Abstract: Epigenetics refers to a variety of processes that have heritable effects on gene expression programs without changes in DNA sequence. Key players in epigenetic control are chemical modifications to DNA, histone, and non-histone chromosomal proteins, which establish a complex regulatory network that controls genome function. Methylation of DNA at the fifth position of cytosine in CpG dinucleotides (5-methylcytosine, 5mC), which is carried out by DNA methyltransferases, is commonly associated with gene silencing. However, high resolution mapping of DNA methylation has revealed that 5mC is enriched in exonic nucleosomes and at intron-exon junctions, suggesting a role of DNA methylation in the relationship between elongation and RNA splicing. Recent studies have increased our knowledge of another modification of DNA, 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), which is a product of the ten-eleven translocation (TET) proteins converting 5mC to 5hmC. In this review, we will highlight current studies on the role of 5mC and 5hmC in regulating gene expression (using some aspects of brain development as examples). Further the roles of these modifications in detection of pathological states (type 2 diabetes, Rett syndrome, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and teratogen exposure) will be discussed.
Abstract: The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) is a ligand-activated transcription factor that regulates the expression of a diverse group of genes. Exogenous AHR ligands include the environmental contaminant 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD), which is a potent agonist, and the synthetic AHR antagonist N-2-(1H-indol-3yl)ethyl)-9-isopropyl-2- (5-methylpyridin-3-yl)-9H-purin-6-amine (GNF351). As no experimentally determined structure of the ligand binding domain exists, homology models have been utilized for virtual ligand screening (VLS) to search for novel ligands. Here, we have developed an “agonist-optimized” homology model of the human AHR ligand binding domain, and this model aided in the discovery of two human AHR agonists by VLS. In addition, we performed molecular dynamics simulations of an agonist TCDD-bound and antagonist GNF351-bound version of this model in order to gain insights into the mechanics of the AHR ligand-binding pocket. These simulations identified residues 307–329 as a flexible segment of the AHR ligand pocket that adopts discrete conformations upon agonist or antagonist binding. This flexible segment of the AHR may act as a structural switch that determines the agonist or antagonist activity of a given AHR ligand.
Abstract: Metabolism sustains life through enzyme-catalyzed chemical reactions within the cells of all organisms. The coupling of catalytic function to the structural organization of enzymes contributes to the kinetic optimization important to tissue-specific and whole-body function. This coupling is of paramount importance in the role that muscle plays in the success of Animalia. The structure and function of glycolytic enzyme complexes in anaerobic metabolism have long been regarded as a major regulatory element necessary for muscle activity and whole-body homeostasis. While the details of this complex remain to be elucidated through in vivo studies, this review will touch on recent studies that suggest the existence of such a complex and its structure. A potential model for glycolytic complexes and related subcomplexes is introduced.
Abstract: Fatigue is a common symptom of numerous acute and chronic diseases, including myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, heart failure, cancer, and many others. In these multi-system diseases the physiological determinants of enhanced fatigue encompass a combination of metabolic, neurological, and myofibrillar adaptations. Previous research studies have focused on adaptations specific to skeletal muscle and their role in fatigue. However, most have neglected the contribution of physical inactivity in assessing disease syndromes, which, through deconditioning, likely contributes to symptomatic fatigue. In this commentary, we briefly review disease-related muscle phenotypes in the context of whether they relate to the primary disease or whether they develop secondary to reduced physical activity. Knowledge of the etiology of the skeletal muscle adaptations in these conditions and their contribution to fatigue symptoms is important for understanding the utility of exercise rehabilitation as an intervention to alleviate the physiological precipitants of fatigue.
Abstract: The correct establishment and maintenance of DNA methylation patterns are critical for mammalian development and the control of normal cell growth and differentiation. DNA methylation has profound effects on the mammalian genome, including transcriptional repression, modulation of chromatin structure, X chromosome inactivation, genomic imprinting, and the suppression of the detrimental effects of repetitive and parasitic DNA sequences on genome integrity. Consistent with its essential role in normal cells and predominance at repetitive genomic regions, aberrant changes of DNA methylation patterns are a common feature of diseases with chromosomal and genomic instabilities. In this context, the functions of DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) can be affected by mutations or alterations of their expression. DNMT3B, which is involved in de novo methylation, is of particular interest not only because of its important role in development, but also because of its dysfunction in human diseases. Expression of catalytically inactive isoforms has been associated with cancer risk and germ line hypomorphic mutations with the ICF syndrome (Immunodeficiency Centromeric instability Facial anomalies). In these diseases, global genomic hypomethylation affects repeated sequences around centromeric regions, which make up large blocks of heterochromatin, and is associated with chromosome instability, impaired chromosome segregation and perturbed nuclear architecture. The review will focus on recent data about the function of DNMT3B, and the consequences of its deregulated activity on pathological DNA hypomethylation, including the illicit activation of germ line-specific genes and accumulation of transcripts originating from repeated satellite sequences, which may represent novel physiopathological biomarkers for human diseases. Notably, we focus on cancer and the ICF syndrome, pathological contexts in which hypomethylation has been extensively characterized. We also discuss the potential contribution of these deregulated protein-coding and non-coding transcription programs to the perturbation of cellular phenotypes.
Abstract: Since the cloning and discovery of DNA methyltransferases (DNMT), there has been a growing interest in DNA methylation, its role as an epigenetic modification, how it is established and removed, along with the implications in development and disease. In recent years, it has become evident that dynamic DNA methylation accompanies the circadian clock and is found at clock genes in Neurospora, mice and cancer cells. The relationship among the circadian clock, cancer and DNA methylation at clock genes suggests a correlative indication that improper DNA methylation may influence clock gene expression, contributing to the etiology of cancer. The molecular mechanism underlying DNA methylation at clock loci is best studied in the filamentous fungi, Neurospora crassa, and recent data indicate a mechanism analogous to the RNA-dependent DNA methylation (RdDM) or RNAi-mediated facultative heterochromatin. Although it is still unclear, DNA methylation at clock genes may function as a terminal modification that serves to prevent the regulated removal of histone modifications. In this capacity, aberrant DNA methylation may serve as a readout of misregulated clock genes and not as the causative agent. This review explores the implications of DNA methylation at clock loci and describes what is currently known regarding the molecular mechanism underlying DNA methylation at circadian clock genes.