Jeff Gelles, Ph.D.
Aron and Imre Tauber Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

Single-molecule Biochemistry and Biophysics.
Transcription and RNA processing.
Cytoskeletal networks and regulation.

B.A., Harvard University
Ph.D., California Institute of Technology

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The Little Engine Shop

Living cells are chock full of dynamic complexes of protein, RNA, and DNA molecules. We want to understand the fundamental chemical and physical mechanisms through which these molecular machines perform essential biological processes. Our research is focused in two different areas of study: 1) the function of the molecular machines essential to gene expression and its regulation, in particular those that control the synthesis and processing of messenger RNAs, and 2) the function of molecular machines essential to the organization and utilization of the actin and microtubule cytoskeleton of eukaryotic cells.

All of the processes that we study involve dynamic molecular assemblies and multiple reaction intermediates. It is challenging to study their mechanisms using conventional biochemical approaches because different individual molecules in a population are doing different things at the same time. To overcome this “crowd noise problem”, we have developed and used single-molecule light microscopy methods that allow us to observe the behavior of isolated individual molecules and molecular complexes in real time. Using these techniques we can directly observe the assembly, rearrangements, and disassembly of molecular complexes, characterize conformational changes, and detect biochemical reactions. Together, these methods permit comprehensive investigation of molecular mechanisms, revealing reaction pathways and allowing quantitative evaluation and modeling of reaction dynamics. We perform these single-molecule experiments both in systems reconstituted from purified componentsand in extracts that recapitulate the molecular complexity of the living cell.

Our research uses approaches from scientific fields ranging from cell biology and genetics through biochemistry and molecular biology to physical chemistry and condensed-matter physics. In our experience, the most exciting advances in science often arise when scientists from different disciplines collaborate.

Selected recent publications from the laboratory

  • Hoskins AA, Rodgers ML, Friedman LJ, Gelles J, Moore MJ (2016). "Single molecule analysis reveals reversible and irreversible steps during spliceosome activation." eLife (2016) 5:e14166.

  • Harden TT, Wells CD, Friedman LJ, Landick R, Hochschild A, Kondev J, Gelles, J (2016). "Bacterial RNA polymerase can retain sigma70 throughout transcription." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 113(3): 602-607.

  • Bombardier JP, Eskin JA, Jaiswal R, Corrêa IR Jr, Xu MQ, Goode BL, Gelles J (2015). "Single-molecule visualization of a formin-capping protein 'decision complex' at the actin filament barbed end." Nat Commun. 2015 Nov 13;6:8707. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9707

  • Friedman LJ & Gelles J (2015). “Multi-wavelength single-molecule fluorescence analysis of transcription mechanisms.” Methods. 2015 Sep 15;86:27-36. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2015.05.026.

  • Jansen S, Collins A, Chin SM, Ydenberg CA, Gelles J, Goode BL. (2015). "Single-molecule imaging of a three-component ordered actin disassembly mechanism." Nat Commun. 2015 May 21;6:7202.

  • Ticau S, Friedman LJ, Ivica NA, Gelles J. & Bell SP (2015). Single-Molecule Studies of Origin Licensing Reveal Mechanisms Ensuring Bidirectional Helicase Loading. Cell 161, 1–13. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2015.03.012

  • Wang TY, Friedman LJ, Gelles J, Min W, Hoskins AA, Cornish VW (2014). "The covalent trimethoprim chemical tag facilitates single molecule imaging with organic fluorophores." Biophys J. 2014 Jan 7;106(1):272-8.

  • Smith BA, Gelles J, Goode BL (2014). "Single-molecule studies of actin assembly and disassembly factors." Methods Enzymol. 2014; 540:95-117.

  • Shcherbakova I, Hoskins AA, Friedman LJ, Serebrov V, Corrêa IR Jr, Xu MQ, Gelles J, Moore MJ (2013). "Alternative spliceosome assembly pathways revealed by single-molecule fluorescence microscopy." Cell Rep. 2013 Oct 17;5(1):151-65.

  • Smith BA, Padrick SB, Doolittle LK, Daugherty-Clarke K, Corrêa IR Jr, Xu MQ, Goode BL, Rosen MK, Gelles J (2013). "Three-color single molecule imaging shows WASP detachment from Arp2/3 complex triggers actin filament branch formation." Elife. 2013 Sep 3;2:e01008.

  • Friedman LJ, Mumm JP, Gelles J (2013). "RNA polymerase approaches its promoter without long-range sliding along DNA." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 May 29.

  • Crawford DJ, Hoskins AA, Friedman LJ, Gelles J & Crawford DJ, Hoskins AA, Friedman LJ, Gelles J & Moore MJ (2013). "Single-molecule colocalization FRET evidence that spliceosome activation precedes stable approach of 5' splice site and branch site." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Apr 23;110(17):6783-8.

  • Smith BA, Daugherty-Clarke K, Goode BL, Gelles J. "Pathway of actin filament branch formation by Arp2/3 complex revealed by single-molecule imaging." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.2013 Jan 22;110(4):1285-90. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1211164110.

  • Garcia HG, Sanchez A, Boedicker JQ, Osborne M, Gelles J, Kondev J, Phillips R (2012). "Operator sequence alters gene expression independently of transcription factor occupancy in bacteria." Cell Rep. 2012 Jul 26;2(1):150-61.

  • Breitsprecher D, Jaiswal R, Bombardier JP, Gould CJ, Gelles J, Goode BL (2012). "Rocket launcher mechanism of collaborative actin assembly defined by single-molecule imaging." Science. 2012 Jun 1;336(6085):1164-8. doi: 10.1126/science.1218062.

  • Friedman LJ, Gelles J (2012). "Mechanism of transcription initiation at an activator-dependent promoter defined by single-molecule observation." Cell. 2012 Feb 17;148(4):679-89. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2012.01.018.

View Complete Publication List on PubMed: Jeff Gelles

Last review: June 27, 2016.


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