Academic Appointments

Professional Education

  • Ph.D., Univ. California, San Francisco, Cell Biology (1993)
  • B.S., Mass. Institute of Technology, Biology (1988)
  • B.S., Mass. Institute of Technology, Physics (1988)

Research & Scholarship

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

We study the interactions between infectious bacteria and the human host cell actin cytoskeleton. Listeria monocytogenes and Shigella flexneri are unrelated food-borne bacterial pathogens that share a common mechanism of invasion and actin-dependent intercellular spread in epithelial cells. Our studies fall into three broad areas: the biochemical basis of actin-based motility by these bacteria, the biophysical mechanism of force generation, and the evolutionary origin of pathogenesis.

Medical studies of bacterial diseases have traditionally focused on the behavior of the bacteria themselves and on the response of the host immune system to infection. However, recent advances in our understanding of the cell biology of host-pathogen relationships indicate that disease-causing bacteria have developed extraordinarily complex and subtle ways of communicating with the host. It is clear that infection is not a process performed solely by a bacterium, but rather an elaborately choreographed interaction between the bacterium and the host cell. Using a combination of videomicroscopy, biochemistry, and molecular genetics, we study the interactions between infectious bacteria and the human host cell cytoskeleton. By examining the mechanisms these bacteria use to communicate with the host cell cytoskeleton, we hope to identify new ways to interfere with the infection process, and arrive at a deeper understanding of the normal regulation of cytoskeletal shape changes and cell movement.

Listeria monocytogenes is a ubiquitous Gram-positive bacterium that can cause serious food-borne infections in pregnant women, newborns, and immunocompromised adults. Shigella flexneri is an unrelated Gram-negative bacterium, a causative agent of bacillary dysentery. Both grow directly in the cytoplasm of infected host cells, and move rapidly throughout the infected cell using a remarkable form of actin-based motility. Within a few hours after infection, host cell actin filaments initially form a dense cloud around the intracytoplasmic bacteria, and then rearrange to form a polarized "comet tail," which is associated with all moving bacteria. The comet tail is made up of short actin filaments crosslinked into a meshwork in which the majority of filaments have their barbed (rapidly growing) ends oriented toward the bacterium. We have demonstrated that new actin filament polymerization occurs only at the front of the tail, adjacent to the surface of the bacterium, and that polymerization occurs at the same rate as bacterial propulsion. Bacteria spread from cell to cell by moving into long membrane-bound protrusions that are phagocytosed by neighboring cells. We have found that a single bacterial surface protein is necessary and sufficient for motility in each organism; ActA in L. monocytogenes and IcsA in Shigella flexneri. Surprisingly, these two proteins share no primary sequence similarity, though their functions are essentially identical.


2018-19 Courses

Stanford Advisees

Graduate and Fellowship Programs


All Publications

  • Matrix stiffness modulates infection of endothelial cells by Listeria monocytogenes via expression of cell surface vimentin. Molecular biology of the cell Bastounis, E. E., Yeh, Y., Theriot, J. A. 2018: mbcE18040228


    Extracellular matrix stiffness (ECM) is one of the many mechanical forces acting on mammalian adherent cells and an important determinant of cellular function. While the effect of ECM stiffness on many aspects of cellular behavior has been previously studied, how ECM stiffness might mediate susceptibility of host cells to infection by bacterial pathogens was hitherto unexplored. To address this open question, we manufactured hydrogels of varying physiologically-relevant stiffness and seeded human microvascular endothelial cells (HMEC-1) on them. We then infected HMEC-1 with the bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes (Lm), and found that adhesion of Lm onto host cells increases monotonically with increasing matrix stiffness, an effect that requires the activity of focal adhesion kinase (FAK). We identified cell surface vimentin as a candidate surface receptor mediating stiffness-dependent adhesion of Lm to HMEC-1 and found that bacterial infection of these host cells is decreased when the amount of surface vimentin is reduced. Our results provide the first evidence that ECM stiffness can mediate the susceptibility of mammalian host cells to infection by a bacterial pathogen.

    View details for DOI 10.1091/mbc.E18-04-0228

    View details for PubMedID 29718765

  • Homeostatic Cell Growth Is Accomplished Mechanically through Membrane Tension Inhibition of Cell-Wall Synthesis CELL SYSTEMS Rojas, E. R., Huang, K., Theriot, J. A. 2017; 5 (6): 578-+


    Feedback mechanisms are required to coordinate balanced synthesis of subcellular components during cell growth. However, these coordination mechanisms are not apparent at steady state. Here, we elucidate the interdependence of cell growth, membrane tension, and cell-wall synthesis by observing their rapid re-coordination after osmotic shocks in Gram-positive bacteria. Single-cell experiments and mathematical modeling demonstrate that mechanical forces dually regulate cell growth: while turgor pressure produces mechanical stress within the cell wall that promotes its expansion through wall synthesis, membrane tension induces growth arrest by inhibiting wall synthesis. Tension inhibition occurs concurrently with membrane depolarization, and depolarization arrested growth independently of shock, indicating that electrical signals implement the negative feedback characteristic of homeostasis. Thus, competing influences of membrane tension and cell-wall mechanical stress on growth allow cells to rapidly correct for mismatches between membrane and wall synthesis rates, ensuring balanced growth.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cels.2017.11.005

    View details for Web of Science ID 000418800600009

    View details for PubMedID 29203279

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5985661

  • Cytoplasmic Flow and Mixing Due to Deformation of Motile Cells BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL Koslover, E. F., Chan, C. K., Theriot, J. A. 2017; 113 (9): 2077–87


    The cytoplasm of a living cell is a dynamic environment through which intracellular components must move and mix. In motile, rapidly deforming cells such as human neutrophils, bulk cytoplasmic flow couples cell deformation to the transport and dispersion of cytoplasmic particles. Using particle-tracking measurements in live neutrophil-like cells, we demonstrate that fluid flow associated with the cell deformation contributes to the motion of small acidic organelles, dominating over diffusion on timescales above a few seconds. We then use a general physical model of particle dispersion in a deforming fluid domain to show that transport of organelle-sized particles between the cell periphery and the bulk can be enhanced by dynamic deformation comparable to that observed in neutrophils. Our results implicate an important mechanism contributing to organelle transport in these motile cells: cytoplasmic flow driven by cell shape deformation.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bpj.2017.09.009

    View details for Web of Science ID 000416212300019

    View details for PubMedID 29117530

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5685780

  • Adhesion to the host cell surface is sufficient to mediate Listeria monocytogenes entry into epithelial cells MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF THE CELL Ortega, F. E., Rengarajan, M., Chavez, N., Radhakrishnan, P., Gloerich, M., Bianchini, J., Siemers, K., Luckett, W. S., Lauer, P., Nelson, W., Theriot, J. A. 2017; 28 (22): 2945–57


    The intestinal epithelium is the first physiological barrier breached by the Gram-positive facultative pathogen Listeria monocytogenes during an in vivo infection. Listeria monocytogenes binds to the epithelial host cell receptor E-cadherin, which mediates a physical link between the bacterium and filamentous actin (F-actin). However, the importance of anchoring the bacterium to F-actin through E-cadherin for bacterial invasion has not been tested directly in epithelial cells. Here we demonstrate that depleting αE-catenin, which indirectly links E-cadherin to F-actin, did not decrease L. monocytogenes invasion of epithelial cells in tissue culture. Instead, invasion increased due to increased bacterial adhesion to epithelial monolayers with compromised cell-cell junctions. Furthermore, expression of a mutant E-cadherin lacking the intracellular domain was sufficient for efficient L. monocytogenes invasion of epithelial cells. Importantly, direct biotin-mediated binding of bacteria to surface lipids in the plasma membrane of host epithelial cells was sufficient for uptake. Our results indicate that the only requirement for L. monocytogenes invasion of epithelial cells is adhesion to the host cell surface, and that E-cadherin-mediated coupling of the bacterium to F-actin is not required.

    View details for DOI 10.1091/mbc.E16-12-0851

    View details for Web of Science ID 000414551600010

    View details for PubMedID 28877987

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5662255

  • Relative Rates of Surface and Volume Synthesis Set Bacterial Cell Size CELL Harris, L. K., Theriot, J. A. 2016; 165 (6): 1479-1492


    Many studies have focused on the mechanisms underlying length and width determination in rod-shaped bacteria. Here, we focus instead on cell surface area to volume ratio (SA/V) and demonstrate that SA/V homeostasis underlies size determination. We propose a model whereby the instantaneous rates of surface and volume synthesis both scale with volume. This model predicts that these relative rates dictate SA/V and that cells approach a new steady-state SA/V exponentially, with a decay constant equal to the volume growth rate. To test this, we exposed diverse bacterial species to sublethal concentrations of a cell wall biosynthesis inhibitor and observed dose-dependent decreases in SA/V. Furthermore, this decrease was exponential and had the expected decay constant. The model also quantitatively describes SA/V alterations induced by other chemical, nutritional, and genetic perturbations. We additionally present evidence for a surface material accumulation threshold underlying division, sensitizing cell length to changes in SA/V requirements.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2016.05.045

    View details for Web of Science ID 000377045400020

    View details for PubMedID 27259152

  • Mechanical crack propagation drives millisecond daughter cell separation in Staphylococcus aureus SCIENCE Zhou, X., Halladin, D. K., Rojas, E. R., Koslover, E. F., Lee, T. K., Huang, K. C., Theriot, J. A. 2015; 348 (6234): 574-578


    When Staphylococcus aureus undergoes cytokinesis, it builds a septum, generating two hemispherical daughters whose cell walls are only connected via a narrow peripheral ring. We found that resolution of this ring occurred within milliseconds ("popping"), without detectable changes in cell volume. The likelihood of popping depended on cell-wall stress, and the separating cells split open asymmetrically, leaving the daughters connected by a hinge. An elastostatic model of the wall indicated high circumferential stress in the peripheral ring before popping. Last, we observed small perforations in the peripheral ring that are likely initial points of mechanical failure. Thus, the ultrafast daughter cell separation in S. aureus appears to be driven by accumulation of stress in the peripheral ring and exhibits hallmarks of mechanical crack propagation.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.aaa1511

    View details for Web of Science ID 000353778100042

  • Surface Area to Volume Ratio: A Natural Variable for Bacterial Morphogenesis TRENDS IN MICROBIOLOGY Harris, L. K., Theriot, J. A. 2018; 26 (10): 815–32


    An immediately observable feature of bacteria is that cell size and shape are remarkably constant and characteristic for a given species in a particular condition, but vary quantitatively with physiological parameters such as growth rate, indicating both genetic and environmental regulation. However, despite decades of research, the molecular mechanisms underlying bacterial morphogenesis have remained incompletely characterized. We recently demonstrated that a wide range of bacterial species exhibit a robust surface area to volume ratio (SA/V) homeostasis. Because cell size, shape, and SA/V are mathematically interconnected, if SA/V is indeed the natural variable that cells actively monitor, this finding has critical implications for our understanding of bacterial morphogenesis, placing fundamental constraints on the sizes and shapes that cells can adopt. In this Opinion article we discuss the broad implications that this novel perspective has for the field of bacterial growth and morphogenesis.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.tim.2018.04.008

    View details for Web of Science ID 000444835500003

    View details for PubMedID 29843923

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6150810

  • The outer membrane is an essential load-bearing element in Gram-negative bacteria. Nature Rojas, E. R., Billings, G., Odermatt, P. D., Auer, G. K., Zhu, L., Miguel, A., Chang, F., Weibel, D. B., Theriot, J. A., Huang, K. C. 2018


    Gram-negative bacteria possess a complex cell envelope that consists of a plasma membrane, a peptidoglycan cell wall and an outer membrane. The envelope is a selective chemical barrier1 that defines cell shape2 and allows the cell to sustain large mechanical loads such as turgor pressure3. It is widely believed that the covalently cross-linked cell wall underpins the mechanical properties of the envelope4,5. Here we show that the stiffness and strength of Escherichia coli cells are largely due to the outer membrane. Compromising the outer membrane, either chemically or genetically, greatly increased deformation of the cell envelope in response to stretching, bending and indentation forces, and induced increased levels of cell lysis upon mechanical perturbation and during L-form proliferation. Both lipopolysaccharides and proteins contributed to the stiffness of the outer membrane. These findings overturn the prevailing dogma that the cell wall is the dominant mechanical element within Gram-negative bacteria, instead demonstrating that the outer membrane can be stiffer than the cell wall, and that mechanical loads are often balanced between these structures.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41586-018-0344-3

    View details for PubMedID 30022160

  • A Multi-well Format Polyacrylamide-based Assay for Studying the Effect of Extracellular Matrix Stiffness on the Bacterial Infection of Adherent Cells. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE Bastounis, E. E., Ortega, F. E., Serrano, R., Theriot, J. A. 2018


    Extracellular matrix stiffness comprises one of the multiple environmental mechanical stimuli that are well known to influence cellular behavior, function, and fate in general. Although increasingly more adherent cell types' responses to matrix stiffness have been characterized, how adherent cells' susceptibility to bacterial infection depends on matrix stiffness is largely unknown, as is the effect of bacterial infection on the biomechanics of host cells. We hypothesize that the susceptibility of host endothelial cells to a bacterial infection depends on the stiffness of the matrix on which these cells reside, and that the infection of the host cells with bacteria will change their biomechanics. To test these two hypotheses, endothelial cells were used as model hosts and Listeria monocytogenes as a model pathogen. By developing a novel multi-well format assay, we show that the effect of matrix stiffness on infection of endothelial cells by L. monocytogenes can be quantitatively assessed through flow cytometry and immunostaining followed by microscopy. In addition, using traction force microscopy, the effect of L. monocytogenes infection on host endothelial cell biomechanics can be studied. The proposed method allows for the analysis of the effect of tissue-relevant mechanics on bacterial infection of adherent cells, which is a critical step towards understanding the biomechanical interactions between cells, their extracellular matrix, and pathogenic bacteria. This method is also applicable to a wide variety of other types of studies on cell biomechanics and response to substrate stiffness where it is important to be able to perform many replicates in parallel in each experiment.

    View details for DOI 10.3791/57361

    View details for PubMedID 30035758

  • Acute Modulation of Mycobacterial Cell Envelope Biogenesis by Front-Line Tuberculosis Drugs ANGEWANDTE CHEMIE-INTERNATIONAL EDITION Rodriguez-Rivera, F. P., Zhou, X., Theriot, J. A., Bertozzi, C. R. 2018; 57 (19): 5267–72


    Front-line tuberculosis (TB) drugs have been characterized extensively in vitro and in vivo with respect to gene expression and cell viability. However, little work has been devoted to understanding their effects on the physiology of the cell envelope, one of the main targets of this clinical regimen. Herein, we use metabolic labeling methods to visualize the effects of TB drugs on cell envelope dynamics in mycobacterial species. We developed a new fluorophore-trehalose conjugate to visualize trehalose monomycolates of the mycomembrane using super-resolution microscopy. We also probed the relationship between mycomembrane and peptidoglycan dynamics using a dual metabolic labeling strategy. Finally, we found that metabolic labeling of both cell envelope structures reports on drug effects on cell physiology in two hours, far faster than a genetic sensor of cell envelope stress. Our work provides insight into acute drug effects on cell envelope biogenesis in live mycobacteria.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/anie.201712020

    View details for Web of Science ID 000431035500010

    View details for PubMedID 29392891

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5924460

  • Listeria monocytogenes InIP interacts with afadin and facilitates basement membrane crossing PLOS PATHOGENS Faralla, C., Bastounis, E. E., Ortega, F. E., Light, S. H., Rizzuto, G., Nocadello, S., Anderson, W. F., Robbins, J. R., Theriot, J. A., Bakardjiev, A. I. 2018; 14 (5): e1007094


    During pregnancy, the placenta protects the fetus against the maternal immune response, as well as bacterial and viral pathogens. Bacterial pathogens that have evolved specific mechanisms of breaching this barrier, such as Listeria monocytogenes, present a unique opportunity for learning how the placenta carries out its protective function. We previously identified the L. monocytogenes protein Internalin P (InlP) as a secreted virulence factor critical for placental infection. Here, we show that InlP, but not the highly similar L. monocytogenes internalin Lmo2027, binds to human afadin (encoded by AF-6), a protein associated with cell-cell junctions. A crystal structure of InlP reveals several unique features, including an extended leucine-rich repeat (LRR) domain with a distinctive Ca2+-binding site. Despite afadin's involvement in the formation of cell-cell junctions, MDCK epithelial cells expressing InlP displayed a decrease in the magnitude of the traction stresses they could exert on deformable substrates, similar to the decrease in traction exhibited by AF-6 knock-out MDCK cells. L. monocytogenes ΔinlP mutants were deficient in their ability to form actin-rich protrusions from the basal face of polarized epithelial monolayers, a necessary step in the crossing of such monolayers (transcytosis). A similar phenotype was observed for bacteria expressing an internal in-frame deletion in inlP (inlP ΔLRR5) that specifically disrupts its interaction with afadin. However, afadin deletion in the host cells did not rescue the transcytosis defect. We conclude that secreted InlP targets cytosolic afadin to specifically promote L. monocytogenes transcytosis across the basal face of epithelial monolayers, which may contribute to the crossing of the basement membrane during placental infection.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007094

    View details for Web of Science ID 000434026400056

    View details for PubMedID 29847585

  • Visualization of mycobacterial membrane dynamics in live cells. Journal of the American Chemical Society Rodriguez-Rivera, F. P., Zhou, X., Theriot, J. A., Bertozzi, C. R. 2017; 139 (9): 3488-3495


    Mycobacteria are endowed with a highly impermeable mycomembrane that confers intrinsic resistance to many antibiotics. Several unique mycomembrane glycolipids have been isolated and structurally characterized, but the underlying organization and dynamics of glycolipids within the cell envelope remain poorly understood. We report here a study of mycomembrane dynamics that was enabled by trehalose-fluorophore conjugates capable of labeling trehalose glycolipids in live actinomycetes. We identified fluorescein-trehalose analogues that are metabolically incorporated into the trehalose mycolates of representative Mycobacterium, Corynebacterium, Nocardia, and Rhodococcus species. Using these probes, we studied the mobilities of labeled glycolipids by time-lapse microscopy and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching experiments and found that mycomembrane fluidity varies widely across species and correlates with mycolic acid structure. Finally, we discovered that treatment of mycobacteria with ethambutol, a front-line tuberculosis (TB) drug, significantly increases mycomembrane fluidity. These findings enhance our understanding of mycobacterial cell envelope structure and dynamics and have implications for development of TB drug cocktails.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/jacs.6b12541

    View details for PubMedID 28075574

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5345120

  • Adhesion-Dependent Wave Generation in Crawling Cells CURRENT BIOLOGY Barnhart, E. L., Allard, J., Lou, S. S., Theriot, J. A., Mogilner, A. 2017; 27 (1): 27-38


    Dynamic actin networks are excitable. In migrating cells, feedback loops can amplify stochastic fluctuations in actin dynamics, often resulting in traveling waves of protrusion. The precise contributions of various molecular and mechanical interactions to wave generation have been difficult to disentangle, in part due to complex cellular morphodynamics. Here we used a relatively simple cell type-the fish epithelial keratocyte-to define a set of mechanochemical feedback loops underlying actin network excitability and wave generation. Although keratocytes are normally characterized by the persistent protrusion of a broad leading edge, increasing cell-substrate adhesion strength results in waving protrusion of a short leading edge. We show that protrusion waves are due to fluctuations in actin polymerization rates and that overexpression of VASP, an actin anti-capping protein that promotes actin polymerization, switches highly adherent keratocytes from waving to persistent protrusion. Moreover, VASP localizes both to adhesion complexes and to the leading edge. Based on these results, we developed a mathematical model for protrusion waves in which local depletion of VASP from the leading edge by adhesions-along with lateral propagation of protrusion due to the branched architecture of the actin network and negative mechanical feedback from the cell membrane-results in regular protrusion waves. Consistent with our model simulations, we show that VASP localization at the leading edge oscillates, with VASP leading-edge enrichment greatest just prior to protrusion initiation. We propose that the mechanochemical feedbacks underlying wave generation in keratocytes may constitute a general module for establishing excitable actin dynamics in other cellular contexts.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2016.11.011

    View details for Web of Science ID 000391902500019

    View details for PubMedID 27939309

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5225140

  • Rickettsia Sca4 Reduces Vinculin-Mediated Intercellular Tension to Promote Spread. Cell Lamason, R. L., Bastounis, E., Kafai, N. M., Serrano, R., Del Álamo, J. C., Theriot, J. A., Welch, M. D. 2016; 167 (3): 670-683 e10


    Spotted fever group (SFG) rickettsiae are human pathogens that infect cells in the vasculature. They disseminate through host tissues by a process of cell-to-cell spread that involves protrusion formation, engulfment, and vacuolar escape. Other bacterial pathogens rely on actin-based motility to provide a physical force for spread. Here, we show that SFG species Rickettsia parkeri typically lack actin tails during spread and instead manipulate host intercellular tension and mechanotransduction to promote spread. Using transposon mutagenesis, we identified surface cell antigen 4 (Sca4) as a secreted effector of spread that specifically promotes protrusion engulfment. Sca4 interacts with the cell-adhesion protein vinculin and blocks association with vinculin's binding partner, α-catenin. Using traction and monolayer stress microscopy, we show that Sca4 reduces vinculin-dependent mechanotransduction at cell-cell junctions. Our results suggest that Sca4 relieves intercellular tension to promote protrusion engulfment, which represents a distinctive strategy for manipulating cytoskeletal force generation to enable spread.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2016.09.023

    View details for PubMedID 27768890

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5097866

  • Endothelial Cells Use a Formin-Dependent Phagocytosis-Like Process to Internalize the Bacterium Listeria monocytogenes PLOS PATHOGENS Rengarajan, M., Hayer, A., Theriot, J. A. 2016; 12 (5)


    Vascular endothelial cells act as gatekeepers that protect underlying tissue from blood-borne toxins and pathogens. Nevertheless, endothelial cells are able to internalize large fibrin clots and apoptotic debris from the bloodstream, although the precise mechanism of such phagocytosis-like uptake is unknown. We show that cultured primary human endothelial cells (HUVEC) internalize both pathogenic and non-pathogenic Listeria bacteria comparably, in a phagocytosis-like process. In contrast with previously studied host cell types, including intestinal epithelial cells and hepatocytes, we find that endothelial internalization of Listeria is independent of all known pathogenic bacterial surface proteins. Consequently, we exploited the internalization and intracellular replication of L. monocytogenes to identify distinct host cell factors that regulate phagocytosis-like uptake in HUVEC. Using siRNA screening and subsequent genetic and pharmacologic perturbations, we determined that endothelial infectivity was modulated by cytoskeletal proteins that normally modulate global architectural changes, including phosphoinositide-3-kinase, focal adhesions, and the small GTPase Rho. We found that Rho kinase (ROCK) is acutely necessary for adhesion of Listeria to endothelial cells, whereas the actin-nucleating formins FHOD1 and FMNL3 specifically regulate internalization of bacteria as well as inert beads, demonstrating that formins regulate endothelial phagocytosis-like uptake independent of the specific cargo. Finally, we found that neither ROCK nor formins were required for macrophage phagocytosis of L. monocytogenes, suggesting that endothelial cells have distinct requirements for bacterial internalization from those of classical professional phagocytes. Our results identify a novel pathway for L. monocytogenes uptake by human host cells, indicating that this wily pathogen can invade a variety of tissues by using a surprisingly diverse suite of distinct uptake mechanisms that operate differentially in different host cell types.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.ppat.1005603

    View details for Web of Science ID 000379344500016

    View details for PubMedID 27152864

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4859537

  • Disentangling Random Motion and Flow in a Complex Medium. Biophysical journal Koslover, E. F., Chan, C. K., Theriot, J. A. 2016; 110 (3): 700-709


    We describe a technique for deconvolving the stochastic motion of particles from large-scale fluid flow in a dynamic environment such as that found in living cells. The method leverages the separation of timescales to subtract out the persistent component of motion from single-particle trajectories. The mean-squared displacement of the resulting trajectories is rescaled so as to enable robust extraction of the diffusion coefficient and subdiffusive scaling exponent of the stochastic motion. We demonstrate the applicability of the method for characterizing both diffusive and fractional Brownian motion overlaid by flow and analytically calculate the accuracy of the method in different parameter regimes. This technique is employed to analyze the motion of lysosomes in motile neutrophil-like cells, showing that the cytoplasm of these cells behaves as a viscous fluid at the timescales examined.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bpj.2015.11.008

    View details for PubMedID 26840734

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4744162

  • Fast Mechanically Driven Daughter Cell Separation Is Widespread in Actinobacteria. mBio Zhou, X., Halladin, D. K., Theriot, J. A. 2016; 7 (4)


    Dividing cells of the coccoid Gram-positive bacterium Staphylococcus aureus undergo extremely rapid (millisecond) daughter cell separation (DCS) driven by mechanical crack propagation, a strategy that is very distinct from the gradual, enzymatically driven cell wall remodeling process that has been well described in several rod-shaped model bacteria. To determine if other bacteria, especially those in the same phylum (Firmicutes) or with similar coccoid shapes as S. aureus, might use a similar mechanically driven strategy for DCS, we used high-resolution video microscopy to examine cytokinesis in a phylogenetically wide range of species with various cell shapes and sizes. We found that fast mechanically driven DCS is rather rare in the Firmicutes (low G+C Gram positives), observed only in Staphylococcus and its closest coccoid relatives in the Macrococcus genus, and we did not observe this division strategy among the Gram-negative Proteobacteria In contrast, several members of the high-G+C Gram-positive phylum Actinobacteria (Micrococcus luteus, Brachybacterium faecium, Corynebacterium glutamicum, and Mycobacterium smegmatis) with diverse shapes ranging from coccoid to rod all undergo fast mechanical DCS during cell division. Most intriguingly, similar fast mechanical DCS was also observed during the sporulation of the actinobacterium Streptomyces venezuelaeMuch of our knowledge on bacterial cytokinesis comes from studying rod-shaped model organisms such as Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis Less is known about variations in this process among different bacterial species. While cell division in many bacteria has been characterized to some extent genetically or biochemically, few species have been examined using video microscopy to uncover the kinetics of cytokinesis and daughter cell separation (DCS). In this work, we found that fast (millisecond) DCS is exhibited by species in two independent clades of Gram-positive bacteria and is particularly prevalent among the Actinobacteria, a diverse group that includes significant pathogens as well as bacteria that generate medically important antibiotics.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/mBio.00952-16

    View details for PubMedID 27578753

  • Variation in Taxonomic Composition of the Fecal Microbiota in an Inbred Mouse Strain across Individuals and Time PLOS ONE Hoy, Y. E., Bik, E. M., Lawley, T. D., Holmes, S. P., Monack, D. M., Theriot, J. A., Relman, D. A. 2015; 10 (11)


    Genetics, diet, and other environmental exposures are thought to be major factors in the development and composition of the intestinal microbiota of animals. However, the relative contributions of these factors in adult animals, as well as variation with time in a variety of important settings, are still not fully understood. We studied a population of inbred, female mice fed the same diet and housed under the same conditions. We collected fecal samples from 46 individual mice over two weeks, sampling four of these mice for periods as long as 236 days for a total of 190 samples, and determined the phylogenetic composition of their microbial communities after analyzing 1,849,990 high-quality pyrosequencing reads of the 16S rRNA gene V3 region. Even under these controlled conditions, we found significant inter-individual variation in community composition, as well as variation within an individual over time, including increases in alpha diversity during the first 2 months of co-habitation. Some variation was explained by mouse membership in different cage and vendor shipment groups. The differences among individual mice from the same shipment group and cage were still significant. Overall, we found that 23% of the variation in intestinal microbiota composition was explained by changes within the fecal microbiota of a mouse over time, 12% was explained by persistent differences among individual mice, 14% by cage, and 18% by shipment group. Our findings suggest that the microbiota of controlled populations of inbred laboratory animals may not be as uniform as previously thought, that animal rearing and handling may account for some variation, and that as yet unidentified factors may explain additional components of variation in the composition of the microbiota within populations and individuals over time. These findings have implications for the design and interpretation of experiments involving laboratory animals.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0142825

    View details for Web of Science ID 000367628500058

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4643986

  • Myosin light chain kinase regulates cell polarization independently of membrane tension or Rho kinase JOURNAL OF CELL BIOLOGY Lou, S. S., Diz-Munoz, A., Weiner, O. D., Fletcher, D. A., Theriot, J. A. 2015; 209 (2): 275-288


    Cells polarize to a single front and rear to achieve rapid actin-based motility, but the mechanisms preventing the formation of multiple fronts are unclear. We developed embryonic zebrafish keratocytes as a model system for investigating establishment of a single axis. We observed that, although keratocytes from 2 d postfertilization (dpf) embryos resembled canonical fan-shaped keratocytes, keratocytes from 4 dpf embryos often formed multiple protrusions despite unchanged membrane tension. Using genomic, genetic, and pharmacological approaches, we determined that the multiple-protrusion phenotype was primarily due to increased myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) expression. MLCK activity influences cell polarity by increasing myosin accumulation in lamellipodia, which locally decreases protrusion lifetime, limiting lamellipodial size and allowing for multiple protrusions to coexist within the context of membrane tension limiting protrusion globally. In contrast, Rho kinase (ROCK) regulates myosin accumulation at the cell rear and does not determine protrusion size. These results suggest a novel MLCK-specific mechanism for controlling cell polarity via regulation of myosin activity in protrusions.

    View details for DOI 10.1083/jcb.201409001

    View details for Web of Science ID 000354012800012

    View details for PubMedID 25918227

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4411279

  • Balance between cell-substrate adhesion and myosin contraction determines the frequency of motility initiation in fish keratocytes PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Barnhart, E., Lee, K., Allen, G. M., Theriot, J. A., Mogilner, A. 2015; 112 (16): 5045-5050


    Cells are dynamic systems capable of spontaneously switching among stable states. One striking example of this is spontaneous symmetry breaking and motility initiation in fish epithelial keratocytes. Although the biochemical and mechanical mechanisms that control steady-state migration in these cells have been well characterized, the mechanisms underlying symmetry breaking are less well understood. In this work, we have combined experimental manipulations of cell-substrate adhesion strength and myosin activity, traction force measurements, and mathematical modeling to develop a comprehensive mechanical model for symmetry breaking and motility initiation in fish epithelial keratocytes. Our results suggest that stochastic fluctuations in adhesion strength and myosin localization drive actin network flow rates in the prospective cell rear above a critical threshold. Above this threshold, high actin flow rates induce a nonlinear switch in adhesion strength, locally switching adhesions from gripping to slipping and further accelerating actin flow in the prospective cell rear, resulting in rear retraction and motility initiation. We further show, both experimentally and with model simulations, that the global levels of adhesion strength and myosin activity control the stability of the stationary state: The frequency of symmetry breaking decreases with increasing adhesion strength and increases with increasing myosin contraction. Thus, the relative strengths of two opposing mechanical forces-contractility and cell-substrate adhesion-determine the likelihood of spontaneous symmetry breaking and motility initiation.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1417257112

    View details for Web of Science ID 000353239100061

    View details for PubMedID 25848042

  • A Caulobacter MreB mutant with irregular cell shape exhibits compensatory widening to maintain a preferred surface area to volume ratio MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGY Harris, L. K., Dye, N. A., Theriot, J. A. 2014; 94 (5): 988-1005

    View details for DOI 10.1111/mmi.12811

    View details for Web of Science ID 000345595100002

  • Response of Escherichia coli growth rate to osmotic shock PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Rojas, E., Theriot, J. A., Huang, K. C. 2014; 111 (21): 7807-7812


    It has long been proposed that turgor pressure plays an essential role during bacterial growth by driving mechanical expansion of the cell wall. This hypothesis is based on analogy to plant cells, for which this mechanism has been established, and on experiments in which the growth rate of bacterial cultures was observed to decrease as the osmolarity of the growth medium was increased. To distinguish the effect of turgor pressure from pressure-independent effects that osmolarity might have on cell growth, we monitored the elongation of single Escherichia coli cells while rapidly changing the osmolarity of their media. By plasmolyzing cells, we found that cell-wall elastic strain did not scale with growth rate, suggesting that pressure does not drive cell-wall expansion. Furthermore, in response to hyper- and hypoosmotic shock, E. coli cells resumed their preshock growth rate and relaxed to their steady-state rate after several minutes, demonstrating that osmolarity modulates growth rate slowly, independently of pressure. Oscillatory hyperosmotic shock revealed that although plasmolysis slowed cell elongation, the cells nevertheless "stored" growth such that once turgor was reestablished the cells elongated to the length that they would have attained had they never been plasmolyzed. Finally, MreB dynamics were unaffected by osmotic shock. These results reveal the simple nature of E. coli cell-wall expansion: that the rate of expansion is determined by the rate of peptidoglycan insertion and insertion is not directly dependent on turgor pressure, but that pressure does play a basic role whereby it enables full extension of recently inserted peptidoglycan.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1402591111

    View details for Web of Science ID 000336411300068

    View details for PubMedID 24821776

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4040581

  • Changes in oscillatory dynamics in the cell cycle of early Xenopus laevis embryos. PLoS biology Tsai, T. Y., Theriot, J. A., Ferrell, J. E. 2014; 12 (2)


    During the early development of Xenopus laevis embryos, the first mitotic cell cycle is long (∼85 min) and the subsequent 11 cycles are short (∼30 min) and clock-like. Here we address the question of how the Cdk1 cell cycle oscillator changes between these two modes of operation. We found that the change can be attributed to an alteration in the balance between Wee1/Myt1 and Cdc25. The change in balance converts a circuit that acts like a positive-plus-negative feedback oscillator, with spikes of Cdk1 activation, to one that acts like a negative-feedback-only oscillator, with a shorter period and smoothly varying Cdk1 activity. Shortening the first cycle, by treating embryos with the Wee1A/Myt1 inhibitor PD0166285, resulted in a dramatic reduction in embryo viability, and restoring the length of the first cycle in inhibitor-treated embryos with low doses of cycloheximide partially rescued viability. Computations with an experimentally parameterized mathematical model show that modest changes in the Wee1/Cdc25 ratio can account for the observed qualitative changes in the cell cycle. The high ratio in the first cycle allows the period to be long and tunable, and decreasing the ratio in the subsequent cycles allows the oscillator to run at a maximal speed. Thus, the embryo rewires its feedback regulation to meet two different developmental requirements during early development.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001788

    View details for PubMedID 24523664

  • Changes in Oscillatory Dynamics in the Cell Cycle of Early Xenopus laevis Embryos. PLoS biology Tsai, T. Y., Theriot, J. A., Ferrell, J. E. 2014; 12 (2)

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001788

    View details for PubMedID 24523664

  • Why are bacteria different from eukaryotes? BMC BIOLOGY Theriot, J. A. 2013; 11

    View details for DOI 10.1186/1741-7007-11-119

    View details for Web of Science ID 000328407100001

    View details for PubMedID 24330667

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3874686

  • Membrane Tension in Rapidly Moving Cells Is Determined by Cytoskeletal Forces CURRENT BIOLOGY Lieber, A. D., Yehudai-Resheff, S., Barnhart, E. L., Theriot, J. A., Keren, K. 2013; 23 (15): 1409-1417


    Membrane tension plays an essential role in cell motility. The load imposed by the tensed membrane restrains actin polymerization, promotes rear retraction, and influences membrane transport. Moreover, membrane tension is crucial for large-scale coordination of cell boundary dynamics. Despite its importance, little is known about how membrane tension is set and regulated in cells. The prevailing hypothesis is that membrane tension is largely controlled by membrane-cytoskeleton adhesion and/or changes in membrane area.In this work, we measure the apparent membrane tension in rapidly moving fish epithelial keratocytes under normal and perturbed conditions with a tether-pulling assay. We find that enlargement of the cell surface area by fusion with giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs) has only minor effects on membrane tension and on cell movement. However, modulation of the cytoskeletal forces has a substantial influence on tension: reduction of the actin-pushing forces along the cell's leading edge leads to a significant decrease in membrane tension, whereas increase of the strength of adhesion and/or decrease of myosin-induced contraction leads to higher tension.We find that the membrane tension in rapidly moving keratocytes is primarily determined by a mechanical force balance between the cell membrane and cytoskeletal forces. Our results highlight the role of membrane tension as a global mechanical regulator of cell behavior.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2013.05.063

    View details for Web of Science ID 000322930200016

    View details for PubMedID 23831292

  • Electrophoresis of Cellular Membrane Components Creates the Directional Cue Guiding Keratocyte Galvanotaxis CURRENT BIOLOGY Allen, G. M., Mogilner, A., Theriot, J. A. 2013; 23 (7): 560-568


    Motile cells exposed to an external direct current electric field will reorient and migrate along the direction of the electric potential in a process known as galvanotaxis. The underlying physical mechanism that allows a cell to sense an electric field is unknown, although several plausible hypotheses have been proposed. In this work we evaluate the validity of each of these mechanisms.We find that the directional motile response of fish epidermal cells to the cathode in an electric field does not require extracellular sodium or potassium, is insensitive to membrane potential, and is also insensitive to perturbation of calcium, sodium, hydrogen, or chloride ion transport across the plasma membrane. Cells migrate in the direction of applied forces from laminar fluid flow, but reversal of electro-osmotic flow did not affect the galvanotactic response. Galvanotaxis fails when extracellular pH is below 6, suggesting that the effective charge of membrane components might be a crucial factor. Slowing the migration of membrane components with an increase in aqueous viscosity slows the kinetics of the galvanotactic response. In addition, inhibition of PI3K reverses the cell's response to the anode, suggesting the existence of multiple signaling pathways downstream of the galvanotactic signal.Our results are most consistent with the hypothesis that electrophoretic redistribution of membrane components of the motile cell is the primary physical mechanism for motile cells to sense an electric field. This chemical polarization of the cellular membrane is then transduced by intracellular signaling pathways canonical to chemotaxis to dictate the cell's direction of travel.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2013.02.047

    View details for Web of Science ID 000317371200019

    View details for PubMedID 23541731

  • Open questions - in brief: beyond -omics, missing motor proteins, and getting from molecules to organisms. BMC biology Benkovic, S. J., Theriot, J., Ringe, D. 2013; 11: 8-?

    View details for DOI 10.1186/1741-7007-11-8

    View details for PubMedID 23369202

  • Analysis of Surface Protein Expression Reveals the Growth Pattern of the Gram-Negative Outer Membrane PLOS COMPUTATIONAL BIOLOGY Ursell, T. S., Trepagnier, E. H., Huang, K. C., Theriot, J. A. 2012; 8 (9)


    The outer membrane (OM) of Gram-negative bacteria is a complex bilayer composed of proteins, phospholipids, lipoproteins, and lipopolysaccharides. Despite recent advances revealing the molecular pathways underlying protein and lipopolysaccharide incorporation into the OM, the spatial distribution and dynamic regulation of these processes remain poorly understood. Here, we used sequence-specific fluorescent labeling to map the incorporation patterns of an OM-porin protein, LamB, by labeling proteins only after epitope exposure on the cell surface. Newly synthesized LamB appeared in discrete puncta, rather than evenly distributed over the cell surface. Further growth of bacteria after labeling resulted in divergence of labeled LamB puncta, consistent with a spatial pattern of OM growth in which new, unlabeled material was also inserted in patches. At the poles, puncta remained relatively stationary through several rounds of division, a salient characteristic of the OM protein population as a whole. We propose a biophysical model of growth in which patches of new OM material are added in discrete bursts that evolve in time according to Stokes flow and are randomly distributed over the cell surface. Simulations based on this model demonstrate that our experimental observations are consistent with a bursty insertion pattern without spatial bias across the cylindrical cell surface, with approximately one burst of ≈ 10(-2) µm(2) of OM material per two minutes per µm(2). Growth by insertion of discrete patches suggests that stochasticity plays a major role in patterning and material organization in the OM.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002680

    View details for Web of Science ID 000309510900017

    View details for PubMedID 23028278

  • Surface-Layer (S-Layer) Proteins Sap and EA1 Govern the Binding of the S-Layer-Associated Protein BslO at the Cell Septa of Bacillus anthracis JOURNAL OF BACTERIOLOGY Kern, V. J., Kern, J. W., Theriot, J. A., Schneewind, O., Missiakas, D. 2012; 194 (15): 3833-3840


    The Gram-positive pathogen Bacillus anthracis contains 24 genes whose products harbor the structurally conserved surface-layer (S-layer) homology (SLH) domain. Proteins endowed with the SLH domain associate with the secondary cell wall polysaccharide (SCWP) following secretion. Two such proteins, Sap and EA1, have the unique ability to self-assemble into a paracrystalline layer on the surface of bacilli and form S layers. Other SLH domain proteins can also be found within the S layer and have been designated Bacillus S-layer-associated protein (BSLs). While both S-layer proteins and BSLs bind the same SCWP, their deposition on the cell surface is not random. For example, BslO is targeted to septal peptidoglycan zones, where it catalyzes the separation of daughter cells. Here we show that an insertional lesion in the sap structural gene results in elongated chains of bacilli, as observed with a bslO mutant. The chain length of the sap mutant can be reduced by the addition of purified BslO in the culture medium. This complementation in trans can be explained by an increased deposition of BslO onto the surface of sap mutant bacilli that extends beyond chain septa. Using fluorescence microscopy, we observed that the Sap S layer does not overlap the EA1 S layer and slowly yields to the EA1 S layer in a growth-phase-dependent manner. Although present all over bacilli, Sap S-layer patches are not observed at septa. Thus, we propose that the dynamic Sap/EA1 S-layer coverage of the envelope restricts the deposition of BslO to the SCWP at septal rings.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/JB.00402-12

    View details for Web of Science ID 000306634300008

    View details for PubMedID 22609927

  • Analytical Tools To Distinguish the Effects of Localization Error, Confinement, and Medium Elasticity on the Velocity Autocorrelation Function BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL Weber, S. C., Thompson, M. A., Moerner, W. E., Spakowitz, A. J., Theriot, J. A. 2012; 102 (11): 2443-2450


    Single particle tracking is a powerful technique for investigating the dynamic behavior of biological molecules. However, many of the analytical tools are prone to generate results that can lead to mistaken interpretations of the underlying transport process. Here, we explore the effects of localization error and confinement on the velocity autocorrelation function, Cυ. We show that calculation of Cυ across a range of discretizations can distinguish the effects of localization error, confinement, and medium elasticity. Thus, under certain regimes, Cυ can be used as a diagnostic tool to identify the underlying mechanism of anomalous diffusion. Finally, we apply our analysis to experimental data sets of chromosomal loci and RNA-protein particles in Escherichia coli.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bpj.2012.03.062

    View details for Web of Science ID 000305003100006

    View details for PubMedID 22713559

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3368140

  • Nonthermal ATP-dependent fluctuations contribute to the in vivo motion of chromosomal loci PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Weber, S. C., Spakowitz, A. J., Theriot, J. A. 2012; 109 (19): 7338-7343


    Chromosomal loci jiggle in place between segregation events in prokaryotic cells and during interphase in eukaryotic nuclei. This motion seems random and is often attributed to brownian motion. However, we show here that locus dynamics in live bacteria and yeast are sensitive to metabolic activity. When ATP synthesis is inhibited, the apparent diffusion coefficient decreases, whereas the subdiffusive scaling exponent remains constant. Furthermore, the magnitude of locus motion increases more steeply with temperature in untreated cells than in ATP-depleted cells. This "superthermal" response suggests that untreated cells have an additional source of molecular agitation, beyond thermal motion, that increases sharply with temperature. Such ATP-dependent fluctuations are likely mechanical, because the heat dissipated from metabolic processes is insufficient to account for the difference in locus motion between untreated and ATP-depleted cells. Our data indicate that ATP-dependent enzymatic activity, in addition to thermal fluctuations, contributes to the molecular agitation driving random (sub)diffusive motion in the living cell.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1119505109

    View details for Web of Science ID 000304090600048

    View details for PubMedID 22517744

  • Choosing orientation: influence of cargo geometry and ActA polarization on actin comet tails MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF THE CELL Lacayo, C. I., Soneral, P. A., Zhu, J., Tsuchida, M. A., Footer, M. J., Soo, F. S., Lu, Y., Xia, Y., Mogilner, A., Theriot, J. A. 2012; 23 (4): 614-629


    Networks of polymerizing actin filaments can propel intracellular pathogens and drive movement of artificial particles in reconstituted systems. While biochemical mechanisms activating actin network assembly have been well characterized, it remains unclear how particle geometry and large-scale force balance affect emergent properties of movement. We reconstituted actin-based motility using ellipsoidal beads resembling the geometry of Listeria monocytogenes. Beads coated uniformly with the L. monocytogenes ActA protein migrated equally well in either of two distinct orientations, with their long axes parallel or perpendicular to the direction of motion, while intermediate orientations were unstable. When beads were coated with a fluid lipid bilayer rendering ActA laterally mobile, beads predominantly migrated with their long axes parallel to the direction of motion, mimicking the orientation of motile L. monocytogenes. Generating an accurate biophysical model to account for our observations required the combination of elastic-propulsion and tethered-ratchet actin-polymerization theories. Our results indicate that the characteristic orientation of L. monocytogenes must be due to polarized ActA rather than intrinsic actin network forces. Furthermore, viscoelastic stresses, forces, and torques produced by individual actin filaments and lateral movement of molecular complexes must all be incorporated to correctly predict large-scale behavior in the actin-based movement of nonspherical particles.

    View details for DOI 10.1091/mbc.E11-06-0584

    View details for Web of Science ID 000300619500010

    View details for PubMedID 22219381

  • Mutations in the nucleotide binding pocket of MreB can alter cell curvature and polar morphology in Caulobacter MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGY Dye, N. A., Pincus, Z., Fisher, I. C., Shapiro, L., Theriot, J. A. 2011; 81 (2): 368-394


    The maintenance of cell shape in Caulobacter crescentus requires the essential gene mreB, which encodes a member of the actin superfamily and the target of the antibiotic, A22. We isolated 35 unique A22-resistant Caulobacter strains with single amino acid substitutions near the nucleotide binding site of MreB. Mutations that alter cell curvature and mislocalize the intermediate filament crescentin cluster on the back surface of MreB's structure. Another subset have variable cell widths, with wide cell bodies and actively growing thin extensions of the cell poles that concentrate fluorescent MreB. We found that the extent to which MreB localization is perturbed is linearly correlated with the development of pointed cell poles and variable cell widths. Further, we find that a mutation to glycine of two conserved aspartic acid residues that are important for nucleotide hydrolysis in other members of the actin superfamily abolishes robust midcell recruitment of MreB but supports a normal rate of growth. These mutant strains provide novel insight into how MreB's protein structure, subcellular localization, and activity contribute to its function in bacterial cell shape.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2011.07698.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000292567200009

    View details for PubMedID 21564339

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3137890

  • An Adhesion-Dependent Switch between Mechanisms That Determine Motile Cell Shape PLOS BIOLOGY Barnhart, E. L., Lee, K., Keren, K., Mogilner, A., Theriot, J. A. 2011; 9 (5)


    Keratocytes are fast-moving cells in which adhesion dynamics are tightly coupled to the actin polymerization motor that drives migration, resulting in highly coordinated cell movement. We have found that modifying the adhesive properties of the underlying substrate has a dramatic effect on keratocyte morphology. Cells crawling at intermediate adhesion strengths resembled stereotypical keratocytes, characterized by a broad, fan-shaped lamellipodium, clearly defined leading and trailing edges, and persistent rates of protrusion and retraction. Cells at low adhesion strength were small and round with highly variable protrusion and retraction rates, and cells at high adhesion strength were large and asymmetrical and, strikingly, exhibited traveling waves of protrusion. To elucidate the mechanisms by which adhesion strength determines cell behavior, we examined the organization of adhesions, myosin II, and the actin network in keratocytes migrating on substrates with different adhesion strengths. On the whole, our results are consistent with a quantitative physical model in which keratocyte shape and migratory behavior emerge from the self-organization of actin, adhesions, and myosin, and quantitative changes in either adhesion strength or myosin contraction can switch keratocytes among qualitatively distinct migration regimes.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001059

    View details for Web of Science ID 000291144800011

    View details for PubMedID 21559321

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3086868

  • Mechanisms of endothelial cell infection by Listeria monocytogenes Annual Meeting of the American-Society-for-Cell-Biology (ASCB) RENGARAJAN, M., Theriot, J. A. AMER SOC CELL BIOLOGY. 2011
  • Entropy-driven translocation of an unstructured protein through the Gram-positive cell wall. Annual Meeting of the American-Society-for-Cell-Biology (ASCB) Halladin, D. K., Huang, K. C., Gopinathan, A., Theriot, J. A. AMER SOC CELL BIOLOGY. 2011
  • THERMODYNAMICS OF BIOLOGICAL PROCESSES METHODS IN ENZYMOLOGY: BIOTHERMODYNAMICS, VOL 492, PT D Garcia, H. G., Kondev, J., Orme, N., Theriot, J. A., Phillips, R. 2011; 492: 27-59


    There is a long and rich tradition of using ideas from both equilibrium thermodynamics and its microscopic partner theory of equilibrium statistical mechanics. In this chapter, we provide some background on the origins of the seemingly unreasonable effectiveness of ideas from both thermodynamics and statistical mechanics in biology. After making a description of these foundational issues, we turn to a series of case studies primarily focused on binding that are intended to illustrate the broad biological reach of equilibrium thinking in biology. These case studies include ligand-gated ion channels, thermodynamic models of transcription, and recent applications to the problem of bacterial chemotaxis. As part of the description of these case studies, we explore a number of different uses of the famed Monod-Wyman-Changeux (MWC) model as a generic tool for providing a mathematical characterization of two-state systems. These case studies should provide a template for tailoring equilibrium ideas to other problems of biological interest.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-381268-1.00014-8

    View details for Web of Science ID 000288227200002

    View details for PubMedID 21333788

  • Subdiffusive motion of a polymer composed of subdiffusive monomers PHYSICAL REVIEW E Weber, S. C., Theriot, J. A., Spakowitz, A. J. 2010; 82 (1)


    We use Brownian dynamics simulations and analytical theory to investigate the physical principles underlying subdiffusive motion of a polymer. Specifically, we examine the consequences of confinement, self-interaction, viscoelasticity, and random waiting on monomer motion, as these physical phenomena may be relevant to the behavior of biological macromolecules in vivo. We find that neither confinement nor self-interaction alter the fundamental Rouse mode relaxations of a polymer. However, viscoelasticity, modeled by fractional Langevin motion, and random waiting, modeled with a continuous time random walk, lead to significant and distinct deviations from the classic polymer-dynamics model. Our results provide diagnostic tools--the monomer mean square displacement scaling and the velocity autocorrelation function--that can be applied to experimental data to determine the underlying mechanism for subdiffusive motion of a polymer.

    View details for DOI 10.1103/PhysRevE.82.011913

    View details for Web of Science ID 000280067800007

    View details for PubMedID 20866654

  • Mu Gets in the Loop MOLECULAR CELL Weber, S. C., Theriot, J. A. 2010; 39 (1): 1-3


    In this issue of Molecular Cell, Han and Mizuuchi present evidence for a possible Turing-like reaction-diffusion mechanism underlying target immunity by the bacteriophage Mu.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.molcel.2010.06.025

    View details for Web of Science ID 000280139200001

    View details for PubMedID 20603069

  • Bacterial Chromosomal Loci Move Subdiffusively through a Viscoelastic Cytoplasm PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS Weber, S. C., Spakowitz, A. J., Theriot, J. A. 2010; 104 (23)


    Tracking of fluorescently labeled chromosomal loci in live bacterial cells reveals a robust scaling of the mean square displacement (MSD) as τ(0.39). We propose that the observed motion arises from relaxation of the Rouse modes of the DNA polymer within the viscoelastic environment of the cytoplasm. The time-averaged and ensemble-averaged MSD of chromosomal loci exhibit ergodicity, and the velocity autocorrelation function is negative at short time lags. These observations are most consistent with fractional Langevin motion and rule out a continuous time random walk model as an explanation for anomalous motion in vivo.

    View details for DOI 10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.238102

    View details for Web of Science ID 000278493500016

    View details for PubMedID 20867274

  • Myosin II contributes to cell-scale actin network treadmilling through network disassembly NATURE Wilson, C. A., Tsuchida, M. A., Allen, G. M., Barnhart, E. L., Applegate, K. T., Yam, P. T., Ji, L., Keren, K., Danuser, G., Theriot, J. A. 2010; 465 (7296): 373-U137


    Crawling locomotion of eukaryotic cells is achieved by a process dependent on the actin cytoskeleton: protrusion of the leading edge requires assembly of a network of actin filaments, which must be disassembled at the cell rear for sustained motility. Although ADF/cofilin proteins have been shown to contribute to actin disassembly, it is not clear how activity of these locally acting proteins could be coordinated over the distance scale of the whole cell. Here we show that non-muscle myosin II has a direct role in actin network disassembly in crawling cells. In fish keratocytes undergoing motility, myosin II is concentrated in regions at the rear with high rates of network disassembly. Activation of myosin II by ATP in detergent-extracted cytoskeletons results in rear-localized disassembly of the actin network. Inhibition of myosin II activity and stabilization of actin filaments synergistically impede cell motility, suggesting the existence of two disassembly pathways, one of which requires myosin II activity. Our results establish the importance of myosin II as an enzyme for actin network disassembly; we propose that gradual formation and reorganization of an actomyosin network provides an intrinsic destruction timer, enabling long-range coordination of actin network treadmilling in motile cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature08994

    View details for Web of Science ID 000277829200046

    View details for PubMedID 20485438

  • Bipedal Locomotion in Crawling Cells BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL Barnhart, E. L., Allen, G. M., Juelicher, F., Theriot, J. A. 2010; 98 (6): 933-942


    Many complex cellular processes from mitosis to cell motility depend on the ability of the cytoskeleton to generate force. Force-generating systems that act on elastic cytoskeletal elements are prone to oscillating instabilities. In this work, we have measured spontaneous shape and movement oscillations in motile fish epithelial keratocytes. In persistently polarized, fan-shaped cells, retraction of the trailing edge on one side of the cell body is out of phase with retraction on the other side, resulting in periodic lateral oscillation of the cell body. We present a physical description of keratocyte oscillation in which periodic retraction of the trailing edge is the result of elastic coupling with the leading edge. Consistent with the predictions of this model, the observed frequency of oscillation correlates with cell speed. In addition, decreasing the strength of adhesion to the substrate reduces the elastic force required for retraction, causing cells to oscillate with higher frequency at relatively lower speeds. These results demonstrate that simple elastic coupling between movement at the front of the cell and movement at the rear can generate large-scale mechanical integration of cell behavior.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.bpj.2009.10.058

    View details for Web of Science ID 000275842200006

    View details for PubMedID 20303850

  • Intracellular fluid flow in rapidly moving cells NATURE CELL BIOLOGY Keren, K., Yam, P. T., Kinkhabwala, A., Mogilner, A., Theriot, J. A. 2009; 11 (10): 1219-U137


    Cytosolic fluid dynamics have been implicated in cell motility because of the hydrodynamic forces they induce and because of their influence on transport of components of the actin machinery to the leading edge. To investigate the existence and the direction of fluid flow in rapidly moving cells, we introduced inert quantum dots into the lamellipodia of fish epithelial keratocytes and analysed their distribution and motion. Our results indicate that fluid flow is directed from the cell body towards the leading edge in the cell frame of reference, at about 40% of cell speed. We propose that this forward-directed flow is driven by increased hydrostatic pressure generated at the rear of the cell by myosin contraction, and show that inhibition of myosin II activity by blebbistatin reverses the direction of fluid flow and leads to a decrease in keratocyte speed. We present a physical model for fluid pressure and flow in moving cells that quantitatively accounts for our experimental data.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ncb1965

    View details for Web of Science ID 000270382000011

    View details for PubMedID 19767741

  • Reduced amino acid alphabets exhibit an improved sensitivity and selectivity in fold assignment BIOINFORMATICS Peterson, E. L., Kondev, J., Theriot, J. A., Phillips, R. 2009; 25 (11): 1356-1362


    Many proteins with vastly dissimilar sequences are found to share a common fold, as evidenced in the wealth of structures now available in the Protein Data Bank. One idea that has found success in various applications is the concept of a reduced amino acid alphabet, wherein similar amino acids are clustered together. Given the structural similarity exhibited by many apparently dissimilar sequences, we undertook this study looking for improvements in fold recognition by comparing protein sequences written in a reduced alphabet.We tested over 150 of the amino acid clustering schemes proposed in the literature with all-versus-all pairwise sequence alignments of sequences in the Distance mAtrix aLIgnment database. We combined several metrics from information retrieval popular in the literature: mean precision, area under the Receiver Operating Characteristic curve and recall at a fixed error rate and found that, in contrast to previous work, reduced alphabets in many cases outperform full alphabets. We find that reduced alphabets can perform at a level comparable to full alphabets in correct pairwise alignment of sequences and can show increased sensitivity to pairs of sequences with structural similarity but low-sequence identity. Based on these results, we hypothesize that reduced alphabets may also show performance gains with more sophisticated methods such as profile and pattern searches.A table of results as well as the substitution matrices and residue groupings from this study can be downloaded from (

    View details for DOI 10.1093/bioinformatics/btp164

    View details for Web of Science ID 000266109500003

    View details for PubMedID 19351620

  • Close packing of Listeria monocytogenes ActA, a natively unfolded protein, enhances F-actin assembly without dimerization JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY Footer, M. J., Lyo, J. K., Theriot, J. A. 2008; 283 (35): 23852-23862


    Studies of the biochemistry of Listeria monocytogenes virulence protein ActA have typically focused on the behavior of bacteria in complex systems or on the characterization of the protein after expression and purification. Although prior in vivo work has proposed that ActA forms dimers on the surface of L. monocytogenes, dimerization has not been demonstrated in vitro, and little consideration has been given to the surface environment where ActA performs its pivotal role in bacterial actin-based motility. We have synthesized and characterized an ActA dimer and provide evidence that the two ActA molecules do not interact with each other even when tethered together. However, we also demonstrate that artificial dimers provide superior activation of actin nucleation by the Arp2/3 complex compared with monomers and that increased activation of the Arp2/3 complex by dimers may be a general property of Arp2/3 activators. It appears that the close packing ( approximately 19 nm) of ActA molecules on the surface of L. monocytogenes is so dense that the kinetics of actin nucleation mimic that of synthetic ActA dimers. We also present observations indicating that ActA is a natively unfolded protein, largely random coil that is responsible for many of the unique physical properties of ActA including its extended structure, aberrant mobility during SDS-PAGE, and ability to resist irreversible denaturation upon heating.

    View details for DOI 10.1074/jbc.M803448200

    View details for Web of Science ID 000258638900040

    View details for PubMedID 18577520

  • Mechanism of shape determination in motile cells NATURE Keren, K., Pincus, Z., Allen, G. M., Barnhart, E. L., Marriott, G., Mogilner, A., Theriot, J. A. 2008; 453 (7194): 475-U1


    The shape of motile cells is determined by many dynamic processes spanning several orders of magnitude in space and time, from local polymerization of actin monomers at subsecond timescales to global, cell-scale geometry that may persist for hours. Understanding the mechanism of shape determination in cells has proved to be extremely challenging due to the numerous components involved and the complexity of their interactions. Here we harness the natural phenotypic variability in a large population of motile epithelial keratocytes from fish (Hypsophrys nicaraguensis) to reveal mechanisms of shape determination. We find that the cells inhabit a low-dimensional, highly correlated spectrum of possible functional states. We further show that a model of actin network treadmilling in an inextensible membrane bag can quantitatively recapitulate this spectrum and predict both cell shape and speed. Our model provides a simple biochemical and biophysical basis for the observed morphology and behaviour of motile cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature06952

    View details for Web of Science ID 000256023700033

    View details for PubMedID 18497816

  • Actin-myosin network reorganization breaks symmetry at the cell rear to spontaneously initiate polarized cell motility JOURNAL OF CELL BIOLOGY Yam, P. T., Wilson, C. A., Ji, L., Hebert, B., Barnhart, E. L., Dye, N. A., Wiseman, P. W., Danuser, G., Theriot, J. A. 2007; 178 (7): 1207-1221


    We have analyzed the spontaneous symmetry breaking and initiation of actin-based motility in keratocytes (fish epithelial cells). In stationary keratocytes, the actin network flow was inwards and radially symmetric. Immediately before motility initiation, the actin network flow increased at the prospective cell rear and reoriented in the perinuclear region, aligning with the prospective axis of movement. Changes in actin network flow at the cell front were detectable only after cell polarization. Inhibition of myosin II or Rho kinase disrupted actin network organization and flow in the perinuclear region and decreased the motility initiation frequency, whereas increasing myosin II activity with calyculin A increased the motility initiation frequency. Local stimulation of myosin activity in stationary cells by the local application of calyculin A induced directed motility initiation away from the site of stimulation. Together, these results indicate that large-scale actin-myosin network reorganization and contractility at the cell rear initiate spontaneous symmetry breaking and polarized motility of keratocytes.

    View details for DOI 10.1083/jcb.200706012

    View details for Web of Science ID 000249779800010

    View details for PubMedID 17893245

  • Emergence of large-scale cell morphology and movement from local actin filament growth dynamics PLOS BIOLOGY Lacayo, C. I., Pincus, Z., VanDuijn, M. M., Wilson, C. A., Fletcher, D. A., Gertler, F. B., Mogilner, A., Theriot, J. A. 2007; 5 (9): 2035-2052


    Variations in cell migration and morphology are consequences of changes in underlying cytoskeletal organization and dynamics. We investigated how these large-scale cellular events emerge as direct consequences of small-scale cytoskeletal molecular activities. Because the properties of the actin cytoskeleton can be modulated by actin-remodeling proteins, we quantitatively examined how one such family of proteins, enabled/vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein (Ena/VASP), affects the migration and morphology of epithelial fish keratocytes. Keratocytes generally migrate persistently while exhibiting a characteristic smooth-edged "canoe" shape, but may also exhibit less regular morphologies and less persistent movement. When we observed that the smooth-edged canoe keratocyte morphology correlated with enrichment of Ena/VASP at the leading edge, we mislocalized and overexpressed Ena/VASP proteins and found that this led to changes in the morphology and movement persistence of cells within a population. Thus, local changes in actin filament dynamics due to Ena/VASP activity directly caused changes in cell morphology, which is coupled to the motile behavior of keratocytes. We also characterized the range of natural cell-to-cell variation within a population by using measurable morphological and behavioral features--cell shape, leading-edge shape, filamentous actin (F-actin) distribution, cell speed, and directional persistence--that we have found to correlate with each other to describe a spectrum of coordinated phenotypes based on Ena/VASP enrichment at the leading edge. This spectrum stretched from smooth-edged, canoe-shaped keratocytes--which had VASP highly enriched at their leading edges and migrated fast with straight trajectories--to more irregular, rounder cells migrating slower with less directional persistence and low levels of VASP at their leading edges. We developed a mathematical model that accounts for these coordinated cell-shape and behavior phenotypes as large-scale consequences of kinetic contributions of VASP to actin filament growth and protection from capping at the leading edge. This work shows that the local effects of actin-remodeling proteins on cytoskeletal dynamics and organization can manifest as global modifications of the shape and behavior of migrating cells and that mathematical modeling can elucidate these large-scale cell behaviors from knowledge of detailed multiscale protein interactions.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050233

    View details for Web of Science ID 000249552300021

    View details for PubMedID 17760506

  • Comparison of quantitative methods for cell-shape analysis JOURNAL OF MICROSCOPY-OXFORD Pincus, Z., Theriott, J. A. 2007; 227 (2): 140-156


    Morphology is an important large-scale manifestation of the global organizational and physiological state of cells, and is commonly used as a qualitative or quantitative measure of the outcome of various assays. Here we evaluate several different basic representations of cell shape - binary masks, distance maps and polygonal outlines - and different subsequent encodings of those representations - Fourier and Zernike decompositions, and the principal and independent components analyses - to determine which are best at capturing biologically important shape variation. We find that principal components analysis of two-dimensional shapes represented as outlines provide measures of morphology which are quantitative, biologically meaningful, human interpretable and work well across a range of cell types and parameter settings.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000248946200007

    View details for PubMedID 17845709

  • A kinematic description of the trajectories of Listeria monocytogenes propelled by actin comet tails PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Shenoy, V. B., Tambe, D. T., Prasad, A., Theriot, J. A. 2007; 104 (20): 8229-8234


    The bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes propels itself in the cytoplasm of the infected cells by forming a filamentous comet tail assembled by the polymerization of the cytoskeletal protein actin. Although a great deal is known about the molecular processes that lead to actin-based movement, most macroscale aspects of motion, including the nature of the trajectories traced out by the motile bacteria, are not well understood. Here, we present 2D trajectories of Listeria moving between a glass-slide and coverslip in a Xenopus frog egg extract motility assay. We observe that the bacteria move in a number of fascinating geometrical trajectories, including winding S curves, translating figure eights, small- and large-amplitude sine curves, serpentine shapes, circles, and a variety of spirals. We then develop a dynamic model that provides a unified description of these seemingly unrelated trajectories. A key ingredient of the model is a torque (not included in any microscopic models of which we are aware) that arises from the rotation of the propulsive force about the body axis of the bacterium. We show that a large variety of trajectories with a rich mathematical structure are obtained by varying the rate at which the propulsive force moves about the long axis. The trajectories of bacteria executing both steady and saltatory motion are found to be in excellent agreement with the predictions of our dynamic model. When the constraints that lead to planar motion are removed, our model predicts motion along regular helical trajectories, observed in recent experiments.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0702454104

    View details for Web of Science ID 000246599900009

    View details for PubMedID 17485664

  • Decoupling the coupling: Surface attachment in actin-based motility ACS CHEMICAL BIOLOGY Tsuchida, M. A., Theriot, J. A. 2007; 2 (4): 221-224


    Actin filament polymerization provides the driving force for several kinds of actin-based motility, propelling loads such as the plasma membrane at the leading edge of a crawling cell, an endosomal vesicle, or an intracellular bacterial pathogen. In these systems, branched filament networks continuously grow while simultaneously remaining attached to the load. Previous experiments have suggested an important role in both actin filament nucleation and filament attachment for a family of proteins called nucleation-promoting factors (NPFs) that stimulate actin branch formation and nucleation by the Arp2/3 complex. A recent report demonstrates that N-WASP, an NPF, uses distinct domains to mediate nucleation and attachment during motility. The surprising details of the biochemical mechanism necessitate reconsideration of the biophysical models proposed for actin-based motility.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/cb700071d

    View details for Web of Science ID 000245946200014

    View details for PubMedID 17455897

  • Differential force microscope for long time-scale biophysical measurements REVIEW OF SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENTS Choy, J. L., Parekh, S. H., Chaudhuri, O., Liu, A. P., Bustamante, C., Footer, M. J., Theriot, J. A., Fletcher, D. A. 2007; 78 (4)


    Force microscopy techniques including optical trapping, magnetic tweezers, and atomic force microscopy (AFM) have facilitated quantification of forces and distances on the molecular scale. However, sensitivity and stability limitations have prevented the application of these techniques to biophysical systems that generate large forces over long times, such as actin filament networks. Growth of actin networks drives cellular shape change and generates nano-Newtons of force over time scales of minutes to hours, and consequently network growth properties have been difficult to study. Here, we present an AFM-based differential force microscope with integrated epifluorescence imaging in which two adjacent cantilevers on the same rigid support are used to provide increased measurement stability. We demonstrate 14 nm displacement control over measurement times of 3 hours and apply the instrument to quantify actin network growth in vitro under controlled loads. By measuring both network length and total network fluorescence simultaneously, we show that the average cross-sectional density of the growing network remains constant under static loads. The differential force microscope presented here provides a sensitive method for quantifying force and displacement with long time-scale stability that is useful for measurements of slow biophysical processes in whole cells or in reconstituted molecular systems in vitro.

    View details for DOI 10.1063/1.2727478

    View details for Web of Science ID 000246073500032

    View details for PubMedID 17477674

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3236676

  • Direct measurement of force generation by actin filament polymerization using an optical trap PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Footer, M. J., Kerssemakers, J. W., Theriot, J. A., Dogterom, M. 2007; 104 (7): 2181-2186


    Actin filament polymerization generates force for protrusion of the leading edge in motile cells. In protrusive structures, multiple actin filaments are arranged in cross-linked webs (as in lamellipodia or pseudopodia) or parallel bundles (as in filopodia). We have used an optical trap to directly measure the forces generated by elongation of a few parallel-growing actin filaments brought into apposition with a rigid barrier, mimicking the geometry of filopodial protrusion. We find that the growth of approximately eight actin parallel-growing filaments can be stalled by relatively small applied load forces on the order of 1 pN, consistent with the theoretical load required to stall the elongation of a single filament under our conditions. Indeed, large length fluctuations during the stall phase indicate that only the longest actin filament in the bundle is in contact with the barrier at any given time. These results suggest that force generation by small actin bundles is limited by a dynamic instability of single actin filaments, and therefore living cells must use actin-associated factors to suppress this instability to generate substantial forces by elongation of parallel bundles of actin filaments.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0607052104

    View details for Web of Science ID 000244438500028

    View details for PubMedID 17277076

  • A correlation-based approach to calculate rotation and translation of moving cells IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON IMAGE PROCESSING Wilson, C. A., Theriot, J. A. 2006; 15 (7): 1939-1951


    We present a noniterative image cross-correlation approach to track translation and rotation of crawling cells in time-lapse video microscopy sequences. The method does not rely on extracting features or moments, and therefore does not impose specific requirements on the type of microscopy used for imaging. Here we use phase-contrast images. We calculate cell rotation and translation from one image to the next in two stages. First, rotation is calculated by cross correlating the images' polar-transformed magnitude spectra (Fourier magnitudes). Rotation of the cell about any center in the original images results in translation in this representation. Then, we rotate the first image such that the cell has the same orientation in both images, and cross correlate this image with the second image to calculate translation. By calculating the rotation and translation over each interval in the movie, and thereby tracking the cell's position and orientation in each image, we can then map from the stationary reference frame in which the cell was observed to the cell's moving coordinate system. We describe our modifications enabling application to nonidentical images from video sequences of moving cells, and compare this method's performance with that of a feature extraction method and an iterative optimization method.

    View details for DOI 10.1109/TIP.2006.873434

    View details for Web of Science ID 000238714200020

    View details for PubMedID 16830914

  • Fine-scale time-lapse analysis of the biphasic, dynamic behaviour of the two Vibrio cholerae chromosomes MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGY Fiebig, A., Keren, K., Theriot, J. A. 2006; 60 (5): 1164-1178


    Using fluorescent repressor-operator systems in live cells, we investigated the dynamic behaviour of chromosomal origins in Vibrio cholerae, whose genome is divided between two chromosomes. We have developed a method of analysing fine-scale motion in the curved co-ordinate system of vibrioid bacteria. Using this method, we characterized two different modes of chromosome behaviour corresponding to periods between segregation events and periods of segregation. Between segregation events, the origin positions are not fixed but rather maintained within ellipsoidal caged domains, similar to eukaryotic interphase chromosome territories. These domains are approximately 0.4 microm wide and 0.6 microm long, reflecting greater restriction in the short axis of the cell. During segregation, movement is directionally biased, speed is comparable between origins, and cell growth can account for nearly 20% of the motion observed. Furthermore, the home domain of each origin is positioned by a different mechanism. Specifically, the oriC(I) domain is maintained at a constant actual distance from the pole regardless of cell length, while the oriC(II) domain is maintained at a constant relative position. Thus the actual position of oriC(II) varies with cell length. While the gross behaviours of the two origins are distinct, their fine-scale dynamics are remarkably similar, indicating that both experience similar microenvironments.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2006.05175.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000237423300008

    View details for PubMedID 16689793

  • Listeria monocytogenes traffics from maternal organs to the placenta and back PLOS PATHOGENS Bakardjiev, A. I., Theriot, J. A., Portnoy, D. A. 2006; 2 (6): 623-631


    Infection with Listeria monocytogenes is a significant health problem during pregnancy. This study evaluates the role of trafficking between maternal organs and placenta in a pregnant guinea pig model of listeriosis. After intravenous inoculation of guinea pigs, the initial ratio of bacteria in maternal organs to placenta was 10(3)-10(4):1. Rapid increase of bacteria in the placenta changed the ratio to 1:1 after 24 h. Utilizing two wild-type strains, differentially marked by their susceptibility to erythromycin, we found that only a single bacterium was necessary to cause placental infection, and that L. monocytogenes trafficked from maternal organs to the placenta in small numbers. Surprisingly, bacteria trafficked in large numbers from the placenta to maternal organs. Bacterial growth, clearance, and transport between organs were simulated with a mathematical model showing that the rate of bacterial clearance relative to the rate of bacterial replication in the placenta was sufficient to explain the difference in the course of listeriosis in pregnant versus nonpregnant animals. These results provide the basis for a new model where the placenta is relatively protected from infection. Once colonized, the placenta becomes a nidus of infection resulting in massive reseeding of maternal organs, where L. monocytogenes cannot be cleared until trafficking is interrupted by expulsion of the infected placental tissues.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.ppat.0020066

    View details for Web of Science ID 000202894600014

    View details for PubMedID 16846254

  • Mechanism of polarization of Listeria monocytogenes surface protein ActA MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGY Rafelski, S. M., Theriot, J. A. 2006; 59 (4): 1262-1279


    The polar distribution of the ActA protein on the surface of the Gram-positive intracellular bacterial pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes, is required for bacterial actin-based motility and successful infection. ActA spans both the bacterial membrane and the peptidoglycan cell wall. We have directly examined the de novo ActA polarization process in vitro by using an ActA-RFP (red fluorescent protein) fusion. After induction of expression, ActA initially appeared at distinct sites along the sides of bacteria and was then redistributed over the entire cylindrical cell body through helical cell wall growth. The accumulation of ActA at the bacterial poles displayed slower kinetics, occurring over several bacterial generations. ActA accumulated more efficiently at younger, less inert poles, and proper polarization required an optimal balance between protein secretion and bacterial growth rates. Within infected host cells, younger generations of L. monocytogenes initiated motility more quickly than older ones, consistent with our in vitro observations of de novo ActA polarization. We propose a model in which the polarization of ActA, and possibly other Gram-positive cell wall-associated proteins, may be a direct consequence of the differential cell wall growth rates along the bacterium and dependent on the relative rates of protein secretion, protein degradation and bacterial growth.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2005.05025.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000234800600015

    View details for PubMedID 16430699

  • Listeria monocytogenes invades the epithelial junctions at sites of cell extrusion PLOS PATHOGENS Pentecost, M., Otto, G., Theriot, J. A., Amieva, M. R. 2006; 2 (1): 29-40


    Listeria monocytogenes causes invasive disease by crossing the intestinal epithelial barrier. This process depends on the interaction between the bacterial surface protein Internalin A and the host protein E-cadherin, located below the epithelial tight junctions at the lateral cell-to-cell contacts. We used polarized MDCK cells as a model epithelium to determine how L. monocytogenes breaches the tight junctions to gain access to this basolateral receptor protein. We determined that L. monocytogenes does not actively disrupt the tight junctions, but finds E-cadherin at a morphologically distinct subset of intercellular junctions. We identified these sites as naturally occurring regions where single senescent cells are expelled and detached from the epithelium by extrusion. The surrounding cells reorganize to form a multicellular junction that maintains epithelial continuity. We found that E-cadherin is transiently exposed to the lumenal surface at multicellular junctions during and after cell extrusion, and that L. monocytogenes takes advantage of junctional remodeling to adhere to and subsequently invade the epithelium. In intact epithelial monolayers, an anti-E-cadherin antibody specifically decorates multicellular junctions and blocks L. monocytogenes adhesion. Furthermore, an L. monocytogenes mutant in the Internalin A gene is completely deficient in attachment to the epithelial apical surface and is unable to invade. We hypothesized that L. monocytogenes utilizes analogous extrusion sites for epithelial invasion in vivo. By infecting rabbit ileal loops, we found that the junctions at the cell extrusion zone of villus tips are the specific target for L. monocytogenes adhesion and invasion. Thus, L. monocytogenes exploits the dynamic nature of epithelial renewal and junctional remodeling to breach the intestinal barrier.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.ppat.0020003

    View details for Web of Science ID 000202894100004

    View details for PubMedID 16446782

  • Two independent spiral structures control cell shape in Caulobacter PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Dye, N. A., Pincus, Z., Theriot, J. A., Shapiro, L., Gitai, Z. 2005; 102 (51): 18608-18613


    The actin homolog MreB contributes to bacterial cell shape. Here, we explore the role of the coexpressed MreC protein in Caulobacter and show that it forms a periplasmic spiral that is out of phase with the cytoplasmic MreB spiral. Both mreB and mreC are essential, and depletion of either protein results in a similar cell shape defect. MreB forms dynamic spirals in MreC-depleted cells, and MreC localizes helically in the presence of the MreB-inhibitor A22, indicating that each protein can form a spiral independently of the other. We show that the peptidoglycan transpeptidase Pbp2 also forms a helical pattern that partially colocalizes with MreC but not MreB. Perturbing either MreB (with A22) or MreC (with depletion) causes GFP-Pbp2 to mislocalize to the division plane, indicating that each is necessary but not sufficient to generate a helical Pbp2 pattern. We show that it is the division process that draws Pbp2 to midcell in the absence of MreB's regulation, because cells depleted of the tubulin homolog FtsZ maintain a helical Pbp2 localization in the presence of A22. By developing and employing a previously uncharacterized computational method for quantitating shape variance, we find that a FtsZ depletion can also partially rescue the A22-induced shape deformation. We conclude that MreB and MreC form spatially distinct and independently localized spirals and propose that MreB inhibits division plane localization of Pbp2, whereas MreC promotes lengthwise localization of Pbp2; together these two mechanism ensure a helical localization of Pbp2 and, thereby, the maintenance of proper cell morphology in Caulobacter.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0507708102

    View details for Web of Science ID 000234174300065

    View details for PubMedID 16344481

  • Loading history determines the velocity of actin-network growth NATURE CELL BIOLOGY Parekh, S. H., Chaudhuri, O., Theriot, J. A., Fletcher, D. A. 2005; 7 (12): 1219-1223


    Directional polymerization of actin filaments in branched networks is one of the most powerful force-generating systems in eukaryotic cells. Growth of densely cross-linked actin networks drives cell crawling, intracellular transport of vesicles and organelles, and movement of intracellular pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes. Using a modified atomic force microscope (AFM), we obtained force-velocity (Fv) measurements of growing actin networks in vitro until network elongation ceased at the stall force. We found that the growth velocity of a branched actin network against increasing forces is load-independent over a wide range of forces before a convex decline to stall. Surprisingly, when force was decreased on a growing network, the velocity increased to a value greater than the previous velocity, such that two or more stable growth velocities can exist at a single load. These results demonstrate that a single Fv relationship does not capture the complete behaviour of this system, unlike other molecular motors in cells, because the growth velocity depends on loading history rather than solely on the instantaneous load.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/ncb1336

    View details for Web of Science ID 000233748900015

    View details for PubMedID 16299496

  • Adhesion controls bacterial actin polymerization-based movement PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Soo, F. S., Theriot, J. A. 2005; 102 (45): 16233-16238


    As part of its infectious life cycle, the bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes propels itself through the host-cell cytoplasm by triggering the polymerization of host-cell actin near the bacterial surface, harnessing the activity of several cytoskeletal proteins used during actin-based cell crawling. To distinguish among several classes of biophysical models of actin-based bacterial movement, we used a high-throughput tracking technique to record the movement of many individual bacteria during temperature shifts. The speed of each bacterium varied strongly with temperature, closely following the Arrhenius rate law. Among bacteria, the prefactor A of the Arrhenius dependence unexpectedly varied exponentially with apparent activation energy, E(a), over a wide range (8-21 kcal/mol), reminiscent of the "rate compensation effect" of classical catalytic reactions. Average E(a) were increased for mutant bacteria deficient in binding Ena/VASP proteins and bacteria moving in diluted extract. These two effects were additive. The observed temperature and rate compensation effects are consistent with a class of simple kinetic models in which the bacterium advances through the thermally driven, cooperative breakage of groups of adhesive bonds on its surface. The estimated number of coupled adhesive bonds N on the bacterial surface varies between 10 and 40 bonds. In contrast to other models, this model correctly predicts an experimentally observed negative correlation between bacterial speed and actin gel density. The idea that speed depends on adhesion, rather than polymerization, suggests several alternative mechanisms by which known cytoskeletal regulatory proteins could control cellular movement.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0507022102

    View details for Web of Science ID 000233283700021

    View details for PubMedID 16251274

  • Bacterial shape and ActA distribution affect initiation of Listeria monocytogenes actin-based motility BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL Rafelski, S. M., Theriot, J. A. 2005; 89 (3): 2146-2158


    We have examined the process by which the intracellular bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes initiates actin-based motility and determined the contribution of the variable surface distribution of the ActA protein to initiation and steady-state movement. To directly correlate ActA distributions to actin dynamics and motility of live bacteria, ActA was fused to a monomeric red fluorescent protein (mRFP1). Actin comet tail formation and steady-state bacterial movement rates both depended on ActA distribution, which in turn was tightly coupled to the bacterial cell cycle. Motility initiation was found to be a highly complex, multistep process for bacteria, in contrast to the simple symmetry breaking previously observed for ActA-coated spherical beads. F-actin initially accumulated along the sides of the bacterium and then slowly migrated to the bacterial pole expressing the highest density of ActA as a tail formed. Early movement was highly unstable with extreme changes in speed and frequent stops. Over time, saltatory motility and sensitivity to the immediate environment decreased as bacterial movement became robust at a constant steady-state speed.

    View details for DOI 10.1529/biophysj.105.061168

    View details for Web of Science ID 000231502800069

    View details for PubMedID 15980176

  • Large-scale quantitative analysis of sources of variation in the actin polymerization-based movement of Listeria monocytogenes BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL Soo, F. S., Theriot, J. A. 2005; 89 (1): 703-723


    During the actin polymerization-based movement of Listeria monocytogenes, individual bacteria are rapidly propelled through the host cell cytoplasm by the growth of a filamentous actin tail. The rate of propulsion varies significantly among individuals and over time. To study this variation, we used a high-throughput tracking technique to record the movement of a large number (approximately 7900) of bacteria in Xenopus frog egg extract. Most bacteria (70%) appeared to maintain an individual characteristic speed over several minutes, suggesting that the major source of variation in average speed is intrinsic to the bacterium. Thirty percent of bacteria had significant changes in speed over time spans of a few minutes, including 17% that appeared to collide with obstacles and 13% that moved with a significant periodic component. For the latter, the peak frequency was proportional to speed, suggesting a mechanism with a fixed spatial scale of approximately 0.6 bacterial length. Near the rear of the bacterium, temporal fluctuations in actin density were positively correlated with fluctuations in speed, whereas near the front the correlation was negative. A comparison of the performance of linear models that predict motion given actin density suggests that the mechanism has a history of 5-10 s, and that fluctuations in actin density near the front of the bacteria contain more predictive information than the rear. Our results are consistent with physical models where bacterial speed is governed by the rate of dissociation of bonds between the bacterial surface and the actin tail, and individual variation is determined by long-lived intrinsic variability in bacterial surface properties.

    View details for DOI 10.1529/biophysj.104.051219

    View details for Web of Science ID 000230114500068

    View details for PubMedID 15879472

  • Repeated cycles of rapid actin assembly and disassembly on epithelial cell phagosomes MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF THE CELL Yam, P. T., Theriot, J. A. 2004; 15 (12): 5647-5658


    We have found that early in infection of the intracellular pathogen Listeria monocytogenes in Madin-Darby canine kidney epithelial cells expressing actin conjugated to green fluorescent protein, F-actin rapidly assembles (approximately 25 s) and disassembles (approximately 30 s) around the bacteria, a phenomenon we call flashing. L. monocytogenes strains unable to perform actin-based motility or unable to escape the phagosome were capable of flashing, suggesting that the actin assembly occurs on the phagosome membrane. Cycles of actin assembly and disassembly could occur repeatedly on the same phagosome. Indirect immunofluorescence showed that most bacteria were fully internalized when flashing occurred, suggesting that actin flashing does not represent phagocytosis. Escherichia coli expressing invA, a gene product from Yersinia pseudotuberculosis that mediates cellular invasion, also induced flashing. Furthermore, polystyrene beads coated with E-cadherin or transferrin also induced flashing after internalization. This suggests that flashing occurs downstream of several distinct molecular entry mechanisms and may be a general consequence of internalization of large objects by epithelial cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1091/mbc.E04-06-0509

    View details for Web of Science ID 000225372800039

    View details for PubMedID 15456901

  • Complex spatial distribution and dynamics of an abundant Escherichia coli outer membrane protein, LamB MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGY Gibbs, K. A., Isaac, D. D., Xu, J., Hendrix, R. W., Silhavy, T. J., Theriot, J. A. 2004; 53 (6): 1771-1783


    Advanced techniques for observing protein localization in live bacteria show that the distributions are dynamic. For technical reasons, most such techniques have not been applied to outer membrane proteins in Gram-negative bacteria. We have developed two novel live-cell imaging techniques to observe the surface distribution of LamB, an abundant integral outer membrane protein in Escherichia coli responsible for maltose uptake and for attachment of bacteriophage lambda. Using fluorescently labelled bacteriophage lambda tails, we quantitatively described the spatial distribution and dynamic movement of LamB in the outer membrane. LamB accumulated in spiral patterns. The distribution depended on cell length and changed rapidly. The majority of the protein diffused along spirals extending across the cell body. Tracking single particles, we found that there are two populations of LamB--one shows very restricted diffusion and the other shows greater mobility. The presence of two populations recalls the partitioning of eukaryotic membrane proteins between 'mobile' and 'immobile' populations. In this study, we have demonstrated that LamB moves along the bacterial surface and that these movements are restricted by an underlying dynamic spiral pattern.

    View details for DOI 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2004.04242.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000223662100017

    View details for PubMedID 15341654

  • Discovery of antivirals against smallpox PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Harrison, S. C., Alberts, B., Ehrenfeld, E., Enquist, L., Fineberg, H., McKnight, S. L., Moss, B., O'Donnell, M., Ploegh, H., Schmid, S. L., Walter, K. P., Theriot, J. 2004; 101 (31): 11178-11192

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0403600101

    View details for Web of Science ID 000223134400002

    View details for PubMedID 15249657

  • Bacteria make tracks to the pole PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Fiebig, A., Theriot, J. A. 2004; 101 (23): 8510-8511

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0402881101

    View details for Web of Science ID 000222037000002

    View details for PubMedID 15173579

  • An introduction to cell motility for the physical scientist PHYSICAL BIOLOGY Fletcher, D. A., Theriot, J. A. 2004; 1 (1-2): T1-T10


    Directed, purposeful movement is one of the qualities that we most closely associate with living organisms, and essentially all known forms of life on this planet exhibit some type of self-generated movement or motility. Even organisms that remain sessile most of the time, like flowering plants and trees, are quite busy at the cellular level, with large organelles, including chloroplasts, constantly racing around within cellular boundaries. Directed biological movement requires that the cell be able to convert its abundant stores of chemical energy into mechanical energy. Understanding how this mechanochemical energy transduction takes place and understanding how small biological forces generated at the molecular level are marshaled and organized for large-scale cellular or organismal movements are the focus of the field of cell motility. This tutorial, aimed at readers with a background in physical sciences, surveys the state of current knowledge and recent advances in modeling cell motility.

    View details for DOI 10.1088/1478-3967/1/1/T01

    View details for Web of Science ID 000230645900003

    View details for PubMedID 16204816

  • Listeria monocytogenes actin-based motility varies depending on subcellular location: A kinematic probe for cytoarchitecture MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF THE CELL Lacayo, C. I., Theriot, J. A. 2004; 15 (5): 2164-2175


    Intracellular Listeria monocytogenes actin-based motility is characterized by significant individual variability, which can be influenced by cytoarchitecture. L. monocytogenes was used as a probe to transmit information about structural variation among subcellular domains defined by mitochondrial density. By analyzing the movement of a large population of L. monocytogenes in PtK2 cells, we found that mean speed and trajectory curvature were significantly larger for bacteria moving in mitochondria-containing domains (generally perinuclear) than for bacteria moving in mitochondria-free domains (generally peripheral). Analysis of bacteria that traversed both mitochondria-containing and mitochondria-free domains revealed that these motile differences were not intrinsic to bacteria themselves. Disruption of mitochondrial respiration did not affect bacterial mean speed, speed persistence, or trajectory curvature. In contrast, microtubule depolymerization lead to decreased mean speed per bacterium and increased mean speed persistence of L. monocytogenes moving in mitochondria-free domains compared with untreated cells. L. monocytogenes were also observed to physically collide with mitochondria and push them away from the bacterial path of motion, causing bacteria to slow down before rapidly resuming their speed. Our results show that subcellular domains along with microtubule depolymerization may influence the actin cytoskeleton to affect L. monocytogenes speed, speed persistence, and trajectory curvature.

    View details for DOI 10.1091/mbc.E03-10-0747

    View details for Web of Science ID 000221189300011

    View details for PubMedID 15004231

  • Biophysical parameters influence actin-based movement, trajectory, and initiation in a cell-free system MOLECULAR BIOLOGY OF THE CELL Cameron, L. A., Robbins, J. R., Footer, M. J., Theriot, J. A. 2004; 15 (5): 2312-2323


    Using a biochemically complex cytoplasmic extract to reconstitute actin-based motility of Listeria monocytogenes and polystyrene beads coated with the bacterial protein ActA, we have systematically varied a series of biophysical parameters and examined their effects on initiation of motility, particle speed, speed variability, and path trajectory. Bead size had a profound effect on all aspects of motility, with increasing size causing slower, straighter movement and inhibiting symmetry-breaking. Speed also was reduced by extract dilution, by addition of methylcellulose, and paradoxically by addition of excess skeletal muscle actin, but it was enhanced by addition of nonmuscle (platelet) actin. Large, persistent individual variations in speed were observed for all conditions and their relative magnitude increased with extract dilution, indicating that persistent alterations in particle surface properties may be responsible for intrinsic speed variations. Trajectory curvature was increased for smaller beads and also for particles moving in the presence of methylcellulose or excess skeletal muscle actin. Symmetry breaking and movement initiation occurred by two distinct modes: either stochastic amplification of local variation for small beads in concentrated extracts, or gradual accumulation of strain in the actin gel for large beads in dilute extracts. Neither mode was sufficient to enable spherical particles to break symmetry in the cytoplasm of living cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1091/mbc.E03-12-0913

    View details for Web of Science ID 000221189300023

    View details for PubMedID 15004224

  • Comparative analysis of gene expression among low G+C gram-positive genomes PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Karlin, S., Theriot, J., Mrazek, J. 2004; 101 (16): 6182-6187


    We present a comparative analysis of predicted highly expressed (PHX) genes in the low G+C Gram-positive genomes of Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus halodurans, Listeria monocytogenes, Listeria innocua, Lactococcus lactis, Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium acetobutylicum, and Clostridium perfringens. Most enzymes acting in glycolysis and fermentation pathways are PHX in these genomes, but not those involved in the TCA cycle and respiration, suggesting that these organisms have predominantly adapted to grow rapidly in an anaerobic environment. Only B. subtilis and B. halodurans have several TCA cycle PHX genes, whereas the TCA pathway is entirely missing from the metabolic repertoire of the two Streptococcus species and is incomplete in Listeria, Lactococcus, and Clostridium. Pyruvate-formate lyase, an enzyme critical in mixed acid fermentation, is among the highest PHX genes in all these genomes except for C. acetobutylicum (not PHX), and B. subtilis, and B. halodurans (missing). Pyruvate-formate lyase is also prominently PHX in enteric gamma-proteobacteria, but not in other prokaryotes. Phosphotransferase system genes are generally PHX with selection of different substrates in different genomes. The various substrate specificities among phosphotransferase systems in different genomes apparently reflect on differences in habitat, lifestyle, and nutrient sources.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0401504101

    View details for Web of Science ID 000220978000090

    View details for PubMedID 15069198

  • Differentiation and developmental pathways of uropathogenic Escherichia coli in urinary tract pathogenesis PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Justice, S. S., Hung, C., Theriot, J. A., Fletcher, D. A., Anderson, G. G., Footer, M. J., Hultgren, S. J. 2004; 101 (5): 1333-1338


    Uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC) are capable of forming complex intracellular bacterial communities (IBC) within the superficial umbrella cells of the bladders of C3H and BALB/c mice. By using time-lapse fluorescence videomicroscopy to observe infected mouse bladder explants, we discovered that IBCs formed by uropathogenic E. coli progressed through four distinct developmental stages that differed with respect to growth rate, bacterial length, colony organization, motility, and its eventual dispersal. In the first phase, bacteria in the IBC were nonmotile, rod shaped, and grew rapidly in loosely organized colonies free in the cytoplasm of the bladder superficial umbrella cells. In the second phase, the loose collection of bacteria in the IBC matured into a slower growing, highly organized biofilm-like community consisting of coccoid bacteria that ultimately filled most of the cytoplasm. In the third phase, bacteria in the biofilm-like state in the IBC switched to a motile rod-shaped phenotype allowing detachment from the community and eventual fluxing out of the host cell. During the fourth phase, the bacteria filamented. Filamentation appeared to be in response to a Toll-like receptor 4-mediated innate defense mechanism. Bacteria that fluxed out of the superficial umbrella cells were able to reenter the IBC developmental cascade but with slower kinetics and ultimately a quiescent reservoir was established. Intracellular growth and filamentation provided an advantage to the bacteria in evading infiltrating polymorphonuclear leukocytes. This work has developed a technique to observe live infected organs and revealed a complex differentiation pathway that facilitates bacterial persistence in the urinary tract.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0308125100

    View details for Web of Science ID 000188796800043

    View details for PubMedID 14739341

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC337053

  • High affinity, paralog-specific recognition of the Mena EVH1 domain by a miniature protein JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY Golemi-Kotra, D., Mahaffy, R., Footer, M. J., Holtzman, J. H., Pollard, T. D., Theriot, J. A., Schepartz, A. 2004; 126 (1): 4-5


    Many protein domains involved in cell signaling contain or interact with proline-rich sequences, and the design of molecules that perturb signaling pathways represents a foremost goal of chemical biology. Previously we described a protein design strategy in which the well-folded alpha-helix in avian pancreatic polypeptide (aPP) presents short alpha-helical recognition epitopes. The miniature proteins designed in this way recognize even shallow protein clefts with high affinity and specificity. Here we show that the well-folded type-II polyproline helix in aPP can present the short PPII-helical recognition epitope within the ActA protein of Listeria monocytogenes. Like miniature proteins that use an alpha-helix for protein recognition, the miniature protein designed in this way displays high affinity for a natural ActA target, the EVH1 domain Mena1-112, and achieves the elusive goal of paralog specificity, discriminating well between EVH1 domains Mena1-112, VASP1-115, and Evl1-112. Most importantly, the miniature protein competed with ActA in Xenopus laevis egg cytoplasmic extracts, decreasing actin-dependent motility of L. monocytogenes and causing extreme speed variations and discontinuous tail formation. Our results suggest that miniature proteins based on aPP may represent an excellent framework for the design of ligands that differentiate the roles of EVH1 domains in vitro and in vivo.

    View details for DOI 10.1021/ja037954k

    View details for Web of Science ID 000187945400002

    View details for PubMedID 14709031

  • Crawling toward a unified model of cell motility: Spatial and temporal regulation of actin dynamics ANNUAL REVIEW OF BIOCHEMISTRY Rafelski, S. M., Theriot, J. A. 2004; 73: 209-239


    Crawling cells of various morphologies displace themselves in their biological environments by a similar overall mechanism of protrusion through actin assembly at the front coordinated with retraction at the rear. Different cell types organize very distinct protruding structures, yet they do so through conserved biochemical mechanisms to regulate actin polymerization dynamics and vary the mechanical properties of these structures. The moving cell must spatially and temporally regulate the biochemical interactions of its protein components to exert control over higher-order dynamic structures created by these proteins and global cellular responses four or more orders of magnitude larger in scale and longer in time than the individual protein-protein interactions that comprise them. To fulfill its biological role, a cell globally responds with high sensitivity to a local perturbation or signal and coordinates its many intracellular actin-based functional structures with the physical environment it experiences to produce directed movement. This review attempts to codify some unifying principles for cell motility that span organizational scales from single protein polymer filaments to whole crawling cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1146/annurev.biochem.73.011303.073844

    View details for Web of Science ID 000223246400007

    View details for PubMedID 15189141

  • Influences of thermal acclimation and acute temperature change on the motility of epithelial wound-healing cells (keratocytes) of tropical, temperate and Antarctic fish JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY Ream, R. A., Theriot, J. A., Somero, G. N. 2003; 206 (24): 4539-4551


    The ability to heal superficial wounds is an important element in an organism's repertoire of adaptive responses to environmental stress. In fish, motile cells termed keratocytes are thought to play important roles in the wound-healing process. Keratocyte motility, like other physiological rate processes, is likely to be dependent on temperature and to show adaptive variation among differently thermally adapted species. We have quantified the effects of acute temperature change and thermal acclimation on actin-based keratocyte movement in primary cultures of keratocytes from four species of teleost fish adapted to widely different thermal conditions: two eurythermal species, the longjaw mudsucker Gillichthys mirabilis (environmental temperature range of approximately 10-37 degrees C) and a desert pupfish, Cyprinodon salinus (10-40 degrees C), and two species from stable thermal environments, an Antarctic notothenioid, Trematomus bernacchii (-1.86 degrees C), and a tropical clownfish, Amphiprion percula (26-30 degrees C). For all species, keratocyte speed increased with increasing temperature. G. mirabilis and C. salinus keratocytes reached maximal speeds at 25 degrees C and 35 degrees C, respectively, temperatures within the species' normal thermal ranges. Keratocytes of the stenothermal species continued to increase in speed as temperature increased above the species' normal temperature ranges. The thermal limits of keratocyte motility appear to exceed those of whole-organism thermal tolerance, notably in the case of T. bernacchii. Keratocytes of T. bernacchii survived supercooling to -6 degrees C and retained motility at temperatures as high as 20 degrees C. Mean keratocyte speed was conserved at physiological temperatures for the three temperate and tropical species, which suggests that a certain rate of motility is advantageous for wound healing. However, there was no temperature compensation in speed of movement for keratocytes of the Antarctic fish, which have extremely slow rates of movement at physiological temperatures. Keratocytes from all species moved in a persistent, unidirectional manner at low temperatures but at higher temperatures began to take more circular or less-persistent paths. Thermal acclimation affected the persistence and turning magnitude of keratocytes, with warmer acclimations generally yielding more persistent cells that followed straighter paths. However, acclimation did not alter the effect of experimental temperature on cellular speed. These findings suggest that more than one temperature-sensitive mechanism may govern cell motility: the rate-limiting process(es) responsible for speed is distinct from the mechanism(s) underlying directionality and persistence. Keratocytes represent a useful study system for evaluating the effects of temperature at the cellular level and for studying adaptive variation in actin-based cellular movement and capacity for wound healing.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000187394300018

    View details for PubMedID 14610038

  • Listeria monocytogenes rotates around its long axis during actin-based motility CURRENT BIOLOGY Robbins, J. R., Theriot, J. A. 2003; 13 (19): R754-R756

    View details for Web of Science ID 000185723700006

    View details for PubMedID 14521850

  • Ena/VASP proteins contribute to Listeria monocytogenes pathogenesis by controlling temporal and spatial persistence of bacterial actin-based motility MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGY Auerbuch, V., Loureiro, J. J., Gertler, F. B., Theriot, J. A., Portnoy, D. A. 2003; 49 (5): 1361-1375


    The Listeria monocytogenes surface protein ActA mediates actin-based motility by interacting with a number of host cytoskeletal components, including Ena/VASP family proteins, which in turn interact with actin and the actin-binding protein profilin. We employed a bidirectional genetic approach to study Ena/VASP's contribution to L. monocytogenes movement and pathogenesis. We generated an ActA allelic series within the defined Ena/VASP-binding sites and introduced the resulting mutant L. monocytogenes into cell lines expressing different Ena/VASP derivatives. Our findings indicate that Ena/VASP proteins contribute to the persistence of both speed and directionality of L. monocytogenes movement. In the absence of the Ena/VASP proline-rich central domain, speed consistency decreased by sixfold. In addition, the Ena/VASP F-actin-binding region increased directionality of bacterial movement by fourfold. We further show that both regions of Ena/VASP enhanced L. monocytogenes cell-to-cell spread to a similar degree, although the Ena/VASP F-actin-binding region did so in an ActA-independent manner. Surprisingly, our ActA allelic series enabled us to uncouple L. monocytogenes speed from directionality although both were controlled by Ena/VASP proteins. Lastly, we showed the pathogenic relevance of these findings by the observation that L. monocytogenes lacking ActA Ena/VASP-binding sites were up to 400-fold less virulent during an adaptive immune response.

    View details for DOI 10.1046/j.1365-2958.2003.03639.x

    View details for Web of Science ID 000185110100017

    View details for PubMedID 12940993

  • Compression forces generated by actin comet tails on lipid vesicles PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Giardini, P. A., Fletcher, D. A., Theriot, J. A. 2003; 100 (11): 6493-6498


    Polymerizing networks of actin filaments generate force for a variety of movements in living cells, including protrusion of filopodia and lamellipodia, intra- and intercellular motility of certain bacterial and viral pathogens, and motility of endocytic vesicles and other membrane-bound organelles. During actin-based motility, coexisting populations of actin filaments exert both pushing and retarding forces on the moving cargo. To examine the distribution and magnitude of forces generated by actin, we have developed a model system where large artificial lipid vesicles coated with the protein ActA from the bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes are propelled by actin polymerization in cytoplasmic extract. We find that motile vesicles associated with actin comet tails are significantly deformed due to an inward compression force exerted by actin polymerization orthogonal to the direction of motion, which is >10-fold greater in magnitude than the component of the force exerted in the direction of motion. Furthermore, there is a spatial segregation of the pushing and retarding forces, such that pushing predominates along the sides of the vesicle, although retarding forces predominate at the rear. We estimate that the total net (pushing minus retarding) force generated by the actin comet tail is approximately 0.4-4 nN. In addition, actin comet tail formation is associated with polarization of the ActA protein on the fluid vesicle surface, which may reinforce the persistence of unidirectional motion by helping to maintain a persistent asymmetry of actin filament density.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1031670100

    View details for Web of Science ID 000183190700038

    View details for PubMedID 12738883

  • A gene-expression program reflecting the innate immune response of cultured intestinal epithelial cells to infection by Listeria monocytogenes GENOME BIOLOGY Baldwin, D. N., Vanchinathan, V., Brown, P. O., Theriot, J. A. 2003; 4 (1)


    Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive, facultative, intracellular bacterial pathogen found in soil, which occasionally causes serious food-borne disease in humans. The outcome of an infection is dependent on the state of the infected individual's immune system, neutrophils being key players in clearing the microorganism from the body. The first line of host defense, however, is the intestinal epithelium.We have examined the transcriptional response of cultured human intestinal epithelial cells to infection by L. monocytogenes, which replicates in the host cell cytoplasm and spreads from cell to cell using a form of actin-based motility. We found that the predominant host response to infection was mediated by NFkappaB. To determine whether any host responses were due to recognition of specific virulence factors during infection, we also examined the transcriptional response to two bacterial mutants; actA which is defective in actin-based motility, and prfA, which is defective in the expression of all L. monocytogenes virulence genes. Remarkably, we found no detectable difference in the host transcriptional response to the wild-type and mutant bacteria.These results suggest that cultured intestinal epithelial cells are capable of mounting and recruiting a powerful innate immune response to L. monocytogenes infection. Our results imply that L. monocytogenes is not specifically detected in the host cytoplasm of Caco-2 cells by intracellular signals. This suggests that entry of bacteria is mediated in the host cell post-translationally, and that these bacteria seek the cytosol not only for the nutrient-rich environment, but also for protection from detection by the immune system.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000182677900007

    View details for PubMedID 12537547

  • A hitchhiker's guide to cell biology: exploitation of host-cell functions by intracellular pathogens. Genome biology Rafelski, S. M., Theriot, J. A. 2002; 3 (3): REPORTS4006-?


    A report on the 'Pathogen-host cell interactions' minisymposium at the 41st Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology, Washington DC, USA, 8-12 December 2001.

    View details for PubMedID 11897021

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC139021

  • Systematic mutational analysis of the amino-terminal domain of the Listeria monocytogenes ActA protein reveals novel functions in actin-based motility MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGY Lauer, P., Theriot, J. A., Skoble, J., Welch, M. D., Portnoy, D. A. 2001; 42 (5): 1163-1177


    The Listeria monocytogenes ActA protein acts as a scaffold to assemble and activate host cell actin cytoskeletal factors at the bacterial surface, resulting in directional actin polymerization and propulsion of the bacterium through the cytoplasm. We have constructed 20 clustered charged-to-alanine mutations in the NH2-terminal domain of ActA and replaced the endogenous actA gene with these molecular variants. These 20 clones were evaluated in several biological assays for phenotypes associated with particular amino acid changes. Additionally, each protein variant was purified and tested for stimulation of the Arp2/3 complex, and a subset was tested for actin monomer binding. These specific mutations refined the two regions involved in Arp2/3 activation and suggest that the actin-binding sequence of ActA spans 40 amino acids. We also identified a 'motility rate and cloud-to-tail transition' region in which nine contiguous mutations spanning amino acids 165-260 caused motility rate defects and changed the ratio of intracellular bacteria associated with actin clouds and comet tails without affecting Arp2/3 activation. Several unusual motility phenotypes were associated with amino acid changes in this region, including altered paths through the cytoplasm, discontinuous actin tails in host cells and the tendency to 'skid' or dramatically change direction while moving. These unusual phenotypes illustrate the complexity of ActA functions that control the actin-based motility of L. monocytogenes.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000172812700002

    View details for PubMedID 11886549

  • Effects of intermediate filaments on actin-based motility of Listeria monocytogenes BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL Giardini, P. A., Theriot, J. A. 2001; 81 (6): 3193-3203


    How does subcellular architecture influence the intracellular movements of large organelles and macromolecular assemblies? To investigate the effects of mechanical changes in cytoplasmic structure on intracellular motility, we have characterized the actin-based motility of the intracellular bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes in normal mouse fibroblasts and in fibroblasts lacking intermediate filaments. The apparent diffusion coefficient of L. monocytogenes was two-fold greater in vimentin-null fibroblasts than in wild-type fibroblasts, indicating that intermediate filaments significantly restrict the Brownian motion of bacteria. However, the mean speed of L. monocytogenes actin-based motility was statistically identical in vimentin-null and wild-type cells. Thus, environmental drag is not rate limiting for bacterial motility. Analysis of the temporal variations in speed measurements indicated that bacteria in vimentin-null cells displayed larger fluctuations in speed than did trajectories in wild-type cells. Similarly, the presence of the vimentin meshwork influenced the turning behavior of the bacteria; in the vimentin-null cells, bacteria made sharper turns than they did in wild-type cells. Taken together, these results suggest that a network of intermediate filaments constrains bacterial movement and operates over distances of several microns to reduce fluctuations in motile behavior.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000172407800016

    View details for PubMedID 11720985

  • Actin-based motility is sufficient for bacterial membrane protrusion formation and host cell uptake CELLULAR MICROBIOLOGY Monack, D. M., Theriot, J. A. 2001; 3 (9): 633-647


    Shigella flexneri replicates in the cytoplasm of host cells, where it nucleates host cell actin filaments at one pole of the bacterial cell to form a 'comet tail' that propels the bacterium through the host's cytoplasm. To determine whether the ability to move by actin-based motility is sufficient for subsequent formation of membrane-bound protrusions and intercellular spread, we conferred the ability to nucleate actin on a heterologous bacterium, Escherichia coli. Previous work has shown that IcsA (VirG), the molecule that is necessary and sufficient for actin nucleation and actin-based motility, is distributed in a unipolar fashion on the surface of S. flexneri. Maintenance of the unipolar distribution of IcsA depends on both the S. flexneri outer membrane protease IcsP (SopA) and the structure of the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in the outer membrane. We co-expressed IcsA and IcsP in two strains of E. coli that differed in their LPS structures. The E. coli were engineered to invade host cells by expression of invasin from Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and to escape the phagosome by incubation in purified listeriolysin O (LLO) from Listeria monocytogenes. All E. coli strains expressing IcsA replicated in host cell cytoplasm and moved by actin-based motility. Actin-based motility alone was sufficient for the formation of membrane protrusions and uptake by recipient host cells. The presence of IcsP and an elaborate LPS structure combined to enhance the ability of E. coli to form protrusions at the same frequency as S. flexneri, quantitatively reconstituting this step in pathogen intercellular spread in a heterologous organism. The frequency of membrane protrusion formation across all strains tested correlates with the efficiency of unidirectional actin-based movement, but not with bacterial speed.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000171021200006

    View details for PubMedID 11553015

  • The making of a gradient: IcsA (VirG) polarity in Shigella flexneri MOLECULAR MICROBIOLOGY Robbins, J. R., Monack, D., McCallum, S. J., Vegas, A., Pham, E., Goldberg, M. B., Theriot, J. A. 2001; 41 (4): 861-872


    The generation and maintenance of subcellular organization in bacteria is critical for many cell processes and properties, including growth, structural integrity and, in pathogens, virulence. Here, we investigate the mechanisms by which the virulence protein IcsA (VirG) is distributed on the bacterial surface to promote efficient transmission of the bacterium Shigella flexneri from one host cell to another. The outer membrane protein IcsA recruits host factors that result in actin filament nucleation and, when concentrated at one bacterial pole, promote unidirectional actin-based motility of the pathogen. We show here that the focused polar gradient of IcsA is generated by its delivery exclusively to one pole followed by lateral diffusion through the outer membrane. The resulting gradient can be modified by altering the composition of the outer membrane either genetically or pharmacologically. The gradient can be reshaped further by the action of the protease IcsP (SopA), whose activity we show to be near uniform on the bacterial surface. Further, we report polar delivery of IcsA in Escherichia coli and Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, suggesting that the mechanism for polar delivery of some outer membrane proteins is conserved across species and that the virulence function of IcsA capitalizes on a more global mechanism for subcellular organization.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000170904400008

    View details for PubMedID 11532149

  • Cytoskeleton - Editorial overview CURRENT OPINION IN CELL BIOLOGY Goldstein, L. S., Theriot, J. A. 2001; 13 (1): 17-18

    View details for Web of Science ID 000166564200002

    View details for PubMedID 11163128

  • Dendritic organization of actin comet tails CURRENT BIOLOGY Cameron, L. A., Svitkina, T. M., Vignjevic, D., Theriot, J. A., Borisy, G. G. 2001; 11 (2): 130-135


    Polymerization of actin filaments is necessary for both protrusion of the leading edge of crawling cells and propulsion of certain intracellular pathogens, and it is sufficient for generating force for bacterial motility in vitro. Motile intracellular pathogens are associated with actin-rich comet tails containing many of the same molecular components present in lamellipodia, and this suggests that these two systems use a similar mechanism for motility. However, available structural evidence suggests that the organization of comet tails differs from that of lamellipodia. Actin filaments in lamellipodia form branched arrays, which are thought to arise by dendritic nucleation mediated by the Arp2/3 complex. In contrast, comet tails have been variously described as consisting of short, randomly oriented filaments, with a higher degree of alignment at the periphery, or as containing long, straight axial filaments with a small number of oblique filaments. Because the assembly of pathogen-associated comet tails has been used as a model system for lamellipodial protrusion, it is important to resolve this apparent discrepancy. Here, using a platinum replica approach, we show that actin filament arrays in comet tails in fact have a dendritic organization with the Arp2/3 complex localizing to Y-junctions as in lamellipodia. Thus, comet tails and lamellipodia appear to share a common dendritic nucleation mechanism for protrusive motility. However, comet tails differ from lamellipodia in that their actin filaments are usually twisted and appear to be under significant torsional stress.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000169076200024

    View details for PubMedID 11231131

  • Secrets of actin-based motility revealed by a bacterial pathogen NATURE REVIEWS MOLECULAR CELL BIOLOGY Cameron, L. A., Giardini, P. A., Soo, F. S., Theriot, J. A. 2000; 1 (2): 110-119


    Actin-based cell motility is a complex process involving a dynamic, self-organizing cellular system. Experimental problems initially limited our understanding of this type of motility, but the use of a model system derived from a bacterial pathogen has led to a breakthrough. Now, all the molecular components necessary for dynamic actin self-organization and motility have been identified, setting the stage for future mechanistic studies.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000165765300015

    View details for PubMedID 11253363

  • The polymerization motor TRAFFIC Theriot, J. A. 2000; 1 (1): 19-28


    Polymerization and depolymerization of actin filaments and microtubules are thought to generate force for movement in various kinds of cell motility, ranging from lamellipodial protrusion to chromosome segregation. This article reviews the thermodynamic and physical theories of how a nonequilibrium polymerization reaction can be used to transduce chemical energy into mechanical energy, and summarizes the evidence suggesting that actin polymerization produces motile force in several biological systems.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000087705900004

    View details for PubMedID 11208055

  • Cooperative symmetry-breaking by actin polymerization in a model for cell motility NATURE CELL BIOLOGY van Oudenaarden, A., Theriot, J. A. 1999; 1 (8): 493-499


    Polymerizing networks of actin filaments are capable of exerting significant mechanical forces, used by eukaryotic cells and their prokaryotic pathogens to change shape or to move. Here we show that small beads coated uniformly with a protein that catalyses actin polymerization are initially surrounded by symmetrical clouds of actin filaments. This symmetry is broken spontaneously, after which the beads undergo directional motion. We have developed a stochastic theory, in which each actin filament is modelled as an elastic brownian ratchet, that quantitatively accounts for the observed emergent symmetry-breaking behaviour. Symmetry-breaking can only occur for polymers that have a significant subunit off-rate, such as the biopolymers actin and tubulin.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000084136100017

    View details for PubMedID 10587645

  • Listeria monocytogenes exploits normal host cell processes to spread from cell to cell JOURNAL OF CELL BIOLOGY Robbins, J. R., Barth, A. I., Marquis, H., de Hostos, E. L., NELSON, W. J., Theriot, J. A. 1999; 146 (6): 1333-1349


    The bacterial pathogen, Listeria monocytogenes, grows in the cytoplasm of host cells and spreads intercellularly using a form of actin-based motility mediated by the bacterial protein ActA. Tightly adherent monolayers of MDCK cells that constitutively express GFP-actin were infected with L. monocytogenes, and intercellular spread of bacteria was observed by video microscopy. The probability of formation of membrane-bound protrusions containing bacteria decreased with host cell monolayer age and the establishment of extensive cell-cell contacts. After their extension into a recipient cell, intercellular membrane-bound protrusions underwent a period of bacterium-dependent fitful movement, followed by their collapse into a vacuole and rapid vacuolar lysis. Actin filaments in protrusions exhibited decreased turnover rates compared with bacterially associated cytoplasmic actin comet tails. Recovery of motility in the recipient cell required 1-2 bacterial generations. This delay may be explained by acid-dependent cleavage of ActA by the bacterial metalloprotease, Mpl. Importantly, we have observed that low levels of endocytosis of neighboring MDCK cell surface fragments occurs in the absence of bacteria, implying that intercellular spread of bacteria may exploit an endogenous process of paracytophagy.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000082765400011

    View details for PubMedID 10491395

  • Motility of ActA protein-coated microspheres driven by actin polymerization PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Cameron, L. A., Footer, M. J., van Oudenaarden, A., Theriot, J. A. 1999; 96 (9): 4908-4913


    Actin polymerization is required for the generation of motile force at the leading edge of both lamellipodia and filopodia and also at the surface of motile intracellular bacterial pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes. Local catalysis of actin filament polymerization is accomplished in L. monocytogenes by the bacterial protein ActA. Polystyrene beads coated with purified ActA protein can undergo directional movement in an actin-rich cytoplasmic extract. Thus, the actin polymerization-based motility generated by ActA can be used to move nonbiological cargo, as has been demonstrated for classical motor molecules such as kinesin and myosin. Initiation of unidirectional movement of a symmetrically coated particle is a function of bead size and surface protein density. Small beads (

    View details for Web of Science ID 000080130200034

    View details for PubMedID 10220392

  • Functional analysis of a rickettsial OmpA homology domain of Shigella flexneri IcsA JOURNAL OF BACTERIOLOGY CHARLES, M., Magdalena, J., Theriot, J. A., Goldberg, M. B. 1999; 181 (3): 869-878


    Shigella flexneri is a gram-negative bacterium that causes diarrhea and dysentery by invasion and spread through the colonic epithelium. Bacteria spread by assembling actin and other cytoskeletal proteins of the host into "actin tails" at the bacterial pole; actin tail assembly provides the force required to move bacteria through the cell cytoplasm and into adjacent cells. The 120-kDa S. flexneri outer membrane protein IcsA is essential for actin assembly. IcsA is anchored in the outer membrane by a carboxy-terminal domain (the beta domain), such that the amino-terminal 706 amino acid residues (the alpha domain) are exposed on the exterior of the bacillus. The alpha domain is therefore likely to contain the domains that are important to interactions with host factors. We identify and characterize a domain of IcsA within the alpha domain that bears significant sequence similarity to two repeated domains of rickettsial OmpA, which has been implicated in rickettsial actin tail formation. Strains of S. flexneri and Escherichia coli that carry derivatives of IcsA containing deletions within this domain display loss of actin recruitment and increased accessibility to IcsA-specific antibody on the surface of intracytoplasmic bacteria. However, site-directed mutagenesis of charged residues within this domain results in actin assembly that is indistinguishable from that of the wild type, and in vitro competition of a polypeptide of this domain fused to glutathione S-transferase did not alter the motility of the wild-type construct. Taken together, our data suggest that the rickettsial homology domain of IcsA is required for the proper conformation of IcsA and that its disruption leads to loss of interactions of other IcsA domains within the amino terminus with host cytoskeletal proteins.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000078390600022

    View details for PubMedID 9922250

  • Imaging techniques in microbiology CURRENT OPINION IN MICROBIOLOGY Fung, D. C., Theriot, J. A. 1998; 1 (3): 346-351


    Recent advances in optical imaging have dramatically expanded the capabilities of the light microscope and its usefulness in microbiology research. Some of these advances include improved fluorescent probes, better cameras, new techniques such as confocal and deconvolution microscopy, and the use of computers in imaging and image analysis. These new technologies have now been applied to microbiological problems with resounding success.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000075765200013

    View details for PubMedID 10066497

  • Caged fluorescent probes. Methods in enzymology Mitchison, T. J., Sawin, K. E., Theriot, J. A., Gee, K., Mallavarapu, A. 1998; 291: 63-78

    View details for PubMedID 9661145

  • Listeria monocytogenes-based assays for actin assembly factors MOLECULAR MOTORS AND THE CYTOSKELETON, PT B Theriot, J. A., Fung, D. C. 1998; 298: 114-122

    View details for Web of Science ID 000076246300011

    View details for PubMedID 9751876

  • Accelerating on a treadmill: ADF/cofilin promotes rapid actin filament turnover in the dynamic cytoskeleton JOURNAL OF CELL BIOLOGY Theriot, J. A. 1997; 136 (6): 1165-1168

    View details for Web of Science ID A1997WQ34000001

    View details for PubMedID 9087434

  • New wrinkles in cytokinesis. Nature Theriot, J. A., Satterwhite, L. L. 1997; 385 (6615): 388-389

    View details for PubMedID 9009182

  • The tandem repeat domain in the Listeria monocytogenes ActA protein controls the rate of actin-based motility, the percentage of moving bacteria, and the localization of vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein and profilin JOURNAL OF CELL BIOLOGY Smith, G. A., Theriot, J. A., Portnoy, D. A. 1996; 135 (3): 647-660


    The ActA protein is responsible for the actin-based movement of Listeria monocytogenes in the cytosol of eukaryotic cells. Analysis of mutants in which we varied the number of proline-rich repeats (PRR; consensus sequence DFPPPPTDEEL) revealed a linear relationship between the number of PRRs and the rate of movement, with each repeat contributing approximately 2-3 microns/min. Mutants lacking all functional PRRs (generated by deletion or point mutation) moved at rates 30% of wild-type. Indirect immunofluorescence indicated that the PRRs were directly responsible for binding of vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein (VASP) and for the localization of profilin at the bacterial surface. The long repeats, which are interdigitated between the PRRs, increased the frequency with which actin-based motility occurred by a mechanism independent of the PRRs, VASP, and profilin. Lastly, a mutant which expressed low levels of ActA exhibited a phenotype indicative of a threshold; there was a very low percentage of moving bacteria, but when movement did occur, it was at wild-type rates. These results indicate that the ActA protein directs at least three separable events: (1) initiation of actin polymerization that is independent of the repeat region; (2) initiation of movement dependent on the long repeats and the amount of ActA; and (3) movement rate dependent on the PRRs.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1996VR26800009

    View details for PubMedID 8909540

  • The importance of being random CURRENT BIOLOGY Theriot, J. A. 1996; 6 (8): 912-913

    View details for Web of Science ID A1996VB22500005

    View details for PubMedID 8805343

  • Tails from the hall of infection: Actin based motility of pathogens TRENDS IN MICROBIOLOGY Sanders, M. C., Theriot, J. A. 1996; 4 (6): 211-213

    View details for Web of Science ID A1996UQ78900001

    View details for PubMedID 8795153

  • Worm sperm and advances in cell locomotion CELL Theriot, J. A. 1996; 84 (1): 1-4

    View details for Web of Science ID A1996TQ17000001

    View details for PubMedID 8548813



    Listeria monocytogenes is a Gram-positive facultative intracytoplasmic bacterial pathogen that exhibits rapid actin-based motility in eukaryotic cells and in cell-free cytoplasmic extracts. The protein product of the actA gene is required for bacterial movement and is normally expressed in a polarized fashion on the bacterial surface. Here we demonstrate that the ActA protein is sufficient to direct motility in the absence of other L. monocytogenes gene products, and that polarized localization of the protein is required for efficient unidirectional movement. We have engineered a fusion protein combining ActA with the C-terminal domain of the LytA protein of Streptococcus pneumoniae, which mediates high-affinity binding to DEAE-cellulose and to choline moieties present in the S. pneumoniae cell wall. DEAE-cellulose fragments or S. pneumoniae coated uniformly with the ActA/LytA fusion protein nucleate actin filament growth in cytoplasmic extracts, but do not move efficiently. However, when ActA/LytA-coated S. pneumoniae is grown to polarize the distribution of the fusion protein, the bacteria exhibit unidirectional actin-based movement similar to the normal movement of L. monocytogenes.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1995RZ99400014

    View details for PubMedID 8596443



    Shigella flexneri is a Gram-negative bacterial pathogen that can grow directly in the cytoplasm of infected host cells and uses a form of actin-based motility for intra- and intercellular spread. Moving intracellular bacteria are associated with a polarized "comet tail" composed of actin filaments. IcsA, a 120-kDa outer membrane protein necessary for actin-based motility, is located at a single pole on the surface of the organism, at the junction with the actin tail. Here, we demonstrate that stable expression of IcsA on the surface of Escherichia coli is sufficient to allow actin-dependent movement of E. coli in cytoplasmic extracts, at rates comparable to the movement of S. flexneri in infected cells. Thus, IcsA is the sole Shigella-specific factor required for actin-based motility. Continuous protein synthesis and polarized distribution of the protein are not necessary for actin tail formation or movement. Listeria monocytogenes is an unrelated bacterial pathogen that exhibits similar actin-based intracytoplasmic motility. Actin filament dynamics in the comet tails associated with the two different organisms are essentially identical, which indicates that they have independently evolved mechanisms to interact with the same components of the host cytoskeleton.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1995RG73600073

    View details for PubMedID 7604035

  • The cell biology of infection by intracellular bacterial pathogens ANNUAL REVIEW OF CELL AND DEVELOPMENTAL BIOLOGY Theriot, J. A. 1995; 11: 213-239


    Listeria monocytogenes and Shigella flexneri are unrelated bacterial pathogens that have independently evolved similar strategies of survival within an infected host animal. Bacteria coming into contact with the surface of an epithelial cell induce cytoskeletal rearrangements resulting in phagocytosis. They then secrete enzymes that degrade the phagosomal membrane, releasing the bacteria into the host cytoplasm. Intracytoplasmic bacteria move rapidly, in association with a "comet tail" made up of host cell actin filaments. When moving bacteria reach the cell margin, they push out long protrusions with the bacteria at the tips that are then taken up by neighboring cells, allowing the infection to spread from cell to cell. This review summarizes what is currently known about the interactions between the bacteria and the host at each stage of the infection and discusses what mammalian cell biologists can learn by studying bacterial pathogens.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1995TY44800009

    View details for PubMedID 8689557



    After lysing the phagocytic vacuole, Shigella spp. accumulate filaments of polymerized actin on their surface at one pole, leading to the formation of actin tails that enable them to move through the cytoplasm. We have recently demonstrated that the Shigella protein IcsA is located at the pole that is adjacent to the growing end of the actin tail (M. B. Goldberg, O. Barzu, C. Parsot, and P. J. Sansonetti, J. Bacteriol. 175:2189-2196, 1993). Not every bacterium that is observed within the cytoplasm has an actin tail. The factors that determine when a bacterium will form a tail are unknown. Here we demonstrate that at the moment of initiation of movement, Shigella spp. are frequently in the process of division. Furthermore, the expression of IcsA on the surface of the bacteria occurs in a growth phase-dependent fashion, suggesting that the surface expression of IcsA per se determines the observed association of bacterial division with movement.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1994PT32900063

    View details for PubMedID 7960150

  • Regulation of the actin cytoskeleton in living cells. Seminars in cell biology Theriot, J. A. 1994; 5 (3): 193-199


    The dynamic behavior of pure actin in vitro is more complex than that of most simple polymers, due to the energy input from the irreversible nucleotide hydrolysis associated with polymerization. However, the dynamic behavior of actin is vastly more complicated inside cells, where dozens of different types of actin-binding proteins alter every rate constant for actin polymerization and the chemical environment is inhomogeneous both temporally and spatially. Actin dynamics in cells are tightly regulated, so that rapid filament polymerization can occur in response to external signals or at the front of an active lamellipodium, while rapid depolymerization occurs simultaneously elsewhere in the cell. Although more direct observations of actin dynamics in vivo are accumulating, it is not yet clear how to reconcile the behavior of actin in cells with its well-documented in vitro properties.

    View details for PubMedID 7919233



    We describe the production and analysis of clonal cell lines in which we have overexpressed human profilin, a small ubiquitous actin monomer binding protein, to assess the role of profilin on actin function in vivo. The concentration of filamentous actin is increased in cells with higher profilin levels, and actin filament half-life measured in these cells is directly proportional to the steady-state profilin concentration. The distribution of actin filaments is altered by profilin overexpression. While parallel actin bundles crossing the cells are virtually absent in cells overexpressing profilin, the submembranous actin network of these cells is denser than in control cells. These results suggest that in vivo profilin regulates the stability, and thereby distribution, of specific dynamic actin structures.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1994MX21000067

    View details for PubMedID 8108438



    Within hours of Listeria monocytogenes infection, host cell actin filaments form a dense cloud around the intracytoplasmic bacteria and then rearrange to form a polarized comet tail that is associated with moving bacteria. We have devised a cell-free extract system capable of faithfully reconstituting L. monocytogenes motility, and we have used this system to demonstrate that profilin, a host actin monomer-binding protein, is necessary for bacterial actin-based motility. We find that extracts from which profilin has been depleted do not support comet tail formation or bacterial motility. In extracts and host cells, profilin is localized to the back half of the surface of motile L. monocytogenes, the site of actin filament assembly in the tail. This association is not observed with L. monocytogenes mutants that do not express the ActA protein, a bacterial gene product necessary for motility and virulence. Profilin also fails to bind L. monocytogenes grown outside of host cytoplasm, suggesting that at least one other host cell factor is required for this association.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1994MX20700011

    View details for PubMedID 8313471



    Force arising from actin polymerization and myosin activity drives a number of different actin-based cell movements. Several new reports support previous data suggesting that actin polymerization drives lamellipodial protrusion and bacterial propulsion, and one report describes a more indirect role for actin assembly in axonal elongation. The major new findings of the past year concerning possible motility roles for myosin describe myosin-driven protrusion of cell margins.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1994NF80000013

    View details for PubMedID 8167030

  • Actin-filament dynamics in cell motility 3rd International Conference on the Structure and Function of Ubiquitous Cellular Protein Actin (ACTIN 92) Theriot, J. A. PLENUM PRESS DIV PLENUM PUBLISHING CORP. 1994: 133–145

    View details for Web of Science ID A1994BB03E00013

    View details for PubMedID 7801800



    Movement of Listeria monocytogenes within infected eukaryotic cells provides a simple model system to study the mechanism of actin-based motility in nonmuscle cells. The actA gene of L. monocytogenes is required to induce the polymerization of host actin filaments [Kocks, C., Gouin, E., Tabouret, M., Berche, P., Ohayon, H. & Cossart, P. (1990) Cell 68, 521-531; Domann, E., Wehland, J., Rohde, M., Pistor, S., Hartl, M., Goebel, W., Leimeister-Wachter, M., Wuenscher, M. & Chakraborty, T. (1992) EMBO J. 11, 1981-1990]. In this study, an in-frame deletion mutation within the actA gene was constructed and introduced into the L. monocytogenes chromosome by allelic exchange. This mutation resulted in a decrease (3 orders of magnitude) in virulence for mice. In tissue culture cells, the actA mutant was absolutely defective for the nucleation of actin filaments and consequently was impaired in cell-to-cell spread. Antiserum raised to a synthetic peptide encompassing the proline-rich repeat (DFPPPPTDEEL) of ActA was used to characterize the expression of the ActA protein. The ActA protein derived from extracellular bacteria migrated as a 97-kDa polypeptide upon SDS/PAGE, whereas the protein from infected cells migrated as three distinct polypeptides, one that comigrated with the 97-kDa extracellular form and two slightly larger species. Treatment of infected cells with okadaic acid resulted in decreased amounts of all forms of ActA and the appearance of a larger species of ActA. Phosphatase treatment of ActA immunoprecipitated from intracellular bacteria resulted in conversion of the larger two species to the 97-kDa form. Labeling of infected cells with 32Pi followed by immunoprecipitation showed that the largest molecular form of ActA was phosphorylated. Taken together, these data indicate that ActA is phosphorylated during intracellular growth. The significance of the intracellular modification of ActA is not known, but we speculate that it may modulate the intracellular activity of ActA.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1993MM51500093

    View details for PubMedID 8265643

  • THE 3 FACES OF PROFILIN CELL Theriot, J. A., Mitchison, T. J. 1993; 75 (5): 835-838

    View details for Web of Science ID A1993MK96600003

    View details for PubMedID 8252619

  • PRINCIPLES OF LOCOMOTION FOR SIMPLE-SHAPED CELLS NATURE Lee, J., Ishihara, A., Theriot, J. A., Jacobson, K. 1993; 362 (6416): 167-171


    Moving cells display a variety of shapes and modes of locomotion, but it is not clear how motility at the molecular level relates to the locomotion of a whole cell, a problem compounded in studies of cells with complex shapes. A striking feature of fish epidermal keratocyte locomotion is its apparent simplicity. Here we present a kinematic description of locomotion which is consistent with the semicircular shape and persistent 'gliding' motion of fish epidermal keratocytes. We propose that extension of the front and retraction of the rear of these cells occurs perpendicularly to the cell edge, and that a graded distribution of extension and retraction rates along the cell margin maintains cell shape and size during locomotion. Evidence for this description is provided by the predicted circumferential motion of lamellar features and the curvature of 'photo-marked' lines within specific molecular components of moving keratocytes. Our description relates the dynamics of molecular assemblies to the movement of a whole cell.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1993KR02800063

    View details for PubMedID 8450887

  • Bacterial pathogens caught in the actin. Current biology Theriot, J. A. 1992; 2 (12): 649-651

    View details for PubMedID 15336017



    We have investigated the dynamic behavior of actin in fibroblast lamellipodia using photoactivation of fluorescence. Activated regions of caged resorufin (CR)-labeled actin in lamellipodia of IMR 90 and MC7 3T3 fibroblasts were observed to move centripetally over time. Thus in these cells, actin filaments move centripetally relative to the substrate. Rates were characteristic for each cell type; 0.66 +/- 0.27 microns/min in IMR 90 and 0.36 +/- 0.16 microns/min in MC7 3T3 cells. In neither case was there any correlation between the rate of actin movement and the rate of lamellipodial protrusion. The half-life of the activated CR-actin filaments was approximately 1 min in IMR 90 lamellipodia, and approximately 3 min in MC7 3T3 lamellipodia. Thus continuous filament turnover accompanies centripetal movement. In both cell types, the length of time required for a section of the actin meshwork to traverse the lamellipodium was several times longer than the filament half-life. The dynamic behavior of the dorsal surface of the cell was also observed by tracking lectin-coated beads on the surface and phase-dense features within lamellipodia of MC7 3T3 cells. The movement of these dorsal features occurred at rates approximately three times faster than the rate of movement of the underlying bulk actin cytoskeleton, even when measured in the same individual cells. Thus the transport of these dorsal features must occur by some mechanism other than simple attachment to the moving bulk actin cytoskeleton.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1992JT98100011

    View details for PubMedID 1400580

  • The nucleation-release model of actin filament dynamics in cell motility. Trends in cell biology Theriot, J. A., Mitchison, T. J. 1992; 2 (8): 219-222


    The actin cytoskeleton is intimately involved in the motile behaviour of animal cells. The structure and dynamic behaviour of actin and its binding proteins have been intensively studied in vitro over the past several decades, culminating in achievements such as an atomic model of the actin filament. Despite this progress, it is not yet clear how the behaviour of these purified proteins in vitro relates to the dynamic behaviour of actin inside living, moving cells. Here we discuss a new model that relates the known dynamic parameters for pure actin to the observed behaviour of actin filaments inside motile cells.

    View details for PubMedID 14731477



    The Gram-positive bacterium Listeria monocytogenes is a facultative intracellular pathogen capable of rapid movement through the host cell cytoplasm. The biophysical basis of the motility of L. monocytogenes is an interesting question in its own right, the answer to which may shed light on the general processes of actin-based motility in cells. Moving intracellular bacteria display phase-dense 'comet tails' made of actin filaments, the formation of which is required for bacterial motility. We have investigated the dynamics of the actin filaments in the comet tails using the technique of photoactivation of fluorescence, which allows monitoring of the movement and turnover of labelled actin filaments after activation by illumination with ultraviolet light. We find that the actin filaments remain stationary in the cytoplasm as the bacterium moves forward, and that length of the comet tails is linearly proportional to the rate of movement. Our results imply that the motile mechanism involves continuous polymerization and release of actin filaments at the bacterial surface and that the rate of filament generation is related to the rate of movement. We suggest that actin polymerization provides the driving force for bacterial propulsion.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1992HV19500060

    View details for PubMedID 1589024

  • The rate of actin-based motility of intracellular Listeria monocytogenes is equal to the rate of actin polymerization. Nature Theriot, J. A., Mitchison, T. J., Tilney, L. G., Portnoy, D. A 1992: 257-260
  • ACTIN MICROFILAMENT DYNAMICS IN LOCOMOTING CELLS NATURE Theriot, J. A., Mitchison, T. J. 1991; 352 (6331): 126-131


    The dynamic behaviour of actin filaments has been directly observed in living, motile cells using fluorescence photoactivation. In goldfish epithelial keratocytes, the actin microfilaments in the lamellipodium remain approximately fixed relative to the substrate as the cell moves over them, regardless of cell speed. The rate of turnover of actin subunits in the lamellipodium is remarkably rapid. Cell movement is directly and tightly coupled to the formation of new actin filaments at the leading edge.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1991FW09700045

    View details for PubMedID 2067574



    The postsynaptic membrane of vertebrate neuromuscular synapses is enriched in the four subunits of the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) and in a peripheral membrane protein of Mr = 43 x 10(3) (43K). Although AChRs are virtually restricted to the postsynaptic membrane of innervated adult muscle, developing and denervated adult muscle contain AChRs at nonsynaptic regions. These nonsynaptic AChRs accumulate because the level of mRNA encoding AChR subunits increases in response to a loss of muscle cell electrical activity. We have determined the level of mRNA encoding the 43K subsynaptic protein in developing muscle and in innervated and denervated adult muscle. We isolated a cDNA that encodes the entire protein-coding region of the 43K subsynaptic protein from Torpedo electric organ and used this cDNA to isolate a cDNA that encodes the 43K subsynaptic protein from Xenopus laevis. We used the Xenopus cDNA to measure the level of transcript encoding the 43K protein in embryonic muscle and in innervated and denervated adult muscle by RNase protection. The level of transcript encoding the 43K protein is low in innervated adult muscle and increases 25- to 30-fold after denervation. The level of transcript encoding the alpha subunit of the AChR increases to a similar extent after denervation. Moreover, during development, transcripts encoding the 43K protein and the alpha subunit are expressed initially at late gastrula and are present in similar quantities in embryonic muscle. These results demonstrate that transcripts encoding the 43K protein and AChR subunits appear coordinately during embryonic development and that the level of mRNA encoding the 43K protein is regulated by denervation.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1988R618300005

    View details for PubMedID 3077352



    Acetylcholine receptor-rich membranes from the electric organ of Torpedo californica are enriched in the four different subunits of the acetylcholine receptor and in two peripheral membrane proteins at 43 and 300 kD. We produced monoclonal antibodies against the 300-kD protein and have used these antibodies to determine the location of the protein, both in the electric organ and in skeletal muscle. Antibodies to the 300-kD protein were characterized by Western blots, binding assays to isolated membranes, and immunofluorescence on tissue. In Torpedo electric organ, antibodies to the 300-kD protein stain only the innervated face of the electrocytes. The 300-kD protein is on the intracellular surface of the postsynaptic membrane, since antibodies to the 300-kD protein bind more efficiently to saponin-permeabilized, right side out membranes than to intact membranes. Some antibodies against the Torpedo 300-kD protein cross-react with amphibian and mammalian neuromuscular synapses, and the cross-reacting protein is also highly concentrated on the intracellular surface of the post-synaptic membrane.

    View details for Web of Science ID A1987G733400016

    View details for PubMedID 3558487