Nucleic Acids Research

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  • Genome-wide analysis of genetic and epigenetic control of programmed DNA deletion
    [Aug 2014]

    During the development of the somatic genome from the Paramecium germline genome the bulk of the copies of ~45 000 unique, internal eliminated sequences (IESs) are deleted. IES targeting is facilitated by two small RNA (sRNA) classes: scnRNAs, which relay epigenetic information from the parental nucleus to the developing nucleus, and iesRNAs, which are produced and used in the developing nucleus. Why only certain IESs require sRNAs for their removal has been enigmatic. By analyzing the silencing effects of three genes: PGM (responsible for DNA excision), DCL2/3 (scnRNA production) and DCL5 (iesRNA production), we identify key properties required for IES elimination. Based on these results, we propose that, depending on the exact combination of their lengths and end bases, some IESs are less efficiently recognized or excised and have a greater requirement for targeting by scnRNAs and iesRNAs. We suggest that the variation in IES retention following silencing of DCL2/3 is not primarily due to scnRNA density, which is comparatively uniform relative to IES retention, but rather the genetic properties of IESs. Taken together, our analyses demonstrate that in Paramecium the underlying genetic properties of developmentally deleted DNA sequences are essential in determining the sensitivity of these sequences to epigenetic control.

    Categories: Journal Articles
  • The human Piwi protein Hiwi2 associates with tRNA-derived piRNAs in somatic cells
    [Aug 2014]

    The Piwi-piRNA pathway is active in animal germ cells where its functions are required for germ cell maintenance and gamete differentiation. Piwi proteins and piRNAs have been detected outside germline tissue in multiple phyla, but activity of the pathway in mammalian somatic cells has been little explored. In particular, Piwi expression has been observed in cancer cells, but nothing is known about the piRNA partners or the function of the system in these cells. We have surveyed the expression of the three human Piwi genes, Hiwi, Hili and Hiwi2, in multiple normal tissues and cancer cell lines. We find that Hiwi2 is ubiquitously expressed; in cancer cells the protein is largely restricted to the cytoplasm and is associated with translating ribosomes. Immunoprecipitation of Hiwi2 from MDAMB231 cancer cells enriches for piRNAs that are predominantly derived from processed tRNAs and expressed genes, species which can also be found in adult human testis. Our studies indicate that a Piwi-piRNA pathway is present in human somatic cells, with an uncharacterised function linked to translation. Taking this evidence together with evidence from primitive organisms, we propose that this somatic function of the pathway predates the germline functions of the pathway in modern animals.

    Categories: Journal Articles
  • DNA bridging and looping by HMO1 provides a mechanism for stabilizing nucleosome-free chromatin
    [Aug 2014]

    The regulation of chromatin structure in eukaryotic cells involves abundant architectural factors such as high mobility group B (HMGB) proteins. It is not understood how these factors control the interplay between genome accessibility and compaction. In vivo, HMO1 binds the promoter and coding regions of most ribosomal RNA genes, facilitating transcription and possibly stabilizing chromatin in the absence of histones. To understand how HMO1 performs these functions, we combine single molecule stretching and atomic force microscopy (AFM). By stretching HMO1-bound DNA, we demonstrate a hierarchical organization of interactions, in which HMO1 initially compacts DNA on a timescale of seconds, followed by bridge formation and stabilization of DNA loops on a timescale of minutes. AFM experiments demonstrate DNA bridging between strands as well as looping by HMO1. Our results support a model in which HMO1 maintains the stability of nucleosome-free chromatin regions by forming complex and dynamic DNA structures mediated by protein–protein interactions.

    Categories: Journal Articles