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Recent documents in eScholarship@UMMS
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RNA Interference in Caenorhabditis elegans

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:51am

RNAi has become an essential tool in C. elegans research. This unit describes procedures for RNAi in C. elegans by microinjecting with dsRNA, feeding with bacteria expressing dsRNA, and soaking in dsRNA solution, as well as high-throughput methods for RNAi-based screens. (c) 2015 by John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

Let a hundred flowers bloom: the role of context dependence in creating phenotypic diversity following targeted therapy

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:51am

Using a newly developed computational platform, COSPER, Litvin et al. (2015) identify context-dependent interactions between MEK and interferon signaling that underlie sensitivity and resistance to MEK inhibition in melanoma.

Spatial enhancer clustering and regulation of enhancer-proximal genes by cohesin

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:51am

In addition to mediating sister chromatid cohesion during the cell cycle, the cohesin complex associates with CTCF and with active gene regulatory elements to form long-range interactions between its binding sites. Genome-wide chromosome conformation capture had shown that cohesin's main role in interphase genome organization is in mediating interactions within architectural chromosome compartments, rather than specifying compartments per se. However, it remains unclear how cohesin-mediated interactions contribute to the regulation of gene expression. We have found that the binding of CTCF and cohesin is highly enriched at enhancers and in particular at enhancer arrays or "super-enhancers" in mouse thymocytes. Using local and global chromosome conformation capture, we demonstrate that enhancer elements associate not just in linear sequence, but also in 3D, and that spatial enhancer clustering is facilitated by cohesin. The conditional deletion of cohesin from noncycling thymocytes preserved enhancer position, H3K27ac, H4K4me1, and enhancer transcription, but weakened interactions between enhancers. Interestingly, approximately 50% of deregulated genes reside in the vicinity of enhancer elements, suggesting that cohesin regulates gene expression through spatial clustering of enhancer elements. We propose a model for cohesin-dependent gene regulation in which spatial clustering of enhancer elements acts as a unified mechanism for both enhancer-promoter "connections" and "insulation."

Widespread macromolecular interaction perturbations in human genetic disorders

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:51am

How disease-associated mutations impair protein activities in the context of biological networks remains mostly undetermined. Although a few renowned alleles are well characterized, functional information is missing for over 100,000 disease-associated variants. Here we functionally profile several thousand missense mutations across a spectrum of Mendelian disorders using various interaction assays. The majority of disease-associated alleles exhibit wild-type chaperone binding profiles, suggesting they preserve protein folding or stability. While common variants from healthy individuals rarely affect interactions, two-thirds of disease-associated alleles perturb protein-protein interactions, with half corresponding to "edgetic" alleles affecting only a subset of interactions while leaving most other interactions unperturbed. With transcription factors, many alleles that leave protein-protein interactions intact affect DNA binding. Different mutations in the same gene leading to different interaction profiles often result in distinct disease phenotypes. Thus disease-associated alleles that perturb distinct protein activities rather than grossly affecting folding and stability are relatively widespread.

Human gene-centered transcription factor networks for enhancers and disease variants

Tue, 05/19/2015 - 8:51am

Gene regulatory networks (GRNs) comprising interactions between transcription factors (TFs) and regulatory loci control development and physiology. Numerous disease-associated mutations have been identified, the vast majority residing in non-coding regions of the genome. As current GRN mapping methods test one TF at a time and require the use of cells harboring the mutation(s) of interest, they are not suitable to identify TFs that bind to wild-type and mutant loci. Here, we use gene-centered yeast one-hybrid (eY1H) assays to interrogate binding of 1,086 human TFs to 246 enhancers, as well as to 109 non-coding disease mutations. We detect both loss and gain of TF interactions with mutant loci that are concordant with target gene expression changes. This work establishes eY1H assays as a powerful addition to the toolkit of mapping human GRNs and for the high-throughput characterization of genomic variants that are rapidly being identified by genome-wide association studies.

A laminin 511 matrix is regulated by TAZ and functions as the ligand for the alpha6Bbeta1 integrin to sustain breast cancer stem cells

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:06pm

Understanding how the extracellular matrix impacts the function of cancer stem cells (CSCs) is a significant but poorly understood problem. We report that breast CSCs produce a laminin (LM) 511 matrix that promotes self-renewal and tumor initiation by engaging the alpha6Bbeta1 integrin and activating the Hippo transducer TAZ. Although TAZ is important for the function of breast CSCs, the mechanism is unknown. We observed that TAZ regulates the transcription of the alpha5 subunit of LM511 and the formation of a LM511 matrix. These data establish a positive feedback loop involving TAZ and LM511 that contributes to stemness in breast cancer.

Orphan nuclear receptor TR3/Nur77 improves wound healing by upregulating the expression of integrin beta4

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:06pm

Tissue repair/wound healing, in which angiogenesis plays an important role, is a critical step in many diseases including chronic wound, myocardial infarction, stroke, cancer, and inflammation. Recently, we were the first to report that orphan nuclear receptor TR3/Nur77 is a critical mediator of angiogenesis and its associated microvessel permeability. Tumor growth and angiogenesis induced by VEGF-A, histamine, and serotonin are almost completely inhibited in Nur77 knockout mice. However, it is not known whether TR3/Nur77 plays any roles in wound healing. In these studies, skin wound-healing assay was performed in 3 types of genetically modified mice having various Nur77 activities. We found that ectopic induction of Nur77 in endothelial cells of mice is sufficient to improve skin wound healing. Although skin wound healing in Nur77 knockout mice is comparable to the wild-type control mice, the process is significantly delayed in the EC-Nur77-DN mice, in which a dominant negative Nur77 mutant is inducibly and specifically expressed in mouse endothelial cells. By a loss-of-function assay, we elucidate a novel feed-forward signaling pathway, integrin beta4 --> PI3K --> Akt --> FAK, by which TR3 mediates HUVEC migration. Furthermore, TR3/Nur77 regulates the expression of integrin beta4 by targeting its promoter activity. In conclusion, expression of TR3/Nur77 improves wound healing by targeting integrin beta4. TR3/Nur77 is a potential candidate for proangiogenic therapy. The results further suggest that TR3/Nur77 is required for pathologic angiogenesis but not for developmental/physiologic angiogenesis and that Nur77 and its family members play a redundant role in normal skin wound healing.

Deletion of the gene encoding G0/G 1 switch protein 2 (G0s2) alleviates high-fat-diet-induced weight gain and insulin resistance, and promotes browning of white adipose tissue in mice

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:06pm

AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Obesity is a global epidemic resulting from increased energy intake, which alters energy homeostasis and results in an imbalance in fat storage and breakdown. G0/G1 switch gene 2 (G0s2) has been recently characterised in vitro as an inhibitor of adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL), the rate-limiting step in fat catabolism. In the current study we aim to functionally characterise G0s2 within the physiological context of a mouse model.

METHODS: We generated a mouse model in which G0s2 was deleted. The homozygous G0s2 knockout (G0s2 (-/-)) mice were studied over a period of 22 weeks. Metabolic variables were measured including body weight and body composition, food intake, glucose and insulin tolerance tests, energy metabolism and thermogenesis.

RESULTS: We report that G0s2 inhibits ATGL and regulates lipolysis and energy metabolism in vivo. G0s2 (-/-) mice are lean, resistant to weight gain induced by a high-fat diet and are glucose tolerant and insulin sensitive. The white adipose tissue of G0s2 (-/-) mice has enhanced lipase activity and adipocytes showed enhanced stimulated lipolysis. Energy metabolism in the G0s2 (-/-) mice is shifted towards enhanced lipid metabolism and increased thermogenesis. G0s2 (-/-) mice showed enhanced cold tolerance and increased expression of thermoregulatory and oxidation genes within white adipose tissue, suggesting enhanced 'browning' of the white adipose tissue.

CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: Our data show that G0s2 is a physiological regulator of adiposity and energy metabolism and is a potential target in the treatment of obesity and insulin resistance.

Development of a prognostic genetic signature to predict the metastatic risk associated with cutaneous melanoma

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:06pm

PURPOSE: The development of a genetic signature for the identification of high-risk cutaneous melanoma tumors would provide a valuable prognostic tool with value for stage I and II patients who represent a remarkably heterogeneous group with a 3% to 55% chance of disease progression and death 5 years from diagnosis.

EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: A prognostic 28-gene signature was identified by analysis of microarray expression data. Primary cutaneous melanoma tumor tissue was evaluated by RT-PCR for expression of the signature, and radial basis machine (RBM) modeling was performed to predict risk of metastasis.

RESULTS: RBM analysis of cutaneous melanoma tumor gene expression reports low risk (class 1) or high risk (class 2) of metastasis. Metastatic risk was predicted with high accuracy in development (ROC = 0.93) and validation (ROC = 0.91) cohorts of primary cutaneous melanoma tumor tissue. Kaplan-Meier analysis indicated that the 5-year disease-free survival (DFS) rates in the development set were 100% and 38% for predicted classes 1 and 2 cases, respectively (P < 0.0001). DFS rates for the validation set were 97% and 31% for predicted classes 1 and 2 cases, respectively (P < 0.0001). Gene expression profile (GEP), American Joint Committee on Cancer stage, Breslow thickness, ulceration, and age were independent predictors of metastatic risk according to Cox regression analysis.

CONCLUSIONS: The GEP signature accurately predicts metastasis risk in a multicenter cohort of primary cutaneous melanoma tumors. Preliminary Cox regression analysis indicates that the signature is an independent predictor of metastasis risk in the cohort presented.

Effect of preeclampsia on umbilical cord blood stem cells in relation to breast cancer susceptibility in the offspring

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:06pm

Women born from a preeclamptic (PE) pregnancy are associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. Prenatal and early-life exposures are hypothesized to influence breast cancer susceptibility through their effect on stem cells. We examined stem cell populations in umbilical cord blood from PE pregnancies and compared with those from pregnancies without this condition. We isolated mononuclear cells from 58 PE and 197 normotensive (non-PE) umbilical cord blood samples and examined the different stem cell populations. Hematopoietic (CD34(+) and CD34(+)CD38(-)), endothelial (CD34(+)CD133(+), CD34(+)VEGFR2(+), CD133(+)VEGFR2(+) and CD34(+)CD133(+)VEGFR2(+)), and putative breast (EpCAM(+), EpCAM(+)CD49f(+), EpCAM(+)CD49f(+)CD117(+), CD49f(+)CD24(+), CD24(+)CD29(+) and CD24(+)CD29(+)CD49f(+)) stem/progenitor cell subpopulations were quantified by flow cytometry and compared between PE and non-PE samples. Hematopoietic CD34(+) cell counts were significantly lowered in PE compared with non-PE samples (P = 0.039, Kruskal-Wallis test). Levels of CD34(+)CD133(+) endothelial progenitor cells were also lower in PE samples (P = 0.032, multiple regression analysis). EpCAM(+) and EpCAM(+)CD49f(+) putative breast stem cell levels were significantly lowered in PE subjects (multiple regression analysis: P = 0.038 and 0.007, respectively). Stratifying by newborn gender, EpCAM(+) and EpCAM(+)CD49f(+) stem cells were significantly lowered in PE samples of female, but not male, newborns. Umbilical cord blood samples from pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia thus had significantly lower levels of hematopoietic, endothelial, and putative breast stem cells than non-PE controls. With a lowered breast cancer risk for offspring of a PE pregnancy, our findings provide support to the hypothesis that susceptibility to breast oncogenesis may be affected by conditions and processes during the prenatal period. For Permissions, please email:

Reverse genetic screening reveals poor correlation between morpholino-induced and mutant phenotypes in zebrafish

Mon, 05/18/2015 - 3:06pm

The widespread availability of programmable site-specific nucleases now enables targeted gene disruption in the zebrafish. In this study, we applied site-specific nucleases to generate zebrafish lines bearing individual mutations in more than 20 genes. We found that mutations in only a small proportion of genes caused defects in embryogenesis. Moreover, mutants for ten different genes failed to recapitulate published Morpholino-induced phenotypes (morphants). The absence of phenotypes in mutant embryos was not likely due to maternal effects or failure to eliminate gene function. Consistently, a comparison of published morphant defects with the Sanger Zebrafish Mutation Project revealed that approximately 80% of morphant phenotypes were not observed in mutant embryos, similar to our mutant collection. Based on these results, we suggest that mutant phenotypes become the standard metric to define gene function in zebrafish, after which Morpholinos that recapitulate respective phenotypes could be reliably applied for ancillary analyses.

Uncoupling lifespan and healthspan in Caenorhabditis elegans longevity mutants

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

Aging research has been very successful at identifying signaling pathways and evolutionarily conserved genes that extend lifespan with the assumption that an increase in lifespan will also increase healthspan. However, it is largely unknown whether we are extending the healthy time of life or simply prolonging a period of frailty with increased incidence of age-associated diseases. Here we use Caenorhabditis elegans, one of the premiere systems for lifespan studies, to determine whether lifespan and healthspan are intrinsically correlated. We conducted multiple cellular and organismal assays on wild type as well as four long-lived mutants (insulin/insulin-like growth factor-1, dietary restriction, protein translation, mitochondrial signaling) in a longitudinal manner to determine the health of the animals as they age. We find that some long-lived mutants performed better than wild type when measured chronologically (number of days). However, all long-lived mutants increased the proportion of time spent in a frail state. Together, these data suggest that lifespan can no longer be the sole parameter of interest and reveal the importance of evaluating multiple healthspan parameters for future studies on antiaging interventions.

Chemical biology. A small-molecule inhibitor of the aberrant transcription factor CBFbeta-SMMHC delays leukemia in mice

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

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common form of adult leukemia. The transcription factor fusion CBFbeta-SMMHC (core binding factor beta and the smooth-muscle myosin heavy chain), expressed in AML with the chromosome inversion inv(16)(p13q22), outcompetes wild-type CBFbeta for binding to the transcription factor RUNX1, deregulates RUNX1 activity in hematopoiesis, and induces AML. Current inv(16) AML treatment with nonselective cytotoxic chemotherapy results in a good initial response but limited long-term survival. Here, we report the development of a protein-protein interaction inhibitor, AI-10-49, that selectively binds to CBFbeta-SMMHC and disrupts its binding to RUNX1. AI-10-49 restores RUNX1 transcriptional activity, displays favorable pharmacokinetics, and delays leukemia progression in mice. Treatment of primary inv(16) AML patient blasts with AI-10-49 triggers selective cell death. These data suggest that direct inhibition of the oncogenic CBFbeta-SMMHC fusion protein may be an effective therapeutic approach for inv(16) AML, and they provide support for transcription factor targeted therapy in other cancers.

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.