[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Epigenetic alterations are necessary for the establishment of functional and phenotypic diversity in the populations of immune cells of the monocytic lineage. The epigenetic status of individual genes at different time points defines their transcriptional responses throughout development and in response to environmental stimuli. Epigenetic states are defined at the level of DNA modifications, chromatin modifications, as well as at the level of RNA base changes through RNA editing. Drawing from lessons regarding the epigenome and epitranscriptome of cells of the monocytic lineage in the periphery, and from recently published RNAseq data deriving from brain-resident monocytes, we discuss the impact of modulation of these epigenetic states and how they affect processes important for the development of a healthy brain, as well as mechanisms of neurodegenerative disease and aging. An understanding of the varied brain responses and pathologies in light of these novel gene regulatory systems in monocytes will lead to important new insights in the understanding of the aging process and the treatment and diagnosis of neurodegenerative disease.
Full-text · Article · Feb 2016 · Frontiers in Immunology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of African sleeping sickness, is transmitted to its mammalian host by the tsetse. In the fly, the parasite’s surface is covered with invariant procyclin, while in the mammal it resides extracellularly in its bloodstream form (BF) and is densely covered with highly immunogenic Variant Surface Glycoprotein (VSG). In the BF, the parasite varies this highly immunogenic surface VSG using a repertoire of ~2500 distinct VSG genes. Recent reports in mammalian systems point to a role for histone acetyl-lysine recognizing bromodomain proteins in the maintenance of stem cell fate, leading us to hypothesize that bromodomain proteins may maintain the BF cell fate in trypanosomes. Using small-molecule inhibitors and genetic mutants for individual bromodomain proteins, we performed RNA-seq experiments that revealed changes in the transcriptome similar to those seen in cells differentiating from the BF to the insect stage. This was recapitulated at the protein level by the appearance of insect-stage proteins on the cell surface. Furthermore, bromodomain inhibition disrupts two major BF-specific immune evasion mechanisms that trypanosomes harness to evade mammalian host antibody responses. First, monoallelic expression of the antigenically varied VSG is disrupted. Second, rapid internalization of antibodies bound to VSG on the surface of the trypanosome is blocked. Thus, our studies reveal a role for trypanosome bromodomain proteins in maintaining bloodstream stage identity and immune evasion. Importantly, bromodomain inhibition leads to a decrease in virulence in a mouse model of infection, establishing these proteins as potential therapeutic drug targets for trypanosomiasis. Our 1.25Å resolution crystal structure of a trypanosome bromodomain in complex with I-BET151 reveals a novel binding mode of the inhibitor, which serves as a promising starting point for rational drug design.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Changes in DNA methylation are required for the formation of germinal centers (GCs), but the mechanisms of such changes are poorly understood. Activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) has been recently implicated in DNA demethylation through its deaminase activity coupled with DNA repair. We investigated the epigenetic function of AID in vivo in germinal center B cells (GCBs) isolated from wild-type (WT) and AID-deficient (Aicda(-/-)) mice. We determined that the transit of B cells through the GC is associated with marked locus-specific loss of methylation and increased methylation diversity, both of which are lost in Aicda(-/-) animals. Differentially methylated cytosines (DMCs) between GCBs and naive B cells (NBs) are enriched in genes that are targeted for somatic hypermutation (SHM) by AID, and these genes form networks required for B cell development and proliferation. Finally, we observed significant conservation of AID-dependent epigenetic reprogramming between mouse and human B cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Antigenic variation is a common microbial survival strategy, powered by diversity in expressed surface antigens across the pathogen population over the course of infection. Even so, among pathogens, African trypanosomes have the most comprehensive system of antigenic variation described. African trypanosomes (Trypanosoma brucei spp.) are unicellular parasites native to sub-Saharan Africa, and the causative agents of sleeping sickness in humans and of n’agana in livestock. They cycle between two habitats: a specific species of fly (Glossina spp. or, colloquially, the tsetse) and the bloodstream of their mammalian hosts, by assuming a succession of proliferative and quiescent developmental forms, which vary widely in cell architecture and function. Key to each of the developmental forms that arise during these transitions is the composition of the surface coat that covers the plasma membrane.
The trypanosome surface coat is extremely dense, covered by millions of repeats of developmentally specified proteins: procyclin gene products cover the organism while it resides in the tsetse and metacyclic gene products cover it while in the fly salivary glands, ready to make the transition to the mammalian bloodstream. But by far the most interesting coat is the Variant Surface Glycoprotein (VSG) coat that covers the organism in its infectious form (during which it must survive free living in the mammalian bloodstream). This coat is highly antigenic and elicits robust VSG-specific antibodies that mediate efficient opsonization and complement mediated lysis of the parasites carrying the coat against which the response was made. Meanwhile, a small proportion of the parasite population switches coats, which stimulates a new antibody response to the prevalent (new) VSG species and this process repeats until immune system failure. The disease is fatal unless treated, and treatment at the later stages is extremely toxic.
Because the organism is free living in the blood, the VSG:antibody surface represents the interface between pathogen and host, and defines the interaction of the parasite with the immune response. This interaction (cycles of VSG switching, antibody generation, and parasite deletion) results in stereotypical peaks and troughs of parasitemia that were first recognized more than 100 years ago. Essentially, the mechanism of antigenic variation in T. brucei results from a need, at the population level, to maintain an extensive repertoire, to evade the antibody response. In this chapter, we will examine what is currently known about the VSG repertoire, its depth, and the mechanisms that diversify it both at the molecular (DNA) and at the phenotypic (surface displayed) level, as well as how it could interact with antibodies raised specifically against it in the host.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In a phosphorylation-dependent positive feedback loop, the cytidine deaminase AID amplifies the generation of double-strand DNA breaks, which shows it can also function downstream of deamination.
No preview · Article · Oct 2013 · Nature Immunology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Beyond its well-characterized functions in antibody diversification, the cytidine deaminase AID can catalyze off-target DNA damage and has been hypothesized to edit RNA and mediate DNA demethylation. To comprehensively examine the effects of AID on the transcriptome and the pattern of DNA methylation ('methylome'), we analyzed AID-deficient (Aicda(-/-)), wild-type and AID-overexpressing activated B cells by high-throughput RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) and reduced-representation bisulfite sequencing (RRBS). These analyses confirmed the known role of AID in immunoglobulin isotype switching and also demonstrated few other effects of AID on gene expression. Additionally, we detected no evidence of AID-dependent editing of mRNA or microRNA. Finally, the RRBS data did not support the proposed role for AID in regulating DNA methylation. Thus, despite evidence of its additional activities in other systems, antibody diversification seems to be the sole physiological function of AID in activated B cells.
Full-text · Article · May 2013 · Nature Immunology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Protein-protein interactions are typically identified by either biochemical purification coupled to mass spectrometry or genetic approaches exemplified by the yeast two-hybrid assay; however, neither assay works well for the identification of cofactors for poorly soluble proteins. Solubility of a poorly soluble protein is thought to increase upon cofactor binding, possibly by masking otherwise exposed hydrophobic domains. We have exploited this notion to develop a high-throughput genetic screen to identify interacting partners of an insoluble protein fused to chloramphenicol acetyltransferase by monitoring the survival of bacteria in the presence of a drug. In addition to presenting proof-of-principle experiments, we apply this screen to activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID), a poorly soluble protein that is essential for antibody diversification. We identify a unique cofactor, RING finger protein 126 (RNF126), verify its interaction by traditional techniques, and show that it has functional consequences as RNF126 is able to ubiquitylate AID. Our results underpin the value of this screening technique and suggest a unique form of AID regulation involving RNF126 and ubiquitylation.
Preview · Article · Dec 2012 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Trypanosoma brucei is a master of antigenic variation and immune response evasion. Utilizing a genomic repertoire of more than 1000 Variant Surface Glycoprotein-encoding genes (VSGs), T. brucei can change its protein coat by "switching" from the expression of one VSG to another. Each active VSG is monoallelically expressed from only one of approximately 15 subtelomeric sites. Switching VSG expression occurs by three predominant mechanisms, arguably the most significant of which is the non-reciprocal exchange of VSG containing DNA by duplicative gene conversion (GC). How T. brucei orchestrates its complex switching mechanisms remains to be elucidated. Recent work has demonstrated that an exogenous DNA break in the active site could initiate a GC based switch, yet the source of the switch-initiating DNA lesion under natural conditions is still unknown. Here we investigated the hypothesis that telomere length directly affects VSG switching. We demonstrate that telomerase deficient strains with short telomeres switch more frequently than genetically identical strains with long telomeres and that, when the telomere is short, switching preferentially occurs by GC. Our data supports the hypothesis that a short telomere at the active VSG expression site results in an increase in subtelomeric DNA breaks, which can initiate GC based switching. In addition to their significance for T. brucei and telomere biology, the findings presented here have implications for the many diverse pathogens that organize their antigenic genes in subtelomeric regions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Adenosine to inosine editing at the wobble position allows decoding of multiple codons by a single tRNA. This reaction is catalyzed by adenosine deaminases acting on tRNA (ADATs) and is essential for viability. In bacteria, the anticodon-specific enzyme is a homodimer that recognizes a single tRNA substrate (tRNA(Arg)(ACG)) and can efficiently deaminate short anticodon stem-loop mimics of this tRNA in vitro. The eukaryal enzyme is composed of two nonidentical subunits, ADAT2 and ADAT3, which upon heterodimerization, recognize seven to eight different tRNAs as substrates, depending on the organism, and require a full-length tRNA for activity. Although crystallographic data have provided clues to why the bacterial deaminase can utilize short substrates, residues that provide substrate binding and recognition with the eukaryotic enzymes are not currently known. In the present study, we have used a combination of mutagenesis, binding studies, and kinetic analysis to explore the contribution of individual residues in Trypanosoma brucei ADAT2 (TbADAT2) to tRNA recognition. We show that deletion of the last 10 amino acids at the C terminus of TbADAT2 abolishes tRNA binding. In addition, single alanine replacements of a string of positively charged amino acids (KRKRK) lead to binding defects that correlate with losses in enzyme activity. This region, which we have termed the KR-domain, provides a first glance at key residues involved in tRNA binding by eukaryotic tRNA editing deaminases.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Editing of adenosine (A) to inosine (I) at the first anticodon position in tRNA is catalyzed by adenosine deaminases acting on tRNA (ADATs). This essential reaction in bacteria and eukarya permits a single tRNA to decode multiple codons. Bacterial ADATa is a homodimer with two bound essential Zn(2+). The ADATa crystal structure revealed residues important for substrate binding and catalysis; however, such high resolution structural information is not available for eukaryotic tRNA deaminases. Despite significant sequence similarity among deaminases, we continue to uncover unexpected functional differences between Trypanosoma brucei ADAT2/3 (TbADAT2/3) and its bacterial counterpart. Previously, we demonstrated that TbADAT2/3 is unique in catalyzing two different deamination reactions. Here we show by kinetic analyses and inductively coupled plasma emission spectrometry that wild type TbADAT2/3 coordinates two Zn(2+) per heterodimer, but unlike any other tRNA deaminase, mutation of one of the key Zn(2+)-coordinating cysteines in TbADAT2 yields a functional enzyme with a single-bound zinc. These data suggest that, at least, TbADAT3 may play a role in catalysis via direct coordination of the catalytic Zn(2+). These observations raise the possibility of an unusual Zn(2+) coordination interface with important implications for the function and evolution of editing deaminases.
Preview · Article · Jun 2011 · Journal of Biological Chemistry
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Autophagy is a highly regulated and evolutionarily conserved process of cellular self-digestion. Recent evidence suggests that this process plays an important role in regulating T cell homeostasis. In this study, we used Rag1(-/-) (recombination activating gene 1(-/-)) blastocyst complementation and in vitro embryonic stem cell differentiation to address the role of Beclin 1, one of the key autophagic proteins, in lymphocyte development. Beclin 1-deficient Rag1(-/-) chimeras displayed a dramatic reduction in thymic cellularity compared with control mice. Using embryonic stem cell differentiation in vitro, we found that the inability to maintain normal thymic cellularity is likely caused by impaired maintenance of thymocyte progenitors. Interestingly, despite drastically reduced thymocyte numbers, the peripheral T cell compartment of Beclin 1-deficient Rag1(-/-) chimeras is largely normal. Peripheral T cells displayed normal in vitro proliferation despite significantly reduced numbers of autophagosomes. In addition, these chimeras had greatly reduced numbers of early B cells in the bone marrow compared with controls. However, the peripheral B cell compartment was not dramatically impacted by Beclin 1 deficiency. Collectively, our results suggest that Beclin 1 is required for maintenance of undifferentiated/early lymphocyte progenitor populations. In contrast, Beclin 1 is largely dispensable for the initial generation and function of the peripheral T and B cell compartments. This indicates that normal lymphocyte development involves Beclin 1-dependent, early-stage and distinct, Beclin 1-independent, late-stage processes.
Preview · Article · Feb 2011 · The Journal of Immunology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of endogenous, non-coding regulatory RNAs that control gene regulation by guiding silencing protein complexes to mRNA in a sequence-dependent manner. In this way miRNAs are able to repress gene expression post-transcriptionally by affecting mRNA stability or translation. These ubiquitous molecules play central roles in a wide range of biological processes, including cell proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis. Within the context of the immune system, genetic studies have identified distinct roles for specific miRNAs in gene regulation during development, activation and maturation. Conversely, dysregulation of miRNA expression has been specifically correlated with cancer. This review outlines our current understanding of miRNA function in lymphocytes as it impacts expression of protein-coding genes in the context of proper development, as well as oncogenesis.
Full-text · Article · Feb 2011 · Current opinion in immunology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Apolipoprotein B-editing enzyme, catalytic polypeptide-1 (APOBEC1) is a cytidine deaminase initially identified by its activity in converting a specific cytidine (C) to uridine (U) in apolipoprotein B (apoB) mRNA transcripts in the small intestine. Editing results in the translation of a truncated apoB isoform with distinct functions in lipid transport. To address the possibility that APOBEC1 edits additional mRNAs, we developed a transcriptome-wide comparative RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) screen. We identified and validated 32 previously undescribed mRNA targets of APOBEC1 editing, all of which are located in AU-rich segments of transcript 3' untranslated regions (3' UTRs). Further analysis established several characteristic sequence features of editing targets, which were predictive for the identification of additional APOBEC1 substrates. The transcriptomics approach to RNA editing presented here dramatically expands the list of APOBEC1 mRNA editing targets and reveals a novel cellular mechanism for the modification of transcript 3' UTRs.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: RNA editing deaminases act on a variety of targets in different organisms. A number of such enzymes have been shown to act on mRNA, with the resultant nucleotide changes modifying a transcript's information content. Though the deaminase activity of mRNA editing enzymes is readily demonstrated in vitro, identifying their physiological targets has proved challenging. Recent advances in ultra high-throughput sequencing technologies have allowed for whole transcriptome sequencing and expression profiling (RNA-Seq). We have developed a system to identify novel mRNA editing deamination targets based on comparative analysis of RNA-Seq data. The efficacy and utility of this approach is demonstrated for APOBEC1, a cytidine deaminase with a known and well-characterized mRNA editing target in the mammalian small intestine.
Preview · Article · Jan 2011 · Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.)
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The African trypanosome (Trypanosoma brucei) is transmitted by the bite of the tsetse vector to the mammalian bloodstream where it exists as a completely extracellular parasite. As a result of this exposure, the parasite elicits a robust immune response that is almost exclusively antibody mediated, and is extremely specific to the trypanosome coat displayed on the surface. This coat is comprised of ~11 million copies of a single gpi-linked molecule (the variable surface glycoprotein or VSG) and can therefore be used as a powerful platform for the immunogenic display of antigenic determinants. Here we describe a method to display repetitive, ordered arrays of linear epitopes on the surface of T. brucei and to then use the engineered organisms to generate specific anti-epitope antibody responses, upon injection into mice. This method offers an alternative approach to generating anti-peptide antibodies, and could be a useful option in cases where more traditional methods have failed.
Preview · Article · Oct 2010 · Journal of immunological methods
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The presence of 5-methylcytosine (5-mC) in DNA is a vital epigenetic mark in vertebrates. While the enzymes responsible for methylating DNA in vertebrates have been identified, the means by which this mark can be removed are still unclear. Recently, it has been shown that activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) contributes to the demethylation of DNA in certain systems. This enzyme has been intensely studied in its role as a key driver of antibody diversification in B cells, but recent observations from early development in zebrafish and mice as well as heterokaryons point to a role beyond immunology. This review takes stock of the reports linking AID and related deaminases to DNA demethylation, and describes the many important questions left to be answered in this field.
Preview · Article · Oct 2010 · Genes & development
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Polynucleotide DNA and RNA editing enzymes alter nucleic acid sequences and can thereby modify encoded informational content. Two major families of polynucleotide editing enzymes, the AID/APOBEC cytidine deaminases (which catalyze the deamination of cytidine to uridine) and the adenosine deaminases acting on RNA (ADARs, which catalyze the deamination of adenosine to inosine), function in a variety of host defense mechanisms. These enzymes act in innate and adaptive immune pathways, with both host and pathogen targets. DNA editing by the cytidine deaminase AID mediates immunoglobulin somatic hypermutation and class switch recombination, providing the antibody response with the flexibility and diversity to defend against an almost limitless array of varied and rapidly adapting pathogenic challenges. Other cytidine deaminases (APOBEC3) restrict retroviral infection by editing viral retrogenomes. Adenosine deaminases (ADARs) shape innate immune responses by modifying host transcripts that encode immune effectors and their regulators. Here we review current knowledge of polynucleotide DNA and RNA editors with a focus on these and other functions they serve in the immune system.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small noncoding RNAs that regulate gene expression by binding to complementary target mRNAs and either promoting their decay or inhibiting their translation. Most eukaryotic genomes studied encode miRNAs, which are processed from longer noncoding transcripts through pathways conserved from fungi to plants to animals. miRNAs are now understood to be key mediators of developmental transitions in a number of model organisms. With respect to the immune system, miRNAs affect all facets of immune system development, from hematopoiesis to activation in response to infection during both the innate and the adaptive immune response. At the same time, miRNA dysregulation is a central event in the development and pathophysiology of a number of cancers of the immune system. Here we will discuss our current understanding of this general regulatory mechanism, focusing on its involvement in inflammation and in oncogenesis.
Full-text · Article · Jan 2010 · Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences