Shankar Balasubramanian

University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (196)1699.04 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Non-coding RNAs are crucial regulators for a vast array of cellular processes and have been implicated in human disease. These biological processes represent a hitherto untapped resource in our fight against disease. In this work we identify small molecule inhibitors of a non-coding RNA uridylylation pathway. The TUTase family of enzymes is important for modulating non-coding RNA pathways in both human cancer and pathogen systems. We demonstrate that this new class of drug target can be accessed with traditional drug discovery techniques. Using the Trypanosoma brucei TUTase, RET1, we identify TUTase inhibitors and lay the groundwork for the use of this new target class as a therapeutic opportunity for the under-served disease area of African Trypanosomiasis. In a broader sense this work demonstrates the therapeutic potential for targeting RNA post-transcriptional modifications with small molecules in human disease.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · RNA biology
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    ABSTRACT: Isocitrate dehydrogenase is mutated at a key active site arginine residue (Arg172 in IDH2) in many cancers, leading to the synthesis of the oncometabolite (R)-2-hydroxyglutarate (2HG). To investigate the early events following acquisition of this mutation in mammalian cells we created a photoactivatable version of IDH2(R172K), in which K172 is replaced with a photocaged lysine (PCK), via genetic code expansion. Illumination of cells expressing this mutant protein led to a rapid increase in the levels of 2HG, with 2HG levels reaching those measured in patient tumor samples, within 8 h. 2HG accumulation is closely followed by a global decrease in 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC) in DNA, demonstrating that perturbations in epigenetic DNA base modifications are an early consequence of mutant IDH2 in cells. Our results provide a paradigm for rapidly and synchronously uncloaking diverse oncogenic mutations in live cells to reveal the sequence of events through which they may ultimately cause transformation.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Journal of the American Chemical Society
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    ABSTRACT: Phenotypic plasticity is important in adaptation and shapes the evolution of organisms. However, we understand little about what aspects of the genome are important in facilitating plasticity. Eusocial insect societies produce plastic phenotypes from the same genome, as reproductives (queens) and nonreproductives (workers). The greatest plasticity is found in the simple eusocial insect societies in which individuals retain the ability to switch between reproductive and nonreproductive phenotypes as adults. We lack comprehensive data on the molecular basis of plastic phenotypes. Here, we sequenced genomes, microRNAs (miRNAs), and multiple transcriptomes and methylomes from individual brains in a wasp (Polistes canadensis) and an ant (Dinoponera quadriceps) that live in simple eusocial societies. In both species, we found few differences between phenotypes at the transcriptional level, with little functional specialization, and no evidence that phenotype-specific gene expression is driven by DNA methylation or miRNAs. Instead, phenotypic differentiation was defined more subtly by nonrandom transcriptional network organization, with roles in these networks for both conserved and taxon-restricted genes. The general lack of highly methylated regions or methylome patterning in both species may be an important mechanism for achieving plasticity among phenotypes during adulthood. These findings define previously unidentified hypotheses on the genomic processes that facilitate plasticity and suggest that the molecular hallmarks of social behavior are likely to differ with the level of social complexity.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2015 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Aleksandr B. Sahakyan · Shankar Balasubramanian
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    ABSTRACT: Accurate knowledge on the core components of mutation rates is of vital importance to understand genome dynamics. By performing a single-genome and model-free analysis of 39894 retrotransposon remnants, we reveal core, sequence-dependent, nucleotide substitution rates (germline) at each of the 3.2 billion positions of the human genome. Benefiting from the data made available in such detail, we show that a simulated genome generated by equilibrating a random DNA sequence solely using our rate constants, exhibits nucleotide organisation observed in the actual human genome, with or without repeat elements. This directly demonstrates the key role of the core nucleotide substitution rates in shaping the oligomeric composition of the human genome. We next generate the basal mutability profile of the human genome and show the depletion of the moieties with low basal mutability in the database of cancer mutations.
    No preview · Article · Aug 2015
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    ABSTRACT: G-quadruplexes (G4s) are nucleic acid secondary structures that form within guanine-rich DNA or RNA sequences. G4 formation can affect chromatin architecture and gene regulation and has been associated with genomic instability, genetic diseases and cancer progression1, 2, 3, 4. Here we present a high-resolution sequencing–based method to detect G4s in the human genome. We identified 716,310 distinct G4 structures, 451,646 of which were not predicted by computational methods5, 6, 7. These included previously uncharacterized noncanonical long loop and bulged structures8, 9. We observed a high G4 density in functional regions, such as 5′ untranslated regions and splicing sites, as well as in genes previously not predicted to contain these structures (such as BRCA2). G4 formation was significantly associated with oncogenes, tumor suppressors and somatic copy number alterations related to cancer development10. The G4s identified in this study may therefore represent promising targets for cancer intervention.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2015 · Nature Biotechnology
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    ABSTRACT: This is the author accepted manuscript. It is currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by NPG.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2015
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    ABSTRACT: The Forkhead (FKH) transcription factor FOXM1 is a key regulator of the cell cycle and is overexpressed in most types of cancer. FOXM1, similar to other FKH factors, binds to a canonical FKH motif in vitro. However, genome-wide mapping studies in different cell lines have shown a lack of enrichment of the FKH motif, suggesting an alternative mode of chromatin recruitment. We have investigated the role of direct versus indirect DNA binding in FOXM1 recruitment by performing ChIP-seq with wild-type and DNA binding deficient FOXM1. An in vitro fluorescence polarization assay identified point mutations in the DNA binding domain of FOXM1 that inhibit binding to a FKH consensus sequence. Cell lines expressing either wild-type or DNA binding deficient GFP-tagged FOXM1 were used for genome-wide mapping studies comparing the distribution of the DNA binding deficient protein to the wild-type. This shows that interaction of the FOXM1 DNA binding domain with target DNA is essential for recruitment. Moreover, analysis of the protein interactome of wild-type versus DNA binding deficient FOXM1 shows that the reduced recruitment is not due to inhibition of protein-protein interactions. A functional DNA binding domain is essential for FOXM1 chromatin recruitment. Even in FOXM1 mutants with almost complete loss of binding, the protein-protein interactions and pattern of phosphorylation are largely unaffected. These results strongly support a model whereby FOXM1 is specifically recruited to chromatin through co-factor interactions by binding directly to non-canonical DNA sequences.
    Preview · Article · Jun 2015 · Genome biology
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    ABSTRACT: 5-Formylcytosine (5fC) is a rare base found in mammalian DNA and thought to be involved in active DNA demethylation. Here, we show that developmental dynamics of 5fC levels in mouse DNA differ from those of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), and using stable isotope labeling in vivo, we show that 5fC can be a stable DNA modification. These results suggest that 5fC has functional roles in DNA that go beyond being a demethylation intermediate.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2015 · Nature Chemical Biology
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    Robyn E Hardisty · Fumiko Kawsaki · Aleksandr B Sahakyan · Shankar Balasubramanian
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    ABSTRACT: We present a chemical method to selectively tag and enrich thymine modifications, 5-formyluracil (5-fU) and 5-hydroxymethyluracil (5-hmU), found naturally in DNA. Inherent reactivity differences have enabled us to tag 5-fU chemoselectively over its C modification counterpart, 5-formylcytosine (5-fC). We rationalized the enhanced reac-tivity of 5-fU compared to 5-fC via ab initio quantum me-chanical calculations. We exploited this chemical tagging reaction to provide proof of concept for the enrichment of 5-fU containing DNA from a pool that contains 5-fC or no modification. We further demonstrate that 5-hmU can be chemically oxidized to 5-fU, providing a strategy for the en-richment of 5-hmU. These methods will enable the mapping of 5-fU and 5-hmU in genomic DNA, to provide insights into their functional role and dynamics in biology.
    Full-text · Article · May 2015 · Journal of the American Chemical Society
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    Daniel Dinh Le · Marco Di Antonio · Louis Ka Min Chan · Shankar Balasubramanian
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    ABSTRACT: A rapid and simple equilibrium-binding assay mediated by ligand-induced fluorescence quenching of fluorophore-labelled G-quadruplex (G4) structures enabled quantitative interrogation of mutually exclusive ligand binding interactions at opposed G-tetrads. This technique revealed that the ligands TmPyP4, PhenDC3, and PDS have differential chemotype-specific binding preferences for individual G-tetrads of a model genomic G4 structure.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Chemical Communications
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    Daniel Dinh Le · Marco di Antonio · Louis K. M. Chan · Shankar Balasubramanian
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    ABSTRACT: A rapid and simple equilibrium-binding assay mediated by ligand-induced fluorescence quenching of fluorophore-labelled G-quadruplex (G4) structures enabled quantitative interrogation of mutually exclusive ligand binding interactions at opposed G-tetrads. This technique revealed that the ligands TmPyP4, PhenDC3, and PDS have differential chemotype-specific binding preferences for individual G-tetrads of a model genomic G4 structure.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Chemical Communications
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    ABSTRACT: The Infinium 450K Methylation array is an established tool for measuring methylation. However, the bisulfite (BS) reaction commonly used with the 450K array cannot distinguish between 5-methylcytosine (5mC) and 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC). The oxidative-bisulfite assay disambiguates 5mC and 5hmC. We describe the use of oxBS in conjunction with the 450K array (oxBS-array) to analyse 5hmC/5mC in cerebellum DNA. The "methylation" level derived by the BS reaction is the combined level of 5mC and 5hmC at a given base, while the oxBS reaction gives the level of 5mC alone. The level of 5hmC is derived by subtracting the oxBS level from the BS level. Here we present an analysis method that distinguishes genuine positive levels of 5hmC at levels as low as 3%. We performed four replicates of the same sample of cerebellum and found a high level of reproducibility (average r for BS = 98.3, and average r for oxBS = 96.8). In total, 114,734 probes showed a significant positive measurement for 5hmC. The range at which we were able to distinguish 5hmC occupancy was between 3% and 42%. In order to investigate the effects of multiple replicates on 5hmC detection we also simulated fewer replicates and found that decreasing the number of replicates to two reduced the number of positive probes identified by > 50%. We validated our results using qPCR in conjunction with glucosylation of 5hmC sites followed by MspI digestion and we found good concordance with the array estimates (r = 0.94). This experiment provides a map of 5hmC in the cerebellum and a robust dataset for use as a standard in future 5hmC analyses. We also provide a novel method for validating the presence of 5hmC at low levels, and highlight some of the pitfalls associated with measuring 5hmC and 5mC.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2015 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: RNA methylation is emerging as a regulatory RNA modification that could have important roles in the control and coordination of gene transcription and protein translation. Herein, we describe an in vivo isotope-tracing methodology to demonstrate that the ribonucleoside 5-methylcytidine (m(5) C) is subject to oxidative processing in mammals, forming 5-hydroxymethylcytidine (hm(5) C) and 5-formylcytidine (f(5) C). Furthermore, we have identified hm(5) C in total RNA from all three domains of life and in polyA-enriched RNA fractions from mammalian cells. This suggests m(5) C oxidation is a conserved process that could have critical regulatory functions inside cells. © 2015 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.
    Preview · Article · Feb 2015 · ChemBioChem
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    ABSTRACT: The unwinding of nucleic acid secondary structures within cells is crucial to maintain genomic integrity and prevent abortive transcription and translation initiation. DHX36, also known as RHAU or G4R1, is a DEAH-box ATP-dependent helicase highly specific for DNA and RNA G-quadruplexes (G4s). A fundamental mechanistic understanding of the interaction between helicases and their G4 substrates is important to elucidate G4 biology and pave the way toward G4-targeted therapies. Here we analyze how the thermodynamic stability of G4 substrates affects binding and unwinding by DHX36. We modulated the stability of the G4 substrates by varying the sequence and the number of G-tetrads and by using small, G4-stabilizing molecules. We found an inverse correlation between the thermodynamic stability of the G4 substrates and rates of unwinding by DHX36. In stark contrast, the ATPase activity of the helicase was largely independent of substrate stability pointing toward a decoupling mechanism akin to what has been observed for many double-stranded DEAD-box RNA helicases. Our study provides the first evidence that DHX36 uses a local, non-processive mechanism to unwind G4 substrates, reminiscent of that of eukaryotic initiation factor 4A (eIF4A) on double-stranded substrates. © The Author(s) 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Nucleic Acids Research
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    Gordon R. McInroy · Neil M. Bell · Gabriella Ficz · Shankar Balasubramanian · Wolf Reik · Eun-Ang Raiber
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    ABSTRACT: Epigenetic mechanisms describe gene expression states that are somatically heritable but do not involve changes in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism. Epigenetic changes are mediated by dynamic chemical modifications of DNA and histone proteins within chromatin. These modifications play a central role in the regulation of processes such as transcription, replication, and DNA repair and represent a unique profile for each cell type. In this chapter we will focus on DNA modifications, particularly on the 5′ position of cytosine, their potential implications in epigenetically controlled mechanisms, and furthermore discuss the technical challenges that are associated with the methods used to study these modifications.
    Full-text · Chapter · Jan 2015
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    ABSTRACT: The modified base 5-formylcytosine (5fC) was recently identified in mammalian DNA and might be considered to be the 'seventh' base of the genome. This nucleotide has been implicated in active demethylation mediated by the base excision repair enzyme thymine DNA glycosylase. Genomics and proteomics studies have suggested an additional role for 5fC in transcription regulation through chromatin remodeling. Here we propose that 5fC might affect these processes through its effect on DNA conformation. Biophysical and structural analysis revealed that 5fC alters the structure of the DNA double helix and leads to a conformation unique among known DNA structures including those comprising other cytosine modifications. The 1.4-Å-resolution X-ray crystal structure of a DNA dodecamer comprising three 5fCpG sites shows how 5fC changes the geometry of the grooves and base pairs associated with the modified base, leading to helical underwinding.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2014 · Nature Structural & Molecular Biology
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    ABSTRACT: In investigating the binding interactions between the human telomeric RNA (TERRA) G-quadruplex (GQ) and its ligands, it was found that the small molecule carboxypyridostatin (cPDS) and the GQ-selective antibody BG4 simultaneously bind the TERRA GQ. We previously showed that the overall binding affinity of BG4 for RNA GQs is not significantly affected in the presence of cPDS. However, single-molecule mechanical unfolding experiments revealed a population (48 %) with substantially increased mechanical and thermodynamic stability. Force-jump kinetic investigations suggested competitive binding of cPDS and BG4 to the TERRA GQ. Following this, the two bound ligands slowly rearrange, thereby leading to the minor population with increased stability. Given the relevance of G-quadruplexes in the regulation of biological processes, we anticipate that the unprecedented conformational rearrangement observed in the TERRA-GQ–ligand complex may inspire new strategies for the selective stabilization of G-quadruplexes in cells.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Angewandte Chemie
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    ABSTRACT: G-quadruplexes are functional DNA elements and small molecules are formidable to study their biological roles and may have potential for therapeutic development. We previously identified a trimeric quinoline-based oligoamide macrocycle and helical oligoamide foldamers as selective ligands. Their helical structure may permit the targeting of the backbone loops and grooves of G-quadruplexes instead of the G-tetrads. Given the vast array of morphologies G-quadruplex structures can adopt, this may be a way to elicit sequence selective binding. Herein, we describe the design and synthesis of molecules based on macrocyclic and helically folded oligoamides. We tested them for the ability to interact with the human telomeric G-quadruplex and an array of promoter G-quadruplexes using a well established Förster Resonance Energy Transfer (FRET) melting assay and single molecule FRET. Our results show that they constitute very potent ligands, comparable to the best reported in the literature. Their mode of interaction differs from that of traditional tetrad binders, opening avenues for the development of molecules specific for certain G-quadruplex conformations.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · ChemBioChem
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    ABSTRACT: In investigating the binding interactions between the human telomeric RNA (TERRA) G-quadruplex (GQ) and its ligands, it was found that the small molecule carboxypyridostatin (cPDS) and the GQ-selective antibody BG4 simultaneously bind the TERRA GQ. We previously showed that the overall binding affinity of BG4 for RNA GQs is not significantly affected in the presence of cPDS. However, single-molecule mechanical unfolding experiments revealed a population (48 %) with substantially increased mechanical and thermodynamic stability. Force-jump kinetic investigations suggested competitive binding of cPDS and BG4 to the TERRA GQ. Following this, the two bound ligands slowly rearrange, thereby leading to the minor population with increased stability. Given the relevance of G-quadruplexes in the regulation of biological processes, we anticipate that the unprecedented conformational rearrangement observed in the TERRA-GQ–ligand complex may inspire new strategies for the selective stabilization of G-quadruplexes in cells.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Angewandte Chemie International Edition
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    ABSTRACT: The transcription factor FOXM1 binds to sequence-specific motifs on DNA (C/TAAACA) through its DNA-binding domain (DBD) and activates proliferation- and differentiation-associated genes. Aberrant overexpression of FOXM1 is a key feature in oncogenesis and progression of many human cancers. Here-from a high-throughput screen applied to a library of 54,211 small molecules-we identify novel small molecule inhibitors of FOXM1 that block DNA binding. One of the identified compounds, FDI-6 (NCGC00099374), is characterized in depth and is shown to bind directly to FOXM1 protein, to displace FOXM1 from genomic targets in MCF-7 breast cancer cells, and induce concomitant transcriptional downregulation. Global transcript profiling of MCF-7 cells by RNA-seq shows that FDI-6 specifically downregulates FOXM1-activated genes with FOXM1 occupancy confirmed by ChIP-PCR. This small molecule-mediated effect is selective for FOXM1-controlled genes with no effect on genes regulated by homologous forkhead family factors.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Nature Communications

Publication Stats

12k Citations
1,699.04 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 1996-2016
    • University of Cambridge
      • Department of Chemistry
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
  • 2007
    • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
      • Department of Physics
      Urbana, Illinois, United States
  • 1993-1995
    • Pennsylvania State University
      • Department of Chemistry
      University Park, Maryland, United States