Christof Niehrs

German Cancer Research Center, Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Are you Christof Niehrs?

Claim your profile

Publications (145)1431.95 Total impact

  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: DNA methylation is a dynamic and reversible process that governs gene expression during development and disease. Several examples of active DNA demethylation have been documented, involving genome-wide and gene-specific DNA demethylation. How demethylating enzymes are targeted to specific genomic loci remains largely unknown. We show that an antisense lncRNA, termed TARID (for TCF21 antisense RNA inducing demethylation), activates TCF21 expression by inducing promoter demethylation. TARID interacts with both the TCF21 promoter and GADD45A (growth arrest and DNA-damage-inducible, alpha), a regulator of DNA demethylation. GADD45A in turn recruits thymine-DNA glycosylase for base excision repair-mediated demethylation involving oxidation of 5-methylcytosine to 5-hydroxymethylcytosine in the TCF21 promoter by ten-eleven translocation methylcytosine dioxygenase proteins. The results reveal a function of lncRNAs, serving as a genomic address label for GADD45A-mediated demethylation of specific target genes.
    Molecular cell. 07/2014;
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Wnt signaling represents a highly versatile signaling system, which plays diverse and critical roles in various aspects of neural development. Sensory neurons of the dorsal root ganglia require Wnt signaling for initial cell-fate determination as well as patterning and synapse formation. Here we report that Wnt signaling pathways persist in adult sensory neurons and play a functional role in their sensitization in a pathophysiological context. We observed that Wnt3a recruits the Wnt-calcium signaling pathway and the Wnt planar cell polarity pathway in peripheral nerves to alter pain sensitivity in a modality-specific manner and we elucidated underlying mechanisms. In contrast, biochemical, pharmacological, and genetic studies revealed lack of functional relevance for the classical canonical β-catenin pathway in peripheral sensory neurons in acute modulation of nociception. Finally, this study provides proof-of-concept for a translational potential for Wnt3a-Frizzled3 signaling in alleviating disease-related pain hypersensitivity in cancer-associated pain in vivo.
    Neuron 07/2014; 83(1):104-121. · 15.77 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Canonical Wnt signaling is thought to regulate cell behavior mainly by inducing β-catenin-dependent transcription of target genes. In proliferating cells Wnt signaling peaks in the G2/M phase of the cell cycle, but the significance of this "mitotic Wnt signaling" is unclear. Here we introduce Wnt-dependent stabilization of proteins (Wnt/STOP), which is independent of β-catenin and peaks during mitosis. We show that Wnt/STOP plays a critical role in protecting proteins, including c-MYC, from GSK3-dependent polyubiquitination and degradation. Wnt/STOP signaling increases cellular protein levels and cell size. Wnt/STOP, rather than β-catenin signaling, is the dominant mode of Wnt signaling in several cancer cell lines, where it is required for cell growth. We propose that Wnt/STOP signaling slows down protein degradation as cells prepare to divide.
    Molecular cell. 05/2014;
  • Ya-Lin Huang, Christof Niehrs
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: How cells convert polarity cues into cell fate specification is incompletely understood. Here, we show that Wnt/β-catenin and Wnt/PCP signaling cooperate in this process in early Xenopus embryos. We find that the Wnt coreceptor Lrp6 is asymmetrically localized to the basolateral membrane in ectodermal blastomeres. Lrp6 asymmetry is controlled by Wnt/PCP signaling, indicating that this pathway regulates not only planar- but also apicobasal cell polarity. Following asymmetric cell division, Lrp6 preferentially sorts to the deep ectodermal cell layer and becomes depleted in the epithelial cell layer. This is accompanied by elevated Wnt/β-catenin signaling in deep cells, which in turn promotes their differentiation into ciliated cells. We conclude that coordinated Wnt/PCP and Wnt/β-catenin signaling convert apicobasal polarity information to specify ectodermal cell fate.
    Developmental Cell 04/2014; 29(2):250-257. · 12.86 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Wnt/β-catenin signaling plays an important role in embryonic development and adult tissue homeostasis. When Wnt ligands bind to the receptor complex, LRP5/6 coreceptors are activated by phosphorylation and concomitantly endocytosed. In vertebrates, Wnt ligands induce caveolin-dependent endocytosis of LRP6 to relay signal downstream, whereas antagonists such as Dickkopf promote clathrin-dependent endocytosis, leading to inhibition. However, little is known about how LRP6 is directed to different internalization mechanisms, and how caveolin-dependent endocytosis is mediated. In an RNAi screen, we identified the Rab GTPase RAB8B as being required for Wnt/β-catenin signaling. RAB8B depletion reduces LRP6 activity, β-catenin accumulation, and induction of Wnt target genes, whereas RAB8B overexpression promotes LRP6 activity and internalization and rescues inhibition of caveolar endocytosis. In Xenopus laevis and Danio rerio, RAB8B morphants show lower Wnt activity during embryonic development. Our results implicate RAB8B as an essential evolutionary conserved component of Wnt/β-catenin signaling through regulation of LRP6 activity and endocytosis.
    Cell Reports 09/2013; · 7.21 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Cristina-Maria Cruciat, Christof Niehrs
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Signaling by the Wnt family of secreted glycoproteins plays important roles in embryonic development and adult homeostasis. Wnt signaling is modulated by a number of evolutionarily conserved inhibitors and activators. Wnt inhibitors belong to small protein families, including sFRP, Dkk, WIF,Wise/SOST, Cerberus, IGFBP, Shisa,Waif1, APCDD1, and Tiki1. Their common feature is to antagonize Wnt signaling by preventing ligand-receptor interactions or Wnt receptor maturation. Conversely, the Wnt activators, R-spondin and Norrin, promote Wnt signaling by binding to Wnt receptors or releasing a Wnt-inhibitory step.With few exceptions, these antagonists and agonists are not pure Wnt modulators, but also affect additional signaling pathways, such as TGF-b and FGF signaling. Here we discuss their interactions with Wnt ligands and Wnt receptors, their role in developmental processes, as well as their implication in disease.
    Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine 03/2013; 3(3):a015081. · 7.56 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Loss of tissue organization is a hallmark of the early stages of cancer, and there is considerable interest in proteins that maintain normal tissue architecture. Prostate epithelial cells cultured in Matrigel form three-dimensional acini that mimic aspects of prostate gland development. The organization of these structures requires the tumor suppressor Dickkopf-3 (Dkk-3), a divergent member of the Dkk family of secreted Wnt signaling antagonists that is frequently downregulated in prostate cancer. To gain further insight into the function of Dkk-3 in the prostate, we compared the prostates of Dkk3 null mice with those of control littermates. We found increased proliferation of prostate epithelial cells in the mutant mice and changes in prostate tissue organization. Consistent with these observations, cell proliferation was elevated in acini formed by human prostate epithelial cells stably silenced for Dkk-3. Silencing of Dkk-3 increased TGF-β/Smad signaling and inhibitors of TGF-β/Smad signaling rescued the defective acinar phenotype caused by loss of Dkk-3. These findings suggest that Dkk-3 maintains the structural integrity of the prostate gland by limiting TGF-β/Smad signaling.
    Journal of Cell Science 02/2013; · 5.88 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Casein kinase 1 (CK1) members play key roles in numerous biological processes. They are considered "rogue" kinases, since their enzymatic activity appears unregulated. Contrary to this notion, we have identified the DEAD box RNA helicase DDX3 as a novel regulator of the Wnt/β-catenin network, where it acts as a regulatory subunit of CK1ε: In a Wnt-dependent manner, DDX3 binds CK1ε and directly stimulates its kinase activity, and promotes phosphorylation of the scaffold protein Dishevelled. DDX3 is required for Wnt/β-catenin signaling in mammalian cells, and during Xenopus- and C. elegans development. The results also suggest that the kinase-stimulatory function extends to other DDX- and CK1 members, opening fresh perspectives for one of the longest studied protein kinase families.
    Science 02/2013; · 31.20 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Memory impairment has been associated with age-related decline in adult hippocampal neurogenesis. Although Notch, bone morphogenetic protein, and Wnt signaling pathways are known to regulate multiple aspects of adult neural stem cell function, the molecular basis of declining neurogenesis in the aging hippocampus remains unknown. Here, we show that expression of the Wnt antagonist Dickkopf-1 (Dkk1) increases with age and that its loss enhances neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Neural progenitors with inducible loss of Dkk1 increase their Wnt activity, which leads to enhanced self-renewal and increased generation of immature neurons. This Wnt-expanded progeny subsequently matures into glutamatergic granule neurons with increased dendritic complexity. As a result, mice deficient in Dkk1 exhibit enhanced spatial working memory and memory consolidation and also show improvements in affective behavior. Taken together, our findings show that upregulating Wnt signaling by reducing Dkk1 expression can counteract age-related decrease in neurogenesis and its associated cognitive decline.
    Cell stem cell 02/2013; 12(2):204-14. · 23.56 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Active DNA demethylation regulates epigenetic gene activation in numerous processes, but how the target site specificity of DNA demethylation is determined and what factors are involved are still poorly understood. Here we show that the tumor suppressor inhibitor of growth protein 1 (Ing1) is required for targeting active DNA demethylation. Ing1 functions by recruiting the regulator of DNA demethylation growth arrest and DNA damage protein 45a (Gadd45a) to histone H3 trimethylated at Lys 4 (H3K4me3). We show that reduced H3K4 methylation impairs recruitment of Gadd45a/Ing1 and gene-specific DNA demethylation. Our results indicate that histone methylation directs DNA demethylation.
    Genes & development 02/2013; 27(3):261-73. · 12.08 Impact Factor
  • Christof Niehrs
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: 30 years after the identification of WNTs, their signal transduction has become increasingly complex, with the discovery of more than 15 receptors and co-receptors in seven protein families. The recent discovery of three receptor classes for the R-spondin family of WNT agonists further adds to this complexity. What emerges is an intricate network of receptors that form higher-order ligand-receptor complexes routing downstream signalling. These are regulated both extracellularly by agonists such as R-spondin and intracellularly by post-translational modifications such as phosphorylation, proteolytic processing and endocytosis.
    Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology 11/2012; · 37.16 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Male sex determination in mammals is induced by Sry, a gene whose regulation is poorly understood. Here we show that mice mutant for the stress-response gene Gadd45g display complete male-to-female sex reversal. Gadd45g and Sry have a strikingly similar expression pattern in the genital ridge, and they are coexpressed in gonadal somatic cells. In Gadd45g mutants, Sry expression is delayed and reduced, and yet Sry seemed to remain poised for expression, because its promoter is demethylated on schedule and is occupied by active histone marks. Instead, p38 MAPK signaling is impaired in Gadd45g mutants. Moreover, the transcription factor GATA4, which is required for Sry expression, binds to the Sry promoter in vivo in a MAPK-dependent manner. The results suggest that a signaling cascade, involving GADD45G → p38 MAPK → GATA4 → SRY, regulates male sex determination.
    Developmental Cell 10/2012; · 12.86 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Cristina-Maria Cruciat, Christof Niehrs
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Signaling by the Wnt family of secreted glycoproteins plays important roles in embryonic development and adult homeostasis. Wnt signaling is modulated by a number of evolutionarily conserved inhibitors and activators. Wnt inhibitors belong to small protein families, including sFRP, Dkk, WIF, Wise/SOST, Cerberus, IGFBP, Shisa, Waif1, APCDD1, and Tiki1. Their common feature is to antagonize Wnt signaling by preventing ligand-receptor interactions or Wnt receptor maturation. Conversely, the Wnt activators, R-spondin and Norrin, promote Wnt signaling by binding to Wnt receptors or releasing a Wnt-inhibitory step. With few exceptions, these antagonists and agonists are not pure Wnt modulators, but also affect additional signaling pathways, such as TGF-β and FGF signaling. Here we discuss their interactions with Wnt ligands and Wnt receptors, their role in developmental processes, as well as their implication in disease.
    Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology 10/2012; · 9.63 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Primary aldosteronism (PA, autonomous aldosterone production from the adrenal cortex) causes the most common form of secondary arterial hypertension (HT), which is also the most common curable form of HT. Recent studies have highlighted an important role of mutations in genes encoding potassium channels in the pathogenesis of PA, both in human disease and in animal models. Here, we have exploited the unique features of the hyperaldosteronemic phenotype of Kcnk3 null mice, which is dependent on sexual hormones, to identify genes whose expression is modulated in the adrenal gland according to the dynamic hyperaldosteronemic phenotype of those animals. Genetic inactivation of one of the genes identified by our strategy, dickkopf-3 (Dkk3), whose expression is increased by calcium influx into adrenocortical cells, in the Kcnk3 null background results in the extension of the low-renin, potassium-rich diet insensitive hyperaldosteronemic phenotype to the male sex. Compound Kcnk3/Dkk3 animals display an increased expression of Cyp11b2, the rate-limiting enzyme for aldosterone biosyntheis in the adrenal zona glomerulosa (ZG). Our data show that Dkk3 can act as a modifier gene in a mouse model for altered potassium channel function and suggest its potential involvement in human PA syndromes.
    Human Molecular Genetics 08/2012; 21(22):4922-9. · 7.69 Impact Factor
  • Christof Niehrs, Sergio P Acebron
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Canonical Wnt signalling plays an important role in development, tissue homeostasis, and cancer. At the cellular level, canonical Wnt signalling acts by regulating cell fate, cell growth, and cell proliferation. With regard to proliferation, there is increasing evidence for a complex interaction between canonical Wnt signalling and the cell cycle. Mitogenic Wnt signalling regulates cell proliferation by promoting G1 phase. In mitosis, components of the Wnt signalling cascade function directly in spindle formation. Moreover, Wnt signalling is strongly activated in mitosis, suggesting that 'mitotic Wnt signalling' plays an important role to orchestrate a cell division program. Here, we review the complex interplay between Wnt signalling and the cell cycle.
    The EMBO Journal 05/2012; 31(12):2705-13. · 9.82 Impact Factor
  • Christof Niehrs, Andrea Schäfer
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: How DNA methylation patterns are established, maintained and remodeled is incompletely understood, however, it has become clear that DNA methylation is reversible and dynamic as a result of enzymatic DNA demethylation. Several different mechanisms that may account for demethylation have recently been put forward and all seem to involve DNA repair. Here, we review DNA demethylation mediated by multifunctional growth arrest and DNA damage 45 (Gadd45) protein family members which mediate DNA demethylation during cell differentiation and stress response. Gadd45 recruits nucleotide and/or base excision repair factors to gene-specific loci and acts as an adapter between repair factors and chromatin, thereby creating a nexus between epigenetics and DNA repair.
    Trends in cell biology 02/2012; 22(4):220-7. · 12.12 Impact Factor
  • Source
    European Urology Supplements 02/2012; 11(1). · 3.37 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: In healthy individuals, T cells react against incoming pathogens, but remain tolerant to self-antigens, thereby preventing autoimmune reactions. CD4 regulatory T cells are major contributors in induction and maintenance of peripheral tolerance, but a regulatory role has been also reported for several subsets of CD8 T cells. To determine the molecular basis of peripheral CD8 T-cell tolerance, we exploited a double transgenic mouse model in which CD8 T cells are neonatally tolerized following interaction with a parenchymal self-antigen. These tolerant CD8 T cells have regulatory capacity and can suppress T cells in an antigen-specific manner during adulthood. Dickkopf-3 (DKK3) was found to be expressed in the tolerant CD8 T cells and to be essential for the observed CD8 T-cell tolerance. In vitro, genetic deletion of DKK3 or blocking with antibodies restored CD8 T-cell proliferation and IL-2 production in response to the tolerizing self-antigen. Moreover, exogenous DKK3 reduced CD8 T-cell reactivity. In vivo, abrogation of DKK3 function reversed tolerance, leading to eradication of tumors expressing the target antigen and to rejection of autologous skin grafts. Thus, our findings define DKK3 as a immune modulator with a crucial role for CD8 T-cell tolerance.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 01/2012; 109(5):1631-6. · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: R-spondins are secreted Wnt signalling agonists, which regulate embryonic patterning and stem cell proliferation, but whose mechanism of action is poorly understood. Here we show that R-spondins bind to the orphan G-protein-coupled receptors LGR4 and LGR5 by their Furin domains. Gain- and loss-of-function experiments in mammalian cells and Xenopus embryos indicate that LGR4 and LGR5 promote R-spondin-mediated Wnt/β-catenin and Wnt/PCP signalling. R-spondin-triggered β-catenin signalling requires Clathrin, while Wnt3a-mediated β-catenin signalling requires Caveolin-mediated endocytosis, suggesting that internalization has a mechanistic role in R-spondin signalling.
    EMBO Reports 09/2011; 12(10):1055-61. · 7.19 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Lilian T Kaufmann, Christof Niehrs
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Gadd45 genes encode a small family of multifunctional stress response proteins, mediating cell proliferation, apoptosis, DNA repair and DNA demethylation. Their role during embryonic development is incompletely understood. Here we identified Xenopus Gadd45b, compared Gadd45a, Gadd45b and Gadd45g expression during Xenopus embryogenesis, and characterized their gain and loss of function phenotypes. Gadd45a and Gadd45g act redundantly and double Morpholino knock down leads to pleiotropic phenotypes, including shortened axes, head defects and misgastrulation. In contrast, Gadd45b, which is expressed at very low levels, shows little effect upon knock down or overexpression. Gadd45ag double Morphants show reduced neural cell proliferation and downregulation of pan-neural and neural crest markers. In contrast, Gadd45ag Morphants display increased expression of multipotency marker genes including Xenopus oct4 homologs as well as gastrula markers, while mesodermal markers are downregulated. The results indicate that Gadd45ag are required for early embryonic cells to exit pluripotency and enter differentiation.
    Mechanisms of development 08/2011; 128(7-10):401-11. · 2.83 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

9k Citations
1,431.95 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1996–2014
    • German Cancer Research Center
      • Division of Molecular Embryology
      Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • 2012–2013
    • Institute of Molecular Biology
      Mayence, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
  • 2010–2013
    • Universität Heidelberg
      • • Department of Molecular Biology
      • • Faculty of Medicine Mannheim and Clinic Mannheim
      Heidelberg, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
    • Hebrew University of Jerusalem
      • Department of Developmental Biology and Cancer Research
      Jerusalem, Jerusalem District, Israel
  • 2010–2011
    • Tsinghua University
      • School of Life Sciences
      Beijing, Beijing Shi, China
  • 2009–2010
    • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
      • Institut für Toxikologie und Genetik
      Karlsruhe, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
  • 2008
    • Harvard University
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2003–2005
    • Université Paris-Sud 11
      Orsay, Île-de-France, France
  • 1995
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States
  • 1992–1994
    • University of California, Los Angeles
      • Molecular Biology Institute
      Los Angeles, CA, United States