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Genes & Development

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Genes & Development

Fibro-adipogenic progenitors (FAPs) reside in the muscle, where they facilitate myofiber regeneration. Under normal conditions, FAPs lack myogenic potential and thus do not directly contribute to regenerated myofibers. Surprisingly, Saccone and colleagues (pp. 841–857) demonstrated that the dystrophic muscle environment causes FAPs to adopt a chromatin state that imparts these cells with myogenic potential. In this context, treatment of muscle with deacetylase inhibitors activates a BAF60c–myomiR transcriptional network in FAPs, blocking adipogenesis and driving muscle differentiation.

Methylation of DNA is an essential epigenetic control mechanism in mammals. During embryonic development, cells are directed toward their future lineages, and DNA methylation poses a fundamental epigenetic barrier that guides and restricts differentiation and prevents regression into an undifferentiated state. DNA methylation also plays an important role in sex chromosome dosage compensation, the repression of retrotransposons that threaten genome integrity, the maintenance of genome stability, and the coordinated expression of imprinted genes. However, DNA methylation marks must be globally removed to allow for sexual reproduction and the adoption of the specialized, hypomethylated epigenome of the primordial germ cell and the preimplantation embryo. Recent technological advances in genome-wide DNA methylation analysis and the functional description of novel enzymatic DNA demethylation pathways have provided significant insights into the molecular processes that prepare the mammalian embryo for normal development.

The homeodomain transcription factor HHEX (hematopoietically expressed homeobox) has been repeatedly linked to type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) using genome-wide association studies. We report here that within the adult endocrine pancreas, Hhex is selectively expressed in the somatostatin-secreting cell. Using two mouse models with Hhex deficiency in the endocrine pancreas, we show that Hhex is required for -cell differentiation. Decreased somatostatin levels in Hhex-deficient islets cause disrupted paracrine inhibition of insulin release from β cells. These findings identify Hhex as the first transcriptional regulator specifically required for islet cells and suggest compromised paracrine control as a contributor to T2DM.

40S ribosomes are loaded onto capped mRNAs via the multisubunit translation initiation factors eIF3 and eIF4F. While eIF4E is the eIF4F cap recognition component, the eIF4G subunit associates with 40S-bound eIF3. How this intricate process is coordinated remains poorly understood. Here, we identify an eIF3 subunit that regulates eIF4F modification and show that eIF3e is required for inducible eIF4E phosphorylation. Significantly, recruitment of the eIF4E kinase Mnk1 (MAPK signal-integrating kinase 1) to eIF4F depended on eIF3e, and eIF3e was sufficient to promote Mnk1-binding to eIF4G. This establishes a mechanism by which 40S ribosome loading imparts a phosphorylation mark on the cap-binding eIF4F complex that regulates selective mRNA translation and is synchronized by a specific eIF3 subunit.

Fibro-adipogenic progenitors (FAPs) are important components of the skeletal muscle regenerative environment. Whether FAPs support muscle regeneration or promote fibro-adipogenic degeneration is emerging as a key determinant in the pathogenesis of muscular diseases, including Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). However, the molecular mechanism that controls FAP lineage commitment and activity is currently unknown. We show here that an HDAC–myomiR–BAF60 variant network regulates the fate of FAPs in dystrophic muscles of mdx mice. Combinatorial analysis of gene expression microarray, genome-wide chromatin remodeling by nuclease accessibility (NA) combined with next-generation sequencing (NA-seq), small RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), and microRNA (miR) high-throughput screening (HTS) against SWI/SNF BAF60 variants revealed that HDAC inhibitors (HDACis) derepress a "latent" myogenic program in FAPs from dystrophic muscles at early stages of disease. Specifically, HDAC inhibition induces two core components of the myogenic transcriptional machinery, MYOD and BAF60C, and up-regulates the myogenic miRs (myomiRs) (miR-1.2, miR-133, and miR-206), which target the alternative BAF60 variants BAF60A and BAF60B, ultimately directing promyogenic differentiation while suppressing the fibro-adipogenic phenotype. In contrast, FAPs from late stage dystrophic muscles are resistant to HDACi-induced chromatin remodeling at myogenic loci and fail to activate the promyogenic phenotype. These results reveal a previously unappreciated disease stage-specific bipotency of mesenchimal cells within the regenerative environment of dystrophic muscles. Resolution of such bipotency by epigenetic intervention with HDACis provides a molecular rationale for the in situ reprogramming of target cells to promote therapeutic regeneration of dystrophic muscles.

Although regulation of stem cell homeostasis by microRNAs (miRNAs) is well studied, it is unclear how individual miRNAs genomically encoded within an organized polycistron can interact to induce an integrated phenotype. miR-99a/100, let-7, and miR-125b paralogs are encoded in two tricistrons on human chromosomes 11 and 21. They are highly expressed in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (AMKL), an aggressive form of leukemia with poor prognosis. Here, we show that miR-99a/100~125b tricistrons are transcribed as a polycistronic message transactivated by the homeobox transcription factor HOXA10. Integrative analysis of global gene expression profiling, miRNA target prediction, and pathway architecture revealed that miR-99a/100, let-7, and miR-125b functionally converge at the combinatorial block of the transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) pathway by targeting four receptor subunits and two SMAD signaling transducers. In addition, down-regulation of tumor suppressor genes adenomatous polyposis coli (APC)/APC2 stabilizes active β-catenin and enhances Wnt signaling. By switching the balance between Wnt and TGFβ signaling, the concerted action of these tricistronic miRNAs promoted sustained expansion of murine and human HSCs in vitro or in vivo while favoring megakaryocytic differentiation. Hence, our study explains the high phylogenetic conservation of the miR-99a/100~125b tricistrons controlling stem cell homeostasis, the deregulation of which contributes to the development of AMKL.

Many agents used for chemotherapy, such as doxorubicin, interfere with DNA replication, but the effect of this interference on transcription is largely unknown. Here we show that doxorubicin induces the firing of dense clusters of neoreplication origins that lead to clusters of stalled replication forks in gene-rich parts of the genome, particularly on expressed genes. Genes that overlap with these clusters of stalled forks are actively dechromatinized, unwound, and repressed by an ATR-dependent checkpoint pathway. The ATR checkpoint pathway causes a histone chaperone normally associated with the replication fork, ASF1a, to degrade through a CRL1βTRCP-dependent ubiquitination/proteasome pathway, leading to the localized dechromatinization and gene repression. Therefore, a globally active checkpoint pathway interacts with local clusters of stalled forks to specifically repress genes in the vicinity of the stalled forks, providing a new mechanism of action of chemotherapy drugs like doxorubicin. Finally, ASF1a-depleted cancer cells are more sensitive to doxorubicin, suggesting that the 7%–10% of prostate adenocarcinomas and adenoid cystic carcinomas reported to have homozygous deletion or significant underexpression of ASF1a should be tested for high sensitivity to doxorubicin.

The RNA-binding proteins of the Nanos family play an essential role in germ cell development and survival in a wide range of metazoan species. They function by suppressing the expression of target mRNAs through the recruitment of effector complexes, which include the CCR4–NOT deadenylase complex. Here, we show that the three human Nanos paralogs (Nanos1–3) interact with the CNOT1 C-terminal domain and determine the structural basis for the specific molecular recognition. Nanos1–3 bind CNOT1 through a short CNOT1-interacting motif (NIM) that is conserved in all vertebrates and some invertebrate species. The crystal structure of the human Nanos1 NIM peptide bound to CNOT1 reveals that the peptide opens a conserved hydrophobic pocket on the CNOT1 surface by inserting conserved aromatic residues. The substitutions of these aromatic residues in the Nanos1–3 NIMs abolish binding to CNOT1 and abrogate the ability of the proteins to repress translation. Our findings provide the structural basis for the recruitment of the CCR4–NOT complex by vertebrate Nanos, indicate that the NIMs are the major determinants of the translational repression mediated by Nanos, and identify the CCR4–NOT complex as the main effector complex for Nanos function.

Intracellular proteases combat proteotoxic stress by degrading damaged proteins, but their activity must be carefully controlled to maintain cellular fitness. The activity of Escherichia coli DegP, a highly conserved periplasmic protease, is regulated by substrate-dependent allosteric transformations between inactive and active trimer conformations and by the formation of polyhedral cages that confine the active sites within a proteolytic chamber. Here, we investigate how these distinct control mechanisms contribute to bacterial fitness under heat stress. We found that mutations that increase or decrease the equilibrium population of active DegP trimers reduce high-temperature fitness, that a mutation that blocks cage formation causes a mild fitness decrease, and that combining mutations that stabilize active DegP and block cage formation generates a lethal rogue protease. This lethality is suppressed by an extragenic mutation that prevents covalent attachment of an abundant outer-membrane lipoprotein to peptidoglycan and makes this protein an inhibitor of the rogue protease. Lethality is also suppressed by intragenic mutations that stabilize inactive DegP trimers. In combination, our results suggest that allosteric control of active and inactive conformations is the primary mechanism that regulates DegP proteolysis and fitness, with cage formation providing an additional layer of cellular protection against excessive protease activity.

Coherent plant growth requires spatial integration of hormonal pathways and cell wall remodeling activities. However, the mechanisms governing sensitivity to hormones and how cell wall structure integrates with hormonal effects are poorly understood. We found that coordination between two types of epidermal root cells, hair and nonhair cells, establishes root sensitivity to the plant hormones brassinosteroids (BRs). While expression of the BR receptor BRASSINOSTEROID-INSENSITIVE1 (BRI1) in hair cells promotes cell elongation in all tissues, its high relative expression in nonhair cells is inhibitory. Elevated ethylene and deposition of crystalline cellulose underlie the inhibitory effect of BRI1. We propose that the relative spatial distribution of BRI1, and not its absolute level, fine-tunes growth.