skip to main content


The NSF Public Access Repository (NSF-PAR) system and access will be unavailable from 5:00 PM ET until 11:00 PM ET on Friday, June 21 due to maintenance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Title: Expression of Human Endogenous Retroviruses in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Multiomic Integration With Gene Expression
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by the production of autoantibodies predominantly to nuclear material. Many aspects of disease pathology are mediated by the deposition of nucleic acid containing immune complexes, which also induce the type 1interferon response, a characteristic feature of SLE. Notably, SLE is remarkably heterogeneous, with a variety of organs involved in different individuals, who also show variation in disease severity related to their ancestries. Here, we probed one potential contribution to disease heterogeneity as well as a possible source of immunoreactive nucleic acids by exploring the expression of human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs). We investigated the expression of HERVs in SLE and their potential relationship to SLE features and the expression of biochemical pathways, including the interferon gene signature (IGS). Towards this goal, we analyzed available and new RNA-Seq data from two independent whole blood studies using Telescope. We identified 481 locus specific HERV encoding regions that are differentially expressed between case and control individuals with only 14% overlap of differentially expressed HERVs between these two datasets. We identified significant differences between differentially expressed HERVs and non-differentially expressed HERVs between the two datasets. We also characterized the host differentially expressed genes and tested their association with the differentially expressed HERVs. We found that differentially expressed HERVs were significantly more physically proximal to host differentially expressed genes than non-differentially expressed HERVs. Finally, we capitalized on locus specific resolution of HERV mapping to identify key molecular pathways impacted by differential HERV expression in people with SLE.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Immunology
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Background

    Mammalian gonadal sex is determined by the presence or absence of a Y chromosome and the subsequent production of sex hormones contributes to secondary sexual differentiation. However, sex chromosome-linked genes encoding dosage-sensitive transcription and epigenetic factors are expressed well before gonad formation and have the potential to establish sex-biased expression that persists beyond the appearance of gonadal hormones. Here, we apply a comparative bioinformatics analysis on a pair of published single-cell datasets from mouse and human during very early embryogenesis—from two-cell to pre-implantation stages—to characterize sex-specific signals and to assess the degree of conservation among early acting sex-specific genes and pathways.


    Clustering and regression analyses of gene expression across samples reveal that sex initially plays a significant role in overall gene expression patterns at the earliest stages of embryogenesis which potentially may be the byproduct of signals from male and female gametes during fertilization. Although these transcriptional sex effects rapidly diminish, sex-biased genes appear to form sex-specific protein–protein interaction networks across pre-implantation stages in both mammals providing evidence that sex-biased expression of epigenetic enzymes may establish sex-specific patterns that persist beyond pre-implantation. Non-negative matrix factorization (NMF) on male and female transcriptomes generated clusters of genes with similar expression patterns across sex and developmental stages, including post-fertilization, epigenetic, and pre-implantation ontologies conserved between mouse and human. While the fraction of sex-differentially expressed genes (sexDEGs) in early embryonic stages is similar and functional ontologies are conserved, the genes involved are generally different in mouse and human.


    This comparative study uncovers much earlier than expected sex-specific signals in mouse and human embryos that pre-date hormonal signaling from the gonads. These early signals are diverged with respect to orthologs yet conserved in terms of function with important implications in the use of genetic models for sex-specific disease.

    more » « less
  2. INTRODUCTION Neurons are by far the most diverse of all cell types in animals, to the extent that “cell types” in mammalian brains are still mostly heterogeneous groups, and there is no consensus definition of the term. The Drosophila optic lobes, with approximately 200 well-defined cell types, provides a tractable system with which to address the genetic basis of neuronal type diversity. We previously characterized the distinct developmental gene expression program of each of these types using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq), with one-to-one correspondence to the known morphological types. RATIONALE The identity of fly neurons is determined by temporal and spatial patterning mechanisms in stem cell progenitors, but it remained unclear how these cell fate decisions are implemented and maintained in postmitotic neurons. It was proposed in Caenorhabditis elegans that unique combinations of terminal selector transcription factors (TFs) that are continuously expressed in each neuron control nearly all of its type-specific gene expression. This model implies that it should be possible to engineer predictable and complete switches of identity between different neurons just by modifying these sustained TFs. We aimed to test this prediction in the Drosophila visual system. RESULTS Here, we used our developmental scRNA-seq atlases to identify the potential terminal selector genes in all optic lobe neurons. We found unique combinations of, on average, 10 differentially expressed and stably maintained (across all stages of development) TFs in each neuron. Through genetic gain- and loss-of-function experiments in postmitotic neurons, we showed that modifications of these selector codes are sufficient to induce predictable switches of identity between various cell types. Combinations of terminal selectors jointly control both developmental (e.g., morphology) and functional (e.g., neurotransmitters and their receptors) features of neurons. The closely related Transmedullary 1 (Tm1), Tm2, Tm4, and Tm6 neurons (see the figure) share a similar code of terminal selectors, but can be distinguished from each other by three TFs that are continuously and specifically expressed in one of these cell types: Drgx in Tm1, Pdm3 in Tm2, and SoxN in Tm6. We showed that the removal of each of these selectors in these cell types reprograms them to the default Tm4 fate. We validated these conversions using both morphological features and molecular markers. In addition, we performed scRNA-seq to show that ectopic expression of pdm3 in Tm4 and Tm6 neurons converts them to neurons with transcriptomes that are nearly indistinguishable from that of wild-type Tm2 neurons. We also show that Drgx expression in Tm1 neurons is regulated by Klumpfuss, a TF expressed in stem cells that instructs this fate in progenitors, establishing a link between the regulatory programs that specify neuronal fates and those that implement them. We identified an intronic enhancer in the Drgx locus whose chromatin is specifically accessible in Tm1 neurons and in which Klu motifs are enriched. Genomic deletion of this region knocked down Drgx expression specifically in Tm1 neurons, leaving it intact in the other cell types that normally express it. We further validated this concept by demonstrating that ectopic expression of Vsx (visual system homeobox) genes in Mi15 neurons not only converts them morphologically to Dm2 neurons, but also leads to the loss of their aminergic identity. Our results suggest that selector combinations can be further sculpted by receptor tyrosine kinase signaling after neurogenesis, providing a potential mechanism for postmitotic plasticity of neuronal fates. Finally, we combined our transcriptomic datasets with previously generated chromatin accessibility datasets to understand the mechanisms that control brain wiring downstream of terminal selectors. We built predictive computational models of gene regulatory networks using the Inferelator framework. Experimental validations of these networks revealed how selectors interact with ecdysone-responsive TFs to activate a large and specific repertoire of cell surface proteins and other effectors in each neuron at the onset of synapse formation. We showed that these network models can be used to identify downstream effectors that mediate specific cellular decisions during circuit formation. For instance, reduced levels of cut expression in Tm2 neurons, because of its negative regulation by pdm3 , controls the synaptic layer targeting of their axons. Knockdown of cut in Tm1 neurons is sufficient to redirect their axons to the Tm2 layer in the lobula neuropil without affecting other morphological features. CONCLUSION Our results support a model in which neuronal type identity is primarily determined by a relatively simple code of continuously expressed terminal selector TFs in each cell type throughout development. Our results provide a unified framework of how specific fates are initiated and maintained in postmitotic neurons and open new avenues to understanding synaptic specificity through gene regulatory networks. The conservation of this regulatory logic in both C. elegans and Drosophila makes it likely that the terminal selector concept will also be useful in understanding and manipulating the neuronal diversity of mammalian brains. Terminal selectors enable predictive cell fate reprogramming. Tm1, Tm2, Tm4, and Tm6 neurons of the Drosophila visual system share a core set of TFs continuously expressed by each cell type (simplified). The default Tm4 fate is overridden by the expression of a single additional terminal selector to generate Tm1 ( Drgx ), Tm2 ( pdm3 ), or Tm6 ( SoxN ) fates. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract Background Transmissible cancers lie at the intersection of oncology and infectious disease, two traditionally divergent fields for which gene expression studies are particularly useful for identifying the molecular basis of phenotypic variation. In oncology, transcriptomics studies, which characterize the expression of thousands of genes, have identified processes leading to heterogeneity in cancer phenotypes and individual prognoses. More generally, transcriptomics studies of infectious diseases characterize interactions between host, pathogen, and environment to better predict population-level outcomes. Tasmanian devils have been impacted dramatically by a transmissible cancer (devil facial tumor disease; DFTD) that has led to widespread population declines. Despite initial predictions of extinction, populations have persisted at low levels, due in part to heterogeneity in host responses, particularly between sexes. However, the processes underlying this variation remain unknown. Results We sequenced transcriptomes from healthy and DFTD-infected devils, as well as DFTD tumors, to characterize host responses to DFTD infection, identify differing host-tumor molecular interactions between sexes, and investigate the extent to which tumor gene expression varies among host populations. We found minimal variation in gene expression of devil lip tissues, either with respect to DFTD infection status or sex. However, 4088 genes were differentially expressed in tumors among our sampling localities. Pathways that were up- or downregulated in DFTD tumors relative to normal tissues exhibited the same patterns of expression with greater intensity in tumors from localities that experienced DFTD for longer. No mRNA sequence variants were associated with expression variation. Conclusions Expression variation among localities may reflect morphological differences in tumors that alter ratios of normal-to-tumor cells within biopsies. Phenotypic variation in tumors may arise from environmental variation or differences in host immune response that were undetectable in lip biopsies, potentially reflecting variation in host-tumor coevolutionary relationships among sites that differ in the time since DFTD arrival. 
    more » « less
  4. Fudal, Isabelle ; Di Pietro, Antonio (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Differential growth conditions typically trigger global transcriptional responses in filamentous fungi. Such fungal responses to environmental cues involve epigenetic regulation, including chemical histone modifications. It has been proposed that conditionally expressed genes, such as those that encode secondary metabolites but also effectors in pathogenic species, are often associated with a specific histone modification, lysine27 methylation of H3 (H3K27me3). However, thus far, no analyses on the global H3K27me3 profiles have been reported under differential growth conditions in order to assess if H3K27me3 dynamics govern differential transcription. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) and RNA sequencing data from the plant-pathogenic fungus Verticillium dahliae grown in three in vitro cultivation media, we now show that a substantial number of the identified H3K27me3 domains globally display stable profiles among these growth conditions. However, we observe local quantitative differences in H3K27me3 ChIP-seq signals that are associated with a subset of differentially transcribed genes between media. Comparing the in vitro results to expression during plant infection suggests that in planta -induced genes may require chromatin remodeling to achieve expression. Overall, our results demonstrate that some loci display H3K27me3 dynamics associated with concomitant transcriptional variation, but many differentially expressed genes are associated with stable H3K27me3 domains. Thus, we conclude that while H3K27me3 is required for transcriptional repression, it does not appear that transcriptional activation requires the global erasure of H3K27me3. We propose that the H3K27me3 domains that do not undergo dynamic methylation may contribute to transcription through other mechanisms or may serve additional genomic regulatory functions. IMPORTANCE In many organisms, including filamentous fungi, epigenetic mechanisms that involve chemical and physical modifications of DNA without changing the genetic sequence have been implicated in transcriptional responses upon developmental or environmental cues. In fungi, facultative heterochromatin that can decondense to allow transcription in response to developmental changes or environmental stimuli is characterized by the trimethylation of lysine 27 on histone H3 (H3K27me3), and H3K27me3 has been implicated in transcriptional regulation, although the precise mechanisms and functions remain enigmatic. Based on ChIP and RNA sequencing data, we show for the soilborne broad-host-range vascular wilt plant-pathogenic fungus Verticillium dahliae that although some loci display H3K27me3 dynamics that can contribute to transcriptional variation, other loci do not show such a dependence. Thus, although we recognize that H3K27me3 is required for transcriptional repression, we also conclude that this mark is not a conditionally responsive global regulator of differential transcription upon responses to environmental cues. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Polyphenism allows organisms to respond to varying environmental conditions by adopting alternative collections of morphological traits, often leading to different reproductive strategies. In many insects, polyphenism affecting the development of flight trades dispersal ability for increased fecundity. The soapberry bug Jadera haematoloma (Hemiptera: Rhopalidae) exhibits wing polyphenism in response to juvenile nutritional resources and cohort density. Development of full-length wings and flight-capable thoracic muscles occurs more frequently in cohorts raised under low food density conditions, and these features are correlated to reduced female fecundity. Soapberry bugs represent an example of polyphenic dispersal-fecundity trade-off. Short-wing development is not sex-limited, and morphs can also differ in male fertility. We have previously shown, via a candidate gene approach, that manipulation of insulin signaling can alter the threshold for nutritional response and that changes in the activity of this pathway underlie, at least in part, differences in the polyphenic thresholds in different host-adapted populations of J. haematoloma. We now expand the examination of this system using transcriptome sequencing across a multidimensional matrix of life stage, tissue, sex, food density, and host population. We also examine the use of wing and thorax shape as factors modeling gene expression. In addition to insulin signaling, we find that components of the TOR, Hippo, Toll, and estrogen-related receptor pathways are differentially expressed in the thorax of polyphenic morphs. The transcription factor Sox14 was one of the few genes differentially expressed in the gonads of morphs, being up-regulated in ovaries. We identify two transcription factors as potential mediators of morph-specific male fertility differences. We also find that bugs respond to nutrient limitation with expression of genes linked to cuticle structure and spermatogenesis. These findings provide a broad perspective from which to view this nutrition-dependent polyphenism.

    more » « less