Rachel Patton McCord

University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts, United States

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Publications (17)272.26 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The three-dimensional organization of a genome plays a critical role in regulating gene expression, yet little is known about the machinery and mechanisms that determine higher-order chromosome structure. Here we perform genome-wide chromosome conformation capture analysis, fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH), and RNA-seq to obtain comprehensive three-dimensional (3D) maps of the Caenorhabditis elegans genome and to dissect X chromosome dosage compensation, which balances gene expression between XX hermaphrodites and XO males. The dosage compensation complex (DCC), a condensin complex, binds to both hermaphrodite X chromosomes via sequence-specific recruitment elements on X (rex sites) to reduce chromosome-wide gene expression by half. Most DCC condensin subunits also act in other condensin complexes to control the compaction and resolution of all mitotic and meiotic chromosomes. By comparing chromosome structure in wild-type and DCC-defective embryos, we show that the DCC remodels hermaphrodite X chromosomes into a sex-specific spatial conformation distinct from autosomes. Dosage-compensated X chromosomes consist of self-interacting domains (∼1 Mb) resembling mammalian topologically associating domains (TADs). TADs on X chromosomes have stronger boundaries and more regular spacing than on autosomes. Many TAD boundaries on X chromosomes coincide with the highest-affinity rex sites and become diminished or lost in DCC-defective mutants, thereby converting the topology of X to a conformation resembling autosomes. rex sites engage in DCC-dependent long-range interactions, with the most frequent interactions occurring between rex sites at DCC-dependent TAD boundaries. These results imply that the DCC reshapes the topology of X chromosomes by forming new TAD boundaries and reinforcing weak boundaries through interactions between its highest-affinity binding sites. As this model predicts, deletion of an endogenous rex site at a DCC-dependent TAD boundary using CRISPR/Cas9 greatly diminished the boundary. Thus, the DCC imposes a distinct higher-order structure onto X chromosomes while regulating gene expression chromosome-wide.
    Nature 06/2015; DOI:10.1038/nature14450 · 42.35 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Chromosome conformation capture approaches have shown that interphase chromatin is partitioned into spatially segregated Mb-sized compartments and sub-Mb-sized topological domains. This compartmentalization is thought to facilitate the matching of genes and regulatory elements, but its precise function and mechanistic basis remain unknown. Cohesin controls chromosome topology to enable DNA repair and chromosome segregation in cycling cells. In addition, cohesin associates with active enhancers and promoters and with CTCF to form long-range interactions important for gene regulation. Although these findings suggest an important role for cohesin in genome organization, this role has not been assessed on a global scale. Unexpectedly, we find that architectural compartments are maintained in non-cycling mouse thymocytes after genetic depletion of cohesin in vivo. Cohesin was however required for specific long-range interactions within compartments where cohesin-regulated genes reside. Cohesin depletion diminished interactions between cohesin-bound sites, while alternative interactions between chromatin features associated with transcriptional activation and repression became more prominent, with corresponding changes in gene expression. Our findings indicate that cohesin-mediated long-range interactions facilitate discrete gene expression states within pre-existing chromosomal compartments.
    Genome Research 09/2013; 23(12). DOI:10.1101/gr.161620.113 · 13.85 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome (HGPS) is a premature aging disease that is frequently caused by a de novo point mutation at position 1824 in LMNA. This mutation activates a cryptic splice donor site in exon 11, and leads to an in-frame deletion within the prelamin A mRNA and the production of a dominant negative lamin A protein, known as progerin. Here we show that primary HGPS skin fibroblasts experience genome-wide correlated alterations in patterns of H3K27me3 deposition, DNA-lamin A/C associations, and, at late passages, genome-wide loss of spatial compartmentalization of active and inactive chromatin domains. We further demonstrate that the H3K27me3 changes associate with gene expression alterations in HGPS cells. Our results support a model that the accumulation of progerin in the nuclear lamina leads to altered H3K27me3 marks in heterochromatin, possibly through the down-regulation of EZH2, and disrupts heterochromatin-lamina interactions. These changes may result in transcriptional misregulation and eventually trigger the global loss of spatial chromatin compartmentalization in late passage HGPS fibroblasts.
    Genome Research 11/2012; 23(2). DOI:10.1101/gr.138032.112 · 13.85 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Extracting biologically meaningful information from chromosomal interactions obtained with genome-wide chromosome conformation capture (3C) analyses requires the elimination of systematic biases. We present a computational pipeline that integrates a strategy to map sequencing reads with a data-driven method for iterative correction of biases, yielding genome-wide maps of relative contact probabilities. We validate this ICE (iterative correction and eigenvector decomposition) technique on published data obtained by the high-throughput 3C method Hi-C, and we demonstrate that eigenvector decomposition of the obtained maps provides insights into local chromatin states, global patterns of chromosomal interactions, and the conserved organization of human and mouse chromosomes.
    Nature Methods 09/2012; 9(10):999-1003. DOI:10.1038/nmeth.2148 · 25.95 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We describe a method, Hi-C, to comprehensively detect chromatin interactions in the mammalian nucleus. This method is based on Chromosome Conformation Capture, in which chromatin is crosslinked with formaldehyde, then digested, and re-ligated in such a way that only DNA fragments that are covalently linked together form ligation products. The ligation products contain the information of not only where they originated from in the genomic sequence but also where they reside, physically, in the 3D organization of the genome. In Hi-C, a biotin-labeled nucleotide is incorporated at the ligation junction, enabling selective purification of chimeric DNA ligation junctions followed by deep sequencing. The compatibility of Hi-C with next generation sequencing platforms makes it possible to detect chromatin interactions on an unprecedented scale. This advance gives Hi-C the power to both explore the biophysical properties of chromatin as well as the implications of chromatin structure for the biological functions of the nucleus. A massively parallel survey of chromatin interaction provides the previously missing dimension of spatial context to other genomic studies. This spatial context will provide a new perspective to studies of chromatin and its role in genome regulation in normal conditions and in disease.
    Methods 05/2012; 58(3). DOI:10.1016/j.ymeth.2012.05.001 · 3.22 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Transposable elements (TEs) and DNA repeats are commonly targeted by DNA and histone methylation to achieve epigenetic gene silencing. We isolated mutations in two Arabidopsis genes, AtMORC1 and AtMORC6, which cause derepression of DNA-methylated genes and TEs but no losses of DNA or histone methylation. AtMORC1 and AtMORC6 are members of the conserved Microrchidia (MORC) adenosine triphosphatase (ATPase) family, which are predicted to catalyze alterations in chromosome superstructure. The atmorc1 and atmorc6 mutants show decondensation of pericentromeric heterochromatin, increased interaction of pericentromeric regions with the rest of the genome, and transcriptional defects that are largely restricted to loci residing in pericentromeric regions. Knockdown of the single MORC homolog in Caenorhabditis elegans also impairs transgene silencing. We propose that the MORC ATPases are conserved regulators of gene silencing in eukaryotes.
    Science 05/2012; 336(6087):1448-51. DOI:10.1126/science.1221472 · 31.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The extent to which the three-dimensional organization of the genome contributes to chromosomal translocations is an important question in cancer genomics. We generated a high-resolution Hi-C spatial organization map of the G1-arrested mouse pro-B cell genome and used high-throughput genome-wide translocation sequencing to map translocations from target DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) within it. RAG endonuclease-cleaved antigen-receptor loci are dominant translocation partners for target DSBs regardless of genomic position, reflecting high-frequency DSBs at these loci and their colocalization in a fraction of cells. To directly assess spatial proximity contributions, we normalized genomic DSBs via ionizing radiation. Under these conditions, translocations were highly enriched in cis along single chromosomes containing target DSBs and within other chromosomes and subchromosomal domains in a manner directly related to pre-existing spatial proximity. By combining two high-throughput genomic methods in a genetically tractable system, we provide a new lens for viewing cancer genomes.
    Cell 03/2012; 148(5):908-21. DOI:10.1016/j.cell.2012.02.002 · 33.12 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Transcription factors (TFs) play a central role in regulating gene expression by interacting with cis-regulatory DNA elements associated with their target genes. Recent surveys have examined the DNA binding specificities of most Saccharomyces cerevisiae TFs, but a comprehensive evaluation of their data has been lacking. We analyzed in vitro and in vivo TF-DNA binding data reported in previous large-scale studies to generate a comprehensive, curated resource of DNA binding specificity data for all characterized S. cerevisiae TFs. Our collection comprises DNA binding site motifs and comprehensive in vitro DNA binding specificity data for all possible 8-bp sequences. Investigation of the DNA binding specificities within the basic leucine zipper (bZIP) and VHT1 regulator (VHR) TF families revealed unexpected plasticity in TF-DNA recognition: intriguingly, the VHR TFs, newly characterized by protein binding microarrays in this study, recognize bZIP-like DNA motifs, while the bZIP TF Hac1 recognizes a motif highly similar to the canonical E-box motif of basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) TFs. We identified several TFs with distinct primary and secondary motifs, which might be associated with different regulatory functions. Finally, integrated analysis of in vivo TF binding data with protein binding microarray data lends further support for indirect DNA binding in vivo by sequence-specific TFs. The comprehensive data in this curated collection allow for more accurate analyses of regulatory TF-DNA interactions, in-depth structural studies of TF-DNA specificity determinants, and future experimental investigations of the TFs' predicted target genes and regulatory roles.
    Genome biology 12/2011; 12(12):R125. DOI:10.1186/gb-2011-12-12-r125 · 10.47 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Gateway-compatible yeast one-hybrid (Y1H) assays provide a convenient gene-centered (DNA-to-protein) approach to identify the repertoire of transcription factors that can bind a DNA sequence of interest. We present a set of Y1H resources, including clones for 988 of 1,434 (69%) predicted human transcription factors, for the interrogation of interactions using either low or high-throughput settings. These approaches detect both known and novel interactions between human DNA regions and transcription factors.
    Nature Methods 12/2011; 8(12):1050-2. DOI:10.1038/nmeth.1764 · 25.95 Impact Factor
  • Rachel Patton McCord · Job Dekker
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    ABSTRACT: Recurrent chromosomal translocations can drive oncogenesis, but how they form has remained elusive. Now, Chiarle et al. (2011) and Klein et al. (2011) characterize the genome-wide spectrum of translocations that form from a single double-stranded break, revealing that specific loci have an intrinsic predisposition for frequent chromosomal rearrangements.
    Cell 09/2011; 147(1):20-2. DOI:10.1016/j.cell.2011.09.005 · 33.12 Impact Factor
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    Rachel Patton McCord · Vicky W Zhou · Tiffany Yuh · Martha L Bulyk
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    ABSTRACT: Identifying gene regulatory elements and their target genes in human cells remains a significant challenge. Despite increasing evidence of physical interactions between distant regulatory elements and gene promoters in mammalian cells, many studies consider only promoter-proximal regulatory regions. We identify putative cis-regulatory modules (CRMs) in human skeletal muscle differentiation by combining myogenic TF binding data before and after differentiation with histone modification data in myoblasts. CRMs that are distant (>20 kb) from muscle gene promoters are common and are more likely than proximal promoter regions to show differentiation-specific changes in myogenic TF binding. We find that two of these distant CRMs, known to activate transcription in differentiating myoblasts, interact physically with gene promoters (PDLIM3 and ACTA1) during differentiation. Our results highlight the importance of considering distal CRMs in investigations of mammalian gene regulation and support the hypothesis that distant CRM-promoter looping contacts are a general mechanism of gene regulation.
    Genomics 08/2011; 98(6):401-11. DOI:10.1016/j.ygeno.2011.08.003 · 2.79 Impact Factor
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    Rachel Patton McCord · Michael F Berger · Anthony A Philippakis · Martha L Bulyk
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    ABSTRACT: Numerous genomic and proteomic datasets are permitting the elucidation of transcriptional regulatory networks in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. However, predicting the condition dependence of regulatory network interactions has been challenging, because most protein–DNA interactions identified in vivo are from assays performed in one or a few cellular states. Here, we present a novel method to predict the condition-specific functions of S. cerevisiae transcription factors (TFs) by integrating 1327 microarray gene expression data sets and either comprehensive TF binding site data from protein binding microarrays (PBMs) or in silico motif data. Importantly, our method does not impose arbitrary thresholds for calling target regions ‘bound’ or genes ‘differentially expressed’, but rather allows all the information derived from a TF binding or gene expression experiment to be considered. We show that this method can identify environmental, physical, and genetic interactions, as well as distinct sets of genes that might be activated or repressed by a single TF under particular conditions. This approach can be used to suggest conditions for directed in vivo experimentation and to predict TF function.
    Molecular Systems Biology 04/2010; 6(1):362. DOI:10.1038/msb.2010.17 · 14.10 Impact Factor
  • Rachel Patton McCord · Cong Zhu · Trevor W. Siggers · Martha L. Bulyk
    Biophysical Journal 02/2009; 96(3). DOI:10.1016/j.bpj.2008.12.218 · 3.97 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Transcription factors (TFs) regulate the expression of genes through sequence-specific interactions with DNA-binding sites. However, despite recent progress in identifying in vivo TF binding sites by microarray readout of chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP-chip), nearly half of all known yeast TFs are of unknown DNA-binding specificities, and many additional predicted TFs remain uncharacterized. To address these gaps in our knowledge of yeast TFs and their cis regulatory sequences, we have determined high-resolution binding profiles for 89 known and predicted yeast TFs, over more than 2.3 million gapped and ungapped 8-bp sequences ("k-mers"). We report 50 new or significantly different direct DNA-binding site motifs for yeast DNA-binding proteins and motifs for eight proteins for which only a consensus sequence was previously known; in total, this corresponds to over a 50% increase in the number of yeast DNA-binding proteins with experimentally determined DNA-binding specificities. Among other novel regulators, we discovered proteins that bind the PAC (Polymerase A and C) motif (GATGAG) and regulate ribosomal RNA (rRNA) transcription and processing, core cellular processes that are constituent to ribosome biogenesis. In contrast to earlier data types, these comprehensive k-mer binding data permit us to consider the regulatory potential of genomic sequence at the individual word level. These k-mer data allowed us to reannotate in vivo TF binding targets as direct or indirect and to examine TFs' potential effects on gene expression in approximately 1,700 environmental and cellular conditions. These approaches could be adapted to identify TFs and cis regulatory elements in higher eukaryotes.
    Genome Research 02/2009; 19(4):556-66. DOI:10.1101/gr.090233.108 · 13.85 Impact Factor
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    Rachel Patton McCord · Martha L Bulyk
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    ABSTRACT: The DNA-binding domain (DBD) structure of a regulatory transcription factor (TF) is important in determining its DNA sequence specificity, but it is unclear whether a relationship exists between DBD structure and general TF biological function or regulatory mechanism. We observed moderate enrichment of functional annotation terms among TFs of the same structural class in Escherichia coli, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Drosophila melanogaster, or Mus musculus, suggesting some preference for TFs of similar structures in the regulation of similar processes. In yeast, we also found trends among TF structural classes in phenomena including gene expression coherence, DNA binding site motif similarity, the general or specific nature of TFs' regulatory roles, and the position of a TF in a gene regulatory network. These results suggest that the biophysical constraints of different TF structural classes play a role in their gene regulatory mechanisms.
    Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing. Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing 02/2008; DOI:10.1142/9789812776136_0043
  • John N. Yukich · Karen K. Bernd · Rachel Patton McCord
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    ABSTRACT: Numerous studies have used indirect techniques to investigate the function of flagella of the unicellular green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. We report the first direct measurement of the flagellar swimming force of Chlamydomonas. Using an optical trap we detect a 75% decrease in swimming force between wild type cells and mutant cells lacking an internal flagellar component. This difference is consistent with previous estimates. To examine flagellar organization and function, we deflagellated cells and examined force generation during flagellar regrowth. As expected, fully regrown flagella are functionally equivalent to flagella of untreated wild type cells. However, analysis of swimming force vs. flagella length reveals intriguing patterns where increases in force do not always correspond with increases in length. These investigations of flagellar force contribute to the understanding of Chlamydomonas motility and demonstrate the advantages of the optical trapping technique in studies of cell motility.
  • Rachel Patton McCord · John N Yukich · Karen K Bernd
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    ABSTRACT: Many studies have used velocity measurements, waveform analyses, and theoretical flagella models to investigate the establishment, maintenance, and function of flagella of the biflagellate green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. We report the first direct measurement of Chlamydomonas flagellar swimming force. Using an optical trap ("optical tweezers") we detect a 75% decrease in swimming force between wild type (CC124) cells and mutants lacking outer flagellar dynein arms (oda1). This difference is consistent with previous estimates and validates the force measurement approach. To examine mechanisms underlying flagella organization and function, we deflagellated cells and examined force generation during flagellar regeneration. As expected, fully regenerated flagella are functionally equivalent to flagella of untreated wild type cells. However, analysis of swimming force vs. flagella length and the increase in force over regeneration time reveals intriguing patterns where increases in force do not always correspond with increases in length. These investigations of flagellar force, therefore, contribute to the understanding of Chlamydomonas motility, describe phenomena surrounding flagella regeneration, and demonstrate the advantages of the optical trapping technique in studies of cell motility.
    Cell Motility and the Cytoskeleton 07/2005; 61(3):137-44. DOI:10.1002/cm.20071 · 4.19 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

750 Citations
272.26 Total Impact Points


  • 2011–2015
    • University of Massachusetts Medical School
      • Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
      Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2009–2011
    • Harvard University
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2008–2011
    • Harvard Medical School
      • Department of Medicine
      Boston, Massachusetts, United States
  • 2005
    • Davidson College
      Davidson, North Carolina, United States