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Battich N, Beumer J, de Barbanson B, Krenning L, Chloé B, Tanenbaum M, Clevers H, van Oudenaarden A. Sequencing metabolically labeled transcripts in single cells reveals mRNA turnover strategies. Science 2020

Abstract: The regulation of messenger RNA levels in mammalian cells can be achieved by the modulation of synthesis and degradation rates. Metabolic RNA-labeling experiments in bulk have quantified these rates using relatively homogeneous cell populations. However, to determine these rates during complex dynamical processes, for instance during cellular differentiation, single-cell resolution is required. Therefore, we developed a method that simultaneously quantifies metabolically labeled and preexisting unlabeled transcripts in thousands of individual cells. We determined synthesis and degradation rates during the cell cycle and during differentiation of intestinal stem cells, revealing major regulatory strategies. These strategies have distinct consequences for controlling the dynamic range and precision of gene expression. These findings advance our understanding of how individual cells in heterogeneous populations shape their gene expression dynamics.


Berchtold D, Battich N, Pelkmans L. A systems-level study reveals regulators of membrane-less organelles in human cells. Molecular Cell 2018

Abstract: Membrane-less organelles (MLOs) are liquid-like subcellular compartments that form through phase separation of proteins and RNA. While their biophysical properties are increasingly understood, their regulation and the consequences of perturbed MLO states for cell physiology are less clear. To study the regulatory networks, we targeted 1,354 human genes and screened for morphological changes of nucleoliCajal bodies, splicing speckles, PML nuclear bodies (PML-NBs), cytoplasmic processing bodies, and stress granules. By multivariate analysis of MLO features we identified hundreds of genes that control MLO homeostasis. We discovered regulatory crosstalk between MLOs, and mapped hierarchical interactions between aberrant MLO states and cellular properties. We provide evidence that perturbation of pre-mRNA splicing results in stress granule formation and reveal that PML-NB abundance influences DNA replication rates and that PML-NBs are in turn controlled by HIP kinases. Together, our comprehensive dataset is an unprecedented resource for deciphering the regulation and biological functions of MLOs.


Stoeger T*, Battich N*, Pelkmans L. Passive noise filtering by cellular compartmentalization. Cell 2016

Abstract: Chemical reactions contain an inherent element of randomness, which presents itself as noise that interferes with cellular processes and communication. Here we discuss the ability of the spatial partitioning of molecular systems to filter and, thus, remove noise, while preserving regulated and predictable differences between single living cells. In contrast to active noise filtering by network motifs, cellular compartmentalization is highly effective and easily scales to numerous systems without requiring a substantial usage of cellular energy. We will use passive noise filtering by the eukaryotic cell nucleus as an example of how this increases predictability of transcriptional output, with possible implications for the evolution of complex multicellularity.

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