[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Analysis of cis-regulatory enhancers has revealed that they consist of clustered blocks of highly conserved sequences. Although most characterized enhancers reside near their target genes, a growing number of studies have shown that enhancers located over 50 kb from their minimal promoter(s) are required for appropriate gene expression and many of these 'long-range' enhancers are found in genomic regions that are devoid of identified exons. To gain insight into the complexity of Drosophila cis-regulatory sequences within exon-poor regions, we have undertaken an evolutionary analysis of 39 of these regions located throughout the genome. This survey revealed that within these genomic expanses, clusters of conserved sequence blocks (CSBs) are positioned once every 1.1 kb, on average, and that a typical cluster contains multiple (5 to 30 or more) CSBs that have been maintained for at least 190 My of evolutionary divergence. As an initial step toward assessing the cis-regulatory activity of conserved clusters within gene-free genomic expanses, we have tested the in-vivo enhancer activity of 19 consecutive CSB clusters located in the middle of a 115 kb gene-poor region on the 3(rd) chromosome. Our studies revealed that each cluster functions independently as a specific spatial/temporal enhancer. In total, the enhancers possess a diversity of regulatory functions, including dynamically activating expression in defined patterns within subsets of cells in discrete regions of the embryo, larvae and/or adult. We also observed that many of the enhancers are multifunctional-that is, they activate expression during multiple developmental stages. By extending these results to the rest of the Drosophila genome, which contains over 70,000 non-coding CSB clusters, we suggest that most function as enhancers.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In the developing CNS, unique functional identities among neurons and glia are, in part, established as a result of successive transitions in gene expression programs within neural precursor cells. One of the temporal-identity windows within Drosophila CNS neural precursor cells or neuroblasts (NBs) is marked by the expression of a zinc-finger transcription factor (TF) gene, castor (cas). Our analysis of cis-regulatory DNA within a cas loss-of-function rescue fragment has identified seven enhancers that independently activate reporter transgene expression in specific sub-patterns of the wild-type embryonic cas gene expression domain. Most of these enhancers also regulate different aspects of cas expression within the larval and adult CNS. Phylogenetic footprinting reveals that each enhancer is made up of clusters of highly conserved DNA sequence blocks that are flanked by less-conserved inter-cluster spacer sequences. Comparative analysis of the conserved DNA also reveals that cas enhancers share different combinations of sequence elements and many of these shared elements contain core DNA-binding recognition motifs for characterized temporal-identity TFs. Intra-species alignments show that two of the sub-pattern enhancers originated from an inverted duplication and that this repeat is unique to the cas locus in all sequenced Drosophila species. Finally we show that three of the enhancers differentially require cas function for their wild-type regulatory behavior. Cas limits the expression of one enhancer while two others require cas function for full expression. These studies represent a starting point for the further analysis of cas gene expression and the TFs that regulate it.
No preview · Article · Jun 2012 · Gene Expression Patterns
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Phylogenetic footprinting has revealed that cis-regulatory enhancers consist of conserved DNA sequence clusters (CSCs). Currently, there is no systematic approach for enhancer discovery and analysis that takes full-advantage of the sequence information within enhancer CSCs.
We have generated a Drosophila genome-wide database of conserved DNA consisting of >100,000 CSCs derived from EvoPrints spanning over 90% of the genome. cis-Decoder database search and alignment algorithms enable the discovery of functionally related enhancers. The program first identifies conserved repeat elements within an input enhancer and then searches the database for CSCs that score highly against the input CSC. Scoring is based on shared repeats as well as uniquely shared matches, and includes measures of the balance of shared elements, a diagnostic that has proven to be useful in predicting cis-regulatory function. To demonstrate the utility of these tools, a temporally-restricted CNS neuroblast enhancer was used to identify other functionally related enhancers and analyze their structural organization.
cis-Decoder reveals that co-regulating enhancers consist of combinations of overlapping shared sequence elements, providing insights into the mode of integration of multiple regulating transcription factors. The database and accompanying algorithms should prove useful in the discovery and analysis of enhancers involved in any developmental process.
Full-text · Article · Jan 2012 · Developmental Dynamics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Many of the key regulators of Drosophila CNS neural identity are expressed in defined temporal orders during neuroblast (NB) lineage development. To begin to understand the structural and functional complexity of enhancers that regulate ordered NB gene expression programs, we have undertaken the mutational analysis of the temporally restricted nerfin-1 NB enhancer. Our previous studies have localized the enhancer to a region just proximal to the nerfin-1 transcription start site. Analysis of this enhancer, using the phylogenetic footprint program EvoPrinter, reveals the presence of multiple sequence blocks that are conserved among drosophilids. cis-Decoder alignments of these conserved sequence blocks (CSBs) has identified shorter elements that are conserved in other Drosophila NB enhancers. Mutagenesis of the enhancer reveals that although each CSB is required for wild-type expression, neither position nor orientation of the CSBs within the enhancer is crucial for enhancer function; removal of less-conserved or non-conserved sequences flanking CSB clusters also does not significantly alter enhancer activity. While all three conserved E-box transcription factor (TF) binding sites (CAGCTG) are required for full function, adding an additional site at different locations within non-conserved sequences interferes with enhancer activity. Of particular note, none of the mutations resulted in ectopic reporter expression outside of the early NB expression window, suggesting that the temporally restricted pattern is defined by transcriptional activators and not by direct DNA binding repressors. Our work also points to an unexpectedly large number of TFs required for optimal enhancer function - mutant TF analysis has identified at least four that are required for full enhancer regulation.
Full-text · Article · Feb 2011 · Mechanisms of development
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have identified clusters of conserved sequences constituting discrete modular enhancers within the Drosophilanerfin-1 locus. nerfin-1 encodes a Zn-finger transcription factor that directs pioneer interneuron axon guidance. nerfin-1 mRNA is detected in many early delaminating neuroblasts, ganglion mother cells and transiently in nascent neurons. The comparative genomics analysis program EvoPrinter revealed conserved sequence blocks both upstream and downstream of the transcribed region. By using the aligning regions of different drosophilids as the reference DNA, EvoPrinter detects sequence length flexibility between clusters of conserved sequences and thus facilitates differentiation between closely associated modular enhancers. Expression analysis of enhancer-reporter transgenes identified enhancers that drive expression in different regions of the developing embryonic and adult nervous system, including subsets of embryonic CNS neuroblasts, GMCs, neurons and PNS neurons. In summary, EvoPrinter facilitates the discovery and analysis of enhancers that control crucial aspects of nerfin-1 expression.
No preview · Article · Feb 2009 · Gene Expression Patterns
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Acquisition of virulence factors and antibiotic resistance by many clinically important bacteria can be traced to horizontal gene transfer (HGT) between related or evolutionarily distant microflora. Comparative genomic analysis has become an important tool for identifying HGT DNA in emerging pathogens. We have adapted the multi-genome alignment tool EvoPrinter to facilitate discovery of HGT DNA sequences within bacterial genomes and within their mobile genetic elements.
EvoPrinter analysis of 13 different Staphylococcus aureus genomes revealed that one of the human isolates, the hospital epidemic methicillin-resistant MRSA252 strain, uniquely shares multiple putative HGT DNA sequences with different causative agents of bovine mastitis that are not found in the other human S. aureus isolates. MRSA252 shares over 14 different DNA sequence blocks with the bovine mastitis ET3 S. aureus strain RF122, and many of the HGT DNAs encode virulence factors. EvoPrinter analysis of the MRSA252 chromosome also uncovered virulence-factor encoding HGT events with the genome of Listeria monocytogenes and a Staphylococcus saprophyticus associated plasmid. Both bacteria are also causal agents of contagious bovine mastitis.
EvoPrinter analysis reveals that the human MRSA252 strain uniquely shares multiple DNA sequence blocks with different causative agents of bovine mastitis, suggesting that HGT events may be occurring between these pathogens. These findings have important implications with regard to animal husbandry practices that inadvertently enhance the contact of human and livestock bacterial pathogens.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The presence of highly conserved sequences within cis-regulatory regions can serve as a valuable starting point for elucidating the basis of enhancer function. This study focuses on regulation of gene expression during the early events of Drosophila neural development. We describe the use of EvoPrinter and cis-Decoder, a suite of interrelated phylogenetic footprinting and alignment programs, to characterize highly conserved sequences that are shared among co-regulating enhancers.
Analysis of in vivo characterized enhancers that drive neural precursor gene expression has revealed that they contain clusters of highly conserved sequence blocks (CSBs) made up of shorter shared sequence elements which are present in different combinations and orientations within the different co-regulating enhancers; these elements contain either known consensus transcription factor binding sites or consist of novel sequences that have not been functionally characterized. The CSBs of co-regulated enhancers share a large number of sequence elements, suggesting that a diverse repertoire of transcription factors may interact in a highly combinatorial fashion to coordinately regulate gene expression. We have used information gained from our comparative analysis to discover an enhancer that directs expression of the nervy gene in neural precursor cells of the CNS and PNS.
The combined use EvoPrinter and cis-Decoder has yielded important insights into the combinatorial appearance of fundamental sequence elements required for neural enhancer function. Each of the 30 enhancers examined conformed to a pattern of highly conserved blocks of sequences containing shared constituent elements. These data establish a basis for further analysis and understanding of neural enhancer function.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Linkage of bipolar disorder to a broad region on chromosome 13q has been supported in several studies including a meta-analysis on genome scans. Subsequent reports have shown that variations in the DAOA (G72) locus on 13q33 display association with bipolar disorder but these may not account for all of the linkage evidence in the region.
To identify additional susceptibility loci on 13q32-q33 by linkage disequilibrium mapping and explore the impact of phenotypic heterogeneity on association.
In the initial phase, 98 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) located on 13q32-q33 were genotyped on 285 probands with bipolar disorder and their parents were drawn from families in the NIMH Genetics Initiative consortium for bipolar disorder (NIMH1-4) and two other series. Fine scale mapping using one family series (NIMH1-2) as the test sample was targeted on a gene that displayed the highest evidence of association. A secondary analysis of familial component phenotypes of bipolar disorder was conducted.
Three of seven SNPs in DOCK9, a gene that encodes an activator of the Rho-GTPase Cdc42, showed significant excess allelic transmission (P=0.0477-0.00067). Fine scale mapping on DOCK9 yielded evidence of association at nine SNPs in the gene (P=0.02-0.006). Follow-up tests detected excess transmission of the same allele of rs1340 in two out of three other sets of families. The association signals were largely attributable to maternally transmitted alleles (rs1927568: P=0.000083; odds ratio=3.778). A secondary analysis of familial component phenotypes of bipolar disorder detected significant association across multiple DOCK9 markers for racing thoughts, psychosis, delusion during mania and course of illness indicators.
These results suggest that DOCK9 contributes to both risk and increased illness severity in bipolar disorder. We found evidence for the effect of phenotypic heterogeneity on association. To our knowledge this is the first report to implicate DOCK9 or the Rho-GTPase pathway in the etiology of bipolar disorder.
No preview · Article · Nov 2007 · Psychiatric Genetics
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The mRNA encoding the Drosophila Zn-finger transcription factor Nerfin-1, required for CNS axon pathfinding events, is subject to post-transcriptional silencing. Although nerfin-1 mRNA is expressed in many neural precursor cells including all early delaminating CNS neuroblasts, the encoded Nerfin-1 protein is detected only in the nuclei of neural precursors that divide just once to generate neurons and then only transiently in nascent neurons. Using a nerfin-1 promoter-controlled reporter transgene, replacement of the nerfin-1 3' UTR with the viral SV-40 3' UTR releases the neuroblast translational block and prolongs reporter protein expression in neurons. Comparative genomics analysis reveals that the nerfin-1 mRNA 3' UTR contains multiple highly conserved sequence blocks that either harbor and/or overlap 21 predicted binding sites for 18 different microRNAs. To determine the functional significance of these microRNA-binding sites and less conserved microRNA target sites, we have studied their ability to block or limit the expression of reporter protein in nerfin-1-expressing cells during embryonic development. Our results indicate that no single microRNA is sufficient to fully inhibit protein expression but rather multiple microRNAs that target different binding sites are required to block ectopic protein expression in neural precursor cells and temporally restrict expression in neurons. Taken together, these results suggest that multiple microRNAs play a cooperative role in the post-transcriptional regulation of nerfin-1 mRNA, and the high degree of microRNA-binding site evolutionary conservation indicates that all members of the Drosophila genus employ a similar strategy to regulate the onset and extinction dynamics of Nerfin-1 expression.
Full-text · Article · Nov 2007 · Developmental Biology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A systematic approach is described for analysis of evolutionarily conserved cis-regulatory DNA using cis-Decoder, a tool for discovery of conserved sequence elements that are shared between similarly regulated enhancers. Analysis of 2,086 conserved sequence blocks (CSBs), identified from 135 characterized enhancers, reveals most CSBs consist of shorter overlapping/adjacent elements that are either enhancer type-specific or common to enhancers with divergent regulatory behaviors. Our findings suggest that enhancers employ overlapping repertoires of highly conserved core elements.