A Mouse Mutation That Dysregulates Neighboring Galnt17 and Auts2 Genes Is Associated with Phenotypes Related to the Human AUTS2 Syndrome.

Weisner PA, Chen CY, Sun Y, Yoo J, Kao WC, Zhang H, Baltz ET, Troy JMStubbs L


AUTS2 was originally discovered as the gene disrupted by a translocation in human twins with Autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, and epilepsy. Since that initial finding, AUTS2-linked mutations and variants have been associated with a very broad array of neuropsychiatric disorders, suggesting that AUTS2 is required for fundamental steps of neurodevelopment. However, genotype-phenotype correlations in this region are complicated, because most mutations could also involve neighboring genes. Of particular interest is the nearest downstream neighbor of AUTS2,GALNT17, which encodes a brain-expressed N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase of unknown brain function. Here we describe a mouse (Mus musculus) mutation, T(5G2;8A1)GSO (abbreviated 16Gso), a reciprocal translocation that breaks between Auts2 and Galnt17 and dysregulates both genes. Despite this complex regulatory effect, 16Gso homozygotes model certain human AUTS2-linked phenotypes very well. In addition to abnormalities in growth, craniofacial structure, learning and memory, and behavior, 16Gso homozygotes display distinct pathologies of the cerebellum and hippocampus that are similar to those associated with autism and other types of AUTS2-linked neurological disease. Analyzing mutant cerebellar and hippocampal transcriptomes to explain this pathology, we identified disturbances in pathways related to neuron and synapse maturation, neurotransmitter signaling, and cellular stress, suggesting possible cellular mechanisms. These pathways, coupled with the translocation’s selective effects on Auts2 isoforms and coordinated dysregulation of Galnt17, suggest novel hypotheses regarding the etiology of the human “AUTS2 syndrome” and the wide array of neurodevelopmental disorders linked to variance in this genomic region.

Read more at G3

An extended regulatory landscape drives Tbx18 activity in a variety of prostate-associated cell lineages.

Negi S, Bolt CC, Zhang HStubbs L


The evolutionarily conserved transcription factor, Tbx18, is expressed in a dynamic pattern throughout embryonic and early postnatal life and plays crucial roles in the development of multiple organ systems. Previous studies have indicated that this dynamic function is controlled by an expansive regulatory structure, extending far upstream and downstream of the gene. With the goal of identifying elements that interact with the Tbx18 promoter in developing prostate, we coupled chromatin conformation capture (4C) and ATAC-seq from embryonic day 18.5 (E18.5) mouse urogenital sinus (UGS), where Tbx18 is highly expressed. The data revealed dozens of active chromatin elements distributed throughout a 1.5 million base pair topologically associating domain (TAD). To identify cell types contributing to this chromatin signal, we used lineage tracing methods with a Tbx18 Cre “knock-in” allele; these data show clearly that Tbx18-expressing precursors differentiate into wide array of cell types in multiple tissue compartments, most of which have not been previously reported. We also used a 209 kb Cre-expressing Tbx18 transgene, to partition enhancers for specific precursor types into two rough spatial domains. Within this central 209 kb compartment, we identified ECR1, previously described to regulate Tbx18 expression in ureter, as an active regulator of UGS expression. Together these data define the diverse fates of Tbx18+ precursors in prostate-associated tissues for the first time, and identify a highly active TAD controlling the gene’s essential function in this tissue.

Read More at Developmental Biology

Honey bee neurogenomic responses to affiliative and agonistic social interactions

Hagai Y. Shpigler, Michael C. Saul, Emma E. Murdoch, Frida Corona, Amy C. Cash‐Ahmed, Christopher H. Seward, Sriram Chandrasekaran, Lisa J. Stubbs, Gene E. Robinson


Social interactions can be divided into two categories, affiliative and agonistic. How neurogenomic responses reflect these opposing valences is a central question in the biological embedding of experience. To address this question, we exposed honey bees to a queen larva, which evokes nursing, an affiliative alloparenting interaction, and measured the transcriptomic response of the mushroom body brain region at different times after exposure. Hundreds of genes were differentially expressed at distinct time points, revealing a dynamic temporal patterning of the response. Comparing these results to our previously published research on agonistic aggressive interactions, we found both shared and unique transcriptomic responses to each interaction. The commonly responding gene set was enriched for nuclear receptor signaling, the set specific to nursing was enriched for olfaction and neuron differentiation, and the set enriched for aggression was enriched for cytoskeleton, metabolism, and chromosome organization. Whole brain histone profiling after the affiliative interaction revealed few changes in chromatin accessibility, suggesting that the transcriptomic changes derive from already accessible areas of the genome. Although only one stimulus of each type was studied, we suggest that elements of the observed transcriptomic responses reflect molecular encoding of stimulus valence, thus priming individuals for future encounters. This hypothesis is supported by behavioral analyses showing that bees responding to either the affiliative or agonistic stimulus exhibited a higher probability of repeating the same behavior but a lower probability of performing the opposite behavior. These findings add to our understanding of the biological embedding at the molecular level.

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Cross‐species systems analysis of evolutionary toolkits of neurogenomic response to social challenge

Michael C. SaulCharles BlattiWei YangSyed Abbas BukhariHagai Y. ShpiglerJoseph M. TroyChristopher H. SewardLaura G. SloofmanSriram ChandrasekaranAlison M. BellLisa J. StubbsGene E. RobinsonSihai Dave ZhaoSaurabh Sinha


Social challenges like territorial intrusions evoke behavioral responses in widely diverging species. Recent work has showed that evolutionary “toolkits”-genes and modules with lineage-specific variations but deep conservation of function-participate in the behavioral response to social challenge. Here, we develop a multispecies computational-experimental approach to characterize such a toolkit at a systems level. Brain transcriptomic responses to social challenge was probed via RNA-seq profiling in three diverged species-honey bees, mice and three-spined stickleback fish-following a common methodology, allowing fair comparisons across species. Data were collected from multiple brain regions and multiple time points after social challenge exposure, achieving anatomical and temporal resolution substantially greater than previous work. We developed statistically rigorous analyses equipped to find homologous functional groups among these species at the levels of individual genes, functional and coexpressed gene modules, and transcription factor subnetworks. We identified six orthogroups involved in response to social challenge, including groups represented by mouse genes Npas4 and Nr4a1, as well as common modulation of systems such as transcriptional regulators, ion channels, G-protein-coupled receptors and synaptic proteins. We also identified conserved coexpression modules enriched for mitochondrial fatty acid metabolism and heat shock that constitute the shared neurogenomic response. Our analysis suggests a toolkit wherein nuclear receptors, interacting with chaperones, induce transcriptional changes in mitochondrial activity, neural cytoarchitecture and synaptic transmission after social challenge. It shows systems-level mechanisms that have been repeatedly co-opted during evolution of analogous behaviors, thus advancing the genetic toolkit concept beyond individual genes.


Temporal dynamics of neurogenomic plasticity in response to social interactions in male threespined sticklebacks

Syed Abbas Bukhari, Michael C. Saul, Christopher H. Seward, Huimin Zhang, Miles Bensky, Noelle James, Sihai Dave Zhao, Sriram Chandrasekaran, Lisa Stubbs, Alison M. Bell

Animals exhibit dramatic immediate behavioral plasticity in response to social interactions, and brief social interactions can shape the future social landscape. However, the molecular mechanisms contributing to behavioral plasticity are unclear. Here, we show that the genome dynamically responds to social interactions with multiple waves of transcription associated with distinct molecular functions in the brain of male threespined sticklebacks, a species famous for its behavioral repertoire and evolution. Some biological functions (e.g., hormone activity) peaked soon after a brief territorial challenge and then declined, while others (e.g., immune response) peaked hours afterwards. We identify transcription factors that are predicted to coordinate waves of transcription associated with different components of behavioral plasticity. Next, using H3K27Ac as a marker of chromatin accessibility, we show that a brief territorial intrusion was sufficient to cause rapid and dramatic changes in the epigenome. Finally, we integrate the time course brain gene expression data with a transcriptional regulatory network, and link gene expression to changes in chromatin accessibility. This study reveals rapid and dramatic epigenomic plasticity in response to a brief, highly consequential social interaction.


Transcriptional regulatory dynamics drive coordinated metabolic and neural response to social challenge in mice

Michael Saul*, Christopher H Seward*, Joseph M Troy, Huimin Zhang, Laura G Sloofman, Xiaochen Lu, Patricia A Weisner, Derek Caetano-Anolles, Hao Sun, Sihai D Zhao, Sriram Chandrasekaran, Saurabh Sinha and Lisa Stubbs

Agonistic encounters are powerful effectors of future behavior, and the ability to learn from this type of social challenge is an essential adaptive trait. We recently identified a conserved transcriptional program defining the response to social challenge across animal species, highly enriched in transcription factor (TF), energy metabolism, and developmental signaling genes. To understand the trajectory of this program and to uncover the most important regulatory influences controlling this response, we integrated gene expression data with the chromatin landscape in hypothalamus, frontal cortex, and amygdala of socially challenged mice over time. The expression data revealed a complex spatiotemporal patterning of events starting with neural signaling molecules in the frontal cortex and ending in the modulation of developmental factors in the amygdala and hypothalamus, underpinned by a systems-wide shift in expression of energy metabolism-related genes. The transcriptional signals were correlated with significant shifts in chromatin accessibility and a network of challenge-associated TFs. Among these, the conserved metabolic and developmental regulator ESRRA was highlighted for an especially early and important regulatory role. Cell-type deconvolution analysis attributed the differential metabolic and developmental signals in this social context primarily to oligodendrocytes and neurons respectively, and we show that ESRRA is expressed in both cell types. Localizing ESRRA binding sites in cortical chromatin, we show that this nuclear receptor binds both differentially expressed energy-related and neurodevelopmental TF genes. These data link metabolic and neurodevelopmental signaling to social challenge, and identify key regulatory drivers of this process with unprecedented tissue and temporal resolution.

Read more @ Genome Research

Behavioral, transcriptomic and epigenetic responses to social challenge in honey bees

H. Y. Shpigler, M. C. Saul, E. E. Murdoch, A. C. Cash-Ahmed, C. H. Seward, L. Sloofman, S. Chandrasekaran, S. Sinha, L. J. Stubbs, G. E. Robinson

Understanding how social experiences are represented in the brain and shape future responses is a major challenge in the study of behavior. We addressed this problem by studying behavioral, transcriptomic and epigenetic responses to intrusion in honey bees. Previous research showed that initial exposure to an intruder provokes an immediate attack; we now show that this also leads to longer-term changes in behavior in the response to a second intruder, with increases in the probability of responding aggressively and the intensity of aggression lasting 2 and 1 h, respectively. Previous research also documented the whole-brain transcriptomic response; we now show that in the mushroom bodies (MBs) there are 2 waves of gene expression, the first highlighted by genes related to cytoskeleton remodeling, and the second highlighted by genes related to hormones, stress response and transcription factors (TFs). Overall, 16 of 37 (43%) of the TFs whose cis-motifs were enriched in the promoters of the differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were also predicted from transcriptional regulatory network analysis to regulate the MB transcriptional response, highlighting the strong role played by a relatively small subset of TFs in the MB’s transcriptomic response to social challenge. Whole brain histone profiling showed few changes in chromatin accessibility in response to social challenge; most DEGs were ‘ready’ to be activated. These results show how biological embedding of a social challenge involves temporally dynamic changes in the neurogenomic state of a prominent region of the insect brain that are likely to influence future behavior.

Read More: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gbb.12379

Tbx18 Regulates the Differentiation of Periductal Smooth Muscle Stroma and the Maintenance of Epithelial Integrity in the Prostate

Bolt CC, Negi S, Guimarães-Camboa N, Zhang H, Troy JM, Lu X, et al. (2016) Tbx18 Regulates the Differentiation of Periductal Smooth Muscle Stroma and the Maintenance of Epithelial Integrity in the Prostate. PLoS ONE 11(4): e0154413. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154413 @PLOSone

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Neuromolecular responses to social challenge: Common mechanisms across mouse, stickleback fish, and honey bee

Rittschof CC, Bukhari SA, Sloofman LG, Troy JM, Caetano-Anollés D, Cash-Ahmed A, Kent M, Lu X, Sanogo YO, Weisner PA, Zhang H, Bell AM, Ma J, Sinha S, Robinson GE, Stubbs L. Neuromolecular responses to social challenge: Common mechanisms across mouse, stickleback fish, and honey bee. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Dec 1. pii: 201420369. PubMed PMID: 25453090. @PubMed

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