This project is to exploit recent advances that can help break open the gene network circuitry that mediates a pivotal stage in T cell development. T cell development is a model for the mechanism of cell fate choice starting from a physiological pool of multipotent stem cells. Mammalian T-cell development permits highly refined dissection of the process of lineage commitment, because in this system one can isolate intermediate precursors with progressive degrees of developmental potential restriction in high purity. Excellent in vitro systems for T-lineage differentiation enable the whole lineage choice process to occur in an open, experimentally accessible way. Specific gene knockout experiments have also identified a group of transcription factors needed for T-cell specification, including GATA-3 and E proteins. Based on gene regulatory effects measured in short-term transcription factor perturbation experiments, we have published a provisional gene network model for T-cell development. However, to explain the properties of the commitment process, three functions were needed in the network for which the agents were not known. This proposal is based on two very recent advances which we predict will now make it possible to account for the crucial functions in the network. These enable us to see that the process consists of two separable phases, the first dominated by regulatory factors inherited from the stem-cell precursor, the second dominated by a T-cell associated factor set. First we found that Bcl11b is the long-sought T-cell specific negative regulatory component that is needed to shift cells from phase 1 to phase 2. Bcl11b is turned on only as phase 1 ends, then needed to allow commitment and to turn off the stem-cell associated regulatory genes for phase 2. Second, we have generated a major resource: a full survey of transcriptome and genome-wide epigenetic marking changes across five stages throughout the T-cell specification process. We can thus complete identification of all genes dynamically regulated during T-cell commitment, identify candidates for nearly all cis-regulatory elements where active regulatory change occurs, and correlate regulatory status marks with sites for specific transcription factor binding to predict function. We hypothesize that Bcl11b expression is a readout for successful activation of a first wave of T-cell regulators in phase 1, and that when transition to phase 2 occurs, previously expressed factors including GATA-3 and E proteins then refocus their functions to turn on new T-cell specific genes. Using Bcl11b as a wedge to split the T-cell commitment process, we will first identify the cis- and trans-elements that turn Bcl11b itself on at the completion of phase 1. Using ChIPseq mapping in normal and Bcl11b mutant cells, we will also determine how the target site binding and associated histone modifications of E proteins and GATA-3 may shift from phase 1 to phase 2. We will then use gain and loss of function to test how phase 1 or phase 2 interaction partners of E proteins and GATA-3 can cause specific shifts in their deployment.
The T cell development process clearly reveals that when effector cells develop from stem cells, it is crucial for them to give up stem-cell like properties at a particular stage in the process, in order to acquire the proper regulation to go on to become normal differentiated cells. This project is to determine in detail how a trio of important T-cell gene regulatory factors coordinates this handover of control. The results are an important model for understanding the natural quality control checks that are built in to normal stem-cell based development, and to avoid the danger of improper biological quality control in future clinical use of stem-cell based models.
|Rothenberg, Ellen V (2014) Transcriptional control of early T and B cell developmental choices. Annu Rev Immunol 32:283-321|
|Yui, Mary A; Rothenberg, Ellen V (2014) Developmental gene networks: a triathlon on the course to T cell identity. Nat Rev Immunol 14:529-45|
|Scripture-Adams, Deirdre D; Damle, Sagar S; Li, Long et al. (2014) GATA-3 dose-dependent checkpoints in early T cell commitment. J Immunol 193:3470-91|
|Rothenberg, Ellen V (2014) The chromatin landscape and transcription factors in T cell programming. Trends Immunol 35:195-204|
|Li, Long; Zhang, Jingli A; Dose, Marei et al. (2013) A far downstream enhancer for murine Bcl11b controls its T-cell specific expression. Blood 122:902-11|
|Rothenberg, Ellen V; Champhekar, Ameya; Damle, Sagar et al. (2013) Transcriptional Establishment of Cell-Type Identity: Dynamics and Causal Mechanisms of T-Cell Lineage Commitment. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol :|
|Manesso, Erica; Chickarmane, Vijay; Kueh, Hao Yuan et al. (2013) Computational modelling of T-cell formation kinetics: output regulated by initial proliferation-linked deferral of developmental competence. J R Soc Interface 10:20120774|
|Rothenberg, Ellen V (2012) Transcriptional drivers of the T-cell lineage program. Curr Opin Immunol 24:132-8|