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Genes & Development

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Genes & Development

During eukaryotic cell division, chromosomes must be precisely partitioned to daughter cells. This relies on a mechanism to move chromosomes in defined directions within the parental cell. While sister chromatids are segregated from one another in mitosis and meiosis II, specific adaptations enable the segregation of homologous chromosomes during meiosis I to reduce ploidy for gamete production. Many of the factors that drive these directed chromosome movements are known, and their molecular mechanism has started to be uncovered. Here we review the mechanisms of eukaryotic chromosome segregation, with a particular emphasis on the modifications that ensure the segregation of homologous chromosomes during meiosis I.

The methyltransferase activity of the trithorax group (TrxG) protein MLL1 found within its COMPASS (complex associated with SET1)-like complex is allosterically regulated by a four-subunit complex composed of WDR5, RbBP5, Ash2L, and DPY30 (also referred to as WRAD). We report structural evidence showing that in WRAD, a concave surface of the Ash2L SPIa and ryanodine receptor (SPRY) domain binds to a cluster of acidic residues, referred to as the D/E box, in RbBP5. Mutational analysis shows that residues forming the Ash2L/RbBP5 interface are important for heterodimer formation, stimulation of MLL1 catalytic activity, and erythroid cell terminal differentiation. We also demonstrate that a phosphorylation switch on RbBP5 stimulates WRAD complex formation and significantly increases KMT2 (lysine [K] methyltransferase 2) enzyme methylation rates. Overall, our findings provide structural insights into the assembly of the WRAD complex and point to a novel regulatory mechanism controlling the activity of the KMT2/COMPASS family of lysine methyltransferases.

Cellular dedifferentiation is the regression of a cell from a specialized state to a more multipotent state and is implicated in cancer. However, the transcriptional network that prevents differentiated cells from reacquiring stem cell fate is so far unclear. Neuroblasts (NBs), the Drosophila neural stem cells, are a model for the regulation of stem cell self-renewal and differentiation. Here we show that the Drosophila zinc finger transcription factor Nervous fingers 1 (Nerfin-1) locks neurons into differentiation, preventing their reversion into NBs. Following Prospero-dependent neuronal specification in the ganglion mother cell (GMC), a Nerfin-1-specific transcriptional program maintains differentiation in the post-mitotic neurons. The loss of Nerfin-1 causes reversion to multipotency and results in tumors in several neural lineages. Both the onset and rate of neuronal dedifferentiation in nerfin-1 mutant lineages are dependent on Myc- and target of rapamycin (Tor)-mediated cellular growth. In addition, Nerfin-1 is required for NB differentiation at the end of neurogenesis. RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) analysis show that Nerfin-1 administers its function by repression of self-renewing-specific and activation of differentiation-specific genes. Our findings support the model of bidirectional interconvertibility between neural stem cells and their post-mitotic progeny and highlight the importance of the Nerfin-1-regulated transcriptional program in neuronal maintenance.

Altered epidermal differentiation characterizes numerous skin diseases affecting >25% of the human population. Here we identified Fra-2/AP-1 as a key regulator of terminal epidermal differentiation. Epithelial-restricted, ectopic expression of Fra-2 induced expression of epidermal differentiation genes located within the epidermal differentiation complex (EDC). Moreover, in a papilloma-prone background, a reduced tumor burden was observed due to precocious keratinocyte differentiation by Fra-2 expression. Importantly, loss of Fra-2 in suprabasal keratinocytes is sufficient to cause skin barrier defects due to reduced expression of differentiation genes. Mechanistically, Fra-2 binds and transcriptionally regulates EDC gene promoters, which are co-occupied by the transcriptional repressor Ezh2. Fra-2 remains transcriptionally inactive in nondifferentiated keratinocytes, where it was found monomethylated and dimethylated on Lys104 and interacted with Ezh2. Upon keratinocyte differentiation, Fra-2 is C-terminally phosphorylated on Ser320 and Thr322 by ERK1/2, leading to transcriptional activation. Thus, the induction of epidermal differentiation by Fra-2 is controlled by a dual mechanism involving Ezh2-dependent methylation and activation by ERK1/2-dependent phosphorylation.

PTEN [phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted from chromosome 10], a phosphatase and critical tumor suppressor, is regulated by numerous post-translational modifications, including phosphorylation, ubiquitination, acetylation, and SUMOylation, which affect PTEN localization and protein stability. Here we report ADP-ribosylation as a new post-translational modification of PTEN. We identified PTEN as a novel substrate of tankyrases, which are members of the poly(ADP-ribose) polymerases (PARPs). We showed that tankyrases interact with and ribosylate PTEN, which promotes the recognition of PTEN by a PAR-binding E3 ubiquitin ligase, RNF146, leading to PTEN ubiquitination and degradation. Double knockdown of tankyrase1/2 stabilized PTEN, resulting in the subsequent down-regulation of AKT phosphorylation and thus suppressed cell proliferation and glycolysis in vitro and tumor growth in vivo. Furthermore, tankyrases were up-regulated and negatively correlated with PTEN expression in human colon carcinomas. Together, our study revealed a new regulation of PTEN and highlighted a role for tankyrases in the PTEN–AKT pathway that can be explored further for cancer treatment.

The initiation of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is linked to activating mutations in KRAS. However, in PDA mouse models, expression of oncogenic mutant KRAS during development gives rise to tumors only after a prolonged latency or following induction of pancreatitis. Here we describe a novel mouse model expressing ataxia telangiectasia group D complementing gene (ATDC, also known as TRIM29 [tripartite motif 29]) that, in the presence of oncogenic KRAS, accelerates pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) formation and the development of invasive and metastatic cancers. We found that ATDC up-regulates CD44 in mouse and human PanIN lesions via activation of β-catenin signaling, leading to the induction of an epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) phenotype characterized by expression of Zeb1 and Snail1. We show that ATDC is up-regulated by oncogenic Kras in a subset of PanIN cells that are capable of invading the surrounding stroma. These results delineate a novel molecular pathway for EMT in pancreatic tumorigenesis, showing that ATDC is a proximal regulator of EMT.

Vacuolar protein-sorting 34 (Vps34), the catalytic subunit in the class III PtdIns3 (phosphatidylinositol 3) kinase complexes, mediates the production of PtdIns3P, a key intracellular lipid involved in regulating autophagy and receptor degradation. However, the signal transduction pathways by which extracellular signals regulate Vps34 complexes and the downstream cellular mechanisms are not well understood. Here we show that DNA damage-activated mitotic arrest and CDK activation lead to the phosphorylation of Vps34, which provides a signal to promote its ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation mediated by FBXL20 (an F-box protein) and the associated Skp1 (S-phase kinase-associated protein-1)–Cullin1 complex, leading to inhibition of autophagy and receptor endocytosis. Furthermore, we show that the expression of FBXL20 is regulated by p53-dependent transcription. Our study provides a molecular pathway by which DNA damage regulates Vps34 complexes and its downstream mechanisms, including autophagy and receptor endocytosis, through SCF (Skp1–Cul1–F-box)-mediated ubiquitination and degradation. Since the expression of FBXL20 is regulated by p53-dependent transcription, the control of Vps34 ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation by FBXL20 and the associated SCF complex expression provides a novel checkpoint for p53 to regulate autophagy and receptor degradation in DNA damage response.

How chromatin shapes pathways that promote genome–epigenome integrity in response to DNA damage is an issue of crucial importance. We report that human bromodomain (BRD)-containing proteins, the primary "readers" of acetylated chromatin, are vital for the DNA damage response (DDR). We discovered that more than one-third of all human BRD proteins change localization in response to DNA damage. We identified ZMYND8 (zinc finger and MYND [myeloid, Nervy, and DEAF-1] domain containing 8) as a novel DDR factor that recruits the nucleosome remodeling and histone deacetylation (NuRD) complex to damaged chromatin. Our data define a transcription-associated DDR pathway mediated by ZMYND8 and the NuRD complex that targets DNA damage, including when it occurs within transcriptionally active chromatin, to repress transcription and promote repair by homologous recombination. Thus, our data identify human BRD proteins as key chromatin modulators of the DDR and provide novel insights into how DNA damage within actively transcribed regions requires chromatin-binding proteins to orchestrate the appropriate response in concordance with the damage-associated chromatin context.

Start sites of DNA replication are marked by the origin recognition complex (ORC), which coordinates Mcm2–7 helicase loading to form the prereplicative complex (pre-RC). Although pre-RC assembly is well characterized in vitro, the process is poorly understood within the local chromatin environment surrounding replication origins. To reveal how the chromatin architecture modulates origin selection and activation, we "footprinted" nucleosomes, transcription factors, and replication proteins at multiple points during the Saccharomyces cerevisiae cell cycle. Our nucleotide-resolution protein occupancy profiles resolved a precise ORC-dependent footprint at 269 origins in G2. A separate class of inefficient origins exhibited protein occupancy only in G1, suggesting that stable ORC chromatin association in G2 is a determinant of origin efficiency. G1 nucleosome remodeling concomitant with pre-RC assembly expanded the origin nucleosome-free region and enhanced activation efficiency. Finally, the local chromatin environment restricts the loading of the Mcm2–7 double hexamer either upstream of or downstream from the ARS consensus sequence (ACS).