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1.  Matrin 3 Binds and Stabilizes mRNA 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23882.
Matrin 3 (MATR3) is a highly conserved, inner nuclear matrix protein with two zinc finger domains and two RNA recognition motifs (RRM), whose function is largely unknown. Recently we found MATR3 to be phosphorylated by the protein kinase ATM, which activates the cellular response to double strand breaks in the DNA. Here, we show that MATR3 interacts in an RNA-dependent manner with several proteins with established roles in RNA processing, and maintains its interaction with RNA via its RRM2 domain. Deep sequencing of the bound RNA (RIP-seq) identified several small noncoding RNA species. Using microarray analysis to explore MATR3′s role in transcription, we identified 77 transcripts whose amounts depended on the presence of MATR3. We validated this finding with nine transcripts which were also bound to the MATR3 complex. Finally, we demonstrated the importance of MATR3 for maintaining the stability of several of these mRNA species and conclude that it has a role in mRNA stabilization. The data suggest that the cellular level of MATR3, known to be highly regulated, modulates the stability of a group of gene transcripts.
PMCID: PMC3157474  PMID: 21858232
2.  Functional analysis and identification of cis-regulatory elements of human chromosome 21 gene promoters 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(18):6112-6123.
Given the inherent limitations of in silico studies relying solely on DNA sequence analysis, the functional characterization of mammalian promoters and associated cis-regulatory elements requires experimental support, which demands cloning and analysis of putative promoter regions. Focusing on human chromosome 21, we cloned 182 gene promoters of 2500 bp in length and conducted reporter gene assays on transfected-cell arrays. We found 56 promoters that were active in HEK293 cells, while another 49 promoters could be activated by treatment of cells with Trichostatin A or depletion of serum. We observed high correlations between promoter activities and endogenous transcript levels, RNA polymerase II occupancy, CpG islands and core promoter elements. Truncation of a subset of 62 promoters to ∼500 bp revealed that truncation rarely resulted in loss of activity, but rather in loss of responses to external stimuli, suggesting the presence of cis-regulatory response elements within distal promoter regions. In these regions, we found a strong enrichment of transcription factor binding sites that could potentially activate gene expression in the presence of stimuli. This study illustrates the modular functional architecture of chromosome 21 promoters and helps to reveal the complex mechanisms governing transcriptional regulation.
PMCID: PMC2952857  PMID: 20494980
3.  Prediction of alternative isoforms from exon expression levels in RNA-Seq experiments 
Nucleic Acids Research  2010;38(10):e112.
Alternative splicing, polyadenylation of pre-messenger RNA molecules and differential promoter usage can produce a variety of transcript isoforms whose respective expression levels are regulated in time and space, thus contributing specific biological functions. However, the repertoire of mammalian alternative transcripts and their regulation are still poorly understood. Second-generation sequencing is now opening unprecedented routes to address the analysis of entire transcriptomes. Here, we developed methods that allow the prediction and quantification of alternative isoforms derived solely from exon expression levels in RNA-Seq data. These are based on an explicit statistical model and enable the prediction of alternative isoforms within or between conditions using any known gene annotation, as well as the relative quantification of known transcript structures. Applying these methods to a human RNA-Seq dataset, we validated a significant fraction of the predictions by RT-PCR. Data further showed that these predictions correlated well with information originating from junction reads. A direct comparison with exon arrays indicated improved performances of RNA-Seq over microarrays in the prediction of skipped exons. Altogether, the set of methods presented here comprehensively addresses multiple aspects of alternative isoform analysis. The software is available as an open-source R-package called Solas at
PMCID: PMC2879520  PMID: 20150413
4.  Ataxin-2 Interacts with the DEAD/H-Box RNA Helicase DDX6 and Interferes with P-Bodies and Stress Granules 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2007;18(4):1385-1396.
Tight control of translation is fundamental for eukaryotic cells, and deregulation of proteins implicated contributes to numerous human diseases. The neurodegenerative disorder spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 is caused by a trinucleotide expansion in the SCA2 gene encoding a lengthened polyglutamine stretch in the gene product ataxin-2, which seems to be implicated in cellular RNA-processing pathways and translational regulation. Here, we substantiate a function of ataxin-2 in such pathways by demonstrating that ataxin-2 interacts with the DEAD/H-box RNA helicase DDX6, a component of P-bodies and stress granules, representing cellular structures of mRNA triage. We discovered that altered ataxin-2 levels interfere with the assembly of stress granules and cellular P-body structures. Moreover, ataxin-2 regulates the intracellular concentration of its interaction partner, the poly(A)-binding protein, another stress granule component and a key factor for translational control. Thus, our data imply that the cellular ataxin-2 concentration is important for the assembly of stress granules and P-bodies, which are main compartments for regulating and controlling mRNA degradation, stability, and translation.
PMCID: PMC1838996  PMID: 17392519
6.  Hypermutation of the Inactive X Chromosome Is a Frequent Event in Cancer 
Cell  2013;155(3):567-581.
Mutation is a fundamental process in tumorigenesis. However, the degree to which the rate of somatic mutation varies across the human genome and the mechanistic basis underlying this variation remain to be fully elucidated. Here, we performed a cross-cancer comparison of 402 whole genomes comprising a diverse set of childhood and adult tumors, including both solid and hematopoietic malignancies. Surprisingly, we found that the inactive X chromosome of many female cancer genomes accumulates on average twice and up to four times as many somatic mutations per megabase, as compared to the individual autosomes. Whole-genome sequencing of clonally expanded hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells (HSPCs) from healthy individuals and a premalignant myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) sample revealed no X chromosome hypermutation. Our data suggest that hypermutation of the inactive X chromosome is an early and frequent feature of tumorigenesis resulting from DNA replication stress in aberrantly proliferating cells.
Graphical Abstract
•X chromosome has up to 4× more mutations than the autosomes in female cancer genomes•Hypermutations only affect the inactive X chromosome•X hypermutation involves somatic point mutations and indels, but not germline mutations•No X hypermutation is found in clonal expansions of normal or premalignant cells
A comparison of 402 cancer genomes identifies a surprisingly high level of somatic mutations in the inactive X chromosome of female cancer genomes. As hypermutability of the inactive X was not observed in clonal hematopoietic progenitor or preleukemic samples, it is likely that it may be a contributing factor to tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3898475  PMID: 24139898
8.  Gene expression variation in Down's syndrome mice allows prioritization of candidate genes 
Genome Biology  2007;8(5):R91.
RNA from eight Ts65Dn mice (a model of Down syndrome) and eight euploid mice were analysed by real-time PCR to examine inter-individual gene expression levels as a function of trisomy.
Down's syndrome (DS), or trisomy 21, is a complex developmental disorder that exhibits many clinical signs that vary in occurrence and severity among patients. The molecular mechanisms responsible for DS have thus far remained elusive. We argue here that normal variation in gene expression in the population contributes to the heterogeneous clinical picture of DS, and we estimated the amplitude of this variation in 50 mouse orthologs of chromosome 21 genes in brain regions of Ts65Dn (a mouse model of DS). We analyzed the RNAs of eight Ts65Dn and eight euploid mice by real-time polymerase chain reaction.
In pooled RNAs, we confirmed that trisomic/euploid gene expression ratios were close to 1.5. However, we observed that inter-individual gene expression levels spanned a broad range of values. We identified three categories of genes: genes with expression levels consistently higher in Ts65Dn than in euploids (9, 17, and 7 genes in cerebellum, cortex, and midbrain, respectively); genes whose expression levels partially overlap between the two groups (10, 9, and 14 genes); and genes with intermingled expression, which cannot be used to differentiate trisomics from euploids (12, 5 and 9 genes). Of the genes in the first category, App, Cbr1, and Mrps6 exhibited tight regulation in the three tissues and are therefore attractive candidates for further research.
This is the first analysis addressing inter-individual gene expression levels as a function of trisomy. We propose a strategy allowing discrimination between candidates for the constant features of DS and those genes that may contribute to the partially penetrant signs of DS.
PMCID: PMC1929163  PMID: 17531092
9.  Cell array-based intracellular localization screening reveals novel functional features of human chromosome 21 proteins 
BMC Genomics  2006;7:155.
Trisomy of human chromosome 21 (Chr21) results in Down's syndrome, a complex developmental and neurodegenerative disease. Molecular analysis of Down's syndrome, however, poses a particular challenge, because the aneuploid region of Chr21 contains many genes of unknown function. Subcellular localization of human Chr21 proteins may contribute to further understanding of the functions and regulatory mechanisms of the genes that code for these proteins. Following this idea, we used a transfected-cell array technique to perform a rapid and cost-effective analysis of the intracellular distribution of Chr 21 proteins.
We chose 89 genes that were distributed over the majority of 21q, ranging from RBM11 (14.5 Mb) to MCM3AP (46.6 Mb), with part of them expressed aberrantly in the Down's syndrome mouse model. Open reading frames of these genes were cloned into a mammalian expression vector with an amino-terminal His6 tag. All of the constructs were arrayed on glass slides and reverse transfected into HEK293T cells for protein expression. Co-localization detection using a set of organelle markers was carried out for each Chr21 protein. Here, we report the subcellular localization properties of 52 proteins. For 34 of these proteins, their localization is described for the first time. Furthermore, the alteration in cell morphology and growth as a result of protein over-expression for claudin-8 and claudin-14 genes has been characterized.
The cell array-based protein expression and detection approach is a cost-effective platform for large-scale functional analyses, including protein subcellular localization and cell phenotype screening. The results from this study reveal novel functional features of human Chr21 proteins, which should contribute to further understanding of the molecular pathology of Down's syndrome.
PMCID: PMC1526728  PMID: 16780588

Results 1-9 (9)