Chromatin and Splicing

  • Alternative splicing is one of the most general and important biological processes in the eukaryotic cell. It affects more than 90% of human genes, it is essential for protein diversity and any misregulation of the highly tissue-specific alternative splicing programs can lead to disease, such as cancer. However, the mechanisms of cell-specific alternative splicing regulation are still largely unknown.

    Unexpectedly, in the past 20 years, chromatin and epigenetic modifications have been shown to play an important role in the regulation of alternative splicing. In particular, we have shown that non-coding RNAs and histone modifications can communicate with the splicing machinery via recruitment of chromatin/splicing-adaptor complexes.

    Our objectives now are to better understand the role of chromatin, enhancers and long non-coding RNAs in the onset and maintenance of a cell-specific splicing program, using as an inducible cell reprogramming model system the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process involved in early development and cancer metastasis. For that purpose, we will use state-of-the-art deep sequencing approaches (RNA-seq, ChIP-seq, 4C-seq), combined with molecular and cell biology tools (CRISPR/dCas9), to depict the molecular mechanisms of cell-specific alternative splicing regulation in a cancer-relevant model system, the EMT.

    Figure 1
    The regulation of alternative splicing is a multilayer process in which chromatin (in blue), long non-coding RNAs (in purple) and RNA binding factors (in orange) work in an integrated way to establish the final splicing outcome.

    To date, our research is funded by:

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    Reini Fernandez de Luco
    Luco Reini Fernandez de
    Andrew Oldfield
    Oldfield Andrew
    Elsa Claude
    Claude Elsa
    Yaiza Nunez-Alvarez
    Nunez-Alvarez Yaiza
    Marie-Sarah Cabrillac
    Cabrillac Marie-Sarah
    Katharina Arnold
    Arnold Katharina


    SETDB1-dependent heterochromatin stimulates alternative lengthening of telomeres

    Gauchier M, Kan S, Barral A, Sauzet S, Agirre E, Bonnell E, Saksouk N, Barth TK, Ide S, Urbach S, Wellinger RJ, Luco RF, Imhof A and Déjardin J 

    2019 - Science Advances, 10.1126/sciadv.aav3673

    Request for full articleMore informations

    Retrotransposons jump into alternative-splicing regulation via a long noncoding RNA

    Luco RF

    2016 - Nat Struct Mol Biol, 23(11):952-954

    Request for full article27814350

    A lncRNA regulates alternative splicing via establishment of a splicing-specific chromatin signature

    Gonzalez I, Munita R, Agirre E, Dittmer TA, Gysling K, Misteli T, Luco RF.

    2015 - Nat Struct Mol Biol, 22, 5, 370-376

    Request for full article25849144

    Epigenetics in alternative pre-mRNA splicing

    Luco RF, Allo M, Schor IE, Kornblihtt AR, Misteli T.

    2011 - CELL, 144 (1): 16-26

    Request for full article21215366
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    Publications of the team

  • A histone code for alternative splicing

    We have found that histone modifications differentially mark alternatively spliced exons in a combinatorial way. Taking advantage of available genome-wide ChIP-seq and RNA-seq data from the ENCODE and ROADMAP Epigenomics project, we are now identifying the chromatin signatures that differentially mark included and excluded exons, to study what these events have in common in order to depict novel regulatory mechanisms of alternative splicing and improve the current prediction tools by adding to the splicing code the information embedded at the chromatin level.

    Figure 2
    Histone modifications differentially mark, in a combinatorial way, alternatively spliced exons, which in turn has an impact on the recruitment of the splicing regulators to the pre-mRNA via chromatin-adaptor complexes and/or modulation of RNA Polymerase II elongation rate.

    A dynamic role for histone marks in EMT-dependent alternative splicing

    During EMT, there are well-known changes in alternative splicing that can happen early in the EMT, or later at more final stages of the reprogramming process. Moreover, we have found many of these alternatively spliced genes to be regulated by chromatin modifications, raising the question of what is the dynamic interplay between the two regulatory layers. In this project, we will combine genome-wide epigenomics and transcriptomics data with more classical molecular biology methodologies, to identify and correlate in time the changes in chromatin and lncRNAs with changes in splicing during EMT. As a final proof of the role of these histone marks in EMT-dependent splicing, we will adapt the CRISPR/dCas9 system to edit the epigenome exon-specifically and test the effect on alternative splicing.

    Figure 3
    By correlating in time (T0, T1, T6, T21 days) the genome-wide changes in alternative splicing, lncRNAs expression levels and histone modification enrichment levels during the establishment and maintenance of a new EMT-specific splicing program, we will identify novel regulators of splicing that will be further studied with more mechanistic approaches.

    The role of enhancers in alternative splicing regulation

    Recently, alternatively spliced exons have been shown to physically interact with distal regulatory sequences via chromatin looping. However a true functional study addressing the role of these physical interactions in alternative splicing is still missing. We aim to address this question by using conformation capture assays coupled to CHIP-seq to first identify all the splicing events that physically interact with enhancers during EMT and then to modify these enhancers to test the effect on alternative splicing.

    Figure 4
    Recently, enhancers have been shown to physically interact with alternatively spliced exons, but with no prove of a functional link. We propose that enhancers can target to the regulated exons, chromatin regulators that by protein-protein interaction can favor the recruitment of the splicing factors to the pre-mRNA, modulating like this the final splicing outcome.
  • Education and previous position

    2013: HDR at the University of Montpellier, France
    2013-present: Group Leader at the Human Genetics Institute (IGH-CNRS), Montpellier (France)
    2007-2012: Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Tom Misteli’s laboratory, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda (USA).
    2003-2007: PhD Student in Dr. Jorge Ferrer’s laboratory, Department of Endocrinology, Hospital Clinic de Barcelona - IDIBAPS, Barcelona (Spain).
    2002: B.S. in Biology at the University of Barcelona (Spain)

    Fellowships and awards

    2019 - The French National Cancer Institute (INCa) Grant in Cancer Biology and Fundamental Research (France)
    2018 - ARC Foundation Emerging project (Projet Emergent Fondation ARC)
    2017 - The Young Investigators National Agency of Research Grant (ANR Jeunes chercheurs) (France)
    2016 - Pôle Rabelais’ award for Great Advances in Biology and Health (France)
    2016 - CNRS Bronze Medal for outstanding young researchers (France)
    2016 - La Fondation Schlumberger pour l’Education et la Recherche Award (Lauréat du cercle FSER - France)
    2014 - Montpellier’s Laboratories of Excellence: LABEX EpiGenMed award (France)
    2014 - INSERM Plan Cancer: Epigenetics in Cancer Grant (Coordinator, France)
    2014 - Marie Curie Career Integration Grant (FP7-Europe)
    2013 - EpiGeneSys ”Research Integrating System Biology and Epigenetics” RISE1 award (FP7-Europe)
    2013 - ATIP-AVENIR programme of excellence, CNRS/INSERM/ARC (France)
    2012 - Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale FRM Young Investigator grant (France)
    2011 - The Center for Cancer Research top Science advances award, National Institutes of Health (USA)
    2010 - NCI Intramural Career Development Innovation Award, NIH (USA)