Tumor oncogenes include transcription factors that co-opt the general transcriptional machinery to sustain the oncogenic state1, but direct pharmacological inhibition of transcription factors has thus far proven difficult2. However, the transcriptional machinery contains various enzymatic co-factors that can be targeted for development of new therapeutic candidates3, including cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs)4. Here we present the discovery and characterization of the first covalent CDK7 inhibitor, THZ1, which has the unprecedented ability to target a remote cysteine residue located outside of the canonical kinase domain, providing an unanticipated means of achieving selectivity for CDK7. Cancer cell line profiling indicates that a subset of cancer cell lines, including T-ALL, exhibit exceptional sensitivity to THZ1. Genome-wide analysis in Jurkat T-ALL shows that THZ1 disproportionally affects transcription of RUNX1 and suggests that sensitivity to THZ1 may be due to vulnerability conferred by the RUNX1 super-enhancer and this transcription factor’s key role in the core transcriptional regulatory circuitry of these tumor cells. Pharmacological modulation of CDK7 kinase activity may thus provide an approach to identify and treat tumor types exhibiting extreme dependencies on transcription for maintenance of the oncogenic state.
Facial rejuvenation seeks to reverse the negative sequelae of multiple factors but most importantly of genetic predisposition, sun damage and smoking. With the advent of the so-called ‘non-surgical’ techniques, and perhaps fuelled by these austere times, volumetric facial augmentation using dermal fillers has soared in popularity among both patients and practitioners. However, legislation has yet to keep pace with the change in clinical practices leaving patients poorly informed and with no protection against unscrupulous suppliers and unregulated practitioners. When things go wrong, patients often turn to the National Health Service (NHS) to rectify both the acute and chronic sequelae resulting in potentially difficult ethical and resource implications. Here, we report one of an increasing number of cases presenting to our NHS craniofacial service with acute filler-related complications.
Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) is a biologically heterogeneous and clinically aggressive disease. Here, we explore the role of BET bromodomain proteins in DLBCL, using integrative chemical genetics and functional epigenomics. We observe highly asymmetric loading of BRD4 at enhancers, with approximately 33% of all BRD4 localizing to enhancers at 1.6% of occupied genes. These super-enhancers prove particularly sensitive to bromodomain inhibition, explaining the selective effect of BET inhibitors on oncogenic and lineage-specific transcriptional circuits. Functional study of genes marked by super-enhancers identifies DLBCLs dependent on OCA-B and suggests a strategy for discovering unrecognized cancer dependencies. Translational studies performed on a comprehensive panel of DLBCLs establish a therapeutic rationale for evaluating BET inhibitors in this disease.
Super-enhancers are large clusters of transcriptional enhancers that drive expression of genes that define cell identity. Improved understanding of the roles super-enhancers play in biology would be afforded by knowing the constellation of factors that constitute these domains and by identifying super-enhancers across the spectrum of human cell types. We describe here the population of transcription factors, cofactors, chromatin regulators and transcription apparatus occupying super-enhancers in embryonic stem cells and evidence that super-enhancers are highly transcribed. We produce a catalogue of super-enhancers in a broad range of human cell types, and find that super-enhancers associate with genes that control and define the biology of these cells. Interestingly, disease-associated variation is especially enriched in the super-enhancers of disease-relevant cell types. Furthermore, we find that cancer cells generate super-enhancers at oncogenes and other genes important in tumor pathogenesis. Thus, super-enhancers play key roles in human cell identity in health and disease.
Overexpression of transcription factors has been used to directly reprogram somatic cells into a range of other differentiated cell types, including multipotent neural stem cells (NSCs), that can be used to generate neurons and glia. However, the ability to maintain the NSC state independent of the inducing factors and the identity of the somatic donor cells remain two important unresolved issues in transdifferentiation. Here we used transduction of doxycycline-inducible transcription factors to generate stable tripotent NSCs. The induced NSCs (iNSCs) maintained their characteristics in the absence of exogenous factor expression and were transcriptionally, epigenetically, and functionally similar to primary brain-derived NSCs. Importantly, we also generated tripotent iNSCs from multiple adult cell types, including mature liver and B cells. Our results show that self-maintaining proliferative neural cells can be induced from nonectodermal cells by expressing specific combinations of transcription factors.
•Transgene-independent tripotent neural stem cells are induced from somatic cells•H3K27ac enhancer profiling shows iNSCs are epigenetically reprogrammed genome-wide•Adult liver and B cells are lineage converted to iNSCs using a “secondary” system•iNSCs derived from B lymphocytes have immuloglobulin loci rearrangements
In this article, Jaenisch and colleagues generate induced neural stem cells that are transcriptionally, epigenetically, and functionally similar to primary NSCs by transiently overexpressing transcription factors in fibroblasts. The authors then demonstrate lineage conversion by inducing tripotent iNSCs from multiple adult cell types, including liver cells and B cells with genetic rearrangements.
A vast number of small-molecule ligands, including therapeutic drugs under development and in clinical use, elicit their effects by binding specific proteins associated with the genome. An ability to map the direct interactions of a chemical entity with chromatin genome-wide could provide new and important insights into chemical perturbation of cellular function. Here we describe a method that couples ligand-affinity capture and massively parallel DNA sequencing (Chem-seq) to identify the sites bound by small chemical molecules throughout the human genome. We show how Chem-seq can be combined with ChIP-seq to gain unique insights into the interaction of drugs with their target proteins throughout the genome of tumor cells. These methods provide a powerful approach to enhance understanding of therapeutic action and characterize the specificity of chemical entities that interact with DNA or genome-associated proteins.
We previously established that the intestinal sweet taste receptors (STRs), T1R2 and T1R3, were expressed in distinct epithelial cells in the human proximal intestine and that their transcript levels varied with glycemic status in patients with type 2 diabetes. Here we determined whether STR expression was 1) acutely regulated by changes in luminal and systemic glucose levels, 2) disordered in type 2 diabetes, and 3) linked to glucose absorption. Fourteen healthy subjects and 13 patients with type 2 diabetes were studied twice, at euglycemia (5.2 ± 0.2 mmol/L) or hyperglycemia (12.3 ± 0.2 mmol/L). Endoscopic biopsy specimens were collected from the duodenum at baseline and after a 30-min intraduodenal glucose infusion of 30 g/150 mL water plus 3 g 3-O-methylglucose (3-OMG). STR transcripts were quantified by RT-PCR, and plasma was assayed for 3-OMG concentration. Intestinal STR transcript levels at baseline were unaffected by acute variations in glycemia in healthy subjects and in type 2 diabetic patients. T1R2 transcript levels increased after luminal glucose infusion in both groups during euglycemia (+5.8 × 104 and +5.8 × 104 copies, respectively) but decreased in healthy subjects during hyperglycemia (−1.4 × 104 copies). T1R2 levels increased significantly in type 2 diabetic patients under the same conditions (+6.9 × 105 copies). Plasma 3-OMG concentrations were significantly higher in type 2 diabetic patients than in healthy control subjects during acute hyperglycemia. Intestinal T1R2 expression is reciprocally regulated by luminal glucose in health according to glycemic status but is disordered in type 2 diabetes during acute hyperglycemia. This defect may enhance glucose absorption in type 2 diabetic patients and exacerbate postprandial hyperglycemia.
The methylerythritol phosphate (MEP) pathway found in many bacteria governs the synthesis of isoprenoids, which are crucial lipid precursors for vital cell components such as ubiquinone. Because mammals synthesize isoprenoids via an alternate pathway, the bacterial MEP pathway is an attractive target for novel antibiotic development, necessitated by emerging antibiotic resistance as well as biodefense concerns. The first committed step in the MEP pathway is the reduction and isomerization of 1-deoxy-D-xylulose-5-phosphate (DXP) to methylerythritol phosphate (MEP), catalyzed by MEP synthase. To facilitate drug development, we cloned, expressed, purified, and characterized MEP synthase from Yersinia pestis. Enzyme assays indicate apparent kinetic constants of KMDXP = 252 µM and KMNADPH = 13 µM, IC50 values for fosmidomycin and FR900098 of 710 nM and 231 nM respectively, and Ki values for fosmidomycin and FR900098 of 251 nM and 101 nM respectively. To ascertain if the Y. pestis MEP synthase was amenable to a high-throughput screening campaign, the Z-factor was determined (0.9) then the purified enzyme was screened against a pilot scale library containing rationally designed fosmidomycin analogs and natural product extracts. Several hit molecules were obtained, most notably a natural product allosteric affector of MEP synthase and a rationally designed bisubstrate derivative of FR900098 (able to associate with both the NADPH and DXP binding sites in MEP synthase). It is particularly noteworthy that allosteric regulation of MEP synthase has not been described previously. Thus, our discovery implicates an alternative site (and new chemical space) for rational drug development.
Transcription factors and chromatin modifiers are important in the programming and reprogramming of cellular states during development1,2. Transcription factors bind to enhancer elements and recruit coactivators and chromatin-modifying enzymes to facilitate transcription initiation3,4. During differentiation a subset of these enhancers must be silenced, but the mechanisms underlying enhancer silencing are poorly understood. Here we show that the histone demethylase lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1; ref. 5), which demethylates histone H3 on Lys 4 or Lys 9 (H3K4/K9), is essential in decommissioning enhancers during the differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). LSD1 occupies enhancers of active genes that are critical for control of the state of ESCs. However, LSD1 is not essential for the maintenance of ESC identity. Instead, ESCs lacking LSD1 activity fail to differentiate fully, and ESC-specific enhancers fail to undergo the histone demethylation events associated with differentiation. At active enhancers, LSD1 is a component of the NuRD (nucleosome remodelling and histone deacetylase) complex, which contains additional subunits that are necessary for ESC differentiation. We propose that the LSD1–NuRD complex decommissions enhancers of the pluripotency program during differentiation, which is essential for the complete shutdown of the ESC gene expression program and the transition to new cell states.
Reprogramming of somatic cells to a pluripotent embryonic stem cell-like state has been achieved by nuclear transplantation of a somatic nucleus into an enucleated egg and most recently by introducing defined transcription factors into somatic cells. Nuclear reprogramming is of great medical interest as it has the potential to generate a source of patient-specific cells. Here, we review strategies to reprogram somatic cells to a pluripotent embryonic state and discuss our understanding of the molecular mechanisms of reprogramming based on recent insights into the regulatory circuitry of the pluripotent state.
Glioblastomas (GBM) harbor subpopulations of therapy-resistant tumor initiating cells (TICs) that are self-renewing and multipotent. To understand the regulation of the TIC state, we performed an image-based screen for genes regulating GBM TIC maintenance and identified ZFHX4, a 397-kDa transcription factor. ZFHX4 is required to maintain TIC-associated and normal human neural precursor cell phenotypes in vitro, suggesting that ZFHX4 regulates differentiation, and its suppression increases glioma-free survival in intracranial xenografts. ZFHX4 interacts with CHD4, a core member of the NuRD (nucleosome remodeling and deacetylase) complex. ZFHX4 and CHD4 bind to overlapping sets of genomic loci and control similar gene expression programs. Using expression data derived from GBM patients, we found that ZFHX4 significantly affects CHD4-mediated gene expression perturbations, which defines ZFHX4 as a master regulator of CHD4. These observations define ZFHX4 as a regulatory factor that links the chromatin remodeling NuRD complex and the GBM TIC state.
The recent discovery that normal and neoplastic epithelial cells re-enter the stem-cell state raised an intriguing possibility in the context of cancer pathogenesis: the aggressiveness of carcinomas derives not from their existing content of cancer stem cells (CSCs), but from their proclivity to generate new CSCs from non-CSC populations. Here we demonstrate that non-CSCs of human basal breast cancers are plastic cell populations that readily switch from a non-CSC to CSC-state. The observed cell plasticity is dependent on ZEB1, a key regulator of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition. We find plastic non-CSCs maintain the ZEB1 promoter in a bivalent chromatin configuration enabling them to respond readily to microenvironmental signals, such as TGFbeta. In response, the ZEB1 promoter converts from a bivalent to active chromatin configuration, ZEB1 transcription increases and non-CSCs subsequently enter the CSC state. Our findings support a dynamic model where interconversions between low and high tumorigenic states occur frequently, thereby increasing tumorigenic and malignant potential.
Rett Syndrome (RTT) is caused by mutations of MECP2, a methyl CpG binding protein thought to act as a global transcriptional repressor. Here we show, using an isogenic human embryonic stem cell model of RTT, that MECP2 mutant neurons display key molecular and cellular features of this disorder. Unbiased global gene expression analyses demonstrate that MECP2 functions as global gene activator in neurons but not in neural precursors. Decreased transcription in neurons was coupled with a significant reduction in nascent protein synthesis and lack of MECP2 was manifested as a severe defect in the activity of the AKT/mTOR pathway. Lack of MECP2 also leads to impaired mitochondrial function in mutant neurons. Activation of AKT/mTOR signaling by exogenous growth factors or by depleting PTEN boosted protein synthesis and ameliorated disease phenotypes in mutant neurons. Our findings indicate a vital function for MECP2 in maintaining active gene transcription in human neuronal cells.
Rett syndrome; human embryonic stem cells; AKT/mTOR; MECP2; gene expression; transcriptional activator
Habitat fragmentation studies have produced complex results that are challenging to synthesize. Inconsistencies among studies may result from variation in the choice of landscape metrics and response variables, which is often compounded by a lack of key statistical or methodological information. Collating primary datasets on biodiversity responses to fragmentation in a consistent and flexible database permits simple data retrieval for subsequent analyses. We present a relational database that links such field data to taxonomic nomenclature, spatial and temporal plot attributes, and environmental characteristics. Field assessments include measurements of the response(s) (e.g., presence, abundance, ground cover) of one or more species linked to plots in fragments within a partially forested landscape. The database currently holds 9830 unique species recorded in plots of 58 unique landscapes in six of eight realms: mammals 315, birds 1286, herptiles 460, insects 4521, spiders 204, other arthropods 85, gastropods 70, annelids 8, platyhelminthes 4, Onychophora 2, vascular plants 2112, nonvascular plants and lichens 320, and fungi 449. Three landscapes were sampled as long-term time series (>10 years). Seven hundred and eleven species are found in two or more landscapes. Consolidating the substantial amount of primary data available on biodiversity responses to fragmentation in the context of land-use change and natural disturbances is an essential part of understanding the effects of increasing anthropogenic pressures on land. The consistent format of this database facilitates testing of generalizations concerning biologic responses to fragmentation across diverse systems and taxa. It also allows the re-examination of existing datasets with alternative landscape metrics and robust statistical methods, for example, helping to address pseudo-replication problems. The database can thus help researchers in producing broad syntheses of the effects of land use. The database is dynamic and inclusive, and contributions from individual and large-scale data-collection efforts are welcome.
Bioinformatics; data sharing; database; edge effects; forest fragmentation; global change; landscape metrics; matrix contrast; species turnover
Experimental evidence of the interactions among mammalian predators that eat or compete with one another is rare, due to the ethical and logistical challenges of managing wild populations in a controlled and replicated way. Here, we report on the opportunistic use of a replicated and controlled culling experiment (the Randomised Badger Culling Trial) to investigate the relationship between two sympatric predators: European badgers Meles meles and western European hedgehogs Erinaceus europaeus. In areas of preferred habitat (amenity grassland), counts of hedgehogs more than doubled over a 5-year period from the start of badger culling (from 0.9 ha−1 pre-cull to 2.4 ha−1 post-cull), whereas hedgehog counts did not change where there was no badger culling (0.3–0.3 hedgehogs ha−1). This trial provides experimental evidence for mesopredator release as an outcome of management of a top predator.
Master transcription factors Oct4, Sox2 and Nanog bind enhancer elements and recruit Mediator to activate much of the gene expression program of pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESCs). We report here that the ESC master transcription factors form unusual enhancer domains at most genes that control the pluripotent state. These domains, which we call super-enhancers, consist of clusters of enhancers that are densely occupied by the master regulators and Mediator. Super-enhancers differ from typical enhancers in size, transcription factor density and content, ability to activate transcription, and sensitivity to perturbation. Reduced levels of Oct4 or Mediator cause preferential loss of expression of super-enhancer-associated genes relative to other genes, suggesting how changes in gene expression programs might be accomplished during development. In other more differentiated cells, super-enhancers containing cell type-specific master transcription factors are also found at genes that define cell identity. Super-enhancers thus play key roles in the control of mammalian cell identity.
Chromatin regulators have become attractive targets for cancer therapy, but it is unclear why inhibition of these ubiquitous regulators should have gene-specific effects in tumor cells. Here, we investigate how inhibition of the widely expressed transcriptional coactivator BRD4 leads to selective inhibition of the MYC oncogene in multiple myeloma (MM). BRD4 and Mediator were found to co-occupy thousands of enhancers associated with active genes. They also co-occupied a small set of exceptionally large super-enhancers associated with genes that feature prominently in MM biology, including the MYC oncogene. Treatment of MM tumor cells with the BET-bromodomain inhibitor JQ1 led to preferential loss of BRD4 at super-enhancers and consequent transcription elongation defects that preferentially impacted genes with super-enhancers, including MYC. Super-enhancers were found at key oncogenic drivers in many other tumor cells. These observations have implications for the discovery of cancer therapeutics directed at components of super-enhancers in diverse tumor types.
The gene expression programs that establish and maintain specific cell states in humans are controlled by thousands of transcription factors, cofactors and chromatin regulators. Misregulation of these gene expression programs can cause a broad range of diseases. Here we review recent advances in our understanding of transcriptional regulation and discuss how these have provided new insights into transcriptional misregulation in disease.
Hox genes controlling motor neuron subtype identity are expressed in rostro-caudal patterns that are spatially and temporally collinear with their chromosomal organization. Here we demonstrate that Hox chromatin is subdivided into discrete domains, controlled by rostro-caudal patterning signals that trigger rapid, domain-wide clearance of repressive H3K27me3 Polycomb modifications. Treatment of differentiating mouse neural progenitors with retinoic acid (RA) leads to activation and binding of RA receptors (RARs) to Hox1-5 chromatin domains, followed by a rapid domain-wide removal of H3K27me3 and acquisition of cervical spinal identity. Wnt and FGF signals induce expression of Cdx2 transcription factor that binds and clears H3K27me3 from Hox1-9 chromatin domains, leading to specification of brachial/thoracic spinal identity. We propose that rapid clearance of repressive modifications in response to transient patterning signals encodes global rostro-caudal neural identity and that maintenance of these chromatin domains ensures transmission of the positional identity to postmitotic motor neurons later in development.
miR-223 is upregulated by the transcription factor TAL1 in human T-ALL cells and suppress the FBXW7 tumor suppressor.
The oncogenic transcription factor TAL1/SCL is aberrantly expressed in 60% of cases of human T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) and initiates T-ALL in mouse models. By performing global microRNA (miRNA) expression profiling after depletion of TAL1, together with genome-wide analysis of TAL1 occupancy by chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled to massively parallel DNA sequencing, we identified the miRNA genes directly controlled by TAL1 and its regulatory partners HEB, E2A, LMO1/2, GATA3, and RUNX1. The most dynamically regulated miRNA was miR-223, which is bound at its promoter and up-regulated by the TAL1 complex. miR-223 expression mirrors TAL1 levels during thymic development, with high expression in early thymocytes and marked down-regulation after the double-negative-2 stage of maturation. We demonstrate that aberrant miR-223 up-regulation by TAL1 is important for optimal growth of TAL1-positive T-ALL cells and that sustained expression of miR-223 partially rescues T-ALL cells after TAL1 knockdown. Overexpression of miR-223 also leads to marked down-regulation of FBXW7 protein expression, whereas knockdown of TAL1 leads to up-regulation of FBXW7 protein levels, with a marked reduction of its substrates MYC, MYB, NOTCH1, and CYCLIN E. We conclude that TAL1-mediated up-regulation of miR-223 promotes the malignant phenotype in T-ALL through repression of the FBXW7 tumor suppressor.
TrxG and PcG complexes play key roles in the epigenetic regulation of development through H3K4me3 and H3K27me3 modification at specific sites throughout the human genome, but how these sites are selected is poorly understood. We find that in pluripotent cells, clustered CpG-islands at genes predict occupancy of H3K4me3 and H3K27me3, and these “bivalent” chromatin domains precisely span the boundaries of CpG-island clusters. These relationships are specific to pluripotent stem cells and are not retained at H3K4me3 and H3K27me3 sites unique to differentiated cells. We show that putative transcripts from clustered CpG-islands predict stem-loop structures characteristic of those bound by PcG complexes, consistent with the possibility that RNA facilitates PcG recruitment or maintenance at these sites. These studies suggest that CpG-island structure plays a fundamental role in establishing developmentally important chromatin structures in the pluripotent genome, and a subordinate role in establishing TrxG/PcG chromatin structure at sites unique to differentiated cells.
Polycomb; trithorax; stem cell; bivalent; H3K4me3; H3K27me3; stem-loop
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.
Transcription factors control cell-specific gene expression programs by binding regulatory elements and recruiting cofactors and the transcription apparatus to the initiation sites of active genes. One of these cofactors is cohesin, a structural maintenance of chromosomes (SMC) complex that is necessary for proper gene expression. We report that a second SMC complex, condensin II, is also present at transcriptional regulatory elements of active genes during interphase and is necessary for normal gene activity. Both cohesin and condensin II are associated with genes in euchromatin and not heterochromatin. The two SMC complexes and the SMC loading factor NIPBL are particularly enriched at super-enhancers, and the genes associated with these regulatory elements are especially sensitive to reduced levels of these complexes. Thus, in addition to their well-established functions in chromosome maintenance during mitosis, both cohesin and condensin II make important contributions to the functions of the key transcriptional regulatory elements during interphase.
•Cohesin and condensin II occupancy of enhancers and promoters is NIPBL dependent•Condensin II is recruited to regulatory elements during transcription activation•Cohesin and condensin II occupy super-enhancers and mediate proper gene expression
The SMC complexes cohesin and condensin II occupy enhancers and promoters in a NIPBL-dependent manner. Condensin II is recruited to active regulatory elements during transcription activation in interphase cells. Both cohesin and condensin II occupy super-enhancers and are required for proper gene expression.
Elevated expression of the c-Myc transcription factor occurs frequently in human cancers and is associated with tumor aggression and poor clinical outcome. The effect of high levels of c-Myc on global gene regulation is poorly understood, but is widely thought to involve newly activated or repressed “Myc target genes”. We report here that in tumor cells expressing high levels of c-Myc, the transcription factor accumulates in the promoter regions of active genes and causes transcriptional amplification, producing increased levels of transcripts within the cell's gene expression program. Thus, rather than binding and regulating a new set of genes, c-Myc amplifies the output of the existing gene expression program. These results provide an explanation for the diverse effects of oncogenic c-Myc on gene expression in different tumor cells and suggest that transcriptional amplification reduces rate-limiting constraints for tumor cell growth and proliferation.