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1.  Organization and roles of nucleosomes at mouse meiotic recombination hotspots 
Nucleus  2012;3(3):244-250.
Meiotic double strand breaks (DSBs) occur at discrete regions in the genome coined hotspots. Precisely what directs site selection of these DSBs is hotly debated and in particular it is unclear which chromatin features, and regulatory factors are necessary for a genomic region to initiate and resolve DSBs as a crossover (CO) event. In human and mouse, one layer of hotspot selection control is a recognition sequence element present at these sites that is bound by the Prdm9 zinc-finger protein. Furthermore, an overall open chromatin structure is thought to be required to allow access of the recombination machinery, and this is often dictated by the packaging of DNA around nucleosomes. We recently defined the nucleosome occupancy maps of four mouse recombination hotspots throughout meiosis. These analyses revealed no obvious dynamic changes in nucleosome occupancy, suggesting an intrinsic nature of recombinogenic sites, yet they also revealed that nucleosomes define zones of exclusion for CO resolution. Here, we discuss new evidence implicating nucleosome occupancy in recombinogenic repair and its potential roles in controlling chromatin structure at mouse meiotic hotspots.
PMCID: PMC3414400  PMID: 22572955
meiosis; chromatin; nucleosome; recombination; Prdm9; histone; crossover
2.  A Global Expression Switch Marks Pachytene Initiation during Mouse Male Meiosis 
Genes  2010;1(3):469-483.
Male spermatogenesis is an essential and complex process necessary to gain totipotency and allow a whole new organism to develop upon fertilization. While single-gene based studies have provided insights into the mechanisms underlying spermatogenesis, detailed global profiling of all the key meiotic stages is required to fully define these processes. Here, by isolating highly enriched mouse meiotic cell populations, we have generated a comprehensive gene expression atlas of mammalian meiosis. Our data define unique signatures for the specific stages of meiosis, including global chromosome X inactivation and reactivation. The data also reveal profound switches in global gene expression at the initiation of pachynema that are reminiscent of the commitment to meiosis observed in budding yeast. Overall, this meiotic atlas provides an exhaustive blueprint and resource for mammalian gametogenesis and meiosis.
PMCID: PMC3966219
meiosis; commitment; transcription; dynamic; expression array; mouse; MSCI
3.  Anatomy of mouse recombination hot spots 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(7):2346-2354.
Genome-wide analyses have suggested thousands of meiotic recombination hot spots across mammalian genomes. However, very few hot spots have been directly analyzed at a sub-kb scale for crossover (CO) activity. Using recombinant inbred strains as a CO library, here we report the identification and detailed characterization of seven new meiotic hot spots on mouse chromosome 19, more than doubling the number of currently available mouse hot spots. Although a shared feature is the narrow 1.5–2.5-kb width of these recombinogenic sites, these analyses revealed that hot spots have diverse sequence attributes and distinct symmetric and asymmetric CO profiles. Interestingly, CO molecules with discontinuous conversion tracts are commonly observed, contrasting with those found in human. Furthermore, unlike human hot spots, those present in the mouse do not necessarily have a quasi-normal CO distribution but harbor CO repulsion zones within recombinogenic cores. We propose a model where local chromatin landscape directs these repulsion zones.
PMCID: PMC2853141  PMID: 20081202
4.  Genetic Analysis of Variation in Human Meiotic Recombination 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(9):e1000648.
The number of recombination events per meiosis varies extensively among individuals. This recombination phenotype differs between female and male, and also among individuals of each gender. In this study, we used high-density SNP genotypes of over 2,300 individuals and their offspring in two datasets to characterize recombination landscape and to map the genetic variants that contribute to variation in recombination phenotypes. We found six genetic loci that are associated with recombination phenotypes. Two of these (RNF212 and an inversion on chromosome 17q21.31) were previously reported in the Icelandic population, and this is the first replication in any other population. Of the four newly identified loci (KIAA1462, PDZK1, UGCG, NUB1), results from expression studies provide support for their roles in meiosis. Each of the variants that we identified explains only a small fraction of the individual variation in recombination. Notably, we found different sequence variants associated with female and male recombination phenotypes, suggesting that they are regulated by different genes. Characterization of genetic variants that influence natural variation in meiotic recombination will lead to a better understanding of normal meiotic events as well as of non-disjunction, the primary cause of pregnancy loss.
Author Summary
Meiotic recombination is essential for the formation of human gametes and is a key process that generates genetic diversity. Given its importance, we would expect the number and location of exchanges to be tightly regulated. However, studies show significant gender and inter-individual variation in genome-wide recombination rates. The genetic basis for this variation is poorly understood. In this study, we used genotypes from high-density single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers of 2,315 individuals and their children from two Caucasian samples in a genome-wide association study to identify genetic variants that influence the number of meiotic recombination events per gamete. We found three loci that influence female recombination and three different loci that influence male recombination. Our results suggest that gender differences in recombination result from differences in the genetic regulation of female and male meiosis. Also, each identified locus only explains a small proportion of variance; together, each set of loci explains about 10% of the variation in the gender-specific recombination phenotype. This suggests a mechanism for variability in recombination that is essential for genetic diversity while maintaining the number of recombinations within a range to ensure proper chromosome segregation.
PMCID: PMC2730532  PMID: 19763160
5.  A Highly Polymorphic Meiotic Recombination Mouse Hot Spot Exhibits Incomplete Repair▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(20):7053-7062.
The recent mapping of recombination hot spots in the human genome has demonstrated that crossover is a nonrandom process that occurs at well-defined positions along chromosomes. However, the mechanisms that direct hot-spot turnover in complex mammalian genomes are poorly understood. Analyses of the human genome are impaired by the inability to genetically dissect and molecularly manipulate recombinogenic regions to test their roles in regulating hot spots. Here, using the BXD recombinant inbred strains as a crossover library, three new recombination hot spots have been identified on mouse chromosome 19. Analyses of a highly polymorphic recombination hot spot (HS22) revealed that approximately 4% of recombinant molecules display complex and incomplete repair with discontinuous conversion tracts, as well as persistent heteroduplex DNA at crossover sites in mature spermatozoa. Also, sequence analysis of the wild house mouse revealed instability at the center of this hot spot. This suggests that complete repair is not required for completion of mammalian meiosis, a scenario that leaves duplex DNA containing mismatches at crossover sites.
PMCID: PMC2168899  PMID: 17709383
8.  Shigella applies molecular mimicry to subvert vinculin and invade host cells 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2006;175(3):465-475.
Shigella flexneri, the causative agent of bacillary dysentery, injects invasin proteins through a type III secretion apparatus upon contacting the host cell, which triggers pathogen internalization. The invasin IpaA is essential for S. flexneri pathogenesis and binds to the cytoskeletal protein vinculin to facilitate host cell entry. We report that IpaA harbors two vinculin-binding sites (VBSs) within its C-terminal domain that bind to and activate vinculin in a mutually exclusive fashion. Only the highest affinity C-terminal IpaA VBS is necessary for efficient entry and cell–cell spread of S. flexneri, whereas the lower affinity VBS appears to contribute to vinculin recruitment at entry foci of the pathogen. Finally, the crystal structures of vinculin in complex with the VBSs of IpaA reveal the mechanism by which IpaA subverts vinculin's functions, where S. flexneri utilizes a remarkable level of molecular mimicry of the talin–vinculin interaction to activate vinculin. Mimicry of vinculin's interactions may therefore be a general mechanism applied by pathogens to infect the host cell.
PMCID: PMC2064523  PMID: 17088427
9.  FOXO1a acts as a selective tumor suppressor in alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2005;170(6):903-912.
Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), the most common pediatric soft-tissue sarcoma, has two major histological subtypes: embryonal RMS (ERMS), which has a favorable prognosis, and alveolar RMS (ARMS), which has a poor outcome. Although both forms of RMS express muscle cell–specific markers, only ARMS cells express PAX3-FOXO1a or PAX7-FOXO1a chimeric proteins. In mice, Pax3 and Pax7 play key roles in muscle cell development and differentiation, and FoxO1a regulates myoblast differentiation and fusion; thus, the aberrant regulation of these proteins may contribute to the development of ARMS. In this paper, we report that FOXO1a is not expressed in primary ARMS tumors or ARMS-derived tumor cell lines and that restoration of FOXO1a expression in ARMS cells is sufficient to induce cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Strikingly, the effects of FOXO1a are selective, as enforced expression of FOXO1a in ERMS-derived tumor cell lines had no effect. Furthermore, FOXO1a induced apoptosis in ARMS by directly activating the transcription of caspase-3. We conclude that FOXO1a is a potent and specific tumor suppressor in ARMS, suggesting that agents that restore or augment FOXO1a activity may be effective as ARMS therapeutics.
PMCID: PMC2171446  PMID: 16157701
10.  FoxO1a-Cyclic GMP-Dependent Kinase I Interactions Orchestrate Myoblast Fusion 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(17):7645-7656.
The regulatory circuits that orchestrate mammalian myoblast cell fusion during myogenesis are poorly understood. The transcriptional activity of FoxO1a directly regulates this process, yet the molecular mechanisms governing FoxO1a activity during muscle cell differentiation remain unknown. Here we show an autoregulatory loop in which FoxO1a directly activates transcription of the cyclic GMP-dependent protein kinase I (cGKI) gene and where the ensuing cGKI activity phosphorylates FoxO1a and abolishes its DNA binding activity. These findings establish the FoxO1a-to-cGKI pathway as a novel feedback loop that allows the precise tuning of myoblast fusion. Interestingly, this pathway appears to operate independently of muscle cell differentiation programs directed by myogenic transcription factors.
PMCID: PMC1190306  PMID: 16107711
11.  Structural Dynamics of α-Actinin-Vinculin Interactions†  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(14):6112-6122.
α-Actinin and vinculin orchestrate reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton following the formation of adhesion junctions. α-Actinin interacts with vinculin through the binding of an α-helix (αVBS) present within the R4 spectrin repeat of its central rod domain to vinculin's N-terminal seven-helical bundle domain (Vh1). The Vh1:αVBS structure suggests that αVBS first unravels from its buried location in the triple-helical R4 repeat to allow it to bind to vinculin. αVBS binding then induces novel conformational changes in the N-terminal helical bundle of Vh1, which disrupt its intramolecular association with vinculin's tail domain and which differ from the alterations in Vh1 provoked by the binding of talin. Surprisingly, αVBS binds to Vh1 in an inverted orientation compared to the binding of talin's VBSs to vinculin. Importantly, the binding of αVBS and talin's VBSs to vinculin's Vh1 domain appear to also trigger distinct conformational changes in full-length vinculin, opening up distant regions that are buried in the inactive molecule. The data suggest a model where vinculin's Vh1 domain acts as a molecular switch that undergoes distinct structural changes provoked by talin and α-actinin binding in focal adhesions versus adherens junctions, respectively.
PMCID: PMC1168820  PMID: 15988023

Results 1-11 (11)