bims-crepig Biomed News
on Chromatin regulation and epigenetics in cell fate and cancer
Issue of 2021‒10‒10
seventeen papers selected by
Connor Rogerson
University of Cambridge, MRC Cancer Unit

  1. Nat Commun. 2021 Oct 07. 12(1): 5888
      Organization of the genome into transcriptionally active euchromatin and silenced heterochromatin is essential for eukaryotic cell function. Phase-separation has been implicated in heterochromatin formation, but it is unclear how phase-separated condensates can contribute to stable repression, particularly for heritable epigenetic changes. Polycomb complex PRC1 is key for heterochromatin formation, but the multitude of Polycomb proteins has hindered our understanding of their collective contribution to chromatin repression. Here, we show that PRC1 forms multicomponent condensates through hetero-oligomerization. They preferentially seed at H3K27me3 marks, and subsequently write H2AK119Ub marks. We show that inducing Polycomb phase-separation can cause chromatin compaction, but polycomb condensates are dispensable for maintenance of the compacted state. Our data and simulations are consistent with a model in which the time integral of Polycomb phase-separation is progressively recorded in repressive histone marks, which subsequently drive compaction. These findings link the equilibrium thermodynamics of phase-separation with the fundamentally non-equilibrium concept of epigenetic memory.
  2. Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2021 Oct;28(10): 811-824
      The Polycomb repressive system plays a fundamental role in controlling gene expression during mammalian development. To achieve this, Polycomb repressive complexes 1 and 2 (PRC1 and PRC2) bind target genes and use histone modification-dependent feedback mechanisms to form Polycomb chromatin domains and repress transcription. The inter-relatedness of PRC1 and PRC2 activity at these sites has made it difficult to discover the specific components of Polycomb chromatin domains that drive gene repression and to understand mechanistically how this is achieved. Here, by exploiting rapid degron-based approaches and time-resolved genomics, we kinetically dissect Polycomb-mediated repression and discover that PRC1 functions independently of PRC2 to counteract RNA polymerase II binding and transcription initiation. Using single-cell gene expression analysis, we reveal that PRC1 acts uniformly within the cell population and that repression is achieved by controlling transcriptional burst frequency. These important new discoveries provide a mechanistic and conceptual framework for Polycomb-dependent transcriptional control.
  3. Cell Rep. 2021 Oct 05. pii: S2211-1247(21)01259-6. [Epub ahead of print]37(1): 109799
      Replication timing (RT) associates with genome architecture, while having a mixed relationship to histone marks. By profiling replication at high resolution and assessing broad histone marks across the cell cycle at the resolution of RT with and without genetic perturbation, we address the causal relationship between histone marks and RT. Four primary chromatin states, including an uncharacterized H3K36me2 state, emerge and define 97% of the mappable genome. RT and local replication patterns (e.g., initiation zones) quantitatively associate with chromatin states, histone mark dynamics, and spatial chromatin structure. Manipulation of broad histone marks and enhancer elements by overexpressing the histone H3 lysine 9/36 tri-demethylase KDM4A impacts RT across 11% of the genome. Broad histone modification changes were strong predictors of the observed RT alterations. Lastly, replication within H3K36me2-enriched neighborhoods is sensitive to KDM4A overexpression and is controlled at a megabase scale. These studies establish a role for collective chromatin mark regulation in modulating RT.
    Keywords:  ChIP-seq; H3K27me3; H3K36me2; KDM4A; Repli-seq; chromatin states; enhancers; heterochromatin; lysine demethylase; replication timing
  4. Cell Rep. 2021 Oct 05. pii: S2211-1247(21)01223-7. [Epub ahead of print]37(1): 109769
      The ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling factor CHD1 is essential for the assembly of variant histone H3.3 into paternal chromatin during sperm chromatin remodeling in fertilized eggs. It remains unclear, however, if CHD1 has a similar role in normal diploid cells. Using a specifically tailored quantitative mass spectrometry approach, we show that Chd1 disruption results in reduced H3.3 levels in heads of Chd1 mutant flies. Chd1 deletion perturbs brain chromatin structure in a similar way as H3.3 deletion and leads to global de-repression of transcription. The physiological consequences are reduced food intake, metabolic alterations, and shortened lifespan. Notably, brain-specific CHD1 expression rescues these phenotypes. We further demonstrate a strong genetic interaction between Chd1 and H3.3 chaperone Hira. Thus, our findings establish CHD1 as a factor required for the assembly of H3.3-containing chromatin in adult cells and suggest a crucial role for CHD1 in the brain as a regulator of organismal health and longevity.
    Keywords:  aging; calorie restriction; chronic inflammation; epigenetics; feeding behavior; heterochromatin; histone chaperone; longevity; metabolic disease; metabolome; quantitative proteomics
  5. Cell Rep. 2021 Oct 05. pii: S2211-1247(21)01228-6. [Epub ahead of print]37(1): 109774
      While squamous transdifferentiation within subpopulations of adenocarcinomas represents an important drug resistance problem, its underlying mechanism remains poorly understood. Here, using surface markers of resistant basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and patient single-cell and bulk transcriptomic data, we uncover the dynamic roadmap of basal to squamous cell carcinoma transition (BST). Experimentally induced BST identifies activator protein 1 (AP-1) family members in regulating tumor plasticity, and we show that c-FOS plays a central role in BST by regulating the accessibility of distinct AP-1 regulatory elements. Remarkably, despite prominent changes in cell morphology and BST marker expression, we show using inducible model systems that c-FOS-mediated BST demonstrates reversibility. Blocking EGFR pathway activation after c-FOS induction partially reverts BST in vitro and prevents BST features in both mouse models and human tumors. Thus, by identifying the molecular basis of BST, our work reveals a therapeutic opportunity targeting plasticity as a mechanism of tumor resistance.
  6. Plant Physiol. 2021 Aug 03. 186(4): 2051-2063
      The histone H3 family in animals and plants includes replicative H3 and nonreplicative H3.3 variants. H3.3 preferentially associates with active transcription, yet its function in development and transcription regulation remains elusive. The floral transition in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) involves complex chromatin regulation at a central flowering repressor FLOWERING LOCUS C (FLC). Here, we show that H3.3 upregulates FLC expression and promotes active histone modifications histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3) and histone H3 lysine 36 trimethylation (H3K36me3) at the FLC locus. The FLC activator FRIGIDA (FRI) directly mediates H3.3 enrichment at FLC, leading to chromatin conformation changes and further induction of active histone modifications at FLC. Moreover, the antagonistic H3.3 and H2A.Z act in concert to activate FLC expression, likely by forming unstable nucleosomes ideal for transcription processing. We also show that H3.3 knockdown leads to H3K4me3 reduction at a subset of particularly short genes, suggesting the general role of H3.3 in promoting H3K4me3. The finding that H3.3 stably accumulates at FLC in the absence of H3K36me3 indicates that the H3.3 deposition may serve as a prerequisite for active histone modifications. Our results reveal the important function of H3.3 in mediating the active chromatin state for flowering repression.
  7. Nat Genet. 2021 Oct;53(10): 1480-1492
      Higher-order chromatin structure regulates gene expression, and mutations in proteins mediating genome folding underlie developmental disorders known as cohesinopathies. However, the relationship between three-dimensional genome organization and embryonic development remains unclear. Here we define a role for bromodomain-containing protein 4 (BRD4) in genome folding, and leverage it to understand the importance of genome folding in neural crest progenitor differentiation. Brd4 deletion in neural crest results in cohesinopathy-like phenotypes. BRD4 interacts with NIPBL, a cohesin agonist, and BRD4 depletion or loss of the BRD4-NIPBL interaction reduces NIPBL occupancy, suggesting that BRD4 stabilizes NIPBL on chromatin. Chromatin interaction mapping and imaging experiments demonstrate that BRD4 depletion results in compromised genome folding and loop extrusion. Finally, mutation of individual BRD4 amino acids that mediate an interaction with NIPBL impedes neural crest differentiation into smooth muscle. Remarkably, loss of WAPL, a cohesin antagonist, rescues attenuated smooth muscle differentiation resulting from BRD4 loss. Collectively, our data reveal that BRD4 choreographs genome folding and illustrates the relevance of balancing cohesin activity for progenitor differentiation.
  8. Elife. 2021 Oct 04. pii: e69479. [Epub ahead of print]10
      Enhancers are cis-regulatory elements that play critical regulatory roles in modulating developmental transcription programs and driving cell-type specific and context-dependent gene expression in the brain. The development of massively parallel reporter assays (MPRAs) has enabled high-throughput functional screening of candidate DNA sequences for enhancer activity. Tissue-specific screening of in vivo enhancer function at scale has the potential to greatly expand our understanding of the role of non-coding sequences in development, evolution, and disease. Here, we adapted a self-transcribing regulatory element MPRA strategy for delivery to early postnatal mouse brain via recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV). We identified and validated putative enhancers capable of driving reporter gene expression in mouse forebrain, including regulatory elements within an intronic CACNA1C linkage disequilibrium block associated with risk in neuropsychiatric disorder genetic studies. Paired screening and single enhancer in vivo functional testing, as we show here, represents a powerful approach towards characterizing regulatory activity of enhancers and understanding how enhancer sequences organize gene expression in the brain.
    Keywords:  genetics; genomics; mouse; neuroscience
  9. Cancer Res. 2021 Oct 08. pii: canres.1159.2021. [Epub ahead of print]
      The retinoblastoma tumor suppressor (RB) is a critical regulator of E2F-dependent transcription, controlling a multitude of pro-tumorigenic networks including but not limited to cell cycle control. Here, genome-wide assessment of E2F1 function after RB loss in isogenic models of prostate cancer revealed unexpected repositioning and cooperation with oncogenic transcription factors, including the major driver of disease progression, the androgen receptor (AR). Further investigation revealed that observed AR/E2F1 cooperation elicited novel transcriptional networks that promote cancer phenotypes, especially as related to evasion of cell death. These observations were reflected in assessment of human disease, indicating the clinical relevance of the AR/E2F1 cooperome in prostate cancer. Together, these studies reveal new mechanisms by which RB loss induces cancer progression and highlight the importance of understanding the targets of E2F1 function.
  10. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Oct 19. pii: e2018640118. [Epub ahead of print]118(42):
      Many eukaryotic genes are expressed in randomly initiated bursts that are punctuated by periods of quiescence. Here, we show that the intermittent access of the promoters to transcription factors through relatively impervious chromatin contributes to this "noisy" transcription. We tethered a nuclease-deficient Cas9 fused to a histone acetyl transferase at the promoters of two endogenous genes in HeLa cells. An assay for transposase-accessible chromatin using sequencing showed that the activity of the histone acetyl transferase altered the chromatin architecture locally without introducing global changes in the nucleus and rendered the targeted promoters constitutively accessible. We measured the gene expression variability from the gene loci by performing single-molecule fluorescence in situ hybridization against mature messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and by imaging nascent mRNA molecules present at active gene loci in single cells. Because of the increased accessibility of the promoter to transcription factors, the transcription from two genes became less noisy, even when the average levels of expression did not change. In addition to providing evidence for chromatin accessibility as a determinant of the noise in gene expression, our study offers a mechanism for controlling gene expression noise which is otherwise unavoidable.
    Keywords:  single-cell heterogeneity; stochastic mRNA synthesis; transcriptional bursting
  11. Nucleic Acids Res. 2021 Oct 06. pii: gkab874. [Epub ahead of print]
      Binding and unbinding of transcription factors to DNA are kinetically controlled to regulate the transcriptional outcome. Control of the release of the transcription factor NF-κB from DNA is achieved through accelerated dissociation by the inhibitor protein IκBα. Using single-molecule FRET, we observed a continuum of conformations of NF-κB in free and DNA-bound states interconverting on the subseconds to minutes timescale, comparable to in vivo binding on the seconds timescale, suggesting that structural dynamics directly control binding kinetics. Much of the DNA-bound NF-κB is partially bound, allowing IκBα invasion to facilitate DNA dissociation. IκBα induces a locked conformation where the DNA-binding domains of NF-κB are too far apart to bind DNA, whereas a loss-of-function IκBα mutant retains the NF-κB conformational ensemble. Overall, our results suggest a novel mechanism with a continuum of binding modes for controlling association and dissociation of transcription factors.
  12. Genome Biol. 2021 Oct 07. 22(1): 285
      BACKGROUND: Mammalian genomes contain millions of putative regulatory sequences, which are delineated by binding of multiple transcription factors. The degree to which spacing and orientation constraints among transcription factor binding sites contribute to the recognition and identity of regulatory sequence is an unresolved but important question that impacts our understanding of genome function and evolution. Global mechanisms that underlie phenomena including the size of regulatory sequences, their uniqueness, and their evolutionary turnover remain poorly described.RESULTS: Here, we ask whether models incorporating different degrees of spacing and orientation constraints among transcription factor binding sites are broadly consistent with several global properties of regulatory sequence. These properties include length, sequence diversity, turnover rate, and dominance of specific TFs in regulatory site identity and cell type specification. Models with and without spacing and orientation constraints are generally consistent with all observed properties of regulatory sequence, and with regulatory sequences being fundamentally small (~ 1 nucleosome). Uniqueness of regulatory regions and their rapid evolutionary turnover are expected under all models examined. An intriguing issue we identify is that the complexity of eukaryotic regulatory sites must scale with the number of active transcription factors, in order to accomplish observed specificity.
    CONCLUSIONS: Models of transcription factor binding with or without spacing and orientation constraints predict that regulatory sequences should be fundamentally short, unique, and turn over rapidly. We posit that the existence of master regulators may be, in part, a consequence of evolutionary pressure to limit the complexity and increase evolvability of regulatory sites.
    Keywords:  Bioinformatics; DNA; Evolution; Regulatory elements; Transcription
  13. Nat Methods. 2021 Oct;18(10): 1196-1203
      How noncoding DNA determines gene expression in different cell types is a major unsolved problem, and critical downstream applications in human genetics depend on improved solutions. Here, we report substantially improved gene expression prediction accuracy from DNA sequences through the use of a deep learning architecture, called Enformer, that is able to integrate information from long-range interactions (up to 100 kb away) in the genome. This improvement yielded more accurate variant effect predictions on gene expression for both natural genetic variants and saturation mutagenesis measured by massively parallel reporter assays. Furthermore, Enformer learned to predict enhancer-promoter interactions directly from the DNA sequence competitively with methods that take direct experimental data as input. We expect that these advances will enable more effective fine-mapping of human disease associations and provide a framework to interpret cis-regulatory evolution.
  14. Elife. 2021 10 05. pii: e65979. [Epub ahead of print]10
      Many diseases are linked to dysregulation of the striatum. Striatal function depends on neuronal compartmentation into striosomes and matrix. Striatal projection neurons are GABAergic medium spiny neurons (MSNs), subtyped by selective expression of receptors, neuropeptides, and other gene families. Neurogenesis of the striosome and matrix occurs in separate waves, but the factors regulating compartmentation and neuronal differentiation are largely unidentified. We performed RNA- and ATAC-seq on sorted striosome and matrix cells at postnatal day 3, using the Nr4a1-EGFP striosome reporter mouse. Focusing on the striosome, we validated the localization and/or role of Irx1, Foxf2, Olig2, and Stat1/2 in the developing striosome and the in vivo enhancer function of a striosome-specific open chromatin region 4.4 Kb downstream of Olig2. These data provide novel tools to dissect and manipulate the networks regulating MSN compartmentation and differentiation, including in human iPSC-derived striatal neurons for disease modeling and drug discovery.
    Keywords:  Foxf2; Nr4a1; Olig2; Striosome; developmental biology; mouse; neuroscience; striatum; transcription factors
  15. Cell. 2021 Oct 04. pii: S0092-8674(21)01063-1. [Epub ahead of print]
      Structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) complexes organize genome topology in all kingdoms of life and have been proposed to perform this function by DNA loop extrusion. How this process works is unknown. Here, we have analyzed how loop extrusion is mediated by human cohesin-NIPBL complexes, which enable chromatin folding in interphase cells. We have identified DNA binding sites and large-scale conformational changes that are required for loop extrusion and have determined how these are coordinated. Our results suggest that DNA is translocated by a spontaneous 50 nm-swing of cohesin's hinge, which hands DNA over to the ATPase head of SMC3, where upon binding of ATP, DNA is clamped by NIPBL. During this process, NIPBL "jumps ship" from the hinge toward the SMC3 head and might thereby couple the spontaneous hinge swing to ATP-dependent DNA clamping. These results reveal mechanistic principles of how cohesin-NIPBL and possibly other SMC complexes mediate loop extrusion.
    Keywords:  NIPBL; SMC complexes; cohesin; genome architecture; high speed AFM; loop extrusion; single molecule FRET
  16. Mol Cell. 2021 Oct 07. pii: S1097-2765(21)00750-4. [Epub ahead of print]81(19): 4041-4058.e15
      Deregulation of oncogenic signals in cancer triggers replication stress. Immediate early genes (IEGs) are rapidly and transiently expressed following stressful signals, contributing to an integrated response. Here, we find that the orphan nuclear receptor NR4A1 localizes across the gene body and 3' UTR of IEGs, where it inhibits transcriptional elongation by RNA Pol II, generating R-loops and accessible chromatin domains. Acute replication stress causes immediate dissociation of NR4A1 and a burst of transcriptionally poised IEG expression. Ectopic expression of NR4A1 enhances tumorigenesis by breast cancer cells, while its deletion leads to massive chromosomal instability and proliferative failure, driven by deregulated expression of its IEG target, FOS. Approximately half of breast and other primary cancers exhibit accessible chromatin domains at IEG gene bodies, consistent with this stress-regulatory pathway. Cancers that have retained this mechanism in adapting to oncogenic replication stress may be dependent on NR4A1 for their proliferation.
    Keywords:  CTCs; IEGs; R-loops; circulating tumor cells; genomic instability; immediate early genes; orphan nuclear receptor; replication stress; transcriptional regulation
  17. Elife. 2021 Oct 04. pii: e74047. [Epub ahead of print]10
      PERK is an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) transmembrane sensor that phosphorylates eIF2a to initiate the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR). eIF2a phosphorylation promotes stress-responsive gene expression most notably through the transcription factor ATF4 that contains a regulatory 5' leader. Possible PERK effectors other than ATF4 remain poorly understood. Here, we report that the bZIP transcription factor Xrp1 is required for ATF4-independent PERK signaling. Cell type-specific gene expression profiling in Drosophila indicated that delta-family glutathione-S-transferases (gstD) are prominently induced by the UPR-activating transgene Rh1G69D. Perk was necessary and sufficient for such gstD induction, but ATF4 was not required. Instead, Perk and other regulators of eIF2a phosphorylation regulated Xrp1 protein levels to induce gstDs. The Xrp1 5' leader has a conserved upstream Open Reading Frame (uORF) analogous to those that regulate ATF4 translation. The gstD-GFP reporter induction required putative Xrp1 binding sites. These results indicate that antioxidant genes are highly induced by a previously unrecognized UPR signaling axis consisting of PERK and Xrp1.
    Keywords:  D. melanogaster; genetics; genomics