staff

Leonardo Beccari

Postdoctoral fellow in Developmental Genomics

  • T: +41 22 379 69 01
  • office 4009 (Sciences III)
  • Similarities and differences in the regulation of HoxD genes during chick and mouse limb development. PLoS Biol. 2018 Nov;16(11):e3000004. 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000004. PBIOLOGY-D-18-00083.

    abstract

    In all tetrapods examined thus far, the development and patterning of limbs require the activation of gene members of the HoxD cluster. In mammals, they are regulated by a complex bimodal process that controls first the proximal patterning and then the distal structure. During the shift from the former to the latter regulation, this bimodal regulatory mechanism allows the production of a domain with low Hoxd gene expression, at which both telomeric (T-DOM) and centromeric regulatory domains (C-DOM) are silent. These cells generate the future wrist and ankle articulations. We analyzed the implementation of this regulatory mechanism in chicken, i.e., in an animal for which large morphological differences exist between fore- and hindlimbs. We report that although this bimodal regulation is globally conserved between the mouse and the chick, some important modifications evolved at least between these two model systems, in particular regarding the activity of specific enhancers, the width of the TAD boundary separating the two regulations, and the comparison between the forelimb versus hindlimb regulatory controls. At least one aspect of these regulations seems to be more conserved between chick and bats than with mouse, which may relate to the extent to which forelimbs and hindlimbs of these various animals differ in their morphologies.

    view more details on Pubmed

  • Multi-axial self-organization properties of mouse embryonic stem cells into gastruloids. Nature 2018 Oct;():. 10.1038/s41586-018-0578-0. 10.1038/s41586-018-0578-0.

    abstract

    The emergence of multiple axes is an essential element in the establishment of the mammalian body plan. This process takes place shortly after implantation of the embryo within the uterus and relies on the activity of gene regulatory networks that coordinate transcription in space and time. Whereas genetic approaches have revealed important aspects of these processes, a mechanistic understanding is hampered by the poor experimental accessibility of early post-implantation stages. Here we show that small aggregates of mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs), when stimulated to undergo gastrulation-like events and elongation in vitro, can organize a post-occipital pattern of neural, mesodermal and endodermal derivatives that mimic embryonic spatial and temporal gene expression. The establishment of the three major body axes in these 'gastruloids' suggests that the mechanisms involved are interdependent. Specifically, gastruloids display the hallmarks of axial gene regulatory systems as exemplified by the implementation of collinear Hox transcriptional patterns along an extending antero-posterior axis. These results reveal an unanticipated self-organizing capacity of aggregated ESCs and suggest that gastruloids could be used as a complementary system to study early developmental events in the mammalian embryo.

    view more details on Pubmed

  • The HoxD cluster is a dynamic and resilient TAD boundary controlling the segregation of antagonistic regulatory landscapes. Genes Dev. 2017 Nov;31(22):2264-2281. gad.307769.117. 10.1101/gad.307769.117.

    abstract

    The mammalian HoxD cluster lies between two topologically associating domains (TADs) matching distinct enhancer-rich regulatory landscapes. During limb development, the telomeric TAD controls the early transcription of Hoxd genes in forearm cells, whereas the centromeric TAD subsequently regulates more posterior Hoxd genes in digit cells. Therefore, the TAD boundary prevents the terminal Hoxd13 gene from responding to forearm enhancers, thereby allowing proper limb patterning. To assess the nature and function of this CTCF-rich DNA region in embryos, we compared chromatin interaction profiles between proximal and distal limb bud cells isolated from mutant stocks where various parts of this boundary region were removed. The resulting progressive release in boundary effect triggered inter-TAD contacts, favored by the activity of the newly accessed enhancers. However, the boundary was highly resilient, and only a 400-kb deletion, including the whole-gene cluster, was eventually able to merge the neighboring TADs into a single structure. In this unified TAD, both proximal and distal limb enhancers nevertheless continued to work independently over a targeted transgenic reporter construct. We propose that the whole HoxD cluster is a dynamic TAD border and that the exact boundary position varies depending on both the transcriptional status and the developmental context.

    view more details on Pubmed

  • Large scale genomic reorganization of topological domains at the HoxD locus. Genome Biol. 2017 Aug;18(1):149. 10.1186/s13059-017-1278-z. 10.1186/s13059-017-1278-z. PMC5547506.

    abstract

    The transcriptional activation of HoxD genes during mammalian limb development involves dynamic interactions with two topologically associating domains (TADs) flanking the HoxD cluster. In particular, the activation of the most posterior HoxD genes in developing digits is controlled by regulatory elements located in the centromeric TAD (C-DOM) through long-range contacts.

    view more details on Pubmed

  • Control of Hoxd gene transcription in the mammary bud by hijacking a preexisting regulatory landscape. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2016 Nov;():. 1617141113. 10.1073/pnas.1617141113.

    abstract

    Vertebrate Hox genes encode transcription factors operating during the development of multiple organs and structures. However, the evolutionary mechanism underlying this remarkable pleiotropy remains to be fully understood. Here, we show that Hoxd8 and Hoxd9, two genes of the HoxD complex, are transcribed during mammary bud (MB) development. However, unlike in other developmental contexts, their coexpression does not rely on the same regulatory mechanism. Hoxd8 is regulated by the combined activity of closely located sequences and the most distant telomeric gene desert. On the other hand, Hoxd9 is controlled by an enhancer-rich region that is also located within the telomeric gene desert but has no impact on Hoxd8 transcription, thus constituting an exception to the global regulatory logic systematically observed at this locus. The latter DNA region is also involved in Hoxd gene regulation in other contexts and strongly interacts with Hoxd9 in all tissues analyzed thus far, indicating that its regulatory activity was already operational before the appearance of mammary glands. Within this DNA region and neighboring a strong limb enhancer, we identified a short sequence conserved in therian mammals and capable of enhancer activity in the MBs. We propose that Hoxd gene regulation in embryonic MBs evolved by hijacking a preexisting regulatory landscape that was already at work before the emergence of mammals in structures such as the limbs or the intestinal tract.

    view more details on Pubmed

  • 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.

    view more details on Pubmed

Nothing to show yet