staff

Leonardo Beccari

Postdoctoral fellow in Developmental Genomics

  • T: +41 22 379 69 01
  • office 4009 (Sciences III)
  • 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.

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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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