Publications by authors named "Bree Heestand"

6 Publications

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Germ granule dysfunction is a hallmark and mirror of Piwi mutant sterility.

Nat Commun 2021 03 3;12(1):1420. Epub 2021 Mar 3.

Department of Genetics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.

In several species, Piwi/piRNA genome silencing defects cause immediate sterility that correlates with transposon expression and transposon-induced genomic instability. In C. elegans, mutations in the Piwi-related gene (prg-1) and other piRNA deficient mutants cause a transgenerational decline in fertility over a period of several generations. Here we show that the sterility of late generation piRNA mutants correlates poorly with increases in DNA damage signaling. Instead, sterile individuals consistently exhibit altered perinuclear germ granules. We show that disruption of germ granules does not activate transposon expression but induces multiple phenotypes found in sterile prg-1 pathway mutants. Furthermore, loss of the germ granule component pgl-1 enhances prg-1 mutant infertility. Environmental restoration of germ granule function for sterile pgl-1 mutants restores their fertility. We propose that Piwi mutant sterility is a reproductive arrest phenotype that is characterized by perturbed germ granule structure and is phenocopied by germ granule dysfunction, independent of genomic instability.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-21635-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7930041PMC
March 2021

The meiotic phosphatase GSP-2/PP1 promotes germline immortality and small RNA-mediated genome silencing.

PLoS Genet 2019 03 28;15(3):e1008004. Epub 2019 Mar 28.

Department of Genetics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America.

Germ cell immortality, or transgenerational maintenance of the germ line, could be promoted by mechanisms that could occur in either mitotic or meiotic germ cells. Here we report for the first time that the GSP-2 PP1/Glc7 phosphatase promotes germ cell immortality. Small RNA-induced genome silencing is known to promote germ cell immortality, and we identified a separation-of-function allele of C. elegans gsp-2 that is compromised for germ cell immortality and is also defective for small RNA-induced genome silencing and meiotic but not mitotic chromosome segregation. Previous work has shown that GSP-2 is recruited to meiotic chromosomes by LAB-1, which also promoted germ cell immortality. At the generation of sterility, gsp-2 and lab-1 mutant adults displayed germline degeneration, univalents, histone methylation and histone phosphorylation defects in oocytes, phenotypes that mirror those observed in sterile small RNA-mediated genome silencing mutants. Our data suggest that a meiosis-specific function of GSP-2 ties small RNA-mediated silencing of the epigenome to germ cell immortality. We also show that transgenerational epigenomic silencing at hemizygous genetic elements requires the GSP-2 phosphatase, suggesting a functional link to small RNAs. Given that LAB-1 localizes to the interface between homologous chromosomes during pachytene, we hypothesize that small localized discontinuities at this interface could promote genomic silencing in a manner that depends on small RNAs and the GSP-2 phosphatase.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1008004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6456222PMC
March 2019

Transgenerational Sterility of Piwi Mutants Represents a Dynamic Form of Adult Reproductive Diapause.

Cell Rep 2018 04;23(1):156-171

Department of Genetics, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA; Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA; Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA; Curriculum in Genetics and Molecular Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA. Electronic address:

Environmental stress can induce adult reproductive diapause, a state of developmental arrest that temporarily suspends reproduction. Deficiency for C. elegans Piwi protein PRG-1 results in strains that reproduce for many generations but then become sterile. We found that sterile-generation prg-1/Piwi mutants typically displayed pronounced germ cell atrophy as L4 larvae matured into 1-day-old adults. Atrophied germlines spontaneously reproliferated across the first days of adulthood, and this was accompanied by fertility for day 2-4 adults. Sterile day 5 prg-1 mutant adults remained sterile indefinitely, but providing an alternative food source could restore their fertility. Our data imply that late-generation prg-1 mutants experience a dynamic form of adult reproductive diapause, promoted by stress response, cell death, and RNAi pathways, where delayed fertility and reproductive quiescence represent parallel adaptive developmental outcomes. This may occur in response to a form of "heritable stress" that is transmitted by gametes and epigenetic in nature.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2018.03.015DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5918633PMC
April 2018

Small nucleoli are a cellular hallmark of longevity.

Nat Commun 2017 08 30;8:16083. Epub 2017 Aug 30.

Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Joseph Stelzmann Strasse 9b, 50931 Cologne, Germany.

Animal lifespan is regulated by conserved metabolic signalling pathways and specific transcription factors, but whether these pathways affect common downstream mechanisms remains largely elusive. Here we show that NCL-1/TRIM2/Brat tumour suppressor extends lifespan and limits nucleolar size in the major C. elegans longevity pathways, as part of a convergent mechanism focused on the nucleolus. Long-lived animals representing distinct longevity pathways exhibit small nucleoli, and decreased expression of rRNA, ribosomal proteins, and the nucleolar protein fibrillarin, dependent on NCL-1. Knockdown of fibrillarin also reduces nucleolar size and extends lifespan. Among wildtype C. elegans, individual nucleolar size varies, but is highly predictive for longevity. Long-lived dietary restricted fruit flies and insulin-like-peptide mutants exhibit small nucleoli and fibrillarin expression, as do long-lived dietary restricted and IRS1 knockout mice. Furthermore, human muscle biopsies from individuals who underwent modest dietary restriction coupled with exercise also display small nucleoli. We suggest that small nucleoli are a cellular hallmark of longevity and metabolic health conserved across taxa.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms16083DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5582349PMC
August 2017

Lack of pairing during meiosis triggers multigenerational transgene silencing in Caenorhabditis elegans.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2015 May 4;112(20):E2667-76. Epub 2015 May 4.

Department of Genetics, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Department of Biology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280

Single-copy transgenes in Caenorhabditis elegans can be subjected to a potent, irreversible silencing process termed small RNA-induced epigenetic silencing (RNAe). RNAe is promoted by the Piwi Argonaute protein PRG-1 and associated Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), as well as by proteins that promote and respond to secondary small interfering RNA (siRNA) production. Here we define a related siRNA-mediated silencing process, termed "multigenerational RNAe," which can occur for transgenes that are maintained in a hemizygous state for several generations. We found that transgenes that contain either GFP or mCherry epitope tags can be silenced via multigenerational RNAe, whereas a transgene that possesses GFP and a perfect piRNA target site can be rapidly and permanently silenced via RNAe. Although previous studies have shown that PRG-1 is typically dispensable for maintenance of RNAe, we found that both initiation and maintenance of multigenerational RNAe requires PRG-1 and the secondary siRNA biogenesis protein RDE-2. Although silencing via RNAe is irreversible, we found that transgene expression can be restored when hemizygous transgenes that were silenced via multigenerational RNAe become homozygous. Furthermore, multigenerational RNAe was accelerated when meiotic pairing of the chromosome possessing the transgene was abolished. We propose that persistent lack of pairing during meiosis elicits a reversible multigenerational silencing response, which can lead to permanent transgene silencing. Multigenerational RNAe may be broadly relevant to single-copy transgenes used in experimental biology and to shaping the epigenomic landscape of diverse species, where genomic polymorphisms between homologous chromosomes commonly result in unpaired DNA during meiosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1501979112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4443339PMC
May 2015

Dietary restriction induced longevity is mediated by nuclear receptor NHR-62 in Caenorhabditis elegans.

PLoS Genet 2013 25;9(7):e1003651. Epub 2013 Jul 25.

Interdepartmental Program in Cell and Molecular Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, United States of America.

Dietary restriction (DR) extends lifespan in a wide variety of species, yet the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Here we show that the Caenorhabditis elegans HNF4α-related nuclear hormone receptor NHR-62 is required for metabolic and physiologic responses associated with DR-induced longevity. nhr-62 mediates the longevity of eat-2 mutants, a genetic mimetic of dietary restriction, and blunts the longevity response of DR induced by bacterial food dilution at low nutrient levels. Metabolic changes associated with DR, including decreased Oil Red O staining, decreased triglyceride levels, and increased autophagy are partly reversed by mutation of nhr-62. Additionally, the DR fatty acid profile is altered in nhr-62 mutants. Expression profiles reveal that several hundred genes induced by DR depend on the activity of NHR-62, including a putative lipase required for the DR response. This study provides critical evidence of nuclear hormone receptor regulation of the DR longevity response, suggesting hormonal and metabolic control of life span.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1003651DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3723528PMC
January 2014