|dc.description.abstract||The lymphoid tissues consist of distinct cell subpopulations of B and T cell lineages and possess complex signaling pathways that are controlled by a myriad of molecular interactions. During the fine-tuned developmental process of the lymphoid system, inappropriate activation of oncogenes and loss of tumor suppressor gene activity can push lymphocytes into uncontrolled clonal expansion, causing several lymphoid malignancies. V(D)J recombination is one such essential process, important for the proper development of the mammalian immune system. However, mistakes in normal V(D)J recombination can lead to deletion of tumor suppressor genes or activation of proto-oncogenes. In the first part of the study, the physiological and pathological roles of DNA binding domain of RAG1 have been characterized.
RAG (Recombination Activating Gene) complex consisting of RAG1 and RAG2, is a site specific endonuclease responsible for the generation of antigen receptor diversity. It cleaves a specific DNA sequence termed as recombination signal sequence (RSS), comprising of a conserved heptamer and nonamer. Recent studies have shown that RAGs can also act as a structure-specific nuclease by cleaving flaps, heterologous loops, bubbles, hairpins etc. Nonamer binding domain (NBD) of RAG1 plays a central role in the recognition of RSS during its sequence specific activity. To investigate its DNA binding properties, NBD of murine RAG1 was cloned, overexpressed and purified from E. coli. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays showed that NBD binds with high affinity to nonamer in the context of 12/23 RSS. However, it did not bind to heteroduplex DNA, irrespective of the sequence of the single-stranded region. Interestingly, when a nonamer was present next to a heteroduplex DNA, NBD exhibited robust binding. NBD binding was specific to thymines when single stranded DNA containing poly A, C, G and T were used. Biolayer interferometry studies showed that the observed poly T binding to NBD was robust with a binding constant of 0.45±0.16 µM. >23 nt was essential for NBD binding at homothymidine stretches. On a double-stranded DNA, NBD could bind to A:T stretches, but not G:C stretches or random sequences. Although NBD is indispensable for sequence-specific activity of RAGs, external supplementation of purified nonamer binding domain to NBD deleted cRAG1/cRAG2 did not restore the sequence specific activity, suggesting that the overall domain architecture of RAG1 is important for maintaining its properties. Therefore, we define the sequence requirements of NBD binding to double- and single-stranded DNA, which will have implications in generation of chromosomal rearrangement and genomic instability in lymphoid cells.
Genetic alterations are one of the hallmarks of lymphoid malignancies. Many genes involved in chromosomal abnormalities are known to play central roles in the development of normal lymphocytes. In the second part of the study, molecular mechanism associated with fragility of the transcription factor, B cell leukemia 11B (BCL11B) that drives malignant transformation of T-cells has been studied. BCL11B is a zinc finger protein transcription factor with multiple functions. It plays a key role in both development and subsequent maintenance of T-cells. BCL11B gene alterations are implicated in a number of diseases including T-cell malignancies. It acts as a haplo-insufficient tumor suppressor and loss of BCL11B allele leads to susceptibility to mouse thymic lymphoma and human T-ALL. Recent studies reveal heterozygous BCL11B mutations and deletions across each of the major molecular subtypes of T-ALL (15% of patients). Most of the BCL11B missense mutations identified so far affected the residues within BCL11B zinc finger domains of the exon 4. However, mechanism of generation of such specific mutations leading to altered functions of BCL11B remains to be explored.
In the present study, we address the potential mechanism of fragility of BCL11B gene during leukemia genesis. Firstly, we have evaluated different regions of BCL11B gene for presence of non-B DNA sequence motifs. Studies using non-B DB database reveal clustering of several non-B DNA forming motifs at the region spanning exon 4 of BCL11B gene. In order to biochemically evaluate the potential of non-B DNA structure formation, two different regions of exon 4 were PCR amplified and cloned. Using bisulfite modification assay we demonstrate that, single strandedness exists at both region I and II of BCL11B exon 4, when the region is present on a plasmid DNA. Bisulfite reactivity on chromosomal DNA confirmed existence of such altered DNA structures in the context of human genome. In vitro gel shift assays showed formation of both intra and intermolecular G-quadruplexes. Primer extension studies revealed that non-B DNA structures could block polymerization during replication on a plasmid, leading to DNA replication arrest. Extrachromosomal assays showed that non-B DNA structure motifs, in contrast to its mutants, blocked transcription leading to reduced expression of green fluorescent protein (GFP) within cells.
Many non-B DNA-forming sequences have been mapped to regions of common chromosomal breakpoints in human tumors, known as “hotspots”, which are associated with leukemia, lymphomas and genomic disorders. Thus, alternative DNA conformations are believed to contribute to mutations, deletions and other genetic instability, leading to the deregulation of cancer-related genes in malignant diseases such as leukemia and lymphoma. Activation induced cytidine deaminase (AID), is an essential enzyme involved in antibody diversification of immunoglobulin genes. However, aberrant AID expression in B- cell and non-B cell background is reported in various cancers including leukemia and lymphoma. AID activity requires single stranded DNA (ssDNA) as a substrate. Since activation induced cytidine deaminase (AID) deaminates cytosines when present on a single stranded DNA and its expression is deregulated in many cancers, we investigated the role of AID in BCL11B gene mutagenesis. We observed substantial AID expression in many T-cell leukemic cell lines. Thus, we hypothesize that AID might be targeted to single stranded DNA present at BCL11B exon 4 due to formation of non-B DNA structures such as G-quadruplexes causing AID mediated deamination, further leading to nucleotide alterations and the mutational signature observed at BCL11B exon 4 resulting in T-ALL. Based on our findings, we propose that single strandedness resulted due to formation of non-B DNA structures such as G-quadruplex DNA, triplex DNA or cruciform DNA during physiological processes like DNA replication and transcription at exon 4 of BCL11B, can act as the target for AID. Thus, our findings uncover a new possible link between non-B DNA structure motifs and AID expression in causing mutations at BCL11B exon 4 which could lead to T cell leukemia genesis.
BCL11B is a bifunctional transcriptional regulator that can act as a repressor and transactivator, and is known to differentially control the expression of specific genes in a context-dependent manner. In order to understand the transcriptional network involving BCL11B, it was cloned, overexpressed and purified from E. coli. To investigate the DNA binding properties of BCL11B protein, electrophoretic mobility shift assays were performed. Our results lead to identification of a specific sequence motif that is responsible for DNA binding. Competition experiments in presence of specific and nonspecific oligomers further confirmed the binding specificity.
Thus, in the present study, we have characterized the binding properties of nonamer binding domain of RAG1, emphasizing its pathological relevance in causing genomic instability in lymphoid cells. The study may help in better understanding of RAG induced genomic instability in lymphoid tissues and role of aberrant AID expression in inducing mutations at BCL11B Zinc finger domain, leading to its deregulation and culminating into T-cell leukemia||en_US