Christof Niehrs

Institute of Molecular Biology, Mayence, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany

Are you Christof Niehrs?

Claim your profile

Publications (153)1566.13 Total impact

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Embryonic stem cell (ESC) cultures display a heterogeneous gene expression profile, ranging from a pristine naïve pluripotent state to a primed epiblast state. Addition of inhibitors of GSK3β and MEK (so-called 2i conditions) pushes ESC cultures toward a more homogeneous naïve pluripotent state, but the molecular underpinnings of this naïve transition are not completely understood. Here, we demonstrate that DAZL, an RNA-binding protein known to play a key role in germ-cell development, marks a subpopulation of ESCs that is actively transitioning toward naïve pluripotency. Moreover, DAZL plays an essential role in the active reprogramming of cytosine methylation. We demonstrate that DAZL associates with mRNA of Tet1, a catalyst of 5-hydroxylation of methyl-cytosine, and enhances Tet1 mRNA translation. Overexpression of DAZL in heterogeneous ESC cultures results in elevated TET1 protein levels as well as increased global hydroxymethylation. Conversely, null mutation of Dazl severely stunts 2i-mediated TET1 induction and hydroxymethylation. Our results provide insight into the regulation of the acquisition of naïve pluripotency and demonstrate that DAZL enhances TET1-mediated cytosine hydroxymethylation in ESCs that are actively reprogramming to a pluripotent ground state. © 2015 The Authors.
    EMBO Reports 06/2015; 16(7). DOI:10.15252/embr.201540538 · 7.86 Impact Factor
  • Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2015; 112(18):201423533. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1423533112 · 9.81 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: During primary neurulation, the separation of a single-layered ectodermal sheet into the surface ectoderm (SE) and neural tube specifies SE and neural ectoderm (NE) cell fates. The mechanisms underlying fate specification in conjunction with neural tube closure are poorly understood. Here, by comparing expression profiles between SE and NE lineages, we observed that uncommitted progenitor cells, expressing stem cell markers, are present in the neural plate border/neural fold prior to neural tube closure. Our results also demonstrated that canonical Wnt and its antagonists, DKK1/KREMEN1, progressively specify these progenitors into SE or NE fates in accord with the progress of neural tube closure. Additionally, SE specification of the neural plate border via canonical Wnt signaling is directed by the grainyhead-like 3 (Grhl3) transcription factor. Thus, we propose that the fate specification of uncommitted progenitors in the neural plate border by canonical Wnt signaling and its downstream effector Grhl3 is crucial for neural tube closure. This study implicates that failure in critical genetic factors controlling fate specification of progenitor cells in the neural plate border/neural fold coordinated with neural tube closure may be potential causes of human neural tube defects.
    04/2015; 6(6). DOI:10.1016/j.ebiom.2015.04.012
  • 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; 55(4). DOI:10.1016/j.molcel.2014.06.031 · 14.46 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [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. DOI:10.1016/j.neuron.2014.05.037 · 15.98 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.
  • Source
    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. DOI:10.1016/j.devcel.2014.03.015 · 10.37 Impact Factor
  • Gary Davidson · Christof Niehrs
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The recent discovery of additional receptor classes for the R-spondin family of Wnt agonists adds to the already complex set of mechanisms that regulates Wnt signaling on the membrane of responding cells. This chapter provides a detailed overview of the principal receptors that transduce Wnt/β-catenin signals, namely, the frizzled (FZD) family and two specialized members of the low-density lipoprotein receptor family, LRP5 and LRP6. It focuses on their interaction with Wnt ligands; their regulation by extracellular, transmembrane, as well as intracellular modifiers; and their aggregation into activated receptor platforms referred to as signalosomes.
    Wnt Signaling in Development and Disease, 03/2014: pages 15-32; , ISBN: 9781118444160
  • [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; 4(6). DOI:10.1016/j.celrep.2013.08.008 · 8.36 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
  • European Urology Supplements 03/2013; 12(1):e941. DOI:10.1016/S1569-9056(13)61420-7 · 3.37 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; 126(8). DOI:10.1242/jcs.119388 · 5.33 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; 339(6126). DOI:10.1126/science.1231499 · 31.48 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. DOI:10.1016/j.stem.2012.11.010 · 22.15 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. DOI:10.1101/gad.186916.112 · 12.64 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; 13(12). DOI:10.1038/nrm3470 · 36.46 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [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; 23(5). DOI:10.1016/j.devcel.2012.09.014 · 10.37 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; 5(3). DOI:10.1101/cshperspect.a015081 · 8.23 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [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. DOI:10.1093/hmg/dds333 · 6.68 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Genetic factors contribute to progression and modulation of hepatic fibrosis. High throughput genomics/transcriptomics approaches aiming at identifying key regulators of fibrosis development are tainted with the difficulty of separating essential biological "driver" from modifier genes. We applied a comparative transcriptomics approach and investigated fibrosis development in different organs to identify overlapping expression changes, since these genes may be part of core pathways in fibrosis development. Gene expression was analysed on publicly available microarray data from liver, lung and kidney fibrosis. RARRES1, AGER and S100A2 were differentially regulated in all fibrosis experiments. RARRES1 was extensively analysed by means of advanced bioinformatics analyses and functional studies. Microarray and Western Blot analysis of a standard liver fibrosis model (CCl(4)) demonstrated an early induction of RARRES1 mRNA and protein expression. In addition, quantitative RT-PCR in tissue samples from patients with advanced liver fibrosis showed higher expression as compared to non-fibrotic biopsies. Microarray analysis of RARRES1 overexpressing cells identified an enrichment of a major signature associated with fibrosis. Furthermore, RARRES1 expression increased during in vitro activation of hepatic stellate cells. To further verify the pro-fibrogenic role across organs, we demonstrated an increase in RARRES1 expression in a rat lung fibrosis model induced by adenoviral TGF-β1 induction. We have performed a comparative transcriptomics analysis in order to identify core pathways of liver fibrogenesis, confirmed a candidate gene and enlightened the up- and downstream mechanisms of its action leading to fibrosis across organs and species.
    Journal of Molecular Medicine 06/2012; 90(12). DOI:10.1007/s00109-012-0919-7 · 4.74 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

12k Citations
1,566.13 Total Impact Points


  • 2010–2014
    • Institute of Molecular Biology
      Mayence, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
  • 1999–2013
    • German Cancer Research Center
      • • Division of Molecular Neurobiology
      • • Division of Molecular Embryology
      Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • 2011
    • Universität Heidelberg
      • Department of Molecular Biology
      Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
  • 2009
    • Hebrew University of Jerusalem
      • Department of Developmental Biology and Cancer Research
      Yerushalayim, Jerusalem, Israel
  • 2008
    • Harvard University
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2006
    • Yale University
      • Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
      New Haven, Connecticut, United States
  • 1995
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Ashburn, Virginia, United States
  • 1992–1993
    • University of California, Los Angeles
      • Molecular Biology Institute
      Los Ángeles, California, United States