Publications

2014
Barry, Rachael M, et al.Large-scale filament formation inhibits the activity of CTP synthetase.”. Elife 3 (2014): , 3, e03638. Web.Abstract
CTP Synthetase (CtpS) is a universally conserved and essential metabolic enzyme. While many enzymes form small oligomers, CtpS forms large-scale filamentous structures of unknown function in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. By simultaneously monitoring CtpS polymerization and enzymatic activity, we show that polymerization inhibits activity, and CtpS's product, CTP, induces assembly. To understand how assembly inhibits activity, we used electron microscopy to define the structure of CtpS polymers. This structure suggests that polymerization sterically hinders a conformational change necessary for CtpS activity. Structure-guided mutagenesis and mathematical modeling further indicate that coupling activity to polymerization promotes cooperative catalytic regulation. This previously uncharacterized regulatory mechanism is important for cellular function since a mutant that disrupts CtpS polymerization disrupts E. coli growth and metabolic regulation without reducing CTP levels. We propose that regulation by large-scale polymerization enables ultrasensitive control of enzymatic activity while storing an enzyme subpopulation in a conformationally restricted form that is readily activatable.
Drescher, Knut, et al.Solutions to the public goods dilemma in bacterial biofilms.”. Curr Biol 24.1 (2014): , 24, 1, 50-5. Web.Abstract
Bacteria frequently live in densely populated surface-bound communities, termed biofilms [1-4]. Biofilm-dwelling cells rely on secretion of extracellular substances to construct their communities and to capture nutrients from the environment [5]. Some secreted factors behave as cooperative public goods: they can be exploited by nonproducing cells [6-11]. The means by which public-good-producing bacteria avert exploitation in biofilm environments are largely unknown. Using experiments with Vibrio cholerae, which secretes extracellular enzymes to digest its primary food source, the solid polymer chitin, we show that the public goods dilemma may be solved by two very different mechanisms: cells can produce thick biofilms that confine the goods to producers, or fluid flow can remove soluble products of chitin digestion, denying access to nonproducers. Both processes are unified by limiting the distance over which enzyme-secreting cells provide benefits to neighbors, resulting in preferential benefit to nearby clonemates and allowing kin selection to favor public good production. Our results demonstrate new mechanisms by which the physical conditions of natural habitats can interact with bacterial physiology to promote the evolution of cooperation.
Castellana, Michele, et al.Enzyme clustering accelerates processing of intermediates through metabolic channeling.”. Nat Biotechnol 32.10 (2014): , 32, 10, 1011-8. Web.Abstract
We present a quantitative model to demonstrate that coclustering multiple enzymes into compact agglomerates accelerates the processing of intermediates, yielding the same efficiency benefits as direct channeling, a well-known mechanism in which enzymes are funneled between enzyme active sites through a physical tunnel. The model predicts the separation and size of coclusters that maximize metabolic efficiency, and this prediction is in agreement with previously reported spacings between coclusters in mammalian cells. For direct validation, we study a metabolic branch point in Escherichia coli and experimentally confirm the model prediction that enzyme agglomerates can accelerate the processing of a shared intermediate by one branch, and thus regulate steady-state flux division. Our studies establish a quantitative framework to understand coclustering-mediated metabolic channeling and its application to both efficiency improvement and metabolic regulation.
Haselwandter, Christoph A, and Ned S Wingreen. “The role of membrane-mediated interactions in the assembly and architecture of chemoreceptor lattices.”. PLoS Comput Biol 10.12 (2014): , 10, 12, e1003932. Web.Abstract
In vivo fluorescence microscopy and electron cryo-tomography have revealed that chemoreceptors self-assemble into extended honeycomb lattices of chemoreceptor trimers with a well-defined relative orientation of trimers. The signaling response of the observed chemoreceptor lattices is remarkable for its extreme sensitivity, which relies crucially on cooperative interactions among chemoreceptor trimers. In common with other membrane proteins, chemoreceptor trimers are expected to deform the surrounding lipid bilayer, inducing membrane-mediated anisotropic interactions between neighboring trimers. Here we introduce a biophysical model of bilayer-chemoreceptor interactions, which allows us to quantify the role of membrane-mediated interactions in the assembly and architecture of chemoreceptor lattices. We find that, even in the absence of direct protein-protein interactions, membrane-mediated interactions can yield assembly of chemoreceptor lattices at very dilute trimer concentrations. The model correctly predicts the observed honeycomb architecture of chemoreceptor lattices as well as the observed relative orientation of chemoreceptor trimers, suggests a series of "gateway" states for chemoreceptor lattice assembly, and provides a simple mechanism for the localization of large chemoreceptor lattices to the cell poles. Our model of bilayer-chemoreceptor interactions also helps to explain the observed dependence of chemotactic signaling on lipid bilayer properties. Finally, we consider the possibility that membrane-mediated interactions might contribute to cooperativity among neighboring chemoreceptor trimers.
Bassler, Bonnie L, and Ned S Wingreen. “Working together at the interface of physics and biology.”. Phys Biol 11.5 (2014): , 11, 5, 053010. Web.Abstract
Good communication, whether it is between quorum-sensing bacteria or the different scientists studying those critters, is the key to a successful interdisciplinary collaboration, Bonnie Bassler and Ned Wingreen provide a personal perspective on working at the interface between the physical and biological sciences.
2013
Wang, Siyuan, and Ned S Wingreen. “Cell shape can mediate the spatial organization of the bacterial cytoskeleton.”. Biophys J 104.3 (2013): , 104, 3, 541-52. Web.Abstract
The bacterial cytoskeleton guides the synthesis of cell wall and thus regulates cell shape. Because spatial patterning of the bacterial cytoskeleton is critical to the proper control of cell shape, it is important to ask how the cytoskeleton spatially self-organizes in the first place. In this work, we develop a quantitative model to account for the various spatial patterns adopted by bacterial cytoskeletal proteins, especially the orientation and length of cytoskeletal filaments such as FtsZ and MreB in rod-shaped cells. We show that the combined mechanical energy of membrane bending, membrane pinning, and filament bending of a membrane-attached cytoskeletal filament can be sufficient to prescribe orientation, e.g., circumferential for FtsZ or helical for MreB, with the accuracy of orientation increasing with the length of the cytoskeletal filament. Moreover, the mechanical energy can compete with the chemical energy of cytoskeletal polymerization to regulate filament length. Notably, we predict a conformational transition with increasing polymer length from smoothly curved to end-bent polymers. Finally, the mechanical energy also results in a mutual attraction among polymers on the same membrane, which could facilitate tight polymer spacing or bundling. The predictions of the model can be verified through genetic, microscopic, and microfluidic approaches.
Skoge, Monica, et al.Chemical sensing by nonequilibrium cooperative receptors.”. Phys Rev Lett 110.24 (2013): , 110, 24, 248102. Web.Abstract
Cooperativity arising from local interactions in equilibrium receptor systems provides gain, but does not increase sensory performance, as measured by the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) due to a fundamental tradeoff between gain and intrinsic noise. Here we allow sensing to be a nonequilibrium process and show that energy dissipation cannot circumvent the fundamental tradeoff, so that the SNR is still optimal for independent receptors. For systems requiring high gain, nonequilibrium 2D-coupled receptors maximize the SNR, revealing a new design principle for biological sensors.
Skoge, Monica, et al.Chemical Sensing by Nonequilibrium Cooperative Receptors.”. Phys Rev Lett 110.24 (2013). Web.Abstract
Cooperativity arising from local interactions in equilibrium receptor systems provides gain, but does not increase sensory performance, as measured by the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) due to a fundamental tradeoff between gain and intrinsic noise. Here we allow sensing to be a nonequilibrium process and show that energy dissipation cannot circumvent the fundamental tradeoff, so that the SNR is still optimal for independent receptors. For systems requiring high gain, nonequilibrium 2D-coupled receptors maximize the SNR, revealing a new design principle for biological sensors.
Borenstein, David Bruce, et al.Non-local interaction via diffusible resource prevents coexistence of cooperators and cheaters in a lattice model.”. PLoS One 85 (2013): , 8, 5, e63304. Web.Abstract
Many cellular populations cooperate through the secretion of diffusible extracellular resources, such as digestive enzymes or virulence factors. Diffusion of these resources leads to long-range intercellular interactions, creating the possibility of cooperation but also the risk of exploitation by non-producing neighbors. In the past, considerable attention has been given to game-theoretic lattice models of intercellular cooperation. In these models, coexistence is commonly observed between cooperators (corresponding to resource producers) and cheaters (corresponding to nonproducers). However, these models consider only interactions between direct competitors. We find that when individuals are allowed to interact non-locally through the diffusion of a shared resource coexistence between cooperators and cheaters is lost. Instead, we find population dynamics similar to simple competition, either neutral or biased, with no balancing selection that would favor coexistence. Our results highlight the importance of an accurate treatment of diffusion of shared resources and argue against the generality of the conclusions of game-theoretic lattice models.
Dwyer, Robert S, et al.Predicting functionally informative mutations in Escherichia coli BamA using evolutionary covariance analysis.”. Genetics 195.2 (2013): , 195, 2, 443-55. Web.Abstract
The essential outer membrane β-barrel protein BamA forms a complex with four lipoprotein partners BamBCDE that assembles β-barrel proteins into the outer membrane of Escherichia coli. Detailed genetic studies have shown that BamA cycles through multiple conformations during substrate assembly, suggesting that a complex network of residues may be involved in coordinating conformational changes and lipoprotein partner function. While genetic analysis of BamA has been informative, it has also been slow in the absence of a straightforward selection for mutants. Here we take a bioinformatic approach to identify candidate residues for mutagenesis using direct coupling analysis. Starting with the BamA paralog FhaC, we show that direct coupling analysis works well for large β-barrel proteins, identifying pairs of residues in close proximity in tertiary structure with a true positive rate of 0.64 over the top 50 predictions. To reduce the effects of noise, we designed and incorporated a novel structured prior into the empirical correlation matrix, dramatically increasing the FhaC true positive rate from 0.64 to 0.88 over the top 50 predictions. Our direct coupling analysis of BamA implicates residues R661 and D740 in a functional interaction. We find that the substitutions R661G and D740G each confer OM permeability defects and destabilize the BamA β-barrel. We also identify synthetic phenotypes and cross-suppressors that suggest R661 and D740 function in a similar process and may interact directly. We expect that the direct coupling analysis approach to informed mutagenesis will be particularly useful in systems lacking adequate selections and for dynamic proteins with multiple conformations.
2012
Cooper, Robert M, Ned S Wingreen, and Edward C Cox. “An excitable cortex and memory model successfully predicts new pseudopod dynamics.”. PLoS One 73 (2012): , 7, 3, e33528. Web.Abstract
Motile eukaryotic cells migrate with directional persistence by alternating left and right turns, even in the absence of external cues. For example, Dictyostelium discoideum cells crawl by extending distinct pseudopods in an alternating right-left pattern. The mechanisms underlying this zig-zag behavior, however, remain unknown. Here we propose a new Excitable Cortex and Memory (EC&M) model for understanding the alternating, zig-zag extension of pseudopods. Incorporating elements of previous models, we consider the cell cortex as an excitable system and include global inhibition of new pseudopods while a pseudopod is active. With the novel hypothesis that pseudopod activity makes the local cortex temporarily more excitable--thus creating a memory of previous pseudopod locations--the model reproduces experimentally observed zig-zag behavior. Furthermore, the EC&M model makes four new predictions concerning pseudopod dynamics. To test these predictions we develop an algorithm that detects pseudopods via hierarchical clustering of individual membrane extensions. Data from cell-tracking experiments agrees with all four predictions of the model, revealing that pseudopod placement is a non-Markovian process affected by the dynamics of previous pseudopods. The model is also compatible with known limits of chemotactic sensitivity. In addition to providing a predictive approach to studying eukaryotic cell motion, the EC&M model provides a general framework for future models, and suggests directions for new research regarding the molecular mechanisms underlying directional persistence.
Sourjik, Victor, and Ned S Wingreen. “Responding to chemical gradients: bacterial chemotaxis.”. Curr Opin Cell Biol 24.2 (2012): , 24, 2, 262-8. Web.Abstract
Chemotaxis allows bacteria to follow gradients of nutrients and other environmental stimuli. The bacterium Escherichia coli performs chemotaxis via a run-and-tumble strategy in which sensitive temporal comparisons lead to a biased random walk, with longer runs in the preferred gradient direction. The chemotaxis network of E. coli has developed over the years into one of the most thoroughly studied model systems for signal transduction and behavior, yielding general insights into such properties of cellular networks as signal amplification, signal integration, and robustness. Despite its relative simplicity, the operation of the E. coli chemotaxis network is highly refined and evolutionarily optimized at many levels. For example, recent studies revealed that the network adjusts its signaling properties dependent on the extracellular environment, apparently to optimize chemotaxis under particular conditions. The network can even utilize potentially detrimental stochastic fluctuations in protein levels and reaction rates to maximize the chemotactic performance of the population.
2011
Daly, Kristopher E, et al.Mechanics of membrane bulging during cell-wall disruption in gram-negative bacteria.”. Phys Rev E Stat Nonlin Soft Matter Phys 83.4 Pt 1 (2011): , 83, 4 Pt 1, 041922. Web.Abstract
The bacterial cell wall is a network of sugar strands crosslinked by peptides that serve as the primary structure for bearing osmotic stress. Despite its importance in cellular survival, the robustness of the cell wall to network defects has been relatively unexplored. Treatment of the gram-negative bacterium Escherichia coli with the antibiotic vancomycin, which disrupts the crosslinking of new material during growth, leads to the development of pronounced bulges and eventually of cell lysis. Here, we model the mechanics of the bulging of the cytoplasmic membrane through pores in the cell wall. We find that the membrane undergoes a transition between a nearly flat state and a spherical bulge at a critical pore radius of ~20 nm. This critical pore size is large compared to the typical distance between neighboring peptides and glycan strands, and hence pore size acts as a constraint on network integrity. We also discuss the general implications of our model to membrane deformations in eukaryotic blebbing and vesiculation in red blood cells.
Furchtgott, Leon, Ned S Wingreen, and Kerwyn Casey Huang. “Mechanisms for maintaining cell shape in rod-shaped Gram-negative bacteria.”. Mol Microbiol 81.2 (2011): , 81, 2, 340-53. Web.Abstract
For the rod-shaped Gram-negative bacterium Escherichia coli, changes in cell shape have critical consequences for motility, immune system evasion, proliferation and adhesion. For most bacteria, the peptidoglycan cell wall is both necessary and sufficient to determine cell shape. However, how the synthesis machinery assembles a peptidoglycan network with a robustly maintained micron-scale shape has remained elusive. To explore shape maintenance, we have quantified the robustness of cell shape in three Gram-negative bacteria in different genetic backgrounds and in the presence of an antibiotic that inhibits division. Building on previous modelling suggesting a prominent role for mechanical forces in shape regulation, we introduce a biophysical model for the growth dynamics of rod-shaped cells to investigate the roles of spatial regulation of peptidoglycan synthesis, glycan-strand biochemistry and mechanical stretching during insertion. Our studies reveal that rod-shape maintenance requires insertion to be insensitive to fluctuations in cell-wall density and stress, and even a simple helical pattern of insertion is sufficient for over sixfold elongation without significant loss in shape. In addition, we demonstrate that both the length and pre-stretching of newly inserted strands regulate cell width. In sum, we show that simple physical rules can allow bacteria to achieve robust, shape-preserving cell-wall growth.
Mora, Thierry, et al.Non-genetic individuality in Escherichia coli motor switching.”. Phys Biol 82 (2011): , 8, 2, 024001. Web.Abstract
By analyzing 30 min, high-resolution recordings of single Escherichia coli flagellar motors in the physiological regime, we show that two main properties of motor switching-the mean clockwise and mean counter-clockwise interval durations-vary significantly. When we represent these quantities on a two-dimensional plot for several cells, the data do not fall on a one-dimensional curve, as expected with a single control parameter, but instead spread in two dimensions, pointing to motor individuality. The largest variations are in the mean counter-clockwise interval, and are attributable to variations in the concentration of the internal signaling molecule CheY-P. In contrast, variations in the mean clockwise interval are interpreted in terms of motor individuality. We argue that the sensitivity of the mean counter-clockwise interval to fluctuations in CheY-P is consistent with an optimal strategy of run and tumble. The concomittent variability in mean run length may allow populations of cells to better survive in rapidly changing environments by 'hedging their bets'.
Oleksiuk, Olga, et al.Thermal robustness of signaling in bacterial chemotaxis.”. Cell 145.2 (2011): , 145, 2, 312-21. Web.Abstract
Temperature is a global factor that affects the performance of all intracellular networks. Robustness against temperature variations is thus expected to be an essential network property, particularly in organisms without inherent temperature control. Here, we combine experimental analyses with computational modeling to investigate thermal robustness of signaling in chemotaxis of Escherichia coli, a relatively simple and well-established model for systems biology. We show that steady-state and kinetic pathway parameters that are essential for chemotactic performance are indeed temperature-compensated in the entire physiological range. Thermal robustness of steady-state pathway output is ensured at several levels by mutual compensation of temperature effects on activities of individual pathway components. Moreover, the effect of temperature on adaptation kinetics is counterbalanced by preprogrammed temperature dependence of enzyme synthesis and stability to achieve nearly optimal performance at the growth temperature. Similar compensatory mechanisms are expected to ensure thermal robustness in other systems.
Swanson, Douglas, and Ned S Wingreen. “Active biopolymers confer fast reorganization kinetics.”. Phys Rev Lett 107.21 (2011): , 107, 21, 218103. Web.Abstract
Many cytoskeletal biopolymers are "active," consuming energy in large quantities. In this Letter, we identify a fundamental difference between active polymers and passive, equilibrium polymers: for equal mean lengths, active polymers can reorganize faster than equilibrium polymers. We show that equilibrium polymers are intrinsically limited to linear scaling between mean lifetime (or mean first-passage time, or MFPT) and mean length, MFPT∼, by analogy to 1D Potts models. By contrast, we present a simple active-polymer model that improves upon this scaling, such that MFPT∼(1/2). Since, to be biologically useful, structural biopolymers must typically be many monomers long yet respond dynamically to the needs of the cell, the difference in reorganization kinetics may help to justify the active polymers' greater energy cost.
Teng, Shu-Wen, et al.Active regulation of receptor ratios controls integration of quorum-sensing signals in Vibrio harveyi.”. Mol Syst Biol 7 (2011): , 7, 491. Web.Abstract
Quorum sensing is a chemical signaling mechanism used by bacteria to communicate and orchestrate group behaviors. Multiple feedback loops exist in the quorum-sensing circuit of the model bacterium Vibrio harveyi. Using fluorescence microscopy of individual cells, we assayed the activity of the quorum-sensing circuit, with a focus on defining the functions of the feedback loops. We quantitatively investigated the signaling input-output relation both in cells with all feedback loops present as well as in mutants with specific feedback loops disrupted. We found that one of the feedback loops regulates receptor ratios to control the integration of multiple signals. Together, the feedback loops affect the input-output dynamic range of signal transmission and the noise in the output. We conclude that V. harveyi employs multiple feedback loops to simultaneously control quorum-sensing signal integration and to ensure signal transmission fidelity.
van Teeffelen, Sven, et al.The bacterial actin MreB rotates, and rotation depends on cell-wall assembly.”. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108.38 (2011): , 108, 38, 15822-7. Web.Abstract
Bacterial cells possess multiple cytoskeletal proteins involved in a wide range of cellular processes. These cytoskeletal proteins are dynamic, but the driving forces and cellular functions of these dynamics remain poorly understood. Eukaryotic cytoskeletal dynamics are often driven by motor proteins, but in bacteria no motors that drive cytoskeletal motion have been identified to date. Here, we quantitatively study the dynamics of the Escherichia coli actin homolog MreB, which is essential for the maintenance of rod-like cell shape in bacteria. We find that MreB rotates around the long axis of the cell in a persistent manner. Whereas previous studies have suggested that MreB dynamics are driven by its own polymerization, we show that MreB rotation does not depend on its own polymerization but rather requires the assembly of the peptidoglycan cell wall. The cell-wall synthesis machinery thus either constitutes a novel type of extracellular motor that exerts force on cytoplasmic MreB, or is indirectly required for an as-yet-unidentified motor. Biophysical simulations suggest that one function of MreB rotation is to ensure a uniform distribution of new peptidoglycan insertion sites, a necessary condition to maintain rod shape during growth. These findings both broaden the view of cytoskeletal motors and deepen our understanding of the physical basis of bacterial morphogenesis.
McIsaac, Scott R, et al.Does the potential for chaos constrain the embryonic cell-cycle oscillator?”. PLoS Comput Biol 77 (2011): , 7, 7, e1002109. Web.Abstract
Although many of the core components of the embryonic cell-cycle network have been elucidated, the question of how embryos achieve robust, synchronous cellular divisions post-fertilization remains unexplored. What are the different schemes that could be implemented by the embryo to achieve synchronization? By extending a cell-cycle model previously developed for embryos of the frog Xenopus laevis to include the spatial dimensions of the embryo, we establish a novel role for the rapid, fertilization-initiated calcium wave that triggers cell-cycle oscillations. Specifically, in our simulations a fast calcium wave results in synchronized cell cycles, while a slow wave results in full-blown spatio-temporal chaos. We show that such chaos would ultimately lead to an unpredictable patchwork of cell divisions across the embryo. Given this potential for chaos, our results indicate a novel design principle whereby the fast calcium-wave trigger following embryo fertilization synchronizes cell divisions.

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