Publications

2020
Chenxi Qiu, Huiyan Jin, Irina Vvedenskaya, Jordi Abante Llenas, Tingting Zhao, Indranil Malik, Alex M Visbisky, Scott L Schwartz, Ping Cui, Pavel Čabart, Kang Hoo Han, William KM Lai, Richard P Metz, Charles D Johnson, Sing-Hoi Sze, Franklin B Pugh, Bryce E Nickels, and Craig D Kaplan. 2020. “Universal promoter scanning by Pol II during transcription initiation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.” Genome Biol, 21, 1, Pp. 132.Abstract
BACKGROUND: The majority of eukaryotic promoters utilize multiple transcription start sites (TSSs). How multiple TSSs are specified at individual promoters across eukaryotes is not understood for most species. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a pre-initiation complex (PIC) comprised of Pol II and conserved general transcription factors (GTFs) assembles and opens DNA upstream of TSSs. Evidence from model promoters indicates that the PIC scans from upstream to downstream to identify TSSs. Prior results suggest that TSS distributions at promoters where scanning occurs shift in a polar fashion upon alteration in Pol II catalytic activity or GTF function. RESULTS: To determine the extent of promoter scanning across promoter classes in S. cerevisiae, we perturb Pol II catalytic activity and GTF function and analyze their effects on TSS usage genome-wide. We find that alterations to Pol II, TFIIB, or TFIIF function widely alter the initiation landscape consistent with promoter scanning operating at all yeast promoters, regardless of promoter class. Promoter architecture, however, can determine the extent of promoter sensitivity to altered Pol II activity in ways that are predicted by a scanning model. CONCLUSIONS: Our observations coupled with previous data validate key predictions of the scanning model for Pol II initiation in yeast, which we term the shooting gallery. In this model, Pol II catalytic activity and the rate and processivity of Pol II scanning together with promoter sequence determine the distribution of TSSs and their usage.
2019
Chenxi Qiu and Craig D Kaplan. 2019. “Functional assays for transcription mechanisms in high-throughput.” Methods, 159-160, Pp. 115-123.Abstract
Dramatic increases in the scale of programmed synthesis of nucleic acid libraries coupled with deep sequencing have powered advances in understanding nucleic acid and protein biology. Biological systems centering on nucleic acids or encoded proteins greatly benefit from such high-throughput studies, given that large DNA variant pools can be synthesized and DNA, or RNA products of transcription, can be easily analyzed by deep sequencing. Here we review the scope of various high-throughput functional assays for studies of nucleic acids and proteins in general, followed by discussion of how these types of study have yielded insights into the RNA Polymerase II (Pol II) active site as an example. We discuss methodological considerations in the design and execution of these experiments that should be valuable to studies in any system.
Onder Albayram, Bryce MacIver, John Mathai, Anne Verstegen, Sean Baxley, Chenxi Qiu, Carter Bell, Barbara J Caldarone, Xiao Zhen Zhou, Kun Ping Lu, and Mark Zeidel. 2019. “Traumatic Brain Injury-related voiding dysfunction in mice is caused by damage to rostral pathways, altering inputs to the reflex pathways.” Sci Rep, 9, 1, Pp. 8646.Abstract
Brain degeneration, including that caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI) often leads to severe bladder dysfunction, including incontinence and lower urinary tract symptoms; with the causes remaining unknown. Male C57BL/6J mice underwent repetitive moderate brain injury (rmdTBI) or sham injury, then mice received either cis P-tau monoclonal antibody (cis mAb), which prevents brain degeneration in TBI mice, or control (IgG). Void spot assays revealed age-dependent incontinence in IgG controls 8 months after injury, while cis mAb treated or sham mice showed no dysfunction. No obvious bladder pathology occurred in any group. Urodynamic cystometry in conscious mice revealed overactive bladder, reduced maximal voiding pressures and incontinence in IgG control, but not sham or cis mAb treated mice. Hyperphosphorylated tau deposition and neural tangle-like pathology occurred in cortical and hippocampal regions only of IgG control mice accompanied with post-traumatic neuroinflammation and was not seen in midbrain and hindbrain regions associated with bladder filling and voiding reflex arcs. In this model of brain degeneration bladder dysfunction results from rostral, and not hindbrain damage, indicating that rostral brain inputs are required for normal bladder functioning. Detailed analysis of the functioning of neural circuits controlling bladder function in TBI should lead to insights into how brain degeneration leads to bladder dysfunction, as well as novel strategies to treat these disorders.
2018
Shingo Kozono, Yu-Min Lin, Hyuk-Soo Seo, Benika Pinch, Xiaolan Lian, Chenxi Qiu, Megan K Herbert, Chun-Hau Chen, Li Tan, Ziang Jeff Gao, Walter Massefski, Zainab M Doctor, Brian P Jackson, Yuanzhong Chen, Sirano Dhe-Paganon, Kun Ping Lu, and Xiao Zhen Zhou. 2018. “Arsenic targets Pin1 and cooperates with retinoic acid to inhibit cancer-driving pathways and tumor-initiating cells.” Nat Commun, 9, 1, Pp. 3069.Abstract
Arsenic trioxide (ATO) and all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) combination safely cures fatal acute promyelocytic leukemia, but their mechanisms of action and efficacy are not fully understood. ATRA inhibits leukemia, breast, and liver cancer by targeting isomerase Pin1, a master regulator of oncogenic signaling networks. Here we show that ATO targets Pin1 and cooperates with ATRA to exert potent anticancer activity. ATO inhibits and degrades Pin1, and suppresses its oncogenic function by noncovalent binding to Pin1's active site. ATRA increases cellular ATO uptake through upregulating aquaporin-9. ATO and ATRA, at clinically safe doses, cooperatively ablate Pin1 to block numerous cancer-driving pathways and inhibit the growth of triple-negative breast cancer cells and tumor-initiating cells in cell and animal models including patient-derived orthotopic xenografts, like Pin1 knockout, which is substantiated by comprehensive protein and microRNA analyses. Thus, synergistic targeting of Pin1 by ATO and ATRA offers an attractive approach to combating breast and other cancers.
Xiaolan Lian, Yu-Min Lin, Shingo Kozono, Megan K Herbert, Xin Li, Xiaohong Yuan, Jiangrui Guo, Yafei Guo, Min Tang, Jia Lin, Yiping Huang, Bixin Wang, Chenxi Qiu, Cheng-Yu Tsai, Jane Xie, Ziang Jeff Gao, Yong Wu, Hekun Liu, Xiao Zhen Zhou, Kun Ping Lu, and Yuanzhong Chen. 2018. “Pin1 inhibition exerts potent activity against acute myeloid leukemia through blocking multiple cancer-driving pathways.” J Hematol Oncol, 11, 1, Pp. 73.Abstract
BACKGROUND: The increasing genomic complexity of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), the most common form of acute leukemia, poses a major challenge to its therapy. To identify potent therapeutic targets with the ability to block multiple cancer-driving pathways is thus imperative. The unique peptidyl-prolyl cis-trans isomerase Pin1 has been reported to promote tumorigenesis through upregulation of numerous cancer-driving pathways. Although Pin1 is a key drug target for treating acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) caused by a fusion oncogene, much less is known about the role of Pin1 in other heterogeneous leukemia. METHODS: The mRNA and protein levels of Pin1 were detected in samples from de novo leukemia patients and healthy controls using real-time quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) and western blot. The establishment of the lentiviral stable-expressed short hairpin RNA (shRNA) system and the tetracycline-inducible shRNA system for targeting Pin1 were used to analyze the biological function of Pin1 in AML cells. The expression of cancer-related Pin1 downstream oncoproteins in shPin1 (Pin1 knockdown) and Pin1 inhibitor all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) treated leukemia cells were examined by western blot, followed by evaluating the effects of genetic and chemical inhibition of Pin1 in leukemia cells on transformed phenotype, including cell proliferation and colony formation ability, using trypan blue, cell counting assay, and colony formation assay in vitro, as well as the tumorigenesis ability using in vivo xenograft mouse models. RESULTS: First, we found that the expression of Pin1 mRNA and protein was significantly increased in both de novo leukemia clinical samples and multiple leukemia cell lines, compared with healthy controls. Furthermore, genetic or chemical inhibition of Pin1 in human multiple leukemia cell lines potently inhibited multiple Pin1 substrate oncoproteins and effectively suppressed leukemia cell proliferation and colony formation ability in cell culture models in vitro. Moreover, tetracycline-inducible Pin1 knockdown and slow-releasing ATRA potently inhibited tumorigenicity of U937 and HL-60 leukemia cells in xenograft mouse models. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrate that Pin1 is highly overexpressed in human AML and is a promising therapeutic target to block multiple cancer-driving pathways in AML.
2017
Indranil Malik, Chenxi Qiu, Thomas Snavely, and Craig D Kaplan. 2017. “Wide-ranging and unexpected consequences of altered Pol II catalytic activity in vivo.” Nucleic Acids Res, 45, 8, Pp. 4431-4451.Abstract
Here we employ a set of RNA Polymerase II (Pol II) activity mutants to determine the consequences of increased or decreased Pol II catalysis on gene expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We find that alteration of Pol II catalytic rate, either fast or slow, leads to decreased Pol II occupancy and apparent reduction in elongation rate in vivo. However, we also find that determination of elongation rate in vivo by chromatin immunoprecipitation can be confounded by the kinetics and conditions of transcriptional shutoff in the assay. We identify promoter and template-specific effects on severity of gene expression defects for both fast and slow Pol II mutants. We show that mRNA half-lives for a reporter gene are increased in both fast and slow Pol II mutant strains and the magnitude of half-life changes correlate both with mutants' growth and reporter expression defects. Finally, we tested a model that altered Pol II activity sensitizes cells to nucleotide depletion. In contrast to model predictions, mutated Pol II retains normal sensitivity to altered nucleotide levels. Our experiments establish a framework for understanding the diversity of transcription defects derived from altered Pol II activity mutants, essential for their use as probes of transcription mechanisms.
2016
Chenxi Qiu, Olivia C Erinne, Jui M Dave, Ping Cui, Huiyan Jin, Nandhini Muthukrishnan, Leung K Tang, Sabareesh Ganesh Babu, Kenny C Lam, Paul J Vandeventer, Ralf Strohner, Jan Van den Brulle, Sing-Hoi Sze, and Craig D Kaplan. 2016. “High-Resolution Phenotypic Landscape of the RNA Polymerase II Trigger Loop.” PLoS Genet, 12, 11, Pp. e1006321.Abstract
The active sites of multisubunit RNA polymerases have a "trigger loop" (TL) that multitasks in substrate selection, catalysis, and translocation. To dissect the Saccharomyces cerevisiae RNA polymerase II TL at individual-residue resolution, we quantitatively phenotyped nearly all TL single variants en masse. Three mutant classes, revealed by phenotypes linked to transcription defects or various stresses, have distinct distributions among TL residues. We find that mutations disrupting an intra-TL hydrophobic pocket, proposed to provide a mechanism for substrate-triggered TL folding through destabilization of a catalytically inactive TL state, confer phenotypes consistent with pocket disruption and increased catalysis. Furthermore, allele-specific genetic interactions among TL and TL-proximal domain residues support the contribution of the funnel and bridge helices (BH) to TL dynamics. Our structural genetics approach incorporates structural and phenotypic data for high-resolution dissection of transcription mechanisms and their evolution, and is readily applicable to other essential yeast proteins.
2015
He Wang, Yunqian Qiao, Baozhong Chai, Chenxi Qiu, and Xiangdong Chen. 2015. “Identification and molecular characterization of the homogentisate pathway responsible for pyomelanin production, the major melanin constituents in Aeromonas media WS.” PLoS One, 10, 3, Pp. e0120923.Abstract
The pigmentation of many Aeromonas species has been thought to be due to the production of a L-DOPA (L-3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine) based melanin. However, in this study we found that although L-DOPA synthesis occurs in the high-melanin-yielding Aeromonas media strain WS, it plays a minor, if any, role in pigmentation. Instead, the pigmentation of A. media strain WS is due to the production of pyomelanin through HGA (homogentisate). Gene products of phhA (encodes phenylalanine hydroxylase), tyrB and aspC (both encode aromatic amino acid aminotransferase), and hppD (encodes 4-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase) constitute a linear pathway of converting phenylalanine to HGA and disruption of any one of these genes impairs or blocks pigmentation of A. media strain WS. This HGA biosynthesis pathway is widely distributed in Aeromonas, but HGA is only detectable in the cultures of pigmented Aeromonas species. Heterologous expression of HppD from both pigmented and non-pigmented Aeromonas species in E. coli leads to the production of pyomelanin and thus pigmentation, suggesting that most Aeromonas species have the critical enzymes to produce pyomelanin through HGA. Taken together, we have identified a widely conserved biosynthesis pathway of HGA based pyomelanin in Aeromonas that may be responsible for pigmentation of many Aeromonas species.
2013
Hannes Braberg, Huiyan Jin, Erica A Moehle, Yujia A Chan, Shuyi Wang, Michael Shales, Joris J Benschop, John H Morris, Chenxi Qiu, Fuqu Hu, Leung K Tang, James S Fraser, Frank CP Holstege, Philip Hieter, Christine Guthrie, Craig D Kaplan, and Nevan J Krogan. 2013. “From structure to systems: high-resolution, quantitative genetic analysis of RNA polymerase II.” Cell, 154, 4, Pp. 775-88.Abstract
RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) lies at the core of dynamic control of gene expression. Using 53 RNAPII point mutants, we generated a point mutant epistatic miniarray profile (pE-MAP) comprising ∼60,000 quantitative genetic interactions in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This analysis enabled functional assignment of RNAPII subdomains and uncovered connections between individual regions and other protein complexes. Using splicing microarrays and mutants that alter elongation rates in vitro, we found an inverse relationship between RNAPII speed and in vivo splicing efficiency. Furthermore, the pE-MAP classified fast and slow mutants that favor upstream and downstream start site selection, respectively. The striking coordination of polymerization rate with transcription initiation and splicing suggests that transcription rate is tuned to regulate multiple gene expression steps. The pE-MAP approach provides a powerful strategy to understand other multifunctional machines at amino acid resolution.