Epigenomic reorganization of the clustered Hox genes in embryonic stem cells induced by retinoic acid.
ABSTRACT: Retinoic acid (RA) regulates clustered Hox gene expression during embryogenesis and is required to establish the anterior-posterior body plan. Using mutant embryonic stem cell lines deficient in the RA receptor ? (RAR?) or Hoxa1 3'-RA-responsive element, we studied the kinetics of transcriptional and epigenomic patterning responses to RA. RAR? is essential for RA-induced Hox transcriptional activation, and deletion of its binding site in the Hoxa1 enhancer attenuates transcriptional and epigenomic activation of both Hoxa and Hoxb gene clusters. The kinetics of epigenomic reorganization demonstrate that complete erasure of the polycomb repressive mark H3K27me3 is not necessary to initiate Hox transcription. RAR? is not required to establish the bivalent character of Hox clusters, but RA/RAR? signaling is necessary to erase H3K27me3 from activated Hox genes during embryonic stem cell differentiation. Highly coordinated, long range epigenetic Hox cluster reorganization is closely linked to transcriptional activation and is triggered by RAR? located at the Hoxa1 3'-RA-responsive element.
Project description:Polycomb proteins play key roles in mediating epigenetic modifications that occur during cell differentiation. The Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) mediates the tri-methylation of histone H3 lysine 27 (H3K27me3). In this study, we identify a distinguishing feature of two classes of PRC2 target genes, represented by the Nr2F1 (Coup-TF1) and the Hoxa5 gene, respectively. Both genes are transcriptionally activated by all-trans retinoic acid (RA) and display increased levels of the permissive H3K9/K14ac and tri-methylated histone H3 lysine 4 epigenetic marks in response to RA. However, while in response to RA the PRC2 and H3K27me3 marks are greatly decreased at the Hoxa5 promoter, these marks are initially increased at the Nr2F1 promoter. Functional depletion of the essential PRC2 protein Suz12 by short hairpin RNA (shRNA) technology enhanced the RA-associated transcription of Nr2F1, Nr2F2, Meis1, Sox9 and BMP2, but had no effect on the Hoxa5, Hoxa1, Cyp26a1, Cyp26b1 and RAR?2 transcript levels in wild-type embryonic stem cells. We propose that PRC2 recruitment attenuates the RA-associated transcriptional activation of a subset of genes. Such a mechanism would permit the fine-tuning of transcriptional networks during differentiation.
Project description:We have analyzed the role of actin polymerization in retinoic acid (RA)-induced HoxB transcription, which is mediated by the HoxB regulator Prep1. RA induction of the HoxB genes can be prevented by the inhibition of actin polymerization. Importantly, inhibition of actin polymerization specifically affects the transcription of inducible Hox genes, but not that of their transcriptional regulators, the RARs, nor of constitutively expressed, nor of actively transcribed Hox genes. RA treatment induces the recruitment to the HoxB2 gene enhancer of a complex composed of "elongating" RNAPII, Prep1, beta-actin, and N-WASP as well as the accessory splicing components p54Nrb and PSF. We show that inhibition of actin polymerization prevents such recruitment. We conclude that inducible Hox genes are selectively sensitive to the inhibition of actin polymerization and that actin polymerization is required for the assembly of a transcription complex on the regulatory region of the Hox genes.
Project description:In vertebrate embryos, retinoic acid (RA) synthesized in the mesoderm by Raldh2 emanates to the hindbrain neuroepithelium, where it induces anteroposterior (AP)-restricted Hox expression patterns and rhombomere segmentation. However, how appropriate spatiotemporal RA activity is generated in the hindbrain is poorly understood. By analyzing Pbx1/Pbx2 and Hoxa1/Pbx1 null mice, we found that Raldh2 is itself under the transcriptional control of these factors and that the resulting RA-deficient phenotypes can be partially rescued by exogenous RA. Hoxa1-Pbx1/2-Meis2 directly binds a specific regulatory element that is required to maintain normal Raldh2 expression levels in vivo. Mesoderm-specific Xhoxa1 and Xpbx1b knockdowns in Xenopus embryos also result in Xraldh2 downregulation and hindbrain defects similar to mouse mutants, demonstrating conservation of this Hox-Pbx-dependent regulatory pathway. These findings reveal a feed-forward mechanism linking Hox-Pbx-dependent RA synthesis during early axial patterning with the establishment of spatially restricted Hox-Pbx activity in the developing hindbrain.
Project description:Barrett esophagus (BE) is a human metaplastic condition that is the only known precursor to esophageal adenocarcinoma. BE is characterized by a posterior intestinal-like phenotype in an anterior organ and therefore it is reminiscent of homeotic transformations, which can occur in transgenic animal models during embryonic development as a consequence of mutations in HOX genes. In humans, acquired deregulation of HOX genes during adulthood has been linked to carcinogenesis; however, little is known about their role in the pathogenesis of premalignant conditions. We hypothesized that HOX genes may be implicated in the development of BE. We demonstrated that three midcluster HOXB genes (HOXB5, HOXB6, and HOXB7) are overexpressed in BE, compared with the anatomically adjacent normal esophagus and gastric cardia. The midcluster HOXB gene signature in BE is identical to that seen in normal colonic epithelium. Ectopic expression of these three genes in normal squamous esophageal cells in vitro induces markers of intestinal differentiation, such as KRT20, MUC2, and VILLIN. In BE-associated adenocarcinoma, the activation midcluster HOXB gene is associated with loss of H3K27me3 and gain of AcH3, compared with normal esophagus. These changes in histone posttranslational modifications correlate with specific chromatin decompaction at the HOXB locus. We suggest that epigenetically regulated alterations of HOX gene expression can trigger changes in the transcriptional program of adult esophageal cells, with implications for the early stages of carcinogenesis.
Project description:Ethanol (EtOH) is a teratogen, but its teratogenic mechanisms are not fully understood. The alcohol form of vitamin A (retinol/ROL) can be oxidized to all-trans-retinoic acid (RA), which plays a critical role in stem cell differentiation and development. Using an embryonic stem cell (ESC) model to analyze EtOH's effects on differentiation, we show here that EtOH and acetaldehyde, but not acetate, increase differentiation-associated mRNA levels, and that EtOH decreases pluripotency-related mRNAs. Using reporter assays, ChIP assays, and retinoic acid receptor-? (RAR?) knockout ESC lines generated by CRISPR/Cas9 and homologous recombination, we demonstrate that EtOH signals via RAR? binding to RA response elements (RAREs) in differentiation-associated gene promoters or enhancers. We also report that EtOH-mediated increases in homeobox A1 (Hoxa1) and cytochrome P450 family 26 subfamily A member 1 (Cyp26a1) transcripts, direct RA target genes, require the expression of the RA-synthesizing enzyme, aldehyde dehydrogenase 1 family member A2 (Aldh1a2), suggesting that EtOH-mediated induction of Hoxa1 and Cyp26a1 requires ROL from the serum. As shown with CRISPR/Cas9 knockout lines, the retinol dehydrogenase gene Rdh10 and a functional RARE in the ROL transporter stimulated by retinoic acid 6 (Stra6) gene are required for EtOH induction of Hoxa1 and Cyp26a1 We conclude that EtOH stimulates stem cell differentiation by increasing the influx and metabolism of ROL for downstream RAR?-dependent transcription. In stem cells, EtOH may shift cell fate decisions to alter developmental outcomes by increasing endogenous ROL/RA signaling via increased Stra6 expression and ROL oxidation.
Project description:We have identified an intergenic transcriptional activity that is located between the human HOXA1 and HOXA2 genes, shows myeloid-specific expression, and is up-regulated during granulocytic differentiation. The novel gene, termed HOTAIRM1 (HOX antisense intergenic RNA myeloid 1), is transcribed antisense to the HOXA genes and originates from the same CpG island that embeds the start site of HOXA1. The transcript appears to be a noncoding RNA containing no long open-reading frame; sucrose gradient analysis shows no association with polyribosomal fractions. HOTAIRM1 is the most prominent intergenic transcript expressed and up-regulated during induced granulocytic differentiation of NB4 promyelocytic leukemia and normal human hematopoietic cells; its expression is specific to the myeloid lineage. Its induction during retinoic acid (RA)-driven granulocytic differentiation is through RA receptor and may depend on the expression of myeloid cell development factors targeted by RA signaling. Knockdown of HOTAIRM1 quantitatively blunted RA-induced expression of HOXA1 and HOXA4 during the myeloid differentiation of NB4 cells, and selectively attenuated induction of transcripts for the myeloid differentiation genes CD11b and CD18, but did not noticeably impact the more distal HOXA genes. These findings suggest that HOTAIRM1 plays a role in the myelopoiesis through modulation of gene expression in the HOXA cluster.
Project description:Retinoic acid (RA) controls many aspects of embryonic development by binding to specific receptors (retinoic acid receptors [RARs]) that regulate complex transcriptional networks. Three different RAR subtypes are present in vertebrates and play both common and specific roles in transducing RA signaling. Specific activities of each receptor subtype can be correlated with its exclusive expression pattern, whereas shared activities between different subtypes are generally assimilated to functional redundancy. However, the question remains whether some subtype-specific activity still exists in regions or organs coexpressing multiple RAR subtypes. We tackled this issue at the transcriptional level using early zebrafish embryo as a model. Using morpholino knockdown, we specifically invalidated the zebrafish endogenous RAR subtypes in an in vivo context. After building up a list of RA-responsive genes in the zebrafish gastrula through a whole-transcriptome analysis, we compared this panel of genes with those that still respond to RA in embryos lacking one or another RAR subtype. Our work reveals that RAR subtypes do not have fully redundant functions at the transcriptional level but can transduce RA signal in a subtype-specific fashion. As a result, we define RAR subtype-specific transcriptotypes that correspond to repertoires of genes activated by different RAR subtypes. Finally, we found genes of the RA pathway (cyp26a1, raraa) the regulation of which by RA is highly robust and can even resist the knockdown of all RARs. This suggests that RA-responsive genes are differentially sensitive to alterations in the RA pathway and, in particular, cyp26a1 and raraa are under a high pressure to maintain signaling integrity.
Project description:RA receptors (RARs) have been thought to function through a binary repressor-activator mechanism: in the absence of ligand, they function as transcriptional repressors, and, in the presence of ligand, they function as transcriptional activators. This prevailing model of RAR mechanism has been derived mostly from in vitro studies and has not been widely tested in developmental contexts. Here, we investigate whether zebrafish RARs function as transcriptional activators or repressors during early embryonic anterior-posterior patterning. Ectopic expression of wild-type zebrafish RARs does not disrupt embryonic patterning and does not sensitize embryos to RA treatment, indicating that RAR availability is not limiting in the embryo. In contrast, ectopic expression of hyperactive zebrafish RARs induces expression of a RA-responsive reporter transgene as well as ectopic expression of endogenous RA-responsive target genes. However, ectopic expression of dominant negative zebrafish RARs fails to induce embryonic phenotypes that are consistent with loss of RA signaling, despite their ability to function as transcriptional repressors in heterologous cell culture assays. Together, our studies suggest that zebrafish RAR function is context-dependent and that, during early patterning, zebrafish RARs function primarily as transcriptional activators and may only have minimal ability to act as transcriptional repressors. Thus, it seems that the binary model for RAR function does not apply to all in vivo scenarios. Taking into account studies of RA signaling in tunicates and tetrapods, we propose a parsimonious model of the evolution of RAR function during chordate anterior-posterior patterning.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Neural tube defects (NTDs) are severe, common birth defects that result from failure of normal neural tube closure during early embryogenesis. Accumulating strong evidence indicates that genetic factors contribute to NTDs etiology, among them, HOX genes play a key role in neural tube closure. Although abnormal HOX gene expression can lead to NTDs, the underlying pathological mechanisms have not fully been understood. METHOD:We detected that H3K27me3 and expression of the Hox genes in a retinoic acid (RA) induced mouse NTDs model on E8.5, E9.5 and E10.5 using RNA-sequencing and chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing assays. Furthermore, we quantified 10 Hox genes using NanoString nCounter in brain tissue of fetuses with 39 NTDs patients including anencephaly, spina bifida, hydrocephaly and encephalocele. RESULTS:Here, our results showed differential expression in 26 genes with a >?20-fold change in the level of expression, including 10 upregulated Hox genes. RT-qPCR revealed that these 10 Hox genes were all upregulated in RA-induced mouse NTDs as well as RA-treated embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Using ChIP-seq assays, we demonstrate that a decrease in H3K27me3 level upregulates the expression of Hox cluster A-D in RA-induced mouse NTDs model on E10.5. Interestingly, RA treatment led to attenuation of H3K27me3 due to cooperate between UTX and Suz12, affecting Hox gene regulation. Further analysis, in human anencephaly cases, upregulation of 10 HOX genes was observed, along with aberrant levels of H3K27me3. Notably, HOXB4, HOXC4 and HOXD1 expression was negatively correlated with H3K27me3 levels. CONCLUSION:Our results indicate that abnormal HOX gene expression induced by aberrant H3K27me3 levels may be a risk factor for NTDs and highlight the need for further analysis of genome-wide epigenetic modification in NTDs.
Project description:Retinoic acid (RA) is an important intercellular signaling molecule in vertebrate development, with a well-established role in the regulation of hox genes during hindbrain patterning and in neurogenesis. However, the evolutionary origin of the RA signaling pathway remains elusive. To elucidate the evolution of the RA signaling system, we characterized RA metabolism and signaling in the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii, a powerful model for evolution, development, and neurobiology. Binding assays and crystal structure analyses show that the annelid retinoic acid receptor (RAR) binds RA and activates transcription just as vertebrate RARs, yet with a different ligand-binding pocket and lower binding affinity, suggesting a permissive rather than instructive role of RA signaling. RAR knockdown and RA treatment of swimming annelid larvae further reveal that the RA signal is locally received in the medial neuroectoderm, where it controls neurogenesis and axon outgrowth, whereas the spatial colinear hox gene expression in the neuroectoderm remains unaffected. These findings suggest that one early role of the new RAR in bilaterian evolution was to control the spatially restricted onset of motor and interneuron differentiation in the developing ventral nerve cord and to indicate that the regulation of hox-controlled anterior-posterior patterning arose only at the base of the chordates, concomitant with a high-affinity RAR needed for the interpretation of a complex RA gradient.