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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Open Access Policy Deposits

This series is automatically populated with publications deposited by UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine Department of Biological Chemistry researchers in accordance with the University of California’s open access policies. For more information see Open Access Policy Deposits and the UC Publication Management System.

Electrostatic sheathing of lipoprotein lipase is essential for its movement across capillary endothelial cells.


GPIHBP1, an endothelial cell (EC) protein, captures lipoprotein lipase (LPL) within the interstitial spaces (where it is secreted by myocytes and adipocytes) and transports it across ECs to its site of action in the capillary lumen. GPIHBP1's 3-fingered LU domain is required for LPL binding, but the function of its acidic domain (AD) has remained unclear. We created mutant mice lacking the AD and found severe hypertriglyceridemia. As expected, the mutant GPIHBP1 retained the capacity to bind LPL. Unexpectedly, however, most of the GPIHBP1 and LPL in the mutant mice was located on the abluminal surface of ECs (explaining the hypertriglyceridemia). The GPIHBP1-bound LPL was trapped on the abluminal surface of ECs by electrostatic interactions between the large basic patch on the surface of LPL and negatively charged heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) on the surface of ECs. GPIHBP1 trafficking across ECs in the mutant mice was normalized by disrupting LPL-HSPG electrostatic interactions with either heparin or an AD peptide. Thus, GPIHBP1's AD plays a crucial function in plasma triglyceride metabolism; it sheathes LPL's basic patch on the abluminal surface of ECs, thereby preventing LPL-HSPG interactions and freeing GPIHBP1-LPL complexes to move across ECs to the capillary lumen.

A mammalian methylation array for profiling methylation levels at conserved sequences.


Infinium methylation arrays are not available for the vast majority of non-human mammals. Moreover, even if species-specific arrays were available, probe differences between them would confound cross-species comparisons. To address these challenges, we developed the mammalian methylation array, a single custom array that measures up to 36k CpGs per species that are well conserved across many mammalian species. We designed a set of probes that can tolerate specific cross-species mutations. We annotate the array in over 200 species and report CpG island status and chromatin states in select species. Calibration experiments demonstrate the high fidelity in humans, rats, and mice. The mammalian methylation array has several strengths: it applies to all mammalian species even those that have not yet been sequenced, it provides deep coverage of conserved cytosines facilitating the development of epigenetic biomarkers, and it increases the probability that biological insights gained in one species will translate to others.

Integrative analysis reveals multiple modes of LXR transcriptional regulation in liver.


The nuclear receptors liver X receptor (LXR) α and β play crucial roles in hepatic metabolism. Many genes induced in response to pharmacologic LXR agonism have been defined; however, the transcriptional consequences of loss of LXR binding to its genomic targets are less well characterized. Here, we addressed how deletion of both LXRα and LXRβ from mouse liver (LXR double knockout [DKO]) affects the transcriptional regulatory landscape by integrating changes in LXR binding, chromatin accessibility, and gene expression. Many genes involved in fatty acid metabolism showed reduced expression and chromatin accessibility at their intergenic and intronic regions in LXRDKO livers. Genes that were up-regulated with LXR deletion had increased chromatin accessibility at their promoter regions and were enriched for functions not linked to lipid metabolism. Loss of LXR binding in liver reduced the activity of a broad set of hepatic transcription factors, inferred through changes in motif accessibility. By contrast, accessibility at promoter nuclear factor Y (NF-Y) motifs was increased in the absence of LXR. Unexpectedly, we also defined a small set of LXR targets for direct ligand-dependent repression. These genes have LXR-binding sites but showed increased expression in LXRDKO liver and reduced expression in response to the LXR agonist. In summary, the binding of LXRs to the hepatic genome has broad effects on the transcriptional landscape that extend beyond its canonical function as an activator of lipid metabolic genes.

Cardiomyocytes disrupt pyrimidine biosynthesis in nonmyocytes to regulate heart repair.


Various populations of cells are recruited to the heart after cardiac injury, but little is known about whether cardiomyocytes directly regulate heart repair. Using a murine model of ischemic cardiac injury, we demonstrate that cardiomyocytes play a pivotal role in heart repair by regulating nucleotide metabolism and fates of nonmyocytes. Cardiac injury induced the expression of the ectonucleotidase ectonucleotide pyrophosphatase/phosphodiesterase 1 (ENPP1), which hydrolyzes extracellular ATP to form AMP. In response to AMP, cardiomyocytes released adenine and specific ribonucleosides that disrupted pyrimidine biosynthesis at the orotidine monophosphate (OMP) synthesis step and induced genotoxic stress and p53-mediated cell death of cycling nonmyocytes. As nonmyocytes are critical for heart repair, we showed that rescue of pyrimidine biosynthesis by administration of uridine or by genetic targeting of the ENPP1/AMP pathway enhanced repair after cardiac injury. We identified ENPP1 inhibitors using small molecule screening and showed that systemic administration of an ENPP1 inhibitor after heart injury rescued pyrimidine biosynthesis in nonmyocyte cells and augmented cardiac repair and postinfarct heart function. These observations demonstrate that the cardiac muscle cell regulates pyrimidine metabolism in nonmuscle cells by releasing adenine and specific nucleosides after heart injury and provide insight into how intercellular regulation of pyrimidine biosynthesis can be targeted and monitored for augmenting tissue repair.

The role of ATXR6 expression in modulating genome stability and transposable element repression in Arabidopsis.


ARABIDOPSIS TRITHORAX-RELATED PROTEIN 5 (ATXR5) AND ATXR6 are required for the deposition of H3K27me1 and for maintaining genomic stability in Arabidopsis Reduction of ATXR5/6 activity results in activation of DNA damage response genes, along with tissue-specific derepression of transposable elements (TEs), chromocenter decompaction, and genomic instability characterized by accumulation of excess DNA from heterochromatin. How loss of ATXR5/6 and H3K27me1 leads to these phenotypes remains unclear. Here we provide extensive characterization of the atxr5/6 hypomorphic mutant by comprehensively examining gene expression and epigenetic changes in the mutant. We found that the tissue-specific phenotypes of TE derepression and excessive DNA in this atxr5/6 mutant correlated with residual ATXR6 expression from the hypomorphic ATXR6 allele. However, up-regulation of DNA damage genes occurred regardless of ATXR6 levels and thus appears to be a separable process. We also isolated an atxr6-null allele which showed that ATXR5 and ATXR6 are required for female germline development. Finally, we characterize three previously reported suppressors of the hypomorphic atxr5/6 mutant and show that these rescue atxr5/6 via distinct mechanisms, two of which involve increasing H3K27me1 levels.

Benchmarking the ideal sample thickness in cryo-EM.


The relationship between sample thickness and quality of data obtained is investigated by microcrystal electron diffraction (MicroED). Several electron microscopy (EM) grids containing proteinase K microcrystals of similar sizes from the same crystallization batch were prepared. Each grid was transferred into a focused ion beam and a scanning electron microscope in which the crystals were then systematically thinned into lamellae between 95- and 1,650-nm thick. MicroED data were collected at either 120-, 200-, or 300-kV accelerating voltages. Lamellae thicknesses were expressed in multiples of the corresponding inelastic mean free path to allow the results from different acceleration voltages to be compared. The quality of the data and subsequently determined structures were assessed using standard crystallographic measures. Structures were reliably determined with similar quality from crystalline lamellae up to twice the inelastic mean free path. Lower resolution diffraction was observed at three times the mean free path for all three accelerating voltages, but the data quality was insufficient to yield structures. Finally, no coherent diffraction was observed from lamellae thicker than four times the calculated inelastic mean free path. This study benchmarks the ideal specimen thickness with implications for all cryo-EM methods.

The Human Proteoform Project: Defining the human proteome.


Proteins are the primary effectors of function in biology, and thus, complete knowledge of their structure and properties is fundamental to deciphering function in basic and translational research. The chemical diversity of proteins is expressed in their many proteoforms, which result from combinations of genetic polymorphisms, RNA splice variants, and posttranslational modifications. This knowledge is foundational for the biological complexes and networks that control biology yet remains largely unknown. We propose here an ambitious initiative to define the human proteome, that is, to generate a definitive reference set of the proteoforms produced from the genome. Several examples of the power and importance of proteoform-level knowledge in disease-based research are presented along with a call for improved technologies in a two-pronged strategy to the Human Proteoform Project.

Paths and pathways that generate cell-type heterogeneity and developmental progression in hematopoiesis.


Mechanistic studies of Drosophila lymph gland hematopoiesis are limited by the availability of cell-type-specific markers. Using a combination of bulk RNA-Seq of FACS-sorted cells, single-cell RNA-Seq, and genetic dissection, we identify new blood cell subpopulations along a developmental trajectory with multiple paths to mature cell types. This provides functional insights into key developmental processes and signaling pathways. We highlight metabolism as a driver of development, show that graded Pointed expression allows distinct roles in successive developmental steps, and that mature crystal cells specifically express an alternate isoform of Hypoxia-inducible factor (Hif/Sima). Mechanistically, the Musashi-regulated protein Numb facilitates Sima-dependent non-canonical, and inhibits canonical, Notch signaling. Broadly, we find that prior to making a fate choice, a progenitor selects between alternative, biologically relevant, transitory states allowing smooth transitions reflective of combinatorial expressions rather than stepwise binary decisions. Increasingly, this view is gaining support in mammalian hematopoiesis.

The role of MORC3 in silencing transposable elements in mouse embryonic stem cells.



Microrchidia proteins (MORCs) are involved in epigenetic gene silencing in a variety of eukaryotic organisms. Deletion of MORCs result in several developmental abnormalities and their dysregulation has been implicated in developmental disease and multiple cancers. Specifically, mammalian MORC3 mutations are associated with immune system defects and human cancers such as bladder, uterine, stomach, lung, and diffuse large B cell lymphomas. While previous studies have shown that MORC3 binds to H3K4me3 in vitro and overlaps with H3K4me3 ChIP-seq peaks in mouse embryonic stem cells, the mechanism by which MORC3 regulates gene expression is unknown.


In this study, we identified that mutation in Morc3 results in a suppressor of variegation phenotype in a Modifiers of murine metastable epialleles Dominant (MommeD) screen. We also find that MORC3 functions as an epigenetic silencer of transposable elements (TEs) in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs). Loss of Morc3 results in upregulation of TEs, specifically those belonging to the LTR class of retrotransposons also referred to as endogenous retroviruses (ERVs). Using ChIP-seq we found that MORC3, in addition to its known localization at H3K4me3 sites, also binds to ERVs, suggesting a direct role in regulating their expression. Previous studies have shown that these ERVs are marked by the repressive histone mark H3K9me3 which plays a key role in their silencing. However, we found that levels of H3K9me3 showed only minor losses in Morc3 mutant mES cells. Instead, we found that loss of Morc3 resulted in increased chromatin accessibility at ERVs as measured by ATAC-seq.


Our results reveal MORC3 as a novel regulator of ERV silencing in mouse embryonic stem cells. The relatively minor changes of H3K9me3 in the Morc3 mutant suggests that MORC3 acts mainly downstream of, or in a parallel pathway with, the TRIM28/SETDB1 complex that deposits H3K9me3 at these loci. The increased chromatin accessibility of ERVs in the Morc3 mutant suggests that MORC3 may act at the level of chromatin compaction to effect TE silencing.

Cover page of Identification of neural oscillations and epileptiform changes in human brain organoids.

Identification of neural oscillations and epileptiform changes in human brain organoids.


Brain organoids represent a powerful tool for studying human neurological diseases, particularly those that affect brain growth and structure. However, many diseases manifest with clear evidence of physiological and network abnormality in the absence of anatomical changes, raising the question of whether organoids possess sufficient neural network complexity to model these conditions. Here, we explore the network-level functions of brain organoids using calcium sensor imaging and extracellular recording approaches that together reveal the existence of complex network dynamics reminiscent of intact brain preparations. We demonstrate highly abnormal and epileptiform-like activity in organoids derived from induced pluripotent stem cells from individuals with Rett syndrome, accompanied by transcriptomic differences revealed by single-cell analyses. We also rescue key physiological activities with an unconventional neuroregulatory drug, pifithrin-α. Together, these findings provide an essential foundation for the utilization of brain organoids to study intact and disordered human brain network formation and illustrate their utility in therapeutic discovery.