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van Emden, T.S., Forn, M., Forne, I., Sarkadi, Z., Capella, M., Martin Caballero, L., Fischer-Burkart, S., Bronner, C., Simonetta, M., Toczyski, D., Halic, M., Imhof, A., and Braun, S.
EMBO Rep, 2018, [Epub ahead of print].
(IMPRS-LS students are in bold)
doi: 10.15252/embr.201847181

Shelterin and subtelomeric DNA sequences control nucleosome maintenance and genome stability.

Telomeres and the shelterin complex cap and protect the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres are flanked by the subtelomeric sequences that have also been implicated in telomere regulation, although their role is not well defined. Here, we show that, in Schizosaccharomyces pombe, the telomere-associated sequences (TAS) present on most subtelomeres are hyper-recombinogenic, have metastable nucleosomes, and unusual low levels of H3K9 methylation. Ccq1, a subunit of shelterin, protects TAS from nucleosome loss by recruiting the heterochromatic repressor complexes CLRC and SHREC, thereby linking nucleosome stability to gene silencing. Nucleosome instability at TAS is independent of telomeric repeats and can be transmitted to an intrachromosomal locus containing an ectopic TAS fragment, indicating that this is an intrinsic property of the underlying DNA sequence. When telomerase recruitment is compromised in cells lacking Ccq1, DNA sequences present in the TAS promote recombination between chromosomal ends, independent of nucleosome abundance, implying an active function of these sequences in telomere maintenance. We propose that Ccq1 and fragile subtelomeres co-evolved to regulate telomere plasticity by controlling nucleosome occupancy and genome stability.

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De Oliveira, T., Ramakrishnan, M., Diamanti, M.A., Ziegler, P.K., Brombacher, F., and Greten, F.R.
Oncogene, 2018, [Epub ahead of print].
doi: 10.1038/s41388-018-0551-2

Loss of Stat6 affects chromatin condensation in intestinal epithelial cells causing diverse outcome in murine models of inflammation-associated and sporadic colon carcinogenesis.

While great advances have been achieved regarding the genetic basis of colorectal cancer, the complex role of cell-cell communication and cytokine-induced signaling during its pathogenesis remains less understood. Signal transducer and activator of transcription 6 (Stat6) is the main transcription factor of interleukin-4 (IL-4) signaling and its participation in the development of various tumor types has been already reported. Here we aimed to examine the contribution of Stat6 in intestinal epithelial cells (IEC) in mouse models of intestinal carcinogenesis. Wild-type (WT), Stat6 knockout (Stat6-/-), and intestinal epithelial cell-specific IL-4Rα knockout (Il-4rαΔIEC) mice were subjected to colitis-associated (AOM/DSS) and colitis-independent (sporadic) carcinogenesis. IEC proliferation, apoptosis and RNA expression were evaluated by immunohistochemical, immunoblot, and RT-PCR analysis. We found that Stat6-/- mice developed more tumors in the colitis-associated carcinogenesis model. This was accompanied by a more pronounced inflammatory response during colitis and an elevated Stat3-dependent proliferation of IEC. Increased sensitivity to DSS-induced colitis was caused by elevated cell death in response to the initial carcinogen exposure as Stat6 deficiency led to increased chromatin compaction affecting DNA damage response in IEC upon treatment with alkylating agents independently of IL-4Rα engagement. Thus, loss of Stat6 caused more severe colitis and increased tumor load, however loss-of-initiated Stat6-/- IEC prevented tumor formation in the absence of overt inflammation. Our data unravel unexpected IL-4-independent functions of Stat6 in chromatin compaction in intestinal epithelial cells ultimately providing both tumor suppressive as well as tumor promoting effects in different models of intestinal tumorigenesis.

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Galanti, L., and Pfander, B.
EMBO J, 2018, [Epub ahead of print].
doi: 10.15252/embj.2018100681

Right time, right place-DNA damage and DNA replication checkpoints collectively safeguard S phase

The DNA replication checkpoint (DRC) and the DNA damage checkpoint (DDC) are two closely linked signaling cascades that adjust S phase to the presence of DNA lesions and other replication impediments. Two recent studies published in The EMBO Journal shed new light on their relationship in budding yeast, collectively showing that the two pathways—while sharing several factors—differ in the location and kinetics of their activation, suggesting that they constitute different branches of an integrated cellular response to impaired DNA replication.

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Butryn, A., Woike, S., Shetty, S.J., Auble, D.T., and Hopfner, K.P.
Elife 7, 2018.
doi: 10.7554/eLife.37774

Crystal structure of the full Swi2/Snf2 remodeler Mot1 in the resting state.

Swi2/Snf2 ATPases remodel protein:DNA complexes in all of the fundamental chromosome‑associated processes. The single‑subunit remodeler Mot1 dissociates TATA box-binding protein (TBP):DNA complexes and provides a simple model for obtaining structural insights into the action of Swi2/Snf2 ATPases. Previously we reported how the N-terminal domain of Mot1 it binds TBP, NC2 and DNA, but the location of the C-terminal ATPase domain remained unclear (Butryn et al., 2015). Here, we report the crystal structure of the near full-length Mot1 from Chaetomium thermophilum. Our data show that Mot1 adopts a ring like structure with a catalytically inactive resting state of the ATPase. Biochemical analysis suggests that TBP binding switches Mot1 into an ATP hydrolysis-competent conformation. Combined with our previous results, these data significantly improve the structural model for the complete Mot1:TBP:DNA complex and suggest a general mechanism for Mot1 action.

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Coscia, F., Lengyel, E., Duraiswamy, J., Ashcroft, B., Bassani-Sternberg, M., Wierer, M., Johnson, A., Wroblewski, K., Montag, A., Yamada, S.D., Lopez-Mendez, B., Nilsson, J., Mund, A., Mann, M., and Curtis, M.
Cell 2018, 175, 159-170.e116.
doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.08.065

Multi-level Proteomics Identifies CT45 as a Chemosensitivity Mediator and Immunotherapy Target in Ovarian Cancer.

Most high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) patients develop resistance to platinum-based chemotherapy and recur, but 15% remain disease free over a decade. To discover drivers of long-term survival, we quantitatively analyzed the proteomes of platinum-resistant and -sensitive HGSOC patients from minute amounts of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumors. This revealed cancer/testis antigen 45 (CT45) as an independent prognostic factor associated with a doubling of disease-free survival in advanced-stage HGSOC. Phospho- and interaction proteomics tied CT45 to DNA damage pathways through direct interaction with the PP4 phosphatase complex. In vitro, CT45 regulated PP4 activity, and its high expression led to increased DNA damage and platinum sensitivity. CT45-derived HLA class I peptides, identified by immunopeptidomics, activate patient-derived cytotoxic T cells and promote tumor cell killing. This study highlights the power of clinical cancer proteomics to identify targets for chemo- and immunotherapy and illuminate their biological roles.

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Fabritius, A., Ng, D., Kist, A.M., Erdogan, M., Portugues, R., and Griesbeck, O.
Cell Chem Biol, 2018, [Epub ahead of print].
(IMPRS-LS students are in bold)
doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2018.08.008

Imaging-Based Screening Platform Assists Protein Engineering.

Protein engineering involves generating and screening large numbers of variants for desired properties. While modern DNA technology has made it easy to create protein diversity on the DNA level, the selection and validation of candidate proteins from large libraries remains a challenge. We built a screening platform that integrates high-quality fluorescence-based image analysis and robotic picking of bacterial colonies. It allows tracking each individual colony in a large population and collecting quantitative information on library composition during the protein evolution process. We demonstrate the power of the screening platform by optimizing a dim far-red-emitting fluorescent protein whose brightness increased several fold using iterative cycles of mutagenesis and platform-based screening. The resulting protein variant mCarmine is useful for imaging cells and structures within live tissue as well as for molecular tagging. Overall, the platform presented provides powerful, flexible, and low-cost instrumentation to accelerate many fluorescence-based protein optimization projects.


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Kabacaoglu, D., Ciecielski, K.J., Ruess, D.A., and Algul, H.
Front Immunol, 2018, 9, 1878.
doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.01878

Immune Checkpoint Inhibition for Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma: Current Limitations and Future Options.

Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), as the most frequent form of pancreatic malignancy, still is associated with a dismal prognosis. Due to its late detection, most patients are ineligible for surgery, and chemotherapeutic options are limited. Tumor heterogeneity and a characteristic structure with crosstalk between the cancer/malignant cells and an abundant tumor microenvironment (TME) make PDAC a very challenging puzzle to solve. Thus far, targeted therapies have failed to substantially improve the overall survival of PDAC patients. Immune checkpoint inhibition, as an emerging therapeutic option in cancer treatment, shows promising results in different solid tumor types and hematological malignancies. However, PDAC does not respond well to immune checkpoint inhibitors anti-programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) or anti-cytotoxic T lymphocyte-associated antigen 4 (CTLA-4) alone or in combination. PDAC with its immune-privileged nature, starting from the early pre-neoplastic state, appears to escape from the antitumor immune response unlike other neoplastic entities. Different mechanisms how cancer cells achieve immune-privileged status have been hypothesized. Among them are decreased antigenicity and impaired immunogenicity via both cancer cell-intrinsic mechanisms and an augmented immunosuppressive TME. Here, we seek to shed light on the recent advances in both bench and bedside investigation of immunotherapeutic options for PDAC. Furthermore, we aim to compile recent data about how PDAC adopts immune escape mechanisms, and how these mechanisms might be exploited therapeutically in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as PD-1 or CTLA-4 antibodies.


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Kozlowski, M., Corujo, D., Hothorn, M., Guberovic, I., Mandemaker, I.K., Blessing, C., Sporn, J., Gutierrez-Triana, A., Smith, R., Portmann, T., Treier, M., Scheffzek, K., Huet, S., Timinszky, G., Buschbeck, M., and Ladurner, A.G.
(IMPRS-LS students are in bold)
EMBO Rep, 2018, [Epub ahead of print].
doi: 10.15252/embr.201744445

MacroH2A histone variants limit chromatin plasticity through two distinct mechanisms.

MacroH2A histone variants suppress tumor progression and act as epigenetic barriers to induced pluripotency. How they impart their influence on chromatin plasticity is not well understood. Here, we analyze how the different domains of macroH2A proteins contribute to chromatin structure and dynamics. By solving the crystal structure of the macrodomain of human macroH2A2 at 1.7 Å, we find that its putative binding pocket exhibits marked structural differences compared with the macroH2A1.1 isoform, rendering macroH2A2 unable to bind ADP-ribose. Quantitative binding assays show that this specificity is conserved among vertebrate macroH2A isoforms. We further find that macroH2A histones reduce the transient, PARP1-dependent chromatin relaxation that occurs in living cells upon DNA damage through two distinct mechanisms. First, macroH2A1.1 mediates an isoform-specific effect through its ability to suppress PARP1 activity. Second, the unstructured linker region exerts an additional repressive effect that is common to all macroH2A proteins. In the absence of DNA damage, the macroH2A linker is also sufficient for rescuing heterochromatin architecture in cells deficient for macroH2A.


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Spadaro, M., Winklmeier, S., Beltran, E., Macrini, C., Hoftberger, R., Schuh, E., Thaler, F.S., Gerdes, L.A., Laurent, S., Gerhards, R., Brandle, S., Dornmair, K., Breithaupt, C., Krumbholz, M., Moser, M., Kirshnamoorthy, G., Kamp, F., Jenne, D., Hohlfeld, R., Kumpfel, T., Lassmann, H., Kawakami, N., and Meinl, E.
Ann Neurol., 2018, [Epub ahead of print].
doi: 10.1002/ana.25291

Pathogenicity of human antibodies against myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein

Autoantibodies against myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) occur in a proportion of patients with inflammatory demyelinating diseases of the CNS. We analyzed their pathogenic activity by affinity-purifying these Abs from patients and transferring them to experimental animals.
Patients with Abs to MOG were identified by cell-based assay. We determined the cross-reactivity to rodent MOG and determined the recognized MOG-epitopes. We produced the correctly folded extracellular domain of MOG and affinity-purified MOG-specific Abs from the blood of patients. These purified Abs were used to stain CNS tissue and transferred in two models of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Animals were analyzed histopathologically.
We identified 17 patients with MOG Abs from our outpatient clinic and selected two with a cross-reactivity to rodent MOG; both had recurrent optic neuritis. Affinity-purified Abs recognized MOG on transfected cells and stained myelin in tissue sections. The Abs from the two patients recognized different epitopes on MOG, the CC' and the FG loop. In both patients these Abs persisted during our observation period of 2-3 years. The anti-MOG Abs from both patients were pathogenic upon intrathecal injection in two different rat models. Together with cognate MOG-specific T cells, these Abs enhanced T cell infiltration; together with MBP-specific T cells, they induced demyelination associated with deposition of C9neo, resembling a multiple sclerosis type II pathology.
MOG-specific Abs affinity purified from patients with inflammatory demyelinating disease induce pathological changes in vivo upon co-transfer with myelin-reactive T cells, suggesting that these Abs are similarly pathogenic in patients.


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Keplinger, S., Beiderbeck, B., Michalakis, S., Biel, M., Grothe, B., and Kunz, L.
Front Cell Neurosci, 2018, 12, 111.
doi: 10.3389/fncel.2018.00111

Optogenetic Control of Neural Circuits in the Mongolian Gerbil

The Mongolian gerbil (Meriones unguiculatus) is widely used as a model organism for the human auditory system. Its hearing range is very similar to ours and it uses the same mechanisms for sound localization. The auditory circuits underlying these functions have been characterized. However, important mechanistic details are still under debate. To elucidate these issues, precise and reversible optogenetic manipulation of neuronal activity in this complex circuitry is required. However, genetic and genomic resources for the Mongolian gerbil are poorly developed. Here, we demonstrate a reliable gene delivery system using an AAV8(Y337F)-pseudotyped recombinant adeno-associated virus (AAV) 2-based vector in which the pan-neural human synapsin (hSyn) promoter drives neuron-specific expression of CatCH (Ca2+-permeable channelrhodopsin) or NpHR3.0 (Natronomonas pharaonis halorhodopsin). After stereotactic injection into the gerbil's auditory brainstem (medial nucleus of the trapezoid body, dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus) and midbrain [inferior colliculus (IC)], we characterized CatCH- and/or NpHR3.0-transduced neurons in acute brain slices by means of whole-cell patch-clamp recordings. As the response properties of optogenetic tools strongly depend on neuronal biophysics, this parameterization is crucial for their in vivo application. In a proof-of-principle experiment in anesthetized gerbils, we observed strong suppression of sound-evoked neural responses in the dorsal nucleus of the lateral lemniscus (DNLL) and IC upon light activation of NpHR3.0. The successful validation of gene delivery and optogenetic tools in the Mongolian gerbil paves the way for future studies of the auditory circuits in this model system.