The role of the spatial organization of chromosomes in directing transcription remains an outstanding question in gene regulation. Here, we analyze two recent single-cell imaging methodologies applied across hundreds of genes to systematically analyze the contribution of chromosome conformation to transcriptional regulation. Those methodologies are: 1) single-cell chromatin tracing with super-resolution imaging in fixed cells; 2) high throughput labeling and imaging of nascent RNA in living cells. Specifically, we determine the contribution of physical distance to the coordination of transcriptional bursts. We find that individual genes adopt a constrained conformation and reposition toward the centroid of the surrounding chromatin upon activation. Leveraging the variability in distance inherent in single-cell imaging, we show that physical distance - but not genomic distance - between genes on individual chromosomes is the major factor driving co-bursting. By combining this analysis with live-cell imaging, we arrive at a corrected transcriptional correlation of ϕ ≈0.3 for genes separated by < 400 nm. We propose that this surprisingly large correlation represents a physical property of human chromosomes and establishes a benchmark for future experimental studies.
The current manuscript is a computational study. Analysis code and modeling code are included in GitHub. https://github.com/CHB-Bohrer/co-bursting
- Christopher H Bohrer
- Daniel R Larson
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Robert H Singer, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, United States
This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.
Imaging experiments reveal the complex and dynamic nature of the transcriptional hubs associated with Notch signaling.
African trypanosomes evade host immune clearance by antigenic variation, causing persistent infections in humans and animals. These parasites express a homogeneous surface coat of variant surface glycoproteins (VSGs). They transcribe one out of hundreds of VSG genes at a time from telomeric expression sites (ESs) and periodically change the VSG expressed by transcriptional switching or recombination. The mechanisms underlying the control of VSG switching and its developmental silencing remain elusive. We report that telomeric ES activation and silencing entail an on/off genetic switch controlled by a nuclear phosphoinositide signaling system. This system includes a nuclear phosphatidylinositol 5-phosphatase (PIP5Pase), its substrate PI(3,4,5)P3, and the repressor-activator protein 1 (RAP1). RAP1 binds to ES sequences flanking VSG genes via its DNA binding domains and represses VSG transcription. In contrast, PI(3,4,5)P3 binds to the N-terminus of RAP1 and controls its DNA binding activity. Transient inactivation of PIP5Pase results in the accumulation of nuclear PI(3,4,5)P3, which binds RAP1 and displaces it from ESs, activating transcription of silent ESs and VSG switching. The system is also required for the developmental silencing of VSG genes. The data provides a mechanism controlling reversible telomere silencing essential for the periodic switching in VSG expression and its developmental regulation.