Gavin Kelsey

Research Summary

As well as genetic information, the egg and sperm also contribute epigenetic annotations that may influence gene activity after fertilisation. These annotations may be direct modifications of the DNA bases or of the proteins around which the DNA is wrapped into chromatin. Our goal is to understand whether, through epigenetics, factors such as a mother’s age or diet have consequences on the health of a child.
We examine how epigenetic states are set up in oocytes – or egg cells – and influence gene expression in the embryo. For example, repressive chromatin marks in oocytes lead to long-term silencing of genes inherited from the mother, particularly in cells that will form the placenta. We are also interested in how variations in DNA methylation come about in oocytes and whether we can use this variation as a marker for oocyte quality and embryo potential. To investigate these questions, we develop methods to profile epigenetic information in very small numbers of cells or even in single cells.

Latest Publications

Sex-specific chromatin remodelling safeguards transcription in germ cells.
Huang TC, Wang YF, Vazquez-Ferrer E, Theofel I, Requena CE, Hanna CW, Kelsey G, Hajkova P

Stability of the epigenetic landscape underpins maintenance of the cell-type-specific transcriptional profile. As one of the main repressive epigenetic systems, DNA methylation has been shown to be important for long-term gene silencing; its loss leads to ectopic and aberrant transcription in differentiated cells and cancer. The developing mouse germ line endures global changes in DNA methylation in the absence of widespread transcriptional activation. Here, using an ultra-low-input native chromatin immunoprecipitation approach, we show that following DNA demethylation the gonadal primordial germ cells undergo remodelling of repressive histone modifications, resulting in a sex-specific signature in mice. We further demonstrate that Polycomb has a central role in transcriptional control in the newly hypomethylated germline genome as the genetic loss of Ezh2 leads to aberrant transcriptional activation, retrotransposon derepression and dramatic loss of developing female germ cells. This sex-specific effect of Ezh2 deletion is explained by the distinct landscape of repressive modifications observed in male and female germ cells. Overall, our study provides insight into the dynamic interplay between repressive chromatin modifications in the context of a developmental reprogramming system.

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Nature, 1, 1, 08 Dec 2021

PMID: 34880491

Leptin Signaling in the Ovary of Diet-Induced Obese Mice Regulates Activation of NOD-Like Receptor Protein 3 Inflammasome.
Adamowski M, Wołodko K, Oliveira J, Castillo-Fernandez J, Murta D, Kelsey G, Galvão AM

Obesity leads to ovarian dysfunction and the establishment of local leptin resistance. The aim of our study was to characterize the levels of NOD-like receptor protein 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome activation in ovaries and liver of mice during obesity progression. Furthermore, we tested the putative role of leptin on NLRP3 regulation in those organs. C57BL/6J female mice were treated with equine chorionic gonadotropin (eCG) or human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) for estrous cycle synchronization and ovary collection. In diet-induced obesity (DIO) protocol, mice were fed chow diet (CD) or high-fat diet (HFD) for 4 or 16 weeks, whereas in the hyperleptinemic model (LEPT), mice were injected with leptin for 16 days (16 L) or saline (16 C). Finally, the genetic obese leptin-deficient (+/? and -/-) mice were fed CD for 4 week. Either ovaries and liver were collected, as well as cumulus cells (CCs) after superovulation from DIO and LEPT. The estrus cycle synchronization protocol showed increased protein levels of NLRP3 and interleukin (IL)-18 in diestrus, with this stage used for further sample collections. In DIO, protein expression of NLRP3 inflammasome components was increased in 4 week HFD, but decreased in 16 week HFD. Moreover, NLRP3 and IL-1β were upregulated in 16 L and downregulated in Transcriptome analysis of CC showed common genes between LEPT and 4 week HFD modulating NLRP3 inflammasome. Liver analysis showed NLRP3 protein upregulation after 16 week HFD in DIO, but also its downregulation in . We showed the link between leptin signaling and NLRP3 inflammasome activation in the ovary throughout obesity progression in mice, elucidating the molecular mechanisms underpinning ovarian failure in maternal obesity.

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Frontiers in cell and developmental biology, 9, 1, 2021

PMID: 34805147

Open Access

DNA Methylation Dynamics in the Female Germline and Maternal-Effect Mutations That Disrupt Genomic Imprinting.
Anvar Z, Chakchouk I, Demond H, Sharif M, Kelsey G, Van den Veyver IB

Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic marking process that results in the monoallelic expression of a subset of genes. Many of these 'imprinted' genes in mice and humans are involved in embryonic and extraembryonic growth and development, and some have life-long impacts on metabolism. During mammalian development, the genome undergoes waves of (re)programming of DNA methylation and other epigenetic marks. Disturbances in these events can cause imprinting disorders and compromise development. Multi-locus imprinting disturbance (MLID) is a condition by which imprinting defects touch more than one locus. Although most cases with MLID present with clinical features characteristic of one imprinting disorder. Imprinting defects also occur in 'molar' pregnancies-which are characterized by highly compromised embryonic development-and in other forms of reproductive compromise presenting clinically as infertility or early pregnancy loss. Pathogenic variants in some of the genes encoding proteins of the subcortical maternal complex (SCMC), a multi-protein complex in the mammalian oocyte, are responsible for a rare subgroup of moles, biparental complete hydatidiform mole (BiCHM), and other adverse reproductive outcomes which have been associated with altered imprinting status of the oocyte, embryo and/or placenta. The finding that defects in a cytoplasmic protein complex could have severe impacts on genomic methylation at critical times in gamete or early embryo development has wider implications beyond these relatively rare disorders. It signifies a potential for adverse maternal physiology, nutrition, or assisted reproduction to cause epigenetic defects at imprinted or other genes. Here, we review key milestones in DNA methylation patterning in the female germline and the embryo focusing on humans. We provide an overview of recent findings regarding DNA methylation deficits causing BiCHM, MLID, and early embryonic arrest. We also summarize identified SCMC mutations with regard to early embryonic arrest, BiCHM, and MLID.

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Genes, 12, 8, 06 Aug 2021

PMID: 34440388

Open Access