Regulatory Logic of Pan-Neuronal Gene Expression in C. elegans.
ABSTRACT: While neuronal cell types display an astounding degree of phenotypic diversity, most if not all neuron types share a core panel of terminal features. However, little is known about how pan-neuronal expression patterns are genetically programmed. Through an extensive analysis of the cis-regulatory control regions of a battery of pan-neuronal C. elegans genes, including genes involved in synaptic vesicle biology and neuropeptide signaling, we define a common organizational principle in the regulation of pan-neuronal genes in the form of a surprisingly complex array of seemingly redundant, parallel-acting cis-regulatory modules that direct expression to broad, overlapping domains throughout the nervous system. These parallel-acting cis-regulatory modules are responsive to a multitude of distinct trans-acting factors. Neuronal gene expression programs therefore fall into two fundamentally distinct classes. Neuron-type-specific genes are generally controlled by discrete and non-redundantly acting regulatory inputs, while pan-neuronal gene expression is controlled by diverse, coincident and seemingly redundant regulatory inputs.
Project description:The foxa regulatory gene is of central importance for endoderm specification across Bilateria, and this gene lies at an essential node of the well-characterized sea urchin endomesoderm gene regulatory network (GRN). Here we experimentally dissect the cis-regulatory system that controls the complex pattern of foxa expression in these embryos. Four separate cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) cooperate to control foxa expression in different spatial domains of the endomesoderm, and at different times. A detailed mutational analysis revealed the inputs to each of these cis-regulatory modules. The complex and dynamic expression of foxa is regulated by a combination of repressors, a permissive switch, and multiple activators. A mathematical kinetic model was applied to study the dynamic response of foxa cis-regulatory modules to transient inputs. This study shed light on the mesoderm-endoderm fate decision and provides a functional explanation, in terms of the genomic regulatory code, for the spatial and temporal expression of a key developmental control gene.
Project description:The generation of cellular diversity is dependent on the precise spatiotemporal regulation of gene expression by both cis- and trans-acting mechanisms. The developmental principles regulating expression of specific gene subsets in individual cell types are not fully understood. Here we define the cis-regulatory mechanisms driving expression of cell-selective and broadly expressed genes in vivo in the AWB olfactory neuron subtype in C. elegans. We identify an element that is necessary to drive expression of neuron-selective chemoreceptor genes in the AWB neurons, and show that this element functions in a context-dependent manner. We find that the expression of broadly expressed sensory neuronal genes in the AWB neurons is regulated by diverse cis- and trans-regulatory mechanisms that act partly in parallel to the pathways governing expression of AWB-selective genes. We further demonstrate that cis-acting mechanisms driving gene expression in the AWB neurons appear to have diverged in related nematode species. Our results provide insights into the cis-regulatory logic driving cell-specific gene expression, and suggest that variations in this logic contribute to the generation of functional diversity.
Project description:It has been shown in several organisms that multiple cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) of a gene locus can be active concurrently to support similar spatiotemporal expression. To understand the functional importance of such seemingly redundant CRMs, we examined two CRMs from the Drosophila snail gene locus, which are both active in the ventral region of pre-gastrulation embryos. By performing a deletion series in a ?25 kb DNA rescue construct using BAC recombineering and site-directed transgenesis, we demonstrate that the two CRMs are not redundant. The distal CRM is absolutely required for viability, whereas the proximal CRM is required only under extreme conditions such as high temperature. Consistent with their distinct requirements, the CRMs support distinct expression patterns: the proximal CRM exhibits an expanded expression domain relative to endogenous snail, whereas the distal CRM exhibits almost complete overlap with snail except at the anterior-most pole. We further show that the distal CRM normally limits the increased expression domain of the proximal CRM and that the proximal CRM serves as a `damper' for the expression levels driven by the distal CRM. Thus, the two CRMs interact in cis in a non-additive fashion and these interactions may be important for fine-tuning the domains and levels of gene expression.
Project description:Transcriptional modules of coregulated genes play a key role in regulatory networks. Comparative studies show that modules of coexpressed genes are conserved across taxa. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying the evolution of module regulation. Here, we explore the evolution of cis-regulatory programs associated with conserved modules by integrating expression profiles for two yeast species and sequence data for a total of 17 fungal genomes. We show that although the cis-elements accompanying certain conserved modules are strictly conserved, those of other conserved modules are remarkably diverged. In particular, we infer the evolutionary history of the regulatory program governing ribosomal modules. We show how a cis-element emerged concurrently in dozens of promoters of ribosomal protein genes, followed by the loss of a more ancient cis-element. We suggest that this formation of an intermediate redundant regulatory program allows conserved transcriptional modules to gradually switch from one regulatory mechanism to another while maintaining their functionality. Our work provides a general framework for the study of the dynamics of promoter evolution at the level of transcriptional modules and may help in understanding the evolvability and increased redundancy of transcriptional regulation in higher organisms.
Project description:Neuronal networks that are directly associated with glomeruli in the olfactory bulb are thought to comprise functional modules. However, this has not yet been experimentally proven. In this study, we explored the anatomical and functional architecture of glomerular modules using in vivo two-photon calcium imaging. Surprisingly, the deep portions of the glomerular modules showed considerable spatial overlap with other modules. Juxtaglomerular cells showed similar excitatory odorant response profiles to presynaptic olfactory sensory neuron inputs. Mitral cells exhibited a more sharply tuned molecular receptive range compared to juxtaglomerular cells, and their odorant response profiles varied depending on their interneuronal horizontal distances. These data suggest that glomerular modules are composed of functionally distinct neurons, and that homogenous odor inputs to each glomerulus may be parsed and processed in different fashions within the modules before being sent to higher olfactory centers.
Project description:The staggering complexity of the genome controls for developmental processes is revealed through massively parallel cis-regulatory analysis using new methods of perturbation and readout. The choice of combinations of these new methods is tailored to the system, question and resources at hand. Our focus is on issues that include the necessity or sufficiency of given cis-regulatory modules, cis-regulatory function in the normal spatial genomic context, and easily accessible high throughput and multiplexed analysis methods. In the sea urchin embryonic model, recombineered BACs offer new opportunities for consecutive modes of cis-regulatory analyses that answer these requirements, as we here demonstrate on a diverse suite of previously unstudied sea urchin effector genes expressed in skeletogenic cells. Positively active cis-regulatory modules were located in single Nanostring experiments per BAC containing the gene of interest, by application of our previously reported "barcode" tag vectors of which>?100 can be analyzed at one time. Computational analysis of DNA sequences that drive expression, based on the known skeletogenic regulatory state, then permitted effective identification of functional target site clusters. Deletion of these sub-regions from the parent BACs revealed module necessity, as simultaneous tests of the same regions in short constructs revealed sufficiency. Predicted functional inputs were then confirmed by site mutations, all generated and tested in multiplex formats. There emerged the simple conclusion that each effector gene utilizes a small subset of inputs from the skeletogenic GRN. These inputs may function to only adjust expression levels or in some cases necessary for expression. Since we know the GRN architecture upstream of the effector genes, we could then conceptually isolate and compare the wiring of the effector gene driver sub-circuits and identify the inputs whose removal abolish expression.
Project description:The study of morphological modularity using anatomical networks is growing in recent years. A common strategy to find the best network partition uses community detection algorithms that optimize the modularity Q function. Because anatomical networks and their modules tend to be small, this strategy often produces two problems. One is that some algorithms find inexplicable different modules when one inputs slightly different networks. The other is that algorithms find asymmetric modules in otherwise symmetric networks. These problems have discouraged researchers to use anatomical network analysis and boost criticisms to this methodology. Here, I propose a node-based informed modularity strategy (NIMS) to identify modules in anatomical networks that bypass resolution and sensitivity limitations by using a bottom-up approach. Starting with the local modularity around every individual node, NIMS returns the modular organization of the network by merging non-redundant modules and assessing their intersection statistically using combinatorial theory. Instead of acting as a black box, NIMS allows researchers to make informed decisions about whether to merge non-redundant modules. NIMS returns network modules that are robust to minor variation and does not require optimization of a global modularity function. NIMS may prove useful to identify modules also in small ecological and social networks.
Project description:The genomic cis-regulatory systems controlling regulatory gene expression usually include multiple modules. The regulatory output of such systems at any given time depends on which module is directing the function of the basal transcription apparatus, and ultimately on the transcription factor inputs into that module. Here we examine regulation of the Strongylocentrotus purpuratus tbrain gene, a required activator of the skeletogenic specification state in the lineage descendant from the embryo micromeres. Alternate cis-regulatory modules were found to convey skeletogenic expression in reporter constructs. To determine their relative developmental functions in context, we made use of recombineered BAC constructs containing a GFP reporter and of derivatives from which specific modules had been deleted. The outputs of the various constructs were observed spatially by GFP fluorescence and quantitatively over time by QPCR. In the context of the complete genomic locus, early skeletogenic expression is controlled by an intron enhancer plus a proximal region containing a HesC site as predicted from network analysis. From ingression onward, however, a dedicated distal module utilizing positive Ets1/2 inputs contributes to definitive expression in the skeletogenic mesenchyme. This module also mediates a newly discovered negative Erg input which excludes non-skeletogenic mesodermal expression.
Project description:The neocortex contains an unparalleled diversity of neuronal subtypes, each defined by distinct traits that are developmentally acquired under the control of subtype-specific and pan-neuronal genes. The regulatory logic that orchestrates the expression of these unique combinations of genes is unknown for any class of cortical neuron. Here, we report that Fezf2 is a selector gene able to regulate the expression of gene sets that collectively define mouse corticospinal motor neurons (CSMN). We find that Fezf2 directly induces the glutamatergic identity of CSMN via activation of Vglut1 (Slc17a7) and inhibits a GABAergic fate by repressing transcription of Gad1. In addition, we identify the axon guidance receptor EphB1 as a target of Fezf2 necessary to execute the ipsilateral extension of the corticospinal tract. Our data indicate that co-regulated expression of neuron subtype-specific and pan-neuronal gene batteries by a single transcription factor is one component of the regulatory logic responsible for the establishment of CSMN identity.
Project description:A common organizational feature of nervous systems is the existence of groups of neurons that share common traits but can be divided into individual subtypes based on anatomical or molecular features. We elucidate the mechanistic basis of neuronal diversification processes in the context of C.elegans ventral cord motor neurons that share common traits that are directly activated by the terminal selector UNC-3. Diversification of motor neurons into different classes, each characterized by unique patterns of effector gene expression, is controlled by distinct combinations of phylogenetically conserved, class-specific transcriptional repressors. These repressors are continuously required in postmitotic neurons to prevent UNC-3, which is active in all neuron classes, from activating class-specific effector genes in specific motor neuron subsets via discrete cis-regulatory elements. The strategy of antagonizing the activity of broadly acting terminal selectors of neuron identity in a subtype-specific fashion may constitute a general principle of neuron subtype diversification.