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Title: Spatial organisation of the immunoglobulin heavy chain locus and inter-chromosomal gene networks driving B cell development
Author: Mielczarek, Olga
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 2283
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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B lymphocytes produce a wide array of antibodies to recognize a countless number of antigens. This highly diverse repertoire is produced during B cell development in the bone marrow from the immunoglobulin heavy chain (Igh) and light chain (Igk and Igl) loci. The mouse Igh is a large (~3Mb) multigene locus that contains 195 variable (V), 10 diversity (D) and 4 joining (J) genes that undergo developmentally regulated V(D)J recombination to produce the variable region of the antibody. Gene expression depends on spatial organisation of chromatin. To ensure that all V genes have a chance to recombine, they are brought into physical proximity to the D-J region by locus contraction and DNA looping. Not all V genes recombine with equal frequencies and we aim to investigate how dynamic changes in 3D structure of the Igh locus facilitate V(D)J recombination. Chromosome conformation capture techniques have revolutionised studies of genome conformation. I have applied a novel form of enriched Hi-C to study both intra-locus (cis) and genome-wide (trans) interactions of the immunoglobulin loci in pro-B and pre-B cells. This method provides a higher resolution than Hi-C and is less biased than 4C and 5C. I have mapped all cis interactions within the Igh locus to produce a comprehensive view of the structure of the locus prior to recombination. This approach has shown that the 3’ superanchor (3’CBEs) and the Intergenic Control Region 1 (IGCR1) containing CTCF sites are the two most interacting regions in the locus making long-range contacts with all V genes. A second major conformational feature is that the distal V genes form a large tightly looped domain forming the centre of mass of the locus to which the 3’CBEs and IGCR1 loop. Thanks to a collaboration on polymer modelling, 5000 single conformations were simulated based on the ensemble Hi-C data. This showed that every structure is different, supporting a model of dynamic and flexible organisation of the locus rather than hierarchical subdomains therein. Moreover, there is only a slight trend for V genes interacting more often with the D-J region to have higher recombination scores, supporting an ‘equal opportunity for all’ model in which participation of V genes in V(D)J recombination is not constrained by linear genomic distance from the DJ region. Nevertheless, CTCF binding level does contribute to V gene recombination frequency. I have also discovered that Igh and Igk loci participate in a highly specialised network of genome-wide (trans) interactions involving genes encoding B cell-specific factors essential for activation and maintenance of B cell identity, including Pax5, Foxo1, Ebf1, and Runx1. I have validated these by 3D DNA FISH and found that at the pro-B cell stage the Igh is involved in many trans interactions, whereas Igk does not make any contacts. In contrast, Igk gains numerous trans interactions at the pre-B cell stage, many of which overlap with the interactions Igh participates in at both developmental stages. Together, these findings reveal a complex developmentally regulated orchestration of genome conformation changes that underpins B cell development.
Supervisor: Corcoran, Anne Sponsor: MRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: B cell development ; chromosome conformation ; Igh locus