Genomes and Genes
Epigenetic regulation of programmed genome instability in O. trifallax
Principal Investigator: JOHN RUSSELL BRACHT
Abstract: DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Cytosine methylation of DNA is a repressive chromatin mark important for silencing genes during mammalian development, and cancer cells frequently silence tumor suppressor genes by aberrantly methylating their promoters. Genome stability is compromised when DNA methylation patterns are disrupted in cancer or in developmental disease. Despite the critical role of DNA methylation in gene expression and genome stability, the mechanisms guiding de novo DNA methylation remain poorly defined. Oxytricha trifallax is a unicellular eukaryote that performs dramatic genome rearrangements in a developmental process that transforms its micronucleus (MIC) genome into a differentiated macronucleus (MAC). This process is accomplished by the precise elimination of 95% of the genome, and recapitulates the key property of stem cells: self-renewal (one copy of the MIC is retained at all times) and differentiation (MAC formation). Interestingly, my work in the Landweber lab has shown that this organism uses de novo DNA methylation in the elimination process. The fact that most of the Oxytricha genome is methylated and eliminated makes it an attractive model system to understand how methylation is targeted: aberrant methylation and subsequent elimination of the 5% retained DNA would be fatal. In addition, the reproducibility of genome rearrangements in this ciliate makes it a unique model for studying the connection between DNA methylation and genome stability, both of which are relevant to cancer and developmental processes generally. AIM 1: Test the hypothesis that methylation induces DNA degradation in Oxytricha through microinjection of artificially constructed, in vitro methylated chromosomes into the MAC of vegetative cells. AIM 2: Methyl-DNA immunoprecipitation and high throughput sequencing (meDIP-Seq) will be used to define the endogenous domains of de novo DNA methylation during genome rearrangements in Oxytricha. AIM 3: The functional relevance of cytosine methylation in Oxytricha genome rearrangements will be analyzed by use of chemical inhibitors of methyltransferases, followed by deep sequencing the DNA from treated cells. AIM 4: Identification of novel methylation pathway proteins by methyl-cytosine chromatin IP (me-ChIP) and mass-spec analysis. Oxytricha trifallax provides an unprecedented opportunity to study the role of DNA methylation in a model system that has evolved an elaborate genome rearrangement process. Currently, the targeting of de novo methylation in human disease is poorly understood, so insights from Oxytricha will be immediately relevant to studies of human health and disease. Any conserved candidate proteins or motifs identified in the ciliate model can be tested in human tissue culture or mouse cancer models for potential oncogenic roles.
Funding Period: 2012-08-01 - 2014-07-31
more information: NIH RePORT
- Piwi-interacting RNAs protect DNA against loss during Oxytricha genome rearrangementWenwen Fang
Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
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- The Oxytricha trifallax macronuclear genome: a complex eukaryotic genome with 16,000 tiny chromosomesEstienne C Swart
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, United States of America
PLoS Biol 11:e1001473. 2013..trifallax macronuclear genome will provide an invaluable resource for investigating programmed genome rearrangements, complementing studies of rearrangements arising during evolution and disease...
- Beyond transcriptional silencing: is methylcytosine a widely conserved eukaryotic DNA elimination mechanism?John R Bracht
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Guyot Hall, Princeton, NJ, USA
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