Animal genomes are organized into topologically associated domains (TADs). TADs are thought to contribute to gene regulation by facilitating enhancer-promoter (E-P) contacts within a TAD preventing these contacts across TAD borders. However, the absolute difference in contact frequency across TAD boundaries is usually less than two-fold, even though disruptions of TAD borders can change gene expression by ten-fold. Existing models fail to explain this hypersensitive response. Here, we propose a futile cycle model of enhancer-mediated regulation that can exhibit hypersensitivity through bistability and hysteresis. Consistent with recent experiments, this regulation does not exhibit strong correlation between enhancer-promoter contact and promoter activity, even though regulation occurs through contact. Through mathematical analysis and stochastic simulation, we show that this system can create an illusion of enhancer-promoter biochemical specificity and explain the importance of weak TAD boundaries. It also offers a mechanism to reconcile apparently contradictory results from recent global TAD disruption with local TAD boundary deletion experiments. Together, these analyses advance our understanding of cis-regulatory contacts in controlling gene expression, and suggest new experimental directions.
This is a theoretical and computational paper using published experimental data.
Visualizing DNA Folding and RNA in Embryos at Single-Cell Resolutionhttps://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1035-4.
Live-Cell Imaging Reveals Enhancer-Dependent Sox2 Transcription in the Absence of Enhancer Proximityhttps://doi.org/10.7554/eLife.41769.
A three-dimensional map of the human genome at kilobase resolution reveals prinicples of chromatin loopinghttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo/query/acc.cgi?acc=GSE63525.
- Alistair N Boettiger
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Job Dekker, University of Massachusetts Medical School, United States
© 2021, Xiao 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.
The cohesin complex plays essential roles in chromosome segregation, 3D genome organisation, and DNA damage repair through its ability to modify DNA topology. In higher eukaryotes, meiotic chromosome function, and therefore fertility, requires cohesin complexes containing meiosis-specific kleisin subunits: REC8 and RAD21L in mammals and REC-8 and COH-3/4 in Caenorhabditis elegans. How these complexes perform the multiple functions of cohesin during meiosis and whether this involves different modes of DNA binding or dynamic association with chromosomes is poorly understood. Combining time-resolved methods of protein removal with live imaging and exploiting the temporospatial organisation of the C. elegans germline, we show that REC-8 complexes provide sister chromatid cohesion (SCC) and DNA repair, while COH-3/4 complexes control higher-order chromosome structure. High-abundance COH-3/4 complexes associate dynamically with individual chromatids in a manner dependent on cohesin loading (SCC-2) and removal (WAPL-1) factors. In contrast, low-abundance REC-8 complexes associate stably with chromosomes, tethering sister chromatids from S-phase until the meiotic divisions. Our results reveal that kleisin identity determines the function of meiotic cohesin by controlling the mode and regulation of cohesin–DNA association, and are consistent with a model in which SCC and DNA looping are performed by variant cohesin complexes that coexist on chromosomes.
Though long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) represent a substantial fraction of the Pol II transcripts in multicellular animals, only a few have known functions. Here we report that the blocking activity of the Bithorax complex (BX-C) Fub-1 boundary is segmentally regulated by its own lncRNA. The Fub-1 boundary is located between the Ultrabithorax (Ubx) gene and the bxd/pbx regulatory domain, which is responsible for regulating Ubx expression in parasegment PS6/segment A1. Fub-1 consists of two hypersensitive sites, HS1 and HS2. HS1 is an insulator while HS2 functions primarily as an lncRNA promoter. To activate Ubx expression in PS6/A1, enhancers in the bxd/pbx domain must be able to bypass Fub-1 blocking activity. We show that the expression of the Fub-1 lncRNAs in PS6/A1 from the HS2 promoter inactivates Fub-1 insulating activity. Inactivation is due to read-through as the HS2 promoter must be directed toward HS1 to disrupt blocking.