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NAR Top Articles - Gene Regulation, Chromatin and Epigenetics

Gene Regulation, Chromatin and Epigenetics

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May 2015

The eIF2α/ATF4 pathway is essential for stress-induced autophagy gene expression
B'chir, W; Maurin, AC; Carraro, V; Averous, J; Jousse, C; Muranishi, Y; Parry, L; Stepien, G; Fafournoux, P; Bruhat, A
Nucleic Acids Res. 2013, 41, 7683-7699
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In response to different environmental stresses, eIF2 alpha phosphorylation represses global translation coincident with preferential translation of ATF4, a master regulator controlling the transcription of key genes essential for adaptative functions. Here, we establish that the eIF2 alpha/ATF4 pathway directs an autophagy gene transcriptional program in response to amino acid starvation or endoplasmic reticulum stress. The eIF2 alpha-kinases GCN2 and PERK and the transcription factors ATF4 and CHOP are also required to increase the transcription of a set of genes implicated in the formation, elongation and function of the autophagosome. We also identify three classes of autophagy genes according to their dependence on ATF4 and CHOP and the binding of these factors to specific promoter cis elements. Furthermore, different combinations of CHOP and ATF4 bindings to target promoters allow the trigger of a differential transcriptional response according to the stress intensity. Overall, this study reveals a novel regulatory role of the eIF2 alpha-ATF4 pathway in the fine-tuning of the autophagy gene transcription program...

Detection of G-quadruplex DNA in mammalian cells
Henderson, A; Wu, YL; Huang, YC; Chavez, EA; Platt, J; Johnson, FB; Brosh, RM; Sen, D; Lansdorp, PM
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 860-869
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It has been proposed that guanine-rich DNA forms four-stranded structures in vivo called G-quadruplexes or G4 DNA. G4 DNA has been implicated in several biological processes, but tools to study G4 DNA structures in cells are limited. Here we report the development of novel murine monoclonal antibodies specific for different G4 DNA structures. We show that one of these antibodies designated 1H6 exhibits strong nuclear staining in most human and murine cells. Staining intensity increased on treatment of cells with agents that stabilize G4 DNA and, strikingly, cells deficient in FANCJ, a G4 DNA-specific helicase, showed stronger nuclear staining than controls. Our data strongly support the existence of G4 DNA structures in mammalian cells and indicate that the abundance of such structures is increased in the absence of FANCJ. We conclude that monoclonal antibody 1H6 is a valuable tool for further studies on the role of G4 DNA in cell and molecular biology.

A view through a chromatin loop: insights into the ecdysone activation of early genes in Drosophila
Bernardo, TJ; Dubrovskaya, VA; Xie, X; Dubrovsky, EB
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 10409-10424
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The early genes are a key group of ecdysone targets that function at the top of the signaling hierarchy. In the presence of ecdysone, early genes exhibit a highly characteristic rapid and powerful induction that represents a primary response. Multiple isoforms encoded by early genes then coordinate the activation of a larger group of late genes. While the general mechanism of ecdysone-dependent transcription is well characterized, it is not known whether a distinct mechanism governs the hormonal response of early genes. We previously found that one of the Drosophila early genes, E75, harbors multiple functional ecdysone response elements (EcREs). In this study we extended the analysis to Broad and E74 and found that EcRE multiplicity is a general feature of the early genes. Since most of the EcREs within early gene loci are situated distantly from promoters, we employed the chromosome conformation capture method to determine whether higher order chromatin structure facilitates hormonal activation. For each early gene we detected chromatin loops that juxtapose their promoters and multiple distant EcREs prior to ecdysone activation...

A DNA-binding-site landscape and regulatory network analysis for NAC transcription factors in Arabidopsis thaliana
Lindemose, S; Jensen, MK; Van de Velde, J; O'Shea, C; Heyndrickx, KS; Workman, CT; Vandepoele, K; Skriver, K; De Masi, F
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 7681-7693
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Target gene identification for transcription factors is a prerequisite for the systems wide understanding of organismal behaviour. NAM-ATAF1/2-CUC2 (NAC) transcription factors are amongst the largest transcription factor families in plants, yet limited data exist from unbiased approaches to resolve the DNA-binding preferences of individual members. Here, we present a TF-target gene identification workflow based on the integration of novel protein binding microarray data with gene expression and multi-species promoter sequence conservation to identify the DNA-binding specificities and the gene regulatory networks of 12 NAC transcription factors. Our data offer specific single-base resolution fingerprints for most TFs studied and indicate that NAC DNA-binding specificities might be predicted from their DNA-binding domain's sequence. The developed methodology, including the application of complementary functional genomics filters, makes it possible to translate, for each TF, protein binding microarray data into a set of high-quality target genes...

Critical role for p53-serine 15 phosphorylation in stimulating transactivation at p53-responsive promoters
Loughery, J; Cox, M; Smith, LM; Meek, DW
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 7666-7680
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The p53 tumour suppressor is induced by various stress stimuli and coordinates an adaptive gene expression programme leading to growth arrest or cell death. Some stimuli, such as DNA damage, lead to rapid and substantial multisite phosphorylation of p53, nucleated initially through phosphorylation of serine 15. Other stimuli, such as hyperproliferation, do not stimulate p53-phosphorylation, raising questions regarding the physiological role for phosphorylation. Here, we show that a basal level of Ser15 phosphorylation occurs in both unstimulated cells and cells stimulated pharmacologically to induce p53. p53 in which Ser15 is substituted by alanine (S15A) fails to mediate p53-dependent transcription or growth arrest but can be rescued by substitution with aspartate (S15D: a phosphomimic). Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analyses show that, while wt- and S15A-p53 are detectable on the CDKN1A (p21) promoter (as a representative p53-responsive promoter), S15A-p53 does not stimulate histone acetylation (a measure of chromatin relaxation), nor is its recruitment stimulated, in response to a DNA damage or pharmacological stimulus...

Integrative annotation of chromatin elements from ENCODE data
Hoffman, MM; Ernst, J; Wilder, SP; Kundaje, A; Harris, RS; Libbrecht, M; Giardine, B; Ellenbogen, PM; Bilmes, JA; Birney, E; Hardison, RC; Dunham, I; Kellis, M; Noble, WS
Nucleic Acids Res. 2013, 41, 827-841
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The ENCODE Project has generated a wealth of experimental information mapping diverse chromatin properties in several human cell lines. Although each such data track is independently informative toward the annotation of regulatory elements, their interrelations contain much richer information for the systematic annotation of regulatory elements. To uncover these interrelations and to generate an interpretable summary of the massive datasets of the ENCODE Project, we apply unsupervised learning methodologies, converting dozens of chromatin datasets into discrete annotation maps of regulatory regions and other chromatin elements across the human genome. These methods rediscover and summarize diverse aspects of chromatin architecture, elucidate the interplay between chromatin activity and RNA transcription, and reveal that a large proportion of the genome lies in a quiescent state, even across multiple cell types. The resulting annotation of non-coding regulatory elements correlate strongly with mammalian evolutionary constraint...

Bacterial promoter repression by DNA looping without protein-protein binding competition
Becker, NA; Greiner, AM; Peters, JP; Maher, LJ
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 5495-5504
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The Escherichia coli lactose operon provides a paradigm for understanding gene control by DNA looping where the lac repressor (LacI) protein competes with RNA polymerase for DNA binding. Not all promoter loops involve direct competition between repressor and RNA polymerase. This raises the possibility that positioning a promoter within a tightly constrained DNA loop is repressive per se, an idea that has previously only been considered in vitro. Here, we engineer living E. coli bacteria to measure repression due to promoter positioning within such a tightly constrained DNA loop in the absence of protein-protein binding competition. We show that promoters held within such DNA loops are repressed similar to 100-fold, with up to an additional similar to 10-fold repression (similar to 1000-fold total) dependent on topological positioning of the promoter on the inner or outer face of the DNA loop. Chromatin immunoprecipitation data suggest that repression involves inhibition of both RNA polymerase initiation and elongation. These in vivo results show that gene repression can result from tightly looping promoter DNA even in the absence of direct competition between repressor and RNA polymerase binding.

Direct activation of human and mouse Oct4 genes using engineered TALE and Cas9 transcription factors
Hu, JB; Lei, Y; Wong, WK; Liu, SQ; Lee, KC; He, XJ; You, WX; Zhou, R; Guo, JT; Chen, XF; Peng, XL; Sun, H; Huang, H; Zhao, H; Feng, B
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 4375-4390
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The newly developed transcription activator-like effector protein (TALE) and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/Cas9 transcription factors (TF) offered a powerful and precise approach for modulating gene expression. In this article, we systematically investigated the potential of these new tools in activating the stringently silenced pluripotency gene Oct4 (Pou5f1) in mouse and human somatic cells. First, with a number of TALEs and sgRNAs targeting various regions in the mouse and human Oct4 promoters, we found that the most efficient TALE-VP64s bound around -120 to -80 bp, while highly effective sgRNAs targeted from -147 to -89-bp upstream of the transcription start sites to induce high activity of luciferase reporters. In addition, we observed significant transcriptional synergy when multiple TFs were applied simultaneously. Although individual TFs exhibited marginal activity to up-regulate endogenous gene expression, optimized combinations of TALE-VP64s could enhance endogenous Oct4 transcription up to 30-fold in mouse NIH3T3 cells and 20-fold in human HEK293T cells.

Mechanism of retinoic acid-induced transcription: histone code, DNA oxidation and formation of chromatin loops
Zuchegna, C; Aceto, F; Bertoni, A; Romano, A; Perillo, B; Laccetti, P; Gottesman, ME; Avvedimento, EV; Porcellini, A
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 11040-11055
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Histone methylation changes and formation of chromatin loops involving enhancers, promoters and 3' end regions of genes have been variously associated with active transcription in eukaryotes. We have studied the effect of activation of the retinoic A receptor, at the RARE-promoter chromatin of CASP9 and CYP26A1 genes, 15 and 45 min following RA exposure, and we found that histone H3 lysines 4 and 9 are demethylated by the lysine-specific demethylase, LSD1 and by the JMJ-domain containing demethylase, D2A. The action of the oxidase (LSD1) and a dioxygenase (JMJD2A) in the presence of Fe++ elicits an oxidation wave that locally modifies the DNA and recruits the enzymes involved in base and nucleotide excision repair (BER and NER). These events are essential for the formation of chromatin loop(s) that juxtapose the RARE element with the 5' transcription start site and the 3' end of the genes. The RARE bound-receptor governs the 5' and 3' end selection and directs the productive transcription cycle of RNA polymerase...

Global MEF2 target gene analysis in cardiac and skeletal muscle reveals novel regulation of DUSP6 by p38MAPK-MEF2 signaling
Wales, S; Hashemi, S; Blais, A; McDermott, JC
Nucleic Acids Res. 2014, 42, 11349-11362
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MEF2 plays a profound role in the regulation of transcription in cardiac and skeletal muscle lineages. To define the overlapping and unique MEF2A genomic targets, we utilized ChIP-exo analysis of cardiomyocytes and skeletal myoblasts. Of the 2783 and 1648 MEF2A binding peaks in skeletal myoblasts and cardiomyocytes, respectively, 294 common binding sites were identified. Genomic targets were compared to differentially expressed genes in RNA-seq analysis of MEF2A depleted myogenic cells, revealing two prominent genetic networks. Genes largely associated with muscle development were down-regulated by loss of MEF2A while up-regulated genes reveal a previously unrecognized function of MEF2A in suppressing growth/proliferative genes. Several up-regulated (Tprg, Mctp2, Kitl, Prrx1, Dusp6) and down-regulated (Atp1a2, Hspb7, Tmem182, Sorbs2, Lmod3) MEF2A target genes were chosen for further investigation. Interestingly, siRNA targeting of the MEF2A/D heterodimer revealed a somewhat divergent role in the regulation of Dusp6, a MAPK phosphatase, in cardiac and skeletal myogenic lineages. Furthermore, MEF2D functions as a p38MAPK-dependent repressor of Dusp6 in myoblasts...

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