bims-crepig Biomed News
on Chromatin regulation and epigenetics in cell fate and cancer
Issue of 2020‒12‒20
27 papers selected by
Connor Rogerson
University of Cambridge, MRC Cancer Unit

  1. Nat Genet. 2020 Dec 14.
      The cohesin complex has an essential role in maintaining genome organization. However, its role in gene regulation remains largely unresolved. Here we report that the cohesin release factor WAPL creates a pool of free cohesin, in a process known as cohesin turnover, which reloads it to cell-type-specific binding sites. Paradoxically, stabilization of cohesin binding, following WAPL ablation, results in depletion of cohesin from these cell-type-specific regions, loss of gene expression and differentiation. Chromosome conformation capture experiments show that cohesin turnover is important for maintaining promoter-enhancer loops. Binding of cohesin to cell-type-specific sites is dependent on the pioneer transcription factors OCT4 (POU5F1) and SOX2, but not NANOG. We show the importance of cohesin turnover in controlling transcription and propose that a cycle of cohesin loading and off-loading, instead of static cohesin binding, mediates promoter and enhancer interactions critical for gene regulation.
  2. Cancer Discov. 2020 Dec 14. pii: CD-20-0735. [Epub ahead of print]
      Mutations of subunits of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complexes occur commonly in cancers of different lineages, including advanced thyroid cancers. Here we show that thyroid-specific loss of Arid1a, Arid2 or Smarcb1 in mouse BrafV600E-mutant tumors promotes disease progression and decreased survival, associated with lesion-specific effects on chromatin accessibility and differentiation. As compared to normal thyrocytes, BrafV600E-mutant mouse PTCs have decreased lineage transcription factor expression and accessibility to their target DNA binding sites, leading to impairment of thyroid differentiated gene expression and radioiodine incorporation, which is rescued by MAPK inhibition. Loss of individual Swi/Snf subunits in Braf tumors leads to a repressive chromatin state that cannot be reversed by MAPK pathway blockade, rendering them insensitive to its redifferentiation effects. Our results show that SWI/SNF complexes are central to the maintenance of differentiated function in thyroid cancers, and their loss confers radioiodine refractoriness and resistance to MAPK inhibitor-based redifferentiation therapies.
  3. Nat Commun. 2020 12 11. 11(1): 6354
      The formation of zygote is the beginning of mammalian life, and dynamic epigenetic modifications are essential for mammalian normal development. H3K27 di-methylation (H3K27me2) and H3K27 tri-methylation (H3K27me3) are marks of facultative heterochromatin which maintains transcriptional repression established during early development in many eukaryotes. However, the mechanism underlying establishment and regulation of epigenetic asymmetry in the zygote remains obscure. Here we show that maternal EZH2 is required for the establishment of H3K27me3 in mouse zygotes. However, combined immunostaining with ULI-NChIP-seq (ultra-low-input micrococcal nuclease-based native ChIP-seq) shows that EZH1 could partially safeguard the role of EZH2 in the formation of H3K27me2. Meanwhile, we identify that EHMT1 is involved in the establishment of H3K27me2, and that H3K27me2 might be an essential prerequisite for the following de novo H3K27me3 modification on the male pronucleus. In this work, we clarify the establishment and regulatory mechanisms of H3K27me2 and H3K27me3 in mouse zygotes.
  4. PLoS Genet. 2020 Dec 14. 16(12): e1009162
      Gene expression programs determine cell fate in embryonic development and their dysregulation results in disease. Transcription factors (TFs) control gene expression by binding to enhancers, but how TFs select and activate their target enhancers is still unclear. HOX TFs share conserved homeodomains with highly similar sequence recognition properties, yet they impart the identity of different animal body parts. To understand how HOX TFs control their specific transcriptional programs in vivo, we compared HOXA2 and HOXA3 binding profiles in the mouse embryo. HOXA2 and HOXA3 directly cooperate with TALE TFs and selectively target different subsets of a broad TALE chromatin platform. Binding of HOX and tissue-specific TFs convert low affinity TALE binding into high confidence, tissue-specific binding events, which bear the mark of active enhancers. We propose that HOX paralogs, alone and in combination with tissue-specific TFs, generate tissue-specific transcriptional outputs by modulating the activity of TALE TFs at selected enhancers.
  5. Genes Dev. 2020 Dec 17.
      During developmental progression the genomes of immune cells undergo large-scale changes in chromatin folding. However, insights into signaling pathways and epigenetic control of nuclear architecture remain rudimentary. Here, we found that in activated neutrophils calcium influx rapidly recruited the cohesin-loading factor NIPBL to thousands of active enhancers and promoters to dictate widespread changes in compartment segregation. NIPBL recruitment to enhancers and promoters occurred with distinct kinetics. The induction of NIPBL-binding was coordinate with increased P300, BRG1 and RNA polymerase II occupancy. NIPBL-bound enhancers were associated with NFAT, PU.1, and CEBP cis elements, whereas NIPBL-bound promoters were enriched for GC-rich DNA sequences. Using an acute degradation system, we found that the histone acetyltransferases P300 and CBP maintained H3K27ac abundance and facilitated NIPBL occupancy at enhancers and that active transcriptional elongation is essential to maintain H3K27ac abundance. Chromatin remodelers, containing either of the mutually exclusive BRG1 and BRM ATPases, promoted NIPBL recruitment at active enhancers. Conversely, at active promoters, depletion of BRG1 and BRM showed minimal effect on NIPBL occupancy. Finally, we found that calcium signaling in both primary innate and adaptive immune cells swiftly induced NIPBL occupancy. Collectively, these data reveal how transcriptional regulators, histone acetyltransferases, chromatin remodelers, and transcription elongation promote NIPBL occupancy at active enhancers while the induction of NIPLB occupancy at promoters is primarily associated with GC-rich DNA sequences.
    Keywords:  NIPBL; P300 and CBP; chromatin remodelers; cohesin; enhancers; neutrophils; promoters
  6. Epigenetics. 2020 Dec 14.
      The epigenetic regulator Dot1, the only known histone H3K79 methyltransferase, has a conserved role in organismal development and homeostasis. In yeast, Dot1 is required for telomeric silencing and genomic integrity. In Drosophila, Dot1 (Grappa) regulates homeotic gene expression. Dysregulation of DOT1L (human homologue of Dot1) causes leukemia and is implicated in dilated cardiomyopathy. In mice, germline disruption Dot1L and loss of H3K79me2 disrupt vascular and hematopoietic development. Targeted inactivation of Dot1L in principal cells of the mature collecting duct affects terminal differentiation and cell type patterning. However, the role of H3K79 methylation in mammalian tissue development has been questioned, as it is dispensable in the intestinal epithelium, a rapidly proliferating tissue. Here, we used lineage-specific Cre recombinase to delineate the role of Dot1L methyltransferase activity in the mouse metanephric kidney, an organ that develops via interactions between ureteric epithelialHoxb7 and mesenchymalSix2 cell lineages. The results demonstrate that Dot1LHoxb7 is dispensable for ureteric bud branching morphogenesis. In contrast, Dot1LSix2 is critical for the maintenance and differentiation of Six2+ progenitors into epithelial nephrons. Dot1LSix2 mutant kidneys exhibit congenital nephron deficit and cystic dysplastic kidney disease. Molecular analysis implicates defects in key renal developmental regulators, such as Lhx1, Pax2 and Notch. We conclude that the developmental functions of Dot1L-H3K79 methylation in the kidney are lineage-restricted. The link between H3K79me and renal developmental pathways reaffirms the importance of chromatin-based mechanisms in organogenesis.
  7. Mol Cell. 2020 Dec 15. pii: S1097-2765(20)30886-8. [Epub ahead of print]
      Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) silences expression of developmental transcription factors in pluripotent stem cells by methylating lysine 27 on histone H3. Two mutually exclusive subcomplexes, PRC2.1 and PRC2.2, are defined by the set of accessory proteins bound to the core PRC2 subunits. Here we introduce separation-of-function mutations into the SUZ12 subunit of PRC2 to drive it into a PRC2.1 or 2.2 subcomplex in human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). We find that PRC2.2 occupies polycomb target genes at low levels and that homeobox transcription factors are upregulated when this complex is exclusively present. In contrast with previous studies, we find that chromatin occupancy of PRC2 increases drastically when it is forced to form PRC2.1. Additionally, several cancer-associated mutations also coerce formation of PRC2.1. We suggest that PRC2 chromatin occupancy can be altered in the context of disease or development by tuning the ratio of PRC2.1 to PRC2.2.
    Keywords:  CRISPR; EZH2; H3K27me3; PRC2; SUZ12; cancer; epigenetics; homeobox; polycomb; stem cells
  8. Nature. 2020 Dec 16.
      Mechanical deformations of DNA such as bending are ubiquitous and have been implicated in diverse cellular functions1. However, the lack of high-throughput tools to measure the mechanical properties of DNA has limited our understanding of how DNA mechanics influence chromatin transactions across the genome. Here we develop 'loop-seq'-a high-throughput assay to measure the propensity for DNA looping-and determine the intrinsic cyclizabilities of 270,806 50-base-pair DNA fragments that span Saccharomyces cerevisiae chromosome V, other genomic regions, and random sequences. We found sequence-encoded regions of unusually low bendability within nucleosome-depleted regions upstream of transcription start sites (TSSs). Low bendability of linker DNA inhibits nucleosome sliding into the linker by the chromatin remodeller INO80, which explains how INO80 can define nucleosome-depleted regions in the absence of other factors2. Chromosome-wide, nucleosomes were characterized by high DNA bendability near dyads and low bendability near linkers. This contrast increases for deeper gene-body nucleosomes but disappears after random substitution of synonymous codons, which suggests that the evolution of codon choice has been influenced by DNA mechanics around gene-body nucleosomes. Furthermore, we show that local DNA mechanics affect transcription through TSS-proximal nucleosomes. Overall, this genome-scale map of DNA mechanics indicates a 'mechanical code' with broad functional implications.
  9. Nucleic Acids Res. 2020 Dec 17. pii: gkaa1191. [Epub ahead of print]
      Secondary wall thickening in the sclerenchyma cells is strictly controlled by a complex network of transcription factors in vascular plants. However, little is known about the epigenetic mechanism regulating secondary wall biosynthesis. In this study, we identified that ARABIDOPSIS HOMOLOG of TRITHORAX1 (ATX1), a H3K4-histone methyltransferase, mediates the regulation of fiber cell wall development in inflorescence stems of Arabidopsis thaliana. Genome-wide analysis revealed that the up-regulation of genes involved in secondary wall formation during stem development is largely coordinated by increasing level of H3K4 tri-methylation. Among all histone methyltransferases for H3K4me3 in Arabidopsis, ATX1 is markedly increased during the inflorescence stem development and loss-of-function mutant atx1 was impaired in secondary wall thickening in interfascicular fibers. Genetic analysis showed that ATX1 positively regulates secondary wall deposition through activating the expression of secondary wall NAC master switch genes, SECONDARY WALL-ASSOCIATED NAC DOMAIN PROTEIN1 (SND1) and NAC SECONDARY WALL THICKENING PROMOTING FACTOR1 (NST1). We further identified that ATX1 directly binds the loci of SND1 and NST1, and activates their expression by increasing H3K4me3 levels at these loci. Taken together, our results reveal that ATX1 plays a key role in the regulation of secondary wall biosynthesis in interfascicular fibers during inflorescence stem development of Arabidopsis.
  10. J Biol Chem. 2020 Dec 17. pii: jbc.RA120.015762. [Epub ahead of print]
      Cohesin is a multiprotein ring complex that regulates 3D genome organization, sister chromatid cohesion, gene expression, and DNA repair. Cohesin is known to be ubiquitinated, though the mechanism, regulation, and effects of cohesin ubiquitination remain poorly defined. We previously used gene editing to introduce a dual epitope tag into the endogenous allele of each of 11 known components of cohesin in human HCT116 cells. Here we report that mass spectrometry analysis of dual affinity purifications identified the USP13 deubiquitinase as a novel cohesin-interacting protein. Subsequent IP/Westerns confirmed the endogenous interaction in HCT116, 293T, HeLa, and RPE-hTERT cells; demonstrated that the interaction occurs specifically in the soluble nuclear fraction (not in the chromatin); requires the ubiquitin binding domains (UBA1/2) of USP13; and occurs preferentially during DNA replication. Reciprocal dual affinity purification of endogenous USP13 followed by mass spectrometry demonstrated that cohesin is its primary interactor in the nucleus. Ectopic expression and CRISPR knockout of USP13 showed that USP13 is paradoxically required for both de-ubiquitination and ubiquitination of cohesin subunits in human cells. While USP13 was dispensable for sister chromatid cohesion in HCT116 and HeLa cells, it was required for the dissociation of cohesin from chromatin as cells transit through mitosis. Together these results identify USP13 as a new cohesin-interacting protein that regulates the ubiquitination of cohesin and its cell cycle regulated interaction with chromatin.
    Keywords:  STAG2; USP13; cell cycle; cell division; chromatin; cohesin; deubiquitylation (deubiquitination); genome structure; mitosis; protein-protein interaction
  11. Genome Biol. 2020 Dec 17. 21(1): 303
      Chromosome conformation capture data, particularly from high-throughput approaches such as Hi-C, are typically very complex to analyse. Existing analysis tools are often single-purpose, or limited in compatibility to a small number of data formats, frequently making Hi-C analyses tedious and time-consuming. Here, we present FAN-C, an easy-to-use command-line tool and powerful Python API with a broad feature set covering matrix generation, analysis, and visualisation for C-like data ( ). Due to its compatibility with the most prevalent Hi-C storage formats, FAN-C can be used in combination with a large number of existing analysis tools, thus greatly simplifying Hi-C matrix analysis.
    Keywords:  Chromatin loops; Chromosomal compartments; Chromosome conformation capture; Hi-C; Hi-C analysis; Hi-C visualisation; Topologically associating domains (TAD)
  12. Cell Rep. 2020 Dec 15. pii: S2211-1247(20)31500-X. [Epub ahead of print]33(11): 108511
      Early-life adversity (ELA) is associated with lifelong memory deficits, yet the responsible mechanisms remain unclear. We impose ELA by rearing rat pups in simulated poverty, assess hippocampal memory, and probe changes in gene expression, their transcriptional regulation, and the consequent changes in hippocampal neuronal structure. ELA rats have poor hippocampal memory and stunted hippocampal pyramidal neurons associated with ~140 differentially expressed genes. Upstream regulators of the altered genes include glucocorticoid receptor and, unexpectedly, the transcription factor neuron-restrictive silencer factor (NRSF/REST). NRSF contributes critically to the memory deficits because blocking its function transiently following ELA rescues spatial memory and restores the dendritic arborization of hippocampal pyramidal neurons in ELA rats. Blocking NRSF function in vitro augments dendritic complexity of developing hippocampal neurons, suggesting that NRSF represses genes involved in neuronal maturation. These findings establish important, surprising contributions of NRSF to ELA-induced transcriptional programming that disrupts hippocampal maturation and memory function.
    Keywords:  GR; NRSF; REST; RNA-seq; early-life stress; epigenetic; hippocampus; memory; neuronal development; pyramidal neurons
  13. Genes Dev. 2020 Dec 17.
      How homeodomain proteins gain sufficient specificity to control different cell fates has been a long-standing problem in developmental biology. The conserved Gsx homeodomain proteins regulate specific aspects of neural development in animals from flies to mammals, and yet they belong to a large transcription factor family that bind nearly identical DNA sequences in vitro. Here, we show that the mouse and fly Gsx factors unexpectedly gain DNA binding specificity by forming cooperative homodimers on precisely spaced and oriented DNA sites. High-resolution genomic binding assays revealed that Gsx2 binds both monomer and homodimer sites in the developing mouse ventral telencephalon. Importantly, reporter assays showed that Gsx2 mediates opposing outcomes in a DNA binding site-dependent manner: Monomer Gsx2 binding represses transcription, whereas homodimer binding stimulates gene expression. In Drosophila, the Gsx homolog, Ind, similarly represses or stimulates transcription in a site-dependent manner via an autoregulatory enhancer containing a combination of monomer and homodimer sites. Integrating these findings, we test a model showing how the homodimer to monomer site ratio and the Gsx protein levels defines gene up-regulation versus down-regulation. Altogether, these data serve as a new paradigm for how cooperative homeodomain transcription factor binding can increase target specificity and alter regulatory outcomes.
    Keywords:  CUT&RUN; Gsx2; Ind; lateral ganglionic eminence (LGE); transcriptional activation versus repression
  14. Nature. 2020 Dec 16.
      During female germline development, oocytes become a highly specialized cell type and form a maternal cytoplasmic store of crucial factors. Oocyte growth is triggered at the transition from primordial to primary follicle and is accompanied by dynamic changes in gene expression1, but the gene regulatory network that controls oocyte growth remains unknown. Here we identify a set of transcription factors that are sufficient to trigger oocyte growth. By investigation of the changes in gene expression and functional screening using an in vitro mouse oocyte development system, we identified eight transcription factors, each of which was essential for the transition from primordial to primary follicle. Notably, enforced expression of these transcription factors swiftly converted pluripotent stem cells into oocyte-like cells that were competent for fertilization and subsequent cleavage. These transcription-factor-induced oocyte-like cells were formed without specification of primordial germ cells, epigenetic reprogramming or meiosis, and demonstrate that oocyte growth and lineage-specific de novo DNA methylation are separable from the preceding epigenetic reprogramming in primordial germ cells. This study identifies a core set of transcription factors for orchestrating oocyte growth, and provides an alternative source of ooplasm, which is a unique material for reproductive biology and medicine.
  15. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Dec 14. pii: 202001976. [Epub ahead of print]
      Photomorphogenesis is a critical developmental process bridging light-regulated transcriptional reprogramming with morphological changes in organisms. Strikingly, the chromatin-based transcriptional control of photomorphogenesis remains poorly understood. Here, we show that the Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) ortholog of ATP-dependent chromatin-remodeling factor AtINO80 represses plant photomorphogenesis. Loss of AtINO80 inhibited hypocotyl cell elongation and caused anthocyanin accumulation. Both light-induced genes and dark-induced genes were affected in the atino80 mutant. Genome-wide occupancy of the H2A.Z histone variant and levels of histone H3 were reduced in atino80 In particular, AtINO80 bound the gene body of ELONGATED HYPOCOTYL 5 (HY5), resulting in lower chromatin incorporations of H2A.Z and H3 at HY5 in atino80 Genetic analysis revealed that AtINO80 acts in a phytochrome B- and HY5-dependent manner in the regulation of photomorphogenesis. Together, our study elucidates a mechanism wherein AtINO80 modulates nucleosome density and H2A.Z incorporation and represses the transcription of light-related genes, such as HY5, to fine tune plant photomorphogenesis.
    Keywords:  AtINO80; H2A.Z; nucleosome; photomorphogenesis; transcription
  16. Nature. 2020 Dec 16.
      Altered expression of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) occurs in ageing and a range of human pathologies (for example, inborn errors of metabolism, neurodegeneration and cancer). Here we describe first-in-class specific inhibitors of mitochondrial transcription (IMTs) that target the human mitochondrial RNA polymerase (POLRMT), which is essential for biogenesis of the oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) system1-6. The IMTs efficiently impair mtDNA transcription in a reconstituted recombinant system and cause a dose-dependent inhibition of mtDNA expression and OXPHOS in cell lines. To verify the cellular target, we performed exome sequencing of mutagenized cells and identified a cluster of amino acid substitutions in POLRMT that cause resistance to IMTs. We obtained a cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) structure of POLRMT bound to an IMT, which further defined the allosteric binding site near the active centre cleft of POLRMT. The growth of cancer cells and the persistence of therapy-resistant cancer stem cells has previously been reported to depend on OXPHOS7-17, and we therefore investigated whether IMTs have anti-tumour effects. Four weeks of oral treatment with an IMT is well-tolerated in mice and does not cause OXPHOS dysfunction or toxicity in normal tissues, despite inducing a strong anti-tumour response in xenografts of human cancer cells. In summary, IMTs provide a potent and specific chemical biology tool to study the role of mtDNA expression in physiology and disease.
  17. Genome Res. 2020 Dec 16.
      Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) have emerged as diverse functional regulators involved in mammalian development; however, large-scale functional investigation of lncRNAs in mammalian spermatogenesis in vivo is lacking. Here, we delineated the global lncRNA expression landscape in mouse spermatogenesis and identified 968 germ cell signature lncRNAs. By combining bioinformatics and functional screening, we identified three functional lncRNAs (Gm4665, 1700027A15Rik, and 1700052I22Rik) that directly influence spermatogenesis in vivo. Knocking down Gm4665 hampered the development of round spermatids into elongating spermatids and disrupted key spermatogenic gene expression. Mechanistically, lncRNA Gm4665 localized in the nucleus of round spermatids and occupied the genomic regulatory region of important spermatogenic genes including Ip6k1 and Akap3 These findings provide a valuable resource and framework for future functional analysis of lncRNAs in spermatogenesis and their potential roles in other biological processes.
  18. Genome Res. 2020 Dec 11. pii: gr.266338.120. [Epub ahead of print]
      Precise patterns of gene expression are driven by interactions between transcription factors, regulatory DNA sequence, and chromatin. How DNA mutations affecting any one of these regulatory 'layers' is buffered or propagated to gene expression remains unclear. To address this, we quantified allele-specific changes in chromatin accessibility, histone modifications, and gene expression in F1 embryos generated from eight Drosophila crosses at three embryonic stages, yielding a comprehensive dataset of 240 samples spanning multiple regulatory layers. Genetic variation (allelic imbalance) impacts gene expression more frequently than chromatin features, with metabolic and environmental response genes being most often affected. Allelic imbalance in cis-regulatory elements (enhancers) is common and highly heritable, yet its functional impact doesn't generally propagate to gene expression. When it does, genetic variation impacts RNA levels through H3K4me3 or independently through chromatin accessibility and H3K27ac. Changes in RNA are more predictive of variation in H3K4me3 than vice versa, suggesting a role for H3K4me3 downstream of transcription. The impact of a substantial proportion of genetic variation is consistent across embryonic stages, with 50% of allelic imbalanced features at one stage being also imbalanced at subsequent developmental stages. Crucially, buffering, as well as the magnitude and evolutionary impact of genetic variants, are influenced by regulatory complexity (i.e., number of enhancers regulating a gene), with transcription factors being most robust to cis-acting, but most influenced by trans-acting variation.
  19. Nat Commun. 2020 Dec 18. 11(1): 6434
      Glioblastoma frequently exhibits therapy-associated subtype transitions to mesenchymal phenotypes with adverse prognosis. Here, we perform multi-omic profiling of 60 glioblastoma primary tumours and use orthogonal analysis of chromatin and RNA-derived gene regulatory networks to identify 38 subtype master regulators, whose cell population-specific activities we further map in published single-cell RNA sequencing data. These analyses identify the oligodendrocyte precursor marker and chromatin modifier SOX10 as a master regulator in RTK I-subtype tumours. In vitro functional studies demonstrate that SOX10 loss causes a subtype switch analogous to the proneural-mesenchymal transition observed in patients at the transcriptomic, epigenetic and phenotypic levels. SOX10 repression in an in vivo syngeneic graft glioblastoma mouse model results in increased tumour invasion, immune cell infiltration and significantly reduced survival, reminiscent of progressive human glioblastoma. These results identify SOX10 as a bona fide master regulator of the RTK I subtype, with both tumour cell-intrinsic and microenvironmental effects.
  20. Sci Rep. 2020 Dec 15. 10(1): 21950
      Although many factors have been identified and used to enhance the iPSC reprogramming process, its efficiency remains quite low. In addition, reprogramming efficacy has been evidenced to be affected by disease mutations that are present in patient samples. In this study, using RNA-seq platform we have identified and validated the differential gene expression of five transcription factors (TFs) (GBX2, NANOGP8, SP8, PEG3, and ZIC1) that were associated with a remarkable increase in the number of iPSC colonies generated from a patient with Parkinson's disease. We have applied different bioinformatics tools (Gene ontology, protein-protein interaction, and signaling pathways analyses) to investigate the possible roles of these TFs in pluripotency and developmental process. Interestingly, GBX2, NANOGP8, SP8, PEG3, and ZIC1 were found to play a role in maintaining pluripotency, regulating self-renewal stages, and interacting with other factors that are involved in pluripotency regulation including OCT4, SOX2, NANOG, and KLF4. Therefore, the TFs identified in this study could be used as additional transcription factors that enhance reprogramming efficiency to boost iPSC generation technology.
  21. Genome Biol. 2020 Dec 14. 21(1): 302
      BACKGROUND: Tumor-specific genomic aberrations are routinely determined by high-throughput genomic measurements. It remains unclear how complex genome alterations affect molecular networks through changing protein levels and consequently biochemical states of tumor tissues.RESULTS: Here, we investigate the propagation of genomic effects along the axis of gene expression during prostate cancer progression. We quantify genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic alterations based on 105 prostate samples, consisting of benign prostatic hyperplasia regions and malignant tumors, from 39 prostate cancer patients. Our analysis reveals the convergent effects of distinct copy number alterations impacting on common downstream proteins, which are important for establishing the tumor phenotype. We devise a network-based approach that integrates perturbations across different molecular layers, which identifies a sub-network consisting of nine genes whose joint activity positively correlates with increasingly aggressive tumor phenotypes and is predictive of recurrence-free survival. Further, our data reveal a wide spectrum of intra-patient network effects, ranging from similar to very distinct alterations on different molecular layers.
    CONCLUSIONS: This study uncovers molecular networks with considerable convergent alterations across tumor sites and patients. It also exposes a diversity of network effects: we could not identify a single sub-network that is perturbed in all high-grade tumor regions.
    Keywords:  Molecular aberrations; Network effects; Prostate cancer; Proteogenomic analysis; Tumor heterogeneity
  22. PLoS One. 2020 ;15(12): e0242884
      Loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in optic neuropathies results in permanent partial or complete blindness. Myocyte enhancer factor 2 (MEF2) transcription factors have been shown to play a pivotal role in neuronal systems, and in particular MEF2A knockout was shown to enhance RGC survival after optic nerve crush injury. Here we expanded these prior data to study bi-allelic, tri-allelic and heterozygous allele deletion. We observed that deletion of all MEF2A, MEF2C, and MEF2D alleles had no effect on RGC survival during development. Our extended experiments suggest that the majority of the neuroprotective effect was conferred by complete deletion of MEF2A but that MEF2D knockout, although not sufficient to increase RGC survival on its own, increased the positive effect of MEF2A knockout. Conversely, MEF2A over-expression in wildtype mice worsened RGC survival after optic nerve crush. Interestingly, MEF2 transcription factors are regulated by post-translational modification, including by calcineurin-catalyzed dephosphorylation of MEF2A Ser-408 known to increase MEF2A-dependent transactivation in neurons. However, neither phospho-mimetic nor phospho-ablative mutation of MEF2A Ser-408 affected the ability of MEF2A to promote RGC death in vivo after optic nerve injury. Together these findings demonstrate that MEF2 gene expression opposes RGC survival following axon injury in a complex hierarchy, and further support the hypothesis that loss of or interference with MEF2A expression might be beneficial for RGC neuroprotection in diseases such as glaucoma and other optic neuropathies.
  23. Nucleic Acids Res. 2020 Dec 16. pii: gkaa1202. [Epub ahead of print]
      DNA double-strand breaks drive genomic instability. However, it remains unknown how these processes may affect the biomechanical properties of the nucleus and what role nuclear mechanics play in DNA damage and repair efficiency. Here, we have used Atomic Force Microscopy to investigate nuclear mechanical changes, arising from externally induced DNA damage. We found that nuclear stiffness is significantly reduced after cisplatin treatment, as a consequence of DNA damage signalling. This softening was linked to global chromatin decondensation, which improves molecular diffusion within the organelle. We propose that this can increase recruitment for repair factors. Interestingly, we also found that reduction of nuclear tension, through cytoskeletal relaxation, has a protective role to the cell and reduces accumulation of DNA damage. Overall, these changes protect against further genomic instability and promote DNA repair. We propose that these processes may underpin the development of drug resistance.
  24. Elife. 2020 Dec 18. pii: e62208. [Epub ahead of print]9
      Genomes store information at scales beyond the linear nucleotide sequence, which impacts genome function at the level of an individual, while influences on populations and long-term genome function remains unclear. Here, we addressed how physical and chemical DNA characteristics influence genome evolution in the plant pathogenic fungus Verticillium dahliae. We identified incomplete DNA methylation of repetitive elements, associated with specific genomic compartments originally defined as Lineage-Specific (LS) regions that contain genes involved in host adaptation. Further chromatin characterization revealed associations with features such as H3 Lys-27 methylated histones (H3K27me3) and accessible DNA. Machine learning trained on chromatin data identified twice as much LS DNA as previously recognized, which was validated through orthogonal analysis, and we propose to refer to this DNA as adaptive genomic regions. Our results provide evidence that specific chromatin profiles define adaptive genomic regions, and highlight how different epigenetic factors contribute to the organization of these regions.
    Keywords:  evolutionary biology; infectious disease; microbiology
  25. Cell Rep. 2020 Dec 15. pii: S2211-1247(20)31480-7. [Epub ahead of print]33(11): 108491
      Disturbed flow (d-flow) induces atherosclerosis by regulating gene expression in endothelial cells (ECs). For further mechanistic understanding, we carried out a single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) and scATAC-seq study using endothelial-enriched single cells from the left- and right carotid artery exposed to d-flow (LCA) and stable-flow (s-flow in RCA) using the mouse partial carotid ligation (PCL) model. We find eight EC clusters along with immune cells, fibroblasts, and smooth muscle cells. Analyses of marker genes, pathways, and pseudotime reveal that ECs are highly heterogeneous and plastic. D-flow induces a dramatic transition of ECs from atheroprotective phenotypes to pro-inflammatory cells, mesenchymal (EndMT) cells, hematopoietic stem cells, endothelial stem/progenitor cells, and an unexpected immune cell-like (EndICLT) phenotypes. While confirming KLF4/KLF2 as an s-flow-sensitive transcription factor binding site, we also find those sensitive to d-flow (RELA, AP1, STAT1, and TEAD1). D-flow reprograms ECs from atheroprotective to proatherogenic phenotypes, including EndMT and potentially EndICLT.
    Keywords:  atherosclerosis; blood flow; endothelial-to-immune cell-like transition; endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition; endothelium; flow-sensitive transcription factors; reprogramming; single-cell ATAC sequencing; single-cell RNA sequencing
  26. Cell Death Dis. 2020 Dec 14. 11(12): 1066
      The excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM) is a key feature of liver fibrosis and the activated hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) are the major producer of ECM proteins. However, the precise mechanisms and target molecules that are involved in liver fibrosis remain unclear. In this study, we reported that activating transcription factor 3 (ATF3) was over-expressed in mice and human fibrotic livers, in activated HSCs and injured hepatocytes (HCs). Both in vivo and in vitro study have revealed that silencing ATF3 reduced the expression of pro-fibrotic genes and inhibited the activation of HSCs, thus alleviating the extent of liver fibrosis, indicating a potential protective role of ATF3 knockdown. However, ATF3 was not involved in either the apoptosis or proliferation of HCs. In addition, our data illustrated that increased nuclear localization of ATF3 promoted the transcription of fibrogenic genes and lnc-SCARNA10, which functioned as a novel positive regulator of TGF-β signaling in liver fibrogenesis by recruiting SMAD3 to the promoter of these genes. Interestingly, further study also demonstrated that lnc-SCARNA10 promoted the expression of ATF3 in a TGF-β/SMAD3-dependent manner, revealing a TGF-β/ATF3/lnc-SCARNA10 axis that contributed to liver fibrosis by activating HSCs. Taken together, our data provide a molecular mechanism implicating induced ATF3 in liver fibrosis, suggesting that ATF3 may represent a useful target in the development of therapeutic strategies for liver fibrosis.
  27. Cell. 2020 Dec 09. pii: S0092-8674(20)31541-5. [Epub ahead of print]
      Thousands of proteins localize to the nucleus; however, it remains unclear which contain transcriptional effectors. Here, we develop HT-recruit, a pooled assay where protein libraries are recruited to a reporter, and their transcriptional effects are measured by sequencing. Using this approach, we measure gene silencing and activation for thousands of domains. We find a relationship between repressor function and evolutionary age for the KRAB domains, discover that Homeodomain repressor strength is collinear with Hox genetic organization, and identify activities for several domains of unknown function. Deep mutational scanning of the CRISPRi KRAB maps the co-repressor binding surface and identifies substitutions that improve stability/silencing. By tiling 238 proteins, we find repressors as short as ten amino acids. Finally, we report new activator domains, including a divergent KRAB. These results provide a resource of 600 human proteins containing effectors and demonstrate a scalable strategy for assigning functions to protein domains.
    Keywords:  CRISPRi; Hox; KRAB; chromatin regulation; deep mutational scan; domain of unknown function; high-throughput screening; mammalian synthetic biology; protein domains; transcriptional effectors