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.
Assisted reproductive technologies impact transcriptome and epigenome of embryos and can result in long-term phenotypic consequences. Whole-genome DNA methylation profiles from individual bovine blastocysts in vivo- and in vitro-derived (using three sources of protein: reproductive fluids, blood serum and bovine serum albumin) were generated. The impact of in vitro culture on DNA methylation was analyzed, and sex-specific methylation differences at blastocyst stage were uncovered. In vivo embryos showed the highest levels of methylation (29.5%), close to those produced in vitro with serum, whilst embryos produced in vitro with reproductive fluids or albumin showed less global methylation (25-25.4%). During repetitive element analysis, the serum group was the most affected. DNA methylation differences between in vivo and in vitro groups were more frequent in the first intron than in CpGi in promoters. Moreover, hierarchical cluster analysis showed that sex produced a stronger bias in the results than embryo origin. For each group, distance between male and female embryos varied, with in vivo blastocyst showing a lesser distance. Between the sexually dimorphic methylated tiles, which were biased to X-chromosome, critical factors for reproduction, developmental process, cell proliferation and DNA methylation machinery were included. These results support the idea that blastocysts show sexually-dimorphic DNA methylation patterns, and the known picture about the blastocyst methylome should be reconsidered.
Location of immune cells that form the germinal center reaction within secondary lymphoid tissues can be characterized using confocal microscopy. Here, we present an optimized immunofluorescence staining protocol to image germinal center structures in fixed/frozen spleen sections from ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 immunized mice. This protocol can be adapted to identify other cell types within secondary lymphoid tissues. For complete information on the generation and use of this protocol to examine immune responses to the COVID vaccine ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, please refer to Silva-Cayetano et al. (2020).
Although two-dose mRNA vaccination provides excellent protection against SARS-CoV-2, data are scarce on vaccine efficacy against variants of concern (VOC) in individuals above 80 years of age. Here we analysed immune responses following vaccination with mRNA vaccine BNT162b2 in elderly participants and younger health care workers. Serum neutralisation and binding IgG/IgA after the first vaccine dose diminished with increasing age, with a marked drop in participants over 80 years old. Sera from participants above 80 showed significantly lower neutralisation potency against B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1. variants of concern as compared to wild type and were more likely to lack any neutralisation against VOC following the first dose. However, following the second dose, neutralisation against VOC was detectable regardless of age. Frequency of SARS-CoV-2 Spike specific B-memory cells was higher in elderly responders versus non-responders after first dose. Elderly participants demonstrated clear reduction in somatic hypermutation of class switched cells. SARS-CoV-2 Spike specific T- cell IFNγ and IL-2 responses decreased with increasing age, and both cytokines were secreted primarily by CD4 T cells. We conclude that the elderly are a high risk population that warrant specific measures to boost vaccine responses, particularly where variants of concern are circulating.
Reproductive biology methods rely on in vitro follicle cultures from mature follicles obtained by hormonal stimulation for generating metaphase II oocytes to be fertilised and developed into a healthy embryo. Such techniques are used routinely in both rodent and human species. DNA methylation is a dynamic process that plays a role in epigenetic regulation of gametogenesis and development. In mammalian oocytes, DNA methylation establishment regulates gene expression in the embryos. This regulation is particularly important for a class of genes, imprinted genes, whose expression patterns are crucial for the next generation. The aim of this work was to establish an in vitro culture system for immature mouse oocytes that will allow manipulation of specific factors for a deeper analysis of regulatory mechanisms for establishing transcription regulation-associated methylation patterns.
Normal function of the placenta depends on the earliest developmental stages when trophoblast cells differentiate and invade into the endometrium to establish the definitive maternal-fetal interface. Previously, we identified the ubiquitously expressed tumour suppressor BRCA1-associated protein 1 (BAP1) as a central factor of a novel molecular node controlling early mouse placentation. However, functional insights into how BAP1 regulates trophoblast biology are still missing. Using CRISPR/Cas9 knockout and overexpression technology in mouse trophoblast stem cells, here we demonstrate that the downregulation of BAP1 protein is essential to trigger epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) during trophoblast differentiation associated with a gain of invasiveness. Moreover, we show that the function of BAP1 in suppressing EMT progression is dependent on the binding of BAP1 to additional sex comb-like (ASXL1/2) proteins to form the polycomb repressive deubiquitinase (PR-DUB) complex. Finally, both endogenous expression patterns and BAP1 overexpression experiments in human trophoblast stem cells suggest that the molecular function of BAP1 in regulating trophoblast differentiation and EMT progression is conserved in mice and humans. Our results reveal that the physiological modulation of BAP1 determines the invasive properties of the trophoblast, delineating a new role of the BAP1 PR-DUB complex in regulating early placentation.
The eukaryotic chaperonin TRiC/CCT is a large ATP-dependent complex essential for cellular protein folding. Its subunit arrangement into two stacked eight-membered hetero-oligomeric rings is conserved from yeast to man. A recent breakthrough enables production of functional human TRiC (hTRiC) from insect cells. Here, we apply a suite of mass spectrometry techniques to characterize recombinant hTRiC. We find all subunits CCT1-8 are N-terminally processed by combinations of methionine excision and acetylation observed in native human TRiC. Dissociation by organic solvents yields primarily monomeric subunits with a small population of CCT dimers. Notably, some dimers feature non-canonical inter-subunit contacts absent in the initial hTRiC. This indicates individual CCT monomers can promiscuously re-assemble into dimers, and lack the information to assume the specific interface pairings in the holocomplex. CCT5 is consistently the most stable subunit and engages in the greatest number of non-canonical dimer pairings. These findings confirm physiologically relevant post-translational processing and function of recombinant hTRiC and offer quantitative insight into the relative stabilities of TRiC subunits and interfaces, a key step toward reconstructing its assembly mechanism. Our results also highlight the importance of assigning contacts identified by native mass spectrometry after solution dissociation as canonical or non-canonical when investigating multimeric assemblies.
Although fingolimod and interferon-β are two mechanistically different multiple sclerosis (MS) treatments, they both induce B cell activating factor (BAFF) and shift the B cell pool towards a regulatory phenotype. However, whether there is a shared mechanism between both treatments in how they influence the B cell compartment remains elusive. In this study, we collected a cross-sectional study population of 112 MS patients (41 untreated, 42 interferon-β, 29 fingolimod) and determined B cell subsets, cell-surface and RNA expression of BAFF-receptor (BAFF-R) and transmembrane activator and cyclophilin ligand interactor (TACI) as well as plasma and/or RNA levels of BAFF, BAFF splice forms and interleukin-10 (IL-10) and -35 (IL-35). We added an B cell culture with four stimulus conditions (Medium, CpG, BAFF and CpG+BAFF) for untreated and interferon-β treated patients including measurement of intracellular IL-10 levels. Our flow experiments showed that interferon-β and fingolimod induced BAFF protein and mRNA expression (P ≤ 3.15 x 10) without disproportional change in the antagonizing splice form. Protein BAFF correlated with an increase in transitional B cells (P = 5.70 x 10), decrease in switched B cells (P = 3.29 x 10), and reduction in B cell-surface BAFF-R expression (P = 2.70 x 10), both on TACI-positive and -negative cells. TACI and BAFF-R RNA levels remained unaltered. RNA, plasma and experiments demonstrated that BAFF was not associated with increased IL-10 and IL-35 levels. In conclusion, treatment-induced BAFF correlates with a shift towards transitional B cells which are enriched for cells with an immunoregulatory function. However, BAFF does not directly influence the expression of the immunoregulatory cytokines IL-10 and IL-35. Furthermore, the post-translational mechanism of BAFF-induced BAFF-R cell surface loss was TACI-independent. These observations put the failure of pharmaceutical anti-BAFF strategies in perspective and provide insights for targeted B cell therapies.
Circadian gene expression is essential for organisms to adjust their physiology and anticipate daily changes in the environment. The molecular mechanisms controlling circadian gene transcription are still under investigation. In particular, how chromatin conformation at different genomic scales and regulatory elements impact rhythmic gene expression has been poorly characterized.
The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 genome editing system has been broadly adopted for high-throughput genetic screens. However, the application of genome-wide single guide RNA (sgRNA) libraries can be challenging. We generated a custom sgRNA library, an order of magnitude smaller than genome-wide alternatives, to facilitate the genetic screening of RNA binding proteins (RBPs). We demonstrated the utility of our reagent in a genetic screen for RBPs that conveyed cellular resistance or sensitivity to oxidative stress induced by paraquat. This identified that CSDE1 and STRAP, proteins that interact with each other, convey sensitivity to oxidative stress and that Pumilio homologues (PUM1 and PUM2) convey resistance. Targeting eIF4-E1 and -A1 protected cells from high-dose paraquat, whereas eIF4E2 targeted cells did less well. We also found that G3BP1 promoted sensitivity to a low dose of paraquat but protected cells at a higher dose. Our study highlights the use of genetic screens to identify roles of RBPs and identifies novel genes regulating sensitivity to oxidative stress.
Genomic imprinting is the monoallelic expression of a gene based on parent of origin and is a consequence of differential epigenetic marking between the male and female germlines. Canonically, genomic imprinting is mediated by allelic DNA methylation. However, recently it has been shown that maternal H3K27me3 can result in DNA methylation-independent imprinting, termed "noncanonical imprinting." In this review, we compare and contrast what is currently known about the underlying mechanisms, the role of endogenous retroviral elements, and the conservation of canonical and noncanonical genomic imprinting.
Time is inherent to biological processes. It determines the order of events and the speed at which they take place. However, we still need to refine approaches to measure the course of time in biological systems and understand what controls the pace of development. Here, we argue that the comparison of biological processes across species provides molecular insight into the timekeeping mechanisms in biology. We discuss recent findings and the open questions in the field and highlight the use of systems as tools to investigate cell-autonomous control as well as the coordination of temporal mechanisms within tissues. Further, we discuss the relevance of studying tempo for tissue transplantation, homeostasis and lifespan.
CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing is a promising technique for clinical applications, such as the correction of disease-associated alleles in somatic cells. The use of this approach has also been discussed in the context of heritable editing of the human germ line. However, studies assessing gene correction in early human embryos report low efficiency of mutation repair, high rates of mosaicism, and the possibility of unintended editing outcomes that may have pathologic consequences. We developed computational pipelines to assess single-cell genomics and transcriptomics datasets from OCT4 () CRISPR-Cas9-targeted and control human preimplantation embryos. This allowed us to evaluate on-target mutations that would be missed by more conventional genotyping techniques. We observed loss of heterozygosity in edited cells that spanned regions beyond the on-target locus, as well as segmental loss and gain of chromosome 6, on which the gene is located. Unintended genome editing outcomes were present in ∼16% of the human embryo cells analyzed and spanned 4-20 kb. Our observations are consistent with recent findings indicating complexity at on-target sites following CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing. Our work underscores the importance of further basic research to assess the safety of genome editing techniques in human embryos, which will inform debates about the potential clinical use of this technology.
The International Society for Stem Cell Research has updated its Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation in order to address advances in stem cell science and other relevant fields, together with the associated ethical, social, and policy issues that have arisen since the last update in 2016. While growing to encompass the evolving science, clinical applications of stem cells, and the increasingly complex implications of stem cell research for society, the basic principles underlying the Guidelines remain unchanged, and they will continue to serve as the standard for the field and as a resource for scientists, regulators, funders, physicians, and members of the public, including patients. A summary of the key updates and issues is presented here.
The ISSCR Guidelines for Stem Cell Research and Clinical Translation were last revised in 2016. Since then, rapid progress has been made in research areas related to in vitro culture of human embryos, creation of stem cell-based embryo models, and in vitro gametogenesis. Therefore, a working group of international experts was convened to review the oversight process and provide an update to the guidelines. This report captures the discussion and summarizes the major recommendations made by this working group, with a specific emphasis on updating the categories of review and engagement with the specialized scientific and ethical oversight process.
Follicular helper T (T) cells control antibody responses by supporting antibody affinity maturation and memory formation. Inadequate T function has been found in individuals with ineffective responses to vaccines, but the mechanism underlying T regulation in vaccination is not understood. Here, we report that lower serum levels of the metabolic hormone leptin associate with reduced vaccine responses to influenza or hepatitis B virus vaccines in healthy populations. Leptin promotes mouse and human T differentiation and IL-21 production via STAT3 and mTOR pathways. Leptin receptor deficiency impairs T generation and antibody responses in immunisation and infection. Similarly, leptin deficiency induced by fasting reduces influenza vaccination-mediated protection for the subsequent infection challenge, which is mostly rescued by leptin replacement. Our results identify leptin as a regulator of T cell differentiation and function and indicate low levels of leptin as a risk factor for vaccine failure.
The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) technique has been developed half a century ago, and yet its role in molecular biology remains significant. Among the most sensitive of immunoassays, it offers high throughput, combined with affordability and ease of use. This chapter provides the procedure of a highly reproducible indirect sandwich ELISA protocol, which can be applied to a variety of semi-quantitative assays for the investigation of the molecular biology of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) or TET enzymes. Three variations of this protocol are described: assessment and validation of 5hmC-binding proteins, screening and validation of anti-5hmC antibodies, or a readout of TET catalytic activity in in vitro experiments. The assay principle is based on the use of a high affinity avidin-biotin system for efficient immobilization of DNA fragments for further detection by high specificity antibodies. A colorimetric enzymatic reaction is ultimately developed with intensity correlating with the amount of attached antigen.
5-Hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) is an abundant DNA modification in human and mouse brain, as well as in embryonic stem cells, while severely depleted in multiple types of cancer. Assays for 5hmC detection and quantification, both on a locus-specific and global level, are limited in number and often resource-intensive. Immunodetection of 5hmC through antibodies remains a cost-effective and widely accessible approach. This chapter describes an ELISA-based protocol for 5hmC detection and quantification in genomic or in vitro modified DNA. It is based on the passive adsorption of DNA onto a solid polystyrene surface and the specific detection of 5hmC, which generates a measurable chemiluminescent signal, proportional to the amount of immobilized 5hmC. The assay utilizes a standard curve for interpolation of 5hmC percentage and a loading standard for monitoring loading precision.
Cryopreservation offers the potential to increase the availability of pancreatic islets for treatment of diabetic patients. However, current protocols, which use dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), lead to poor cryosurvival of islets. We demonstrate that equilibration of mouse islets with small molecules in aqueous solutions can be accelerated from > 24 to 6 h by increasing incubation temperature to 37 °C. We utilize this finding to demonstrate that current viability staining protocols are inaccurate and to develop a novel cryopreservation method combining DMSO with trehalose pre-incubation to achieve improved cryosurvival. This protocol resulted in improved ATP/ADP ratios and peptide secretion from β-cells, preserved cAMP response, and a gene expression profile consistent with improved cryoprotection. Our findings have potential to increase the availability of islets for transplantation and to inform the design of cryopreservation protocols for other multicellular aggregates, including organoids and bioengineered tissues.
Compensating in flow cytometry is an unavoidable challenge in the data analysis of fluorescence-based flow cytometry. Even the advent of spectral cytometry cannot circumvent the spillover problem, with spectral unmixing an intrinsic part of such systems. The calculation of spillover coefficients from single-color controls has remained essentially unchanged since its inception, and is increasingly limited in its ability to deal with high-parameter flow cytometry. Here, we present AutoSpill, an alternative method for calculating spillover coefficients. The approach combines automated gating of cells, calculation of an initial spillover matrix based on robust linear regression, and iterative refinement to reduce error. Moreover, autofluorescence can be compensated out, by processing it as an endogenous dye in an unstained control. AutoSpill uses single-color controls and is compatible with common flow cytometry software. AutoSpill allows simpler and more robust workflows, while reducing the magnitude of compensation errors in high-parameter flow cytometry.
The annotation of small open reading frames (smORFs) of less than 100 codons (<300 nucleotides) is challenging due to the large number of such sequences in the genome.
Neutrophils, the most abundant circulating leukocytes in humans have key roles in host defense and in the inflammatory response. Agonist-activated phosphoinositide 3-kinases (PI3Ks) are important regulators of many facets of neutrophil biology. PIP3 is subject to dephosphorylation by several 5' phosphatases, including SHIP family phosphatases, which convert the PI3K product and lipid second messenger phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate (PIP3) into PI(3,4)P2, a lipid second messenger in its own right. In addition to the leukocyte restricted SHIP1, neutrophils express the ubiquitous SHIP2. This study analyzed mice and isolated neutrophils carrying a catalytically inactive SHIP2, identifying an important regulatory function in neutrophil chemotaxis and directionality and in neutrophil recruitment to sites of sterile inflammation , in the absence of major defects of any other neutrophil functions analyzed, including, phagocytosis and the formation of reactive oxygen species. Mechanistically, this is explained by a subtle effect on global 3-phosphorylated phosphoinositide species. This work identifies a non-redundant role for the hitherto overlooked SHIP2 in the regulation of neutrophils, and specifically, neutrophil chemotaxis/trafficking. It completes an emerging wider understanding of the complexity of PI3K signaling in the neutrophil, and the roles played by individual kinases and phosphatases within.
Cutaneous melanoma remains the most lethal skin cancer, and ranks third among all malignancies in terms of years of life lost. Despite the advent of immune checkpoint and targeted therapies, only roughly half of patients with advanced melanoma achieve a durable remission. Sirtuin 5 (SIRT5) is a member of the sirtuin family of protein deacylases that regulates metabolism and other biological processes. Germline Sirt5 deficiency is associated with mild phenotypes in mice. Here we showed that SIRT5 was required for proliferation and survival across all cutaneous melanoma genotypes tested, as well as uveal melanoma, a genetically distinct melanoma subtype that arises in the eye and is incurable once metastatic. Likewise, SIRT5 was required for efficient tumor formation by melanoma xenografts and in an autochthonous mouse Braf Pten-driven melanoma model. Via metabolite and transcriptomic analyses, we found that SIRT5 was required to maintain histone acetylation and methylation levels in melanoma cells, thereby promoting proper gene expression. SIRT5-dependent genes notably included MITF, a key lineage-specific survival oncogene in melanoma, and the c-MYC proto-oncogene. SIRT5 may represent a druggable genotype-independent addiction in melanoma.
The development of single-cell multimodal assays provides a powerful tool for investigating multiple dimensions of cellular heterogeneity, enabling new insights into development, tissue homeostasis and disease. A key challenge in the analysis of single-cell multimodal data is to devise appropriate strategies for tying together data across different modalities. The term 'data integration' has been used to describe this task, encompassing a broad collection of approaches ranging from batch correction of individual omics datasets to association of chromatin accessibility and genetic variation with transcription. Although existing integration strategies exploit similar mathematical ideas, they typically have distinct goals and rely on different principles and assumptions. Consequently, new definitions and concepts are needed to contextualize existing methods and to enable development of new methods.