364 Publications

SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations in wastewater foreshadow dynamics and clinical presentation of new COVID-19 cases

Fuqing Wu, Amy Xiao, R. Bonneau, et al.

Current estimates of COVID-19 prevalence are largely based on symptomatic, clinically diagnosed cases. The existence of a large number of undiagnosed infections hampers population-wide investigation of viral circulation. Here, we quantify the SARS-CoV-2 concentration and track its dynamics in wastewater at a major urban wastewater treatment facility in Massachusetts, between early January and May 2020. SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in wastewater on March 3. SARS-CoV-2 RNA concentrations in wastewater correlated with clinically diagnosed new COVID-19 cases, with the trends appearing 4–10 days earlier in wastewater than in clinical data. We inferred viral shedding dynamics by modeling wastewater viral load as a convolution of back-dated new clinical cases with the average population-level viral shedding function. The inferred viral shedding function showed an early peak, likely before symptom onset and clinical diagnosis, consistent with emerging clinical and experimental evidence. This finding suggests that SARS-CoV-2 concentrations in wastewater may be primarily driven by viral shedding early in infection. This work shows that longitudinal wastewater analysis can be used to identify trends in disease transmission in advance of clinical case reporting, and infer early viral shedding dynamics for newly infected individuals, which are difficult to capture in clinical investigations.

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Collective oscillations of coupled cell cycles

Binglun Shao, Rocky Diegmiller, S. Shvartsman

Problems with networks of coupled oscillators arise in multiple contexts, commonly leading to the question about the dependence of network dynamics on network structure. Previous work has addressed this question in Drosophila oogenesis, where stable cytoplasmic bridges connect the future oocyte to the supporting nurse cells that supply the oocyte with molecules and organelles needed for its development. To increase their biosynthetic capacity, nurse cells enter the endoreplication program, a special form of the cell cycle formed by the iterated repetition of growth and synthesis phases without mitosis. Recent studies have revealed that the oocyte orchestrates nurse cell endoreplication cycles, based on retrograde (oocyte to nurse cells) transport of a cell cycle inhibitor produced by the nurse cells and localized to the oocyte. Furthermore, the joint dynamics of endocycles has been proposed to depend on the intercellular connectivity within the oocyte-nurse cell cluster. We use a computational model to argue that this connectivity guides, but does not uniquely determine the collective dynamics and identify several oscillatory regimes, depending on the time scale of intercellular transport. Our results provide insights into collective dynamics of coupled cell cycles and motivate future quantitative studies of intercellular communication in the germline cell clusters.

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October 5, 2021

Genetic and epigenetic coordination of cortical interneuron development

Kathryn C. Allaway, M. Gabitto, R. Bonneau, et al.

One of the hallmarks of the cerebral cortex is the extreme diversity of interneurons. The two largest subtypes of cortical interneurons, parvalbumin- and somatostatin-positive cells, are morphologically and functionally distinct in adulthood but arise from common lineages within the medial ganglionic eminence.This makes them an attractive model for studying the generation of cell diversity. Here we examine how developmental changes in transcription and chromatin structure enable these cells to acquire distinct identities in the mouse cortex. Generic interneuron features are first detected upon cell cycle exit through the opening of chromatin at distal elements. By constructing cell-type-specific gene regulatory networks, we observed that parvalbumin- and somatostatin-positive cells initiate distinct programs upon settling within the cortex. We used these networks to model the differential transcriptional requirement of a shared regulator, Mef2c, and confirmed the accuracy of our predictions through experimental loss-of-function experiments. We therefore reveal how a common molecular program diverges to enable these neuronal subtypes to acquire highly specialized properties by adulthood. Our methods provide a framework for examining the emergence of cellular diversity, as well as for quantifying and predicting the effect of candidate genes on cell-type-specific development.

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September 22, 2021

Quadrature by fundamental solutions: kernel-independent layer potential evaluation for large collections of simple objects

Well-conditioned boundary integral methods for the solution of elliptic boundary value problems (BVPs) are powerful tools for static and dynamic physical simulations. When there are many close-to-touching boundaries (eg, in complex fluids) or when the solution is needed in the bulk, nearly-singular integrals must be evaluated at many targets. We show that precomputing a linear map from surface density to an effective source representation renders this task highly efficient, in the common case where each object is "simple", ie, its smooth boundary needs only moderately many nodes. We present a kernel-independent method needing only an upsampled smooth surface quadrature, and one dense factorization, for each distinct shape. No (near-)singular quadrature rules are needed. The resulting effective sources are drop-in compatible with fast algorithms, with no local corrections nor bookkeeping. Our extensive numerical tests include 2D FMM-based Helmholtz and Stokes BVPs with up to 1000 objects (281000 unknowns), and a 3D Laplace BVP with 10 ellipsoids separated by 1/30 of a diameter. We include a rigorous analysis for analytic data in 2D and 3D.

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September 18, 2021

aLENS: towards the cellular-scale simulation of motor-driven cytoskeletal assemblies

W. Yan, Saad Ansari, A. Lamson, Matthew A. Glaser, Meredith Betterton, M. Shelley

The cytoskeleton -- a collection of polymeric filaments, molecular motors, and crosslinkers -- is a foundational example of active matter, and in the cell assembles into organelles that guide basic biological functions. Simulation of cytoskeletal assemblies is an important tool for modeling cellular processes and understanding their surprising material properties. Here we present aLENS, a novel computational framework to surmount the limits of conventional simulation methods. We model molecular motors with crosslinking kinetics that adhere to a thermodynamic energy landscape, and integrate the system dynamics while efficiently and stably enforcing hard-body repulsion between filaments -- molecular potentials are entirely avoided in imposing steric constraints. Utilizing parallel computing, we simulate different mixtures of tens to hundreds of thousands of cytoskeletal filaments and crosslinking motors, recapitulating self-emergent phenomena such as bundle formation and buckling, and elucidating how motor type, thermal fluctuations, internal stresses, and confinement determine the evolution of active matter aggregates.

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September 16, 2021

Lévy Walks and Path Chaos in the Dispersal of Elongated Structures Moving across Cellular Vortical Flows

Shi-Yuan Hu, Jun-Jun Chu, M. Shelley, Jun Zhang

In cellular vortical flows, namely arrays of counterrotating vortices, short but flexible filaments can show simple random walks through their stretch-coil interactions with flow stagnation points. Here, we study the dynamics of semirigid filaments long enough to broadly sample the vortical field. Using simulation, we find a surprising variety of long-time transport behavior—random walks, ballistic transport, and trapping—depending upon the filament’s relative length and effective flexibility. Moreover, we find that filaments execute Lévy walks whose diffusion exponents generally decrease with increasing filament length, until transitioning to Brownian walks. Lyapunov exponents likewise increase with length. Even completely rigid filaments, whose dynamics is finite dimensional, show a surprising variety of transport states and chaos. Fast filament dispersal is related to an underlying geometry of “conveyor belts.” Evidence for these various transport states is found in experiments using arrays of counterrotating rollers, immersed in a fluid and transporting a flexible ribbon.

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A multiscale biophysical model gives quantized metachronal waves in a lattice of cilia

Motile cilia are slender, hair-like cellular appendages that spontaneously oscillate under the action of internal molecular motors and are typically found in dense arrays. These active filaments coordinate their beating to generate metachronal waves that drive long-range fluid transport and locomotion. Until now, our understanding of their collective behavior largely comes from the study of minimal models that coarse-grain the relevant biophysics and the hydrodynamics of slender structures. Here we build on a detailed biophysical model to elucidate the emergence of metachronal waves on millimeter scales from nanometer scale motor activity inside individual cilia. Our study of a 1D lattice of cilia in the presence of hydrodynamic and steric interactions reveals how metachronal waves are formed and maintained. We find that in homogeneous beds of cilia these interactions lead to multiple attracting states, all of which are characterized by an integer charge that is conserved. This even allows us to design initial conditions that lead to predictable emergent states. Finally, and very importantly, we show that in nonuniform ciliary tissues, boundaries and inhomogeneities provide a robust route to metachronal waves.

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August 3, 2021

Decoding disease: from genomes to networks to phenotypes

A. Wong, R. Sealfon, Chandra L. Theesfeld, O. Troyanskaya

Interpreting the effects of genetic variants is key to understanding individual susceptibility to disease and designing personalized therapeutic approaches. Modern experimental technologies are enabling the generation of massive compendia of human genome sequence data and associated molecular and phenotypic traits, together with genome-scale expression, epigenomics and other functional genomic data. Integrative computational models can leverage these data to understand variant impact, elucidate the effect of dysregulated genes on biological pathways in specific disease and tissue contexts, and interpret disease risk beyond what is feasible with experiments alone. In this Review, we discuss recent developments in machine learning algorithms for genome interpretation and for integrative molecular-level modelling of cells, tissues and organs relevant to disease. More specifically, we highlight existing methods and key challenges and opportunities in identifying specific disease-causing genetic variants and linking them to molecular pathways and, ultimately, to disease phenotypes.

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Signatures of elastoviscous buckling in the dilute rheology of stiff polymers

B. Chakrabarti, Y. Liu, O. du Roure, A. Linder, D. Saintillan

As a stiff polymer tumbles in shear flow, it experiences compressive viscous forces that can cause it to buckle and undergo a sequence of morphological transitions with increasing flow strength. We use numerical simulations to uncover the effects of these transitions on the steady shear rheology of a dilute suspension of stiff polymers. Our results agree with classic scalings for Brownian rods in relatively weak flows but depart from them above the buckling threshold. Signatures of elastoviscous buckling include enhanced shear thinning and an increase in the magnitude of normal stress differences. We discuss our findings in the light of past work on rigid Brownian rods and non-Brownian elastic fibres and highlight the subtle role of thermal fluctuations in triggering instabilities.

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ChIP-GSM: Inferring active transcription factor modules to predict functional regulatory elements

X. Chen, Andrew F. Neuwald, Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, Robert Clarke, Jianhua Xuan

Transcription factors (TFs) often function as a module including both master factors and mediators binding at cis-regulatory regions to modulate nearby gene transcription. ChIP-seq profiling of multiple TFs makes it feasible to infer functional TF modules. However, when inferring TF modules based on co-localization of ChIP-seq peaks, often many weak binding events are missed, especially for mediators, resulting in incomplete identification of modules. To address this problem, we develop a ChIP-seq data-driven Gibbs Sampler to infer Modules (ChIP-GSM) using a Bayesian framework that integrates ChIP-seq profiles of multiple TFs. ChIP-GSM samples read counts of module TFs iteratively to estimate the binding potential of a module to each region and, across all regions, estimates the module abundance. Using inferred module-region probabilistic bindings as feature units, ChIP-GSM then employs logistic regression to predict active regulatory elements. Validation of ChIP-GSM predicted regulatory regions on multiple independent datasets sharing the same context confirms the advantage of using TF modules for predicting regulatory activity. In a case study of K562 cells, we demonstrate that the ChIP-GSM inferred modules form as groups, activate gene expression at different time points, and mediate diverse functional cellular processes. Hence, ChIP-GSM infers biologically meaningful TF modules and improves the prediction accuracy of regulatory region activities.

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