Roles of CTCF and YY1 in T Cell Receptor Gene Rearrangement And T Cell Development
Diversity of T cell receptors (TCR) and immunoglobulins (Ig) is generated by V(D)J recombination of antigen receptor (AgR) loci. The Tcra-Tcrd locus is of particular interest because it displays a nested organization of Tcrd and Tcra gene segments and V(D)J recombination follows an intricate developmental program to assemble both TCRδ and TCRα repertoires. However, the mechanisms that dictate the developmental regulation of V(D)J recombination of the Tcra-Tcrd locus remain unclear.
We have previously shown that CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) regulates Tcra gene transcription and rearrangement through organizing chromatin looping between CTCF- binding elements (CBEs). This study is one of many showing that CTCF functions as a chromatin organizer and transcriptional regulator genome-wide. However, detailed understanding of the impact of specific CBEs is needed to fully comprehend the biological function of CTCF and how CTCF influences the generation of the TCR repertoire during thymocyte development. Thus, we generated several mouse models with genetically modified CBEs to gain insight into the CTCF-dependent regulation of the Tcra-Tcrd locus. We revealed a CTCF-dependent chromatin interaction network at the Tcra-Tcrd locus in double-negative thymocytes. Disruption of a discrete chromatin loop encompassing Dδ, Jδ and Cδ gene segments allowed a single Vδ segment to frequently contact and rearrange to diversity and joining gene segments and dominate the adult TCRδ repertoire. Disruption of this loop also narrowed the TCRα repertoire, which, we believe, followed as a consequence of the restricted TCRδ repertoire. Hence, a single CTCF-mediated chromatin loop directly regulates TCRδ diversity and indirectly regulates TCRα diversity. In addition, we showed that insertion of an ectopic CBE can modify chromatin interactions and disrupt the rearrangement of particular Vδ gene segments. Finally, we investigated the role of YY1 in early T cell development by conditionally deleting YY1 in developing thymocytes. We found that early ablation of YY1 caused severe developmental defects in the DN compartment due to a dramatic increase in DN thymocyte apoptosis. Furthermore, late ablation of YY1 resulted in increased apoptosis of DP thymocytes and a restricted TCRα repertoire. Mechanistically, we showed that p53 was upregulated in both DN and DP YY1-deficient thymocytes. Eliminating p53 in YY1-deficient thymocytes rescued the survival and developmental defects, indicating that these YY1-dependent defects were p53-mediated. We conclude that YY1 is required to maintain cell viability during thymocyte development by thwarting the accumulation of p53.
Overall, this thesis work has shown that CTCF-dependent looping provides a central framework for lineage- and developmental stage-specific regulation of Tcra-Tcrd gene expression and rearrangements. In addition, we identified YY1 as a novel regulator of thymocyte viability.
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