staff

Benedicte Mascrez

Associate scientist in Developmental Genomics

  • T: +41 22 379 67 77
  • office 4009 (Sciences III)
  • Noncoding copy-number variations are associated with congenital limb malformation. Genet. Med. 2017 Oct;():. gim2017154. 10.1038/gim.2017.154.

    abstract

    PurposeCopy-number variants (CNVs) are generally interpreted by linking the effects of gene dosage with phenotypes. The clinical interpretation of noncoding CNVs remains challenging. We investigated the percentage of disease-associated CNVs in patients with congenital limb malformations that affect noncoding cis-regulatory sequences versus genes sensitive to gene dosage effects.MethodsWe applied high-resolution copy-number analysis to 340 unrelated individuals with isolated limb malformation. To investigate novel candidate CNVs, we re-engineered human CNVs in mice using clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-based genome editing.ResultsOf the individuals studied, 10% harbored CNVs segregating with the phenotype in the affected families. We identified 31 CNVs previously associated with congenital limb malformations and four novel candidate CNVs. Most of the disease-associated CNVs (57%) affected the noncoding cis-regulatory genome, while only 43% included a known disease gene and were likely to result from gene dosage effects. In transgenic mice harboring four novel candidate CNVs, we observed altered gene expression in all cases, indicating that the CNVs had a regulatory effect either by changing the enhancer dosage or altering the topological associating domain architecture of the genome.ConclusionOur findings suggest that CNVs affecting noncoding regulatory elements are a major cause of congenital limb malformations.Genetics in Medicine advance online publication, 12 October 2017; doi:10.1038/gim.2017.154.

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  • Control of growth and gut maturation by HoxD genes and the associated lncRNA Haglr. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2017 Oct;():. 1712511114. 10.1073/pnas.1712511114.

    abstract

    During embryonic development, Hox genes participate in the building of a functional digestive system in metazoans, and genetic conditions involving these genes lead to important, sometimes lethal, growth retardation. Recently, this phenotype was obtained after deletion of Haglr, the Hoxd antisense growth-associated long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) located between Hoxd1 and Hoxd3 In this study, we have analyzed the function of Hoxd genes in delayed growth trajectories by looking at several nested targeted deficiencies of the mouse HoxD cluster. Mutant pups were severely stunted during the suckling period, but many recovered after weaning. After comparing seven distinct HoxD alleles, including CRISPR/Cas9 deletions involving Haglr, we identified Hoxd3 as the critical component for the gut to maintain milk-digestive competence. This essential function could be abrogated by the dominant-negative effect of HOXD10 as shown by a genetic rescue approach, thus further illustrating the importance of posterior prevalence in Hox gene function. A role for the lncRNA Haglr in the control of postnatal growth could not be corroborated.

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  • Hotair Is Dispensible for Mouse Development. PLoS Genet. 2016 Dec;12(12):e1006232. 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006232. PGENETICS-D-16-00862.

    abstract

    Despite the crucial importance of Hox genes functions during animal development, the mechanisms that control their transcription in time and space are not yet fully understood. In this context, it was proposed that Hotair, a lncRNA transcribed from within the HoxC cluster regulates Hoxd gene expression in trans, through the targeting of Polycomb and consecutive transcriptional repression. This activity was recently supported by the skeletal phenotype of mice lacking Hotair function. However, other loss of function alleles at this locus did not elicit the same effects. Here, we re-analyze the molecular and phenotypic consequences of deleting the Hotair locus in vivo. In contrast with previous findings, we show that deleting Hotair has no detectable effect on Hoxd genes expression in vivo. In addition, we were unable to observe any significant morphological alteration in mice lacking the Hotair transcript. However, we find a subtle impact of deleting the Hotair locus upon the expression of the neighboring Hoxc11 and Hoxc12 genes in cis. Our results do not support any substantial role for Hotair during mammalian development in vivo. Instead, they argue in favor of a DNA-dependent effect of the Hotair deletion upon the transcriptional landscape in cis.

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  • A role for HOX13 proteins in the regulatory switch between TADs at the HoxD locus. Genes Dev. 2016 May;30(10):1172-86. gad.281055.116. 10.1101/gad.281055.116. PMC4888838.

    abstract

    During vertebrate limb development, Hoxd genes are regulated following a bimodal strategy involving two topologically associating domains (TADs) located on either side of the gene cluster. These regulatory landscapes alternatively control different subsets of Hoxd targets, first into the arm and subsequently into the digits. We studied the transition between these two global regulations, a switch that correlates with the positioning of the wrist, which articulates these two main limb segments. We show that the HOX13 proteins themselves help switch off the telomeric TAD, likely through a global repressive mechanism. At the same time, they directly interact with distal enhancers to sustain the activity of the centromeric TAD, thus explaining both the sequential and exclusive operating processes of these two regulatory domains. We propose a model in which the activation of Hox13 gene expression in distal limb cells both interrupts the proximal Hox gene regulation and re-enforces the distal regulation. In the absence of HOX13 proteins, a proximal limb structure grows without any sign of wrist articulation, likely related to an ancestral fish-like condition.

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