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.
Although there is ample evidence that the advanced glycation end-product (AGE) glucosepane contributes to age-related morbidities and diabetic complications, the impact of glucosepane modifications on proteins has not been extensively explored due to the lack of sufficient analytical tools. Here, we report the development of the first polyclonal anti-glucosepane antibodies using a synthetic immunogen that contains the core bicyclic ring structure of glucosepane. We investigate the recognition properties of these antibodies through ELISAs involving an array of synthetic AGE derivatives and determine them to be both high-affinity and selective in binding glucosepane. We then employ these antibodies to image glucosepane in aging mouse retinae via immunohistochemistry. Our studies demonstrate for the first time accumulation of glucosepane within the retinal pigment epithelium, Bruch's membrane, and choroid: all regions of the eye impacted by age-related macular degeneration. Co-localization studies further suggest that glucosepane colocalizes with lipofuscin, which has previously been associated with lysosomal dysfunction and has been implicated in the development of age-related macular degeneration, among other diseases. We believe that the anti-glucosepane antibodies described in this study will prove highly useful for examining the role of glycation in human health and disease.
Colorectal cancer is a heterogeneous disease caused by both genetic and epigenetics factors. Analysing DNA methylation changes occurring during colorectal cancer progression and metastasis formation is crucial for the identification of novel epigenetic markers of patient prognosis. Genome-wide methylation sequencing of paired samples of colon (normal adjacent, primary tumour and lymph node metastasis) showed global hypomethylation and CpG island (CGI) hypermethylation of primary tumours compared to normal. In metastasis we observed high global and non-CGI regions methylation, but lower CGI methylation, compared to primary tumours. Gene ontology analysis showed shared biological processes between hypermethylated CGIs in metastasis and primary tumours. After complementary analysis with The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) cohort, , , , and genes were found associated with poor survival. We mapped the methylation landscape of colon normal tissues, primary tumours and lymph node metastasis, being capable of identified methylation changes throughout the genome. Furthermore, we found five genes with potential for methylation biomarkers of poor prognosis in colorectal cancer patients.
Current understandings of cell specification in early mammalian pre-implantation development are based mainly on mouse studies. The first lineage differentiation event occurs at the morula stage, with outer cells initiating a trophectoderm (TE) placental progenitor program. The inner cell mass arises from inner cells during subsequent developmental stages and comprises precursor cells of the embryo proper and yolk sac. Recent gene-expression analyses suggest that the mechanisms that regulate early lineage specification in the mouse may differ in other mammals, including human and cow. Here we show the evolutionary conservation of a molecular cascade that initiates TE segregation in human, cow and mouse embryos. At the morula stage, outer cells acquire an apical-basal cell polarity, with expression of atypical protein kinase C (aPKC) at the contact-free domain, nuclear expression of Hippo signalling pathway effectors and restricted expression of TE-associated factors such as GATA3, which suggests initiation of a TE program. Furthermore, we demonstrate that inhibition of aPKC by small-molecule pharmacological modulation or Trim-Away protein depletion impairs TE initiation at the morula stage. Our comparative embryology analysis provides insights into early lineage specification and suggests that a similar mechanism initiates a TE program in human, cow and mouse embryos.
Lysine lactoylation is a recently described protein post-translational modification (PTM). However, the biochemical pathways responsible for this acylation remain unclear. Two metabolite-dependent mechanisms have been proposed: enzymatic histone lysine lactoylation derived from lactoyl-coenzyme A (lactoyl-CoA, also termed lactyl-CoA), and non-enzymatic lysine lactoylation resulting from acyl-transfer via lactoyl-glutathione. While the former has precedent in the form of enzyme-catalysed lysine acylation, the lactoyl-CoA metabolite has not been previously quantified in mammalian systems. Here, we use liquid chromatography-high-resolution mass spectrometry (LC-HRMS) together with a synthetic standard to detect and validate the presence of lactoyl-CoA in cell and tissue samples. Conducting a retrospective analysis of data from previously analysed samples revealed the presence of lactoyl-CoA in diverse cell and tissue contexts. In addition, we describe a biosynthetic route to generate CN-isotopically labelled lactoyl-CoA, providing a co-eluting internal standard for analysis of this metabolite. We estimate lactoyl-CoA concentrations of 1.14 × 10 pmol per cell in cell culture and 0.0172 pmol mg tissue wet weight in mouse heart. These levels are similar to crotonyl-CoA, but between 20 and 350 times lower than predominant acyl-CoAs such as acetyl-, propionyl- and succinyl-CoA. Overall our studies provide the first quantitative measurements of lactoyl-CoA in metazoans, and provide a methodological foundation for the interrogation of this novel metabolite in biology and disease.
ITPR3, encoding inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor type 3, was previously reported as a potential candidate disease gene for Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy. Here, we present genetic and functional evidence that ITPR3 is a Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease gene.
Single-cell bisulfite sequencing (scBS-seq) enables profiling of DNA methylation at single-nucleotide resolution and across all genomic features. It can explore methylation differences between cells in mixed cell populations and profile methylation in very rare cell types, such as mammalian oocytes and cells from early embryos. Here, we outline the scBS-seq protocol in a 96-well plate format applicable to studies of moderate throughput.
Although many molecular mechanisms controlling developmental processes are evolutionarily conserved, the speed at which the embryo develops can vary substantially between species. For example, the same genetic program, comprising sequential changes in transcriptional states, governs the differentiation of motor neurons in mouse and human, but the tempo at which it operates differs between species. Using in vitro directed differentiation of embryonic stem cells to motor neurons, we show that the program runs more than twice as fast in mouse as in human. This is not due to differences in signaling, nor the genomic sequence of genes or their regulatory elements. Instead, there is an approximately two-fold increase in protein stability and cell cycle duration in human cells compared with mouse cells. This can account for the slower pace of human development and suggests that differences in protein turnover play a role in interspecies differences in developmental tempo.
Personalized medicines require understanding the molecular causes of disease. In this issue of Immunity, Gruber et al. reveal that a gain-of-function JAK1 genetic variant results in a mutant protein with mosaic expression that drives multi-organ immune dysregulation via kinase dependent and independent mechanisms. The work highlights how biochemistry can inform therapies to resolve complex immune disorders.
LifeTime aims to track, understand and target human cells during the onset and progression of complex diseases and their response to therapy at single-cell resolution. This mission will be implemented through the development and integration of single-cell multi-omics and imaging, artificial intelligence and patient-derived experimental disease models during progression from health to disease. Analysis of such large molecular and clinical datasets will discover molecular mechanisms, create predictive computational models of disease progression, and reveal new drug targets and therapies. Timely detection and interception of disease embedded in an ethical and patient-centered vision will be achieved through interactions across academia, hospitals, patient-associations, health data management systems and industry. Applying this strategy to key medical challenges in cancer, neurological, infectious, chronic inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases at the single-cell level will usher in cell-based interceptive medicine in Europe over the next decade.
Planar cell polarity (PCP) organizes the orientation of cellular protrusions and migratory activity within the tissue plane. PCP establishment involves the subcellular polarization of core PCP components. It has been suggested that Wnt gradients could provide a global cue that coordinates local PCP with tissue axes. Here, we dissect the role of Wnt ligands in the orientation of hairs of Drosophila wings, an established system for the study of PCP. We found that PCP was normal in quintuple mutant wings that rely solely on the membrane-tethered Wingless for Wnt signaling, suggesting that a Wnt gradient is not required. We then used a nanobody-based approach to trap Wntless in the endoplasmic reticulum, and hence prevent all Wnt secretion, specifically during the period of PCP establishment. PCP was still established. We conclude that, even though Wnt ligands could contribute to PCP, they are not essential, and another global cue must exist for tissue-wide polarization.
TNFα is the main proinflammatory cytokine implicated in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative disorders, but it also modulates physiological functions in both the developing and adult brain. In this study, we investigated a potential direct role of TNFα in determining phenotypic changes of a recently established cellular model of human basal forebrain cholinergic neuroblasts isolated from the nucleus basalis of Meynert (hfNBMs). Exposing hfNBMs to TNFα reduced the expression of immature markers, such as nestin and β-tubulin III, and inhibited primary cilium formation. On the contrary, TNFα increased the expression of TNFα receptor TNFR2 and the mature neuron marker MAP2, also promoting neurite elongation. Moreover, TNFα affected nerve growth factor receptor expression. We also found that TNFα induced the expression of DNA-methylation enzymes and, accordingly, downregulated genes involved in neuronal development through epigenetic mechanisms, as demonstrated by methylome analysis. In summary, TNFα showed a dual role on hfNBMs phenotypic plasticity, exerting a negative influence on neurogenesis despite a positive effect on differentiation, through mechanisms that remain to be elucidated. Our results help to clarify the complexity of TNFα effects in human neurons and suggest that manipulation of TNFα signaling could provide a potential therapeutic approach against neurodegenerative disorders.
Systems biology has experienced dramatic growth in the number, size, and complexity of computational models. To reproduce simulation results and reuse models, researchers must exchange unambiguous model descriptions. We review the latest edition of the Systems Biology Markup Language (SBML), a format designed for this purpose. A community of modelers and software authors developed SBML Level 3 over the past decade. Its modular form consists of a core suited to representing reaction-based models and packages that extend the core with features suited to other model types including constraint-based models, reaction-diffusion models, logical network models, and rule-based models. The format leverages two decades of SBML and a rich software ecosystem that transformed how systems biologists build and interact with models. More recently, the rise of multiscale models of whole cells and organs, and new data sources such as single-cell measurements and live imaging, has precipitated new ways of integrating data with models. We provide our perspectives on the challenges presented by these developments and how SBML Level 3 provides the foundation needed to support this evolution.
No abstract available
Mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have played a crucial role in biomedical research where they can be used to elucidate gene function through the generation of genetically modified mice. A critical requirement for the success of this technology is the ability of ESCs to contribute to viable chimaeras with germ-line transmission of the genetically modified allele. We have identified several ESC clones that cause embryonic death of chimaeras at mid to late gestation stages. These clones had a normal karyotype, were pathogen free and their in vitro differentiation potential was not compromised. Chimaeric embryos developed normally up to E13.5 but showed a significant decrease in embryo survival by E17.5 with frequent haemorrhaging. We investigated the relationship between the ESCs transcriptional and epigenomic state and their ability to contribute to viable chimaeras. RNA sequencing identified four genes (Gtl2, Rian, Mirg and Rtl1as) located in the Dlk1-Dio3 imprinted locus that were expressed at lower levels in the compromised ESC clones and this was confirmed by qRT-PCR. Bisulphite sequencing analysis showed significant hypermethylation at the Dlk1-Dio3 imprinted locus with no consistent differences in methylation patterns at other imprinted loci. Treatment of the compromised ESCs with 5-azacytidine reactivated stable expression of Gtl2 and rescued the lethal phenotype but only gave low level chimaeras.
T cell regulation of antibody-mediated immunity is critical for health. In this issue of JEM, Li et al. (https://doi.org/10.1084/jem.20191537) identify the Cbl family of E3 ubiquitin ligases as B cell-intrinsic gatekeepers of T cell-dependent humoral immunity.
Variability among pluripotent stem cell (PSC) lines is a prevailing issue that hampers not only experimental reproducibility but also large-scale applications and personalized cell-based therapy. This variability could result from epigenetic and genetic factors that influence stem cell behavior. Naive culture conditions minimize epigenetic fluctuation, potentially overcoming differences in PSC line differentiation potential. Here we derived PSCs from distinct mouse strains under naive conditions and show that lines from distinct genetic backgrounds have divergent differentiation capacity, confirming a major role for genetics in PSC phenotypic variability. This is explained in part through inconsistent activity of extra-cellular signaling, including the Wnt pathway, which is modulated by specific genetic variants. Overall, this study shows that genetic background plays a dominant role in driving phenotypic variability of PSCs.
MYCBP2 is a ubiquitin (Ub) E3 ligase (E3) that is essential for neurodevelopment and regulates axon maintenance. MYCBP2 transfers Ub to nonlysine substrates via a newly discovered RING-Cys-Relay (RCR) mechanism, where Ub is relayed from an upstream cysteine to a downstream substrate esterification site. The molecular bases for E2-E3 Ub transfer and Ub relay are unknown. Whether these activities are linked to the neural phenotypes is also unclear. We describe the crystal structure of a covalently trapped E2~Ub:MYCBP2 transfer intermediate revealing key structural rearrangements upon E2-E3 Ub transfer and Ub relay. Our data suggest that transfer to the dynamic upstream cysteine, whilst mitigating lysine activity, requires a closed-like E2~Ub conjugate with tempered reactivity, and Ub relay is facilitated by a helix-coil transition. Furthermore, neurodevelopmental defects and delayed injury-induced degeneration in RCR-defective knock-in mice suggest its requirement, and that of substrate esterification activity, for normal neural development and programmed axon degeneration.
Regulatory T cells (Tregs) are vital for the maintenance of immune homeostasis, while their dysfunction constitutes a cardinal feature of autoimmunity. Under steady-state conditions, mitochondrial metabolism is critical for Treg function; however, the metabolic adaptations of Tregs during autoimmunity are ill-defined. Herein, we report that elevated mitochondrial oxidative stress and a robust DNA damage response (DDR) associated with cell death occur in Tregs in individuals with autoimmunity. In an experimental autoimmune encephalitis (EAE) mouse model of autoimmunity, we found a Treg dysfunction recapitulating the features of autoimmune Tregs with a prominent mtROS signature. Scavenging of mtROS in Tregs of EAE mice reversed the DDR and prevented Treg death, while attenuating the Th1 and Th17 autoimmune responses. These findings highlight an unrecognized role of mitochondrial oxidative stress in defining Treg fate during autoimmunity, which may facilitate the design of novel immunotherapies for diseases with disturbed immune tolerance.
Hypoxia is pervasive in cancer and other diseases. Cells sense and adapt to hypoxia by activating hypoxia-inducible transcription factors (HIFs), but it is still an outstanding question why cell types differ in their transcriptional response to hypoxia.
The brain is a site of relative immune privilege. Although CD4 T cells have been reported in the central nervous system, their presence in the healthy brain remains controversial, and their function remains largely unknown. We used a combination of imaging, single cell, and surgical approaches to identify a CD69 CD4 T cell population in both the mouse and human brain, distinct from circulating CD4 T cells. The brain-resident population was derived through in situ differentiation from activated circulatory cells and was shaped by self-antigen and the peripheral microbiome. Single-cell sequencing revealed that in the absence of murine CD4 T cells, resident microglia remained suspended between the fetal and adult states. This maturation defect resulted in excess immature neuronal synapses and behavioral abnormalities. These results illuminate a role for CD4 T cells in brain development and a potential interconnected dynamic between the evolution of the immunological and neurological systems. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
A relatively small number of proteins have been suggested to act as morphogens-signalling molecules that spread within tissues to organize tissue repair and the specification of cell fate during development. Among them are Wnt proteins, which carry a palmitoleate moiety that is essential for signalling activity. How a hydrophobic lipoprotein can spread in the aqueous extracellular space is unknown. Several mechanisms, such as those involving lipoprotein particles, exosomes or a specific chaperone, have been proposed to overcome this so-called Wnt solubility problem. Here we provide evidence against these models and show that the Wnt lipid is shielded by the core domain of a subclass of glypicans defined by the Dally-like protein (Dlp). Structural analysis shows that, in the presence of palmitoleoylated peptides, these glypicans change conformation to create a hydrophobic space. Thus, glypicans of the Dlp family protect the lipid of Wnt proteins from the aqueous environment and serve as a reservoir from which Wnt proteins can be handed over to signalling receptors.
Epigenetic reprogramming is a cancer hallmark, but how it unfolds during early neoplastic events and its role in carcinogenesis and cancer progression is not fully understood. Here we show that resetting from primed to naïve human pluripotency results in acquisition of a DNA methylation landscape mirroring the cancer DNA methylome, with gradual hypermethylation of bivalent developmental genes. We identify a dichotomy between bivalent genes that do and do not become hypermethylated, which is also mirrored in cancer. We find that loss of H3K4me3 at bivalent regions is associated with gain of methylation. Additionally, we observe that promoter CpG island hypermethylation is not restricted solely to emerging naïve cells, suggesting that it is a feature of a heterogeneous intermediate population during resetting. These results indicate that transition to naïve pluripotency and oncogenic transformation share common epigenetic trajectories, which implicates reprogramming and the pluripotency network as a central hub in cancer formation.