Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

Publications

The Babraham Institute Publications database contains details of all publications resulting from our research groups and scientific services.

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Title / Authors / Details Open Access Download

Distinct Molecular Trajectories Converge to Induce Naive Pluripotency.
Stuart HT, Stirparo GG, Lohoff T, Bates LE, Kinoshita M, Lim CY, Sousa EJ, Maskalenka K, Radzisheuskaya A, Malcolm AA, Alves MRP, Lloyd RL, Nestorowa S, Humphreys P, Mansfield W, Reik W, Bertone P, Nichols J, Göttgens B, Silva JCR

Understanding how cell identity transitions occur and whether there are multiple paths between the same beginning and end states are questions of wide interest. Here we show that acquisition of naive pluripotency can follow transcriptionally and mechanistically distinct routes. Starting from post-implantation epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs), one route advances through a mesodermal state prior to naive pluripotency induction, whereas another transiently resembles the early inner cell mass and correspondingly gains greater developmental potency. These routes utilize distinct signaling networks and transcription factors but subsequently converge on the same naive endpoint, showing surprising flexibility in mechanisms underlying identity transitions and suggesting that naive pluripotency is a multidimensional attractor state. These route differences are reconciled by precise expression of Oct4 as a unifying, essential, and sufficient feature. We propose that fine-tuned regulation of this "transition factor" underpins multidimensional access to naive pluripotency, offering a conceptual framework for understanding cell identity transitions.

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Cell stem cell, , 1875-9777, , 2019

PMID: 31422912

Screening for genes that accelerate the epigenetic aging clock in humans reveals a role for the H3K36 methyltransferase NSD1.
Martin-Herranz DE, Aref-Eshghi E, Bonder MJ, Stubbs TM, Choufani S, Weksberg R, Stegle O, Sadikovic B, Reik W, Thornton JM

Epigenetic clocks are mathematical models that predict the biological age of an individual using DNA methylation data and have emerged in the last few years as the most accurate biomarkers of the aging process. However, little is known about the molecular mechanisms that control the rate of such clocks. Here, we have examined the human epigenetic clock in patients with a variety of developmental disorders, harboring mutations in proteins of the epigenetic machinery.

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Genome biology, 20, 1474-760X, 146, 2019

PMID: 31409373

Neuronal XBP-1 Activates Intestinal Lysosomes to Improve Proteostasis in C. elegans.
Imanikia S, Özbey NP, Krueger C, Casanueva MO, Taylor RC

The unfolded protein response of the endoplasmic reticulum (UPR) is a crucial mediator of secretory pathway homeostasis. Expression of the spliced and active form of the UPR transcription factor XBP-1, XBP-1s, in the nervous system triggers activation of the UPR in the intestine of Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) through release of a secreted signal, leading to increased longevity. We find that expression of XBP-1s in the neurons or intestine of the worm strikingly improves proteostasis in multiple tissues, through increased clearance of toxic proteins. To identify the mechanisms behind this enhanced proteostasis, we conducted intestine-specific RNA-seq analysis to identify genes upregulated in the intestine when XBP-1s is expressed in neurons. This revealed that neuronal XBP-1s increases the expression of genes involved in lysosome function. Lysosomes in the intestine of animals expressing neuronal XBP-1s are more acidic, and lysosomal protease activity is higher. Moreover, intestinal lysosome function is necessary for enhanced lifespan and proteostasis. These findings suggest that activation of the UPR in the intestine through neuronal signaling can increase the activity of lysosomes, leading to extended longevity and improved proteostasis across tissues.

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Current biology : CB, 29, 1879-0445, 2322-2338.e7, 2019

PMID: 31303493

Open Access

Establishment of porcine and human expanded potential stem cells.
Gao X, Nowak-Imialek M, Chen X, Chen D, Herrmann D, Ruan D, Chen ACH, Eckersley-Maslin MA, Ahmad S, Lee YL, Kobayashi T, Ryan D, Zhong J, Zhu J, Wu J, Lan G, Petkov S, Yang J, Antunes L, Campos LS, Fu B, Wang S, Yong Y, Wang X, Xue SG, Ge L, Liu Z, Huang Y, Nie T, Li P, Wu D, Pei D, Zhang Y, Lu L, Yang F, Kimber SJ, Reik W, Zou X, Shang Z, Lai L, Surani A, Tam PPL, Ahmed A, Yeung WSB, Teichmann SA, Niemann H, Liu P

We recently derived mouse expanded potential stem cells (EPSCs) from individual blastomeres by inhibiting the critical molecular pathways that predispose their differentiation. EPSCs had enriched molecular signatures of blastomeres and possessed developmental potency for all embryonic and extra-embryonic cell lineages. Here, we report the derivation of porcine EPSCs, which express key pluripotency genes, are genetically stable, permit genome editing, differentiate to derivatives of the three germ layers in chimeras and produce primordial germ cell-like cells in vitro. Under similar conditions, human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells can be converted, or somatic cells directly reprogrammed, to EPSCs that display the molecular and functional attributes reminiscent of porcine EPSCs. Importantly, trophoblast stem-cell-like cells can be generated from both human and porcine EPSCs. Our pathway-inhibition paradigm thus opens an avenue for generating mammalian pluripotent stem cells, and EPSCs present a unique cellular platform for translational research in biotechnology and regenerative medicine.

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Nature cell biology, 21, 1476-4679, 687-699, 2019

PMID: 31160711

Long-range enhancer-promoter contacts in gene expression control.
Schoenfelder S, Fraser P

Spatiotemporal gene expression programmes are orchestrated by transcriptional enhancers, which are key regulatory DNA elements that engage in physical contacts with their target-gene promoters, often bridging considerable genomic distances. Recent progress in genomics, genome editing and microscopy methodologies have enabled the genome-wide mapping of enhancer-promoter contacts and their functional dissection. In this Review, we discuss novel concepts on how enhancer-promoter interactions are established and maintained, how the 3D architecture of mammalian genomes both facilitates and constrains enhancer-promoter contacts, and the role they play in gene expression control during normal development and disease.

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Nature reviews. Genetics, , 1471-0064, , 2019

PMID: 31086298

A DNMT3A PWWP mutation leads to methylation of bivalent chromatin and growth retardation in mice.
Sendžikaitė G, Hanna CW, Stewart-Morgan KR, Ivanova E, Kelsey G

DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) deposit DNA methylation, which regulates gene expression and is essential for mammalian development. Histone post-translational modifications modulate the recruitment and activity of DNMTs. The PWWP domains of DNMT3A and DNMT3B are posited to interact with histone 3 lysine 36 trimethylation (H3K36me3); however, the functionality of this interaction for DNMT3A remains untested in vivo. Here we present a mouse model carrying a D329A point mutation in the DNMT3A PWWP domain. The mutation causes dominant postnatal growth retardation. At the molecular level, it results in progressive DNA hypermethylation across domains marked by H3K27me3 and bivalent chromatin, and de-repression of developmental regulatory genes in adult hypothalamus. Evaluation of non-CpG methylation, a marker of de novo methylation, further demonstrates the altered recruitment and activity of DNMT3A at bivalent domains. This work provides key molecular insights into the function of the DNMT3A-PWWP domain and role of DNMT3A in regulating postnatal growth.

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Nature communications, 10, 2041-1723, 1884, 2019

PMID: 31015495

TET3 prevents terminal differentiation of adult NSCs by a non-catalytic action at Snrpn.
Montalbán-Loro R, Lozano-Ureña A, Ito M, Krueger C, Reik W, Ferguson-Smith AC, Ferrón SR

Ten-eleven-translocation (TET) proteins catalyze DNA hydroxylation, playing an important role in demethylation of DNA in mammals. Remarkably, although hydroxymethylation levels are high in the mouse brain, the potential role of TET proteins in adult neurogenesis is unknown. We show here that a non-catalytic action of TET3 is essentially required for the maintenance of the neural stem cell (NSC) pool in the adult subventricular zone (SVZ) niche by preventing premature differentiation of NSCs into non-neurogenic astrocytes. This occurs through direct binding of TET3 to the paternal transcribed allele of the imprinted gene Small nuclear ribonucleoprotein-associated polypeptide N (Snrpn), contributing to transcriptional repression of the gene. The study also identifies BMP2 as an effector of the astrocytic terminal differentiation mediated by SNRPN. Our work describes a novel mechanism of control of an imprinted gene in the regulation of adult neurogenesis through an unconventional role of TET3.

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Nature communications, 10, 2041-1723, 1726, 2019

PMID: 30979904

Open Access

Genomic Imprinting and Physiological Processes in Mammals.
Tucci V, Isles AR, Kelsey G, Ferguson-Smith AC,

Complex multicellular organisms, such as mammals, express two complete sets of chromosomes per nucleus, combining the genetic material of both parents. However, epigenetic studies have demonstrated violations to this rule that are necessary for mammalian physiology; the most notable parental allele expression phenomenon is genomic imprinting. With the identification of endogenous imprinted genes, genomic imprinting became well-established as an epigenetic mechanism in which the expression pattern of a parental allele influences phenotypic expression. The expanding study of genomic imprinting is revealing a significant impact on brain functions and associated diseases. Here, we review key milestones in the field of imprinting and discuss mechanisms and systems in which imprinted genes exert a significant role.

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Cell, 176, 1097-4172, 952-965, 2019

PMID: 30794780

Multi-Omics and Genome-Scale Modeling Reveal a Metabolic Shift During C. Elegans Ageing.
Hastings J, Mains A, Virk B, Rodriguez N, Murdoch S, Pearce J, Bergmann S, Le Novère N, Casanueva O

In this contribution, we describe a multi-omics systems biology study of the metabolic changes that occur during aging in . Sampling several time points from young adulthood until early old age, our study covers the full duration of aging and include transcriptomics, and targeted MS-based metabolomics. In order to focus on the metabolic changes due to age we used two strains that are metabolically close to wild-type, yet are conditionally non-reproductive. Using these data in combination with a whole-genome model of the metabolism of and mathematical modeling, we predicted metabolic fluxes during early aging. We find that standard Flux Balance Analysis does not accurately predict measured fluxes nor age-related changes associated with the Citric Acid cycle. We present a novel Flux Balance Analysis method where we combined biomass production and targeted metabolomics information to generate an objective function that is more suitable for aging studies. We validated this approach with a detailed case study of the age-associated changes in the Citric Acid cycle. Our approach provides a comprehensive time-resolved multi-omics and modeling resource for studying the metabolic changes during normal aging in .

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Frontiers in molecular biosciences, 6, 2296-889X, 2, 2019

PMID: 30788345

Open Access

A single-cell molecular map of mouse gastrulation and early organogenesis.
Pijuan-Sala B, Griffiths JA, Guibentif C, Hiscock TW, Jawaid W, Calero-Nieto FJ, Mulas C, Ibarra-Soria X, Tyser RCV, Ho DLL, Reik W, Srinivas S, Simons BD, Nichols J, Marioni JC, Göttgens B

Across the animal kingdom, gastrulation represents a key developmental event during which embryonic pluripotent cells diversify into lineage-specific precursors that will generate the adult organism. Here we report the transcriptional profiles of 116,312 single cells from mouse embryos collected at nine sequential time points ranging from 6.5 to 8.5 days post-fertilization. We construct a molecular map of cellular differentiation from pluripotency towards all major embryonic lineages, and explore the complex events involved in the convergence of visceral and primitive streak-derived endoderm. Furthermore, we use single-cell profiling to show that Tal1 chimeric embryos display defects in early mesoderm diversification, and we thus demonstrate how combining temporal and transcriptional information can illuminate gene function. Together, this comprehensive delineation of mammalian cell differentiation trajectories in vivo represents a baseline for understanding the effects of gene mutations during development, as well as a roadmap for the optimization of in vitro differentiation protocols for regenerative medicine.

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Nature, , 1476-4687, , 2019

PMID: 30787436

Combined single-cell profiling of expression and DNA methylation reveals splicing regulation and heterogeneity.
Linker SM, Urban L, Clark SJ, Chhatriwala M, Amatya S, McCarthy DJ, Ebersberger I, Vallier L, Reik W, Stegle O, Bonder MJ

Alternative splicing is a key regulatory mechanism in eukaryotic cells and increases the effective number of functionally distinct gene products. Using bulk RNA sequencing, splicing variation has been studied across human tissues and in genetically diverse populations. This has identified disease-relevant splicing events, as well as associations between splicing and genomic features, including sequence composition and conservation. However, variability in splicing between single cells from the same tissue or cell type and its determinants remains poorly understood.

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Genome biology, 20, 1474-760X, 30, 2019

PMID: 30744673

Open Access

Dppa2 and Dppa4 directly regulate the Dux-driven zygotic transcriptional program.
Eckersley-Maslin M, Alda-Catalinas C, Blotenburg M, Kreibich E, Krueger C, Reik W

The molecular regulation of zygotic genome activation (ZGA) in mammals remains an exciting area of research. Primed mouse embryonic stem cells contain a rare subset of "2C-like" cells that are epigenetically and transcriptionally similar to the two-cell embryo and thus represent an in vitro approximation for studying ZGA transcription regulation. Recently, the transcription factor Dux, expressed in the minor wave of ZGA, was described to activate many downstream ZGA transcripts. However, it remains unknown what upstream maternal factors initiate ZGA in either a Dux-dependent or Dux-independent manner. Here we performed a candidate-based overexpression screen, identifying, among others, developmental pluripotency-associated 2 (Dppa2) and Dppa4 as positive regulators of 2C-like cells and transcription of ZGA genes. In the germline, promoter DNA demethylation coincides with expression of Dppa2 and Dppa4, which remain expressed until embryonic day 7.5 (E7.5), when their promoters are remethylated. Furthermore, Dppa2 and Dppa4 are also expressed during induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) reprogramming at the time that 2C-like transcription transiently peaks. Through a combination of overexpression, knockdown, knockout, and rescue experiments together with transcriptional analyses, we show that Dppa2 and Dppa4 directly regulate the 2C-like cell population and associated transcripts, including Dux and the Zscan4 cluster. Importantly, we teased apart the molecular hierarchy in which the 2C-like transcriptional program is initiated and stabilized. Dppa2 and Dppa4 require Dux to initiate 2C-like transcription, suggesting that they act upstream by directly regulating Dux. Supporting this, ChIP-seq (chromatin immunoprecipitation [ChIP] combined with high-throughput sequencing) analysis revealed that Dppa2 and Dppa4 bind to the Dux promoter and gene body and drive its expression. Zscan4c is also able to induce 2C-like cells in wild-type cells but, in contrast to Dux, can no longer do so in Dppa2/4 double-knockout cells, suggesting that it may act to stabilize rather than drive the transcriptional network. Our findings suggest a model in which Dppa2/4 binding to the Dux promoter leads to Dux up-regulation and activation of the 2C-like transcriptional program, which is subsequently reinforced by Zscan4c.

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Genes & development, 33, 1549-5477, 194-208, 2019

PMID: 30692203

Open Access

Transcriptional Heterogeneity in Naive and Primed Human Pluripotent Stem Cells at Single-Cell Resolution.
Messmer T, von Meyenn F, Savino A, Santos F, Mohammed H, Lun ATL, Marioni JC, Reik W

Conventional human embryonic stem cells are considered to be primed pluripotent but can be induced to enter a naive state. However, the transcriptional features associated with naive and primed pluripotency are still not fully understood. Here we used single-cell RNA sequencing to characterize the differences between these conditions. We observed that both naive and primed populations were mostly homogeneous with no clear lineage-related structure and identified an intermediate subpopulation of naive cells with primed-like expression. We found that the naive-primed pluripotency axis is preserved across species, although the timing of the transition to a primed state is species specific. We also identified markers for distinguishing human naive and primed pluripotency as well as strong co-regulatory relationships between lineage markers and epigenetic regulators that were exclusive to naive cells. Our data provide valuable insights into the transcriptional landscape of human pluripotency at a cellular and genome-wide resolution.

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Cell reports, 26, 2211-1247, 815-824.e4, 2019

PMID: 30673604

The non-canonical SMC protein SmcHD1 antagonises TAD formation and compartmentalisation on the inactive X chromosome.
Gdula MR, Nesterova TB, Pintacuda G, Godwin J, Zhan Y, Ozadam H, McClellan M, Moralli D, Krueger F, Green CM, Reik W, Kriaucionis S, Heard E, Dekker J, Brockdorff N

The inactive X chromosome (Xi) in female mammals adopts an atypical higher-order chromatin structure, manifested as a global loss of local topologically associated domains (TADs), A/B compartments and formation of two mega-domains. Here we demonstrate that the non-canonical SMC family protein, SmcHD1, which is important for gene silencing on Xi, contributes to this unique chromosome architecture. Specifically, allelic mapping of the transcriptome and epigenome in SmcHD1 mutant cells reveals the appearance of sub-megabase domains defined by gene activation, CpG hypermethylation and depletion of Polycomb-mediated H3K27me3. These domains, which correlate with sites of SmcHD1 enrichment on Xi in wild-type cells, additionally adopt features of active X chromosome higher-order chromosome architecture, including A/B compartments and partial restoration of TAD boundaries. Xi chromosome architecture changes also occurred following SmcHD1 knockout in a somatic cell model, but in this case, independent of Xi gene derepression. We conclude that SmcHD1 is a key factor in defining the unique chromosome architecture of Xi.

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Nature communications, 10, 2041-1723, 30, 2019

PMID: 30604745

Modeling Meets Metabolomics-The WormJam Consensus Model as Basis for Metabolic Studies in the Model Organism .
Witting M, Hastings J, Rodriguez N, Joshi CJ, Hattwell JPN, Ebert PR, van Weeghel M, Gao AW, Wakelam MJO, Houtkooper RH, Mains A, Le Novère N, Sadykoff S, Schroeder F, Lewis NE, Schirra HJ, Kaleta C, Casanueva O

Metabolism is one of the attributes of life and supplies energy and building blocks to organisms. Therefore, understanding metabolism is crucial for the understanding of complex biological phenomena. Despite having been in the focus of research for centuries, our picture of metabolism is still incomplete. Metabolomics, the systematic analysis of all small molecules in a biological system, aims to close this gap. In order to facilitate such investigations a blueprint of the metabolic network is required. Recently, several metabolic network reconstructions for the model organism have been published, each having unique features. We have established the WormJam Community to merge and reconcile these (and other unpublished models) into a single consensus metabolic reconstruction. In a series of workshops and annotation seminars this model was refined with manual correction of incorrect assignments, metabolite structure and identifier curation as well as addition of new pathways. The WormJam consensus metabolic reconstruction represents a rich data source not only for network-based approaches like flux balance analysis, but also for metabolomics, as it includes a database of metabolites present in , which can be used for annotation. Here we present the process of model merging, correction and curation and give a detailed overview of the model. In the future it is intended to expand the model toward different tissues and put special emphasizes on lipid metabolism and secondary metabolism including ascaroside metabolism in accordance to their central role in physiology.

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Frontiers in molecular biosciences, 5, 2296-889X, 96, 2018

PMID: 30488036

Trophoblast organoids as a model for maternal-fetal interactions during human placentation.
Turco MY, Gardner L, Kay RG, Hamilton RS, Prater M, Hollinshead MS, McWhinnie A, Esposito L, Fernando R, Skelton H, Reimann F, Gribble FM, Sharkey A, Marsh SGE, O'Rahilly S, Hemberger M, Burton GJ, Moffett A

The placenta is the extraembryonic organ that supports the fetus during intrauterine life. Although placental dysfunction results in major disorders of pregnancy with immediate and lifelong consequences for the mother and child, our knowledge of the human placenta is limited owing to a lack of functional experimental models. After implantation, the trophectoderm of the blastocyst rapidly proliferates and generates the trophoblast, the unique cell type of the placenta. In vivo, proliferative villous cytotrophoblast cells differentiate into two main sub-populations: syncytiotrophoblast, the multinucleated epithelium of the villi responsible for nutrient exchange and hormone production, and extravillous trophoblast cells, which anchor the placenta to the maternal decidua and transform the maternal spiral arteries. Here we describe the generation of long-term, genetically stable organoid cultures of trophoblast that can differentiate into both syncytiotrophoblast and extravillous trophoblast. We used human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing to confirm that the organoids were derived from the fetus, and verified their identities against four trophoblast-specific criteria. The cultures organize into villous-like structures, and we detected the secretion of placental-specific peptides and hormones, including human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15) and pregnancy-specific glycoprotein (PSG) by mass spectrometry. The organoids also differentiate into HLA-G extravillous trophoblast cells, which vigorously invade in three-dimensional cultures. Analysis of the methylome reveals that the organoids closely resemble normal first trimester placentas. This organoid model will be transformative for studying human placental development and for investigating trophoblast interactions with the local and systemic maternal environment.

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Nature, , 1476-4687, , 2018

PMID: 30487605

Hepatic gene body hypermethylation is a shared epigenetic signature of murine longevity.
Hahn O, Stubbs TM, Reik W, Grönke S, Beyer A, Partridge L

Dietary, pharmacological and genetic interventions can extend health- and lifespan in diverse mammalian species. DNA methylation has been implicated in mediating the beneficial effects of these interventions; methylation patterns deteriorate during ageing, and this is prevented by lifespan-extending interventions. However, whether these interventions also actively shape the epigenome, and whether such epigenetic reprogramming contributes to improved health at old age, remains underexplored. We analysed published, whole-genome, BS-seq data sets from mouse liver to explore DNA methylation patterns in aged mice in response to three lifespan-extending interventions: dietary restriction (DR), reduced TOR signaling (rapamycin), and reduced growth (Ames dwarf mice). Dwarf mice show enhanced DNA hypermethylation in the body of key genes in lipid biosynthesis, cell proliferation and somatotropic signaling, which strongly correlates with the pattern of transcriptional repression. Remarkably, DR causes a similar hypermethylation in lipid biosynthesis genes, while rapamycin treatment increases methylation signatures in genes coding for growth factor and growth hormone receptors. Shared changes of DNA methylation were restricted to hypermethylated regions, and they were not merely a consequence of slowed ageing, thus suggesting an active mechanism driving their formation. By comparing the overlap in ageing-independent hypermethylated patterns between all three interventions, we identified four regions, which, independent of genetic background or gender, may serve as novel biomarkers for longevity-extending interventions. In summary, we identified gene body hypermethylation as a novel and partly conserved signature of lifespan-extending interventions in mouse, highlighting epigenetic reprogramming as a possible intervention to improve health at old age.

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PLoS genetics, 14, 1553-7404, e1007766, 2018

PMID: 30462643

Open Access

Single cell transcriptome analysis of human, marmoset and mouse embryos reveals common and divergent features of preimplantation development.
Boroviak T, Stirparo GG, Dietmann S, Hernando-Herraez I, Mohammed H, Reik W, Smith A, Sasaki E, Nichols J, Bertone P

The mouse embryo is the canonical model for mammalian preimplantation development. Recent advances in single cell profiling allow detailed analysis of embryogenesis in other eutherian species, including human, to distinguish conserved from divergent regulatory programs and signalling pathways in the rodent paradigm. Here, we identify and compare transcriptional features of human, marmoset and mouse embryos by single cell RNA-seq. Zygotic genome activation correlates with the presence of polycomb repressive complexes in all three species, while ribosome biogenesis emerges as a predominant attribute in primate embryos, supporting prolonged translation of maternally deposited RNAs. We find that transposable element expression signatures are species, stage and lineage specific. The pluripotency network in the primate epiblast lacks certain regulators that are operative in mouse, but encompasses WNT components and genes associated with trophoblast specification. Sequential activation of GATA6, SOX17 and GATA4 markers of primitive endoderm identity is conserved in primates. Unexpectedly, OTX2 is also associated with primitive endoderm specification in human and non-human primate blastocysts. Our cross-species analysis demarcates both conserved and primate-specific features of preimplantation development, and underscores the molecular adaptability of early mammalian embryogenesis.

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Development (Cambridge, England), 145, 1477-9129, , 2018

PMID: 30413530

Open Access

5-Formylcytosine organizes nucleosomes and forms Schiff base interactions with histones in mouse embryonic stem cells.
Raiber EA, Portella G, Martínez Cuesta S, Hardisty R, Murat P, Li Z, Iurlaro M, Dean W, Spindel J, Beraldi D, Liu Z, Dawson MA, Reik W, Balasubramanian S

Nucleosomes are the basic unit of chromatin that help the packaging of genetic material while controlling access to the genetic information. The underlying DNA sequence, together with transcription-associated proteins and chromatin remodelling complexes, are important factors that influence the organization of nucleosomes. Here, we show that the naturally occurring DNA modification, 5-formylcytosine (5fC) is linked to tissue-specific nucleosome organization. Our study reveals that 5fC is associated with increased nucleosome occupancy in vitro and in vivo. We demonstrate that 5fC-associated nucleosomes at enhancers in the mammalian hindbrain and heart are linked to elevated gene expression. Our study also reveals the formation of a reversible-covalent Schiff base linkage between lysines of histone proteins and 5fC within nucleosomes in a cellular environment. We define their specific genomic loci in mouse embryonic stem cells and look into the biological consequences of these DNA-histone Schiff base sites. Collectively, our findings show that 5fC is a determinant of nucleosome organization and plays a role in establishing distinct regulatory regions that control transcription.

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Nature chemistry, , 1755-4349, , 2018

PMID: 30349137

Regulation of Placental Development and Its Impact on Fetal Growth-New Insights From Mouse Models.
Woods L, Perez-Garcia V, Hemberger M

The placenta is the chief regulator of nutrient supply to the growing embryo during gestation. As such, adequate placental function is instrumental for developmental progression throughout intrauterine development. One of the most common complications during pregnancy is insufficient growth of the fetus, a problem termed intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) that is most frequently rooted in a malfunctional placenta. Together with conventional gene targeting approaches, recent advances in screening mouse mutants for placental defects, combined with the ability to rapidly induce mutations and by CRISPR-Cas9 technology, has provided new insights into the contribution of the genome to normal placental development. Most importantly, these data have demonstrated that far more genes are required for normal placentation than previously appreciated. Here, we provide a summary of common types of placental defects in established mouse mutants, which will help us gain a better understanding of the genes impacting on human placentation. Based on a recent mouse mutant screen, we then provide examples on how these data can be mined to identify novel molecular hubs that may be critical for placental development. Given the close association between placental defects and abnormal cardiovascular and brain development, these functional nodes may also shed light onto the etiology of birth defects that co-occur with placental malformations. Taken together, recent insights into the regulation of mouse placental development have opened up new avenues for research that will promote the study of human pregnancy conditions, notably those based on defects in placentation that underlie the most common pregnancy pathologies such as IUGR and pre-eclampsia.

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Frontiers in endocrinology, 9, 1664-2392, 570, 2018

PMID: 30319550

Open Access

Transgenerational transmission of hedonic behaviors and metabolic phenotypes induced by maternal overnutrition.
Sarker G, Berrens R, von Arx J, Pelczar P, Reik W, Wolfrum C, Peleg-Raibstein D

Maternal overnutrition has been associated with increased susceptibility to develop obesity and neurological disorders later in life. Most epidemiological as well as experimental studies have focused on the metabolic consequences across generations following an early developmental nutritional insult. Recently, it has been shown that maternal high-fat diet (HFD) affects third-generation female body mass via the paternal lineage. We showed here that the offspring born to HFD ancestors displayed addictive-like behaviors as well as obesity and insulin resistance up to the third generation in the absence of any further exposure to HFD. These findings, implicate that the male germ line is a major player in transferring phenotypic traits. These behavioral and physiological alterations were paralleled by reduced striatal dopamine levels and increased dopamine 2 receptor density. Interestingly, by the third generation a clear gender segregation emerged, where females showed addictive-like behaviors while male HFD offspring showed an obesogenic phenotype. However, methylome profiling of F1 and F2 sperm revealed no significant difference between the offspring groups, suggesting that the sperm methylome might not be the major carrier for the transmission of the phenotypes observed in our mouse model. Together, our study for the first time demonstrates that maternal HFD insult causes sustained alterations of the mesolimbic dopaminergic system suggestive of a predisposition to develop obesity and addictive-like behaviors across multiple generations.

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Translational psychiatry, 8, 2158-3188, 195, 2018

PMID: 30315171

Open Access

Divergent wiring of repressive and active chromatin interactions between mouse embryonic and trophoblast lineages.
Schoenfelder S, Mifsud B, Senner CE, Todd CD, Chrysanthou S, Darbo E, Hemberger M, Branco MR

The establishment of the embryonic and trophoblast lineages is a developmental decision underpinned by dramatic differences in the epigenetic landscape of the two compartments. However, it remains unknown how epigenetic information and transcription factor networks map to the 3D arrangement of the genome, which in turn may mediate transcriptional divergence between the two cell lineages. Here, we perform promoter capture Hi-C experiments in mouse trophoblast (TSC) and embryonic (ESC) stem cells to understand how chromatin conformation relates to cell-specific transcriptional programmes. We find that key TSC genes that are kept repressed in ESCs exhibit interactions between H3K27me3-marked regions in ESCs that depend on Polycomb repressive complex 1. Interactions that are prominent in TSCs are enriched for enhancer-gene contacts involving key TSC transcription factors, as well as TET1, which helps to maintain the expression of TSC-relevant genes. Our work shows that the first developmental cell fate decision results in distinct chromatin conformation patterns establishing lineage-specific contexts involving both repressive and active interactions.

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Nature communications, 9, 2041-1723, 4189, 2018

PMID: 30305613

Open Access

Tri-methylation of histone H3 lysine 4 facilitates gene expression in ageing cells.
Cruz C, Della Rosa M, Krueger C, Gao Q, Horkai D, King M, Field L, Houseley J

Transcription of protein coding genes is accompanied by recruitment of COMPASS to promoter-proximal chromatin, which methylates histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4) to form H3K4me1, H3K4me2 and H3K4me3. Here, we determine the importance of COMPASS in maintaining gene expression across lifespan in budding yeast. We find that COMPASS mutations reduce replicative lifespan and cause expression defects in almost 500 genes. Although H3K4 methylation is reported to act primarily in gene repression, particularly in yeast, repressive functions are progressively lost with age while hundreds of genes become dependent on H3K4me3 for full expression. Basal and inducible expression of these genes is also impaired in young cells lacking COMPASS components Swd1 or Spp1. Gene induction during ageing is associated with increasing promoter H3K4me3, but H3K4me3 also accumulates in non-promoter regions and the ribosomal DNA. Our results provide clear evidence that H3K4me3 is required to maintain normal expression of many genes across organismal lifespan.

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eLife, 7, 2050-084X, , 2018

PMID: 30274593

Open Access

Genome organization and chromatin analysis identify transcriptional downregulation of insulin-like growth factor signaling as a hallmark of aging in developing B cells.
Koohy H, Bolland DJ, Matheson LS, Schoenfelder S, Stellato C, Dimond A, Várnai C, Chovanec P, Chessa T, Denizot J, Manzano Garcia R, Wingett SW, Freire-Pritchett P, Nagano T, Hawkins P, Stephens L, Elderkin S, Spivakov M, Fraser P, Corcoran AE, Varga-Weisz PD

Aging is characterized by loss of function of the adaptive immune system, but the underlying causes are poorly understood. To assess the molecular effects of aging on B cell development, we profiled gene expression and chromatin features genome-wide, including histone modifications and chromosome conformation, in bone marrow pro-B and pre-B cells from young and aged mice.

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Genome biology, 19, 1474-760X, 126, 2018

PMID: 30180872

Open Access

Genome-Scale Oscillations in DNA Methylation during Exit from Pluripotency.
Rulands S, Lee HJ, Clark SJ, Angermueller C, Smallwood SA, Krueger F, Mohammed H, Dean W, Nichols J, Rugg-Gunn P, Kelsey G, Stegle O, Simons BD, Reik W

Pluripotency is accompanied by the erasure of parental epigenetic memory, with naïve pluripotent cells exhibiting global DNA hypomethylation both in vitro and in vivo. Exit from pluripotency and priming for differentiation into somatic lineages is associated with genome-wide de novo DNA methylation. We show that during this phase, co-expression of enzymes required for DNA methylation turnover, DNMT3s and TETs, promotes cell-to-cell variability in this epigenetic mark. Using a combination of single-cell sequencing and quantitative biophysical modeling, we show that this variability is associated with coherent, genome-scale oscillations in DNA methylation with an amplitude dependent on CpG density. Analysis of parallel single-cell transcriptional and epigenetic profiling provides evidence for oscillatory dynamics both in vitro and in vivo. These observations provide insights into the emergence of epigenetic heterogeneity during early embryo development, indicating that dynamic changes in DNA methylation might influence early cell fate decisions.

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Cell systems, , 2405-4712, , 2018

PMID: 30031774

Open Access