Anne Corcoran

Research Summary

The focus of our research is understanding the role of chromatin and nuclear organization in controlling gene expression during the development of the immune system.​

​B lymphocytes are cells of the immune system that produce antibodies (immunoglobulins), which recognise and inactivate foreign antigens like bacteria. To cope with the enormous numbers of foreign antigens encountered during our lifespan, these cells must produce millions of different antibodies.

VDJ recombinationRecombination or ‘shuffling' of genes in the immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) locus is the first step in generating this huge repertoire.

Special ‘marks’ on the chromatin are thought to underlie the complex choice of gene segments in the multigenic immunoglobulin gene families, that can be recombined during B cell development to produce a large diversity of functional antibody molecules.

Our group studies non-coding RNA transcription (ie generation of transcripts that do not produce protein) in specific parts of the immunoglobulin cluster, which may play a directive role in V(D)J recombination, or mark epigenetic control regions.

Only one of each gene type is used in an individual cell and the resulting DNA sequence encodes a unique IgH, which is expressed with an Ig light chain as a unique highly specific antibody in each cell.

Latest Publications

4-Octyl-Itaconate and Dimethyl Fumarate Inhibit COX2 Expression and Prostaglandin Production in Macrophages.
Diskin C, Zotta A, Corcoran SE, Tyrrell VJ, Zaslona Z, O'Donnell VB, O'Neill LAJ

PGs are important proinflammatory lipid mediators, the significance of which is highlighted by the widespread and efficacious use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the treatment of inflammation. 4-Octyl itaconate (4-OI), a derivative of the Krebs cycle-derived metabolite itaconate, has recently garnered much interest as an anti-inflammatory agent. In this article, we show that 4-OI limits PG production in murine macrophages stimulated with the TLR1/2 ligand Pam3CSK4. This decrease in PG secretion is due to a robust suppression of cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2) expression by 4-OI, with both mRNA and protein levels decreased. Dimethyl fumarate, a fumarate derivative used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, with properties similar to itaconate, replicated the phenotype observed with 4-OI. We also demonstrate that the decrease in COX2 expression and inhibition of downstream PG production occurs in an NRF2-independent manner. Our findings provide a new insight into the potential of 4-OI as an anti-inflammatory agent and also identifies a novel anti-inflammatory function of dimethyl fumarate.

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Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950), 1, 1, 11 Oct 2021

PMID: 34635585

IL-7R signaling activates widespread V and D gene usage to drive antibody diversity in bone marrow B cells.
Baizan-Edge A, Stubbs BA, Stubbington MJT, Bolland DJ, Tabbada K, Andrews S, Corcoran AE

Generation of the primary antibody repertoire requires V(D)J recombination of hundreds of gene segments in the immunoglobulin heavy chain (Igh) locus. The role of interleukin-7 receptor (IL-7R) signaling in Igh recombination has been difficult to partition from its role in B cell survival and proliferation. With a detailed description of the Igh repertoire in murine IL-7Rα bone marrow B cells, we demonstrate that IL-7R signaling profoundly influences V gene selection during V-to-DJ recombination. We find skewing toward 3' V genes during de novo V-to-DJ recombination more severe than the fetal liver (FL) repertoire and uncover a role for IL-7R signaling in D-to-J recombination. Transcriptome and accessibility analyses suggest reduced expression of B lineage transcription factors (TFs) and targets and loss of D and V antisense transcription in IL-7Rα B cells. Thus, in addition to its roles in survival and proliferation, IL-7R signaling shapes the Igh repertoire by activating underpinning mechanisms.

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Cell reports, 36, 2, 13 Jul 2021

PMID: 34260907

Open Access

Widespread reorganisation of pluripotent factor binding and gene regulatory interactions between human pluripotent states.
Chovanec P, Collier AJ, Krueger C, Várnai C, Semprich CI, Schoenfelder S, Corcoran AE, Rugg-Gunn PJ

The transition from naive to primed pluripotency is accompanied by an extensive reorganisation of transcriptional and epigenetic programmes. However, the role of transcriptional enhancers and three-dimensional chromatin organisation in coordinating these developmental programmes remains incompletely understood. Here, we generate a high-resolution atlas of gene regulatory interactions, chromatin profiles and transcription factor occupancy in naive and primed human pluripotent stem cells, and develop a network-graph approach to examine the atlas at multiple spatial scales. We uncover highly connected promoter hubs that change substantially in interaction frequency and in transcriptional co-regulation between pluripotent states. Small hubs frequently merge to form larger networks in primed cells, often linked by newly-formed Polycomb-associated interactions. We identify widespread state-specific differences in enhancer activity and interactivity that correspond with an extensive reconfiguration of OCT4, SOX2 and NANOG binding and target gene expression. These findings provide multilayered insights into the chromatin-based gene regulatory control of human pluripotent states.

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Nature communications, 12, 1, 07 04 2021

PMID: 33828098

Open Access