Papers and Acknowledgements

The following papers have resulted from collaborations with the CBRG and either include CBRG staff as authors or acknowledge CBRG support:


Karamitros D, Stoilova B, Aboukhalil Z, Hamey F, Reinisch A, Samitsch M, Quek L, Otto G, Repapi E, Doondeea J, Usukhbayar B, Calvo J, Taylor S, Goardon N, Six E, Pflumio F, Porcher C, Majeti R, Göttgens B, Vyas P.

Single-cell analysis reveals the continuum of human lympho-myeloid progenitor cells.

Nat Immunol. (2018) 19(1):85-97

The hierarchy of human hemopoietic progenitor cells that produce lymphoid and granulocytic-monocytic (myeloid) lineages is unclear. Multiple progenitor populations produce lymphoid and myeloid cells, but they remain incompletely characterized. Here we demonstrated that lympho-myeloid progenitor populations in cord blood - lymphoid-primed multi-potential progenitors (LMPPs), granulocyte-macrophage progenitors (GMPs) and multi-lymphoid progenitors (MLPs) - were functionally and transcriptionally distinct and heterogeneous at the clonal level, with progenitors of many different functional potentials present. Although most progenitors had the potential to develop into only one mature cell type ('uni-lineage potential'), bi- and rarer multi-lineage progenitors were present among LMPPs, GMPs and MLPs. Those findings, coupled with single-cell expression analyses, suggest that a continuum of progenitors execute lymphoid and myeloid differentiation, rather than only uni-lineage progenitors' being present downstream of stem cells.


Hardman CS, Chen YL, Salimi M, Jarrett R, Johnson D, Järvinen VJ, Owens RJ, Repapi E, Cousins DJ, Barlow JL, McKenzie ANJ, Ogg G.

CD1a presentation of endogenous antigens by group 2 innate lymphoid cells

Sci Immunol. (2017) 2(18) pii: eaan5918

Group 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2) are effectors of barrier immunity, with roles in infection, wound healing, and allergy. A proportion of ILC2 express MHCII (major histocompatibility complex II) and are capable of presenting peptide antigens to T cells and amplifying the subsequent adaptive immune response. Recent studies have highlighted the importance of CD1a-reactive T cells in allergy and infection, activated by the presentation of endogenous neolipid antigens and bacterial components. Using a human skin challenge model, we unexpectedly show that human skin-derived ILC2 can express CD1a and are capable of presenting endogenous antigens to T cells. CD1a expression is up-regulated by TSLP (thymic stromal lymphopoietin) at levels observed in the skin of patients with atopic dermatitis, and the response is dependent on PLA2G4A. Furthermore, this pathway is used to sense Staphylococcus aureus by promoting Toll-like receptor-dependent CD1a-reactive T cell responses to endogenous ligands. These findings define a previously unrecognized role for ILC2 in lipid surveillance and identify shared pathways of CD1a- and PLA2G4A-dependent ILC2 inflammation amenable to therapeutic intervention.

Zinecker H, Ouaret D, Ebner D, Gaidt MM, Taylor S, Aulicino A, Jagielowicz M, Hornung V, Simmons A

ICG-001 affects DRP1 activity and ER stress correlative with its anti-proliferative effect.

Oncotarget (2017) 8(63): 106764-106777.

Mitochondria form a highly dynamic network driven by opposing scission and fusion events. DRP1 is an essential modulator of mitochondrial fission and dynamics within mammalian cells. Its fission activity is regulated by posttranslational modifications such as activating phosphorylation at serine 616. DRP1 activity has recently been implicated as being dysregulated in numerous human disorders such as cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. Here we describe the development of a cell-based screening assay to detect DRP1 activation. We utilized this to undertake focused compound library screening and identified potent modulators that affected DRP1 activity including ICG-001, which is described as WNT/β-catenin signaling inhibitor. Our findings elucidate novel details about ICG-001's mechanism of action (MOA) in mediating anti-proliferative activity. We show ICG-001 both inhibits mitochondrial fission and activates an early endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response to induce cell death in susceptible colorectal cancer cell lines.

Schwessinger R, Suciu MC, McGowan SJ, Telenius J, Taylor S, Higgs DR, Hughes JR

Sasquatch: predicting the impact of regulatory SNPs on transcription factor binding from cell- and tissue-specific DNase footprints.

Genome Res. (2017) 10: 1730-1742

In the era of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and personalized medicine, predicting the impact of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in regulatory elements is an important goal. Current approaches to determine the potential of regulatory SNPs depend on inadequate knowledge of cell-specific DNA binding motifs. Here, we present Sasquatch, a new computational approach that uses DNase footprint data to estimate and visualize the effects of noncoding variants on transcription factor binding. Sasquatch performs a comprehensive k-mer-based analysis of DNase footprints to determine any k-mer's potential for protein binding in a specific cell type and how this may be changed by sequence variants. Therefore, Sasquatch uses an unbiased approach, independent of known transcription factor binding sites and motifs. Sasquatch only requires a single DNase-seq data set per cell type, from any genotype, and produces consistent predictions from data generated by different experimental procedures and at different sequence depths. Here we demonstrate the effectiveness of Sasquatch using previously validated functional SNPs and benchmark its performance against existing approaches. Sasquatch is available as a versatile webtool incorporating publicly available data, including the human ENCODE collection. Thus, Sasquatch provides a powerful tool and repository for prioritizing likely regulatory SNPs in the noncoding genome.

Pasricha SR, Lim PJ, Duarte TL, Casu C, Oosterhuis D, Mleczko-Sanecka K, Suciu M, Da Silva AR, Al-Hourani K, Arezes J, McHugh K, Gooding S, Frost JN, Wray K, Santos A, Porto G, Repapi E, Gray N, Draper SJ, Ashley N, Soilleux E, Olinga P, Muckenthaler MU, Hughes JR, Rivella S, Milne TA, Armitage AE, Drakesmith H.

Hepcidin is regulated by promoter-associated histone acetylation and HDAC3.

Nat Commun. (2017) 8(1): 403.

Hepcidin regulates systemic iron homeostasis. Suppression of hepcidin expression occurs physiologically in iron deficiency and increased erythropoiesis but is pathologic in thalassemia and hemochromatosis. Here we show that epigenetic events govern hepcidin expression. Erythropoiesis and iron deficiency suppress hepcidin via erythroferrone-dependent and -independent mechanisms, respectively, in vivo, but both involve reversible loss of H3K9ac and H3K4me3 at the hepcidin locus. In vitro, pan-histone deacetylase inhibition elevates hepcidin expression, and in vivo maintains H3K9ac at hepcidin-associated chromatin and abrogates hepcidin suppression by erythropoietin, iron deficiency, thalassemia, and hemochromatosis. Histone deacetylase 3 and its cofactor NCOR1 regulate hepcidin; histone deacetylase 3 binds chromatin at the hepcidin locus, and histone deacetylase 3 knockdown counteracts hepcidin suppression induced either by erythroferrone or by inhibiting bone morphogenetic protein signaling. In iron deficient mice, the histone deacetylase 3 inhibitor RGFP966 increases hepcidin, and RNA sequencing confirms hepcidin is one of the genes most differentially regulated by this drug in vivo. We conclude that suppression of hepcidin expression involves epigenetic regulation by histone deacetylase 3.Hepcidin controls systemic iron levels by inhibiting intestinal iron absorption and iron recycling. Here, Pasricha et al. demonstrate that the hepcidin-chromatin locus displays HDAC3-mediated reversible epigenetic modifications during both erythropoiesis and iron deficiency.

Schwerd T, Twigg SRF, Aschenbrenner D, Manrique S, Miller KA, Taylor IB, Capitani M, McGowan SJ, Sweeney E, Weber A, Chen L, Bowness P, Riordan A, Cant A, Freeman AF, Milner JD, Holland SM, Frede N, Müller M, Schmidt-Arras D, Grimbacher B, Wall SA, Jones EY, Wilkie AOM, Uhlig HH.

A biallelic mutation in IL6ST encoding the GP130 co-receptor causes immunodeficiency and craniosynostosis

J Exp Med. (2017) 214(9): 2547-2562

Multiple cytokines, including interleukin 6 (IL-6), IL-11, IL-27, oncostatin M (OSM), and leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), signal via the common GP130 cytokine receptor subunit. In this study, we describe a patient with a homozygous mutation of IL6ST (encoding GP130 p.N404Y) who presented with recurrent infections, eczema, bronchiectasis, high IgE, eosinophilia, defective B cell memory, and an impaired acute-phase response, as well as skeletal abnormalities including craniosynostosis. The p.N404Y missense substitution is associated with loss of IL-6, IL-11, IL-27, and OSM signaling but a largely intact LIF response. This study identifies a novel immunodeficiency with phenotypic similarities to STAT3 hyper-IgE syndrome caused by loss of function of GP130.

Mead AJ, Neo WH, Barkas N, Matsuoka S, Giustacchini A, Facchini R, Thongjuea S, Jamieson L, Booth CAG, Fordham N, Di Genua C, Atkinson D, Chowdhury O, Repapi E, Gray NE, Kharazi S, Clark SA, Bouriez T, Woll P, Suda T, Nerlov C, Jacobsen SEW

Niche-mediated depletion of the normal hematopoietic stem cell reservoir by Flt3-ITD-induced myeloproliferation.

J Exp Med. (2017) 214(7): 2005-2021

Although previous studies suggested that the expression of FMS-like tyrosine kinase 3 (Flt3) initiates downstream of mouse hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), FLT3 internal tandem duplications (FLT3 ITDs) have recently been suggested to intrinsically suppress HSCs. Herein, single-cell interrogation found Flt3 mRNA expression to be absent in the large majority of phenotypic HSCs, with a strong negative correlation between Flt3 and HSC-associated gene expression. Flt3-ITD knock-in mice showed reduced numbers of phenotypic HSCs, with an even more severe loss of long-term repopulating HSCs, likely reflecting the presence of non-HSCs within the phenotypic HSC compartment. Competitive transplantation experiments established that Flt3-ITD compromises HSCs through an extrinsically mediated mechanism of disrupting HSC-supporting bone marrow stromal cells, with reduced numbers of endothelial and mesenchymal stromal cells showing increased inflammation-associated gene expression. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a cell-extrinsic potent negative regulator of HSCs, was overexpressed in bone marrow niche cells from FLT3-ITD mice, and anti-TNF treatment partially rescued the HSC phenotype. These findings, which establish that Flt3-ITD-driven myeloproliferation results in cell-extrinsic suppression of the normal HSC reservoir, are of relevance for several aspects of acute myeloid leukemia biology.

Nguyen DT, Voon HPJ, Xella B, Scott C, Clynes D, Babbs C, Ayyub H, Kerry J, Sharpe JA, Sloane-Stanley JA, Butler S, Fisher CA, Gray NE, Jenuwein T, Higgs DR, Gibbons RJ.

The chromatin remodelling factor ATRX suppresses R-loops in transcribed telomeric repeats.

EMBO Rep. (2017) 18(6): 914-928

ATRX is a chromatin remodelling factor found at a wide range of tandemly repeated sequences including telomeres (TTAGGG)n ATRX mutations are found in nearly all tumours that maintain their telomeres via the alternative lengthening of telomere (ALT) pathway, and ATRX is known to suppress this pathway. Here, we show that recruitment of ATRX to telomeric repeats depends on repeat number, orientation and, critically, on repeat transcription. Importantly, the transcribed telomeric repeats form RNA-DNA hybrids (R-loops) whose abundance correlates with the recruitment of ATRX. Here, we show loss of ATRX is also associated with increased R-loop formation. Our data suggest that the presence of ATRX at telomeres may have a central role in suppressing deleterious DNA secondary structures that form at transcribed telomeric repeats, and this may account for the increased DNA damage, stalling of replication and homology-directed repair previously observed upon loss of ATRX function.

Yip BH, Steeples V, Repapi E, Armstrong RN, Llorian M, Roy S, Shaw J, Dolatshad H, Taylor S, Verma A, Bartenstein M, Vyas P, Cross NCP, Malcovati L, Cazzola M, Hellström-Lindberg E, Ogawa S, Smith CWJ, Pellagatti A, Boultwood J.

The U2AF1S34F mutation induces lineage-specific splicing alterations in myelodysplastic syndromes.

J Clin Invest. (2017) 127(6): 2206-2221

Mutations of the splicing factor-encoding gene U2AF1 are frequent in the myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), a myeloid malignancy, and other cancers. Patients with MDS suffer from peripheral blood cytopenias, including anemia, and an increasing percentage of bone marrow myeloblasts. We studied the impact of the common U2AF1S34F mutation on cellular function and mRNA splicing in the main cell lineages affected in MDS. We demonstrated that U2AF1S34F expression in human hematopoietic progenitors impairs erythroid differentiation and skews granulomonocytic differentiation toward granulocytes. RNA sequencing of erythroid and granulomonocytic colonies revealed that U2AF1S34F induced a higher number of cassette exon splicing events in granulomonocytic cells than in erythroid cells. U2AF1S34F altered mRNA splicing of many transcripts that were expressed in both cell types in a lineage-specific manner. In hematopoietic progenitors, the introduction of isoform changes identified in the U2AF1S34F target genes H2AFY, encoding an H2A histone variant, and STRAP, encoding serine/threonine kinase receptor-associated protein, recapitulated phenotypes associated with U2AF1S34F expression in erythroid and granulomonocytic cells, suggesting a causal link. Furthermore, we showed that isoform modulation of H2AFY and STRAP rescues the erythroid differentiation defect in U2AF1S34F MDS cells, suggesting that splicing modulators could be used therapeutically. These data have critical implications for understanding MDS phenotypic heterogeneity and support the development of therapies targeting splicing abnormalities.

Cole SL, Dunning J, Kok WL, Benam KH, Benlahrech A, Repapi E, Martinez FO, Drumright L, Powell TJ, Bennett M, Elderfield R, Thomas C, Dong T, McCauley J, Liew FY, Taylor S, Zambon M, Barclay W, Cerundolo V, Openshaw PJ, McMichael AJ, Ho LP.

M1-like monocytes are a major immunological determinant of severity in previously healthy adults with life-threatening influenza.

JCI Insight. (2017) 2(7): e91868

In each influenza season, a distinct group of young, otherwise healthy individuals with no risk factors succumbs to life-threatening infection. To better understand the cause for this, we analyzed a broad range of immune responses in blood from a unique cohort of patients, comprising previously healthy individuals hospitalized with and without respiratory failure during one influenza season, and infected with one specific influenza A strain. This analysis was compared with similarly hospitalized influenza patients with known risk factors (total of n = 60 patients recruited). We found a sustained increase in a specific subset of proinflammatory monocytes, with high TNF-α expression and an M1-like phenotype (independent of viral titers), in these previously healthy patients with severe disease. The relationship between M1-like monocytes and immunopathology was strengthened using murine models of influenza, in which severe infection generated using different models (including the high-pathogenicity H5N1 strain) was also accompanied by high levels of circulating M1-like monocytes. Additionally, a raised M1/M2 macrophage ratio in the lungs was observed. These studies identify a specific subtype of monocytes as a modifiable immunological determinant of disease severity in this subgroup of severely ill, previously healthy patients, offering potential novel therapeutic avenues.

Kim S, Twigg SR, Scanlon VA, Chandra A, Hansen TJ, Alsubait A, Fenwick AL, McGowan SJ, Lord H, Lester T, Sweeney E, Weber A, Cox H, Wilkie AO, Golden A, Corsi AK

Localized TWIST1 and TWIST2 basic domain substitutions cause four distinct human diseases that can be modeled in C. elegans.

Hum Mol Genet. (2017) 26(11): 2118-2132

Twist transcription factors, members of the basic helix-loop-helix family, play crucial roles in mesoderm development in all animals. Humans have two paralogous genes, TWIST1 and TWIST2, and mutations in each gene have been identified in specific craniofacial disorders. Here we describe a new clinical entity, Sweeney-Cox syndrome, associated with distinct de novo amino acid substitutions (p.Glu117Val and p.Glu117Gly) at a highly conserved glutamic acid residue located in the basic DNA binding domain of TWIST1, in two subjects with frontonasal dysplasia and additional malformations. Although about one hundred different TWIST1 mutations have been reported in patients with the dominant haploinsufficiency Saethre-Chotzen syndrome (typically associated with craniosynostosis), substitutions uniquely affecting the Glu117 codon were not observed previously. Recently, subjects with Barber-Say and Ablepharon-macrostomia syndromes were found to harbor heterozygous missense substitutions in the paralogous glutamic acid residue in TWIST2 (p.Glu75Ala, p.Glu75Gln, and p.Glu75Lys). To study systematically the effects of these substitutions in individual cells of the developing mesoderm, we engineered all five disease-associated alleles into the equivalent Glu29 residue encoded by hlh-8, the single Twist homolog present in C. elegans. This allelic series revealed that different substitutions exhibit graded severity, in terms of both gene expression and cellular phenotype, which we incorporate into a model explaining the various human disease phenotypes. The genetic analysis favors a predominantly dominant-negative mechanism for the action of amino acid substitutions at this highly conserved glutamate residue and illustrates the value of systematic mutagenesis of C. elegans for focused investigation of human disease processes.

Kerry J, Godfrey L, Repapi E, Tapia M, Blackledge NP, Ma H, Ballabio E, O'Byrne S, Ponthan F, Heidenreich O, Roy A, Roberts I, Konopleva M, Klose RJ, Geng H, Milne TA

MLL-AF4 Spreading Identifies Binding Sites that Are Distinct from Super-Enhancers and that Govern Sensitivity to DOT1L Inhibition in Leukemia.

Cell Reports. (2017) 18(2): 482-495

Understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms of defined cancers is crucial for effective personalized therapies. Translocations of the mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) gene produce fusion proteins such as MLL-AF4 that disrupt epigenetic pathways and cause poor-prognosis leukemias. Here, we find that at a subset of gene targets, MLL-AF4 binding spreads into the gene body and is associated with the spreading of Menin binding, increased transcription, increased H3K79 methylation (H3K79me2/3), a disruption of normal H3K36me3 patterns, and unmethylated CpG regions in the gene body. Compared to other H3K79me2/3 marked genes, MLL-AF4 spreading gene expression is downregulated by inhibitors of the H3K79 methyltransferase DOT1L. This sensitivity mediates synergistic interactions with additional targeted drug treatments. Therefore, epigenetic spreading and enhanced susceptibility to epidrugs provides a potential marker for better understanding combination therapies in humans.

Razaq MA, Taylor S, Roberts DJ, Carpenter L

A molecular roadmap of definitive erythropoiesis from human induced pluripotent stem cells

Br J Haematol. (2017) 176(6): 971-983

Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) are being considered for use in understanding haematopoietic disorders and as a potential source of in vitro manufactured red cells. Here, we show that hiPSCs are able to recapitulate various stages of developmental erythropoiesis. We show that primitive erythroblasts arise first, express CD31+ with CD235a+ , embryonic globins and red cell markers, but fail to express the hallmark red cell transcripts of adult erythropoiesis. When hiPSC-derived CD45+ CD235a- haematopoietic progenitors are isolated on day 12 and further differentiated on OP9 stroma, they selectively express CD36+ and CD235a+ , adult erythroid transcripts for transcription factors (e.g., BCL11A, KLF1) and fetal/adult globins (HBG1/2, HBB). Importantly, hiPSC- and cord-derived CD36+ CD235a+ erythroblasts show a striking homology by transcriptome array profiling (only 306 transcripts with a 2Log fold change >1·5- or 2·8-fold). Phenotypic and transcriptome profiling of CD45+ CD117+ CD235a+ pro-erythroblasts and terminally differentiated erythroblasts is also provided, including evidence of a HbF (fetal) to HbA (adult) haemoglobin switch and enucleation, that mirrors their definitive erythroblast cord-derived counterparts. These findings provide a molecular roadmap of developmental erythropoiesis from hiPSC sources at several critical stages, but also helps to inform on their use for clinical applications and modelling human haematopoietic disease.

Godfrey L, Kerry J, Thorne R, Repapi E, Davies JO, Tapia M, Ballabio E, Hughes JR, Geng H, Konopleva M, Milne TA.

MLL-AF4 binds directly to a BCL-2 specific enhancer and modulates H3K27 acetylation.

Exp Hematol. (2017) 47: 64-75

Survival rates for children and adults carrying mutations in the Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) gene continue to have a very poor prognosis. The most common MLL mutation in ALL is the t(4;11)(q21;q23) chromosome translocation that fuses MLL in frame with the AF4 gene producing MLL-AF4 and AF4-MLL fusion proteins. Previously, we demonstrated that MLL-AF4 binds to the BCL-2 gene and directly activates it through DOT1L recruitment and increased H3K79me2/3 levels. Here, we perform a detailed analysis of MLL-AF4 regulation of the entire BCL-2 family. By measuring nascent RNA production in MLL-AF4 knockdowns, we find that of all the BCL-2 family genes, MLL-AF4 directly controls the active transcription of both BCL-2 and MCL-1, and also represses BIM via binding of the polycomb group repressor 1 (PRC1) complex component CBX8. We further analyze MLL-AF4 activation of the BCL-2 gene using Capture C and identify a BCL-2 specific enhancer, consisting of two clusters of H3K27Ac at the 3'end of the gene. Loss of MLL-AF4 activity results in a reduction of H3K79me3 levels in the gene body and H3K27Ac levels at the 3' BCL-2 enhancer, revealing a novel regulatory link between these two histone marks and MLL-AF4 mediated activation of BCL-2.


Miller KA, Twigg SR, McGowan SJ, Phipps JM, Fenwick AL, Johnson D, Wall SA, Noons P, Rees KE, Tidey EA, Craft J, Taylor J, Taylor JC, Goos JA, Swagemakers SM, Mathijssen IM, van der Spek PJ, Lord H, Lester T, Abid N, Cilliers D, Hurst JA, Morton JE, Sweeney E, Weber A, Wilson LC, Wilkie AO

Diagnostic value of exome and whole genome sequencing in craniosynostosis.

J Med Genet. (2016) 54(4): 260-268

Craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of one or more cranial sutures, occurs in ~1 in 2250 births, either in isolation or as part of a syndrome. Mutations in at least 57 genes have been associated with craniosynostosis, but only a minority of these are included in routine laboratory genetic testing. We used exome or whole genome sequencing to seek a genetic cause in a cohort of 40 subjects with craniosynostosis, selected by clinical or molecular geneticists as being high-priority cases, and in whom prior clinically driven genetic testing had been negative. We identified likely associated mutations in 15 patients (37.5%), involving 14 different genes. All genes were mutated in single families, except for IL11RA (two families). We classified the other positive diagnoses as follows: commonly mutated craniosynostosis genes with atypical presentation (EFNB1, TWIST1); other core craniosynostosis genes (CDC45, MSX2, ZIC1); genes for which mutations are only rarely associated with craniosynostosis (FBN1, HUWE1, KRAS, STAT3); and known disease genes for which a causal relationship with craniosynostosis is currently unknown (AHDC1, NTRK2). In two further families, likely novel disease genes are currently undergoing functional validation. In 5 of the 15 positive cases, the (previously unanticipated) molecular diagnosis had immediate, actionable consequences for either genetic or medical management (mutations in EFNB1, FBN1, KRAS, NTRK2, STAT3). This substantial genetic heterogeneity, and the multiple actionable mutations identified, emphasises the benefits of exome/whole genome sequencing to identify causal mutations in craniosynostosis cases for which routine clinical testing has yielded negative results.

Mettananda S, Fisher CA, Sloane-Stanley JA, Taylor S, Oppermann U, Gibbons RJ, Higgs DR.

Selective silencing of α-globin by the histone demethylase inhibitor IOX1: A potentially new pathway for treatment of β-thalassemia.

Haematologica. (2016) 102(3): e80-e84

Thalassemia is the world's most common form of inherited anemia and in economically undeveloped countries, still accounts for tens of thousands of premature deaths every year(1). Accumulation of free excess α-globin chains in red blood cells and their precursors, as a result of decreased production of β-globin, is believed to be the main pathophysiological mechanism leading to hemolytic anemia and ineffective erythropoiesis in β-thalassemia(2). Clinical-genetic data accumulated over the last 30 years indicate that a natural reduction in α-globin chain output by 25%-50% resulting from co-inherited α-thalassemia ameliorates the disease phenotype in patients with β-thalassemia(3-5). Here, we have developed and performed a targeted small molecule screen to identify compounds which downregulate α-globin expression. This identified IOX1, a pan-histone demethylase inhibitor, which selectively down regulates α-globin expression without perturbing erythroid differentiation or general gene expression, more specifically β-like globin expression. Our data show that selective silencing of α-globin expression in erythroid cells is pharmacologically feasible and IOX1 is a lead compound to develop new therapy to treat β-thalassemia through the novel pathway of down-regulating α-globin expression.

Benamore R, Kendrick YR, Repapi E, Helm E, Cole SL, Taylor S, Ho LP.

CTAS: a CT score to quantify disease activity in pulmonary sarcoidosis.

Thorax (2016) 71(12): 1161-1163

A major gap in the management of sarcoidosis is the lack of accessible and objective methods to measure disease activity. Since 90% of patients have pulmonary involvement, we explored if a disease activity score based on thoracic CT scans could address this clinical issue.
High-resolution CT scans from 100 consecutive patients with sarcoidosis at a regional sarcoidosis service were scored for extent of CT abnormalities known to relate to granuloma or lymphocytic infiltration from published CT-pathological studies. These individual abnormality scores were then correlated against serum ACE, sIL-2R and change in FVC to identify CT abnormalities that reflect contemporaneous disease activity. The sum of these scores, or CT Activity Score (CTAS), was then validated against FVC response to treatment.
CT extent scores for nodularity, ground-glass opacification, interlobular septal thickening and consolidation correlated significantly with at least one of the disease activity parameters and were used to form CTAS. CTAS was found to predict FVC response to treatment at 1 year and was highly reproducible between radiologists. An abbreviated CTAS (aCTAS), constructed from presence or absence of the four CT abnormalities, also showed significant correlation with FVC response to treatment. CTAS and aCTAS also correlated with response to treatment in the fibrotic subgroup.
CTAS provides a concept for an objective and reproducible CT scoring method to quantify disease activity in sarcoidosis. The score can potentially be used to stratify patients according to disease activity, determine response to treatment and establish if fibrotic sarcoidosis is active.

Timosenko E, Ghadbane H, Silk JD, Shepherd D, Gileadi U, Howson LJ, Laynes R, Zhao Q, Strausberg RL, Olsen LR, Taylor S, Buffa FM, Boyd R, Cerundolo V

Nutritional stress induced by tryptophan-degrading enzymes results in ATF4-dependent reprogramming of the amino acid transporter profile in tumor cells

Cancer Res. (2016) 76(21): 6193-6204

Tryptophan degradation is an immune escape strategy shared by many tumors. However, cancer cells' compensatory mechanisms remain unclear. We demonstrate here that a shortage of tryptophan caused by expression of indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) and tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase (TDO) resulted in ATF4-dependent upregulation of several amino acid transporters, including SLC1A5 and its truncated isoforms. which in turn enhanced tryptophan and glutamine uptake. Importantly, SLC1A5 failed to be up-regulated in resting human T cells kept under low tryptophan conditions, but was enhanced upon cognate antigen T cell receptor engagement. Our results highlight key differences in the ability of tumor and T cells to adapt to tryptophan starvation and provide important insights into the poor prognosis of tumors co-expressing IDO and SLC1A5

Monteiro R, Pinheiro P, Joseph N, Peterkin T, Koth J, Repapi E, Bonkhofer F, Kirmizitas A, Patient R.

Transforming Growth Factor β Drives Hemogenic Endothelium Programming and the Transition to Hematopoietic Stem Cells.

Dev Cell (2016) 38(4): 358-370

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are self-renewing multipotent stem cells that generate mature blood lineages throughout life. They, together with hematopoietic progenitor cells (collectively known as HSPCs), emerge from hemogenic endothelium in the floor of the embryonic dorsal aorta by an endothelial-to-hematopoietic transition (EHT). Here we demonstrate that transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) is required for HSPC specification and that it regulates the expression of the Notch ligand Jagged1a in endothelial cells prior to EHT, in a striking parallel with the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). The requirement for TGFβ is two fold and sequential: autocrine via Tgfβ1a and Tgfβ1b produced in the endothelial cells themselves, followed by a paracrine input of Tgfβ3 from the notochord, suggesting that the former programs the hemogenic endothelium and the latter drives EHT. Our findings have important implications for the generation of HSPCs from pluripotent cells in vitro.

Zhang YH, Zhao Y, Rajapaksa US, Lawrence TM, Peng YC, Liu J, Xu K, Hu K, Qin L, Liu N, Sun H, Yan HP, Repapi E, Rowland-Jones S, Thimme R, McKeating JA, Dong T.

A Comprehensive Analysis of the Impact of HIV on HCV Immune Responses and Its Association with Liver Disease Progression in a Unique Plasma Donor Cohort.

PLoS One. (2016) 11(7): e0158037

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) co-infection is recognized as a major cause of morbidity and mortality among HIV-1 infected patients. Our understanding of the impact of HIV infection on HCV specific immune responses and liver disease outcome is limited by the heterogeneous study populations with genetically diverse infecting viruses, varying duration of infection and anti-viral treatment. Viral-specific immune responses in a cohort of 151 HCV mono- and HIV co-infected former plasma donors infected with a narrow source of virus were studied. HCV and HIV specific T cell responses were correlated with clinical data. HIV-1 accelerated liver disease progression and decreased HCV specific T cell immunity. The magnitude of HCV specific T cell responses inversely correlated with lower HCV RNA load and reduced liver injury as assessed by non-invasive markers of liver fibrosis. HIV co-infection reduced the frequency of HCV specific CD4+ T cells with no detectable effect on CD8+ T cells or neutralizing antibody levels. Our study highlights the impact of HIV co-infection on HCV specific CD4+ T cell responses in a unique cohort of patients for both HCV and HIV and suggests a crucial role for these cells in controlling chronic HCV replication and liver disease progression.

Fenwick AL, Kliszczak M, Cooper F, Murray J, Sanchez-Pulido L, Twigg SR, Goriely A, McGowan SJ, Miller KA, Taylor IB, Logan C; WGS500 Consortium, Bozdogan S, Danda S, Dixon J, Elsayed SM, Elsobky E, Gardham A, Hoffer MJ, Koopmans M, McDonald-McGinn DM, Santen GW, Savarirayan R, de Silva D, Vanakker O, Wall SA, Wilson LC, Yuregir OO, Zackai EH, Ponting CP, Jackson AP, Wilkie AO, Niedzwiedz W, Bicknell LS

Mutations in CDC45, Encoding an Essential Component of the Pre-initiation Complex, Cause Meier-Gorlin Syndrome and Craniosynostosis

Am J Hum Genet. (2016) 99(1): 125-38

DNA replication precisely duplicates the genome to ensure stable inheritance of genetic information. Impaired licensing of origins of replication during the G1 phase of the cell cycle has been implicated in Meier-Gorlin syndrome (MGS), a disorder defined by the triad of short stature, microtia, and a/hypoplastic patellae. Biallelic partial loss-of-function mutations in multiple components of the pre-replication complex (preRC; ORC1, ORC4, ORC6, CDT1, or CDC6) as well as de novo stabilizing mutations in the licensing inhibitor, GMNN, cause MGS. Here we report the identification of mutations in CDC45 in 15 affected individuals from 12 families with MGS and/or craniosynostosis. CDC45 encodes a component of both the pre-initiation (preIC) and CMG helicase complexes, required for initiation of DNA replication origin firing and ongoing DNA synthesis during S-phase itself, respectively, and hence is functionally distinct from previously identified MGS-associated genes. The phenotypes of affected individuals range from syndromic coronal craniosynostosis to severe growth restriction, fulfilling diagnostic criteria for Meier-Gorlin syndrome. All mutations identified were biallelic and included synonymous mutations altering splicing of physiological CDC45 transcripts, as well as amino acid substitutions expected to result in partial loss of function. Functionally, mutations reduce levels of full-length transcripts and protein in subject cells, consistent with partial loss of CDC45 function and a predicted limited rate of DNA replication and cell proliferation. Our findings therefore implicate the preIC as an additional protein complex involved in the etiology of MGS and connect the core cellular machinery of genome replication with growth, chondrogenesis, and cranial suture homeostasis.

Twigg SR, Hufnagel RB, Miller KA, Zhou Y, McGowan SJ, Taylor J, Craft J, Taylor JC, Santoro SL, Huang T, Hopkin RJ, Brady AF, Clayton-Smith J, Clericuzio CL, Grange DK, Groesser L, Hafner C, Horn D, Temple IK, Dobyns WB, Curry CJ, Jones MC, Wilkie AO

A Recurrent Mosaic Mutation in SMO, Encoding the Hedgehog Signal Transducer Smoothened, Is the Major Cause of Curry-Jones Syndrome.

Am J Hum Genet (2016) 98: 1256-65

Curry-Jones syndrome (CJS) is a multisystem disorder characterized by patchy skin lesions, polysyndactyly, diverse cerebral malformations, unicoronal craniosynostosis, iris colobomas, microphthalmia, and intestinal malrotation with myofibromas or hamartomas. Cerebellar medulloblastoma has been described in a single affected individual; in another, biopsy of skin lesions showed features of trichoblastoma. The combination of asymmetric clinical features, patchy skin manifestations, and neoplastic association previously led to the suggestion that this could be a mosaic condition, possibly involving hedgehog (Hh) signaling. Here, we show that CJS is caused by recurrent somatic mosaicism for a nonsynonymous variant in SMO (c.1234C>T [p.Leu412Phe]), encoding smoothened (SMO), a G-protein-coupled receptor that transduces Hh signaling. We identified eight mutation-positive individuals (two of whom had not been reported previously) with highly similar phenotypes and demonstrated varying amounts of the mutant allele in different tissues. We present detailed findings from brain MRI in three mutation-positive individuals. Somatic SMO mutations that result in constitutive activation have been described in several tumors, including medulloblastoma, ameloblastoma, and basal cell carcinoma. Strikingly, the most common of these mutations is the identical nonsynonymous variant encoding p.Leu412Phe. Furthermore, this substitution has been shown to activate SMO in the absence of Hh signaling, providing an explanation for tumor development in CJS. This raises therapeutic possibilities for using recently generated Hh-pathway inhibitors. In summary, our work uncovers the major genetic cause of CJS and illustrates strategies for gene discovery in the context of low-level tissue-specific somatic mosaicism.

Dolatshad H, Pellagatti A, Liberante FG, Llorian M, Repapi E, Steeples V, Roy S, Scifo L, Armstrong RN, Shaw J, Yip BH, Killick S, Kušec R, Taylor S, Mills KI, Savage KI, Smith CW, Boultwood J.

Cryptic splicing events in the iron transporter ABCB7 and other key target genes in SF3B1 mutant myelodysplastic syndromes.

Leukemia (2016) 30(12): 2322-2331

The splicing factor SF3B1 is the most frequently mutated gene in the myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), and is strongly associated with the presence of ring sideroblasts (RS). We have performed a systematic analysis of cryptic splicing abnormalities from RNA-sequencing data on hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) of SF3B1-mutant MDS cases with RS. Aberrant splicing events in many downstream target genes were identified and cryptic 3' splice site usage was a frequent event in SF3B1-mutant MDS. The iron transporter ABCB7 is a well-recognized candidate gene showing marked downregulation in MDS with RS. Our analysis unveiled aberrant ABCB7 splicing, due to usage of an alternative 3' splice site in MDS patient samples, giving rise to a premature termination codon in the ABCB7 mRNA. Treatment of cultured SF3B1-mutant MDS erythroblasts and a CRISPR/Cas9-generated SF3B1-mutant cell line with the nonsense-mediated decay (NMD) inhibitor cycloheximide, showed that the aberrantly spliced ABCB7 transcript is targeted by NMD. We describe cryptic splicing events in the HSCs of SF3B1-mutant MDS, and our data support a model in which NMD-induced downregulation of the iron exporter ABCB7 mRNA transcript resulting from aberrant splicing caused by mutant SF3B1 underlies the increased mitochondrial iron accumulation found in MDS patients with RS.

Bannard O, McGowan SJ, Ersching J, Ishido S, Victora GD, Shin JS, Cyster JG

Ubiquitin-mediated fluctuations in MHC class II facilitate efficient germinal center B cell responses.

J Exp Med (2016) 213: 993-1009

Antibody affinity maturation occurs in germinal centers (GCs) through iterative rounds of somatic hypermutation and selection. Selection involves B cells competing for T cell help based on the amount of antigen they capture and present on their MHC class II (MHCII) proteins. How GC B cells are able to rapidly and repeatedly transition between mutating their B cell receptor genes and then being selected shortly after is not known. We report that MHCII surface levels and degradation are dynamically regulated in GC B cells. Through ectopic expression of a photoconvertible MHCII-mKikGR chimeric gene, we found that individual GC B cells differed in the rates of MHCII protein turnover. Fluctuations in surface MHCII levels were dependent on ubiquitination and the E3 ligase March1. Increases in March1 expression in centroblasts correlated with decreases in surface MHCII levels, whereas CD83 expression in centrocytes helped to stabilize MHCII at that stage. Defects in MHCII ubiquitination caused GC B cells to accumulate greater amounts of a specific peptide-MHCII (pMHCII), suggesting that MHCII turnover facilitates the replacement of old complexes. We propose that pMHCII complexes are periodically targeted for degradation in centroblasts to favor the presentation of recently acquired antigens, thereby promoting the fidelity and efficiency of selection.

Goos JA, Fenwick AL, Swagemakers SM, McGowan SJ, Knight SJ, Twigg SR, Hoogeboom AJ, van Dooren MF, Magielsen FJ, Wall SA, Mathijssen IM, Wilkie AO, van der Spek PJ, van den Ouweland AM

Identification of Intragenic Exon Deletions and Duplication of TCF12 by Whole Genome or Targeted Sequencing as a Cause of TCF12-Related Craniosynostosis.

Hum Mutat (2016) 37(8): 732-736

TCF12-related craniosynostosis can be caused by small heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in TCF12. Large intragenic rearrangements, however, have not been described yet. Here, we present the identification of four large rearrangements in TCF12 causing TCF12-related craniosynostosis. Whole genome sequencing was applied on the DNA of eighteen index-cases with coronal synostosis and their family members (forty-three samples in total). The data were analyzed using an autosomal dominant disease model. Structural variant analysis reported intragenic exon deletions (of sizes 84.9 kb, 8.6 kb and 5.4 kb) in TCF12 in three different families. The results were confirmed by deletion-specific PCR and dideoxy-sequence analysis. Separately, targeted sequencing of the TCF12 genomic region in a patient with coronal synostosis identified a tandem duplication of 11.3 kb. The pathogenic effect of this duplication was confirmed by cDNA analysis. These findings indicate the importance of screening for larger rearrangements in patients suspected to have TCF12-related craniosynostosis.

Maher GJ, McGowan SJ, Giannoulatou E, Verrill C, Goriely A, Wilkie AO

Visualizing the origins of selfish de novo mutations in individual seminiferous tubules of human testes.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A (2016) 113: 2454-9

De novo point mutations arise predominantly in the male germline and increase in frequency with age, but it has not previously been possible to locate specific, identifiable mutations directly within the seminiferous tubules of human testes. Using microdissection of tubules exhibiting altered expression of the spermatogonial markers MAGEA4, FGFR3, and phospho-AKT, whole genome amplification, and DNA sequencing, we establish an in situ strategy for discovery and analysis of pathogenic de novo mutations. In 14 testes from men aged 39-90 y, we identified 11 distinct gain-of-function mutations in five genes (fibroblast growth factor receptors FGFR2 and FGFR3, tyrosine phosphatase PTPN11, and RAS oncogene homologs HRAS and KRAS) from 16 of 22 tubules analyzed; all mutations have known associations with severe diseases, ranging from congenital or perinatal lethal disorders to somatically acquired cancers. These results support proposed selfish selection of spermatogonial mutations affecting growth factor receptor-RAS signaling, highlight its prevalence in older men, and enable direct visualization of the microscopic anatomy of elongated mutant clones.


Davies JO, Telenius JM, McGowan SJ, Roberts NA, Taylor S, Higgs DR, Hughes JR

Multiplexed analysis of chromosome conformation at vastly improved sensitivity.

Nat Methods (2015) 13: 74-80

Methods for analyzing chromosome conformation in mammalian cells are either low resolution or low throughput and are technically challenging. In next-generation (NG) Capture-C, we have redesigned the Capture-C method to achieve unprecedented levels of sensitivity and reproducibility. NG Capture-C can be used to analyze many genetic loci and samples simultaneously. High-resolution data can be produced with as few as 100,000 cells, and single-nucleotide polymorphisms can be used to generate allele-specific tracks. The method is straightforward to perform and should greatly facilitate the investigation of many questions related to gene regulation as well as the functional dissection of traits examined in genome-wide association studies.

Ramcharan R, Aleksic T, Kamdoum WP, Gao S, Pfister SX, Tanner J, Bridges E, Asher R, Watson AJ, Margison GP, Woodcock M, Repapi E, Li JL, Middleton MR, Macaulay VM

IGF-1R inhibition induces schedule-dependent sensitization of human melanoma to temozolomide.

Oncotarget (2015) 6: 39877-90

Prior studies implicate type 1 IGF receptor (IGF-1R) in mediating chemo-resistance. Here, we investigated whether IGF-1R influences response to temozolomide (TMZ), which generates DNA adducts that are removed by O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT), or persist causing replication-associated double-strand breaks (DSBs). Initial assessment in 10 melanoma cell lines revealed that TMZ resistance correlated with MGMT expression (r = 0.79, p = 0.009), and in MGMT-proficient cell lines, with phospho-IGF-1R (r = 0.81, p = 0.038), suggesting that TMZ resistance associates with IGF-1R activation. Next, effects of IGF-1R inhibitors (IGF-1Ri) AZ3801 and linsitinib (OSI-906) were tested on TMZ-sensitivity, cell cycle progression and DSB induction. IGF-1Ri sensitized BRAF wild-type and mutant melanoma cells to TMZ in vitro, an effect that was independent of MGMT. Cells harboring wild-type p53 were more sensitive to IGF-1Ri, and showed schedule-dependent chemo-sensitization that was most effective when IGF-1Ri followed TMZ. This sequence sensitized to clinically-achievable TMZ concentrations and enhanced TMZ-induced apoptosis. Simultaneous or prior IGF-1Ri caused less effective chemo-sensitization, associated with increased G1 population and reduced accumulation of TMZ-induced DSBs. Clinically relevant sequential (TMZ > IGF-1Ri) treatment was tested in mice bearing A375M (V600E BRAF, wild-type p53) melanoma xenografts, achieving peak plasma/tumor IGF-1Ri levels comparable to clinical Cmax, and inducing extensive intratumoral apoptosis. TMZ or IGF-1Ri caused minor inhibition of tumor growth (gradient reduction 13%, 25% respectively), while combination treatment caused supra-additive growth delay (72%) that was significantly different from control (p < 0.01), TMZ (p < 0.01) and IGF-1Ri (p < 0.05) groups. These data highlight the importance of scheduling when combining IGF-1Ri and other targeted agents with drugs that induce replication-associated DNA damage.

Twigg SR, Forecki J, Goos JA, Richardson IC, Hoogeboom AJ, van den Ouweland AM, Swagemakers SM, Lequin MH, Van Antwerp D, McGowan SJ, Westbury I, Miller KA, Wall SA, van der Spek PJ, Mathijssen IM, Pauws E, Merzdorf CS, Wilkie AO

Gain-of-Function Mutations in ZIC1 Are Associated with Coronal Craniosynostosis and Learning Disability.

Am J Hum Genet (2015) 97: 378-88

Human ZIC1 (zinc finger protein of cerebellum 1), one of five homologs of the Drosophila pair-rule gene odd-paired, encodes a transcription factor previously implicated in vertebrate brain development. Heterozygous deletions of ZIC1 and its nearby paralog ZIC4 on chromosome 3q25.1 are associated with Dandy-Walker malformation of the cerebellum, and loss of the orthologous Zic1 gene in the mouse causes cerebellar hypoplasia and vertebral defects. We describe individuals from five families with heterozygous mutations located in the final (third) exon of ZIC1 (encoding four nonsense and one missense change) who have a distinct phenotype in which severe craniosynostosis, specifically involving the coronal sutures, and variable learning disability are the most characteristic features. The location of the nonsense mutations predicts escape of mutant ZIC1 transcripts from nonsense-mediated decay, which was confirmed in a cell line from an affected individual. Both nonsense and missense mutations are associated with altered and/or enhanced expression of a target gene, engrailed-2, in a Xenopus embryo assay. Analysis of mouse embryos revealed a localized domain of Zic1 expression at embryonic days 11.5-12.5 in a region overlapping the supraorbital regulatory center, which patterns the coronal suture. We conclude that the human mutations uncover a previously unsuspected role for Zic1 in early cranial suture development, potentially by regulating engrailed 1, which was previously shown to be critical for positioning of the murine coronal suture. The diagnosis of a ZIC1 mutation has significant implications for prognosis and we recommend genetic testing when common causes of coronal synostosis have been excluded.

Ledaki I, McIntyre A, Wigfield S, Buffa F, McGowan S, Baban D, Li JL, Harris AL

Carbonic anhydrase IX induction defines a heterogeneous cancer cell response to hypoxia and mediates stem cell-like properties and sensitivity to HDAC inhibition.

Oncotarget (2015) 6: 19413-27

Carbonic anhydrase IX (CAIX) is strongly induced by hypoxia and its overexpression is associated with poor therapeutic outcome in cancer. Here, we report that hypoxia promotes tumour heterogeneity through the epigenetic regulation of CAIX. Based on hypoxic CAIX expression we identify and characterize two distinct populations of tumour cells, one that has inducible expression of CAIX and one that does not. The CAIX+ve population is enriched with cells expressing cancer stem cell markers and which have high self-renewal capacity. We show that differential CAIX expression is due to differences in chromatin structure. To further investigate the relationship between chromatin organization and hypoxic induction of CAIX expression we investigated the effect of JQ1 an inhibitor of BET bromodomain proteins and A366 a selective inhibitor of the H3K9 methyltransferase G9a/GLP. We identified that these drugs were able to modulate hypoxic CAIX expression induction. This further highlights the role of epigenetic modification in adaption to hypoxia and also in regulation of heterogeneity of cells within tumours. Interestingly, we identified that the two subpopulations show a differential sensitivity to HDAC inhibitors, NaBu or SAHA, with the CAIX positive showing greater sensitivity to treatment. We propose that drugs modulating chromatin regulation of expression may be used to reduce heterogeneity induced by hypoxia and could in combination have significant clinical consequences.

Clynes D, Jelinska C, Xella B, Ayyub H, Scott C, Mitson M, Taylor S, Higgs DR, Gibbons RJ

Suppression of the alternative lengthening of telomere pathway by the chromatin remodelling factor ATRX.

Nat Commun (2015) 6: 7538

Fifteen per cent of cancers maintain telomere length independently of telomerase by the homologous recombination (HR)-associated alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) pathway. A unifying feature of these tumours are mutations in ATRX. Here we show that expression of ectopic ATRX triggers a suppression of the pathway and telomere shortening. Importantly ATRX-mediated ALT suppression is dependent on the histone chaperone DAXX. Re-expression of ATRX is associated with a reduction in replication fork stalling, a known trigger for HR and loss of MRN from telomeres. A G-quadruplex stabilizer partially reverses the effect of ATRX, inferring ATRX may normally facilitate replication through these sequences that, if they persist, promote ALT. We propose that defective telomere chromatinization through loss of ATRX promotes the persistence of aberrant DNA secondary structures, which in turn present a barrier to DNA replication, leading to replication fork stalling, collapse, HR and subsequent recombination-mediated telomere synthesis in ALT cancers.

Belaya K, Rodriguez Cruz PM, Liu WW, Maxwell S, McGowan S, Farrugia ME, Petty R, Walls TJ, Sedghi M, Basiri K, Yue WW, Sarkozy A, Bertoli M, Pitt M, Kennett R, Schaefer A, Bushby K, Parton M, Lochmuller H, Palace J, Muntoni F, Beeson D

Mutations in GMPPB cause congenital myasthenic syndrome and bridge myasthenic disorders with dystroglycanopathies.

Brain (2015) 138: 2493-504

Congenital myasthenic syndromes are inherited disorders that arise from impaired signal transmission at the neuromuscular junction. Mutations in at least 20 genes are known to lead to the onset of these conditions. Four of these, ALG2, ALG14, DPAGT1 and GFPT1, are involved in glycosylation. Here we identify a fifth glycosylation gene, GMPPB, where mutations cause congenital myasthenic syndrome. First, we identified recessive mutations in seven cases from five kinships defined as congenital myasthenic syndrome using decrement of compound muscle action potentials on repetitive nerve stimulation on electromyography. The mutations were present through the length of the GMPPB, and segregation, in silico analysis, exon trapping, cell transfection followed by western blots and immunostaining were used to determine pathogenicity. GMPPB congenital myasthenic syndrome cases show clinical features characteristic of congenital myasthenic syndrome subtypes that are due to defective glycosylation, with variable weakness of proximal limb muscle groups while facial and eye muscles are largely spared. However, patients with GMPPB congenital myasthenic syndrome had more prominent myopathic features that were detectable on muscle biopsies, electromyography, muscle magnetic resonance imaging, and through elevated serum creatine kinase levels. Mutations in GMPPB have recently been reported to lead to the onset of muscular dystrophy dystroglycanopathy. Analysis of four additional GMPPB-associated muscular dystrophy dystroglycanopathy cases by electromyography found that a defective neuromuscular junction component is not always present. Thus, we find mutations in GMPPB can lead to a wide spectrum of clinical features where deficit in neuromuscular transmission is the major component in a subset of cases. Clinical recognition of GMPPB-associated congenital myasthenic syndrome may be complicated by the presence of myopathic features, but correct diagnosis is important because affected individuals can respond to appropriate treatments.

Taylor JC, Martin HC, Lise S, Broxholme J, Cazier JB, Rimmer A, Kanapin A, Lunter G, Fiddy S, Allan C, Aricescu AR, Attar M, Babbs C, Becq J, Beeson D, Bento C, Bignell P, Blair E, Buckle VJ, Bull K, Cais O, Cario H, Chapel H, Copley RR, Cornall R, Craft J, Dahan K, Davenport EE, Dendrou C, Devuyst O, Fenwick AL, Flint J, Fugger L, Gilbert RD, Goriely A, Green A, Greger IH, Grocock R, Gruszczyk AV, Hastings R, Hatton E, Higgs D, Hill A, Holmes C, Howard M, Hughes L, Humburg P, Johnson D, Karpe F, Kingsbury Z, Kini U, Knight JC, Krohn J, Lamble S, Langman C, Lonie L, Luck J, McCarthy D, McGowan SJ, McMullin MF, Miller KA, Murray L, Nemeth AH, Nesbit MA, Nutt D, Ormondroyd E, Oturai AB, Pagnamenta A, Patel SY, Percy M, Petousi N, Piazza P, Piret SE, Polanco-Echeverry G, Popitsch N, Powrie F, Pugh C, Quek L, Robbins PA, Robson K, Russo A, Sahgal N, van Schouwenburg PA, Schuh A, Silverman E, Simmons A, Sorensen PS, Sweeney E, Taylor J, Thakker RV, Tomlinson I, Trebes A, Twigg SR, Uhlig HH, Vyas P, Vyse T, Wall SA, Watkins H, Whyte MP, Witty L, Wright B, Yau C, Buck D, Humphray S, Ratcliffe PJ, Bell JI, Wilkie AO, Bentley D, Donnelly P, McVean G

Factors influencing success of clinical genome sequencing across a broad spectrum of disorders.

Nat Genet (2015) 47: 717-26

To assess factors influencing the success of whole-genome sequencing for mainstream clinical diagnosis, we sequenced 217 individuals from 156 independent cases or families across a broad spectrum of disorders in whom previous screening had identified no pathogenic variants. We quantified the number of candidate variants identified using different strategies for variant calling, filtering, annotation and prioritization. We found that jointly calling variants across samples, filtering against both local and external databases, deploying multiple annotation tools and using familial transmission above biological plausibility contributed to accuracy. Overall, we identified disease-causing variants in 21% of cases, with the proportion increasing to 34% (23/68) for mendelian disorders and 57% (8/14) in family trios. We also discovered 32 potentially clinically actionable variants in 18 genes unrelated to the referral disorder, although only 4 were ultimately considered reportable. Our results demonstrate the value of genome sequencing for routine clinical diagnosis but also highlight many outstanding challenges.

Zhang Y, Makvandi-Nejad S, Qin L, Zhao Y, Zhang T, Wang L, Repapi E, Taylor S, McMichael A, Li N, Dong T, Wu H

Interferon-induced transmembrane protein-3 rs12252-C is associated with rapid progression of acute HIV-1 infection in Chinese MSM cohort.

AIDS (2015) 29: 889-94

The interferon-inducible transmembrane protein-3 (IFITM3) is a protein that restricts multiple pathogenic viruses such as influenza virus. The single-nucleotide polymorphism rs12252-C, which is rare in Caucasian populations, but much more common in the Han Chinese population, has been found in much higher homozygous frequency in patients with severe acute influenza. Until now, there has been no study on the effect of this genetic variant on the clinical control of other viral infections. To investigate the impact of IFITM3-rs12252 genotypes on primary HIV-1 infection progression in an acute HIV-1-infected cohort in Beijing (PRIMO), China. We identified IFITM3-rs12252 genotypes of 178 acute HIV-1-infected patients and 196 HIV-negative candidates from the PRIMO cohort. HIV-1 viral load and CD4(+) T-cell counts were monitored at multiple time points during the first year of infection, and the association between IFITM3-rs12252 genotype and disease progression was evaluated. The current study shows that the IFITM3-rs12252 genetic variant affects the progression of HIV-1 infection, but not the acquisition. A significantly higher frequency of the CC/CT genotypes was found in rapid progressors compared to nonprogressors. Patients with CC/CT genotypes showed an elevated peak viremia level and significantly lower CD4(+) T-cell count at multiple time points during the first year of primary infection, and a significantly higher risk of rapid decline of the CD4(+) T-cell count to below 350 cells/ul. A novel association between IFITM3 gene polymorphism and rapid disease progression is reported in an acute HIV-1-infected MSM cohort in China.

French A, Yang CT, Taylor S, Watt SM, Carpenter L

Human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived B lymphocytes express sIgM and can be generated via a hemogenic endothelium intermediate.

Stem Cells Dev (2015) 24: 1082-95

The differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells to the B-cell lymphoid lineage has important clinical applications that include in vitro modeling of developmental lymphogenesis in health and disease. Here, we first demonstrate the capacity of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) to differentiate into CD144(+)CD73(-)CD43/CD235a(-) cells, characterized as hemogenic endothelium, and show that this population is capable of differentiating to CD10(+)CD19(+) B lymphocytes. We also demonstrate that B lymphocytes generated from hiPSCs are able to undergo full VDJ rearrangement and express surface IgM (sIgM(+)), thus representing an immature B-cell subset. Efficiency of sIgM expression on the hiPSC-derived B lymphocytes (~ 5% of CD19(+) cells) was comparable with B lymphocytes generated from human umbilical cord blood (UCB) hematopoietic progenitor cells. Importantly, when assessed by global transcriptional profiling, hiPSC-derived B-cells show a very high level of similarity when compared with their UCB-derived counterparts, such that from more than 47,000 different transcripts, only 45 were significantly different (with a criteria adjusted P value P<0.05, log FC >1.5 or 2.8-fold). This represents a unique in vitro model to delineate critical events during lymphogeneisis in development and lymphoid diseases such as acute lymphocytic leukemia.


Babbs C, Lloyd D, Pagnamenta AT, Twigg SR, Green J, McGowan SJ, Mirza G, Naples R, Sharma VP, Volpi EV, Buckle VJ, Wall SA, Knight SJ, Parr JR, Wilkie AO

De novo and rare inherited mutations implicate the transcriptional coregulator TCF20/SPBP in autism spectrum disorder.

J Med Genet (2014) 51: 737-47

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are common and have a strong genetic basis, yet the cause of ~70-80% ASDs remains unknown. By clinical cytogenetic testing, we identified a family in which two brothers had ASD, mild intellectual disability and a chromosome 22 pericentric inversion, not detected in either parent, indicating de novo mutation with parental germinal mosaicism. We hypothesised that the rearrangement was causative of their ASD and localised the chromosome 22 breakpoints. The rearrangement was characterised using fluorescence in situ hybridisation, Southern blotting, inverse PCR and dideoxy-sequencing. Open reading frames and intron/exon boundaries of the two physically disrupted genes identified, TCF20 and TNRC6B, were sequenced in 342 families (260 multiplex and 82 simplex) ascertained by the International Molecular Genetic Study of Autism Consortium (IMGSAC). IMGSAC family screening identified a de novo missense mutation of TCF20 in a single case and significant association of a different missense mutation of TCF20 with ASD in three further families. Through exome sequencing in another project, we independently identified a de novo frameshifting mutation of TCF20 in a woman with ASD and moderate intellectual disability. We did not identify a significant association of TNRC6B mutations with ASD. TCF20 encodes a transcriptional coregulator (also termed SPBP) that is structurally and functionally related to RAI1, the critical dosage-sensitive protein implicated in the behavioural phenotypes of the Smith-Magenis and Potocki-Lupski 17p11.2 deletion/duplication syndromes, in which ASD is frequently diagnosed. This study provides the first evidence that mutations in TCF20 are also associated with ASD.

Bassett AR, Azzam G, Wheatley L, Tibbit C, Rajakumar T, McGowan S, Stanger N, Ewels PA, Taylor S, Ponting CP, Liu JL, Sauka-Spengler T, Fulga TA

Understanding functional miRNA-target interactions in vivo by site-specific genome engineering.

Nat Commun (2014) 5: 4640

MicroRNA (miRNA) target recognition is largely dictated by short 'seed' sequences, and single miRNAs therefore have the potential to regulate a large number of genes. Understanding the contribution of specific miRNA-target interactions to the regulation of biological processes in vivo remains challenging. Here we use transcription activator-like effector nuclease (TALEN) and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)/Cas9 technologies to interrogate the functional relevance of predicted miRNA response elements (MREs) to post-transcriptional silencing in zebrafish and Drosophila. We also demonstrate an effective strategy that uses CRISPR-mediated homology-directed repair with short oligonucleotide donors for the assessment of MRE activity in human cells. These methods facilitate analysis of the direct phenotypic consequences resulting from blocking specific miRNA-MRE interactions at any point during development.

Armitage AE, Stacey AR, Giannoulatou E, Marshall E, Sturges P, Chatha K, Smith NM, Huang X, Xu X, Pasricha SR, Li N, Wu H, Webster C, Prentice AM, Pellegrino P, Williams I, Norris PJ, Drakesmith H, Borrow P

Distinct patterns of hepcidin and iron regulation during HIV-1, HBV, and HCV infections.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A (2014) 111: 12187-92

During HIV type-1 (HIV-1), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections, altered iron balance correlates with morbidity. The liver-produced hormone hepcidin dictates systemic iron homeostasis. We measured hepcidin, iron parameters, cytokines, and inflammatory markers in three cohorts: plasma donors who developed acute HIV-1, HBV, or HCV viremia during the course of donations; HIV-1-positive individuals progressing from early to chronic infection; and chronically HIV-1-infected individuals (receiving antiretroviral therapy or untreated). Hepcidin increased and plasma iron decreased during acute HIV-1 infection, as viremia was initially detected. In patients transitioning from early to chronic HIV-1 infection, hepcidin in the first 60 d of infection positively correlated with the later plasma viral load set-point. Hepcidin remained elevated in individuals with untreated chronic HIV-1 infection and in subjects on ART. In contrast to HIV-1, there was no evidence of hepcidin up-regulation or hypoferremia during the primary viremic phases of HCV or HBV infection; serum iron marginally increased during acute HBV infection. In conclusion, hepcidin induction is part of the pathogenically important systemic inflammatory cascade triggered during HIV-1 infection and may contribute to the establishment and maintenance of viral set-point, which is a strong predictor of progression to AIDS and death. However, distinct patterns of hepcidin and iron regulation occur during different viral infections that have particular tissue tropisms and elicit different systemic inflammatory responses. The hypoferremia of acute infection is therefore a pathogen-specific, not universal, phenomenon.

Taylor S, Noble R

HTML5 PivotViewer: high-throughput visualization and querying of image data on the web.

Bioinformatics (2014) 30: 2691-2

Visualization and analysis of large numbers of biological images has generated a bottle neck in research. We present HTML5 PivotViewer, a novel, open source, platform-independent viewer making use of the latest web technologies that allows seamless access to images and associated metadata for each image. This provides a powerful method to allow end users to mine their data.

Woll PS, Kjallquist U, Chowdhury O, Doolittle H, Wedge DC, Thongjuea S, Erlandsson R, Ngara M, Anderson K, Deng Q, Mead AJ, Stenson L, Giustacchini A, Duarte S, Giannoulatou E, Taylor S, Karimi M, Scharenberg C, Mortera-Blanco T, Macaulay IC, Clark SA, Dybedal I, Josefsen D, Fenaux P, Hokland P, Holm MS, Cazzola M, Malcovati L, Tauro S, Bowen D, Boultwood J, Pellagatti A, Pimanda JE, Unnikrishnan A, Vyas P, Gohring G, Schlegelberger B, Tobiasson M, Kvalheim G, Constantinescu SN, Nerlov C, Nilsson L, Campbell PJ, Sandberg R, Papaemmanuil E, Hellstrom-Lindberg E, Linnarsson S, Jacobsen SE

Myelodysplastic syndromes are propagated by rare and distinct human cancer stem cells in vivo.

Cancer Cell (2014) 25: 794-808

Evidence for distinct human cancer stem cells (CSCs) remains contentious and the degree to which different cancer cells contribute to propagating malignancies in patients remains unexplored. In low- to intermediate-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), we establish the existence of rare multipotent MDS stem cells (MDS-SCs), and their hierarchical relationship to lineage-restricted MDS progenitors. All identified somatically acquired genetic lesions were backtracked to distinct MDS-SCs, establishing their distinct MDS-propagating function in vivo. In isolated del(5q)-MDS, acquisition of del(5q) preceded diverse recurrent driver mutations. Sequential analysis in del(5q)-MDS revealed genetic evolution in MDS-SCs and MDS-progenitors prior to leukemic transformation. These findings provide definitive evidence for rare human MDS-SCs in vivo, with extensive implications for the targeting of the cells required and sufficient for MDS-propagation.

Clynes D, Jelinska C, Xella B, Ayyub H, Taylor S, Mitson M, Bachrati CZ, Higgs DR, Gibbons RJ

ATRX dysfunction induces replication defects in primary mouse cells.

PLoS One (2014) 9: e92915

The chromatin remodeling protein ATRX, which targets tandem repetitive DNA, has been shown to be required for expression of the alpha globin genes, for proliferation of a variety of cellular progenitors, for chromosome congression and for the maintenance of telomeres. Mutations in ATRX have recently been identified in tumours which maintain their telomeres by a telomerase independent pathway involving homologous recombination thought to be triggered by DNA damage. It is as yet unknown whether there is a central underlying mechanism associated with ATRX dysfunction which can explain the numerous cellular phenomena observed. There is, however, growing evidence for its role in the replication of various repetitive DNA templates which are thought to have a propensity to form secondary structures. Using a mouse knockout model we demonstrate that ATRX plays a direct role in facilitating DNA replication. Ablation of ATRX alone, although leading to a DNA damage response at telomeres, is not sufficient to trigger the alternative lengthening of telomere pathway in mouse embryonic stem cells.

Hay AS, Pieper B, Cooke E, Mandakova T, Cartolano M, Tattersall AD, Ioio RD, McGowan SJ, Barkoulas M, Galinha C, Rast MI, Hofhuis H, Then C, Plieske J, Ganal M, Mott R, Martinez-Garcia JF, Carine MA, Scotland RW, Gan X, Filatov DA, Lysak MA, Tsiantis M

Cardamine hirsuta: a versatile genetic system for comparative studies.

Plant J (2014) 78: 1-15

A major goal in biology is to identify the genetic basis for phenotypic diversity. This goal underpins research in areas as diverse as evolutionary biology, plant breeding and human genetics. A limitation for this research is no longer the availability of sequence information but the development of functional genetic tools to understand the link between changes in sequence and phenotype. Here we describe Cardamine hirsuta, a close relative of the reference plant Arabidopsis thaliana, as an experimental system in which genetic and transgenic approaches can be deployed effectively for comparative studies. We present high-resolution genetic and cytogenetic maps for C. hirsuta and show that the genome structure of C. hirsuta closely resembles the eight chromosomes of the ancestral crucifer karyotype and provides a good reference point for comparative genome studies across the Brassicaceae. We compared morphological and physiological traits between C. hirsuta and A. thaliana and analysed natural variation in stamen number in which lateral stamen loss is a species characteristic of C. hirsuta. We constructed a set of recombinant inbred lines and detected eight quantitative trait loci that can explain stamen number variation in this population. We found clear phylogeographic structure to the genetic variation in C. hirsuta, thus providing a context within which to address questions about evolutionary changes that link genotype with phenotype and the environment.

Gutowska-Owsiak D, Selvakumar TA, Salimi M, Taylor S, Ogg GS

Histamine enhances keratinocyte-mediated resolution of inflammation by promoting wound healing and response to infection.

Clin Exp Dermatol (2014) 39: 187-95

The role of the epidermis in the immune response is well known. While multiple cytokines are implicated in keratinocyte-mediated infection clearance and wound healing, little is known about the involvement of keratinocytes in promoting resolution of inflammation. To assess effects of histamine stimulation on keratinocyte function. We performed a combined microarray/Gene Ontology analysis of histamine-stimulated keratinocytes. Functional changes were tested by apoptosis assessment and scratch assays. Histamine receptor involvement was also assessed by blocking wound closure with specific antagonists. Histamine treatment had extensive effects on keratinocytes, including effects on proinflammatory responses and cellular functions promoting wound healing. At the functional level, there was reduced apoptosis and enhancement of wound healing in vitro. At the receptor level, we identified involvement of all keratinocyte-expressed histamine receptors (HRHs), with HRH1 blockage resulting in the most prominent effect. Histamine activates wound healing and infection clearance-related functions of keratinocytes. While enhancement of histamine-mediated wound healing is mediated predominantly via the HRH1 receptor, other keratinocyte-expressed receptors are also involved. These effects could promote resolution of skin inflammation caused by infection or superficial injury.

Hughes JR, Roberts N, McGowan S, Hay D, Giannoulatou E, Lynch M, De Gobbi M, Taylor S, Gibbons R, Higgs DR

Analysis of hundreds of cis-regulatory landscapes at high resolution in a single, high-throughput experiment.

Nat Genet (2014) 46: 205-12

Gene expression during development and differentiation is regulated in a cell- and stage-specific manner by complex networks of intergenic and intragenic cis-regulatory elements whose numbers and representation in the genome far exceed those of structural genes. Using chromosome conformation capture, it is now possible to analyze in detail the interaction between enhancers, silencers, boundary elements and promoters at individual loci, but these techniques are not readily scalable. Here we present a high-throughput approach (Capture-C) to analyze cis interactions, interrogating hundreds of specific interactions at high resolution in a single experiment. We show how this approach will facilitate detailed, genome-wide analysis to elucidate the general principles by which cis-acting sequences control gene expression. In addition, we show how Capture-C will expedite identification of the target genes and functional effects of SNPs that are associated with complex diseases, which most frequently lie in intergenic cis-acting regulatory elements.


Favaro FP, Alvizi L, Zechi-Ceide RM, Bertola D, Felix TM, de Souza J, Raskin S, Twigg SR, Weiner AM, Armas P, Margarit E, Calcaterra NB, Andersen GR, McGowan SJ, Wilkie AO, Richieri-Costa A, de Almeida ML, Passos-Bueno MR

A noncoding expansion in EIF4A3 causes Richieri-Costa-Pereira syndrome, a craniofacial disorder associated with limb defects.

Am J Hum Genet (2013) 94: 120-8

Richieri-Costa-Pereira syndrome is an autosomal-recessive acrofacial dysostosis characterized by mandibular median cleft associated with other craniofacial anomalies and severe limb defects. Learning and language disabilities are also prevalent. We mapped the mutated gene to a 122 kb region at 17q25.3 through identity-by-descent analysis in 17 genealogies. Sequencing strategies identified an expansion of a region with several repeats of 18- or 20-nucleotide motifs in the 5' untranslated region (5' UTR) of EIF4A3, which contained from 14 to 16 repeats in the affected individuals and from 3 to 12 repeats in 520 healthy individuals. A missense substitution of a highly conserved residue likely to affect the interaction of eIF4AIII with the UPF3B subunit of the exon junction complex in trans with an expanded allele was found in an unrelated individual with an atypical presentation, thus expanding mutational mechanisms and phenotypic diversity of RCPS. EIF4A3 transcript abundance was reduced in both white blood cells and mesenchymal cells of RCPS-affected individuals as compared to controls. Notably, targeting the orthologous eif4a3 in zebrafish led to underdevelopment of several craniofacial cartilage and bone structures, in agreement with the craniofacial alterations seen in RCPS. Our data thus suggest that RCPS is caused by mutations in EIF4A3 and show that EIF4A3, a gene involved in RNA metabolism, plays a role in mandible, laryngeal, and limb morphogenesis.

Swiers G, Baumann C, O'Rourke J, Giannoulatou E, Taylor S, Joshi A, Moignard V, Pina C, Bee T, Kokkaliaris KD, Yoshimoto M, Yoder MC, Frampton J, Schroeder T, Enver T, Gottgens B, de Bruijn MF

Early dynamic fate changes in haemogenic endothelium characterized at the single-cell level.

Nat Commun (2013) 4: 2924

Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are the founding cells of the adult haematopoietic system, born during ontogeny from a specialized subset of endothelium, the haemogenic endothelium (HE) via an endothelial-to-haematopoietic transition (EHT). Although recently imaged in real time, the underlying mechanism of EHT is still poorly understood. We have generated a Runx1 +23 enhancer-reporter transgenic mouse (23GFP) for the prospective isolation of HE throughout embryonic development. Here we perform functional analysis of over 1,800 and transcriptional analysis of 268 single 23GFP(+) HE cells to explore the onset of EHT at the single-cell level. We show that initiation of the haematopoietic programme occurs in cells still embedded in the endothelial layer, and is accompanied by a previously unrecognized early loss of endothelial potential before HSCs emerge. Our data therefore provide important insights on the timeline of early haematopoietic commitment.

Pan X, Huang LC, Dong T, Peng Y, Cerundolo V, McGowan S, Ogg G

Combinatorial HLA-peptide bead libraries for high throughput identification of CD8+ T cell specificity.

J Immunol Methods (2013) 403: 72-8

Comprehensive antigenic characterization of a T cell population of unknown specificity is challenging. Existing MHC class I expression systems are limited by the practical difficulty of probing cell populations with an MHC class I peptide library and the cross-reactivity of T cells that are able to recognise many variants of an index peptide. Using emulsion PCR and emulsion in vitro transcription/translation of a random library of peptides conjugated to CD8-null HLA-A*0201 on beads, we probed HLA-A*0201-restricted T cells with specificity for influenza, CMV and EBV. We observed significant enrichment for sequences containing HLA-A2 anchors and correct viral fragments for all T cell populations. HLA bead display provides a novel approach to identify the specificity of T cells.

Giannoulatou E, McVean G, Taylor IB, McGowan SJ, Maher GJ, Iqbal Z, Pfeifer SP, Turner I, Burkitt Wright EM, Shorto J, Itani A, Turner K, Gregory L, Buck D, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Looijenga LH, Kerr B, Wilkie AO, Goriely A

Contributions of intrinsic mutation rate and selfish selection to levels of de novo HRAS mutations in the paternal germline.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A (2013) 110: 20152-7

The RAS proto-oncogene Harvey rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog (HRAS) encodes a small GTPase that transduces signals from cell surface receptors to intracellular effectors to control cellular behavior. Although somatic HRAS mutations have been described in many cancers, germline mutations cause Costello syndrome (CS), a congenital disorder associated with predisposition to malignancy. Based on the epidemiology of CS and the occurrence of HRAS mutations in spermatocytic seminoma, we proposed that activating HRAS mutations become enriched in sperm through a process akin to tumorigenesis, termed selfish spermatogonial selection. To test this hypothesis, we quantified the levels, in blood and sperm samples, of HRAS mutations at the p.G12 codon and compared the results to changes at the p.A11 codon, at which activating mutations do not occur. The data strongly support the role of selection in determining HRAS mutation levels in sperm, and hence the occurrence of CS, but we also found differences from the mutation pattern in tumorigenesis. First, the relative prevalence of mutations in sperm correlates weakly with their in vitro activating properties and occurrence in cancers. Second, specific tandem base substitutions (predominantly GC>TT/AA) occur in sperm but not in cancers; genomewide analysis showed that this same mutation is also overrepresented in constitutional pathogenic and polymorphic variants, suggesting a heightened vulnerability to these mutations in the germline. We developed a statistical model to show how both intrinsic mutation rate and selfish selection contribute to the mutational burden borne by the paternal germline.

Salek M, McGowan S, Trudgian DC, Dushek O, de Wet B, Efstathiou G, Acuto O

Quantitative phosphoproteome analysis unveils LAT as a modulator of CD3ζ and ZAP-70 tyrosine phosphorylation.

PLoS One (2013) 8: e77423

Signaling through the T cell receptor (TCR) initiates adaptive immunity and its perturbation may results in autoimmunity. The plasma membrane scaffolding protein LAT acts as a central organizer of the TCR signaling machinery to activate many functional pathways. LAT-deficient mice develop an autoimmune syndrome but the mechanism of this pathology is unknown. In this work we have compared global dynamics of TCR signaling by MS-based quantitative phosphoproteomics in LAT-sufficient and LAT-defective Jurkat T cells. Surprisingly, we found that many TCR-induced phosphorylation events persist in the absence of LAT, despite ERK and PLCγ1 phosphorylation being repressed. Most importantly, the absence of LAT resulted in augmented and persistent tyrosine phosphorylation of CD3ζ and ZAP70. This indicates that LAT signaling hub is also implicated in negative feedback signals to modulate upstream phosphorylation events. Phosphorylation kinetics data resulting from this investigation is documented in a database (phosphoTCR) accessible online. The MS data have been deposited to the ProteomeXchange with identifier PXD000341.

May G, Soneji S, Tipping AJ, Teles J, McGowan SJ, Wu M, Guo Y, Fugazza C, Brown J, Karlsson G, Pina C, Olariu V, Taylor S, Tenen DG, Peterson C, Enver T

Dynamic analysis of gene expression and genome-wide transcription factor binding during lineage specification of multipotent progenitors.

Cell Stem Cell (2013) 13: 754-68

We used the paradigmatic GATA-PU.1 axis to explore, at the systems level, dynamic relationships between transcription factor (TF) binding and global gene expression programs as multipotent cells differentiate. We combined global ChIP-seq of GATA1, GATA2, and PU.1 with expression profiling during differentiation to erythroid and neutrophil lineages. Our analysis reveals (1) differential complexity of sequence motifs bound by GATA1, GATA2, and PU.1; (2) the scope and interplay of GATA1 and GATA2 programs within, and during transitions between, different cell compartments, and the extent of their hard-wiring by DNA motifs; (3) the potential to predict gene expression trajectories based on global associations between TF-binding data and target gene expression; and (4) how dynamic modeling of DNA-binding and gene expression data can be used to infer regulatory logic of TF circuitry. This rubric exemplifies the utility of this cross-platform resource for deconvoluting the complexity of transcriptional programs controlling stem/progenitor cell fate in hematopoiesis.

Roberts I, Alford K, Hall G, Juban G, Richmond H, Norton A, Vallance G, Perkins K, Marchi E, McGowan S, Roy A, Cowan G, Anthony M, Gupta A, Ho J, Uthaya S, Curley A, Rasiah SV, Watts T, Nicholl R, Bedford-Russell A, Blumberg R, Thomas A, Gibson B, Halsey C, Lee PW, Godambe S, Sweeney C, Bhatnagar N, Goriely A, Campbell P, Vyas P

GATA1-mutant clones are frequent and often unsuspected in babies with Down syndrome: identification of a population at risk of leukemia.

Blood (2013) 122: 3908-17

Transient abnormal myelopoiesis (TAM), a preleukemic disorder unique to neonates with Down syndrome (DS), may transform to childhood acute myeloid leukemia (ML-DS). Acquired GATA1 mutations are present in both TAM and ML-DS. Current definitions of TAM specify neither the percentage of blasts nor the role of GATA1 mutation analysis. To define TAM, we prospectively analyzed clinical findings, blood counts and smears, and GATA1 mutation status in 200 DS neonates. All DS neonates had multiple blood count and smear abnormalities. Surprisingly, 195 of 200 (97.5%) had circulating blasts. GATA1 mutations were detected by Sanger sequencing/denaturing high performance liquid chromatography (Ss/DHPLC) in 17 of 200 (8.5%), all with blasts >10%. Furthermore low-abundance GATA1 mutant clones were detected by targeted next-generation resequencing (NGS) in 18 of 88 (20.4%; sensitivity ~0.3%) DS neonates without Ss/DHPLC-detectable GATA1 mutations. No clinical or hematologic features distinguished these 18 neonates. We suggest the term "silent TAM" for neonates with DS with GATA1 mutations detectable only by NGS. To identify all babies at risk of ML-DS, we suggest GATA1 mutation and blood count and smear analyses should be performed in DS neonates. Ss/DPHLC can be used for initial screening, but where GATA1 mutations are undetectable by Ss/DHPLC, NGS-based methods can identify neonates with small GATA1 mutant clones.

Brackley CA, Taylor S, Papantonis A, Cook PR, Marenduzzo D

Nonspecific bridging-induced attraction drives clustering of DNA-binding proteins and genome organization.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A (2013) 110: E3605-11

Molecular dynamics simulations are used to model proteins that diffuse to DNA, bind, and dissociate; in the absence of any explicit interaction between proteins, or between templates, binding spontaneously induces local DNA compaction and protein aggregation. Small bivalent proteins form into rows [as on binding of the bacterial histone-like nucleoid-structuring protein (H-NS)], large proteins into quasi-spherical aggregates (as on nanoparticle binding), and cylinders with eight binding sites (representing octameric nucleosomal cores) into irregularly folded clusters (like those seen in nucleosomal strings). Binding of RNA polymerase II and a transcription factor (NFκB) to the appropriate sites on four human chromosomes generates protein clusters analogous to transcription factories, multiscale loops, and intrachromosomal contacts that mimic those found in vivo. We suggest that this emergent behavior of clustering is driven by an entropic bridging-induced attraction that minimizes bending and looping penalties in the template.

McGowan SJ, Hughes JR, Han ZP, Taylor S

MIG: Multi-Image Genome viewer.

Bioinformatics (2013) 29: 2477-8

Multi-Image Genome (MIG) viewer is a web-based application for visualizing, querying and filtering many thousands of genome browser regions as well as for exporting the data in a variety of formats. This methodology has been used successfully to analyze ChIP-Seq data and RNA-Seq data and to detect somatic mutations in genome resequencing projects.

Babbs C, Roberts NA, Sanchez-Pulido L, McGowan SJ, Ahmed MR, Brown JM, Sabry MA, Bentley DR, McVean GA, Donnelly P, Gileadi O, Ponting CP, Higgs DR, Buckle VJ

Homozygous mutations in a predicted endonuclease are a novel cause of congenital dyserythropoietic anemia type I.

Haematologica (2013) 98: 1383-7

The congenital dyserythropoietic anemias are a heterogeneous group of rare disorders primarily affecting erythropoiesis with characteristic morphological abnormalities and a block in erythroid maturation. Mutations in the CDAN1 gene, which encodes Codanin-1, underlie the majority of congenital dyserythropoietic anemia type I cases. However, no likely pathogenic CDAN1 mutation has been detected in approximately 20% of cases, suggesting the presence of at least one other locus. We used whole genome sequencing and segregation analysis to identify a homozygous T to A transversion (c.533T>A), predicted to lead to a p.L178Q missense substitution in C15ORF41, a gene of unknown function, in a consanguineous pedigree of Middle-Eastern origin. Sequencing C15ORF41 in other CDAN1 mutation-negative congenital dyserythropoietic anemia type I pedigrees identified a homozygous transition (c.281A>G), predicted to lead to a p.Y94C substitution, in two further pedigrees of SouthEast Asian origin. The haplotype surrounding the c.281A>G change suggests a founder effect for this mutation in Pakistan. Detailed sequence similarity searches indicate that C15ORF41 encodes a novel restriction endonuclease that is a member of the Holliday junction resolvase family of proteins.

Hughes JR, Lower KM, Dunham I, Taylor S, De Gobbi M, Sloane-Stanley JA, McGowan S, Ragoussis J, Vernimmen D, Gibbons RJ, Higgs DR

High-resolution analysis of cis-acting regulatory networks at the α-globin locus.

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci (2013) 368: 20120361

We have combined the circular chromosome conformation capture protocol with high-throughput, genome-wide sequence analysis to characterize the cis-acting regulatory network at a single locus. In contrast to methods which identify large interacting regions (10-1000 kb), the 4C approach provides a comprehensive, high-resolution analysis of a specific locus with the aim of defining, in detail, the cis-regulatory elements controlling a single gene or gene cluster. Using the human α-globin locus as a model, we detected all known local and long-range interactions with this gene cluster. In addition, we identified two interactions with genes located 300 kb (NME4) and 625 kb (FAM173a) from the α-globin cluster.

Cossins J, Belaya K, Hicks D, Salih MA, Finlayson S, Carboni N, Liu WW, Maxwell S, Zoltowska K, Farsani GT, Laval S, Seidhamed MZ, Donnelly P, Bentley D, McGowan SJ, Muller J, Palace J, Lochmuller H, Beeson D

Congenital myasthenic syndromes due to mutations in ALG2 and ALG14.

Brain (2013) 136: 944-56

Congenital myasthenic syndromes are a heterogeneous group of inherited disorders that arise from impaired signal transmission at the neuromuscular synapse. They are characterized by fatigable muscle weakness. We performed linkage analysis, whole-exome and whole-genome sequencing to determine the underlying defect in patients with an inherited limb-girdle pattern of myasthenic weakness. We identify ALG14 and ALG2 as novel genes in which mutations cause a congenital myasthenic syndrome. Through analogy with yeast, ALG14 is thought to form a multiglycosyltransferase complex with ALG13 and DPAGT1 that catalyses the first two committed steps of asparagine-linked protein glycosylation. We show that ALG14 is concentrated at the muscle motor endplates and small interfering RNA silencing of ALG14 results in reduced cell-surface expression of muscle acetylcholine receptor expressed in human embryonic kidney 293 cells. ALG2 is an alpha-1,3-mannosyltransferase that also catalyses early steps in the asparagine-linked glycosylation pathway. Mutations were identified in two kinships, with mutation ALG2p.Val68Gly found to severely reduce ALG2 expression both in patient muscle, and in cell cultures. Identification of DPAGT1, ALG14 and ALG2 mutations as a cause of congenital myasthenic syndrome underscores the importance of asparagine-linked protein glycosylation for proper functioning of the neuromuscular junction. These syndromes form part of the wider spectrum of congenital disorders of glycosylation caused by impaired asparagine-linked glycosylation. It is likely that further genes encoding components of this pathway will be associated with congenital myasthenic syndromes or impaired neuromuscular transmission as part of a more severe multisystem disorder. Our findings suggest that treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors may improve muscle function in many of the congenital disorders of glycosylation.

Zhang YH, Zhao Y, Li N, Peng YC, Giannoulatou E, Jin RH, Yan HP, Wu H, Liu JH, Liu N, Wang DY, Shu YL, Ho LP, Kellam P, McMichael A, Dong T

Interferon-induced transmembrane protein-3 genetic variant rs12252-C is associated with severe influenza in Chinese individuals.

Nat Commun (2013) 4: 1418

The SNP rs12252-C allele alters the function of interferon-induced transmembrane protein-3 increasing the disease severity of influenza virus infection in Caucasians, but the allele is rare. However, rs12252-C is much more common in Han Chinese. Here we report that the CC genotype is found in 69% of Chinese patients with severe pandemic influenza A H1N1/09 virus infection compared with 25% in those with mild infection. Specifically, the CC genotype was estimated to confer a sixfold greater risk for severe infection than the CT and TT genotypes. More importantly, because the risk genotype occurs with such a high frequency, its effect translates to a large population-attributable risk of 54.3% for severe infection in the Chinese population studied compared with 5.4% in Northern Europeans. Interferon-induced transmembrane protein-3 genetic variants could, therefore, have a strong effect of the epidemiology of influenza in China and in people of Chinese descent.

Twigg SR, Vorgia E, McGowan SJ, Peraki I, Fenwick AL, Sharma VP, Allegra M, Zaragkoulias A, Sadighi Akha E, Knight SJ, Lord H, Lester T, Izatt L, Lampe AK, Mohammed SN, Stewart FJ, Verloes A, Wilson LC, Healy C, Sharpe PT, Hammond P, Hughes J, Taylor S, Johnson D, Wall SA, Mavrothalassitis G, Wilkie AO

Reduced dosage of ERF causes complex craniosynostosis in humans and mice and links ERK1/2 signaling to regulation of osteogenesis.

Nat Genet (2013) 45: 308-13

The extracellular signal-related kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) are key proteins mediating mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling downstream of RAS: phosphorylation of ERK1/2 leads to nuclear uptake and modulation of multiple targets. Here, we show that reduced dosage of ERF, which encodes an inhibitory ETS transcription factor directly bound by ERK1/2 (refs. 2,3,4,5,6,7), causes complex craniosynostosis (premature fusion of the cranial sutures) in humans and mice. Features of this newly recognized clinical disorder include multiple-suture synostosis, craniofacial dysmorphism, Chiari malformation and language delay. Mice with functional Erf levels reduced to ~30% of normal exhibit postnatal multiple-suture synostosis; by contrast, embryonic calvarial development appears mildly delayed. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation in mouse embryonic fibroblasts and high-throughput sequencing, we find that ERF binds preferentially to elements away from promoters that contain RUNX or AP-1 motifs. This work identifies ERF as a novel regulator of osteogenic stimulation by RAS-ERK signaling, potentially by competing with activating ETS factors in multifactor transcriptional complexes.

Sharma VP, Fenwick AL, Brockop MS, McGowan SJ, Goos JA, Hoogeboom AJ, Brady AF, Jeelani NO, Lynch SA, Mulliken JB, Murray DJ, Phipps JM, Sweeney E, Tomkins SE, Wilson LC, Bennett S, Cornall RJ, Broxholme J, Kanapin A, Johnson D, Wall SA, van der Spek PJ, Mathijssen IM, Maxson RE, Twigg SR, Wilkie AO

Mutations in TCF12, encoding a basic helix-loop-helix partner of TWIST1, are a frequent cause of coronal craniosynostosis.

Nat Genet (2013) 45: 304-7

Craniosynostosis, the premature fusion of the cranial sutures, is a heterogeneous disorder with a prevalence of ~1 in 2,200 (refs. 1,2). A specific genetic etiology can be identified in ~21% of cases, including mutations of TWIST1, which encodes a class II basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor, and causes Saethre-Chotzen syndrome, typically associated with coronal synostosis. Using exome sequencing, we identified 38 heterozygous TCF12 mutations in 347 samples from unrelated individuals with craniosynostosis. The mutations predominantly occurred in individuals with coronal synostosis and accounted for 32% and 10% of subjects with bilateral and unilateral pathology, respectively. TCF12 encodes one of three class I E proteins that heterodimerize with class II bHLH proteins such as TWIST1. We show that TCF12 and TWIST1 act synergistically in a transactivation assay and that mice doubly heterozygous for loss-of-function mutations in Tcf12 and Twist1 have severe coronal synostosis. Hence, the dosage of TCF12-TWIST1 heterodimers is critical for normal coronal suture development.

Twigg SR, Babbs C, van den Elzen ME, Goriely A, Taylor S, McGowan SJ, Giannoulatou E, Lonie L, Ragoussis J, Sadighi Akha E, Knight SJ, Zechi-Ceide RM, Hoogeboom JA, Pober BR, Toriello HV, Wall SA, Rita Passos-Bueno M, Brunner HG, Mathijssen IM, Wilkie AO

Cellular interference in craniofrontonasal syndrome: males mosaic for mutations in the X-linked EFNB1 gene are more severely affected than true hemizygotes.

Hum Mol Genet (2013) 22: 1654-62

Craniofrontonasal syndrome (CFNS), an X-linked disorder caused by loss-of-function mutations of EFNB1, exhibits a paradoxical sex reversal in phenotypic severity: females characteristically have frontonasal dysplasia, craniosynostosis and additional minor malformations, but males are usually more mildly affected with hypertelorism as the only feature. X-inactivation is proposed to explain the more severe outcome in heterozygous females, as this leads to functional mosaicism for cells with differing expression of EPHRIN-B1, generating abnormal tissue boundaries-a process that cannot occur in hemizygous males. Apparently challenging this model, males occasionally present with a more severe female-like CFNS phenotype. We hypothesized that such individuals might be mosaic for EFNB1 mutations and investigated this possibility in multiple tissue samples from six sporadically presenting males. Using denaturing high performance liquid chromatography, massively parallel sequencing and multiplex-ligation-dependent probe amplification (MLPA) to increase sensitivity above standard dideoxy sequencing, we identified mosaic mutations of EFNB1 in all cases, comprising three missense changes, two gene deletions and a novel point mutation within the 5' untranslated region (UTR). Quantification by Pyrosequencing and MLPA demonstrated levels of mutant cells between 15 and 69%. The 5' UTR variant mutates the stop codon of a small upstream open reading frame that, using a dual-luciferase reporter construct, was demonstrated to exacerbate interference with translation of the wild-type protein. These results demonstrate a more severe outcome in mosaic than in constitutionally deficient males in an X-linked dominant disorder and provide further support for the cellular interference mechanism, normally related to X-inactivation in females.


Slyker JA, Lohman-Payne B, John-Stewart GC, Dong T, Mbori-Ngacha D, Tapia K, Atzberger A, Taylor S, Rowland-Jones SL, Blish CA

The impact of HIV-1 infection and exposure on natural killer (NK) cell phenotype in Kenyan infants during the first year of life.

Front Immunol (2012) 3: 399

Natural killer (NK) cells play an important role in the containment of HIV replication during primary infection, though their functions are impaired during chronic HIV infection. Infants experience more rapid HIV disease progression than adults, but contributions of infant NK cells to containing HIV infection are unknown. The aim of this study was to determine the impact of HIV infection on infant NK cell phenotype by evaluating samples and data from a cohort study of women and their infants, conducted in Nairobi, Kenya between 1999 and 2003. The percentage and phenotype of NK cells was evaluated longitudinally by multi-parameter flow cytometry over the first year of life in HIV-infected (HIV+, = 16), HIV-exposed uninfected (HIV-EU, n = 6), and healthy unexposed controls (HIV-, n = 4). At birth, NK subset distributions based on expression of CD56 and CD16 did not differ between HIV+, HIV-EU, or HIV- infants. However, HIV infection was associated with a subsequent decline in NK cells as a percentage of total lymphocytes (p < 0.001), and an expanding proportion of CD56-CD16+ NK cells (p < 0.001). Activated CD38(bright)CD69+ NK cells were more frequent in the HIV+ infants, followed by HIV-EU and HIV- infants, in both CD56(dim) (p = 0.005) and CD56(bright) compartments (p = 0.03). HIV infection and exposure was also associated with a significant decline in the percentage of perforin-expressing NK cells in the CD56(dim) compartment over the first year of life, with HIV+ infants losing approximately 2.5% (p < 0.001) and HIV-EU infants losing 3.0% (p = 0.01) of perforin+ cells per month. Thus, infant HIV infection is associated with alterations in NK cell subsets, activation, and cytolytic potential that could contribute to their poor control over HIV infection. Furthermore, exposure to HIV infection in infants who escaped infection is also associated with alterations in NK cells that may contribute to the reduced ability to fight infections that is observed in HIV-EU infants.

Papantonis A, Kohro T, Baboo S, Larkin JD, Deng B, Short P, Tsutsumi S, Taylor S, Kanki Y, Kobayashi M, Li G, Poh HM, Ruan X, Aburatani H, Ruan Y, Kodama T, Wada Y, Cook PR

TNFα signals through specialized factories where responsive coding and miRNA genes are transcribed.

EMBO J (2012) 31: 4404-14

Tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) is a potent cytokine that signals through nuclear factor kappa B (NFκB) to activate a subset of human genes. It is usually assumed that this involves RNA polymerases transcribing responsive genes wherever they might be in the nucleus. Using primary human endothelial cells, variants of chromosome conformation capture (including 4C and chromatin interaction analysis with paired-end tag sequencing), and fluorescence in situ hybridization to detect single nascent transcripts, we show that TNFα induces responsive genes to congregate in discrete 'NFκB factories'. Some factories further specialize in transcribing responsive genes encoding micro-RNAs that target downregulated mRNAs. We expect all signalling pathways to contain this extra leg, where responding genes are transcribed in analogous specialized factories.

O'Reilly D, Dienstbier M, Cowley SA, Vazquez P, Drozdz M, Taylor S, James WS, Murphy S

Differentially expressed, variant U1 snRNAs regulate gene expression in human cells.

Genome Res (2012) 23: 281-91

Human U1 small nuclear (sn)RNA, required for splicing of pre-mRNA, is encoded by genes on chromosome 1 (1p36). Imperfect copies of these U1 snRNA genes, also located on chromosome 1 (1q12-21), were thought to be pseudogenes. However, many of these "variant" (v)U1 snRNA genes produce fully processed transcripts. Using antisense oligonucleotides to block the activity of a specific vU1 snRNA in HeLa cells, we have identified global transcriptome changes following interrogation of the Affymetrix Human Exon ST 1.0 array. Our results indicate that this vU1 snRNA regulates expression of a subset of target genes at the level of pre-mRNA processing. This is the first indication that variant U1 snRNAs have a biological function in vivo. Furthermore, some vU1 snRNAs are packaged into unique ribonucleoproteins (RNPs), and many vU1 snRNA genes are differentially expressed in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and HeLa cells, suggesting developmental control of RNA processing through expression of different sets of vU1 snRNPs.

Twigg SR, Lloyd D, Jenkins D, Elcioglu NE, Cooper CD, Al-Sannaa N, Annagur A, Gillessen-Kaesbach G, Huning I, Knight SJ, Goodship JA, Keavney BD, Beales PL, Gileadi O, McGowan SJ, Wilkie AO

Mutations in multidomain protein MEGF8 identify a Carpenter syndrome subtype associated with defective lateralization.

Am J Hum Genet (2012) 91: 897-905

Carpenter syndrome is an autosomal-recessive multiple-congenital-malformation disorder characterized by multisuture craniosynostosis and polysyndactyly of the hands and feet; many other clinical features occur, and the most frequent include obesity, umbilical hernia, cryptorchidism, and congenital heart disease. Mutations of RAB23, encoding a small GTPase that regulates vesicular transport, are present in the majority of cases. Here, we describe a disorder caused by mutations in multiple epidermal-growth-factor-like-domains 8 (MEGF8), which exhibits substantial clinical overlap with Carpenter syndrome but is frequently associated with abnormal left-right patterning. We describe five affected individuals with similar dysmorphic facies, and three of them had either complete situs inversus, dextrocardia, or transposition of the great arteries; similar cardiac abnormalities were previously identified in a mouse mutant for the orthologous Megf8. The mutant alleles comprise one nonsense, three missense, and two splice-site mutations; we demonstrate in zebrafish that, in contrast to the wild-type protein, the proteins containing all three missense alterations provide only weak rescue of an early gastrulation phenotype induced by Megf8 knockdown. We conclude that mutations in MEGF8 cause a Carpenter syndrome subtype frequently associated with defective left-right patterning, probably through perturbation of signaling by hedgehog and nodal family members. We did not observe any subject with biallelic loss-of function mutations, suggesting that some residual MEGF8 function might be necessary for survival and might influence the phenotypes observed.

Lim J, Maher GJ, Turner GD, Dudka-Ruszkowska W, Taylor S, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Goriely A, Wilkie AO

Selfish spermatogonial selection: evidence from an immunohistochemical screen in testes of elderly men.

PLoS One (2012) 7: e42382

The dominant congenital disorders Apert syndrome, achondroplasia and multiple endocrine neoplasia-caused by specific missense mutations in the FGFR2, FGFR3 and RET proteins respectively-represent classical examples of paternal age-effect mutation, a class that arises at particularly high frequencies in the sperm of older men. Previous analyses of DNA from randomly selected cadaveric testes showed that the levels of the corresponding FGFR2, FGFR3 and RET mutations exhibit very uneven spatial distributions, with localised hotspots surrounded by large mutation-negative areas. These studies imply that normal testes are mosaic for clusters of mutant cells: these clusters are predicted to have altered growth and signalling properties leading to their clonal expansion (selfish spermatogonial selection), but DNA extraction eliminates the possibility to study such processes at a tissue level. Using a panel of antibodies optimised for the detection of spermatocytic seminoma, a rare tumour of spermatogonial origin, we demonstrate that putative clonal events are frequent within normal testes of elderly men (mean age: 73.3 yrs) and can be classed into two broad categories. We found numerous small (less than 200 cells) cellular aggregations with distinct immunohistochemical characteristics, localised to a portion of the seminiferous tubule, which are of uncertain significance. However more infrequently we identified additional regions where entire seminiferous tubules had a circumferentially altered immunohistochemical appearance that extended through multiple serial sections that were physically contiguous (up to 1 mm in length), and exhibited enhanced staining for antibodies both to FGFR3 and a marker of downstream signal activation, pAKT. These findings support the concept that populations of spermatogonia in individual seminiferous tubules in the testes of older men are clonal mosaics with regard to their signalling properties and activation, thus fulfilling one of the specific predictions of selfish spermatogonial selection.

Gendrel AV, Apedaile A, Coker H, Termanis A, Zvetkova I, Godwin J, Tang YA, Huntley D, Montana G, Taylor S, Giannoulatou E, Heard E, Stancheva I, Brockdorff N

Smchd1-dependent and -independent pathways determine developmental dynamics of CpG island methylation on the inactive X chromosome.

Dev Cell (2012) 23: 265-79

X chromosome inactivation involves multiple levels of chromatin modification, established progressively and in a stepwise manner during early development. The chromosomal protein Smchd1 was recently shown to play an important role in DNA methylation of CpG islands (CGIs), a late step in the X inactivation pathway that is required for long-term maintenance of gene silencing. Here we show that inactive X chromosome (Xi) CGI methylation can occur via either Smchd1-dependent or -independent pathways. Smchd1-dependent CGI methylation, the primary pathway, is acquired gradually over an extended period, whereas Smchd1-independent CGI methylation occurs rapidly after the onset of X inactivation. The de novo methyltransferase Dnmt3b is required for methylation of both classes of CGI, whereas Dnmt3a and Dnmt3L are dispensable. Xi CGIs methylated by these distinct pathways differ with respect to their sequence characteristics and immediate chromosomal environment. We discuss the implications of these results for understanding CGI methylation during development.

Belaya K, Finlayson S, Slater CR, Cossins J, Liu WW, Maxwell S, McGowan SJ, Maslau S, Twigg SR, Walls TJ, Pascual Pascual SI, Palace J, Beeson D

Mutations in DPAGT1 cause a limb-girdle congenital myasthenic syndrome with tubular aggregates.

Am J Hum Genet (2012) 91: 193-201

Congenital myasthenic syndromes are a heterogeneous group of inherited disorders that arise from impaired signal transmission at the neuromuscular synapse. They are characterized by fatigable muscle weakness. We performed whole-exome sequencing to determine the underlying defect in a group of individuals with an inherited limb-girdle pattern of myasthenic weakness. We identify DPAGT1 as a gene in which mutations cause a congenital myasthenic syndrome. We describe seven different mutations found in five individuals with DPAGT1 mutations. The affected individuals share a number of common clinical features, including involvement of proximal limb muscles, response to treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors and 3,4-diaminopyridine, and the presence of tubular aggregates in muscle biopsies. Analyses of motor endplates from two of the individuals demonstrate a severe reduction of endplate acetylcholine receptors. DPAGT1 is an essential enzyme catalyzing the first committed step of N-linked protein glycosylation. Our findings underscore the importance of N-linked protein glycosylation for proper functioning of the neuromuscular junction. Using the DPAGT1-specific inhibitor tunicamycin, we show that DPAGT1 is required for efficient glycosylation of acetylcholine-receptor subunits and for efficient export of acetylcholine receptors to the cell surface. We suggest that the primary pathogenic mechanism of DPAGT1 mutations is reduced levels of acetylcholine receptors at the endplate region. These individuals share clinical features similar to those of congenital myasthenic syndrome due to GFPT1 mutations, and their disorder might be part of a larger subgroup comprising the congenital myasthenic syndromes that result from defects in the N-linked glycosylation pathway and that manifest through impaired neuromuscular transmission.

Blais ME, Zhang Y, Rostron T, Griffin H, Taylor S, Xu K, Yan H, Wu H, James I, John M, Dong T, Rowland-Jones SL

High frequency of HIV mutations associated with HLA-C suggests enhanced HLA-C-restricted CTL selective pressure associated with an AIDS-protective polymorphism.

J Immunol (2012) 188: 4663-70

Delayed HIV-1 disease progression is associated with a single nucleotide polymorphism upstream of the HLA-C gene that correlates with differential expression of the HLA-C Ag. This polymorphism was recently shown to be a marker for a protective variant in the 3'UTR of HLA-C that disrupts a microRNA binding site, resulting in enhanced HLA-C expression at the cell surface. Whether individuals with "high" HLA-C expression show a stronger HLA-C-restricted immune response exerting better viral control than that of their counterparts has not been established. We hypothesized that the magnitude of the HLA-C-restricted immune pressure on HIV would be greater in subjects with highly expressed HLA-C alleles. Using a cohort derived from a unique narrow source epidemic in China, we identified mutations in HIV proviral DNA exclusively associated with HLA-C, which were used as markers for the intensity of the immune pressure exerted on the virus. We found an increased frequency of mutations in individuals with highly expressed HLA-C alleles, which also correlated with IFN-γ production by HLA-C-restricted CD8(+) T cells. These findings show that immune pressure on HIV is stronger in subjects with the protective genotype and highlight the potential role of HLA-C-restricted responses in HIV control. This is, to our knowledge, the first in vivo evidence supporting the protective role of HLA-C-restricted responses in nonwhites during HIV infection.

Malavige GN, McGowan S, Atukorale V, Salimi M, Peelawatta M, Fernando N, Jayaratne SD, Ogg G

Identification of serotype-specific T cell responses to highly conserved regions of the dengue viruses.

Clin Exp Immunol (2012) 168: 215-23

Determining previous infecting dengue virus (DENV) serotypes has been difficult due to highly cross-reactive immune responses from previous DENV infections. Determining the correlates of serotype-specific immune responses would be crucial in understanding dengue transmission in the community and would also help to determine the correlates of protective immune responses. Therefore, we set out to define highly conserved, serotype-specific regions of the DENVs. Serotype-specific and highly conserved regions of the four DENV serotypes were identified using Basic Local Alignment Search Tool (BLAST) searches and custom perl scripts. Using ex-vivo and cultured enzyme-linked immunospot (ELISPOT) assays, we identified serotype-specific T cell epitopes within the four DENV serotypes in healthy adult donors from Sri Lanka. We identified T cell responses to 19 regions of the four DENV serotypes. Six peptides were from the NS2A region and four peptides were from the NS4A region. All immune donors responded to peptides of at least two DENV serotypes, suggesting that heterologous infection is common in Sri Lanka. Eight of 20 individuals responded to at least two peptides of DENV-4, despite this serotype not being implicated previously in any of the epidemics in Sri Lanka. The use of these regions to determine past and current infecting DENV serotypes will be of value to characterize further the dynamics of silent dengue transmission in the community. In addition, these T cell responses to these regions could be used to characterize DENV serotype-specific immune responses and thus possibly help us to understand the immune correlates of a protective immune response.

Tavares L, Dimitrova E, Oxley D, Webster J, Poot R, Demmers J, Bezstarosti K, Taylor S, Ura H, Koide H, Wutz A, Vidal M, Elderkin S, Brockdorff N

RYBP-PRC1 complexes mediate H2A ubiquitylation at polycomb target sites independently of PRC2 and H3K27me3.

Cell (2012) 148: 664-78

Polycomb-repressive complex 1 (PRC1) has a central role in the regulation of heritable gene silencing during differentiation and development. PRC1 recruitment is generally attributed to interaction of the chromodomain of the core protein Polycomb with trimethyl histone H3K27 (H3K27me3), catalyzed by a second complex, PRC2. Unexpectedly we find that RING1B, the catalytic subunit of PRC1, and associated monoubiquitylation of histone H2A are targeted to closely overlapping sites in wild-type and PRC2-deficient mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs), demonstrating an H3K27me3-independent pathway for recruitment of PRC1 activity. We show that this pathway is mediated by RYBP-PRC1, a complex comprising catalytic subunits of PRC1 and the protein RYBP. RYBP-PRC1 is recruited to target loci in mESCs and is also involved in Xist RNA-mediated silencing, the latter suggesting a wider role in Polycomb silencing. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding recruitment and function of Polycomb repressors.

Kowalczyk MS, Hughes JR, Garrick D, Lynch MD, Sharpe JA, Sloane-Stanley JA, McGowan SJ, De Gobbi M, Hosseini M, Vernimmen D, Brown JM, Gray NE, Collavin L, Gibbons RJ, Flint J, Taylor S, Buckle VJ, Milne TA, Wood WG, Higgs DR

Intragenic enhancers act as alternative promoters.

Mol Cell (2012) 45: 447-58

A substantial amount of organismal complexity is thought to be encoded by enhancers which specify the location, timing, and levels of gene expression. In mammals there are more enhancers than promoters which are distributed both between and within genes. Here we show that activated, intragenic enhancers frequently act as alternative tissue-specific promoters producing a class of abundant, spliced, multiexonic poly(A)(+) RNAs (meRNAs) which reflect the host gene's structure. meRNAs make a substantial and unanticipated contribution to the complexity of the transcriptome, appearing as alternative isoforms of the host gene. The low protein-coding potential of meRNAs suggests that many meRNAs may be byproducts of enhancer activation or underlie as-yet-unidentified RNA-encoded functions. Distinguishing between meRNAs and mRNAs will transform our interpretation of dynamic changes in transcription both at the level of individual genes and of the genome as a whole.

Gutowska-Owsiak D, Schaupp AL, Salimi M, Selvakumar TA, McPherson T, Taylor S, Ogg GS

IL-17 downregulates filaggrin and affects keratinocyte expression of genes associated with cellular adhesion.

Exp Dermatol (2012) 21: 104-10

Atopic eczema and psoriasis are common skin diseases. While it is well established that the pathogenesis of these diseases varies, both are characterized by impairment in epidermal barrier function and abnormal IL-17 expression in the skin and peripheral blood. Recent findings indicated that filaggrin is essential during barrier formation and its insufficiency underlies the pathogenesis of atopic eczema. Filaggrin downregulation has also been reported in psoriasis. It is clear that Th1/Th2 bias influences expression of the protein, but an analysis of the effects of interleukin-17 (IL-17) on the expression of the protein and profilaggrin-processing enzymes has not yet been reported. In addition, the effect of the cytokine on components of functional epidermal barrier, tight junctions and adhesion/desmosomal proteins, has not been elucidated. Keratinocytes were exposed to interleukin-17A, and microarray analysis was performed. Filaggrin protein level was assessed by western blot. We have observed a significant decrease in profilaggrin mRNA level in interleukin-17A-exposed cultures (P = 0.008). Expression of processing enzymes was also altered, indicating an indirect effect of the cytokine on filaggrin production/degradation. Moreover, expression of many genes involved in cellular adhesion was also decreased. A significant downregulation of filaggrin at the protein level was detected by western blot in immortal and primary keratinocytes. Gene ontology analysis indicated changes in keratinization, epidermal differentiation and formation of the cornified envelope. We conclude that IL-17A downregulates the expression of filaggrin and genes important for cellular adhesion which could affect epidermal barrier formation. This effect potentially contributes to barrier dysfunction and could become a possible therapeutic target.


Roy NB, Myerson S, Schuh AH, Bignell P, Patel R, Wainscoat JS, McGowan S, Marchi E, Atoyebi W, Littlewood T, Chacko J, Vyas P, Killick SB

Cardiac iron overload in transfusion-dependent patients with myelodysplastic syndromes.

Br J Haematol (2011) 154: 521-4

Transfusion-dependent myelodysplastic (MDS) patients are prone to iron overload. We evaluated 43 transfused MDS patients with T2* magnetic resonance imaging scans. 81% had liver and 16.8% cardiac iron overload. Liver R2* (1000/T2*), but not cardiac R2*, was correlated with number of units transfused (r=0.72, P<0.0001) and ferritin (r=0.53, P<0.0001). The area under the curve of a time-ferritin plot was found to be much greater in patients with cardiac iron loading (median 53.7x10(5) Megaunits vs. 12.2x10(5) Megaunits, P=0.002). HFE, HFE2, HAMP or SLC40A1 genotypes were not predictors of iron overload in these patients.

Slyker JA, John-Stewart GC, Dong T, Lohman-Payne B, Reilly M, Atzberger A, Taylor S, Maleche-Obimbo E, Mbori-Ngacha D, Rowland-Jones SL

Phenotypic characterization of HIV-specific CD8+ T cells during early and chronic infant HIV-1 infection.

PLoS One (2011) 6: e20375

Although CD8(+) T cells play an important role in the containment of adult HIV-1 replication, their role in infant HIV-1 infection is not as well understood. Impaired HIV-specific CD8(+) T cell responses may underlie the persistently high viral loads observed in infants. We examined the frequency and phenotype of infant HIV-specific CD8(+) T cells in 7 HIV-infected antiretroviral therapy-naive infants during the first 2 years of life, using class I HLA tetramers and IFN-γ-ELISPOT. The frequency (0.088-3.9% of CD3(+)CD8(+) cells) and phenotype (CD27(+)CD28(-), CD45RA(+/-), CD57(+/-), HLA-DR(+), CD95(+)) of infant HIV-specific CD8(+) T cells were similar to reports in adults undergoing early infection. Unlike adults, at 23-24 months post-infection a high frequency of HIV-specific CD8(+) T cells expressed HLA-DR (mean 80%, range 68-85%) and CD95 (mean 88%, range 79-96%), suggesting sustained activation and vulnerability to apoptosis. Despite comparable expansion of HIV-specific CD8(+) T cells of a similar phenotype to adults during early infection, infant T cells failed to contain HIV-1 replication, and remained persistently activated and vulnerable to apoptosis during chronic infection.

De Gobbi M, Garrick D, Lynch M, Vernimmen D, Hughes JR, Goardon N, Luc S, Lower KM, Sloane-Stanley JA, Pina C, Soneji S, Renella R, Enver T, Taylor S, Jacobsen SE, Vyas P, Gibbons RJ, Higgs DR

Generation of bivalent chromatin domains during cell fate decisions.

Epigenetics Chromatin (2011) 4: 9

In self-renewing, pluripotent cells, bivalent chromatin modification is thought to silence (H3K27me3) lineage control genes while 'poising' (H3K4me3) them for subsequent activation during differentiation, implying an important role for epigenetic modification in directing cell fate decisions. However, rather than representing an equivalently balanced epigenetic mark, the patterns and levels of histone modifications at bivalent genes can vary widely and the criteria for identifying this chromatin signature are poorly defined. Here, we initially show how chromatin status alters during lineage commitment and differentiation at a single well characterised bivalent locus. In addition we have determined how chromatin modifications at this locus change with gene expression in both ensemble and single cell analyses. We also show, on a global scale, how mRNA expression may be reflected in the ratio of H3K4me3/H3K27me3. While truly 'poised' bivalently modified genes may exist, the original hypothesis that all bivalent genes are epigenetically premarked for subsequent expression might be oversimplistic. In fact, from the data presented in the present work, it is equally possible that many genes that appear to be bivalent in pluripotent and multipotent cells may simply be stochastically expressed at low levels in the process of multilineage priming. Although both situations could be considered to be forms of 'poising', the underlying mechanisms and the associated implications are clearly different.

Porter SL, Wilkinson DA, Byles ED, Wadhams GH, Taylor S, Saunders NJ, Armitage JP

Genome sequence of Rhodobacter sphaeroides Strain WS8N.

J Bacteriol (2011) 193: 4027-8

Rhodobacter sphaeroides is a metabolically diverse photosynthetic alphaproteobacterium found ubiquitously in soil and freshwater habitats. Here we present the annotated genome sequence of R. sphaeroides WS8N.

Chi J, Ballabio E, Chen XH, Kušec R, Taylor S, Hay D, Tramonti D, Saunders NJ, Littlewood T, Pezzella F, Boultwood J, Wainscoat JS, Hatton CS, Lawrie CH

MicroRNA expression in multiple myeloma is associated with genetic subtype, isotype and survival.

Biol Direct (2011) 6: 23

MicroRNAs are small RNA species that regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally and are aberrantly expressed in many cancers including hematological malignancies. However, the role of microRNAs in the pathogenesis of multiple myeloma (MM) is only poorly understood. We therefore used microarray analysis to elucidate the complete miRNome (miRBase version 13.0) of purified tumor (CD138+) cells from 33 patients with MM, 5 patients with monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) and 9 controls. Unsupervised cluster analysis revealed that MM and MGUS samples have a distinct microRNA expression profile from control CD138+ cells. The majority of microRNAs aberrantly expressed in MM (109/129) were up-regulated. A comparison of these microRNAs with those aberrantly expressed in other B-cell and T-cell malignancies revealed a surprising degree of similarity (~40%) suggesting the existence of a common lymphoma microRNA signature. We identified 39 microRNAs associated with the pre-malignant condition MGUS. Twenty-three (59%) of these were also aberrantly expressed in MM suggesting common microRNA expression events in MM progression. MM is characterized by multiple chromosomal abnormalities of varying prognostic significance. We identified specific microRNA signatures associated with the most common IgH translocations (t(4;14) and t(11;14)) and del(13q). Expression levels of these microRNAs were distinct between the genetic subtypes (by cluster analysis) and correctly predicted these abnormalities in > 85% of cases using the support vector machine algorithm. Additionally, we identified microRNAs associated with light chain only myeloma, as well as IgG and IgA-type MM. Finally, we identified 32 microRNAs associated with event-free survival (EFS) in MM, ten of which were significant by univariate (logrank) survival analysis. In summary, this work has identified aberrantly expressed microRNAs associated with the diagnosis, pathogenesis and prognosis of MM, data which will prove an invaluable resource for understanding the role of microRNAs in this devastating disease.

Gutowska-Owsiak D, Schaupp AL, Salimi M, Taylor S, Ogg GS

Interleukin-22 downregulates filaggrin expression and affects expression of profilaggrin processing enzymes.

Br J Dermatol (2011) 165: 492-8

The identification of filaggrin mutations has contributed towards our understanding of hereditary factors associated with epidermal dysfunction observed in individuals with atopic eczema (AE). However, factors that predispose to acquired filaggrin modulation are not well understood. Interleukin (IL)-22 is upregulated in lesional AE tissue, but its effects on filaggrin expression and genes associated with epidermal function have not yet been comprehensively addressed. To investigate the effects of IL-22 on expression of filaggrin and genes encoding proteins relevant to epidermal function. Microarray analysis was performed on IL-22-stimulated HaCaT keratinocytes. Filaggrin protein level was assessed by an intracellular enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and Western blot in HaCaT cells and the findings were validated in primary keratinocytes. Exposure to IL-22 cytokine resulted in a downregulation of profilaggrin mRNA expression in HaCaT keratinocytes. The expression of genes involved in enzymatic processing of profilaggrin as well as the generation of natural moisturizing factor was also altered. Furthermore, there was an upregulation of many transcripts encoding proteins of the S100 family. Profilaggrin/filaggrin downregulation was detected by intracellular ELISA and Western blot in HaCaT cells. The relevance to the primary setting was confirmed in primary keratinocytes by Western blot. IL-22 downregulates profilaggrin/filaggrin expression in keratinocytes at both mRNA and protein levels and affects genes relevant to epidermal function. This novel pathway may have relevance to the pathogenesis and treatment of atopic and other skin disease.

Simister PC, Schaper F, O'Reilly N, McGowan S, Feller SM

Self-organization and regulation of intrinsically disordered proteins with folded N-termini.

PLoS Biol (2011) 9: e1000591

How do mostly disordered proteins coordinate the specific assembly of very large signal transduction protein complexes? A newly emerging hypothesis may provide some clues towards a molecular mechanism.

Merryweather-Clarke AT, Atzberger A, Soneji S, Gray N, Clark K, Waugh C, McGowan SJ, Taylor S, Nandi AK, Wood WG, Roberts DJ, Higgs DR, Buckle VJ, Robson KJ

Global gene expression analysis of human erythroid progenitors.

Blood (2011) 117: e96-108

Understanding the pattern of gene expression during erythropoiesis is crucial for a synthesis of erythroid developmental biology. Here, we isolated 4 distinct populations at successive erythropoietin-dependent stages of erythropoiesis, including the terminal, pyknotic stage. The transcriptome was determined using Affymetrix arrays. First, we demonstrated the importance of using defined cell populations to identify lineage and temporally specific patterns of gene expression. Cells sorted by surface expression profile not only express significantly fewer genes than unsorted cells but also demonstrate significantly greater differences in the expression levels of particular genes between stages than unsorted cells. Second, using standard software, we identified more than 1000 transcripts not previously observed to be differentially expressed during erythroid maturation, 13 of which are highly significantly terminally regulated, including RFXAP and SMARCA4. Third, using matched filtering, we identified 12 transcripts not previously reported to be continuously up-regulated in maturing human primary erythroblasts. Finally, using transcription factor binding site analysis, we identified potential transcription factors that may regulate gene expression during terminal erythropoiesis. Our stringent lists of differentially regulated and continuously expressed transcripts containing many genes with undiscovered functions in erythroblasts are a resource for future functional studies of erythropoiesis. Our Human Erythroid Maturation database is available at


Brockmeyer C, Paster W, Pepper D, Tan CP, Trudgian DC, McGowan S, Fu G, Gascoigne NR, Acuto O, Salek M

T cell receptor (TCR)-induced tyrosine phosphorylation dynamics identifies THEMIS as a new TCR signalosome component.

J Biol Chem (2010) 286: 7535-47

Stimulation of the T cell antigen receptor (TCR) induces formation of a phosphorylation-dependent signaling network via multiprotein complexes, whose compositions and dynamics are incompletely understood. Using stable isotope labeling by amino acids in cell culture (SILAC)-based quantitative proteomics, we investigated the kinetics of signal propagation after TCR-induced protein tyrosine phosphorylation. We confidently assigned 77 proteins (of 758 identified) as a direct or indirect consequence of tyrosine phosphorylation that proceeds in successive "signaling waves" revealing the temporal pace at which tyrosine kinases activate cellular functions. The first wave includes thymocyte-expressed molecule involved in selection (THEMIS), a protein recently implicated in thymocyte development but whose signaling role is unclear. We found that tyrosine phosphorylation of THEMIS depends on the presence of the scaffold proteins Linker for activation of T cells (LAT) and SH2 domain-containing lymphocyte protein of 76 kDa (SLP-76). THEMIS associates with LAT, presumably via the adapter growth factor receptor-bound protein 2 (Grb2) and with phospholipase Cγ1 (PLC-γ1). RNAi-mediated THEMIS knock-down inhibited TCR-induced IL-2 gene expression due to reduced ERK and nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT)/activator protein 1 (AP-1) signaling, whereas JNK, p38, or nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) activation were unaffected. Our study reveals the dynamics of TCR-dependent signaling networks and suggests a specific role for THEMIS in early TCR signalosome function.

Wilding JL, McGowan S, Liu Y, Bodmer WF

Replication error deficient and proficient colorectal cancer gene expression differences caused by 3'UTR polyT sequence deletions.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A (2010) 107: 21058-63

Replication error deficient (RER+) colorectal cancers are a distinct subset of colorectal cancers, characterized by inactivation of the DNA mismatch repair system. These cancers are typically pseudodiploid, accumulate mutations in repetitive sequences as a result of their mismatch repair deficiency, and have distinct pathologies. Regulatory sequences controlling all aspects of mRNA processing, especially including message stability, are found in the 3'UTR sequence of most genes. The relevant sequences are typically A/U-rich elements or U repeats. Microarray analysis of 14 RER+ (deficient) and 16 RER- (proficient) colorectal cancer cell lines confirms a striking difference in expression profiles. Analysis of the incidence of mononucleotide repeat sequences in the 3'UTRs, 5'UTRs, and coding sequences of those genes most differentially expressed in RER+ versus RER- cell lines has shown that much of this differential expression can be explained by the occurrence of a massive enrichment of genes with 3'UTR T repeats longer than 11 base pairs in the most differentially expressed genes. This enrichment was confirmed by analysis of two published consensus sets of RER differentially expressed probesets for a large number of primary colorectal cancers. Sequence analysis of the 3'UTRs of a selection of the most differentially expressed genes shows that they all contain deletions in these repeats in all RER+ cell lines studied. These data strongly imply that deregulation of mRNA stability through accumulation of mutations in repetitive regulatory 3'UTR sequences underlies the striking difference in expression profiles between RER+ and RER- colorectal cancers.

Law MJ, Lower KM, Voon HP, Hughes JR, Garrick D, Viprakasit V, Mitson M, De Gobbi M, Marra M, Morris A, Abbott A, Wilder SP, Taylor S, Santos GM, Cross J, Ayyub H, Jones S, Ragoussis J, Rhodes D, Dunham I, Higgs DR, Gibbons RJ

ATR-X syndrome protein targets tandem repeats and influences allele-specific expression in a size-dependent manner.

Cell (2010) 143: 367-78

ATRX is an X-linked gene of the SWI/SNF family, mutations in which cause syndromal mental retardation and downregulation of α-globin expression. Here we show that ATRX binds to tandem repeat (TR) sequences in both telomeres and euchromatin. Genes associated with these TRs can be dysregulated when ATRX is mutated, and the change in expression is determined by the size of the TR, producing skewed allelic expression. This reveals the characteristics of the affected genes, explains the variable phenotypes seen with identical ATRX mutations, and illustrates a new mechanism underlying variable penetrance. Many of the TRs are G rich and predicted to form non-B DNA structures (including G-quadruplex) in vivo. We show that ATRX binds G-quadruplex structures in vitro, suggesting a mechanism by which ATRX may play a role in various nuclear processes and how this is perturbed when ATRX is mutated.

Ozkaya Sahin G, Bowles EJ, Parker J, Uchtenhagen H, Sheik-Khalil E, Taylor S, Pybus OG, Makitalo B, Walther-Jallow L, Spangberg M, Thorstensson R, Achour A, Fenyo EM, Stewart-Jones GB, Spetz AL

Generation of neutralizing antibodies and divergence of SIVmac239 in cynomolgus macaques following short-term early antiretroviral therapy.

PLoS Pathog (2010) 6: e1001084

Neutralizing antibodies (NAb) able to react to heterologous viruses are generated during natural HIV-1 infection in some individuals. Further knowledge is required in order to understand the factors contributing to induction of cross-reactive NAb responses. Here a well-established model of experimental pathogenic infection in cynomolgus macaques, which reproduces long-lasting HIV-1 infection, was used to study the NAb response as well as the viral evolution of the highly neutralization-resistant SIVmac239. Twelve animals were infected intravenously with SIVmac239. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) was initiated ten days post-inoculation and administered daily for four months. Viral load, CD4(+) T-cell counts, total IgG levels, and breadth as well as strength of NAb in plasma were compared simultaneously over 14 months. In addition, envs from plasma samples were sequenced at three time points in all animals in order to assess viral evolution. We report here that seven of the 12 animals controlled viremia to below 10(4) copies/ml of plasma after discontinuation of ART and that this control was associated with a low level of evolutionary divergence. Macaques that controlled viral load developed broader NAb responses early on. Furthermore, escape mutations, such as V67M and R751G, were identified in virus sequenced from all animals with uncontrolled viremia. Bayesian estimation of ancestral population genetic diversity (PGD) showed an increase in this value in non-controlling or transient-controlling animals during the first 5.5 months of infection, in contrast to virus-controlling animals. Similarly, non- or transient controllers displayed more positively-selected amino-acid substitutions. An early increase in PGD, resulting in the generation of positively-selected amino-acid substitutions, greater divergence and relative high viral load after ART withdrawal, may have contributed to the generation of potent NAb in several animals after SIVmac239 infection. However, early broad NAb responses correlated with relatively preserved CD4(+) T-cell numbers, low viral load and limited viral divergence.

Kassouf MT, Hughes JR, Taylor S, McGowan SJ, Soneji S, Green AL, Vyas P, Porcher C

Genome-wide identification of TAL1's functional targets: insights into its mechanisms of action in primary erythroid cells.

Genome Res (2010) 20: 1064-83

Coordination of cellular processes through the establishment of tissue-specific gene expression programs is essential for lineage maturation. The basic helix-loop-helix hemopoietic transcriptional regulator TAL1 (formerly SCL) is required for terminal differentiation of red blood cells. To gain insight into TAL1 function and mechanisms of action in erythropoiesis, we performed ChIP-sequencing and gene expression analyses from primary fetal liver erythroid cells. We show that TAL1 coordinates expression of genes in most known red cell-specific processes. The majority of TAL1's genomic targets require direct DNA-binding activity. However, one-fifth of TAL1's target sequences, mainly among those showing high affinity for TAL1, can recruit the factor independently of its DNA binding activity. An unbiased DNA motif search of sequences bound by TAL1 identified CAGNTG as TAL1-preferred E-box motif in erythroid cells. Novel motifs were also characterized that may help distinguish activated from repressed genes and suggest a new mechanism by which TAL1 may be recruited to DNA. Finally, analysis of recruitment of GATA1, a protein partner of TAL1, to sequences occupied by TAL1 suggests that TAL1's binding is necessary prior or simultaneous to that of GATA1. This work provides the framework to study regulatory networks leading to erythroid terminal maturation and to model mechanisms of action of tissue-specific transcription factors.

Ballabio E, Mitchell T, van Kester MS, Taylor S, Dunlop HM, Chi J, Tosi I, Vermeer MH, Tramonti D, Saunders NJ, Boultwood J, Wainscoat JS, Pezzella F, Whittaker SJ, Tensen CP, Hatton CS, Lawrie CH

MicroRNA expression in Sezary syndrome: identification, function, and diagnostic potential.

Blood (2010) 116: 1105-13

MicroRNAs are commonly aberrantly expressed in many cancers. Very little is known of their role in T-cell lymphoma, however. We therefore elucidated the complete miRNome of purified T cells from 21 patients diagnosed with Sezary Syndrome (SzS), a rare aggressive primary cutaneous T-cell (CD4(+)) lymphoma. Unsupervised cluster analysis of microarray data revealed that the microRNA expression profile was distinct from CD4(+) T-cell controls and B-cell lymphomas. The majority (104 of 114) of SzS-associated microRNAs (P < .05) were down-regulated and their expression pattern was largely consistent with previously reported genomic copy number abnormalities and were found to be highly enriched (P < .001) for aberrantly expressed target genes. Levels of miR-223 distinguished SzS samples (n = 32) from healthy controls (n = 19) and patients with mycosis fungoides (n = 11) in more than 90% of samples. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the down-regulation of intronically encoded miR-342 plays a role in the pathogenesis of SzS by inhibiting apoptosis, and describe a novel mechanism of regulation for this microRNA via binding of miR-199a* to its host gene. We also provide the first in vivo evidence for down-regulation of the miR-17-92 cluster in malignancy and demonstrate that ectopic miR-17-5p expression increases apoptosis and decreases cell proliferation in SzS cells.

Lockstone HE, Sanderson S, Kulakova N, Baban D, Leonard A, Kok WL, McGowan S, McMichael AJ, Ho LP

Gene set analysis of lung samples provides insight into pathogenesis of progressive, fibrotic pulmonary sarcoidosis.

Am J Respir Crit Care Med (2010) 181: 1367-75

Approximately 60 to 70% of patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis have disease that resolves spontaneously; the rest follow a chronic course with varying levels of fibrosis. It is unclear why some patients progress and if treatment affects outcome. To determine differential gene expression profile in lungs of patients with self-limiting sarcoidosis compared to those with progressive-fibrotic disease, and to analyze the biological relevance of these differentially expressed genes. We examined microarray expression of 26,626 genes in transbronchial biopsies of granulomatous areas in lungs of patients with active but self-limiting (n = 8) versus those with active, progressive (+/- fibrotic) pulmonary disease (n = 7). Three hundred thirty-four genes were differentially expressed between the two groups (P < 0.01, Bayesian moderated t test). Gene Set Enrichment Analysis showed over-representation of gene-sets (defined by Gene Ontology) related to host immune activation, proliferation, and defense, among genes up-regulated in the progressive-fibrotic group (FDR q < 0.0001 for the top 43 gene sets), and a marked enrichment of, and similarity in gene expression profiles between, progressive-fibrotic sarcoidosis and hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP), (q < 0.001), but not idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). The findings suggest that patients with progressive/fibrotic pulmonary sarcoidosis have intense immune activity related to host defense in their lungs, with processes more similar to HP than IPF. The study also demonstrates that transbronchial lung biopsy samples can provide good-quality RNA for gene expression profiling, supporting its potential use as a prognostic classifier for pulmonary sarcoidosis.

Trudgian DC, Thomas B, McGowan SJ, Kessler BM, Salek M, Acuto O

CPFP: a central proteomics facilities pipeline.

Bioinformatics (2010) 26: 1131-2

The central proteomics facilities pipeline (CPFP) provides identification, validation, and quantitation of peptides and proteins from LC-MS/MS datasets through an easy to use web interface. It is the first analysis pipeline targeted specifically at the needs of proteomics core facilities, reducing the data analysis load on staff, and allowing facility clients to easily access and work with their data. Identification of peptides is performed using multiple search engines, their output combined and validated using state-of-the-art techniques for improved results. Cluster execution of jobs allows analysis capacity to be increased easily as demand grows.


Goriely A, Hansen RM, Taylor IB, Olesen IA, Jacobsen GK, McGowan SJ, Pfeifer SP, McVean GA, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Wilkie AO

Activating mutations in FGFR3 and HRAS reveal a shared genetic origin for congenital disorders and testicular tumors.

Nat Genet (2009) 41: 1247-52

Genes mutated in congenital malformation syndromes are frequently implicated in oncogenesis, but the causative germline and somatic mutations occur in separate cells at different times of an organism's life. Here we unify these processes to a single cellular event for mutations arising in male germ cells that show a paternal age effect. Screening of 30 spermatocytic seminomas for oncogenic mutations in 17 genes identified 2 mutations in FGFR3 (both 1948A>G, encoding K650E, which causes thanatophoric dysplasia in the germline) and 5 mutations in HRAS. Massively parallel sequencing of sperm DNA showed that levels of the FGFR3 mutation increase with paternal age and that the mutation spectrum at the Lys650 codon is similar to that observed in bladder cancer. Most spermatocytic seminomas show increased immunoreactivity for FGFR3 and/or HRAS. We propose that paternal age-effect mutations activate a common 'selfish' pathway supporting proliferation in the testis, leading to diverse phenotypes in the next generation including fetal lethality, congenital syndromes and cancer predisposition.

Floyd N, Oldham NJ, Eyles CJ, Taylor S, Filatov DA, Brouard M, Davis BG

Photoinduced, family-specific, site-selective cleavage of TIM-barrel proteins.

J Am Chem Soc (2009) 131: 12518-9

Nonenzymatic, chemical methods for the controlled cleavage of proteins at predictable sites in a site-specific manner are rare and of strong potential utility in clean, post-translational manipulation of protein structure for use in, for example, proteomics, sequencing, and tagged-protein production. Unprecedented photochemical, site-selective cleavage of a His-Trp (HW) motif in the GH1 family TIM-barrel proteins is observed upon exposure to 240-308 nm light to cleanly release N-terminal primary amide and C-terminal indolylenamide fragments. We also show that this photocleaveable motif can be transferred to fusion proteins for use in photoresponsive affinty purification. The presence of this motif in proteins found only in organisms that are not typically exposed to light raises the possibility of direct biological relevance for this new type of protein reaction.


Lawrie CH, Chi J, Taylor S, Tramonti D, Ballabio E, Palazzo S, Saunders NJ, Pezzella F, Boultwood J, Wainscoat JS, Hatton CS

Expression of microRNAs in diffuse large B cell lymphoma is associated with immunophenotype, survival and transformation from follicular lymphoma.

J Cell Mol Med (2008) 13: 1248-60

MicroRNAs are naturally occurring small RNA species that regulate gene expression and are frequently abnormally expressed in cancers. However, the role of microRNAs in lymphoma is poorly understood. Therefore, we undertook a comprehensive study of microRNA expression in two of the most common lymphomas: diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) (n = 80) and follicular lymphoma (FCL) (n = 18) using microarrays containing probes for 464 human microRNAs. Unsupervised cluster analysis revealed distinct expression patterns between these two lymphomas and specific microRNA signatures (including members of the miR-17-92 cluster) were derived that correctly predicted lymphoma type in >95% of cases. Furthermore, we identified microRNAs in de novo DLBCL (n = 64) associated with germinal centre-like and non-germinal centre-like immunophenotypes, international prognostic index status and event-free survival in CHOP and rituximab (R)-CHOP treated patients. Despite the indolent nature of FCL a significant proportion of cases undergo high-grade transformation to more aggressive DLBCL. In order to see if transformation is associated with changes in microRNA expression we compared transformed DLBCL cases (n = 16) with de novo DLBCL, as well as FCL cases that underwent subsequent transformation (n = 7) with FCL cases that had not transformed at a median follow-up of 60 months (n = 11). Differential expression of 12 microRNAs correctly predicted >85% of transformed versus de novo DLBCL cases; six microRNAs (miR-223, 217, 222, 221 and let-7i and 7b) were found which could similarly predict or transformation in FCL (P < 0.05). These data suggest that microRNAs have potential as diagnostic and prognostic markers in these lymphomas and may be used to identify FCL patients at risk of high-grade transformation.

Wright C, Edelmann M, diGleria K, Kollnberger S, Kramer H, McGowan S, McHugh K, Taylor S, Kessler B, Bowness P

Ankylosing spondylitis monocytes show upregulation of proteins involved in inflammation and the ubiquitin proteasome pathway.

Ann Rheum Dis (2008) 68: 1626-32

To determine if peripheral blood monocytes from patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) differed in protein expression compared to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and healthy controls (HC). Monocyte protein expression was characterised by 2D gel electrophoresis and by label-free quantitative expression profiling, using nano-ultra performance liquid chromatography coupled to electrospray ionisation mass spectrometry (ESI-MS(E), where (E) refers to low/high collision energy switching). Data sets were analysed using the Waters expression profiling system and Ingenuity pathway analysis (IPA). Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis showed upregulation of proteasomal constituents in AS monocytes, including the beta subunit of proteasome activator (PA)28. Monocyte expression profiling and IPA showed that significant changes in protein expression within the ubiquitin proteasome pathway (UPP) were restricted to AS monocytes. Statistically significant differences in protein expression involving the leucocyte extravasation, vascular endothelial growth factor, integrin and Toll-like receptor signalling pathways were seen in AS and RA monocytes compared to healthy controls. No evidence of upregulation of proteins involved in the endoplasmic reticulum stress response pathway was found in either AS or RA monocytes. Finally, the PA28 complex was shown to increase the generation of human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-B27 antigenic epitopes by the proteasome in vitro. Our proteomic analyses support the hypothesis that monocytes play an important role in the pathogenesis of AS and RA, and further suggest a specific role in AS for the UPP. Quantitative proteomic expression profiling constitutes a powerful new tool for rheumatology research.

Kaur M, Schmeier S, MacPherson CR, Hofmann O, Hide WA, Taylor S, Willcox N, Bajic VB

Prioritizing genes of potential relevance to diseases affected by sex hormones: an example of myasthenia gravis.

BMC Genomics (2008) 9: 481

About 5% of western populations are afflicted by autoimmune diseases many of which are affected by sex hormones. Autoimmune diseases are complex and involve many genes. Identifying these disease-associated genes contributes to development of more effective therapies. Also, association studies frequently imply genomic regions that contain disease-associated genes but fall short of pinpointing these genes. The identification of disease-associated genes has always been challenging and to date there is no universal and effective method developed. We have developed a method to prioritize disease-associated genes for diseases affected strongly by sex hormones. Our method uses various types of information available for the genes, but no information that directly links genes with the disease. It generates a score for each of the considered genes and ranks genes based on that score. We illustrate our method on early-onset myasthenia gravis (MG) using genes potentially controlled by estrogen and localized in a genomic segment (which contains the MHC and surrounding region) strongly associated with MG. Based on the considered genomic segment 283 genes are ranked for their relevance to MG and responsiveness to estrogen. The top three ranked genes, HLA-G, TAP2 and HLA-DRB1, are implicated in autoimmune diseases, while TAP2 is associated with SNPs characteristic for MG. Within the top 35 prioritized genes our method identifies 90% of the 10 already known MG-associated genes from the considered region without using any information that directly links genes to MG. Among the top eight genes we identified HLA-G and TUBB as new candidates. We show that our ab-initio approach outperforms the other methods for prioritizing disease-associated genes. We have developed a method to prioritize disease-associated genes under the potential control of sex hormones. We demonstrate the success of this method by prioritizing the genes localized in the MHC and surrounding region and evaluating the role of these genes as potential candidates for estrogen control as well as MG. We show that our method outperforms the other methods. The method has a potential to be adapted to prioritize genes relevant to other diseases.

Brown JM, Green J, das Neves RP, Wallace HA, Smith AJ, Hughes J, Gray N, Taylor S, Wood WG, Higgs DR, Iborra FJ, Buckle VJ

Association between active genes occurs at nuclear speckles and is modulated by chromatin environment.

J Cell Biol (2008) 182: 1083-97

Genes on different chromosomes can be spatially associated in the nucleus in several transcriptional and regulatory situations; however, the functional significance of such associations remains unclear. Using human erythropoiesis as a model, we show that five cotranscribed genes, which are found on four different chromosomes, associate with each other at significant but variable frequencies. Those genes most frequently in association lie in decondensed stretches of chromatin. By replacing the mouse alpha-globin gene cluster in situ with its human counterpart, we demonstrate a direct effect of the regional chromatin environment on the frequency of association, whereas nascent transcription from the human alpha-globin gene appears unaffected. We see no evidence that cotranscribed erythroid genes associate at shared transcription foci, but we do see stochastic clustering of active genes around common nuclear SC35-enriched speckles (hence the apparent nonrandom association between genes). Thus, association between active genes may result from their location on decondensed chromatin that enables clustering around common nuclear speckles.


Snyder LA, McGowan S, Rogers M, Duro E, O'Farrell E, Saunders NJ

The repertoire of minimal mobile elements in the Neisseria species and evidence that these are involved in horizontal gene transfer in other bacteria.

Mol Biol Evol (2007) 24: 2802-15

In the Neisseria spp., natural competence for transformation and homologous recombination generate antigenic variants through creation of mosaic genes (such as opas) and through recombination with silent cassettes (such as pilE/pilS) and gene-complement diversity through the horizontal exchange of whole genes or groups of genes, in minimal mobile elements (MMEs). An MME is a region encompassing 2 conserved genes between which different whole-gene cassettes are found in different strains, which are chromosomally incorporated solely through the action of homologous recombination. Comparative analyses of the neisserial genome sequences identified 39 potential MME sites, the contents of which were investigated in 11 neisserial strains. One hundred and eight different MME regions were identified, 20 of which contain novel sequences and these contain 12 newly identified neisserial coding sequences. Neisserial uptake signal sequences are associated with 38 of the 40 MMEs studied. In some sites, divergent dinucleotide signatures of the sequences between the flanking genes suggest relatively recent horizontal acquisition of some cassettes. The neisserial MMEs were used to interrogate all of the other available bacterial genome sequences, revealing frequent conservation of the flanking genes combined with the presence of different gene cassettes between them. In some cases, these sites can definitively be classified as MMEs in these other genera. These findings provide additional evidence for the MME model, indicate that MME-directed investigations are a good basis for the identification of novel strain-specific genes and differences within bacterial populations and demonstrate that these elements are probably ubiquitously involved in genetic exchange, particularly in naturally competent bacteria.

Boultwood J, Pellagatti A, Cattan H, Lawrie CH, Giagounidis A, Malcovati L, Della Porta MG, Jadersten M, Killick S, Fidler C, Cazzola M, Hellstrom-Lindberg E, Wainscoat JS

Gene expression profiling of CD34+ cells in patients with the 5q- syndrome.

Br J Haematol (2007) 139: 578-89

The transcriptome of the CD34+ cells was determined in a group of 10 patients with the 5q- syndrome using a comprehensive array platform, and was compared with the transcriptome of CD34+ cells from 16 healthy control subjects and 14 patients with refractory anaemia and a normal karyotype. The majority of the genes assigned to the commonly deleted region (CDR) of the 5q- syndrome at 5q31-q32 showed a reduction in expression levels in patients with the 5q- syndrome, consistent with the loss of one allele. Candidate genes showing haploinsufficiency in the 5q- syndrome included the tumour suppressor gene SPARC and RPS14, a component of the 40S ribosomal subunit. Two genes mapping to the CDR, RBM22 and CSNK1A1, showed a >50% reduction in gene expression, consistent with the downregulation of the remaining allele. This study identified several significantly deregulated gene pathways in patients with the 5q- syndrome and gene pathway analysis data supports the proposal that SPARC may play a role in the pathogenesis of the 5q- syndrome. This study suggests that several of the genes mapping to the CDR of the 5q- syndrome play a role in the pathogenesis of this disorder.

Pellagatti A, Jadersten M, Forsblom AM, Cattan H, Christensson B, Emanuelsson EK, Merup M, Nilsson L, Samuelsson J, Sander B, Wainscoat JS, Boultwood J, Hellstrom-Lindberg E

Lenalidomide inhibits the malignant clone and up-regulates the SPARC gene mapping to the commonly deleted region in 5q- syndrome patients.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A (2007) 104: 11406-11

Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDSs) are a group of hematopoietic stem cell disorders characterized by ineffective hematopoiesis and peripheral blood cytopenias. Lenalidomide has dramatic therapeutic effects in patients with low-risk MDS and a chromosome 5q31 deletion, resulting in complete cytogenetic remission in >60% of patients. The molecular basis of this remarkable drug response is unknown. To gain insight into the molecular targets of lenalidomide we investigated its in vitro effects on growth, maturation, and global gene expression in isolated erythroblast cultures from MDS patients with del(5)(q31). Lenalidomide inhibited growth of differentiating del(5q) erythroblasts but did not affect cytogenetically normal cells. Moreover, lenalidomide significantly influenced the pattern of gene expression in del(5q) intermediate erythroblasts, with the VSIG4, PPIC, TPBG, activin A, and SPARC genes up-regulated by >2-fold in all samples and many genes involved in erythropoiesis, including HBA2, GYPA, and KLF1, down-regulated in most samples. Activin A, one of the most significant differentially expressed genes between lenalidomide-treated cells from MDS patients and healthy controls, has pleiotropic functions, including apoptosis of hematopoietic cells. Up-regulation and increased protein expression of the tumor suppressor gene SPARC is of particular interest because it is antiproliferative, antiadhesive, and antiangiogenic and is located at 5q31-q32, within the commonly deleted region in MDS 5q- syndrome. We conclude that lenalidomide inhibits growth of del(5q) erythroid progenitors and that the up-regulation of SPARC and activin A may underlie the potent effects of lenalidomide in MDS with del(5)(q31). SPARC may play a role in the pathogenesis of the 5q- syndrome.

Lawrie CH, Soneji S, Marafioti T, Cooper CD, Palazzo S, Paterson JC, Cattan H, Enver T, Mager R, Boultwood J, Wainscoat JS, Hatton CS

MicroRNA expression distinguishes between germinal center B cell-like and activated B cell-like subtypes of diffuse large B cell lymphoma.

Int J Cancer (2007) 121: 1156-61

Diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is an aggressive malignancy that accounts for nearly 40% of all lymphoid tumors. This heterogeneous disease can be divided into germinal center B cell-like (GCB) and activated B cell-like (ABC) subtypes by gene expression and immunohistochemical profiling. Using microarray analysis on prototypic cell lines, we identified microRNAs (miR-155, miR-21 and miR-221) that were more highly expressed in ABC-type than GCB-type cell lines. These microRNAs were over-expressed in de novo DLBCL (n = 35), transformed DLBCL (n = 14) and follicular center lymphoma cases (n = 27) compared to normal B cells. Consistent with the cell line model, expression levels were higher in DLBCL cases with an ABC-type immunophenotype than those that were GCB-type (p < 0.05). Moreover, using multivariate analysis we found that expression of miR-21 was an independent prognostic indicator in de novo DLBCL (p < 0.05). Interestingly, expression levels of both miR-155 and miR-21 were also higher in nonmalignant ABC than in GCB cells. As we also demonstrate that expression of microRNAs can be measured reliably from routine paraffin-embedded biopsies of more than 8-years-old (p < 0.001), we suggest that microRNAs could be clinically useful molecular markers for DLBCL as well as other cancers.

Whitehead RN, Overton TW, Snyder LA, McGowan SJ, Smith H, Cole JA, Saunders NJ

The small FNR regulon of Neisseria gonorrhoeae: comparison with the larger Escherichia coli FNR regulon and interaction with the NarQ-NarP regulon.

BMC Genomics (2007) 8: 35

Neisseria gonorrhoeae can survive during oxygen starvation by reducing nitrite to nitrous oxide catalysed by the nitrite and nitric oxide reductases, AniA and NorB. The oxygen-sensing transcription factor, FNR, is essential for transcription activation at the aniA promoter, and full activation also requires the two-component regulatory system, NarQ-NarP, and the presence of nitrite. The only other gene known to be activated by the gonococcal FNR is ccp encoding a cytochrome c peroxidase, and no FNR-repressed genes have been reported in the gonococcus. In contrast, FNR acts as both an activator and repressor involved in the control of more than 100 operons in E. coli regulating major changes in the adaptation from aerobic to anaerobic conditions. In this study we have performed a microarray-led investigation of the FNR-mediated responses in N. gonorrhoeae to determine the physiological similarities and differences in the role of FNR in cellular regulation in this species. Microarray experiments show that N. gonorrhoeae FNR controls a much smaller regulon than its E. coli counterpart; it activates transcription of aniA and thirteen other genes, and represses transcription of six genes that include dnrN and norB. Having previously shown that a single amino acid substitution is sufficient to enable the gonococcal FNR to complement an E. coli fnr mutation, we investigated whether the gonococcal NarQ-NarP can substitute for E. coli NarX-NarL or NarQ-NarP. A plasmid expressing gonococcal narQ-narP was unable to complement E. coli narQP or narXL mutants, and was insensitive to nitrate or nitrite. Mutations that progressively changed the periplasmic nitrate sensing region, the P box, of E. coli NarQ to the sequence of the corresponding region of gonococcal NarQ resulted in loss of transcription activation in response to the availability of either nitrate or nitrite. However, the previously reported ligand-insensitive ability of gonococcal NarQ, the "locked on" phenotype, to activate either E. coli NarL or NarP was confirmed. Despite the sequence similarities between transcription activators of E. coli and N. gonorrhoeae, these results emphasise the fundamental differences in transcription regulation between these two types of pathogenic bacteria.


Bon M, McGowan SJ, Cook PR

Many expressed genes in bacteria and yeast are transcribed only once per cell cycle.

FASEB J (2006) 20: 1721-3

The steady-state levels of all mature transcripts expressed in bacteria and yeast have been cataloged, but we do not yet know the numbers of nascent transcripts and so RNA polymerases engaged on all genes. Such catalogs are presented here. As mRNA levels depend on the balance between synthesis and degradation, we use published data to calculate the numbers of engaged polymerases required to maintain these levels in the face of the known rate of degradation. Most genes, including essential ones, prove not to be transcribed most of the time, and many produce only one message per cell cycle. Some cells even fail to produce an essential message during a cycle, and so must depend on their mother's messages and/or proteins for survival. We speculate that evolution sets the rate of message production so low to conserve energy, minimize transcription-induced mutation, and permit regulation over the widest range.