bims-crepig Biomed News
on Chromatin regulation and epigenetics in cell fate and cancer
Issue of 2021‒01‒17
23 papers selected by
Connor Rogerson
University of Cambridge, MRC Cancer Unit


  1. Nat Commun. 2021 01 11. 12(1): 223
    Crump NT, Ballabio E, Godfrey L, Thorne R, Repapi E, Kerry J, Tapia M, Hua P, Lagerholm C, Filippakopoulos P, Davies JOJ, Milne TA.
      Enhancers are DNA sequences that enable complex temporal and tissue-specific regulation of genes in higher eukaryotes. Although it is not entirely clear how enhancer-promoter interactions can increase gene expression, this proximity has been observed in multiple systems at multiple loci and is thought to be essential for the maintenance of gene expression. Bromodomain and Extra-Terminal domain (BET) and Mediator proteins have been shown capable of forming phase condensates and are thought to be essential for super-enhancer function. Here, we show that targeting of cells with inhibitors of BET proteins or pharmacological degradation of BET protein Bromodomain-containing protein 4 (BRD4) has a strong impact on transcription but very little impact on enhancer-promoter interactions. Dissolving phase condensates reduces BRD4 and Mediator binding at enhancers and can also strongly affect gene transcription, without disrupting enhancer-promoter interactions. These results suggest that activation of transcription and maintenance of enhancer-promoter interactions are separable events. Our findings further indicate that enhancer-promoter interactions are not dependent on high levels of BRD4 and Mediator, and are likely maintained by a complex set of factors including additional activator complexes and, at some sites, CTCF and cohesin.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20400-z
  2. Mol Cell. 2021 Jan 06. pii: S1097-2765(20)30947-3. [Epub ahead of print]
    Qing Y, Dong L, Gao L, Li C, Li Y, Han L, Prince E, Tan B, Deng X, Wetzel C, Shen C, Gao M, Chen Z, Li W, Zhang B, Braas D, Ten Hoeve J, Sanchez GJ, Chen H, Chan LN, Chen CW, Ann D, Jiang L, Müschen M, Marcucci G, Plas DR, Li Z, Su R, Chen J.
      R-2-hydroxyglutarate (R-2HG), a metabolite produced by mutant isocitrate dehydrogenases (IDHs), was recently reported to exhibit anti-tumor activity. However, its effect on cancer metabolism remains largely elusive. Here we show that R-2HG effectively attenuates aerobic glycolysis, a hallmark of cancer metabolism, in (R-2HG-sensitive) leukemia cells. Mechanistically, R-2HG abrogates fat-mass- and obesity-associated protein (FTO)/N6-methyladenosine (m6A)/YTH N6-methyladenosine RNA binding protein 2 (YTHDF2)-mediated post-transcriptional upregulation of phosphofructokinase platelet (PFKP) and lactate dehydrogenase B (LDHB) (two critical glycolytic genes) expression and thereby suppresses aerobic glycolysis. Knockdown of FTO, PFKP, or LDHB recapitulates R-2HG-induced glycolytic inhibition in (R-2HG-sensitive) leukemia cells, but not in normal CD34+ hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells, and inhibits leukemogenesis in vivo; conversely, their overexpression reverses R-2HG-induced effects. R-2HG also suppresses glycolysis and downregulates FTO/PFKP/LDHB expression in human primary IDH-wild-type acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells, demonstrating the clinical relevance. Collectively, our study reveals previously unrecognized effects of R-2HG and RNA modification on aerobic glycolysis in leukemia, highlighting the therapeutic potential of targeting cancer epitranscriptomics and metabolism.
    Keywords:  FTO; LDHB; N(6)-methyladenosine (m(6)A) modification; PFKP; R-2HG; RNA stability; YTHDF2; cancer metabolism; glycolysis; leukemia
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molcel.2020.12.026
  3. Nucleic Acids Res. 2021 Jan 12. pii: gkaa1281. [Epub ahead of print]
    Ji Z, Li Y, Liu SX, Sharrocks AD.
      Enhancers play important roles in controlling gene expression in a choreographed spatial and temporal manner during development. However, it is unclear how these regulatory regions are established during differentiation. Here we investigated the genome-wide binding profile of the forkhead transcription factor FOXK2 in human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) and downstream cell types. This transcription factor is bound to thousands of regulatory regions in human ESCs, and binding at many sites is maintained as cells differentiate to mesendodermal and neural precursor cell (NPC) types, alongside the emergence of new binding regions. FOXK2 binding is generally associated with active histone marks in any given cell type. Furthermore newly acquired, or retained FOXK2 binding regions show elevated levels of activating histone marks following differentiation to NPCs. In keeping with this association with activating marks, we demonstrate a role for FOXK transcription factors in gene activation during NPC differentiation. FOXK2 occupancy in ESCs is therefore an early mark for delineating the regulatory regions, which become activated in later lineages.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkaa1281
  4. Mol Cell Proteomics. 2020 Sep;pii: S1535-9476(20)35097-0. [Epub ahead of print]19(9): 1468-1484
    Adams MK, Banks CAS, Thornton JL, Kempf CG, Zhang Y, Miah S, Hao Y, Sardiu ME, Killer M, Hattem GL, Murray A, Katt ML, Florens L, Washburn MP.
      Despite the continued analysis of HDAC inhibitors in clinical trials, the heterogeneous nature of the protein complexes they target limits our understanding of the beneficial and off-target effects associated with their application. Among the many HDAC protein complexes found within the cell, Sin3 complexes are conserved from yeast to humans and likely play important roles as regulators of transcriptional activity. The presence of two Sin3 paralogs in humans, SIN3A and SIN3B, may result in a heterogeneous population of Sin3 complexes and contributes to our poor understanding of the functional attributes of these complexes. Here, we profile the interaction networks of SIN3A and SIN3B to gain insight into complex composition and organization. In accordance with existing data, we show that Sin3 paralog identity influences complex composition. Additionally, chemical cross-linking MS identifies domains that mediate interactions between Sin3 proteins and binding partners. The characterization of rare SIN3B proteoforms provides additional evidence for the existence of conserved and divergent elements within human Sin3 proteins. Together, these findings shed light on both the shared and divergent properties of human Sin3 proteins and highlight the heterogeneous nature of the complexes they organize.
    Keywords:  Chromatin function or biology; DSSO; SIN3; cross linking; epigenetics; histone deacetylase; nuclear translocation; pathway analysis; protein complex analysis; protein-protein interactions*; subcellular analysis; systems biology*
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1074/mcp.RA120.002078
  5. Sci Rep. 2021 Jan 13. 11(1): 884
    Mak KH, Lam YM, Ng RK.
      Trophoblast stem cell (TSC) is crucial to the formation of placenta in mammals. Histone demethylase JMJD2 (also known as KDM4) family proteins have been previously shown to support self-renewal and differentiation of stem cells. However, their roles in the context of the trophoblast lineage remain unclear. Here, we find that knockdown of Jmjd2b resulted in differentiation of TSCs, suggesting an indispensable role of JMJD2B/KDM4B in maintaining the stemness. Through the integration of transcriptome and ChIP-seq profiling data, we show that JMJD2B is associated with a loss of H3K36me3 in a subset of embryonic lineage genes which are marked by H3K9me3 for stable repression. By characterizing the JMJD2B binding motifs and other transcription factor binding datasets, we discover that JMJD2B forms a protein complex with AP-2 family transcription factor TFAP2C and histone demethylase LSD1. The JMJD2B-TFAP2C-LSD1 complex predominantly occupies active gene promoters, whereas the TFAP2C-LSD1 complex is located at putative enhancers, suggesting that these proteins mediate enhancer-promoter interaction for gene regulation. We conclude that JMJD2B is vital to the TSC transcriptional program and safeguards the trophoblast cell fate via distinctive protein interactors and epigenetic targets.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-79601-7
  6. Nucleic Acids Res. 2021 Jan 12. pii: gkaa1203. [Epub ahead of print]
    Yang Y, Fan X, Yan J, Chen M, Zhu M, Tang Y, Liu S, Tang Z.
      DNA methylation is important for the epigenetic regulation of gene expression and plays a critical role in mammalian development. However, the dynamic regulation of genome-wide DNA methylation in skeletal muscle development remains largely unknown. Here, we generated the first single-base resolution DNA methylome and transcriptome maps of porcine skeletal muscle across 27 developmental stages. The overall methylation level decreased from the embryo to the adult, which was highly correlated with the downregulated expression of DNMT1 and an increase in partially methylated domains. Notably, we identified over 40 000 developmentally differentially methylated CpGs (dDMCs) that reconstitute the developmental trajectory of skeletal muscle and associate with muscle developmental genes and transcription factors (TFs). The dDMCs were significantly under-represented in promoter regulatory regions but strongly enriched as enhancer histone markers and in chromatin-accessible regions. Integrative analysis revealed the negative regulation of both promoter and gene body methylation in genes associated with muscle contraction and insulin signaling during skeletal muscle development. Mechanistically, DNA methylation affected the expression of muscle-related genes by modulating the accessibly of upstream myogenesis TF binding, indicating the involvement of the DNA methylation/SP1/IGF2BP3 axis in skeletal myogenesis. Our results highlight the function and regulation of dynamic DNA methylation in skeletal muscle development.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkaa1203
  7. Nat Commun. 2021 01 11. 12(1): 256
    Huisman C, Kim YA, Jeon S, Shin B, Choi J, Lim SJ, Youn SM, Park Y, K C M, Kim S, Lee SK, Lee S, Lee JW.
      In humans, inactivating mutations in MLL4, which encodes a histone H3-lysine 4-methyltransferase, lead to Kabuki syndrome (KS). While dwarfism is a cardinal feature of KS, the underlying etiology remains unclear. Here we report that Mll4 regulates the development of growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH)-producing neurons in the mouse hypothalamus. Our two Mll4 mutant mouse models exhibit dwarfism phenotype and impairment of the developmental programs for GHRH-neurons. Our ChIP-seq analysis reveals that, in the developing mouse hypothalamus, Mll4 interacts with the transcription factor Nrf1 to trigger the expression of GHRH-neuronal genes. Interestingly, the deficiency of Mll4 results in a marked reduction of histone marks of active transcription, while treatment with the histone deacetylase inhibitor AR-42 rescues the histone mark signature and restores GHRH-neuronal production in Mll4 mutant mice. Our results suggest that the developmental dysregulation of Mll4-directed epigenetic control of transcription plays a role in the development of GHRH-neurons and dwarfism phenotype in mice.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20511-7
  8. Nat Commun. 2021 01 13. 12(1): 359
    Griesbach E, Schlackow M, Marzluff WF, Proudfoot NJ.
      Phosphorylated H2A.X is a critical chromatin marker of DNA damage repair (DDR) in higher eukaryotes. However, H2A.X gene expression remains relatively uncharacterised. Replication-dependent (RD) histone genes generate poly(A)- mRNA encoding new histones to package DNA during replication. In contrast, replication-independent (RI) histone genes synthesise poly(A)+ mRNA throughout the cell cycle, translated into histone variants that confer specific epigenetic patterns on chromatin. Remarkably H2AFX, encoding H2A.X, is a hybrid histone gene, generating both poly(A)+ and poly(A)- mRNA isoforms. Here we report that the selective removal of either mRNA isoform reveals different effects in different cell types. In some cells, RD H2A.X poly(A)- mRNA generates sufficient histone for deposition onto DDR associated chromatin. In contrast, cells making predominantly poly(A)+ mRNA require this isoform for de novo H2A.X synthesis, required for efficient DDR. This highlights the importance of differential H2A.X mRNA 3'-end processing in the maintenance of effective DDR.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20520-6
  9. Oncogene. 2021 Jan 15.
    Bai J, Yokomizo-Nakano T, Kubota S, Sun Y, Kanai A, Iimori M, Harada H, Iwama A, Sashida G.
      High Mobility Group AT-hook 2 (HMGA2) is a chromatin modifier and its overexpression has been found in patients with myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Level of Hmga2 expression is fine-tuned by Lin28b-Let-7 axis and Polycomb Repressive Complex 2, in which deletion of Ezh2 leads to activation of Hmga2 expression in hematopoietic stem cells. To elucidate the mechanisms by which the overexpression of HMGA2 helps transformation of stem cells harboring a driver mutation of TET2, we generated an Hmga2-expressing Tet2-deficient mouse model showing the progressive phenotypes of MDS and AML. The overexpression of Hmga2 remodeled the transcriptional program of Tet2-deficient stem and progenitor cells, leading to the impaired differentiation of myeloid cells. Furthermore, Hmga2 was bound to a proximal region of Igf2bp2 oncogene, and activated its transcription, leading to enhancing self-renewal of Tet2-deficient stem cells that was suppressed by inhibition of the DNA binding of Hmga2. These combinatory effects on the transcriptional program and cellular function were not redundant to those in Tet2-deficient cells. The present results elucidate that Hmga2 targets key oncogenic pathways during the transformation and highlight the Hmga2-Igf2bp2 axis as a potential target for therapeutic intervention.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41388-020-01629-w
  10. Elife. 2021 Jan 15. pii: e55361. [Epub ahead of print]10
    Kult S, Olender T, Osterwalder M, Markman S, Leshkowitz D, Krief S, Blecher-Gonen R, Ben-Moshe S, Farack L, Keren-Shaul H, Salame TM, Capellini TD, Itzkovitz S, Amit I, Visel A, Zelzer E.
      The mechanical challenge of attaching elastic tendons to stiff bones is solved by the formation of a unique transitional tissue. Here, we show that murine tendon-to-bone attachment cells are bi-fated, activating a mixture of chondrocyte and tenocyte transcriptomes, under regulation of shared regulatory elements and Krüppel-like factors (KLFs) transcription factors. High-throughput bulk and single-cell RNA sequencing of humeral attachment cells revealed expression of hundreds of chondrogenic and tenogenic genes, which was validated by in situ hybridization and single-molecule ISH. ATAC sequencing showed that attachment cells share accessible intergenic chromatin areas with either tenocytes or chondrocytes. Epigenomic analysis revealed enhancer signatures for most of these regions. Transgenic mouse enhancer reporter assays verified the shared activity of some of these enhancers. Finally, integrative chromatin and motif analyses and transcriptomic data implicated KLFs as regulators of attachment cells. Indeed, blocking expression of both Klf2 and Klf4 in developing limb mesenchyme impaired their differentiation.
    Keywords:  cartilage; developmental biology; enthesis; mouse; musculoskeletal system; tendon
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.55361
  11. Nat Commun. 2021 01 12. 12(1): 315
    Yin X, Romero-Campero FJ, de Los Reyes P, Yan P, Yang J, Tian G, Yang X, Mo X, Zhao S, Calonje M, Zhou Y.
      Although it is well established that the Polycomb Group (PcG) complexes maintain gene repression through the incorporation of H2AK121ub and H3K27me3, little is known about the effect of these modifications on chromatin accessibility, which is fundamental to understand PcG function. Here, by integrating chromatin accessibility, histone marks and expression analyses in different Arabidopsis PcG mutants, we show that PcG function regulates chromatin accessibility. We find that H2AK121ub is associated with a less accessible but still permissive chromatin at transcriptional regulation hotspots. Accessibility is further reduced by EMF1 acting in collaboration with PRC2 activity. Consequently, H2AK121ub/H3K27me3 marks are linked to inaccessible although responsive chromatin. In contrast, only-H3K27me3-marked chromatin is less responsive, indicating that H2AK121ub-marked hotspots are required for transcriptional responses. Nevertheless, despite the loss of PcG activities leads to increased chromatin accessibility, this is not necessarily accompanied by transcriptional activation, indicating that accessible chromatin is not always predictive of gene expression.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20614-1
  12. Nat Commun. 2021 01 11. 12(1): 210
    Martin BJE, Brind'Amour J, Kuzmin A, Jensen KN, Liu ZC, Lorincz M, Howe LJ.
      Histone acetylation is a ubiquitous hallmark of transcription, but whether the link between histone acetylation and transcription is causal or consequential has not been addressed. Using immunoblot and chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing in S. cerevisiae, here we show that the majority of histone acetylation is dependent on transcription. This dependency is partially explained by the requirement of RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) for the interaction of H4 histone acetyltransferases (HATs) with gene bodies. Our data also confirms the targeting of HATs by transcription activators, but interestingly, promoter-bound HATs are unable to acetylate histones in the absence of transcription. Indeed, HAT occupancy alone poorly predicts histone acetylation genome-wide, suggesting that HAT activity is regulated post-recruitment. Consistent with this, we show that histone acetylation increases at nucleosomes predicted to stall RNAPII, supporting the hypothesis that this modification is dependent on nucleosome disruption during transcription. Collectively, these data show that histone acetylation is a consequence of RNAPII promoting both the recruitment and activity of histone acetyltransferases.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20543-z
  13. EMBO Rep. 2021 Jan 11. e51519
    Wu G, Suo C, Yang Y, Shen S, Sun L, Li ST, Zhou Y, Yang D, Wang Y, Cai Y, Wang N, Zhang H, Yang YG, Cao J, Gao P.
      The MYC oncoprotein activates and represses gene expression in a transcription-dependent or transcription-independent manner. Modification of mRNA emerges as a key gene expression regulatory nexus. We sought to determine whether MYC alters mRNA modifications and report here that MYC promotes cancer progression by down-regulating N6-methyladenosine (m6 A) preferentially in transcripts of a subset of MYC-repressed genes (MRGs). We find that MYC activates the expression of ALKBH5 and reduces m6 A levels in the mRNA of the selected MRGs SPI1 and PHF12. We also show that MYC-regulated m6 A controls the translation of MRG mRNA via the specific m6 A reader YTHDF3. Finally, we find that inhibition of ALKBH5, or overexpression of SPI1 or PHF12, effectively suppresses the growth of MYC-deregulated B-cell lymphomas, both in vitro and in vivo. Our findings uncover a novel mechanism by which MYC suppresses gene expression by altering m6 A modifications in selected MRG transcripts promotes cancer progression.
    Keywords:  ALKBH5; MYC; MYC-repressed genes; m6A; oncogenesis
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.15252/embr.202051519
  14. Elife. 2021 Jan 13. pii: e63093. [Epub ahead of print]10
    Dilshat R, Fock V, Kenny C, Gerritsen I, Lasseur RMJ, Travnickova J, Eichhoff OM, Cerny P, Möller K, Sigurbjörnsdóttir S, Kirty K, Einarsdottir BÓ, Cheng PF, Levesque M, Cornell RA, Patton EE, Larue L, de Tayrac M, Magnúsdóttir E, Helga Ögmundsdóttir M, Steingrimsson E.
      The microphthalmia associated transcription factor (MITF) is a critical regulator of melanocyte development and differentiation. It also plays an important role in melanoma where it has been described as a molecular rheostat that, depending on activity levels, allows reversible switching between different cellular states. Here we show that MITF directly represses the expression of genes associated with the extracellular matrix (ECM) and focal adhesion pathways in human melanoma cells as well as of regulators of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) such as CDH2, thus affecting cell morphology and cell-matrix interactions. Importantly, we show that these effects of MITF are reversible, as expected from the rheostat model. The number of focal adhesion points increased upon MITF knockdown, a feature observed in drug resistant melanomas. Cells lacking MITF are similar to the cells of minimal residual disease observed in both human and zebrafish melanomas. Our results suggest that MITF plays a critical role as a repressor of gene expression and is actively involved in shaping the microenvironment of melanoma cells in a cell-autonomous manner.
    Keywords:  cancer biology; genetics; genomics; human
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.63093
  15. Nat Commun. 2021 01 13. 12(1): 364
    Alcalá-Vida R, Seguin J, Lotz C, Molitor AM, Irastorza-Azcarate I, Awada A, Karasu N, Bombardier A, Cosquer B, Skarmeta JLG, Cassel JC, Boutillier AL, Sexton T, Merienne K.
      Temporal dynamics and mechanisms underlying epigenetic changes in Huntington's disease (HD), a neurodegenerative disease primarily affecting the striatum, remain unclear. Using a slowly progressing knockin mouse model, we profile the HD striatal chromatin landscape at two early disease stages. Data integration with cell type-specific striatal enhancer and transcriptomic databases demonstrates acceleration of age-related epigenetic remodelling and transcriptional changes at neuronal- and glial-specific genes from prodromal stage, before the onset of motor deficits. We also find that 3D chromatin architecture, while generally preserved at neuronal enhancers, is altered at the disease locus. Specifically, we find that the HD mutation, a CAG expansion in the Htt gene, locally impairs the spatial chromatin organization and proximal gene regulation. Thus, our data provide evidence for two early and distinct mechanisms underlying chromatin structure changes in the HD striatum, correlating with transcriptional changes: the HD mutation globally accelerates age-dependent epigenetic and transcriptional reprogramming of brain cell identities, and locally affects 3D chromatin organization.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20605-2
  16. Genes Dev. 2021 Jan 14.
    Bevacqua RJ, Lam JY, Peiris H, Whitener RL, Kim S, Gu X, Friedlander MSH, Kim SK.
      The physiological functions of many vital tissues and organs continue to mature after birth, but the genetic mechanisms governing this postnatal maturation remain an unsolved mystery. Human pancreatic β cells produce and secrete insulin in response to physiological cues like glucose, and these hallmark functions improve in the years after birth. This coincides with expression of the transcription factors SIX2 and SIX3, whose functions in native human β cells remain unknown. Here, we show that shRNA-mediated SIX2 or SIX3 suppression in human pancreatic adult islets impairs insulin secretion. However, transcriptome studies revealed that SIX2 and SIX3 regulate distinct targets. Loss of SIX2 markedly impaired expression of genes governing β-cell insulin processing and output, glucose sensing, and electrophysiology, while SIX3 loss led to inappropriate expression of genes normally expressed in fetal β cells, adult α cells, and other non-β cells. Chromatin accessibility studies identified genes directly regulated by SIX2. Moreover, β cells from diabetic humans with impaired insulin secretion also had reduced SIX2 transcript levels. Revealing how SIX2 and SIX3 govern functional maturation and maintain developmental fate in native human β cells should advance β-cell replacement and other therapeutic strategies for diabetes.
    Keywords:  diabetes mellitus; islet; pancreas; transcription factor; β cells
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1101/gad.342378.120
  17. Cell Stem Cell. 2021 Jan 08. pii: S1934-5909(20)30593-2. [Epub ahead of print]
    Fang Y, Xu X, Ding J, Yang L, Doan MT, Karmaus PWF, Snyder NW, Zhao Y, Li JL, Li X.
      Histone crotonylation is a non-acetyl histone lysine modification that is as widespread as acetylation. However, physiological functions associated with histone crotonylation remain almost completely unknown. Here we report that histone crotonylation is crucial for endoderm differentiation. We demonstrate that key crotonyl-coenzyme A (CoA)-producing enzymes are specifically induced in endodermal cells during differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) in vitro and in mouse embryos, where they function to increase histone crotonylation and enhance endodermal gene expression. Chemical enhancement of histone crotonylation promotes endoderm differentiation of hESCs, whereas deletion of crotonyl-CoA-producing enzymes reduces histone crotonylation and impairs meso/endoderm differentiation in vitro and in vivo. Our study uncovers a histone crotonylation-mediated mechanism that promotes endodermal commitment of pluripotent stem cells, which may have important implications for therapeutic strategies against a number of human diseases.
    Keywords:  crotonylation; embryogenesis; embryonic stem cells; endoderm differentiation; epigenetics; metabolic switch
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.stem.2020.12.009
  18. PLoS One. 2021 ;16(1): e0244794
    Petratou K, Spencer SA, Kelsh RN, Lister JA.
      Understanding how fate specification of distinct cell-types from multipotent progenitors occurs is a fundamental question in embryology. Neural crest stem cells (NCSCs) generate extraordinarily diverse derivatives, including multiple neural, skeletogenic and pigment cell fates. Key transcription factors and extracellular signals specifying NCSC lineages remain to be identified, and we have only a little idea of how and when they function together to control fate. Zebrafish have three neural crest-derived pigment cell types, black melanocytes, light-reflecting iridophores and yellow xanthophores, which offer a powerful model for studying the molecular and cellular mechanisms of fate segregation. Mitfa has been identified as the master regulator of melanocyte fate. Here, we show that an Mitf-related transcription factor, Tfec, functions as master regulator of the iridophore fate. Surprisingly, our phenotypic analysis of tfec mutants demonstrates that Tfec also functions in the initial specification of all three pigment cell-types, although the melanocyte and xanthophore lineages recover later. We show that Mitfa represses tfec expression, revealing a likely mechanism contributing to the decision between melanocyte and iridophore fate. Our data are consistent with the long-standing proposal of a tripotent progenitor restricted to pigment cell fates. Moreover, we investigate activation, maintenance and function of tfec in multipotent NCSCs, demonstrating for the first time its role in the gene regulatory network forming and maintaining early neural crest cells. In summary, we build on our previous work to characterise the gene regulatory network governing iridophore development, establishing Tfec as the master regulator driving iridophore specification from multipotent progenitors, while shedding light on possible cellular mechanisms of progressive fate restriction.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0244794
  19. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Jan 05. pii: e2021456118. [Epub ahead of print]118(1):
    Sun X, Dyson HJ, Wright PE.
      The tumor-suppressor p53 is a critical regulator of the cellular response to DNA damage and is tightly regulated by posttranslational modifications. Thr55 in the AD2 interaction motif of the N-terminal transactivation domain functions as a phosphorylation-dependent regulatory switch that modulates p53 activity. Thr55 is constitutively phosphorylated, becomes dephosphorylated upon DNA damage, and is subsequently rephosphorylated to facilitate dissociation of p53 from promoters and inactivate p53-mediated transcription. Using NMR and fluorescence spectroscopy, we show that Thr55 phosphorylation inhibits DNA-binding by enhancing competitive interactions between the disordered AD2 motif and the structured DNA-binding domain (DBD). Nonphosphorylated p53 exhibits positive cooperativity in binding DNA as a tetramer. Upon phosphorylation of Thr55, cooperativity is abolished and p53 binds initially to cognate DNA sites as a dimer. As the concentration of phosphorylated p53 is further increased, a second dimer binds and causes p53 to dissociate from the DNA, resulting in a bell-shaped binding curve. This autoinhibition is driven by favorable interactions between the DNA-binding surface of the DBD and the multiple phosphorylated AD2 motifs within the tetramer. These interactions are augmented by additional phosphorylation of Ser46 and are fine-tuned by the proline-rich domain (PRD). Removal of the PRD strengthens the AD2-DBD interaction and leads to autoinhibition of DNA binding even in the absence of Thr55 phosphorylation. This study reveals the molecular mechanism by which the phosphorylation status of Thr55 modulates DNA binding and controls both activation and termination of p53-mediated transcriptional programs at different stages of the cellular DNA damage response.
    Keywords:  cooperative dissociation; intramolecular interaction; intrinsically disordered protein; p53 regulation; posttranslational modification
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2021456118
  20. Cell. 2021 Jan 08. pii: S0092-8674(20)31617-2. [Epub ahead of print]
    Paull EO, Aytes A, Jones SJ, Subramaniam PS, Giorgi FM, Douglass EF, Tagore S, Chu B, Vasciaveo A, Zheng S, Verhaak R, Abate-Shen C, Alvarez MJ, Califano A.
      Despite considerable efforts, the mechanisms linking genomic alterations to the transcriptional identity of cancer cells remain elusive. Integrative genomic analysis, using a network-based approach, identified 407 master regulator (MR) proteins responsible for canalizing the genetics of individual samples from 20 cohorts in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) into 112 transcriptionally distinct tumor subtypes. MR proteins could be further organized into 24 pan-cancer, master regulator block modules (MRBs), each regulating key cancer hallmarks and predictive of patient outcome in multiple cohorts. Of all somatic alterations detected in each individual sample, >50% were predicted to induce aberrant MR activity, yielding insight into mechanisms linking tumor genetics and transcriptional identity and establishing non-oncogene dependencies. Genetic and pharmacological validation assays confirmed the predicted effect of upstream mutations and MR activity on downstream cellular identity and phenotype. Thus, co-analysis of mutational and gene expression profiles identified elusive subtypes and provided testable hypothesis for mechanisms mediating the effect of genetic alterations.
    Keywords:  cancer genetics; cancer systems biology; genomic alteration; integrative genomics; multiomics; network analysis; pan-cancer analysis; transcriptional regulation
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.11.045
  21. Nat Biotechnol. 2021 Jan 11.
    Sadeh R, Sharkia I, Fialkoff G, Rahat A, Gutin J, Chappleboim A, Nitzan M, Fox-Fisher I, Neiman D, Meler G, Kamari Z, Yaish D, Peretz T, Hubert A, Cohen JE, Salah A, Temper M, Grinshpun A, Maoz M, Abu-Gazala S, Ben Ya'acov A, Shteyer E, Safadi R, Kaplan T, Shemer R, Planer D, Galun E, Glaser B, Zick A, Dor Y, Friedman N.
      Cell-free DNA (cfDNA) in human plasma provides access to molecular information about the pathological processes in the organs or tumors from which it originates. These DNA fragments are derived from fragmented chromatin in dying cells and retain some of the cell-of-origin histone modifications. In this study, we applied chromatin immunoprecipitation of cell-free nucleosomes carrying active chromatin modifications followed by sequencing (cfChIP-seq) to 268 human samples. In healthy donors, we identified bone marrow megakaryocytes, but not erythroblasts, as major contributors to the cfDNA pool. In patients with a range of liver diseases, we showed that we can identify pathology-related changes in hepatocyte transcriptional programs. In patients with metastatic colorectal carcinoma, we detected clinically relevant and patient-specific information, including transcriptionally active human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) amplifications. Altogether, cfChIP-seq, using low sequencing depth, provides systemic and genome-wide information and can inform diagnosis and facilitate interrogation of physiological and pathological processes using blood samples.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41587-020-00775-6
  22. Nat Commun. 2021 Jan 15. 12(1): 383
    Lena AM, Rossi V, Osterburg S, Smirnov A, Osterburg C, Tuppi M, Cappello A, Amelio I, Dötsch V, De Felici M, Klinger FG, Annicchiarico-Petruzzelli M, Valensise H, Melino G, Candi E.
      The transcription factor p63 mediates distinct cellular responses, primarily regulating epithelial and oocyte biology. In addition to the two amino terminal isoforms, TAp63 and ΔNp63, the 3'-end of p63 mRNA undergoes tissue-specific alternative splicing that leads to several isoforms, including p63α, p63β and p63γ. To investigate in vivo how the different isoforms fulfil distinct functions at the cellular and developmental levels, we developed a mouse model replacing the p63α with p63β by deletion of exon 13 in the Trp63 gene. Here, we report that whereas in two organs physiologically expressing p63α, such as thymus and skin, no abnormalities are detected, total infertility is evident in heterozygous female mice. A sharp reduction in the number of primary oocytes during the first week after birth occurs as a consequence of the enhanced expression of the pro-apoptotic transcriptional targets Puma and Noxa by the tetrameric, constitutively active, TAp63β isoform. Hence, these mice show a condition of ovary dysfunction, resembling human primary ovary insufficiency. Our results show that the p63 C-terminus is essential in TAp63α-expressing primary oocytes to control cell death in vivo, expanding the current understanding of human primary ovarian insufficiency.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20669-0
  23. PLoS Comput Biol. 2021 Jan 11. 17(1): e1008585
    Soneson C, Srivastava A, Patro R, Stadler MB.
      Experimental single-cell approaches are becoming widely used for many purposes, including investigation of the dynamic behaviour of developing biological systems. Consequently, a large number of computational methods for extracting dynamic information from such data have been developed. One example is RNA velocity analysis, in which spliced and unspliced RNA abundances are jointly modeled in order to infer a 'direction of change' and thereby a future state for each cell in the gene expression space. Naturally, the accuracy and interpretability of the inferred RNA velocities depend crucially on the correctness of the estimated abundances. Here, we systematically compare five widely used quantification tools, in total yielding thirteen different quantification approaches, in terms of their estimates of spliced and unspliced RNA abundances in five experimental droplet scRNA-seq data sets. We show that there are substantial differences between the quantifications obtained from different tools, and identify typical genes for which such discrepancies are observed. We further show that these abundance differences propagate to the downstream analysis, and can have a large effect on estimated velocities as well as the biological interpretation. Our results highlight that abundance quantification is a crucial aspect of the RNA velocity analysis workflow, and that both the definition of the genomic features of interest and the quantification algorithm itself require careful consideration.
    DOI:  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1008585