Functional characterization of the biological significance of the ZBED6/ZC3H11A locus in placental mammals

  • Date:
  • Location: B/B42, Biomedicinskt centrum (BMC), Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Younis, Shady
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Institutionen för medicinsk biokemi och mikrobiologi
  • Contact person: Younis, Shady
  • Disputation

The recent advances in molecular and computational biology have made possible the study of complicated transcriptional regulatory networks that control a wide range of biological processes and phenotypic traits. In this thesis, several approaches were combined including next generation sequencing, gene expression profiling, chromatin and RNA immunoprecipitation, bioinformatics and genome editing methods in order to characterize the biological significance of the ZBED6 and ZC3H11A genes.

A mutation in the binding site of ZBED6, located in an intron of IGF2, disrupts the binding and leads to 3-fold upregulation of IGF2 mRNA in pig muscle tissues. The first part of the thesis presents a detailed functional characterization of ZBED6. Transient silencing of ZBED6 expression in mouse myoblasts led to increased Igf2 expression (~2-fold). ChIP-seq analysis of ZBED6 and histone modifications showed that ZBED6 preferentially binds active promoters and modulates their transcriptional activities (paper I). In the follow-up studies using CRISPR/Cas9 we showed that either the deletion of ZBED6 or its binding site in Igf2 (Igf2ΔGGCT) led to more than 30-fold up-regulation of Igf2 expression in myoblasts. Differentiation of these genetically engineered cells resulted in hypertrophic myotubes. Transcriptome analysis revealed ~30% overlap between the differentially expressed genes in Zbed6-/- and Igf2ΔGGCT myotubes, with significant enrichment of muscle-specific genes. ZBED6-overexpression in myoblasts led to cell cycle arrest, reduced cell viability, reduced mitochondrial activities and impaired the differentiation of myoblasts (paper II). Further studies on cancer cells showed that ZBED6 influences the growth of colorectal cancer cells with dramatic changes in the transcription of hundreds of cancer-related genes (paper III). The phenotypic characterization of Zbed6-/- and Igf2pA/mG mouse models showed that the ZBED6-Igf2 axis has a major effect on regulating muscle growth and the growth of internal organs. Transcriptome analysis demonstrated a massive up-regulation of Igf2 expression (~30-fold) in adult tissues, but not in fetal tissues, of transgenic mice (paper IV).

In the second part of the thesis we investigated the cellular function of Zc3h11a, the gene harboring ZBED6 in one of its first introns. The function of the ZC3H11A protein is so far poorly characterized. We show that ZC3H11A is a novel stress-induced protein that is required for efficient mRNA export from the nucleus. The inactivation of ZC3H11A inhibited the growth of multiple viruses including HIV, influenza, HSV and adenoviruses (paper V).