The role of the CECR2 chromatin remodeling complex in mouse developmental gene regulation

  • Author / Creator
    Terpstra, Alaina N
  • Early mammalian development cannot progress without targeted temporal and spatial expression of genes. Changing the accessibility of DNA to transcriptional machinery is one critical way gene expression is controlled. This process, known as chromatin remodeling, is vital for formation of the embryonic neural tube and for spermatogenesis. Cecr2 is strongly expressed in the embryo, testicular germ-line stem cells, and embryonic stem (ES) cells. Mutations in mouse Cecr2 can lead to either the lethal neural tube defect exencephaly, analogous to human anencephaly, or a non-lethal subfertility phenotype.
    The CECR2 protein forms a chromatin remodeling complex named CERF (CECR2-containing Remodeling Factor) and immunoprecipitation analysis has revealed tissue-specific bin¬ding partners. In both ES cells and testis CECR2 binds SNF2H, a protein that drives remodeling. CECR2 interacts with LUZP1, a protein required for neurulation, in ES cells but not in the testis. CCAR2 was a recently identified member of CERF in ES cells, but its presence in the testis CERF complex was equivocal. To confirm and clarify the newest CERF complex members, LUZP1 and CCAR2, I used immunofluorescence to investigate spatial localization in testis and ES cells with CECR2. While results for LUZP1 were mainly inconclusive due to assay difficulties, I showed that CCAR2 is not a part of the CERF protein complex in testis as it is not present in the same cell type as CECR2.
    To understand the transcriptional effects of CECR2 loss, I used RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq). This identifies any misregulated genes, potentially revealing candidate genes or signaling pathways in Cecr2 mutant mice which may be involved in the exencephalic phenotype. It also allows us to compare to a previously performed chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-Seq) experiment which identified overlapping genomic binding sites for CECR2, SNF2H, and/or LUZP1 in ES cells. We hypothesize that CERF may be regulating gene expression as a chromatin remodeller. Together, these results may be used as a powerful comparative approach to determine if CECR2 acts as a direct transcriptional regulator.
    RNA-Seq on neurulating wildtype and mutant embryo heads revealed 143 misregulated genes, 102 of which were upregulated. I validated using qRT-PCR Aldh1a2, Cdh7, and Cyp26c1 as significantly downregulated, and Dbx1 and Kcna6 as significantly upregulated. Cdh7, Dbx1, and Kcna6 all had presumptive binding sites for CECR2 in the ChIP-Seq experiment. Aldh1a2 and Cyp26c1 are both involved in retinoic acid signaling, and mutations in Aldh1a2 cause exencephaly. Perhaps CERF plays a role in this important signaling pathway.
    I also looked at expression of ChIP-Seq candidate genes across many time points using qRT-PCR. My analysis found that Alx1, Lrp6, and Gli2 are significantly downregulated, and Nf1 is significantly upregulated in the neurulating embryo head. Mutations in all these genes leads to exencephaly, though whether this misregulation is real or an artifact since it was not seen in my RNA-Seq requires further analysis. I showed that the two transcription factors analyzed, Alx1 and Dbx1, were the only genes misregulated at all time points – from 12-14 somites, to 21+ somites. This may suggest that CECR2 in involved in the regulation of transcription factors, or factors which influence their transcription.
    I also found that Apob is significantly upregulated 3.5-fold in the 15-16 somite mutant embryo head, right after neurulation. This gene was also upregulated 2-fold in my RNA-Seq in the neurulating embryo head. Apob is an interesting candidate gene as homozygous mutants develop exencephaly. APOB is critical for clearing low density lipoprotein (LDL)/very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) from the blood plasma, and I suggest that perhaps this leads to a decrease in LRP6 receptors available to bind the WNT ligand and initiate PCP signaling. Lrp6 knockout mutants develop exencephaly, so it would be interesting to investigate the levels of LDL/VLDL in Cecr2 mutants.
    Overall, my research contributes to the overarching theme of cranial neurulation: it is a complex, dynamic process requiring incredible spatiotemporal coordination. Loss of CECR2 has a considerable impact in the mouse embryo, resulting in failure of the neural tube to close. I have provided some interesting candidate genes for further investigation, with our goal to elucidate how disruption of this process leads to lethal neural tube defects.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Science
  • DOI
  • License
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