Gavin Kelsey

Research Summary

As well as genetic information, the egg and sperm also contribute epigenetic annotations that may influence gene activity after fertilisation. These annotations may be direct modifications of the DNA bases or of the proteins around which the DNA is wrapped into chromatin. Our goal is to understand whether, through epigenetics, factors such as a mother’s age or diet have consequences on the health of a child.
We examine how epigenetic states are set up in oocytes – or egg cells – and influence gene expression in the embryo. For example, repressive chromatin marks in oocytes lead to long-term silencing of genes inherited from the mother, particularly in cells that will form the placenta. We are also interested in how variations in DNA methylation come about in oocytes and whether we can use this variation as a marker for oocyte quality and embryo potential. To investigate these questions, we develop methods to profile epigenetic information in very small numbers of cells or even in single cells.

Latest Publications

Increased transcriptome variation and localised DNA methylation changes in oocytes from aged mice revealed by parallel single-cell analysis.
Castillo-Fernandez J, Herrera-Puerta E, Demond H, Clark SJ, Hanna CW, Hemberger M, Kelsey G

Advancing maternal age causes a progressive reduction in fertility. The decline in developmental competence of the oocyte with age is likely to be a consequence of multiple contributory factors. Loss of epigenetic quality of the oocyte could impair early developmental events or programme adverse outcomes in offspring that manifest only later in life. Here, we undertake joint profiling of the transcriptome and DNA methylome of individual oocytes from reproductively young and old mice undergoing natural ovulation. We find reduced complexity as well as increased variance in the transcriptome of oocytes from aged females. This transcriptome heterogeneity is reflected in the identification of discrete sub-populations. Oocytes with a transcriptome characteristic of immature chromatin configuration (NSN) clustered into two groups: one with reduced developmental competence, as indicated by lower expression of maternal effect genes, and one with a young-like transcriptome. Oocytes from older females had on average reduced CpG methylation, but the characteristic bimodal methylation landscape of the oocyte was preserved. Germline differentially methylated regions of imprinted genes were appropriately methylated irrespective of age. For the majority of differentially expressed transcripts, the absence of correlated methylation changes suggests a post-transcriptional basis for most age-related effects on the transcriptome. However, we did find differences in gene body methylation at which there were corresponding changes in gene expression, indicating age-related effects on transcription that translate into methylation differences. Interestingly, oocytes varied in expression and methylation of these genes, which could contribute to variable competence of oocytes or penetrance of maternal age-related phenotypes in offspring.

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Aging cell, 1, 1, 17 Nov 2020

PMID: 33201571

The role of ZFP57 and additional KRAB-zinc finger proteins in the maintenance of human imprinted methylation and multi-locus imprinting disturbances.
Monteagudo-Sánchez A, Hernandez Mora JR, Simon C, Burton A, Tenorio J, Lapunzina P, Clark S, Esteller M, Kelsey G, López-Siguero JP, de Nanclares GP, Torres-Padilla ME, Monk D

Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic process regulated by germline-derived DNA methylation that is resistant to embryonic reprogramming, resulting in parental origin-specific monoallelic gene expression. A subset of individuals affected by imprinting disorders (IDs) displays multi-locus imprinting disturbances (MLID), which may result from aberrant establishment of imprinted differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in gametes or their maintenance in early embryogenesis. Here we investigated the extent of MLID in a family harbouring a ZFP57 truncating variant and characterize the interactions between human ZFP57 and the KAP1 co-repressor complex. By ectopically targeting ZFP57 to reprogrammed loci in mouse embryos using a dCas9 approach, we confirm that ZFP57 recruitment is sufficient to protect oocyte-derived methylation from reprogramming. Expression profiling in human pre-implantation embryos and oocytes reveals that unlike in mice, ZFP57 is only expressed following embryonic-genome activation, implying that other KRAB-zinc finger proteins (KZNFs) recruit KAP1 prior to blastocyst formation. Furthermore, we uncover ZNF202 and ZNF445 as additional KZNFs likely to recruit KAP1 to imprinted loci during reprogramming in the absence of ZFP57. Together, these data confirm the perplexing link between KZFPs and imprint maintenance and highlight the differences between mouse and humans in this respect.

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Nucleic acids research, 1, 1, 14 Oct 2020

PMID: 33053156

Landscape of Genome-Wide DNA Methylation of Colorectal Cancer Metastasis.
Ili C, Buchegger K, Demond H, Castillo-Fernandez J, Kelsey G, Zanella L, Abanto M, Riquelme I, López J, Viscarra T, García P, Bellolio E, Saavedra D, Brebi P

Colorectal cancer is a heterogeneous disease caused by both genetic and epigenetics factors. Analysing DNA methylation changes occurring during colorectal cancer progression and metastasis formation is crucial for the identification of novel epigenetic markers of patient prognosis. Genome-wide methylation sequencing of paired samples of colon (normal adjacent, primary tumour and lymph node metastasis) showed global hypomethylation and CpG island (CGI) hypermethylation of primary tumours compared to normal. In metastasis we observed high global and non-CGI regions methylation, but lower CGI methylation, compared to primary tumours. Gene ontology analysis showed shared biological processes between hypermethylated CGIs in metastasis and primary tumours. After complementary analysis with The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) cohort, , , , and genes were found associated with poor survival. We mapped the methylation landscape of colon normal tissues, primary tumours and lymph node metastasis, being capable of identified methylation changes throughout the genome. Furthermore, we found five genes with potential for methylation biomarkers of poor prognosis in colorectal cancer patients.

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Cancers, 12, 9, 22 Sep 2020

PMID: 32971738