The mammalian kidney is a complex organ consisting of multiple cell types. We previously showed that the Six2-expressing cap mesenchyme is a multipotent self-renewing progenitor population for the main body of the nephron, the basic functional unit of the kidney. However, the cellular mechanisms establishing stromal tissues are less clear. We demonstrate that the Foxd1-expressing cortical stroma represents a distinct multipotent self-renewing progenitor population that gives rise to stromal tissues of the interstitium, mesangium, and pericytes throughout kidney organogenesis. Fate map analysis of Foxd1-expressing cells demonstrates that a small subset of these cells contributes to Six2-expressing cells at the early stage of kidney outgrowth. Thereafter, there appears to be a strict nephron and stromal lineage boundary derived from Six2-expressing and Foxd1-expressing cell types, respectively. Taken together, our observations suggest that distinct multipotent self-renewing progenitor populations coordinate cellular differentiation of the nephron epithelium and renal stroma during mammalian kidney organogenesis.
X chromosome inactivation (XCI) is an epigenetic process that almost completely inactivates one of two X chromosomes in somatic cells of mammalian females. A few genes are known to escape XCI and the mechanism for this escape remains unclear. Here, using mouse trophoblast stem (TS) cells, we address whether particular chromosomal interactions facilitate escape from imprinted XCI. We demonstrate that promoters of genes escaping XCI do not congregate to any particular region of the genome in TS cells. Further, the escape status of a gene was uncorrelated with the types of genomic features and gene activity located in contacted regions. Our results suggest that genes escaping imprinted XCI do so by using the same regulatory sequences as their expressed alleles on the active X chromosome. We suggest a model where regulatory control of escape from imprinted XCI is mediated by genomic elements located in close linear proximity to escaping genes.
The ability to correlate chromosome conformation and gene expression gives a great deal of information regarding the strategies used by a cell to properly regulate gene activity. 4C-Seq is a relatively new and increasingly popular technology where the set of genomic interactions generated by a single point in the genome can be determined. 4C-Seq experiments generate large, complicated data sets and it is imperative that signal is properly distinguished from noise. Currently, there are a limited number of methods for analyzing 4C-Seq data. Here, we present a new method, fourSig, which in addition to being precise and simple to use also includes a new feature that prioritizes detected interactions. Our results demonstrate the efficacy of fourSig with previously published and novel 4C-Seq data sets and show that our significance prioritization correlates with the ability to reproducibly detect interactions among replicates.
The functional unit of the kidney is the nephron. During its organogenesis, the mammalian metanephric kidney generates thousands of nephrons over a protracted period of fetal life. All nephrons are derived from a population of self-renewing multi-potent progenitor cells, termed the cap mesenchyme. However, our understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying nephron development is at an early stage. In order to identify factors involved in nephrogenesis, we performed a high-resolution, spatial profiling of a number of transcriptional regulators expressed within the cap mesenchyme and early developing nephron. Our results demonstrate novel, stereotypic, spatially defined cellular sub-domains within the cap mesenchyme, which may, in part, reflect induction of nephron precursors. These results suggest a hitherto unappreciated complexity of cell states that accompany the assembly of the metanephric kidney, likely reflecting diverse regulatory actions such as the maintenance and induction of nephron progenitors.
The inactive X chromosomes (Xi) physical territory is microscopically devoid of transcriptional hallmarks and enriched in silencing-associated modifications. How these microscopic signatures relate to specific Xi sequences is unknown. Therefore, we profiled Xi gene expression and chromatin states at high resolution via allele-specific sequencing in mouse trophoblast stem cells. Most notably, X-inactivated transcription start sites harbored distinct epigenetic signatures relative to surrounding Xi DNA. These sites displayed H3-lysine27-trimethylation enrichment and DNaseI hypersensitivity, similar to autosomal Polycomb targets, yet excluded Pol II and other transcriptional hallmarks, similar to nontranscribed genes. CTCF bound X-inactivated and escaping genes, irrespective of measured chromatin boundaries. Escape from X inactivation occurred within, and X inactivation was maintained exterior to, the area encompassed by Xist in cells subject to imprinted and random X inactivation. The data support a model whereby inactivation of specific regulatory elements, rather than a simple chromosome-wide separation from transcription machinery, governs gene silencing over the Xi.
Epigenetic mechanisms are extensively utilized during mammalian development. Specific patterns of gene expression are established during cell fate decisions, maintained as differentiation progresses, and often augmented as more specialized cell types are required. Much of what is known about these mechanisms comes from the study of two distinct epigenetic phenomena: genomic imprinting and X-chromosome inactivation. In the case of genomic imprinting, alleles are expressed in a parent-of-origin-dependent manner, whereas X-chromosome inactivation in females requires that only one X chromosome is active in each somatic nucleus. As model systems for epigenetic regulation, genomic imprinting and X-chromosome inactivation have identified and elucidated the numerous regulatory mechanisms that function throughout the genome during development.
Proper regulation of X-linked gene expression, termed dosage compensation, is required for the normal development of mammalian embryos. Through the process of X chromosome inactivation (XCI), somatic cells of mammalian females inactivate one of their two X chromosomes in order to balance X-linked gene dosage with their male counterparts. The process of XCI is dependent upon the long non-coding RNA Xist, which is expressed from and coats the inactivated X chromosome (Xi) in cis. During mouse embryogenesis, imprinted XCI inactivates the paternally inherited X chromosome (Xp) within the extra-embryonic lineages. Consequently, females harboring a paternally derived Xist mutation (X/X(Xist-)) die owing to failure of imprinted XCI and, presumably, poor trophoblast development. Here, we investigate the consequence of two active X chromosomes in the extra-embryonic ectoderm (ExE) of X/X(Xist-) female embryos. At embryonic day (E) 6.5, we find that the X/X(Xist-) ExE lacks the transcriptional regulator CDX2, a factor required to maintain the ExE in a progenitor state. In addition, spongiotrophoblast progenitors are not maintained. Surprisingly, we observe evidence of an Xi in a subpopulation of X/X(Xist-) ExE cells. We demonstrate further that trophectodermal stem cells derived from X/X(Xist-) embryos completely reverse normal imprinted XCI patterns. Taken together, our data suggest that, much like in the cells of the epiblast, the initial imprint that establishes imprinted XCI is probably erased in ExE cells. Conversely, unlike the epiblast, in which XCI is not required for progenitor cell maintenance, we demonstrate that dosage compensation is indispensable for the maintenance of trophoblast progenitors.
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