Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

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

Local Chromatin Features Including PU.1 and IKAROS Binding and H3K4 Methylation Shape the Repertoire of Immunoglobulin Kappa Genes Chosen for V(D)J Recombination.
Matheson LS, Bolland DJ, Chovanec P, Krueger F, Andrews S, Koohy H, Corcoran AE

V(D)J recombination is essential for the generation of diverse antigen receptor (AgR) repertoires. In B cells, immunoglobulin kappa (Igκ) light chain recombination follows immunoglobulin heavy chain (Igh) recombination. We recently developed the DNA-based VDJ-seq assay for the unbiased quantitation of Igh VH and DH repertoires. Integration of VDJ-seq data with genome-wide datasets revealed that two chromatin states at the recombination signal sequence (RSS) of VH genes are highly predictive of recombination in mouse pro-B cells. It is unknown whether local chromatin states contribute to Vκ gene choice during Igκ recombination. Here we adapt VDJ-seq to profile the Igκ VκJκ repertoire and present a comprehensive readout in mouse pre-B cells, revealing highly variable Vκ gene usage. Integration with genome-wide datasets for histone modifications, DNase hypersensitivity, transcription factor binding and germline transcription identified PU.1 binding at the RSS, which was unimportant for Igh, as highly predictive of whether a Vκ gene will recombine or not, suggesting that it plays a binary, all-or-nothing role, priming genes for recombination. Thereafter, the frequency with which these genes recombine was shaped both by the presence and level of enrichment of several other chromatin features, including H3K4 methylation and IKAROS binding. Moreover, in contrast to the Igh locus, the chromatin landscape of the promoter, as well as of the RSS, contributes to Vκ gene recombination. Thus, multiple facets of local chromatin features explain much of the variation in Vκ gene usage. Together, these findings reveal shared and divergent roles for epigenetic features and transcription factors in AgR V(D)J recombination and provide avenues for further investigation of chromatin signatures that may underpin V(D)J-mediated chromosomal translocations.

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Frontiers in immunology, 8, 1664-3224, 1550, 2017

PMID: 29204143

Clonally stable Vκ allelic choice instructs Igκ repertoire.
Levin-Klein R, Fraenkel S, Lichtenstein M, Matheson LS, Bartok O, Nevo Y, Kadener S, Corcoran AE, Cedar H, Bergman Y

Although much has been done to understand how rearrangement of the Igκ locus is regulated during B-cell development, little is known about the way the variable (V) segments themselves are selected. Here we show, using B6/Cast hybrid pre-B-cell clones, that a limited number of V segments on each allele is stochastically activated as characterized by the appearance of non-coding RNA and histone modifications. The activation states are clonally distinct, stable across cell division and developmentally important in directing the Ig repertoire upon differentiation. Using a new approach of allelic ATAC-seq, we demonstrate that the Igκ V alleles have differential chromatin accessibility, which may serve as the underlying basis of clonal maintenance at this locus, as well as other instances of monoallelic expression throughout the genome. These findings highlight a new level of immune system regulation that optimizes gene diversity.

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Nature communications, 8, 2041-1723, 15575, 2017

PMID: 28555639

Multi-tissue DNA methylation age predictor in mouse.
Stubbs TM, Bonder MJ, Stark AK, Krueger F, Bolland D, Butcher G, Chandra T, Clark SJ, Corcoran A, Eckersley-Maslin M, Field L, Frising UC, Gilbert C, Guedes J, Hernando-Herraez I, Houseley J, Kemp F, MacQueen A, Okkenhaug K, Rhoades M, Santbergen MJC, Stebegg M, von Meyenn F, Stegle O, Reik W

DNA methylation changes at a discrete set of sites in the human genome are predictive of chronological and biological age. However, it is not known whether these changes are causative or a consequence of an underlying ageing process. It has also not been shown whether this epigenetic clock is unique to humans or conserved in the more experimentally tractable mouse.

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Genome biology, 18, 1474-760X, 68, 2017

PMID: 28399939

Group Members

Latest Publications

Clonally stable Vκ allelic choice instructs Igκ repertoire.

Levin-Klein R, Fraenkel S, Lichtenstein M

Nature communications
8 2041-1723:15575 (2017)

PMID: 28555639

Multi-tissue DNA methylation age predictor in mouse.

Stubbs TM, Bonder MJ, Stark AK

Genome biology
18 1474-760X:68 (2017)

PMID: 28399939

Two Mutually Exclusive Local Chromatin States Drive Efficient V(D)J Recombination.

Bolland DJ, Koohy H, Wood AL

Cell reports
15 2211-1247:2475-87 (2016)

PMID: 27264181

RNA-binding proteins ZFP36L1 and ZFP36L2 promote cell quiescence.

Galloway A, Saveliev A, Łukasiak S

Science (New York, N.Y.)
352 1095-9203:453-9 (2016)

PMID: 27102483

Robust 3D DNA FISH using directly labeled probes.

DJ Bolland, MR King, W Reik

Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE
78: (2013)

DOI: 10.3791/50587

PMID: 23978815

Non-coding transcription and large-scale nuclear organisation of immunoglobulin recombination.

MJ Stubbington, AE Corcoran

Current opinion in genetics & development
23 2:81-8 (2013)

DOI: 10.1016/j.gde.2013.01.001

PMID: 23434028

Highly restricted usage of Ig H chain VH14 family gene segments in Slp65-deficient pre-B cell leukemia in mice.

VB Ta, MJ de Bruijn, L Matheson

Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)
189 10:4842-51 (2012)

DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.1201440

PMID: 23066158

Editorial overview. Lymphocyte development.

AE Corcoran, AJ Feeney

Current opinion in immunology
24 2:129-31 (2012)

DOI: 10.1016/j.coi.2012.03.003

PMID: 22440337

Local and global epigenetic regulation of V(D)J recombination.

LS Matheson, AE Corcoran

Current topics in microbiology and immunology
356 :65-89 (2012)

DOI: 10.1007/82_2011_137

PMID: 21695632