Conserved and non-conserved enhancers direct tissue specific transcription in ancient germ layer specific developmental control genes.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:Identifying DNA sequences (enhancers) that direct the precise spatial and temporal expression of developmental control genes remains a significant challenge in the annotation of vertebrate genomes. Locating these sequences, which in many cases lie at a great distance from the transcription start site, has been a major obstacle in deciphering gene regulation. Coupling of comparative genomics with functional validation to locate such regulatory elements has been a successful method in locating many such regulatory elements. But most of these studies looked either at a single gene only or the whole genome without focusing on any particular process. The pressing need is to integrate the tools of comparative genomics with knowledge of developmental biology to validate enhancers for developmental transcription factors in greater detail RESULTS:Our results show that near four different genes (nkx3.2, pax9, otx1b and foxa2) in zebrafish, only 20-30% of highly conserved DNA sequences can act as developmental enhancers irrespective of the tissue the gene expresses in. We find that some genes also have multiple conserved enhancers expressing in the same tissue at the same or different time points in development. We also located non-conserved enhancers for two of the genes (pax9 and otx1b). Our modified Bacterial artificial chromosome (BACs) studies for these 4 genes revealed that many of these enhancers work in a synergistic fashion, which cannot be captured by individual DNA constructs and are not conserved at the sequence level. Our detailed biochemical and transgenic analysis revealed Foxa1 binds to the otx1b non-conserved enhancer to direct its activity in forebrain and otic vesicle of zebrafish at 24 hpf. CONCLUSION:Our results clearly indicate that high level of functional conservation of genes is not necessarily associated with sequence conservation of its regulatory elements. Moreover certain non conserved DNA elements might have role in gene regulation. The need is to bring together multiple approaches to bear upon individual genes to decipher all its regulatory elements.
Project description:Amphibians and fish have the ability to regenerate numerous tissues, whereas mammals have a limited regenerative capacity. Despite numerous developmental genes becoming reactivated during regeneration, an extensive analysis is yet to be performed on whether highly regenerative animals utilize unique cis-regulatory elements for the reactivation of genes during regeneration and how such cis-regulatory elements become activated. Here, we screened regeneration signal-response enhancers at the lhx1 locus using Xenopus and found that the noncoding elements conserved from fish to human function as enhancers in the regenerating nephric tubules. A DNA-binding motif of Arid3a, a component of H3K9me3 demethylases, was commonly found in RSREs. Arid3a binds to RSREs and reduces the H3K9me3 levels. It promotes cell cycle progression and causes the outgrowth of nephric tubules, whereas the conditional knockdown of arid3a using photo-morpholino inhibits regeneration. These results suggest that Arid3a contributes to the regeneration of nephric tubules by decreasing H3K9me3 on RSREs.
Project description:We previously reported close physical linkage between Pax9 and Nkx2-9 in the human, mouse, and pufferfish (Fugu rubripes) genomes. In this study, we analyzed cis-regulatory elements of the two genes by comparative sequencing in the three species and by transgenesis in the mouse. We identified two regions including conserved noncoding sequences that possessed specific enhancer activities for expression of Pax9 in the medial nasal process and of Nkx2-9 in the ventral neural tube. Remarkably, the latter contained the consensus Gli-binding motif. Interestingly, the identified Pax9 cis-regulatory sequences were located in an intron of the neighboring gene Slc25a21. Close examination of an extended genomic interval around Pax9 revealed the presence of strong synteny conservation in the human, mouse, and Fugu genomes. We propose such an intersecting organization of cis-regulatory sequences in multigenic regions as a possible mechanism that maintains evolutionary conserved synteny.
Project description:The identification of homologies, whether morphological, molecular, or genetic, is fundamental to our understanding of common biological principles. Homologies bridging the great divide between deuterostomes and protostomes have served as the basis for current models of animal evolution and development. It is now appreciated that these two clades share a common developmental toolkit consisting of conserved transcription factors and signaling pathways. These patterning genes sometimes show common expression patterns and genetic interactions, suggesting the existence of similar or even conserved regulatory apparatus. However, previous studies have found no regulatory sequence conserved between deuterostomes and protostomes. Here we describe the first such enhancers, which we call bilaterian conserved regulatory elements (Bicores). Bicores show conservation of sequence and gene synteny. Sequence conservation of Bicores reflects conserved patterns of transcription factor binding sites. We predict that Bicores act as response elements to signaling pathways, and we show that Bicores are developmental enhancers that drive expression of transcriptional repressors in the vertebrate central nervous system. Although the small number of identified Bicores suggests extensive rewiring of cis-regulation between the protostome and deuterostome clades, additional Bicores may be revealed as our understanding of cis-regulatory logic and sample of bilaterian genomes continue to grow.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Phylogenetic footprinting has revealed that cis-regulatory enhancers consist of conserved DNA sequence clusters (CSCs). Currently, there is no systematic approach for enhancer discovery and analysis that takes full-advantage of the sequence information within enhancer CSCs. RESULTS:We have generated a Drosophila genome-wide database of conserved DNA consisting of >100,000 CSCs derived from EvoPrints spanning over 90% of the genome. cis-Decoder database search and alignment algorithms enable the discovery of functionally related enhancers. The program first identifies conserved repeat elements within an input enhancer and then searches the database for CSCs that score highly against the input CSC. Scoring is based on shared repeats as well as uniquely shared matches, and includes measures of the balance of shared elements, a diagnostic that has proven to be useful in predicting cis-regulatory function. To demonstrate the utility of these tools, a temporally-restricted CNS neuroblast enhancer was used to identify other functionally related enhancers and analyze their structural organization. CONCLUSIONS:cis-Decoder reveals that co-regulating enhancers consist of combinations of overlapping shared sequence elements, providing insights into the mode of integration of multiple regulating transcription factors. The database and accompanying algorithms should prove useful in the discovery and analysis of enhancers involved in any developmental process.
Project description:A systematic approach is described for analysis of evolutionarily conserved cis-regulatory DNA using cis-Decoder, a tool for discovery of conserved sequence elements that are shared between similarly regulated enhancers. Analysis of 2,086 conserved sequence blocks (CSBs), identified from 135 characterized enhancers, reveals most CSBs consist of shorter overlapping/adjacent elements that are either enhancer type-specific or common to enhancers with divergent regulatory behaviors. Our findings suggest that enhancers employ overlapping repertoires of highly conserved core elements.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>The human genome contains thousands of non-coding sequences that are often more conserved between vertebrate species than protein-coding exons. These highly conserved non-coding elements (CNEs) are associated with genes that coordinate development, and have been proposed to act as transcriptional enhancers. Despite their extreme sequence conservation in vertebrates, sequences homologous to CNEs have not been identified in invertebrates.<h4>Results</h4>Here we report that nematode genomes contain an alternative set of CNEs that share sequence characteristics, but not identity, with their vertebrate counterparts. CNEs thus represent a very unusual class of sequences that are extremely conserved within specific animal lineages yet are highly divergent between lineages. Nematode CNEs are also associated with developmental regulatory genes, and include well-characterized enhancers and transcription factor binding sites, supporting the proposed function of CNEs as cis-regulatory elements. Most remarkably, 40 of 156 human CNE-associated genes with invertebrate orthologs are also associated with CNEs in both worms and flies.<h4>Conclusion</h4>A core set of genes that regulate development is associated with CNEs across three animal groups (worms, flies and vertebrates). We propose that these CNEs reflect the parallel evolution of alternative enhancers for a common set of developmental regulatory genes in different animal groups. This 're-wiring' of gene regulatory networks containing key developmental coordinators was probably a driving force during the evolution of animal body plans. CNEs may, therefore, represent the genomic traces of these 'hard-wired' core gene regulatory networks that specify the development of each alternative animal body plan.
Project description:Morphological evolution can be the result of natural selection favoring modification of developmental signaling pathways. However, little is known about the genetic basis of such phenotypic diversity. Understanding these mechanisms is difficult for numerous reasons, yet studies in model organisms often provide clues about the major developmental pathways involved. The paired-domain gene, PAX9, is known to be a key regulator of development, particularly of the face and teeth. In this study, using a comparative genetics approach, we investigate PAX9 molecular evolution among mammals, focusing on craniofacially diversified (Phyllostomidae) and conserved (Vespertilionidae) bat families, and extend our comparison to other orders of mammal. Open-reading frame analysis disclosed signatures of selection, in which a small percentage of residues vary, and lineages acquire different combinations of variation through recurrent substitution and lineage specific changes. A few instances of convergence for specific residues were observed between morphologically convergent bat lineages. Bioinformatic analysis for unknown PAX9 regulatory motifs indicated a novel post-transcriptional regulatory mechanism involving a Musashi protein. This regulation was assessed through fluorescent reporter assays and gene knockdowns. Results are compatible with the hypothesis that the number of Musashi binding-elements in PAX9 mRNA proportionally regulates protein translation rate. Although a connection between morphology and binding element frequency was not apparent, results indicate this regulation would vary among craniofacially divergent bat species, but be static among conserved species. Under this model, Musashi's regulatory control of alternative human PAX9 isoforms would also vary. The presence of Musashi-binding elements within PAX9 of all mammals examined, chicken, zebrafish, and the fly homolog of PAX9, indicates this regulatory mechanism is ancient, originating basal to much of the animal phylogeny.
Project description:Cephalochordates, the sister group of vertebrates + tunicates, are evolving particularly slowly. Therefore, genome comparisons between two congeners of Branchiostoma revealed so many conserved noncoding elements (CNEs), that it was not clear how many are functional regulatory elements. To more effectively identify CNEs with potential regulatory functions, we compared noncoding sequences of genomes of the most phylogenetically distant cephalochordate genera, Asymmetron and Branchiostoma, which diverged approximately 120-160 million years ago. We found 113,070 noncoding elements conserved between the two species, amounting to 3.3% of the genome. The genomic distribution, target gene ontology, and enriched motifs of these CNEs all suggest that many of them are probably cis-regulatory elements. More than 90% of previously verified amphioxus regulatory elements were re-captured in this study. A search of the cephalochordate CNEs around 50 developmental genes in several vertebrate genomes revealed eight CNEs conserved between cephalochordates and vertebrates, indicating sequence conservation over >500 million years of divergence. The function of five CNEs was tested in reporter assays in zebrafish, and one was also tested in amphioxus. All five CNEs proved to be tissue-specific enhancers. Taken together, these findings indicate that even though Branchiostoma and Asymmetron are distantly related, as they are evolving slowly, comparisons between them are likely optimal for identifying most of their tissue-specific cis-regulatory elements laying the foundation for functional characterizations and a better understanding of the evolution of developmental regulation in cephalochordates.
Project description:Uncovering the cis-regulatory logic of developmental enhancers is critical to understanding the role of non-coding DNA in development. However, it is cumbersome to identify functional motifs within enhancers, and thus few vertebrate enhancers have their core functional motifs revealed. Here we report a combined experimental and computational approach for discovering regulatory motifs in developmental enhancers. Making use of the zebrafish gene expression database, we computationally identified conserved non-coding elements (CNEs) likely to have a desired tissue-specificity based on the expression of nearby genes. Through a high throughput and robust enhancer assay, we tested the activity of approximately 100 such CNEs and efficiently uncovered developmental enhancers with desired spatial and temporal expression patterns in the zebrafish brain. Application of de novo motif prediction algorithms on a group of forebrain enhancers identified five top-ranked motifs, all of which were experimentally validated as critical for forebrain enhancer activity. These results demonstrate a systematic approach to discover important regulatory motifs in vertebrate developmental enhancers. Moreover, this dataset provides a useful resource for further dissection of vertebrate brain development and function.
Project description:Studies of regulatory activity and gene expression have revealed an intriguing dichotomy: There is substantial turnover in the regulatory activity of orthologous sequences between species; however, the expression level of orthologous genes is largely conserved. Understanding how distal regulatory elements, for example, enhancers, evolve and function is critical, as alterations in gene expression levels can drive the development of both complex disease and functional divergence between species. In this study, we investigated determinants of the conservation of regulatory enhancer activity for orthologous sequences across mammalian evolution. Using liver enhancers identified from genome-wide histone modification profiles in ten diverse mammalian species, we compared orthologous sequences that exhibited regulatory activity in all species (conserved-activity enhancers) to shared sequences active only in a single species (species-specific-activity enhancers). Conserved-activity enhancers have greater regulatory potential than species-specific-activity enhancers, as quantified by both the density and diversity of transcription factor binding motifs. Consistent with their greater regulatory potential, conserved-activity enhancers have greater regulatory activity in humans than species-specific-activity enhancers: They are active across more cellular contexts, and they regulate more genes than species-specific-activity enhancers. Furthermore, the genes regulated by conserved-activity enhancers are expressed in more tissues and are less tolerant of loss-of-function mutations than those targeted by species-specific-activity enhancers. These consistent results across various stages of gene regulation demonstrate that conserved-activity enhancers are more pleiotropic than their species-specific-activity counterparts. This suggests that pleiotropy is associated with the conservation of regulatory across mammalian evolution.