staff

Thi Hanh Nguyen Huynh

Research assistant in Developmental Genomics

  • T: +41 22 379 67 94
  • 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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  • Reorganisation of Hoxd regulatory landscapes during the evolution of a snake-like body plan. Elife 2016 ;5():. 10.7554/eLife.16087. PMC4969037.

    abstract

    Within land vertebrate species, snakes display extreme variations in their body plan, characterized by the absence of limbs and an elongated morphology. Such a particular interpretation of the basic vertebrate body architecture has often been associated with changes in the function or regulation of Hox genes. Here, we use an interspecies comparative approach to investigate different regulatory aspects at the snake HoxD locus. We report that, unlike in other vertebrates, snake mesoderm-specific enhancers are mostly located within the HoxD cluster itself rather than outside. In addition, despite both the absence of limbs and an altered Hoxd gene regulation in external genitalia, the limb-associated bimodal HoxD chromatin structure is maintained at the snake locus. Finally, we show that snake and mouse orthologous enhancer sequences can display distinct expression specificities. These results show that vertebrate morphological evolution likely involved extensive reorganisation at Hox loci, yet within a generally conserved regulatory framework.

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  • Nanoscale spatial organization of the HoxD gene cluster in distinct transcriptional states. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2015 Nov;112(45):13964-9. 1517972112. 10.1073/pnas.1517972112. PMC4653165.

    abstract

    Chromatin condensation plays an important role in the regulation of gene expression. Recently, it was shown that the transcriptional activation of Hoxd genes during vertebrate digit development involves modifications in 3D interactions within and around the HoxD gene cluster. This reorganization follows a global transition from one set of regulatory contacts to another, between two topologically associating domains (TADs) located on either side of the HoxD locus. Here, we use 3D DNA FISH to assess the spatial organization of chromatin at and around the HoxD gene cluster and report that although the two TADs are tightly associated, they appear as spatially distinct units. We measured the relative position of genes within the cluster and found that they segregate over long distances, suggesting that a physical elongation of the HoxD cluster can occur. We analyzed this possibility by super-resolution imaging (STORM) and found that tissues with distinct transcriptional activity exhibit differing degrees of elongation. We also observed that the morphological change of the HoxD cluster in developing digits is associated with its position at the boundary between the two TADs. Such variations in the fine-scale architecture of the gene cluster suggest causal links among its spatial configuration, transcriptional activation, and the flanking chromatin context.

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  • Transgene- and locus-dependent imprinting reveals allele-specific chromosome conformations. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2013 Jul;110(29):11946-51. 1310704110. 10.1073/pnas.1310704110. PMC3718164.

    abstract

    When positioned into the integrin α-6 gene, an Hoxd9lacZ reporter transgene displayed parental imprinting in mouse embryos. While the expression from the paternal allele was comparable with patterns seen for the same transgene when present at the neighboring HoxD locus, almost no signal was scored at this integration site when the transgene was inherited from the mother, although the Itga6 locus itself is not imprinted. The transgene exhibited maternal allele-specific DNA hypermethylation acquired during oogenesis, and its expression silencing was reversible on passage through the male germ line. Histone modifications also corresponded to profiles described at known imprinted loci. Chromosome conformation analyses revealed distinct chromatin microarchitectures, with a more compact structure characterizing the maternally inherited repressed allele. Such genetic analyses of well-characterized transgene insertions associated with a de novo-induced parental imprint may help us understand the molecular determinants of imprinting.

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