Centre for Cancer Research - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 83
Structural Basis for Apoptosis Inhibition by Epstein-Barr Virus BHRF1
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2010-12-01)
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is associated with human malignancies, especially those affecting the B cell compartment such as Burkitt lymphoma. The virally encoded homolog of the mammalian pro-survival protein Bcl-2, BHRF1 contributes to viral infectivity and lymphomagenesis. In addition to the pro-apoptotic BH3-only protein Bim, its key target in lymphoid cells, BHRF1 also binds a selective sub-set of pro-apoptotic proteins (Bid, Puma, Bak) expressed by host cells. A consequence of BHRF1 expression is marked resistance to a range of cytotoxic agents and in particular, we show that its expression renders a mouse model of Burkitt lymphoma untreatable. As current small organic antagonists of Bcl-2 do not target BHRF1, the structures of it in complex with Bim or Bak shown here will be useful to guide efforts to target BHRF1 in EBV-associated malignancies, which are usually associated with poor clinical outcomes.
Translation inhibitors induce cell death by multiple mechanisms and Mcl-1 reduction is only a minor contributor
(NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2012-10-01)
There is significant interest in treating cancers by blocking protein synthesis, to which hematological malignancies seem particularly sensitive. The translation elongation inhibitor homoharringtonine (Omacetaxine mepesuccinate) is undergoing clinical trials for chronic myeloid leukemia, whereas the translation initiation inhibitor silvestrol has shown promise in mouse models of cancer. Precisely how these compounds induce cell death is unclear, but reduction in Mcl-1, a labile pro-survival Bcl-2 family member, has been proposed to constitute the critical event. Moreover, the contribution of translation inhibitors to neutropenia and lymphopenia has not been precisely defined. Herein, we demonstrate that primary B cells and neutrophils are highly sensitive to translation inhibitors, which trigger the Bax/Bak-mediated apoptotic pathway. However, contrary to expectations, reduction of Mcl-1 did not significantly enhance cytotoxicity of these compounds, suggesting that it does not have a principal role and cautions that strong correlations do not always signify causality. On the other hand, the killing of T lymphocytes was less dependent on Bax and Bak, indicating that translation inhibitors can also induce cell death via alternative mechanisms. Indeed, loss of clonogenic survival proved to be independent of the Bax/Bak-mediated apoptosis altogether. Our findings warn of potential toxicity as these translation inhibitors are cytotoxic to many differentiated non-cycling cells.
Phasevarion Mediated Epigenetic Gene Regulation in Helicobacter pylori
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-12-05)
Many host-adapted bacterial pathogens contain DNA methyltransferases (mod genes) that are subject to phase-variable expression (high-frequency reversible ON/OFF switching of gene expression). In Haemophilus influenzae and pathogenic Neisseria, the random switching of the modA gene, associated with a phase-variable type III restriction modification (R-M) system, controls expression of a phase-variable regulon of genes (a "phasevarion"), via differential methylation of the genome in the modA ON and OFF states. Phase-variable type III R-M systems are also found in Helicobacter pylori, suggesting that phasevarions may also exist in this key human pathogen. Phylogenetic studies on the phase-variable type III modH gene revealed that there are 17 distinct alleles in H. pylori, which differ only in their DNA recognition domain. One of the most commonly found alleles was modH5 (16% of isolates). Microarray analysis comparing the wild-type P12modH5 ON strain to a P12ΔmodH5 mutant revealed that six genes were either up- or down-regulated, and some were virulence-associated. These included flaA, which encodes a flagella protein important in motility and hopG, an outer membrane protein essential for colonization and associated with gastric cancer. This study provides the first evidence of this epigenetic mechanism of gene expression in H. pylori. Characterisation of H. pylori modH phasevarions to define stable immunological targets will be essential for vaccine development and may also contribute to understanding H. pylori pathogenesis.
A Continuum of Cell States Spans Pluripotency and Lineage Commitment in Human Embryonic Stem Cells
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2009-11-05)
BACKGROUND: Commitment in embryonic stem cells is often depicted as a binary choice between alternate cell states, pluripotency and specification to a particular germ layer or extraembryonic lineage. However, close examination of human ES cell cultures has revealed significant heterogeneity in the stem cell compartment. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We isolated subpopulations of embryonic stem cells using surface markers, then examined their expression of pluripotency genes and lineage specific transcription factors at the single cell level, and tested their ability to regenerate colonies of stem cells. Transcript analysis of single embryonic stem cells showed that there is a gradient and a hierarchy of expression of pluripotency genes in the population. Even cells at the top of the hierarchy generally express only a subset of the stem cell genes studied. Many cells co-express pluripotency and lineage specific genes. Cells along the continuum show a progressively decreasing likelihood of self renewal as their expression of stem cell surface markers and pluripotency genes wanes. Most cells that are positive for stem cell surface markers express Oct-4, but only those towards the top of the hierarchy express the nodal receptor TDGF-1 and the growth factor GDF3. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings on gene expression in single embryonic stem cells are in concert with recent studies of early mammalian development, which reveal molecular heterogeneity and a stochasticity of gene expression in blastomeres. Our work indicates that only a small fraction of the population resides at the top of the hierarchy, that lineage priming (co-expression of stem cell and lineage specific genes) characterizes pluripotent stem cell populations, and that extrinsic signaling pathways are upstream of transcription factor networks that control pluripotency.
Transcriptional analysis of early lineage commitment in human embryonic stem cells
BACKGROUND: The mechanisms responsible for the maintenance of pluripotency in human embryonic stem cells, and those that drive their commitment into particular differentiation lineages, are poorly understood. In fact, even our knowledge of the phenotype of hESC is limited, because the immunological and molecular criteria presently used to define this phenotype describe the properties of a heterogeneous population of cells. RESULTS: We used a novel approach combining immunological and transcriptional analysis (immunotranscriptional profiling) to compare gene expression in hESC populations at very early stages of differentiation. Immunotranscriptional profiling enabled us to identify novel markers of stem cells and their differentiated progeny, as well as novel potential regulators of hESC commitment and differentiation. The data show clearly that genes associated with the pluripotent state are downregulated in a coordinated fashion, and that they are co-expressed with lineage specific transcription factors in a continuum during the early stages of stem cell differentiation. CONCLUSION: These findings, that show that maintenance of pluripotency and lineage commitment are dynamic, interactive processes in hESC cultures, have important practical implications for propagation and directed differentiation of these cells, and for the interpretation of mechanistic studies of hESC renewal and commitment. Since embryonic stem cells at defined stages of commitment can be isolated in large numbers by immunological means, they provide a powerful model for studying molecular genetics of stem cell commitment in the embryo.
Megakaryocytes possess a functional intrinsic apoptosis pathway that must be restrained to survive and produce platelets
(ROCKEFELLER UNIV PRESS, 2011-09-26)
It is believed that megakaryocytes undergo a specialized form of apoptosis to shed platelets. Conversely, a range of pathophysiological insults, including chemotherapy, are thought to cause thrombocytopenia by inducing the apoptotic death of megakaryocytes and their progenitors. To resolve this paradox, we generated mice with hematopoietic- or megakaryocyte-specific deletions of the essential mediators of apoptosis, Bak and Bax. We found that platelet production was unperturbed. In stark contrast, deletion of the prosurvival protein Bcl-x(L) resulted in megakaryocyte apoptosis and a failure of platelet shedding. This could be rescued by deletion of Bak and Bax. We examined the effect on megakaryocytes of three agents that activate the intrinsic apoptosis pathway in other cell types: etoposide, staurosporine, and the BH3 mimetic ABT-737. All three triggered mitochondrial damage, caspase activation, and cell death. Deletion of Bak and Bax rendered megakaryocytes resistant to etoposide and ABT-737. In vivo, mice with a Bak(-/-) Bax(-/-) hematopoietic system were protected against thrombocytopenia induced by the chemotherapeutic agent carboplatin. Thus, megakaryocytes do not activate the intrinsic pathway to generate platelets; rather, the opposite is true: they must restrain it to survive and progress safely through proplatelet formation and platelet shedding.
Tight regulation of ubiquitin-mediated DNA damage response by USP3 preserves the functional integrity of hematopoietic stem cells
(ROCKEFELLER UNIV PRESS, 2014-08-25)
Histone ubiquitination at DNA breaks is required for activation of the DNA damage response (DDR) and DNA repair. How the dynamic removal of this modification by deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) impacts genome maintenance in vivo is largely unknown. To address this question, we generated mice deficient for Ub-specific protease 3 (USP3; Usp3Δ/Δ), a histone H2A DUB which negatively regulates ubiquitin-dependent DDR signaling. Notably, USP3 deletion increased the levels of histone ubiquitination in adult tissues, reduced the hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) reserves over time, and shortened animal life span. Mechanistically, our data show that USP3 is important in HSC homeostasis, preserving HSC self-renewal, and repopulation potential in vivo and proliferation in vitro. A defective DDR and unresolved spontaneous DNA damage contribute to cell cycle restriction of Usp3Δ/Δ HSCs. Beyond the hematopoietic system, Usp3Δ/Δ animals spontaneously developed tumors, and primary Usp3Δ/Δ cells failed to preserve chromosomal integrity. These findings broadly support the regulation of chromatin ubiquitination as a key pathway in preserving tissue function through modulation of the response to genotoxic stress.
Identification of Anchor Genes during Kidney Development Defines Ontological Relationships, Molecular Subcompartments and Regulatory Pathways
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-02-28)
The development of the mammalian kidney is well conserved from mouse to man. Despite considerable temporal and spatial data on gene expression in mammalian kidney development, primarily in rodent species, there is a paucity of genes whose expression is absolutely specific to a given anatomical compartment and/or developmental stage, defined here as 'anchor' genes. We previously generated an atlas of gene expression in the developing mouse kidney using microarray analysis of anatomical compartments collected via laser capture microdissection. Here, this data is further analysed to identify anchor genes via stringent bioinformatic filtering followed by high resolution section in situ hybridisation performed on 200 transcripts selected as specific to one of 11 anatomical compartments within the midgestation mouse kidney. A total of 37 anchor genes were identified across 6 compartments with the early proximal tubule being the compartment richest in anchor genes. Analysis of minimal and evolutionarily conserved promoter regions of this set of 25 anchor genes identified enrichment of transcription factor binding sites for Hnf4a and Hnf1b, RbpJ (Notch signalling), PPARγ:RxRA and COUP-TF family transcription factors. This was reinforced by GO analyses which also identified these anchor genes as targets in processes including epithelial proliferation and proximal tubular function. As well as defining anchor genes, this large scale validation of gene expression identified a further 92 compartment-enriched genes able to subcompartmentalise key processes during murine renal organogenesis spatially or ontologically. This included a cohort of 13 ureteric epithelial genes revealing previously unappreciated compartmentalisation of the collecting duct system and a series of early tubule genes suggesting that segmentation into proximal tubule, loop of Henle and distal tubule does not occur until the onset of glomerular vascularisation. Overall, this study serves to illuminate previously ill-defined stages of patterning and will enable further refinement of the lineage relationships within mammalian kidney development.
Alternate transcription of the Toll-like receptor signaling cascade
BACKGROUND: Alternate splicing of key signaling molecules in the Toll-like receptor (Tlr) cascade has been shown to dramatically alter the signaling capacity of inflammatory cells, but it is not known how common this mechanism is. We provide transcriptional evidence of widespread alternate splicing in the Toll-like receptor signaling pathway, derived from a systematic analysis of the FANTOM3 mouse data set. Functional annotation of variant proteins was assessed in light of inflammatory signaling in mouse primary macrophages, and the expression of each variant transcript was assessed by splicing arrays. RESULTS: A total of 256 variant transcripts were identified, including novel variants of Tlr4, Ticam1, Tollip, Rac1, Irak1, 2 and 4, Mapk14/p38, Atf2 and Stat1. The expression of variant transcripts was assessed using custom-designed splicing arrays. We functionally tested the expression of Tlr4 transcripts under a range of cytokine conditions via northern and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. The effects of variant Mapk14/p38 protein expression on macrophage survival were demonstrated. CONCLUSION: Members of the Toll-like receptor signaling pathway are highly alternatively spliced, producing a large number of novel proteins with the potential to functionally alter inflammatory outcomes. These variants are expressed in primary mouse macrophages in response to inflammatory mediators such as interferon-gamma and lipopolysaccharide. Our data suggest a surprisingly common role for variant proteins in diversification/repression of inflammatory signaling.
Transcriptome-Wide Prediction of miRNA Targets in Human and Mouse Using FASTH
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2009-05-29)
Transcriptional regulation by microRNAs (miRNAs) involves complementary base-pairing at target sites on mRNAs, yielding complex secondary structures. Here we introduce an efficient computational approach and software (FASTH) for genome-scale prediction of miRNA target sites based on minimizing the free energy of duplex structure. We apply our approach to identify miRNA target sites in the human and mouse transcriptomes. Our results show that short sequence motifs in the 5' end of miRNAs frequently match mRNAs perfectly, not only at validated target sites but additionally at many other, energetically favourable sites. High-quality matching regions are abundant and occur at similar frequencies in all mRNA regions, not only the 3'UTR. About one-third of potential miRNA target sites are reassigned to different mRNA regions, or gained or lost altogether, among different transcript isoforms from the same gene. Many potential miRNA target sites predicted in human are not found in mouse, and vice-versa, but among those that do occur in orthologous human and mouse mRNAs most are situated in corresponding mRNA regions, i.e. these sites are themselves orthologous. Using a luciferase assay in HEK293 cells, we validate four of six predicted miRNA-mRNA interactions, with the mRNA level reduced by an average of 73%. We demonstrate that a thermodynamically based computational approach to prediction of miRNA binding sites on mRNAs can be scaled to analyse complete mammalian transcriptome datasets. These results confirm and extend the scope of miRNA-mediated species- and transcript-specific regulation in different cell types, tissues and developmental conditions.
A High-Throughput Platform for Lentiviral Overexpression Screening of the Human ORFeome
(PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-05-24)
In response to the growing need for functional analysis of the human genome, we have developed a platform for high-throughput functional screening of genes overexpressed from lentiviral vectors. Protein-coding human open reading frames (ORFs) from the Mammalian Gene Collection were transferred into lentiviral expression vector using the highly efficient Gateway recombination cloning. Target ORFs were inserted into the vector downstream of a constitutive promoter and upstream of an IRES controlled GFP reporter, so that their transfection, transduction and expression could be monitored by fluorescence. The expression plasmids and viral packaging plasmids were combined and transfected into 293T cells to produce virus, which was then used to transduce the screening cell line. We have optimised the transfection and transduction procedures so that they can be performed using robotic liquid handling systems in arrayed 96-well microplate, one-gene-per-well format, without the need to concentrate the viral supernatant. Since lentiviruses can infect both dividing and non-dividing cells, this system can be used to overexpress human ORFs in a broad spectrum of experimental contexts. We tested the platform in a 1990 gene pilot screen for genes that can increase proliferation of the non-tumorigenic mammary epithelial cell line MCF-10A after removal of growth factors. Transduced cells were labelled with the nucleoside analogue 5-ethynyl-2'-deoxyuridine (EdU) to detect cells progressing through S phase. Hits were identified using high-content imaging and statistical analysis and confirmed with vectors using two different promoters (CMV and EF1α). The screen demonstrates the reliability, versatility and utility of our screening platform, and identifies novel cell cycle/proliferative activities for a number of genes.
Assessment of transcript reconstruction methods for RNA-seq
(NATURE PUBLISHING GROUP, 2013-12-01)
We evaluated 25 protocol variants of 14 independent computational methods for exon identification, transcript reconstruction and expression-level quantification from RNA-seq data. Our results show that most algorithms are able to identify discrete transcript components with high success rates but that assembly of complete isoform structures poses a major challenge even when all constituent elements are identified. Expression-level estimates also varied widely across methods, even when based on similar transcript models. Consequently, the complexity of higher eukaryotic genomes imposes severe limitations on transcript recall and splice product discrimination that are likely to remain limiting factors for the analysis of current-generation RNA-seq data.