Publications by authors named "Hsien-Chao Chou"

17 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

BAF complexes drive proliferation and block myogenic differentiation in fusion-positive rhabdomyosarcoma.

Nat Commun 2021 Nov 26;12(1):6924. Epub 2021 Nov 26.

Genetics Branch, NCI, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA.

Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a pediatric malignancy of skeletal muscle lineage. The aggressive alveolar subtype is characterized by t(2;13) or t(1;13) translocations encoding for PAX3- or PAX7-FOXO1 chimeric transcription factors, respectively, and are referred to as fusion positive RMS (FP-RMS). The fusion gene alters the myogenic program and maintains the proliferative state while blocking terminal differentiation. Here, we investigated the contributions of chromatin regulatory complexes to FP-RMS tumor maintenance. We define the mSWI/SNF functional repertoire in FP-RMS. We find that SMARCA4 (encoding BRG1) is overexpressed in this malignancy compared to skeletal muscle and is essential for cell proliferation. Proteomic studies suggest proximity between PAX3-FOXO1 and BAF complexes, which is further supported by genome-wide binding profiles revealing enhancer colocalization of BAF with core regulatory transcription factors. Further, mSWI/SNF complexes localize to sites of de novo histone acetylation. Phenotypically, interference with mSWI/SNF complex function induces transcriptional activation of the skeletal muscle differentiation program associated with MYCN enhancer invasion at myogenic target genes, which is recapitulated by BRG1 targeting compounds. We conclude that inhibition of BRG1 overcomes the differentiation blockade of FP-RMS cells and may provide a therapeutic strategy for this lethal childhood tumor.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-021-27176-wDOI Listing
November 2021

Immuno-transcriptomic profiling of extracranial pediatric solid malignancies.

Cell Rep 2021 Nov;37(8):110047

University of Toronto Musculoskeletal Oncology Unit, Sinai Health System; Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada.

We perform an immunogenomics analysis utilizing whole-transcriptome sequencing of 657 pediatric extracranial solid cancer samples representing 14 diagnoses, and additionally utilize transcriptomes of 131 pediatric cancer cell lines and 147 normal tissue samples for comparison. We describe patterns of infiltrating immune cells, T cell receptor (TCR) clonal expansion, and translationally relevant immune checkpoints. We find that tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes and TCR counts vary widely across cancer types and within each diagnosis, and notably are significantly predictive of survival in osteosarcoma patients. We identify potential cancer-specific immunotherapeutic targets for adoptive cell therapies including cell-surface proteins, tumor germline antigens, and lineage-specific transcription factors. Using an orthogonal immunopeptidomics approach, we find several potential immunotherapeutic targets in osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma and validated PRAME as a bona fide multi-pediatric cancer target. Importantly, this work provides a critical framework for immune targeting of extracranial solid tumors using parallel immuno-transcriptomic and -peptidomic approaches.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2021.110047DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8642810PMC
November 2021

Genomic and Transcriptomic Analysis of Relapsed and Refractory Childhood Solid Tumors Reveals a Diverse Molecular Landscape and Mechanisms of Immune Evasion.

Cancer Res 2021 Dec 5;81(23):5818-5832. Epub 2021 Oct 5.

Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Phoenix, Arizona.

Children with treatment-refractory or relapsed (R/R) tumors face poor prognoses. As the genomic underpinnings driving R/R disease are not well defined, we describe here the genomic and transcriptomic landscapes of R/R solid tumors from 202 patients enrolled in Beat Childhood Cancer Consortium clinical trials. Tumor mutational burden (TMB) was elevated relative to untreated tumors at diagnosis, with one-third of tumors classified as having a pediatric high TMB. Prior chemotherapy exposure influenced the mutational landscape of these R/R tumors, with more than 40% of tumors demonstrating mutational signatures associated with platinum or temozolomide chemotherapy and two tumors showing treatment-associated hypermutation. Immunogenomic profiling found a heterogenous pattern of neoantigen and MHC class I expression and a general absence of immune infiltration. Transcriptional analysis and functional gene set enrichment analysis identified cross-pathology clusters associated with development, immune signaling, and cellular signaling pathways. While the landscapes of these R/R tumors reflected those of their corresponding untreated tumors at diagnosis, important exceptions were observed, suggestive of tumor evolution, treatment resistance mechanisms, and mutagenic etiologies of treatment. SIGNIFICANCE: Tumor heterogeneity, chemotherapy exposure, and tumor evolution contribute to the molecular profiles and increased mutational burden that occur in treatment-refractory and relapsed childhood solid tumors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-1033DOI Listing
December 2021

Genomic Classification and Clinical Outcome in Rhabdomyosarcoma: A Report From an International Consortium.

J Clin Oncol 2021 09 24;39(26):2859-2871. Epub 2021 Jun 24.

Department of Pediatrics, Seattle Children's Hospital, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

Purpose: Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common soft tissue sarcoma of childhood. Despite aggressive therapy, the 5-year survival rate for patients with metastatic or recurrent disease remains poor, and beyond fusion status, no genomic markers are available for risk stratification. We present an international consortium study designed to determine the incidence of driver mutations and their association with clinical outcome.

Patients And Methods: Tumor samples collected from patients enrolled on Children's Oncology Group trials (1998-2017) and UK patients enrolled on malignant mesenchymal tumor and RMS2005 (1995-2016) trials were subjected to custom-capture sequencing. Mutations, indels, gene deletions, and amplifications were identified, and survival analysis was performed.

Results: DNA from 641 patients was suitable for analyses. A median of one mutation was found per tumor. In fusion-negative cases, mutation of any RAS pathway member was found in > 50% of cases, and 21% had no putative driver mutation identified. (15%), (15%), and (13%) mutations were found at a higher incidence than previously reported and mutations were associated with worse outcomes in both fusion-negative and fusion-positive cases. Interestingly, mutations in isoforms predominated in infants < 1 year (64% of cases). Mutation of was associated with histologic patterns beyond those previously described, older age, head and neck primary site, and a dismal survival. Finally, we provide a searchable companion database (ClinOmics), containing all genomic variants, and clinical annotation including survival data.

Conclusion: This is the largest genomic characterization of clinically annotated rhabdomyosarcoma tumors to date and provides prognostic genetic features that refine risk stratification and will be incorporated into prospective trials.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1200/JCO.20.03060DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8425837PMC
September 2021

Interaction between SNAI2 and MYOD enhances oncogenesis and suppresses differentiation in Fusion Negative Rhabdomyosarcoma.

Nat Commun 2021 01 8;12(1):192. Epub 2021 Jan 8.

Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute, Department of Molecular Medicine, University of Texas Health Sciences Center, San Antonio, Texas, USA.

Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is an aggressive pediatric malignancy of the muscle, that includes Fusion Positive (FP)-RMS harboring PAX3/7-FOXO1 and Fusion Negative (FN)-RMS commonly with RAS pathway mutations. RMS express myogenic master transcription factors MYOD and MYOG yet are unable to terminally differentiate. Here, we report that SNAI2 is highly expressed in FN-RMS, is oncogenic, blocks myogenic differentiation, and promotes growth. MYOD activates SNAI2 transcription via super enhancers with striped 3D contact architecture. Genome wide chromatin binding analysis demonstrates that SNAI2 preferentially binds enhancer elements and competes with MYOD at a subset of myogenic enhancers required for terminal differentiation. SNAI2 also suppresses expression of a muscle differentiation program modulated by MYOG, MEF2, and CDKN1A. Further, RAS/MEK-signaling modulates SNAI2 levels and binding to chromatin, suggesting that the differentiation blockade by oncogenic RAS is mediated in part by SNAI2. Thus, an interplay between SNAI2, MYOD, and RAS prevents myogenic differentiation and promotes tumorigenesis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20386-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7794422PMC
January 2021

Rhabdoid Tumors Are Sensitive to the Protein-Translation Inhibitor Homoharringtonine.

Clin Cancer Res 2020 09 6;26(18):4995-5006. Epub 2020 Jul 6.

Department of Pediatric Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Division of Hematology/Oncology, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

Purpose: Rhabdoid tumors are devastating pediatric cancers in need of improved therapies. We sought to identify small molecules that exhibit and efficacy against preclinical models of rhabdoid tumor.

Experimental Design: We screened eight rhabdoid tumor cell lines with 481 small molecules and compared their sensitivity with that of 879 other cancer cell lines. Genome-scale CRISPR-Cas9 inactivation screens in rhabdoid tumors were analyzed to confirm target vulnerabilities. Gene expression and CRISPR-Cas9 data were queried across cell lines and primary rhabdoid tumors to discover biomarkers of small-molecule sensitivity. Molecular correlates were validated by manipulating gene expression. Subcutaneous rhabdoid tumor xenografts were treated with the most effective drug to confirm results.

Results: Small-molecule screening identified the protein-translation inhibitor homoharringtonine (HHT), an FDA-approved treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), as the sole drug to which all rhabdoid tumor cell lines were selectively sensitive. Validation studies confirmed the sensitivity of rhabdoid tumor to HHT was comparable with that of CML cell lines. Low expression of the antiapoptotic gene , which encodes Bcl-XL, was the strongest predictor of HHT sensitivity, and HHT treatment consistently depleted Mcl-1, the synthetic-lethal antiapoptotic partner of Bcl-XL. Rhabdoid tumor cell lines and primary-tumor samples expressed low , and overexpression of induced resistance to HHT in rhabdoid tumor cells. Furthermore, HHT treatment inhibited rhabdoid tumor cell line and patient-derived xenograft growth .

Conclusions: Rhabdoid tumor cell lines and xenografts are highly sensitive to HHT, at least partially due to their low expression of . HHT may have therapeutic potential against rhabdoid tumors.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-19-2717DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7501142PMC
September 2020

Histone hyperacetylation disrupts core gene regulatory architecture in rhabdomyosarcoma.

Nat Genet 2019 12 29;51(12):1714-1722. Epub 2019 Nov 29.

Genetics Branch, NCI, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA.

Core regulatory transcription factors (CR TFs) orchestrate the placement of super-enhancers (SEs) to activate transcription of cell-identity specifying gene networks, and are critical in promoting cancer. Here, we define the core regulatory circuitry of rhabdomyosarcoma and identify critical CR TF dependencies. These CR TFs build SEs that have the highest levels of histone acetylation, yet paradoxically the same SEs also harbor the greatest amounts of histone deacetylases. We find that hyperacetylation selectively halts CR TF transcription. To investigate the architectural determinants of this phenotype, we used absolute quantification of architecture (AQuA) HiChIP, which revealed erosion of native SE contacts, and aberrant spreading of contacts that involved histone acetylation. Hyperacetylation removes RNA polymerase II (RNA Pol II) from core regulatory genetic elements, and eliminates RNA Pol II but not BRD4 phase condensates. This study identifies an SE-specific requirement for balancing histone modification states to maintain SE architecture and CR TF transcription.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41588-019-0534-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6886578PMC
December 2019

SRAssembler: Selective Recursive local Assembly of homologous genomic regions.

BMC Bioinformatics 2019 Jul 2;20(1):371. Epub 2019 Jul 2.

Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, 47405, Indiana, USA.

Background: The falling cost of next-generation sequencing technology has allowed deep sequencing across related species and of individuals within species. Whole genome assemblies from these data remain high time- and resource-consuming computational tasks, particularly if best solutions are sought using different assembly strategies and parameter sets. However, in many cases, the underlying research questions are not genome-wide but rather target specific genes or sets of genes. We describe a novel assembly tool, SRAssembler, that efficiently assembles only contigs containing potential homologs of a gene or protein query, thus enabling gene-specific genome studies over large numbers of short read samples.

Results: We demonstrate the functionality of SRAssembler with examples largely drawn from plant genomics. The workflow implements a recursive strategy by which relevant reads are successively pulled from the input sets based on overlapping significant matches, resulting in virtual chromosome walking. The typical workflow behavior is illustrated with assembly of simulated reads. Applications to real data show that SRAssembler produces homologous contigs of equivalent quality to whole genome assemblies. Settings can be chosen to not only assemble presumed orthologs but also paralogous gene loci in distinct contigs. A key application is assembly of the same locus in many individuals from population genome data, which provides assessment of structural variation beyond what can be inferred from read mapping to a reference genome alone. SRAssembler can be used on modest computing resources or used in parallel on high performance computing clusters (most easily by invoking a dedicated Singularity image).

Conclusions: SRAssembler offers an efficient tool to complement whole genome assembly software. It can be used to solve gene-specific research questions based on large genomic read samples from multiple sources and would be an expedient choice when whole genome assembly from the reads is either not feasible, too costly, or unnecessary. The program can also aid decision making on the depth of sequencing in an ongoing novel genome sequencing project or with respect to ultimate whole genome assembly strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12859-019-2949-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6604332PMC
July 2019

Comprehensive Analysis of Chromatin States in Atypical Teratoid/Rhabdoid Tumor Identifies Diverging Roles for SWI/SNF and Polycomb in Gene Regulation.

Cancer Cell 2019 01 27;35(1):95-110.e8. Epub 2018 Dec 27.

Hopp-Children's Cancer Center at the NCT Heidelberg (KiTZ), 69120 Heidelberg, Germany; Division of Pediatric Neurooncology, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany. Electronic address:

Biallelic inactivation of SMARCB1, encoding a member of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex, is the hallmark genetic aberration of atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumors (ATRT). Here, we report how loss of SMARCB1 affects the epigenome in these tumors. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) on primary tumors for a series of active and repressive histone marks, we identified the chromatin states differentially represented in ATRTs compared with other brain tumors and non-neoplastic brain. Re-expression of SMARCB1 in ATRT cell lines enabled confirmation of our genome-wide findings for the chromatin states. Additional generation of ChIP-seq data for SWI/SNF and Polycomb group proteins and the transcriptional repressor protein REST determined differential dependencies of SWI/SNF and Polycomb complexes in regulation of diverse gene sets in ATRTs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ccell.2018.11.014DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6341227PMC
January 2019

PdumBase: a transcriptome database and research tool for Platynereis dumerilii and early development of other metazoans.

BMC Genomics 2018 Aug 16;19(1):618. Epub 2018 Aug 16.

Department of Genetics, Developmental and Cell Biology, Iowa State University, 503 Science Hall II, Ames, IA, 50011, USA.

Background: The marine polychaete annelid Platynereis dumerilii has recently emerged as a prominent organism for the study of development, evolution, stem cells, regeneration, marine ecology, chronobiology and neurobiology within metazoans. Its phylogenetic position within the spiralian/ lophotrochozoan clade, the comparatively high conservation of ancestral features in the Platynereis genome, and experimental access to any stage within its life cycle, make Platynereis an important model for elucidating the complex regulatory and functional molecular mechanisms governing early development, later organogenesis, and various features of its larval and adult life. High resolution RNA-seq gene expression data obtained from specific developmental stages can be used to dissect early developmental mechanisms. However, the potential for discovery of these mechanisms relies on tools to search, retrieve, and compare genome-wide information within Platynereis, and across other metazoan taxa.

Results: To facilitate exploration and discovery by the broader scientific community, we have developed a web-based, searchable online research tool, PdumBase, featuring the first comprehensive transcriptome database for Platynereis dumerilii during early stages of development (2 h ~ 14 h). Our database also includes additional stages over the P. dumerilii life cycle and provides access to the expression data of 17,213 genes (31,806 transcripts) along with annotation information sourced from Swiss-Prot, Gene Ontology, KEGG pathways, Pfam domains, TmHMM, SingleP, and EggNOG orthology. Expression data for each gene includes the stage, the normalized FPKM, the raw read counts, and information that can be leveraged for statistical analyses of differential gene expression and the construction of genome-wide co-expression networks. In addition, PdumBase offers early stage transcriptome expression data from five further species as a valuable resource for investigators interested in comparing early development in different organisms. To understand conservation of Platynereis gene models and to validate gene annotation, most Platynereis gene models include a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis across 18 species representing diverse metazoan taxa.

Conclusions: PdumBase represents the first online resource for the early developmental transcriptome of Platynereis dumerilii. It serves as a research platform for discovery and exploration of gene expression during early stages, throughout the Platynereis life cycle, and enables comparison to other model organisms. PdumBase is freely available at http://pdumbase.gdcb.iastate.edu .
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12864-018-4987-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6097317PMC
August 2018

MEK inhibition induces MYOG and remodels super-enhancers in RAS-driven rhabdomyosarcoma.

Sci Transl Med 2018 07;10(448)

Oncogenomics Section, Genetics Branch, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.

The RAS isoforms are frequently mutated in many types of human cancers, including PAX3/PAX7 fusion-negative rhabdomyosarcoma. Pediatric RMS arises from skeletal muscle progenitor cells that have failed to differentiate normally. The role of mutant RAS in this differentiation blockade is incompletely understood. We demonstrate that oncogenic RAS, acting through the RAF-MEK [mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) kinase]-ERK (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) MAPK effector pathway, inhibits myogenic differentiation in rhabdomyosarcoma by repressing the expression of the prodifferentiation myogenic transcription factor, MYOG. This repression is mediated by ERK2-dependent promoter-proximal stalling of RNA polymerase II at the locus. Small-molecule screening with a library of mechanistically defined inhibitors showed that RAS-driven RMS is vulnerable to MEK inhibition. MEK inhibition with trametinib leads to the loss of ERK2 at the promoter and releases the transcriptional stalling of expression. MYOG subsequently opens chromatin and establishes super-enhancers at genes required for late myogenic differentiation. Furthermore, trametinib, in combination with an inhibitor of IGF1R, potently decreases rhabdomyosarcoma cell viability and slows tumor growth in xenograft models. Therefore, this combination represents a potential therapeutic for RAS-mutated rhabdomyosarcoma.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/scitranslmed.aan4470DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8054766PMC
July 2018

The asymmetric cell division machinery in the spiral-cleaving egg and embryo of the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii.

BMC Dev Biol 2017 Dec 11;17(1):16. Epub 2017 Dec 11.

Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, Iowa State University, 503 Science Hall II, Ames, IA, 50011, USA.

Background: Over one third of all animal phyla utilize a mode of early embryogenesis called 'spiral cleavage' to divide the fertilized egg into embryonic cells with different cell fates. This mode is characterized by a series of invariant, stereotypic, asymmetric cell divisions (ACDs) that generates cells of different size and defined position within the early embryo. Astonishingly, very little is known about the underlying molecular machinery to orchestrate these ACDs in spiral-cleaving embryos. Here we identify, for the first time, cohorts of factors that may contribute to early embryonic ACDs in a spiralian embryo.

Results: To do so we analyzed stage-specific transcriptome data in eggs and early embryos of the spiralian annelid Platynereis dumerilii for the expression of over 50 candidate genes that are involved in (1) establishing cortical domains such as the partitioning defective (par) genes, (2) directing spindle orientation, (3) conveying polarity cues including crumbs and scribble, and (4) maintaining cell-cell adhesion between embryonic cells. In general, each of these cohorts of genes are co-expressed exhibiting high levels of transcripts in the oocyte and fertilized single-celled embryo, with progressively lower levels at later stages. Interestingly, a small number of key factors within each ACD module show different expression profiles with increased early zygotic expression suggesting distinct regulatory functions. In addition, our analysis discovered several highly co-expressed genes that have been associated with specialized neural cell-cell recognition functions in the nervous system. The high maternal contribution of these 'neural' adhesion complexes indicates novel general adhesion functions during early embryogenesis.

Conclusions: Spiralian embryos are champions of ACD generating embryonic cells of different size with astonishing accuracy. Our results suggest that the molecular machinery for ACD is already stored as maternal transcripts in the oocyte. Thus, the spiralian egg can be viewed as a totipotent yet highly specialized cell that evolved to execute fast and precise ACDs during spiral cleaving stages. Our survey identifies cohorts of factors in P. dumerilii that are candidates for these molecular mechanisms and their regulation, and sets the stage for a functional dissection of ACD in a spiral-cleaving embryo.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12861-017-0158-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5725810PMC
December 2017

PAX3-FOXO1 Establishes Myogenic Super Enhancers and Confers BET Bromodomain Vulnerability.

Cancer Discov 2017 08 26;7(8):884-899. Epub 2017 Apr 26.

Genetics Branch, NCI, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland.

Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma is a life-threatening myogenic cancer of children and adolescent young adults, driven primarily by the chimeric transcription factor PAX3-FOXO1. The mechanisms by which PAX3-FOXO1 dysregulates chromatin are unknown. We find PAX3-FOXO1 reprograms the -regulatory landscape by inducing super enhancers. PAX3-FOXO1 uses super enhancers to set up autoregulatory loops in collaboration with the master transcription factors MYOG, MYOD, and MYCN. This myogenic super enhancer circuitry is consistent across cell lines and primary tumors. Cells harboring the fusion gene are selectively sensitive to small-molecule inhibition of protein targets induced by, or bound to, PAX3-FOXO1-occupied super enhancers. Furthermore, PAX3-FOXO1 recruits and requires the BET bromodomain protein BRD4 to function at super enhancers, resulting in a complete dependence on BRD4 and a significant susceptibility to BRD inhibition. These results yield insights into the epigenetic functions of PAX3-FOXO1 and reveal a specific vulnerability that can be exploited for precision therapy. PAX3-FOXO1 drives pediatric fusion-positive rhabdomyosarcoma, and its chromatin-level functions are critical to understanding its oncogenic activity. We find that PAX3-FOXO1 establishes a myoblastic super enhancer landscape and creates a profound subtype-unique dependence on BET bromodomains, the inhibition of which ablates PAX3-FOXO1 function, providing a mechanistic rationale for exploring BET inhibitors for patients bearing PAX-fusion rhabdomyosarcoma. .
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/2159-8290.CD-16-1297DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7802885PMC
August 2017

Defining the transcriptomic landscape of the developing enteric nervous system and its cellular environment.

BMC Genomics 2017 04 12;18(1):290. Epub 2017 Apr 12.

Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 50011, USA.

Background: Motility and the coordination of moving food through the gastrointestinal tract rely on a complex network of neurons known as the enteric nervous system (ENS). Despite its critical function, many of the molecular mechanisms that direct the development of the ENS and the elaboration of neural network connections remain unknown. The goal of this study was to transcriptionally identify molecular pathways and candidate genes that drive specification, differentiation and the neural circuitry of specific neural progenitors, the phox2b expressing ENS cell lineage, during normal enteric nervous system development. Because ENS development is tightly linked to its environment, the transcriptional landscape of the cellular environment of the intestine was also analyzed.

Results: Thousands of zebrafish intestines were manually dissected from a transgenic line expressing green fluorescent protein under the phox2b regulatory elements [Tg(phox2b:EGFP) ]. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting was used to separate GFP-positive phox2b expressing ENS progenitor and derivatives from GFP-negative intestinal cells. RNA-seq was performed to obtain accurate, reproducible transcriptional profiles and the unbiased detection of low level transcripts. Analysis revealed genes and pathways that may function in ENS cell determination, genes that may be identifiers of different ENS subtypes, and genes that define the non-neural cellular microenvironment of the ENS. Differential expression analysis between the two cell populations revealed the expected neuronal nature of the phox2b expressing lineage including the enrichment for genes required for neurogenesis and synaptogenesis, and identified many novel genes not previously associated with ENS development. Pathway analysis pointed to a high level of G-protein coupled pathway activation, and identified novel roles for candidate pathways such as the Nogo/Reticulon axon guidance pathway in ENS development.

Conclusion: We report the comprehensive gene expression profiles of a lineage-specific population of enteric progenitors, their derivatives, and their microenvironment during normal enteric nervous system development. Our results confirm previously implicated genes and pathways required for ENS development, and also identify scores of novel candidate genes and pathways. Thus, our dataset suggests various potential mechanisms that drive ENS development facilitating characterization and discovery of novel therapeutic strategies to improve gastrointestinal disorders.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12864-017-3653-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5389105PMC
April 2017

A transcriptional blueprint for a spiral-cleaving embryo.

BMC Genomics 2016 08 5;17:552. Epub 2016 Aug 5.

Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, Iowa State University, 503 Science Hall II, Ames, IA, 50011, USA.

Background: The spiral cleavage mode of early development is utilized in over one-third of all animal phyla and generates embryonic cells of different size, position, and fate through a conserved set of stereotypic and invariant asymmetric cell divisions. Despite the widespread use of spiral cleavage, regulatory and molecular features for any spiral-cleaving embryo are largely uncharted. To address this gap we use RNA-sequencing on the spiralian model Platynereis dumerilii to capture and quantify the first complete genome-wide transcriptional landscape of early spiral cleavage.

Results: RNA-sequencing datasets from seven stages in early Platynereis development, from the zygote to the protrochophore, are described here including the de novo assembly and annotation of ~17,200 Platynereis genes. Depth and quality of the RNA-sequencing datasets allow the identification of the temporal onset and level of transcription for each annotated gene, even if the expression is restricted to a single cell. Over 4000 transcripts are maternally contributed and cleared by the end of the early spiral cleavage phase. Small early waves of zygotic expression are followed by major waves of thousands of genes, demarcating the maternal to zygotic transition shortly after the completion of spiral cleavages in this annelid species.

Conclusions: Our comprehensive stage-specific transcriptional analysis of early embryonic stages in Platynereis elucidates the regulatory genome during early spiral embryogenesis and defines the maternal to zygotic transition in Platynereis embryos. This transcriptome assembly provides the first systems-level view of the transcriptional and regulatory landscape for a spiral-cleaving embryo.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12864-016-2860-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4974748PMC
August 2016

Structure, phylogeny, and expression of the frizzled-related gene family in the lophotrochozoan annelid Platynereis dumerilii.

Evodevo 2015 4;6:37. Epub 2015 Dec 4.

Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, Iowa State University, 503 Science Hall II, Ames, IA 50011 USA.

Background: Wnt signaling pathways are highly conserved signal transduction pathways important for axis formation, cell fate specification, and organogenesis throughout metazoan development. Within the various Wnt pathways, the frizzled transmembrane receptors (Fzs) and secreted frizzled-related proteins (sFRPs) play central roles in receiving and antagonizing Wnt signals, respectively. Despite their importance, very little is known about the frizzled-related gene family (fzs & sfrps) in lophotrochozoans, especially during early stages of spiralian development. Here we ascertain the frizzled-related gene complement in six lophotrochozoan species, and determine their spatial and temporal expression pattern during early embryogenesis and larval stages of the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii.

Results: Phylogenetic analyses confirm conserved homologs for four frizzled receptors (Fz1/2/7, Fz4, Fz5/8, Fz9/10) and sFRP1/2/5 in five of six lophotrochozoan species. The sfrp3/4 gene is conserved in one, divergent in two, and evidently lost in three lophotrochozoan species. Three novel fz-related genes (fzCRD1-3) are unique to Platynereis. Transcriptional profiling and in situ hybridization identified high maternal expression of fz1/2/7, expression of fz9/10 and fz1/2/7 within animal and dorsal cell lineages after the 32-cell stage, localization of fz5/8, sfrp1/2/5, and fzCRD-1 to animal-pole cell lineages after the 80-cell stage, and no expression for fz4, sfrp3/4, and fzCRD-2, and -3 in early Platynereis embryos. In later larval stages, all frizzled-related genes are expressed in distinct patterns preferentially in the anterior hemisphere and less in the developing trunk.

Conclusions: Lophotrochozoans have retained a generally conserved ancestral bilaterian frizzled-related gene complement (four Fzs and two sFRPs). Maternal expression of fz1/2/7, and animal lineage-specific expression of fz5/8 and sfrp1/2/5 in early embryos of Platynereis suggest evolutionary conserved roles of these genes to perform Wnt pathway functions during early cleavage stages, and the early establishment of a Wnt inhibitory center at the animal pole, respectively. Numerous frizzled receptor-expressing cells and embryonic territories were identified that might indicate competence to receive Wnt signals during annelid development. An anterior bias for frizzled-related gene expression in embryos and larvae might point to a polarity of Wnt patterning systems along the anterior-posterior axis of this annelid.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13227-015-0032-4DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4669655PMC
December 2015

Expression of the wnt gene complement in a spiral-cleaving embryo and trochophore larva.

Int J Dev Biol 2014 ;58(6-8):563-73

Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA.

The highly conserved wnt gene family has roles in developmental processes ranging from axis formation to cell fate determination. The polychaete Platynereis dumerilii has retained 12 of the 13 ancient wnt subfamilies and is a good model system to study the roles of the wnt ligands in spiralian development. While it has been shown that Platynereis uses a global beta-catenin-mediated binary cell fate specification module in development, the early roles of the 12 wnt genes present in Platynereis are unknown. Transcriptional profiling by RNA-Seq during early development and whole-mount in situ hybridization of embryo and larval stages were used to determine the temporal and spatial regulation of the wnt complement in Platynereis. None of the 12 wnt transcripts were maternally provided at significant levels. In pregastrula embryos, zygotic wntA, wnt4, and wnt5 transcripts exhibited distinctive patterns of differential gene expression. In contrast, in trochophore larvae, all 12 wnt ligands were expressed and each had a distinct expression pattern. While three wnt ligands were expressed in early development, none were expressed in the right place for a widespread role in beta-catenin-mediated binary specification in early Platynereis development. However, the expression patterns of the wnt ligands suggest the presence of numerous wnt signaling centers, with the most prominent being a bias for staggered posterior wnt expression in trochophore larvae. The similarity to wnt expression domains in cnidarians around the blastopore and the tail organizer in chordates supports a hypothesis of a common evolutionary origin of posterior organizing centers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1387/ijdb.140084ssDOI Listing
October 2015
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