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Learning-dependent chromatin remodeling highlights noncoding regulatory regions linked to autism

2018-01-16T12:30:41-08:00

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder that is associated with genetic risk factors. Most human disease-associated single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are not located in genes but rather are in regulatory regions that control gene expression. The function of regulatory regions is determined through epigenetic mechanisms. Parallels between the cellular basis of development and the formation of long-term memory have long been recognized, particularly the role of epigenetic mechanisms in both processes. We analyzed how learning alters chromatin accessibility in the mouse hippocampus using a new high-throughput sequencing bioinformatics strategy we call DEScan (differential enrichment scan). DEScan, which enabled the analysis of data from epigenomic experiments containing multiple replicates, revealed changes in chromatin accessibility at 2365 regulatory regions—most of which were promoters. Learning-regulated promoters were active during forebrain development in mice and were enriched in epigenetic modifications indicative of bivalent promoters. These promoters were disproportionally intronic, showed a complex relationship with gene expression and alternative splicing during memory consolidation and retrieval, and were enriched in the data set relative to known ASD risk genes. Genotyping in a clinical cohort within one of these promoters (SHANK3 promoter 6) revealed that the SNP rs6010065 was associated with ASD. Our data support the idea that learning recapitulates development at the epigenetic level and demonstrate that behaviorally induced epigenetic changes in mice can highlight regulatory regions relevant to brain disorders in patients.




Inactivating mutations in Drosha mediate vascular abnormalities similar to hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia

2018-01-16T12:30:41-08:00

The transforming growth factor–β (TGF-β) and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) family of cytokines critically regulates vascular morphogenesis and homeostasis. Impairment of TGF-β or BMP signaling leads to heritable vascular disorders, including hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT). Drosha, a key enzyme for microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis, also regulates the TGF-β and BMP pathway through interaction with Smads and their joint control of gene expression through miRNAs. We report that mice lacking Drosha in the vascular endothelium developed a vascular phenotype resembling HHT that included dilated and disorganized vasculature, arteriovenous fistulae, and hemorrhages. Exome sequencing of HHT patients who lacked known pathogenic mutations revealed an overrepresentation of rare nonsynonymous variants of DROSHA. Two of these DROSHA variants (P100L and R279L) did not interact with Smads and were partially catalytically active. In zebrafish, expression of these mutants or morpholino-directed knockdown of Drosha resulted in angiogenesis defects and abnormal vascular permeability. Together, our studies point to an essential role of Drosha in vascular development and the maintenance of vascular integrity, and reveal a previously unappreciated link between Drosha dysfunction and HHT.




Functional changes of AMPA responses in human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived neural progenitors in fragile X syndrome

2018-01-16T12:30:41-08:00

Altered neuronal network formation and function involving dysregulated excitatory and inhibitory circuits are associated with fragile X syndrome (FXS). We examined functional maturation of the excitatory transmission system in FXS by investigating the response of FXS patient–derived neural progenitor cells to the glutamate analog (AMPA). Neural progenitors derived from induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines generated from boys with FXS had augmented intracellular Ca2+ responses to AMPA and kainate that were mediated by Ca2+-permeable AMPA receptors (CP-AMPARs) lacking the GluA2 subunit. Together with the enhanced differentiation of glutamate-responsive cells, the proportion of CP-AMPAR and N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor–coexpressing cells was increased in human FXS progenitors. Differentiation of cells lacking GluA2 was also increased and paralleled the increased inward rectification in neural progenitors derived from Fmr1-knockout mice (the FXS mouse model). Human FXS progenitors had increased the expression of the precursor and mature forms of miR-181a, a microRNA that represses translation of the transcript encoding GluA2. Blocking GluA2-lacking, CP-AMPARs reduced the neurite length of human iPSC-derived control progenitors and further reduced the shortened length of neurites in human FXS progenitors, supporting the contribution of CP-AMPARs to the regulation of progenitor differentiation. Furthermore, we observed reduced expression of Gria2 (the GluA2-encoding gene) in the frontal lobe of FXS mice, consistent with functional changes of AMPARs in FXS. Increased Ca2+ influx through CP-AMPARs may increase the vulnerability and affect the differentiation and migration of distinct cell populations, which may interfere with normal circuit formation in FXS.




New connections: Signaling in learning disability

2018-01-16T12:30:41-08:00

Research in this issue of Science Signaling and the Archives brings us steps closer to understanding the origins of learning disability.