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Mechanisms of enhancer regulation

  • The generation and maintenance of intricate spatiotemporal patterns of gene expression in multicellular organisms requires the establishment of complex mechanisms of transcriptional regulation. Estimations that up to one million enhancers exist in the human genome accentuates the utmost importance of this type of cis-regulatory element for gene regulation. However, surprisingly little is known about the mechanisms used to temporarily or permanently activate or inactivate enhancers during cellular differentiation. The current work addresses the question how enhancer regulation can be achieved. Using the chemokine (C-C motif) ligand gene Ccl22 as a model, the first example is based on the question how the activation of an enhancer can be prevented in a physiological context. Ccl22 is expressed by myeloid cells, such as dendritic cells, upon exposure to inflammatory stimuli. The expression in other cell types, such as fibroblasts, is prevented by the strong accumulation of H3K9me3 at the enhancer's proximal region. This accumulation is attenuated in myeloid cells through activity of the stimulus-induced demethylase Jmjd2d. To tease out which genomic fragment or fragments in the Ccl22 locus could be responsible for the maintenance of enhancer inactivity, potentially through the recruitment of H3K9 methyltransferases, the enhancer repressing capacity of 1 kb fragments of the gene locus was analysed in retroviral reporter assays. It was found that a fragment adjacent to the Ccl22 enhancer that overlaps with a member of a subfamily of long interspersed nuclear elements (LINEs) showed strong repressive potential on a model enhancer. Subsequent retroviral reporter assays with LINEs from loci of other stimulus-dependent genes identified additional LINE fragments that exhibit strong enhancer repressive capacity. These findings suggest a mechanism for enhancer silencing involving LINEs. The second example concentrates on the inactivation of an enhancer during colorectal cancer (CRC) progression. The adenoma to carcinoma transition during CRC progression often is accompanied by a downregulation of the tumour suppressor gene EPHB2. The EMT inducing factor SNAIL1 strongly downregulated EPHB2 expression in a CRC cell model. To gain insights into the transcriptional regulation of EPHB2, potential cis-regulatory elements in the EPHB2 upstream region were analysed using reporter assays. A cell-type-specific enhancer was identified and subsequent chromatin analyses revealed a correlation between enhancer chromatin conformation and EPHB2 expression in different CRC cell lines. Additionally, the overexpression of the murine Snail1 induced chromatin changes at the EPHB2 enhancer towards a poised, transcriptionally silent chromatin conformation. Mutational analyses of the minimal enhancer region pinpointed three transcription factor binding motifs to be essential for full enhancer activity. Different binding patterns between CRC cell lines at the TCF/LEF motif were subsequently identified. Furthermore, a switch from TCF7L2 to LEF1 occupancy was found upon overexpression of Snail1 in vitro and in vivo. The generation of LS174T CRC cells overexpressing LEF1 confirmed the involvement of LEF1 in the downregulation of EPHB2 and the competitive displacement of TCF7L2. This part of the work demonstrated that the SNAIL1 induced downregulation of EPHB2 is dependent on the decommissioning of a transcriptional enhancer and led to a hypothetical model involving LEF1 and ZEB1. In summary, this work highlighted two distinct mechanisms for enhancer regulation. One mechanism is based on enhancer repressive LINE fragments that might prevent stimulus-dependent enhancer activation. In the second, enhancer silencing was shown to be based on a competitive transcription factor binding mechanism.

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Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Author:Oskar Schnappauf
Number of pages:VIII, 143
Referee:Andreas Hecht, Rudolf Grosschedl
Publisher:Universität Freiburg
Place of publication:Freiburg im Breisgau
Date of exam:2015/04/15
Contributing Corporation:Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
Publication year:2015
Keyword:Enhancer; Genregulation; Krebsforschung
Departments, institutes and facilities:Institut für funktionale Gen-Analytik (IFGA)
Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC):5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
6 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 61 Medizin und Gesundheit / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit
Entry in this database:2023/07/27