Transcription is regulated through binding factors to gene promoters to activate or repress expression, however, the mechanisms by which factors find targets remain unclear. Using single-molecule fluorescence microscopy, we determined in vivo stoichiometry and spatiotemporal dynamics of a GFP tagged repressor, Mig1, from a paradigm signaling pathway of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We find the repressor operates in clusters, which upon extracellular signal detection, translocate from the cytoplasm, bind to nuclear targets and turnover. Simulations of Mig1 configuration within a 3D yeast genome model combined with a promoter-specific, fluorescent translation reporter confirmed clusters are the functional unit of gene regulation. In vitro and structural analysis on reconstituted Mig1 suggests that clusters are stabilized by depletion forces between intrinsically disordered sequences. We observed similar clusters of a co-regulatory activator from a different pathway, supporting a generalized cluster model for transcription factors that reduces promoter search times through intersegment transfer while stabilizing gene expression.
- Adam JM Wollman
- Mark C Leake
- Mark C Leake
- Sviatlana Shashkova
- Erik G Hedlund
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Antoine M van Oijen, University of Wollongong, Australia
© 2017, Wollman et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Previously, we showed that a massively parallel reporter assay, mSTARR-seq, could be used to simultaneously test for both enhancer-like activity and DNA methylation-dependent enhancer activity for millions of loci in a single experiment (Lea et al., 2018). Here, we apply mSTARR-seq to query nearly the entire human genome, including almost all CpG sites profiled either on the commonly used Illumina Infinium MethylationEPIC array or via reduced representation bisulfite sequencing. We show that fragments containing these sites are enriched for regulatory capacity, and that methylation-dependent regulatory activity is in turn sensitive to the cellular environment. In particular, regulatory responses to interferon alpha (IFNA) stimulation are strongly attenuated by methyl marks, indicating widespread DNA methylation-environment interactions. In agreement, methylation-dependent responses to IFNA identified via mSTARR-seq predict methylation-dependent transcriptional responses to challenge with influenza virus in human macrophages. Our observations support the idea that pre-existing DNA methylation patterns can influence the response to subsequent environmental exposures—one of the tenets of biological embedding. However, we also find that, on average, sites previously associated with early life adversity are not more likely to functionally influence gene regulation than expected by chance.