generality or specificity of their response to a particular stress. Here we address this issue using quantitative time-lapse microscopy of the Bacillus subtilis environmental stress response, mediated by σ. We analyzed σ activation in response to stresses such as salt and ethanol imposed at varying rates of increase. Dynamically, σ responded to these stresses with a single adaptive activity pulse, whose amplitude depended on the rate at which the stress increased. This rate-responsive behavior can be understood from mathematical modeling of a key negative feedback loop in the underlying regulatory circuit. Using RNAseq we analyzed the effects of both rapid and gradual increases of ethanol and salt stress across the genome. Because of the rate responsiveness of σ activation, salt and ethanol regulons overlap under rapid, but not gradual, increases in stress. Thus, the cell responds specifically to individual stresses that appear gradually, while using σ to broaden the cellular response under more rapidly deteriorating conditions. Such dynamic control of specificity could be a critical function of other general stress response pathways.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 03/2013; 110(10):4140-5. · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • q-bio Conference 2012, St. John's College 1160 Camino Cruz Blanca Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505 USA; 08/2012
  • Microscopy and Microanalysis 07/2012; 18(S2):1220-1221. · 2.50 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Quantitative single-cell time-lapse microscopy is a powerful method for analyzing gene circuit dynamics and heterogeneous cell behavior. We describe the application of this method to imaging bacteria by using an automated microscopy system. This protocol has been used to analyze sporulation and competence differentiation in Bacillus subtilis, and to quantify gene regulation and its fluctuations in individual Escherichia coli cells. The protocol involves seeding and growing bacteria on small agarose pads and imaging the resulting microcolonies. Images are then reviewed and analyzed using our laboratory's custom MATLAB analysis code, which segments and tracks cells in a frame-to-frame method. This process yields quantitative expression data on cell lineages, which can illustrate dynamic expression profiles and facilitate mathematical models of gene circuits. With fast-growing bacteria, such as E. coli or B. subtilis, image acquisition can be completed in 1 d, with an additional 1-2 d for progressing through the analysis procedure.
    Nature Protocol 01/2012; 7(1):80-8. · 8.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Environmental signals induce diverse cellular differentiation programs. In certain systems, cells defer differentiation for extended time periods after the signal appears, proliferating through multiple rounds of cell division before committing to a new fate. How can cells set a deferral time much longer than the cell cycle? Here we study Bacillus subtilis cells that respond to sudden nutrient limitation with multiple rounds of growth and division before differentiating into spores. A well-characterized genetic circuit controls the concentration and phosphorylation of the master regulator Spo0A, which rises to a critical concentration to initiate sporulation. However, it remains unclear how this circuit enables cells to defer sporulation for multiple cell cycles. Using quantitative time-lapse fluorescence microscopy of Spo0A dynamics in individual cells, we observed pulses of Spo0A phosphorylation at a characteristic cell cycle phase. Pulse amplitudes grew systematically and cell-autonomously over multiple cell cycles leading up to sporulation. This pulse growth required a key positive feedback loop involving the sporulation kinases, without which the deferral of sporulation became ultrasensitive to kinase expression. Thus, deferral is controlled by a pulsed positive feedback loop in which kinase expression is activated by pulses of Spo0A phosphorylation. This pulsed positive feedback architecture provides a more robust mechanism for setting deferral times than constitutive kinase expression. Finally, using mathematical modeling, we show how pulsing and time delays together enable "polyphasic" positive feedback, in which different parts of a feedback loop are active at different times. Polyphasic feedback can enable more accurate tuning of long deferral times. Together, these results suggest that Bacillus subtilis uses a pulsed positive feedback loop to implement a "timer" that operates over timescales much longer than a cell cycle.
    PLoS Biology 01/2012; 10(1):e1001252. · 12.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Gene regulatory circuits can use dynamic, and even stochastic, strategies to respond to environmental conditions. We examined activation of the general stress response mediated by the alternative sigma factor, σ(B), in individual Bacillus subtilis cells. We observed that energy stress activates σ(B) in discrete stochastic pulses, with increasing levels of stress leading to higher pulse frequencies. By perturbing and rewiring the endogenous system, we found that this behavior results from three key features of the σ(B) circuit: an ultrasensitive phosphorylation switch; stochasticity ("noise"), which activates that switch; and a mixed (positive and negative) transcriptional feedback, which can both amplify a pulse and switch it off. Together, these results show how prokaryotes encode signals using stochastic pulse frequency modulation through a compact regulatory architecture.
    Science 10/2011; 334(6054):366-9. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report a chip-scale lensless wide-field-of-view microscopy imaging technique, subpixel perspective sweeping microscopy, which can render microscopy images of growing or confluent cell cultures autonomously. We demonstrate that this technology can be used to build smart Petri dish platforms, termed ePetri, for cell culture experiments. This technique leverages the recent broad and cheap availability of high performance image sensor chips to provide a low-cost and automated microscopy solution. Unlike the two major classes of lensless microscopy methods, optofluidic microscopy and digital in-line holography microscopy, this new approach is fully capable of working with cell cultures or any samples in which cells may be contiguously connected. With our prototype, we demonstrate the ability to image samples of area 6 mm × 4 mm at 660-nm resolution. As a further demonstration, we showed that the method can be applied to image color stained cell culture sample and to image and track cell culture growth directly within an incubator. Finally, we showed that this method can track embryonic stem cell differentiations over the entire sensor surface. Smart Petri dish based on this technology can significantly streamline and improve cell culture experiments by cutting down on human labor and contamination risks.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10/2011; 108(41):16889-94. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    Nagarajan Nandagopal, Michael B Elowitz
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    ABSTRACT: A major goal of synthetic biology is to develop a deeper understanding of biological design principles from the bottom up, by building circuits and studying their behavior in cells. Investigators initially sought to design circuits "from scratch" that functioned as independently as possible from the underlying cellular system. More recently, researchers have begun to develop a new generation of synthetic circuits that integrate more closely with endogenous cellular processes. These approaches are providing fundamental insights into the regulatory architecture, dynamics, and evolution of genetic circuits and enabling new levels of control across diverse biological systems.
    Science 09/2011; 333(6047):1244-8. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Developmental patterning requires juxtacrine signaling in order to tightly coordinate the fates of neighboring cells. Recent work has shown that Notch and Delta, the canonical metazoan juxtacrine signaling receptor and ligand, mutually inactivate each other in the same cell. This cis-interaction generates mutually exclusive sending and receiving states in individual cells. It generally remains unclear, however, how this mutual inactivation and the resulting switching behavior can impact developmental patterning circuits. Here we address this question using mathematical modeling in the context of two canonical pattern formation processes: boundary formation and lateral inhibition. For boundary formation, in a model motivated by Drosophila wing vein patterning, we find that mutual inactivation allows sharp boundary formation across a broader range of parameters than models lacking mutual inactivation. This model with mutual inactivation also exhibits robustness to correlated gene expression perturbations. For lateral inhibition, we find that mutual inactivation speeds up patterning dynamics, relieves the need for cooperative regulatory interactions, and expands the range of parameter values that permit pattern formation, compared to canonical models. Furthermore, mutual inactivation enables a simple lateral inhibition circuit architecture which requires only a single downstream regulatory step. Both model systems show how mutual inactivation can facilitate robust fine-grained patterning processes that would be difficult to implement without it, by encoding a difference-promoting feedback within the signaling system itself. Together, these results provide a framework for analysis of more complex Notch-dependent developmental systems.
    PLoS Computational Biology 06/2011; 7(6):e1002069. · 4.87 Impact Factor
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    Jonathan W Young, Michael B Elowitz
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    ABSTRACT: An elegant new study by Bollenbach and Kishony (2011) in this issue of Molecular Cell shows how bacteria resolve the apparent conflicts created when they face two signals with opposite effects on gene expression.
    Molecular cell 05/2011; 42(4):405-6. · 14.61 Impact Factor
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    Shaunak Sen, Jordi Garcia-Ojalvo, Michael B Elowitz
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    ABSTRACT: Under conditions of nutrient limitation, Bacillus subtilis cells terminally differentiate into a dormant spore state. Progression to sporulation is controlled by a genetic circuit consisting of a phosphorelay embedded in multiple transcriptional feedback loops, which is used to activate the master regulator Spo0A by phosphorylation. These transcriptional regulatory interactions are "bandpass"-like, in the sense that activation occurs within a limited band of Spo0A∼P concentrations. Additionally, recent results show that the phosphorelay activation occurs in pulses, in a cell-cycle dependent fashion. However, the impact of these pulsed bandpass interactions on the circuit dynamics preceding sporulation remains unclear. In order to address this question, we measured key features of the bandpass interactions at the single-cell level and analyzed them in the context of a simple mathematical model. The model predicted the emergence of a delayed phase shift between the pulsing activity of the different sporulation genes, as well as the existence of a stable state, with elevated Spo0A activity but no sporulation, embedded within the dynamical structure of the system. To test the model, we used time-lapse fluorescence microscopy to measure dynamics of single cells initiating sporulation. We observed the delayed phase shift emerging during the progression to sporulation, while a re-engineering of the sporulation circuit revealed behavior resembling the predicted additional state. These results show that periodically-driven bandpass feedback loops can give rise to complex dynamics in the progression towards sporulation.
    PLoS ONE 01/2011; 6(9):e25102. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    Adam Z Rosenthal, Michael B Elowitz
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    ABSTRACT: A new study reports the development of the 'morbidostat', a device that allows for continuous culture of bacteria under a constant drug selection pressure using computer feedback control of antibiotic concentration. This device, together with bacterial whole-genome sequencing, allowed the authors to follow the evolution of resistance-conferring mutations in Escherichia coli populations in real time, providing support for deterministic evolution of resistance in some situations.
    Nature Genetics 01/2011; 44(1):11-3. · 35.21 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

9k Citations
1,001.12 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2008–2014
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States
  • 2004–2014
    • California Institute of Technology
      • • Division of Biology
      • • Division of Engineering and Applied Science
      Pasadena, California, United States
  • 2007
    • University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
      • Green Center for Systems Biology
      Dallas, TX, United States
  • 2005–2007
    • Weizmann Institute of Science
      • Department of Molecular Cell Biology
      Israel
  • 1995–2000
    • Princeton University
      • Department of Physics
      Princeton, NJ, United States