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.
Senescence is a state of stable proliferative arrest, generally accompanied by the senescence-associated secretory phenotype, which modulates tissue homeostasis. Enhancer-promoter interactions, facilitated by chromatin loops, play a key role in gene regulation but their relevance in senescence remains elusive. Here, we use Hi-C to show that oncogenic RAS-induced senescence in human diploid fibroblasts is accompanied by extensive enhancer-promoter rewiring, which is closely connected with dynamic cohesin binding to the genome. We find de novo cohesin peaks often at the 3' end of a subset of active genes. RAS-induced de novo cohesin peaks are transcription-dependent and enriched for senescence-associated genes, exemplified by IL1B, where de novo cohesin binding is involved in new loop formation. Similar IL1B induction with de novo cohesin appearance and new loop formation are observed in terminally differentiated macrophages, but not TNFα-treated cells. These results suggest that RAS-induced senescence represents a cell fate determination-like process characterised by a unique gene expression profile and 3D genome folding signature, mediated in part through cohesin redistribution on chromatin.
Mammalian telomeres protect chromosome ends from aberrant DNA repair. TRF2, a component of the telomere-specific shelterin protein complex, facilitates end protection through sequestration of the terminal telomere repeat sequence within a lariat T-loop structure. Deleting TRF2 (also known as TERF2) in somatic cells abolishes T-loop formation, which coincides with telomere deprotection, chromosome end-to-end fusions and inviability. Here we establish that, by contrast, TRF2 is largely dispensable for telomere protection in mouse pluripotent embryonic stem (ES) and epiblast stem cells. ES cell telomeres devoid of TRF2 instead activate an attenuated telomeric DNA damage response that lacks accompanying telomere fusions, and propagate for multiple generations. The induction of telomere dysfunction in ES cells, consistent with somatic deletion of Trf2 (also known as Terf2), occurs only following the removal of the entire shelterin complex. Consistent with TRF2 being largely dispensable for telomere protection specifically during early embryonic development, cells exiting pluripotency rapidly switch to TRF2-dependent end protection. In addition, Trf2-null embryos arrest before implantation, with evidence of strong DNA damage response signalling and apoptosis specifically in the non-pluripotent compartment. Finally, we show that ES cells form T-loops independently of TRF2, which reveals why TRF2 is dispensable for end protection during pluripotency. Collectively, these data establish that telomere protection is solved by distinct mechanisms in pluripotent and somatic tissues.
In C. elegans, expression of the UPR transcription factor xbp-1s in neurons cell non-autonomously activates the UPR in the intestine, leading to enhanced proteostasis and lifespan. To better understand this signaling pathway, we isolated neurons from animals expressing neuronal xbp-1s for transcriptomic analysis, revealing a striking remodeling of transcripts involved in neuronal signaling. We then identified signaling molecules required for cell non-autonomous intestinal UPR activation, including the biogenic amine tyramine. Expression of xbp-1s in just two pairs of neurons that synthesize tyramine, the RIM and RIC interneurons, induced intestinal UPR activation and extended longevity, and exposure to stress led to splicing and activation of xbp-1 in these neurons. In addition, we found that neuronal xbp-1s modulates feeding behavior and reproduction, dependent upon tyramine synthesis. XBP-1s therefore remodels neuronal signaling to coordinately modulate intestinal physiology and stress-responsive behavior, functioning as a global regulator of organismal responses to stress.
Emerging studies increasingly demonstrate the importance of the throat and salivary glands as sites of virus replication and transmission in early COVID-19 disease. SARS-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus, characterized by an outer lipid membrane derived from the host cell from which it buds. While it is highly sensitive to agents that disrupt lipid biomembranes, there has been no discussion about the potential role of oral rinsing in preventing transmission. Here, we review known mechanisms of viral lipid membrane disruption by widely available dental mouthwash components that include ethanol, chlorhexidine, cetylpyridinium chloride, hydrogen peroxide, and povidone-iodine. We also assess existing formulations for their potential ability to disrupt the SARS-CoV-2 lipid envelope, based on their concentrations of these agents, and conclude that several deserve clinical evaluation. We highlight that already published research on other enveloped viruses, including coronaviruses, directly supports the idea that oral rinsing should be considered as a potential way to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Research to test this could include evaluating existing or specifically tailored new formulations in well-designed viral inactivation assays, then in clinical trials. Population-based interventions could be undertaken with available mouthwashes, with active monitoring of outcome to determine efficacy. This is an under-researched area of major clinical need.
The pandemic spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is due, in part, to the immunological properties of the host-virus interaction. The clinical presentation varies from individual to individual, with asymptomatic carriers, mild-to-moderate-presenting patients and severely affected patients. Variation in immune response to SARS-CoV-2 may underlie this clinical variation.
Advancing maternal age causes a progressive reduction in fertility. The decline in developmental competence of the oocyte with age is likely to be a consequence of multiple contributory factors. Loss of epigenetic quality of the oocyte could impair early developmental events or programme adverse outcomes in offspring that manifest only later in life. Here, we undertake joint profiling of the transcriptome and DNA methylome of individual oocytes from reproductively young and old mice undergoing natural ovulation. We find reduced complexity as well as increased variance in the transcriptome of oocytes from aged females. This transcriptome heterogeneity is reflected in the identification of discrete sub-populations. Oocytes with a transcriptome characteristic of immature chromatin configuration (NSN) clustered into two groups: one with reduced developmental competence, as indicated by lower expression of maternal effect genes, and one with a young-like transcriptome. Oocytes from older females had on average reduced CpG methylation, but the characteristic bimodal methylation landscape of the oocyte was preserved. Germline differentially methylated regions of imprinted genes were appropriately methylated irrespective of age. For the majority of differentially expressed transcripts, the absence of correlated methylation changes suggests a post-transcriptional basis for most age-related effects on the transcriptome. However, we did find differences in gene body methylation at which there were corresponding changes in gene expression, indicating age-related effects on transcription that translate into methylation differences. Interestingly, oocytes varied in expression and methylation of these genes, which could contribute to variable competence of oocytes or penetrance of maternal age-related phenotypes in offspring.
Undoubtedly, the global pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus has had a significant impact on Shared Resource Laboratories (SRL) operations worldwide. Unlike other crises (e.g. natural disasters, acts of war, or terrorism) which often result in a sudden and sustained cessation of scientific research usually affecting one or two cities at a time, this impact is being seen simultaneously in every SRL worldwide albeit to a varying degree. The alterations to SRL operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic can generally be divided into three categories: i) complete shutdown, ii) partial shutdown, and iii) uninterrupted operations. In many cases SRLs which remained partially or fully operational during the initial wave of global infections saw a concurrent increase in COVID-19-related research coming through their facilities. This forced SRLs to make rapid adjustments to core operations at the same time as infectious disease experts were still developing recommendations for the safety of frontline medical workers. Although many SRLs already had contingency plans in place, this pandemic has highlighted the importance of having such plans for continuity of service, if possible, during a crisis. Immediate changes have occurred in the way SRLs operate due to potential virus transmission and in line with this new "Best Practices" have been established i.e. social distancing, remote working and technology-based meetings and training. Many of these changes are likely to be in place for some time with the threat of further waves of infections toward the end of 2020 and into 2021. Some of these best practices, such as having many training resources recorded and available online, are likely to remain long term. Although many changes have been made in haste, these will alter the future operations of SRLs. In addition we have learnt how to deal with future crises that may be encountered in the workplace.
Knowledge of a protein's spatial dynamics at the subcellular level is key to understanding its function(s), interactions, and associated intracellular events. Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase 1 (IDO1) is a cytosolic enzyme that controls immune responses via tryptophan metabolism, mainly through its enzymic activity. When phosphorylated, however, IDO1 acts as a signaling molecule in plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), thus activating genomic effects, ultimately leading to long-lasting immunosuppression. Whether the two activities-namely, the catalytic and signaling functions-are spatially segregated has been unclear. We found that, under conditions favoring signaling rather than catabolic events, IDO1 shifts from the cytosol to early endosomes. The event requires interaction with class IA phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3Ks), which become activated, resulting in full expression of the immunoregulatory phenotype in vivo in pDCs as resulting from IDO1-dependent signaling events. Thus, IDO1's spatial dynamics meet the needs for short-acting as well as durable mechanisms of immune suppression, both under acute and chronic inflammatory conditions. These data expand the theoretical basis for an IDO1-centered therapy in inflammation and autoimmunity.
Whereas effector CD4 and CD8 T cells promote immune activation and can drive clearance of infections and cancer, CD4 regulatory T (T) cells suppress their function, contributing to both immune homeostasis and cancer immunosuppression. The transcription factor BACH2 functions as a pervasive regulator of T cell differentiation, promoting development of CD4 T cells and suppressing the effector functions of multiple effector T cell (T) lineages. Here, we report the development of a stable cell-based bioluminescence assay of the transcription factor activity of BACH2. Tetracycline-inducible BACH2 expression resulted in suppression of phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA)/ionomycin-driven activation of a luciferase reporter containing BACH2/AP-1 target sequences from the mouse Ifng + 18k enhancer. BACH2 expression repressed the luciferase signal in a dose-dependent manner but this activity was abolished at high levels of AP-1 signalling, suggesting contextual regulation of AP-1 driven gene expression by BACH2. Finally, using the reporter assay developed, we find that the histone deacetylase 3 (HDAC3)-selective inhibitor, RGFP966, inhibits BACH2-mediated repression of signal-driven luciferase expression. In addition to enabling mechanistic studies, this cell-based reporter may enable identification of small molecule agonists or antagonists of BACH2 function for drug development.
The PI3Kγ isoform is activated by Gi-coupled GPCRs in myeloid cells, but the extent to which the two endogenous complexes of PI3Kγ, p101/p110γ and p84/p110γ, receive direct regulation through Gβγ or indirect regulation through RAS and the sufficiency of those inputs is controversial or unclear. We generated mice with point mutations that prevent Gβγ binding to p110γ (RK552DD) or to p101 (VVKR777AAAA) and investigated the effects of these mutations in primary neutrophils and in mouse models of neutrophilic inflammation. Loss of Gβγ binding to p110γ substantially reduced the activation of both p101/p110γ and p84/p110γ in neutrophils by various GPCR agonists. Loss of Gβγ binding to p101 caused more variable effects, depending on both the agonist and cellular response, with the biggest reductions seen in PIP production by primary neutrophils in response to LTB4 and MIP-2 and in the migration of neutrophils during thioglycolate-induced peritonitis or MIP2-induced ear pouch inflammation. We also observed that p101 neutrophils showed enhanced p84-dependent ROS responses to MLP and C5a, suggesting that competition may exist between p101/p110γ and p84/p110γ for Gβγ subunits downstream of GPCR activation. GPCRs did not activate p110γ in neutrophils from mice lacking both the p101 and p84 regulatory subunits, indicating that RAS binding to p110γ is insufficient to support GPCR activation in this cell type. These findings define a direct role for Gβγ subunits in activating both of the endogenous PI3Kγ complexes and indicate that the regulatory PI3Kγ subunit biases activation toward different GPCRs.
Protein misfolding is a major driver of ageing-associated frailty and disease pathology. Although all cells possess multiple, well-characterised protein quality control systems to mitigate the toxicity of misfolded proteins, how they are integrated to maintain protein homeostasis ('proteostasis') in health-and how their dis-integration contributes to disease-is still an exciting and fast-paced area of research. Under physiological conditions, the predominant route for misfolded protein clearance involves ubiquitylation and proteasome-mediated degradation. When the capacity of this route is overwhelmed-as happens during conditions of acute environmental stress, or chronic ageing-related decline-alternative routes for protein quality control are activated. In this review, we summarise our current understanding of how proteasome-targeted misfolded proteins are re-trafficked to alternative protein quality control routes such as juxta-nuclear sequestration and selective autophagy when the ubiquitin-proteasome system is compromised. We also discuss the molecular determinants of these alternative protein quality control systems, attempt to clarify distinctions between various cytoplasmic spatial quality control inclusion bodies (e.g., Q-bodies, p62-bodies, JUNQ, aggresomes, and aggresome-like induced structures 'ALIS'), and speculate on emerging concepts in the field that we hope will spur future research-with the potential to benefit the rational development of healthy ageing strategies.
STING-associated vasculopathy with onset in infancy (SAVI) is an autosomal dominant disorder due to gain-of-function mutations in , also known as , encoding for STING. It was reported as a vasculopathy of infancy. However, since its description a wider spectrum of associated manifestations and disease-onset has been observed. We report a kindred with a heterozygous STING mutation (p.V155M) in which the 19-year-old proband suffered from isolated adult-onset ANCA-associated vasculitis. His father suffered from childhood-onset pulmonary fibrosis and renal failure attributed to ANCA-associated vasculitis, and died at the age of 30 years due to respiratory failure. In addition, an overview of the phenotypic spectrum of SAVI is provided highlighting (a) a high phenotypic variability with in some cases isolated manifestations, (b) the potential of adult-onset disease, and (c) a novel manifestation with ANCA-associated vasculitis.
Adult skeletal muscles are maintained during homeostasis and regenerated upon injury by muscle stem cells (MuSCs). A heterogeneity in self-renewal, differentiation and regeneration properties has been reported for MuSCs based on their anatomical location. Although MuSCs derived from extraocular muscles (EOM) have a higher regenerative capacity than those derived from limb muscles, the molecular determinants that govern these differences remain undefined. Here we show that EOM and limb MuSCs have distinct DNA methylation signatures associated with enhancers of location-specific genes, and that the EOM transcriptome is reprogrammed following transplantation into a limb muscle environment. Notably, EOM MuSCs expressed host-site specific positional Hox codes after engraftment and self-renewal within the host muscle. However, about 10% of EOM-specific genes showed engraftment-resistant expression, pointing to cell-intrinsic molecular determinants of the higher engraftment potential of EOM MuSCs. Our results underscore the molecular diversity of distinct MuSC populations and molecularly define their plasticity in response to microenvironmental cues. These findings provide insights into strategies designed to improve the functional capacity of MuSCs in the context of regenerative medicine.
The Rac-GEF, P-Rex1, activates Rac1 signaling downstream of G protein-coupled receptors and PI3K. Increased P-Rex1 expression promotes melanoma progression; however, its role in breast cancer is complex, with differing reports of the effect of its expression on disease outcome. To address this we analyzed human databases, undertook gene array expression analysis, and generated unique murine models of P-Rex1 gain or loss of function. Analysis of mRNA expression in breast cancer cDNA arrays and a METABRIC cohort revealed that higher mRNA in ER/luminal tumors was associated with poor outcome in luminal B cancers. deletion in MMTV- or MMTV- mice reduced Rac1 activation in vivo and improved survival. High level MMTVdriven transgenic expression resulted in apicobasal polarity defects and increased mammary epithelial cell proliferation associated with hyperplasia and development of de novo mammary tumors. MMTV- expression in MMTV- mice increased tumor initiation and enhanced metastasis in vivo, but had no effect on primary tumor growth. Pharmacological inhibition of Rac1 or MEK1/2 reduced P-Rex1-driven tumoroid formation and cell invasion. Therefore, P-Rex1 can act as an oncogene and cooperate with HER2/neu to enhance breast cancer initiation and metastasis, despite having no effect on primary tumor growth.
Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cell lines are the pillars of a multi-billion dollar biopharmaceutical industry producing recombinant therapeutic proteins. The effects of local chromatin organisation and epigenetic repression within these cell lines result in unpredictable and unstable transgene expression following random integration. Limited knowledge of the CHO genome and its higher-order chromatin organisation has thus far impeded functional genomics approaches required to tackle these issues. Here, we present an integrative three-dimensional (3D) map of genome organisation within the CHOK1SV® 10E9 cell line in conjunction with an improved, less fragmented CHOK1SV® 10E9 genome assembly. Using our high-resolution chromatin conformation datasets, we have assigned ≈ 90% of sequence to a chromosome-scale genome assembly. Our genome-wide 3D map identifies higher-order chromatin structures such as topologically associated domains, incorporates our chromatin accessibility data to enhance the identification of active cis-regulatory elements and importantly links these cis-regulatory elements to target promoters in a 3D promoter interactome. We demonstrate the power of our improved functional annotation by evaluating the 3D landscape of a transgene integration site and two phenotypically different cell lines. Our work opens up further novel genome engineering targets, has the potential to inform vital improvements for industrial biotherapeutic production, and represents a significant advancement for CHO cell line development. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
The mechanisms by which regulatory T (Treg) cells differentially control allergic and autoimmune responses remain unclear. We show that Treg cells in food allergy (FA) had decreased expression of transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF-β1) because of interleukin-4 (IL-4)- and signal transducer and activator of transciription-6 (STAT6)-dependent inhibition of Tgfb1 transcription. These changes were modeled by Treg cell-specific Tgfb1 monoallelic inactivation, which induced allergic dysregulation by impairing microbiota-dependent retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptor gamma t (ROR-γt) Treg cell differentiation. This dysregulation was rescued by treatment with Clostridiales species, which upregulated Tgfb1 expression in Treg cells. Biallelic deficiency precipitated fatal autoimmunity with intense autoantibody production and dysregulated T follicular helper and B cell responses. These results identify a privileged role of Treg cell-derived TGF-β1 in regulating allergy and autoimmunity at distinct checkpoints in a Tgfb1 gene dose- and microbiota-dependent manner.
Genomic imprinting is an epigenetic process regulated by germline-derived DNA methylation that is resistant to embryonic reprogramming, resulting in parental origin-specific monoallelic gene expression. A subset of individuals affected by imprinting disorders (IDs) displays multi-locus imprinting disturbances (MLID), which may result from aberrant establishment of imprinted differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in gametes or their maintenance in early embryogenesis. Here we investigated the extent of MLID in a family harbouring a ZFP57 truncating variant and characterize the interactions between human ZFP57 and the KAP1 co-repressor complex. By ectopically targeting ZFP57 to reprogrammed loci in mouse embryos using a dCas9 approach, we confirm that ZFP57 recruitment is sufficient to protect oocyte-derived methylation from reprogramming. Expression profiling in human pre-implantation embryos and oocytes reveals that unlike in mice, ZFP57 is only expressed following embryonic-genome activation, implying that other KRAB-zinc finger proteins (KZNFs) recruit KAP1 prior to blastocyst formation. Furthermore, we uncover ZNF202 and ZNF445 as additional KZNFs likely to recruit KAP1 to imprinted loci during reprogramming in the absence of ZFP57. Together, these data confirm the perplexing link between KZFPs and imprint maintenance and highlight the differences between mouse and humans in this respect.
A comprehensive and standardized system to report lipid structures analyzed by mass spectrometry is essential for the communication and storage of lipidomics data. Herein, an update on both the LIPID MAPS classification system and shorthand notation of lipid structures is presented for lipid categories Fatty Acyls (FA), Glycerolipids (GL), Glycerophospholipids (GP), Sphingolipids (SP), and Sterols (ST). With its major changes, i.e. annotation of ring double bond equivalents and number of oxygens, the updated shorthand notation facilitates reporting of newly delineated oxygenated lipid species as well. For standardized reporting in lipidomics, the hierarchical architecture of shorthand notation reflects the diverse structural resolution powers provided by mass spectrometric assays. Moreover, shorthand notation is expanded beyond mammalian phyla to lipids from plant and yeast phyla. Finally, annotation of atoms is included for the use of stable isotope-labelled compounds in metabolic labelling experiments or as internal standards.This update on lipid classification, nomenclature and shorthand annotation for lipid mass spectra is considered a standard for lipid data presentation.
Myasthenia gravis (MG) is a rare autoimmune disease mainly mediated by autoantibodies against the acetylcholine receptor (AChR) at the neuromuscular junction. The thymus is the effector organ, and its removal alleviates the symptoms of the disease. In the early-onset form of MG, the thymus displays functional and morphological abnormalities such as B cell infiltration leading to follicular hyperplasia, and the production of AChR antibodies. Type-I interferon (IFN-I), especially IFN-β, is the orchestrator of thymic changes observed in MG. As Dicer and miR-29 subtypes play a role in modulating the IFN-I signalization in mouse thymus, we investigated their expression in MG thymus.
We present LipidFinder 2.0, incorporating four new modules that apply artefact filters, remove lipid and contaminant stacks, in-source fragments and salt clusters, and a new isotope deletion method which is significantly more sensitive than available open-access alternatives. We also incorporate a novel false discovery rate (FDR) method, utilizing a target-decoy strategy, which allows users to assess data quality. A renewed lipid profiling method is introduced which searches three different databases from LIPID MAPS and returns bulk lipid structures only, and a lipid category scatter plot with color blind friendly pallet. An API interface with XCMS Online is made available on LipidFinder's online version. We show using real data that LipidFinder 2.0 provides a significant improvement over non-lipid metabolite filtering and lipid profiling, compared to available tools.
DNA methylation is a key layer of epigenetic regulation. The deposition of methylation marks relies on the catalytic activity of DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs), and their active removal relies on the activity of ten-eleven translocation (TET) enzymes. Paradoxically, in important biological contexts these antagonistic factors are co-expressed and target overlapping genomic regions. The ensuing cyclic biochemistry of cytosine modifications gives rise to a continuous, out-of-thermal equilibrium transition through different methylation states. But what is the purpose of this intriguing turnover of DNA methylation? Recent evidence demonstrates that methylation turnover is enriched at gene distal regulatory elements, including enhancers, and can give rise to large-scale oscillatory dynamics. We discuss this phenomenon and propose that DNA methylation turnover might facilitate key lineage decisions.
Understanding human embryology has historically relied on comparative approaches using mammalian model organisms. With the advent of low-input methods to investigate genetic and epigenetic mechanisms and efficient techniques to assess gene function, we can now study the human embryo directly. These advances have transformed the investigation of early embryogenesis in nonrodent species, thereby providing a broader understanding of conserved and divergent mechanisms. Here, we present an overview of the major events in human preimplantation development and place them in the context of mammalian evolution by comparing these events in other eutherian and metatherian species. We describe the advances of studies on postimplantation development and discuss stem cell models that mimic postimplantation embryos. A comparative perspective highlights the importance of analyzing different organisms with molecular characterization and functional studies to reveal the principles of early development. This growing field has a fundamental impact in regenerative medicine and raises important ethical considerations.