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Epigenetics Chromatin. 2010 Nov 30;3(1):21. doi: 10.1186/1756-8935-3-21.

Chromatin remodeling enzyme Brg1 is required for mouse lens fiber cell terminal differentiation and its denucleation.

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  • 1Department of Genetics, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY 10461, USA. ales.cvekl@einstein.yu.edu.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Brahma-related gene 1 (Brg1, also known as Smarca4 and Snf2β) encodes an adenosine-5'-triphosphate (ATP)-dependent catalytical subunit of the (switch/sucrose nonfermentable) (SWI/SNF) chromatin remodeling complexes. SWI/SNF complexes are recruited to chromatin through multiple mechanisms, including specific DNA-binding factors (for example, heat shock transcription factor 4 (Hsf4) and paired box gene 6 (Pax6)), chromatin structural proteins (for example, high-mobility group A1 (HMGA1)) and/or acetylated core histones. Previous studies have shown that a single amino acid substitution (K798R) in the Brg1 ATPase domain acts via a dominant-negative (dn) mechanism. Genetic studies have demonstrated that Brg1 is an essential gene for early (that is, prior implantation) mouse embryonic development. Brg1 also controls neural stem cell maintenance, terminal differentiation of multiple cell lineages and organs including the T-cells, glial cells and limbs.

RESULTS:

To examine the roles of Brg1 in mouse lens development, a dnBrg1 transgenic construct was expressed using the lens-specific αA-crystallin promoter in postmitotic lens fiber cells. Morphological studies revealed abnormal lens fiber cell differentiation in transgenic lenses resulting in cataract. Electron microscopic studies showed abnormal lens suture formation and incomplete karyolysis (that is, denucleation) of lens fiber cells. To identify genes regulated by Brg1, RNA expression profiling was performed in embryonic day 15.5 (E15.5) wild-type and dnBrg1 transgenic lenses. In addition, comparisons between differentially expressed genes in dnBrg1 transgenic, Pax6 heterozygous and Hsf4 homozygous lenses identified multiple genes coregulated by Brg1, Hsf4 and Pax6. DNase IIβ, a key enzyme required for lens fiber cell denucleation, was found to be downregulated in each of the Pax6, Brg1 and Hsf4 model systems. Lens-specific deletion of Brg1 using conditional gene targeting demonstrated that Brg1 was required for lens fiber cell differentiation, for expression of DNase IIβ, for lens fiber cell denucleation and indirectly for retinal development.

CONCLUSIONS:

These studies demonstrate a cell-autonomous role for Brg1 in lens fiber cell terminal differentiation and identified DNase IIβ as a potential direct target of SWI/SNF complexes. Brg1 is directly or indirectly involved in processes that degrade lens fiber cell chromatin. The presence of nuclei and other organelles generates scattered light incompatible with the optical requirements for the lens.

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