bims-crepig Biomed News
on Chromatin regulation and epigenetics in cell fate and cancer
Issue of 2020‒04‒12
sixty-two papers selected by
Connor Rogerson
University of Cambridge, MRC Cancer Unit

  1. Cell Metab. 2020 Apr 07. pii: S1550-4131(20)30123-6. [Epub ahead of print]31(4): 852-861.e6
      Activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) is a master transcriptional regulator of the integrated stress response (ISR) that enables cell survival under nutrient stress. The mechanisms by which ATF4 couples metabolic stresses to specific transcriptional outputs remain unknown. Using functional genomics, we identified transcription factors that regulate the responses to distinct amino acid deprivation conditions. While ATF4 is universally required under amino acid starvation, our screens yielded a transcription factor, Zinc Finger and BTB domain-containing protein 1 (ZBTB1), as uniquely essential under asparagine deprivation. ZBTB1 knockout cells are unable to synthesize asparagine due to reduced expression of asparagine synthetase (ASNS), the enzyme responsible for asparagine synthesis. Mechanistically, ZBTB1 binds to the ASNS promoter and promotes ASNS transcription. Finally, loss of ZBTB1 sensitizes therapy-resistant T cell leukemia cells to L-asparaginase, a chemotherapeutic that depletes serum asparagine. Our work reveals a critical regulator of the nutrient stress response that may be of therapeutic value.
    Keywords:  ATF4; CRISPR; asparaginase; cancer metabolism; genetic screen; leukemia; transcription
  2. Nat Genet. 2020 Apr 06.
      Active enhancers are frequently transcribed, yet the regulatory role of enhancer transcription remains debated. Here, we depleted the RNA polymerase II pausing and elongation factor Spt5 in activated mouse B cells and found that approximately 50% of enhancer-gene pairs showed co-regulated transcription, consistent with a potential functional requirement for enhancer transcription. In particular, Spt5 depletion led to loss of super-enhancer-promoter physical interaction and gene expression at the immunoglobulin heavy-chain locus (Igh), abrogating antibody class switch recombination. This defect correlated strictly with loss of enhancer transcription but did not affect acetylation of histone H3 at lysine 27, chromatin accessibility and occupancy of Mediator and cohesin at the enhancer. Strikingly, CRISPRa-mediated rescue of enhancer transcription in Spt5-depleted cells restored Igh gene expression. Our work suggests that Spt5-mediated enhancer transcription underlies the physical and functional interaction between a subset of active enhancers and their target promoters.
  3. NAR Genom Bioinform. 2020 Jun;2(2): lqaa022
      Most regulatory chromatin interactions are mediated by various transcription factors (TFs) and involve physically interacting elements such as enhancers, insulators or promoters. To map these elements and interactions at a fine scale, we developed HIPPIE2 that analyzes raw reads from high-throughput chromosome conformation (Hi-C) experiments to identify precise loci of DNA physically interacting regions (PIRs). Unlike standard genome binning approaches (e.g. 10-kb to 1-Mb bins), HIPPIE2 dynamically infers the physical locations of PIRs using the distribution of restriction sites to increase analysis precision and resolution. We applied HIPPIE2 to in situ Hi-C datasets across six human cell lines (GM12878, IMR90, K562, HMEC, HUVEC, NHEK) with matched ENCODE/Roadmap functional genomic data. HIPPIE2 detected 1042 738 distinct PIRs, with high resolution (average PIR length of 1006 bp) and high reproducibility (92.3% in GM12878). PIRs are enriched for epigenetic marks (H3K27ac, H3K4me1) and open chromatin, suggesting active regulatory roles. HIPPIE2 identified 2.8 million significant PIR-PIR interactions, 27.2% of which were enriched for TF binding sites. 50 608 interactions were enhancer-promoter interactions and were enriched for 33 TFs, including known DNA looping/long-range mediators. These findings demonstrate that the novel dynamic approach of HIPPIE2 ( enables the characterization of chromatin and regulatory interactions with high resolution and reproducibility.
  4. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Apr 07. pii: 201922501. [Epub ahead of print]
      The interplay of transcription factors and cis-regulatory elements (CREs) orchestrates the dynamic and diverse genetic programs that assemble the human central nervous system (CNS) during development and maintain its function throughout life. Genetic variation within CREs plays a central role in phenotypic variation in complex traits including the risk of developing disease. We took advantage of the retina, a well-characterized region of the CNS known to be affected by pathogenic variants in CREs, to establish a roadmap for characterizing regulatory variation in the human CNS. This comprehensive analysis of tissue-specific regulatory elements, transcription factor binding, and gene expression programs in three regions of the human visual system (retina, macula, and retinal pigment epithelium/choroid) reveals features of regulatory element evolution that shape tissue-specific gene expression programs and defines regulatory elements with the potential to contribute to Mendelian and complex disorders of human vision.
    Keywords:  cis-regulatory element; enhancer; human; noncoding; retina
  5. Biomolecules. 2020 Apr 05. pii: E557. [Epub ahead of print]10(4):
      Mesenchymal Stromal Cells (MSC) are multipotent cells characterized by self-renewal, multilineage differentiation, and immunomodulatory properties. To obtain a gene regulatory profile of human MSCs, we generated a compendium of more than two hundred cell samples with genome-wide expression data, including a homogeneous set of 93 samples of five related primary cell types: bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSC), hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), lymphocytes (LYM), fibroblasts (FIB), and osteoblasts (OSTB). All these samples were integrated to generate a regulatory gene network using the algorithm ARACNe (Algorithm for the Reconstruction of Accurate Cellular Networks; based on mutual information), that finds regulons (groups of target genes regulated by transcription factors) and regulators (i.e., transcription factors, TFs). Furtherly, the algorithm VIPER (Algorithm for Virtual Inference of Protein-activity by Enriched Regulon analysis) was used to inference protein activity and to identify the most significant TF regulators, which control the expression profile of the studied cells. Applying these algorithms, a footprint of candidate master regulators of BM-MSCs was defined, including the genes EPAS1, NFE2L1, SNAI2, STAB2, TEAD1, and TULP3, that presented consistent upregulation and hypomethylation in BM-MSCs. These TFs regulate the activation of the genes in the bone marrow MSC lineage and are involved in development, morphogenesis, cell differentiation, regulation of cell adhesion, and cell structure.
    Keywords:  bioinformatic; gene networks; master regulators; mesenchymal stromal cells; meta-analysis; regulons; transcription factor; transcriptomics
  6. New Phytol. 2020 Apr 07.
      Fruit ripening is governed by a complex regulatory network. Reversible histone methylation and demethylation regulate chromatin structure and gene expression. However, little is known about the involvement of histone demethylases in regulating fruit ripening. Here, we found that the tomato SlJMJ6 encodes a histone lysine demethylase that specifically demethylates H3K27 methylation. Overexpression of SlJMJ6 accelerates tomato fruit ripening, which is associated with the upregulated expression of a large number of ripening-related genes. Integrated analysis of RNA-seq and ChIP-seq identified 32 genes directly targeted by SlJMJ6 and transcriptionally upregulated with decreased H3K27m3 in SlJMJ6-overexpressed fruit. Numerous SlJMJ6-regulated genes are involved in transcription regulation, ethylene biosynthesis, cell wall degradation, and hormone signaling. Eleven ripening-related genes including RIN, ACS4, ACO1, PL, TBG4, and a DNA demethylase DML2, were confirmed to be directly regulated by SlJMJ6 through removing H3K27me3. Our results demonstrate that SlJMJ6 is a ripening-prompting H3K27me3 demethylase that activates the expression of the ripening-related genes by modulating H3K27me3, thereby facilitating tomato fruit ripening. Our work also reveals a novel link between histone demethylation and DNA demethylation in regulating fruit ripening. To our knowledge, this is the first report of the involvement of a histone lysine demethylase in the regulation of fruit ripening.
    Keywords:  ACO; DML2; DNA demethylation; H3K27 demethylase; JmjC-domain protein; RIN; fruit ripening; histone demethylation
  7. Mol Metab. 2020 Mar 16. pii: S2212-8778(20)30046-6. [Epub ahead of print] 100973
      BACKGROUND: ATP-dependent chromatin remodelers are evolutionarily conserved complexes that alter nucleosome positioning to influence many DNA-templated processes, such as replication, repair, and transcription. In particular, chromatin remodeling can dynamically regulate gene expression by altering accessibility of chromatin to transcription factors.SCOPE OF REVIEW: This review provides an overview of the importance of chromatin remodelers in the regulation of metabolic gene expression. Particular emphasis is placed on the INO80 and SWI/SNF (BAF/PBAF) chromatin remodelers in both yeast and mammals. This review details discoveries from the initial identification of chromatin remodelers in Saccharomyces cerevisiae to recent discoveries in the metabolic requirements of developing embryonic tissues in mammals.
    MAJOR CONCLUSIONS: INO80 and SWI/SNF (BAF/PBAF) chromatin remodelers regulate the expression of energy metabolism pathways in S. cerevisiae and mammals in response to diverse nutrient environments. In particular, the INO80 complex organizes the temporal expression of gene expression in the metabolically synchronized S. cerevisiae system. INO80-mediated chromatin remodeling is also needed to constrain cell division during metabolically favorable conditions. Conversely, the BAF/PBAF remodeler regulates tissue-specific glycolytic metabolism and is disrupted in cancers that are dependent on glycolysis for proliferation. The role of chromatin remodeling in metabolic gene expression is downstream of the metabolic signaling pathways, such as the TOR pathway, a critical regulator of metabolic homeostasis. Furthermore, the INO80 and BAF/PBAF chromatin remodelers have both been shown to regulate heart development, the tissues of which have unique requirements for energy metabolism during development. Collectively, these results demonstrate that chromatin remodelers communicate metabolic status to chromatin and are a central component of homeostasis pathways that optimize cell fitness, organismal development, and prevent disease.
    Keywords:  BAF/PBAF; Chromatin-remodeling; INO80; Metabolism; SWI/SNF; TOR
  8. Bioinformatics. 2020 Apr 04. pii: btaa227. [Epub ahead of print]
      MOTIVATION: Identifying the genes regulated by a given transcription factor (its "target genes") is a key step in developing a comprehensive understanding of gene regulation. Previously we developed a method (CisMapper) for predicting the target genes of a transcription factor (TF) based solely on the correlation between a histone modification at the TF's binding site and the expression of the gene across a set of tissues or cell lines. That approach is limited to organisms for which extensive histone and expression data is available, and does not explicitly incorporate the genomic distance between the TF and the gene.RESULTS: We present the T-Gene algorithm, which overcomes these limitations. It can be used to predict which genes are most likely to be regulated by a TF, and which of the TF's binding sites are most likely involved in regulating particular genes. T-Gene calculates a novel score that combines distance and histone/expression correlation, and we show that this score accurately predicts when a regulatory element bound by a TF is in contact with a gene's promoter, achieving median precision above 60%. T-Gene is easy to use via its web server or as a command-line tool, and can also make accurate predictions (median precision above 40%) based on distance alone when extensive histone/expression data is not available for the organism. T-Gene provides an estimate of the statistical significance of each of its predictions.
    AVAILABILITY: The T-Gene web server, source code, histone/expression data and genome annotation files are provided at
  9. Nat Methods. 2020 Apr 06.
      Transcription is a highly dynamic process that generates single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) in the genome as 'transcription bubbles'. Here we describe a kethoxal-assisted single-stranded DNA sequencing (KAS-seq) approach, based on the fast and specific reaction between N3-kethoxal and guanines in ssDNA. KAS-seq allows rapid (within 5 min), sensitive and genome-wide capture and mapping of ssDNA produced by transcriptionally active RNA polymerases or other processes in situ using as few as 1,000 cells. KAS-seq enables definition of a group of enhancers that are single-stranded and enrich unique sequence motifs. These enhancers are associated with specific transcription-factor binding and exhibit more enhancer-promoter interactions than typical enhancers do. Under conditions that inhibit protein condensation, KAS-seq uncovers a rapid release of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) from a group of promoters. KAS-seq thus facilitates fast and accurate analysis of transcription dynamics and enhancer activities simultaneously in both low-input and high-throughput manner.
  10. Development. 2020 Apr 06. pii: dev.184861. [Epub ahead of print]
      The transcription factor Zeb2 controls fate specification and subsequent differentiation and maturation of multiple cell types in various embryonic tissues. It binds many protein partners, including activated Smad proteins and the NuRD co-repressor complex. How Zeb2 subdomains support cell differentiation in various contexts has remained elusive. Here, we have studied the role of Zeb2 and its domains in neurogenesis and neural differentiation in the young postnatal ventricular-subventricular zone (V-SVZ), where neural stem cells generate olfactory bulb-destined interneurons. Conditional Zeb2 knockouts and separate acute loss- and gain-of-function approaches indicated that Zeb2 is essential to control apoptosis and neuronal differentiation of V-SVZ progenitors before and after birth, and identified Sox6 as Zeb2-dependent and potential downstream target gene. Zeb2 genetic inactivation impaired the differentiation potential of the V-SVZ niche in a cell-autonomous fashion. We also provide evidence that its normal function in the V-SVZ involves non-autonomous mechanisms as well. Additionally, we could demonstrate distinct roles for Zeb2 protein-binding domains, suggesting that Zeb2 partners co-determine neuronal output from the mouse V-SVZ in both quantitative and qualitative manners in early postnatal life.
    Keywords:  NuRD; Olfactory bulb; Postnatal neurogenesis; Smad; Ventricular-subventricular zone; Zeb2
  11. Epigenetics Chromatin. 2020 Apr 07. 13(1): 20
      BACKGROUND: Understanding the transcriptome is critical for explaining the functional as well as regulatory roles of genomic regions. Current methods for the identification of transcription units (TUs) use RNA-seq that, however, require large quantities of mRNA rendering the identification of inherently unstable TUs, e.g. miRNA precursors, difficult. This problem can be alleviated by chromatin-based approaches due to a correlation between histone modifications and transcription.RESULTS: Here, we introduce EPIGENE, a novel chromatin segmentation method for the identification of active TUs using transcription-associated histone modifications. Unlike the existing chromatin segmentation approaches, EPIGENE uses a constrained, semi-supervised multivariate hidden Markov model (HMM) that models the observed combination of histone modifications using a product of independent Bernoulli random variables, to identify active TUs. Our results show that EPIGENE can identify genome-wide TUs in an unbiased manner. EPIGENE-predicted TUs show an enrichment of RNA Polymerase II at the transcription start site and in gene body indicating that they are indeed transcribed. Comprehensive validation using existing annotations revealed that 93% of EPIGENE TUs can be explained by existing gene annotations and 5% of EPIGENE TUs in HepG2 can be explained by microRNA annotations. EPIGENE outperformed the existing RNA-seq-based approaches in TU prediction precision across human cell lines. Finally, we identified 232 novel TUs in K562 and 43 novel cell-specific TUs all of which were supported by RNA Polymerase II ChIP-seq and Nascent RNA-seq data.
    CONCLUSION: We demonstrate the applicability of EPIGENE to identify genome-wide active TUs and to provide valuable information about unannotated TUs. EPIGENE is an open-source method and is freely available at:
    Keywords:  Epigenetics; Hidden Markov model; Histone modifications; Transcript identification; Transcription
  12. Genome Res. 2020 Apr 06. pii: gr.253211.119. [Epub ahead of print]
      Cohesin is a ring-shaped multiprotein complex that is crucial for 3D genome organization and transcriptional regulation during differentiation and development. It also confers sister chromatid cohesion and facilitates DNA damage repair. Besides its core subunits SMC3, SMC1A and RAD21, cohesin in somatic cells contains one of two orthologous STAG subunits, STAG1 or STAG2. How these variable subunits affect the function of the cohesin complex is still unclear. STAG1- and STAG2-cohesin were initially proposed to organize cohesion at telomeres and centromeres, respectively. Here, we uncover redundant and specific roles of STAG1 and STAG2 in gene regulation and chromatin looping using HCT116 cells with an auxin-inducible degron (AID) tag fused to either STAG1 or STAG2. Following rapid depletion of either subunit, we perform high resolution Hi-C, gene expression and sequential ChIP studies to show that STAG1 and STAG2 do not co-occupy individual binding sites and have distinct ways by which they affect looping and gene expression. These findings are further supported by single-molecule localizations via dSTORM super-resolution imaging. Since somatic and congenital mutations of the STAG subunits are associated with cancer (STAG2) and intellectual disability syndromes with congenital abnormalities (STAG1 and STAG2), we verified STAG1-/ STAG2-dependencies using human neural stem cells, hence highlighting their importance in particular disease contexts.
  13. R Soc Open Sci. 2020 Feb;7(2): 191976
      The relationship between compartmentalization of the genome and epigenetics is long and hoary. In 1928, Heitz defined heterochromatin as the largest differentiated chromatin compartment in eukaryotic nuclei. Müller's discovery of position-effect variegation in 1930 went on to show that heterochromatin is a cytologically visible state of heritable (epigenetic) gene repression. Current insights into compartmentalization have come from a high-throughput top-down approach where contact frequency (Hi-C) maps revealed the presence of compartmental domains that segregate the genome into heterochromatin and euchromatin. It has been argued that the compartmentalization seen in Hi-C maps is owing to the physiochemical process of phase separation. Oddly, the insights provided by these experimental and conceptual advances have remained largely silent on how Hi-C maps and phase separation relate to epigenetics. Addressing this issue directly in mammals, we have made use of a bottom-up approach starting with the hallmarks of constitutive heterochromatin, heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) and its binding partner the H3K9me2/3 determinant of the histone code. They are key epigenetic regulators in eukaryotes. Both hallmarks are also found outside mammalian constitutive heterochromatin as constituents of larger (0.1-5 Mb) heterochromatin-like domains and smaller (less than 100 kb) complexes. The well-documented ability of HP1 proteins to function as bridges between H3K9me2/3-marked nucleosomes contributes to polymer-polymer phase separation that packages epigenetically heritable chromatin states during interphase. Contacts mediated by HP1 'bridging' are likely to have been detected in Hi-C maps, as evidenced by the B4 heterochromatic subcompartment that emerges from contacts between large KRAB-ZNF heterochromatin-like domains. Further, mutational analyses have revealed a finer, innate, compartmentalization in Hi-C experiments that probably reflect contacts involving smaller domains/complexes. Proteins that bridge (modified) DNA and histones in nucleosomal fibres-where the HP1-H3K9me2/3 interaction represents the most evolutionarily conserved paradigm-could drive and generate the fundamental compartmentalization of the interphase nucleus. This has implications for the mechanism(s) that maintains cellular identity, be it a terminally differentiated fibroblast or a pluripotent embryonic stem cell.
    Keywords:  H3K9me2/3; HP1; Hi-C maps; block copolymers; epigenetics; polymer–polymer phase separation
  14. Cell Stem Cell. 2020 Apr 02. pii: S1934-5909(20)30094-1. [Epub ahead of print]
      Intestinal homeostasis is tightly regulated by complex yet poorly understood signaling networks. Here, we demonstrate that Lats1/2, the core Hippo kinases, are essential to maintain Wnt pathway activity and intestinal stem cells. Lats1/2 deletion leads to loss of intestinal stem cells but drives Wnt-uncoupled crypt expansion. To explore the function of downstream transcriptional enhanced associate domain (TEAD) transcription factors, we identified a selective small-molecule reversible inhibitor of TEAD auto-palmitoylation that directly occupies its lipid-binding site and inhibits TEAD-mediated transcription in vivo. Combining this chemical tool with genetic and proteomics approaches, we show that intestinal Wnt inhibition by Lats deletion is Yes-associated protein (YAP)/transcriptional activator with PDZ-binding domain (TAZ) dependent but TEAD independent. Mechanistically, nuclear YAP/TAZ interact with Groucho/Transducin-Like Enhancer of Split (TLE) to block Wnt/T-cell factor (TCF)-mediated transcription, and dual inhibition of TEAD and Lats suppresses Wnt-uncoupled Myc upregulation and epithelial over-proliferation in Adenomatous polyposis coli (APC)-mutated intestine. Our studies highlight a pharmacological approach to inhibit TEAD palmitoylation and have important implications for targeting Wnt and Hippo signaling in human malignancies.
    Keywords:  Lats1/2; TEAD; Wnt; intestinal stemness; palmitoylation inhibitor; tumorigenesis
  15. Epigenetics. 2020 Apr 07. 1-14
      While changes in DNA methylation are known to occur early in breast carcinogenesis and the landscape of breast tumour DNA methylation is profoundly altered compared with normal tissue, there have been limited efforts to identify DNA methylation field cancerization effects in histologically normal breast tissue adjacent to tumour. Matched tumour, histologically normal tissue of the ipsilateral breast (ipsilateral-normal), and histologically normal tissue of the contralateral breast (contralateral-normal) were obtained from nine women undergoing bilateral mastectomy. Laser capture microdissection was used to select epithelial cells from normal tissue, and neoplastic cells from tumour for genome-scale measures of DNA methylation with the Illumina HumanMethylationEPIC array. We identified substantially more CpG loci that were differentially methylated between contralateral-normal and tumour (63,271 CpG loci q < 0.01), than between ipsilateral-normal and tumour (38,346 CpG loci q < 0.01). We identified differential methylation in ipsilateral-normal relative to contralateral-normal tissue (9,562 CpG loci p < 0.01). In this comparison, hypomethylated loci were significantly enriched for breast cancer-relevant transcription factor binding sites including those for ESR1, FoxA1, and GATA3 and hypermethylated loci were significantly enriched for CpG island shore regions. In addition, progression of shore hypermethylation was observed in tumours compared to matched ipsilateral normal tissue, and these alterations tracked to several well-established tumour suppressor genes. Our results indicate an epigenetic field effect in surrounding histologically normal tissue. This work offers an opportunity to focus investigations of early DNA methylation alterations in breast carcinogenesis and potentially develop epigenetic biomarkers of disease risk.Abbreviations: DCIS: ductal carcinoma in situ; GO: gene ontology; OR: odds ratio; CI: confidence interval; TFBS: transcription factor binding site; LOLA: Locus Overlap Analysis.
    Keywords:  DNA methylation; Field cancerization; breast cancer; contralateral breast; epigenetics; normal breast
  16. Sci Adv. 2020 Apr;6(14): eaay2793
      Activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) mediates immunoglobulin class switch DNA recombination (CSR) and somatic hypermutation (SHM), critical processes for maturation of the antibody response. Epigenetic factors, such as histone deacetylases (HDACs), would underpin B cell differentiation stage-specific AID expression. Here, we showed that NAD+-dependent class III HDAC sirtuin 1 (Sirt1) is highly expressed in resting B cells and down-regulated by stimuli inducing AID. B cell Sirt1 down-regulation, deprivation of NAD+ cofactor, or genetic Sirt1 deletion reduced deacetylation of Aicda promoter histones, Dnmt1, and nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) p65 and increased AID expression. This promoted class-switched and hypermutated T-dependent and T-independent antibody responses or led to generation of autoantibodies. Genetic Sirt1 overexpression, Sirt1 boost by NAD+, or allosteric Sirt1 enhancement by SRT1720 repressed AID expression and CSR/SHM. By deacetylating histone and nonhistone proteins (Dnmt1 and NF-κB p65), Sirt1 transduces metabolic cues into epigenetic changes to play an important B cell-intrinsic role in modulating antibody and autoantibody responses.
  17. Nat Commun. 2020 Mar 23. 11(1): 1519
      Chromatin remodellers hydrolyse ATP to move nucleosomal DNA against histone octamers. The mechanism, however, is only partially resolved, and it is unclear if it is conserved among the four remodeller families. Here we use single-molecule assays to examine the mechanism of action of CHD4, which is part of the least well understood family. We demonstrate that the binding energy for CHD4-nucleosome complex formation-even in the absence of nucleotide-triggers significant conformational changes in DNA at the entry side, effectively priming the system for remodelling. During remodelling, flanking DNA enters the nucleosome in a continuous, gradual manner but exits in concerted 4-6 base-pair steps. This decoupling of entry- and exit-side translocation suggests that ATP-driven movement of entry-side DNA builds up strain inside the nucleosome that is subsequently released at the exit side by DNA expulsion. Based on our work and previous studies, we propose a mechanism for nucleosome sliding.
  18. Cell. 2020 Apr 05. pii: S0092-8674(20)30268-3. [Epub ahead of print]
      Long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) evolve more rapidly than mRNAs. Whether conserved lncRNAs undergo conserved processing, localization, and function remains unexplored. We report differing subcellular localization of lncRNAs in human and mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). A significantly higher fraction of lncRNAs is localized in the cytoplasm of hESCs than in mESCs. This turns out to be important for hESC pluripotency. FAST is a positionally conserved lncRNA but is not conserved in its processing and localization. In hESCs, cytoplasm-localized hFAST binds to the WD40 domain of the E3 ubiquitin ligase β-TrCP and blocks its interaction with phosphorylated β-catenin to prevent degradation, leading to activated WNT signaling, required for pluripotency. In contrast, mFast is nuclear retained in mESCs, and its processing is suppressed by the splicing factor PPIE, which is highly expressed in mESCs but not hESCs. These findings reveal that lncRNA processing and localization are previously under-appreciated contributors to the rapid evolution of function.
    Keywords:  ESC; FAST; PPIE; RNA processing; WNT; conservation; embryonic stem cell; evolution; lncRNA; long noncoding RNA; splicing; subcellular localization
  19. Cell Rep. 2020 Apr 07. pii: S2211-1247(20)30348-X. [Epub ahead of print]31(1): 107470
      The transition from the follicular B to the plasma cell stage is associated with large-scale changes in cell morphology. Here, we examine whether plasma cell development is also associated with changes in nuclear architecture. We find that the onset of plasma cell development is concomitant with a decline in remote genomic interactions; a gain in euchromatic character at loci encoding for factors that specify plasma cell fate, including Prdm1 and Atf4; and establishment of de novo inter-chromosomal hubs. We find that, in developing plasma cells and concurrent with transcriptional silencing, the Ebf1 locus repositions from an euchromatic to peri-centromeric heterochromatic environment. Finally, we find that inter-chromosomal hubs are enriched for the deposition of either H3K27Ac or H3K27me3. These data indicate that plasma cell fate is orchestrated by elaborate changes in genome topology and that epigenetic marks, linked with super-enhancers or transcriptionally repressed regions, are enriched at inter-chromosomal hubs.
  20. Commun Biol. 2020 Apr 07. 3(1): 165
      As approximately 70% of human breast tumors are estrogen receptor α (ERα)-positive, estrogen and ERα play essential roles in breast cancer development. By interrupting the ERα signaling pathway, endocrine therapy has been proven to be an effective therapeutic strategy. In this study, we identified a mechanism by which Transcription Start Site (TSS)-associated histone H3K27 acetylation signals the Super Elongation Complex (SEC) to regulate transcriptional elongation of the ESR1 (ERα) gene. SEC interacts with H3K27ac on ESR1 TSS through its scaffold protein AFF4. Depletion of AFF4 by siRNA or CRISPR/Cas9 dramatically reduces expression of ESR1 and its target genes, consequently inhibiting breast cancer cell growth. More importantly, a AFF4 mutant which lacks H3K27ac interaction failed to rescue ESR1 gene expression, suggesting H3K27 acetylation at TSS region is a key mark bridging the transition from transcriptional initiation to elongation, and perturbing SEC function can be an alternative strategy for targeting ERα signaling pathway at chromatin level.
  21. Cell. 2020 Apr 03. pii: S0092-8674(20)30264-6. [Epub ahead of print]
      Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease characterized by attack on oligodendrocytes within the central nervous system (CNS). Despite widespread use of immunomodulatory therapies, patients may still face progressive disability because of failure of myelin regeneration and loss of neurons, suggesting additional cellular pathologies. Here, we describe a general approach for identifying specific cell types in which a disease allele exerts a pathogenic effect. Applying this approach to MS risk loci, we pinpoint likely pathogenic cell types for 70%. In addition to T cell loci, we unexpectedly identified myeloid- and CNS-specific risk loci, including two sites that dysregulate transcriptional pause release in oligodendrocytes. Functional studies demonstrated inhibition of transcriptional elongation is a dominant pathway blocking oligodendrocyte maturation. Furthermore, pause release factors are frequently dysregulated in MS brain tissue. These data implicate cell-intrinsic aberrations outside of the immune system and suggest new avenues for therapeutic development. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
    Keywords:  GWAS; cell type; epigenomics; genetic risk; multiple sclerosis; oligodendrocytes; outside variants; population genetics; remyelination; transcriptional pause release
  22. Nat Commun. 2020 Apr 08. 11(1): 1740
      Several strands of evidence question the dogma that human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is inherited exclusively down the maternal line, most recently in three families where several individuals harbored a 'heteroplasmic haplotype' consistent with biparental transmission. Here we report a similar genetic signature in 7 of 11,035 trios, with allelic fractions of 5-25%, implying biparental inheritance of mtDNA in 0.06% of offspring. However, analysing the nuclear whole genome sequence, we observe likely large rare or unique nuclear-mitochondrial DNA segments (mega-NUMTs) transmitted from the father in all 7 families. Independently detecting mega-NUMTs in 0.13% of fathers, we see autosomal transmission of the haplotype. Finally, we show the haplotype allele fraction can be explained by complex concatenated mtDNA-derived sequences rearranged within the nuclear genome. We conclude that rare cryptic mega-NUMTs can resemble paternally mtDNA heteroplasmy, but find no evidence of paternal transmission of mtDNA in humans.
  23. Sci Rep. 2020 Mar 23. 10(1): 5195
      Pluripotency maintenance requires transcription factors (TFs) that induce genes necessary to preserve the undifferentiated state and repress others involved in differentiation. Recent observations support that the heterogeneous distribution of TFs in the nucleus impacts on gene expression. Thus, it is essential to explore how TFs dynamically organize to fully understand their role in transcription regulation. Here, we examine the distribution of pluripotency TFs Oct4 and Sox2 in the nucleus of embryonic stem (ES) cells and inquire whether their organization changes during early differentiation stages preceding their downregulation. Using ES cells expressing Oct4-YPet or Sox2-YPet, we show that Oct4 and Sox2 partition between nucleoplasm and a few chromatin-dense foci which restructure after inducing differentiation by 2i/LIF withdrawal. Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy showed distinct changes in Oct4 and Sox2 dynamics after differentiation induction. Specifically, we detected an impairment of Oct4-chromatin interactions whereas Sox2 only showed slight variations in its short-lived, and probably more unspecific, interactions with chromatin. Our results reveal that differentiation cues trigger early changes of Oct4 and Sox2 nuclear distributions that also include modifications in TF-chromatin interactions. This dynamical reorganization precedes Oct4 and Sox2 downregulation and may contribute to modulate their function at early differentiation stages.
  24. Mol Cell. 2020 Mar 29. pii: S1097-2765(20)30161-1. [Epub ahead of print]
      DNA topological stress inhibits DNA replication fork (RF) progression and contributes to DNA replication stress. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, we demonstrate that centromeric DNA and the rDNA array are especially vulnerable to DNA topological stress during replication. The activity of the SMC complexes cohesin and condensin are linked to both the generation and repair of DNA topological-stress-linked damage in these regions. At cohesin-enriched centromeres, cohesin activity causes the accumulation of DNA damage, RF rotation, and pre-catenation, confirming that cohesin-dependent DNA topological stress impacts on normal replication progression. In contrast, at the rDNA, cohesin and condensin activity inhibit the repair of damage caused by DNA topological stress. We propose that, as well as generally acting to ensure faithful genetic inheritance, SMCs can disrupt genome stability by trapping DNA topological stress.
    Keywords:  DNA damage; DNA replication stress; DNA topology; SMC; cohesin; condensin; topoisomerases
  25. J Biol Chem. 2020 Apr 10. pii: jbc.RA119.012131. [Epub ahead of print]
      Angiogenesis is a hallmark of tumorigenesis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is hypervascular and therefore very dependent on angiogenesis for tumor development and progression. Findings from previous studies suggest that in HCC cells, hypoxia-induced factor 1 alpha (HIF1A) and zinc finger homeobox 3 (ZFHX3) transcription factors functionally interact in the regulation of genes in HCC cells. Here, we report that hypoxia increases the transcription of the ZFHX3 gene and enhances the binding of HIF1A to the ZFHX3 promoter in the HCC cell lines HepG2 and Huh-7. Moreover, ZFHX3, in turn, physically associated with and was functionally indispensable for HIF1A to exert its angiogenic activity, as indicated by in vitro migration and tube formation assays of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs) and microvessel formation in xenograft tumors of HCC cells. Mechanistically, ZFHX3 was required for HIF1A to transcriptionally activate the vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) gene by binding to its promoter. Functionally, down-regulation of ZFHX3 in HCC cells slowed their tumor growth, and addition of VEGFA to conditioned medium from ZFHX3-silenced HCC cells partially rescued the inhibitory effect of this medium on HUVEC tube formation. In human HCC, ZFHX3 expression was up-regulated, and this up-regulation correlated with both HIF1A up-regulation and worse patient survival, confirming a functional association between ZFHX3 and HIF1A in human HCC. We conclude that ZFHX3 is an angiogenic transcription factor that is integral to the HIF1A-VEGFA signaling axis in HCC cells.
    Keywords:  Hepatocellular carcinoma cells; ZFHX3; angiogenesis; gene regulation; gene silencing; hypoxia; hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF); liver cancer; transcription factor; transcription regulation; vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)
  26. Reproduction. 2020 Apr 01. pii: REP-19-0528.R1. [Epub ahead of print]
      Reduced fertility of male mouse hybrids relative to their parents, or hybrid sterility, is governed by the hybrid sterility 1 (Hst1) locus. Rescue experiments with transgenes carrying sequences within or near Hst1 manifested that Hst1 contains the gene encoding meiosis-specific histone methyltransferase PRDM9. The Prdm9 gene is responsible for partial meiotic arrest, testicular atrophy, and low sperm count in (C57BL/6J x PWD)F1 mouse hybrids. Here we report that these male hybrids suffer an additional reproductive disadvantage, decreased sperm quality, which is (i) further exacerbated by the introduction of long transgene(s) carrying sequences from Hst1 with incomplete Prdm9 into their genome, and (ii) controlled by the Prdm9 dosage. These transgenic male hybrids displayed the features of severe oligoasthenoteratozoospermia (OAT), a human infertility syndrome characterized by a low number of spermatozoa with poor motility and morphological abnormalities. Analysis of spermiogenesis in these mice revealed acrosome detachment, aberrant elongation and condensation of the nucleus. As a result, the transgenic sperm had acrosome malformations, abnormal chromatin packaging, and fragmented DNA with elevated base oxidation, revealed by using multiple methods. Heterozygosity for one null Prdm9 allele improved meiotic progression and sperm quality of both non- and transgenic hybrids. Our results indicate that genomic analysis of OAT patients should include consideration of allelic variants in PRDM9, and our transgenic models can serve as tools to understand the diverse molecular processes that, when perturbed, can cause this disease.
  27. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Apr 05. pii: E2525. [Epub ahead of print]21(7):
      Skeletal muscle differentiation is triggered by a unique family of myogenic basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors, including MyoD, MRF-4, Myf-5, and Myogenin. These transcription factors bind promoters and distant regulatory regions, including E-box elements, of genes whose expression is restricted to muscle cells. Other E-box binding zinc finger proteins target the same DNA response elements, however, their function in muscle development and regeneration is still unknown. Here, we show that the transcription factor zinc finger E-box-binding homeobox 2 (Zeb2, Sip-1, Zfhx1b) is present in skeletal muscle tissues. We investigate the role of Zeb2 in skeletal muscle differentiation using genetic tools and transgenic mouse embryonic stem cells, together with single-cell RNA-sequencing and in vivo muscle engraftment capability. We show that Zeb2 over-expression has a positive impact on skeletal muscle differentiation in pluripotent stem cells and adult myogenic progenitors. We therefore propose that Zeb2 is a novel myogenic regulator and a possible target for improving skeletal muscle regeneration. The non-neural roles of Zeb2 are poorly understood.
    Keywords:  Zinc finger E-box-binding homeobox 2; myogenesis; myogenic differentiation; myogenic progenitors; pluripotent stem cells; signalling pathways; skeletal muscle
  28. PLoS Comput Biol. 2020 Apr 10. 16(4): e1007195
      DNA methylation is a heritable epigenetic modification that plays an essential role in mammalian development. Genomic methylation patterns are dynamically maintained, with DNA methyltransferases mediating inheritance of methyl marks onto nascent DNA over cycles of replication. A recently developed experimental technique employing immunoprecipitation of bromodeoxyuridine labeled nascent DNA followed by bisulfite sequencing (Repli-BS) measures post-replication temporal evolution of cytosine methylation, thus enabling genome-wide monitoring of methylation maintenance. In this work, we combine statistical analysis and stochastic mathematical modeling to analyze Repli-BS data from human embryonic stem cells. We estimate site-specific kinetic rate constants for the restoration of methyl marks on >10 million uniquely mapped cytosines within the CpG (cytosine-phosphate-guanine) dinucleotide context across the genome using Maximum Likelihood Estimation. We find that post-replication remethylation rate constants span approximately two orders of magnitude, with half-lives of per-site recovery of steady-state methylation levels ranging from shorter than ten minutes to five hours and longer. Furthermore, we find that kinetic constants of maintenance methylation are correlated among neighboring CpG sites. Stochastic mathematical modeling provides insight to the biological mechanisms underlying the inference results, suggesting that enzyme processivity and/or collaboration can produce the observed kinetic correlations. Our combined statistical/mathematical modeling approach expands the utility of genomic datasets and disentangles heterogeneity in methylation patterns arising from replication-associated temporal dynamics versus stable cell-to-cell differences.
  29. Curr Genet. 2020 Apr 10.
      Cohesin is a conserved, ring-shaped protein complex that topologically entraps DNA. This ability makes this member of the structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) complex family a central hub of chromosome dynamics regulation. Besides its essential role in sister chromatid cohesion, cohesin shapes the interphase chromatin domain architecture and plays important roles in transcriptional regulation and DNA repair. Cohesin is loaded onto chromosomes at centromeres, at the promoters of highly expressed genes, as well as at DNA replication forks and sites of DNA damage. However, the features that determine these binding sites are still incompletely understood. We recently described a role of the budding yeast RSC chromatin remodeler in cohesin loading onto chromosomes. RSC has a dual function, both as a physical chromatin receptor of the Scc2/Scc4 cohesin loader complex, as well as by providing a nucleosome-free template for cohesin loading. Here, we show that the role of RSC in sister chromatid cohesion is conserved in fission yeast. We discuss what is known about the broader conservation of the contribution of chromatin remodelers to cohesin loading onto chromatin.
    Keywords:  Chromatin remodellers; Coffin–Siris syndrome; Cohesin; Cornelia de lange syndrome; RSC; Scc2–Scc4
  30. PLoS Comput Biol. 2020 Apr;16(4): e1007771
      Biomedical research studies have generated large multi-omic datasets to study complex diseases like Alzheimer's disease (AD). An important aim of these studies is the identification of candidate genes that demonstrate congruent disease-related alterations across the different data types measured by the study. We developed a new method to detect such candidate genes in large multi-omic case-control studies that measure multiple data types in the same set of samples. The method is based on a gene-centric integrative coefficient quantifying to what degree consistent differences are observed in the different data types. For statistical inference, a Bayesian hierarchical model is used to study the distribution of the integrative coefficient. The model employs a conditional autoregressive prior to integrate a functional gene network and to share information between genes known to be functionally related. We applied the method to an AD dataset consisting of histone acetylation, DNA methylation, and RNA transcription data from human cortical tissue samples of 233 subjects, and we detected 816 genes with consistent differences between persons with AD and controls. The findings were validated in protein data and in RNA transcription data from two independent AD studies. Finally, we found three subnetworks of jointly dysregulated genes within the functional gene network which capture three distinct biological processes: myeloid cell differentiation, protein phosphorylation and synaptic signaling. Further investigation of the myeloid network indicated an upregulation of this network in early stages of AD prior to accumulation of hyperphosphorylated tau and suggested that increased CSF1 transcription in astrocytes may contribute to microglial activation in AD. Thus, we developed a method that integrates multiple data types and external knowledge of gene function to detect candidate genes, applied the method to an AD dataset, and identified several disease-related genes and processes demonstrating the usefulness of the integrative approach.
  31. PLoS One. 2020 ;15(4): e0231326
      Cell differentiation is a complex process orchestrated by sets of regulators precisely appearing at certain time points, resulting in regulatory cascades that affect the expression of broader sets of genes, ending up in the formation of different tissues and organ parts. The identification of stage-specific master regulators and the mechanism by which they activate each other is a key to understanding and controlling differentiation, particularly in the fields of tissue regeneration and organoid engineering. Here we present a workflow that combines a comprehensive general regulatory network based on binding site predictions with user-provided temporal gene expression data, to generate a a temporally connected series of stage-specific regulatory networks, which we call a temporal regulatory cascade (TRC). A TRC identifies those regulators that are unique for each time point, resulting in a cascade that shows the emergence of these regulators and regulatory interactions across time. The model was implemented in the form of a user-friendly, visual web-tool, that requires no expert knowledge in programming or statistics, making it directly usable for life scientists. In addition to generating TRCs the tool links multiple interactive visual workflows, in which a user can track and investigate further different regulators, target genes, and interactions, directing the tool along the way into biologically sensible results based on the given dataset. We applied the TRC model on two different expression datasets, one based on experiments conducted on human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) undergoing differentiation into mature cardiomyocytes and the other based on the differentiation of H1-derived human neuronal precursor cells. The model was successful in identifying previously known and new potential key regulators, in addition to the particular time points with which these regulators are associated, in cardiac and neural development.
  32. Epigenomics. 2020 Apr 08.
      Aim: Histone acetylation and methylation control gene expression. We investigated the impact of SET knockdown on histone methylation status and the consequences for the miRNAs levels in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC). Methods: OSCC cells with and without SET knockdown were analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR to determine miRNA levels, and by immunoreactions to histone modifications. Results: The knockdown of SET increased the levels of histone H4K20me2 and miR-137. Still, SET protein binds to the miR-137 promoter region. The transfection of miR-137 mimic reduced the KI67 and Rb proteins and proliferation of OSCC cells. Conclusion: Our results show for the first time a relationship between SET and histone methylation associated with the control of miRNA expression and KI67 and Rb as targets of miR-137 in OSCC.
    Keywords:  OSCC; SET/I2PP2A; histones; methylation; miR-137
  33. Sci Adv. 2020 Apr;6(14): eaax5692
      The transcriptional repressors Polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1) and PRC2 are required to maintain cell fate during embryonic development. PRC1 and PRC2 catalyze distinct histone modifications, establishing repressive chromatin at shared targets. How PRC1, which consists of canonical PRC1 (cPRC1) and variant PRC1 (vPRC1) complexes, and PRC2 cooperate to silence genes and support mouse embryonic stem cell (mESC) self-renewal is unclear. Using combinatorial genetic perturbations, we show that independent pathways of cPRC1 and vPRC1 are responsible for maintenance of H2A monoubiquitylation and silencing of shared target genes. Individual loss of PRC2-dependent cPRC1 or PRC2-independent vPRC1 disrupts only one pathway and does not impair mESC self-renewal capacity. However, loss of both pathways leads to mESC differentiation and activation of a subset of lineage-specific genes co-occupied by relatively high levels of PRC1/PRC2. Thus, parallel pathways explain the differential requirements for PRC1 and PRC2 and provide robust silencing of lineage-specific genes.
  34. PLoS One. 2020 ;15(4): e0230930
      Human epidemiological studies have shown that paternal aging as one of the risk factors for neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, in offspring. A recent study has suggested that factors other than de novo mutations due to aging can influence the biology of offspring. Here, we focused on epigenetic alterations in sperm that can influence developmental programs in offspring. In this study, we qualitatively and semiquantitatively evaluated histone modification patterns in male germline cells throughout spermatogenesis based on immunostaining of testes taken from young (3 months old) and aged (12 months old) mice. Although localization patterns were not obviously changed between young and aged testes, some histone modification showed differences in their intensity. Among histone modifications that repress gene expression, histone H3 lysine 9 trimethylation (H3K9me3) was decreased in the male germline cells of the aged testis, while H3K27me2/3 was increased. The intensity of H3K27 acetylation (ac), an active mark, was lower/higher depending on the stages in the aged testis. Interestingly, H3K27ac was detected on the putative sex chromosomes of round spermatids, while other chromosomes were occupied by a repressive mark, H3K27me3. Among other histone modifications that activate gene expression, H3K4me2 was drastically decreased in the male germline cells of the aged testis. In contrast, H3K79me3 was increased in M-phase spermatocytes, where it accumulates on the sex chromosomes. Therefore, aging induced alterations in the amount of histone modifications and in the differences of patterns for each modification. Moreover, histone modifications on the sex chromosomes and on other chromosomes seems to be differentially regulated by aging. These findings will help elucidate the epigenetic mechanisms underlying the influence of paternal aging on offspring development.
  35. Sci Rep. 2020 Mar 23. 10(1): 5230
      The use of Assay for Transposase-Accessible Chromatin (ATAC-seq) to profile chromatin accessibility has surged over the past years, but its applicability to tissues has been very limited. With the intent of preserving nuclear architecture during long-term storage, cryopreserved nuclei preparations from chicken lung were used to optimize ATAC-seq. Sequencing data were compared with existing DNase-seq, ChIP-seq, and RNA-seq data to evaluate library quality, ultimately resulting in a modified ATAC-seq method capable of generating high quality chromatin accessibility data from cryopreserved nuclei preparations. Using this method, nucleosome-free regions (NFR) identified in chicken lung overlapped half of DNase-I hypersensitive sites, coincided with active histone modifications, and specifically marked actively expressed genes. Notably, sequencing only the subnucleosomal fraction dramatically improved signal, while separation of subnucleosomal reads post-sequencing did not improve signal or peak calling. The broader applicability of this modified ATAC-seq technique was tested using cryopreserved nuclei preparations from pig tissues, resulting in NFR that were highly consistent among biological replicates. Furthermore, tissue-specific NFR were enriched for binding motifs of transcription factors related to tissue-specific functions, and marked genes functionally enriched for tissue-specific processes. Overall, these results provide insights into the optimization of ATAC-seq and a platform for profiling open chromatin in animal tissues.
  36. Cell Rep. 2020 Apr 07. pii: S2211-1247(20)30354-5. [Epub ahead of print]31(1): 107476
      Recent studies using human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) have developed protocols to induce kidney-lineage cells and reconstruct kidney organoids. However, the separate generation of metanephric nephron progenitors (NPs), mesonephric NPs, and ureteric bud (UB) cells, which constitute embryonic kidneys, in in vitro differentiation culture systems has not been fully investigated. Here, we create a culture system in which these mesoderm-like cell types and paraxial and lateral plate mesoderm-like cells are separately generated from hPSCs. We recapitulate nephrogenic niches from separately induced metanephric NP-like and UB-like cells, which are subsequently differentiated into glomeruli, renal tubules, and collecting ducts in vitro and further vascularized in vivo. Our selective differentiation protocols should contribute to understanding the mechanisms underlying human kidney development and disease and also supply cell sources for regenerative therapies.
    Keywords:  collecting duct; differentiation; induced pluripotent stem cells; kidney; mesonephros; metanephros; nephrogenesis; organoid; single-cell analysis; ureteric bud
  37. PLoS Biol. 2020 Apr 10. 18(4): e3000684
      5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) is the most prevalent intermediate on the oxidative DNA demethylation pathway and is implicated in regulation of embryogenesis, neurological processes, and cancerogenesis. Profiling of this relatively scarce genomic modification in clinical samples requires cost-effective high-resolution techniques that avoid harsh chemical treatment. Here, we present a bisulfite-free approach for 5hmC profiling at single-nucleotide resolution, named hmTOP-seq (5hmC-specific tethered oligonucleotide-primed sequencing), which is based on direct sequence readout primed at covalently labeled 5hmC sites from an in situ tethered DNA oligonucleotide. Examination of distinct conjugation chemistries suggested a structural model for the tether-directed nonhomologous polymerase priming enabling theoretical evaluation of suitable tethers at the design stage. The hmTOP-seq procedure was optimized and validated on a small model genome and mouse embryonic stem cells, which allowed construction of single-nucleotide 5hmC maps reflecting subtle differences in strand-specific CG hydroxymethylation. Collectively, hmTOP-seq provides a new valuable tool for cost-effective and precise identification of 5hmC in characterizing its biological role and epigenetic changes associated with human disease.
  38. Cancer Res. 2020 Apr 09. pii: canres.3580.2019. [Epub ahead of print]
      Epigenetic regulation of gene transcription has been shown to coordinate with nutrient availability, yet the mechanisms underlying this coordination remain incompletely understood. Here we show that glucose starvation suppresses histone 2A K119 monoubiquitination (H2Aub), a histone modification that correlates with gene repression. Glucose starvation suppressed H2Aub levels independently of energy stress-mediated AMPK activation and possibly through NADPH depletion and subsequent inhibition of BMI1, an integral component of polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1) that catalyzes H2Aub on chromatin. Integrated transcriptomic and epigenomic analyses linked glucose starvation-mediated H2Aub repression to the activation of genes involved in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response. We further showed that this epigenetic mechanism has a role in glucose starvation-induced cell death and that pharmacologic inhibition of glucose transporter 1 (GLUT1) and PRC1 synergistically promoted ER stress and suppressed tumor growth in vivo. Together, these results reveal a hitherto unrecognized epigenetic mechanism coupling glucose availability to the ER stress response.
  39. Stem Cells. 2020 Apr 11.
      Large intergenic noncoding RNAs (lincRNAs) in embryonic stem cells may play an important role in the maintenance of pluripotency. The identification of stem cell-specific lincRNAs and their interacting partners will deepen our understanding of the maintenance of stem cell pluripotency. We identified a lincRNA, LincQ, which is specifically expressed in embryonic stem cells and is regulated by core pluripotent transcription factors. It was rapidly downregulated during the differentiation process. Knockdown of LincQ in embryonic stem cells led to differentiation, downregulation of pluripotency-related genes, and upregulation of differentiation-related genes. We found that exon 1 of LincQ can specifically bind to Sox2. The Soxp region in Sox2, rather than the HMG domain, is responsible for LincQ binding. Importantly, the interaction between LincQ and Sox2 is required for the maintenance of pluripotency in embryonic stem cells and the transcription of pluripotency genes. Esrrb and Tfcp2l1 are key downstream targets of LincQ and Sox2, since overexpression of Esrrb and Tfcp2l1 can restore the loss of embryonic stem cell pluripotency that is induced by LincQ depletion. In summary, we found that LincQ specifically interacts with Sox2 and contributes to the maintenance of pluripotency, highlighting the critical role of lincRNA in the pluripotency regulatory network. © AlphaMed Press 2020 SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: This study shows that the long intergenic noncoding RNA LincQ is critical for embryonic stem cell (ESC) pluripotency maintenance. LincQ is highly expressed in ESCs and is downregulated during differentiation. Further, its inhibition leads to ESC differentiation. LincQ binds to Sox2 to regulate the transcription of pluripotency genes. Esrrb and Tfcp2l1 are the main downstream targets of LincQ/Sox2 that are involved in ESC maintenance.
    Keywords:  Core pluripotent transcription factors; Large intergenic noncoding RNAs (lincRNAs); Maintenance of pluripotency; Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells; Sox2
  40. Nucleic Acids Res. 2020 Apr 08. pii: gkaa218. [Epub ahead of print]
      Development of oligodendrocytes and myelin formation in the vertebrate central nervous system is under control of several basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors such as Olig2, Ascl1, Hes5 and the Id proteins. The class I basic helix-loop-helix proteins Tcf3, Tcf4 and Tcf12 represent potential heterodimerization partners and functional modulators for all, but have not been investigated in oligodendrocytes so far. Using mouse mutants, organotypic slice and primary cell cultures we here show that Tcf4 is required in a cell-autonomous manner for proper terminal differentiation and myelination in vivo and ex vivo. Partial compensation is provided by the paralogous Tcf3, but not Tcf12. On the mechanistic level Tcf4 was identified as the preferred heterodimerization partner of the central regulator of oligodendrocyte development Olig2. Both genetic studies in the mouse as well as functional studies on enhancer regions of myelin genes confirmed the relevance of this physical interaction for oligodendrocyte differentiation. Considering that alterations in TCF4 are associated with syndromic and non-syndromic forms of intellectual disability, schizophrenia and autism in humans, our findings point to the possibility of an oligodendroglial contribution to these disorders.
  41. Sci Adv. 2020 Apr;6(14): eaay9095
      Mechanical forces play important roles in development, physiology, and diseases, but how force is transduced into gene transcription remains elusive. Here, we show that transcription of transgene DHFR or endogenous genes egr-1 and Cav1 is rapidly up-regulated in response to cyclic forces applied via integrins at low frequencies but not at 100 Hz. Gene up-regulation does not follow the weak power law with force frequency. Force-induced transcription up-regulation at the nuclear interior is associated with demethylation of histone H3 lysine-9 trimethylation (H3K9me3), whereas no transcription up-regulation near the nuclear periphery is associated with H3K9me3 that inhibits Pol II recruitment to the promoter site. H3K9me3 demethylation induces Pol II recruitment and increases force-induced transcription of egr-1 and Cav1 at the nuclear interior and activates mechano-nonresponsive gene FKBP5 near the nuclear periphery, whereas H3K9me3 hypermethylation has opposite effects. Our findings demonstrate that rapid up-regulation of endogenous mechanoresponsive genes depends on H3K9me3 demethylation.
  42. Oncogene. 2020 Apr 06.
      Impaired neuronal differentiation is a feature of neuroblastoma tumorigenesis, and the differentiation grade of neuroblastoma tumors is associated with patient prognosis. Detailed understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying neuroblastoma differentiation will facilitate the development of effective treatment strategies. Recent studies have shown that myelin transcription factor 1 (MYT1) promotes vertebrate neurogenesis by regulating gene expression. We performed quantitative analysis of neuroblastoma samples, which revealed that MYT1 was differentially expressed among neuroblastoma patients with different pathological diagnoses. Analysis of clinical data showed that MYT1 overexpression was associated with a significantly shorter 3-year overall survival rate and poor differentiation in neuroblastoma specimens. MYT1 knockdown inhibited proliferation and promoted the expression of multiple differentiation-associated proteins. Integrated omics data indicated that many genes involved in neuro-differentiation were regulated by MYT1. Interestingly, many of these genes are targets of the REST complex; therefore, we further identified the physical interaction of MYT1 with LSD1/CoREST. Depletion of LSD1 or inhibition of LSD1 by ORY-1001 decreased MYT1 expression, providing an alternative approach to target MYT1. Taken together, our results indicate that MYT1 significantly attenuates cell differentiation by interacting with the LSD1/CoREST complex. MYT1 is, therefore, a promising therapeutic target for enhancing the neurite-inducing effect of retinoic acid and for inhibiting the growth of neuroblastoma.
  43. Cancers (Basel). 2020 Apr 07. pii: E905. [Epub ahead of print]12(4):
      Germ cell tumors (GCTs) are the most common solid malignancies found in young men. Although they generally have high cure rates, metastases, resistance to cisplatin-based therapy, and late toxicities still represent a lethal threat, arguing for the need of new therapeutic options. In a previous study, we identified downregulation of the chromatin-remodeling SWI/SNF complex member ARID1A as a key event in the mode of action of the histone deacetylase inhibitor romidepsin. Additionally, the loss-of-function mutations re-sensitize different tumor types to various drugs, like EZH2-, PARP-, HDAC-, HSP90- or ATR-inhibitors. Thus, ARID1A presents as a promising target for synthetic lethality and combination therapy. In this study, we deciphered the molecular function of ARID1A and screened for the potential of two pharmacological ARID1A inhibitors as a new therapeutic strategy to treat GCTs. By CRISPR/Cas9, we generated ARID1A-deficient GCT cells and demonstrate by mass spectrometry that ARID1A is putatively involved in regulating transcription, DNA repair and the epigenetic landscape via DNA Polymerase POLE and the DNA methyltransferase 1-associated protein DMAP1. Additionally, ARID1A/ARID1A deficiency or pharmacological inhibition increased the efficacy of romidepsin and considerably sensitized GCT cells, including cisplatin-resistant subclones, towards ATR inhibition. Thus, targeting ARID1A in combination with romidepsin and ATR inhibitors presents as a new putative option to treat GCTs.
    Keywords:  ARID1A; ATR inhibition; CRISPR/Cas9; HDAC inhibition; SWI/SNF-complex; germ cell tumors; mass spectrometry; molecular therapy
  44. Nat Commun. 2020 Apr 09. 11(1): 1755
      Asparagine synthetase (ASNS) catalyses the ATP-dependent conversion of aspartate to asparagine. However, both the regulation and biological functions of asparagine in tumour cells remain largely unknown. Here, we report that p53 suppresses asparagine synthesis through the transcriptional downregulation of ASNS expression and disrupts asparagine-aspartate homeostasis, leading to lymphoma and colon tumour growth inhibition in vivo and in vitro. Moreover, the removal of asparagine from culture medium or the inhibition of ASNS impairs cell proliferation and induces p53/p21-dependent senescence and cell cycle arrest. Mechanistically, asparagine and aspartate regulate AMPK-mediated p53 activation by physically binding to LKB1 and oppositely modulating LKB1 activity. Thus, we found that p53 regulates asparagine metabolism and dictates cell survival by generating an auto-amplification loop via asparagine-aspartate-mediated LKB1-AMPK signalling. Our findings highlight a role for LKB1 in sensing asparagine and aspartate and connect asparagine metabolism to the cellular signalling transduction network that modulates cell survival.
  45. PLoS Genet. 2020 Apr 09. 16(4): e1008692
      Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a chronic disease with high mortality and is refractory to treatment. Pulmonary macrophages can both promote and repress fibrosis, however molecular mechanisms regulating macrophage functions during fibrosis remain poorly understood. FOXM1 is a transcription factor and is not expressed in quiescent lungs. Herein, we show that FOXM1 is highly expressed in pulmonary macrophages within fibrotic lungs of IPF patients and mouse fibrotic lungs. Macrophage-specific deletion of Foxm1 in mice (myFoxm1-/-) exacerbated pulmonary fibrosis. Inactivation of FOXM1 in vivo and in vitro increased p38 MAPK signaling in macrophages and decreased DUSP1, a negative regulator of p38 MAPK pathway. FOXM1 directly activated Dusp1 promoter. Overexpression of DUSP1 in FOXM1-deficient macrophages prevented activation of p38 MAPK pathway. Adoptive transfer of wild-type monocytes to myFoxm1-/- mice alleviated bleomycin-induced fibrosis. Altogether, contrary to known pro-fibrotic activities in lung epithelium and fibroblasts, FOXM1 has anti-fibrotic function in macrophages by regulating p38 MAPK.
  46. Sci Rep. 2020 Apr 08. 10(1): 6055
      Heterochromatin regulation is critical for genomic stability. Different H3K9 methylation states have been discovered, with distinct roles in heterochromatin formation and silencing. However, how the transition from H3K9me2 to H3K9me3 is controlled is still unclear. Here, we investigate the role of the conserved bromodomain AAA-ATPase, Abo1, involved in maintaining global nucleosome organisation in fission yeast. We identified several key factors involved in heterochromatin silencing that interact genetically with Abo1: histone deacetylase Clr3, H3K9 methyltransferase Clr4, and HP1 homolog Swi6. Cells lacking Abo1 cultivated at 30 °C exhibit an imbalance of H3K9me2 and H3K9me3 in heterochromatin. In abo1∆ cells, the centromeric constitutive heterochromatin has increased H3K9me2 but decreased H3K9me3 levels compared to wild-type. In contrast, facultative heterochromatin regions exhibit reduced H3K9me2 and H3K9me3 levels in abo1∆. Genome-wide analysis showed that abo1∆ cells have silencing defects in both the centromeres and subtelomeres, but not in a subset of heterochromatin islands in our condition. Thus, our work uncovers a role of Abo1 in stabilising directly or indirectly Clr4 recruitment to allow the H3K9me2 to H3K9me3 transition in heterochromatin.
  47. PLoS One. 2020 ;15(4): e0231418
      The telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene is responsible for telomere maintenance in germline and stem cells, and is re-expressed in 90% of human cancers. CpG methylation in the TERT promoter (TERTp) was correlated with TERT mRNA expression. Furthermore, two hotspot mutations in TERTp, dubbed C228T and C250T, have been revealed to facilitate binding of transcription factor ETS/TCF and subsequent TERT expression. This study aimed to elucidate the combined contribution of epigenetic (promoter methylation and chromatin accessibility) and genetic (promoter mutations) mechanisms in regulating TERT gene expression in healthy skin samples and in melanoma cell lines (n = 61). We unexpectedly observed that the methylation of TERTp was as high in a subset of healthy skin cells, mainly keratinocytes, as in cutaneous melanoma cell lines. In spite of the high promoter methylation fraction in wild-type (WT) samples, TERT mRNA was only expressed in the melanoma cell lines with either high methylation or intermediate methylation in combination with TERT mutations. TERTp methylation was positively correlated with chromatin accessibility and TERT mRNA expression in 8 melanoma cell lines. Cooperation between epigenetic and genetic mechanisms were best observed in heterozygous mutant cell lines as chromosome accessibility preferentially concerned the mutant allele. Combined, these results suggest a complex model in which TERT expression requires either a widely open chromatin state in TERTp-WT samples due to high methylation throughout the promoter or a combination of moderate methylation fraction/chromatin accessibility in the presence of the C228T or C250T mutations.
  48. Nat Cell Biol. 2020 Apr 06.
      In fission yeast and plants, RNA processing and degradation contribute to heterochromatin silencing, alongside conserved pathways of transcriptional repression. It has not been known whether similar pathways exist in metazoans. Here, we describe a pathway of silencing in Caenorhabditis elegans somatic cells, in which the highly conserved RNA-binding complex LSM2-8 contributes selectively to the repression of heterochromatic reporters and endogenous genes bearing the Polycomb mark, histone H3K27me3. This acts by degrading selected transcripts through the XRN-2 exoribonuclease. Disruption of the LSM2-8 pathway leads to mRNA stabilization. Unlike previously described pathways of heterochromatic RNA degradation, LSM2-8-mediated RNA degradation does not target nor require H3K9 methylation. Intriguingly, loss of this pathway coincides with a localized reduction in H3K27me3 at lsm-8-sensitive loci. We have thus uncovered a mechanism of RNA degradation that selectively contributes to the silencing of a subset of H3K27me3-marked genes, revealing a previously unrecognized layer of post-transcriptional control in metazoan heterochromatin.
  49. Nucleic Acids Res. 2020 Apr 08. pii: gkaa227. [Epub ahead of print]
      The N6-methyladenosine modification at position 43 (m6A43) of U6 snRNA is catalyzed by METTL16, and is important for the 5'-splice site recognition by U6 snRNA during pre-mRNA splicing. Human METTL16 consists of the N-terminal methyltransferase domain (MTD) and the C-terminal vertebrate conserved region (VCR). While the MTD has an intrinsic property to recognize a specific sequence in the distinct structural context of RNA, the VCR functions have remained uncharacterized. Here, we present structural and functional analyses of the human METTL16 VCR. The VCR increases the affinity of METTL16 toward U6 snRNA, and the conserved basic region in VCR is important for the METTL16-U6 snRNA interaction. The VCR structure is topologically homologous to the C-terminal RNA binding domain, KA1, in U6 snRNA-specific terminal uridylyl transferase 1 (TUT1). A chimera of the N-terminal MTD of METTL16 and the C-terminal KA1 of TUT1 methylated U6 snRNA more efficiently than the MTD, indicating the functional conservation of the VCR and KA1 for U6 snRNA biogenesis. The VCR interacts with the internal stem-loop (ISL) within U6 snRNA, and this interaction would induce the conformational rearrangement of the A43-containing region of U6 snRNA, thereby modifying the RNA structure to become suitable for productive catalysis by the MTD. Therefore, the MTD and VCR in METTL16 cooperatively facilitate the m6A43 U6 snRNA modification.
  50. Cell Rep. 2020 Apr 07. pii: S2211-1247(20)30342-9. [Epub ahead of print]31(1): 107464
      N6-Methyladenosine (m6A) modification is the major chemical modification in mRNA that controls fundamental biological processes, including cell proliferation. Herein, we demonstrate that fat mass and obesity-associated (FTO) demethylates m6A modification of cyclin D1, the key regulator for G1 phase progression and controls cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo. FTO depletion upregulates cyclin D1 m6A modification, which in turn accelerates the degradation of cyclin D1 mRNA, leading to the impairment of G1 progression. m6A modification of cyclin D1 oscillates in a cell-cycle-dependent manner; m6A levels are suppressed during the G1 phase and enhanced during other phases. Low m6A levels during G1 are associated with the nuclear translocation of FTO from the cytosol. Furthermore, nucleocytoplasmic shuttling of FTO is regulated by casein kinase II-mediated phosphorylation of FTO. Our results highlight the role of m6A in regulating cyclin D1 mRNA stability and add another layer of complexity to cell-cycle regulation.
    Keywords:  FTO; N(6)-methyladenosine; RNA; casein kinase; cell cycle; cyclin D1; modification; phosphorylation
  51. Cell Rep. 2020 Apr 07. pii: S2211-1247(20)30365-X. [Epub ahead of print]31(1): 107487
      Opposing sources of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) and Nodal signaling molecules are sufficient to induce the formation of a full axis in zebrafish embryos. To address how these signals orchestrate patterning, we transplant sources of fluorescently tagged Nodal and BMP into zebrafish embryos, robustly inducing the formation of secondary axes. Nodal and BMP signal non-cell-autonomously and form similar protein gradients in this context, but the signaling range of Nodal (pSmad2) is shorter than the BMP range (pSmad5). This yields a localized region of pSmad2 activity around the Nodal source, overlapping with a broad domain of pSmad5 activity across the embryo. Cell fates induced in various regions stereotypically correlate with pSmad2-to-pSmad5 ratios and can even be induced BMP- and Nodal-independently with different ratios of constitutively active Smad2 and Smad5. Strikingly, we find that Smad2 and Smad5 antagonize each other for specific cell fates, providing a mechanism for how cells integrate and discriminate between overlapping signals during development.
    Keywords:  BMP; Nodal; Smad2; Smad5; axis induction; development; embryo; gradients; zebrafish
  52. Nucleic Acids Res. 2020 Apr 08. pii: gkaa157. [Epub ahead of print]
      While the histone variant H2A.Z is known to be required for mitosis, it is also enriched in nucleosomes surrounding the transcription start site of active promoters, implicating H2A.Z in transcription. However, evidence obtained so far mainly rely on correlational data generated in actively dividing cells. We have exploited a paradigm in which transcription is uncoupled from the cell cycle by developing an in vivo system to inactivate H2A.Z in terminally differentiated post-mitotic muscle cells. ChIP-seq, RNA-seq and ATAC-seq experiments performed on H2A.Z KO post-mitotic muscle cells show that this histone variant is neither required to maintain nor to activate transcription. Altogether, this study provides in vivo evidence that in the absence of mitosis H2A.Z is dispensable for transcription and that the enrichment of H2A.Z on active promoters is a marker but not an active driver of transcription.
  53. BMC Cancer. 2020 Apr 06. 20(1): 290
      BACKGROUND: Identifying molecular differences between primary and metastatic colorectal cancers-now possible with the aid of omics technologies-can improve our understanding of the biological mechanisms of cancer progression and facilitate the discovery of novel treatments for late-stage cancer. We compared the DNA methylomes of primary colorectal cancers (CRCs) and CRC metastases to the liver. Laser microdissection was used to obtain epithelial tissue (10 to 25 × 106 μm2) from sections of fresh-frozen samples of primary CRCs (n = 6), CRC liver metastases (n = 12), and normal colon mucosa (n = 3). DNA extracted from tissues was enriched for methylated sequences with a methylCpG binding domain (MBD) polypeptide-based protocol and subjected to deep sequencing. The performance of this protocol was compared with that of targeted enrichment for bisulfite sequencing used in a previous study of ours.RESULTS: MBD enrichment captured a total of 322,551 genomic regions (249.5 Mb or ~ 7.8% of the human genome), which included over seven million CpG sites. A few of these regions were differentially methylated at an expected false discovery rate (FDR) of 5% in neoplastic tissues (primaries: 0.67%, i.e., 2155 regions containing 279,441 CpG sites; liver metastases: 1%, i.e., 3223 regions containing 312,723 CpG sites) as compared with normal mucosa samples. Most of the differentially methylated regions (DMRs; 94% in primaries; 70% in metastases) were hypermethylated, and almost 80% of these (1882 of 2396) were present in both lesion types. At 5% FDR, no DMRs were detected in liver metastases vs. primary CRC. However, short regions of low-magnitude hypomethylation were frequent in metastases but rare in primaries. Hypermethylated DMRs were far more abundant in sequences classified as intragenic, gene-regulatory, or CpG shelves-shores-island segments, whereas hypomethylated DMRs were equally represented in extragenic (mainly, open-sea) and intragenic (mainly, gene bodies) sequences of the genome. Compared with targeted enrichment, MBD capture provided a better picture of the extension of CRC-associated DNA hypermethylation but was less powerful for identifying hypomethylation.
    CONCLUSIONS: Our findings demonstrate that the hypermethylation phenotype in CRC liver metastases remains similar to that of the primary tumor, whereas CRC-associated DNA hypomethylation probably undergoes further progression after the cancer cells have migrated to the liver.
    Keywords:  Colorectal cancer; CpG islands; CpG sites; DNA methylation; Differentially methylated regions; Liver metastasis; MBD capture; Methyl-binding domain; Normal colorectal mucosa
  54. Metabolism. 2020 Apr 01. pii: S0026-0495(20)30086-X. [Epub ahead of print] 154222
      Fructose over-consumption contributes to the development of liver steatosis in part by stimulating ChREBPα-driven de novo lipogenesis. However, the mechanisms by which fructose activates ChREBP pathway remain largely undefined. Here we performed affinity purifcation of ChREBPα followed by mass spectrometry and identified DDB1 as a novel interaction protein of ChREBPα in the presence of fructose. Depletion and overexpression of Ddb1 showed opposite effects on the ChREBPα stability in hepatocytes. We next tested the impact of hepatic Ddb1 deficiency on the fructose-induced ChREBP pathway. After 3-wk high-fructose diet feeding, both Ddb1 liver-specific knockout and AAV-TBG-Cre-injected Ddb1flox/flox mice showed significantly reduced ChREBPα, lipogenic enzymes, as well as triglycerides in the liver. Mechanistically, DDB1 stabilizes ChREBPα through CRY1, a known ubiquitination target of DDB1 E3 ligase. Finally, overexpression of a degradation-resistant CRY1 mutant (CRY1-585KA) reduces ChREBPα and its target genes in the mouse liver following high-fructose diet feeding. Our data revealed DDB1 as an intracellular sensor of fructose intake to promote hepatic de novo lipogenesis and liver steatosis by stabilizing ChREBPα in a CRY1-dependent manner.
    Keywords:  CRY1; ChREBPα; DDB1; Fructose; de novo lipogenesis, liver steatosis
  55. Elife. 2020 Apr 06. pii: e53558. [Epub ahead of print]9
      SMC complexes, such as condensin or cohesin, organize chromatin throughout the cell cycle by a process known as loop extrusion. SMC complexes reel in DNA, extruding and progressively growing DNA loops. Modeling assuming two-sided loop extrusion reproduces key features of chromatin organization across different organisms. In vitro single-molecule experiments confirmed that yeast condensins extrude loops, however, they remain anchored to their loading sites and extrude loops in a 'one-sided' manner. We therefore simulate one-sided loop extrusion to investigate whether 'one-sided' complexes can compact mitotic chromosomes, organize interphase domains, and juxtapose bacterial chromosomal arms, as can be done by 'two-sided' loop extruders. While one-sided loop extrusion cannot reproduce these phenomena, variants can recapitulate in vivo observations. We predict that SMC complexes in vivo constitute effectively two-sided motors or exhibit biased loading and propose relevant experiments. Our work suggests that loop extrusion is a viable general mechanism of chromatin organization.
    Keywords:  B. subtilis; chromosomes; gene expression; human; mouse; physics of living systems
  56. BMC Bioinformatics. 2020 Apr 06. 21(1): 134
      BACKGROUND: Diseases like cancer will lead to changes in gene expression, and it is relevant to identify key regulatory genes that can be linked directly to these changes. This can be done by computing a Regulatory Impact Factor (RIF) score for relevant regulators. However, this computation is based on estimating correlated patterns of gene expression, often Pearson correlation, and an assumption about a set of specific regulators, normally transcription factors. This study explores alternative measures of correlation, using the Fisher and Sobolev metrics, and an extended set of regulators, including epigenetic regulators and long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). Data on prostate cancer have been used to explore the effect of these modifications.RESULTS: A tool for computation of RIF scores with alternative correlation measures and extended sets of regulators was developed and tested on gene expression data for prostate cancer. The study showed that the Fisher and Sobolev metrics lead to improved identification of well-documented regulators of gene expression in prostate cancer, and the sets of identified key regulators showed improved overlap with previously defined gene sets of relevance to cancer. The extended set of regulators lead to identification of several interesting candidates for further studies, including lncRNAs. Several key processes were identified as important, including spindle assembly and the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT).
    CONCLUSIONS: The study has shown that using alternative metrics of correlation can improve the performance of tools based on correlation of gene expression in genomic data. The Fisher and Sobolev metrics should be considered also in other correlation-based applications.
    Keywords:  Correlated gene expression; Fisher metric; Gene regulation; Prostate cancer; Regulatory impact factor; Sobolev metric
  57. Science. 2020 Apr 10. 368(6487): 197-201
      Vulnerability to relapse during periods of attempted abstinence from cocaine use is hypothesized to result from the rewiring of brain reward circuitries, particularly ventral tegmental area (VTA) dopamine neurons. How cocaine exposures act on midbrain dopamine neurons to precipitate addiction-relevant changes in gene expression is unclear. We found that histone H3 glutamine 5 dopaminylation (H3Q5dop) plays a critical role in cocaine-induced transcriptional plasticity in the midbrain. Rats undergoing withdrawal from cocaine showed an accumulation of H3Q5dop in the VTA. By reducing H3Q5dop in the VTA during withdrawal, we reversed cocaine-mediated gene expression changes, attenuated dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens, and reduced cocaine-seeking behavior. These findings establish a neurotransmission-independent role for nuclear dopamine in relapse-related transcriptional plasticity in the VTA.
  58. Cell Rep. 2020 Apr 07. pii: S2211-1247(20)30388-0. [Epub ahead of print]31(1): 107499
      High-throughput single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) has become a frequently used tool to assess immune cell heterogeneity. Recently, the combined measurement of RNA and protein expression was developed, commonly known as cellular indexing of transcriptomes and epitopes by sequencing (CITE-seq). Acquisition of protein expression data along with transcriptome data resolves some of the limitations inherent to only assessing transcripts but also nearly doubles the sequencing read depth required per single cell. Furthermore, there is still a paucity of analysis tools to visualize combined transcript-protein datasets. Here, we describe a targeted transcriptomics approach that combines an analysis of over 400 genes with simultaneous measurement of over 40 proteins on 2 × 104 cells in a single experiment. This targeted approach requires only about one-tenth of the read depth compared to a whole-transcriptome approach while retaining high sensitivity for low abundance transcripts. To analyze these multi-omic datasets, we adapted one-dimensional soli expression by nonlinear stochastic embedding (One-SENSE) for intuitive visualization of protein-transcript relationships on a single-cell level.
    Keywords:  AbSeq; One-SENSE; Rhapsody; barcoded antibody; high-dimensional cytometry; human immunology; multi-omic; single-cell RNA sequencing; targeted transcriptomics
  59. Sci Rep. 2020 Apr 06. 10(1): 5955
      An emerging hallmark of cancer is metabolic reprogramming, which presents opportunities for cancer diagnosis and treatment based on metabolism. We performed a comprehensive metabolic network analysis of major renal cell carcinoma (RCC) subtypes including clear cell, papillary and chromophobe by integrating transcriptomic data with the human genome-scale metabolic model to understand the coordination of metabolic pathways in cancer cells. We identified metabolic alterations of each subtype with respect to tumor-adjacent normal samples and compared them to understand the differences between subtypes. We found that genes of amino acid metabolism and redox homeostasis are significantly altered in RCC subtypes. Chromophobe showed metabolic divergence compared to other subtypes with upregulation of genes involved in glutamine anaplerosis and aspartate biosynthesis. A difference in transcriptional regulation involving HIF1A is observed between subtypes. We identified E2F1 and FOXM1 as other major transcriptional activators of metabolic genes in RCC. Further, the co-expression pattern of metabolic genes in each patient showed the variations in metabolism within RCC subtypes. We also found that co-expression modules of each subtype have tumor stage-specific behavior, which may have clinical implications.
  60. Development. 2020 Apr 06. pii: dev.180067. [Epub ahead of print]
      Despite clear physiological roles, the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) developmental programs are poorly understood. Here, we asked whether the proneural gene, Achaete-scute homolog1 (Ascl1), contributes to VMH development. Ascl1 transcripts were detected in E10.5-P0 VMH neural progenitors. The elimination of Ascl1 reduced the number of VMH neurons at E12.5 and E15.5, particularly within the VMH-central (VMHC) and -dorsomedial (VMHDM) subdomains and resulted in a VMH cell fate change from glutamatergic to GABAergic. We observed a loss of Neurog3 expression in Ascl1 -/- hypothalamic progenitors and an upregulation of Neurog3 when Ascl1 was overexpressed. We also demonstrated a glutamatergic to GABAergic fate switch in Neurog3-null mutant mice, suggesting that Ascl1 might act via Neurog3 to drive VMH cell fate decisions. We also showed a concomitant increase in the central GABAergic fate determinant Dlx1/2 expression in the Ascl1-null hypothalamus. However, Ascl1 was not sufficient to induce an ectopic VMH fate when overexpressed outside of the normal window of competency. Combined, Ascl1 is required but not sufficient to specify the neurotransmitter identity of VMH neurons, acting in a transcriptional cascade with Neurog3.
    Keywords:  Ascl1; Cell fate decision; Differentiation; Neurog3; Ventromedial Hypothalamus
  61. Mol Cancer Res. 2020 Apr 10. pii: molcanres.1244.2019. [Epub ahead of print]
      In a substantial fraction of cancers TERT promoter (TERTp) mutations drive expression of the catalytic subunit of telomerase, contributing to their proliferative immortality. We conducted a pan-cancer analysis of cell lines and find a TERTp mutation expression signature dominated by epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and MAPK signaling. These data indicate that TERTp mutants are likely to generate distinctive tumor microenvironments and intercellular interactions. Analysis of high throughput screening tests of 546 small molecules on cell line growth indicated that TERTp mutants displayed heightened sensitivity to specific drugs, including RAS pathway inhibitors, and we found that inhibition of MEK1 and 2, key RAS/MAPK-pathway effectors, inhibited TERT mRNA expression. Consistent with an enrichment of mesenchymal states in TERTp mutants, cell lines and some patient tumors displayed low expression of the central adherens junction protein E-cadherin, and we provide evidence that its expression in these cells is regulated by MEK1/2. Several mesenchymal transcription factors displayed elevated expression in TERTp mutants including ZEB1 and 2, TWIST1 and 2 and SNAI1. Of note, the developmental transcription factor SNAI2/SLUG was conspicuously elevated in a significant majority of TERTp mutant cell lines, and knock-down experiments suggest that it promotes TERT expression. Implications: Cancers harboring TERT promoter mutations are often more lethal, but the basis for this higher mortality remains unknown. Our study identifies that TERTp mutants, as a class, associate with a distinct gene and protein expression signature likely to impact their biological and clinical behavior and provide new directions for investigating treatment approaches for these cancers.
  62. Elife. 2020 Apr 07. pii: e54877. [Epub ahead of print]9
      Particulate matter (PM) air pollution causes cardiopulmonary mortality via macrophage-driven lung inflammation; however, the mechanisms are incompletely understood. RNA-sequencing demonstrated Acod1 (Aconitate decarboxylase 1) as one of the top genes induced by PM in macrophages. Acod1 encodes a mitochondrial enzyme that produces itaconate, which was shown to exert anti-inflammatory effects via NRF2 after LPS. Here, we demonstrate that PM induces Acod1 and itaconate, which reduced mitochondrial respiration via complex II inhibition. Using Acod1-/- mice, we found that Acod1/endogenous itaconate does not affect PM-induced inflammation or NRF2 activation in macrophages in vitro or in vivo. In contrast, exogenous cell permeable itaconate, 4-octyl itaconate (OI) attenuated PM-induced inflammation in macrophages. OI was sufficient to activate NRF2 in macrophages; however, NRF2 was not required for the anti-inflammatory effects of OI. We conclude that the effects of itaconate production on inflammation are stimulus-dependent, and that there are important differences between endogenous and exogenously-applied itaconate.
    Keywords:  cell biology; immunology; inflammation; mouse