Relative roles of UBF and RRN3 in the transcription of the ribosomal RNA genes and ribosome biogenesis determined using in vivo mouse models

Authors: Herdman, Chelsea
Advisor: Moss, Tom
Abstract: Ribosome biogenesis, or the synthesis of ribosomes, is an important cell process occurring in the nucleolus that utilizes transcription by all three nuclear RNA polymerases. The initial and rate-limiting step is the transcription of the catalytic ribosomal RNAs 28S, 18S and 5.8S in the form of a precursor ribosomal RNA (pre-rRNA/47S) by RNA polymerase I (RPI, also known as Pol1 and POLR1). RPI has a dedicated set of basal factors responsible for its activation. These are the architectural factor UBF, the TBP containing factor SL1, the initiation factor RRN3, and the termination factor TTF1. Ribosomal RNA synthesis is tightly regulated and accounts for 30-50% of total gene transcription. As such, this process is linked to cell growth, transformation, proliferation and the actions of tumour suppressors and oncogenes. Notably, UBF and RRN3 are activated by many of the same growth signaling pathways. The human and mouse haploid genome contain ~200 copies of the ribosomal RNA genes, the ribosomal DNA (rDNA). These ribosomal DNA copies are arranged in tandem repeats on the short arms of acrocentric chromosomes. Interestingly, only a fraction of the rDNA copies are active, and a significant number are epigenetically silenced and heterochromatic. The reason for having so many copies and their regulation in vivo by silencing is not yet understood, though it has been connected with genome stability. This thesis presents the analysis of the in vivo requirements for UBF and RRN3 in rRNA transcription and rDNA chromatin structure. We had previously analyzed the loss of UBF in mouse embryonic fibroblasts using tamoxifen-dependent conditional knockout. As we wanted to compare the loss of RRN3 in a similar model, we re-analyzed the RRN3 knockout mice and created cell lines as was performed for the UBF knockout. Importantly, we find that RRN3 is essential for preimplantation and its loss arrests development at E3.5, contrary to previous work that showed a late E9.5 developmental arrest. Using mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cell lines conditional for UBF or RRN3, we found that the loss of either factor prevented RPI transcription. However, we found that UBF was essential for the recruitment of the other RPI transcription factors and the formation of the preinitiation complex, as well as to maintain an open rDNA chromatin structure, while RRN3 was required only for RPI recruitment. These studies allowed us to identify an upstream boundary element on the rDNA formed of H2A.Z, TTF1, CTCF and activating histone marks, which is independent of RPI activity. We also found that UBF loss, but not RRN3 loss, led to a synchronous and massive p53-independent apoptosis, specifically in oncogenically transformed cells. This strongly suggests that drug targeting UBF could be a viable cancer treatment. Finally, we have observed that the rDNA activity status in pluripotent cells differs from that of differentiated cells. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) were also generated from the mice conditional for UBF and RRN3. Preliminary results indicate that, unlike somatic cells, all the rRNA genes in these and other pluripotent cell lines are potentially active. This makes ESCs and their differentiation an ideal model in which to study the establishment of rDNA silencing and the role of UBF and/or RRN3 in this process. Together these data define the in vivo roles of UBF and RRN3 in ribosomal RNA transcription and suggest mechanisms by which they maintain rDNA integrity and may drive cell differentiation.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2017
Open Access Date: 24 April 2018
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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