staff

Christopher Bolt

Senior Research Assistant in Developmental Genomics

  • T: -
  • office 4003a (Sciences III)
  • Mesomelic dysplasias associated with the HOXD locus are caused by regulatory reallocations. Nat Commun 2021 08;12(1):5013. 10.1038/s41467-021-25330-y. 10.1038/s41467-021-25330-y.

    abstract

    Human families with chromosomal rearrangements at 2q31, where the human HOXD locus maps, display mesomelic dysplasia, a severe shortening and bending of the limb. In mice, the dominant Ulnaless inversion of the HoxD cluster produces a similar phenotype suggesting the same origin for these malformations in humans and mice. Here we engineer 1 Mb inversion including the HoxD gene cluster, which positioned Hoxd13 close to proximal limb enhancers. Using this model, we show that these enhancers contact and activate Hoxd13 in proximal cells, inducing the formation of mesomelic dysplasia. We show that a secondary Hoxd13 null mutation in-cis with the inversion completely rescues the alterations, demonstrating that ectopic HOXD13 is directly responsible for this bone anomaly. Single-cell expression analysis and evaluation of HOXD13 binding sites suggests that the phenotype arises primarily by acting through genes normally controlled by HOXD13 in distal limb cells. Altogether, these results provide a conceptual and mechanistic framework to understand and unify the molecular origins of human mesomelic dysplasia associated with 2q31.

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  • Induction of a chromatin boundary in vivo upon insertion of a tad border. PLoS Genet 2021 Jul;17(7):e1009691. 10.1371/journal.pgen.1009691. PGENETICS-D-21-00201.

    abstract

    Mammalian genomes are partitioned into sub-megabase to megabase-sized units of preferential interactions called topologically associating domains or TADs, which are likely important for the proper implementation of gene regulatory processes. These domains provide structural scaffolds for distant cis regulatory elements to interact with their target genes within the three-dimensional nuclear space and architectural proteins such as CTCF as well as the cohesin complex participate in the formation of the boundaries between them. However, the importance of the genomic context in providing a given DNA sequence the capacity to act as a boundary element remains to be fully investigated. To address this question, we randomly relocated a topological boundary functionally associated with the mouse HoxD gene cluster and show that it can indeed act similarly outside its initial genomic context. In particular, the relocated DNA segment recruited the required architectural proteins and induced a significant depletion of contacts between genomic regions located across the integration site. The host chromatin landscape was re-organized, with the splitting of the TAD wherein the boundary had integrated. These results provide evidence that topological boundaries can function independently of their site of origin, under physiological conditions during mouse development.

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  • Mammalian-specific ectodermal enhancers control the expression of genes in developing nails and hair follicles. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2020 Nov;():. 2011078117. 10.1073/pnas.2011078117.

    abstract

    Vertebrate genes are critical for the establishment of structures during the development of the main body axis. Subsequently, they play important roles either in organizing secondary axial structures such as the appendages, or during homeostasis in postnatal stages and adulthood. Here, we set up to analyze their elusive function in the ectodermal compartment, using the mouse limb bud as a model. We report that the gene cluster was co-opted to be transcribed in the distal limb ectoderm, where it is activated following the rule of temporal colinearity. These ectodermal cells subsequently produce various keratinized organs such as nails or claws. Accordingly, deletion of the cluster led to mice lacking nails (anonychia), a condition stronger than the previously reported loss of function of , which is the causative gene of the ectodermal dysplasia 9 (ECTD9) in human patients. We further identified two mammalian-specific ectodermal enhancers located upstream of the gene cluster, which together regulate gene expression in the hair and nail ectodermal organs. Deletion of these regulatory elements alone or in combination revealed a strong quantitative component in the regulation of genes in the ectoderm, suggesting that these two enhancers may have evolved along with the mammalian taxon to provide the level of HOXC proteins necessary for the full development of hair and nail.

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