We reveal how the RXRα−RARγ heterodimer upon activation by ATRA sets up a sequence of temporally controlled events that generate different subsets of primary and secondarily induced gene networks.We established RARγ and RXRα chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analyses coupled with massive parallel sequencing (ChIP-seq) together with the corresponding microarray transcriptomics at five time points during differentiation using pan-RAR and RAR isotype-selective ligands.Gene-regulatory decisions were inferred in silico from the dynamic changes of the transcriptomics patterns that correlated with the expression of RXRα−RARγ and other annotated transcription factors (TFs).Our analysis provides a temporal view of retinoic acid (RA) signalling during F9 cell differentiation, reveals RA receptor (RAR) heterodimer dynamics and promiscuity, and predicts decisions that diversify the RA signal into distinct gene-regulatory programs.
Nuclear receptors are ligand-inducible transcription factors, which upon induction by their cognate ligand induce complex temporally controlled physiological programs. Retinoic acid (RA) and its receptors are key regulators of multiple physiological processes, including embryogenesis, organogenesis, immune functions, reproduction and organ homeostasis. While insight into (some of) the physiological functions of the various RA receptor (RAR) and retinoid X receptor (RXR) subtypes has been obtained by exploiting mouse genetics (for a review, see Mark et al, 2006) we are far from an understanding of the molecular circuitries and gene networks that are at the basis of these physiological events.
RAs act by interacting with a complex receptor system that comprises heterodimers formed by one of the three RXR (RARα, β and γ) and RAR (RARα, β and γ) isotypes. While insight into the role of heterodimerization on response element preference and contribution of RAR and RXR to transcription activation of model genes has been obtained (for review, see Gronemeyer et al, 2004) very little is known about the role and dynamics of target gene interaction of the various RXR–RAR heterodimers at a global scale in the context of a biological program.
More fundamentally, in order to develop a systems biology of nuclear receptors we need to establish approaches that reveal how the initial event, the information embedded in the chemical structure of a small molecular weight compound, is propagated through binding to cognate receptor(s), recruitment of co-regulatory factors, epigenetic modulators and additional complexes/machineries to establish temporally controlled gene programs. In this respect, a recent study has revealed the impact of epigenetic modulator crosstalk in the setting up of subprograms for oestrogen receptor signalling (Ceschin et al, 2011).
In the present study, we have used mouse F9 EC cells, a homogeneous cell system which is known to differentiate upon RA exposure and require RARγ for this response (Taneja et al, 1996), in order to integrate at a genome-wide scale (i) the dynamics of RXRα and RARγ binding by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analyses coupled with massive parallel sequencing (ChIP-seq), (ii) the correlated temporal regulation of gene programs by global transcriptomics analyses, including (iii) the response to isotype-selective RAR ligands (Box 1). Our study revealed an unexpected highly dynamic association of the RXRα–RARγ with target chromatin and an unexpected dynamics of the heterodimer composition itself, which is indicative of partner swapping.
Inspired by early works on the dynamics of Drosophila puffing patterns during ecdysone-induced metamorphosis (Ashburner et al, 1974) our working hypothesis was that diversification of gene programming is achieved by the sequential activation of separable gene cohorts that constitute the various facets of differentiation, such as altered proliferation, cell physiology, signalling and finally terminal apoptogenic differentiation. To identify these temporally activated subroutines within the overall program, we inferred gene-regulatory decisions in silico from dynamically altered global gene expression patterns that occurred due to the action of RXRα−RARγ and other annotated TFs (Ernst et al, 2007). This dynamic regulatory map was used to reconstruct RXRα–RARγ signalling networks by integration of functional co-citation. Altogether we present a genome-wide view of the temporal gene-regulatory events and the corresponding gene programs elicited by the RXRα–RARγ during F9 cell differentiation. Our study deciphers some of the mechanisms by which the chemical information encoded in RA is diversified to regulate different cohorts of genes.
Retinoic acid (RA) triggers physiological processes by activating heterodimeric transcription factors (TFs) comprising retinoic acid receptor (RARα, β, γ) and retinoid X receptor (RXRα, β, γ). How a single signal induces highly complex temporally controlled networks that ultimately orchestrate physiological processes is unclear. Using an RA-inducible differentiation model, we defined the temporal changes in the genome-wide binding patterns of RARγ and RXRα and correlated them with transcription regulation. Unexpectedly, both receptors displayed a highly dynamic binding, with different RXRα heterodimers targeting identical loci. Comparison of RARγ and RXRα co-binding at RA-regulated genes identified putative RXRα–RARγ target genes that were validated with subtype-selective agonists. Gene-regulatory decisions during differentiation were inferred from TF-target gene information and temporal gene expression. This analysis revealed six distinct co-expression paths of which RXRα–RARγ is associated with transcription activation, while Sox2 and Egr1 were predicted to regulate repression. Finally, RXRα–RARγ regulatory networks were reconstructed through integration of functional co-citations. Our analysis provides a dynamic view of RA signalling during cell differentiation, reveals RAR heterodimer dynamics and promiscuity, and predicts decisions that diversify the RA signal into distinct gene-regulatory programs.
This study provides a dynamic view of retinoic acid signalling during cell differentiation, reveals RAR/RXR heterodimer dynamics and promiscuity, and predicts decisions that diversify the RA signal into distinct gene-regulatory programs.