Characterization of a dominant negative C. elegans Twist mutant protein with implications for human Saethre-Chotzen syndrome.
ABSTRACT Twist is a transcription factor that is required for mesodermal cell fates in all animals studied to date. Mutations of this locus in humans have been identified as the cause of the craniofacial disorder Saethre-Chotzen syndrome. The Caenorhabditis elegans Twist homolog is required for the development of a subset of the mesoderm. A semidominant allele of the gene that codes for CeTwist, hlh-8, has defects that occur earlier in the mesodermal lineage than a previously studied null allele of the gene. The semidominant allele has a charge change (E29K) in the basic DNA-binding domain of CeTwist. Surprisingly, the mutant protein retains DNA-binding activity as both a homodimer and a heterodimer with its partner E/Daughterless (CeE/DA). However, the mutant protein blocks the activation of the promoter of a target gene. Therefore, the mutant CeTwist may cause cellular defects as a dominant negative protein by binding to target promoters as a homo- or heterodimer and then blocking transcription. Similar phenotypes as those caused by the E29K mutation were observed when amino acid substitutions in the DNA-binding domain that are associated with the human Saethre-Chotzen syndrome were engineered into the C. elegans protein. These data suggest that Saethre-Chotzen syndrome may be caused, in some cases, by dominant negative proteins, rather than by haploinsufficiency of the locus.
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ABSTRACT: Cranial neural crest cells (CNCCs) have the remarkable capacity to generate both the non-ectomesenchyme derivatives of the peripheral nervous system and the ectomesenchyme precursors of the vertebrate head skeleton, yet how these divergent lineages are specified is not well understood. Whereas studies in mouse have indicated that the Twist1 transcription factor is important for ectomesenchyme development, its role and regulation during CNCC lineage decisions have remained unclear. Here we show that two Twist1 genes play an essential role in promoting ectomesenchyme at the expense of non-ectomesenchyme gene expression in zebrafish. Twist1 does so by promoting Fgf signaling, as well as potentially directly activating fli1a expression through a conserved ectomesenchyme-specific enhancer. We also show that Id2a restricts Twist1 activity to the ectomesenchyme lineage, with Bmp activity preferentially inducing id2a expression in non-ectomesenchyme precursors. We therefore propose that the ventral migration of CNCCs away from a source of Bmps in the dorsal ectoderm promotes ectomesenchyme development by relieving Id2a-dependent repression of Twist1 function. Together our model shows how the integration of Bmp inhibition at its origin and Fgf activation along its migratory route would confer temporal and spatial specificity to the generation of ectomesenchyme from the neural crest.PLoS Genetics 05/2012; 8(5):e1002710. DOI:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002710 · 8.17 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The Caenorhabditis elegans basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) factor HLH-8, the single Twist ortholog in the nematode genome, plays important roles in mesoderm development, including M lineage patterning and differentiation of vulval and enteric muscles. HLH-8 cooperates with HLH-2, the bHLH E/Daughterless ortholog, to regulate downstream target genes, but it is not known whether HLH-2 is an obligate partner for all HLH-8 functions. Using hlh-2 loss-of-function alleles and RNAi, we discovered that HLH-2 is required in the vulval muscles but not in M patterning or enteric muscle development. Additionally, we found that expressing tethered HLH-8/HLH-8 dimers in hlh-8 null animals rescued M patterning and enteric but not vulval muscle development. These results support a model whereby HLH-8/HLH-8 homodimers function in M lineage patterning and enteric muscles and HLH-8/HLH-2 heterodimers function in the M-derived vulval muscles. Interestingly, the different dimers function in the same M lineage cells and the switch in dimer function coincides with vulval muscle differentiation. The use of distinct Twist dimers is evolutionarily conserved, and C. elegans provides a paradigm for future dissection of differential promoter regulation by these dimers at a single cell resolution.Developmental Dynamics 03/2012; 241(3):481-92. DOI:10.1002/dvdy.23734 · 2.67 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Two major transcriptional regulators of Caenorhabditis elegans bodywall muscle (BWM) differentiation, hlh-1 and unc-120, are expressed in muscle where they are known to bind and regulate several well-studied muscle-specific genes. Simultaneously mutating both factors profoundly inhibits formation of contractile BWM. These observations were consistent with a simple network model in which the muscle regulatory factors drive tissue-specific transcription by binding selectively near muscle-specific targets to activate them. We tested this model by measuring the number, identity, and tissue-specificity of functional regulatory targets for each factor. Some joint regulatory targets (218) are BWM-specific and enriched for nearby HLH-1 binding. However, contrary to the simple model, the majority of genes regulated by one or both muscle factors are also expressed significantly in non-BWM tissues. We also mapped global factor occupancy by HLH-1, and created a genetic interaction map that identifies hlh-1 collaborating transcription factors. HLH-1 binding did not predict proximate regulatory action overall, despite enrichment for binding among BWM-specific positive regulatory targets of hlh-1. We conclude that these tissue-specific factors contribute much more broadly to the transcriptional output of muscle tissue than previously thought, offering a partial explanation for widespread HLH-1 occupancy. We also identify a novel regulatory connection between the BWM-specific hlh-1 network and the hlh-8/twist nonstriated muscle network. Finally, our results suggest a molecular basis for synthetic lethality in which hlh-1 and unc-120 mutant phenotypes are mutually buffered by joint additive regulation of essential target genes, with additional buffering suggested via newly identified hlh-1 interacting factors.Genome Research 06/2012; 22(10):1907-19. DOI:10.1101/gr.133306.111 · 13.85 Impact Factor