Abstract

Patients with sickle cell disease (SCD), caused by mutation of the adult β-globin gene, are phenotypically normal if they carry compensatory mutations that result in continued expression of the fetal γ-globin genes, a condition termed hereditary persistence of fetal hemoglobin (HPFH). Thus, a logical clinical goal for treatment of SCD is to up-regulate γ-globin synthesis using compounds that are specific for increasing fetal hemoglobin (HbF) without pleiotropic effects on cellular homeostasis. Developmental regulation of the γ-globin genes is complex and normal silencing during the adult stage of erythropoiesis likely results from a combination of the loss of transcriptional activators and the gain of transcriptional repressor complexes. One mode of γ-globin silencing occurs at the GATA binding sites located at -566 or -567 relative to the Aγ-globin or Gγ-globin CAP sites respectively, and is mediated through the DNA binding moiety of GATA-1 and its recruitment of co-repressor partners, FOG-1 and Mi-2 (NuRD complex). Modifications of repressor complexes can regulate gene transcription; one such modification is O-GlcNAcylation. The O-GlcNAc post-translational modification is the attachment of a single N-acetyl-glucosamine moiety to either a serine or threonine residue on nuclear and cytoplasmic proteins. O-GlcNAc is added to proteins by O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) and removed by O-GlcNAcase (OGA) in response to changes in extracellular signals and nutrients. A dynamic balance in protein levels also exists between these two enzymes; an increase or decrease of one results in a like compensatory change in the other. Thus, the rate of O-GlcNAc addition and removal is a dynamic cycling event that is exquisitely controlled for a given target molecule, which may offer a point of intervention in the turning off or on of gene expression. O-GlcNAcylation is involved in the regulation of many cellular processes such as stress response, cell cycle progression, and transcription. Potentially, O-GlcNAc plays a pivotal role in regulating transcription of the human γ-globin genes. We induced human erythroleukemia cell line K562 with sodium butyrate to differentiate toward the erythroid lineage and observed the expected increase of γ-globin gene expression. A robust increase of γ-globin gene expression was measured after pharmacological inhibition of OGA using Thiamet-G (TMG). Using chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), we demonstrated that OGT and OGA are recruited to the -566 region of the Aγ-globin promoter, the same region occupied by the GATA-1-FOG-1-Mi-2 (NuRD) repressor complex. However, OGT recruitment to this region was decreased when O-GlcNAc levels were artificially elevated by OGA inhibition with TMG. When γ-globin expression was not induced, Mi-2 was modified with O-GlcNAc and interacted with both OGT and OGA. After induction, O-GlcNAcylation of Mi-2 was reduced and Mi2 no longer interacted with OGT. Stable K562 cells were generated in which OGA was knocked down using shRNA. Following induction of these cells with sodium butyrate, γ-globin gene expression was higher compared to control cells. These data suggest that the dynamic cycling of O-GlcNAc on the Mi-2 (NuRD) moiety contributes towards regulation of γ-globin transcription. Concurrent ChIP experiments in human β-globin locus yeast artificial chromosome (β-YAC) transgenic mice demonstrated that GATA-1, Mi2 and OGT were recruited to the -566 Aγ-globin GATA silencer site in day E18 fetal liver when γ-globin is repressed, but not in day E12 fetal liver when γ-globin is expressed. These data demonstrate that O-GlcNAc cycling is a novel mechanism regulating γ-globin gene expression and will provide new avenues to explore in how alterations in gene regulation lead to the onset, progression, and severity of hematological disease.

Disclosures:

No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes

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