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A DNA repair pathway can regulate transcriptional noise to promote cell fate transitions

Desai, Ravi V. and Chen, Xinyue and Martin, Benjamin and Chaturvedi, Sonali and Hwang, Dong Woo and Li, Weihan and Yu, Chen and Ding, Sheng and Thomson, Matt and Singer, Robert H. and Coleman, Robert A. and Hansen, Maike M. K. and Weinberger, Leor S. (2021) A DNA repair pathway can regulate transcriptional noise to promote cell fate transitions. Science, 373 (6557). Art. No. eabc6506. ISSN 0036-8075. PMCID PMC8667278. doi:10.1126/science.abc6506.

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Stochastic fluctuations in gene expression (“noise”) are often considered detrimental, but fluctuations can also be exploited for benefit (e.g., dither). We show here that DNA base excision repair amplifies transcriptional noise to facilitate cellular reprogramming. Specifically, the DNA repair protein Apex1, which recognizes both naturally occurring and unnatural base modifications, amplifies expression noise while homeostatically maintaining mean expression levels. This amplified expression noise originates from shorter-duration, higher-intensity transcriptional bursts generated by Apex1-mediated DNA supercoiling. The remodeling of DNA topology first impedes and then accelerates transcription to maintain mean levels. This mechanism, which we refer to as “discordant transcription through repair” (“DiThR,” which is pronounced “dither”), potentiates cellular reprogramming and differentiation. Our study reveals a potential functional role for transcriptional fluctuations mediated by DNA base modifications in embryonic development and disease.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription Materials ItemCode
Desai, Ravi V.0000-0002-0336-0883
Chen, Xinyue0000-0001-8288-7685
Martin, Benjamin0000-0002-9673-2008
Chaturvedi, Sonali0000-0002-9175-8110
Hwang, Dong Woo0000-0001-5806-067X
Li, Weihan0000-0003-4718-1884
Ding, Sheng0000-0002-7525-2144
Thomson, Matt0000-0003-1021-1234
Hansen, Maike M. K.0000-0001-7998-6631
Weinberger, Leor S.0000-0002-9987-6357
Additional Information:© 2021 American Association for the Advancement of Science. This is an article distributed under the terms of the Science Journals Default License. 31 May 2020; accepted 8 July 2021; Published online 22 July 2021. We thank M. Simpson, B. Bruneau, J. Weissman, G. Balazsi, and members of the Weinberger laboratory for thoughtful discussions and suggestions; K. Claiborn for editing; G. Maki for graphics support; N. Raman in the Gladstone Institute Flow Cytometry Facility (NIH S10 RR028962, P30 AI027763, DARPA, and the James B. Pendleton Charitable Trust) for technical assistance; the Gladstone Assay Development and Drug Discovery Core for technical assistance with drug screening; K. Thorn and D. Larson in the UCSF Nikon Imaging Center (NIH S10 1S10OD017993-01A1) for technical assistance with imaging; M. Jost and J. Weissman for CRISPRi reagents; and the Gladstone Institute Genomics Core for technical assistance with single-cell RNA-sequencing. The dual-tagged Sox2 mESCs were a kind donation from B. Bruneau and E. Nora. The Oct4-GFP reprogrammable MEFs (harbor stably integrated OKSM factors) were a kind donation from S. Guo. R.V.D. is supported by an NIH/NICHD F30 fellowship (HD095614-03). R.A.C. acknowledges support from NIH award 1R01GM126045-05. R.H.S. acknowledges support from NIH awards NS083085 and 1R35GM136296. M.M.K.H. acknowledges support from a Dutch Research Council (NWO) ENW-XS award (OCENW.XS3.055). L.S.W. acknowledges support from a Bowes Distinguished Professorship, Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, Pew Scholars in the Biomedical Sciences Program, NIH award R01AI109593, and the NIH Director’s New Innovator Award (OD006677) and Pioneer Award (OD17181) programs. Author contributions: R.V.D., M.T., and L.S.W. conceived and designed the study. R.V.D., B.M., and M.T. analyzed the sequencing data. R.V.D., X.C., C.U., S.D., and L.S.W conceived and designed the cellular reprogramming experiments. X.C., D.W.H., W.L., R.H.S., R.A.C., and L.S.W conceived and designed the MS2 imaging experiments. R.V.D., X.C., S.C., D.W.H., W.L., and C.U. performed the experiments. R.V.D., X.C., B.M., M.T., R.A.C., M.M.K.H., and L.S.W. analyzed data. R.V.D., M.M.K.H., B.M., and L.S.W. constructed and analyzed the mathematical models. R.V.D., M.M.K.H., and L.S.W. wrote the manuscript. The authors declare no competing interests. Data and materials availability: The raw and processed sequencing data reported herein have been deposited onto the Gene Expression Omnibus under accession number GSE176044. Custom code for analysis of scRNA-seq data and mathematical modeling are available on GitHub at and are archived on Zenodo (79). Reagents, including plasmids and cell lines, are available from the corresponding author upon request.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NIH Postdoctoral FellowshipF30HD095614-03
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)OCENW.XS3.055
Bowes Distinguished ProfessorshipUNSPECIFIED
Alfred P. Sloan FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Pew Charitable TrustUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:6557
PubMed Central ID:PMC8667278
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20210726-193944737
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:A DNA repair pathway can regulate transcriptional noise to promote cell fate transitions. Ravi V. Desai, Xinyue Chen, Benjamin Martin, Sonali Chaturvedi, Dong Woo Hwang, Weihan Li, Chen Yu, Sheng Ding, Matt Thomson, Robert H. Singer, Robert A. Coleman, Maike M. K. Hansen and Leor S. Weinberger. Science 373 (6557), eabc6506; DOI: 10.1126/science.abc6506
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:110014
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:26 Jul 2021 22:27
Last Modified:25 Jan 2022 16:54

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