In this issue of Cancer Cell, Yang et al. describe a causal relationship between gene body methylation and gene expression and a role for genic methylation in response to clinical DNA methylation inhibitors, which suggests that the mechanism of action of these inhibitors includes gene body hypomethylation-induced downregulation of cancer-associated genes.
The widespread adoption of short-read DNA sequencing as a digital epigenomic readout platform has motivated the development of genome-wide tools that achieve base-pair resolution. New methods for footprinting and affinity purification of nucleosomes, RNA polymerases, chromatin remodellers and transcription factors have increased the resolution of epigenomic profiling by two orders of magnitude, leading to new insights into how the chromatin landscape affects gene regulation. These digital epigenomic tools have also been applied to directly profile both turnover kinetics and transcription in situ. In this Review, we describe how these new genome-wide tools allow interrogation of diverse aspects of the epigenome.
Fluctuations in the ambient environment can trigger chromatin disruptions, involving replacement of nucleosomes or exchange of their histone subunits. Unlike canonical histones, which are available only during S-phase, replication-independent histone variants are present throughout the cell cycle and are adapted for chromatin repair. The H2A.Z variant mediates responses to environmental perturbations including fluctuations in temperature and seasonal variation. Phosphorylation of histone H2A.X rapidly marks double-strand DNA breaks for chromatin repair, which is mediated by both H2A and H3 histone variants. Other histones are used as weapons in conflicts between parasites and their hosts, which suggests broad involvement of histone variants in environmental responses beyond chromatin repair.
Faithful chromosome segregation in all eukaryotes relies on centromeres, the chromosomal sites that recruit kinetochore proteins and mediate spindle attachment during cell division. The centromeric histone H3 variant, CenH3, is the defining chromatin component of centromeres in most eukaryotes, including animals, fungi, plants, and protists. In this study, using detailed genomic and transcriptome analyses, we show that CenH3 was lost independently in at least four lineages of insects. Each of these lineages represents an independent transition from monocentricity (centromeric determinants localized to a single chromosomal region) to holocentricity (centromeric determinants extended over the entire chromosomal length) as ancient as 300 million years ago. Holocentric insects therefore contain a CenH3-independent centromere, different from almost all the other eukaryotes. We propose that ancient transitions to holocentricity in insects obviated the need to maintain CenH3, which is otherwise essential in most eukaryotes, including other holocentrics.
The double helical structure of DNA lends itself to topological constraints. Many DNA-based processes alter the topological state of DNA, generating torsional stress, which is efficiently relieved by topoisomerases. Maintaining this topological balance is crucial to cell survival, as excessive torsional strain risks DNA damage. Here, we review the mechanisms that generate and modulate DNA torsion within the cell. In particular, we discuss how transcription-generated torsional stress affects Pol II kinetics and chromatin dynamics, highlighting an emerging role of DNA torsion as a feedback mediator of torsion-generating processes.
RNA polymerase II (PolII) transcribes RNA within a chromatin context, with nucleosomes acting as barriers to transcription. Despite these barriers, transcription through chromatin in vivo is highly efficient, suggesting the existence of factors that overcome this obstacle. To increase the resolution obtained by standard chromatin immunoprecipitation, we developed a novel strategy using micrococcal nuclease digestion of cross-linked chromatin. We find that the chromatin remodeler Chd1 is recruited to promoter proximal nucleosomes of genes undergoing active transcription, where Chd1 is responsible for the vast majority of PolII-directed nucleosome turnover. The expression of a dominant negative form of Chd1 results in increased stalling of PolII past the entry site of the promoter proximal nucleosomes. We find that Chd1 evicts nucleosomes downstream of the promoter in order to overcome the nucleosomal barrier and enable PolII promoter escape, thus providing mechanistic insight into the role of Chd1 in transcription and pluripotency. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02042.001.
In budding yeast, a single cenH3 (Cse4) nucleosome occupies the ?120-bp functional centromere, however conflicting structural models for the particle have been proposed. To resolve this controversy, we have applied H4S47C-anchored cleavage mapping, which reveals the precise position of histone H4 in every nucleosome in the genome. We find that cleavage patterns at centromeres are unique within the genome and are incompatible with symmetrical structures, including octameric nucleosomes and (Cse4/H4)2 tetrasomes. Centromere cleavage patterns are compatible with a precisely positioned core structure, one in which each of the 16 yeast centromeres is occupied by oppositely oriented Cse4/H4/H2A/H2B hemisomes in two rotational phases within the population. Centromere-specific hemisomes are also inferred from distances observed between closely-spaced H4 cleavages, as predicted from structural modeling. Our results indicate that the orientation and rotational position of the stable hemisome at each yeast centromere is not specified by the functional centromere sequence. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.01861.001.
Centromeres vary greatly in size and sequence composition, ranging from 'point' centromeres with a single cenH3-containing nucleosome to 'regional' centromeres embedded in tandemly repeated sequences to holocentromeres that extend along the length of entire chromosomes. Point centromeres are defined by sequence, whereas regional and holocentromeres are epigenetically defined by the location of cenH3-containing nucleosomes. In this study, we show that Caenorhabditis elegans holocentromeres are organized as dispersed but discretely localized point centromeres, each forming a single cenH3-containing nucleosome. These centromeric sites co-localize with kinetochore components, and their occupancy is dependent on the cenH3 loading machinery. These sites coincide with non-specific binding sites for multiple transcription factors ('HOT' sites), which become occupied when cenH3 is lost. Our results show that the point centromere is the basic unit of holocentric organization in support of the classical polycentric model for holocentromeres, and provide a mechanistic basis for understanding how centromeric chromatin might be maintained. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.02025.001.
Eukaryotic gene regulation involves a balance between packaging of the genome into nucleosomes and enabling access to regulatory proteins and RNA polymerase. Nucleosomes are integral components of gene regulation that restrict access to both regulatory sequences and the underlying template. Whereas canonical histones package the newly replicated genome, they can be replaced with histone variants that alter nucleosome structure, stability, dynamics, and, ultimately, DNA accessibility. Here we consider how histone variants and their interacting partners are involved in transcriptional regulation through the creation of unique chromatin states.
Polycomb-mediated chromatin repression modulates gene expression during development in metazoans. Binding of multiple sequence-specific factors at discrete Polycomb response elements (PREs) is thought to recruit repressive complexes that spread across an extended chromatin domain. To dissect the structure of PREs, we applied high-resolution mapping of nonhistone chromatin proteins in native chromatin of Drosophila cells. Analysis of occupied sites reveal interactions between transcription factors that stabilize Polycomb anchoring to DNA, and implicate the general transcription factor ADF1 as a novel PRE component. By comparing two Drosophila cell lines with differential chromatin states, we provide evidence that repression is accomplished by enhanced Polycomb recruitment both to PREs and to target promoters of repressed genes. These results suggest that the stability of multifactor complexes at promoters and regulatory elements is a crucial aspect of developmentally regulated gene expression.
Repeat sequences are abundant in eukaryotic genomes but many are excluded from genome assemblies. In Drosophila melanogaster classical studies of repeat content suggested variability between individuals, but they lacked the precision of modern high throughput sequencing technologies. Genome-wide profiling of chromatin features such as histone tail modifications and DNA-binding proteins relies on alignment to the reference genome and hence excludes highly repetitive sequences.
Nucleosomes are barriers to transcription in vitro; however, their effects on RNA polymerase in vivo are unknown. Here we describe a simple and general strategy to comprehensively map the positions of elongating and arrested RNA polymerase II (RNAPII) at nucleotide resolution. We find that the entry site of the first (+1) nucleosome is a barrier to RNAPII for essentially all genes, including those undergoing regulated pausing farther upstream. In contrast to the +1 nucleosome, gene body nucleosomes are low barriers and cause RNAPII stalling both at the entry site and near the dyad axis. The extent of the +1 nucleosome barrier correlates with nucleosome occupancy but anticorrelates with enrichment of histone variant H2A.Z. Importantly, depletion of H2A.Z from a nucleosome position results in a higher barrier to RNAPII. Our results suggest that nucleosomes present significant, context-specific barriers to RNAPII in vivo that can be tuned by the incorporation of H2A.Z.
Plant and animal centromeres comprise megabases of highly repeated satellite sequences, yet centromere function can be specified epigenetically on single-copy DNA by the presence of nucleosomes containing a centromere-specific variant of histone H3 (cenH3). We determined the positions of cenH3 nucleosomes in rice (Oryza sativa), which has centromeres composed of both the 155-bp CentO satellite repeat and single-copy non-CentO sequences. We find that cenH3 nucleosomes protect 90-100 bp of DNA from micrococcal nuclease digestion, sufficient for only a single wrap of DNA around the cenH3 nucleosome core. cenH3 nucleosomes are translationally phased with 155-bp periodicity on CentO repeats, but not on non-CentO sequences. CentO repeats have an ?10-bp periodicity in WW dinucleotides and in micrococcal nuclease cleavage, providing evidence for rotational phasing of cenH3 nucleosomes on CentO and suggesting that satellites evolve for translational and rotational stabilization of centromeric nucleosomes.
The Swi2/Snf2 family ATPase Mot1 displaces TATA-binding protein (TBP) from DNA in vitro, but the global relationship between Mot1 and TBP in vivo is unclear. In particular, how Mot1 activates transcription is poorly understood. To address these issues, we mapped the distribution of Mot1 and TBP on native chromatin at base pair resolution. Mot1 and TBP binding sites coincide throughout the genome, and depletion of TBP results in a global decrease in Mot1 binding. We find evidence that Mot1 approaches TBP from the upstream direction, consistent with its in vitro mode of action. Strikingly, inactivation of Mot1 leads to both increases and decreases in TBP-genome association. Sites of TBP gain tend to contain robust TATA boxes, while sites of TBP loss contain poly(dA-dT) tracts that may contribute to nucleosome exclusion. Sites of TBP gain are associated with increased gene expression, while decreased TBP binding is associated with reduced gene expression. We propose that the action of Mot1 is required to clear TBP from intrinsically preferred (TATA-containing) binding sites, ensuring sufficient soluble TBP to bind intrinsically disfavored (TATA-less) sites.
Doxorubicin is one of the most important anti-cancer chemotherapeutic drugs, being widely used for the treatment of solid tumors and acute leukemias. The action of doxorubicin and other anthracycline drugs has been intensively investigated during the last several decades, but the mechanisms that have been proposed for cell killing remain disparate and controversial. In this review, we examine the proposed models for doxorubicin action from the perspective of the chromatin landscape, which is altered in many types of cancer due to recurrent mutations in chromatin modifiers. We highlight recent evidence for effects of anthracyclines on DNA torsion and chromatin dynamics that may underlie basic mechanisms of doxorubicin-mediated cell death and suggest new therapeutic strategies for cancer treatment.
As RNA polymerase II (Pol II) transcribes a gene, it encounters an array of well-ordered nucleosomes. How it traverses through this array in vivo remains unresolved. One model proposes that torsional stress generated during transcription destabilizes nucleosomes ahead of Pol II. Here, we describe a method for high-resolution mapping of underwound DNA, using next-generation sequencing, and show that torsion is correlated with gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster cells. Accumulation of torsional stress, through topoisomerase inhibition, results in increased Pol II at transcription start sites. Whereas topoisomerase I inhibition results in increased nascent RNA transcripts, topoisomerase II inhibition causes little change. Despite the different effects on Pol II elongation, topoisomerase inhibition results in increased nucleosome turnover and salt solubility within gene bodies, thus suggesting that the elongation-independent effects of torsional stress on nucleosome dynamics contributes to the destabilization of nucleosomes.
Sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins including transcription factors (TFs) are key determinants of gene regulation and chromatin architecture. TF profiling is commonly carried out by formaldehyde cross-linking and sonication followed by chromatin immunoprecipitation (X-ChIP). We describe a method to profile TF binding at high resolution without cross-linking. We begin with micrococcal nuclease-digested non-cross-linked chromatin and then perform affinity purification of TFs and paired-end sequencing. The resulting occupied regions of genomes from affinity-purified naturally isolated chromatin (ORGANIC) profiles of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Abf1 and Reb1 provide high-resolution maps that are accurate, as defined by the presence of known TF consensus motifs in identified binding sites, that are not biased toward accessible chromatin and that do not require input normalization. We profiled Drosophila melanogaster GAGA factor and Pipsqueak to test ORGANIC performance on larger genomes. Our results suggest that ORGANIC profiling is a widely applicable high-resolution method for sensitive and specific profiling of direct protein-DNA interactions.
Most histones are assembled into nucleosomes during replication to package genomic DNA. However, several variant histones are deposited independently of replication at particular regions of chromosomes. Such histone variants include cenH3, which forms the nucleosomal foundation for the centromere, and H3.3, which replaces histones that are lost during dynamic processes that disrupt nucleosomes. Furthermore, various H2A variants participate in DNA repair, gene regulation and other processes that are, as yet, not fully understood. Here, we review recent studies that have implicated histone variants in maintaining pluripotency and as causal factors in cancer and other diseases.
Sixty years after Watson and Crick published the double helix model of DNAs structure, thirteen members of Genome Biologys Editorial Board select key advances in the field of genome biology subsequent to that discovery.
The structure of nucleosomes that contain the cenH3 histone variant has been controversial. In budding yeast, a single right-handed cenH3/H4/H2A/H2B tetramer wraps the ?80-bp Centromere DNA Element II (CDE II) sequence of each centromere into a hemisome. However, attempts to reconstitute cenH3 particles in vitro have yielded exclusively octasomes, which are observed in vivo on chromosome arms only when Cse4 (yeast cenH3) is overproduced. Here, we show that Cse4 octamers remain intact under conditions of low salt and urea that dissociate H3 octamers. However, particles consisting of two DNA duplexes wrapped around a Cse4 octamer and separated by a gap efficiently split into hemisomes. Hemisome dimensions were confirmed using a calibrated gel-shift assay and atomic force microscopy, and their identity as tightly wrapped particles was demonstrated by gelFRET. Surprisingly, Cse4 hemisomes were stable in 4 M urea. Stable Cse4 hemisomes could be reconstituted using either full-length or tailless histones and with a 78-bp CDEII segment, which is predicted to be exceptionally stiff. We propose that CDEII DNA stiffness evolved to favor Cse4 hemisome over octasome formation. The precise correspondence between Cse4 hemisomes resident on CDEII in vivo and reconstituted on CDEII in vitro without any other factors implies that CDEII is sufficient for hemisome assembly.
Mutagenesis is frequently used to test gene function and to aid in crop improvement. Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes (TILLING) is a reverse genetic strategy first developed to identify induced point mutations in Arabidopsis. This general strategy has since been applied to many plant and animal species. Here, we describe a protocol for high-throughput TILLING in rice. Gene segments are amplified using fluorescently tagged primers, and products are denatured and reannealed to form heteroduplexes between the mutated and wild-type sequences. These heteroduplexes are substrates for cleavage by single-strand-specific nucleases. Following cleavage, products are analyzed on denaturing polyacrylamide gels using the LI-COR DNA analyzer system. Several rice TILLING populations have been described, and a public mutation screening service is now available. The basic methods used for TILLING can be adapted for the discovery and cataloguing of natural nucleotide variation in populations, a strategy known as Ecotilling, which was first used to study genetic diversity among Arabidopsis ecotypes, and has since been applied to crop plants.
Chromatin is a dynamic structure that must respond to myriad stimuli to regulate access to DNA, and chemical modification of histones is a major means by which the cell modulates nucleosome mobility and turnover. Histone modifications are linked to essentially every cellular process requiring DNA access, including transcription, replication and repair. Here we consider properties of the major types of histone modification in the context of their associated biological processes to view them in light of the cellular mechanisms that regulate nucleosome dynamics.
Doxorubicin is an anthracycline DNA intercalator that is among the most commonly used anticancer drugs. Doxorubicin causes DNA double-strand breaks in rapidly dividing cells, although whether it also affects general chromatin properties is unknown. Here, we use a metabolic labeling strategy to directly measure nucleosome turnover to examine the effect of doxorubicin on chromatin dynamics in squamous cell carcinoma cell lines derived from genetically defined mice. We find that doxorubicin enhances nucleosome turnover around gene promoters and that turnover correlates with gene expression level. Consistent with a direct action of doxorubicin, enhancement of nucleosome turnover around promoters gradually increases with time of exposure to the drug. Interestingly, enhancement occurs both in wild-type cells and in cells lacking either the p53 tumor suppressor gene or the master regulator of the DNA damage response, ATM, suggesting that doxorubicin action on nucleosome dynamics is independent of the DNA damage checkpoint. In addition, another anthracycline drug, aclarubicin, shows similar effects on enhancing nucleosome turnover around promoters. Our results suggest that anthracycline intercalation promotes nucleosome turnover around promoters by its effect on DNA topology, with possible implications for mechanisms of cell killing during cancer chemotherapy.
ATP-dependent nucleosome remodelers influence genetic processes by altering nucleosome occupancy, positioning, and composition. In vitro, Saccharomyces cerevisiae ISWI and CHD remodelers require ?30-85 bp of extranucleosomal DNA to reposition nucleosomes, but linker DNA in S. cerevisiae averages <20 bp. To address this discrepancy between in vitro and in vivo observations, we have mapped the genomic distributions of the yeast Isw1, Isw2, and Chd1 remodelers at base-pair resolution on native chromatin. Although these remodelers act in gene bodies, we find that they are also highly enriched at nucleosome-depleted regions (NDRs), where they bind to extended regions of DNA adjacent to particular transcription factors. Surprisingly, catalytically inactive remodelers show similar binding patterns. We find that remodeler occupancy at NDRs and gene bodies is associated with nucleosome turnover and transcriptional elongation rate, suggesting that remodelers act on regions of transient nucleosome unwrapping or depletion within gene bodies subsequent to transcriptional elongation.
On 11 to 13 March 2013, BioMed Central will be hosting its inaugural conference, Epigenetics & Chromatin: Interactions and Processes, at Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA, USA. Epigenetics & Chromatin has now launched a special article series based on the general themes of the conference.
Recent studies in transcriptional regulation using the Drosophila heat shock response system have elucidated many of the dynamic regulatory processes that govern transcriptional activation and repression. The classic view that the control of gene expression occurs at the point of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) recruitment is now giving way to a more complex outlook of gene regulation. Promoter chromatin dynamics coordinate with transcription factor binding to maintain the promoters of active genes accessible. For a large number of genes, the rate-limiting step in Pol II progression occurs during its initial elongation, where Pol II transcribes 30-50 bp and pauses for further signals. These paused genes have unique genic chromatin architecture and dynamics compared with genes where Pol II recruitment is rate limiting for expression. Further elongation of Pol II along the gene causes nucleosome turnover, a continuous process of eviction and replacement, which suggests a potential mechanism for Pol II transit along a nucleosomal template. In this review, we highlight recent insights into transcription regulation of the heat shock response and discuss how the dynamic regulatory processes involved at each transcriptional stage help to generate faithful yet highly responsive gene expression.
The centromere is the genetic locus that organizes the proteinaceous kinetochore and is responsible for attachment of the chromosome to the spindle at mitosis and meiosis. In most eukaryotes, the centromere consists of highly repetitive DNA sequences that are occupied by nucleosomes containing the CenH3 histone variant, whereas in budding yeast, a ?120-bp centromere DNA element (CDE) that is sufficient for centromere function is occupied by a single right-handed histone variant CenH3 (Cse4) nucleosome. However, these in vivo observations are inconsistent with in vitro evidence for left-handed octameric CenH3 nucleosomes. To help resolve these inconsistencies, we characterized yeast centromeric chromatin at single base-pair resolution. Intact particles containing both Cse4 and H2A are precisely protected from micrococcal nuclease over the entire CDE of all 16 yeast centromeres in both solubilized chromatin and the insoluble kinetochore. Small DNA-binding proteins protect CDEI and CDEIII and delimit the centromeric nucleosome to the ?80-bp CDEII, only enough for a single DNA wrap. As expected for a tripartite organization of centromeric chromatin, loss of Cbf1 protein, which binds to CDEI, both reduces the size of the centromere-protected region and shifts its location toward CDEIII. Surprisingly, Cse4 overproduction caused genome-wide misincorporation of nonfunctional CenH3-containing nucleosomes that protect ?135 base pairs and are preferentially enriched at sites of high nucleosome turnover. Our detection of two forms of CenH3 nucleosomes in the yeast genome, a singly wrapped particle at the functional centromere and octamer-sized particles on chromosome arms, reconcile seemingly conflicting in vivo and in vitro observations.
Heat shock rapidly induces expression of a subset of genes while globally repressing transcription, making it an attractive system to study alterations in the chromatin landscape that accompany changes in gene regulation. We characterized these changes in Drosophila cells by profiling classical low-salt-soluble chromatin, RNA polymerase II (Pol II), and nucleosome turnover dynamics at single-base-pair resolution. With heat shock, low-salt-soluble chromatin and stalled Pol II levels were found to decrease within gene bodies, but no overall changes were detected at transcriptional start sites. Strikingly, nucleosome turnover decreased genome-wide within gene bodies upon heat shock in a pattern similar to that observed with inhibition of Pol II elongation, especially at genes involved in the heat-shock response. Relatively high levels of nucleosome turnover were also observed throughout the bodies of genes with paused Pol II. These observations suggest that down-regulation of transcription during heat shock involves reduced nucleosome mobility and that this process has evolved to promote heat-shock gene regulation. Our ability to precisely map both nucleosomal and subnucleosomal particles directly from low-salt-soluble chromatin extracts to assay changes in the chromatin landscape provides a simple general strategy for epigenome characterization.
We have combined standard micrococcal nuclease (MNase) digestion of nuclei with a modified protocol for constructing paired-end DNA sequencing libraries to map both nucleosomes and subnucleosome-sized particles at single base-pair resolution throughout the budding yeast genome. We found that partially unwrapped nucleosomes and subnucleosome-sized particles can occupy the same position within a cell population, suggesting dynamic behavior. By varying the time of MNase digestion, we have been able to observe changes that reflect differential sensitivity of particles, including the eviction of nucleosomes. To characterize DNA-binding features of transcription factors, we plotted the length of each fragment versus its position in the genome, which defined the minimal protected region of each factor. This process led to the precise mapping of protected and exposed regions at and around binding sites, and also determination of the degree to which they are flanked by phased nucleosomes and subnucleosome-sized particles. Our protocol and mapping method provide a general strategy for epigenome characterization, including nucleosome phasing and dynamics, ATP-dependent nucleosome remodelers, and transcription factors, from a single-sequenced sample.
Histone modifications are key components of chromatin packaging but whether they constitute a code has been contested. We believe that the central issue is causality: are histone modifications responsible for differences between chromatin states, or are differences in modifications mostly consequences of dynamic processes, such as transcription and nucleosome remodeling? We find that inferences of causality are often based on correlation and that patterns of some key histone modifications are more easily explained as consequences of nucleosome disruption in the presence of histone modifying enzymes. We suggest that the 35-year-old DNA accessibility paradigm provides a mechanistically sound basis for understanding the role of nucleosomes in gene regulation and epigenetic inheritance. Based on this view, histone modifications and variants contribute to diversification of a chromatin landscape shaped by dynamic processes that are driven primarily by transcription and nucleosome remodeling.
Differential expression of maternally and paternally inherited alleles of a gene is referred to as gene imprinting, a form of epigenetic gene regulation common to flowering plants and mammals. In plants, imprinting primarily occurs in the endosperm, a seed tissue that supports the embryo during its growth and development. Previously, we demonstrated that widespread DNA demethylation at remnants of transposable elements accompanies endosperm development and that a subset of these methylation changes are associated with gene imprinting. Here we assay imprinted gene expression genome-wide by performing high-throughput sequencing of RNA derived from seeds of reciprocal intraspecific crosses. We identify more than 200 loci that exhibit parent-of-origin effects on gene expression in the endosperm, including a large number of transcription factors, hormone biosynthesis and response genes, and genes that encode regulators of epigenetic information, such as methylcytosine binding proteins, histone methyltransferases, and chromatin remodelers. The majority of these genes are partially, rather than completely, imprinted, suggesting that gene dosage regulation is an important aspect of imprinted gene expression.
We systematically generated large-scale data sets to improve genome annotation for the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a key model organism. These data sets include transcriptome profiling across a developmental time course, genome-wide identification of transcription factor-binding sites, and maps of chromatin organization. From this, we created more complete and accurate gene models, including alternative splice forms and candidate noncoding RNAs. We constructed hierarchical networks of transcription factor-binding and microRNA interactions and discovered chromosomal locations bound by an unusually large number of transcription factors. Different patterns of chromatin composition and histone modification were revealed between chromosome arms and centers, with similarly prominent differences between autosomes and the X chromosome. Integrating data types, we built statistical models relating chromatin, transcription factor binding, and gene expression. Overall, our analyses ascribed putative functions to most of the conserved genome.
To gain insight into how genomic information is translated into cellular and developmental programs, the Drosophila model organism Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (modENCODE) project is comprehensively mapping transcripts, histone modifications, chromosomal proteins, transcription factors, replication proteins and intermediates, and nucleosome properties across a developmental time course and in multiple cell lines. We have generated more than 700 data sets and discovered protein-coding, noncoding, RNA regulatory, replication, and chromatin elements, more than tripling the annotated portion of the Drosophila genome. Correlated activity patterns of these elements reveal a functional regulatory network, which predicts putative new functions for genes, reveals stage- and tissue-specific regulators, and enables gene-expression prediction. Our results provide a foundation for directed experimental and computational studies in Drosophila and related species and also a model for systematic data integration toward comprehensive genomic and functional annotation.
Genomic studies of cell differentiation and function within a whole organism depend on the ability to isolate specific cell types from a tissue, but this is technically difficult. We developed a method called INTACT (isolation of nuclei tagged in specific cell types) that allows affinity-based isolation of nuclei from individual cell types of a tissue, thereby circumventing the problems associated with mechanical purification techniques. In this method nuclei are affinity-labeled through transgenic expression of a biotinylated nuclear envelope protein in the cell type of interest. Total nuclei are isolated from transgenic plants and biotin-labeled nuclei are then purified using streptavidin-coated magnetic beads, without the need for specialized equipment. INTACT gives high yield and purity of nuclei from the desired cell types, which can be used for genome-wide analysis of gene expression and chromatin features. The entire procedure, from nuclei purification through cDNA preparation or chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), can be completed within 2 d. The protocol we present assumes that transgenic lines are already available, and includes procedural details for amplification of cDNA or ChIP DNA prior to microarray or deep sequencing analysis.
Traditional methods for epigenomic analysis provide a static picture of chromatin, which is actually a highly dynamic assemblage. Recent approaches have allowed direct measurements of chromatin dynamics, providing deeper insights into processes such as transcription, DNA replication and epigenetic inheritance.
Genomes are packaged by complexing DNA with histone proteins, which provides an opportunity to regulate gene expression by dynamically impeding access of transcriptional regulatory proteins and RNA polymerases to DNA. The incorporation of histone variants into nucleosomes and addition of post-translational modifications to histones can alter the physical properties of nucleosomes and thereby serve as a mechanism for regulating DNA exposure. Chromatin-based gene regulation has profound effects on developmental processes including regulation of the vegetative to reproductive transition, as well as responses to pathogens and abiotic factors. Incorporation of the histone variant H2A.Z and methylation of histone H3 lysine residues 4 and 27 have emerged as key elements in the regulation of genes involved in each of these processes.
The histone variant H2A.Z has been implicated in the regulation of gene expression, and in plants antagonizes DNA methylation. Here, we ask whether a similar relationship exists in mammals, using a mouse B-cell lymphoma model, where chromatin states can be monitored during tumorigenesis. Using native chromatin immunoprecipitation with microarray hybridization (ChIP-chip), we found a progressive depletion of H2A.Z around transcriptional start sites (TSSs) during MYC-induced transformation of pre-B cells and, subsequently, during lymphomagenesis. In addition, we found that H2A.Z and DNA methylation are generally anticorrelated around TSSs in both wild-type and MYC-transformed cells, as expected for the opposite effects of these chromatin features on promoter competence. Depletion of H2A.Z over TSSs both in cells that are induced to proliferate and in cells that are developing into a tumor suggests that progressive loss of H2A.Z during tumorigenesis results from the advancing disease state. These changes were accompanied by increases in chromatin salt solubility. Surprisingly, ?30% of all genes showed a redistribution of H2A.Z from around TSSs to bodies of active genes during the transition from MYC-transformed to tumor cells, with DNA methylation lost from gene bodies where H2A.Z levels increased. No such redistributions were observed during MYC-induced transformation of wild-type pre-B cells. The documented role of H2A.Z in regulating transcription suggests that 30% of genes have the potential to be aberrantly expressed during tumorigenesis. Our results imply that antagonism between H2A.Z deposition and DNA methylation is a conserved feature of eukaryotic genes, and that transcription-coupled H2A.Z changes may play a role in cancer initiation and progression.
The expression and genome-wide mapping of epitope-tagged DNA- and chromatin-binding proteins in cultured cells has become a powerful strategy for epigenome characterization, especially in Drosophila, where cell lines derived from numerous tissues are now available. However this strategy relies on establishing transfected cell lines, which is time-consuming and introduces variability. Here we show that baculovirus-encoded proteins can be efficiently produced following infection of Drosophila cell lines of different types. Using chromatin affinity purification, we show that epitope-tagged proteins produced in baculovirus-infected cells provide genome-wide profiles of the histone variant H2Av that are comparable to those produced by plasmid-transfected cells. The ability to express multiple epitope-tagged proteins for epigenome analysis from a single culture, and to do this in a variety of Drosophila cell lines, significantly extends the range of epigenome analysis.
Nucleosome disruption and replacement are crucial activities that maintain epigenomes, but these highly dynamic processes have been difficult to study. Here, we describe a direct method for measuring nucleosome turnover dynamics genome-wide. We found that nucleosome turnover is most rapid over active gene bodies, epigenetic regulatory elements, and replication origins in Drosophila cells. Nucleosomes turn over faster at sites for trithorax-group than polycomb-group protein binding, suggesting that nucleosome turnover differences underlie their opposing activities and challenging models for epigenetic inheritance that rely on stability of histone marks. Our results establish a general strategy for studying nucleosome dynamics and uncover nucleosome turnover differences across the genome that are likely to have functional importance for epigenome maintenance, gene regulation, and control of DNA replication.
Nucleosomes that contain the histone variant H2A.Z are enriched around transcriptional start sites, but the mechanistic basis for this enrichment is unknown. A single octameric nucleosome can contain two H2A.Z histones (homotypic) or one H2A.Z and one canonical H2A (heterotypic). To elucidate the function of H2A.Z, we generated high-resolution maps of homotypic and heterotypic Drosophila H2A.Z (H2Av) nucleosomes. Although homotypic and heterotypic H2A.Z nucleosomes mapped throughout most of the genome, homotypic nucleosomes were enriched and heterotypic nucleosomes were depleted downstream of active promoters and intron-exon junctions. The distribution of homotypic H2A.Z nucleosomes resembled that of classical active chromatin and showed evidence of disruption during transcriptional elongation. Both homotypic H2A.Z nucleosomes and classical active chromatin were depleted downstream of paused polymerases. Our results suggest that H2A.Z enrichment patterns result from intrinsic structural differences between heterotypic and homotypic H2A.Z nucleosomes that follow disruption during transcriptional elongation.
Understanding the production and function of specialized cells during development requires the isolation of individual cell types for analysis, but this is currently a major technical challenge. Here we describe a method for cell type-specific RNA and chromatin profiling that circumvents many of the limitations of current methods for cell isolation. We used in vivo biotin labeling of a nuclear envelope protein in individual cell types followed by affinity isolation of labeled nuclei to measure gene expression and chromatin features of the hair and non-hair cell types of the Arabidopsis root epidermis. We identified hundreds of genes that are preferentially expressed in each cell type and show that genes with the largest expression differences between hair and non-hair cells also show differences between cell types in the trimethylation of histone H3 at lysines 4 and 27. This method should be applicable to any organism that is amenable to transformation.
Histones wrap DNA to form nucleosome particles that compact eukaryotic genomes. Variant histones have evolved crucial roles in chromosome segregation, transcriptional regulation, DNA repair, sperm packaging and other processes. Universal histone variants emerged early in eukaryotic evolution and were later displaced for bulk packaging roles by the canonical histones (H2A, H2B, H3 and H4), the synthesis of which is coupled to DNA replication. Further specializations of histone variants have evolved in some lineages to perform additional tasks. Differences among histone variants in their stability, DNA wrapping, specialized domains that regulate access to DNA, and post-translational modifications, underlie the diverse functions that histones have acquired in evolution.
Insulators are DNA sequences that control the interactions among genomic regulatory elements and act as chromatin boundaries. A thorough understanding of their location and function is necessary to address the complexities of metazoan gene regulation. We studied by ChIP-chip the genome-wide binding sites of 6 insulator-associated proteins-dCTCF, CP190, BEAF-32, Su(Hw), Mod(mdg4), and GAF-to obtain the first comprehensive map of insulator elements in Drosophila embryos. We identify over 14,000 putative insulators, including all classically defined insulators. We find two major classes of insulators defined by dCTCF/CP190/BEAF-32 and Su(Hw), respectively. Distributional analyses of insulators revealed that particular sub-classes of insulator elements are excluded between cis-regulatory elements and their target promoters; divide differentially expressed, alternative, and divergent promoters; act as chromatin boundaries; are associated with chromosomal breakpoints among species; and are embedded within active chromatin domains. Together, these results provide a map demarcating the boundaries of gene regulatory units and a framework for understanding insulator function during the development and evolution of Drosophila.
High-resolution mapping of chromatin features has emerged as an important strategy for understanding gene regulation and epigenetic inheritance. We describe an in vivo tagging system coupled to chromatin purification for genome-wide epigenetic profiling in Caenorhabditis elegans. In this system, we coexpressed the Escherichia coli biotin ligase enzyme (BirA), together with the C. elegans H3.3 gene fused to BioTag, a 23-amino-acid peptide serving as a biotinylation substrate for BirA, in vivo in worms. We found that the fusion BioTag::H3.3 was efficiently biotinylated in vivo. We developed methods to isolate chromatin under different salt extraction conditions, followed by affinity purification of biotinylated chromatin with streptavidin and genome-wide profiling with microarrays. We found that embryonic chromatin is differentially extracted with increasing salt concentrations. Interestingly, chromatin that remains insoluble after washing in 600 mM salt is enriched at 5 and 3 ends, suggesting the presence of large protein complexes that render chromatin insoluble at transcriptional initiation and termination sites. We also found that H3.3 landscapes from these salt fractions display consistent features that correlate with gene activity: the most highly expressed genes contain the most H3.3. This versatile two-component approach has the potential of facilitating genome-wide chromatin dynamics and regulatory site identification in C. elegans.
Centromeres are chromosomal elements that are both necessary and sufficient for chromosome segregation. However, the puzzlingly broad range in centromere complexity, from simple "point" centromeres to multi-megabase arrays of DNA satellites, has defied explanation. We posit that ancestral centromeres were epigenetically defined and that point centromeres, such as those of budding yeast, have derived from the partitioning elements of selfish plasmids. We further propose that the larger centromere sizes in plants and animals and the rapid evolution of their centromeric proteins is the result of an intense battle for evolutionary dominance due to the asymmetric retention of only one product of female meiosis.
The effect of genetic mutation on phenotype is of significant interest in genetics. The type of genetic mutation that causes a single amino acid substitution (AAS) in a protein sequence is called a non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphism (nsSNP). An nsSNP could potentially affect the function of the protein, subsequently altering the carriers phenotype. This protocol describes the use of the Sorting Tolerant From Intolerant (SIFT) algorithm in predicting whether an AAS affects protein function. To assess the effect of a substitution, SIFT assumes that important positions in a protein sequence have been conserved throughout evolution and therefore substitutions at these positions may affect protein function. Thus, by using sequence homology, SIFT predicts the effects of all possible substitutions at each position in the protein sequence. The protocol typically takes 5-20 min, depending on the input. SIFT is available as an online tool (http://sift.jcvi.org).
DNA methylation is an epigenetic mark associated with transposable element silencing and gene imprinting in flowering plants and mammals. In plants, imprinting occurs in the endosperm, which nourishes the embryo during seed development. We have profiled Arabidopsis DNA methylation genome-wide in the embryo and endosperm and found that large-scale methylation changes accompany endosperm development and endosperm-specific gene expression. Transposable element fragments are extensively demethylated in the endosperm. We discovered new imprinted genes by the identification of candidates associated with regions of reduced endosperm methylation and preferential expression in endosperm relative to other parts of the plant. These data suggest that imprinting in plants evolved from targeted methylation of transposable element insertions near genic regulatory elements followed by positive selection when the resulting expression change was advantageous.
The long polycistronic transcription units of trypanosomes do not appear to be demarcated by the usual DNA motifs that punctuate transcription in familiar eukaryotes. In this issue of Genes & Development, Siegel and colleagues (pp. 1063-1076) describe a system for the demarcation of trypanosome transcription units based on the deposition and turnover of histone variants rather than on the binding of transcription factors. Replication-independent incorporation of histone variants and destabilization of nucleosomes is an emerging theme at promoters of more familiar eukaryotes, and it now appears that this system is an evolutionarily conserved mode of transcriptional punctuation.
Centromeres of higher eukaryotes are epigenetically maintained; however, the mechanism that underlies centromere inheritance is unknown. Centromere identity and inheritance require the assembly of nucleosomes containing the CenH3 histone variant in place of canonical H3. Although H3 nucleosomes wrap DNA in a left-handed manner and induce negative supercoils, we show here that CenH3 nucleosomes reconstituted from Drosophila histones induce positive supercoils. Furthermore, we show that CenH3 likewise induces positive supercoils in functional centromeres in vivo, using a budding yeast minichromosome system and temperature-sensitive mutations in kinetochore proteins. The right-handed wrapping of DNA around the histone core implied by positive supercoiling indicates that centromere nucleosomes are unlikely to be octameric and that the exposed surfaces holding the nucleosome together would be available for kinetochore protein recruitment. The mutual incompatibility of nucleosomes with opposite topologies could explain how centromeres are efficiently maintained as unique loci on chromosomes.
We applied genome-wide profiling to successive salt-extracted fractions of micrococcal nuclease-treated Drosophila chromatin. Chromatin fractions extracted with 80 mM or 150 mM NaCl after digestion contain predominantly mononucleosomes and represent classical "active" chromatin. Profiles of these low-salt soluble fractions display phased nucleosomes over transcriptionally active genes that are locally depleted of histone H3.3 and correspond closely to profiles of histone H2Av (H2A.Z) and RNA polymerase II. This correspondence suggests that transcription can result in loss of H3.3+H2Av nucleosomes and generate low-salt soluble nucleosomes. Nearly quantitative recovery of chromatin is obtained with 600 mM NaCl; however, the remaining insoluble chromatin is enriched in actively transcribed regions. Salt-insoluble chromatin likely represents oligonucleosomes that are attached to large protein complexes. Both low-salt extracted and insoluble chromatin are rich in sequences that correspond to epigenetic regulatory elements genome-wide. The presence of active chromatin at both extremes of salt solubility suggests that these salt fractions capture bound and unbound intermediates in active processes, thus providing a simple, powerful strategy for mapping epigenome dynamics.
Active DNA demethylation underlies key facets of reproduction in flowering plants and mammals and serves a general genome housekeeping function in plants. A family of 5-methylcytosine DNA glycosylases catalyzes plant demethylation via the well-known DNA base-excision-repair process. Although the existence of active demethylation has been known for a longer time in mammals, the means of achieving it remain murky and mammals lack counterparts to the plant demethylases. Several intriguing experiments have indicated, but not conclusively proven, that DNA repair is also a plausible mechanism for animal demethylation. Here, we examine what is known from flowering plants about the pathways and function of enzymatic demethylation and discuss possible mechanisms whereby DNA repair might also underlie global demethylation in mammals.
Dinoflagellates are unique among eukaryotes in their unusual dinokaryons - nuclei that lack bulk histones. A new study finds that acquisition of a novel dinoflagellate chromatin protein was an early step in the transition to a nucleus lacking detectable nucleosomes.
A half century after John Gurdon demonstrated nuclear reprogramming, for which he was awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, his group provides insights into the molecular mechanisms whereby chromatin remodeling is required for nuclear reprogramming. Among the issues addressed in Gurdons latest work are the chromatin impediments to artificially induced reprogramming, discovered by Shinya Yamanaka, who shared the award with Gurdon.
ABSTRACT: Epigenomics, the determination of epigenetic landscapes on a genome-wide scale, has progressed at an astounding rate over the past decade. Recent technological developments have enabled base-pair resolution of various epigenomic features, leading to new insights into epigenetic regulation.
The dynamic interplay between DNA-binding proteins and nucleosomes underlies essential nuclear processes such as transcription, replication, and DNA repair. Manifestations of this interplay include the assembly, eviction, and replacement of nucleosomes. Hence, measurements of nucleosome turnover kinetics can lead to insights into the regulation of dynamic chromatin processes. In this chapter, we describe a genome-wide method for measuring nucleosome turnover that uses metabolic labeling followed by capture of newly synthesized histones, which we have termed Covalent Attachment of Tagged Histones to Capture and Identify Turnover (CATCH-IT). Although CATCH-IT can be used with any genome-wide mapping procedure, high-resolution profiling is attainable using paired-end sequencing of native chromatin. Our protocol also includes an efficient Solexa DNA sequencing library preparation protocol that can be used for single base-pair resolution mapping of both nucleosome and subnucleosomal particles. We not only describe the use of these protocols in the context of a Drosophila cell line but also provide the necessary changes for adaptation to other model systems.
The Sorting Intolerant from Tolerant (SIFT) algorithm predicts the effect of coding variants on protein function. It was first introduced in 2001, with a corresponding website that provides users with predictions on their variants. Since its release, SIFT has become one of the standard tools for characterizing missense variation. We have updated SIFTs genome-wide prediction tool since our last publication in 2009, and added new features to the insertion/deletion (indel) tool. We also show accuracy metrics on independent data sets. The original developers have hosted the SIFT web server at FHCRC, JCVI and the web server is currently located at BII. The URL is http://sift-dna.org (24 May 2012, date last accessed).
Histone variants are non-allelic protein isoforms that play key roles in diversifying chromatin structure. The known number of such variants has greatly increased in recent years, but the lack of naming conventions for them has led to a variety of naming styles, multiple synonyms and misleading homographs that obscure variant relationships and complicate database searches. We propose here a unified nomenclature for variants of all five classes of histones that uses consistent but flexible naming conventions to produce names that are informative and readily searchable. The nomenclature builds on historical usage and incorporates phylogenetic relationships, which are strong predictors of structure and function. A key feature is the consistent use of punctuation to represent phylogenetic divergence, making explicit the relationships among variant subtypes that have previously been implicit or unclear. We recommend that by default new histone variants be named with organism-specific paralog-number suffixes that lack phylogenetic implication, while letter suffixes be reserved for structurally distinct clades of variants. For clarity and searchability, we encourage the use of descriptors that are separate from the phylogeny-based variant name to indicate developmental and other properties of variants that may be independent of structure.
The centromere is a defining feature of the eukaryotic chromosome, required for attachment to spindle microtubules and segregation to the poles at both mitosis and meiosis. The fundamental unit of centromere identity is the centromere-specific nucleosome, in which the centromeric histone 3 (cenH3) variant takes the place of H3. The structure of the cenH3 nucleosome has been the subject of controversy, as mutually exclusive models have been proposed, including conventional and unconventional left-handed octamers (octasomes), hexamers with non-histone protein constituents, and right-handed heterotypic tetramers (hemisomes). Hemisomes have been isolated from native centromeric chromatin, but traditional nucleosome assembly protocols have generally yielded partially unwrapped left-handed octameric nucleosomes. In budding yeast, topology analysis and high-resolution mapping has revealed that a single right-handed cenH3 hemisome occupies the ~80-bp Centromere DNA Element II (CDEII) of each chromosome. Overproduction of cenH3 leads to promiscuous low-level incorporation of octasome-sized particles throughout the yeast genome. We propose that the right-handed cenH3 hemisome is the universal unit of centromeric chromatin, and that the inherent instability of partially unwrapped left-handed cenH3 octamers is an adaptation to prevent formation of neocentromeres on chromosome arms.
The "point" centromere of budding yeast is genetically defined by an ? 125-bp sequence. Recent fluorescence measurements of kinetochore clusters have suggested that this sequence specifies multiple centromere histone 3 (CenH3) nucleosomes. However, high-resolution mapping demonstrates that there is only one CenH3 nucleosome per centromere, providing biochemical confirmation of the point centromere model.
An understanding of developmental processes requires knowledge of transcriptional and epigenetic landscapes at the level of tissues and ultimately individual cells. However, obtaining tissue- or cell-type-specific expression and chromatin profiles for animals has been challenging. Here we describe a method for purifying nuclei from specific cell types of animal models that allows simultaneous determination of both expression and chromatin profiles. The method is based on in vivo biotin-labeling of the nuclear envelope and subsequent affinity purification of nuclei. We describe the use of the method to isolate nuclei from muscle of adult Caenorhabditis elegans and from mesoderm of Drosophila melanogaster embryos. As a case study, we determined expression and nucleosome occupancy profiles for affinity-purified nuclei from C. elegans muscle. We identified hundreds of genes that are specifically expressed in muscle tissues and found that these genes are depleted of nucleosomes at promoters and gene bodies in muscle relative to other tissues. This method should be universally applicable to all model systems that allow transgenesis and will make it possible to determine epigenetic and expression profiles of different tissues and cell types.
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