Expression of the human FSHD-linked DUX4 gene induces neurogenesis during differentiation of murine embryonic stem cells.
ABSTRACT: Misexpression of the double homeodomain protein DUX4 in muscle is believed to cause facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). Although strategies are being devised to inhibit DUX4 activity in FSHD, there is little known about the normal function of this protein. Expression of DUX4 has been reported in pluripotent cells and testis. To test the idea that DUX4 may be involved in initiating a germ lineage program in pluripotent cells, we interrogated the effect of expressing the human DUX4 gene at different stages during in vitro differentiation of murine embryonic stem (ES) cells. We find that expression of even low levels of DUX4 is incompatible with pluripotency: DUX4-expressing ES cells downregulate pluripotency markers and rapidly differentiate even in the presence of leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) and bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4). Transcriptional profiling revealed unexpectedly that DUX4 induced a neurectodermal program. Embryoid bodies exposed to a pulse of DUX4 expression displayed severely inhibited mesodermal differentiation, but acquired neurogenic potential. In a serum-containing medium in which neurogenic differentiation is minimal, DUX4 expression served as a neural-inducing factor, enabling the differentiation of Tuj1+ neurites. These data suggest that besides effects in muscle and germ cells, the involvement of DUX4 in neurogenesis should be considered as anti-DUX4 therapies are developed.
Project description:Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is most commonly inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern and caused by the abnormal expression of DUX4 in skeletal muscle. The DUX4 transcription factor has DNA binding domains similar to several paired class homeotic transcription factors, but only myogenic factors PAX3 and PAX7 rescue cell viability when co-expressed with DUX4 in mouse myoblasts. This observation suggests competition for DNA binding sites in satellite cells might limit muscle repair and may be one aspect of DUX4-associated myotoxicity. The competition hypothesis requires that DUX4 and PAX3/7 be expressed in the same cells at some point during development or in adult tissues. We modeled myogenesis using human isogenic iPS and ES cells and examined expression patterns of DUX4, PAX3, and PAX7 to determine if conditions that promote PAX3 and PAX7 expression in cell culture also promote DUX4 expression in the same cells.Isogenic iPSCs were generated from human fibroblasts of two FSHD-affected individuals with somatic mosaicism. Clones containing the shortened FSHD-causing D4Z4 array or the long non-pathogenic array were isolated from the same individuals. We also examined myogenesis in commercially available hES cell lines derived from FSHD-affected and non-affected embryos. DUX4, PAX3, and PAX7 messenger RNAs (mRNAs) were quantified during a 40-day differentiation protocol, and antibodies were used to identify cell types in different stages of differentiation to determine if DUX4 and PAX3 or PAX7 are present in the same cells.Human iPS and ES cells differentiated into skeletal myocytes as evidenced by Titin positive multinucleated fibers appearing toward the end of a 40-day differentiation protocol. PAX3 and PAX7 were expressed at similar times during differentiation, and DUX4 positive nuclei were seen at terminal stages of differentiation in cells containing the short D4Z4 arrays. Nuclei that expressed both DUX4 and PAX3, or DUX4 and PAX7 were not observed after examining immunostained nuclei at five different time points during myogenic differentiation of pluripotent cells.We conclude that DUX4, PAX3, and PAX7 have distinct expression patterns during myogenic differentiation of stem cells. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that muscle damage in FSHD is due to DUX4-mediated toxicity causing destruction of terminally differentiated myofibers. While these studies examine DUX4, PAX3, and PAX7 expression patterns during stem cell myogenesis, they should not be generalized to tissue repair in adult muscle tissue.
Project description:FacioScapuloHumeral muscular Dystrophy (FSHD) is one of the most prevalent hereditary myopathies and is generally characterized by progressive muscle atrophy affecting the face, scapular fixators; upper arms and distal lower legs. The FSHD locus maps to a macrosatellite D4Z4 repeat array on chromosome 4q35. Each D4Z4 unit contains a DUX4 gene; the most distal of which is flanked by a polyadenylation site on FSHD-permissive alleles, which allows for production of stable DUX4 mRNAs. In addition, an open chromatin structure is required for DUX4 gene transcription. FSHD thus results from a gain of function of the toxic DUX4 protein that normally is only expressed in germ line and stem cells. Therapeutic strategies are emerging that aim to decrease DUX4 expression or toxicity in FSHD muscle cells. We review here the heterogeneity of DUX4 mRNAs observed in muscle and stem cells; and the use of antisense oligonucleotides (AOs) targeting the DUX4 mRNA to interfere either with transcript cleavage/polyadenylation or intron splicing. We show in primary cultures that DUX4-targeted AOs suppress the atrophic FSHD myotube phenotype; but do not improve the disorganized FSHD myotube phenotype which could be caused by DUX4c over-expression. Thus; DUX4c might constitute another therapeutic target in FSHD.
Project description:Facioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD) is caused by the mis-expression of the double-homeodomain transcription factor DUX4 in skeletal muscle cells. Many different cell culture models have been developed to study the pathophysiology of FSHD, frequently based on endogenous expression of DUX4 in FSHD cells or by mis-expression of DUX4 in control human muscle cells. Although results generated using each model are generally consistent, differences have also been reported, making it unclear which model(s) faithfully recapitulate DUX4 and FSHD biology. In this study, we systematically compared RNA-seq data generated from three different models of FSHD—lentiviral-based DUX4 expression in myoblasts, doxycycline-inducible DUX4 in myoblasts, and differentiated human FSHD myocytes expressing endogenous DUX4—and show that the DUX4-associated gene expression signatures of each dataset are highly correlated (Pearson’s correlation coefficient, r ? 0.75-0.85). The few robust differences were attributable to different states of cell differentiation and other differences in experimental design. Our study describes a model system for inducible DUX4 expression that enables reproducible and synchronized experiments and validates the fidelity and FSHD relevance of multiple distinct models of DUX4 expression.
Project description:Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is typically an adult onset dominant myopathy. Epigenetic changes in the chromosome 4q35 region linked to both forms of FSHD lead to a relaxation of repression and increased somatic expression of DUX4-fl (DUX4-full length), the pathogenic alternative splicing isoform of the DUX4 gene. DUX4-fl encodes a transcription factor expressed in healthy testis and pluripotent stem cells; however, in FSHD, increased levels of DUX4-fl in myogenic cells lead to aberrant regulation of target genes. DUX4-fl has proven difficult to study in vivo; thus, little is known about its normal and pathogenic roles. The endogenous expression of DUX4-fl in FSHD-derived human muscle and myogenic cells is extremely low, exogenous expression of DUX4-fl in somatic cells rapidly induces cytotoxicity, and, due in part to the lack of conservation beyond primate lineages, viable animal models based on DUX4-fl have been difficult to generate. By contrast, the FRG1 (FSHD region gene 1), which is linked to FSHD, is evolutionarily conserved from invertebrates to humans, and has been studied in several model organisms. FRG1 expression is critical for the development of musculature and vasculature, and overexpression of FRG1 produces a myopathic phenotype, yet the normal and pathological functions of FRG1 are not well understood. Interestingly, DUX4 and FRG1 were recently linked when the latter was identified as a direct transcriptional target of DUX4-FL. To better understand the pathways affected in FSHD by DUX4-fl and FRG1, we generated transgenic lines of Drosophila expressing either gene under control of the UAS/GAL4 binary system. Utilizing these lines, we generated screenable phenotypes recapitulating certain known consequences of DUX4-fl or FRG1 overexpression. These transgenic Drosophila lines provide resources to dissect the pathways affected by DUX4-fl or FRG1 in a genetically tractable organism and may provide insight into both muscle development and pathogenic mechanisms in FSHD.
Project description:Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is an incurable disorder linked to ectopic expression of DUX4. However, DUX4 is notoriously difficult to detect in FSHD muscle cells, while DUX4 target gene expression is an inconsistent biomarker for FSHD skeletal muscle biopsies, displaying efficacy only on pathologically inflamed samples. Immune gene misregulation occurs in FSHD muscle, with DUX4 target genes enriched for those associated with inflammatory processes. However, there lacks an assessment of the FSHD immune cell transcriptome, and its contribution to gene expression in FSHD muscle biopsies. Here, we show that EBV-immortalized FSHD lymphoblastoid cell lines express DUX4 and both early and late DUX4 target genes. Moreover, a biomarker of 237 up-regulated genes derived from FSHD lymphoblastoid cell lines is elevated in FSHD muscle biopsies compared to controls. The FSHD Lymphoblast score is unaltered between FSHD myoblasts/myotubes and their controls however, implying a non-myogenic cell source in muscle biopsies. Indeed, the FSHD Lymphoblast score correlates with the early stages of muscle inflammation identified by histological analysis on muscle biopsies, while our two late DUX4 target gene expression biomarkers associate with macroscopic inflammation detectable via MRI. Thus, FSHD lymphoblastoid cell lines express DUX4 and early and late DUX4 target genes, therefore, muscle-infiltrated immune cells may contribute the molecular landscape of FSHD muscle biopsies.
Project description:Each unit of the D4Z4 macrosatellite repeat contains a retrotransposed gene encoding the DUX4 double-homeobox transcription factor. Facioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD) is caused by deletion of a subset of the D4Z4 units in the subtelomeric region of chromosome 4. Although it has been reported that the deletion of D4Z4 units induces the pathological expression of DUX4 mRNA, the association of DUX4 mRNA expression with FSHD has not been rigorously investigated, nor has any human tissue been identified that normally expresses DUX4 mRNA or protein. We show that FSHD muscle expresses a different splice form of DUX4 mRNA compared to control muscle. Control muscle produces low amounts of a splice form of DUX4 encoding only the amino-terminal portion of DUX4. FSHD muscle produces low amounts of a DUX4 mRNA that encodes the full-length DUX4 protein. The low abundance of full-length DUX4 mRNA in FSHD muscle cells represents a small subset of nuclei producing a relatively high abundance of DUX4 mRNA and protein. In contrast to control skeletal muscle and most other somatic tissues, full-length DUX4 transcript and protein is expressed at relatively abundant levels in human testis, most likely in the germ-line cells. Induced pluripotent (iPS) cells also express full-length DUX4 and differentiation of control iPS cells to embryoid bodies suppresses expression of full-length DUX4, whereas expression of full-length DUX4 persists in differentiated FSHD iPS cells. Together, these findings indicate that full-length DUX4 is normally expressed at specific developmental stages and is suppressed in most somatic tissues. The contraction of the D4Z4 repeat in FSHD results in a less efficient suppression of the full-length DUX4 mRNA in skeletal muscle cells. Therefore, FSHD represents the first human disease to be associated with the incomplete developmental silencing of a retrogene array normally expressed early in development.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is a dominant disease linked to contraction of an array of tandem 3.3-kb repeats (D4Z4) at 4q35. Within each repeat unit is a gene, DUX4, that can encode a protein containing two homeodomains. A DUX4 transcript derived from the last repeat unit in a contracted array is associated with pathogenesis but it is unclear how. METHODS:Using exon-based microarrays, the expression profiles of myogenic precursor cells were determined. Both undifferentiated myoblasts and myoblasts differentiated to myotubes derived from FSHD patients and controls were studied after immunocytochemical verification of the quality of the cultures. To further our understanding of FSHD and normal myogenesis, the expression profiles obtained were compared to those of 19 non-muscle cell types analyzed by identical methods. RESULTS:Many of the ~17,000 examined genes were differentially expressed (>2-fold, p<0.01) in control myoblasts or myotubes vs. non-muscle cells (2185 and 3006, respectively) or in FSHD vs. control myoblasts or myotubes (295 and 797, respectively). Surprisingly, despite the morphologically normal differentiation of FSHD myoblasts to myotubes, most of the disease-related dysregulation was seen as dampening of normal myogenesis-specific expression changes, including in genes for muscle structure, mitochondrial function, stress responses, and signal transduction. Other classes of genes, including those encoding extracellular matrix or pro-inflammatory proteins, were upregulated in FSHD myogenic cells independent of an inverse myogenesis association. Importantly, the disease-linked DUX4 RNA isoform was detected by RT-PCR in FSHD myoblast and myotube preparations only at extremely low levels. Unique insights into myogenesis-specific gene expression were also obtained. For example, all four Argonaute genes involved in RNA-silencing were significantly upregulated during normal (but not FSHD) myogenesis relative to non-muscle cell types. CONCLUSIONS:DUX4's pathogenic effect in FSHD may occur transiently at or before the stage of myoblast formation to establish a cascade of gene dysregulation. This contrasts with the current emphasis on toxic effects of experimentally upregulated DUX4 expression at the myoblast or myotube stages. Our model could explain why DUX4's inappropriate expression was barely detectable in myoblasts and myotubes but nonetheless linked to FSHD.
Project description:Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is caused by an unusual deletion with neomorphic activity. This deletion derepresses genes in cis; however which candidate gene causes the FSHD phenotype, and through what mechanism, is unknown. We describe a novel genetic tool, inducible cassette exchange, enabling rapid generation of isogenetically modified cells with conditional and variable transgene expression. We compare the effects of expressing variable levels of each FSHD candidate gene on myoblasts. This screen identified only one gene with overt toxicity: DUX4 (double homeobox, chromosome 4), a protein with two homeodomains, each similar in sequence to Pax3 and Pax7. DUX4 expression recapitulates key features of the FSHD molecular phenotype, including repression of MyoD and its target genes, diminished myogenic differentiation, repression of glutathione redox pathway components, and sensitivity to oxidative stress. We further demonstrate competition between DUX4 and Pax3/Pax7: when either Pax3 or Pax7 is expressed at high levels, DUX4 is no longer toxic. We propose a hypothesis for FSHD in which DUX4 expression interferes with Pax7 in satellite cells, and inappropriately regulates Pax targets, including myogenic regulatory factors, during regeneration.
Project description:Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) is one of the most frequent hereditary muscle disorders. It is linked to contractions of the D4Z4 repeat array in 4q35. We have characterized the double homeobox 4 (DUX4) gene in D4Z4 and its mRNA transcribed from the distal D4Z4 unit to a polyadenylation signal in the flanking pLAM region. It encodes a transcription factor expressed in FSHD but not healthy muscle cells which initiates a gene deregulation cascade causing differentiation defects, muscle atrophy and oxidative stress. PITX1 was the first identified DUX4 target and encodes a transcription factor involved in muscle atrophy. DUX4 was found expressed in only 1/1000 FSHD myoblasts. We have now shown it was induced upon differentiation and detected in about 1/200 myotube nuclei. The DUX4 and PITX1 proteins presented staining gradients in consecutive myonuclei which suggested a diffusion as known for other muscle nuclear proteins. Both protein half-lifes were regulated by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway. In addition, we could immunodetect the DUX4 protein in FSHD muscle extracts. As a model, we propose the DUX4 gene is stochastically activated in a small number of FSHD myonuclei. The resulting mRNAs are translated in the cytoplasm around an activated nucleus and the DUX4 proteins diffuse to adjacent nuclei where they activate target genes such as PITX1. The PITX1 protein can further diffuse to additional myonuclei and expand the transcriptional deregulation cascade initiated by DUX4. Together the diffusion and the deregulation cascade would explain how a rare protein could cause the muscle defects observed in FSHD.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy 1 (FSHD1) has an autosomal dominant pattern of inheritance and primarily affects skeletal muscle. The genetic cause of FSHD1 is contraction of the D4Z4 macrosatellite array on chromosome 4 alleles associated with a permissive haplotype causing infrequent sporadic expression of the DUX4 gene. Epigenetically, the contracted D4Z4 array has decreased cytosine methylation and an open chromatin structure. Despite these genetic and epigenetic changes, the majority of FSHD myoblasts are able to repress DUX4 transcription. In this study we hypothesized that histone modifications distinguish DUX4 expressing and non-expressing cells from the same individuals. RESULTS:FSHD myocytes containing the permissive 4qA haplotype with a long terminal D4Z4 unit were sorted into DUX4 expressing and non-expressing groups. We found similar CpG hypomethylation between the groups of FSHD-affected cells suggesting that CpG hypomethylation is not sufficient to trigger DUX4 expression. A survey of histone modifications present at the D4Z4 region during cell lineage commitment revealed that this region is bivalent in FSHD iPS cells with both H3K4me3 activating and H3K27me3 repressive marks present, making D4Z4 poised for DUX4 activation in pluripotent cells. After lineage commitment, the D4Z4 region becomes univalent with H3K27me3 in FSHD and non-FSHD control myoblasts and a concomitant increase in H3K4me3 in a small fraction of cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) for histone modifications, chromatin modifier proteins and chromatin structural proteins on sorted FSHD myocytes revealed that activating H3K9Ac modifications were ~?fourfold higher in DUX4 expressing FSHD myocytes, while the repressive H3K27me3 modification was ~?fourfold higher at the permissive allele in DUX4 non-expressing FSHD myocytes from the same cultures. Similarly, we identified EZH2, a member of the polycomb repressive complex involved in H3K27 methylation, to be present more frequently on the permissive allele in DUX4 non-expressing FSHD myocytes. CONCLUSIONS:These results implicate PRC2 as the complex primarily responsible for DUX4 repression in the setting of FSHD and H3K9 acetylation along with reciprocal loss of H3K27me3 as key epigenetic events that result in DUX4 expression. Future studies focused on events that trigger H3K9Ac or augment PRC2 complex activity in a small fraction of nuclei may expose additional drug targets worthy of study.