The BCL6 oncogenic repressor is a master regulator of humoral immunity and B-cell lymphoma survival. Whereas much research has focused on its regulation and function in germinal center B-cells, its role in other mature lymphoid cell compartments is less clear. A novel role for BCL6 in follicular T helper cell development was recently uncovered. The latest discoveries reveal that BCL6 is also an important regulator of other specialized helper T-cell subsets within germinal centers, pre-germinal center events, and peripheral T-cells effector functions. Here, we review newly discovered roles for BCL6 in lymphocyte subsets residing within and outside of germinal centers, and discuss their implications with respect to the molecular mechanisms of BCL6 regulation and potential links to B and T-cell lymphomas.
The EZH2 histone methyltransferase is highly expressed in germinal center (GC) B-cells and targeted by somatic mutations in B-cell lymphomas. Here we find that EZH2 deletion or pharmacologic inhibition suppresses GC formation and functions in mice. EZH2 represses proliferation checkpoint genes and helps establish bivalent chromatin domains at key regulatory loci to transiently suppress GC B-cell differentiation. Somatic mutations reinforce these physiological effects through enhanced silencing of EZH2 targets in B-cells, and in human B-cell lymphomas. Conditional expression of mutant EZH2 in mice induces GC hyperplasia and accelerated lymphomagenesis in cooperation with BCL2. GCB-type DLBCLs are mostly addicted to EZH2, regardless of mutation status, but not the more differentiated ABC-type DLBCLs, thus clarifying the therapeutic scope of EZH2 targeting.
Strict regulation of replisome components is essential to ensure the accurate transmission of the genome to the next generation. The sliding clamp processivity factors play a central role in this regulation, interacting with both DNA polymerases and multiple DNA processing and repair proteins. Clamp binding partners share a common peptide binding motif, the nature of which is essentially conserved from phage through to humans. Given the degree of conservation of these motifs, much research effort has focussed on understanding how the temporal and spatial regulation of multiple clamp binding partners is managed. The bacterial sliding clamps have come under scrutiny as potential targets for rational drug design and comprehensive understanding of the structural basis of their interactions is crucial for success.
In this study we describe the crystal structure of a complex of the E. coli β-clamp with a 12-mer peptide from the UmuC protein. UmuC is the catalytic subunit of the translesion DNA polymerase, Pol V (UmuD’2C). Due to its potentially mutagenic action, Pol V is tightly regulated in the cell to limit access to the replication fork. Atypically for the translesion polymerases, both bacterial and eukaryotic, Pol V is heterotrimeric and its β-clamp binding motif (357 QLNLF 361) is internal to the protein, rather than at the more usual C-terminal position. Our structure shows that the UmuC peptide follows the overall disposition of previously characterised structures with respect to the highly conserved glutamine residue. Despite good agreement with the consensus β-clamp binding motif, distinct variation is shown within the hydrophobic binding pocket. While UmuC Leu-360 interacts as noted in other structures, Phe-361 does not penetrate the pocket at all, sitting above the surface.
Although the β-clamp binding motif of UmuC conforms to the consensus sequence, variation in its mode of clamp binding is observed compared to related structures, presumably dictated by the proximal aspartate residues that act as linker to the poorly characterised, unique C-terminal domain of UmuC. Additionally, interactions between Asn-359 of UmuC and Arg-152 on the clamp surface may compensate for the reduced interaction of Phe-361.
Translesion synthesis; Sliding clamp; Processivity factor; UmuC; Regulation
The methylation of histones is a fundamental epigenetic process regulating gene expression programs in mammalian cells. Dysregulated patterns of histone methylation are directly implicated in malignant transformation. Here, we report the unexpected finding that the invasive extracellular matrix degrading endoglycosidase heparanase enters the nucleus of activated human T lymphocytes and regulates the transcription of a cohort of inducible immune response genes by controlling histone H3 methylation patterns. It was found that nuclear heparanase preferentially associates with euchromatin. Genome-wide ChIP-on-chip analyses showed that heparanase is recruited to both the promoter and transcribed regions of a distinct cohort of transcriptionally active genes. Knockdown and overexpression of the heparanase gene also showed that chromatin-bound heparanase is a prerequisite for the transcription of a subset of inducible immune response genes in activated T cells. Furthermore, the actions of heparanase seem to influence gene transcription by associating with the demethylase LSD1, preventing recruitment of the methylase MLL and thereby modifying histone H3 methylation patterns. These data indicate that heparanase belongs to an emerging class of proteins that play an important role in regulating transcription in addition to their well-recognized extra-nuclear functions.
T lymphocytes; chromatin; heparanase; histone methylation; immune response genes; inducible genes; transcription
Biochemical and structural analysis of archaeal proteins has enabled us to gain great insight into many eukaryotic processes, simultaneously offering fascinating glimpses into the adaptation and evolution of proteins at the extremes of life. The archaeal PCNAs, central to DNA replication and repair, are no exception. Characterisation of the proteins alone, and in complex with both peptides and protein binding partners, has demonstrated the diversity and subtlety in the regulatory role of these sliding clamps. Equally, studies have provided valuable detailed insight into the adaptation of protein interactions and mechanisms that are necessary for life in extreme environments.
Halophilic archaea maintain intracellular salt concentrations close to saturation to survive in high-salt environments and their cellular processes have adapted to function under these conditions. Little is known regarding halophilic adaptation of the DNA processing machinery, particularly intriguing since protein-DNA interactions are classically salt sensitive. To investigate such adaptation, we characterised the DNA-binding capabilities of recombinant RPA3 from Haloferax volcanii (HvRPA3). Under physiological salt conditions (3 M KCl), HvRPA3 is monomeric, binding 18 nucleotide ssDNA with nanomolar affinity, demonstrating that RPAs containing the single OB-fold/zinc finger architecture bind with broadly comparable affinity to two OB-fold/zinc finger RPAs. Reducing the salt concentration to 1 M KCl induces dimerisation of the protein, which retains its ability to bind DNA. On circular ssDNA, two concentration-dependent binding modes are observed. Conventionally, increased salt concentration adversely affects DNA binding but HvRPA3 does not bind DNA in 0.2 M KCl, although multimerisation may occlude the binding site. The single N-terminal OB-fold is competent to bind DNA in the absence of the C-terminal zinc finger, albeit with reduced affinity. This study represents the first quantitative characterisation of DNA binding in a halophilic protein in extreme salt concentrations.
The BCL6 transcriptional repressor is the most frequently involved oncogene in diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL). We combined computer-aided drug design with functional assays to identify low molecular weight compounds that bind to the corepressor binding groove of the BCL6 BTB domain. One such compound disrupted BCL6/corepressor complexes in vitro and in vivo, and was observed by X-ray crystallography and NMR to bind the critical site within the BTB groove. This compound could induce expression of BCL6 target genes and kill BCL6-positive DLBCL cell lines. In xenotransplantation experiments, the compound was non-toxic and potently suppressed DLBCL tumors in vivo. The compound also killed primary DLBCLs from human patients.
Malaria, caused by the apicomplexan parasite Plasmodium, threatens 40% of the world's population. Transmission between vertebrate and insect hosts depends on the sexual stages of the life-cycle. The male gamete of Plasmodium parasite is the only developmental stage that possesses a flagellum. Very little is known about the identity or function of proteins in the parasite's flagellar biology. Here, we characterise a Plasmodium PF16 homologue using reverse genetics in the mouse malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei. PF16 is a conserved Armadillo-repeat protein that regulates flagellar structure and motility in organisms as diverse as green algae and mice. We show that P. berghei PF16 is expressed in the male gamete flagellum, where it plays a crucial role maintaining the correct microtubule structure in the central apparatus of the axoneme as studied by electron microscopy. Disruption of the PF16 gene results in abnormal flagellar movement and reduced fertility, but does not lead to complete sterility, unlike pf16 mutations in other organisms. Using homology modelling, bioinformatics analysis and complementation studies in Chlamydomonas, we show that some regions of the PF16 protein are highly conserved across all eukaryotes, whereas other regions may have species-specific functions. PF16 is the first ARM-repeat protein characterised in the malaria parasite genus Plasmodium and this study opens up a novel model for analysis of Plasmodium flagellar biology that may provide unique insights into an ancient organelle and suggest novel intervention strategies to control the malaria parasite.
During thymopoiesis, a unique program of gene expression promotes the development of CD4 regulatory T (T reg) cells. Although Foxp3 maintains a pattern of gene expression necessary for T reg cell function, other transcription factors are emerging as important determinants of T reg cell development. We show that the NF-κB transcription factor c-Rel is highly expressed in thymic T reg cells and that in c-rel−/− mice, thymic T reg cell numbers are markedly reduced as a result of a T cell–intrinsic defect that is manifest during thymocyte development. Although c-Rel is not essential for TGF-β conversion of peripheral CD4+CD25− T cells into CD4+Foxp3+ cells, it is required for optimal homeostatic expansion of peripheral T reg cells. Despite a lower number of peripheral T reg cells in c-rel−/− mice, the residual peripheral c-rel−/− T reg cells express normal levels of Foxp3, display a pattern of cell surface markers and gene expression similar to those of wild-type T reg cells, and effectively suppress effector T cell function in culture and in vivo. Collectively, our results indicate that c-Rel is important for both the thymic development and peripheral homeostatic proliferation of T reg cells.
We report that Heat shock protein 90 (Hsp90) inhibitors selectively kill Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphomas (DLBCL) that are biologically dependent on the Bcl6 transcriptional repressor. Endogenous Hsp90 was found to interact with Bcl6 in DLBCL cells and could stabilize both Bcl6 mRNA and protein. Hsp90 formed a complex with Bcl6 at its target promoters and Hsp90 inhibitors de-repressed Bcl6 target genes. A stable mutant of Bcl6 rescued DLBCL cells from Hsp90 inhibitor induced apoptosis. Bcl6 and Hsp90 were almost invariantly co-expressed in the nuclei of primary DLBCL cells, suggesting that their interaction is relevant in this disease. We examined the pharmacokinetics, toxicity and efficacy of PU-H71, a recently developed purine derived Hsp90 inhibitor. PU-H71 preferentially accumulated in lymphomas compared to normal tissues and selectively suppressed Bcl6-dependent DLBCLs in vivo, inducing reactivation of key Bcl6 target genes and apoptosis. PU-H71 also induced cell death in primary human DLBCL specimens.
B-cell lymphoma; Hsp90; Bcl6; targeted therapy
Inducible genes in T cells show the chromatin characteristics of active genes, suggesting they are primed for transcription.
Specific chromatin characteristics, especially the modification status of the core histone proteins, are associated with active and inactive genes. There is growing evidence that genes that respond to environmental or developmental signals may possess distinct chromatin marks. Using a T cell model and both genome-wide and gene-focused approaches, we examined the chromatin characteristics of genes that respond to T cell activation.
To facilitate comparison of genes with similar basal expression levels, we used expression-profiling data to bin genes according to their basal expression levels. We found that inducible genes in the lower basal expression bins, especially rapidly induced primary response genes, were more likely than their non-responsive counterparts to display the histone modifications of active genes, have RNA polymerase II (Pol II) at their promoters and show evidence of ongoing basal elongation. There was little or no evidence for the presence of active chromatin marks in the absence of promoter Pol II on these inducible genes. In addition, we identified a subgroup of genes with active promoter chromatin marks and promoter Pol II but no evidence of elongation. Following T cell activation, we find little evidence for a major shift in the active chromatin signature around inducible gene promoters but many genes recruit more Pol II and show increased evidence of elongation.
These results suggest that the majority of inducible genes are primed for activation by having an active chromatin signature and promoter Pol II with or without ongoing elongation.
The high intracellular salt concentration required to maintain a halophilic lifestyle poses challenges to haloarchaeal proteins that must stay soluble, stable and functional in this extreme environment. Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) is a fundamental protein involved in maintaining genome integrity, with roles in both DNA replication and repair. To investigate the halophilic adaptation of such a key protein we have crystallised and solved the structure of Haloferax volcanii PCNA (HvPCNA) to a resolution of 2.0 Å.
The overall architecture of HvPCNA is very similar to other known PCNAs, which are highly structurally conserved. Three commonly observed adaptations in halophilic proteins are higher surface acidity, bound ions and increased numbers of intermolecular ion pairs (in oligomeric proteins). HvPCNA possesses the former two adaptations but not the latter, despite functioning as a homotrimer. Strikingly, the positive surface charge considered key to PCNA's role as a sliding clamp is dramatically reduced in the halophilic protein. Instead, bound cations within the solvation shell of HvPCNA may permit sliding along negatively charged DNA by reducing electrostatic repulsion effects.
The extent to which individual proteins adapt to halophilic conditions varies, presumably due to their diverse characteristics and roles within the cell. The number of ion pairs observed in the HvPCNA monomer-monomer interface was unexpectedly low. This may reflect the fact that the trimer is intrinsically stable over a wide range of salt concentrations and therefore additional modifications for trimer maintenance in high salt conditions are not required. Halophilic proteins frequently bind anions and cations and in HvPCNA cation binding may compensate for the remarkable reduction in positive charge in the pore region, to facilitate functional interactions with DNA. In this way, HvPCNA may harness its environment as opposed to simply surviving in extreme halophilic conditions.
The cag-pathogenicity-island-encoded type IV
secretion system of Helicobacter pylori functions to
translocate the effector protein CagA directly through the plasma membrane of
gastric epithelial cells. Similar to other secretion systems, the Cag type IV
secretion system elaborates a surface filament structure, which is unusually
sheathed by the large cag-pathogenicity-island-encoded
protein CagY. CagY is distinguished by unusual amino acid composition and
extensive repetitive sequence organised into two defined repeat regions. The
second and major repeat region (CagYrpt2) has a regular
disposition of six repetitive motifs, which are subject to deletion and
duplication, facilitating the generation of CagY size and phenotypic variants.
In this study, we show CagYrpt2 to comprise two highly
thermostable and acid-stable α-helical structural motifs, the most abundant of
which (motif A) occurs in tandem arrays of one to six repeats terminally flanked
by single copies of the second repeat (motif B). Isolated motifs demonstrate
hetero- and homomeric interactions, suggesting a propensity for uniform assembly
of discrete structural subunit motifs within the larger
CagYrpt2 structure. Consistent with this, CagY proteins
comprising substantially different repeat 2 motif organisations demonstrate
equivalent CagA translocation competence, illustrating a remarkable structural
and functional tolerance for precise deletion and duplication of motif subunits.
We provide the first insight into the structural basis for
CagYrpt2 assembly that accommodates both the variable motif
sequence composition and the extensive contraction/expansion of repeat modules
within the CagYrpt2 region.
T4SS, type IV secretion system; PAI, pathogenicity island; TPR, tetratricopeptide repeat; PBS, phosphate-buffered saline; Helicobacter pylori; CagY; tetratricopeptide repeat; α-helical repeat; type IV secretion
Very-short-patch repair (Vsr) enzymes occur in a variety of bacteria, where they initiate nucleotide excision repair of G:T mismatches arising by deamination of 5-methyl-cytosines in specific regulatory sequences. We have now determined the structure of the archetypal dcm-Vsr endonuclease from Escherichia coli bound to the cleaved authentic hemi-deaminated/hemi-methylated dcm sequence 5′-C-OH-3′ 5′-p-T-p-A-p-G-p-G-3′/3′-G-p-G-p-T-pMe5C-p-C formed by self-assembly of a 12mer oligonucleotide into a continuous nicked DNA superhelix. The structure reveals the presence of a Hoogsteen base pair within the deaminated recognition sequence and the substantial distortions of the DNA that accompany Vsr binding to product sites.
We have developed a novel epitope delivery system based on the insertion of peptides within a permissive loop of a bacterial superoxide dismutase molecule. This system allowed high-level expression of heterologous peptides in two mycobacterial vaccine strains, Mycobacterium bovis bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) and Mycobacterium vaccae. The broader application of the system was analyzed by preparation of constructs containing peptide epitopes from a range of infectious agents and allergens. We report detailed characterization of the immunogenicity of one such construct, in which an epitope from the Der p1 house dust mite allergen was expressed in M. vaccae. The construct was able to stimulate T-cell hybridomas specific for Der p1, and it induced peptide-specific gamma interferon responses when used to immunize naive mice. This novel expression system demonstrates new possibilities for the use of mycobacteria as vaccine delivery vehicles.