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.
The RNA-binding protein polypyrimidine tract binding protein 1 (PTBP1) has been found to have roles in CD4 T-cell activation, but its function in CD8 T cells remains untested. We show it is dispensable for the development of naïve mouse CD8 T cells, but is necessary for the optimal expansion and production of effector molecules by antigen-specific CD8 T cells in vivo. PTBP1 has an essential role in regulating the early events following activation of the naïve CD8 T cell leading to IL-2 and TNF production. It is also required to protect activated CD8 T cells from apoptosis. PTBP1 controls alternative splicing of over 400 genes in naïve CD8 T cells in addition to regulating the abundance of ∼200 mRNAs. PTBP1 is required for the nuclear accumulation of c-Fos, NFATc2, and NFATc3, but not NFATc1. This selective effect on NFAT proteins correlates with PTBP1-promoted expression of the shorter Aβ1 isoform and exon 13 skipped Aβ2 isoform of the catalytic A-subunit of calcineurin phosphatase. These findings reveal a crucial role for PTBP1 in regulating CD8 T-cell activation.
To identify roles of RNA binding proteins (RBPs) in the differentiation or survival of antibody secreting plasma cells we performed a CRISPR/Cas9 knockout screen of 1213 mouse RBPs for their ability to affect proliferation and/or survival, and the abundance of differentiated CD138 + cells in vitro. We validated the binding partners CSDE1 and STRAP as well as the mA binding protein YTHDF2 as promoting the accumulation of CD138 + cells in vitro. We validated the EIF3 subunits EIF3K and EIF3L and components of the CCR4-NOT complex as inhibitors of CD138 + cell accumulation in vitro. In chimeric mouse models YTHDF2-deficient plasma cells failed to accumulate.
Phospholipids (PLs) are found in all cell types and are required for structural support and cell activation signalling pathways. In resting cells, PLs are asymmetrically distributed throughout the plasma membrane with native procoagulant aminophospholipids (aPLs) being actively maintained in the inner leaflet of the membrane. Upon platelet activation, aPLs rapidly externalize to the outer leaflet and are essential for supporting the coagulation cascade by providing binding sites for factors in the cell-based model. More recent work has uncovered a role for enzymatically oxidized PLs (eoxPLs) in facilitating coagulation, working in concert with native aPLs. Despite this, the role of aPLs and eoxPLs in thrombo-inflammatory conditions, such as arterial and venous thrombosis, has not been fully elucidated. In this review, we describe the biochemical structures, distribution and regulation of aPL externalization and summarize the literature on eoxPL generation in circulating blood cells. We focus on the currently understood role of these lipids in mediating coagulation reactions , and in human thrombotic disease. Finally, we highlight gaps in our understanding in how these lipids vary in health and disease, which may place them as future therapeutic targets for the management of thrombo-inflammatory conditions.
In primates, the amnion emerges through cavitation of the epiblast during implantation, whereas in other species it does so later at gastrulation by the folding of the ectoderm. How the mechanisms of amniogenesis diversified during evolution remains unknown. Unexpectedly, single-cell analysis of primate embryos uncovered two transcriptionally and temporally distinct amniogenesis waves. To study this, we employed the naive-to-primed transition of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) to model peri-implantation epiblast development. Partially primed hPSCs transiently gained the ability to differentiate into cavitating epithelium that transcriptionally and morphologically matched the early amnion, whereas fully primed hPSCs produced cells resembling the late amnion instead, thus recapitulating the two independent differentiation waves. The early wave follows a trophectoderm-like pathway and encompasses cavitation, whereas the late wave resembles an ectoderm-like route during gastrulation. The discovery of two independent waves explains how amniogenesis through cavitation could emerge during evolution via duplication of the pre-existing trophectoderm program.
The lipid envelope of SARS-CoV-2 is an essential component of the virus; however, its molecular composition is undetermined. Addressing this knowledge gap could support the design of anti-viral agents, as well as further our understanding of viral-host protein interactions, infectivity, pathogenicity, and innate immune system clearance. Using lipidomics analyses, we revealed that the virus envelope comprised mainly phospholipids (PL), with little cholesterol or sphingolipids, indicating significant differences from the composition of host membranes. Unlike cellular membranes, procoagulant aminophospholipids were present on the external side of the viral envelope at levels exceeding those on activated platelets. As a result, virions directly promoted blood coagulation. To investigate whether these differences could enable selective targeting of the viral envelope in vivo, we tested whether oral rinses containing lipid-disrupting chemicals could reduce viral infectivity. Products containing PL-disrupting surfactants (such as cetylpyridinium chloride (CPC)) met European virucidal standards in vitro; however, components that altered the critical micelle concentration reduced efficacy, and products containing essential oils, PVP-I, or Chlorhexidine were ineffective. This result was recapitulated in vivo, where a 30-second oral rinse with CPC mouthwash eliminated live virus in the oral cavity of COVID-19 patients for at least one hour, while PVP-Iodine and saline mouthwashes were found ineffective. We conclude the SARS-CoV-2 lipid envelope (i) is distinct from the host plasma membrane, which may enable design of selective anti-viral approaches; (ii) contains exposed PE and PS, which may influence thrombosis, pathogenicity, and inflammation; and (iii) can be selectively targeted in vivo by specific oral rinses.
Ageing is the gradual decline in organismal fitness that occurs over time leading to tissue dysfunction and disease. At the cellular level, ageing is associated with reduced function, altered gene expression and a perturbed epigenome. Recent work has demonstrated that the epigenome is already rejuvenated by the maturation phase of somatic cell reprogramming, which suggests full reprogramming is not required to reverse ageing of somatic cells. Here we have developed the first "maturation phase transient reprogramming" (MPTR) method, where reprogramming factors are selectively expressed until this rejuvenation point then withdrawn. Applying MPTR to dermal fibroblasts from middle-aged donors, we found that cells temporarily lose and then reacquire their fibroblast identity, possibly as a result of epigenetic memory at enhancers and/or persistent expression of some fibroblast genes. Excitingly, our method substantially rejuvenated multiple cellular attributes including the transcriptome, which was rejuvenated by around 30 years as measured by a novel transcriptome clock. The epigenome was rejuvenated to a similar extent, including H3K9me3 levels and the DNA methylation ageing clock. The magnitude of rejuvenation instigated by MPTR appears substantially greater than that achieved in previous transient reprogramming protocols. In addition, MPTR fibroblasts produced youthful levels of collagen proteins, and showed partial functional rejuvenation of their migration speed. Finally, our work suggests that optimal time windows exist for rejuvenating the transcriptome and the epigenome. Overall, we demonstrate that it is possible to separate rejuvenation from complete pluripotency reprogramming, which should facilitate the discovery of novel anti-ageing genes and therapies.
No abstract available
Common variable immunodeficiency (CVID), the most prevalent symptomatic primary immunodeficiency, displays impaired terminal B-cell differentiation and defective antibody responses. Incomplete genetic penetrance and ample phenotypic expressivity in CVID suggest the participation of additional pathogenic mechanisms. Monozygotic (MZ) twins discordant for CVID are uniquely valuable for studying the contribution of epigenetics to the disease. Here, we generate a single-cell epigenomics and transcriptomics census of naïve-to-memory B cell differentiation in a CVID-discordant MZ twin pair. Our analysis identifies DNA methylation, chromatin accessibility and transcriptional defects in memory B-cells mirroring defective cell-cell communication upon activation. These findings are validated in a cohort of CVID patients and healthy donors. Our findings provide a comprehensive multi-omics map of alterations in naïve-to-memory B-cell transition in CVID and indicate links between the epigenome and immune cell cross-talk. Our resource, publicly available at the Human Cell Atlas, gives insight into future diagnosis and treatments of CVID patients.
Single domain antibodies (VHHs) are potentially disruptive therapeutics, with important biological value for treatment of several diseases, including neurological disorders. However, VHHs have not been widely used in the central nervous system (CNS), largely because of their restricted blood-brain barrier (BBB) penetration. Here, we propose a gene transfer strategy based on BBB-crossing adeno-associated virus (AAV)-based vectors to deliver VHH directly into the CNS. As a proof-of-concept, we explored the potential of AAV-delivered VHH to inhibit BACE1, a well-characterized target in Alzheimer's disease. First, we generated a panel of VHHs targeting BACE1, one of which, VHH-B9, shows high selectivity for BACE1 and efficacy in lowering BACE1 activity in vitro. We further demonstrate that a single systemic dose of AAV-VHH-B9 produces positive long-term (12 months plus) effects on amyloid load, neuroinflammation, synaptic function, and cognitive performance, in the App Alzheimer's mouse model. These results constitute a novel therapeutic approach for neurodegenerative diseases, which is applicable to a range of CNS disease targets.
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.