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Suppression of pervasive noncoding transcription in embryonic stem cells by esBAF

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

Approximately 75% of the human genome is transcribed, the majority of which does not encode protein. However, many noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) are rapidly degraded after transcription, and relatively few have established functions, questioning the significance of this observation. Here we show that esBAF, a SWI/SNF family nucleosome remodeling factor, suppresses transcription of ncRNAs from approximately 57,000 nucleosome-depleted regions (NDRs) throughout the genome of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). We show that esBAF functions to both keep NDRs nucleosome-free and promote elevated nucleosome occupancy adjacent to NDRs. Reduction of adjacent nucleosome occupancy upon esBAF depletion is strongly correlated with ncRNA expression, suggesting that flanking nucleosomes form a barrier to pervasive transcription. Upon forcing nucleosome occupancy near two NDRs using a nucleosome-positioning sequence, we found that esBAF is no longer required to silence transcription. Therefore, esBAF's function to enforce nucleosome occupancy adjacent to NDRs, and not its function to maintain NDRs in a nucleosome-free state, is necessary for silencing transcription over ncDNA. Finally, we show that the ability of a strongly positioned nucleosome to repress ncRNA depends on its translational positioning. These data reveal a novel role for esBAF in suppressing pervasive transcription from open chromatin regions in ESCs.

Research resource: Monitoring endoplasmic reticulum membrane integrity in beta-cells at the single-cell level

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membrane integrity is an emerging target for human chronic diseases associated with ER stress. Despite the underlying importance of compromised ER membrane integrity in disease states, the entire process leading to ER membrane permeabilization and cell death is still not clear due to technical limitations. Here we describe a novel method for monitoring ER membrane integrity at the single-cell level in real time. Using a beta-cell line expressing ER-targeted redox sensitive green fluorescent protein, we could identify a beta-cell population undergoing ER membrane permeabilization induced by palmitate and could monitor cell fate and ER stress of these cells at the single-cell level. Our method could be used to develop a novel therapeutic modality targeting the ER membrane for ER-associated disorders, including beta-cell death in diabetes, neurodegeneration, and Wolfram syndrome.

Resistance to therapy in BRCA2 mutant cells due to loss of the nucleosome remodeling factor CHD4

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

Hereditary cancers derive from gene defects that often compromise DNA repair. Thus, BRCA-associated cancers are sensitive to DNA-damaging agents such as cisplatin. The efficacy of cisplatin is limited, however, by the development of resistance. One cisplatin resistance mechanism is restoration of homologous recombination (HR), which can result from BRCA reversion mutations. However, in BRCA2 mutant cancers, cisplatin resistance can occur independently of restored HR by a mechanism that remains unknown. Here we performed a genome-wide shRNA screen and found that loss of the nucleosome remodeling factor CHD4 confers cisplatin resistance. Restoration of cisplatin resistance is independent of HR but correlates with restored cell cycle progression, reduced chromosomal aberrations, and enhanced DNA damage tolerance. Suggesting clinical relevance, cisplatin-resistant clones lacking genetic reversion of BRCA2 show de novo loss of CHD4 expression in vitro. Moreover, BRCA2 mutant ovarian cancers with reduced CHD4 expression significantly correlate with shorter progression-free survival and shorter overall survival. Collectively, our findings indicate that CHD4 modulates therapeutic response in BRCA2 mutant cancer cells.

Gene expression profiling for molecular staging of cutaneous melanoma in patients undergoing sentinel lymph node biopsy

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

BACKGROUND: A gene expression profile (GEP) test able to accurately identify risk of metastasis for patients with cutaneous melanoma has been clinically validated.

OBJECTIVE: We aimed for assessment of the prognostic accuracy of GEP and sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) tests, independently and in combination, in a multicenter cohort of 217 patients.

METHODS: Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was performed to assess the expression of 31 genes from primary melanoma tumors, and SLNB outcome was determined from clinical data. Prognostic accuracy of each test was determined using Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression analysis of disease-free, distant metastasis-free, and overall survivals.

RESULTS: GEP outcome was a more significant and better predictor of each end point in univariate and multivariate regression analysis, compared with SLNB (P < .0001 for all). In combination with SLNB, GEP improved prognostication. For patients with a GEP high-risk outcome and a negative SLNB result, Kaplan-Meier 5-year disease-free, distant metastasis-free, and overall survivals were 35%, 49%, and 54%, respectively.

LIMITATIONS: Within the SLNB-negative cohort of patients, overall risk of metastatic events was higher ( approximately 30%) than commonly found in the general population of patients with melanoma.

CONCLUSIONS: In this study cohort, GEP was an objective tool that accurately predicted metastatic risk in SLNB-eligible patients. Inc. All rights reserved.

Multicolor CRISPR labeling of chromosomal loci in human cells

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

The intranuclear location of genomic loci and the dynamics of these loci are important parameters for understanding the spatial and temporal regulation of gene expression. Recently it has proven possible to visualize endogenous genomic loci in live cells by the use of transcription activator-like effectors (TALEs), as well as modified versions of the bacterial immunity clustered regularly interspersed short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)/CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9) system. Here we report the design of multicolor versions of CRISPR using catalytically inactive Cas9 endonuclease (dCas9) from three bacterial orthologs. Each pair of dCas9-fluorescent proteins and cognate single-guide RNAs (sgRNAs) efficiently labeled several target loci in live human cells. Using pairs of differently colored dCas9-sgRNAs, it was possible to determine the intranuclear distance between loci on different chromosomes. In addition, the fluorescence spatial resolution between two loci on the same chromosome could be determined and related to the linear distance between them on the chromosome's physical map, thereby permitting assessment of the DNA compaction of such regions in a live cell.

Gata2b is a restricted early regulator of hemogenic endothelium in the zebrafish embryo

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

The adult blood system is established by hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which arise during development from an endothelial-to-hematopoietic transition of cells comprising the floor of the dorsal aorta. Expression of aortic runx1 has served as an early marker of HSC commitment in the zebrafish embryo, but recent studies have suggested that HSC specification begins during the convergence of posterior lateral plate mesoderm (PLM), well before aorta formation and runx1 transcription. Further understanding of the earliest stages of HSC specification necessitates an earlier marker of hemogenic endothelium. Studies in mice have suggested that GATA2 might function at early stages within hemogenic endothelium. Two orthologs of Gata2 exist in zebrafish: gata2a and gata2b. Here, we report that gata2b expression initiates during the convergence of PLM, becoming restricted to emerging HSCs. We observe Notch-dependent gata2b expression within the hemogenic subcompartment of the dorsal aorta that is in turn required to initiate runx1 expression. Our results indicate that Gata2b functions within hemogenic endothelium from an early stage, whereas Gata2a functions more broadly throughout the vascular system.

Integrating motif, DNA accessibility and gene expression data to build regulatory maps in an organism

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

Characterization of cell type specific regulatory networks and elements is a major challenge in genomics, and emerging strategies frequently employ high-throughput genome-wide assays of transcription factor (TF) to DNA binding, histone modifications or chromatin state. However, these experiments remain too difficult/expensive for many laboratories to apply comprehensively to their system of interest. Here, we explore the potential of elucidating regulatory systems in varied cell types using computational techniques that rely on only data of gene expression, low-resolution chromatin accessibility, and TF-DNA binding specificities ('motifs'). We show that static computational motif scans overlaid with chromatin accessibility data reasonably approximate experimentally measured TF-DNA binding. We demonstrate that predicted binding profiles and expression patterns of hundreds of TFs are sufficient to identify major regulators of approximately 200 spatiotemporal expression domains in the Drosophila embryo. We are then able to learn reliable statistical models of enhancer activity for over 70 expression domains and apply those models to annotate domain specific enhancers genome-wide. Throughout this work, we apply our motif and accessibility based approach to comprehensively characterize the regulatory network of fruitfly embryonic development and show that the accuracy of our computational method compares favorably to approaches that rely on data from many experimental assays. Acids Research.

Runx1 is associated with breast cancer progression in MMTV-PyMT transgenic mice and its depletion in vitro inhibits migration and invasion

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

Runx1 is a transcription factor essential for definitive hematopoiesis, and genetic abnormalities in Runx1 cause leukemia. Runx1 is functionally promiscuous and acts as either an oncogene or tumor suppressor gene in certain epithelial cancers. Recent evidence suggests that Runx1 is an important factor in breast cancer, however its role remains ambiguous. Here, we addressed whether Runx1 has a specific pathological role during breast cancer progression and show that Runx1 has an oncogenic function. We observed elevated Runx1 expression in a subset of human breast cancers. Furthermore, throughout the course of disease progression in a classical mouse model of breast cancer (i.e., the MMTV-PyMT transgenic model), Runx1 expression increases in the primary site (mammary gland) and is further upregulated in tumors and distal lung metastatic lesions. Ex vivo studies using tumor epithelial cells derived from these mice express significantly higher levels of Runx1 than normal mammary epithelial cells. The tumor cells exhibit increased rates of migration and invasion, indicative of an aggressive cancer phenotype. Inhibition of Runx1 expression using RNA interference significantly abrogates these cancer-relevant phenotypic characteristics. Importantly, our data establish that Runx1 contributes to murine mammary tumor development and malignancy and potentially represents a key disease-promoting and prognostic factor in human breast cancer progression and metastasis. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Prostate Tumorigenesis Induced by PTEN Deletion Involves Estrogen Receptor beta Repression

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

The role of ERbeta in prostate cancer is unclear, although loss of ERbeta is associated with aggressive disease. Given that mice deficient in ERbeta do not develop prostate cancer, we hypothesized that ERbeta loss occurs as a consequence of tumorigenesis caused by other oncogenic mechanisms and that its loss is necessary for tumorigenesis. In support of this hypothesis, we found that ERbeta is targeted for repression in prostate cancer caused by PTEN deletion and that loss of ERbeta is important for tumor formation. ERbeta transcription is repressed by BMI-1, which is induced by PTEN deletion and important for prostate tumorigenesis. This finding provides a mechanism for how ERbeta expression is regulated in prostate cancer. Repression of ERbeta contributes to tumorigenesis because it enables HIF-1/VEGF signaling that sustains BMI-1 expression. These data reveal a positive feedback loop that is activated in response to PTEN loss and sustains BMI-1.

Autophagy in malignant transformation and cancer progression

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

Autophagy plays a key role in the maintenance of cellular homeostasis. In healthy cells, such a homeostatic activity constitutes a robust barrier against malignant transformation. Accordingly, many oncoproteins inhibit, and several oncosuppressor proteins promote, autophagy. Moreover, autophagy is required for optimal anticancer immunosurveillance. In neoplastic cells, however, autophagic responses constitute a means to cope with intracellular and environmental stress, thus favoring tumor progression. This implies that at least in some cases, oncogenesis proceeds along with a temporary inhibition of autophagy or a gain of molecular functions that antagonize its oncosuppressive activity. Here, we discuss the differential impact of autophagy on distinct phases of tumorigenesis and the implications of this concept for the use of autophagy modulators in cancer therapy.

Aldehyde Dehydrogenase Is Regulated by beta-Catenin/TCF and Promotes Radioresistance in Prostate Cancer Progenitor Cells

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

Radiotherapy is a curative treatment option in prostate cancer. Nevertheless, patients with high-risk prostate cancer are prone to relapse. Identification of the predictive biomarkers and molecular mechanisms of radioresistance bears promise to improve cancer therapies. In this study, we show that aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) activity is indicative of radioresistant prostate progenitor cells with an enhanced DNA repair capacity and activation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Gene expression profiling of prostate cancer cells, their radioresistant derivatives, ALDH(+) and ALDH(-) cell populations revealed the mechanisms, which link tumor progenitors to radioresistance, including activation of the WNT/beta-catenin signaling pathway. We found that expression of the ALDH1A1 gene is regulated by the WNT signaling pathway and co-occurs with expression of beta-catenin in prostate tumor specimens. Inhibition of the WNT pathway led to a decrease in ALDH(+) tumor progenitor population and to radiosensitization of cancer cells. Taken together, our results indicate that ALDH(+) cells contribute to tumor radioresistance and their molecular targeting may enhance the effectiveness of radiotherapy. Cancer Res; 75(7); 1482-94. (c)2015 AACR.

Eaten alive: novel insights into autophagy from multicellular model systems

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

Autophagy delivers cytoplasmic material to lysosomes for degradation. First identified in yeast, the core genes that control this process are conserved in higher organisms. Studies of mammalian cell cultures have expanded our understanding of the core autophagy pathway, but cannot reveal the unique animal-specific mechanisms for the regulation and function of autophagy. Multicellular organisms have different types of cells that possess distinct composition, morphology, and organization of intracellular organelles. In addition, the autophagic machinery integrates signals from other cells and environmental conditions to maintain cell, tissue and organism homeostasis. Here, we highlight how studies of autophagy in flies and worms have identified novel core autophagy genes and mechanisms, and provided insight into the context-specific regulation and function of autophagy.

Structural Basis for VEGF-C Binding to Neuropilin-2 and Sequestration by a Soluble Splice Form

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:05pm

Vascular endothelial growth factor C (VEGF-C) is a potent lymphangiogenic cytokine that signals via the coordinated action of two cell surface receptors, Neuropilin-2 (Nrp2) and VEGFR-3. Diseases associated with both loss and gain of VEGF-C function, lymphedema and cancer, respectively, motivate studies of VEGF-C/Nrp2 binding and inhibition. Here, we demonstrate that VEGF-C binding to Nrp2 is regulated by C-terminal proteolytic maturation. The structure of the VEGF-C C terminus in complex with the ligand binding domains of Nrp2 demonstrates that a cryptic Nrp2 binding motif is released upon proteolysis, allowing specific engagement with the b1 domain of Nrp2. Based on the identified structural requirements for Nrp2 binding to VEGF-C, we hypothesized that the endogenous secreted splice form of Nrp2, s9Nrp2, may function as a selective inhibitor of VEGF-C. We find that s9Nrp2 forms a stable dimer that potently inhibits VEGF-C/Nrp2 binding and cellular signaling. These data provide critical insight into VEGF-C/Nrp2 binding and inhibition.

UMCCTS Newsletter, May 2015

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 2:21pm

This is the May 2015 issue of the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science Newsletter containing news and events of interest.

The CPEB protein Orb2 has multiple functions during spermatogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 9:05pm

Cytoplasmic Polyadenylation Element Binding (CPEB) proteins are translational regulators that can either activate or repress translation depending on the target mRNA and the specific biological context. There are two CPEB subfamilies and most animals have one or more genes from each. Drosophila has a single CPEB gene, orb and orb2, from each subfamily. orb expression is only detected at high levels in the germline and has critical functions in oogenesis but not spermatogenesis. By contrast, orb2 is broadly expressed in the soma; and previous studies have revealed important functions in asymmetric cell division, viability, motor function, learning, and memory. Here we show that orb2 is also expressed in the adult male germline and that it has essential functions in programming the progression of spermatogenesis from meiosis through differentiation. Like the translational regulators boule (bol) and off-schedule (ofs), orb2 is required for meiosis and orb2 mutant spermatocytes undergo a prolonged arrest during the meiotic G2-M transition. However, orb2 differs from boule and off-schedule in that this arrest occurs at a later step in meiotic progression after the synthesis of the meiotic regulator twine. orb2 is also required for the orderly differentiation of the spermatids after meiosis is complete. The differentiation defects in orb2 mutants include abnormal elongation of the spermatid flagellar axonemes, a failure in individualization and improper post-meiotic gene expression. Amongst the orb2 differentiation targets are orb and two other mRNAs, which are transcribed post-meiotically and localized to the tip of the flagellar axonemes. Additionally, analysis of a partial loss of function orb2 mutant suggests that the orb2 differentiation phenotypes are independent of the earlier arrest in meiosis.

The CTSA Consortium's Catalog of Assets for Translational and Clinical Health Research (CATCHR)

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 9:05pm

The 61 CTSA Consortium sites are home to valuable programs and infrastructure supporting translational science and all are charged with ensuring that such investments translate quickly to improved clinical care. Catalog of Assets for Translational and Clinical Health Research (CATCHR) is the Consortium's effort to collect and make available information on programs and resources to maximize efficiency and facilitate collaborations. By capturing information on a broad range of assets supporting the entire clinical and translational research spectrum, CATCHR aims to provide the necessary infrastructure and processes to establish and maintain an open-access, searchable database of consortium resources to support multisite clinical and translational research studies. Data are collected using rigorous, defined methods, with the resulting information made visible through an integrated, searchable Web-based tool. Additional easy-to-use Web tools assist resource owners in validating and updating resource information over time. In this paper, we discuss the design and scope of the project, data collection methods, current results, and future plans for development and sustainability. With increasing pressure on research programs to avoid redundancy, CATCHR aims to make available information on programs and core facilities to maximize efficient use of resources.

Academic medical product development: an emerging alliance of technology transfer organizations and the CTSA

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 9:05pm

To bring the benefits of science more quickly to patient care, the NIH National Center Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) supports programs that enhance the development, testing, and implementation of new medical products and procedures. The NCATS clinical and translational science award (CTSA) program is central to that mission; creating an academic home for clinical and translational science and supporting those involved in the discovery and development of new health-related inventions. The technology transfer Offices (TTO) of CTSA-funded universities can be important partners in the development process; facilitating the transfer of medical research to the commercial sector for further development and ultimately, distribution to patients. The Aggregating Intellectual Property (IP) Working Group (AWG) of the CTSA public private partnerships key function committee (PPP-KFC) developed a survey to explore how CTSA-funded institutions currently interface with their respective TTOs to support medical product development. The results suggest a range of relationships across institutions; approximately half have formal collaborative programs, but only a few have well-connected programs. Models of collaborations are described and provided as examples of successful CTSA/TTO partnerships that have increased the value of health-related inventions as measured by follow-on funding and industry involvement; either as a consulting partner or licensee.

Macrophages clean up: efferocytosis and microbial control

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 9:40am

Phagocytic leukocytes, predominantly macrophages, not only ingest and destroy invading pathogens, but are charged with clearing dead and dying host cells. The process of engulfing apoptotic cells is called efferocytosis and has long been appreciated for its role in the resolution of inflammation. New evidence is emerging that efferocytosis represents a double-edged sword in microbial immunity. Although efferocytosis of influenza and Mycobacterium tuberculosis-infected cells results in pathogen destruction, efferocytosis of Leishmania-infected neutrophils may promote infection. Understanding how macrophages, dendritic cells (DC) and neutrophils process pathogens encased within a dying cell could lead to the development of novel therapeutics that simultaneously suppress inflammation and promote pathogen clearance.