Laboratoire P.A.S.T.E.U.R.

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Cellular heterogeneity mediates inherent sensitivity– specificity tradeoff in cancer targeting by synthetic circuits

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA2016


Synthetic gene circuits are emerging as a versatile means to target cancer with enhanced specificity by combinatorial integration of multiple expression markers. Such circuits must also be tuned to be highly sensitive because escape of even a few cells might be detrimental. However, the error rates of decision-making circuits in light of cellular variability in gene expression have so far remained unexplored. Here, we measure the single-cell response function of a tunable logicANDgate actingon twopromoters in heterogeneous cell populations. Our analysis reveals an inherent tradeoff between specificity and sensitivity that is controlled by the AND gate amplification gain and activation threshold. We implement a tumor-mimicking cellculture model of cancer cells emerging in a background of normal ones, and show that molecular parameters of the synthetic circuits control specificity and sensitivity in a killing assay. This suggests that, beyond the inherent tradeoff, synthetic circuits operating in a heterogeneous environment could be optimized to efficiently target malignant state with minimal loss of specificity.

On-Chip Quantitative Measurement of Mechanical Stresses During Cell Migration with Emulsion Droplets


Long-term in vivo single-cell lineage tracing of deep structures using three-photon activation

Light: Science & Applications (2016) 5, e16084


Genetic labeling techniques allow for noninvasive lineage tracing of cells in vivo. Two-photon inducible activators provide spatial resolution for superficial cells, but labeling cells located deep within tissues is precluded by scattering of the far-red illumination required for two-photon photolysis. Three-photon illumination has been shown to overcome the limitations of two-photon microscopy for in vivo imaging of deep structures, but whether it can be used for photoactivation remains to be tested. Here we show, both theoretically and experimentally, that three-photon illumination overcomes scattering problems by combining longer wavelength excitation with high uncaging three-photon cross-section molecules. We prospectively labeled heart muscle cells in zebrafish embryos and found permanent labeling in their progeny in adult animals with negligible tissue damage. This technique allows for a noninvasive genetic manipulation in vivo with spatial, temporal and cell-type specificity, and may have wide applicability in experimental biology.


Dynamical Disorder in the DNA Hydration Shell

J. Am. Chem. Soc.2016


The reorientation and hydrogen-bond dynamics of water molecules within the hydration shell of a B-DNA dodecamer, which are of interest for many of its biochemical functions, are investigated via molecular dynamics simulations and an analytic jump model, which provide valuable new molecular level insights into these dynamics. Different sources of heterogeneity in the hydration shell dynamics are determined. First, a pronounced spatial heterogeneity is found at the DNA interface and explained via the jump model by the diversity in local DNA interfacial topographies and DNA− water H-bond interactions. While most of the hydration shell is moderately retarded with respect to the bulk, some water molecules confined in the narrow minor groove exhibit very slow dynamics. An additional source of heterogeneity is found to be caused by the DNA conformational fluctuations, which modulate the water dynamics. The groove widening aids the approach of, and the jump to, a new water H-bond partner. This temporal heterogeneity is especially strong in the minor groove, where groove width fluctuations occur on the same time scale as the water H-bond rearrangements, leading to a strong dynamical disorder. The usual simplifying assumption that hydration shell dynamics is much faster than DNA dynamics is thus not valid; our results show that biomolecular conformational fluctuations are essential to facilitate the water motions and accelerate the hydration dynamics in confined groove sites.

Direct quantitative identification of the “surface trans-effect”

Chemical Science, 2016


The strong parallels between coordination chemistry and adsorption on metal surfaces, with molecules and ligands forming local bonds to individual atoms within a metal surface, have been established over many years of study. The recently proposed “surface trans-effect” (STE) appears to be a further manifestation of this analogous behaviour, but so far the true nature of the modified molecule-metal surface bonding has been unclear. The STE could play an important role in determining the reactivities of surface-supported metal-organic complexes, influencing the design of systems for future applications. However, the current understanding of this effect is incomplete and lacks reliable structural parameters with which to benchmark theoretical calculations. Using X-ray standing waves, we demonstrate that ligation of ammonia and water to iron phthalocyanine (FePc) on Ag(111) increases the adsorption height of the central Fe atom; dispersion corrected density functional theory calculations accurately model this structural effect. The calculated charge redistribution in the FePc/H2O electronic structure induced by adsorption shows an accumulation of charge along the σ- bonding direction between the surface, the Fe atom and the water molecule, similar to the redistribution caused by ammonia. This apparent σ-donor nature of the observed STE on Ag(111) is shown to involve bonding to the delocalised metal surface electrons rather than local bonding to one or more surface atoms, thus indicating that this is a true surface trans-effect.