Anne Corcoran

Research Summary

The focus of our research is understanding the role of chromatin and nuclear organization in controlling gene expression during the development of the immune system.​

​B lymphocytes are cells of the immune system that produce antibodies (immunoglobulins), which recognise and inactivate foreign antigens like bacteria. To cope with the enormous numbers of foreign antigens encountered during our lifespan, these cells must produce millions of different antibodies.

VDJ recombinationRecombination or ‘shuffling' of genes in the immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) locus is the first step in generating this huge repertoire.

Special ‘marks’ on the chromatin are thought to underlie the complex choice of gene segments in the multigenic immunoglobulin gene families, that can be recombined during B cell development to produce a large diversity of functional antibody molecules.

Our group studies non-coding RNA transcription (ie generation of transcripts that do not produce protein) in specific parts of the immunoglobulin cluster, which may play a directive role in V(D)J recombination, or mark epigenetic control regions.

Only one of each gene type is used in an individual cell and the resulting DNA sequence encodes a unique IgH, which is expressed with an Ig light chain as a unique highly specific antibody in each cell.

Latest Publications

Diverse Human V antibody fragments with bio-therapeutic properties from the Crescendo Mouse.
Teng Y, Young JL, Edwards B, Hayes P, Thompson L, Johnston C, Edwards C, Sanders Y, Writer M, Pinto D, Zhang Y, Roode M, Chovanec P, Matheson L, Corcoran AE, Fernandez A, Montoliu L, Rossi B, Tosato V, Gjuracic K, Nikitin D, Bruschi C, McGuinness B, Sandal T, Romanos M

We describe the 'Crescendo Mouse', a human V transgenic platform combining an engineered heavy chain locus with diverse human heavy chain V, D and J genes, a modified mouse Cγ1 gene and complete 3' regulatory region, in a triple knock-out (TKO) mouse background devoid of endogenous immunoglobulin expression. The addition of the engineered heavy chain locus to the TKO mouse restored B cell development, giving rise to functional B cells that responded to immunization with a diverse response that comprised entirely 'heavy chain only' antibodies. Heavy chain variable (V) domain libraries were rapidly mined using phage display technology, yielding diverse high-affinity human V that had undergone somatic hypermutation, lacked aggregation and showed enhanced expression in E. coli. The Crescendo Mouse produces human V fragments, or Humabody® V, with excellent bio-therapeutic potential, as exemplified here by the generation of antagonistic Humabody® V specific for human IL17A and IL17RA.

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New biotechnology, , 1876-4347, 2019

PMID: 31600579

IL-7R is essential for leukemia-initiating cell activity and pathogenesis of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
González-García S, Mosquera M, Fuentes P, Palumbo T, Escudero A, Pérez-Martínez A, Ramírez M, Corcoran AE, Toribio ML

T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) is an aggressive hematological malignancy resulting from the dysregulation of signaling pathways that control intrathymic T-cell development. Relapse rates are still significant and prognosis is particularly bleak for relapsed patients. Therefore, development of novel therapies specifically targeting pathways controlling leukemia-initiating cell (LIC) activity is mandatory for fighting refractory T-ALL. The interleukin-7 receptor (IL-7R) is a crucial T-cell developmental pathway commonly expressed in T-ALL, which has been implicated in leukemia progression. However, the significance of IL-7R/IL-7 signaling in T-ALL pathogenesis and its contribution to disease relapse remain unknown. To directly explore whether IL-7R targeting may be therapeutically efficient against T-ALL relapse, we focused here on a known Notch1-induced T-ALL model, since a majority of T-ALL patients harbor activating mutations in , which is a transcriptional regulator of IL-7R expression. Using loss-of-function approaches, we show that -deficient, but not wild type, mouse hematopoietic progenitors transduced with constitutively active Notch1 failed to generate leukemia upon transplantation into immunodeficient mice, thus providing formal evidence that IL-7R function is essential for Notch1-induced T-cell leukemogenesis. Moreover, we demonstrate that IL-7R expression is an early functional biomarker of T-ALL cells with LIC potential, and demonstrate that impaired IL-7R signaling hampers engraftment and progression of patient-derived T-ALL xenografts. Notably, we show that IL-7R-dependent LIC activity and leukemia progression can be extended to human B-ALL. These results have important therapeutic implications, highlighting the relevance that targeting normal IL-7R signaling may have in future therapeutic interventions, particularly for preventing T-ALL (and B-ALL) relapse.

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Blood, , 1528-0020, 2019

PMID: 31530562

The murine IgH locus contains a distinct DNA sequence motif for the chromatin regulatory factor CTCF.
Ciccone DN, Namiki Y, Chen C, Morshead KB, Wood AL, Johnston CM, Morris JW, Wang Y, Sadreyev R, Corcoran AE, Matthews AGW, Oettinger MA

Antigen receptor assembly in lymphocytes involves stringently regulated coordination of specific DNA rearrangement events across several large chromosomal domains. Previous studies indicate that transcription factors such as paired box 5 (PAX5), Yin Yang 1 (YY1), and CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) play a role in regulating the accessibility of the antigen receptor loci to the V(D)J recombinase, which is required for these rearrangements. To gain clues about the role of CTCF binding at the murine immunoglobulin heavy chain (IgH) locus, we utilized a computational approach that identified 144 putative CTCF-binding sites within this locus. We found that these CTCF sites share a consensus motif distinct from other CTCF sites in the mouse genome. Additionally, we could divide these CTCF sites into three categories: intergenic sites remote from any coding element, upstream sites present within 8 kb of the VH-leader exon, and recombination signal sequence (RSS)-associated sites characteristically located at a fixed distance (~18 bp) downstream of the RSS. We noted that the intergenic and upstream sites are located in the distal portion of the VH locus, whereas the RSS-associated sites are located in the DH-proximal region. Computational analysis indicated that the prevalence of CTCF-binding sites at the IgH locus is evolutionarily conserved. In all species analyzed, these sites exhibit a striking strand-orientation bias, with > 98% of the murine sites being present in one orientation with respect to VH gene transcription. Electrophoretic mobility shift and enhancer-blocking assays and ChIP-chip analysis confirmed CTCF binding to these sites both in vitro and in vivo.

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The Journal of biological chemistry, , 1083-351X, 2019

PMID: 31285261