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1.  Assaying chromatin structure and remodeling by restriction enzyme accessibility 
The packaging of eukaryotic DNA into nucleosomes, the fundamental unit of chromatin, creates a barrier to nuclear processes, such as transcription, DNA replication, recombination, and repair(1). This obstructive nature of chromatin can be overcome by the enzymatic activity of chromatin remodeling complexes which creates a more favorable environment for the association of essential factors and regulators to sequences within target genes. Here we describe a detailed approach for analyzing chromatin architecture and remodeling by restriction endonuclease hypersensitivity assay. This procedure uses restriction endonucleases to characterize changes in chromatin that accompany nucleosome remodeling. The specific experimental example described in this article is the BRG1 complex dependent chromatin remodeling of the steroid hormone-responsive mouse mammary tumor virus promoter. Through the use of these methodologies one is able to quantify changes at specific nucleosomes in response to regulatory signals.
PMCID: PMC3607496  PMID: 22183589
2.  Persistent alterations in mesolimbic gene expression with abstinence from cocaine self-administration 
Cocaine-responsive gene expression changes have been described after either no drug abstinence or short periods of abstinence. Little data exist on the persistence of these changes after long-term abstinence. Previously, we reported that after discrete-trial, cocaine self-administration and 10 days of forced abstinence, incubation of cocaine reinforcement was observable by a progressive ratio schedule. The present study used rat discrete-trial cocaine self-administration and long-term forced abstinence to examine: extinction responding, mRNA abundance of known cocaine-responsive genes, and chromatin remodeling. At 30 and 100 days of abstinence, extinction responding increased compared to 3-day abstinent rats. Decreases in both medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and nucleus accumbens (NAc) c-fos, Nr4a1, Arc, and EGR1 mRNA were observed, and in most cases persisted, for 100 days of abstinence. The signaling peptides CART and NPY transiently increased in the mPFC, but returned to baseline levels following 10 days of abstinence. To investigate a potential regulatory mechanism for these persistent mRNA changes, levels of histone H3 acetylation at promoters for genes with altered mRNA expression were examined. In the mPFC, histone H3 acetylation decreased after 1 and 10 days of abstinence at the promoter for EGR1. H3 acetylation increased for NPY after 1 day of abstinence and returned to control levels by 10 days of abstinence. Behaviorally, these results demonstrate incubation after discrete-trial cocaine self-administration and prolonged forced abstinence. This incubation is accompanied by changes in gene expression that persist long after cessation of drug administration and may be regulated by chromatin remodeling.
PMCID: PMC2810407  PMID: 17851536
cocaine; abstinence; behavior; medial prefrontal cortex; nucleus accumbens; functional genomics; extinction; incubation; addiction
3.  Drug-induced activation of dopamine D1 receptor signaling and inhibition of class I/II histone deacetylase induces chromatin remodeling in reward circuitry and modulates cocaine-related behaviors 
Chromatin remodeling, including histone modification, is involved in stimulant-induced gene expression and addiction behavior. To further explore the role of dopamine D1 receptor signaling, we measured cocaine-related locomotor activity and place preference in mice pre-treated for up to 10 days with the D1-agonist SKF82958 and/or the histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi), sodium butyrate. Co-treatment with D1-agonist and HDACi significantly enhanced cocaine-induced locomotor activity and place preference, in comparison to single drug regimens. However, butyrate-mediated reward effects were transient and only apparent within 2 days after the last HDACi treatment. These behavioral changes were associated with histone modification changes in striatum and ventral midbrain: (1) a generalized increase in H3 phospho-acetylation in striatal neurons was dependent on activation of D1 receptors; (2) H3 de-acetylation at promoter sequences of tyrosine hydroxylase (Th) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf) in ventral midbrain, together with up-regulation of the corresponding gene transcripts after co-treatment with D1-agonist and HDACi. Collectively, these findings imply that D1-receptor-regulated histone (phospho)acetylation and gene expression in reward circuitry is differentially regulated in a region-specific manner. Given that the combination of D1-agonist and HDACi enhances cocaine-related sensitization and reward, the therapeutic benefits of D1-receptor antagonists and histone acetyl-transferase inhibitors (HATi) warrants further investigation in experimental models of stimulant abuse.
PMCID: PMC2746694  PMID: 18288092
epigenetic; addiction; catecholamine; sensitization; chromatin immunoprecipitation; basal ganglia
4.  Chromatin Remodelers Act Globally Sequence Positions Nucleosomes Locally 
The precise placement of nucleosomes has large regulatory effects on gene expression. Recent work suggests that nucleosome placement is regulated in part by the affinity of the underlying DNA sequence for the histone octamer. Nucleosome locations are also regulated by several different ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling enzymes. This raises the question whether DNA sequence influences the activity of chromatin remodeling enzymes. DNA sequence could most simply regulate nucleosome remodeling through its effect on nucleosome stability. In such a model, unstable nucleosomes would be remodeled faster than stable nucleosomes. It is also possible that certain DNA elements could regulate remodeling by inhibiting the interaction of nucleosomes with the remodeling enzyme. A third possibility is that DNA sequence could regulate the outcome of remodeling by influencing how reaction intermediates collapse into a particular set of stable nucleosomal positions. Here we dissect the contribution from these potential mechanisms to the activities of yeast RSC and human ACF, which are representative members of two major classes of remodeling complexes. We find that varying the histone-DNA affinity over three orders of magnitude has negligible effects on the rates of nucleosome remodeling and ATP hydrolysis by these two enzymes. This suggests that the rate-limiting step for nucleosome remodeling may not involve the disruption of histone-DNA contacts. We further find that a specific curved DNA element previously hypothesized to inhibit ACF activity does not inhibit substrate binding or remodeling by ACF. The element however, does influence the distribution of nucleosome positions generated by ACF. Our data support a model in which remodeling enzymes move nucleosomes to new locations by a general sequence-independent mechanism. However, consequent to the rate-limiting remodeling step, the local DNA sequence promotes a collapse of remodeling intermediates into highly resolved positions that are dictated by thermodynamic differences between adjacent positions.
PMCID: PMC2813840  PMID: 19450608
nucleosome positioning; histone-DNA affinity; chromatin remodeling; human ACF; RSC
5.  Forced Abstinence from Cocaine Self-Administration is Associated with DNA Methylation Changes in Myelin Genes in the Corpus Callosum: a Preliminary Study 
Background: Human cocaine abuse is associated with alterations in white matter integrity revealed upon brain imaging, an observation that is recapitulated in an animal model of continuous cocaine exposure. The mechanism through which cocaine may affect white matter is unknown and the present study tested the hypothesis that cocaine self-administration results in changes in DNA methylation that could result in altered expression of several myelin genes that could contribute to the effects of cocaine on white matter integrity. Methods: In the present study, we examined the impact of forced abstinence from cocaine self-administration on chromatin associated changes in white matter. To this end, rats were trained to self-administer cocaine (0.75 mg/kg/0.1 mL infusion) for 14 days followed by forced abstinence for 1 day (n = 6) or 30 days (n = 6) before sacrifice. Drug-free, sham surgery controls (n = 7) were paired with the experimental groups. Global DNA methylation and DNA methylation at specific CpG sites in the promoter regions ofmyelin basic protein (Mbp), proteolipid protein-1 (Plp1), and SRY-related HMG-box-10 (Sox10) genes were analyzed in DNA extracted from corpus callosum. Results: Significant differences in the overall methylation patterns of the Sox10 promoter region were observed in the corpus callosum of rats at 30 days of forced abstinence from cocaine self-administration relative to sham controls; the −189, −142, −93, and −62 CpG sites were significantly hypomethylated point-wise at this time point. After correction for multiple comparisons, no differences in global methylation or the methylation patterns of Mbp or Plp1 were found. Conclusion: Forced abstinence from cocaine self-administration was associated with differences in DNA methylation at specific CpG sites in the promoter region of the Sox10 gene in corpus callosum. These changes may be related to reductions in normal age related changes in DNA methylation and could be a factor in white matter alterations seen after withdrawal from repeated cocaine self-administration. Further research is warranted examining the effects of cocaine on DNA methylation in white matter.
PMCID: PMC3374938  PMID: 22712019
cocaine; corpus callosum; gene; self-administration; white matter; epigenetics
6.  The BRG1 transcriptional coregulator  
The packaging of genomic DNA into chromatin, often viewed as an impediment to the transcription process, plays a fundamental role in the regulation of gene expression. Chromatin remodeling proteins have been shown to alter local chromatin structure and facilitate recruitment of essential factors required for transcription. Brahma-related gene-1 (BRG1), the central catalytic subunit of numerous chromatin-modifying enzymatic complexes, uses the energy derived from ATP-hydrolysis to disrupt the chromatin architecture of target promoters. In this review, we examine BRG1 as a major coregulator of transcription. BRG1 has been implicated in the activation and repression of gene expression through the modulation of chromatin in various tissues and physiological conditions. Outstanding examples are studies demonstrating that BRG1 is a necessary component for nuclear receptor-mediated transcriptional activation. The remodeling protein is also associated with transcriptional corepressor complexes which recruit remodeling activity to target promoters for gene silencing. Taken together, BRG1 appears to be a critical modulator of transcriptional regulation in cellular processes including transcriptional regulation, replication, DNA repair and recombination.
PMCID: PMC2254329  PMID: 18301784
7.  Chromatin Modification by PSC Occurs at One PSC per Nucleosome and Does Not Require the Acidic Patch of Histone H2A 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47162.
Chromatin architecture is regulated through both enzymatic and non-enzymatic activities. For example, the Polycomb Group (PcG) proteins maintain developmental gene silencing using an array of chromatin-based mechanisms. The essential Drosophila PcG protein, Posterior Sex Combs (PSC), compacts chromatin and inhibits chromatin remodeling and transcription through a non-enzymatic mechanism involving nucleosome bridging. Nucleosome bridging is achieved through a combination of nucleosome binding and self-interaction. Precisely how PSC interacts with chromatin to bridge nucleosomes is not known and is the subject of this work. We determine the stoichiometry of PSC-chromatin interactions in compact chromatin (in which nucleosomes are bridged) using Scanning Transmission Electron Microscopy (STEM). We find that full compaction occurs with one PSC per nucleosome. In addition to compacting chromatin, we show that PSC oligomerizes nucleosome arrays. PSC-mediated oligomerization of chromatin occurs at similar stoichiometry as compaction suggesting it may also involve nucleosome bridging. Interactions between the tail of histone H4 and the acidic patch of histone H2A are important for chromatin folding and oligomerization, and several chromatin proteins bind the histone H2A acidic patch. However, mutation of the acidic patch of histone H2A does not affect PSC’s ability to inhibit chromatin remodeling or bridge nucleosomes. In fact, PSC does not require nucleosomes for bridging activity but can bridge naked DNA segments. PSC clusters nucleosomes on sparsely assembled templates, suggesting it interacts preferentially with nucleosomes over bare DNA. This may be due to the ability of PSC to bind free histones. Our data are consistent with a model in which each PSC binds a nucleosome and at least one other PSC to directly bridge nucleosomes and compact chromatin, but also suggest that naked DNA can be included in compacted structures. We discuss how our data highlight the diversity of mechanisms used to modify chromatin architecture.
PMCID: PMC3469540  PMID: 23071745
8.  Discovering chromatin motifs using FAIRE sequencing and the human diploid genome 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:310.
Specific chromatin structures are associated with active or inactive gene transcription. The gene regulatory elements are intrinsically dynamic and alternate between inactive and active states through the recruitment of DNA binding proteins, such as chromatin-remodeling proteins.
We developed a unique genome-wide method to discover DNA motifs associated with chromatin accessibility using formaldehyde-assisted isolation of regulatory elements with high-throughput sequencing (FAIRE-seq). We aligned the FAIRE-seq reads to the GM12878 diploid genome and subsequently identified differential chromatin-state regions (DCSRs) using heterozygous SNPs. The DCSR pairs represent the locations of imbalances of chromatin accessibility between alleles and are ideal to reveal chromatin motifs that may directly modulate chromatin accessibility. In this study, we used DNA 6-10mer sequences to interrogate all DCSRs, and subsequently discovered conserved chromatin motifs with significant changes in the occurrence frequency. To investigate their likely roles in biology, we studied the annotated protein associated with each of the top ten chromatin motifs genome-wide, in the intergenic regions and in genes, respectively. As a result, we found that most of these annotated motifs are associated with chromatin remodeling, reflecting their significance in biology.
Our method is the first one using fully phased diploid genome and FAIRE-seq to discover motifs associated with chromatin accessibility. Our results were collected to construct the first chromatin motif database (CMD), providing the potential DNA motifs recognized by chromatin-remodeling proteins and is freely available at
PMCID: PMC3655836  PMID: 23656909
9.  Akirin 
Bioarchitecture  2012;2(6):209-213.
Embryonic patterning relies upon an exquisitely timed program of gene regulation. While the regulation of this process via the action of transcription factor networks is well understood, new lines of study have highlighted the importance of a concurrently regulated program of chromatin remodeling during development. Chromatin remodeling refers to the manipulation of the chromatin architecture through rearrangement, repositioning, or restructuring of nucleosomes to either favor or hinder the expression of associated genes. While the role of chromatin remodeling pathways during tumor development and cancer progression are beginning to be clarified, the roles of these pathways in the course of tissue specification, morphogenesis and patterning remains relatively unknown. Further, relatively little is understood as to the mechanism whereby developmentally critical transcription factors coordinate with chromatin remodeling factors to optimize target gene loci for gene expression. Such a mechanism might involve direct transcription factor/chromatin remodeling factor interactions, or could likely be mediated via an unknown intermediary. Our group has identified the relatively unknown protein Akirin as a putative member of this latter group: a secondary cofactor that serves as an interface between a developmentally critical transcription factor and the chromatin remodeling machinery. This role for the Akirin protein suggests a novel regulatory mode for regulating gene expression during development.
PMCID: PMC3527315  PMID: 23242134
Akirin; Twist; SWI/SNF; chromatin; transcription; muscle; Drosophila
10.  DNA Methylation Regulates Cocaine-Induced Behavioral Sensitization in Mice 
Neuropsychopharmacology  2010;35(12):2450-2461.
The behavioral sensitization produced by repeated cocaine treatment represents the neural adaptations underlying some of the features of addiction in humans. Cocaine administrations induce neural adaptations through regulation of gene expression. Several studies suggest that epigenetic modifications, including DNA methylation, are the critical regulators of gene expression in the adult central nervous system. DNA methylation is catalyzed by DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) and consequent promoter region hypermethylation is associated with transcriptional silencing. In this study a potential role for DNA methylation in a cocaine-induced behavioral sensitization model in mice was explored. We report that acute cocaine treatment caused an upregulation of DNMT3A and DNMT3B gene expression in the nucleus accumbens (NAc). Using methylated DNA immunoprecipitation, DNA bisulfite modification, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays, we observed that cocaine treatment resulted in DNA hypermethylation and increased binding of methyl CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) at the protein phosphatase-1 catalytic subunit (PP1c) promoter. These changes are associated with transcriptional downregulation of PP1c in NAc. In contrast, acute and repeated cocaine administrations induced hypomethylation and decreased binding of MeCP2 at the fosB promoter, and these are associated with transcriptional upregulation of fosB in NAc. We also found that pharmacological inhibition of DNMT by zebularine treatment decreased cocaine-induced DNA hypermethylation at the PP1c promoter and attenuated PP1c mRNA downregulation in NAc. Finally, zebularine and cocaine co-treatment delayed the development of cocaine-induced behavioral sensitization. Together, these results suggest that dynamic changes of DNA methylation may be an important gene regulation mechanism underlying cocaine-induced behavioral sensitization.
PMCID: PMC3055323  PMID: 20720536
DNA methylation; DNA methyltransferase; cocaine; behavioral sensitization; nucleus accumbens; zebularine; psychostimulants; addiction & substance abuse; molecular & cellular neurobiology; plasticity; DNA methylation; DNA methyltransferase; cocaine; behavioural sensitization; nucleus accumbens
11.  The RSC chromatin remodeling complex has a crucial role in the complete remodeler set for yeast PHO5 promoter opening 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;42(7):4270-4282.
Although yeast PHO5 promoter chromatin opening is a founding model for chromatin remodeling, the complete set of involved remodelers remained unknown for a long time. The SWI/SNF and INO80 remodelers cooperate here, but nonessentially, and none of the many tested single or combined remodeler gene mutations could prevent PHO5 promoter opening. RSC, the most abundant and only remodeler essential for viability, was a controversial candidate for the unrecognized remodeling activity but unassessed in vivo. Now we show that remodels the structure of chromatin (RSC) is crucially involved in PHO5 promoter opening. Further, the isw1 chd1 double deletion also delayed chromatin remodeling. Strikingly, combined absence of RSC and Isw1/Chd1 or Snf2 abolished for the first time promoter opening on otherwise sufficient induction in vivo. Together with previous findings, we recognize now a surprisingly complex network of five remodelers (RSC, SWI/SNF, INO80, Isw1 and Chd1) from four subfamilies (SWI/SNF, INO80, ISWI and CHD) as involved in PHO5 promoter chromatin remodeling. This is likely the first described complete remodeler set for a physiological chromatin transition. RSC was hardly involved at the coregulated PHO8 or PHO84 promoters despite cofactor recruitment by the same transactivator and RSC’s presence at all three promoters. Therefore, promoter-specific chromatin rather than transactivators determine remodeler requirements.
PMCID: PMC3985623  PMID: 24465003
12.  ATP-Dependent Chromatin Remodeling Factors and Their Roles in Affecting Nucleosome Fiber Composition 
ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling factors of the SNF2 family are key components of the cellular machineries that shape and regulate chromatin structure and function. Members of this group of proteins have broad and heterogeneous functions ranging from controlling gene activity, facilitating DNA damage repair, promoting homologous recombination to maintaining genomic stability. Several chromatin remodeling factors are critical components of nucleosome assembly processes, and recent reports have identified specific functions of distinct chromatin remodeling factors in the assembly of variant histones into chromatin. In this review we will discuss the specific roles of ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling factors in determining nucleosome composition and, thus, chromatin fiber properties.
PMCID: PMC3210995  PMID: 22072904
chromatin; histone variant; chromatin remodeling factor; centromere; linker histone; chromatin assembly
13.  ATP-Dependent Mobilization of the Glucocorticoid Receptor during Chromatin Remodeling 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2002;22(10):3255-3263.
Chromatin remodeling by the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) is associated with activation of transcription at the mouse mammary tumor virus (MMTV) promoter. We reconstituted this nucleoprotein transition with chromatin assembled on MMTV DNA. The remodeling event was ATP dependent and required either a nuclear extract from HeLa cells or purified human Swi/Snf. Through the use of a direct interaction assay (magnetic bead pull-down), we demonstrated recruitment of human Swi/Snf to MMTV chromatin by GR. Unexpectedly, we found that GR is actively displaced from the chromatin template during the remodeling process. ATP-dependent GR displacement was reversed by the addition of apyrase and was specific to chromatin templates. The disengagement reaction could also be induced with purified human Swi/Snf. Although GR apparently dissociated during chromatin remodeling by Swi/Snf, it participated in binding of the secondary transcription factor, nuclear factor 1. These results are paralleled by a recent discovery that the hormone-occupied receptor undergoes rapid exchange between chromatin and the nucleoplasmic compartment in living cells. Both the in vitro and in vivo results are consistent with a dynamic model (hit and run) in which GR first binds to chromatin after ligand activation, recruits a remodeling activity, facilitates transcription factor binding, and is simultaneously lost from the template.
PMCID: PMC133787  PMID: 11971959
14.  Coordinated Regulation of PPARγ Expression and Activity through Control of Chromatin Structure in Adipogenesis and Obesity 
PPAR Research  2012;2012:164140.
The nuclear receptor peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ) is required for differentiation and function of mature adipocytes. Its expression is induced during adipogenesis where it plays a key role in establishing the transcriptome of terminally differentiated white fat cells. Here, we review findings indicating that PPARγ expression and activity are intricately regulated through control of chromatin structure. Hierarchical and combinatorial activation of transcription factors, noncoding RNAs, and chromatin remodelers allows for temporally controlled expression of PPARγ and its target genes through sequential chromatin remodelling. In obesity, these regulatory pathways may be altered and lead to modified PPARγ activity.
PMCID: PMC3444001  PMID: 22991504
15.  Requirements for Chromatin Modulation and Transcription Activation by the Pho4 Acidic Activation Domain 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(10):5818-5827.
Perhaps the best characterized example of an activator-induced chromatin transition is found in the activation of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae acid phosphatase gene PHO5 by the basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor Pho4. Transcription activation of the PHO5 promoter by Pho4 is accompanied by the remodeling of four positioned nucleosomes which is dependent on the Pho4 activation domain but independent of transcription initiation. Whether the requirements for transcription activation through the TATA sequence are different from those necessary for the chromatin transition remains a major outstanding question. In an attempt to understand better the ability of Pho4 to activate transcription and to remodel chromatin, we have initiated a detailed characterization of the Pho4 activation domain. Using both deletion and point mutational analysis, we have defined residues between positions 75 and 99 as being both essential and sufficient to mediate transcription activation. Significantly, there is a marked concordance between the ability of mutations in the Pho4 activation domain to induce chromatin opening and transcription activation. Interestingly, the requirements for transcription activation within the Pho4 activation domain differ significantly if fused to a heterologous bHLH-leucine zipper DNA-binding domain. The implications for transcription activation by Pho4 are discussed.
PMCID: PMC109168  PMID: 9742099
16.  Inhibition of chromatin remodeling by Polycomb Group protein Posterior Sex Combs is mechanistically distinct from nucleosome binding1 
Biochemistry  2010;49(44):9438-9448.
Polycomb Group (PcG) proteins are essential regulators of development that maintain gene silencing in Drosophila and mammals through alterations of chromatin structure. One key PcG protein, Posterior Sex Combs (PSC), is part of at least two complexes: Polycomb Repressive Complex 1 (PRC1) and dRING Associated Factors (dRAF). PRC1-class complexes compact chromatin and inhibit chromatin remodeling, while dRAF has E3 ligase activity for ubiquitylation of histone H2A; activities of both complexes can inhibit transcription. The noncovalent effects of PRC1-class complexes on chromatin can be recapitulated by PSC alone, and the region of PSC required for these activities is essential for PSC function in vivo. To understand how PSC interacts with chromatin to exert its repressive effects, we compared the ability of PSC to bind to and inhibit remodeling of various nucleosomal templates, and determined which regions of PSC are required for mononucleosome binding and inhibition of chromatin remodeling. We find that PSC binds mononucleosome templates but inhibits their remodeling poorly. Addition of linker DNA to mononucleosomes allows their remodeling to be inhibited, although higher concentrations of PSC are required than for inhibition of multi-nucleosome templates. The C-terminal region of PSC (aa 456-1603) is important for inhibition of chromatin remodeling, and we identified aa 456-909 as sufficient for stable nucleosome binding but not for inhibition of chromatin remodeling. Our data suggest distinct mechanistic steps between nucleosome binding and inhibition of chromatin remodeling.
PMCID: PMC3037448  PMID: 20873869
chromatin; Polycomb Group; nucleosome; chromatin remodeling
Eukaryotic chromosomal DNA is packaged into nucleosomes to form a dynamic structure known as chromatin. The compaction of DNA within chromatin poses a unique hindrance with regards to the accessibility of the DNA to enzymes involved in replication, transcriptional regulation, and repair. The physical structure and physiological activity of chromatin are regulated through a diverse set of posttranslational modifications, histone exchange, and structural remodeling. Of the covalent chromatin modifications, the acetylation of lysine residues within histone proteins by acetyltransferase enzymes, such as GCN5, is one of the most prevalent and important steps in the regulation of chromatin function. Alteration of histone acetyltransferase activity can easily result in the dysregulation of gene transcription and ultimately the onset of a disease state. Many transcription factors contain polyglutamine regions within their primary sequence. Mutations resulting in the elongation of these polyglutamine tracts are associated with a disease family known as the polyglutamine expansion disorders. Spinocerebellar ataxia type 7 (SCA7) is one of the nine diseases that are grouped in this family and is caused by polyglutamine expansion of the ataxin-7 protein, which is a component of the GCN5-containing human SAGA histone acetyltransferase complex. Mutation of ataxin-7 in this manner has been shown to disrupt the structural integrity of the SAGA complex and result in aberrant chromatin acetylation patterns at the promoters of genes involved in the normal function of tissues that are affected by the disease. The specific aspects of molecular pathology are not currently understood; however, studies carried out in laboratory systems ranging from the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to transgenic mouse models and cultured human cells are poised to allow for the elucidation of disease mechanisms and subsequent therapeutic approaches.
PMCID: PMC2964930  PMID: 20621284
18.  Essential Role for Rac1 in Cocaine-Induced Structural Plasticity of Nucleus Accumbens Neurons 
Nature neuroscience  2012;15(6):891-896.
Repeated cocaine administration increases the dendritic arborization of nucleus accumbens neurons, but the underlying signaling events remain unknown. Here, we show that repeated cocaine negatively regulates the active form of Rac1, a small GTPase that controls actin remodeling in other systems. We show further, using viral-mediated gene transfer, that overexpression of a dominant negative mutant of Rac1, or local knockout of Rac1 from floxed Rac1 mice, is sufficient to increase the density of immature dendritic spines on nucleus accumbens neurons, whereas overexpression of a constitutively active Rac1 mutant, or light activation of a photoactivatible form of Rac1, blocks the ability of repeated cocaine to produce this effect. Downregulation of Rac1 activity in nucleus accumbens likewise promotes behavioral responses to cocaine, with Rac1 activation producing the opposite effect. These findings establish an important role for Rac1 signaling in mediating structural and behavioral plasticity to cocaine.
PMCID: PMC3565539  PMID: 22522400
19.  Interplay between Chromatin and trans-Acting Factors on the IME2 Promoter upon Induction of the Gene at the Onset of Meiosis▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;27(4):1254-1263.
The IME2 gene is one of the key regulators of the initiation of meiosis in budding yeast. This gene is repressed during mitosis through the repressive chromatin structure at the promoter, which is maintained by the Rpd3-Sin3 histone deacetylase (HDAC) complex. IME2 expression in meiosis requires Gcn5/histone acetyltransferase, the transcriptional activator Ime1, and the chromatin remodeler RSC; however, the molecular basis of IME2 activation had not been previously defined. We found that, during mitotic growth, a nucleosome masked the TATA element of IME2, and this positioning depended on HDAC. This chromatin structure was remodeled at meiosis by RSC that was recruited to TATA by Ime1. Stable tethering of Ime1 to the promoter required the presence of Gcn5. Interestingly, Ime1 binding to the promoter was kept at low levels during the very early stages in meiosis, even when the levels of Ime1 and histone H3 acetylation at the promoter were at their highest, making a 4- to 6-h delay of the IME2 expression from that of IME1. HDAC was continuously present at the promoter regardless of the transcriptional condition of IME2, and deletion of RPD3 allowed the IME2 expression shortly after the expression of IME1, suggesting that HDAC plays a role in regulating the timing of IME2 expression.
PMCID: PMC1800723  PMID: 17158929
20.  The nucleosomal barrier to promoter escape by RNA polymerase II is overcome by the chromatin remodeler Chd1 
eLife  2014;3:e02042.
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.
eLife digest
DNA is tightly packaged in a material called chromatin inside the cell nucleus. To produce proteins this DNA must first be transcribed to produce a molecule of messenger RNA, which is then translated to make a protein. To assist with this process cells ‘unpack’ certain regions of the DNA so that enzymes that catalyze the different steps in this process can have access to the DNA.
A protein called Chd1 is involved in the unpacking process in yeast, but its role in more complex animals is not clear. Now, Skene et al. have shown that this protein is needed to allow the enzyme that catalyzes the transcription of DNA—an enzyme called RNA polymerase II—to do its job. Chd1 acts to unpack the tightly packaged DNA from chromatin, thus allowing the transcription of the DNA to proceed. In the absence of Chd1 activity, RNA polymerase II stalls at the gene promoter—the region of DNA that starts the transcription of a particular gene. This work highlights how the packaging of DNA in the cell is highly dynamic and controls fundamental biological processes.
Skene et al. modified a well-known genetic technique called ChIP-seq. Previous ChIP-seq protocols typically provided a blurry, low-resolution map of where proteins bound to chromatin. Skene et al. used an enzyme to ‘chew back’ the DNA to reveal the exact ‘footprints’ of the Chd1 protein and the RNA polymerase II enzyme on the chromatin in mice. It will be possible to adapt this new protocol to map the positions of other proteins, which will help to improve our understanding of the ways in which chromatin regulates access to DNA.
PMCID: PMC3983905  PMID: 24737864
transcription; chromatin; RNA polymerase II; promoter escape; mouse
21.  Long-Term Effects of Chromatin Remodeling and DNA Damage in Stem Cells Induced by Environmental and Dietary Agents 
The presence of histones acts as a barrier to protein access; thus chromatin remodeling must occur for essential processes such as transcription and replication. In conjunction with histone modifications, DNA methylation plays critical roles in gene silencing through chromatin remodeling. Chromatin remodeling is also interconnected with the DNA damage response, maintenance of stem cell properties, and cell differentiation programs. Chromatin modifications have increasingly been shown to produce long-lasting alterations in chromatin structure and transcription. Recent studies have shown environmental exposures in utero have the potential to alter normal developmental signaling networks, physiologic responses, and disease susceptibility later in life during a process known as developmental reprogramming. In this review we discuss the long-term impact of exposure to environmental compounds, the chromatin modifications that they induce, and the differentiation and developmental programs of multiple stem and progenitor cell types altered by exposure. The main focus is to highlight agents present in the human lifestyle that have the potential to promote epigenetic changes that impact developmental programs of specific cell types, may promote tumorigenesis through altering epigenetic marks, and may be transgenerational, for example, those able to be transmitted through multiple cell divisions.
PMCID: PMC3998679  PMID: 24579784
environmental toxicology; epigenetics; chromatin remodeling; in utero exposure; bioflavonoids
Biochemistry  2009;48(30):7287-7295.
The Runx2 transcription factor is essential for skeletal development as it regulates expression of several key bone-related genes. Multiple lines of evidence indicate that expression of the Runx2/p57 isoform in osteoblasts is controlled by the distal P1 promoter. Alterations of chromatin structure are often associated with transcription and can be mediated by members of the SWI/SNF family of chromatin remodeling complexes, or by transcriptional co-activators that possess enzymatic activities that covalently modify structural components of the chromatin. Here, we report that a specific chromatin remodeling process at the proximal region (−400 to +35) of the Runx2 gene P1 promoter accompanies transcriptional activity in osteoblasts. This altered chromatin organization is reflected by the presence of two DNase I hypersensitive sites that span key regulatory elements for Runx2/p57 transcription. Chromatin remodeling and transcription of the Runx2 gene are associated with elevated levels of histone acetylation at the P1 promoter region and binding of active RNA polymerase II, and are independent of the activity of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex. Changes in chromatin organization at the P1 promoter are stimulated during differentiation of C2C12 mesenchymal cells to the osteoblastic lineage by treatment with BMP2. Together, our results support a model in which changes in chromatin organization occur at very early stages of mesenchymal differentiation to facilitate subsequent expression of the Runx2/p57 isoform in osteoblastic cells.
PMCID: PMC2760825  PMID: 19545172
23.  ChromDB: The Chromatin Database 
Nucleic Acids Research  2007;36(Database issue):D298-D302.
The ChromDB website ( displays chromatin-associated proteins, including RNAi-associated proteins, for a broad range of organisms. Our primary focus is to display sets of highly curated plant genes predicted to encode proteins associated with chromatin remodeling. Our intent is to make this intensively curated sequence information available to the research and teaching communities in support of comparative analyses toward understanding the chromatin proteome in plants, especially in important crop species such as corn and rice. Model animal and fungal proteins are included in the database to facilitate a complete, comparative analysis of the chromatin proteome and to make the database applicable to all chromatin researchers and educators. Chromatin biology and chromatin remodeling are complex processes involving a multitude of proteins that regulate the dynamic changes in chromatin structure which either repress or activate transcription. We strive to organize ChromDB data in a straightforward and comparative manner to help users understand the complement of proteins involved in packaging DNA into chromatin.
PMCID: PMC2238968  PMID: 17942414
24.  Cutting Edge: SWI/SNF Mediates Antisense Igh Transcription and Locus-Wide Accessibility in B Cell Precursors1 
The stepwise process of Ag receptor gene assembly, termed V(D)J recombination, is coordinated during lymphocyte development by sweeping changes in chromatin that permit or deny access to a single recombinase enzyme. We now show that switching/sucrose nonfermenting (SWI/SNF) chromatin remodeling complexes are recruited to the Igh locus by an enhancer-dependent process and that these complexes are essential for generating recombinase accessibility throughout the locus. Depletion of SWI/SNF in pro-B cells also inhibits antisense transcription through all clusters of Igh gene segments, a pioneering process that has been implicated in the initial opening of chromatin. We conclude that SWI/SNF complexes play multiple roles in Igh gene assembly, ranging from initial locus activation to the spreading and maintenance of chromatin accessibility over large VH, DH, and JH domains.
PMCID: PMC2753546  PMID: 19596997
25.  The Epigenomics of Embryonic Stem Cell Differentiation 
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) possess an open and highly dynamic chromatin landscape, which underlies their plasticity and ultimately maintains ESC pluripotency. The ESC epigenome must not only maintain the transcription of pluripotency-associated genes but must also, through gene priming, facilitate rapid and cell type-specific activation of developmental genes upon lineage commitment. Trans-generational inheritance ensures that the ESC chromatin state is stably transmitted from one generation to the next; yet at the same time, epigenetic marks are highly dynamic, reversible and responsive to extracellular cues. Once committed to differentiation, the ESC epigenome is remodeled and resolves into a more compact chromatin state. A thorough understanding of the role of chromatin modifiers in ESC fate and differentiation will be important if they are to be used for therapeutic purposes.
Recent technical advances, particularly in next-generation sequencing technologies, have provided a genome-scale view of epigenetic marks and chromatin modifiers. More affordable and faster sequencing platforms have led to a comprehensive characterization of the ESC epigenome and epigenomes of differentiated cell types. In this review, we summarize and discuss the recent progress that has highlighted the central role of histone modifications, histone variants, DNA methylation and chromatin modifiers in ESC pluripotency and ESC fate. We provide a detailed and comprehensive discussion of genome-wide studies that are pertinent to our understanding of mammalian development.
PMCID: PMC3858586  PMID: 24339734
Epigenomics; chromatin; embryonic stem cells; differentiation

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