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1.  Pre-B Cell Receptor Signaling Induces Immunoglobulin κ Locus Accessibility by Functional Redistribution of Enhancer-Mediated Chromatin Interactions 
PLoS Biology  2014;12(2):e1001791.
Chromatin conformation analyses provide novel insights into how variable segments in the immunoglobulin light chain gene become accessible for recombination in precursor B lymphocytes.
During B cell development, the precursor B cell receptor (pre-BCR) checkpoint is thought to increase immunoglobulin κ light chain (Igκ) locus accessibility to the V(D)J recombinase. Accordingly, pre-B cells lacking the pre-BCR signaling molecules Btk or Slp65 showed reduced germline Vκ transcription. To investigate whether pre-BCR signaling modulates Vκ accessibility through enhancer-mediated Igκ locus topology, we performed chromosome conformation capture and sequencing analyses. These revealed that already in pro-B cells the κ enhancers robustly interact with the ∼3.2 Mb Vκ region and its flanking sequences. Analyses in wild-type, Btk, and Slp65 single- and double-deficient pre-B cells demonstrated that pre-BCR signaling reduces interactions of both enhancers with Igκ locus flanking sequences and increases interactions of the 3′κ enhancer with Vκ genes. Remarkably, pre-BCR signaling does not significantly affect interactions between the intronic enhancer and Vκ genes, which are already robust in pro-B cells. Both enhancers interact most frequently with highly used Vκ genes, which are often marked by transcription factor E2a. We conclude that the κ enhancers interact with the Vκ region already in pro-B cells and that pre-BCR signaling induces accessibility through a functional redistribution of long-range chromatin interactions within the Vκ region, whereby the two enhancers play distinct roles.
Author Summary
B lymphocyte development involves the generation of a functional antigen receptor, comprising two heavy chains and two light chains arranged in a characteristic “Y” shape. To do this, the receptor genes must first be assembled by ordered genomic recombination events, starting with the immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) gene segments. On successful rearrangement, the resulting IgH μ protein is presented on the cell surface as part of a preliminary version of the B cell receptor—the “pre-BCR.” Pre-BCR signaling then redirects recombination activity to the immunoglobulin κ light chain gene. The activity of two regulatory κ enhancer elements is known to be crucial for opening up the gene, but it remains largely unknown how the hundred or so Variable (V) segments in the κ locus gain access to the recombination system. Here, we studied a panel of pre-B cells from mice lacking specific signaling molecules, reflecting absent, partial, or complete pre-BCR signaling. We identify gene regulatory changes that are dependent on pre-BCR signaling and occur via long-range chromatin interactions between the κ enhancers and the V segments. Surprisingly the light chain gene initially contracts, but the interactions then become more functionally redistributed when pre-BCR signaling occurs. Interestingly, we find that the two enhancers play distinct roles in the process of coordinating chromatin interactions towards the V segments. Our study combines chromatin conformation techniques with data on transcription factor binding to gain unique insights into the functional role of chromatin dynamics.
PMCID: PMC3928034  PMID: 24558349
3.  A toolbox for developing bioinformatics software 
Briefings in Bioinformatics  2011;13(2):244-257.
Creating useful software is a major activity of many scientists, including bioinformaticians. Nevertheless, software development in an academic setting is often unsystematic, which can lead to problems associated with maintenance and long-term availibility. Unfortunately, well-documented software development methodology is difficult to adopt, and technical measures that directly improve bioinformatic programming have not been described comprehensively. We have examined 22 software projects and have identified a set of practices for software development in an academic environment. We found them useful to plan a project, support the involvement of experts (e.g. experimentalists), and to promote higher quality and maintainability of the resulting programs. This article describes 12 techniques that facilitate a quick start into software engineering. We describe 3 of the 22 projects in detail and give many examples to illustrate the usage of particular techniques. We expect this toolbox to be useful for many bioinformatics programming projects and to the training of scientific programmers.
PMCID: PMC3294241  PMID: 21803787
software development; programming; project management; software quality
4.  ModeRNA: a tool for comparative modeling of RNA 3D structure 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(10):4007-4022.
RNA is a large group of functionally important biomacromolecules. In striking analogy to proteins, the function of RNA depends on its structure and dynamics, which in turn is encoded in the linear sequence. However, while there are numerous methods for computational prediction of protein three-dimensional (3D) structure from sequence, with comparative modeling being the most reliable approach, there are very few such methods for RNA. Here, we present ModeRNA, a software tool for comparative modeling of RNA 3D structures. As an input, ModeRNA requires a 3D structure of a template RNA molecule, and a sequence alignment between the target to be modeled and the template. It must be emphasized that a good alignment is required for successful modeling, and for large and complex RNA molecules the development of a good alignment usually requires manual adjustments of the input data based on previous expertise of the respective RNA family. ModeRNA can model post-transcriptional modifications, a functionally important feature analogous to post-translational modifications in proteins. ModeRNA can also model DNA structures or use them as templates. It is equipped with many functions for merging fragments of different nucleic acid structures into a single model and analyzing their geometry. Windows and UNIX implementations of ModeRNA with comprehensive documentation and a tutorial are freely available.
PMCID: PMC3105415  PMID: 21300639
5.  RNA and protein 3D structure modeling: similarities and differences 
Journal of Molecular Modeling  2011;17(9):2325-2336.
In analogy to proteins, the function of RNA depends on its structure and dynamics, which are encoded in the linear sequence. While there are numerous methods for computational prediction of protein 3D structure from sequence, there have been very few such methods for RNA. This review discusses template-based and template-free approaches for macromolecular structure prediction, with special emphasis on comparison between the already tried-and-tested methods for protein structure modeling and the very recently developed “protein-like” modeling methods for RNA. We highlight analogies between many successful methods for modeling of these two types of biological macromolecules and argue that RNA 3D structure can be modeled using “protein-like” methodology. We also highlight the areas where the differences between RNA and proteins require the development of RNA-specific solutions.
FigureApproaches for predicting RNA structure. Top: Template-free modeling. Bottom: Template-based modeling
PMCID: PMC3168752  PMID: 21258831
Assessment; Prediction; RNA; Structure; Tertiary

Results 1-5 (5)