Publications

2016
Nicolas Muller, Matthieu Piel, Vincent Calvez, Raphaël Voituriez, Joana Gonçalves-Sá, Chin-Lin Guo, Xingyu Jiang, Andrew Murray, and Nicolas Meunier. 2016. “A Predictive Model for Yeast Cell Polarization in Pheromone Gradients.” PLoS Comput Biol, 12, 4, Pp. e1004795. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Budding yeast cells exist in two mating types, a and α, which use peptide pheromones to communicate with each other during mating. Mating depends on the ability of cells to polarize up pheromone gradients, but cells also respond to spatially uniform fields of pheromone by polarizing along a single axis. We used quantitative measurements of the response of a cells to α-factor to produce a predictive model of yeast polarization towards a pheromone gradient. We found that cells make a sharp transition between budding cycles and mating induced polarization and that they detect pheromone gradients accurately only over a narrow range of pheromone concentrations corresponding to this transition. We fit all the parameters of the mathematical model by using quantitative data on spontaneous polarization in uniform pheromone concentration. Once these parameters have been computed, and without any further fit, our model quantitatively predicts the yeast cell response to pheromone gradient providing an important step toward understanding how cells communicate with each other.
Andrew Murray. 2016. “Salvador Luria and Max Delbrück on Random Mutation and Fluctuation Tests.” Genetics, 202, 2, Pp. 367-8. Publisher's Version
Maxim O Lavrentovich, Mary E Wahl, David R. Nelson, and Andrew W Murray. 2016. “Spatially Constrained Growth Enhances Conversional Meltdown.” Biophys J, 110, 12, Pp. 2800-2808. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Cells that mutate or commit to a specialized function (differentiate) often undergo conversions that are effectively irreversible. Slowed growth of converted cells can act as a form of selection, balancing unidirectional conversion to maintain both cell types at a steady-state ratio. However, when one-way conversion is insufficiently counterbalanced by selection, the original cell type will ultimately be lost, often with negative impacts on the population's overall fitness. The critical balance between selection and conversion needed for preservation of unconverted cells and the steady-state ratio between cell types depends on the spatial circumstances under which cells proliferate. We present experimental data on a yeast strain engineered to undergo irreversible conversion: this synthetic system permits cell-type-specific fluorescent labeling and exogenous variation of the relative growth and conversion rates. We find that populations confined to grow on a flat agar surface are more susceptible than their well-mixed counterparts to fitness loss via a conversion-induced "meltdown." We then present analytical predictions for growth in several biologically relevant geometries-well-mixed liquid media, radially expanding two-dimensional colonies, and linear fronts in two dimensions-by employing analogies to the directed-percolation transition from nonequilibrium statistical physics. These simplified theories are consistent with the experimental results.
2015
Liedewij Laan, John H Koschwanez, and Andrew W Murray. 2015. “Evolutionary adaptation after crippling cell polarization follows reproducible trajectories.” Elife, 4. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Cells are organized by functional modules, which typically contain components whose removal severely compromises the module's function. Despite their importance, these components are not absolutely conserved between parts of the tree of life, suggesting that cells can evolve to perform the same biological functions with different proteins. We evolved Saccharomyces cerevisiae for 1000 generations without the important polarity gene BEM1. Initially the bem1∆ lineages rapidly increase in fitness and then slowly reach >90% of the fitness of their BEM1 ancestors at the end of the evolution. Sequencing their genomes and monitoring polarization reveals a common evolutionary trajectory, with a fixed sequence of adaptive mutations, each improving cell polarization by inactivating proteins. Our results show that organisms can be evolutionarily robust to physiologically destructive perturbations and suggest that recovery by gene inactivation can lead to rapid divergence in the parts list for cell biologically important functions.
Wolfram Möbius, Andrew W Murray, and David R. Nelson. 2015. “How Obstacles Perturb Population Fronts and Alter Their Genetic Structure.” PLoS Comput Biol, 11, 12, Pp. e1004615. Publisher's VersionAbstract
As populations spread into new territory, environmental heterogeneities can shape the population front and genetic composition. We focus here on the effects of an important building block of heterogeneous environments, isolated obstacles. With a combination of experiments, theory, and simulation, we show how isolated obstacles both create long-lived distortions of the front shape and amplify the effect of genetic drift. A system of bacteriophage T7 spreading on a spatially heterogeneous Escherichia coli lawn serves as an experimental model system to study population expansions. Using an inkjet printer, we create well-defined replicates of the lawn and quantitatively study the population expansion of phage T7. The transient perturbations of the population front found in the experiments are well described by a model in which the front moves with constant speed. Independent of the precise details of the expansion, we show that obstacles create a kink in the front that persists over large distances and is insensitive to the details of the obstacle's shape. The small deviations between experimental findings and the predictions of the constant speed model can be understood with a more general reaction-diffusion model, which reduces to the constant speed model when the obstacle size is large compared to the front width. Using this framework, we demonstrate that frontier genotypes just grazing the side of an isolated obstacle increase in abundance, a phenomenon we call 'geometry-enhanced genetic drift', complementary to the founder effect associated with spatial bottlenecks. Bacterial range expansions around nutrient-poor barriers and stochastic simulations confirm this prediction. The effect of the obstacle on the genealogy of individuals at the front is characterized by simulations and rationalized using the constant speed model. Lastly, we consider the effect of two obstacles on front shape and genetic composition of the population illuminating the effects expected from complex environments with many obstacles.
2014
Natalie J Nannas, Eileen T O'Toole, Mark Winey, and Andrew W Murray. 2014. “Chromosomal attachments set length and microtubule number in the Saccharomyces cerevisiae mitotic spindle.” Mol Biol Cell, 25, 25, Pp. 4034-48.Abstract
The length of the mitotic spindle varies among different cell types. A simple model for spindle length regulation requires balancing two forces: pulling, due to micro-tubules that attach to the chromosomes at their kinetochores, and pushing, due to interactions between microtubules that emanate from opposite spindle poles. In the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we show that spindle length scales with kinetochore number, increasing when kinetochores are inactivated and shortening on addition of synthetic or natural kinetochores, showing that kinetochore-microtubule interactions generate an inward force to balance forces that elongate the spindle. Electron microscopy shows that manipulating kinetochore number alters the number of spindle microtubules: adding extra kinetochores increases the number of spindle microtubules, suggesting kinetochore-based regulation of microtubule number.
Lucy J Colwell, Michael P. Brenner, and Andrew W Murray. 2014. “Conservation weighting functions enable covariance analyses to detect functionally important amino acids.” PLoS One, 9, 11, Pp. e107723. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The explosive growth in the number of protein sequences gives rise to the possibility of using the natural variation in sequences of homologous proteins to find residues that control different protein phenotypes. Because in many cases different phenotypes are each controlled by a group of residues, the mutations that separate one version of a phenotype from another will be correlated. Here we incorporate biological knowledge about protein phenotypes and their variability in the sequence alignment of interest into algorithms that detect correlated mutations, improving their ability to detect the residues that control those phenotypes. We demonstrate the power of this approach using simulations and recent experimental data. Applying these principles to the protein families encoded by Dscam and Protocadherin allows us to make testable predictions about the residues that dictate the specificity of molecular interactions.
Gregg A Wildenberg and Andrew W Murray. 2014. “Evolving a 24-hr oscillator in budding yeast.” Elife, 3. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We asked how a new, complex trait evolves by selecting for diurnal oscillations in the budding yeast,. We expressed yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) from a yeast promoter and selected for a regular alternation between low and high fluorescence over a 24-hr period. This selection produced changes in cell adhesion rather than YFP expression: clonal populations oscillated between single cells and multicellular clumps. The oscillations are not a response to environmental cues and continue for at least three cycles in a constant environment. We identified eight putative causative mutations in one clone and recreated the evolved phenotype in the ancestral strain. The mutated genes lack obvious relationships to each other, but multiple lineages change from the haploid to the diploid pattern of gene expression. We show that a novel, complex phenotype can evolve by small sets of mutations in genes whose molecular functions appear to be unrelated to each other.
Melanie JI Müller, Beverly I Neugeboren, David R. Nelson, and Andrew W Murray. 2014. “Genetic drift opposes mutualism during spatial population expansion.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 111, 3, Pp. 1037-42. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Mutualistic interactions benefit both partners, promoting coexistence and genetic diversity. Spatial structure can promote cooperation, but spatial expansions may also make it hard for mutualistic partners to stay together, because genetic drift at the expansion front creates regions of low genetic and species diversity. To explore the antagonism between mutualism and genetic drift, we grew cross-feeding strains of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae on agar surfaces as a model for mutualists undergoing spatial expansions. By supplying varying amounts of the exchanged nutrients, we tuned strength and symmetry of the mutualistic interaction. Strong mutualism suppresses genetic demixing during spatial expansions and thereby maintains diversity, but weak or asymmetric mutualism is overwhelmed by genetic drift even when mutualism is still beneficial, slowing growth and reducing diversity. Theoretical modeling using experimentally measured parameters predicts the size of demixed regions and how strong mutualism must be to survive a spatial expansion.
Clément Vulin, Jean-Marc Di Meglio, Ariel B Lindner, Adrian Daerr, Andrew Murray, and Pascal Hersen. 2014. “Growing yeast into cylindrical colonies.” Biophys J, 106, 10, Pp. 2214-21. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Microorganisms often form complex multicellular assemblies such as biofilms and colonies. Understanding the interplay between assembly expansion, metabolic yield, and nutrient diffusion within a freely growing colony remains a challenge. Most available data on microorganisms are from planktonic cultures, due to the lack of experimental tools to control the growth of multicellular assemblies. Here, we propose a method to constrain the growth of yeast colonies into simple geometric shapes such as cylinders. To this end, we designed a simple, versatile culture system to control the location of nutrient delivery below a growing colony. Under such culture conditions, yeast colonies grow vertically and only at the locations where nutrients are delivered. Colonies increase in height at a steady growth rate that is inversely proportional to the cylinder radius. We show that the vertical growth rate of cylindrical colonies is not defined by the single-cell division rate, but rather by the colony metabolic yield. This contrasts with cells in liquid culture, in which the single-cell division rate is the only parameter that defines the population growth rate. This method also provides a direct, simple method to estimate the metabolic yield of a colony. Our study further demonstrates the importance of the shape of colonies on setting their expansion. We anticipate that our approach will be a starting point for elaborate studies of the population dynamics, evolution, and ecology of microbial colonies in complex landscapes.
Lori B Huberman and Andrew W Murray. 2014. “A model for cell wall dissolution in mating yeast cells: polarized secretion and restricted diffusion of cell wall remodeling enzymes induces local dissolution.” PLoS One, 9, 10, Pp. e109780. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Mating of the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, occurs when two haploid cells of opposite mating types signal using reciprocal pheromones and receptors, grow towards each other, and fuse to form a single diploid cell. To fuse, both cells dissolve their cell walls at the point of contact. This event must be carefully controlled because the osmotic pressure differential between the cytoplasm and extracellular environment causes cells with unprotected plasma membranes to lyse. If the cell wall-degrading enzymes diffuse through the cell wall, their concentration would rise when two cells touched each other, such as when two pheromone-stimulated cells adhere to each other via mating agglutinins. At the surfaces that touch, the enzymes must diffuse laterally through the wall before they can escape into the medium, increasing the time the enzymes spend in the cell wall, and thus raising their concentration at the point of attachment and restricting cell wall dissolution to points where cells touch each other. We tested this hypothesis by studying pheromone treated cells confined between two solid, impermeable surfaces. This confinement increases the frequency of pheromone-induced cell death, and this effect is diminished by reducing the osmotic pressure difference across the cell wall or by deleting putative cell wall glucanases and other genes necessary for efficient cell wall fusion. Our results support the model that pheromone-induced cell death is the result of a contact-driven increase in the local concentration of cell wall remodeling enzymes and suggest that this process plays an important role in regulating cell wall dissolution and fusion in mating cells.
Edel M Hyland, Edward WJ Wallace, and Andrew W Murray. 2014. “A model for the evolution of biological specificity: a cross-reacting DNA-binding protein causes plasmid incompatibility.” J Bacteriol, 196, 16, Pp. 3002-11. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Few biological systems permit rigorous testing of how changes in DNA sequence give rise to adaptive phenotypes. In this study, we sought a simplified experimental system with a detailed understanding of the genotype-to-phenotype relationship that could be altered by environmental perturbations. We focused on plasmid fitness, i.e., the ability of plasmids to be stably maintained in a bacterial population, which is dictated by the plasmid's replication and segregation machinery. Although plasmid replication depends on host proteins, the type II plasmid partitioning (Par) machinery is entirely plasmid encoded and relies solely on three components: parC, a centromere-like DNA sequence, ParR, a DNA-binding protein that interacts with parC, and ParM, which forms actin-like filaments that push two plasmids away from each other at cell division. Interactions between the Par operons of two related plasmids can cause incompatibility and the reduced transmission of one or both plasmids. We have identified segregation-dependent plasmid incompatibility between the highly divergent Par operons of plasmids pB171 and pCP301. Genetic and biochemical studies revealed that the incompatibility is due to the functional promiscuity of the DNA-binding protein ParRpB171, which interacts with both parC DNA sequences to direct plasmid segregation, indicating that the lack of DNA binding specificity is detrimental to plasmid fitness in this environment. This study therefore successfully utilized plasmid segregation to dissect the molecular interactions between genotype, phenotype, and fitness.
Erik FY Hom and Andrew W Murray. 2014. “Niche engineering demonstrates a latent capacity for fungal-algal mutualism.” Science, 345, 6192, Pp. 94-8. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Mutualistic symbioses shape the evolution of species and ecosystems and catalyze the emergence of biological complexity, yet how such symbioses first form is unclear. We show that an obligate mutualism between the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii--two model eukaryotes with very different life histories--can arise spontaneously in an environment requiring reciprocal carbon and nitrogen exchange. This capacity for mutualism is phylogenetically broad, extending to other Chlamydomonas and fungal species. Furthermore, we witnessed the spontaneous association of Chlamydomonas algal cells physically interacting with filamentous fungi. These observations demonstrate that under specific conditions, environmental change induces free-living species to become obligate mutualists and establishes a set of experimentally tractable, phylogenetically related, synthetic systems for studying the evolution of symbiosis.
Natalie J Nannas and Andrew W Murray. 2014. “Tethering sister centromeres to each other suggests the spindle checkpoint detects stretch within the kinetochore.” PLoS Genet, 10, 8, Pp. e1004492. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The spindle checkpoint ensures that newly born cells receive one copy of each chromosome by preventing chromosomes from segregating until they are all correctly attached to the spindle. The checkpoint monitors tension to distinguish between correctly aligned chromosomes and those with both sisters attached to the same spindle pole. Tension arises when sister kinetochores attach to and are pulled toward opposite poles, stretching the chromatin around centromeres and elongating kinetochores. We distinguished between two hypotheses for where the checkpoint monitors tension: between the kinetochores, by detecting alterations in the distance between them, or by responding to changes in the structure of the kinetochore itself. To distinguish these models, we inhibited chromatin stretch by tethering sister chromatids together by binding a tetrameric form of the Lac repressor to arrays of the Lac operator located on either side of a centromere. Inhibiting chromatin stretch did not activate the spindle checkpoint; these cells entered anaphase at the same time as control cells that express a dimeric version of the Lac repressor, which cannot cross link chromatids, and cells whose checkpoint has been inactivated. There is no dominant checkpoint inhibition when sister kinetochores are held together: cells expressing the tetrameric Lac repressor still arrest in response to microtubule-depolymerizing drugs. Tethering chromatids together does not disrupt kinetochore function; chromosomes are successfully segregated to opposite poles of the spindle. Our results indicate that the spindle checkpoint does not monitor inter-kinetochore separation, thus supporting the hypothesis that tension is measured within the kinetochore.
2013
Lori B Huberman and Andrew W Murray. 2013. “Genetically engineered transvestites reveal novel mating genes in budding yeast.” Genetics, 195, 4, Pp. 1277-90. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Haploid budding yeast has two mating types, defined by the alleles of the MAT locus, MATa and MATα. Two haploid cells of opposite mating types mate by signaling to each other using reciprocal pheromones and receptors, polarizing and growing toward each other, and eventually fusing to form a single diploid cell. The pheromones and receptors are necessary and sufficient to define a mating type, but other mating-type-specific proteins make mating more efficient. We examined the role of these proteins by genetically engineering "transvestite" cells that swap the pheromone, pheromone receptor, and pheromone processing factors of one mating type for another. These cells mate with each other, but their mating is inefficient. By characterizing their mating defects and examining their transcriptomes, we found Afb1 (a-factor barrier), a novel MATα-specific protein that interferes with a-factor, the pheromone secreted by MATa cells. Strong pheromone secretion is essential for efficient mating, and the weak mating of transvestites can be improved by boosting their pheromone production. Synthetic biology can characterize the factors that control efficiency in biological processes. In yeast, selection for increased mating efficiency is likely to have continually boosted pheromone levels and the ability to discriminate between partners who make more and less pheromone. This discrimination comes at a cost: weak mating in situations where all potential partners make less pheromone.
John H Koschwanez, Kevin R Foster, and Andrew W Murray. 2013. “Improved use of a public good selects for the evolution of undifferentiated multicellularity.” Elife, 2, Pp. e00367. Publisher's VersionAbstract
We do not know how or why multicellularity evolved. We used the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to ask whether nutrients that must be digested extracellularly select for the evolution of undifferentiated multicellularity. Because yeast use invertase to hydrolyze sucrose extracellularly and import the resulting monosaccharides, single cells cannot grow at low cell and sucrose concentrations. Three engineered strategies overcame this problem: forming multicellular clumps, importing sucrose before hydrolysis, and increasing invertase expression. We evolved populations in low sucrose to ask which strategy they would adopt. Of 12 successful clones, 11 formed multicellular clumps through incomplete cell separation, 10 increased invertase expression, none imported sucrose, and 11 increased hexose transporter expression, a strategy we had not engineered. Identifying causal mutations revealed genes and pathways, which frequently contributed to the evolved phenotype. Our study shows that combining rational design with experimental evolution can help evaluate hypotheses about evolutionary strategies. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00367.001.
David J Van Dyken, Melanie JI Müller, Keenan ML Mack, and Michael M. Desai. 2013. “Spatial population expansion promotes the evolution of cooperation in an experimental Prisoner's Dilemma.” Curr Biol, 23, 10, Pp. 919-23. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Cooperation is ubiquitous in nature, but explaining its existence remains a central interdisciplinary challenge. Cooperation is most difficult to explain in the Prisoner's Dilemma game, where cooperators always lose in direct competition with defectors despite increasing mean fitness. Here we demonstrate how spatial population expansion, a widespread natural phenomenon, promotes the evolution of cooperation. We engineer an experimental Prisoner's Dilemma game in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to show that, despite losing to defectors in nonexpanding conditions, cooperators increase in frequency in spatially expanding populations. Fluorescently labeled colonies show genetic demixing of cooperators and defectors, followed by increase in cooperator frequency as cooperator sectors overtake neighboring defector sectors. Together with lattice-based spatial simulations, our results suggest that spatial population expansion drives the evolution of cooperation by (1) increasing positive genetic assortment at population frontiers and (2) selecting for phenotypes maximizing local deme productivity. Spatial expansion thus creates a selective force whereby cooperator-enriched demes overtake neighboring defector-enriched demes in a "survival of the fastest." We conclude that colony growth alone can promote cooperation and prevent defection in microbes. Our results extend to other species with spatially restricted dispersal undergoing range expansion, including pathogens, invasive species, and humans.
2012
Natalie J Nannas and Andrew W Murray. 2012. “Complications dawn for kinetochore regulation by Aurora.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 109, 40, Pp. 15972-3. Publisher's Version
Andrew W Murray. 2012. “Don't make me mad, Bub!” Dev Cell, 22, 6, Pp. 1123-5. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The history of Bub1, a spindle checkpoint component, reveals a spectacular case of parallel evolution. In this issue of Developmental Cell, Suijkerbuijk et al. (2012) provide evidence that Bub1 has duplicated and diverged many times during eukaryotic evolution, dividing the functions of its ancestor between the two duplicated copies.
Derek TC Lau and Andrew W Murray. 2012. “Mad2 and Mad3 cooperate to arrest budding yeast in mitosis.” Curr Biol, 22, 3, Pp. 180-90. Publisher's VersionAbstract
BACKGROUND: The spindle checkpoint ensures accurate chromosome transmission by delaying chromosome segregation until all chromosomes are correctly aligned on the mitotic spindle. The checkpoint is activated by kinetochores that are not attached to microtubules or are attached but not under tension and arrests cells at metaphase by inhibiting the anaphase-promoting complex (APC) and its coactivator Cdc20. Despite numerous studies, we still do not understand how the checkpoint proteins coordinate with each other to inhibit APC(Cdc20) activity. RESULTS: To ask how the checkpoint components induce metaphase arrest, we constructed fusions of checkpoint proteins and expressed them in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to mimic possible protein interactions during checkpoint activation. We found that expression of a Mad2-Mad3 protein fusion or noncovalently linked Mad2 and Mad3, but not the overexpression of the two separate proteins, induces metaphase arrest that is independent of functional kinetochores or other checkpoint proteins. We further showed that artificially tethering Mad2 to Cdc20 also arrests cells in metaphase independently of other checkpoint components. CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that Mad3 is required for the stable binding of Mad2 to Cdc20 in vivo, which is sufficient to inhibit APC activity and is the most downstream event in spindle checkpoint activation.

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