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Congratulations to all our prize winners at this year’s WIMM Day.
Erf affects commitment and differentiation of osteoprogenitor cells in cranial sutures via the retinoic acid pathway.
ETS2 repressor factor (ERF) haploinsufficiency causes late onset craniosynostosis (OMIM 600775; CRS4) in humans while in mice Erf-insufficiency also leads to a similar multi-suture synostosis phenotype preceded by mildly reduced calvarium ossification. However, neither the cell types affected nor the effects per se have been identified so far. Here we establish an ex vivo system for the expansion of suture-derived mesenchymal stem and progenitor cells (sdMSCs) and analyze the role of Erf levels in their differentiation. Cellular data suggest that Erf-insufficiency specifically decreases osteogenic differentiation of sdMSCs resulting in the initially delayed mineralization of the calvarium. Transcriptome analysis indicates that Erf is required for efficient osteogenic lineage commitment of sdMSCs. Elevated retinoic acid catabolism due to increased levels of the cytochrome P450 superfamily member Cyp26b1 as a result of decreased Erf levels appears to be the underlying mechanism leading to defective differentiation. Exogenous addition of retinoic acid can rescue the osteogenic differentiation defect suggesting that Erf affects cranial bone mineralization during skull development through retinoic acid gradient regulation.
The GP130 cytokine receptor subunit encoded by IL6ST is the shared receptor for ten cytokines of the IL-6 family. We describe a homozygous non-synonymous variant in IL6ST (p.R281Q) in a patient with craniosynostosis and retained deciduous teeth. We characterize the impact of the variant on cytokine signaling in vitro using transfected cell lines as well as primary patient-derived cells and support these findings using a mouse model with the corresponding genome-edited variant Il6st p.R279Q. We show that human GP130 p.R281Q is associated with selective loss of IL-11 signaling without affecting IL-6, IL-27, OSM, LIF, CT1, CLC, and CNTF signaling. In mice Il6st p.R279Q lowers litter size and causes facial synostosis and teeth abnormalities. The effect on IL-11 signaling caused by the GP130 variant shows incomplete penetrance but phenocopies aspects of IL11RA deficiency in humans and mice. Our data show that a genetic variant in a pleiotropic cytokine receptor can have remarkably selective defects.
Tracking and understanding data quality, analysis and reproducibility are critical concerns in the biological sciences. This is especially true in genomics where next generation sequencing (NGS) based technologies such as ChIP-seq, RNA-seq and ATAC-seq are generating a flood of genome-scale data. However, such data are usually processed with automated tools and pipelines, generating tabular outputs and static visualisations. Interpretation is normally made at a high level without the ability to visualise the underlying data in detail. Conventional genome browsers are limited to browsing single locations and do not allow for interactions with the dataset as a whole. Multi Locus View (MLV), a web-based tool, has been developed to allow users to fluidly interact with genomics datasets at multiple scales. The user is able to browse the raw data, cluster, and combine the data with other analysis and annotate the data. User datasets can then be shared with other users or made public for quick assessment from the academic community. MLV is publically available at https://mlv.molbiol.ox.ac.uk .
Development of LT-HSC-Reconstituted Non-Irradiated NBSGW Mice for the Study of Human Hematopoiesis In Vivo.
Humanized immune system (HIS) mouse models are useful tools for the in vivo investigation of human hematopoiesis. However, the majority of HIS models currently in use are biased towards lymphocyte development and fail to support long-term multilineage leucocytes and erythrocytes. Those that achieve successful multilineage reconstitution often require preconditioning steps which are expensive, cause animal morbidity, are technically demanding, and poorly reproducible. In this study, we address this challenge by using HSPC-NBSGW mice, in which NOD,B6.SCID IL-2rγ-/-KitW41/W41 (NBSGW) mice are engrafted with human CD133+ hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) without the need for preconditioning by sublethal irradiation. These HSPCs are enriched in long-term hematopoietic stem cells (LT-HSCs), while NBSGW mice are permissive to human hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) engraftment, thus reducing the cell number required for successful HIS development. B cells reconstitute with the greatest efficiency, including mature B cells capable of class-switching following allogeneic stimulation and, within lymphoid organs and peripheral blood, T cells at a spectrum of stages of maturation. In the thymus, human thymocytes are identified at all major stages of development. Phenotypically distinct subsets of myeloid cells, including dendritic cells and mature monocytes, engraft to a variable degree in the bone marrow and spleen, and circulate in peripheral blood. Finally, we observe human erythrocytes which persist in the periphery at high levels following macrophage clearance. The HSPC-NBSGW model therefore provides a useful platform for the study of human hematological and immunological processes and pathologies.
Multiple myeloma is a malignancy of plasma cells (PC) initiated and driven by primary and secondary genetic events. Nevertheless, myeloma PC survival and proliferation might be sustained by non-genetic drivers. Z-DNA-binding protein 1 (ZBP1; also known as DAI) is an interferon-inducible, Z-nucleic acid sensor that triggers RIPK3-MLKL-mediated necroptosis in mice. ZBP1 also interacts with TBK1 and the transcription factor IRF3 but the function of this interaction is unclear, and the role of ZBP1-IRF3 axis in cancer is not known. Here we show that ZBP1 is selectively expressed in late B cell development in both human and mouse cells and it is required for optimal T-cell-dependent humoral immune responses. In myeloma PC, interaction of constitutively expressed ZBP1 with TBK1 and IRF3 results in IRF3 phosphorylation. IRF3 directly binds and activates cell cycle genes, in part through co-operation with the PC lineage-defining transcription factor IRF4, and thereby promoting myeloma cell proliferation. This generates a novel, potentially therapeutically targetable and relatively selective myeloma cell addiction to the ZBP1-IRF3 axis. Our data also show a non-canonical function of constitutive ZBP1 in human cells and expand our knowledge of the role of cellular immune sensors in cancer biology.
A KMT2A-AFF1 gene regulatory network highlights the role of core transcription factors and reveals the regulatory logic of key downstream target genes.
Regulatory interactions mediated by transcription factors (TFs) make up complex networks that control cellular behavior. Fully understanding these gene regulatory networks (GRNs) offers greater insight into the consequences of disease-causing perturbations than can be achieved by studying single TF binding events in isolation. Chromosomal translocations of the lysine methyltransferase 2A (KMT2A) produce KMT2A fusion proteins such as KMT2A-AFF1, causing poor prognosis acute lymphoblastic leukemias (ALLs) that sometimes relapse as acute myeloid leukemias (AMLs). KMT2A-AFF1 is thought to drive leukemogenesis through direct binding and inducing aberrant overexpression of key gene targets, such as the anti-apoptotic factor BCL2 and the proto-oncogene MYC However, studying direct binding alone does not allow for network generated regulatory outputs, including the indirect induction of gene repression. To better understand the KMT2A-AFF1 driven regulatory landscape, we integrated ChIP-seq, patient RNA-seq and CRISPR essentiality screens to generate a model GRN. This GRN identified several key transcription factors, including RUNX1, that regulate target genes downstream of KMT2A-AFF1 using feed-forward loop (FFL) and cascade motifs. A core set of nodes are present in both ALL and AML, and CRISPR screening revealed several factors that help mediate response to the drug venetoclax. Using our GRN, we then identified an KMT2A-AFF1:RUNX1 cascade that represses CASP9, as well as KMT2A-AFF1 driven FFLs that regulate BCL2 and MYC through combinatorial TF activity. This illustrates how our GRN can be used to better connect KMT2A-AFF1 behavior to downstream pathways that contribute to leukemogenesis, and potentially predict shifts in gene expression that mediate drug response.
A delicate equilibrium of WNT agonists and antagonists in the intestinal stem cell (ISC) niche is critical to maintaining the ISC compartment, as it accommodates the rapid renewal of the gut lining. Disruption of this balance by mutations in the tumour suppressor gene APC, which are found in approximately 80% of all human colon cancers, leads to unrestrained activation of the WNT pathway1,2. It has previously been established that Apc-mutant cells have a competitive advantage over wild-type ISCs3. Consequently, Apc-mutant ISCs frequently outcompete all wild-type stem cells within a crypt, thereby reaching clonal fixation in the tissue and initiating cancer formation. However, whether the increased relative fitness of Apc-mutant ISCs involves only cell-intrinsic features or whether Apc mutants are actively involved in the elimination of their wild-type neighbours remains unresolved. Here we show that Apc-mutant ISCs function as bona fide supercompetitors by secreting WNT antagonists, thereby inducing differentiation of neighbouring wild-type ISCs. Lithium chloride prevented the expansion of Apc-mutant clones and the formation of adenomas by rendering wild-type ISCs insensitive to WNT antagonists through downstream activation of WNT by inhibition of GSK3β. Our work suggests that boosting the fitness of healthy cells to limit the expansion of pre-malignant clones may be a powerful strategy to limit the formation of cancers in high-risk individuals.
Discovery of a CD10-negative B-progenitor in human fetal life identifies unique ontogeny-related developmental programs.
Human lymphopoiesis is a dynamic lifelong process that starts in utero 6 weeks postconception. Although fetal B-lymphopoiesis remains poorly defined, it is key to understanding leukemia initiation in early life. Here, we provide a comprehensive analysis of the human fetal B-cell developmental hierarchy. We report the presence in fetal tissues of 2 distinct CD19+ B-progenitors, an adult-type CD10+ve ProB-progenitor and a new CD10-ve PreProB-progenitor, and describe their molecular and functional characteristics. PreProB-progenitors and ProB-progenitors appear early in the first trimester in embryonic liver, followed by a sustained second wave of B-progenitor development in fetal bone marrow (BM), where together they form >40% of the total hematopoietic stem cell/progenitor pool. Almost one-third of fetal B-progenitors are CD10-ve PreProB-progenitors, whereas, by contrast, PreProB-progenitors are almost undetectable (0.53% ± 0.24%) in adult BM. Single-cell transcriptomics and functional assays place fetal PreProB-progenitors upstream of ProB-progenitors, identifying them as the first B-lymphoid-restricted progenitor in human fetal life. Although fetal BM PreProB-progenitors and ProB-progenitors both give rise solely to B-lineage cells, they are transcriptionally distinct. As with their fetal counterparts, adult BM PreProB-progenitors give rise only to B-lineage cells in vitro and express the expected B-lineage gene expression program. However, fetal PreProB-progenitors display a distinct, ontogeny-related gene expression pattern that is not seen in adult PreProB-progenitors, and they share transcriptomic signatures with CD10-ve B-progenitor infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia blast cells. These data identify PreProB-progenitors as the earliest B-lymphoid-restricted progenitor in human fetal life and suggest that this fetal-restricted committed B-progenitor might provide a permissive cellular context for prenatal B-progenitor leukemia initiation.
Down syndrome is associated with genome-wide perturbation of gene expression, which may be mediated by epigenetic changes. We perform an epigenome-wide association study on neonatal bloodspots comparing 196 newborns with Down syndrome and 439 newborns without Down syndrome, adjusting for cell-type heterogeneity, which identifies 652 epigenome-wide significant CpGs (P
Hhex is Required at Multiple Stages of Adult Hematopoietic Stem and Progenitor Cell Differentiation.
Hhex encodes a homeodomain transcription factor that is widely expressed in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell populations. Its enforced expression induces T-cell leukemia and we have implicated it as an important oncogene in early T-cell precursor leukemias where it is immediately downstream of an LMO2-associated protein complex. Conventional Hhex knockouts cause embryonic lethality precluding analysis of adult hematopoiesis. Thus, we induced highly efficient conditional knockout (cKO) using vav-Cre transgenic mice. Hhex cKO mice were viable and born at normal litter sizes. At steady state, we observed a defect in B-cell development that we localized to the earliest B-cell precursor, the pro-B-cell stage. Most remarkably, bone marrow transplantation using Hhex cKO donor cells revealed a more profound defect in all hematopoietic lineages. In contrast, sublethal irradiation resulted in normal myeloid cell repopulation of the bone marrow but markedly impaired repopulation of T- and B-cell compartments. We noted that Hhex cKO stem and progenitor cell populations were skewed in their distribution and showed enhanced proliferation compared to WT cells. Our results implicate Hhex in the maintenance of LT-HSCs and in lineage allocation from multipotent progenitors especially in stress hematopoiesis.