Prof Catherine Porcher

Research Area: Developmental and Stem Cell Biology
Technology Exchange: Cell sorting, Computational biology, ES cell / homologous recombination, Ex vivo models, Mass spectrometry, Mouse models, Protein interaction and Transcript profiling
Scientific Themes: Developmental Biology & Stem Cells and Molecular, Cell & Systems Biology
Keywords: Haematopoiesis; Stem cells; Transcription; ES cells; SCL/TAL1; Networks
Web Links:
In vitro ES cell differentiation: production of haematopoietic cells.
EB: embryoid body

In vitro ES cell differentiation: production of haematopoietic cells. EB: embryoid body

Crystal structure of the quaternary multiprotein complex SCL:E47:LMO2:LDB1 bound to DNA ---
El Omari et al, Cell Reports, 2014.

Crystal structure of the quaternary multiprotein complex SCL:E47:LMO2:LDB1 bound to DNA --- El ...

Our programme of research focuses on the characterisation of the transcriptional mechanisms involved in mesoderm patterning and haematopoietic development. As an entry point to characterise decision pathways and lineage specification/maturation in haemopoiesis, we study aspects of the functions and mechanisms of action of the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor and oncoprotein SCL/Tal-1. SCL plays essential roles in haemopoietic specification, terminal maturation of important blood lineages and leukaemogenesis (T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, T-ALL). We hope to identify multiprotein complexes nucleated by SCL and their nuclear targets that direct blood formation. This will help start building networks of genetic interactions (mini-interactomes) at the heart of haematopoietic development.  A large part of our work uses in vitro assays of embryonic stem (ES) cell differentiation. This culture system allows access to mesodermal/ immature haematopoietic precursors as well as to all types of differentiated haematopoietic lineages through the use multicolour FACS analysis and FACS sorting. In parallel, we have developed complementary experimental strategies through the use large-scale gene expression, ChIP-sequencing and proteomic approaches. We also combine structural biology and functional studies to unravel protein function. These approaches are instrumental for our understanding of how a haematopoietic stem cell-specific protein complex might form.

Name Department Institution Country
Prof Roger Patient Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences Oxford University, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine United Kingdom
Professor Erika J Mancini Structural Biology Oxford University, Henry Wellcome Building of Genomic Medicine United Kingdom
Prof Marella de Bruijn Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences Oxford University, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine United Kingdom
Prof Paresh Vyas MRCP FRCP FRCPath Nuffield Division of Clinical Laboratory Sciences Oxford University, Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine United Kingdom
Quek L, Otto GW, Garnett C, Lhermitte L, Karamitros D, Stoilova B, Lau IJ, Doondeea J, Usukhbayar B, Kennedy A et al. 2016. Genetically distinct leukemic stem cells in human CD34- acute myeloid leukemia are arrested at a hemopoietic precursor-like stage. J Exp Med, 213 (8), pp. 1513-1535. | Show Abstract | Read more

Our understanding of the perturbation of normal cellular differentiation hierarchies to create tumor-propagating stem cell populations is incomplete. In human acute myeloid leukemia (AML), current models suggest transformation creates leukemic stem cell (LSC) populations arrested at a progenitor-like stage expressing cell surface CD34. We show that in ∼25% of AML, with a distinct genetic mutation pattern where >98% of cells are CD34(-), there are multiple, nonhierarchically arranged CD34(+) and CD34(-) LSC populations. Within CD34(-) and CD34(+) LSC-containing populations, LSC frequencies are similar; there are shared clonal structures and near-identical transcriptional signatures. CD34(-) LSCs have disordered global transcription profiles, but these profiles are enriched for transcriptional signatures of normal CD34(-) mature granulocyte-macrophage precursors, downstream of progenitors. But unlike mature precursors, LSCs express multiple normal stem cell transcriptional regulators previously implicated in LSC function. This suggests a new refined model of the relationship between LSCs and normal hemopoiesis in which the nature of genetic/epigenetic changes determines the disordered transcriptional program, resulting in LSC differentiation arrest at stages that are most like either progenitor or precursor stages of hemopoiesis.

Chen II, Caprioli A, Ohnuki H, Kwak H, Porcher C, Tosato G. 2016. EphrinB2 regulates the emergence of a hemogenic endothelium from the aorta. Sci Rep, 6 (1), pp. 27195. | Show Abstract | Read more

Adult-type intraembryonic hematopoiesis arises from specialized endothelial cells of the dorsal aorta (DA). Despite the critical importance of this specialized endothelium for establishment of hematopoietic stem cells and adult hematopoietic lineages, the mechanisms regulating its emergence are incompletely understood. We show that EphrinB2, a principal regulator of endothelial cell function, controls the development of endothelium producing adult-type hematopoiesis. The absence of EphrinB2 impairs DA-derived hematopoiesis. Transmembrane EphrinB2 and its EphB4 receptor interact in the emerging DA, which transiently harbors EphrinB2(+) and EphB4(+) endothelial cells, thereby providing an opportunity for bi-directional cell-to-cell signaling to control the emergence of the hemogenic endothelium. Embryonic Stem (ES) cell-derived EphrinB2(+) cells are enriched with hemogenic endothelial precursors. EphrinB2 silencing impairs ES generation of hematopoietic cells but not generation of endothelial cells. The identification of EphrinB2 as an essential regulator of adult hematopoiesis provides important insight in the regulation of early hematopoietic commitment.

Blobel GA, Bodine D, Brand M, Crispino J, de Bruijn MF, Nathan D, Papayannopoulou T, Porcher C, Strouboulis J, Zon L et al. 2015. An international effort to cure a global health problem: A report on the 19th Hemoglobin Switching Conference. Exp Hematol, 43 (10), pp. 821-837. | Show Abstract | Read more

Every 2 years since 1978, an international group of scientists, physicians, and other researchers meet to discuss the latest developments in the underlying etiology, mechanisms of action, and developmental acquisition of cellular and systemic defects exhibited and elicited by the most common inherited human disorders, the hemoglobinopathies. The 19th Hemoglobin Switching Conference, held in September 2014 at St. John's College in Oxford, once again exceeded all expectations by describing cutting edge research in cellular, molecular, developmental, and genomic advances focused on these diseases. The conference comprised about 60 short talks over 3 days by leading investigators in the field. This meeting report describes the highlights of the conference.

Porcher C. 2015. Toward a BETter grasp of acetyl-lysine readers. Blood, 125 (18), pp. 2739-2741. | Show Abstract | Read more

© 2015 by The American Society of Hematology. In this issue of Blood, Stonestrom et al describe the unanticipated complexity of the distinct yet overlapping activities of acetyl-lysine-binding bromodomain and extraterminal motif (BET) proteins bromodomain-containing 2-4 (BRD2-4) in erythropoiesis, in the context of rising interests in BET pharmacologic inhibitors

Quek L, Otto G, Garnett C, Lhermitte L, Lau I-J, Karamitros D, Doondeea J, Usukhbayar B, Goardon N, Ivey A et al. 2014. Functional and Genetic Heterogeneity of Distinct Leukemic Stem Cell Populations in CD34-Human Acute Myeloid Leukemia BLOOD, 124 (21),

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Scopus

ElOmari K, Hoosdally SJ, Tuladhar K, Karia D, Hall-Ponselé E, Platonova O, Vyas P, Patient R, Porcher C, Mancini EJ. 2013. Structural Basis for LMO2-Driven Recruitment of the SCL: E47bHLH Heterodimer to Hematopoietic-Specific Transcriptional Targets Cell Reports, 4 (1), pp. 135-147. | Show Abstract | Read more

Cell fate is governed by combinatorial actions of transcriptional regulators assembling into multiprotein complexes. However, the molecular details of how these complexes form are poorly understood. One such complex, which contains the basic-helix-loop-helix heterodimer SCL:E47 and bridging proteins LMO2:LDB1, critically regulates hematopoiesis and induces Tcell leukemia. Here, we report the crystal structure of (SCL:E47) bHLH :LMO2:LDB1 LID bound to DNA, providing a molecular account of the network of interactions assembling this complex. This reveals an unexpected role for LMO2. Upon binding to SCL, LMO2 induces new hydrogen bonds in SCL:E47, thereby strengthening heterodimer formation. This imposes a rotation movement onto E47 that weakens the heterodimer:DNA interaction, shifting the main DNA-binding activity onto additional protein partners. Along with biochemical analyses, this illustrates, at an atomic level, how hematopoietic-specific SCL sequesters ubiquitous E47 and associated cofactors and supports SCL'sreported DNA-binding-independent functions. Importantly, this work will drive the design of small molecules inhibiting leukemogenic processes. © 2013 The Authors.

El Omari K, Hoosdally SJ, Tuladhar K, Karia D, Hall-Ponselé E, Platonova O, Vyas P, Patient R, Porcher C, Mancini EJ. 2013. Structural basis for LMO2-driven recruitment of the SCL:E47bHLH heterodimer to hematopoietic-specific transcriptional targets. Cell Rep, 4 (1), pp. 135-147. | Show Abstract | Read more

Cell fate is governed by combinatorial actions of transcriptional regulators assembling into multiprotein complexes. However, the molecular details of how these complexes form are poorly understood. One such complex, which contains the basic-helix-loop-helix heterodimer SCL:E47 and bridging proteins LMO2:LDB1, critically regulates hematopoiesis and induces T cell leukemia. Here, we report the crystal structure of (SCL:E47)bHLH:LMO2:LDB1LID bound to DNA, providing a molecular account of the network of interactions assembling this complex. This reveals an unexpected role for LMO2. Upon binding to SCL, LMO2 induces new hydrogen bonds in SCL:E47, thereby strengthening heterodimer formation. This imposes a rotation movement onto E47 that weakens the heterodimer:DNA interaction, shifting the main DNA-binding activity onto additional protein partners. Along with biochemical analyses, this illustrates, at an atomic level, how hematopoietic-specific SCL sequesters ubiquitous E47 and associated cofactors and supports SCL's reported DNA-binding-independent functions. Importantly, this work will drive the design of small molecules inhibiting leukemogenic processes.

Papadopoulos GL, Karkoulia E, Tsamardinos I, Porcher C, Ragoussis J, Bungert J, Strouboulis J. 2013. GATA-1 genome-wide occupancy associates with distinct epigenetic profiles in mouse fetal liver erythropoiesis. Nucleic Acids Res, 41 (9), pp. 4938-4948. | Show Abstract | Read more

We report the genomic occupancy profiles of the key hematopoietic transcription factor GATA-1 in pro-erythroblasts and mature erythroid cells fractionated from day E12.5 mouse fetal liver cells. Integration of GATA-1 occupancy profiles with available genome-wide transcription factor and epigenetic profiles assayed in fetal liver cells enabled as to evaluate GATA-1 involvement in modulating local chromatin structure of target genes during erythroid differentiation. Our results suggest that GATA-1 associates preferentially with changes of specific epigenetic modifications, such as H4K16, H3K27 acetylation and H3K4 di-methylation. Furthermore, we used random forest (RF) non-linear regression to predict changes in the expression levels of GATA-1 target genes based on the genomic features available for pro-erythroblasts and mature fetal liver-derived erythroid cells. Remarkably, our prediction model explained a high proportion of 62% of variation in gene expression. Hierarchical clustering of the proximity values calculated by the RF model produced a clear separation of upregulated versus downregulated genes and a further separation of downregulated genes in two distinct groups. Thus, our study of GATA-1 genome-wide occupancy profiles in mouse primary erythroid cells and their integration with global epigenetic marks reveals three clusters of GATA-1 gene targets that are associated with specific epigenetic signatures and functional characteristics.

Leung A, Ciau-Uitz A, Pinheiro P, Monteiro R, Zuo J, Vyas P, Patient R, Porcher C. 2013. Uncoupling VEGFA functions in arteriogenesis and hematopoietic stem cell specification. Dev Cell, 24 (2), pp. 144-158. | Show Abstract | Read more

VEGFA signaling is critical for endothelial and hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) specification. However, blood defects resulting from perturbation of the VEGFA pathway are always accompanied by impaired vascular/arterial development. Because HSCs derive from arterial cells, it is unclear whether VEGFA directly contributes to HSC specification. This is an important question for our understanding of how HSCs are formed and for developing their production in vitro. Through knockdown of the regulator ETO2 in embryogenesis, we report a specific decrease in expression of medium/long Vegfa isoforms in somites. This leads to absence of Notch1 expression and failure of HSC specification in the dorsal aorta (DA), independently of vessel formation and arterial specification. Vegfa hypomorphs and isoform-specific (medium/long) morphants not only recapitulate this phenotype but also demonstrate that VEGFA short isoform is sufficient for DA development. Therefore, sequential, isoform-specific VEGFA signaling successively induces the endothelial, arterial, and HSC programs in the DA.

Chagraoui H, Porcher C. 2012. Establishment of an ES cell-derived murine megakaryocytic cell line, MKD1, with features of primary megakaryocyte progenitors. PLoS One, 7 (3), pp. e32981. | Show Abstract | Read more

Because of the scarcity of megakaryocytes in hematopoietic tissues, studying megakaryopoiesis heavily relies on the availability of appropriate cellular models. Here, we report the establishment of a new mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell-derived megakaryocytic cell line, MKD1. The cells are factor-dependent, their cell surface immunophenotype and gene expression profile closely resemble that of primary megakaryocyte progenitors (MkPs) and they further differentiate along the megakaryocyte lineage upon valproic acid treatment. At a functional level, we show that ablation of SCL expression, a transcription factor critical for MkP maturation, leads to gene expression alterations similar to that observed in primary, Scl-excised MkPs. Moreover, the cell line is amenable to biochemical and transcriptional analyses, as we report for GpVI, a direct target of SCL. Thus, the MKD1 cell line offers a pertinent experimental model to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying MkP biology and more broadly megakaryopoiesis.

Chagraoui H, Kassouf M, Banerjee S, Goardon N, Clark K, Atzberger A, Pearce AC, Skoda RC, Ferguson DJ, Watson SP et al. 2011. SCL-mediated regulation of the cell-cycle regulator p21 is critical for murine megakaryopoiesis. Blood, 118 (3), pp. 723-735. | Show Abstract | Read more

Megakaryopoiesis is a complex process that involves major cellular and nuclear changes and relies on controlled coordination of cellular proliferation and differentiation. These mechanisms are orchestrated in part by transcriptional regulators. The key hematopoietic transcription factor stem cell leukemia (SCL)/TAL1 is required in early hematopoietic progenitors for specification of the megakaryocytic lineage. These early functions have, so far, prevented full investigation of its role in megakaryocyte development in loss-of-function studies. Here, we report that SCL critically controls terminal megakaryocyte maturation. In vivo deletion of Scl specifically in the megakaryocytic lineage affects all key attributes of megakaryocyte progenitors (MkPs), namely, proliferation, ploidization, cytoplasmic maturation, and platelet release. Genome-wide expression analysis reveals increased expression of the cell-cycle regulator p21 in Scl-deleted MkPs. Importantly, p21 knockdown-mediated rescue of Scl-mutant MkPs shows full restoration of cell-cycle progression and partial rescue of the nuclear and cytoplasmic maturation defects. Therefore, SCL-mediated transcriptional control of p21 is essential for terminal maturation of MkPs. Our study provides a mechanistic link between a major hematopoietic transcriptional regulator, cell-cycle progression, and megakaryocytic differentiation.

Goardon N, Marchi E, Atzberger A, Quek L, Schuh A, Soneji S, Woll P, Mead A, Alford KA, Rout R et al. 2011. Coexistence of LMPP-like and GMP-like leukemia stem cells in acute myeloid leukemia. Cancer Cell, 19 (1), pp. 138-152. | Show Abstract | Read more

The relationships between normal and leukemic stem/progenitor cells are unclear. We show that in ∼80% of primary human CD34+ acute myeloid leukemia (AML), two expanded populations with hemopoietic progenitor immunophenotype coexist in most patients. Both populations have leukemic stem cell (LSC) activity and are hierarchically ordered; one LSC population gives rise to the other. Global gene expression profiling shows the LSC populations are molecularly distinct and resemble normal progenitors but not stem cells. The more mature LSC population most closely mirrors normal granulocyte-macrophage progenitors (GMP) and the immature LSC population a previously uncharacterized progenitor functionally similar to lymphoid-primed multipotential progenitors (LMPPs). This suggests that in most cases primary CD34+ AML is a progenitor disease where LSCs acquire abnormal self-renewal potential.

El Omari K, Hoosdally SJ, Tuladhar K, Karia D, Vyas P, Patient R, Porcher C, Mancini EJ. 2011. Structure of the leukemia oncogene LMO2: implications for the assembly of a hematopoietic transcription factor complex. Blood, 117 (7), pp. 2146-2156. | Show Abstract | Read more

The LIM only protein 2 (LMO2) is a key regulator of hematopoietic stem cell development whose ectopic expression in T cells leads to the onset of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Through its LIM domains, LMO2 is thought to function as the scaffold for a DNA-binding transcription regulator complex, including the basic helix-loop-helix proteins SCL/TAL1 and E47, the zinc finger protein GATA-1, and LIM-domain interacting protein LDB1. To understand the role of LMO2 in the formation of this complex and ultimately to dissect its function in normal and aberrant hematopoiesis, we solved the crystal structure of LMO2 in complex with the LID domain of LDB1 at 2.4 Å resolution. We observe a largely unstructured LMO2 kept in register by the LID binding both LIM domains. Comparison of independently determined crystal structures of LMO2 reveals large movements around a conserved hinge between the LIM domains. We demonstrate that such conformational flexibility is necessary for binding of LMO2 to its partner protein SCL/TAL1 in vitro and for the function of this complex in vivo. These results, together with molecular docking and analysis of evolutionarily conserved residues, yield the first structural model of the DNA-binding complex containing LMO2, LDB1, SCL/TAL1, and GATA-1.

El Omari K, Porcher C, Mancini EJ. 2010. Purification, crystallization and preliminary X-ray analysis of a fusion of the LIM domains of LMO2 and the LID domain of Ldb1. Acta Crystallogr Sect F Struct Biol Cryst Commun, 66 (Pt 11), pp. 1466-1469. | Show Abstract | Read more

LMO2 (LIM domain only 2), also known as rhombotin-2, is a transcriptional regulator that is essential for normal haematopoietic development. In malignant haematopoiesis, its ectopic expression in T cells is involved in the pathogenesis of leukaemia. LMO2 contains four zinc-finger domains and binds to the ubiquitous nuclear adaptor protein Ldb1 via the LIM-interaction domain (LID). Together, they act as scaffolding proteins and bridge important haematopoietic transcription factors such as SCL/Tal1, E2A and GATA-1. Solving the structure of the LMO2:Ldb1-LID complex would therefore be a first step towards understanding how haematopoietic specific protein complexes form and would also provide an attractive target for drug development in anticancer therapy, especially for T-cell leukaemia. Here, the expression, purification, crystallization and data collection of a fusion protein consisting of the two LIM domains of LMO2 linked to the LID domain of Ldb1 via a flexible linker is reported. The crystals belonged to space group C2, with unit-cell parameters a = 179.9, b = 51.5, c = 114.7 Å, β = 90.1°, and contained five molecules in the asymmetric unit. Multiple-wavelength anomalous dispersion (MAD) data have been collected at the zinc X-ray absorption edge to a resolution of 2.8 Å and the data were used to solve the structure of the LMO2:Ldb1-LID complex. Refinement and analysis of the electron-density map is in progress.

Kassouf MT, Hughes JR, Taylor S, McGowan SJ, Soneji S, Green AL, Vyas P, Porcher C. 2010. Genome-wide identification of TAL1's functional targets: insights into its mechanisms of action in primary erythroid cells. Genome Res, 20 (8), pp. 1064-1083. | Show Abstract | Read more

Coordination of cellular processes through the establishment of tissue-specific gene expression programs is essential for lineage maturation. The basic helix-loop-helix hemopoietic transcriptional regulator TAL1 (formerly SCL) is required for terminal differentiation of red blood cells. To gain insight into TAL1 function and mechanisms of action in erythropoiesis, we performed ChIP-sequencing and gene expression analyses from primary fetal liver erythroid cells. We show that TAL1 coordinates expression of genes in most known red cell-specific processes. The majority of TAL1's genomic targets require direct DNA-binding activity. However, one-fifth of TAL1's target sequences, mainly among those showing high affinity for TAL1, can recruit the factor independently of its DNA binding activity. An unbiased DNA motif search of sequences bound by TAL1 identified CAGNTG as TAL1-preferred E-box motif in erythroid cells. Novel motifs were also characterized that may help distinguish activated from repressed genes and suggest a new mechanism by which TAL1 may be recruited to DNA. Finally, analysis of recruitment of GATA1, a protein partner of TAL1, to sequences occupied by TAL1 suggests that TAL1's binding is necessary prior or simultaneous to that of GATA1. This work provides the framework to study regulatory networks leading to erythroid terminal maturation and to model mechanisms of action of tissue-specific transcription factors.

Drissen R, Guyot B, Zhang L, Atzberger A, Sloane-Stanley J, Wood B, Porcher C, Vyas P. 2010. Lineage-specific combinatorial action of enhancers regulates mouse erythroid Gata1 expression. Blood, 115 (17), pp. 3463-3471. | Show Abstract | Read more

Precise spatiotemporal control of Gata1 expression is required in both early hematopoietic progenitors to determine erythroid/megakaryocyte versus granulocyte/monocyte lineage output and in the subsequent differentiation of erythroid cells and megakaryocytes. An enhancer element upstream of the mouse Gata1 IE (1st exon erythroid) promoter, mHS-3.5, can direct both erythroid and megakaryocytic expression. However, loss of this element ablates only megakaryocytes, implying that an additional element has erythroid specificity. Here, we identify a double DNaseI hypersensitive site, mHS-25/6, as having erythroid but not megakaryocytic activity in primary cells. It binds an activating transcription factor complex in erythroid cells where it also makes physical contact with the Gata1 promoter. Deletion of mHS-25/6 or mHS-3.5 in embryonic stem cells has only a modest effect on in vitro erythroid differentiation, whereas loss of both elements ablates both primitive and definitive erythropoiesis with an almost complete loss of Gata1 expression. Surprisingly, Gata2 expression was also concomitantly low, suggesting a more complex interaction between these 2 factors than currently envisaged. Thus, whereas mHS-3.5 alone is sufficient for megakaryocytic development, mHS-3.5 and mHS-25/6 collectively regulate erythroid Gata1 expression, demonstrating lineage-specific differences in Gata1 cis-element use important for development of these 2 cell types.

Eguchi-Ishimae M, Eguchi M, Maki K, Porcher C, Shimizu R, Yamamoto M, Mitani K. 2009. Leukemia-related transcription factor TEL/ETV6 expands erythroid precursors and stimulates hemoglobin synthesis. Cancer Sci, 100 (4), pp. 689-697. | Show Abstract | Read more

TEL/ETV6 located at chromosome 12p13 encodes a member of the E26 transformation-specific family of transcription factors. TEL is known to be rearranged in a variety of leukemias and solid tumors resulting in the formation of oncogenic chimeric protein. Tel is essential for maintaining hematopoietic stem cells in the bone marrow. To understand the role of TEL in erythropoiesis, we generated transgenic mice expressing human TEL under the control of Gata1 promoter that is activated during the course of the erythroid-lineage differentiation (GATA1-TEL transgenic mice). Although GATA1-TEL transgenic mice appeared healthy up to 18 months of age, the level of hemoglobin was higher in transgenic mice compared to non-transgenic littermates. In addition, CD71+/TER119+ and c-kit+/CD41+ populations proliferated with a higher frequency in transgenic mice when bone marrow cells were cultured in the presence of erythropoietin and thrombopoietin, respectively. In transgenic mice, enhanced expression of Alas-e and beta-major globin genes was observed in erythroid-committed cells. When embryonic stem cells expressing human TEL under the same Gata1 promoter were differentiated into hematopoietic cells, immature erythroid precursor increased better compared to controls as judged from the numbers of burst-forming unit of erythrocytes. Our findings suggest some roles of TEL in expanding erythroid precursors and accumulating hemoglobin.

Hamlett I, Draper J, Strouboulis J, Iborra F, Porcher C, Vyas P. 2008. Characterization of megakaryocyte GATA1-interacting proteins: the corepressor ETO2 and GATA1 interact to regulate terminal megakaryocyte maturation. Blood, 112 (7), pp. 2738-2749. | Show Abstract | Read more

The transcription factor GATA1 coordinates timely activation and repression of megakaryocyte gene expression. Loss of GATA1 function results in excessive megakaryocyte proliferation and disordered terminal platelet maturation, leading to thrombocytopenia and leukemia in patients. The mechanisms by which GATA1 does this are unclear. We have used in vivo biotinylated GATA1 to isolate megakaryocyte GATA1-partner proteins. Here, several independent approaches show that GATA1 interacts with several proteins in the megakaryocyte cell line L8057 and in primary megakaryocytes. They include FOG1, the NURD complex, the pentameric complex containing SCL/TAL-1, the zinc-finger regulators GFI1B and ZFP143, and the corepressor ETO2. Knockdown of ETO2 expression promotes megakaryocyte differentiation and enhances expression of select genes expressed in terminal megakaryocyte maturation, eg, platelet factor 4 (Pf4). ETO2-dependent direct repression of the Pf4 proximal promoter is mediated by GATA-binding sites and an E-Box motif. Consistent with this, endogenous ETO2, GATA1, and the SCL pentameric complex all specifically bind the promoter in vivo. Finally, as ETO2 expression is restricted to immature megakaryocytes, these data suggest that ETO2 directly represses inappropriate early expression of a subset of terminally expressed megakaryocyte genes by binding to GATA1 and SCL.

Kassouf MT, Chagraoui H, Vyas P, Porcher C. 2008. Differential use of SCL/TAL-1 DNA-binding domain in developmental hematopoiesis. Blood, 112 (4), pp. 1056-1067. | Show Abstract | Read more

Dissecting the molecular mechanisms used by developmental regulators is essential to understand tissue specification/differentiation. SCL/TAL-1 is a basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor absolutely critical for hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell specification and lineage maturation. Using in vitro and forced expression experimental systems, we previously suggested that SCL might have DNA-binding-independent functions. Here, to assess the requirements for SCL DNA-binding activity in vivo, we examined hematopoietic development in mice carrying a germline DNA-binding mutation. Remarkably, in contrast to complete absence of hematopoiesis and early lethality in scl-null embryos, specification of hematopoietic cells occurred in homozygous mutant embryos, indicating that direct DNA binding is dispensable for this process. Lethality was forestalled to later in development, although some mice survived to adulthood. Anemia was documented throughout development and in adulthood. Cellular and molecular studies showed requirements for SCL direct DNA binding in red cell maturation and indicated that scl expression is positively autoregulated in terminally differentiating erythroid cells. Thus, different mechanisms of SCL's action predominate depending on the developmental/cellular context: indirect DNA binding activities and/or sequestration of other nuclear regulators are sufficient in specification processes, whereas direct DNA binding functions with transcriptional autoregulation are critically required in terminal maturation processes.

Guyot B, Murai K, Fujiwara Y, Valverde-Garduno V, Hammett M, Wells S, Dear N, Orkin SH, Porcher C, Vyas P. 2006. Characterization of a megakaryocyte-specific enhancer of the key hemopoietic transcription factor GATA1. J Biol Chem, 281 (19), pp. 13733-13742. | Show Abstract | Read more

Specification and differentiation of the megakaryocyte and erythroid lineages from a common bipotential progenitor provides a well studied model to dissect binary cell fate decisions. To understand how the distinct megakaryocyte- and erythroid-specific gene programs arise, we have examined the transcriptional regulation of the megakaryocyte erythroid transcription factor GATA1. Hemopoietic-specific mouse (m)GATA1 expression requires the mGata1 enhancer mHS-3.5. Within mHS-3.5, the 3' 179 bp of mHS-3.5 are required for megakaryocyte but not red cell expression. Here, we show mHS-3.5 binds key hemopoietic transcription factors in vivo and is required to maintain histone acetylation at the mGata1 locus in primary megakaryocytes. Analysis of GATA1-LacZ reporter gene expression in transgenic mice shows that a 25-bp element within the 3'-179 bp in mHS-3.5 is critical for megakaryocyte expression. In vitro three DNA binding activities A, B, and C bind to the core of the 25-bp element, and these binding sites are conserved through evolution. Activity A is the zinc finger transcription factor ZBP89 that also binds to other cis elements in the mGata1 locus. Activity B is of particular interest as it is present in primary megakaryocytes but not red cells. Furthermore, mutation analysis in transgenic mice reveals activity B is required for megakaryocyte-specific enhancer function. Bioinformatic analysis shows sequence corresponding to the binding site for activity B is a previously unrecognized motif, present in the cis elements of the Fli1 gene, another important megakaryocyte-specific transcription factor. In summary, we have identified a motif and a DNA binding activity likely to be important in directing a megakaryocyte gene expression program that is distinct from that in red cells.

Schuh AH, Tipping AJ, Clark AJ, Hamlett I, Guyot B, Iborra FJ, Rodriguez P, Strouboulis J, Enver T, Vyas P, Porcher C. 2005. ETO-2 associates with SCL in erythroid cells and megakaryocytes and provides repressor functions in erythropoiesis. Mol Cell Biol, 25 (23), pp. 10235-10250. | Show Abstract | Read more

Lineage specification and cellular maturation require coordinated regulation of gene expression programs. In large part, this is dependent on the activator and repressor functions of protein complexes associated with tissue-specific transcriptional regulators. In this study, we have used a proteomic approach to characterize multiprotein complexes containing the key hematopoietic regulator SCL in erythroid and megakaryocytic cell lines. One of the novel SCL-interacting proteins identified in both cell types is the transcriptional corepressor ETO-2. Interaction between endogenous proteins was confirmed in primary cells. We then showed that SCL complexes are shared but also significantly differ in the two cell types. Importantly, SCL/ETO-2 interacts with another corepressor, Gfi-1b, in red cells but not megakaryocytes. The SCL/ETO-2/Gfi-1b association is lost during erythroid differentiation of primary fetal liver cells. Genetic studies of erythroid cells show that ETO-2 exerts a repressor effect on SCL target genes. We suggest that, through its association with SCL, ETO-2 represses gene expression in the early stages of erythroid differentiation and that alleviation/modulation of the repressive state is then required for expression of genes necessary for terminal erythroid maturation to proceed.

Kuhl C, Atzberger A, Iborra F, Nieswandt B, Porcher C, Vyas P. 2005. GATA1-mediated megakaryocyte differentiation and growth control can be uncoupled and mapped to different domains in GATA1. Mol Cell Biol, 25 (19), pp. 8592-8606. | Show Abstract | Read more

The DNA-binding hemopoietic zinc finger transcription factor GATA1 promotes terminal megakaryocyte differentiation and restrains abnormal immature megakaryocyte expansion. How GATA1 coordinates these fundamental processes is unclear. Previous studies of synthetic and naturally occurring mutant GATA1 molecules demonstrate that DNA-binding and interaction with the essential GATA1 cofactor FOG-1 (via the N-terminal finger) are required for gene expression in terminally differentiating megakaryocytes and for platelet production. Moreover, acquired mutations deleting the N-terminal 84 amino acids are specifically detected in megakaryocytic leukemia in human Down syndrome patients. In this study, we have systematically dissected GATA1 domains required for platelet release and control of megakaryocyte growth by ectopically expressing modified GATA1 molecules in primary GATA1-deficient fetal megakaryocyte progenitors. In addition to DNA binding, distinct N-terminal regions, including residues in the first 84 amino acids, promote platelet release and restrict megakaryocyte growth. In contrast, abrogation of GATA1-FOG-1 interaction leads to loss of differentiation, but growth of blocked immature megakaryocytes is controlled. Thus, distinct GATA1 domains regulate terminal megakaryocyte gene expression leading to platelet release and restrain megakaryocyte growth, and these processes can be uncoupled.

Valverde-Garduno V, Guyot B, Anguita E, Hamlett I, Porcher C, Vyas P. 2004. Differences in the chromatin structure and cis-element organization of the human and mouse GATA1 loci: implications for cis-element identification. Blood, 104 (10), pp. 3106-3116. | Show Abstract | Read more

Cis-element identification is a prerequisite to understand transcriptional regulation of gene loci. From analysis of a limited number of conserved gene loci, sequence comparison has proved a robust and efficient way to locate cis-elements. Human and mouse GATA1 genes encode a critical hematopoietic transcription factor conserved in expression and function. Proper control of GATA1 transcription is critical in regulating myeloid lineage specification and maturation. Here, we compared sequence and systematically mapped position of DNase I hypersensitive sites, acetylation status of histone H3/H4, and in vivo binding of transcription factors over approximately 120 kilobases flanking the human GATA1 gene and the corresponding region in mice. Despite lying in approximately 10 megabase (Mb) conserved syntenic segment, the chromatin structures of the 2 homologous loci are strikingly different. The 2 previously unidentified hematopoietic cis-elements, one in each species, are not conserved in position and sequence and have enhancer activity in erythroid cells. In vivo, they both bind the transcription factors GATA1, SCL, LMO2, and Ldb1. More broadly, there are both species- and regulatory element-specific patterns of transcription factor binding. These findings suggest that some cis-elements regulating human and mouse GATA1 genes differ. More generally, mouse human sequence comparison may fail to identify all cis-elements.

Schlaeger TM, Schuh A, Flitter S, Fisher A, Mikkola H, Orkin SH, Vyas P, Porcher C. 2004. Decoding hematopoietic specificity in the helix-loop-helix domain of the transcription factor SCL/Tal-1. Mol Cell Biol, 24 (17), pp. 7491-7502. | Show Abstract | Read more

The helix-loop-helix (HLH) domain is employed by many transcription factors that control cell fate choice in multiple developmental settings. Previously, we demonstrated that the HLH domain of the class II basic HLH (bHLH) protein SCL/Tal-1 is critical for hematopoietic specification. We have now identified residues in this domain that are essential for restoring hematopoietic development to SCL-/- embryonic stem cells and sufficient to convert a muscle-specific HLH domain to one able to rescue hematopoiesis. Most of these critical residues are distributed in the loop of SCL, with one in helix 2. This is in contrast to the case for MyoD, the prototype of class II bHLH proteins, where the loop seems to serve mainly as a linker between the two helices. Among the identified residues, some promote heterodimerization with the bHLH partners of SCL (E12/E47), while others, unimportant for this property, are still crucial for the biological function of SCL. Importantly, the residue in helix 2 specifically promotes interaction with a known partner of SCL, the LIM-only protein LMO2, a finding that strengthens genetic evidence that these proteins interact. Our data highlight the functional complexity of bHLH proteins, provide mechanistic insight into SCL function, and strongly support the existence of an active SCL/LMO2-containing multiprotein complex in early hematopoietic cells.

Guyot B, Valverde-Garduno V, Porcher C, Vyas P. 2004. Deletion of the major GATA1 enhancer HS 1 does not affect eosinophil GATA1 expression and eosinophil differentiation. Blood, 104 (1), pp. 89-91. | Show Abstract | Read more

Expression of the myeloid transcription factor GATA1 is required for early stages of eosinophil differentiation. Defining mechanisms regulating eosinophil GATA1 expression will be important to understand development of this lineage. However, the cis-elements required for eosinophil GATA1 expression are not fully characterized. Previous work identified HS 1 as a major GATA1 enhancer, but its role in eosinophil GATA1 expression is unclear. Here, we show that mouse HS 1 deletion leaves eosinophil GATA1 mRNA expression and eosinophil differentiation unaffected. Chromatin isolated from eosinophils and encompassing HS 1 is weakly enriched for acetylated histones H3/H4. HS 1 deletion does not alter eosinophil GATA1 locus histone acetylation. In eosinophils, GATA1 and CCAAT/enhancer binding protein epsilon (C/EBP epsilon) do not bind HS 1 but bind selectively a cis-element in the first GATA1 intron. Thus, HS 1 is not required for eosinophil GATA1 expression. Instead, this study suggests a previously unsuspected role for the GATA1 intron element for this function.

Lécuyer E, Herblot S, Saint-Denis M, Martin R, Begley CG, Porcher C, Orkin SH, Hoang T. 2002. The SCL complex regulates c-kit expression in hematopoietic cells through functional interaction with Sp1. Blood, 100 (7), pp. 2430-2440. | Show Abstract | Read more

The combinatorial interaction among transcription factors is believed to determine hematopoietic cell fate. Stem cell leukemia (SCL, also known as TAL1 [T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia 1]) is a tissue-specific basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) factor that plays a central function in hematopoietic development; however, its target genes and molecular mode of action remain to be elucidated. Here we show that SCL and the c-Kit receptor are coexpressed in hematopoietic progenitors at the single-cell level and that SCL induces c-kit in chromatin, as ectopic SCL expression in transgenic mice sustains c-kit transcription in developing B lymphocytes, in which both genes are normally down-regulated. Through transient transfection assays and coimmunoprecipitation of endogenous proteins, we define the role of SCL as a nucleation factor for a multifactorial complex (SCL complex) that specifically enhances c-kit promoter activity without affecting the activity of myelomonocytic promoters. This complex, containing hematopoietic-specific (SCL, Lim-only 2 (LMO2), GATA-1/GATA-2) and ubiquitous (E2A, LIM- domain binding protein 1 [Ldb-1]) factors, is tethered to DNA via a specificity protein 1 (Sp1) motif, through direct interactions between elements of the SCL complex and the Sp1 zinc finger protein. Furthermore, we demonstrate by chromatin immunoprecipitation that SCL, E2A, and Sp1 specifically co-occupy the c-kit promoter in vivo. We therefore conclude that c-kit is a direct target of the SCL complex. Proper activation of the c-kit promoter depends on the combinatorial interaction of all members of the complex. Since SCL is down-regulated in maturing cells while its partners remain expressed, our observations suggest that loss of SCL inactivates the SCL complex, which may be an important event in the differentiation of pluripotent hematopoietic cells.

El Omari K, Hoosdally SJ, Tuladhar K, Karia D, Hall-Ponselé E, Platonova O, Vyas P, Patient R, Porcher C, Mancini EJ. 2013. Structural basis for LMO2-driven recruitment of the SCL:E47bHLH heterodimer to hematopoietic-specific transcriptional targets. Cell Rep, 4 (1), pp. 135-147. | Show Abstract | Read more

Cell fate is governed by combinatorial actions of transcriptional regulators assembling into multiprotein complexes. However, the molecular details of how these complexes form are poorly understood. One such complex, which contains the basic-helix-loop-helix heterodimer SCL:E47 and bridging proteins LMO2:LDB1, critically regulates hematopoiesis and induces T cell leukemia. Here, we report the crystal structure of (SCL:E47)bHLH:LMO2:LDB1LID bound to DNA, providing a molecular account of the network of interactions assembling this complex. This reveals an unexpected role for LMO2. Upon binding to SCL, LMO2 induces new hydrogen bonds in SCL:E47, thereby strengthening heterodimer formation. This imposes a rotation movement onto E47 that weakens the heterodimer:DNA interaction, shifting the main DNA-binding activity onto additional protein partners. Along with biochemical analyses, this illustrates, at an atomic level, how hematopoietic-specific SCL sequesters ubiquitous E47 and associated cofactors and supports SCL's reported DNA-binding-independent functions. Importantly, this work will drive the design of small molecules inhibiting leukemogenic processes.

Leung A, Ciau-Uitz A, Pinheiro P, Monteiro R, Zuo J, Vyas P, Patient R, Porcher C. 2013. Uncoupling VEGFA functions in arteriogenesis and hematopoietic stem cell specification. Dev Cell, 24 (2), pp. 144-158. | Show Abstract | Read more

VEGFA signaling is critical for endothelial and hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) specification. However, blood defects resulting from perturbation of the VEGFA pathway are always accompanied by impaired vascular/arterial development. Because HSCs derive from arterial cells, it is unclear whether VEGFA directly contributes to HSC specification. This is an important question for our understanding of how HSCs are formed and for developing their production in vitro. Through knockdown of the regulator ETO2 in embryogenesis, we report a specific decrease in expression of medium/long Vegfa isoforms in somites. This leads to absence of Notch1 expression and failure of HSC specification in the dorsal aorta (DA), independently of vessel formation and arterial specification. Vegfa hypomorphs and isoform-specific (medium/long) morphants not only recapitulate this phenotype but also demonstrate that VEGFA short isoform is sufficient for DA development. Therefore, sequential, isoform-specific VEGFA signaling successively induces the endothelial, arterial, and HSC programs in the DA.

Chagraoui H, Porcher C. 2012. Establishment of an ES cell-derived murine megakaryocytic cell line, MKD1, with features of primary megakaryocyte progenitors. PLoS One, 7 (3), pp. e32981. | Show Abstract | Read more

Because of the scarcity of megakaryocytes in hematopoietic tissues, studying megakaryopoiesis heavily relies on the availability of appropriate cellular models. Here, we report the establishment of a new mouse embryonic stem (ES) cell-derived megakaryocytic cell line, MKD1. The cells are factor-dependent, their cell surface immunophenotype and gene expression profile closely resemble that of primary megakaryocyte progenitors (MkPs) and they further differentiate along the megakaryocyte lineage upon valproic acid treatment. At a functional level, we show that ablation of SCL expression, a transcription factor critical for MkP maturation, leads to gene expression alterations similar to that observed in primary, Scl-excised MkPs. Moreover, the cell line is amenable to biochemical and transcriptional analyses, as we report for GpVI, a direct target of SCL. Thus, the MKD1 cell line offers a pertinent experimental model to study the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying MkP biology and more broadly megakaryopoiesis.

Chagraoui H, Kassouf M, Banerjee S, Goardon N, Clark K, Atzberger A, Pearce AC, Skoda RC, Ferguson DJ, Watson SP et al. 2011. SCL-mediated regulation of the cell-cycle regulator p21 is critical for murine megakaryopoiesis. Blood, 118 (3), pp. 723-735. | Show Abstract | Read more

Megakaryopoiesis is a complex process that involves major cellular and nuclear changes and relies on controlled coordination of cellular proliferation and differentiation. These mechanisms are orchestrated in part by transcriptional regulators. The key hematopoietic transcription factor stem cell leukemia (SCL)/TAL1 is required in early hematopoietic progenitors for specification of the megakaryocytic lineage. These early functions have, so far, prevented full investigation of its role in megakaryocyte development in loss-of-function studies. Here, we report that SCL critically controls terminal megakaryocyte maturation. In vivo deletion of Scl specifically in the megakaryocytic lineage affects all key attributes of megakaryocyte progenitors (MkPs), namely, proliferation, ploidization, cytoplasmic maturation, and platelet release. Genome-wide expression analysis reveals increased expression of the cell-cycle regulator p21 in Scl-deleted MkPs. Importantly, p21 knockdown-mediated rescue of Scl-mutant MkPs shows full restoration of cell-cycle progression and partial rescue of the nuclear and cytoplasmic maturation defects. Therefore, SCL-mediated transcriptional control of p21 is essential for terminal maturation of MkPs. Our study provides a mechanistic link between a major hematopoietic transcriptional regulator, cell-cycle progression, and megakaryocytic differentiation.

Goardon N, Marchi E, Atzberger A, Quek L, Schuh A, Soneji S, Woll P, Mead A, Alford KA, Rout R et al. 2011. Coexistence of LMPP-like and GMP-like leukemia stem cells in acute myeloid leukemia. Cancer Cell, 19 (1), pp. 138-152. | Show Abstract | Read more

The relationships between normal and leukemic stem/progenitor cells are unclear. We show that in ∼80% of primary human CD34+ acute myeloid leukemia (AML), two expanded populations with hemopoietic progenitor immunophenotype coexist in most patients. Both populations have leukemic stem cell (LSC) activity and are hierarchically ordered; one LSC population gives rise to the other. Global gene expression profiling shows the LSC populations are molecularly distinct and resemble normal progenitors but not stem cells. The more mature LSC population most closely mirrors normal granulocyte-macrophage progenitors (GMP) and the immature LSC population a previously uncharacterized progenitor functionally similar to lymphoid-primed multipotential progenitors (LMPPs). This suggests that in most cases primary CD34+ AML is a progenitor disease where LSCs acquire abnormal self-renewal potential.

El Omari K, Hoosdally SJ, Tuladhar K, Karia D, Vyas P, Patient R, Porcher C, Mancini EJ. 2011. Structure of the leukemia oncogene LMO2: implications for the assembly of a hematopoietic transcription factor complex. Blood, 117 (7), pp. 2146-2156. | Show Abstract | Read more

The LIM only protein 2 (LMO2) is a key regulator of hematopoietic stem cell development whose ectopic expression in T cells leads to the onset of acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Through its LIM domains, LMO2 is thought to function as the scaffold for a DNA-binding transcription regulator complex, including the basic helix-loop-helix proteins SCL/TAL1 and E47, the zinc finger protein GATA-1, and LIM-domain interacting protein LDB1. To understand the role of LMO2 in the formation of this complex and ultimately to dissect its function in normal and aberrant hematopoiesis, we solved the crystal structure of LMO2 in complex with the LID domain of LDB1 at 2.4 Å resolution. We observe a largely unstructured LMO2 kept in register by the LID binding both LIM domains. Comparison of independently determined crystal structures of LMO2 reveals large movements around a conserved hinge between the LIM domains. We demonstrate that such conformational flexibility is necessary for binding of LMO2 to its partner protein SCL/TAL1 in vitro and for the function of this complex in vivo. These results, together with molecular docking and analysis of evolutionarily conserved residues, yield the first structural model of the DNA-binding complex containing LMO2, LDB1, SCL/TAL1, and GATA-1.

Kassouf MT, Hughes JR, Taylor S, McGowan SJ, Soneji S, Green AL, Vyas P, Porcher C. 2010. Genome-wide identification of TAL1's functional targets: insights into its mechanisms of action in primary erythroid cells. Genome Res, 20 (8), pp. 1064-1083. | Show Abstract | Read more

Coordination of cellular processes through the establishment of tissue-specific gene expression programs is essential for lineage maturation. The basic helix-loop-helix hemopoietic transcriptional regulator TAL1 (formerly SCL) is required for terminal differentiation of red blood cells. To gain insight into TAL1 function and mechanisms of action in erythropoiesis, we performed ChIP-sequencing and gene expression analyses from primary fetal liver erythroid cells. We show that TAL1 coordinates expression of genes in most known red cell-specific processes. The majority of TAL1's genomic targets require direct DNA-binding activity. However, one-fifth of TAL1's target sequences, mainly among those showing high affinity for TAL1, can recruit the factor independently of its DNA binding activity. An unbiased DNA motif search of sequences bound by TAL1 identified CAGNTG as TAL1-preferred E-box motif in erythroid cells. Novel motifs were also characterized that may help distinguish activated from repressed genes and suggest a new mechanism by which TAL1 may be recruited to DNA. Finally, analysis of recruitment of GATA1, a protein partner of TAL1, to sequences occupied by TAL1 suggests that TAL1's binding is necessary prior or simultaneous to that of GATA1. This work provides the framework to study regulatory networks leading to erythroid terminal maturation and to model mechanisms of action of tissue-specific transcription factors.

Drissen R, Guyot B, Zhang L, Atzberger A, Sloane-Stanley J, Wood B, Porcher C, Vyas P. 2010. Lineage-specific combinatorial action of enhancers regulates mouse erythroid Gata1 expression. Blood, 115 (17), pp. 3463-3471. | Show Abstract | Read more

Precise spatiotemporal control of Gata1 expression is required in both early hematopoietic progenitors to determine erythroid/megakaryocyte versus granulocyte/monocyte lineage output and in the subsequent differentiation of erythroid cells and megakaryocytes. An enhancer element upstream of the mouse Gata1 IE (1st exon erythroid) promoter, mHS-3.5, can direct both erythroid and megakaryocytic expression. However, loss of this element ablates only megakaryocytes, implying that an additional element has erythroid specificity. Here, we identify a double DNaseI hypersensitive site, mHS-25/6, as having erythroid but not megakaryocytic activity in primary cells. It binds an activating transcription factor complex in erythroid cells where it also makes physical contact with the Gata1 promoter. Deletion of mHS-25/6 or mHS-3.5 in embryonic stem cells has only a modest effect on in vitro erythroid differentiation, whereas loss of both elements ablates both primitive and definitive erythropoiesis with an almost complete loss of Gata1 expression. Surprisingly, Gata2 expression was also concomitantly low, suggesting a more complex interaction between these 2 factors than currently envisaged. Thus, whereas mHS-3.5 alone is sufficient for megakaryocytic development, mHS-3.5 and mHS-25/6 collectively regulate erythroid Gata1 expression, demonstrating lineage-specific differences in Gata1 cis-element use important for development of these 2 cell types.

Kassouf MT, Chagraoui H, Vyas P, Porcher C. 2008. Differential use of SCL/TAL-1 DNA-binding domain in developmental hematopoiesis. Blood, 112 (4), pp. 1056-1067. | Show Abstract | Read more

Dissecting the molecular mechanisms used by developmental regulators is essential to understand tissue specification/differentiation. SCL/TAL-1 is a basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor absolutely critical for hematopoietic stem/progenitor cell specification and lineage maturation. Using in vitro and forced expression experimental systems, we previously suggested that SCL might have DNA-binding-independent functions. Here, to assess the requirements for SCL DNA-binding activity in vivo, we examined hematopoietic development in mice carrying a germline DNA-binding mutation. Remarkably, in contrast to complete absence of hematopoiesis and early lethality in scl-null embryos, specification of hematopoietic cells occurred in homozygous mutant embryos, indicating that direct DNA binding is dispensable for this process. Lethality was forestalled to later in development, although some mice survived to adulthood. Anemia was documented throughout development and in adulthood. Cellular and molecular studies showed requirements for SCL direct DNA binding in red cell maturation and indicated that scl expression is positively autoregulated in terminally differentiating erythroid cells. Thus, different mechanisms of SCL's action predominate depending on the developmental/cellular context: indirect DNA binding activities and/or sequestration of other nuclear regulators are sufficient in specification processes, whereas direct DNA binding functions with transcriptional autoregulation are critically required in terminal maturation processes.

Schuh AH, Tipping AJ, Clark AJ, Hamlett I, Guyot B, Iborra FJ, Rodriguez P, Strouboulis J, Enver T, Vyas P, Porcher C. 2005. ETO-2 associates with SCL in erythroid cells and megakaryocytes and provides repressor functions in erythropoiesis. Mol Cell Biol, 25 (23), pp. 10235-10250. | Show Abstract | Read more

Lineage specification and cellular maturation require coordinated regulation of gene expression programs. In large part, this is dependent on the activator and repressor functions of protein complexes associated with tissue-specific transcriptional regulators. In this study, we have used a proteomic approach to characterize multiprotein complexes containing the key hematopoietic regulator SCL in erythroid and megakaryocytic cell lines. One of the novel SCL-interacting proteins identified in both cell types is the transcriptional corepressor ETO-2. Interaction between endogenous proteins was confirmed in primary cells. We then showed that SCL complexes are shared but also significantly differ in the two cell types. Importantly, SCL/ETO-2 interacts with another corepressor, Gfi-1b, in red cells but not megakaryocytes. The SCL/ETO-2/Gfi-1b association is lost during erythroid differentiation of primary fetal liver cells. Genetic studies of erythroid cells show that ETO-2 exerts a repressor effect on SCL target genes. We suggest that, through its association with SCL, ETO-2 represses gene expression in the early stages of erythroid differentiation and that alleviation/modulation of the repressive state is then required for expression of genes necessary for terminal erythroid maturation to proceed.

Schlaeger TM, Schuh A, Flitter S, Fisher A, Mikkola H, Orkin SH, Vyas P, Porcher C. 2004. Decoding hematopoietic specificity in the helix-loop-helix domain of the transcription factor SCL/Tal-1. Mol Cell Biol, 24 (17), pp. 7491-7502. | Show Abstract | Read more

The helix-loop-helix (HLH) domain is employed by many transcription factors that control cell fate choice in multiple developmental settings. Previously, we demonstrated that the HLH domain of the class II basic HLH (bHLH) protein SCL/Tal-1 is critical for hematopoietic specification. We have now identified residues in this domain that are essential for restoring hematopoietic development to SCL-/- embryonic stem cells and sufficient to convert a muscle-specific HLH domain to one able to rescue hematopoiesis. Most of these critical residues are distributed in the loop of SCL, with one in helix 2. This is in contrast to the case for MyoD, the prototype of class II bHLH proteins, where the loop seems to serve mainly as a linker between the two helices. Among the identified residues, some promote heterodimerization with the bHLH partners of SCL (E12/E47), while others, unimportant for this property, are still crucial for the biological function of SCL. Importantly, the residue in helix 2 specifically promotes interaction with a known partner of SCL, the LIM-only protein LMO2, a finding that strengthens genetic evidence that these proteins interact. Our data highlight the functional complexity of bHLH proteins, provide mechanistic insight into SCL function, and strongly support the existence of an active SCL/LMO2-containing multiprotein complex in early hematopoietic cells.

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