Myc deregulation is a hallmark oncogenic event where overexpression of the transcription factor gives rise to numerous tumorigenic phenotypes. The complex consequences of Myc deregulation have obfuscated clear mechanistic interpretations of its function. A synthesis of recent experimental observations offers a consensus on Myc’s direct transcriptional function — when overexpressed, Myc broadly engages the cell’s established euchromatic cis-regulatory landscape where the factor generally amplifies transcription. The level of Myc binding at target genes and the transcriptional output are differentially modulated by additional regulators, including Miz1. Targeting Myc oncogenic activity will require an understanding of whether amplification promotes tumorigenesis and the consequences of amplification in tumors adapted to oncogenic Myc.
Myc; cancer; transcription
Romidepsin and vorinostat are histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACis) that have activity in T-cell lymphomas, but have not gained traction in solid tumors. To gain deeper insight into mechanisms of HDACi efficacy, we systematically surveyed nineteen cell lines with different molecular phenotypes, comparing romidepsin and vorinostat at equipotent doses. Acetylation at H3K9 and H4K8 along with 22 other histone lysine acetylation and methylation modifications were measured by reverse phase proteomics array (RPPA), and compared with growth inhibition (IC50), and cell cycle arrest. These assays typically used to assess HDACi effect showed that acetylation and methylation of specific lysine residues in response to HDACis was consistent across cell lines, and not related to drug sensitivity. Using a treatment duration more reflective of the clinical exposure, cell death detected by annexin staining following a 6 hour drug exposure identified a subset of cell lines, including the T-cell lymphoma line, that was markedly more sensitive to HDAC inhibition. Kinetic parameters (Km values) were determined for lysine acetylation and for cell cycle data and were themselves correlated following HDACi exposure, but neither parameter correlated with cell death. The impact on cell survival signaling varied with the molecular phenotype. This study suggests that cellular response to HDACis can be viewed as two distinct effects: a chromatin effect and a cell death effect. All cells undergo acetylation, which is necessary but not sufficient for cell death. Cells not primed for apoptosis will not respond with cell death to the impact of altered histone acetylation. The divergent apoptotic responses observed reflect the variable clinical outcome of HDACi treatment. These observations should change our approach to the development of therapeutic strategies that exploit the dual activities of HDACis.
HDAC inhibitors; Cell context; Cell cycle arrest; Histone modification; Apoptosis
The expression levels of the MYC oncoprotein have long been recognized to be associated with the outputs of major cellular processes including proliferation, cell growth, apoptosis, differentiation, and metabolism. Therefore, to understand how MYC operates, it is important to define quantitatively the relationship between MYC input and expression output for its targets as well as the higher-order relationships between the expression levels of subnetwork components and the flow of information and materials through those networks. Two different views of MYC are considered, first as a molecular microeconomic manager orchestrating specific positive and negative responses at individual promoters in collaboration with other transcription and chromatin components, and second, as a macroeconomic czar imposing an overarching rule onto all active genes. In either case, c-myc promoter output requires multiple inputs and exploits diverse mechanisms to tune expression to the appropriate levels relative to the thresholds of expression that separate health and disease.
Small changes in MYC levels drive cells from cell-cycle arrest to proliferation, or across thresholds that trigger apoptosis. How does MYC function mechanistically and how are its levels controlled?
Chromatin is a complex assembly that compacts DNA inside the nucleus while providing the necessary level of accessibility to regulatory factors conscripted by cellular signaling systems. In this superstructure, DNA is the subject of mechanical forces applied by variety of molecular motors. Rather than being a rigid stick, DNA possesses dynamic structural variability that could be harnessed during critical steps of genome functioning. The strong relationship between DNA structure and key genomic processes necessitates the study of physical constrains acting on the double helix. Here we provide insight into the source, dynamics, and biology of DNA topological domains in the eukaryotic cells and summarize their possible involvement in gene transcription. We emphasize recent studies that might inspire and impact future experiments on the involvement of DNA topology in cellular functions.
DNA topoisomerases; DNA topological domain; DNA topology; torsional stress; transcription
While individual non-B DNA structures have been shown to impact gene expression, their broad regulatory role remains elusive. We utilized genomic variants and expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) data to analyze genome-wide variation propensities of potential non-B DNA regions and their relation to gene expression. Independent of genomic location, these regions were enriched in nucleotide variants. Our results are consistent with previously observed mutagenic properties of these regions and counter a previous study concluding that G-quadruplex regions have a reduced frequency of variants. While such mutagenicity might undermine functionality of these elements, we identified in potential non-B DNA regions a signature of negative selection. Yet, we found a depletion of eQTL-associated variants in potential non-B DNA regions, opposite to what might be expected from their proposed regulatory role. However, we also observed that genes downstream of potential non-B DNA regions showed higher expression variation between individuals. This coupling between mutagenicity and tolerance for expression variability of downstream genes may be a result of evolutionary adaptation, which allows reconciling mutagenicity of non-B DNA structures with their location in functionally important regions and their potential regulatory role.
Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is a syndrome characterized by tumors in multiple endocrine tissues such as the parathyroid glands, the pituitary gland, and the enteropancreatic neuroendocrine tissues. MEN1 is usually caused by mutations in the MEN1 gene that codes for the protein menin. Menin interacts with proteins that regulate transcription, DNA repair and processing, and maintenance of cytoskeletal structure. We describe the identification of FBP1 as an interacting partner of menin in a large-scale pull-down assay that also immunoprecipitated RBBP5, ASH2, and LEDGF, which are members of complex proteins associated with SET1 (COMPASS), a protein complex that methylates histone H3. This interaction was confirmed by coimmunoprecipitation and Flag-pull-down assays. Furthermore, menin localized to the FUSE site on the MYC promoter, a site that is transactivated by FBP1. This investigation therefore places menin in a pathway that regulates MYC gene expression and has important implications for the biological function of menin.
King et al. (Cell, 2013) show that mutations in the ubiquitin ligase subcomponent FBXW7 increase MYC protein levels and expand the number of leukemia initiating cells (LIC) in Notch1-induced T-ALL. Genetic and pharmacological inhibition of Myc abolishes LIC activity with broader therapeutic implications.
Genomic DNA is under constant assault by endogenous and exogenous DNA damaging agents. DNA breakage can represent a major threat to genome integrity but can also be necessary for genome function. Here we present approaches to map DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) and single-strand breaks (SSBs) at the genome-wide scale by two methods called DSB- and SSB-Seq, respectively. We tested these methods in human colon cancer cells and validated the results using the Topoisomerase II (Top2)-poisoning agent etoposide (ETO). Our results show that the combination of ETO treatment with break-mapping techniques is a powerful method to elaborate the pattern of Top2 enzymatic activity across the genome.
topoisomerases; DNA damage; transcription
Lymphocyte activation is initiated by a global increase in mRNA synthesis. However, the mechanisms driving transcriptome amplification during the immune response are unknown. By monitoring ssDNA genome-wide, we show that the genome of naïve cells is poised for rapid activation. In G0, ~90% of promoters from genes to be expressed in cycling lymphocytes are polymerase-loaded but unmelted and support only basal transcription. Furthermore, the transition from abortive to productive elongation is kinetically limiting causing polymerases to accumulate nearer transcription start sites (TSSs). Resting lymphocytes also limit expression of the TFIIH complex, including XPB and XPD helicases involved in promoter melting and open complex extension. To date, two rate-limiting steps have been shown to control global gene expression in eukaryotes: preinitiation complex assembly and polymerase pausing. Our studies identify promoter melting as a third key regulatory step and propose that this mechanism ensures a prompt lymphocyte response to invading pathogens.
Chromatin modifications have been implicated in the self-renewal and differentiation of embryonic stem cells (ESCs). However, the function of histone variant H2A.Z in ESCs remains unclear. We show that H2A.Z is highly enriched at promoters and enhancers and is required for both efficient self-renewal and differentiation of murine ESCs. H2A.Z deposition leads to an abnormal nucleosome structure, decreased nucleosome occupancy and increased chromatin accessibility. In self-renewing ESCs, knockdown of H2A.Z compromises OCT4 binding to its target genes and leads to decreased binding of MLL complexes to active genes and of PRC2 complex to repressed genes. During differentiation of ESCs, inhibition of H2A.Z also compromises RA-induced RARα binding, activation of differentiation markers and the repression of pluripotency genes. We propose that H2A.Z mediates such contrasting activities by acting as a ‘general facilitator’ that generates access for a variety of complexes both activating and repressive.
We hypothesized that invasive pulmonary aspergillosis (IPA) may generate a distinctive proteomic signature in plasma and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL). Proteins in plasma and BAL from two neutropenic rabbit models of IPA and Pseudomonas pneumonia were analyzed by SELDI-TOF MS. Hierarchical clustering analysis of plasma time course spectra demonstrated two clusters of peaks that were differentially regulated between IPA and Pseudomonas pneumonia (57 and 34 peaks, respectively, p<0.001). PCA of plasma proteins demonstrated a time-dependent separation of the two infections. A random forest analysis that ranked the top 30 spectral points distinguished between late Aspergillus and Pseudomonas pneumonias with 100% sensitivity and specificity. Based on spectral data analysis, three proteins were identified using SDS-PAGE and LC/MS and quantified using reverse phase arrays. Differences in the temporal sequence of plasma haptoglobin (p <0.001), apolipoprotein A1 (p<0.001) and transthyretin (p<0.038) were observed between IPA and Pseudomonas pneumonia, as was C-reactive protein (p<0.001). In summary, proteomic analysis of plasma and BAL proteins of experimental Aspergillus and Pseudomonas pneumonias demonstrates unique protein profiles with principal components and spectral regions that are shared in early infection and diverge at later stages of infection. Haptoglobin, apolipoprotein A1, transthyretin and C-reactive protein are differentially expressed in these infections suggesting important contributions to host defense against IPA.
proteomics; Aspergillus fumigatus; Pseudomonas aeruginosa; pneumonia; neutropenia
Gene expression analysis is a widely used and powerful method for investigating the transcriptional behavior of biological systems, for classifying cell states in disease and for many other purposes. Recent studies indicate that common assumptions currently embedded in experimental and analytical practices can lead to misinterpretation of global gene expression data. We discuss these assumptions and describe solutions that should minimize erroneous interpretation of gene expression data from multiple analysis platforms.
The c-Myc HLH-bZIP protein has been implicated in physiological or pathological growth, proliferation, apoptosis, metabolism and differentiation at the cellular, tissue or organismal levels via regulation of numerous target genes. No principle yet unifies Myc action due partly to an incomplete inventory and functional accounting of Myc’s targets. To observe Myc target expression and function in a system where Myc is temporally and physiologically regulated, the transcriptomes and the genome-wide distributions of Myc, RNA polymerase II and chromatin modifications were compared during lymphocyte activation and in ES cells as well. A remarkably simple rule emerged from this quantitative analysis: Myc is not an on-off specifier of gene activity, but is a non-linear amplifier of expression, acting universally at active genes, except for immediate early genes that are strongly induced before Myc. This rule of Myc action explains the vast majority of Myc biology observed in literature.
Transcription has the capacity to modify mechanically DNA topology, DNA structure, and nucleosome arrangement. Resulting from ongoing transcription, these modifications in turn, may provide instant feedback to the transcription machinery. To substantiate the connection between transcription and DNA dynamics, we charted an ENCODE map of transcription-dependent dynamic supercoiling in human Burkitt lymphoma cells using psoralen photobinding to probe DNA topology in vivo. Dynamic supercoils spread ~1.5 kb upstream of the start sites of active genes. Low and high output promoters handle this torsional stress differently as shown using inhibitors of transcription and topoisomerases, and by chromatin immunoprecipation of RNA polymerase and topoisomerases I and II. Whereas lower outputs are managed adequately by topoisomerase I, high output promoters additionally require topoisomerase II. The genome-wide coupling between transcription and DNA topology emphasizes the importance of dynamic supercoiling for gene regulation.
Through dynamic changes in structure resulting from DNA-protein interactions and constraints given by the structural features of the double helix, chromatin accommodates and regulates different DNA-dependent processes. All DNA transactions (such as transcription, DNA replication and chromosomal segregation) are necessarily linked to strong changes in the topological state of the double helix known as torsional stress or supercoiling. As virtually all DNA transactions are in turn affected by the torsional state of DNA, these changes have the potential to serve as regulatory signals detected by protein partners. This two-way relationship indicates that DNA dynamics may contribute to the regulation of many events occurring during cell life. In this review we will focus on the role of DNA supercoiling in the cellular processes, with particular emphasis on transcription. Besides giving an overview on the multiplicity of factors involved in the generation and dissipation of DNA torsional stress, we will discuss recent studies which give new insight into the way cells use DNA dynamics to perform functions otherwise not achievable.
DNA supercoiling; DNA topology; Non-B DNA; Transcription
Myc levels are highly regulated and usually low in vivo. Dimerized with Max, it regulates most expressed genes and so directly and indirectly controls most cellular processes. Intranuclear diffusion of a functional c-Myc-eGFP, expressed from its native locus in murine fibroblasts and 3T3 cells or by transient transfection, was monitored using Two Photon Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy, revealing concentration and size (mobility) of complexes. With increased c-Myc-eGFP, a very immobile pool saturates as a ‘mobile' pool increases. Both pools diffuse too slowly to be free Myc-Max dimers. Following serum stimulation, eGFP-c-Myc accumulated in the presence of the proteasome inhbitor MG132. Stimulating without MG132, Myc peaked at 2.5 hrs, and at steady was ~8 ± 1.3 nM. Inhbiting Myc-Max dimerization by Max-knockdown or drug treatment increased the ‘mobile' c-Myc pool size. These results indicate that Myc populates macromolecular complexes of widely heterogenous size and mobility in vivo.
To investigate the association of DNA nucleotide excision repair (NER) defects with neurological degeneration, cachexia and cancer, we performed autopsies on 4 adult xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) patients with different clinical features and defects in NER complementation groups XP-A, XP-C or XP-D.
The XP-A (XP12BE) and XP-D (XP18BE) patients exhibited progressive neurological deterioration with sensorineural hearing loss. The clinical spectrum encompassed severe cachexia in the XP-A (XP12BE) patient, numerous skin cancers in the XP-A and two XP-C (XP24BE and XP1BE) patients and only few skin cancers in the XP-D patient. Two XP-C patients developed internal neoplasms including glioblastoma in XP24BE and uterine adenocarcinoma in XP1BE. At autopsy, the brains of the 44 yr XP-A and the 45 yr XP-D patients were profoundly atrophic and characterized microscopically by diffuse neuronal loss, myelin pallor and gliosis. Unlike the XP-A patient, the XP-D patient had a thickened calvarium, and the brain showed vacuolization of the neuropil in the cerebrum, cerebellum and brainstem, and patchy Purkinje cell loss. Axonal neuropathy and chronic denervation atrophy of the skeletal muscles were observed in the XP-A patient, but not in the XP-D patient.
These clinical manifestations and autopsy findings indicate advanced involvement of the central and peripheral nervous system. Despite similar defects in DNA repair, different clinicopathological phenotypes are seen in the four cases, and therefore distinct patterns of neurodegeneration characterize XP-D, XP-A and XP-C patients.
DNA damage; DNA repair; Neurodegeneration; Glioblastoma; Cachexia
Although the right-handed double helical B-form DNA is most common under physiological conditions, DNA is dynamic and can adopt a number of alternative structures, such as the four-stranded G-quadruplex, left-handed Z-DNA, cruciform and others. Active transcription necessitates strand separation and can induce such non-canonical forms at susceptible genomic sequences. Therefore, it has been speculated that these non-B DNA motifs can play regulatory roles in gene transcription. Such conjecture has been supported in higher eukaryotes by direct studies of several individual genes, as well as a number of large-scale analyses. However, the role of non-B DNA structures in many lower organisms, in particular proteobacteria, remains poorly understood and incompletely documented. In this study, we performed the first comprehensive study of the occurrence of B DNA–non-B DNA transition-susceptible sites (non-B DNA motifs) within the context of the operon structure of the Escherichia coli genome. We compared the distributions of non-B DNA motifs in the regulatory regions of operons with those from internal regions. We found an enrichment of some non-B DNA motifs in regulatory regions, and we show that this enrichment cannot be simply explained by base composition bias in these regions. We also showed that the distribution of several non-B DNA motifs within intergenic regions separating divergently oriented operons differs from the distribution found between convergent ones. In particular, we found a strong enrichment of cruciforms in the termination region of operons; this enrichment was observed for operons with Rho-dependent, as well as Rho-independent terminators. Finally, a preference for some non-B DNA motifs was observed near transcription factor-binding sites. Overall, the conspicuous enrichment of transition-susceptible sites in these specific regulatory regions suggests that non-B DNA structures may have roles in the transcriptional regulation of specific operons within the E. coli genome.
Signaling through the thrombospondin-1 receptor CD47 broadly limits cell and tissue survival of stress, but the molecular mechanisms are incompletely understood. We now show that loss of CD47 permits sustained proliferation of primary murine endothelial cells, increases asymmetric division, and enables these cells to spontaneously reprogram to form multipotent embryoid body-like clusters. c-Myc, Klf4, Oct4, and Sox2 expression is elevated in CD47-null endothelial cells, in several tissues of CD47- and thrombospondin-1-null mice, and in a human T cell line lacking CD47. CD47 knockdown acutely increases mRNA levels of c-Myc and other stem cell transcription factors in cells and in vivo, whereas CD47 ligation by thrombospondin-1 suppresses c-Myc expression. The inhibitory effects of increasing CD47 levels can be overcome by maintaining c-Myc expression and are absent in cells with dysregulated c-Myc. Thus, CD47 antagonists enable cell self-renewal and reprogramming by overcoming negative regulation of c-Myc and other stem cell transcription factors.
We identified the far upstream element binding protein 1 (FBP1), an activator of transcription of the proto-oncogene c-myc, in a functional yeast survival screen for tumor-related antiapoptotic proteins and demonstrated strong overexpression of FBP1 in human hepato-cellular carcinoma (HCC). Knockdown of the protein in HCC cells resulted in increased sensitivity to apoptotic stimuli, reduced cell proliferation, and impaired tumor formation in a mouse xenograft transplantation model. Interestingly, analysis of gene regulation in these cells revealed that c-myc levels were not influenced by FBP1 in HCC cells. Instead, we identified the cell cycle inhibitor p21 as a direct target gene repressed by FBP1, and in addition, expression levels of the proapoptotic genes tumor necrosis factor α, tumor necrosis factor–related apoptosis-inducing ligand, Noxa, and Bik were elevated in the absence of FBP1.
Our data establish FBP1 as an important oncoprotein overexpressed in HCC that induces tumor propagation through direct or indirect repression of cell cycle inhibitors and proapoptotic target genes.
The intrinsic stochasticity of gene expression leads to cell-to-cell variations, noise, in protein abundance. Several processes, including transcription, translation, and degradation of mRNA and proteins, can contribute to these variations. Recent single cell analyses of gene expression in yeast have uncovered a general trend where expression noise scales with protein abundance. This trend is consistent with a stochastic model of gene expression where mRNA copy number follows the random birth and death process. However, some deviations from this basic trend have also been observed, prompting questions about the contribution of gene-specific features to such deviations. For example, recent studies have pointed to the TATA box as a sequence feature that can influence expression noise by facilitating expression bursts. Transcription-originated noise can be potentially further amplified in translation. Therefore, we asked the question of to what extent sequence features known or postulated to accompany translation efficiency can also be associated with increase in noise strength and, on average, how such increase compares to the amplification associated with the TATA box. Untangling different components of expression noise is highly nontrivial, as they may be gene or gene-module specific. In particular, focusing on codon usage as one of the sequence features associated with efficient translation, we found that ribosomal genes display a different relationship between expression noise and codon usage as compared to other genes. Within nonribosomal genes we found that sequence high codon usage is correlated with increased noise relative to the average noise of proteins with the same abundance. Interestingly, by projecting the data on a theoretical model of gene expression, we found that the amplification of noise strength associated with codon usage is comparable to that of the TATA box, suggesting that the effect of translation on noise in eukaryotic gene expression might be more prominent than previously appreciated.
The stochastic nature of gene expression leads to cell-to-cell differences in protein level referred to as noise. Expression noise can be disadvantageous, by affecting the precision of biological functions, but it may also be advantageous by enabling heterogeneous stress-response programs to environmental changes. Therefore various genes and gene groups might display various levels of expression noise. Importantly, gene expression is a multi-step process and the stochasticity of its individual steps, including transcription and translation, contributes to the resulting variability. Recent single cell analyses of gene expression in yeast have confirmed the theoretically predicted general trend where expression noise scales with protein abundance. However, some deviations from this basic trend have also been observed, prompting questions about the contribution of gene-specific features to such deviations. Accounting for noise heterogeneity in different gene groups, we revealed a clear relationship between noise and translation-related genomic features, specifically codon usage and 5′ UTR secondary structure. Our results suggest that the effect of translation on these deviations might be more prominent than previously appreciated, and provide important clues towards understanding expression stochasticity in yeast.
The challenge in extracting genome-wide chromatin features from limiting clinical samples poses a significant hurdle in identification of regulatory marks that impact the physiological or pathological state. Current methods that identify nuclease accessible chromatin are reliant on large amounts of purified nuclei as starting material. This complicates analysis of trace clinical tissue samples that are often stored frozen. We have developed an alternative nuclease based procedure to bypass nuclear preparation to interrogate nuclease accessible regions in frozen tissue samples.
Here we introduce a novel technique that specifically identifies Tissue Accessible Chromatin (TACh). The TACh method uses pulverized frozen tissue as starting material and employs one of the two robust endonucleases, Benzonase or Cyansase, which are fully active under a range of stringent conditions such as high levels of detergent and DTT. As a proof of principle we applied TACh to frozen mouse liver tissue. Combined with massive parallel sequencing TACh identifies accessible regions that are associated with euchromatic features and accessibility at transcriptional start sites correlates positively with levels of gene transcription. Accessible chromatin identified by TACh overlaps to a large extend with accessible chromatin identified by DNase I using nuclei purified from freshly isolated liver tissue as starting material. The similarities are most pronounced at highly accessible regions, whereas identification of less accessible regions tends to be more divergence between nucleases. Interestingly, we show that some of the differences between DNase I and Benzonase relate to their intrinsic sequence biases and accordingly accessibility of CpG islands is probed more efficiently using TACh.
The TACh methodology identifies accessible chromatin derived from frozen tissue samples. We propose that this simple, robust approach can be applied across a broad range of clinically relevant samples to allow demarcation of regulatory elements of considerable prognostic significance.
Chromatin accessibility; Tissue; TACh; Benzonase; Cyanase; DNase I
Chromosome band 9p24 is frequently amplified in primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma (PMBL) and Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). To identify oncogenes in this amplicon, we screened an RNA interference library targeting amplicon genes and thereby identified JAK2 and the histone demethylase JMJD2C as essential genes in these lymphomas. Inhibition of JAK2 and JMJD2C cooperated in killing these lymphomas by decreasing tyrosine 41 phosphorylation and increasing lysine 9 trimethylation of histone H3, promoting heterochromatin formation. MYC, a major target of JAK2-mediated histone phosphorylation, was silenced following JAK2 and JMJD2C inhibition, with a corresponding increase in repressive chromatin. Hence, JAK2 and JMJD2C cooperatively remodel the PMBL and HL epigenome, offering a mechanistic rationale for the development of JAK2 and JMJD2C inhibitors in these diseases.