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Topological defects in confined populations of spindle-shaped cells
Guillaume Duclos, Christoph Erlenkämper, Jean-François Joanny & Pascal Silberzan
Nature Physics - 16 (2014) 217–223 - DOI:10.1038/nphys3876 - 2019
Most spindle-shaped cells (including smooth muscles and sarcomas) organize in vivo into well-aligned ‘nematic’ domains1, 2, 3, creating intrinsic topological defects that may be used to probe the behaviour of these active nematic systems. Active non-cellular nematics have been shown to be dominated by activity, yielding complex chaotic flows4, 5. However, the regime in which live spindle-shaped cells operate, and the importance of cell–substrate friction in particular, remains largely unexplored. Using in vitro experiments, we show that these active cellular nematics operate in a regime in which activity is effectively damped by friction, and that the interaction between defects is controlled by the system’s elastic nematic energy. Due to the activity of the cells, these defects behave as self-propelled particles and pairwise annihilate until all displacements freeze as cell crowding increases6, 7. When confined in mesoscopic circular domains, the system evolves towards two identical +1/2 disclinations facing each other. The most likely reduced positions of these defects are independent of the size of the disk, the cells’ activity or even the cell type, but are well described by equilibrium liquid crystal theory. These cell-based systems thus operate in a regime more stable than other active nematics, which may be necessary for their biological function.
Active cargo positioning in antiparallel transport networks.
Mathieu Richard, Carles Blanch-Mercader, Hajer Ennomani, Wenxiang Cao, Enrique M De La Cruz, Jean-François Joanny, Frank Jülicher, Laurent Blanchoin, Pascal Martin
Green Processing and Synthesis - - DOI : 10.1073/pnas.1900416116 - 2019
Cytoskeletal filaments assemble into dense parallel, antiparallel, or disordered networks, providing a complex environment for active cargo transport and positioning by molecular motors. The interplay between the network architecture and intrinsic motor properties clearly affects transport properties but remains poorly understood. Here, by using surface micropatterns of actin polymerization, we investigate stochastic transport properties of colloidal beads in antiparallel networks of overlapping actin filaments. We found that 200-nm beads coated with myosin Va motors displayed directed movements toward positions where the net polarity of the actin network vanished, accumulating there. The bead distribution was dictated by the spatial profiles of local bead velocity and diffusion coefficient, indicating that a diffusion-drift process was at work. Remarkably, beads coated with heavy-mero-myosin II motors showed a similar behavior. However, although velocity gradients were steeper with myosin II, the much larger bead diffusion observed with this motor resulted in less precise positioning. Our observations are well described by a 3-state model, in which active beads locally sense the net polarity of the network by frequently detaching from and reattaching to the filaments. A stochastic sequence of processive runs and diffusive searches results in a biased random walk. The precision of bead positioning is set by the gradient of net actin polarity in the network and by the run length of the cargo in an attached state. Our results unveiled physical rules for cargo transport and positioning in networks of mixed polarity.
Stiffness and tension gradients of the hair cell’s tip-link complex in the mammalian cochlea
Mélanie Tobin, Atitheb Chaiyasitdhi, Vincent Michel, Nicolas Michalski, Pascal Martin
Nature Communications - - doi: 10.7554/eLife.43473 - 2019
Frequency analysis of sound by the cochlea relies on sharp frequency tuning of mechanosensory hair cells along a tonotopic axis. To clarify the underlying biophysical mechanism, we have investigated the micromechanical properties of the hair cell’s mechanoreceptive hair bundle in the rat cochlea. We studied both inner and outer hair cells, which send nervous signals to the brain and amplify cochlear vibrations, respectively. We find that tonotopy is associated with gradients of stiffness and resting mechanical tension, with steeper gradients for outer hair cells, emphasizing the division of labor between the two hair-cell types. We demonstrate that tension in the tip links that convey force to the mechano-electrical transduction channels increases at reduced Ca2+. Finally, we reveal tonotopic gradients in stiffness and tension at the level of a single tip link. We conclude that mechanical gradients of the tip-link complex may help specify the characteristic frequency of the hair cell.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The tip-link complex of the hair cell is mechanically tuned along the tonotopic axis of the cochlea.

An intrinsically disordered region in OSBP acts as an entropic barrier to control protein dynamics and orientation at membrane contact sites
Jamecna D, Polidori DJ, Mesmin B, Dezi M, Lévy D, Bigay J, Antonny B
Dev Cell - - DOI : 10.1016/j.devcel.2019.02.021 - 2019
Lipid transfer proteins (LTPs) acting at membrane contact sites (MCS) between the ER and other organelles contain domains involved in heterotypic (e.g. ER to Golgi) membrane tethering as well as domains involved in lipid transfer. Here, we show that a long ≈ 90 aa intrinsically unfolded sequence at the N-terminus of oxysterol binding protein (OSBP) controls OSBP orientation and dynamics at MCS. This Gly-Pro-Ala-rich sequence, whose hydrodynamic radius is twice as that of folded domains, prevents the two PH domains of the OSBP dimer from homotypically tethering two Golgi-like membranes and considerably facilitates OSBP in-plane diffusion and recycling at MCS. Although quite distant in sequence, the N-terminus of OSBP-related protein-4 (ORP4) has similar effects. We propose that N-terminal sequences of low complexity in ORPs form an entropic barrier that restrains protein orientation, limits protein density and facilitates protein mobility in the narrow and crowded MCS environment.

Actin dynamics drive cell-like membrane deformation
Simon C*, Kusters R*, Caorsi V*, Allard A, Abou-Ghali M, Manzi J, Di Cicco A, Lévy D, Lenz M, Joanny J-F, Campillo C, Plastino J, Sens P, Sykes C
Nature Physics - 15 602–609 - DOI : 10.1038/s41567-019-0464-1 - 2019
Cell membrane deformations are crucial for proper cell function. Specialized protein assemblies initiate inward or outward membrane deformations that the cell uses respectively to uptake external substances or probe the environment. The assembly and dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton are involved in this process, although their detailed role remains controversial. We show here that a dynamic, branched actin network is sufficient to initiate both inward and outward membrane deformation. The polymerization of a dense actin network at the membrane of liposomes produces inward membrane bending at low tension, while outward deformations are robustly generated regardless of tension. Our results shed light on the mechanism cells use to internalize material, both in mammalian cells, where actin polymerization forces are required when membrane tension is increased, and in yeast, where those forces are necessary to overcome the opposing turgor pressure. By combining experimental observations with physical modelling, we propose a mechanism that explains how membrane tension and the architecture of the actin network regulate cell-like membrane deformations.
HLH-2/E2A Expression Links Stochastic and Deterministic Elements of a Cell Fate Decision during C. elegans Gonadogenesis
Attner MA, Keil W, Benavidez JM, Greenwald I.
Curr Biol. - - DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.07.062 - 2019
Stochastic mechanisms diversify cell fate in organisms ranging from bacteria to humans [1-4]. In the anchor cell/ventral uterine precursor cell (AC/VU) fate decision during C. elegans gonadogenesis, two "α cells," each with equal potential to be an AC or a VU, interact via LIN-12/Notch and its ligand LAG-2/DSL [5, 6]. This LIN-12/Notch-mediated interaction engages feedback mechanisms that amplify a stochastic initial difference between the two α cells, ensuring that the cell with higher lin-12 activity becomes the VU while the other becomes the AC [7-9]. The initial difference between the α cells was originally envisaged as a random imbalance from "noise" in lin-12 expression/activity [6]. However, subsequent evidence that the relative birth order of the α cells biases their fates suggested other factors may be operating [7]. Here, we investigate the nature of the initial difference using high-throughput lineage analysis [10]; GFP-tagged endogenous LIN-12, LAG-2, and HLH-2, a conserved transcription factor that orchestrates AC/VU development [7, 11]; and tissue-specific hlh-2 null alleles. We identify two stochastic elements: relative birth order, which largely originates at the beginning of the somatic gonad lineage three generations earlier, and onset of HLH-2 expression, such that the α cell whose parent expressed HLH-2 first is biased toward the VU fate. We find that these elements are interrelated, because initiation of HLH-2 expression is linked to the birth of the parent cell. Finally, we provide a potential deterministic mechanism for the HLH-2 expression bias by showing that hlh-2 is required for LIN-12 expression in the α cells.
A tuneable microfluidic system for long duration chemotaxis experiments in a 3D collagen matrix
Aizel K, Clark AG, Simon A, Geraldo S, Funfak A, Vargas P, Bibette J, Vignjevic DM, Bremond N.
Lab. Chip - 7;17(22): 3851-3861 - DOI: 10.1039/c7lc00649g - 2019
In many cell types, migration can be oriented towards a chemical stimulus. In mammals, for example, embryonic cells migrate to follow developmental cues, immune cells migrate toward sites of inflammation, and cancer cells migrate away from the primary tumour and toward blood vessels during metastasis. Understanding how cells migrate in 3D environments in response to chemical cues is thus crucial to understanding directed migration in normal and disease states. To date, chemotaxis in mammalian cells has been primarily studied using 2D migration models. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the mechanisms by which cells migrate in 2D and 3D environments dramatically differ, and cells in their native environments are confronted with a complex chemical milieu. To address these issues, we developed a microfluidic device to monitor the behaviour of cells embedded in a 3D collagen matrix in the presence of complex concentration fields of chemoattractants. This tuneable microsystem enables the generation of (1) homogeneous, stationary gradients set by a purely diffusive mechanism, or (2) spatially evolving, stationary gradients, set by a convection-diffusion mechanism. The device allows for stable gradients over several days and is large enough to study the behaviour of large cell aggregates. We observe that primary mature dendritic cells respond uniformly to homogeneous diffusion gradients, while cell behaviour is highly position-dependent in spatially variable convection-diffusion gradients. In addition, we demonstrate a directed response of cancer cells migrating away from tumour-like aggregates in the presence of soluble chemokine gradients. Together, this microfluidic device is a powerful system to observe the response of different cells and aggregates to tuneable chemical gradients.
Glutamate spillover in C. elegans triggers repetitive behavior through presynaptic activation of MGL-2/mGluR5.
Katz M, Corson F, Keil W,Singhal A, Bae A, Lu Y, Liang Y, Shaham S.
Nat Commun - 10(1) 1882 - doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-09581-4. - 2019
Glutamate is a major excitatory neurotransmitter, and impaired glutamate clearance following synaptic release promotes spillover, inducing extra-synaptic signaling. The effects of glutamate spillover on animal behavior and its neural correlates are poorly understood. We developed a glutamate spillover model in Caenorhabditis elegans by inactivating the conserved glial glutamate transporter GLT-1. GLT-1 loss drives aberrant repetitive locomotory reversal behavior through uncontrolled oscillatory release of glutamate onto AVA, a major interneuron governing reversals. Repetitive glutamate release and reversal behavior require the glutamate receptor MGL-2/mGluR5, expressed in RIM and other interneurons presynaptic to AVA. mgl-2 loss blocks oscillations and repetitive behavior; while RIM activation is sufficient to induce repetitive reversals in glt-1 mutants. Repetitive AVA firing and reversals require EGL-30/Gαq, an mGluR5 effector. Our studies reveal that cyclic autocrine presynaptic activation drives repetitive reversals following glutamate spillover. That mammalian GLT1 and mGluR5 are implicated in pathological motor repetition suggests a common mechanism controlling repetitive behaviors.
Large work extraction and the Landauer limit in a continuous Maxwell demon
Marco Ribezzi Crivellari
Nature Physics - 15(7) 93 - DOI: 10.1038/s41567-019-0481-0 - 2019
The relation between entropy and information dates back to the classical Maxwell demon paradox¹, a thought experiment proposed in 1867 by James Clerk Maxwell to violate the second law of thermodynamics. A variant of the classical Maxwell demon is the Szilard engine, proposed by Leo Szilard in 1929¹. In it, at a given time, the demon observes the compartment occupied by a single molecule in a vessel and extracts work by operating a pulley device. Here, we introduce the continuous Maxwell demon, a device capable of extracting arbitrarily large amounts of work per cycle by repeated measurements of the state of a system, and experimentally test it in single DNA hairpin pulling experiments. In the continuous Maxwell demon, the demon monitors the state of the DNA hairpin (folded or unfolded) by observing it at equally spaced time intervals, but it extracts work only when the molecule changes state. We demonstrate that the average maximum work per cycle that can be extracted by the continuous Maxwell demon is limited by the information content of the stored sequences, in agreement with the second law. Work extraction efficiency is found to be maximal in the large information-content limit where work extraction is fuelled by rare events.
High-throughput single-cell ChIP-seq identifies heterogeneity of chromatin states in breast cancer
Grosselin K1,2,3, Durand A4,5, Marsolier J, Poitou A, Marangoni E, Nemati F, Dahmani A, Lameiras S, Reyal F, Frenoy O, Pousse Y, Reichen M, Woolfe A, Brenan C, Griffiths AD, Vallot C, Gérard A.i
Nat Genet. - 51(6) 1060-1066 - doi: 10.1038/s41588-019-0424-9. - 2019
Modulation of chromatin structure via histone modification is a major epigenetic mechanism and regulator of gene expression. However, the contribution of chromatin features to tumor heterogeneity and evolution remains unknown. Here we describe a high-throughput droplet microfluidics platform to profile chromatin landscapes of thousands of cells at single-cell resolution. Using patient-derived xenograft models of acquired resistance to chemotherapy and targeted therapy in breast cancer, we found that a subset of cells within untreated drug-sensitive tumors share a common chromatin signature with resistant cells, undetectable using bulk approaches. These cells, and cells from the resistant tumors, have lost chromatin marks-H3K27me3, which is associated with stable transcriptional repression-for genes known to promote resistance to treatment. This single-cell chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing approach paves the way to study the role of chromatin heterogeneity, not just in cancer but in other diseases and healthy systems, notably during cellular differentiation and development.

396 publications.