Several linkage studies provided evidence for the presence of the hereditary prostate cancer locus, HPCX1, at Xq27-q28. The strongest linkage peak of prostate cancer overlies a variable region of ~750 kb at Xq27 enriched by segmental duplications (SDs), suggesting that the predisposition to prostate cancer may be a genomic disorder caused by recombinational interaction between SDs. The large size of SDs and their sequence similarity make it difficult to examine this region for possible rearrangements using standard methods. To overcome this problem, direct isolation of a set of genomic segments by in vivo recombination in yeast (a TAR cloning technique) was used to perform a mutational analysis of the 750 kb region in X-linked families. We did not detect disease-specific rearrangements within this region. In addition, transcriptome and computational analyses were performed to search for non-annotated genes within the Xq27 region, which may be associated with genetic predisposition to prostate cancer. Two candidate genes were identified, one of which is a novel gene termed SPANXL that represents a highly diverged member of the SPANX gene family, and the previously described CDR1 gene that is expressed at a high level in both normal and malignant prostate cells, and mapped 210 kb of upstream the SPANX gene cluster. No disease-specific alterations were identified in these genes. To summarize, our results exclude the 750-kb genetically unstable region at Xq27 as a candidate locus for prostate malignancy. Adjacent regions appear to be the most likely candidates to identify the elusive HPCX1 locus.
Xq27; hereditary prostate cancer; HPCX1; SPANXL; CDR1; TAR cloning
Aneuploidy is a feature of most cancer cells that is often accompanied by an elevated rate of chromosome mis-segregation termed chromosome instability (CIN). While CIN can act as a driver of cancer genome evolution and tumor progression, recent findings point to the existence of a threshold level beyond which CIN becomes a barrier to tumor growth and therefore can be exploited therapeutically. Drugs known to increase CIN beyond the therapeutic threshold are currently few in number, and the clinical promise of targeting the CIN phenotype warrants new screening efforts. However, none of the existing methods, including the in vitro micronuclei (MNi) assay, developed to quantify CIN, is entirely satisfactory.
We have developed a new assay for measuring CIN. This quantitative assay for chromosome mis-segregation is based on the use of a non-essential human artificial chromosome (HAC) carrying a constitutively expressed EGFP transgene. Thus, cells that inherit the HAC display green fluorescence, while cells lacking the HAC do not. This allows the measurement of HAC loss rate by routine flow cytometry.
Using the HAC-based chromosome loss assay, we have analyzed several well-known anti-mitotic, spindle-targeting compounds, all of which have been reported to induce micronuclei formation and chromosome loss. For each drug, the rate of HAC loss was accurately measured by flow cytometry as a proportion of non-fluorescent cells in the cell population which was verified by FISH analysis. Based on our estimates, despite their similar cytotoxicity, the analyzed drugs affect the rates of HAC mis-segregation during mitotic divisions differently. The highest rate of HAC mis-segregation was observed for the microtubule-stabilizing drugs, taxol and peloruside A.
Thus, this new and simple assay allows for a quick and efficient screen of hundreds of drugs to identify those affecting chromosome mis-segregation. It also allows ranking of compounds with the same or similar mechanism of action based on their effect on the rate of chromosome loss. The identification of new compounds that increase chromosome mis-segregation rates should expedite the development of new therapeutic strategies to target the CIN phenotype in cancer cells.
Human artificial chromosome; HAC; Chromosome instability; CIN; Drug treatment
Human artificial chromosomes (HACs) are vectors that offer advantages of capacity and stability for gene delivery and expression. Several studies have even demonstrated their use for gene complementation in gene-deficient recipient cell lines and animal transgenesis. Recently, we constructed an advance HAC-based vector, alphoidtetO-HAC, with a conditional centromere. In this HAC, a gene-loading site was inserted into a centrochromatin domain critical for kinetochore assembly and maintenance. While by definition this domain is permissive for transcription, there have been no long-term studies on transgene expression within centrochromatin. In this study, we compared the effects of three chromatin insulators, cHS4, gamma-satellite DNA, and tDNA, on the expression of an EGFP transgene inserted into the alphoidtetO-HAC vector. Insulator function was essential for stable expression of the transgene in centrochromatin. In two analyzed host cell lines, a tDNA insulator composed of two functional copies of tRNA genes showed the highest barrier activity. We infer that proximity to centrochromatin does not protect genes lacking chromatin insulators from epigenetic silencing. Barrier elements that prevent gene silencing in centrochromatin would thus help to optimize transgenesis using HAC vectors.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00018-013-1362-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Insulator; tDNA-gamma-satellite; cHS4; Human artificial chromosome-HAC
Human artificial chromosome (HAC)-based vectors represent an alternative technology for gene delivery and expression with a potential to overcome the problems caused by the use of viral-based vectors. The recently developed alphoidtetO-HAC has an advantage over other HAC vectors because it can be easily eliminated from cells by inactivation of the HAC kinetochore via binding of tTS chromatin modifiers to its centromeric tetO sequences. This provides unique control for phenotypes induced by genes loaded into the alphoidtetO-HAC. However, inactivation of the HAC kinetochore requires transfection of cells by a retrovirus vector, a step that is potentially mutagenic. Here, we describe an approach to re-engineering the alphoidtetO-HAC that allows verification of phenotypic changes attributed to expression of genes from the HAC without a transfection step. In the new HAC vector, a tTS-EYFP cassette is inserted into a gene-loading site along with a gene of interest. Expression of the tTS generates a self-regulating fluctuating heterochromatin on the alphoidtetO-HAC that induces fast silencing of the genes on the HAC without significant effects on HAC segregation. This silencing of the HAC-encoded genes can be readily recovered by adding doxycycline. The newly modified alphoidtetO-HAC-based system has multiple applications in gene function studies.
CENP-B is a widely conserved centromeric satellite DNA-binding protein, which specifically binds to a 17-bp DNA sequence known as the CENP-B box. CENP-B functions positively in the de novo assembly of centromeric nucleosomes, containing the centromere-specific histone H3 variant, CENP-A. At the same time, CENP-B also prevents undesired assembly of the CENP-A nucleosome through heterochromatin formation on satellite DNA integrated into ectopic sites. Therefore, improper CENP-B binding to chromosomes could be harmful. However, no CENP-B eviction mechanism has yet been reported. In the present study, we found that human Nap1, an acidic histone chaperone, inhibited the non-specific binding of CENP-B to nucleosomes and apparently stimulated CENP-B binding to its cognate CENP-B box DNA in nucleosomes. In human cells, the CENP-B eviction activity of Nap1 was confirmed in model experiments, in which the CENP-B binding to a human artificial chromosome or an ectopic chromosome locus bearing CENP-B boxes was significantly decreased when Nap1 was tethered near the CENP-B box sequence. In contrast, another acidic histone chaperone, sNASP, did not promote CENP-B eviction in vitro and in vivo and did not stimulate specific CENP-B binding to CENP-A nucleosomes in vitro. We therefore propose a novel mechanism of CENP-B regulation by Nap1.
It is a well-established fact that the tRNA genes in yeast can function as chromatin barrier elements. However, so far there is no experimental evidence that tRNA and other Pol III-transcribed genes exhibit barrier activity in mammals. This study utilizes a recently developed reporter gene assay to test a set of Pol III-transcribed genes and gene clusters with variable promoter and intergenic regions for their ability to prevent heterochromatin-mediated reporter gene silencing in mouse cells. The results show that functional copies of mouse tRNA genes are effective barrier elements. The number of tRNA genes as well as their orientation influence barrier function. Furthermore, the DNA sequence composition of intervening and flanking regions affects barrier activity of tRNA genes. Barrier activity was maintained for much longer time when the intervening and flanking regions of tRNA genes were replaced by AT-rich sequences, suggesting a negative role of DNA methylation in the establishment of a functional barrier. Thus, our results suggest that tRNA genes are essential elements in establishment and maintenance of chromatin domain architecture in mammalian cells.
barrier elements; tRNA genes; Pol III-transcribed genes
The NCI-60 is a panel of 60 diverse human cancer cell lines used by the U.S. National Cancer Institute to screen compounds for anticancer activity. We recently clustered genes based on correlation of expression profiles across the NCI-60. Many of the resulting clusters were characterized by cancer-associated biological functions. The set of curated glioblastoma (GBM) gene expression data from the Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) initiative has recently become available. Thus, we are now able to determine which of the processes are robustly shared by both the immortalized cell lines and clinical cancers.
Our central observation is that some sets of highly correlated genes in the NCI-60 expression data are also highly correlated in the GBM expression data. Furthermore, a “double fishing” strategy identified many sets of genes that show Pearson correlation ≥0.60 in both the NCI-60 and the GBM data sets relative to a given “bait” gene. The number of such gene sets far exceeds the number expected by chance.
Many of the gene-gene correlations found in the NCI-60 do not reflect just the conditions of cell lines in culture; rather, they reflect processes and gene networks that also function in vivo. A number of gene network correlations co-occur in the NCI-60 and GBM data sets, but there are others that occur only in NCI-60 or only in GBM. In sum, this analysis provides an additional perspective on both the utility and the limitations of the NCI-60 in furthering our understanding of cancers in vivo.
Establishment of Human Artificial Chromosomes (HACs) depends on an interplay of H3 lysine 9 modifications at centromeres, providing insights into the pathways that control incorporation of the kinetochore-specificing histone H3 variant CENP-A.
The kinetochore is responsible for accurate chromosome segregation. However, the mechanism by which kinetochores assemble and are maintained remains unclear. Here we report that de novo CENP-A assembly and kinetochore formation on human centromeric alphoid DNA arrays is regulated by a histone H3K9 acetyl/methyl balance. Tethering of histone acetyltransferases (HATs) to alphoid DNA arrays breaks a cell type-specific barrier for de novo stable CENP-A assembly and induces assembly of other kinetochore proteins at the ectopic alphoid site. Similar results are obtained following tethering of CENP-A deposition factors hMis18α or HJURP. HAT tethering bypasses the need for hMis18α, but HJURP is still required for de novo kinetochore assembly. In contrast, H3K9 methylation following tethering of H3K9 tri-methylase (Suv39h1) to the array prevents de novo CENP-A assembly and kinetochore formation. CENP-A arrays assembled de novo by this mechanism can form human artificial chromosomes (HACs) that are propagated indefinitely in human cells.
CENP-A; centromeres; chromosomes; epigenetic regulation; heterochromatin
The NCI-60 cell line panel is the most extensively characterized set of cells in existence, and has been used extensively as a screening tool for drug discovery. Previously, the potential of this panel has not been applied to the fundamental cellular processes of chromosome segregation. In the current study, we used data from multiple microarray platforms accumulated for the NCI-60 to characterize an expression pattern of genes involved in kinetochore assembly. This analysis revealed that 17 genes encoding the constitutive centromere associated network of the kinetochore core (the CCAN complex) plus four additional genes with established importance in kinetochore maintenance (CENPE, CENPF, INCENP, and MIS12) exhibit similar patterns of expression in the NCI-60, suggesting a mechanism for co-regulated transcription of these genes which is maintained despite the multiple genetic and epigenetic rearrangements accumulated in these cells (such as variations in DNA copy number and karyotypic complexity). A complex group of potential regulatory influences are identified for these genes, including the transcription factors CREB1, E2F1, FOXE1, and FOXM1, DNA copy number variation, and microRNAs has-miR-200a, 23a, 23b, 30a, 30c, 27b, 374b, 365. Thus, our results provide a template for experimental studies on the regulation of genes encoding kinetochore proteins, the process that, when aberrant, leads to the aneuploidy that is a hallmark of many cancers. We propose that the comparison of expression profiles in the NCI-60 cell line panel could be a tool for the identification of other gene groups whose products are involved in the assembly of organelle protein complexes.
We describe here a method to rapidly convert any desirable DNA fragment, as small as 100 bp, into long tandem DNA arrays up to 140 kb in size that are inserted into a microbe vector. This method includes rolling-circle phi29 amplification (RCA) of the sequence in vitro and assembly of the RCA products in vivo by homologous recombination in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The method was successfully used for a functional analysis of centromeric and pericentromeric repeats and construction of new vehicles for gene delivery to mammalian cells. The method may have general application in elucidating the role of tandem repeats in chromosome organization and dynamics. Each cycle of the protocol takes ~ two weeks to complete.
The Gene Ontology (GO) Consortium organizes genes into hierarchical categories based on biological process, molecular function and subcellular localization. Tools such as GoMiner can leverage GO to perform ontological analysis of microarray and proteomics studies, typically generating a list of significant functional categories. Two or more of the categories are often redundant, in the sense that identical or nearly-identical sets of genes map to the categories. The redundancy might typically inflate the report of significant categories by a factor of three-fold, create an illusion of an overly long list of significant categories, and obscure the relevant biological interpretation.
We now introduce a new resource, RedundancyMiner, that de-replicates the redundant and nearly-redundant GO categories that had been determined by first running GoMiner. The main algorithm of RedundancyMiner, MultiClust, performs a novel form of cluster analysis in which a GO category might belong to several category clusters. Each category cluster follows a "complete linkage" paradigm. The metric is a similarity measure that captures the overlap in gene mapping between pairs of categories.
RedundancyMiner effectively eliminated redundancies from a set of GO categories. For illustration, we have applied it to the clarification of the results arising from two current studies: (1) assessment of the gene expression profiles obtained by laser capture microdissection (LCM) of serial cryosections of the retina at the site of final optic fissure closure in the mouse embryos at specific embryonic stages, and (2) analysis of a conceptual data set obtained by examining a list of genes deemed to be "kinetochore" genes.
Epigenetic engineering shows H3K4me2 is required for HJURP targeting and CENP-A assembly on a synthetic human kinetochore
Here, centromeric histone marks on a human artificial chromosome are found to resemble the chromatin landscape in transcribed genes, and selective manipulation shows them to govern the incorporation of the centromere-specifying CENP-A histone variant.
Kinetochores assemble on distinct ‘centrochromatin' containing the histone H3 variant CENP-A and interspersed nucleosomes dimethylated on H3K4 (H3K4me2). Little is known about how the chromatin environment at active centromeres governs centromeric structure and function. Here, we report that centrochromatin resembles K4–K36 domains found in the body of some actively transcribed housekeeping genes. By tethering the lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1), we specifically depleted H3K4me2, a modification thought to have a role in transcriptional memory, from the kinetochore of a synthetic human artificial chromosome (HAC). H3K4me2 depletion caused kinetochores to suffer a rapid loss of transcription of the underlying α-satellite DNA and to no longer efficiently recruit HJURP, the CENP-A chaperone. Kinetochores depleted of H3K4me2 remained functional in the short term, but were defective in incorporation of CENP-A, and were gradually inactivated. Our data provide a functional link between the centromeric chromatin, α-satellite transcription, maintenance of CENP-A levels and kinetochore stability.
CENP-A; centromere; chromatin; kinetochore; non-coding RNA
Human artificial chromosomes (HACs), which carry a fully functional centromere and are maintained as a single-copy episome, are not associated with random mutagenesis and offer greater control over expression of ectopic genes on the HAC. Recently, we generated a HAC with a conditional centromere, which includes the tetracycline operator (tet-O) sequence embedded in the alphoid DNA array. This conditional centromere can be inactivated, loss of the alphoidtet-O (tet-O HAC) by expression of tet-repressor fusion proteins. In this report, we describe adaptation of the tet-O HAC vector for gene delivery and gene expression in human cells. A loxP cassette was inserted into the tet-O HAC by homologous recombination in chicken DT40 cells following a microcell-mediated chromosome transfer (MMCT). The tet-O HAC with the loxP cassette was then transferred into Chinese hamster ovary cells, and EGFP transgene was efficiently and accurately incorporated into the tet-O HAC vector. The EGFP transgene was stably expressed in human cells after transfer via MMCT. Because the transgenes inserted on the tet-O HAC can be eliminated from cells by HAC loss due to centromere inactivation, this HAC vector system provides important novel features and has potential applications for gene expression studies and gene therapy.
human artificial chromosome; conditional centromere; gene delivery
The sperm-derived SPANX family proteins can be found expressed in human tumors. Here, we aimed to perform a comprehensive study to evaluate immunotherapeutic relevance of one of its members, SPANX-B. We wanted to test its expression pattern in human tumors; and to evaluate CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses in healthy humans after in vitro immunizations.
The Experimental Design
Expression of SPANX-B in human malignancies, including a multi-tumor tissue array of 145 primary tumors, was assessed utilizing RT/PCR, western blotting and immunohistochemical analysis. T cell immunogenicity and immunodominant epitopes of SPANX-B were studied using in vitro immunizations of healthy human donor-derived leukocytes.
SPANX-B was abundantly expressed in melanoma and carcinomas of lung, ovary, colon and breast. In melanoma, tissue array data indicated that it was expressed in advanced and metastatic disease. Unlike most tumor-associated antigens, SPANX-B was an immunogenic antigen that was recognized by circulating T cell precursors in healthy humans. Importantly, these T cells were readily expanded to generate SPANX-B –specific helper CD4+ and cytolytic CD8+ T cells that recognized unique immunodominant epitopes: at least one HLA-DR-restricted Pep-9 epitope (SPANX-B12–23) and two HLA-A2-restricted Pep-2 and Pep-4 epitopes (respectively, SPANX-B23–31 and SPANX-B57–65). The CD8+ T cells were fully functional to recognize and lyse HLA-A2-expressing tumors, including primary human melanomas.
SPANX-B is an immunogenic sperm-derived antigen that is expressed in a number of human tumors. SPANX-B is also efficiently recognized by the human T cell immune arm, indicating its significant value for the development of protective and therapeutic cancer vaccines.
SPANX; immunogenicity of TAA; antitumor CTL; MHC epitope
We previously used a human artificial chromosome (HAC) with a synthetic kinetochore that could be targeted with chromatin modifiers fused to tetracycline repressor to show that targeting of the transcriptional repressor tTS within kinetochore chromatin disrupts kinetochore structure and function. Here we show that the transcriptional corepressor KAP1, a downstream effector of the tTS, can also inactivate the kinetochore. The disruption of kinetochore structure by KAP1 subdomains does not simply result from loss of centromeric CENP-A nucleosomes. Instead it reflects a hierarchical disruption of the outer kinetochore, with CENP-C levels falling before CENP-A levels and, in certain instances, CENP-H being lost more readily than CENP-C. These results suggest that this novel approach to kinetochore dissection may reveal new patterns of protein interactions within the kinetochore.
We have used a human artificial chromosome (HAC) to manipulate the epigenetic state of chromatin within an active kinetochore. The HAC has a dimeric α-satellite repeat containing one natural monomer with a CENP-B binding site, and one completely artificial synthetic monomer with the CENP-B box replaced by a tetracycline operator (tetO). This HAC exhibits normal kinetochore protein composition and mitotic stability. Targeting of several tet-repressor (tetR) fusions into the centromere had no effect on kinetochore function. However, altering the chromatin state to a more open configuration with the tTA transcriptional activator or to a more closed state with the tTS transcription silencer caused missegregation and loss of the HAC. tTS binding caused the loss of CENP-A, CENP-B, CENP-C, and H3K4me2 from the centromere accompanied by an accumulation of histone H3K9me3. Our results reveal that a dynamic balance between centromeric chromatin and heterochromatin is essential for vertebrate kinetochore activity.
The sperm protein associated with nucleus in the X chromosome (SPANX) genes cluster at Xq27 in two subfamilies, SPANX-A/D and SPANX-N. SPANX-A/D is specific for hominoids and is fairly well characterized. The SPANX-N gave rise to SPANX-A/D in the hominoid lineage ∼7 MYA. Given the proposed role of SPANX genes in spermatogenesis, we have extended studies to SPANX-N gene evolution, variation, regulation of expression, and intra-sperm localization. By immunofluorescence analysis, SPANX-N proteins are localized in post-meiotic spermatids exclusively, like SPANX-A/D. But in contrast to SPANX-A/D, SPANX-N are found in all ejaculated spermatozoa rather than only in a subpopulation, are localized in the acrosome rather than in the nuclear envelope, and are expressed at a low level in several nongametogenic adult tissues as well as many cancers. Presence of a binding site for CTCF and its testis-specific paralogue BORIS in the SPANX promoters suggests, by analogy to MAGE-A1 and NY-ESO-1, that their activation in spermatogenesis is mediated by the programmed replacement of CTCF by BORIS. Based on the relative density of CpG, the more extended expression of SPANX-N compared to SPANX-A/D in nongametogenic tissues is likely attributed to differences in promoter methylation. Our findings suggest that the recent duplication of SPANX genes in hominoids was accompanied by different localization of SPANX-N proteins in post-meiotic sperm and additional expression in several nongonadal tissues. This suggests a corresponding functional diversification of SPANX gene families in hominoids. SPANX proteins thus provide unique targets to investigate their roles in the function of spermatozoa, selected malignancies, and for SPANX-N, in other tissues as well.
Human artificial chromosomes (HACs) provide a unique opportunity to study kinetochore formation and to develop a new generation of vectors with potential in gene therapy. An investigation into the structural and the functional relationship in centromeric tandem repeats in HACs requires the ability to manipulate repeat substructure efficiently. We describe here a new method to rapidly amplify human alphoid tandem repeats of a few hundred base pairs into long DNA arrays up to 120 kb. The method includes rolling-circle amplification (RCA) of repeats in vitro and assembly of the RCA products by in vivo recombination in yeast. The synthetic arrays are competent in HAC formation when transformed into human cells. As short multimers can be easily modified before amplification, this new technique can identify repeat monomer regions critical for kinetochore seeding. The method may have more general application in elucidating the role of other tandem repeats in chromosome organization and dynamics.
Transformation-associated recombination (TAR) cloning in yeast is a unique method for selective isolation of large chromosomal fragments or entire genes from complex genomes. The technique involves homologous recombination, during yeast spheroplast transformation, between genomic DNA and a TAR vector that has short (~ 60 bp) 5' and 3' gene targeting sequences (hooks).
TAR cloning requires that the cloned DNA fragment carry at least one autonomously replicating sequence (ARS) that can function as the origin of replication in yeast, which prevents wide application of the method. In this paper, we describe a novel TAR cloning system that allows isolation of genomic regions lacking yeast ARS-like sequences. ARS is inserted into the TAR vector along with URA3 as a counter-selectable marker. The hooks are placed between the TATA box and the transcription initiation site of URA3. Insertion of any sequence between hooks results in inactivation of URA3 expression. That inactivation confers resistance to 5-fluoroorotic acid, allowing selection of TAR cloning events against background vector recircularization events.
The new system greatly expands the area of application of TAR cloning by allowing isolation of any chromosomal region from eukaryotic and prokaryotic genomes regardless of the presence of autonomously replicating sequences.
transformation-associated recombination cloning; gene isolation; counter-selection
Transformation-associated recombination (TAR) cloning in yeast is used to isolate a desired chromosomal region or gene from a complex genome without construction of a genomic library. The technique involves homologous recombination during yeast spheroplast transformation between genomic DNA and a TAR vector containing short 5′ and 3′ gene-specific targeting hooks. Efficient gene capture requires a high yield of transformants, and we demonstrate here that the transformant yield increases ∼10-fold when the genomic DNA is sheared to 100–200 kb before being presented to the spheroplasts. Here we determine the most effective concentration of genomic DNA, and also show that the targeted sequences recombine much more efficiently with the vector’s targeting hooks when they are located at the ends of the genomic DNA fragment. We demonstrate that the yield of gene-positive clones increases ∼20-fold after endonuclease digestion of genomic DNA, which caused double strand breaks near the targeted sequences. These findings have led to a greatly improved protocol.
Transformation-associated recombination (TAR) is a cloning technique that allows specific chromosomal regions or genes to be isolated directly from genomic DNA without prior construction of a genomic library. This technique involves homologous recombination during spheroplast transformation between genomic DNA and a TAR vector that has 5′ and 3′ gene targeting sequences (hooks). Typically, TAR cloning produces positive YAC recombinants at a frequency of ∼0.5%; the positive clones are identified by PCR or colony hybridization. This paper describes a novel TAR cloning procedure that selects positive clones by positive and negative genetic selection. This system utilizes a TAR vector with two targeting hooks, HIS3 as a positive selectable marker, URA3 as a negative selectable marker and a gene-specific sequence called a loop sequence. The loop sequence lies distal to a targeting hook sequence in the chromosomal target, but proximal to the targeting hook and URA3 in the TAR vector. When this vector recombines with chromosomal DNA at the gene-specific targeting hook, the recombinant YAC product carries two copies of the loop sequence, therefore, the URA3 negative selectable marker becomes mitotically unstable and is lost at high frequency by direct repeat recombination involving the loop sequence. Positive clones are identified by selecting against URA3. This method produces positive YAC recombinants at a frequency of ∼40%. This novel TAR cloning method provides a powerful tool for structural and functional analysis of complex genomes.
A method has been established to convert pYAC4-based linear yeast artificial chromosomes (YACs) into circular chromosomes that can also be propagated in Escherichia coli cells as bacterial artificial chromosomes (BACs). The circularization is based on use of a vector that contains a yeast dominant selectable marker (G418R), a BAC cassette and short targeting sequences adjacent to the edges of the insert in the pYAC4 vector. When it is introduced into yeast, the vector recombines with the YAC target sequences to form a circular molecule, retaining the insert but discarding most of the sequences of the YAC telomeric arms. YACs up to 670 kb can be efficiently circularized using this vector. Re-isolation of megabase-size YAC inserts as a set of overlapping circular YAC/BACs, based on the use of an Alu-containing targeting vector, is also described. We have shown that circular DNA molecules up to 250 kb can be efficiently and accurately transferred into E.coli cells by electroporation. Larger circular DNAs cannot be moved into bacterial cells, but can be purified away from linear yeast chromosomes. We propose that the described system for generation of circular YAC derivatives can facilitate sequencing as well as functional analysis of genomic regions.
Primary microcephaly (MCPH) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by global reduction in cerebral cortical volume. The microcephalic brain has a volume comparable to that of early hominids, raising the possibility that some MCPH genes may have been evolutionary targets in the expansion of the cerebral cortex in mammals and especially primates. Mutations in ASPM, which encodes the human homologue of a fly protein essential for spindle function, are the most common known cause of MCPH. Here we have isolated large genomic clones containing the complete ASPM gene, including promoter regions and introns, from chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan, and rhesus macaque by transformation-associated recombination cloning in yeast. We have sequenced these clones and show that whereas much of the sequence of ASPM is substantially conserved among primates, specific segments are subject to high Ka/Ks ratios (nonsynonymous/synonymous DNA changes) consistent with strong positive selection for evolutionary change. The ASPM gene sequence shows accelerated evolution in the African hominoid clade, and this precedes hominid brain expansion by several million years. Gorilla and human lineages show particularly accelerated evolution in the IQ domain of ASPM. Moreover, ASPM regions under positive selection in primates are also the most highly diverged regions between primates and nonprimate mammals. We report the first direct application of TAR cloning technology to the study of human evolution. Our data suggest that evolutionary selection of specific segments of the ASPM sequence strongly relates to differences in cerebral cortical size.
Mutation of the ASPM gene is associated with abnormally small brain size. Comparison of the ASPM gene from several primate species suggests it as a target of evolutionary selection for increased brain size