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Title: Epigenetic regulation of key developmental genes during early mouse development
Author: Alder, Olivia A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2688 4692
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2009
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In undifferentiated ES cells, many Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) target genes carry not only repressive H3K27me3 but are also enriched for conventional indicators of active chromatin including methylated H3K4. This so-called bivalent domain structure is thought to silence key developmental regulators while keeping them poised for future activation (or repression). Consistent with this hypothesis, bivalent genes assemble RNAP II preferentially phosphorylated on Serine 5 residues (poised RNAP II) and are transcribed at low levels. Productive expression is, however, prevented by the action of PRC1. Here, I have focused on the pre-implantation stage of mouse development to evaluate whether bivalent or poised chromatin signatures are indeed specific attributes of emerging pluripotent cells and investigate how the fate of key developmental genes is specified while the first lineage decision event (extra-embryonic lineage formation) occurs. Using blastocyst-derived stem cells and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), I have shown that lineage-inappropriate genes retain bivalent histone marking in extra-embryonic trophoblast stem (TS). However, and in contrast to ES cells, PRC1 (Ring1B) and poised RNAP II are not recruited to these loci in TS cells, indicating that gene priming is a unique hallmark of pluripotent cells in the early embryo. To investigate the intricate relationship between lineage identity and dynamic chromatin changes, I exploited the potential to convert ES cells into trophoblast-like stem (TSL) cells using a previously established artificial system dependent on doxycycline (Dox) induced repression of an Oct4 transgene. I demonstrated that Suv39h1-mediated H3K9me3 alongside DNA methylation is targeted to PRC2-bound bivalent, lineage-inappropriate genes upon trophectoderm lineage commitment. A change in chromatin conformation was observed upon differentiation of ES cells to TSL cells comparable to that seen in TS cells derived in the traditional manner from the trophectoderm (TE) of blastocyst stage embryos. Most importantly, I have begun to explore when epigenetic differences are specified, at the locus level, from 8-cell stage embryos onwards using newly designed Carrier ChIP technology. This data validated the occurrence of bivalent chromatin domains in vivo and further support the view that alternative strategies operate in the TE to silence key developmental regulators upon blastocyst lineage segregation.
Supervisor: Azuara, Veronique Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral