Enhancers are cis-regulatory elements that play critical regulatory roles in modulating developmental transcription programs and driving cell-type specific and context-dependent gene expression in the brain. The development of massively parallel reporter assays (MPRAs) has enabled high-throughput functional screening of candidate DNA sequences for enhancer activity. Tissue-specific screening of in vivo enhancer function at scale has the potential to greatly expand our understanding of the role of non-coding sequences in development, evolution, and disease. Here, we adapted a self-transcribing regulatory element MPRA strategy for delivery to early postnatal mouse brain via recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV). We identified and validated putative enhancers capable of driving reporter gene expression in mouse forebrain, including regulatory elements within an intronic CACNA1C linkage disequilibrium block associated with risk in neuropsychiatric disorder genetic studies. Paired screening and single enhancer in vivo functional testing, as we show here, represents a powerful approach towards characterizing regulatory activity of enhancers and understanding how enhancer sequences organize gene expression in the brain.
All supplementary information, including links to raw and processed data, can be found at the Nord Lab Resources page (https://nordlab.faculty.ucdavis.edu/resources/). Software can be found at the Nord Lab Git Repository (https://github.com/NordNeurogenomicsLab/) and https://github.com/NordNeurogenomicsLab/Publications/tree/master/Lambert_eLIFE_2021. Sequencing data have been deposited in GEO under accession code GSE172058.
Parallel functional testing identifies enhancers active in early postnatal mouse brainNCBI Gene Expression Omnibus, GSE19373 GSE172058.
Roadmap Consolidated Peak DatasetGEO GSM530651, GSM595913, GSM595920, GSM595922, GSM595923, GSM595926, GSM595928, GSM806934, GSM806939, GSM621457, GSM706999, GSM806935, GSM621427, GSM707000, GSM806936, GSM621393, GSM707001, GSM806937, GSM621410, GSM707002, GSM806938.
- Jason T Lambert
- Linda Su-Feher
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: All procedures were performed in accordance with the ARVO statement for the Use of Animals in Ophthalmic and Vision Research and were approved by the University of California Animal Care and Use Committee (AUP #R200-0913BC). Surgery was performed under anesthesia, and all efforts were made to minimize suffering.
- Genevieve Konopka, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, United States
© 2021, Lambert et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
For some inducible genes, the rate and molecular mechanism of transcriptional activation depends on the prior experiences of the cell. This phenomenon, called epigenetic transcriptional memory, accelerates reactivation and requires both changes in chromatin structure and recruitment of poised RNA Polymerase II (RNAPII) to the promoter. Memory of inositol starvation in budding yeast involves a positive feedback loop between transcription factor-dependent interaction with the nuclear pore complex and histone H3 lysine 4 dimethylation (H3K4me2). While H3K4me2 is essential for recruitment of RNAPII and faster reactivation, RNAPII is not required for H3K4me2. Unlike RNAPII-dependent H3K4me2 associated with transcription, RNAPII-independent H3K4me2 requires Nup100, SET3C, the Leo1 subunit of the Paf1 complex and, upon degradation of an essential transcription factor, is inherited through multiple cell cycles. The writer of this mark (COMPASS) physically interacts with the potential reader (SET3C), suggesting a molecular mechanism for the spreading and re-incorporation of H3K4me2 following DNA replication.
Recent discoveries of extreme cellular diversity in the brain warrant rapid development of technologies to access specific cell populations within heterogeneous tissue. Available approaches for engineering-targeted technologies for new neuron subtypes are low yield, involving intensive transgenic strain or virus screening. Here, we present Specific Nuclear-Anchored Independent Labeling (SNAIL), an improved virus-based strategy for cell labeling and nuclear isolation from heterogeneous tissue. SNAIL works by leveraging machine learning and other computational approaches to identify DNA sequence features that confer cell type-specific gene activation and then make a probe that drives an affinity purification-compatible reporter gene. As a proof of concept, we designed and validated two novel SNAIL probes that target parvalbumin-expressing (PV+) neurons. Nuclear isolation using SNAIL in wild-type mice is sufficient to capture characteristic open chromatin features of PV+ neurons in the cortex, striatum, and external globus pallidus. The SNAIL framework also has high utility for multispecies cell probe engineering; expression from a mouse PV+ SNAIL enhancer sequence was enriched in PV+ neurons of the macaque cortex. Expansion of this technology has broad applications in cell type-specific observation, manipulation, and therapeutics across species and disease models.