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1.  Connecting the genome: dynamics and stochasticity in a new hierarchy for chromosome conformation 
Molecular cell  2013;49(5):773-782.
Mammalian genomes encode genetic information in their linear sequence, but appropriate expression of their genes requires chromosomes to fold into complex three-dimensional structures. Transcriptional control involves the establishment of physical connections among genes and regulatory elements, both along and between chromosomes. Recent technological innovations in probing the folding of chromosomes are providing new insights into the spatial organization of genomes and its role in gene regulation. It is emerging that folding of large complex chromosomes involves a hierarchy of structures, from chromatin loops that connect genes and enhancers to larger chromosomal domains and nuclear compartments. The larger these structures are along this hierarchy, the more stable they are within cells, while becoming more stochastic between cells. Here, we review the experimental and theoretical data on this hierarchy of structures, and propose a key role for the recently discovered Topologically Associating domains.
PMCID: PMC3741673  PMID: 23473598
2.  The context of gene expression regulation 
Recent advances in sequencing technologies have uncovered a world of RNAs that do not code for proteins, known as non-protein coding RNAs, that play important roles in gene regulation. Along with histone modifications and transcription factors, non-coding RNA is part of a layer of transcriptional control on top of the DNA code. This layer of components and their interactions specifically enables (or disables) the modulation of three-dimensional folding of chromatin to create a context for transcriptional regulation that underlies cell-specific transcription. In this perspective, we propose a structural and functional hierarchy, in which the DNA code, proteins and non-coding RNAs act as context creators to fold chromosomes and regulate genes.
PMCID: PMC3318259  PMID: 22500194
3.  Rapid Generation of MicroRNA Sponges for MicroRNA Inhibition 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29275.
MicroRNA (miRNA) sponges are transcripts with repeated miRNA antisense sequences that can sequester miRNAs from endogenous targets. MiRNA sponges are valuable tools for miRNA loss-of-function studies both in vitro and in vivo. We developed a fast and flexible method to generate miRNA sponges and tested their efficiency in various assays. Using a single directional ligation reaction we generated sponges with 10 or more miRNA binding sites. Luciferase and AGO2-immuno precipitation (IP) assays confirmed effective binding of the miRNAs to the sponges. Using a GFP competition assay we showed that miR-19 sponges with central mismatches in the miRNA binding sites are efficient miRNA inhibitors while sponges with perfect antisense binding sites are not. Quantification of miRNA sponge levels suggests that this is at least in part due to degradation of the perfect antisense sponge transcripts. Finally, we provide evidence that combined inhibition of miRNAs of the miR-17∼92 cluster results in a more effective growth inhibition as compared to inhibition of individual miRNAs. In conclusion, we describe and validate a method to rapidly generate miRNA sponges for miRNA loss-of-function studies.
PMCID: PMC3253070  PMID: 22238599
4.  Cytoplasmic p21 expression levels determine cisplatin resistance in human testicular cancer 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2010;120(10):3594-3605.
Platinum-based chemotherapies such as cisplatin are used as first-line treatment for many cancers. Although there is often a high initial responsiveness, the majority of patients eventually relapse with platinum-resistant disease. For example, a subset of testicular cancer patients still die even though testicular cancer is considered a paradigm of cisplatin-sensitive solid tumors, but the mechanisms of chemoresistance remain elusive. Here, we have shown that one key determinant of cisplatin-resistance in testicular embryonal carcinoma (EC) is high cytoplasmic expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor p21. The EC component of the majority of refractory testicular cancer patients exhibited high cytoplasmic p21 expression, which protected EC cell lines against cisplatin-induced apoptosis via CDK2 inhibition. Localization of p21 in the cytoplasm was critical for cisplatin resistance, since relocalization of p21 to the nucleus by Akt inhibition sensitized EC cell lines to cisplatin. We also demonstrated in EC cell lines and human tumor tissue that high cytoplasmic p21 expression and cisplatin resistance of EC were inversely associated with the expression of Oct4 and miR-106b seed family members. Thus, targeting cytoplasmic p21, including by modulation of the Oct4/miR-106b/p21 pathway, may offer new strategies for the treatment of chemoresistant testicular and other types of cancer.
PMCID: PMC2947220  PMID: 20811155
5.  Hodgkin Lymphoma Cell Lines Are Characterized by a Specific miRNA Expression Profile12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2009;11(2):167-176.
Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) is derived from preapoptotic germinal center B cells, although a general loss of B cell phenotype is noted. Using quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and miRNA microarray, we determined the microRNA (miRNA) profile of HL and compared this with the profile of a panel of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas. The two methods showed a strong correlation for the detection of miRNA expression levels. The HL-specific miRNA included miR-17-92 cluster members, miR-16, miR-21, miR-24, and miR-155. Using a large panel of cell lines, we found differential expression between HL and other B-cell lymphoma-derived cell lines for 27 miRNA. A significant down-regulation in HL compared to non-Hodgkin lymphoma was observed only for miR-150. Next, we performed target gene validation of predicted target genes for miR-155, which is highly expressed in HL and is differentially expressed between HL and Burkitt lymphoma. Using luciferase reporter assays, we validated 11 predicted miR-155 target genes in three different HL cell lines. We demonstrated that AGTR1, FGF7, ZNF537, ZIC3, and IKBKE are true miR-155 target genes in HL.
PMCID: PMC2631141  PMID: 19177201
6.  Microarray amplification bias: loss of 30% differentially expressed genes due to long probe – poly(A)-tail distances 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:277.
Laser microdissection microscopy has become a rising tool to assess gene expression profiles of pure cell populations. Given the low yield of RNA, a second round of amplification is usually mandatory to yield sufficient amplified-RNA for microarray approaches. Since amplification induces truncation of RNA molecules, we studied the impact of a second round of amplification on identification of differentially expressed genes in relation to the probe – poly(A)-tail distances.
Disagreement was observed between gene expression profiles acquired after a second round of amplification compared to a single round. Thirty percent of the differentially expressed genes identified after one round of amplification were not detected after two rounds. These inconsistent genes have a significant longer probe – poly(A)-tail distance. qRT-PCR on unamplified RNA confirmed differential expression of genes with a probe – poly(A)-tail distance >500 nucleotides appearing only after one round of amplification.
Our data demonstrate a marked loss of 30% of truly differentially expressed genes after a second round of amplification. Therefore, we strongly recommend improvement of amplification procedures and importance of microarray probe design to allow detection of all differentially expressed genes in case of limited amounts of RNA.
PMCID: PMC2000903  PMID: 17697374

Results 1-6 (6)