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1.  A Cbx8-Containing Polycomb Complex Facilitates the Transition to Gene Activation during ES Cell Differentiation 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(12):e1004851.
Polycomb proteins play an essential role in maintaining the repression of developmental genes in self-renewing embryonic stem cells. The exact mechanism allowing the derepression of polycomb target genes during cell differentiation remains unclear. Our project aimed to identify Cbx8 binding sites in differentiating mouse embryonic stem cells. Therefore, we used a genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation of endogenous Cbx8 coupled to direct massive parallel sequencing (ChIP-Seq). Our analysis identified 171 high confidence peaks. By crossing our data with previously published microarray analysis, we show that several differentiation genes transiently recruit Cbx8 during their early activation. Depletion of Cbx8 partially impairs the transcriptional activation of these genes. Both interaction analysis, as well as chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments support the idea that activating Cbx8 acts in the context of an intact PRC1 complex. Prolonged gene activation results in eviction of PRC1 despite persisting H3K27me3 and H2A ubiquitination. The composition of PRC1 is highly modular and changes when embryonic stem cells commit to differentiation. We further demonstrate that the exchange of Cbx7 for Cbx8 is required for the effective activation of differentiation genes. Taken together, our results establish a function for a Cbx8-containing complex in facilitating the transition from a Polycomb-repressed chromatin state to an active state. As this affects several key regulatory differentiation genes this mechanism is likely to contribute to the robust execution of differentiation programs.
Author Summary
Cell fate transitions have long been known to be accompanied by alterations in chromatin structure. But only during the last few years has it become clear that chromatin modifications form the molecular basis of an epigenetic memory that defines cell identity. The Polycomb Group Proteins (PcGs) form two major protein complexes known as polycomb repressive complexes 1 and 2 (PRC1 and PRC2). Their function is essential for the maintenance of transcriptional repression during embryogenesis through the methylation of the lysine 27 on histone H3 and the subsequent ubiquitination of histone H2A. The chromobox homolog 8, Cbx8, which is part of the PRC1 complex, is therefore generally defined as a repressor of gene transcription. The genome wide profiling of Cbx8 during the early steps of mouse embryonic stem (mES) cells differentiation provided us with surprising results involving Cbx8 in gene activation. Our results point out that Cbx8 is part of a PRC1 complex involved in the transition from a Polycomb repressed state to an active state.
PMCID: PMC4263398  PMID: 25500566
2.  Role of Polycomb Group Protein Cbx2/M33 in Meiosis Onset and Maintenance of Chromosome Stability in the Mammalian Germline 
Genes  2011;2(1):59-80.
Polycomb group proteins (PcG) are major epigenetic regulators, essential for establishing heritable expression patterns of developmental control genes. The mouse PcG family member M33/Cbx2 (Chromobox homolog protein 2) is a component of the Polycomb-Repressive Complex 1 (PRC1). Targeted deletion of Cbx2/M33 in mice results in homeotic transformations of the axial skeleton, growth retardation and male-to-female sex reversal. In this study, we tested whether Cbx2 is involved in the control of chromatin remodeling processes during meiosis. Our analysis revealed sex reversal in 28.6% of XY−/− embryos, in which a hypoplastic testis and a contralateral ovary were observed in close proximity to the kidney, while the remaining male mutant fetuses exhibited bilateral testicular hypoplasia. Notably, germ cells recovered from Cbx2(XY−/−) testes on day 18.5 of fetal development exhibited premature meiosis onset with synaptonemal complex formation suggesting a role for Cbx2 in the control of meiotic entry in male germ cells. Mutant females exhibited small ovaries with significant germ cell loss and a high proportion of oocytes with abnormal synapsis and non-homologous interactions at the pachytene stage as well as formation of univalents at diplotene. These defects were associated with failure to resolve DNA double strand breaks marked by persistent γH2AX and Rad51 foci at the late pachytene stage. Importantly, two factors required for meiotic silencing of asynapsed chromatin, ubiquitinated histone H2A (ubH2A) and the chromatin remodeling protein BRCA1, co-localized with fully synapsed chromosome axes in the majority of Cbx2(−/−) oocytes. These results provide novel evidence that Cbx2 plays a critical and previously unrecognized role in germ cell viability, meiosis onset and homologous chromosome synapsis in the mammalian germline.
PMCID: PMC3244348  PMID: 22200029
oogenesis; pericentric heterochromatin; epigenetic modifications; chromatin remodeling; retinoic acid; sex determination
3.  Role of Polycomb Group Protein Cbx2/M33 in Meiosis Onset and Maintenance of Chromosome Stability in the Mammalian Germline 
Genes  2011;2(1):59-80.
Polycomb group proteins (PcG) are major epigenetic regulators, essential for establishing heritable expression patterns of developmental control genes. The mouse PcG family member M33/Cbx2 (Chromobox homolog protein 2) is a component of the Polycomb-Repressive Complex 1 (PRC1). Targeted deletion of Cbx2/M33 in mice results in homeotic transformations of the axial skeleton, growth retardation and male-to-female sex reversal. In this study, we tested whether Cbx2 is involved in the control of chromatin remodeling processes during meiosis. Our analysis revealed sex reversal in 28.6% of XY−/− embryos, in which a hypoplastic testis and a contralateral ovary were observed in close proximity to the kidney, while the remaining male mutant fetuses exhibited bilateral testicular hypoplasia. Notably, germ cells recovered from Cbx2(XY−/−) testes on day 18.5 of fetal development exhibited premature meiosis onset with synaptonemal complex formation suggesting a role for Cbx2 in the control of meiotic entry in male germ cells. Mutant females exhibited small ovaries with significant germ cell loss and a high proportion of oocytes with abnormal synapsis and non-homologous interactions at the pachytene stage as well as formation of univalents at diplotene. These defects were associated with failure to resolve DNA double strand breaks marked by persistent γH2AX and Rad51 foci at the late pachytene stage. Importantly, two factors required for meiotic silencing of asynapsed chromatin, ubiquitinated histone H2A (ubH2A) and the chromatin remodeling protein BRCA1, co-localized with fully synapsed chromosome axes in the majority of Cbx2(−/−) oocytes. These results provide novel evidence that Cbx2 plays a critical and previously unrecognized role in germ cell viability, meiosis onset and homologous chromosome synapsis in the mammalian germline.
PMCID: PMC3244348  PMID: 22200029
oogenesis; pericentric heterochromatin; epigenetic modifications; chromatin remodeling; retinoic acid; sex determination
4.  Cbx2 stably associates with mitotic chromosomes via a PRC2- or PRC1-independent mechanism and is needed for recruiting PRC1 complex to mitotic chromosomes 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2014;25(23):3726-3739.
Cbx2 is immobilized at mitotic chromosomes, and the immobilization is independent of PRC1 or PRC2. Cbx2 plays important roles in recruiting PRC1 complex to mitotic chromosomes. This study provides novel insights into the PcG epigenetic memory passing down through cell divisions.
Polycomb group (PcG) proteins are epigenetic transcriptional factors that repress key developmental regulators and maintain cellular identity through mitosis via a poorly understood mechanism. Using quantitative live-cell imaging in mouse ES cells and tumor cells, we demonstrate that, although Polycomb repressive complex (PRC) 1 proteins (Cbx-family proteins, Ring1b, Mel18, and Phc1) exhibit variable capacities of association with mitotic chromosomes, Cbx2 overwhelmingly binds to mitotic chromosomes. The recruitment of Cbx2 to mitotic chromosomes is independent of PRC1 or PRC2, and Cbx2 is needed to recruit PRC1 complex to mitotic chromosomes. Quantitative fluorescence recovery after photobleaching analysis indicates that PRC1 proteins rapidly exchange at interphasic chromatin. On entry into mitosis, Cbx2, Ring1b, Mel18, and Phc1 proteins become immobilized at mitotic chromosomes, whereas other Cbx-family proteins dynamically bind to mitotic chromosomes. Depletion of PRC1 or PRC2 protein has no effect on the immobilization of Cbx2 on mitotic chromosomes. We find that the N-terminus of Cbx2 is needed for its recruitment to mitotic chromosomes, whereas the C-terminus is required for its immobilization. Thus these results provide fundamental insights into the molecular mechanisms of epigenetic inheritance.
PMCID: PMC4230780  PMID: 25232004
5.  MicroRNA Regulation of Cbx7 Mediates a Switch of Polycomb Orthologs during ESC Differentiation 
Cell Stem Cell  2012;10(1-5):33-46.
The Polycomb Group (PcG) of chromatin modifiers regulates pluripotency and differentiation. Mammalian genomes encode multiple homologs of the Polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1) components, including five orthologs of the Drosophila Polycomb protein (Cbx2, Cbx4, Cbx6, Cbx7, and Cbx8). We have identified Cbx7 as the primary Polycomb ortholog of PRC1 complexes in embryonic stem cells (ESCs). The expression of Cbx7 is downregulated during ESC differentiation, preceding the upregulation of Cbx2, Cbx4, and Cbx8, which are directly repressed by Cbx7. Ectopic expression of Cbx7 inhibits differentiation and X chromosome inactivation and enhances ESC self-renewal. Conversely, Cbx7 knockdown induces differentiation and derepresses lineage-specific markers. In a functional screen, we identified the miR-125 and miR-181 families as regulators of Cbx7 that are induced during ESC differentiation. Ectopic expression of these miRNAs accelerates ESC differentiation via regulation of Cbx7. These observations establish a critical role for Cbx7 and its regulatory miRNAs in determining pluripotency.
Graphical Abstract
► Cbx7 is the primary Pc ortholog of the PRC1 complex in pluripotent cells ► Cbx7 repress its homologs to regulate PRC1 composition during ESC differentiation ► Cbx7 promotes a stem-cell-like state by repressing differentiation ► miR-181 and miR-125 regulate Cbx7 expression during ESC differentiation
PMCID: PMC3277884  PMID: 22226354
6.  Altered Expression of Polycomb Group Genes in Glioblastoma Multiforme 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80970.
The Polycomb group (PcG) proteins play a critical role in histone mediated epigenetics which has been implicated in the malignant evolution of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). By systematically interrogating The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), we discovered widespread aberrant expression of the PcG members in GBM samples compared to normal brain. The most striking differences were upregulation of EZH2, PHF19, CBX8 and PHC2 and downregulation of CBX7, CBX6, EZH1 and RYBP. Interestingly, changes in EZH2, PHF19, CBX7, CBX6 and EZH1 occurred progressively as astrocytoma grade increased. We validated the aberrant expression of CBX6, CBX7, CBX8 and EZH2 in GBM cell lines by Western blotting and qRT-PCR, and further the aberrant expression of CBX6 in GBM tissue samples by immunohistochemical staining. To determine if there was functional significance to the diminished CBX6 levels in GBM, CBX6 was overexpressed in GBM cells resulting in decreased proliferative capacity. In conclusion, aberrant expression of PcG proteins in GBMs may play a role in the development or maintenance of the malignancy.
PMCID: PMC3829908  PMID: 24260522
7.  SUMO-Specific Protease 2 Is Essential for Suppression of Polycomb Group Proteins Mediated Gene Silencing During Embryonic Development 
Molecular cell  2010;38(2):191-201.
SUMO-specific protease 2 (SENP2) has a broad de-SUMOylation activity in vitro. However, the biological function of SENP2 is largely unknown. Here, we show that deletion of SENP2 gene in mouse causes defects in the embryonic heart and reduces the expression of Gata4 and Gata6, which are essential for cardiac development. SENP2 regulates transcription of Gata4 and Gata6 mainly through alteration of occupancy of Pc2/CBX4, a Polycomb Repressive Complex 1 (PRC1) subunit, on its promoters. We demonstrate that Pc2/CBX4 is a target of SENP2 in vivo and that SUMOylation is essential for Pc2/CBX4-mediated PRC1 recruitment to methylated histone 3 at K27 (H3K27me3). In SENP2 null embryo, SUMOylated Pc2/CBX4 accumulates and Pc2/CBX4 occupancy on the promoters of PcG target genes is markedly increased, leading to repression of Gata4 and Gata6 transcription. Our results reveal a critical role for de-SUMOylation in the regulation of PcG target gene expression through a novel mechanism.
PMCID: PMC2879644  PMID: 20417598
8.  Changes in the Distributions and Dynamics of Polycomb Repressive Complexes during Embryonic Stem Cell Differentiation▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;28(9):2884-2895.
Polycomb group (PcG) transcription regulatory proteins maintain cell identity by sustained repression of numerous genes. The differentiation of embryonic stem (ES) cells induces a genome-wide shift in PcG target gene expression. We investigated the effects of differentiation and protein interactions on CBX family PcG protein localization and dynamics by using fluorescence imaging. In mouse ES cells, different CBX proteins exhibited distinct distributions and mobilities. Most CBX proteins were enriched in foci known as Polycomb bodies. Focus formation did not affect CBX protein mobilities, and the foci dispersed during ES cell differentiation. The mobilities of CBX proteins increased upon the induction of differentiation and decreased as differentiation progressed. The deletion of the chromobox, which mediates interactions with RING1B, prevented the immobilization of CBX proteins. In contrast, the deletion of the chromodomain, which can bind trimethylated lysine 27 of histone H3, had little effect on CBX protein dynamics. The distributions and mobilities of most CBX proteins corresponded to those of CBX-RING1B complexes detected by using bimolecular fluorescence complementation analysis. Epigenetic reprogramming during ES cell differentiation is therefore associated with global changes in the subnuclear distributions and dynamics of CBX protein complexes.
PMCID: PMC2293085  PMID: 18316406
9.  Polycomb CBX7 Promotes Initiation of Heritable Repression of Genes Frequently Silenced with Cancer Specific DNA Hypermethylation 
Cancer research  2009;69(15):6322-6330.
Epigenetic silencing of genes in association with aberrant promoter DNA hypermethylation has emerged as a significant mechanism in the development of human cancers. Such genes are also often targets of the Polycomb group repressive complexes in embryonic cells. The Polycomb repressive complex (PRC) 2 has been best studied in this regard. We now examine a link between PRC1 and cancer specific gene silencing. Here we show a novel and direct association between a constituent of the PRC1 complex, CBX7, with gene repression and promoter DNA hypermethylation of genes frequently silenced in cancer. CBX7 is able to complex with DNA methyltransferase enzymes leading us to explore a role for CBX7 in maintenance and initiation of gene silencing. Knockdown of CBX7 was unable to relieve suppression of deeply silenced genes in cancer cells, however, in embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells, CBX7 can initiate stable repression of genes that are frequently silenced in adult cancers. Furthermore, we are able to observe assembly of DNA methyltransferases at CBX7 target gene promoters. Sustained expression of CBX7 in EC cells confers a growth advantage and resistance to retinoic acid induced differentiation. In this setting, especially, there is increased promoter DNA hypermethylation for many genes by analysis of specific genes as well as through epigenomic studies. Our results allow us to propose a potential mechanism, through assembly of novel repressive complexes, by which the Pc component of PRC1 can promote the initiation of epigenetic changes involving abnormal DNA hypermethylation of genes frequently silenced in adult cancers.
PMCID: PMC2779702  PMID: 19602592
Polycomb; CBX7; DNA Hypermethylation; Gene Silencing
10.  Mammalian SUMO E3-ligases PIAS1 and PIAS4 promote responses to DNA double-strand breaks 
Nature  2009;462(7275):935-939.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) are highly cytotoxic lesions that are generated by ionizing radiation (IR) and various DNA-damaging chemicals. Following DSB formation, cells activate the DNA-damage response (DDR) protein kinases ATM, ATR and DNA-PK. These then trigger histone H2AX phosphorylation and the accumulation of proteins such as MDC1, 53BP1, BRCA1, CtIP, RNF8 and RNF168/RIDDLIN into IR-induced foci (IRIF) that amplify DSB signalling and promote DSB repair1,2. Attachment of Small Ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO) to target proteins controls diverse cellular functions3-6. Here, we show that SUMO1, SUMO2 and SUMO3 accumulate at DSB sites in mammalian cells, with SUMO1 and SUMO2/3 accrual requiring the E3 ligase enzymes PIAS4 and PIAS1. We also establish that PIAS1 and PIAS4 are recruited to damage sites via mechanisms requiring their SAP domains, and are needed for the productive association of 53BP1, BRCA1 and RNF168 with such regions. Furthermore, we show that PIAS1 and PIAS4 promote DSB repair and confer IR resistance. Finally, we establish that PIAS1 and PIAS4 are required for effective Ubiquitin-adduct formation mediated by RNF8, RNF168 and BRCA1 at sites of DNA damage7-11. These findings thus identify PIAS1 and PIAS4 as components of the DDR and reveal how protein recruitment to DSB sites is controlled by coordinated sumoylation and ubiquitylation.
PMCID: PMC2904806  PMID: 20016603
11.  Concerted Action of the Ubiquitin-Fusion Degradation Protein 1 (Ufd1) and Sumo-Targeted Ubiquitin Ligases (STUbLs) in the DNA-Damage Response 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e80442.
In eukaryotes many players in the DNA-damage response (DDR) catalyze protein sumoylation or ubiquitylation. Emphasis has been placed on how these modifications orchestrate the sequential recruitment of repair factors to sites of DNA damage or stalled replication forks. Here, we shed light on a pathway in which sumoylated factors are eliminated through the coupled action of Sumo-targeted ubiquitin ligases (STUbLs) and the ubiquitin-fusion degradation protein 1 (Ufd1). Ufd1 is a subunit of the Cdc48-Ufd1-Npl4 complex implicated in the sorting of ubiquitylated substrates for degradation by the proteasome. We find that in fission yeast, Ufd1 interacts physically and functionally with the Sumo-targeted ubiquitin ligase (STUbL) Rfp1, homologous to human RNF4, and with the Sumo E3 ligase Pli1, homologous to human PIAS1. Deleting a C-terminal domain of Ufd1 that mediates the interaction of Ufd1 with Rfp1, Pli1, and Sumo (ufd1ΔCt213-342) lead to an accumulation of high-molecular-weight Sumo conjugates and caused severe genomic instabilities. The spectrum of sensitivity of ufd1ΔCt213-342 cells to genotoxins, the epistatic relationships of ufd1ΔCt213-342 with mutations in DNA repair factors, and the localization of the repair factor Rad22 in ufd1ΔCt213-342 cells point to ufd1ΔCt213-342 cells accumulating aberrant structures during replication that require homologous recombination (HR) for their repair. We present evidence that HR is however often not successful in ufd1ΔCt213-342 cells and we identify Rad22 as one of the high-molecular-weight conjugates accumulating in the ufd1ΔCt213-342 mutant consistent with Rad22 being a STUbL/Ufd1 substrate. Suggesting a direct role of Ufd1 in the processing of Sumo-conjugates, Ufd1 formed nuclear foci colocalizing with Sumo during the DDR, and Sumo-conjugates accumulated in foci in the ufd1ΔCt213-342 mutant. Broader functional relationships between Ufd1 and STUbLs conceivably affect numerous cellular processes beyond the DDR.
PMCID: PMC3827193  PMID: 24265825
12.  CBX8, a novel DNA repair protein, promotes tumorigenesis in human esophageal carcinoma 
DNA damage response and repair are carried out by certain proteins following damage by environmental clastogens, such as ionizing radiation and reactive oxygen species. It has been reported that many carcinomas that are characterized by resistance to chemotherapy and poor outcomes show dysfunction of these proteins. Chromobox homologue 8 (CBX8), a member of the polycomb group of proteins, has been identified as a factor that protects tumor cells from the detrimental effects of ionizing radiation (IR) or hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). In this study, we found that CBX8 was up-regulated in esophageal carcinoma tissues compared with adjacent non-cancerous tissues (P<0.01) and correlated with TNM stage in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma patients. Depletion of CBX8 decreased cell proliferation both in vitro and in vivo and increased the phosphorylation levels of p21, Wee1, and CHK1, which result in cyclin-dependent kinase inhibition and cell-cycle delay. CBX8 depletion also led to accumulation of spontaneous DNA damage and raised the sensitivity of tumor cells to IR or H2O2. We also found that the total level of CBX8 in the cells was increased after treating tumor cells with clastogens. In addition, our data showed that decreased CBX8 expression was accompanied by the reduction of EZH2 and EED, which have been reported to participate in DNA damage repair. Collectively, CBX8 might emerge as an oncogene for promoting the proliferation of tumor cells and raising the resistance of neoplasms to chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC4152042  PMID: 25197352
CBX8; DNA repair; esophageal carcinoma; G2M cell cycle; tumorigenesis
13.  A Role for Non-Covalent SUMO Interaction Motifs in Pc2/CBX4 E3 Activity 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(1):e8794.
Modification of proteins by the small ubiquitin like modifier (SUMO) is an essential process in mammalian cells. SUMO is covalently attached to lysines in target proteins via an enzymatic cascade which consists of E1 and E2, SUMO activating and conjugating enzymes. There is also a variable requirement for non-enzymatic E3 adapter like proteins, which can increase the efficiency and specificity of the sumoylation process. In addition to covalent attachment of SUMO to target proteins, specific non-covalent SUMO interaction motifs (SIMs) that are generally short hydrophobic peptide motifs have been identified.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Intriguingly, consensus SIMs are present in most SUMO E3s, including the polycomb protein, Pc2/Cbx4. However, a role for SIMs in SUMO E3 activity remains to be shown. We show that Pc2 contains two functional SIMs, both of which contribute to full E3 activity in mammalian cells, and are also required for sumoylation of Pc2 itself. Pc2 forms distinct sub-nuclear foci, termed polycomb bodies, and can recruit partner proteins, such as the corepressor CtBP. We demonstrate that mutation of the SIMs in Pc2 prevents Pc2-dependent CtBP sumoylation, and decreases enrichment of SUMO1 and SUMO2 at polycomb foci. Furthermore, mutational analysis of both SUMO1 and SUMO2 reveals that the SIM-interacting residues of both SUMO isoforms are required for Pc2-mediated sumoylation and localization to polycomb foci.
This work provides the first clear evidence for a role for SIMs in SUMO E3 activity.
PMCID: PMC2808386  PMID: 20098713
14.  Proteomic and genomic approaches reveal critical functions of H3K9 methylation and Heterochromatin Protein-1γ in reprogramming to pluripotency 
Nature cell biology  2013;15(7):872-882.
Reprogramming of somatic cells into iPSCs involves a dramatic reorganization of chromatin. To identify posttranslational histone modifications that change in global abundance during this process, we have applied a quantitative mass-spectrometry-based approach. We found that iPSCs, compared to both the starting fibroblasts and a late reprogramming intermediate (pre-iPSCs), are enriched for histone modifications associated with active chromatin, and depleted for marks of transcriptional elongation and a subset of repressive modifications including H3K9me2/me3. Dissecting the contribution of H3K9methylation to reprogramming, we show that the H3K9methyltransferases Ehmt1, Ehmt2, and Setdb1 regulate global H3K9me2/me3 levels and that their depletion increases iPSC formation from both fibroblasts and pre-iPSCs. Similarly, inhibition of heterochromatin-protein-1γ (Cbx3), a protein known to recognize H3K9methylation, enhances reprogramming. Genome-wide location analysis revealed that Cbx3 predominantly binds active genes in both pre-iPSCs and pluripotent cells but with a strikingly different distribution: in pre-iPSCs, but not in ESCs, Cbx3 associates with active transcriptional start sites, suggesting a developmentally-regulated role for Cbx3 in transcriptional activation. Despite largely non-overlapping functions and the association of Cbx3 with active transcription, the H3K9methyltransferases and Cbx3 both inhibit reprogramming by repressing the pluripotency factor Nanog. Together, our findings demonstrate that Cbx3 and H3K9methylation restrict late reprogramming events, and suggest that a dramatic change in global chromatin character is an epigenetic roadblock for reprogramming.
PMCID: PMC3733997  PMID: 23748610
15.  RNF4 is required for DNA double-strand break repair in vivo 
Cell Death and Differentiation  2012;20(3):490-502.
Unrepaired DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) cause genetic instability that leads to malignant transformation or cell death. Cells respond to DSBs with the ordered recruitment of signaling and repair proteins to the sites of DNA lesions. Coordinated protein SUMOylation and ubiquitylation have crucial roles in regulating the dynamic assembly of protein complexes at these sites. However, how SUMOylation influences protein ubiquitylation at DSBs is poorly understood. We show herein that Rnf4, an E3 ubiquitin ligase that targets SUMO-modified proteins, accumulates in DSB repair foci and is required for both homologous recombination (HR) and non-homologous end joining repair. To establish a link between Rnf4 and the DNA damage response (DDR) in vivo, we generated an Rnf4 allelic series in mice. We show that Rnf4-deficiency causes persistent ionizing radiation-induced DNA damage and signaling, and that Rnf4-deficient cells and mice exhibit increased sensitivity to genotoxic stress. Mechanistically, we show that Rnf4 targets SUMOylated MDC1 and SUMOylated BRCA1, and is required for the loading of Rad51, an enzyme required for HR repair, onto sites of DNA damage. Similarly to inactivating mutations in other key regulators of HR repair, Rnf4 deficiency leads to age-dependent impairment in spermatogenesis. These findings identify Rnf4 as a critical component of the DDR in vivo and support the possibility that Rnf4 controls protein localization at DNA damage sites by integrating SUMOylation and ubiquitylation events.
PMCID: PMC3569989  PMID: 23197296
DNA damage; homologous recombination; RNF4; BRCA1; MDC1; Rad51; spermatogenesis
16.  Novel motifs distinguish multiple homologues of Polycomb in vertebrates: expansion and diversification of the epigenetic toolkit 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:549.
Polycomb group (PcG) proteins maintain expression pattern of genes set early during development. Although originally isolated as regulators of homeotic genes, PcG members play a key role in epigenetic mechanism that maintains the expression state of a large number of genes. Polycomb (PC) is conserved during evolution and while invertebrates have one PC gene, vertebrates have five or more homologues. It remains unclear if different vertebrate PC homologues have distinct or overlapping functions. We have identified and compared the sequence of PC homologues in various organisms to analyze similarities and differences that shaped the evolutionary history of this key regulatory protein.
All PC homologues have an N-terminal chromodomain and a C-terminal Polycomb Repressor box. We searched the protein and genome sequence database of various organisms for these signatures and identified ~100 PC homologues. Comparative analysis of these sequences led to the identification of a novel insect specific motif and several novel and signature motifs in the vertebrate homologue: two in CBX2 (Cx2.1 and Cx2.2), four in CBX4 (Cx4.1, Cx4.2, Cx4.3 and Cx4.4), three in CBX6 (Cx6.1, Cx6.2 and Cx6.3) and one in CBX8 (Cx8.1). Additionally, adjacent to the chromodomain, all the vertebrate homologues have a DNA binding motif - AT-Hook in case of CBX2, which was known earlier, and 'AT-Hook Like' motif, from this study, in other PC homologues.
Our analysis shows that PC is an ancient gene dating back to pre bilaterian origin that has not only been conserved but has also expanded during the evolution of complexity. Unique motifs acquired by each homologue have been maintained for more than 500 millions years indicating their functional relevance in boosting the epigenetic 'tool kit'. We report the presence of a DNA interaction motif adjacent to chromodomain in all vertebrate PC homologues and suggest a three-way 'PC-histoneH3-DNA' interaction that can restrict nucleosome dynamics. The signature motifs of PC homologues and insect specific motif identified in this study pave the way to understand the molecular basis of epigenetic mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC2784810  PMID: 19930571
17.  Mouse Polycomb Proteins Bind Differentially to Methylated Histone H3 and RNA and Are Enriched in Facultative Heterochromatin 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(7):2560-2569.
The chromodomain (CD) of the Drosophila Polycomb protein exhibits preferential binding affinity for histone H3 when trimethylated at lysine 27. Here we have investigated the five mouse Polycomb homologs known as Cbx2, Cbx4, Cbx6, Cbx7, and Cbx8. Despite a high degree of conservation, the Cbx chromodomains display significant differences in binding preferences. Not all CDs bind preferentially to K27me3; rather, some display affinity towards both histone H3 trimethylated at K9 and H3K27me3, and one CD prefers K9me3. Cbx7, in particular, displays strong affinity for both H3K9me3 and H3K27me3 and is developmentally regulated in its association with chromatin. Cbx7 associates with facultative heterochromatin and, more specifically, is enriched on the inactive X chromosome. Finally, we find that, in vitro, the chromodomain of Cbx7 can bind RNA and that, in vivo, the interaction of Cbx7 with chromatin, and the inactive X chromosome in particular, depends partly on its association with RNA. We propose that the capacity of this mouse Polycomb homolog to associate with the inactive X chromosome, or any other region of chromatin, depends not only on its chromodomain but also on the combination of histone modifications and RNA molecules present at its target sites.
PMCID: PMC1430336  PMID: 16537902
18.  CBX8, a Polycomb Group Protein, is Essential for MLL-AF9-Induced Leukemogenesis 
Cancer cell  2011;20(5):563-575.
Chromosomal translocations involving the mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) gene lead to the development of acute leukemias. Constitutive HOX gene activation by MLL fusion proteins is required for MLL-mediated leukemogenesis; however, the underlying mechanisms remain elusive. Here, we show that chromobox homolog 8 (CBX8), a Polycomb Group protein that interacts with MLL-AF9 and TIP60, is required for MLL-AF9-induced transcriptional activation and leukemogenesis. Conversely, both CBX8 ablation and specific disruption of the CBX8 interaction by point mutations in MLL-AF9 abrogate HOX gene upregulation and abolish MLL-AF9 leukemic transformation. Surprisingly, Cbx8 deficient mice are viable and display no apparent hematopoietic defects. Together, our findings demonstrate that CBX8 plays an essential role in MLL-AF9 transcriptional regulation and leukemogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3220883  PMID: 22094252
19.  Polycomb CBX7 Directly Controls Trimethylation of Histone H3 at Lysine 9 at the p16 Locus 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(10):e13732.
H3K9 trimethylation (H3K9me3) and binding of PcG repressor complex-1 (PRC1) may play crucial roles in the epigenetic silencing of the p16 gene. However, the mechanism of the initiation of this trimethylation is unknown.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In the present study, we found that upregulating the expression of PRC1 component Cbx7 in gastric cancer cell lines MGC803 and BGC823 led to significantly suppress the expression of genes within the p16-Arf-p15 locus. H3K9me3 formation was observed at the p16 promoter and Regulatory Domain (RD). CBX7 and SUV39H2 binding to these regions were also detectable in the CBX7-stably upregulated cells. CBX7-SUV39H2 complexes were observed within nucleus in bimolecular fluorescence complementation assay (BiFC). Mutations of the chromodomain or deletion of Pc-box abolished the CBX7-binding and H3K9me3 formation, and thus partially repressed the function of CBX7. SiRNA-knockdown of Suv39h2 blocked the repressive effect of CBX7 on p16 transcription. Moreover, we found that expression of CBX7 in gastric carcinoma tissues with p16 methylation was significantly lower than that in their corresponding normal tissues, which showed a negative correlation with transcription of p16 in gastric mucosa.
These results demonstrated for the first time, to our knowledge, that CBX7 could initiate H3K9me3 formation at the p16 promoter.
PMCID: PMC2966406  PMID: 21060834
20.  REST Interacts with Cbx Proteins and Regulates Polycomb Repressive Complex 1 Occupancy at RE1 Elements▿† 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(10):2100-2110.
Polycomb group (PcG) proteins control the epigenetic inheritance of transcription regulatory states during development. Progression from pluripotency to differentiation requires the concurrent activation and repression of different PcG target genes. We found that REST and nine REST-associated proteins copurified with Cbx family PcG proteins from mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells. REST interacted with Cbx proteins in live cells and coprecipitated with endogenous Ring1b. Endogenous PRC1 subunits occupied all sites tested that were bound by REST in ES cells. Antibodies directed against different PRC1 subunits precipitated proximal versus distal RE1 elements with opposite relative efficiencies, suggesting that PRC1 bound different sites in distinct configurations. Deletion of the amino-terminal region of REST (RestΔN knockout) as well as short hairpin RNA depletion of REST (REST knockdown) in ES cells reduced PRC1 binding at distal RE1 elements and increased PRC1 binding at proximal RE1 elements. RestΔN and PRC1 subunit knockout as well as REST and PRC1 subunit knockdown had similar relative effects on transcription of neuronal genes in ES cells, derepressing genes with distal, but not genes with proximal, RE1 elements. In differentiating neurons, RestΔN knockout reduced PRC1 occupancy and derepressed transcription at distal RE1 elements but increased PRC1 occupancy and repressed transcription at proximal RE1 elements. The opposite effects of REST on PRC1 occupancy at different RE1 elements contributed to the gene-specific control of PRC1 functions during ES cell differentiation.
PMCID: PMC3133345  PMID: 21402785
21.  H3K9me3-binding proteins are dispensable for SETDB1/H3K9me3-dependent retroviral silencing 
Endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are parasitic sequences whose derepression is associated with cancer and genomic instability. Many ERV families are silenced in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) via SETDB1-deposited trimethylated lysine 9 of histone 3 (H3K9me3), but the mechanism of H3K9me3-dependent repression remains unknown. Multiple proteins, including members of the heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) family, bind H3K9me2/3 and are involved in transcriptional silencing in model organisms. In this work, we address the role of such H3K9me2/3 "readers" in the silencing of ERVs in mESCs.
We demonstrate that despite the reported function of HP1 proteins in H3K9me-dependent gene repression and the critical role of H3K9me3 in transcriptional silencing of class I and class II ERVs, the depletion of HP1α, HP1β and HP1γ, alone or in combination, is not sufficient for derepression of these elements in mESCs. While loss of HP1α or HP1β leads to modest defects in DNA methylation of ERVs or spreading of H4K20me3 into flanking genomic sequence, respectively, neither protein affects H3K9me3 or H4K20me3 in ERV bodies. Furthermore, using novel ERV reporter constructs targeted to a specific genomic site, we demonstrate that, relative to Setdb1, knockdown of the remaining known H3K9me3 readers expressed in mESCs, including Cdyl, Cdyl2, Cbx2, Cbx7, Mpp8, Uhrf1 and Jarid1a-c, leads to only modest proviral reactivation.
Taken together, these results reveal that each of the known H3K9me3-binding proteins is dispensable for SETDB1-mediated ERV silencing. We speculate that H3K9me3 might maintain ERVs in a silent state in mESCs by directly inhibiting deposition of active covalent histone marks.
PMCID: PMC3169442  PMID: 21774827
endogenous retrovirus; ERV; heterochromatin protein 1; HP1; Cbx1; Cbx3; Cbx5; H3K9me3; retroviral repression; transcriptional silencing; mouse embryonic stem cells
22.  Oncogenic role of the chromobox protein CBX7 in gastric cancer 
Chromobox 7 (CBX7) is a Polycomb family protein that extends the lifespan of normal human cells via downregulating the expression of INK4a/ARF tumor suppressor locus. It was found that CBX7 expression was upregulated in lymphoma, but downregulated in some other human malignancies. The role of CBX7 in most types of cancer is still not clear. The purpose of this study is to investigate the role of CBX7 in gastric cancer.
The expression of CBX7 and its potential target protein p16(INK4a) in gastric cancer cell lines and gastric tumors was assayed by Western blot analysis and immunohistochemistry(IHC). The correlations between CBX7 expression and p16(INK4a), clinicopathological characteristics, and prognosis were analyzed. Gastric cancer cell line SGC-7901 was transfected with CBX7 siRNA expressing plasmids, and the expression of various proteins was analyzed by Western blot analysis. Cellular senescence, anchorage independent growth, and cell migration assays were performed to determine the functional role of CBX7 in gastric cancer cells.
CBX7 was found to be overexpressed in gastric cancer cell lines and gastric tumors. Overexpression of CBX7 in gastric cancer tissues correlated with patients' age, clinical stage and lymph node metastasis. Knockdown of CBX7 expression in gastric cancer cells led to increased cellular senescence, decreased cellular proliferation and migration ability, accompanied by upregulation of p16(INK4a).
CBX7 acts as an oncogene in the carcinogenesis and progression of gastric cancer, and it may regulate tumorigenesis, cell migration and cancer metastasis partially via p16(INK4a) regulatory pathway.
PMCID: PMC2933612  PMID: 20723236
23.  Multiple Arkadia/RNF111 Structures Coordinate Its Polycomb Body Association and Transcriptional Control 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2014;34(16):2981-2995.
The RING domain protein Arkadia/RNF111 is a ubiquitin ligase in the transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) pathway. We previously identified Arkadia as a small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO)-binding protein with clustered SUMO-interacting motifs (SIMs) that together form a SUMO-binding domain (SBD). However, precisely how SUMO interaction contributes to the function of Arkadia was not resolved. Through analytical molecular and cell biology, we found that the SIMs share redundant function with Arkadia's M domain, a region distinguishing Arkadia from its paralogs ARKL1/ARKL2 and the prototypical SUMO-targeted ubiquitin ligase (STUbL) RNF4. The SIMs and M domain together promote both Arkadia's colocalization with CBX4/Pc2, a component of Polycomb bodies, and the activation of a TGFβ pathway transcription reporter. Transcriptome profiling through RNA sequencing showed that Arkadia can both promote and inhibit gene expression, indicating that Arkadia's activity in transcriptional control may depend on the epigenetic context, defined by Polycomb repressive complexes and DNA methylation.
PMCID: PMC4135591  PMID: 24912682
24.  CBX7 gene expression plays a negative role in adipocyte cell growth and differentiation 
Biology Open  2014;3(9):871-879.
We have recently generated knockout mice for the Cbx7 gene, coding for a polycomb group protein that is downregulated in human malignant neoplasias. These mice develop liver and lung adenomas and carcinomas, which confirms a tumour suppressor role for CBX7. The CBX7 ability to downregulate CCNE1 expression likely accounts for the phenotype of the Cbx7-null mice.
Unexpectedly, Cbx7-knockout mice had a higher fat tissue mass than wild-type, suggesting a role of CBX7 in adipogenesis. Consistently, we demonstrate that Cbx7-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts go towards adipocyte differentiation more efficiently than their wild-type counterparts, and this effect is Cbx7 dose-dependent. Similar results were obtained when Cbx7-null embryonic stem cells were induced to differentiate into adipocytes. Conversely, mouse embryonic fibroblasts and human adipose-derived stem cells overexpressing CBX7 show an opposite behaviour.
These findings support a negative role of CBX7 in the control of adipocyte cell growth and differentiation.
PMCID: PMC4163664  PMID: 25190058
Cbx7; Adipose tissue; Mouse models
25.  RYBP-PRC1 Complexes Mediate H2A Ubiquitylation at Polycomb Target Sites Independently of PRC2 and H3K27me3 
Cell  2012;148(4):664-678.
Polycomb-repressive complex 1 (PRC1) has a central role in the regulation of heritable gene silencing during differentiation and development. PRC1 recruitment is generally attributed to interaction of the chromodomain of the core protein Polycomb with trimethyl histone H3K27 (H3K27me3), catalyzed by a second complex, PRC2. Unexpectedly we find that RING1B, the catalytic subunit of PRC1, and associated monoubiquitylation of histone H2A are targeted to closely overlapping sites in wild-type and PRC2-deficient mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs), demonstrating an H3K27me3-independent pathway for recruitment of PRC1 activity. We show that this pathway is mediated by RYBP-PRC1, a complex comprising catalytic subunits of PRC1 and the protein RYBP. RYBP-PRC1 is recruited to target loci in mESCs and is also involved in Xist RNA-mediated silencing, the latter suggesting a wider role in Polycomb silencing. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding recruitment and function of Polycomb repressors.
Graphical Abstract
► H2A ubiquitylation is retained at Polycomb target loci in the absence of H3K27me3 ► Mutually exclusive complexes, CBX-PRC1 and RYBP-PRC1, mediate H2A ubiquitylation ► RYBP-PRC1 localizes to Polycomb target sites independent of H3K27me3 ► RYBP-PRC1 is required for maintenance of global H2AK119u1 in mESCs
A newly identified variant of the PRC1 complex containing the RYBP subunit allows PRC1 to act independently of PRC2. This alternative complex is important for maintaining the proper chromatin state in ESCs and on the inactive X chromosome.
PMCID: PMC3281992  PMID: 22325148

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