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

Epigenetic regulation in development: is the mouse a good model for the human?
Hanna CW, Demond H, Kelsey G

Over the past few years, advances in molecular technologies have allowed unprecedented mapping of epigenetic modifications in gametes and during early embryonic development. This work is allowing a detailed genomic analysis, which for the first time can answer long-standing questions about epigenetic regulation and reprogramming, and highlights differences between mouse and human, the implications of which are only beginning to be explored.

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Human reproduction update, , 1460-2369, , 2018

PMID: 29992283

Cold-induced epigenetic programming of the sperm enhances brown adipose tissue activity in the offspring.
Sun W, Dong H, Becker AS, Dapito DH, Modica S, Grandl G, Opitz L, Efthymiou V, Straub LG, Sarker G, Balaz M, Balazova L, Perdikari A, Kiehlmann E, Bacanovic S, Zellweger C, Peleg-Raibstein D, Pelczar P, Reik W, Burger IA, von Meyenn F, Wolfrum C

Recent research has focused on environmental effects that control tissue functionality and systemic metabolism. However, whether such stimuli affect human thermogenesis and body mass index (BMI) has not been explored. Here we show retrospectively that the presence of brown adipose tissue (BAT) and the season of conception are linked to BMI in humans. In mice, we demonstrate that cold exposure (CE) of males, but not females, before mating results in improved systemic metabolism and protection from diet-induced obesity of the male offspring. Integrated analyses of the DNA methylome and RNA sequencing of the sperm from male mice revealed several clusters of co-regulated differentially methylated regions (DMRs) and differentially expressed genes (DEGs), suggesting that the improved metabolic health of the offspring was due to enhanced BAT formation and increased neurogenesis. The conclusions are supported by cell-autonomous studies in the offspring that demonstrate an enhanced capacity to form mature active brown adipocytes, improved neuronal density and more norepinephrine release in BAT in response to cold stimulation. Taken together, our results indicate that in humans and in mice, seasonal or experimental CE induces an epigenetic programming of the sperm such that the offspring harbor hyperactive BAT and an improved adaptation to overnutrition and hypothermia.

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Nature medicine, , 1546-170X, , 2018

PMID: 29988127

Promoter interactome of human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes connects GWAS regions to cardiac gene networks.
Choy MK, Javierre BM, Williams SG, Baross SL, Liu Y, Wingett SW, Akbarov A, Wallace C, Freire-Pritchett P, Rugg-Gunn PJ, Spivakov M, Fraser P, Keavney BD

Long-range chromosomal interactions bring distal regulatory elements and promoters together to regulate gene expression in biological processes. By performing promoter capture Hi-C (PCHi-C) on human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs), we show that such promoter interactions are a key mechanism by which enhancers contact their target genes after hESC-CM differentiation from hESCs. We also show that the promoter interactome of hESC-CMs is associated with expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) in cardiac left ventricular tissue; captures the dynamic process of genome reorganisation after hESC-CM differentiation; overlaps genome-wide association study (GWAS) regions associated with heart rate; and identifies new candidate genes in such regions. These findings indicate that regulatory elements in hESC-CMs identified by our approach control gene expression involved in ventricular conduction and rhythm of the heart. The study of promoter interactions in other hESC-derived cell types may be of utility in functional investigation of GWAS-associated regions.

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Nature communications, 9, 2041-1723, 2526, 2018

PMID: 29955040

Defective germline reprogramming rewires the spermatogonial transcriptome.
Vasiliauskaitė L, Berrens RV, Ivanova I, Carrieri C, Reik W, Enright AJ, O'Carroll D

Defective germline reprogramming in Piwil4 (Miwi2)- and Dnmt3l-deficient mice results in the failure to reestablish transposon silencing, meiotic arrest and progressive loss of spermatogonia. Here we sought to understand the molecular basis for this spermatogonial dysfunction. Through a combination of imaging, conditional genetics and transcriptome analysis, we demonstrate that germ cell elimination in the respective mutants arises as a result of defective de novo genome methylation during reprogramming rather than because of a function for the respective factors within spermatogonia. In both Miwi2 and Dnmt3l spermatogonia, the intracisternal-A particle (IAP) family of endogenous retroviruses is derepressed, but, in contrast to meiotic cells, DNA damage is not observed. Instead, we find that unmethylated IAP promoters rewire the spermatogonial transcriptome by driving expression of neighboring genes. Finally, spermatogonial numbers, proliferation and differentiation are altered in Miwi2 and Dnmt3l mice. In summary, defective reprogramming deregulates the spermatogonial transcriptome and may underlie spermatogonial dysfunction.

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Nature structural & molecular biology, 25, 1545-9985, 394-404, 2018

PMID: 29728652

Dynamics of the epigenetic landscape during the maternal-to-zygotic transition.
Eckersley-Maslin MA, Alda-Catalinas C, Reik W

A remarkable epigenetic remodelling process occurs shortly after fertilization, which restores totipotency to the zygote. This involves global DNA demethylation, chromatin remodelling, genome spatial reorganization and substantial transcriptional changes. Key to these changes is the transition from the maternal environment of the oocyte to an embryonic-driven developmental expression programme, a process termed the maternal-to-zygotic transition (MZT). Zygotic genome activation occurs predominantly at the two-cell stage in mice and the eight-cell stage in humans, yet the dynamics of its control are still mostly obscure. In recent years, partly due to single-cell and low-cell number epigenomic studies, our understanding of the epigenetic and chromatin landscape of preimplantation development has improved considerably. In this Review, we discuss the latest advances in the study of the MZT, focusing on DNA methylation, histone post-translational modifications, local chromatin structure and higher-order genome organization. We also discuss key mechanistic studies that investigate the mode of action of chromatin regulators, transcription factors and non-coding RNAs during preimplantation development. Finally, we highlight areas requiring additional research, as well as new technological advances that could assist in eventually completing our understanding of the MZT.

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Nature reviews. Molecular cell biology, , 1471-0080, , 2018

PMID: 29686419

Correction: Epigenetic resetting of human pluripotency (doi:10.1242/dev.146811).
Guo G, von Meyenn F, Rostovskaya M, Clarke J, Dietmann S, Baker D, Sahakyan A, Myers S, Bertone P, Reik W, Plath K, Smith A

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

PMID: 29669738

Open Access

A Critical Role of TET1/2 Proteins in Cell-Cycle Progression of Trophoblast Stem Cells.
Chrysanthou S, Senner CE, Woods L, Fineberg E, Okkenhaug H, Burge S, Perez-Garcia V, Hemberger M

The ten-eleven translocation (TET) proteins are well known for their role in maintaining naive pluripotency of embryonic stem cells. Here, we demonstrate that, jointly, TET1 and TET2 also safeguard the self-renewal potential of trophoblast stem cells (TSCs) and have partially redundant roles in maintaining the epithelial integrity of TSCs. For the more abundantly expressed TET1, we show that this is achieved by binding to critical epithelial genes, notably E-cadherin, which becomes hyper-methylated and downregulated in the absence of TET1. The epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition phenotype of mutant TSCs is accompanied by centrosome duplication and separation defects. Moreover, we identify a role of TET1 in maintaining cyclin B1 stability, thereby acting as facilitator of mitotic cell-cycle progression. As a result, Tet1/2 mutant TSCs are prone to undergo endoreduplicative cell cycles leading to the formation of polyploid trophoblast giant cells. Taken together, our data reveal essential functions of TET proteins in the trophoblast lineage.

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Stem cell reports, , 2213-6711, , 2018

PMID: 29576538

Open Access

Identifying Human Naïve Pluripotent Stem Cells - Evaluating State-Specific Reporter Lines and Cell-Surface Markers.
Collier AJ, Rugg-Gunn PJ

Recent reports that human pluripotent stem cells can be captured in a spectrum of states with variable properties has prompted a re-evaluation of how pluripotency is acquired and stabilised. The latest additions to the stem cell hierarchy open up opportunities for understanding human development, reprogramming, and cell state transitions more generally. Many of the new cell lines have been collectively termed 'naïve' human pluripotent stem cells to distinguish them from the conventional 'primed' cells. Here, several transcriptional and epigenetic hallmarks of human pluripotent states in the recently described cell lines are reviewed and evaluated. Methods to derive and identify human naïve pluripotent stem cells are also discussed, with a focus on the uses and future developments of state-specific reporter cell lines and cell-surface proteins. Finally, opportunities and uncertainties in naïve stem cell biology are highlighted, and the current limitations of human naïve pluripotent stem cells considered, particularly in the context of differentiation.

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BioEssays : news and reviews in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, , 1521-1878, e1700239, 2018

PMID: 29574793

Open Access

Comparison of whole-genome bisulfite sequencing library preparation strategies identifies sources of biases affecting DNA methylation data.
Olova N, Krueger F, Andrews S, Oxley D, Berrens RV, Branco MR, Reik W

Whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) is becoming an increasingly accessible technique, used widely for both fundamental and disease-oriented research. Library preparation methods benefit from a variety of available kits, polymerases and bisulfite conversion protocols. Although some steps in the procedure, such as PCR amplification, are known to introduce biases, a systematic evaluation of biases in WGBS strategies is missing.

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Genome biology, 19, 1474-760X, 33, 2018

PMID: 29544553

Open Access

A niche of trophoblast progenitor cells identified by integrin α2 is present in first trimester human placentas.
Lee CQE, Turco M, Gardner L, Simons B, Hemberger M, Moffett A

During pregnancy the trophoblast cells of the placenta are the only fetal cells in direct contact with maternal blood and decidua. Their functions include transport of nutrients and oxygen, secretion of pregnancy hormones, remodelling the uterine arteries, and communicating with maternal cells. Despite the importance of trophoblast cells in placental development and successful pregnancy, little is known about the identity, location and differentiation of human trophoblast progenitors. We identify a proliferative trophoblast niche at the base of the cytotrophoblast cell columns in first trimester placentas that is characterised by integrin α2 (ITGA2) expression. Pulse-chase experiments with 5-Iodo-2'-deoxyuridine (IdU) imply that these cells can contribute to both villous (VCT) and extravillous (EVT) lineages. These proliferating trophoblast cells can be isolated using ITGA2 as a marker by flow cytometry and express genes from both VCT and EVT. Microarray expression analysis shows that ITAG2cells display a unique transcriptional signature including NOTCH signalling and a combination of epithelial and mesenchymal characteristics. ITGA2 thus marks a niche allowing the study of pure populations of trophoblast progenitor cells.

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

PMID: 29540503

Placentation defects are highly prevalent in embryonic lethal mouse mutants.
Perez-Garcia V, Fineberg E, Wilson R, Murray A, Mazzeo CI, Tudor C, Sienerth A, White JK, Tuck E, Ryder EJ, Gleeson D, Siragher E, Wardle-Jones H, Staudt N, Wali N, Collins J, Geyer S, Busch-Nentwich EM, Galli A, Smith JC, Robertson E, Adams DJ, Weninger WJ, Mohun T, Hemberger M

Large-scale phenotyping efforts have demonstrated that approximately 25-30% of mouse gene knockouts cause intrauterine lethality. Analysis of these mutants has largely focused on the embryo and not the placenta, despite the crucial role of this extraembryonic organ for developmental progression. Here we screened 103 embryonic lethal and sub-viable mouse knockout lines from the Deciphering the Mechanisms of Developmental Disorders program for placental phenotypes. We found that 68% of knockout lines that are lethal at or after mid-gestation exhibited placental dysmorphologies. Early lethality (embryonic days 9.5-14.5) is almost always associated with severe placental malformations. Placental defects correlate strongly with abnormal brain, heart and vascular development. Analysis of mutant trophoblast stem cells and conditional knockouts suggests that a considerable number of factors that cause embryonic lethality when ablated have primary gene function in trophoblast cells. Our data highlight the hugely under-appreciated importance of placental defects in contributing to abnormal embryo development and suggest key molecular nodes that govern placenta formation.

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Nature, , 1476-4687, , 2018

PMID: 29539633

Long-Range Enhancer Interactions Are Prevalent in Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells and Are Reorganized upon Pluripotent State Transition.
Novo CL, Javierre BM, Cairns J, Segonds-Pichon A, Wingett SW, Freire-Pritchett P, Furlan-Magaril M, Schoenfelder S, Fraser P, Rugg-Gunn PJ

Transcriptional enhancers, including super-enhancers (SEs), form physical interactions with promoters to regulate cell-type-specific gene expression. SEs are characterized by high transcription factor occupancy and large domains of active chromatin, and they are commonly assigned to target promoters using computational predictions. How promoter-SE interactions change upon cell state transitions, and whether transcription factors maintain SE interactions, have not been reported. Here, we used promoter-capture Hi-C to identify promoters that interact with SEs in mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). We found that SEs form complex, spatial networks in which individual SEs contact multiple promoters, and a rewiring of promoter-SE interactions occurs between pluripotent states. We also show that long-range promoter-SE interactions are more prevalent in ESCs than in epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs) or Nanog-deficient ESCs. We conclude that SEs form cell-type-specific interaction networks that are partly dependent on core transcription factors, thereby providing insights into the gene regulatory organization of pluripotent cells.

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Cell reports, 22, 2211-1247, 2615-2627, 2018

PMID: 29514091

Open Access

Molecular profiling of aged neural progenitors identifies Dbx2 as a candidate regulator of age-associated neurogenic decline.
Lupo G, Nisi PS, Esteve P, Paul YL, Novo CL, Sidders B, Khan MA, Biagioni S, Liu HK, Bovolenta P, Cacci E, Rugg-Gunn PJ

Adult neurogenesis declines with aging due to the depletion and functional impairment of neural stem/progenitor cells (NSPCs). An improved understanding of the underlying mechanisms that drive age-associated neurogenic deficiency could lead to the development of strategies to alleviate cognitive impairment and facilitate neuroregeneration. An essential step towards this aim is to investigate the molecular changes that occur in NSPC aging on a genomewide scale. In this study, we compare the transcriptional, histone methylation and DNA methylation signatures of NSPCs derived from the subventricular zone (SVZ) of young adult (3 months old) and aged (18 months old) mice. Surprisingly, the transcriptional and epigenomic profiles of SVZ-derived NSPCs are largely unchanged in aged cells. Despite the global similarities, we detect robust age-dependent changes at several hundred genes and regulatory elements, thereby identifying putative regulators of neurogenic decline. Within this list, the homeobox gene Dbx2 is upregulated in vitro and in vivo, and its promoter region has altered histone and DNA methylation levels, in aged NSPCs. Using functional in vitro assays, we show that elevated Dbx2 expression in young adult NSPCs promotes age-related phenotypes, including the reduced proliferation of NSPC cultures and the altered transcript levels of age-associated regulators of NSPC proliferation and differentiation. Depleting Dbx2 in aged NSPCs caused the reverse gene expression changes. Taken together, these results provide new insights into the molecular programmes that are affected during mouse NSPC aging, and uncover a new functional role for Dbx2 in promoting age-related neurogenic decline.

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Aging cell, , 1474-9726, , 2018

PMID: 29504228

Open Access

Gene expression hallmarks of cellular ageing.
Frenk S, Houseley J

Ageing leads to dramatic changes in the physiology of many different tissues resulting in a spectrum of pathology. Nonetheless, many lines of evidence suggest that ageing is driven by highly conserved cell intrinsic processes, and a set of unifying hallmarks of ageing has been defined. Here, we survey reports of age-linked changes in basal gene expression across eukaryotes from yeast to human and identify six gene expression hallmarks of cellular ageing: downregulation of genes encoding mitochondrial proteins; downregulation of the protein synthesis machinery; dysregulation of immune system genes; reduced growth factor signalling; constitutive responses to stress and DNA damage; dysregulation of gene expression and mRNA processing. These encompass widely reported features of ageing such as increased senescence and inflammation, reduced electron transport chain activity and reduced ribosome synthesis, but also reveal a surprising lack of gene expression responses to known age-linked cellular stresses. We discuss how the existence of conserved transcriptomic hallmarks relates to genome-wide epigenetic differences underlying ageing clocks, and how the changing transcriptome results in proteomic alterations where data is available and to variations in cell physiology characteristic of ageing. Identification of gene expression events that occur during ageing across distant organisms should be informative as to conserved underlying mechanisms of ageing, and provide additional biomarkers to assess the effects of diet and other environmental factors on the rate of ageing.

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Biogerontology, , 1573-6768, , 2018

PMID: 29492790

Open Access

scNMT-seq enables joint profiling of chromatin accessibility DNA methylation and transcription in single cells.
Clark SJ, Argelaguet R, Kapourani CA, Stubbs TM, Lee HJ, Alda-Catalinas C, Krueger F, Sanguinetti G, Kelsey G, Marioni JC, Stegle O, Reik W

Parallel single-cell sequencing protocols represent powerful methods for investigating regulatory relationships, including epigenome-transcriptome interactions. Here, we report a single-cell method for parallel chromatin accessibility, DNA methylation and transcriptome profiling. scNMT-seq (single-cell nucleosome, methylation and transcription sequencing) uses a GpC methyltransferase to label open chromatin followed by bisulfite and RNA sequencing. We validate scNMT-seq by applying it to differentiating mouse embryonic stem cells, finding links between all three molecular layers and revealing dynamic coupling between epigenomic layers during differentiation.

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Nature communications, 9, 2041-1723, 781, 2018

PMID: 29472610

MLL2 conveys transcription-independent H3K4 trimethylation in oocytes.
Hanna CW, Taudt A, Huang J, Gahurova L, Kranz A, Andrews S, Dean W, Stewart AF, Colomé-Tatché M, Kelsey G

Histone 3 K4 trimethylation (depositing H3K4me3 marks) is typically associated with active promoters yet paradoxically occurs at untranscribed domains. Research to delineate the mechanisms of targeting H3K4 methyltransferases is ongoing. The oocyte provides an attractive system to investigate these mechanisms, because extensive H3K4me3 acquisition occurs in nondividing cells. We developed low-input chromatin immunoprecipitation to interrogate H3K4me3, H3K27ac and H3K27me3 marks throughout oogenesis. In nongrowing oocytes, H3K4me3 was restricted to active promoters, but as oogenesis progressed, H3K4me3 accumulated in a transcription-independent manner and was targeted to intergenic regions, putative enhancers and silent H3K27me3-marked promoters. Ablation of the H3K4 methyltransferase gene Mll2 resulted in loss of transcription-independent H3K4 trimethylation but had limited effects on transcription-coupled H3K4 trimethylation or gene expression. Deletion of Dnmt3a and Dnmt3b showed that DNA methylation protects regions from acquiring H3K4me3. Our findings reveal two independent mechanisms of targeting H3K4me3 to genomic elements, with MLL2 recruited to unmethylated CpG-rich regions independently of transcription.

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Nature structural & molecular biology, 25, 1545-9985, 73-82, 2018

PMID: 29323282

Clearance of senescent decidual cells by uterine natural killer cells in cycling human endometrium.
Brighton PJ, Maruyama Y, Fishwick K, Vrljicak P, Tewary S, Fujihara R, Muter J, Lucas ES, Yamada T, Woods L, Lucciola R, Hou Lee Y, Takeda S, Ott S, Hemberger M, Quenby S, Brosens JJ

In cycling human endometrium, menstruation is followed by rapid estrogen-dependent growth. Upon ovulation, progesterone and rising cellular cAMP levels activate the transcription factor Forkhead box O1 (FOXO1) in endometrial stromal cells (EnSCs), leading to cell cycle exit and differentiation into decidual cells that control embryo implantation. Here we show that FOXO1 also causes acute senescence of a subpopulation of decidualizing EnSCs in an IL-8 dependent manner. Selective depletion or enrichment of this subpopulation revealed that decidual senescence drives the transient inflammatory response associated with endometrial receptivity. Further, senescent cells prevent differentiation of endometrial mesenchymal stem cells in decidualizing cultures. As the cycle progresses, IL-15 activated uterine natural killer (uNK) cells selectively target and clear senescent decidual cells through granule exocytosis. Our findings reveal that acute decidual senescence governs endometrial rejuvenation and remodeling at embryo implantation, and suggest a critical role for uNK cells in maintaining homeostasis in cycling endometrium.

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eLife, 6, 2050-084X, , 2017

PMID: 29227245

Open Access

Science Forum: The Human Cell Atlas.
Regev A, Teichmann SA, Lander ES, Amit I, Benoist C, Birney E, Bodenmiller B, Campbell PJ, Carninci P, Clatworthy M, Clevers H, Deplancke B, Dunham I, Eberwine J, Eils R, Enard W, Farmer A, Fugger L, Göttgens B, Hacohen N, Haniffa M, Hemberg M, Kim SK, Klenerman P, Kriegstein A, Lein E, Linnarsson S, Lundberg E, Lundeberg J, Majumder P, Marioni JC, Merad M, Mhlanga M, Nawijn M, Netea M, Nolan G, Pe'er D, Phillipakis A, Ponting CP, Quake SR, Reik W, Rozenblatt-Rosen O, Sanes JR, Satija R, Schumacher TN, Shalek AK, Shapiro E, Sharma P, Shin JW, Stegle O, Stratton MR, Stubbington MJT, Theis FJ, Uhlen M, van Oudenaarden A, Wagner A, Watt FM, Weissman JS, Wold BJ, Xavier RJ, Yosef N,

The recent advent of methods for high-throughput single-cell molecular profiling has catalyzed a growing sense in the scientific community that the time is ripe to complete the 150-year-old effort to identify all cell types in the human body. The Human Cell Atlas Project is an international collaborative effort that aims to define all human cell types in terms of distinctive molecular profiles (such as gene expression profiles) and to connect this information with classical cellular descriptions (such as location and morphology). An open comprehensive reference map of the molecular state of cells in healthy human tissues would propel the systematic study of physiological states, developmental trajectories, regulatory circuitry and interactions of cells, and also provide a framework for understanding cellular dysregulation in human disease. Here we describe the idea, its potential utility, early proofs-of-concept, and some design considerations for the Human Cell Atlas, including a commitment to open data, code, and community.

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eLife, 6, 2050-084X, , 2017

PMID: 29206104

Open Access

Coupling shRNA screens with single-cell RNA-seq identifies a dual role for mTOR in reprogramming-induced senescence.
Aarts M, Georgilis A, Beniazza M, Beolchi P, Banito A, Carroll T, Kulisic M, Kaemena DF, Dharmalingam G, Martin N, Reik W, Zuber J, Kaji K, Chandra T, Gil J

Expression of the transcription factors OCT4, SOX2, KLF4, and cMYC (OSKM) reprograms somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Reprogramming is a slow and inefficient process, suggesting the presence of safeguarding mechanisms that counteract cell fate conversion. One such mechanism is senescence. To identify modulators of reprogramming-induced senescence, we performed a genome-wide shRNA screen in primary human fibroblasts expressing OSKM. In the screen, we identified novel mediators of OSKM-induced senescence and validated previously implicated genes such as CDKN1A We developed an innovative approach that integrates single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) with the shRNA screen to investigate the mechanism of action of the identified candidates. Our data unveiled regulation of senescence as a novel way by which mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) influences reprogramming. On one hand, mTOR inhibition blunts the induction of cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitors (CDKIs), including p16(INK4a), p21(CIP1), and p15(INK4b), preventing OSKM-induced senescence. On the other hand, inhibition of mTOR blunts the senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP), which itself favors reprogramming. These contrasting actions contribute to explain the complex effect that mTOR has on reprogramming. Overall, our study highlights the advantage of combining functional screens with scRNA-seq to accelerate the discovery of pathways controlling complex phenotypes.

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Genes & development, , 1549-5477, , 2017

PMID: 29138277

Open Access

Naive pluripotent stem cells as a model for studying human developmental epigenomics: opportunities and limitations.
Rugg-Gunn PJ

Epigenomics, , 1750-192X, , 2017

PMID: 29106295

Open Access

An endosiRNA-Based Repression Mechanism Counteracts Transposon Activation during Global DNA Demethylation in Embryonic Stem Cells.
Berrens RV, Andrews S, Spensberger D, Santos F, Dean W, Gould P, Sharif J, Olova N, Chandra T, Koseki H, von Meyenn F, Reik W

Erasure of DNA methylation and repressive chromatin marks in the mammalian germline leads to risk of transcriptional activation of transposable elements (TEs). Here, we used mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) to identify an endosiRNA-based mechanism involved in suppression of TE transcription. In ESCs with DNA demethylation induced by acute deletion of Dnmt1, we saw an increase in sense transcription at TEs, resulting in an abundance of sense/antisense transcripts leading to high levels of ARGONAUTE2 (AGO2)-bound small RNAs. Inhibition of Dicer or Ago2 expression revealed that small RNAs are involved in an immediate response to demethylation-induced transposon activation, while the deposition of repressive histone marks follows as a chronic response. In vivo, we also found TE-specific endosiRNAs present during primordial germ cell development. Our results suggest that antisense TE transcription is a "trap" that elicits an endosiRNA response to restrain acute transposon activity during epigenetic reprogramming in the mammalian germline.

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Cell stem cell, 21, 1875-9777, 694-703.e7, 2017

PMID: 29100015

Open Access

Can aging be beneficial?
Frenk S, Houseley J

Aging, , 1945-4589, , 2017

PMID: 29074820

Open Access

Cultured bovine embryo biopsy conserves methylation marks from original embryo.
Fonseca Balvís N, Garcia-Martinez S, Pérez-Cerezales S, Ivanova E, Gomez-Redondo I, Hamdi M, Rizos D, Coy P, Kelsey G, Gutierrez-Adan A

A major limitation of embryo epigenotyping by chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis is the reduced amount of sample available from an embryo biopsy. We developed an in vitro system to expand trophectoderm cells from an embryo biopsy to overcome this limitation. This work analyzes whether expanded trophectoderm (EX) is representative of the trophectoderm (TE) methylation or adaptation to culture has altered its epigenome. We took a small biopsy from the trophectoderm (30-40 cells) of in vitro produced bovine-hatched blastocysts and cultured it on fibronectin-treated plates until we obtained ∼4 × 104 cells. The rest of the embryo was allowed to recover its spherical shape and, subsequently, TE and inner cell mass were separated. We examined whether there were DNA methylation differences between TE and EX of three bovine embryos using whole-genome bisulfite sequencing. As a consequence of adaptation to culture, global methylation, including transposable elements, was higher in EX, with 5.3% of quantified regions showing significant methylation differences between TE and EX. Analysis of individual embryos indicated that TE methylation is more similar to its EX counterpart than to TE from other embryos. Interestingly, these similarly methylated regions are enriched in CpG islands, promoters and transcription units near genes involved in biological processes important for embryo development. Our results indicate that EX is representative of the embryo in terms of DNA methylation, thus providing an informative proxy for embryo epigenotyping.

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Biology of reproduction, 97, 1529-7268, 189-196, 2017

PMID: 29044423

cuRRBS: simple and robust evaluation of enzyme combinations for reduced representation approaches.
Martin-Herranz DE, Ribeiro AJM, Krueger F, Thornton JM, Reik W, Stubbs TM

DNA methylation is an important epigenetic modification in many species that is critical for development, and implicated in ageing and many complex diseases, such as cancer. Many cost-effective genome-wide analyses of DNA modifications rely on restriction enzymes capable of digesting genomic DNA at defined sequence motifs. There are hundreds of restriction enzyme families but few are used to date, because no tool is available for the systematic evaluation of restriction enzyme combinations that can enrich for certain sites of interest in a genome. Herein, we present customised Reduced Representation Bisulfite Sequencing (cuRRBS), a novel and easy-to-use computational method that solves this problem. By computing the optimal enzymatic digestions and size selection steps required, cuRRBS generalises the traditional MspI-based Reduced Representation Bisulfite Sequencing (RRBS) protocol to all restriction enzyme combinations. In addition, cuRRBS estimates the fold-reduction in sequencing costs and provides a robustness value for the personalised RRBS protocol, allowing users to tailor the protocol to their experimental needs. Moreover, we show in silico that cuRRBS-defined restriction enzymes consistently out-perform MspI digestion in many biological systems, considering both CpG and CHG contexts. Finally, we have validated the accuracy of cuRRBS predictions for single and double enzyme digestions using two independent experimental datasets.

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Nucleic acids research, , 1362-4962, , 2017

PMID: 29036576

Open Access

Establishment of mouse expanded potential stem cells.
Yang J, Ryan DJ, Wang W, Tsang JC, Lan G, Masaki H, Gao X, Antunes L, Yu Y, Zhu Z, Wang J, Kolodziejczyk AA, Campos LS, Wang C, Yang F, Zhong Z, Fu B, Eckersley-Maslin MA, Woods M, Tanaka Y, Chen X, Wilkinson AC, Bussell J, White J, Ramirez-Solis R, Reik W, Göttgens B, Teichmann SA, Tam PPL, Nakauchi H, Zou X, Lu L, Liu P

Mouse embryonic stem cells derived from the epiblast contribute to the somatic lineages and the germline but are excluded from the extra-embryonic tissues that are derived from the trophectoderm and the primitive endoderm upon reintroduction to the blastocyst. Here we report that cultures of expanded potential stem cells can be established from individual eight-cell blastomeres, and by direct conversion of mouse embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. Remarkably, a single expanded potential stem cell can contribute both to the embryo proper and to the trophectoderm lineages in a chimaera assay. Bona fide trophoblast stem cell lines and extra-embryonic endoderm stem cells can be directly derived from expanded potential stem cells in vitro. Molecular analyses of the epigenome and single-cell transcriptome reveal enrichment for blastomere-specific signature and a dynamic DNA methylome in expanded potential stem cells. The generation of mouse expanded potential stem cells highlights the feasibility of establishing expanded potential stem cells for other mammalian species.

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Nature, , 1476-4687, , 2017

PMID: 29019987