Doctor of Philosophy, University of Oxford (2014)
Bachelor of Arts, University of Cambridge (2009)
Joanna Wysocka, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Inappropriate activation of the p53 transcription factor contributes to numerous developmental syndromes characterized by distinct constellations of phenotypes. How p53 drives exquisitely specific sets of symptoms in diverse syndromes, however, remains enigmatic. Here, we deconvolute the basis of p53-driven developmental syndromes by leveraging an array of mouse strains to modulate the spatial expression pattern, temporal profile, and magnitude of p53 activation during embryogenesis. We demonstrate that inappropriate p53 activation in the neural crest, facial ectoderm, anterior heart field, and endothelium induces distinct spectra of phenotypes. Moreover, altering the timing and degree of p53 hyperactivation substantially affects the phenotypic outcomes. Phenotypes are associated with p53-driven cell-cycle arrest or apoptosis, depending on the cell type, with gene expression programs, rather than extent of mitochondrial priming, largely governing the specific response. Together, our findings provide a critical framework for decoding the role of p53 as a mediator of diverse developmental syndromes.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.devcel.2019.05.015
View details for PubMedID 31178404
The developmental disorder Floating-Harbor syndrome (FHS) is caused by heterozygous truncating mutations in SRCAP, a gene encoding a chromatin remodeler mediating incorporation of histone variant H2A.Z. Here, we demonstrate that FHS-associated mutations result in loss of SRCAP nuclear localization, alter neural crest gene programs in human inávitro models and Xenopus embryos, and cause craniofacial defects. These defects are mediated by one of two H2A.Z subtypes, H2A.Z.2, whose knockdown mimics and whose overexpression rescues the FHS phenotype. Selective rescue by H2A.Z.2 is conferred by one of the three amino acid differences between the H2A.Z subtypes, S38/T38. We further show that H2A.Z.1 and H2A.Z.2 genomic occupancy patterns are qualitatively similar, but quantitatively distinct, and H2A.Z.2 incorporation at AT-rich enhancers and expression of their associated genes are both sensitized to SRCAP truncations. Altogether, our results illuminate the mechanism underlying a human syndrome and uncover selective functions of H2A.Z subtypes during development.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2019.08.002
View details for PubMedID 31491386
CpG islands are regions of vertebrate genomes that often function as gene regulatory elements and are associated with most gene promoters. CpG island elements usually contain nonmethylated CpG dinucleotides, while the remainder of the genome is pervasively methylated. We developed a biochemical approach called biotinylated CxxC affinity purification (BioCAP) to unbiasedly isolate regions of the genome that contain nonmethylated CpG dinucleotides. The resulting highly pure nonmethylated DNA is easily analyzed by quantitative PCR to interrogate specific loci or via massively parallel sequencing to yield genome-wide profiles.
View details for PubMedID 29605845
Chromatin modifications and the promoter-associated epigenome are important for the regulation of gene expression. However, the mechanisms by which chromatin-modifying complexes are targeted to the appropriate gene promoters in vertebrates and how they influence gene expression have remained poorly defined. Here, using a combination of live-cell imaging and functional genomics, we discover that the vertebrate SET1 complex is targeted to actively transcribed gene promoters through CFP1, which engages in a form of multivalent chromatin reading that involves recognition of non-methylated DNA and histone H3álysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3). CFP1 defines SET1 complex occupancy on chromatin, and its multivalent interactions are required for the SET1 complex to place H3K4me3. In the absence of CFP1, gene expression is perturbed, suggesting that normal targeting and function of the SET1 complex are central to creating an appropriately functioning vertebrate promoter-associated epigenome.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.08.030
View details for PubMedID 28877467
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5603731
Most human aneuploidies originate maternally, due in part to the presence of highly stringent checkpoints during male meiosis. Indeed, male sterility is common among aneuploid mice used to study chromosomal abnormalities, and male germline transmission of exogenous DNA has been rarely reported. Here we show that, despite aberrant testis architecture, males of the aneuploid Tc1 mouse strain produce viable sperm and transmit human chromosome 21 to create aneuploid offspring. In these offspring, we mapped transcription, transcriptional initiation, enhancer activity, non-methylated DNA, and transcription factor binding in adult tissues. Remarkably, when compared with mice derived from female passage of human chromosome 21, the chromatin condensation during spermatogenesis and the extensive epigenetic reprogramming specific to male germline transmission resulted in almost indistinguishable patterns of transcriptional deployment. Our results reveal an unexpected tolerance of aneuploidy during mammalian spermatogenesis, and the surprisingly robust ability of mouse developmental machinery to accurately deploy an exogenous chromosome, regardless of germline transmission.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.20235
View details for Web of Science ID 000391481700001
View details for PubMedID 27855777
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5161449
A class of cis-regulatory elements, called enhancers, play a central role in orchestrating spatiotemporally precise gene-expression programs during development. Consequently, divergence in enhancer sequence and activity is thought to be an important mediator of inter- and intra-species phenotypic variation. Here, we give an overview of emerging principles of enhancer function, current models of enhancer architecture, genomic substrates from which enhancers emerge during evolution, and the influence of three-dimensional genome organization on long-range gene regulation. We discuss intricate relationships between distinct elements within complex regulatory landscapes and consider their potential impact on specificity and robustness of transcriptional regulation.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2016.09.018
View details for Web of Science ID 000389470100011
View details for PubMedID 27863239
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5123704
DNA methylation is a repressive epigenetic modification that covers vertebrate genomes. Regions known as CpG islands (CGIs), which are refractory to DNA methylation, are often associated with gene promoters and play central roles in gene regulation. Yet how CGIs in their normal genomic context evade the DNA methylation machinery and whether these mechanisms are evolutionarily conserved remains enigmatic. To address these fundamental questions we exploited a transchromosomic animal model and genomic approaches to understand how the hypomethylated state is formed in vivo and to discover whether mechanisms governing CGI formation are evolutionarily conserved. Strikingly, insertion of a human chromosome into mouse revealed that promoter-associated CGIs are refractory to DNA methylation regardless of host species, demonstrating that DNA sequence plays a central role in specifying the hypomethylated state through evolutionarily conserved mechanisms. In contrast, elements distal to gene promoters exhibited more variable methylation between host species, uncovering a widespread dependence on nucleotide frequency and occupancy of DNA-binding transcription factors in shaping the DNA methylation landscape away from gene promoters. This was exemplified by young CpG rich lineage-restricted repeat sequences that evaded DNA methylation in the absence of co-evolved mechanisms targeting methylation to these sequences, and species specific DNA binding events that protected against DNA methylation in CpG poor regions. Finally, transplantation of mouse chromosomal fragments into the evolutionarily distant zebrafish uncovered the existence of a mechanistically conserved and DNA-encoded logic which shapes CGI formation across vertebrate species.
View details for DOI 10.1093/nar/gkw258
View details for Web of Science ID 000382999900019
View details for PubMedID 27084945
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5001583
Chromatin modifying activities inherent to polycomb repressive complexes PRC1 and PRC2 play an essential role in gene regulation, cellular differentiation, and development. However, the mechanisms by which these complexes recognize their target sites and function together to form repressive chromatin domains remain poorly understood. Recruitment of PRC1 to target sites has been proposed to occur through a hierarchical process, dependent on prior nucleation of PRC2 and placement of H3K27me3. Here, using a de novo targeting assay in mouse embryonic stem cells we unexpectedly discover that PRC1-dependent H2AK119ub1 leads to recruitment of PRC2 and H3K27me3 to effectively initiate a polycomb domain. This activity is restricted to variant PRC1 complexes, and genetic ablation experiments reveal that targeting of the variant PCGF1/PRC1 complex by KDM2B to CpG islands is required for normal polycomb domain formation and mouse development. These observations provide a surprising PRC1-dependent logic for PRC2 occupancy at target sites in vivo.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.cell.2014.05.004
View details for PubMedID 24856970
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4048464
Two-thirds of gene promoters in mammals are associated with regions of non-methylated DNA, called CpG islands (CGIs), which counteract the repressive effects of DNA methylation on chromatin. In cold-blooded vertebrates, computational CGI predictions often reside away from gene promoters, suggesting a major divergence in gene promoter architecture across vertebrates. By experimentally identifying non-methylated DNA in the genomes of seven diverse vertebrates, we instead reveal that non-methylated islands (NMIs) of DNA are a central feature of vertebrate gene promoters. Furthermore, NMIs are present at orthologous genes across vast evolutionary distances, revealing a surprising level of conservation in this epigenetic feature. By profiling NMIs in different tissues and developmental stages we uncover a unifying set of features that are central to the function of NMIs in vertebrates. Together these findings demonstrate an ancient logic for NMI usage at gene promoters and reveal an unprecedented level of epigenetic conservation across vertebrate evolution. DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00348.001.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.00348
View details for PubMedID 23467541
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3583005
Vertebrate DNA can be chemically modified by methylation of the 5 position of the cytosine base in the context of CpG dinucleotides. This modification creates a binding site for MBD (methyl-CpG-binding domain) proteins which target chromatin-modifying activities that are thought to contribute to transcriptional repression and maintain heterochromatic regions of the genome. In contrast with DNA methylation, which is found broadly across vertebrate genomes, non-methylated DNA is concentrated in regions known as CGIs (CpG islands). Recently, a family of proteins which encode a ZF-CxxC (zinc finger-CxxC) domain have been shown to specifically recognize non-methylated DNA and recruit chromatin-modifying activities to CGI elements. For example, CFP1 (CxxC finger protein 1), MLL (mixed lineage leukaemia protein), KDM (lysine demethylase) 2A and KDM2B regulate lysine methylation on histone tails, whereas TET (ten-eleven translocation) 1 and TET3 hydroxylate methylated cytosine bases. In the present review, we discuss the most recent advances in our understanding of how ZF-CxxC domain-containing proteins recognize non-methylated DNA and describe their role in chromatin modification at CGIs.
View details for DOI 10.1042/BST20130028
View details for PubMedID 23697932
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3685328
Across vertebrate genomes methylation of cytosine residues within the context of CpG dinucleotides is a pervasive epigenetic mark that can impact gene expression and has been implicated in various developmental and disease-associated processes. Several biochemical approaches exist to profile DNA methylation, but recently an alternative approach based on profiling non-methylated CpGs was developed. This technique, called CxxC affinity purification (CAP), uses a ZF-CxxC (CxxC) domain to specifically capture DNA containing clusters of non-methylated CpGs. Here we describe a new CAP approach, called biotinylated CAP (Bio-CAP), which eliminates the requirement for specialized equipment while dramatically improving and simplifying the CxxC-based DNA affinity purification. Importantly, this approach isolates non-methylated DNA in a manner that is directly proportional to the density of non-methylated CpGs, and discriminates non-methylated CpGs from both methylated and hydroxymethylated CpGs. Unlike conventional CAP, Bio-CAP can be applied to nanogram quantities of genomic DNA and in a magnetic format is amenable to efficient parallel processing of samples. Furthermore, Bio-CAP can be applied to genome-wide profiling of non-methylated DNA with relatively small amounts of input material. Therefore, Bio-CAP is a simple and streamlined approach for characterizing regions of the non-methylated DNA, whether at specific target regions or genome wide.
View details for DOI 10.1093/nar/gkr1207
View details for PubMedID 22156374
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3287171
CpG islands (CGIs) are associated with most mammalian gene promoters. A subset of CGIs act as polycomb response elements (PREs) and are recognized by the polycomb silencing systems to regulate expression of genes involved in early development. How CGIs function mechanistically as nucleation sites for polycomb repressive complexes remains unknown. Here we discover that KDM2B (FBXL10) specifically recognizes non-methylated DNA in CGIs and recruits the polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1). This contributes to histone H2A lysine 119 ubiquitylation (H2AK119ub1) and gene repression. Unexpectedly, we also find that CGIs are occupied by low levels of PRC1 throughout the genome, suggesting that the KDM2B-PRC1 complex may sample CGI-associated genes for susceptibility to polycomb-mediated silencing. These observations demonstrate an unexpected and direct link between recognition of CGIs by KDM2B and targeting of the polycomb repressive system. This provides the basis for a new model describing the functionality of CGIs as mammalian PREs.DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00205.001.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.00205
View details for PubMedID 23256043
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3524939
Melanoma is a tumour of transformed melanocytes, which are originally derived from the embryonic neural crest. It is unknown to what extent the programs that regulate neural crest development interact with mutations in the BRAF oncogene, which is the most commonly mutated gene in human melanoma. We have used zebrafish embryos to identify the initiating transcriptional events that occur on activation of human BRAF(V600E) (which encodes an amino acid substitution mutant of BRAF) in the neural crest lineage. Zebrafish embryos that are transgenic for mitfa:BRAF(V600E) and lack p53 (also known as tp53) have a gene signature that is enriched for markers of multipotent neural crest cells, and neural crest progenitors from these embryos fail to terminally differentiate. To determine whether these early transcriptional events are important for melanoma pathogenesis, we performed a chemical genetic screen to identify small-molecule suppressors of the neural crest lineage, which were then tested for their effects on melanoma. One class of compound, inhibitors of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH), for example leflunomide, led to an almost complete abrogation of neural crest development in zebrafish and to a reduction in the self-renewal of mammalian neural crest stem cells. Leflunomide exerts these effects by inhibiting the transcriptional elongation of genes that are required for neural crest development and melanoma growth. When used alone or in combination with a specific inhibitor of the BRAF(V600E) oncogene, DHODH inhibition led to a marked decrease in melanoma growth both in vitro and in mouse xenograft studies. Taken together, these studies highlight developmental pathways in neural crest cells that have a direct bearing on melanoma formation.
View details for DOI 10.1038/nature09882
View details for Web of Science ID 000288702200063
View details for PubMedID 21430780