Master of Science, Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (ETH Zurich) (2007)
Doctor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge (2011)
Lars Steinmetz, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
The majority of disease-associated variants lie outside protein-coding regions, suggesting a link between variation in regulatory regions and disease predisposition. We studied differences in chromatin states using five histone modifications, cohesin, and CTCF in lymphoblastoid lines from 19 individuals of diverse ancestry. We found extensive signal variation in regulatory regions, which often switch between active and repressed states across individuals. Enhancer activity is particularly diverse among individuals, whereas gene expression remains relatively stable. Chromatin variability shows genetic inheritance in trios, correlates with genetic variation and population divergence, and is associated with disruptions of transcription factor binding motifs. Overall, our results provide insights into chromatin variation among humans.
View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1242510
View details for Web of Science ID 000326647600047
View details for PubMedID 24136358
Eukaryotic genomes are extensively transcribed, forming both messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs). ncRNAs made by RNA polymerase II often initiate from bidirectional promoters (nucleosome-depleted chromatin) that synthesize mRNA and ncRNA in opposite directions. We demonstrate that, by adopting a gene-loop conformation, actively transcribed mRNA encoding genes restrict divergent transcription of ncRNAs. Because gene-loop formation depends on a protein factor (Ssu72) that coassociates with both the promoter and the terminator, the inactivation of Ssu72 leads to increased synthesis of promoter-associated divergent ncRNAs, referred to as Ssu72-restricted transcripts (SRTs). Similarly, inactivation of individual gene loops by gene mutation enhances SRT synthesis. We demonstrate that gene-loop conformation enforces transcriptional directionality on otherwise bidirectional promoters.
View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1224350
View details for Web of Science ID 000310516000054
View details for PubMedID 23019609
Nucleosomes play an important role in gene regulation. Molecular studies observed that nucleosome binding in promoters tends to be repressive. In contrast, genomic studies have delivered conflicting results: An analysis of yeast grown on diverse carbon sources reported that nucleosome occupancies remain largely unchanged between conditions, whereas a study of the heat-shock response suggested that nucleosomes get evicted at promoters of genes with increased expression. Consequently, there are few general principles that capture the relationship between chromatin organization and transcriptional regulation. Here, we present a qualitative model for nucleosome positioning in Saccharomyces cerevisiae that helps explain important properties of gene expression. By integrating publicly available data sets, we observe that promoter-bound nucleosomes assume one of four discrete configurations that determine the active and silent transcriptional states of a gene, but not its expression level. In TATA-box-containing promoters, nucleosome architecture indicates the amount of transcriptional noise. We show that >20% of genes switch promoter states upon changes in cellular conditions. The data suggest that DNA-binding transcription factors together with chromatin-remodeling enzymes are primarily responsible for the nucleosome architecture. Our model for promoter nucleosome architecture reconciles genome-scale findings with molecular studies; in doing so, we establish principles for nucleosome positioning and gene expression that apply not only to individual genes, but across the entire genome. The study provides a stepping stone for future models of transcriptional regulation that encompass the intricate interplay between cis- and trans-acting factors, chromatin, and the core transcriptional machinery.
View details for DOI 10.1101/gr.124099.111
View details for Web of Science ID 000298854200008
View details for PubMedID 21930892
The recognition of carbon sources and the regulatory adjustments to recognized changes are of particular importance for bacterial survival in fluctuating environments. Despite a thorough knowledge base of Escherichia coli's central metabolism and its regulation, fundamental aspects of the employed sensing and regulatory adjustment mechanisms remain unclear. In this paper, using a differential equation model that couples enzymatic and transcriptional regulation of E. coli's central metabolism, we show that the interplay of known interactions explains in molecular-level detail the system-wide adjustments of metabolic operation between glycolytic and gluconeogenic carbon sources. We show that these adaptations are enabled by an indirect recognition of carbon sources through a mechanism we termed distributed sensing of intracellular metabolic fluxes. This mechanism uses two general motifs to establish flux-signaling metabolites, whose bindings to transcription factors form flux sensors. As these sensors are embedded in global feedback loop architectures, closed-loop self-regulation can emerge within metabolism itself and therefore, metabolic operation may adapt itself autonomously (not requiring upstream sensing and signaling) to fluctuating carbon sources.
View details for DOI 10.1038/msb.2010.10
View details for Web of Science ID 000276310300001
View details for PubMedID 20212527
N5-Carboxyaminoimidazole ribonucleotide mutase (N5-CAIR mutase or PurE) from Escherichia coli catalyzes the reversible interconversion of N5-CAIR to carboxyaminoimidazole ribonucleotide (CAIR) with direct CO2 transfer. Site-directed mutagenesis, a pH-rate profile, DFT calculations, and X-ray crystallography together provide new insight into the mechanism of this unusual transformation. These studies suggest that a conserved, protonated histidine (His45) plays an essential role in catalysis. The importance of proton transfers is supported by DFT calculations on CAIR and N5-CAIR analogues in which the ribose 5'-phosphate is replaced with a methyl group. The calculations suggest that the nonaromatic tautomer of CAIR (isoCAIR) is only 3.1 kcal/mol higher in energy than its aromatic counterpart, implicating this species as a potential intermediate in the PurE-catalyzed reaction. A structure of wild-type PurE cocrystallized with 4-nitroaminoimidazole ribonucleotide (NO2-AIR, a CAIR analogue) and structures of H45N and H45Q PurEs soaked with CAIR have been determined and provide the first insight into the binding of an intact PurE substrate. A comparison of 19 available structures of PurE and PurE mutants in apo and nucleotide-bound forms reveals a common, buried carboxylate or CO2 binding site for CAIR and N5-CAIR in a hydrophobic pocket in which the carboxylate or CO2 interacts with backbone amides. This work has led to a mechanistic proposal in which the carboxylate orients the substrate for proton transfer from His45 to N5-CAIR to form an enzyme-bound aminoimidazole ribonucleotide (AIR) and CO2 intermediate. Subsequent movement of the aminoimidazole moiety of AIR reorients it for addition of CO2 at C4 to generate isoCAIR. His45 is now in a position to remove a C4 proton to produce CAIR.
View details for DOI 10.1021/bi602436g
View details for Web of Science ID 000244650100028
View details for PubMedID 17298082