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1.  TAF4b Regulates Oocyte-Specific Genes Essential for Meiosis 
PLoS Genetics  2016;12(6):e1006128.
TAF4b is a gonadal-enriched subunit of the general transcription factor TFIID that is implicated in promoting healthy ovarian aging and female fertility in mice and humans. To further explore the potential mechanism of TAF4b in promoting ovarian follicle development, we analyzed global gene expression at multiple time points in the human fetal ovary. This computational analysis revealed coordinate expression of human TAF4B and critical regulators and effectors of meiosis I including SYCP3, YBX2, STAG3, and DAZL. To address the functional relevance of this analysis, we turned to the embryonic Taf4b-deficient mouse ovary where, for the first time, we demonstrate, severe deficits in prophase I progression as well as asynapsis in Taf4b-deficient oocytes. Accordingly, TAF4b occupies the proximal promoters of many essential meiosis and oogenesis regulators, including Stra8, Dazl, Figla, and Nobox, and is required for their proper expression. These data reveal a novel TAF4b function in regulating a meiotic gene expression program in early mouse oogenesis, and support the existence of a highly conserved TAF4b-dependent gene regulatory network promoting early oocyte development in both mice and women.
Author Summary
Proper regulation of early oogenesis is essential for long-term ovarian health and fertility, as female mammals (and women) possess a finite pool of oocytes at birth. Meiotic progression during these early stages of oogenesis ensures genomic integrity and proper chromosome segregation in the reproductive years and decades to come. We investigated the role of transcription factor TAF4b in proper expression of meiosis genes and in the proper progression through prophase I. We have identified a novel function for TAF4b in promoting appropriate expression of critical meiosis genes including Stra8, Sycp1, Sycp2, and Msy2. Furthermore, we have demonstrated TAF4b occupancy at the proximal promoters of Figla, Nobox, and Dazl. This occupancy is crucial for the chromosomal events of prophase I, as Taf4b-deficent oocytes experience defects in meiosis I, a high incidence of asynapsis, and disrupted recombination. These data identify TAF4b as a novel upstream transcriptional regulator of the early meiotic program that is essential for healthy oogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4920394  PMID: 27341508
2.  Targeted Sequencing and Meta-Analysis of Preterm Birth 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(5):e0155021.
Understanding the genetic contribution(s) to the risk of preterm birth may lead to the development of interventions for treatment, prediction and prevention. Twin studies suggest heritability of preterm birth is 36–40%. Large epidemiological analyses support a primary maternal origin for recurrence of preterm birth, with little effect of paternal or fetal genetic factors. We exploited an “extreme phenotype” of preterm birth to leverage the likelihood of genetic discovery. We compared variants identified by targeted sequencing of women with 2–3 generations of preterm birth with term controls without history of preterm birth. We used a meta-genomic, bi-clustering algorithm to identify gene sets coordinately associated with preterm birth. We identified 33 genes including 217 variants from 5 modules that were significantly different between cases and controls. The most frequently identified and connected genes in the exome library were IGF1, ATM and IQGAP2. Likewise, SOS1, RAF1 and AKT3 were most frequent in the haplotype library. Additionally, SERPINB8, AZU1 and WASF3 showed significant differences in abundance of variants in the univariate comparison of cases and controls. The biological processes impacted by these gene sets included: cell motility, migration and locomotion; response to glucocorticoid stimulus; signal transduction; metabolic regulation and control of apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC4862658  PMID: 27163930
3.  Identification of stromal ColXα1 and tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes as putative predictive markers of neoadjuvant therapy in estrogen receptor-positive/HER2-positive breast cancer 
BMC Cancer  2016;16:274.
The influence of the tumor microenvironment and tumor-stromal interactions on the heterogeneity of response within breast cancer subtypes have just begun to be explored. This study focuses on patients with estrogen receptor-positive/human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive (ER+/HER2+) breast cancer receiving neoadjuvant chemotherapy and HER2-targeted therapy (NAC+H), and was designed to identify novel predictive biomarkers by combining gene expression analysis and immunohistochemistry with pathologic response.
We performed gene expression profiling on pre-NAC+H tumor samples from responding (no or minimal residual disease at surgery) and non-responding patients. Gene set enrichment analysis identified potentially relevant pathways, and immunohistochemical staining of pre-treatment biopsies was used to measure protein levels of those pathways, which were correlated with pathologic response in both univariate and multivariate analysis.
Increased expression of genes encoding for stromal collagens, including Col10A1, and reduced expression of immune-associated genes, reflecting lower levels of total tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs), were strongly associated with poor pathologic response. Lower TILs in tumor biopsies correlated with reduced likelihood of achieving an optimal pathologic response, but increased expression of the Col10A1 gene product, colXα1, had greater predictive value than stromal abundance for poor response (OR = 18.9, p = 0.003), and the combination of increased colXα1 expression and low TILs was significantly associated with poor response in multivariate analysis. ROC analysis suggests strong specificity and sensitivity for this combination in predicting treatment response.
Increased expression of stromal colXα1 and low TILs correlate with poor pathologic response in ER+/HER2+ breast tumors. Further studies are needed to confirm their predictive value and impact on long-term outcomes, and to determine whether this collagen exerts a protective effect on the cancer cells or simply reflects other factors within the tumor microenvironment.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12885-016-2302-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4835834  PMID: 27090210
Collagen; Tumor microenvironment; HER2-positive breast cancer; Neoadjuvant chemotherapy; Tumor infiltrating lymphocytes
Experimental lung research  2015;41(9):477-488.
Human fetal lung xenografts display an unusual pattern of non-sprouting, plexus-forming angiogenesis that is reminiscent of the dysmorphic angioarchitecture described in bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). The aim of this study was to determine the clinicopathological correlates, growth characteristics and molecular regulation of this aberrant form of graft angiogenesis.
Fetal lung xenografts, derived from 12 previable fetuses (15 to 22 weeks’ gestation) and engrafted in the renal subcapsular space of SCID-beige mice, were analyzed 4 weeks post-transplantation for morphology, vascularization, proliferative activity and gene expression.
Focal plexus-forming angiogenesis (PFA) was observed in 60/230 (26%) of xenografts. PFA was characterized by a complex network of tortuous non-sprouting vascular structures with low endothelial proliferative activity, suggestive of intussusceptive-type angiogenesis. There was no correlation between the occurrence of PFA and gestational age or time interval between delivery and engraftment. PFA was preferentially localized in the relatively hypoxic central subcapsular area. Microarray analysis suggested altered expression of 15 genes in graft regions with PFA, of which 7 are known angiogenic/lymphangiogenic regulators and 5 are known hypoxia-inducible genes. qRT-PCR analysis confirmed significant upregulation of SULF2, IGF2 and HMOX1 in graft regions with PFA.
These observations in human fetal lungs ex vivo suggest that postcanalicular lungs can switch from sprouting angiogenesis to an aberrant intussusceptive-type of angiogenesis that is highly reminiscent of BPD-associated dysangiogenesis. While circumstantial evidence suggests hypoxia may be implicated, the exact triggering mechanisms, molecular regulation and clinical implications of this angiogenic switch in preterm lungs in vivo remain to be determined.
PMCID: PMC4764792  PMID: 26495956
chronic lung disease of newborn; BPD; angiogenesis; insulin-like growth factor; sulfatase 2; heme oxygenase 1
5.  Low expression of Abelson interactor-1 is linked to acquired drug resistance in Bcr-Abl induced leukemia 
Leukemia  2014;28(11):2165-2177.
The basis for persistence of leukemic stem cells in the bone marrow microenvironment (BMME) remains poorly understood. We present evidence that signaling crosstalk between α4 integrin and Abelson interactor-1 (Abi-1) is involved in acquisition of an anchorage-dependent phenotype and drug resistance in Bcr-Abl positive leukemia cells. Comparison of Abi-1 (ABI-1) and α4 integrin (ITGA4) gene expression in relapsing Bcr-Abl positive CD34+ progenitor cells demonstrated a reduction in Abi-1 and an increase in α4 integrin mRNA in the absence of Bcr-Abl mutations. This inverse correlation between Abi-1 and α4 integrin expression, as well as linkage to elevated phospho-Akt and phospho-Erk signaling, was confirmed in imatinib mesylate (IM) resistant leukemic cells. These results indicate that the α4-Abi-1 signaling pathway may mediate acquisition of the drug resistant phenotype of leukemic cells.
PMCID: PMC4185277  PMID: 24699303
Bone marrow microenvironment; alpha 4 integrin; Abelson interactor-1; Bcr-Abl; adhesion mediated drug resistance
6.  MicroRNA Profiling in Mucosal Biopsies of Eosinophilic Esophagitis Patients Pre and Post Treatment with Steroids and Relationship with mRNA Targets 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40676.
The characterization of miRNAs and their target mRNAs involved in regulation of the immune process is an area of intense research and relatively little is known governing these processes in allergic inflammation. Here we present novel findings defining the miRNA and mRNA transcriptome in eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), an increasing recognized allergic disorder.
Esophageal epithelial miRNA and mRNA from five paired biopsies pre- and post-treatment with glucocorticosteroids were profiled using Taqman and Affymetrix arrays. Validation was performed on additional paired biopsies, untreated EoE specimens and normal controls. Differentially regulated miRNAs and mRNAs were generated, within which miRNA-mRNA target pairs with high predicted confidence were identified.
Compared to the post-glucocorticoid treated esophageal mucosa, of all the 377 miRNA sequences examined, 32 miRNAs were significantly upregulated and four downregulated in the pre-treated biopsies. MiR-214 was the most upregulated (150 fold) and miR-146b-5b, 146a, 145, 142-3p and 21 were upregulated by at least 10 fold. Out of 12 miRNAs chosen for validation by qRT-PCR, five (miR-214, 146b-5p, 146a, 142-3p and 21) were confirmed and 11 shared the same trend. When the expression of the 12 miRNAs in the EoE mucosa was compared to unrelated normal mucosa, six (miR-214, 146b-5p, 146a, 21, 203, and 489) showed similar significant changes as in the paired samples and 10 of them shared the same trend. In the same five pairs of samples used to profile miRNA, 311 mRNAs were down-regulated and 35 were up-regulated in pre-treated EoE mucosa. Among them, 164 mRNAs were identified as potential targets of differentially regulated miRNAs. Further analysis revealed that immune-related genes, targeted and non-targeted by miRNAs, were among the most important genes involved in the pathogenesis of EoE.
Our findings add to the accumulating body of data defining a regulatory role for miRNA in immune and allergic processes.
PMCID: PMC3398046  PMID: 22815788
7.  Postnatal liver growth and regeneration are independent of c-myc in a mouse model of conditional hepatic c-myc deletion 
BMC Physiology  2012;12:1.
The transcription factor c-myc regulates genes involved in hepatocyte growth, proliferation, metabolism, and differentiation. It has also been assigned roles in liver development and regeneration. In previous studies, we made the unexpected observation that c-Myc protein levels were similar in proliferating fetal liver and quiescent adult liver with c-Myc displaying nucleolar localization in the latter. In order to investigate the functional role of c-Myc in adult liver, we have developed a hepatocyte-specific c-myc knockout mouse, c-mycfl/fl;Alb-Cre.
Liver weight to body weight ratios were similar in control and c-myc deficient mice. Liver architecture was unaffected. Conditional c-myc deletion did not result in compensatory induction of other myc family members or in c-Myc's binding partner Max. Floxed c-myc did have a negative effect on Alb-Cre expression at 4 weeks of age. To explore this relationship further, we used the Rosa26 reporter line to assay Cre activity in the c-myc floxed mice. No significant difference in Alb-Cre activity was found between control and c-mycfl/fl mice. c-myc deficient mice were studied in a nonproliferative model of liver growth, fasting for 48 hr followed by a 24 hr refeeding period. Fasting resulted in a decrease in liver mass and liver protein, both of which recovered upon 24 h of refeeding in the c-mycfl/fl;Alb-Cre animals. There was also no effect of reducing c-myc on recovery of liver mass following 2/3 partial hepatectomy.
c-Myc appears to be dispensable for normal liver growth during the postnatal period, restoration of liver mass following partial hepatectomy and recovery from fasting.
PMCID: PMC3353165  PMID: 22397685
8.  Chromatin remodeling in the aging genome of Drosophila 
Aging cell  2010;9(6):971-978.
Chromatin structure affects the accessibility of DNA to transcription, repair and replication. Changes in chromatin structure occur during development, but less is known about changes during aging. We examined the state of chromatin structure and its effect on gene expression during aging in Drosophila at the whole genome and cellular level using whole genome tiling microarrays of activation and repressive chromatin marks, whole genome transcriptional microarrays and single cell immunohistochemistry. We found dramatic reorganization of chromosomal regions with age. Mapping of H3K9me3 and HP1 signals to fly chromosomes reveals in young flies the expected high enrichment in the pericentric regions, the 4th chromosome and islands of facultative heterochromatin dispersed throughout the genome. With age there is a striking reduction in this enrichment resulting in a nearly equivalent level of H3K9me3 and HP1 in the pericentric regions, the 4th chromosome, facultative heterochromatin and euchromatin. These extensive changes in repressive chromatin marks are associated with alterations in age-related gene expression. Large-scale changes in repressive marks with age are further substantiated by single cell immunohistochemistry that show changes in nuclear distribution of H3K9me3 and HP1 marks with age. Such epigenetic changes are expected to directly or indirectly impinge upon important cellular functions such as gene expression, DNA repair and DNA replication. The combination of genome-wide approaches such as whole genome chromatin immunoprecipitation and transcriptional studies in conjunction with single cell immunohistochemistry as shown here provide a first step toward defining how changes in chromatin may contribute to the process of aging in metazoans.
PMCID: PMC2980570  PMID: 20961390
epigenetics; heterochromatin
9.  Accelerated Ovarian Aging in the Absence of the Transcription Regulator TAF4B in Mice1 
Biology of Reproduction  2009;82(1):23-34.
The mammalian ovary is unique in that its reproductive life span is limited by oocyte quantity and quality. Oocytes are recruited from a finite pool of primordial follicles that are usually exhausted from the ovary during midadult life. If regulation of this pool is perturbed, the reproductive capacity of the ovary is compromised. TAF4B is a gonad-enriched subunit of the TFIID complex required for female fertility in mice. Previous characterization of TAF4B-deficient ovaries revealed several reproductive deficits that collectively result in infertility. However, the etiology of such fertility defects remains unknown. By assaying estrous cycle, ovarian pathology, and gene expression changes in young Taf4b-null female mice, we show that TAF4B-deficient female mice exhibit premature reproductive senescence. The rapid decline of ovarian function in Taf4b-null mice begins in early postnatal life, and follicle depletion is completed by 16 wk of age. To uncover differences in gene expression that may underlie accelerated ovarian aging, we compared genome-wide expression profiles of 3-wk-old, prepubescent Taf4b-null and wild-type ovaries. At 3 wk of age, decreased gene expression in Taf4b-null ovaries is similar to that seen in aged ovaries, revealing several molecular signatures of premature reproductive senescence, including reduced Smc1b. One significantly reduced transcript in the young TAF4B-null ovary codes for MOV10L1, a putative germline-specific RNA helicase that is related to the Drosophila RNA interference protein, armitage. We show here that Mov10l1 is expressed in mouse oocytes and that its expression is sensitive to TAF4B level, linking TAF4B to the posttranscriptional control of ovarian gene expression.
TAF4B promotes oocyte transcription required for ovarian life span regulation.
PMCID: PMC2802112  PMID: 19684329
aging; gene regulation; oocyte development; oogenesis; ovary; ovulatory cycle; TFIID; transcription
10.  Comparative transcriptional profiling identifies takeout as a gene that regulates life span 
Aging (Albany NY)  2010;2(5):298-310.
A major challenge in translating the positive effects of dietary restriction (DR) for the improvement of human health is the development of therapeutic mimics. One approach to finding DR mimics is based upon identification of the proximal effectors of DR life span extension. Whole genome profiling of DR in Drosophila shows a large number of changes in gene expression, making it difficult to establish which changes are involved in life span determination as opposed to other unrelated physiological changes. We used comparative whole genome expression profiling to discover genes whose change in expression is shared between DR and two molecular genetic life span extending interventions related to DR, increased dSir2 and decreased Dmp53 activity. We find twenty-one genes shared among the three related life span extending interventions. One of these genes, takeout, thought to be involved in circadian rhythms, feeding behavior and juvenile hormone binding is also increased in four other life span extending conditions: Rpd3, Indy, chico and methuselah. We demonstrate takeout is involved in longevity determination by specifically increasing adult takeout expression and extending life span. These studies demonstrate the power of comparative whole genome transcriptional profiling for identifying specific downstream elements of the DR life span extending pathway.
PMCID: PMC2898020  PMID: 20519778
Dietary restriction; Calorie restriction; microarrays; Drosophila melanogaster; Sir2; p53; Rpd3; Indy; methuselah (mth); chico; life span extension; and takeout
11.  Analysis of Cell Cycle Phases and Progression in Cultured Mammalian Cells 
Methods (San Diego, Calif.)  2007;41(2):143-150.
Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) analysis has become a standard tool to analyze cell cycle distributions in populations of cells. These methods require relatively large numbers of cells, and do not provide optimal resolution of the transitions between cell cycle phases. In this report we describe in detail complementary methods that utilize the incorporation of nucleotide analogs combined with microscopic examination. While often more time consuming, these protocols typically require far fewer cells, and allow accurate kinetic assessment of cell cycle progression. We also describe the use of a technique for the synchronization of adherent cells in mitosis by simple mechanical agitation (mitotic shake-off) that eliminates physiological perturbation associated with drug treatments.
PMCID: PMC1828876  PMID: 17189856
12.  Loss of Protooncogene c-Myc Function Impedes G1 Phase Progression Both before and after the Restriction Point 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2003;14(3):823-835.
c-myc is an important protooncogene whose misregulation is believed to causally affect the development of numerous human cancers. c-myc null rat fibroblasts are viable but display a severe (two- to threefold) retardation of proliferation. The rates of RNA and protein synthesis are reduced by approximately the same factor, whereas cell size remains unaffected. We have performed a detailed kinetic cell cycle analysis of c-myc−/− cells by using several labeling and synchronization methods. The majority of cells (>90%) in asynchronous, exponential phase c-myc−/− cultures cycle continuously with uniformly elongated cell cycles. Cell cycle elongation is due to a major lengthening of G1 phase (four- to fivefold) and a more limited lengthening of G2 phase (twofold), whereas S phase duration is largely unaffected. Progression from mitosis to the G1 restriction point and the subsequent progression from the restriction point into S phase are both drastically delayed. These results are best explained by a model in which c-Myc directly affects cell growth (accumulation of mass) and cell proliferation (the cell cycle machinery) by independent pathways.
PMCID: PMC151562  PMID: 12631706

Results 1-12 (12)