Life Sciences Research for Lifelong Health

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

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

The adjuvant GLA-SE promotes human Tfh cell expansion and emergence of public TCRβ clonotypes.
Hill DL, Pierson W, Bolland DJ, Mkindi C, Carr EJ, Wang J, Houard S, Wingett SW, Audran R, Wallin EF, Jongo SA, Kamaka K, Zand M, Spertini F, Daubenberger C, Corcoran AE, Linterman MA

The generation of protective humoral immunity after vaccination relies on the productive interaction between antigen-specific B cells and T follicular helper (Tfh) cells. Despite the central role of Tfh cells in vaccine responses, there is currently no validated way to enhance their differentiation in humans. From paired human lymph node and blood samples, we identify a population of circulating Tfh cells that are transcriptionally and clonally similar to germinal center Tfh cells. In a clinical trial of vaccine formulations, circulating Tfh cells were expanded in Tanzanian volunteers when an experimental malaria vaccine was adjuvanted in GLA-SE but not when formulated in Alum. The GLA-SE-formulated peptide was associated with an increase in the extrafollicular antibody response, long-lived antibody production, and the emergence of public TCRβ clonotypes in circulating Tfh cells. We demonstrate that altering vaccine adjuvants is a rational approach for enhancing Tfh cells in humans, thereby supporting the long-lived humoral immunity that is required for effective vaccines.

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The Journal of experimental medicine, , 1540-9538, , 2019

PMID: 31175140

Genome organization and chromatin analysis identify transcriptional downregulation of insulin-like growth factor signaling as a hallmark of aging in developing B cells.
Koohy H, Bolland DJ, Matheson LS, Schoenfelder S, Stellato C, Dimond A, Várnai C, Chovanec P, Chessa T, Denizot J, Manzano Garcia R, Wingett SW, Freire-Pritchett P, Nagano T, Hawkins P, Stephens L, Elderkin S, Spivakov M, Fraser P, Corcoran AE, Varga-Weisz PD

Aging is characterized by loss of function of the adaptive immune system, but the underlying causes are poorly understood. To assess the molecular effects of aging on B cell development, we profiled gene expression and chromatin features genome-wide, including histone modifications and chromosome conformation, in bone marrow pro-B and pre-B cells from young and aged mice.

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Genome biology, 19, 1474-760X, 126, 2018

PMID: 30180872

Group Members

Latest Publications

Clonally stable Vκ allelic choice instructs Igκ repertoire.

Levin-Klein R, Fraenkel S, Lichtenstein M

Nature communications
8 2041-1723:15575 (2017)

PMID: 28555639

Multi-tissue DNA methylation age predictor in mouse.

Stubbs TM, Bonder MJ, Stark AK

Genome biology
18 1474-760X:68 (2017)

PMID: 28399939

Two Mutually Exclusive Local Chromatin States Drive Efficient V(D)J Recombination.

Bolland DJ, Koohy H, Wood AL

Cell reports
15 2211-1247:2475-87 (2016)

PMID: 27264181

RNA-binding proteins ZFP36L1 and ZFP36L2 promote cell quiescence.

Galloway A, Saveliev A, Łukasiak S

Science (New York, N.Y.)
352 1095-9203:453-9 (2016)

PMID: 27102483

Robust 3D DNA FISH using directly labeled probes.

DJ Bolland, MR King, W Reik

Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE
78: (2013)

DOI: 10.3791/50587

PMID: 23978815

Non-coding transcription and large-scale nuclear organisation of immunoglobulin recombination.

MJ Stubbington, AE Corcoran

Current opinion in genetics & development
23 2:81-8 (2013)

DOI: 10.1016/j.gde.2013.01.001

PMID: 23434028