The Babraham Institute Publications database contains details of all publications resulting from our research groups and scientific facilities. Pre-prints by Institute authors can be viewed on the Institute's bioRxiv channel. We believe that free and open access to the outputs of publicly‐funded research offers significant social and economic benefits, as well as aiding the development of new research. We are working to provide Open Access to as many publications as possible and these can be identified below by the padlock icon. Where this hasn't been possible, subscriptions may be required to view the full text.
Uncovering the mechanisms that establish naïve pluripotency in humans is crucial for the future applications of pluripotent stem cells including the production of human blastoids. However, the regulatory pathways that control the establishment of naïve pluripotency by reprogramming are largely unknown. Here, we use genome-wide screening to identify essential regulators as well as major impediments of human primed to naïve pluripotent stem cell reprogramming. We discover that factors essential for cell state change do not typically undergo changes at the level of gene expression but rather are repurposed with new functions. Mechanistically, we establish that the variant Polycomb complex PRC1.3 and PRDM14 jointly repress developmental and gene regulatory factors to ensure naïve cell reprogramming. In addition, small-molecule inhibitors of reprogramming impediments improve naïve cell reprogramming beyond current methods. Collectively, this work defines the principles controlling the establishment of human naïve pluripotency and also provides new insights into mechanisms that destabilize and reconfigure cell identity during cell state transitions.
Formation of specialized pro-resolving lipid mediators (SPMs) such as lipoxins or resolvins usually involves arachidonic acid 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO, ALOX5) and different types of arachidonic acid 12- and 15-lipoxygenating paralogues (15-LO1, ALOX15; 15-LO2, ALOX15B; 12-LO, ALOX12). Typically, SPMs are thought to be formed via consecutive steps of oxidation of polyenoic fatty acids such as arachidonic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid or docosahexaenoic acid. One hallmark of SPM formation is that reported levels of these lipid mediators are much lower than typical pro-inflammatory mediators including the monohydroxylated fatty acid derivatives (e.g., 5-HETE), leukotrienes or certain cyclooxygenase-derived prostaglandins. Thus, reliable detection and quantification of these metabolites is challenging. This paper is aimed at critically evaluating i) the proposed biosynthetic pathways of SPM formation, ii) the current knowledge on SPM receptors and their signaling cascades and iii) the analytical methods used to quantify these pro-resolving mediators in the context of their instability and their low concentrations. Based on current literature it can be concluded that i) there is at most, a low biosynthetic capacity for SPMs in human leukocytes. ii) The identity and the signaling of the proposed G-protein-coupled SPM receptors have not been supported by studies in knock-out mice and remain to be validated. iii) In humans, SPM levels were neither related to dietary supplementation with their ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid precursors nor were they formed during the resolution phase of an evoked inflammatory response. iv) The reported low SPM levels cannot be reliably quantified by means of the most commonly reported methodology. Overall, these questions regarding formation, signaling and occurrence of SPMs challenge their role as endogenous mediators of the resolution of inflammation.
The tail of replication-dependent histone H3.1 varies from that of replication-independent H3.3 at the amino acid located at position 31 in plants and animals, but no function has been assigned to this residue to demonstrate a unique and conserved role for H3.1 during replication. We found that TONSOKU (TSK/TONSL), which rescues broken replication forks, specifically interacts with H3.1 via recognition of alanine 31 by its tetratricopeptide repeat domain. Our results indicate that genomic instability in the absence of ATXR5/ATXR6-catalyzed histone H3 lysine 27 monomethylation in plants depends on H3.1, TSK, and DNA polymerase theta (Pol θ). This work reveals an H3.1-specific function during replication and a common strategy used in multicellular eukaryotes for regulating post-replicative chromatin maturation and TSK, which relies on histone monomethyltransferases and reading of the H3.1 variant.
Conjugation of the Atg8 (autophagy related 8) family of ubiquitin-like proteins to phospholipids of the phagophore is a hallmark of macroautophagy/autophagy. Consequently, Atg8 family members, especially LC3B, are commonly used as a marker of autophagosomes. However, the Atg8 family of proteins are not found solely attached to double-membrane autophagosomes. In non-canonical Atg8-family protein lipidation they become conjugated to single membranes. We have shown that this process is triggered by recruitment of ATG16L1 by the vacuolar-type H-translocating ATPase (V-ATPase) proton pump, suggesting a role for pH sensing in recruitment of Atg8-family proteins to single membranes.
Systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (sJIA) is a systemic inflammatory disease of childhood-onset. sJIA is associated with neutrophilia, including immature granulocytes, potentially driven by the growth factor granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF). This study aimed to unravel the role of G-CSF in the pathology of sJIA.
The epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptor (EGFR) controls many aspects of cell physiology. EGF binding to EGFR elicits the membrane recruitment and activation of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase, leading to Akt phosphorylation and activation. Concomitantly, EGFR is recruited to clathrin-coated pits (CCPs), eventually leading to receptor endocytosis. Previous work uncovered that clathrin, but not receptor endocytosis, is required for EGF-stimulated Akt activation, and that some EGFR signals are enriched in CCPs. Here, we examine how CCPs control EGFR signaling. The signaling adaptor TOM1L1 and the Src-family kinase Fyn are enriched within a subset of CCPs with unique lifetimes and protein composition. Perturbation of TOM1L1 or Fyn impairs EGF-stimulated phosphorylation of Akt2 but not Akt1. EGF stimulation also triggered the TOM1L1- and Fyn-dependent recruitment of the phosphoinositide 5-phosphatase SHIP2 to CCPs. Thus, the recruitment of TOM1L1 and Fyn to a subset of CCPs underlies a role for these structures in the support of EGFR signaling leading to Akt activation.
The expression of the pluripotency factors OCT4, SOX2, KLF4, and MYC (OSKM) can convert somatic differentiated cells into pluripotent stem cells in a process known as reprogramming. Notably, partial and reversible reprogramming does not change cell identity but can reverse markers of aging in cells, improve the capacity of aged mice to repair tissue injuries, and extend longevity in progeroid mice. However, little is known about the mechanisms involved. Here, we have studied changes in the DNA methylome, transcriptome, and metabolome in naturally aged mice subject to a single period of transient OSKM expression. We found that this is sufficient to reverse DNA methylation changes that occur upon aging in the pancreas, liver, spleen, and blood. Similarly, we observed reversion of transcriptional changes, especially regarding biological processes known to change during aging. Finally, some serum metabolites and biomarkers altered with aging were also restored to young levels upon transient reprogramming. These observations indicate that a single period of OSKM expression can drive epigenetic, transcriptomic, and metabolomic changes toward a younger configuration in multiple tissues and in the serum.
The Lands Pathway is a fundamental biochemical process named for its discovery by William EM Lands and revealed in a series of seminal papers published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry between 1958-65. It describes the selective placement in phospholipids of acyl chains, by phospholipid acyltransferases. This pathway has formed a core component of our knowledge of phospholipid and also diglyceride metabolism in mammalian tissues for over 60 years now. Our understanding of how the Lands pathways are enzymatically mediated via large families of related gene products that display both substrate and tissue specificity has grown exponentially since. Recent studies building on this are starting to reveal key roles for the Lands pathway in specific scenarios, in particular inflammation, immunity and inflammation. This review will cover the Lands cycle from historical perspectives first, then present new information on how this important cycle forms a central regulatory node connecting fatty acyl and phospholipid metabolism and how its altered regulation may present new opportunities for therapeutic intervention in human disease.
The activation of the embryonic genome marks the first major wave of transcription in the developing organism. Zygotic genome activation (ZGA) in mouse 2-cell embryos and 8-cell embryos in humans is crucial for development. Here, we report the discovery of human 8-cell-like cells (8CLCs) among naive embryonic stem cells, which transcriptionally resemble the 8-cell human embryo. They express ZGA markers, including ZSCAN4 and LEUTX, and transposable elements, such as HERVL and MLT2A1. 8CLCs show reduced SOX2 levels and can be identified using TPRX1 and H3.Y marker proteins in vitro. Overexpression of the transcription factor DUX4 and spliceosome inhibition increase human ZGA-like transcription. Excitingly, the 8CLC markers TPRX1 and H3.Y are also expressed in ZGA-stage 8-cell human embryos and may thus be relevant in vivo. 8CLCs provide a unique opportunity to characterize human ZGA-like transcription and might provide critical insights into early events in embryogenesis in humans.
Heart failure is a leading cause of death that develops subsequent to deleterious hypertrophic cardiac remodelling. MAPK pathways play a key role in coordinating the induction of gene expression during hypertrophy. Induction of the immediate early gene (IEG) response including activator protein 1 (AP-1) complex factors is a necessary and early event in this process. How MAPK and IEG expression are coupled during cardiac hypertrophy is not resolved. Here, in vitro, in rodent models and in human samples, we demonstrate that MAPK-stimulated IEG induction depends on the mitogen and stress-activated protein kinase (MSK) and its phosphorylation of histone H3 at serine 28 (pH3S28). pH3S28 in IEG promoters in turn recruits Brg1, a BAF60 ATP-dependent chromatin remodelling complex component, initiating gene expression. Without MSK activity and IEG induction, the hypertrophic response is suppressed. These studies provide new mechanistic insights into the role of MAPK pathways in signalling to the epigenome and regulation of gene expression during cardiac hypertrophy.
Glioblastomas (GBMs) preferentially generate acetyl-CoA from acetate as a fuel source to promote tumor growth. O-GlcNAcylation has been shown to be elevated by increasing O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) in many cancers and reduced O-GlcNAcylation can block cancer growth. Here, we identify a novel mechanism whereby OGT regulates acetate-dependent acetyl-CoA and lipid production by regulating phosphorylation of acetyl-CoA synthetase 2 (ACSS2) by cyclin-dependent kinase 5 (CDK5). OGT is required and sufficient for GBM cell growth and regulates acetate conversion to acetyl-CoA and lipids. Elevating O-GlcNAcylation in GBM cells increases phosphorylation of ACSS2 on Ser-267 in a CDK5-dependent manner. Importantly, we show that ACSS2 Ser-267 phosphorylation regulates its stability by reducing polyubiquitination and degradation. ACSS2 Ser-267 is critical for OGT-mediated GBM growth as overexpression of ACSS2 Ser-267 phospho-mimetic rescues growth in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, we show that pharmacologically targeting OGT and CDK5 reduces GBM growth ex vivo. Thus, the OGT/CDK5/ACSS2 pathway may be a way to target altered metabolic dependencies in brain tumors.
The Isw1b chromatin-remodeling complex is specifically recruited to gene bodies to help retain pre-existing histones during transcription by RNA polymerase II. Recruitment is dependent on H3K36 methylation and the Isw1b subunit Ioc4, which contains an N-terminal PWWP domain. Here, we present the crystal structure of the Ioc4-PWWP domain, including a detailed functional characterization of the domain on its own as well as in the context of full-length Ioc4 and the Isw1b remodeler. The Ioc4-PWWP domain preferentially binds H3K36me3-containing nucleosomes. Its ability to bind DNA is required for nucleosome binding. It is also furthered by the unique insertion motif present in Ioc4-PWWP. The ability to bind H3K36me3 and DNA promotes the interaction of full-length Ioc4 with nucleosomes in vitro and they are necessary for its recruitment to gene bodies in vivo. Furthermore, a fully functional Ioc4-PWWP domain promotes efficient remodeling by Isw1b and the maintenance of ordered chromatin in vivo, thereby preventing the production of non-coding RNAs.
Immune-mediated, noncommunicable diseases-such as autoimmune and inflammatory diseases-are chronic disorders, in which the interaction between environmental exposures and the immune system plays an important role. The prevalence and societal costs of these diseases are rising in the European Union. The EXIMIOUS consortium-gathering experts in immunology, toxicology, occupational health, clinical medicine, exposure science, epidemiology, bioinformatics, and sensor development-will study eleven European study populations, covering the entire lifespan, including prenatal life. Innovative ways of characterizing and quantifying the exposome will be combined with high-dimensional immunophenotyping and -profiling platforms to map the immune effects (immunome) induced by the exposome. We will use two main approaches that "meet in the middle"-one starting from the exposome, the other starting from health effects. Novel bioinformatics tools, based on systems immunology and machine learning, will be used to integrate and analyze these large datasets to identify immune fingerprints that reflect a person's lifetime exposome or that are early predictors of disease. This will allow researchers, policymakers, and clinicians to grasp the impact of the exposome on the immune system at the level of individuals and populations.
Histone 3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3) is an epigenetic mark found at gene promoters and CpG islands. H3K4me3 is essential for mammalian development, yet mechanisms underlying its genomic targeting are poorly understood. H3K4me3 methyltransferases SETD1B and MLL2 (KMT2B) are essential for oogenesis. We investigated changes in H3K4me3 in Setd1b conditional knockout (cKO) oocytes using ultra-low input ChIP-seq, with comparisons to DNA methylation and gene expression analyses. H3K4me3 was redistributed in Setd1b cKO oocytes showing losses at active gene promoters associated with downregulated gene expression. Remarkably, many regions also gained H3K4me3, in particular those that were DNA hypomethylated, transcriptionally inactive and CpG-rich, which are hallmarks of MLL2 targets. Consequently, loss of SETD1B disrupts the balance between MLL2 and de novo DNA methyltransferases in determining the epigenetic landscape during oogenesis. Our work reveals two distinct, complementary mechanisms of genomic targeting of H3K4me3 in oogenesis, with SETD1B linked to gene expression and MLL2 to CpG content.
Vismodegib is approved for the treatment of locally advanced basal cell carcinoma (laBCC), but some cases demonstrate intrinsic resistance (IR) to the drug. We sought to assess the frequency of IR to vismodegib in laBCC and its underlying genomic mechanisms.
We design a "wisdom-of-the-crowds" GRN inference pipeline and couple it to complex network analysis to understand the organizational principles governing gene regulation in long-lived /Notch . The GRN has three layers (input, core, and output) and is topologically equivalent to bow-tie/hourglass structures prevalent among metabolic networks. To assess the functional importance of structural layers, we screened 80% of regulators and discovered 50 new aging genes, 86% with human orthologues. Genes essential for longevity-including ones involved in insulin-like signaling (ILS)-are at the core, indicating that GRN's structure is predictive of functionality. We used reporters and a novel functional network covering 5,497 genetic interactions to make mechanistic predictions. We used genetic epistasis to test some of these predictions, uncovering a novel transcriptional regulator, , that works alongside DAF-16/FOXO. We present a framework with predictive power that can accelerate discovery in and potentially humans.
Inhibitor of kappa B (IκB) kinase β (IKKβ) has long been viewed as the dominant IKK in the canonical nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) signalling pathway, with IKKα being more important in non-canonical NF-κB activation. Here we have investigated the role of IKKα and IKKβ in canonical NF-κB activation in colorectal cells using CRISPR-Cas9 knock-out cell lines, siRNA and selective IKKβ inhibitors. IKKα and IKKβ were redundant for IκBα phosphorylation and turnover since loss of IKKα or IKKβ alone had little (SW620 cells) or no (HCT116 cells) effect. However, in HCT116 cells IKKα was the dominant IKK required for basal phosphorylation of p65 at S536, stimulated phosphorylation of p65 at S468, nuclear translocation of p65 and the NF-κB-dependent transcriptional response to both TNFα and IL-1α. In these cells IKKβ was far less efficient at compensating for the loss of IKKα than IKKα was able to compensate for the loss of IKKβ. This was confirmed when siRNA was used to knock-down the non-targeted kinase in single KO cells. Critically, the selective IKKβ inhibitor BIX02514 confirmed these observations in WT cells and similar results were seen in SW620 cells. Notably, whilst IKKα loss strongly inhibited TNFα-dependent p65 nuclear translocation, IKKα and IKKβ contributed equally to c-Rel nuclear translocation indicating that different NF-κB subunits exhibit different dependencies on these IKKs. These results demonstrate a major role for IKKα in canonical NF-κB signalling in colorectal cells and may be relevant to efforts to design IKK inhibitors, which have focused largely on IKKβ to date.
Factor analysis is a widely used method for dimensionality reduction in genome biology, with applications from personalized health to single-cell biology. Existing factor analysis models assume independence of the observed samples, an assumption that fails in spatio-temporal profiling studies. Here we present MEFISTO, a flexible and versatile toolbox for modeling high-dimensional data when spatial or temporal dependencies between the samples are known. MEFISTO maintains the established benefits of factor analysis for multimodal data, but enables the performance of spatio-temporally informed dimensionality reduction, interpolation, and separation of smooth from non-smooth patterns of variation. Moreover, MEFISTO can integrate multiple related datasets by simultaneously identifying and aligning the underlying patterns of variation in a data-driven manner. To illustrate MEFISTO, we apply the model to different datasets with spatial or temporal resolution, including an evolutionary atlas of organ development, a longitudinal microbiome study, a single-cell multi-omics atlas of mouse gastrulation and spatially resolved transcriptomics.
Adaptive mutations can cause drug resistance in cancers and pathogens, and increase the tolerance of agricultural pests and diseases to chemical treatment. When and how adaptive mutations form is often hard to discern, but we have shown that adaptive copy number amplification of the copper resistance gene CUP1 occurs in response to environmental copper due to CUP1 transcriptional activation. Here we dissect the mechanism by which CUP1 transcription in budding yeast stimulates copy number variation (CNV). We show that transcriptionally stimulated CNV requires TREX-2 and Mediator, such that cells lacking TREX-2 or Mediator respond normally to copper but cannot acquire increased resistance. Mediator and TREX-2 can cause replication stress by tethering transcribed loci to nuclear pores, a process known as gene gating, and transcription at the CUP1 locus causes a TREX-2-dependent accumulation of replication forks indicative of replication fork stalling. TREX-2-dependent CUP1 gene amplification occurs by a Rad52 and Rad51-mediated homologous recombination mechanism that is enhanced by histone H3K56 acetylation and repressed by Pol32 and Pif1. CUP1 amplification is also critically dependent on late-firing replication origins present in the CUP1 repeats, and mutations that remove or inactivate these origins strongly suppress the acquisition of copper resistance. We propose that replicative stress imposed by nuclear pore association causes replication bubbles from these origins to collapse soon after activation, leaving a tract of H3K56-acetylated chromatin that promotes secondary recombination events during elongation after replication fork re-start events. The capacity for inefficient replication origins to promote copy number variation renders certain genomic regions more fragile than others, and therefore more likely to undergo adaptive evolution through de novo gene amplification.
Oxylipins are potent biological mediators requiring strict control, but how they are removed en masse during infection and inflammation is unknown. Here we show that lipopolysaccharide (LPS) dynamically enhances oxylipin removal via mitochondrial β-oxidation. Specifically, genetic or pharmacological targeting of carnitine palmitoyl transferase 1 (CPT1), a mitochondrial importer of fatty acids, reveal that many oxylipins are removed by this protein during inflammation in vitro and in vivo. Using stable isotope-tracing lipidomics, we find secretion-reuptake recycling for 12-HETE and its intermediate metabolites. Meanwhile, oxylipin β-oxidation is uncoupled from oxidative phosphorylation, thus not contributing to energy generation. Testing for genetic control checkpoints, transcriptional interrogation of human neonatal sepsis finds upregulation of many genes involved in mitochondrial removal of long-chain fatty acyls, such as ACSL1,3,4, ACADVL, CPT1B, CPT2 and HADHB. Also, ACSL1/Acsl1 upregulation is consistently observed following the treatment of human/murine macrophages with LPS and IFN-γ. Last, dampening oxylipin levels by β-oxidation is suggested to impact on their regulation of leukocyte functions. In summary, we propose mitochondrial β-oxidation as a regulatory metabolic checkpoint for oxylipins during inflammation.
Transcriptional and proteomic profiling of individual cells have revolutionized interpretation of biological phenomena by providing cellular landscapes of healthy and diseased tissues. These approaches, however, do not describe dynamic scenarios in which cells continuously change their biochemical properties and downstream 'behavioural' outputs. Here we used 4D live imaging to record tens to hundreds of morpho-kinetic parameters describing the dynamics of individual leukocytes at sites of active inflammation. By analysing more than 100,000 reconstructions of cell shapes and tracks over time, we obtained behavioural descriptors of individual cells and used these high-dimensional datasets to build behavioural landscapes. These landscapes recognized leukocyte identities in the inflamed skin and trachea, and uncovered a continuum of neutrophil states inside blood vessels, including a large, sessile state that was embraced by the underlying endothelium and associated with pathogenic inflammation. Behavioural screening in 24 mouse mutants identified the kinase Fgr as a driver of this pathogenic state, and interference with Fgr protected mice from inflammatory injury. Thus, behavioural landscapes report distinct properties of dynamic environments at high cellular resolution.
Adoptive cell transfer therapy using CD8 T lymphocytes showed promising results eradicating metastatic malignancies. However, several regulatory mechanisms limit its efficacy. We studied the role of the expression of the transcription factor FOXP3 on CD8 T cell function and anti-tumor immunity. Here we show that suboptimal T cell receptor stimulation of CD8 T cells upregulates FOXP3 in vitro. Similarly, CD8 T cells transferred into tumor-bearing mice upregulate FOXP3 in vivo. Cell-intrinsic loss of FOXP3 by CD8 T cells resulted in improved functionality after TCR stimulation and better antitumor responses in vivo. Inhibition of the FOXP3/NFAT interaction likewise improved CD8 T cell functionality. Transcriptomic analysis of cells after TCR stimulation revealed an enrichment of genes implicated in the response to IFN-γ, IFN-α, inflammatory response, IL-6/JAK/STAT, G2M checkpoint and IL-2/STAT signaling in FOXP3-deficient CD8 T cells with respect to FOXP3-wt CD8 T cells. Our results suggest that transient expression of FOXP3 by CD8 T cells in the tumor microenvironment restrains their anti-tumor activity, with clear implications for improving T cell responses during immunotherapy.
In all eutherian mammals, growth of the fetus is dependent upon a functional placenta, but whether and how the latter adapts to putative fetal signals is currently unknown. Here, we demonstrate, through fetal, endothelial, hematopoietic, and trophoblast-specific genetic manipulations in the mouse, that endothelial and fetus-derived IGF2 is required for the continuous expansion of the feto-placental microvasculature in late pregnancy. The angiocrine effects of IGF2 on placental microvasculature expansion are mediated, in part, through IGF2R and angiopoietin-Tie2/TEK signaling. Additionally, IGF2 exerts IGF2R-ERK1/2-dependent pro-proliferative and angiogenic effects on primary feto-placental endothelial cells ex vivo. Endothelial and fetus-derived IGF2 also plays an important role in trophoblast morphogenesis, acting through Gcm1 and Synb. Thus, our study reveals a direct role for the imprinted Igf2-Igf2r axis on matching placental development to fetal growth and establishes the principle that hormone-like signals from the fetus play important roles in controlling placental microvasculature and trophoblast morphogenesis.
The identification of effective pharmacological tools for Alzheimer's disease (AD) represents one of the main challenges for therapeutic discovery. Due to the variety of pathological processes associated with AD, a promising route for pharmacological intervention involves the development of new chemical entities that can restore cellular homeostasis. To investigate this strategy, we designed and synthetized SG2, a compound related to the thyroid hormone thyroxine, that shares a pleiotropic activity with its endogenous parent compound, including autophagic flux promotion, neuroprotection, and metabolic reprogramming. We demonstrate herein that SG2 acts in a pleiotropic manner to induce recovery in a model of AD based on the overexpression of Aβ42 and improves learning abilities in the 5XFAD mouse model of AD. Further, in vitro ADME-Tox profiling and toxicological studies in zebrafish confirmed the low toxicity of this compound, which represents a chemical starting point for AD drug development.