A high-throughput screening and computation platform for identifying synthetic promoters with enhanced cell-state specificity (SPECS).
ABSTRACT: Cell state-specific promoters constitute essential tools for basic research and biotechnology because they activate gene expression only under certain biological conditions. Synthetic Promoters with Enhanced Cell-State Specificity (SPECS) can be superior to native ones, but the design of such promoters is challenging and frequently requires gene regulation or transcriptome knowledge that is not readily available. Here, to overcome this challenge, we use a next-generation sequencing approach combined with machine learning to screen a synthetic promoter library with 6107 designs for high-performance SPECS for potentially any cell state. We demonstrate the identification of multiple SPECS that exhibit distinct spatiotemporal activity during the programmed differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), as well as SPECS for breast cancer and glioblastoma stem-like cells. We anticipate that this approach could be used to create SPECS for gene therapies that are activated in specific cell states, as well as to study natural transcriptional regulatory networks.
Project description:Inducible transcription systems play a crucial role in a wide array of synthetic biology circuits. However, the majority of inducible promoters are constructed from a limited set of tried-and-true promoter parts, which are susceptible to common shortcomings such as high basal expression levels (i.e., leakiness). To expand the toolbox for regulated mammalian gene expression and facilitate the construction of mammalian genetic circuits with precise functionality, we quantitatively characterized a panel of eight core promoters, including sequences with mammalian, viral, and synthetic origins. We demonstrate that this selection of core promoters can provide a wide range of basal gene expression levels and achieve a gradient of fold-inductions spanning 2 orders of magnitude. Furthermore, commonly used parts such as minimal CMV and minimal SV40 promoters were shown to achieve robust gene expression upon induction, but also suffer from high levels of leakiness. In contrast, a synthetic promoter, YB_TATA, was shown to combine low basal expression with high transcription rate in the induced state to achieve significantly higher fold-induction ratios compared to all other promoters tested. These behaviors remain consistent when the promoters are coupled to different genetic outputs and different response elements, as well as across different host-cell types and DNA copy numbers. We apply this quantitative understanding of core promoter properties to the successful engineering of human T cells that respond to antigen stimulation via chimeric antigen receptor signaling specifically under hypoxic environments. Results presented in this study can facilitate the design and calibration of future mammalian synthetic biology systems capable of precisely programmed functionality.
Project description:Monomethylation on lysine 4 of histone H3 (H3K4me1) is commonly associated with distal enhancers, but H3K4me1 is also present at promoter regions proximal to transcription start sites. To assess a possible role for H3K4me1 in dictating gene regulatory states at promoters, we examined H3K4me1 peak density around promoters in human and mouse germ cells using an analytic strategy that allowed us to assess relationships between different epigenetic marks on a promoter-by-promoter basis. We found that H3K4me1 exhibits either a bimodal pattern at active promoters, where it flanks H3K4me3, or a unimodal pattern at poised promoters, where it coincides with both H3K4me3 and H3K27me3. This pattern is correlated with gene expression level, but is more strongly linked to a poised chromatin state, defined by the simultaneous presence of H3K4me3 and H3K27me3, than to transcriptional activity. The pattern is especially prominent in germ cells, but is also present in other cell types, including embryonic stem cells and differentiated somatic cells. We propose that H3K4me1 is a key feature of the poised epigenetic state, and suggest possible roles for this mark in epigenetic memory.
Project description:Bidirectional green tissue-specific promoters have important application prospects in genetic engineering and crop genetic improvement. However, there is no report on the application of them, mainly due to undiscovered natural bidirectional green tissue-specific promoters and the lack of a comprehensive approach for the synthesis of these promoters. In order to compensate for this vacancy, the present study reports a novel strategy for the expression regulatory sequence selection and the bidirectional green tissue-specific synthetic promoter construction. Based on this strategy, seven promoters were synthesized and introduced into rice by agrobacterium-mediated transformation. The functional identification of these synthetic promoters was performed by the expression pattern of GFP and GUS reporter genes in two reverse directions in transgenic rice. The results indicated that all the synthetic promoters possessed bidirectional expression activities in transgenic rice, and four synthetic promoters (BiGSSP2, BiGSSP3, BiGSSP6, BiGSSP7) showed highly bidirectional expression efficiencies specifically in green tissues (leaf, sheath, panicle, stem), which could be widely applied to agricultural biotechnology. Our study provided a feasible strategy for the construction of synthetic promoters, and we successfully created four bidirectional green tissue-specific synthetic promoters. It is the first report on bidirectional green tissue-specific promoters that could be efficiently applied in genetic engineering.
Project description:Promoters of many developmentally regulated genes, in the embryonic stem cell state, have a bivalent mark of H3K27me3 and H3K4me3, proposed to confer precise temporal activation upon differentiation. Although Polycomb repressive complex 2 is known to implement H3K27 trimethylation, the COMPASS family member responsible for H3K4me3 at bivalently marked promoters was previously unknown. Here, we identify Mll2 (KMT2b) as the enzyme catalyzing H3K4 trimethylation at bivalentlymarked promoters in embryonic stem cells. Although H3K4me3 at bivalent genes is proposed to prime future activation, we detected no substantial defect in rapid transcriptional induction after retinoic acid treatment in Mll2-depleted cells. Our identification of the Mll2 complex as the COMPASS family member responsible for H3K4me3 marking bivalent promoters provides an opportunity to reevaluate and experimentally test models for the function of bivalency in the embryonic stem cell state and in differentiation.
Project description:To selectively express cell type-specific transcripts during development, it is critical to maintain genes required for other lineages in a silent state. Here, we show in the Drosophila male germline stem cell lineage that a spermatocyte-specific zinc finger protein, Kumgang (Kmg), working with the chromatin remodeler dMi-2 prevents transcription of genes normally expressed only in somatic lineages. By blocking transcription from normally cryptic promoters, Kmg restricts activation by Aly, a component of the testis-meiotic arrest complex, to transcripts for male germ cell differentiation. Our results suggest that as new regions of the genome become open for transcription during terminal differentiation, blocking the action of a promiscuous activator on cryptic promoters is a critical mechanism for specifying precise gene activation.
Project description:In gene therapy, tissue-specific promoters are useful tools to direct transgene expression and improve efficiency and safety. Macrophage-specific promoters (MSPs) have previously been published using different delivery systems. In this study, we evaluated five different MSPs fused with green fluorescent protein (GFP) to delineate the one with highest specificity using lentiviral delivery. We compared three variants of the CD68 promoter (full length, the 343-bp proximal part and the 150-bp proximal part) and two variants (in forward and reverse orientation) of a previously characterized synthetic promoter derived from elements of transcription factor genes. We transduced a number of cell lines and primary cells in vitro. In addition, hematopoietic stem cells were transduced with MSPs and transferred into lethally irradiated recipient mice. Fluorescence activated cell sorting analysis was performed to determine the GFP expression in different cell populations both in vitro and in vivo. We showed that MSPs can efficiently be used for lentiviral gene delivery and that the 150-bp proximal part of the CD68 promoter provides primarily macrophage-specific expression of GFP. We propose that this is the best currently available MSP to use for directing transgene expression to macrophage populations in vivo using lentiviral vectors.
Project description:Ligand-responsive allosteric transcription factors (aTF) play a vital role in genetic circuits and high-throughput screening because they transduce biochemical signals into gene expression changes. Programmable control of gene expression from aTF-regulated promoter is important because different downstream effector genes function optimally at different expression levels. However, tuning gene expression of native promoters is difficult due to complex layers of homeostatic regulation encoded within them. We engineered synthetic promoters de novo by embedding operator sites with varying affinities and radically reshaped binding preferences within a minimal, constitutive Escherichia coli promoter. Multiplexed cell-based screening of promoters for three TetR-like aTFs generated with this approach gave rich diversity of gene expression levels, dynamic ranges and ligand sensitivities and were 50- to 100-fold more active over their respective native promoters. Machine learning on our dataset revealed that relative position of the core motif and bases flanking the core motif play an important role in modulating induction response. Our generalized approach yields customizable and programmable aTF-regulated promoters for engineering cellular pathways and enables the discovery of new small molecule biosensors.
Project description:Transcriptional silencing of terminal differentiation genes by the Polycomb group (PcG) machinery is emerging as a key feature of precursor cells in stem cell lineages. How, then, is this epigenetic silencing reversed for proper cellular differentiation? Here, we investigate how the developmental program reverses local PcG action to allow expression of terminal differentiation genes in the Drosophila male germline stem cell (GSC) lineage. We find that the silenced state, set up in precursor cells, is relieved through developmentally regulated sequential events at promoters once cells commit to spermatocyte differentiation. The programmed events include global downregulation of Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) components, recruitment of hypophosphorylated RNA polymerase II (Pol II) to promoters, as well as the expression and action of testis-specific homologs of TATA-binding protein-associated factors (tTAFs). In addition, action of the testis-specific meiotic arrest complex (tMAC), a tissue-specific version of the MIP/dREAM complex, is required both for recruitment of tTAFs to target differentiation genes and for proper cell type-specific localization of PRC1 components and tTAFs within the spermatocyte nucleolus. Together, the action of the tMAC and tTAF cell type-specific chromatin and transcription machinery leads to loss of Polycomb and release of stalled Pol II from the terminal differentiation gene promoters, allowing robust transcription.
Project description:Synthetic promoters are considered ideal candidates in driving robust gene expression. Most of the available synthetic promoters are minimal promoters, for which the upstream sequence of the 5' end of the core region is usually excluded. Although the upstream sequence has been shown to mediate transcription of natural promoters, its impact on synthetic promoters has not been widely studied. Here, a library of chromosomal DNA fragments is randomly fused with the 5' end of the J23119 synthetic promoter, and the transcriptional performance of the promoter is evaluated through ?-galactosidase assay, fluorescence intensity and chemical biosynthesis. Results show that changes in the upstream sequence can induce significant variation in the promoter strength of up to 5.8-fold. The effect is independent of the length of the insertions and the number of potential transcription factor binding sites. Several DNA fragments that are able to enhance the transcription of both the natural and the synthetic promoters are identified. This study indicates that the synthetic minimal promoters are susceptible to the surrounding sequence context. Therefore, the upstream sequence should be treated as an indispensable component in the design and application of synthetic promoters, or as an independent genetic part for the fine-tuning of gene expression.
Project description:Mesenchymal stem cells from adipose tissue can differentiate into mesodermal lineages. Differentiation potential, however, varies between clones of adipose stem cells (ASCs), raising the hypothesis that epigenetic differences account for this variability. We report here a bisulfite sequencing analysis of CpG methylation of adipogenic (leptin [LEP], peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma 2 [PPARG2], fatty acid-binding protein 4 [FABP4], and lipoprotein lipase [LPL]) promoters and of nonadipogenic (myogenin [MYOG], CD31, and GAPDH) loci in freshly isolated human ASCs and in cultured ASCs, in relation to gene expression and differentiation potential. Uncultured ASCs display hypomethylated adipogenic promoters, in contrast to myogenic and endothelial loci, which are methylated. Adipogenic promoters exhibit mosaic CpG methylation, on the basis of heterogeneous methylation between cells and of variation in the extent of methylation of a given CpG between donors, and both between and within clonal cell lines. DNA methylation reflects neither transcriptional status nor potential for gene expression upon differentiation. ASC culture preserves hypomethylation of adipogenic promoters; however, between- and within-clone mosaic methylation is detected. Adipogenic differentiation also maintains the overall CpG hypomethylation of LEP, PPARG2, FABP4, and LPL despite demethylation of specific CpGs and transcriptional induction. Furthermore, enhanced methylation at adipogenic loci in primary differentiated cells unrelated to adipogenesis argues for ASC specificity of the hypomethylated state of these loci. Therefore, mosaic hypomethylation of adipogenic promoters may constitute a molecular signature of ASCs, and DNA methylation does not seem to be a determinant of differentiation potential of these cells.