Skirmantas Kriaucionis selected recent publications
Cells require nucleotides to support DNA replication and repair damaged DNA. In addition to de novo synthesis, cells recycle nucleotides from the DNA of dying cells or from cellular material ingested through the diet. Salvaged nucleosides come with the complication that they can contain epigenetic modifications. Because epigenetic inheritance of DNA methylation mainly relies on copying of the modification pattern from parental strands, random incorporation of pre-modified bases during replication could have profound implications for epigenome fidelity and yield adverse cellular phenotypes. Although the salvage mechanism of 5-methyl-2'deoxycytidine (5mdC) has been investigated before, it remains unknown how cells deal with the recently identified oxidized forms of 5mdC: 5-hydroxymethyl-2'deoxycytidine (5hmdC), 5-formy-2'deoxycytidine (5fdC) and 5-carboxyl-2'deoxycytidine (5cadC). Here we show that enzymes of the nucleotide salvage pathway display substrate selectivity, effectively protecting newly synthesized DNA from the incorporation of epigenetically modified forms of cytosine. Thus, cell lines and animals can tolerate high doses of these modified cytidines without any deleterious effects on physiology. Notably, by screening cancer cell lines for growth defects after exposure to 5hmdC, we unexpectedly identify a subset of cell lines in which 5hmdC or 5fdC administration leads to cell lethality. Using genomic approaches, we show that the susceptible cell lines overexpress cytidine deaminase (CDA). CDA converts 5hmdC and 5fdC into variants of uridine that are incorporated into DNA, resulting in accumulation of DNA damage, and ultimately, cell death. Our observations extend current knowledge of the nucleotide salvage pathway by revealing the metabolism of oxidized epigenetic bases, and suggest a new therapeutic option for cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, that have CDA overexpression and are resistant to treatment with other cytidine analogues.
Transcription factor binding and high resolution crystallographic studies (1.3 Å) of Dickerson-Drew duplexes with cytosine, methylcytosine and hydroxymethylcytosine bases provide evidence that C-5 cytosine modifications could regulate transcription by context dependent effects on DNA transcription factor interactions.
Genomic imprinting directs the allele-specific marking and expression of loci according to their parental origin. Differential DNA methylation at imprinted control regions (ICRs) is established in gametes and, although largely preserved through development, can be experimentally reset by fusing somatic cells with embryonic germ cell (EGC) lines. Here, we show that the Ten-Eleven Translocation proteins Tet1 and Tet2 participate in the efficient erasure of imprints in this model system. The fusion of B cells with EGCs initiates pluripotent reprogramming, in which rapid re-expression of Oct4 is accompanied by an accumulation of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) at several ICRs. Tet2 was required for the efficient reprogramming capacity of EGCs, whereas Tet1 was necessary to induce 5-methylcytosine oxidation specifically at ICRs. These data show that the Tet1 and Tet2 proteins have discrete roles in cell-fusion-mediated pluripotent reprogramming and imprint erasure in somatic cells.
The high level of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC) present in neuronal genomes suggests that mechanisms interpreting 5hmC in the CNS may differ from those present in embryonic stem cells. Here, we present quantitative, genome-wide analysis of 5hmC, 5-methylcytosine (5mC), and gene expression in differentiated CNS cell types in vivo. We report that 5hmC is enriched in active genes and that, surprisingly, strong depletion of 5mC is observed over these regions. The contribution of these epigenetic marks to gene expression depends critically on cell type. We identify methyl-CpG-binding protein 2 (MeCP2) as the major 5hmC-binding protein in the brain and demonstrate that MeCP2 binds 5hmC- and 5mC-containing DNA with similar high affinities. The Rett-syndrome-causing mutation R133C preferentially inhibits 5hmC binding. These findings support a model in which 5hmC and MeCP2 constitute a cell-specific epigenetic mechanism for regulation of chromatin structure and gene expression.
Across vertebrate genomes methylation of cytosine residues within the context of CpG dinucleotides is a pervasive epigenetic mark that can impact gene expression and has been implicated in various developmental and disease-associated processes. Several biochemical approaches exist to profile DNA methylation, but recently an alternative approach based on profiling non-methylated CpGs was developed. This technique, called CxxC affinity purification (CAP), uses a ZF-CxxC (CxxC) domain to specifically capture DNA containing clusters of non-methylated CpGs. Here we describe a new CAP approach, called biotinylated CAP (Bio-CAP), which eliminates the requirement for specialized equipment while dramatically improving and simplifying the CxxC-based DNA affinity purification. Importantly, this approach isolates non-methylated DNA in a manner that is directly proportional to the density of non-methylated CpGs, and discriminates non-methylated CpGs from both methylated and hydroxymethylated CpGs. Unlike conventional CAP, Bio-CAP can be applied to nanogram quantities of genomic DNA and in a magnetic format is amenable to efficient parallel processing of samples. Furthermore, Bio-CAP can be applied to genome-wide profiling of non-methylated DNA with relatively small amounts of input material. Therefore, Bio-CAP is a simple and streamlined approach for characterizing regions of the non-methylated DNA, whether at specific target regions or genome wide.
Despite the importance of epigenetic regulation in neurological disorders, little is known about neuronal chromatin. Cerebellar Purkinje neurons have large and euchromatic nuclei, whereas granule cell nuclei are small and have a more typical heterochromatin distribution. While comparing the abundance of 5-methylcytosine in Purkinje and granule cell nuclei, we detected the presence of an unusual DNA nucleotide. Using thin-layer chromatography, high-pressure liquid chromatography, and mass spectrometry, we identified the nucleotide as 5-hydroxymethyl-2'-deoxycytidine (hmdC). hmdC constitutes 0.6% of total nucleotides in Purkinje cells, 0.2% in granule cells, and is not present in cancer cell lines. hmdC is a constituent of nuclear DNA that is highly abundant in the brain, suggesting a role in epigenetic control of neuronal function.
Mutations in the human methyl-CpG-binding protein gene MECP2 cause the neurological disorder Rett syndrome and some cases of X-linked mental retardation (XLMR). We report that MeCP2 interacts with ATRX, a SWI2/SNF2 DNA helicase/ATPase that is mutated in ATRX syndrome (alpha-thalassemia/mental retardation, X-linked). MeCP2 can recruit the helicase domain of ATRX to heterochromatic foci in living mouse cells in a DNA methylation-dependent manner. Also, ATRX localization is disrupted in neurons of Mecp2-null mice. Point mutations within the methylated DNA-binding domain of MeCP2 that cause Rett syndrome or X-linked mental retardation inhibit its interaction with ATRX in vitro and its localization in vivo without affecting methyl-CpG binding. We propose that disruption of the MeCP2-ATRX interaction leads to pathological changes that contribute to mental retardation.
Rett syndrome (RTT) is a severe neurological disorder caused by mutations in the X-linked MECP2 gene, which encodes a methyl-CpG binding transcriptional repressor. Using the Mecp2-null mouse (an animal model for RTT) and differential display, we found that mice with neurological symptoms overexpress the nuclear gene for ubiquinol-cytochrome c reductase core protein 1 (Uqcrc1). Chromatin immunoprecipitation demonstrated that MeCP2 interacts with the Uqcrc1 promoter. Uqcrc1 encodes a subunit of mitochondrial respiratory complex III, and isolated mitochondria from the Mecp2-null brain showed elevated respiration rates associated with respiratory complex III and an overall reduction in coupling. A causal link between Uqcrc1 gene overexpression and enhanced complex III activity was established in neuroblastoma cells. Our findings raise the possibility that mitochondrial dysfunction contributes to pathology of the Mecp2-null mouse and may contribute to the long-known resemblance between Rett syndrome and certain mitochondrial disorders.
Rett syndrome (RTT) is a severe form of mental retardation, which is caused by spontaneous mutations in the X-linked gene MECP2. How the loss of MeCP2 function leads to RTT is currently unknown. Mice lacking the Mecp2 gene initially show normal postnatal development but later acquire neurological phenotypes, including heightened anxiety, that resemble RTT. The MECP2 gene encodes a methyl-CpG-binding protein that can act as a transcriptional repressor. Using cDNA microarrays, we found that Mecp2-null animals differentially express several genes that are induced during the stress response by glucocorticoids. Increased levels of mRNAs for serum glucocorticoid-inducible kinase 1 (Sgk) and FK506-binding protein 51 (Fkbp5) were observed before and after onset of neurological symptoms, but plasma glucocorticoid was not significantly elevated in Mecp2-null mice. MeCP2 is bound to the Fkbp5 and Sgk genes in brain and may function as a modulator of glucocorticoid-inducible gene expression. Given the known deleterious effect of glucocorticoid exposure on brain development, our data raise the possibility that disruption of MeCP2-dependent regulation of stress-responsive genes contributes to the symptoms of RTT.
Methylation of cytosine in human DNA has been studied for over 60 years, but has only recently been confirmed as an important player in human disease. Rett syndrome is a neurological disorder caused by mutations in the MeCP2 protein, which has been shown to bind methylated DNA and repress transcription. This review will focus on experiments addressing the basic properties of MeCP2 and on mouse models of Rett syndrome that are starting to yield insights into this condition.
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