For example, we devised various means of isolating the individual components of the cell responsible for transcription and of reconstructing this complex reaction in the test tube. In this way, we can study the detailed molecular mechanisms that direct the exquisitely sensitive tuning up and down of gene expression in human and animal regulatory systems. We have also used cells and whole organisms (e.g., flies and mice) to interface our biochemical studies with physiologically relevant situations that require the switching on and off of specific genes during cell growth, development, and differentiation in metazoan organisms.
Developing Single-Cell Methods to Study Transcription
Although our attempts to dissect the elaborate process of transcription have relied on a combination of in vitro biochemistry and in vivo reverse genetics, it has become evident that a significant gap remains between in vitro mechanisms and in vivo physiology. Thus, we have begun to generate a battery of reagents and novel assays to bridge this gap. One effort has been to develop assays at the single-cell level so that we can locate, track, and study transcription in individual cells. Using a combination of fluorescence microscopy, antibody staining, GFP (green fluorescent protein) tracking, ChIPs (chromatin immunoprecipitation), FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization), and genomic arrays, we have begun to assemble tools to analyze the in vivo mechanisms that regulate transcription at the single-cell resolution. We are also adapting single-molecule techniques such as FRET (fluorescence resonance energy transfer) and cryo-EM (cryo-electron microscopy) to complement our functional studies of key molecular transactions during the regulation of transcription.
Proteins That Regulate Gene Expression
Among the most important families of proteins in the nucleus are the sequence-specific transcription factors that bind to DNA at select sites and regulate the expression of genes in a tissue-specific and developmentally regulated fashion. A significant technical advance was the development of biochemical methods to purify these rare and fragile proteins, which in turn allows us to isolate the genes that encode these regulatory factors.
These sequence-specific transcription factors not only regulate the temporal cascade of gene expression during development of multicellular organisms but also are often good candidates for genes that lead to cancer. For example, many of these transcription factors turn out to be either oncogenes (Jun/Fos) or tumor-suppressor genes (p53, Rb). At the same time, a growing body of evidence links specific transcription factors (such as FOXO, PPARγ, NFκB) to various metabolic diseases and inflammation, while Sp1 has been implicated in Huntington's disease.
Triggering of Transcription by Promoter-Specific Regulators
A fundamental question that remains poorly understood concerns how sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins direct transcription. To address this critical issue, our lab fractionated and isolated the multiple components necessary to reconstitute activator-responsive transcription in the test tube. In the process of dissecting the general transcriptional apparatus, we discovered previously undetected components that serve as the functional bridge between upstream regulatory proteins, such as the human transcription factor Sp1, and the initiation complex that contains RNA polymerase. These novel factors, which we have called coactivators, appear to be part of the missing link that directs promoter-selective transcription in animal cells and are likely to represent a diverse and essential class of regulatory proteins.
The first class of coactivators we identified consists of the TATA-binding protein (TBP)-associated factors (TAFIIs), which make up the core transcription complex called TFIID. Biochemical characterization of these factors revealed that transcriptional activators can bind selective TAFII subunits of the TFIID complex. The specificity and function of individual TAFIIs mediating transcriptional activation remain to be determined, however, and we continue to work toward this goal. To this end, we have used both x-ray crystallography and EM analysis to determine the three-dimensional structure of transcription proteins and large multicomponent complexes. These structure/function studies have revealed that TAFs can bind core promoter DNA, interact with selective activators, catalyze various enzymatic reactions (e.g., kinase, acetyltransferase), and target binding of TFIID to specifically acetylated nucleosomal templates.
Structural Studies of Multisubunit Transcriptional Cofactors
Our biochemical studies also identified two additional human cofactor complexes, CRSP (cofactor required for Sp1) and ARC (activator-recruited cofactor), that together with the TAFIIs help mediate transcriptional activation. Structural determination by EM and biochemical assays revealed that ARC-L and CRSP are substantially different in size and shape and display differential coactivator functions. Moreover, EM analysis of independently derived CRSP complexes reveals distinct conformations induced by different activators. These results suggest that CRSP may potentiate transcription via specific activator-induced conformational changes.
Identification of TBP-Related Factors and Cell-Type-Specific TAFIIs
Eukaryotic cells were originally thought to contain a single TBP that directs transcription by all cellular RNA polymerases. However, we recently identified two TBP-related factors, TRF-1 and TRF-2, that interact with the basal transcription factors TFIIA and TFIIB to initiate gene-selective RNA synthesis. In addition to multiple TRFs, we have also discovered tissue- or cell-type-specific TAFIIs. In vitro biochemical and in vivo genetic analyses reveal that TAFII105 is selectively expressed in the granulosa cells of the mouse ovary. Deletion of this gene by homologous recombination results in infertile female mice with defects in ovarian development due to down-regulated genes. The discovery of multiple TFIID-like complexes confirms that the core molecular machinery in metazoans has diversified to accommodate complex patterns of transcription.
Transcriptional Control and Disease
Our studies of activators and coactivators have also provided insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying various human diseases. For example, recent studies suggest that during the onset of Huntington's disease, the mutant Huntingtin protein disrupts an important interaction between the human transcription factor Sp1 and its target coactivator TAFII130. Another example is the finding that type II diabetes can be controlled by a class of insulin sensitizers that modulate the specific interaction between specific coactivators and the ligand-binding domain of the PPARγ nuclear receptor. Finally, transcription factor FOXO was found to regulate the insulin receptor in a feedback mechanism controlled by insulin and nutrient deprivation. This finding provides a potential link between FOXO and insulin-resistant diabetes. As we learn more about the molecular mechanisms that have evolved to regulate transcription and disease mechanisms, opportunities for new therapeutic strategies will emerge.
Transcriptional Mechanisms Regulating Stem Cell Self-Renewal and Differentiation
A new area of research we initiated targets the identification of cell-type-specific transcription factors responsible for directing human stem cell maintenance as well as changes to the core promoter recognition apparatus during differentiation. In particular, we have recently isolated a novel stem cell–specific cofactor complex (SCC) that is required to mediate the transcriptional activation of the NANOG gene by OCT4/SOX2 in human embryonic stem cells. In addition, our studies of skeletal muscle differentiation revealed dramatic changes in the requirement for core promoter-binding complexes necessary to drive differentiation of myoblasts into myotubes. We are also studying the role of key transcription activators that drive embryonic stem cells to become dopamine-producing neurons.
A grant from the National Institutes of Health provided partial support for the work on Sp1, CRSP, ARC, and other human enhancer and basal transcription factors.
Recent findings implicate alternate core promoter recognition complexes in regulating cellular differentiation. Here we report a spatial segregation of the alternative core factor TAF3, but not canonical TFIID subunits, away from the nuclear periphery, where the key myogenic gene MyoD is preferentially localized in myoblasts. This segregation is correlated with the differential occupancy of TAF3 versus TFIID at the MyoD promoter. Loss of this segregation by modulating either the intranuclear location of the MyoD gene or TAF3 protein leads to altered TAF3 occupancy at the MyoD promoter. Intriguingly, in differentiated myotubes, the MyoD gene is repositioned to the nuclear interior, where TAF3 resides. The specific high-affinity recognition of H3K4Me3 by the TAF3 PHD (plant homeodomain) finger appears to be required for the sequestration of TAF3 to the nuclear interior. We suggest that intranuclear sequestration of core transcription components and their target genes provides an additional mechanism for promoter selectivity during differentiation.
Commentary: Jie Yao in Bob Tijan's lab used a combination of confocal microscopy and dual label PALM in thin sections cut from resin-embedded cells to show that certain core transcription components and their target genes are spatially segregated in myoblasts, but not in differentiated myotubes, suggesting that such spatial segregation may play a role in guiding cellular differentiation.
Prior Publications (44 of 44)
Historically, developmental-stage- and tissue-specific patterns of gene expression were assumed to be determined primarily by DNA regulatory sequences and their associated activators, while the general transcription machinery including core promoter recognition complexes, coactivators, and chromatin modifiers was held to be invariant. New evidence suggests that significant changes in these general transcription factors including TFIID, BAF, and Mediator may facilitate global changes in cell-type-specific transcription.
Wnt signaling targets ETO coactivation domain of TAF4/TFIID in vivo.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2009
K. J. Wright, and R. Tjian Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106:55-60 (2009)
Understanding the diverse activities of the multisubunit core promoter recognition complex TFIID in vivo requires knowledge of how individual subunits contribute to overall functions of this TATA box-binding protein (TBP)/TBP-associated factor (TAF) complex. By generating altered holo-TFIID complexes in Drosophila we identify the ETO domain of TAF4 as a coactivator domain likely targeted by Pygopus, a protein that is required for Wingless-induced transcription of naked cuticle. These results establish a coactivator function of TAF4 and provide a strategy to dissect mechanisms of TFIID function in vivo.
Sequence-specific DNA-binding activators, key regulators of gene expression, stimulate transcription in part by targeting the core promoter recognition TFIID complex and aiding in its recruitment to promoter DNA. Although it has been established that activators can interact with multiple components of TFIID, it is unknown whether common or distinct surfaces within TFIID are targeted by activators and what changes if any in the structure of TFIID may occur upon binding activators. As a first step toward structurally dissecting activator/TFIID interactions, we determined the three-dimensional structures of TFIID bound to three distinct activators (i.e., the tumor suppressor p53 protein, glutamine-rich Sp1 and the oncoprotein c-Jun) and compared their structures as determined by electron microscopy and single-particle reconstruction. By a combination of EM and biochemical mapping analysis, our results uncover distinct contact regions within TFIID bound by each activator. Unlike the coactivator CRSP/Mediator complex that undergoes drastic and global structural changes upon activator binding, instead, a rather confined set of local conserved structural changes were observed when each activator binds holo-TFIID. These results suggest that activator contact may induce unique structural features of TFIID, thus providing nanoscale information on activator-dependent TFIID assembly and transcription initiation.
The advent of new technologies for the imaging of living cells has made it possible to determine the properties of transcription, the kinetics of polymerase movement, the association of transcription factors, and the progression of the polymerase on the gene. We report here the current state of the field and the progress necessary to achieve a more complete understanding of the various steps in transcription. Our Consortium is dedicated to developing and implementing the technology to further this understanding.
The Drosophila nucleosome remodeling factor (NURF) is an ISWI-containing chromatin remodeling complex that catalyzes ATP-dependent nucleosome sliding. By sliding nucleosomes, NURF has the ability to alter chromatin structure and regulate transcription. Previous studies have shown that mutation of Drosophila NURF induces melanotic tumors, implicating NURF in innate immune function. Here, we show that NURF mutants exhibit identical innate immune responses to gain-of-function mutants in the Drosophila JAK/STAT pathway. Using microarrays, we identify a common set of target genes that are activated in both mutants. In silico analysis of promoter sequences of these defines a consensus regulatory element comprising a STAT-binding sequence overlapped by a binding-site for the transcriptional repressor Ken. NURF interacts physically and genetically with Ken. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) localizes NURF to Ken-binding sites in hemocytes, suggesting that Ken recruits NURF to repress STAT responders. Loss of NURF leads to precocious activation of STAT target genes.
The RNA polymerase II core promoter is a structurally and functionally diverse transcriptional module. RNAi depletion and overexpression experiments revealed a genetic circuit that controls the balance of transcription from two core promoter motifs, the TATA box and the downstream core promoter element (DPE). In this circuit, TBP activates TATA-dependent transcription and represses DPE-dependent transcription, whereas Mot1 and NC2 block TBP function and thus repress TATA-dependent transcription and activate DPE-dependent transcription. This regulatory circuit is likely to be one means by which biological networks can transmit transcriptional signals, such as those from DPE-specific and TATA-specific enhancers, via distinct pathways.
Skeletal muscle differentiation requires a cascade of transcriptional events to control the spatial and temporal expression of muscle-specific genes. Until recently, muscle-specific transcription was primarily attributed to prototypic enhancer-binding factors, while the role of core promoter recognition complexes in directing myogenesis remained unknown. Here, we report the development of a purified reconstituted system to analyze the properties of a TAF3/TRF3 complex in directing transcription initiation at the Myogenin promoter. Importantly, this new complex is required to replace the canonical TFIID to recapitulate MyoD-dependent activation of Myogenin. In vitro and cell-based assays identify a domain of TAF3 that mediates coactivator functions targeted by MyoD. Our findings also suggest changes to CRSP/Mediator in terminally differentiated myotubes. This switching of the core promoter recognition complex during myogenesis allows a more balanced division of labor between activators and TAF coactivators, thus providing another strategy to accommodate cell-specific regulation during metazoan development.
Proper ovarian development requires the cell type-specific transcription factor TAF4b, a subunit of the core promoter recognition complex TFIID. We present the 35 A structure of a cell type-specific core promoter recognition complex containing TAF4b and TAF4 (4b/4-IID), which is responsible for directing transcriptional synergy between c-Jun and Sp1 at a TAF4b target promoter. As a first step toward correlating potential structure/function relationships of the prototypic TFIID versus 4b/4-IID, we have compared their 3D structures by electron microscopy and single-particle reconstruction. These studies reveal that TAF4b incorporation into TFIID induces an open conformation at the lobe involved in TFIIA and putative activator interactions. Importantly, this open conformation correlates with differential activator-dependent transcription and promoter recognition by 4b/4-IID. By combining functional and structural analysis, we find that distinct localized structural changes in a megadalton macromolecular assembly can significantly alter its activity and lead to a TAF4b-induced reprogramming of promoter specificity.
ES cell pluripotency and germ-layer formation require the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling component BAF250a.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2008
X. Gao, P. Tate, P. Hu, R. Tjian, W. C. Skarnes, and Z. Wang Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105:6656-61 (2008)
ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes are a notable group of epigenetic modifiers that use the energy of ATP hydrolysis to change the structure of chromatin, thereby altering its accessibility to nuclear factors. BAF250a (ARID1a) is a unique and defining subunit of the BAF chromatin remodeling complex with the potential to facilitate chromosome alterations critical during development. Our studies show that ablation of BAF250a in early mouse embryos results in developmental arrest (about embryonic day 6.5) and absence of the mesodermal layer, indicating its critical role in early germ-layer formation. Moreover, BAF250a deficiency compromises ES cell pluripotency, severely inhibits self-renewal, and promotes differentiation into primitive endoderm-like cells under normal feeder-free culture conditions. Interestingly, this phenotype can be partially rescued by the presence of embryonic fibroblast cells. DNA microarray, immunostaining, and RNA analyses revealed that BAF250a-mediated chromatin remodeling contributes to the proper expression of numerous genes involved in ES cell self-renewal, including Sox2, Utf1, and Oct4. Furthermore, the pluripotency defects in BAF250a mutant ES cells appear to be cell lineage-specific. For example, embryoid body-based analyses demonstrated that BAF250a-ablated stem cells are defective in differentiating into fully functional mesoderm-derived cardiomyocytes and adipocytes but are capable of differentiating into ectoderm-derived neurons. Our results suggest that BAF250a is a key component of the gene regulatory machinery in ES cells controlling self-renewal, differentiation, and cell lineage decisions.
Although FoxO and Pax proteins represent two important families of transcription factors in determining cell fate, they had not been functionally or physically linked together in mediating regulation of a common target gene during normal cellular transcription programs. Here, we identify MyoD, a key regulator of myogenesis, as a direct target of FoxO3 and Pax3/7 in myoblasts. Our cell-based assays and in vitro studies reveal a tight codependent partnership between FoxO3 and Pax3/7 to coordinately recruit RNA polymerase II and form a preinitiation complex (PIC) to activate MyoD transcription in myoblasts. The role of FoxO3 in regulating muscle differentiation is confirmed in vivo by observed defects in muscle regeneration caused by MyoD downregulation in FoxO3 null mice. These data establish a mutual interdependence and functional link between two families of transcription activators serving as potential signaling sensors and regulators of cell fate commitment in directing tissue specific MyoD transcription.
It is generally accepted that the growth rate of an organism is modulated by the availability of nutrients. One common mechanism to control cellular growth is through the global down-regulation of cap-dependent translation by eIF4E-binding proteins (4E-BPs). Here, we report evidence for a novel mechanism that allows eukaryotes to coordinate and selectively couple transcription and translation of target genes in response to a nutrient and growth signaling cascade. The Drosophila insulin-like receptor (dINR) pathway incorporates 4E-BP resistant cellular internal ribosome entry site (IRES) containing mRNAs, to functionally couple transcriptional activation with differential translational control in a cell that is otherwise translationally repressed by 4E-BP. Although examples of cellular IRESs have been previously reported, their critical role mediating a key physiological response has not been well documented. Our studies reveal an integrated transcriptional and translational response mechanism specifically dependent on a cellular IRES that coordinates an essential physiological signal responsible for monitoring nutrient and cell growth conditions.
The 100 copies of tandemly arrayed Drosophila linker (H1) and core (H2A/B and H3/H4) histone gene cluster are coordinately regulated during the cell cycle. However, the molecular mechanisms that must allow differential transcription of linker versus core histones prevalent during development remain elusive. Here, we used fluorescence imaging, biochemistry, and genetics to show that TBP (TATA-box-binding protein)-related factor 2 (TRF2) selectively regulates the TATA-less Histone H1 gene promoter, while TBP/TFIID targets core histone transcription. Importantly, TRF2-depleted polytene chromosomes display severe chromosomal structural defects. This selective usage of TRF2 and TBP provides a novel mechanism to differentially direct transcription within the histone cluster. Moreover, genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP)-on-chip analyses coupled with RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated functional studies revealed that TRF2 targets several classes of TATA-less promoters of >1000 genes including those driving transcription of essential chromatin organization and protein synthesis genes. Our studies establish that TRF2 promoter recognition complexes play a significantly more central role in governing metazoan transcription than previously appreciated.
Metazoans have evolved multiple paralogues of the TATA binding protein (TBP), adding another tunable level of gene control at core promoters. While TBP-related factor 1 (TRF1) shares extensive homology with TBP and can direct both Pol II and Pol III transcription in vitro, TRF1 target sites in vivo have remained elusive. Here, we report the genome-wide identification of TRF1-binding sites using high-resolution genome tiling microarrays. We found 354 TRF1-binding sites genome-wide with approximately 78% of these sites displaying colocalization with BRF. Strikingly, the majority of TRF1 target genes are Pol III-dependent small noncoding RNAs such as tRNAs and small nonmessenger RNAs. We provide direct evidence that the TRF1/BRF complex is functionally required for the activity of two novel TRF1 targets (7SL RNA and small nucleolar RNAs). Our studies suggest that unlike most other eukaryotic organisms that rely on TBP for Pol III transcription, in Drosophila and possibly other insects the alternative TRF1/BRF complex appears responsible for the initiation of all known classes of Pol III transcription.
Transcriptional mechanisms that govern cellular differentiation typically include sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins and chromatin-modifying activities. These regulatory factors are assumed necessary and sufficient to drive both divergent programs of proliferation and terminal differentiation. By contrast, potential contributions of the basal transcriptional apparatus to orchestrate cell-specific gene expression have been poorly explored. In order to probe alternative mechanisms that control differentiation, we have assessed the fate of the core promoter recognition complex, TFIID, during skeletal myogenesis. Here we report that differentiation of myoblast to myotubes involves the disruption of the canonical holo-TFIID and replacement by a novel TRF3/TAF3 (TBP-related factor 3/TATA-binding protein-associated factor 3) complex. This required switching of core promoter complexes provides organisms a simple yet effective means to selectively turn on one transcriptional program while silencing many others. Although this drastic but parsimonious transcriptional switch had previously escaped our attention, it may represent a more general mechanism for regulating cell type-specific terminal differentiation.
Cell-type-selective induction of c-jun by TAF4b directs ovarian-specific transcription networks.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2006
K. G. Geles, R. N. Freiman, W. Liu, S. Zheng, E. Voronina, and R. Tjian Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103:2594-9 (2006)
Cell-type-selective expression of the TFIID subunit TAF(II)105 (renamed TAF4b) in the ovary is essential for proper follicle development. Although a multitude of signaling pathways required for folliculogenesis have been identified, downstream transcriptional integrators of these signals remain largely unknown. Here, we show that TAF4b controls the granulosa-cell-specific expression of the proto-oncogene c-jun, and together they regulate transcription of ovary-selective promoters. Instead of using cell-type-specific activators, our findings suggest that the coactivator TAF4b regulates the expression of tissue-specific genes, at least in part, through the cell-type-specific induction of c-jun, a ubiquitous activator. Importantly, the loss of TAF4b in ovarian granulosa cells disrupts cellular morphologies and interactions during follicle growth that likely contribute to the infertility observed in TAF4b-null female mice. These data highlight a mechanism for potentiating tissue-selective functions of the basal transcription machinery and reveal intricate networks of gene expression that orchestrate ovarian-specific functions and cell morphology.
Organisms adjust their rate of growth depending on the availability of nutrients. Thus, when environmental conditions limit nutrients, growth is slowed and is only restored after food again becomes abundant. Many aspects of the molecular mechanisms that govern this complex control system remain unknown. However, it has been shown that the insulin/IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor 1) receptor pathway, together with the FOXO family of transcription factors, play an important role in this process. Recent studies with the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster have provided new insights into the regulatory circuitry that controls both growth and gene expression in response to nutrient availability.
An ARC/Mediator subunit required for SREBP control of cholesterol and lipid homeostasis.Nature 2006
F. Yang, B. W. Vought, J. S. Satterlee, A. K. Walker, Z-Y. Jim Sun, J. L. Watts, R. DeBeaumont, M. R. Saito, S. G. Hyberts, S. Yang, C. Macol, L. Iyer, R. Tjian, S. Heuvel, A. C. Hart, G. Wagner, and A. M. Näär Nature, 442:700-4 (2006)
The sterol regulatory element binding protein (SREBP) family of transcription activators are critical regulators of cholesterol and fatty acid homeostasis. We previously demonstrated that human SREBPs bind the CREB-binding protein (CBP)/p300 acetyltransferase KIX domain and recruit activator-recruited co-factor (ARC)/Mediator co-activator complexes through unknown mechanisms. Here we show that SREBPs use the evolutionarily conserved ARC105 (also called MED15) subunit to activate target genes. Structural analysis of the SREBP-binding domain in ARC105 by NMR revealed a three-helix bundle with marked similarity to the CBP/p300 KIX domain. In contrast to SREBPs, the CREB and c-Myb activators do not bind the ARC105 KIX domain, although they interact with the CBP KIX domain, revealing a surprising specificity among structurally related activator-binding domains. The Caenorhabditis elegans SREBP homologue SBP-1 promotes fatty acid homeostasis by regulating the expression of lipogenic enzymes. We found that, like SBP-1, the C. elegans ARC105 homologue MDT-15 is required for fatty acid homeostasis, and show that both SBP-1 and MDT-15 control transcription of genes governing desaturation of stearic acid to oleic acid. Notably, dietary addition of oleic acid significantly rescued various defects of nematodes targeted with RNA interference against sbp-1 and mdt-15, including impaired intestinal fat storage, infertility, decreased size and slow locomotion, suggesting that regulation of oleic acid levels represents a physiologically critical function of SBP-1 and MDT-15. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that ARC105 is a key effector of SREBP-dependent gene regulation and control of lipid homeostasis in metazoans.
Cryo-electron microscopy studies of human TFIID: conformational breathing in the integration of gene regulatory cues.Structure (London, England : 1993) 2006
P. Grob, M. J. Cruse, C. Inouye, M. Peris, P. A. Penczek, R. Tjian, and E. Nogales Structure (London, England : 1993), 14:511-20 (2006)
The multisubunit transcription factor TFIID is essential for directing eukaryotic promoter recognition and mediating interactions with activators/cofactors during assembly of the preinitiation complex. Despite its central role in transcription initiation and regulation, structural knowledge of the TFIID complex has so far been largely limited to electron microscopy studies of negatively stained samples. Here, we present a cryo-electron microscopy 3D reconstruction of the large endogenous human TFIID complex. The improved cryopreservation has allowed for a more detailed definition of the structural elements in the complex and for the detection, by an extensive statistical analysis of the data, of a conformational opening and closing of the cavity central to the TFIID architecture. We propose that these density rearrangements in the structure are a likely reflection of the plasticity of the interactions between TFIID and its many partner proteins.
Cells often fine-tune gene expression at the level of transcription to generate the appropriate response to a given environmental or developmental stimulus. Both positive and negative influences on gene expression must be balanced to produce the correct level of mRNA synthesis. To this end, the cell uses several classes of regulatory coactivator complexes including two central players, TFIID and Mediator (MED), in potentiating activated transcription. Both of these complexes integrate activator signals and convey them to the basal apparatus. Interestingly, many promoters require both regulatory complexes, although at first glance they may seem to be redundant. Here we have used RNA interference (RNAi) in Drosophila cells to selectively deplete subunits of the MED and TFIID complexes to dissect the contribution of each of these complexes in modulating activated transcription. We exploited the robust response of the metallothionein genes to heavy metal as a model for transcriptional activation by analyzing direct factor recruitment in both heterogeneous cell populations and at the single-cell level. Intriguingly, we find that MED and TFIID interact functionally to modulate transcriptional response to metal. The metal response element-binding transcription factor-1 (MTF-1) recruits TFIID, which then binds promoter DNA, setting up a "checkpoint complex" for the initiation of transcription that is subsequently activated upon recruitment of the MED complex. The appropriate expression level of the endogenous metallothionein genes is achieved only when the activities of these two coactivators are balanced. Surprisingly, we find that the same activator (MTF-1) requires different coactivator subunits depending on the context of the core promoter. Finally, we find that the stability of multi-subunit coactivator complexes can be compromised by loss of a single subunit, underscoring the potential for combinatorial control of transcription activation.
TAF4 nucleates a core subcomplex of TFIID and mediates activated transcription from a TATA-less promoter.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2006
K. J. Wright, M. T. Marr, and R. Tjian Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103:12347-52 (2006)
Activator-dependent recruitment of TFIID initiates formation of the transcriptional preinitiation complex. TFIID binds core promoter DNA elements and directs the assembly of other general transcription factors, leading to binding of RNA polymerase II and activation of RNA synthesis. How TATA box-binding protein (TBP) and the TBP-associated factors (TAFs) are assembled into a functional TFIID complex with promoter recognition and coactivator activities in vivo remains unknown. Here, we use RNAi to knock down specific TFIID subunits in Drosophila tissue culture cells to determine which subunits are most critical for maintaining stability of TFIID in vivo. Contrary to expectations, we find that TAF4 rather than TBP or TAF1 plays the most critical role in maintaining stability of the complex. Our analysis also indicates that TAF5, TAF6, TAF9, and TAF12 play key roles in stability of the complex, whereas TBP, TAF1, TAF2, and TAF11 contribute very little to complex stability. Based on our results, we propose that holo-TFIID comprises a stable core subcomplex containing TAF4, TAF5, TAF6, TAF9, and TAF12 decorated with peripheral subunits TAF1, TAF2, TAF11, and TBP. Our initial functional studies indicate a specific and significant role for TAF1 and TAF4 in mediating transcription from a TATA-less, downstream core promoter element (DPE)-containing promoter, whereas a TATA-containing, DPE-less promoter was far less dependent on these subunits. In contrast to both TAF1 and TAF4, RNAi knockdown of TAF5 had little effect on transcription from either class of promoter. These studies significantly alter previous models for the assembly, structure, and function of TFIID.
ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling is one of the central processes responsible for imparting fluidity to chromatin and thus regulating DNA transactions. Although knowledge on this process is accumulating rapidly, the basic mechanism (or mechanisms) by which the remodeling complexes alter the structure of a nucleosome is not yet understood. Structural information on these macromolecular machines should aid in interpreting the biochemical and genetic data; to this end, we have determined the structure of the human PBAF ATP-dependent chromatin-remodeling complex preserved in negative stain by electron microscopy and have mapped the nucleosome binding site using two-dimensional (2D) image analysis. PBAF has an overall C-shaped architecture--with a larger density to which two smaller knobs are attached--surrounding a central cavity; one of these knobs appears to be flexible and occupies different positions in each of the structures determined. The 2D analysis of PBAF:nucleosome complexes indicates that the nucleosome binds in the central cavity.
The insulin signaling pathway, which is conserved in evolution from flies to humans, evolved to allow a fast response to changes in nutrient availability while keeping glucose concentration constant in serum. Here we show that, both in Drosophila and mammals, insulin receptor (InR) represses its own synthesis by a feedback mechanism directed by the transcription factor dFOXO/FOXO1. In Drosophila, dFOXO is responsible for activating transcription of dInR, and nutritional conditions can modulate this effect. Starvation up-regulates mRNA of dInR in wild-type but not dFOXO-deficient flies. Importantly, FOXO1 acts in mammalian cells like its Drosophila counterpart, up-regulating the InR mRNA level upon fasting. Mammalian cells up-regulate the InR mRNA in the absence of serum, conditions that induce the dephosphorylation and activation of FOXO1. Interestingly, insulin is able to reverse this effect. Therefore, dFOXO/FOXO1 acts as an insulin sensor to activate insulin signaling, allowing a fast response to the hormone after each meal. Our results reveal a key feedback control mechanism for dFOXO/FOXO1 in regulating metabolism and insulin signaling.
The establishment and maintenance of spermatogenesis in mammals requires specialized networks of gene expression programs in the testis. The gonad-specific TAF4b component of TFIID (formerly TAF(II)105) is a transcriptional regulator enriched in the mouse testis. Herein we show that TAF4b is required for maintenance of spermatogenesis in the mouse. While young Taf4b-null males are initially fertile, Taf4b-null males become infertile by 3 mo of age and eventually exhibit seminiferous tubules devoid of germ cells. At birth, testes of Taf4b-null males appear histologically normal; however, at post-natal day 3 gonocyte proliferation is impaired and expression of spermatogonial stem cell markers c-Ret, Plzf, and Stra8 is reduced. Together, these data indicate that TAF4b is required for the precise expression of gene products essential for germ cell proliferation and suggest that TAF4b may be required for the regulation of spermatogonial stem cell specification and proliferation that is obligatory for normal spermatogenic maintenance in the adult.
Transcriptional dysregulation has emerged as a potentially important pathogenic mechanism in Huntington's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder associated with polyglutamine expansion in the huntingtin (htt) protein. Here, we report the development of a biochemically defined in vitro transcription assay that is responsive to mutant htt. We demonstrate that both gene-specific activator protein Sp1 and selective components of the core transcription apparatus, including TFIID and TFIIF, are direct targets inhibited by mutant htt in a polyglutamine-dependent manner. The RAP30 subunit of TFIIF specifically interacts with mutant htt both in vitro and in vivo to interfere with formation of the RAP30-RAP74 native complex. Importantly, overexpression of RAP30 in cultured primary striatal cells protects neurons from mutant htt-induced cellular toxicity and alleviates the transcriptional inhibition of the dopamine D2 receptor gene by mutant htt. Our results suggest a mutant htt-directed repression mechanism involving multiple specific components of the basal transcription apparatus.
The human CRSP-Med coactivator complex is targeted by a diverse array of sequence-specific regulatory proteins. Using EM and single-particle reconstruction techniques, we recently completed a structural analysis of CRSP-Med bound to VP16 and SREBP-1a. Notably, these activators induced distinct conformational states upon binding the coactivator. Ostensibly, these different conformational states result from VP16 and SREBP-1a targeting distinct subunits in the CRSP-Med complex. To test this, we conducted a structural analysis of CRSP-Med bound to either thyroid hormone receptor (TR) or vitamin D receptor (VDR), both of which interact with the same subunit (Med220) of CRSP-Med. Structural comparison of TR- and VDR-bound complexes (at a resolution of 29 A) indeed reveals a shared conformational feature that is distinct from other known CRSP- Med structures. Importantly, this nuclear receptor-induced structural shift seems largely dependent on the movement of Med220 within the complex.
Myc-interacting protein 1 target gene profile: a link to microtubules, extracellular signal-regulated kinase, and cell growth.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2004
J. Ziegelbauer, J. Wei, and R. Tjian Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 101:458-63 (2004)
To study the role of the transcription factor Myc-interacting protein 1 (MIZ-1) in activating various target genes after induction with the microtubule disrupting agent T113242, we have used small interfering RNA duplexes (siRNAs) to knockdown the expression of MIZ-1. As expected, depletion of MIZ-1 resulted in the inhibition of T113242-dependent activation of the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) gene in hepatocytes. Cells transfected with MIZ-1 siRNAs also exhibited growth arrest. In addition, inhibition of the extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway inhibited T113242-induced nuclear accumulation of MIZ-1 and activation of LDLR. Gene expression microarray analysis under various induction conditions identified other T113242-activated genes affected by a decrease in MIZ-1 and inhibition of the ERK pathway. We also found that the accumulation of MIZ-1 in the nucleus is influenced by cell-cell contact and/or growth. Taken together, our studies suggest that MIZ-1 regulates a specific set of genes that includes LDLR and that the ERK pathway plays a role in the activation of target promoters by MIZ-1.
The multi-subunit, human CRSP coactivator-also known as Mediator (Med)-regulates transcription by mediating signals between enhancer-bound factors (activators) and the core transcriptional machinery. Interestingly, different activators are known to bind distinct subunits within the CRSP/Med complex. We have isolated a stable, endogenous CRSP/Med complex (CRSP/Med2) that specifically lacks both the Med220 and the Med70 subunits. The three-dimensional structure of CRSP/Med2 was determined to 31 A resolution using electron microscopy and single-particle reconstruction techniques. Despite lacking both Med220 and Med70, CRSP/Med2 displays potent, activator-dependent transcriptional coactivator function in response to VP16, Sp1, and Sp1/SREBP-1a in vitro using chromatin templates. However, CRSP/Med2 is unable to potentiate activated transcription from a vitamin D receptor-responsive promoter, which requires interaction with Med220 for coactivator recruitment, whereas VDR-directed activation by CRSP/Med occurs normally. Thus, it appears that CRSP/Med may be regulated by a combinatorial assembly mechanism that allows promoter-selective function upon exchange of specific coactivator targets.
BAF and PBAF are two related mammalian chromatin remodeling complexes essential for gene expression and development. PBAF, but not BAF, is able to potentiate transcriptional activation in vitro mediated by nuclear receptors, such as RXRalpha, VDR, and PPARgamma. Here we show that the ablation of PBAF-specific subunit BAF180 in mouse embryos results in severe hypoplastic ventricle development and trophoblast placental defects, similar to those found in mice lacking RXRalpha and PPARgamma. Embryonic aggregation analyses reveal that in contrast to PPARgamma-deficient mice, the heart defects are likely a direct result of BAF180 ablation, rather than an indirect consequence of trophoblast placental defects. We identified potential target genes for BAF180 in heart development, such as S100A13 as well as retinoic acid (RA)-induced targets RARbeta2 and CRABPII. Importantly, BAF180 is recruited to the promoter of these target genes and BAF180 deficiency affects the RA response for CRABPII and RARbeta2. These studies reveal unique functions of PBAF in cardiac chamber maturation.
The Drosophila insulin receptor (dInR) regulates cell growth and proliferation through the dPI3K/dAkt pathway, which is conserved in metazoan organisms. Here we report the identification and functional characterization of the Drosophila forkhead-related transcription factor dFOXO, a key component of the insulin signaling cascade. dFOXO is phosphorylated by dAkt upon insulin treatment, leading to cytoplasmic retention and inhibition of its transcriptional activity. Mutant dFOXO lacking dAkt phosphorylation sites no longer responds to insulin inhibition, remains in the nucleus, and is constitutively active. dFOXO activation in S2 cells induces growth arrest and activates two key players of the dInR/dPI3K/dAkt pathway: the translational regulator d4EBP and the dInR itself. Induction of d4EBP likely leads to growth inhibition by dFOXO, whereas activation of dInR provides a novel transcriptionally induced feedback control mechanism. Targeted expression of dFOXO in fly tissues regulates organ size by specifying cell number with no effect on cell size. Our results establish dFOXO as a key transcriptional regulator of the insulin pathway that modulates growth and proliferation.
Decades of research have uncovered much of the molecular machinery responsible for establishing and maintaining proper gene transcription patterns in eukaryotes. Although the composition of this machinery is largely known, mechanisms regulating its activity by covalent modification are just coming into focus. Here, we review several cases of ubiquitination, sumoylation, and acetylation that link specific covalent modification of the transcriptional apparatus to their regulatory function. We propose that potential cascades of modifications serve as molecular rheostats that fine-tune the control of transcription in diverse organisms.
Whole-genome sequence assemblies are now available for seven different animals, including nematode worms, mice and humans. Comparative genome analyses reveal a surprising constancy in genetic content: vertebrate genomes have only about twice the number of genes that invertebrate genomes have, and the increase is primarily due to the duplication of existing genes rather than the invention of new ones. How, then, has evolutionary diversity arisen? Emerging evidence suggests that organismal complexity arises from progressively more elaborate regulation of gene expression.
Bromodomains bind acetylated histone H4 peptides in vitro. Since many chromatin remodeling complexes and the general transcription factor TFIID contain bromodomains, they may link histone acetylation to increased transcription. Here we show that yeast Bdf1 bromodomains recognize endogenous acetyl-histone H3/H4 as a mechanism for chromatin association in vivo. Surprisingly, deletion of BDF1 or a Bdf1 mutation that abolishes histone binding leads to transcriptional downregulation of genes located at heterochromatin-euchromatin boundaries. Wild-type Bdf1 protein imposes a physical barrier to the spreading of telomere- and mating-locus-proximal SIR proteins. Biochemical experiments indicate that Bdf1 competes with the Sir2 deacetylase for binding to acetylated histone H4. These data suggest an active role for Bdf1 in euchromatin maintenance and antisilencing through a histone tail-encoded boundary function.
With increasingly detailed images of nuclear structures revealed by advanced microscopy, a remarkably compartmentalized cell nucleus has come into focus. Although this complex nuclear organization remains largely unexplored, some progress has been made in deciphering the functional aspects of various subnuclear structures, revealing how this elaborate framework can influence gene activation. Several recent studies have helped illustrate how cells might utilize the nuclear architecture as an additional level of transcriptional control, perhaps by targeting genes and regulatory factors to specific sites within the nucleus that are designated for active RNA synthesis.
Activation of gene transcription in mammalian cells requires several classes of coactivators that participate in different steps of the activation cascade. Using conventional and affinity chromatography, we have isolated a human coactivator complex that interacts directly with the C-terminal domain (CTD) of RNA polymerase II (Pol II). The CTD-binding complex is structurally and functionally indistinguishable from our previously isolated CRSP coactivator complex. The closely related, but transcriptionally inactive, ARC-L complex failed to interact with the CTD, indicating a significant biochemical difference between CRSP and ARC-L that may, in part, explain their functional divergence. Electron microscopy and three-dimensional single-particle reconstruction reveals a conformation for CTD-CRSP that is structurally distinct from unliganded CRSP or CRSP bound to SREBP-1a, but highly similar to CRSP bound to the VP16 activator. Together, our findings suggest that the human CRSP coactivator functions, at least in part, by mediating activator-dependent recruitment of RNA Pol II via the CTD.