The invariant cell initiation mass measured in bacterial growth experiments has been interpreted as a minimal unit of cellular replication. Here we argue that the existence of such minimal units induces a coupling between the rates of stochastic cell division and death. To probe this coupling we tracked live and dead cells in populations treated with a ribosome-targeting antibiotic. We find that the growth exponent from macroscopic cell growth or decay measurements can be represented as the difference of microscopic first-order cell division and death rates. The boundary between cell growth and decay, at which the number of live cells remains constant over time, occurs at the minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) of the antibiotic. This state appears macroscopically static but is microscopically dynamic: division and death rates exactly cancel at MIC but each is remarkably high, reaching 60% of the antibiotic-free division rate. A stochastic model of cells as collections of minimal replicating units we term 'widgets' reproduces both steady-state and transient features of our experiments. Sub-cellular fluctuations of widget numbers stochastically drive each new daughter cell to one of two alternate fates, division or death. First-order division or death rates emerge as eigenvalues of a stationary Markov process, and can be expressed in terms of the widget's molecular properties. High division and death rates at MIC arise due to low mean and high relative fluctuations of widget number. Isolating cells at the threshold of irreversible death might allow molecular characterization of this minimal replication unit.

%B New J Phys %V 20 %P 035004 %8 2018 Mar %G eng %N 3 %R 10.1088/1367-2630/aab197 %0 Journal Article %J Nat Commun %D 2018 %T Small GTPases and BAR domain proteins regulate branched actin polymerisation for clathrin and dynamin-independent endocytosis. %A Sathe, Mugdha %A Muthukrishnan, Gayatri %A Rae, James %A Disanza, Andrea %A Thattai, Mukund %A Scita, Giorgio %A Parton, Robert G %A Mayor, Satyajit %XUsing real-time TIRF microscopy imaging, we identify sites of clathrin and dynamin-independent CLIC/GEEC (CG) endocytic vesicle formation. This allows spatio-temporal localisation of known molecules affecting CG endocytosis; GBF1 (a GEF for ARF1), ARF1 and CDC42 which appear sequentially over 60 s, preceding scission. In an RNAi screen for BAR domain proteins affecting CG endocytosis, IRSp53 and PICK1, known interactors of CDC42 and ARF1, respectively, were selected. Removal of IRSp53, a negative curvature sensing protein, abolishes CG endocytosis. Furthermore, the identification of ARP2/3 complex at CG endocytic sites, maintained in an inactive state reveals a function for PICK1, an ARP2/3 inhibitor. The spatio-temporal sequence of the arrival and disappearance of the molecules suggest a mechanism for a clathrin and dynamin-independent endocytic process. Coincident with the loss of PICK1 by GBF1-activated ARF1, CDC42 recruitment leads to the activation of IRSp53 and the ARP2/3 complex, resulting in a burst of F-actin polymerisation potentially powering scission.

%B Nat Commun %V 9 %P 1835 %8 2018 May 09 %G eng %N 1 %R 10.1038/s41467-018-03955-w %0 Journal Article %J New Journal of Physics %D 2018 %T Using stochastic cell division and death to probe minimal units of cellular replication %A Chib, Savita %A Das, Suman %A Venkatesan, S %A Seshasayee, Aswin S N %A Thattai, Mukund %XThe invariant cell initiation mass measured in bacterial growth experiments has been interpreted as a minimal unit of cellular replication. Here we argue that the existence of such minimal units induces a coupling between the rates of stochastic cell division and death. To probe this coupling we tracked live and dead cells in *Escherichia coli* populations treated with a ribosome-targeting antibiotic. We find that the growth exponent from macroscopic cell growth or decay measurements can be represented as the difference of microscopic first-order cell division and death rates. The boundary between cell growth and decay, at which the number of live cells remains constant over time, occurs at the minimal inhibitory concentration (MIC) of the antibiotic. This state appears macroscopically static but is microscopically dynamic: division and death rates exactly cancel at MIC but each is remarkably high, reaching 60% of the antibiotic-free division rate. A stochastic model of cells as collections of minimal replicating units we term 'widgets' reproduces both steady-state and transient features of our experiments. Sub-cellular fluctuations of widget numbers stochastically drive each new daughter cell to one of two alternate fates, division or death. First-order division or death rates emerge as eigenvalues of a stationary Markov process, and can be expressed in terms of the widget's molecular properties. High division and death rates at MIC arise due to low mean and high relative fluctuations of widget number. Isolating cells at the threshold of irreversible death might allow molecular characterization of this minimal replication unit.

Intracellular membrane-bounded organelles of eukaryotic cells transiently contact the extracellular environment during endocytosis and secretion. Such contacts must be precisely timed to prevent leakage of cargo. I argue that early eukaryotes evolved organelle acidification as a way to detect and prevent leakage.

%B BMC Biol %V 15 %P 51 %8 2017 Jun 26 %G eng %N 1 %R 10.1186/s12915-017-0395-1 %0 Journal Article %J PLoS One %D 2017 %T Discovering vesicle traffic network constraints by model checking. %A Shukla, Ankit %A Bhattacharyya, Arnab %A Kuppusamy, Lakshmanan %A Srivas, Mandayam %A Thattai, Mukund %XA eukaryotic cell contains multiple membrane-bound compartments. Transport vesicles move cargo between these compartments, just as trucks move cargo between warehouses. These processes are regulated by specific molecular interactions, as summarized in the Rothman-Schekman-Sudhof model of vesicle traffic. The whole structure can be represented as a transport graph: each organelle is a node, and each vesicle route is a directed edge. What constraints must such a graph satisfy, if it is to represent a biologically realizable vesicle traffic network? Graph connectedness is an informative feature: 2-connectedness is necessary and sufficient for mass balance, but stronger conditions are required to ensure correct molecular specificity. Here we use Boolean satisfiability (SAT) and model checking as a framework to discover and verify graph constraints. The poor scalability of SAT model checkers often prevents their broad application. By exploiting the special structure of the problem, we scale our model checker to vesicle traffic systems with reasonably large numbers of molecules and compartments. This allows us to test a range of hypotheses about graph connectivity, which can later be proved in full generality by other methods.

%B PLoS One %V 12 %P e0180692 %8 2017 %G eng %N 7 %R 10.1371/journal.pone.0180692 %0 Journal Article %J Elife %D 2016 %T Stacking the odds for Golgi cisternal maturation. %A Mani, Somya %A Thattai, Mukund %XWhat is the minimal set of cell-biological ingredients needed to generate a Golgi apparatus? The compositions of eukaryotic organelles arise through a process of molecular exchange via vesicle traffic. Here we statistically sample tens of thousands of homeostatic vesicle traffic networks generated by realistic molecular rules governing vesicle budding and fusion. Remarkably, the plurality of these networks contain chains of compartments that undergo creation, compositional maturation, and dissipation, coupled by molecular recycling along retrograde vesicles. This motif precisely matches the cisternal maturation model of the Golgi, which was developed to explain many observed aspects of the eukaryotic secretory pathway. In our analysis cisternal maturation is a robust consequence of vesicle traffic homeostasis, independent of the underlying details of molecular interactions or spatial stacking. This architecture may have been exapted rather than selected for its role in the secretion of large cargo.

%B Elife %V 5 %8 2016 Aug 19 %G eng %R 10.7554/eLife.16231 %0 Journal Article %J Biophys J %D 2016 %T Universal Poisson Statistics of mRNAs with Complex Decay Pathways. %A Thattai, Mukund %XMessenger RNA (mRNA) dynamics in single cells are often modeled as a memoryless birth-death process with a constant probability per unit time that an mRNA molecule is synthesized or degraded. This predicts a Poisson steady-state distribution of mRNA number, in close agreement with experiments. This is surprising, since mRNA decay is known to be a complex process. The paradox is resolved by realizing that the Poisson steady state generalizes to arbitrary mRNA lifetime distributions. A mapping between mRNA dynamics and queueing theory highlights an identifiability problem: a measured Poisson steady state is consistent with a large variety of microscopic models. Here, I provide a rigorous and intuitive explanation for the universality of the Poisson steady state. I show that the mRNA birth-death process and its complex decay variants all take the form of the familiar Poisson law of rare events, under a nonlinear rescaling of time. As a corollary, not only steady-states but also transients are Poisson distributed. Deviations from the Poisson form occur only under two conditions, promoter fluctuations leading to transcriptional bursts or nonindependent degradation of mRNA molecules. These results place severe limits on the power of single-cell experiments to probe microscopic mechanisms, and they highlight the need for single-molecule measurements.

%B Biophys J %V 110 %P 301-5 %8 2016 Jan 19 %G eng %N 2 %R 10.1016/j.bpj.2015.12.001 %0 Journal Article %J Mol Biochem Parasitol %D 2016 %T Wine glasses and hourglasses: Non-adaptive complexity of vesicle traffic in microbial eukaryotes. %A Mani, Somya %A Thattai, Mukund %XMicrobial eukaryotes present a stunning diversity of endomembrane organization. From specialized secretory organelles such as the rhoptries and micronemes of apicomplexans, to peroxisome-derived metabolic compartments such as the glycosomes of kinetoplastids, different microbial taxa have explored different solutions to the compartmentalization and processing of cargo. The basic secretory and endocytic system, comprising the ER, Golgi, endosomes, and plasma membrane, as well as diverse taxon-specific specialized endomembrane organelles, are coupled by a complex network of cargo transport via vesicle traffic. It is tempting to connect form to function, ascribing biochemical roles to each compartment and vesicle of such a system. Here we argue that traffic systems of high complexity could arise through non-adaptive mechanisms via purely physical constraints, and subsequently be exapted for various taxon-specific functions. Our argument is based on a Boolean mathematical model of vesicle traffic: we specify rules of how compartments exchange vesicles; these rules then generate hypothetical cells with different types of endomembrane organization. Though one could imagine a large number of hypothetical vesicle traffic systems, very few of these are consistent with molecular interactions. Such molecular constraints are the bottleneck of a metaphorical hourglass, and the rules that make it through the bottleneck are expected to generate cells with many special properties. Sampling at random from among such rules represents an evolutionary null hypothesis: any properties of the resulting cells must be non-adaptive. We show by example that vesicle traffic systems generated in this random manner are reminiscent of the complex trafficking apparatus of real cells.

%B Mol Biochem Parasitol %8 2016 Mar 22 %G eng %R 10.1016/j.molbiopara.2016.03.006 %0 Journal Article %J Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A %D 2015 %T Ancient dynamin segments capture early stages of host-mitochondrial integration. %A Purkanti, Ramya %A Thattai, Mukund %K Animals %K Arabidopsis %K Caenorhabditis elegans %K Chloroplasts %K Dictyostelium %K Drosophila melanogaster %K Dynamins %K Evolution, Molecular %K Humans %K Mitochondria %K Mitochondrial Dynamics %K Saccharomyces cerevisiae %K Schizosaccharomyces %XEukaryotic cells use dynamins-mechano-chemical GTPases--to drive the division of endosymbiotic organelles. Here we probe early steps of mitochondrial and chloroplast endosymbiosis by tracing the evolution of dynamins. We develop a parsimony-based phylogenetic method for protein sequence reconstruction, with deep time resolution. Using this, we demonstrate that dynamins diversify through the punctuated transformation of sequence segments on the scale of secondary-structural elements. We find examples of segments that have remained essentially unchanged from the 1.8-billion-y-old last eukaryotic common ancestor to the present day. Stitching these together, we reconstruct three ancestral dynamins: The first is nearly identical to the ubiquitous mitochondrial division dynamins of extant eukaryotes, the second is partially preserved in the myxovirus-resistance--like dynamins of metazoans, and the third gives rise to the cytokinetic dynamins of amoebozoans and plants and to chloroplast division dynamins. The reconstructed sequences, combined with evolutionary models and published functional data, suggest that the ancestral mitochondrial division dynamin also mediated vesicle scission. This bifunctional protein duplicated into specialized mitochondrial and vesicle variants at least three independent times--in alveolates, green algae, and the ancestor of fungi and metazoans-accompanied by the loss of the ancient prokaryotic mitochondrial division protein FtsZ. Remarkably, many extant species that retain FtsZ also retain the predicted ancestral bifunctional dynamin. The mitochondrial division apparatus of such organisms, including amoebozoans, red algae, and stramenopiles, seems preserved in a near-primordial form.

%B Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A %V 112 %P 2800-5 %8 2015 Mar 3 %G eng %N 9 %R 10.1073/pnas.1407163112