Wolf Reik

Research Summary

Epigenetic modifications such as DNA methylation and histone marks are often relatively stable in differentiated and in adult tissues in the body, where they help to confer a stable cell identity on tissues. The process of epigenetic reprogramming, by which many of these marks are removed from DNA, is important for the function of embryonic stem cells and in reprogramming stem cells from adult tissue cells. When this erasure goes wrong there may be adverse consequences for healthy development and ageing, which can potentially extend over more than one generation.

​Our insights into the mechanisms of epigenetic reprogramming may help with developing better strategies for stem cell therapies and to combat age related decline. We have also recently initiated work on epigenetic regulation of social behaviours in insects, where we are interested in how patterning and regulation of DNA methylation in the brain is linked with the evolution of sociality.

Latest Publications

Pooled CRISPR-activation screening coupled with single-cell RNA-seq in mouse embryonic stem cells.
Alda-Catalinas C, Eckersley-Maslin MA, Reik W

CRISPR/Cas9 screens are a powerful approach to identify key regulators of biological processes. By combining pooled CRISPR/Cas9 screening with single-cell RNA-sequencing readout, individual perturbations can be assessed in parallel both comprehensively and at scale. Importantly, this allows gene function and regulation to be interrogated at a cellular level in an unbiased manner. Here, we present a protocol to perform pooled CRISPR-activation screens in mouse embryonic stem cells using 10× Genomics scRNA-seq as a readout. For complete information on the generation and use of this protocol, please refer to Alda-Catalinas et al. (2020).

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STAR protocols, 2, 2, 18 Jun 2021

PMID: 33899013

Publisher Correction: LifeTime and improving European healthcare through cell-based interceptive medicine.
Rajewsky N, Almouzni G, Gorski SA, Aerts S, Amit I, Bertero MG, Bock C, Bredenoord AL, Cavalli G, Chiocca S, Clevers H, De Strooper B, Eggert A, Ellenberg J, Fernández XM, Figlerowicz M, Gasser SM, Hubner N, Kjems J, Knoblich JA, Krabbe G, Lichter P, Linnarsson S, Marine JC, Marioni JC, Marti-Renom MA, Netea MG, Nickel D, Nollmann M, Novak HR, Parkinson H, Piccolo S, Pinheiro I, Pombo A, Popp C, Reik W, Roman-Roman S, Rosenstiel P, Schultze JL, Stegle O, Tanay A, Testa G, Thanos D, Theis FJ, Torres-Padilla ME, Valencia A, Vallot C, van Oudenaarden A, Vidal M, Voet T,

n/a

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Nature, 1, 1, 17 Mar 2021

PMID: 33731935

Histone modifications form a cell-type-specific chromosomal bar code that persists through the cell cycle.
Halsall JA, Andrews S, Krueger F, Rutledge CE, Ficz G, Reik W, Turner BM

Chromatin configuration influences gene expression in eukaryotes at multiple levels, from individual nucleosomes to chromatin domains several Mb long. Post-translational modifications (PTM) of core histones seem to be involved in chromatin structural transitions, but how remains unclear. To explore this, we used ChIP-seq and two cell types, HeLa and lymphoblastoid (LCL), to define how changes in chromatin packaging through the cell cycle influence the distributions of three transcription-associated histone modifications, H3K9ac, H3K4me3 and H3K27me3. We show that chromosome regions (bands) of 10-50 Mb, detectable by immunofluorescence microscopy of metaphase (M) chromosomes, are also present in G and G. They comprise 1-5 Mb sub-bands that differ between HeLa and LCL but remain consistent through the cell cycle. The same sub-bands are defined by H3K9ac and H3K4me3, while H3K27me3 spreads more widely. We found little change between cell cycle phases, whether compared by 5 Kb rolling windows or when analysis was restricted to functional elements such as transcription start sites and topologically associating domains. Only a small number of genes showed cell-cycle related changes: at genes encoding proteins involved in mitosis, H3K9 became highly acetylated in GM, possibly because of ongoing transcription. In conclusion, modified histone isoforms H3K9ac, H3K4me3 and H3K27me3 exhibit a characteristic genomic distribution at resolutions of 1 Mb and below that differs between HeLa and lymphoblastoid cells but remains remarkably consistent through the cell cycle. We suggest that this cell-type-specific chromosomal bar-code is part of a homeostatic mechanism by which cells retain their characteristic gene expression patterns, and hence their identity, through multiple mitoses.

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Scientific reports, 11, 1, 04 Feb 2021

PMID: 33542322