Professional Education

  • PhD, Faculty of Medicine, Uppsala University, Molecular Genetics (2017)
  • MSc, Vienna University of Life Sciences, Quantitative Genetics (2011)
  • MSc, SLU, Sweden, Molecular Genetics (2011)
  • BSc, Ain Shams University, Animal Sciences (2007)

Stanford Advisors


  • Shady Younis, Wael Kamel, Göran Akuslarvi, Leif Andersson. "Sweden Patent WO2018143874A1 Methods for identifying new therapeutic agents", Jan 30, 2018

All Publications

  • ZBED6 counteracts high-fat diet-induced glucose intolerance by maintaining beta cell area and reducing excess mitochondrial activation. Diabetologia Wang, X., Younis, S., Cen, J., Wang, Y., Krizhanovskii, C., Andersson, L., Welsh, N. 2021


    AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: ZBED6 (zinc finger, BED-type containing 6) is known to regulate muscle mass by suppression of Igf2 gene transcription. In insulin-producing cell lines, ZBED6 maintains proliferative capacity at the expense of differentiation and beta cell function. The aim was to study the impact of Zbed6 knockout on beta cell function and glucose tolerance in C57BL/6 mice.METHODS: Beta cell area and proliferation were determined in Zbed6 knockout mice using immunohistochemical analysis. Muscle and fat distribution were assessed using micro-computed tomography. Islet gene expression was assessed by RNA sequencing. Effects of a high-fat diet were analysed by glucose tolerance and insulin tolerance tests. ZBED6 was overexpressed in EndoC-betaH1 cells and human islet cells using an adenoviral vector. Beta cell cell-cycle analysis, insulin release and mitochondrial function were studied in vitro using propidium iodide staining and flow cytometry, ELISA, the Seahorse technique, and the fluorescent probes JC-1 and MitoSox.RESULTS: Islets from Zbed6 knockout mice showed lowered expression of the cell cycle gene Pttg1, decreased beta cell proliferation and decreased beta cell area, which occurred independently from ZBED6 effects on Igf2 gene expression. Zbed6 knockout mice, but not wild-type mice, developed glucose intolerance when given a high-fat diet. The high-fat diet Zbed6 knockout islets displayed upregulated expression of oxidative phosphorylation genes and genes associated with beta cell differentiation. In vitro, ZBED6 overexpression resulted in increased EndoC-betaH1 cell proliferation and a reduced glucose-stimulated insulin release in human islets. ZBED6 also reduced mitochondrial JC-1 J-aggregate formation, mitochondrial oxygen consumption rates (OCR) and mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, both at basal and palmitate + high glucose-stimulated conditions. ZBED6-induced inhibition of OCR was not rescued by IGF2 addition. ZBED6 reduced levels of the mitochondrial regulator PPAR-gamma related coactivator 1 protein (PRC) and bound its promoter/enhancer region. Knockdown of PRC resulted in a lowered OCR.CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: It is concluded that ZBED6 is required for normal beta cell replication and also limits excessive beta cell mitochondrial activation in response to an increased functional demand. ZBED6 may act, at least in part, by restricting PRC-mediated mitochondrial activation/ROS production, which may lead to protection against beta cell dysfunction and glucose intolerance in vivo.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00125-021-05517-0

    View details for PubMedID 34296320

  • Functional differences between TSHR alleles associate with variation in spawning season in Atlantic herring. Communications biology Chen, J., Bi, H., Pettersson, M. E., Sato, D. X., Fuentes-Pardo, A. P., Mo, C., Younis, S., Wallerman, O., Jern, P., Moles, G., Gomez, A., Kleinau, G., Scheerer, P., Andersson, L. 2021; 4 (1): 795


    The underlying molecular mechanisms that determine long day versus short day breeders remain unknown in any organism. Atlantic herring provides a unique opportunity to examine the molecular mechanisms involved in reproduction timing, because both spring and autumn spawners exist within the same species. Although our previous whole genome comparisons revealed a strong association of TSHR alleles with spawning seasons, the functional consequences of these variants remain unknown. Here we examined the functional significance of six candidate TSHR mutations strongly associated with herring reproductive seasonality. We show that the L471M missense mutation in the spring-allele causes enhanced cAMP signaling. The best candidate non-coding mutation is a 5.2kb retrotransposon insertion upstream of the TSHR transcription start site, near an open chromatin region, which is likely to affect TSHR expression. The insertion occurred prior to the split between Pacific and Atlantic herring and was lost in the autumn-allele. Our study shows that strongly associated coding and non-coding variants at the TSHR locus may both contribute to the regulation of seasonal reproduction in herring.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s42003-021-02307-7

    View details for PubMedID 34172814

  • The importance of the ZBED6-IGF2 axis for metabolic regulation in mouse myoblast cells FASEB JOURNAL Younis, S., Naboulsi, R., Wang, X., Cao, X., Larsson, M., Sargsyan, E., Bergsten, P., Welsh, N., Andersson, L. 2020


    The transcription factor ZBED6 acts as a repressor of Igf2 and affects directly or indirectly the transcriptional regulation of thousands of genes. Here, we use gene editing in mouse C2C12 myoblasts and show that ZBED6 regulates Igf2 exclusively through its binding site 5'-GGCTCG-3' in intron 1 of Igf2. Deletion of this motif (Igf2ΔGGCT ) or complete ablation of Zbed6 leads to ~20-fold upregulation of the IGF2 protein. Quantitative proteomics revealed an activation of Ras signaling pathway in both Zbed6-/- and Igf2ΔGGCT myoblasts, and a significant enrichment of mitochondrial membrane proteins among proteins showing altered expression in Zbed6-/- myoblasts. Both Zbed6-/- and Igf2ΔGGCT myoblasts showed a faster growth rate and developed myotube hypertrophy. These cells exhibited an increased O2 consumption rate, due to IGF2 upregulation. Transcriptome analysis revealed ~30% overlap between differentially expressed genes in Zbed6-/- and Igf2ΔGGCT myotubes, with an enrichment of upregulated genes involved in muscle development. In contrast, ZBED6-overexpression in myoblasts led to cell apoptosis, cell cycle arrest, reduced mitochondrial activities, and ceased myoblast differentiation. The similarities in growth and differentiation phenotypes observed in Zbed6-/- and Igf2ΔGGCT myoblasts demonstrates that ZBED6 affects mitochondrial activity and myogenesis largely through its regulation of IGF2 expression. This study adds new insights how the ZBED6-Igf2 axis affects muscle metabolism.

    View details for DOI 10.1096/fj.201901321R

    View details for Web of Science ID 000541805900001

    View details for PubMedID 32557799

  • Brain transcriptomics of wild and domestic rabbits suggests that changes in dopamine signalling and ciliary function contributed to evolution of tameness. Genome biology and evolution Sato, D. X., Rafati, N. n., Ring, H. n., Younis, S. n., Feng, C. n., Blanco-Aguiar, J. A., Rubin, C. J., Villafurte, R. n., Hallböök, F. n., Carneiro, M. n., Andersson, L. n. 2020


    Domestication has resulted in immense phenotypic changes in animals despite their relatively short evolutionary history. The European rabbit is one of the most recently domesticated animals, but exhibits distinct morphological, physiological and behavioural differences from their wild conspecifics. A previous study revealed that sequence variants with striking allele frequency differences between wild and domestic rabbits were enriched in conserved non-coding regions, in the vicinity of genes involved in nervous system development. This suggests that a large proportion of the genetic changes targeted by selection during domestication might affect gene regulation. Here, we generated RNA-sequencing data for four brain regions (amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus and parietal/temporal cortex) sampled at birth and revealed hundreds of differentially expressed genes (DEGs) between wild and domestic rabbits. DEGs in amygdala were significantly enriched for genes associated with dopaminergic function and all 12 DEGs in this category showed higher expression in domestic rabbits. DEGs in hippocampus were enriched for genes associated with ciliary function, all 21 genes in this category showed lower expression in domestic rabbits. These results indicate an important role of dopamine signalling and ciliary function in the evolution of tameness during rabbit domestication. Our study shows that gene expression in specific pathways has been profoundly altered during domestication, but that the majority of genes showing differential expression in this study have not been the direct targets of selection.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/gbe/evaa158

    View details for PubMedID 32835359

  • ZBED6 negatively regulates insulin production, neuronal differentiation, and cell aggregation in MIN6 cells FASEB JOURNAL Wang, X., Jiang, L., Wallerman, O., Younis, S., Yu, Q., Klaesson, A., Tengholm, A., Welsh, N., Andersson, L. 2019; 33 (1): 88–100


    Zinc finger BED domain containing protein 6 ( Zbed6) has evolved from a domesticated DNA transposon and encodes a transcription factor unique to placental mammals. The aim of the present study was to investigate further the role of ZBED6 in insulin-producing cells, using mouse MIN6 cells, and to evaluate the effects of Zbed6 knockdown on basal β-cell functions, such as morphology, transcriptional regulation, insulin content, and release. Zbed6-silenced cells and controls were characterized with a range of methods, including RNA sequencing, chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing, insulin content and release, subplasma membrane Ca2+ measurements, cAMP determination, and morphologic studies. More than 700 genes showed differential expression in response to Zbed6 knockdown, which was paralleled by increased capacity to generate cAMP, as well as by augmented subplasmalemmal calcium concentration and insulin secretion in response to glucose stimulation. We identified >4000 putative ZBED6-binding sites in the MIN6 genome, with an enrichment of ZBED6 sites at upregulated genes, such as the β-cell transcription factors v-maf musculoaponeurotic fibrosarcoma oncogene homolog A and Nk6 homeobox 1. We also observed altered morphology/growth patterns, as indicated by increased cell clustering, and in the appearance of axon-like Neurofilament, medium polypeptide and tubulin β 3, class III-positive protrusions. We conclude that ZBED6 acts as a transcriptional regulator in MIN6 cells and that its activity suppresses insulin production, cell aggregation, and neuronal-like differentiation.-Wang, X., Jiang, L., Wallerman, O., Younis, S., Yu, Q., Klaesson, A., Tengholm, A., Welsh, N., Andersson, L. ZBED6 negatively regulates insulin production, neuronal differentiation, and cell aggregation in MIN6 cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1096/fj.201600835R

    View details for Web of Science ID 000457401500007

    View details for PubMedID 29957057

  • Multiple nuclear-replicating viruses require the stress-induced protein ZC3H11A for efficient growth PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Younis, S., Kamel, W., Falkeborn, T., Wang, H., Yu, D., Daniels, R., Essand, M., Hinkula, J., Akusjarvi, G., Andersson, L. 2018; 115 (16): E3808–E3816


    The zinc finger CCCH-type containing 11A (ZC3H11A) gene encodes a well-conserved zinc finger protein that may function in mRNA export as it has been shown to associate with the transcription export (TREX) complex in proteomic screens. Here, we report that ZC3H11A is a stress-induced nuclear protein with RNA-binding capacity that localizes to nuclear splicing speckles. During an adenovirus infection, the ZC3H11A protein and splicing factor SRSF2 relocalize to nuclear regions where viral DNA replication and transcription take place. Knockout (KO) of ZC3H11A in HeLa cells demonstrated that several nuclear-replicating viruses are dependent on ZC3H11A for efficient growth (HIV, influenza virus, herpes simplex virus, and adenovirus), whereas cytoplasmic replicating viruses are not (vaccinia virus and Semliki Forest virus). High-throughput sequencing of ZC3H11A-cross-linked RNA showed that ZC3H11A binds to short purine-rich ribonucleotide stretches in cellular and adenoviral transcripts. We show that the RNA-binding property of ZC3H11A is crucial for its function and localization. In ZC3H11A KO cells, the adenovirus fiber mRNA accumulates in the cell nucleus. Our results suggest that ZC3H11A is important for maintaining nuclear export of mRNAs during stress and that several nuclear-replicating viruses take advantage of this mechanism to facilitate their replication.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1722333115

    View details for Web of Science ID 000430191900026

    View details for PubMedID 29610341

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5910864

  • The ZBED6-IGF2 axis has a major effect on growth of skeletal muscle and internal organs in placental mammals PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Younis, S., Schonke, M., Massart, J., Hjortebjerg, R., Sundstrom, E., Gustafson, U., Bjornholm, M., Krook, A., Frystyk, J., Zierath, J. R., Andersson, L. 2018; 115 (9): E2048–E2057


    A single nucleotide substitution in the third intron of insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2) is associated with increased muscle mass and reduced subcutaneous fat in domestic pigs. This mutation disrupts the binding of the ZBED6 transcription factor and leads to a threefold up-regulation of IGF2 expression in pig skeletal muscle. Here, we investigated the biological significance of ZBED6-IGF2 interaction in the growth of placental mammals using two mouse models, ZBED6 knock-out (Zbed6-/-) and Igf2 knock-in mice that carry the pig IGF2 mutation. These transgenic mice exhibit markedly higher serum IGF2 concentrations, higher growth rate, increased lean mass, and larger heart, kidney, and liver; no significant changes were observed for white adipose tissues. The changes in body and lean mass were most pronounced in female mice. The phenotypic changes were concomitant with a remarkable up-regulation of Igf2 expression in adult tissues. Transcriptome analysis of skeletal muscle identified differential expression of genes belonging to the extracellular region category. Expression analysis using fetal muscles indicated a minor role of ZBED6 in regulating Igf2 expression prenatally. Furthermore, transcriptome analysis of the adult skeletal muscle revealed that this elevated expression of Igf2 was derived from the P1 and P2 promoters. The results revealed very similar phenotypic effects in the Zbed6 knock-out mouse and in the Igf2 knock-in mouse, showing that the effect of ZBED6 on growth of muscle and internal organs is mediated through the binding site in the Igf2 gene. The results explain why this ZBED6 binding site is extremely well conserved among placental mammals.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1719278115

    View details for Web of Science ID 000426152500018

    View details for PubMedID 29440408

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5834713

  • Transcriptional modulator ZBED6 affects cell cycle and growth of human colorectal cancer cells PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Ali, M., Younis, S., Wallerman, O., Gupta, R., Andersson, L., Sjoblom, T. 2015; 112 (25): 7743–48


    The transcription factor ZBED6 (zinc finger, BED-type containing 6) is a repressor of IGF2 whose action impacts development, cell proliferation, and growth in placental mammals. In human colorectal cancers, IGF2 overexpression is mutually exclusive with somatic mutations in PI3K signaling components, providing genetic evidence for a role in the PI3K pathway. To understand the role of ZBED6 in tumorigenesis, we engineered and validated somatic cell ZBED6 knock-outs in the human colorectal cancer cell lines RKO and HCT116. Ablation of ZBED6 affected the cell cycle and led to increased growth rate in RKO cells but reduced growth in HCT116 cells. This striking difference was reflected in the transcriptome analyses, which revealed enrichment of cell-cycle-related processes among differentially expressed genes in both cell lines, but the direction of change often differed between the cell lines. ChIP sequencing analyses displayed enrichment of ZBED6 binding at genes up-regulated in ZBED6-knockout clones, consistent with the view that ZBED6 modulates gene expression primarily by repressing transcription. Ten differentially expressed genes were identified as putative direct gene targets, and their down-regulation by ZBED6 was validated experimentally. Eight of these genes were linked to the Wnt, Hippo, TGF-β, EGF receptor, or PI3K pathways, all involved in colorectal cancer development. The results of this study show that the effect of ZBED6 on tumor development depends on the genetic background and the transcriptional state of its target genes.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.1509193112

    View details for Web of Science ID 000356731300067

    View details for PubMedID 26056301

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4485122

  • Rabbit genome analysis reveals a polygenic basis for phenotypic change during domestication SCIENCE Carneiro, M., Rubin, C., Di Palma, F., Albert, F. W., Alfoeldi, J., Barrio, A., Pielberg, G., Rafati, N., Sayyab, S., Turner-Maier, J., Younis, S., Afonso, S., Aken, B., Alves, J. M., Barrell, D., Bolet, G., Boucher, S., Burbano, H. A., Campos, R., Chang, J. L., Duranthon, V., Fontanesi, L., Garreau, H., Heiman, D., Johnson, J., Mage, R. G., Peng, Z., Queney, G., Rogel-Gaillard, C., Ruffier, M., Searle, S., Villafuerte, R., Xiong, A., Young, S., Forsberg-Nilsson, K., Good, J. M., Lander, E. S., Ferrand, N., Lindblad-Toh, K., Andersson, L. 2014; 345 (6200): 1074–79


    The genetic changes underlying the initial steps of animal domestication are still poorly understood. We generated a high-quality reference genome for the rabbit and compared it to resequencing data from populations of wild and domestic rabbits. We identified more than 100 selective sweeps specific to domestic rabbits but only a relatively small number of fixed (or nearly fixed) single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) for derived alleles. SNPs with marked allele frequency differences between wild and domestic rabbits were enriched for conserved noncoding sites. Enrichment analyses suggest that genes affecting brain and neuronal development have often been targeted during domestication. We propose that because of a truly complex genetic background, tame behavior in rabbits and other domestic animals evolved by shifts in allele frequencies at many loci, rather than by critical changes at only a few domestication loci.

    View details for DOI 10.1126/science.1253714

    View details for Web of Science ID 000340870900046

    View details for PubMedID 25170157

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5421586

  • ZBED6 Modulates the Transcription of Myogenic Genes in Mouse Myoblast Cells PLOS ONE Jiang, L., Wallerman, O., Younis, S., Rubin, C., Gilbert, E. R., Sundstrom, E., Ghazal, A., Zhang, X., Wang, L., Mikkelsen, T. S., Andersson, G., Andersson, L. 2014; 9 (4): e94187


    ZBED6 is a recently discovered transcription factor, unique to placental mammals, that has evolved from a domesticated DNA transposon. It acts as a repressor at the IGF2 locus. Here we show that ZBED6 acts as a transcriptional modulator in mouse myoblast cells, where more than 700 genes were differentially expressed after Zbed6-silencing. The most significantly enriched GO term was muscle protein and contractile fiber, which was consistent with increased myotube formation. Twenty small nucleolar RNAs all showed increased expression after Zbed6-silencing. The co-localization of histone marks and ZBED6 binding sites and the effect of Zbed6-silencing on distribution of histone marks was evaluated by ChIP-seq analysis. There was a strong association between ZBED6 binding sites and the H3K4me3, H3K4me2 and H3K27ac modifications, which are usually found at active promoters, but no association with the repressive mark H3K27me3. Zbed6-silencing led to increased enrichment of active marks at myogenic genes, in agreement with the RNA-seq findings. We propose that ZBED6 preferentially binds to active promoters and modulates transcriptional activity without recruiting repressive histone modifications.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0094187

    View details for Web of Science ID 000334160900101

    View details for PubMedID 24714595

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3979763