Pre-print: Enabling single-molecule localization microscopy in turbid food emulsions

A. Jabermoradi, S. Yang, M. Gobes, J.P.M. van Duynhoven, and J. Hohlbein, bioRxiv, 2021, [link]

Turbidity poses a major challenge for the microscopic characterization of many food systems. In these systems, local mismatches in refractive indices can cause reflection, absorption and scattering of incoming as well as outgoing light leading to significant image deterioration along sample depth. To mitigate the issue of turbidity and to increase the achievable optical resolution, we combined adaptive optics (AO) with single-molecule localization microscopy (SMLM). Building on our previously published open hardware microscopy framework, the miCube, we first added a deformable mirror to the detection path. This element enables both the compensation of aberrations directly from single-molecule data and, by further modulating the emission wavefront, the introduction of various point spread functions (PSFs) to enable SMLM in three dimensions. We further added a top hat beam shaper to the excitation path to obtain an even illumination profile across the field of view (FOV). As a model system for a non-transparent food colloid in which imaging in depth is challenging, we designed an oil-in-water emulsion in which phosvitin, a ferric ion binding protein present in from egg yolk, resides at the oil water interface. We targeted phosvitin with fluorescently labelled primary antibodies and used PSF engineering to obtain 2D and 3D images of phosvitin covered oil droplets with sub 100 nm resolution. Droplets with radii as low as 200 nm can be discerned, which is beyond the range of conventional confocal light microscopy. Our data indicated that in the model emulsion phosvitin is homogeneously distributed at the oil-water interface. With the possibility to obtain super-resolved images in depth of nontransparent colloids, our work paves the way for localizing biomacromolecules at colloidal interfaces in heterogeneous food emulsions.


Published: Spatiotemporal heterogeneity of κ‐carrageenan gels investigated via single-particle-tracking fluorescence microscopy

K.J.A. Martens, J. van Duynhoven, and J. Hohlbein, Langmuir, 36, 5502, 2020, [link]

Hydrogels made of the polysaccharide κ-carrageenan are widely used in the food and personal care industry as thickeners or gelling agents. These hydrogels feature dense regions embedded in a coarser bulk network, but the characteristic size and behavior of these regions has remained elusive. Here, we use single-particle-tracking fluorescence microscopy (sptFM) to quantitatively describe κ-carrageenan gels. Infusing fluorescent probes into fully gelated κ-carrageenan hydrogels resulted in two distinct diffusional behaviors. Obstructed self-diffusion of the probes revealed that the coarse network consists of κ-carrageenan strands with a typical diameter of 3.2 ± 0.3 nm leading to a nanoprobe diffusion coefficient of ~1-5∙10^-12 m2/s. In the dense network regions, we found a fraction with a largely decreased diffusion coefficient of ~1∙10^-13 m2/s. We also observed dynamic exchange between these states. The computation of spatial mobility maps from diffusional data indicated that the dense network regions have a characteristic diameter of ~1 µm and are itself mobile on the seconds-to-minutes timescale. sptFM provides an unprecedented view on spatiotemporal heterogeneity of hydrogel networks, which we believe bears general relevance for understanding transport and release of both low- and high molecular weight solutes.


Pre-print: Analyzing engineered point spread functions using phasor-based single-molecule localization microscopy

K.J.A. Martens, A. Jabermoradi, S. Yang, and J. Hohlbein, bioRxiv, 2020, [link]

The point spread function (PSF) of single molecule emitters can be engineered in the Fourier plane to encode three-dimensional localization information, creating double-helix, saddle-point or tetra-pod PSFs. Here, we describe and assess adaptations of the phasor-based single-molecule localization microscopy (pSMLM) algorithm to localize single molecules using these PSFs with sub-pixel accuracy. For double-helix, pSMLM identifies the two individual lobes and uses their relative rotation for obtaining z-resolved localizations, while for saddle-point or tetra-pod, a novel phasor-based deconvolution approach is used. The pSMLM software package delivers similar precision and recall rates to the best-in-class software package (SMAP) at signal-to-noise ratios typical for organic fluorophores. pSMLM substantially improves the localization rate by a factor of 2 – 4x on a standard CPU, with 1-1.5·104 (double-helix) or 2.5·105 (saddle-point/tetra-pod) localizations/second.

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Published: Substrate conformational dynamics facilitate structure-specific recognition of gapped DNA by DNA polymerase

T.D. Craggs, M. Sustarsic, A. Plochowietz, M. Mosayebi, H. Kaju, A. Cuthbert, J. Hohlbein, L. Domicevica, P.C. Biggin, J.P. K. Doye, A.N. Kapanidis, Nucleic Acid Research, 47, 10788, 2019, [link]

DNA-binding proteins utilise different recognition mechanisms to locate their DNA targets; some proteins recognise specific DNA sequences, while others interact with specific DNA structures. While sequence-specific DNA binding has been studied extensively, structure-specific recognition mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we study structure-specific DNA recognition by examining the structure and dynamics of DNA polymerase I Klenow Fragment (Pol) substrates both alone and in DNA–Pol complexes. Using a docking approach based on a network of 73 distances collected using single-molecule FRET, we determined a novel solution structure of the single-nucleotide-gapped DNA–Pol binary complex. The structure resembled existing crystal structures with regards to the downstream primer-template DNA substrate, and revealed a previously unobserved sharp bend (∼120°) in the DNA substrate; this pronounced bend was present in living cells. MD simulations and single-molecule assays also revealed that 4–5 nt of downstream gap-proximal DNA are unwound in the binary complex. Further, experiments and coarse-grained modelling showed the substrate alone frequently adopts bent conformations with 1–2 nt fraying around the gap, suggesting a mechanism wherein Pol recognises a pre-bent, partially-melted conformation of gapped DNA. We propose a general mechanism for substrate recognition by structure-specific enzymes driven by protein sensing of the conformational dynamics of their DNA substrates.



Publication: Visualisation of dCas9 target search in vivo using an open-microscopy framework

K.J.A. Martens, S. van Beljouw, S. van der Els, J.N.A. Vink, S. Baas, G.A. Vogelaar, S.J.J. Brouns, P. van Baarlen, M. Kleerebezem, J. Hohlbein, Nature Communications, 10, 3552, 2019, [link]

CRISPR-Cas9 is widely used in genomic editing, but the kinetics of target search and its relation to the cellular concentration of Cas9 have remained elusive. Effective target search requires constant screening of the protospacer adjacent motif (PAM) and a 30 ms upper limit for screening was recently found. To further quantify the rapid switching between DNA-bound and freely-diffusing states of dCas9, we developed an open-microscopy framework, the miCube, and introduce Monte-Carlo diffusion distribution analysis (MC-DDA). Our analysis reveals that dCas9 is screening PAMs 40% of the time in Gram-positive Lactoccous lactis, averaging 17 ± 4 ms per binding event. Using heterogeneous dCas9 expression, we determine the number of cellular target-containing plasmids and derive the copy number dependent Cas9 cleavage. Furthermore, we show that dCas9 is not irreversibly bound to target sites but can still interfere with plasmid replication. Taken together, our quantitative data facilitates further optimization of the CRISPR-Cas toolbox.



Pre-print: Direct visualization of native CRISPR target search in live bacteria reveals Cascade DNA surveillance mechanism

J.N.A. Vink, K.J.A. Martens, M. Vlot, R.E. McKenzie, C. Almendros, B. Estrada Bonilla, D.J.W. Brocken, J. Hohlbein, S.J.J. Brouns, bioRxiv, 2019, [link]

CRISPR-Cas systems encode RNA-guided surveillance complexes to find and cleave invading DNA elements. While it is thought that invaders are neutralized minutes after cell entry, the mechanism and kinetics of target search and its impact on CRISPR protection levels have remained unknown. Here we visualized individual Cascade complexes in a native type I CRISPR-Cas system. We uncovered an exponential relationship between Cascade copy number and CRISPR interference levels, pointing to a time-driven arms race between invader replication and target search, in which 20 Cascade complexes provide 50% protection. Driven by PAM-interacting subunit Cas8e, Cascade spends half its search time rapidly probing DNA (∼30 ms) in the nucleoid. We further demonstrate that target DNA transcription and CRISPR arrays affect the integrity of Cascade and impact CRISPR interference. Our work establishes the mechanism of cellular DNA surveillance by Cascade that allows the timely detection of invading DNA in a crowded, DNA-packed environment.


Pre-print: An open microscopy framework suited for tracking dCas9 in live bacteria

K.J.A. Martens, S. van Beljouw, S. van der Els, S. Baas, J.N.A. Vink, S.J.J. Brouns, P. van Baarlen, M. Kleerebezem, J. Hohlbein, bioRxiv, 2018 [link]

Super-resolution microscopy is frequently employedin the life sciences, but the number of freely accessible and affordable microscopy frameworks, especially for single particle tracking photo-activation localization microscopy (sptPALM), remains limited. To this end, we designed the miCube: a versatile super-resolution capable fluorescence microscope, which combines high spatiotemporal resolution, good adaptability, low price, and easy installation. By providing all details, we hope to enable interested researchers to build an identical or derivative instrument. The capabilities of the miCube are assessed with a novel sptPALM assay relying on the heterogeneous expression of target genes. Here, we elucidate mechanistic details of catalytically inactive Cas9 (dead Cas9) in live Lactococcus lactis. We show that, lacking specific DNA target sites, the binding and unbinding of dCas9 to DNA can be described using simplified rate constants of kbound_free = 30 – 80 s-1 and kfree_bound = 15 – 40 s-1. Moreover, after providing specific DNA target sites via DNA plasmids, the plasmid-bound dCas9 population size decreases with increasing dCas9 copy number via a mono-exponential decay, indicative of simple disassociation kinetics.

Published: Precision and accuracy of single-molecule FRET measurements—a multi-laboratory benchmark study

B. Hellenkamp, S. Schmid, O. Doroshenko, O. Opanasyuk, R. Kühnemuth, S. Rezaei Adariani, B. Ambrose, M. Aznauryan, A. Barth, V. Birkedal, M.E. Bowen, H. Chen, T. Cordes, T. Eilert, C. Fijen, C. Gebhardt, M. Götz, G. Gouridis, E. Gratton, T. Ha, P. Hao, C.A. Hanke, A. Hartmann, J. Hendrix, L.L. Hildebrandt, V. Hirschfeld, J. Hohlbein, B.g Hua, C.G. Hübner, E. Kallis, A.N. Kapanidis, J.Y. Kim, G. Krainer, D.C. Lamb, N.K. Lee, E.A. Lemke, B. Levesque, M. Levitus, J.J. McCann, N. Naredi-Rainer, D. Nettels, T. Ngo, R. Qiu, N.C. Robb, C. Röcker, H. Sanabria, M. Schlierf, T. Schröder, B. Schuler, H. Seidel, L. Streit, J. Thurn, P. Tinnefeld, S. Tyagi, N. Vandenberk, A. Manuel Vera, K.R. Weninger, B. Wünsch, I.S. Yanez-Orozco, J. Michaelis, C.A.M. Seidel, T.D. Craggs, T. Hugel, Nature Methods, 15, 669, 2018, [link], preprint on arXiv: [link]

Single-molecule Förster resonance energytransfer (smFRET) is increasingly being used to determine distances, structures, and dynamics of biomolecules in vitro and in vivo. However, generalized protocols and FRET standards to ensure the reproducibility and accuracy of measurements of FRET efficiencies are currently lacking. Here we report the results of a comparative blind study in which 20 labs determined the FRET efficiencies (E) of several dye-labeled DNA duplexes. Using a unified, straightforward method, we obtained FRET efficiencies with s.d. between ± 0.02 and ± 0.05. We suggest experimental and computational procedures for converting FRET efficiencies into accurate distances, and discuss potential uncertainties in the experiment and the modeling. Our quantitative assessment of the reproducibility of intensity-based smFRET measurements and a unified correction procedure represents an important step toward the validation of distance networks, with the ultimate aim of achieving reliable structural models of biomolecular systems by smFRET-based hybrid methods.

Pre-print: DNA polymerase β fingers movement revealed by single-molecule FRET suggests a partially closed conformation as a fidelity checkpoint

C. Fijen, M. Mahmoud, R. Kaup, J. Towle-Weicksel, J. Sweasy, and J. Hohlbein, bioRxiv, 2018 [link]

The eukaryotic DNA polymerase βplays an important role in cellular DNA repair as it fills gaps in single nucleotide gapped DNA that result from removal of damaged bases. Since defects in DNA repair may lead to cancer and genetic instabilities, Pol β has been extensively studied, especially substrate binding and a fidelity-related conformational change called fingers closing. Here, we applied single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer to study the conformational dynamics of Pol β. Using an acceptor labelled polymerase and a donor labelled DNA substrate, we measured distance changes associated with DNA binding and fingers movement. Our findings suggest that Pol β does not bend its gapped DNA substrate to the extent related crystal structures indicate: instead, bending seems to be significantly less profound. Furthermore, we visualized dynamic fingers closing in single Pol β-DNA complexes upon addition of complementary nucleotides and derived rates of conformational changes. Additionally, we provide evidence that the fingers close only partially when an incorrect nucleotide is bound. This ajar conformation found in Pol β, a polymerase of the X-family, suggests the existence of an additional fidelity checkpoint similar to what has been previously proposed for a member of the A-family, the bacterial DNA polymerase I.


Pre-print: Substrate conformational dynamics drive structure-specific recognition of gapped DNA by DNA polymerase

T.D. Craggs, M. Sustarsic, A. Plochowietz, M. Mosayebi, H. Kaju, A. Cuthbert, J. Hohlbein, L. Domicevica, P.C. Biggin, J.P. K. Doye, A.N. Kapanidis, bioRxiv, 2018 [link]

DNA-binding proteins utilisedifferent recognition mechanisms to locate their DNA targets. Some proteins recognise specific nucleotide sequences, while many DNA repair proteins interact with specific (often bent) DNA structures. While sequence-specific DNA binding mechanisms have been studied extensively, structure-specific mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we study structure-specific DNA recognition by examining the structure and dynamics of DNA polymerase I (Pol) substrates both alone and in Pol-DNA complexes. Using a rigid-body docking approach based on a network of 73 distance restraints collected using single-molecule FRET, we determined a novel solution structure of the singlenucleotide-gapped DNA-Pol binary complex. The structure was highly consistent with previous crystal structures with regards to the downstream primer-template DNA substrate; further, our structure showed a previously unobserved sharp bend (~120°) in the DNA substrate; we also showed that this pronounced bending of the substrate is present in living bacteria. All-atom molecular dynamics simulations and single-molecule quenching assays revealed that 4-5 nt of downstream gap-proximal DNA are unwound in the binary complex. Coarse-grained simulations on free gapped substrates reproduced our experimental FRET values with remarkable accuracy ( = -0.0025 across 34 independent distances) and revealed that the one-nucleotide-gapped DNA frequently adopted highly bent conformations similar to those in the Pol-bound state (ΔG 7 kT) or duplex (>> 10 kT) DNA. Our results suggest a mechanism by which Pol and other structure-specific DNA-binding proteins locate their DNA targets through sensing of the conformational dynamics of DNA substrates.