July 19, 2019  |  

DNA methylation on N(6)-adenine in mammalian embryonic stem cells.

It has been widely accepted that 5-methylcytosine is the only form of DNA methylation in mammalian genomes. Here we identify N(6)-methyladenine as another form of DNA modification in mouse embryonic stem cells. Alkbh1 encodes a demethylase for N(6)-methyladenine. An increase of N(6)-methyladenine levels in Alkbh1-deficient cells leads to transcriptional silencing. N(6)-methyladenine deposition is inversely correlated with the evolutionary age of LINE-1 transposons; its deposition is strongly enriched at young (<1.5 million years old) but not old (>6 million years old) L1 elements. The deposition of N(6)-methyladenine correlates with epigenetic silencing of such LINE-1 transposons, together with their neighbouring enhancers and genes, thereby resisting the gene activation signals during embryonic stem cell differentiation. As young full-length LINE-1 transposons are strongly enriched on the X chromosome, genes located on the X chromosome are also silenced. Thus, N(6)-methyladenine developed a new role in epigenetic silencing in mammalian evolution distinct from its role in gene activation in other organisms. Our results demonstrate that N(6)-methyladenine constitutes a crucial component of the epigenetic regulation repertoire in mammalian genomes.

July 19, 2019  |  

Polylox barcoding reveals haematopoietic stem cell fates realized in vivo.

Developmental deconvolution of complex organs and tissues at the level of individual cells remains challenging. Non-invasive genetic fate mapping has been widely used, but the low number of distinct fluorescent marker proteins limits its resolution. Much higher numbers of cell markers have been generated using viral integration sites, viral barcodes, and strategies based on transposons and CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing; however, temporal and tissue-specific induction of barcodes in situ has not been achieved. Here we report the development of an artificial DNA recombination locus (termed Polylox) that enables broadly applicable endogenous barcoding based on the Cre-loxP recombination system. Polylox recombination in situ reaches a practical diversity of several hundred thousand barcodes, allowing tagging of single cells. We have used this experimental system, combined with fate mapping, to assess haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) fates in vivo. Classical models of haematopoietic lineage specification assume a tree with few major branches. More recently, driven in part by the development of more efficient single-cell assays and improved transplantation efficiencies, different models have been proposed, in which unilineage priming may occur in mice and humans at the level of HSCs. We have introduced barcodes into HSC progenitors in embryonic mice, and found that the adult HSC compartment is a mosaic of embryo-derived HSC clones, some of which are unexpectedly large. Most HSC clones gave rise to multilineage or oligolineage fates, arguing against unilineage priming, and suggesting coherent usage of the potential of cells in a clone. The spreading of barcodes, both after induction in embryos and in adult mice, revealed a basic split between common myeloid-erythroid development and common lymphocyte development, supporting the long-held but contested view of a tree-like haematopoietic structure.

July 7, 2019  |  

Dual functions of Macpiwi1 in transposon silencing and stem cell maintenance in the flatworm Macrostomum lignano.

PIWI proteins and piRNA pathways are essential for transposon silencing and some aspects of gene regulation during animal germline development. In contrast to most animal species, some flatworms also express PIWIs and piRNAs in somatic stem cells, where they are required for tissue renewal and regeneration. Here, we have identified and characterized piRNAs and PIWI proteins in the emerging model flatworm Macrostomum lignano. We found that M. lignano encodes at least three PIWI proteins. One of these, Macpiwi1, acts as a key component of the canonical piRNA pathway in the germline and in somatic stem cells. Knockdown of Macpiwi1 dramatically reduces piRNA levels, derepresses transposons, and severely impacts stem cell maintenance. Knockdown of the piRNA biogenesis factor Macvasa caused an even greater reduction in piRNA levels with a corresponding increase in transposons. Yet, in Macvasa knockdown animals, we detected no major impact on stem cell self-renewal. These results may suggest stem cell maintenance functions of PIWI proteins in flatworms that are distinguishable from their impact on transposons and that might function independently of what are considered canonical piRNA populations.© 2015 Zhou et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press for the RNA Society.

July 7, 2019  |  

Sensitive and specific single-molecule sequencing of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine.

We describe strand-specific, base-resolution detection of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC) in genomic DNA with single-molecule sensitivity, combining a bioorthogonal, selective chemical labeling method of 5-hmC with single-molecule, real-time (SMRT) DNA sequencing. The chemical labeling not only allows affinity enrichment of 5-hmC-containing DNA fragments but also enhances the kinetic signal of 5-hmC during SMRT sequencing. We applied the approach to sequence 5-hmC in a genomic DNA sample with high confidence.

July 7, 2019  |  

Genome editing in human pluripotent stem cells: approaches, pitfalls, and solutions.

Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) with knockout or mutant alleles can be generated using custom-engineered nucleases. Transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9 nucleases are the most commonly employed technologies for editing hPSC genomes. In this Protocol Review, we provide a brief overview of custom-engineered nucleases in the context of gene editing in hPSCs with a focus on the application of TALENs and CRISPR/Cas9. We will highlight the advantages and disadvantages of each method and discuss theoretical and technical considerations for experimental design. Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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