Chromatin insulators are DNA-protein complexes with broad functions in nuclear biology. Based on the ability of insulator proteins to interact with each other, it was originally thought that insulators form loops that could constitute functional domains of co-regulated gene expression. Nevertheless, data from genome-wide localization studies indicate that insulator proteins can be present in intergenic regions as well as at the 5′, introns or 3′ of genes, suggesting a broader role in chromosome biology. Cells have developed mechanisms to control insulator activity by recruiting specialized proteins or by covalent modification of core components. Recent results suggest that insulators mediate intra- and inter-chromosomal interactions to affect transcription, imprinting and recombination. It is possible that these interactions set up cell-specific blueprints of nuclear organization that may contribute to the establishment of different patterns of gene expression during cell differentiation. As a consequence, disruption of insulator activity could result in the development of cancer or other disease states.
Chromatin insulators organize the genome into distinct transcriptional domains and contribute to cell type–specific chromatin organization. However, factors regulating tissue-specific insulator function have not yet been discovered. Here we identify the RNA recognition motif-containing protein Shep as a direct interactor of two individual components of the gypsy insulator complex in Drosophila. Mutation of shep improves gypsy-dependent enhancer blocking, indicating a role as a negative regulator of insulator activity. Unlike ubiquitously expressed core gypsy insulator proteins, Shep is highly expressed in the central nervous system (CNS) with lower expression in other tissues. We developed a novel, quantitative tissue-specific barrier assay to demonstrate that Shep functions as a negative regulator of insulator activity in the CNS but not in muscle tissue. Additionally, mutation of shep alters insulator complex nuclear localization in the CNS but has no effect in other tissues. Consistent with negative regulatory activity, ChIP–seq analysis of Shep in a CNS-derived cell line indicates substantial genome-wide colocalization with a single gypsy insulator component but limited overlap with intact insulator complexes. Taken together, these data reveal a novel, tissue-specific mode of regulation of a chromatin insulator.
Mounting evidence in human, mouse, and Drosophila demonstrates a role for the DNA–protein complexes known as chromatin insulators in orchestrating three-dimensional genome organization. Several genes that are only expressed in specific cell types display distinct chromatin configurations correlated with expression status. Recent evidence shows that chromatin insulators play a role in defining tissue-specific chromatin conformation; however, tissue-specific factors that may modulate insulator activity remain unknown. Here we identify a putative RNA–binding protein, Shep, which is expressed most highly in the CNS and interacts directly with insulator complexes. We developed a novel quantitative, tissue-specific insulator assay and found that Shep negatively regulates insulator activity in the CNS. We also find that mutation of shep alters insulator complex nuclear localization in the brain but not other tissues. Finally, we mapped Shep and gypsy insulator protein localization throughout the genome and found that Shep colocalizes with one individual insulator protein but less often than expected with an intact insulator complex. These data suggest that Shep negatively influences insulator activity in a tissue-specific manner.
Insulators are multi-protein-DNA complexes thought to affect gene expression by mediating inter- and intra-chromosomal interactions. Drosophila insulators contain specific DNA binding proteins plus common components, such as CP190, that facilitate these interactions. Here we examine changes in the distribution of Drosophila insulator proteins during the heat-shock and ecdysone responses. We find that CP190 recruitment to insulator sites is the main regulatable step in controlling insulator function during heat shock. In contrast, both CP190 and DNA binding protein recruitment are regulated during the ecdysone response. CP190 is necessary to stabilize specific chromatin loops and for proper activation of transcription of genes regulated by this hormone. These findings suggest that cells may regulate recruitment of insulator proteins to the DNA in order to activate insulator activity at specific sites and create distinct patterns of nuclear organization that are necessary to achieve proper gene expression in response to different stimuli.
Transcription; Insulator; Chromatin; Epigenetics
Insulator bodies are novel nuclear stress foci that can be used as a proxy to monitor the chromatin-bound state of insulator proteins.
Chromatin insulators assist in the formation of higher-order chromatin structures by mediating long-range contacts between distant genomic sites. It has been suggested that insulators accomplish this task by forming dense nuclear foci termed insulator bodies that result from the coalescence of multiple protein-bound insulators. However, these structures remain poorly understood, particularly the mechanisms triggering body formation and their role in nuclear function. In this paper, we show that insulator proteins undergo a dramatic and dynamic spatial reorganization into insulator bodies during osmostress and cell death in a high osmolarity glycerol–p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase–independent manner, leading to a large reduction in DNA-bound insulator proteins that rapidly repopulate chromatin as the bodies disassemble upon return to isotonicity. These bodies occupy distinct nuclear territories and contain a defined structural arrangement of insulator proteins. Our findings suggest insulator bodies are novel nuclear stress foci that can be used as a proxy to monitor the chromatin-bound state of insulator proteins and provide new insights into the effects of osmostress on nuclear and genome organization.
Insulators are DNA sequences thought to be important for the establishment and maintenance of cell-type specific nuclear architecture. In Drosophila there are several classes of insulators that appear to have unique roles in gene expression. The mechanisms involved in determining and regulating the specific roles of these insulator classes are not understood. Here we report that DNA Topoisomerase II modulates the activity of the Su(Hw) insulator. Downregulation of Topo II by RNAi or mutations in the Top2 gene result in disruption of Su(Hw) insulator function. This effect is mediated by the Mod(mdg4)2.2 protein, which is a unique component of the Su(Hw) insulator complex. Co-immunoprecipitation and yeast two-hybrid experiments show that Topo II and Mod(mdg4)2.2 proteins directly interact. In addition, mutations in Top2 cause a slight decrease of Mod(mdg4)2.2 transcript but have a dramatic effect on Mod(mdg4)2.2 protein levels. In the presence of proteasome inhibitors, normal levels of Mod(mdg4)2.2 protein and its binding to polytene chromosomes are restored. Thus, Topo II is required to prevent Mod(mdg4)2.2 degradation and, consequently, to stabilize Su(Hw) insulator-mediated chromatin organization.
Insulators might regulate gene expression by establishing and maintaining the organization of the chromatin fiber within the nucleus. Biochemical fractionation and in situ high salt extraction of lysed cells show that two known protein components of the gypsy insulator are present in the nuclear matrix. Using FISH with DNA probes located between two endogenous Su(Hw) binding sites, we show that the intervening DNA is arranged in a loop, with the two insulators located at the base. Mutations in insulator proteins, subjecting the cells to a brief heat shock, or destruction of the nuclear matrix lead to disruption of the loop. Insertion of an additional gypsy insulator in the center of the loop results in the formation of paired loops through the attachment of the inserted sequences to the nuclear matrix. These results suggest that the gypsy insulator might establish higher-order domains of chromatin structure and regulate nuclear organization by tethering the DNA to the nuclear matrix and creating chromatin loops.
insulator; chromatin; transcription; nucleus; retrotransposon
Insulator elements can be classified as enhancer-blocking or barrier insulators depending on whether they interfere with enhancer-promoter interactions or act as barriers against the spreading of heterochromatin. The former class may exert its function at least in part by attaching the chromatin fiber to a nuclear substrate such as the nuclear matrix, resulting in the formation of chromatin loops. The latter class functions by recruiting histone modifying enzymes, although some barrier insulators have also been shown to create chromatin loops. These loops may correspond to functional nuclear domains containing clusters of co-expressed genes. Thus, insulators may determine specific patterns of nuclear organization that are important in establishing specific programs of gene expression during cell differentiation and development.
insulators; chromatin; loops; gene expression; nuclear organization
CTCF plays a central role in vertebrate insulators and forms part of the Fab-8 insulator in Drosophila. dCTCF is present at hundreds of sites in the Drosophila genome, where it is located at the boundaries between bands and interbands in polytene chromosomes. dCTCF co-localizes with CP190, which is required for proper binding of dCTCF to chromatin, but not with the other gypsy insulator proteins Su(Hw) or Mod(mdg4)2.2. Mutations in the CP190 gene affect Fab-8 insulator activity, suggesting that CP190 is an essential component of both gypsy and dCTCF insulators. dCTCF is present at specific nuclear locations forming large insulator bodies that overlap with those formed by Su(Hw), Mod(mdg4)2.2 and CP190. The results suggest that Su(Hw) and dCTCF may be the DNA-binding components of two different subsets of insulators that share CP190 and cooperate in the formation of insulator bodies to regulate the organization of the chromatin fiber in the nucleus.
CTCF; transcription; insulator; chromatin
Chromatin insulators/boundary elements share the ability to insulate a transgene from its chromosomal context by blocking promiscuous enhancer–promoter interactions and heterochromatin spreading. Several insulating factors target different DNA consensus sequences, defining distinct subfamilies of insulators. Whether each of these families and factors might possess unique cellular functions is of particular interest. Here, we combined chromatin immunoprecipitations and computational approaches to break down the binding signature of the Drosophila boundary element–associated factor (BEAF) subfamily. We identify a dual-core BEAF binding signature at 1,720 sites genome-wide, defined by five to six BEAF binding motifs bracketing 200 bp AT-rich nuclease-resistant spacers. Dual-cores are tightly linked to hundreds of genes highly enriched in cell-cycle and chromosome organization/segregation annotations. siRNA depletion of BEAF from cells leads to cell-cycle and chromosome segregation defects. Quantitative RT-PCR analyses in BEAF-depleted cells show that BEAF controls the expression of dual core–associated genes, including key cell-cycle and chromosome segregation regulators. beaf mutants that impair its insulating function by preventing proper interactions of BEAF complexes with the dual-cores produce similar effects in embryos. Chromatin immunoprecipitations show that BEAF regulates transcriptional activity by restricting the deposition of methylated histone H3K9 marks in dual-cores. Our results reveal a novel role for BEAF chromatin dual-cores in regulating a distinct set of genes involved in chromosome organization/segregation and the cell cycle.
The genome of eukaryotes is packaged in chromatin, which consists of DNA, histones, and accessory proteins. This leads to a general repression of genes, particularly for those exposed to mostly condensed, heterochromatin regions. DNA sequences called chromatin insulators/boundary elements are able to insulate a gene from its chromosomal context by blocking promiscuous heterochromatin spreading. No common feature has been identified among the insulators/boundary elements known so far. Rather, distinct subfamilies of insulators harbor different DNA consensus sequences targeted by different DNA-binding factors, which confer their insulating activity. Determining whether distinct subfamilies possess distinct cellular functions is important for understanding genome regulation. Here, using Drosophila, we have combined computational and experimental approaches to address the function of the boundary element-associated factor (BEAF) subfamily of insulators. We identify hundreds of BEAF dual-cores that are defined by a particular arrangement of DNA sequence motifs bracketing nucleosome binding sequences, and that mark the genomic BEAF binding sites. BEAF dual-cores are close to hundreds of genes that regulate chromosome organization/segregation and the cell cycle. Since BEAF acts by restricting the deposition of repressing epigenetic histone marks, which affects the accessibility of chromatin, its depletion affects the expression of cell-cycle genes. Our data reveal a new role for BEAF in regulating the cell cycle through its binding to highly conserved chromatin dual-cores.
Chromatin Dual-Cores define new potent nucleosome-associatedcis-regulatory elements that regulate the accessibility of promoters of genes controlling chromosome organization/segregation and the cell cycle.
Chromatin insulators are functionally conserved DNA–protein complexes situated throughout the genome that organize independent transcriptional domains. Previous work implicated RNA as an important cofactor in chromatin insulator activity, although the precise mechanisms are not yet understood. Here we identify the exosome, the highly conserved major cellular 3′ to 5′ RNA degradation machinery, as a physical interactor of CP190-dependent chromatin insulator complexes in Drosophila. Genome-wide profiling of exosome by ChIP-seq in two different embryonic cell lines reveals extensive and specific overlap with the CP190, BEAF-32 and CTCF insulator proteins. Colocalization occurs mainly at promoters but also boundary elements such as Mcp, Fab-8, scs and scs′, which overlaps with a promoter. Surprisingly, exosome associates primarily with promoters but not gene bodies of active genes, arguing against simple cotranscriptional recruitment to RNA substrates. Similar to insulator proteins, exosome is also significantly enriched at divergently transcribed promoters. Directed ChIP of exosome in cell lines depleted of insulator proteins shows that CTCF is required specifically for exosome association at Mcp and Fab-8 but not other sites, suggesting that alternate mechanisms must also contribute to exosome chromatin recruitment. Taken together, our results reveal a novel positive relationship between exosome and chromatin insulators throughout the genome.
Chromatin boundaries, also known as insulators, regulate gene activity by organizing active and repressive chromatin domains and modulate enhancer-promoter interactions. However, the mechanisms of boundary action are poorly understood, in part due to our limited knowledge about insulator proteins, and a shortage of standard assays by which diverse boundaries could be compared.
We report here the development of an enhancer-blocking assay for studying insulator activity in Drosophila cultured cells. We show that the activities of diverse Drosophila insulators including suHw, SF1, SF1b, Fab7 and Fab8 are supported in these cells. We further show that double stranded RNA (dsRNA)-mediated knockdown of SuHw and dCTCF factors disrupts the enhancer-blocking function of suHw and Fab8, respectively, thereby establishing the effectiveness of using RNA interference in our cell-based assay for probing insulator function.
The novel boundary assay provides a quantitative and efficient method for analyzing insulator mechanism and can be further exploited in genome-wide RNAi screens for insulator components. It provides a useful tool that complements the transgenic and genetic approaches for studying this important class of regulatory elements.
The chromosomes of eukaryotes are organized into structurally and functionally discrete domains. This implies the presence of insulator elements that separate adjacent domains, allowing them to maintain different chromatin structures. We show that the Fun30 chromatin remodeler, Fft3, is essential for maintaining a proper chromatin structure at centromeres and subtelomeres. Fft3 is localized to insulator elements and inhibits euchromatin assembly in silent chromatin domains. In its absence, euchromatic histone modifications and histone variants invade centromeres and subtelomeres, causing a mis-regulation of gene expression and severe chromosome segregation defects. Our data strongly suggest that Fft3 controls the identity of chromatin domains by protecting these regions from euchromatin assembly.
Active and inactive chromatin domains are often juxtaposed along the chromosome arms, and this demands mechanisms that separate them apart. This is performed by insulators that block the spreading of chromatin domains beyond their natural borders. Here, we show that an ATP-dependent chromatin remodeler, Fission yeast fun thirty (Fft3), is localized at known insulator elements and protects centromeric and subtelomeric chromatin domains. When Fft3 is absent, euchromatin invades the centromere and subtelomeres, causing a change in histone modification, incorrect incorporation of histone variants, mis-regulation of gene expression, and severe chromosome segregation defects. We conclude that Fft3 controls the identity of these chromatin domains by shielding them from euchromatin.
Comprehensive understanding of mechanisms of epigenetic regulation requires identification of molecules bound to genomic regions of interest in vivo. However, non-biased methods to identify molecules bound to specific genomic loci in vivo are limited. Here, we applied insertional chromatin immunoprecipitation (iChIP) to direct identification of components of insulator complexes, which function as boundaries of chromatin domain. We found that the chicken β-globin HS4 (cHS4) insulator complex contains an RNA helicase protein, p68/DDX5; an RNA species, steroid receptor RNA activator 1; and a nuclear matrix protein, Matrin-3, in vivo. Binding of p68 and Matrin-3 to the cHS4 insulator core sequence was mediated by CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF). Thus, our results showed that it is feasible to directly identify proteins and RNA bound to a specific genomic region in vivo by using iChIP.
The DNA sequence elements called insulators have two basic kinds of properties. Barrier elements block the propagation of heterochromatic structures into adjacent euchromatin. Enhancer blocking elements interfere with interaction between an enhancer and promoter when placed between them. We have dissected a compound insulator element found at the 5’ end of the chicken β-globin locus, which possesses both activities. Barrier insulation is mediated by two kinds of DNA binding proteins: USF1/USF2, a heterodimer which recruits multiple enzyme complexes capable of marking histone on adjacent nucleosomes with ‘activating’ marks, and Vezf1, which protects against DNA methylation. We have found that the heterochromatic region upstream of the insulator element is maintained in its silent state by a dicer-dependent mechanism, suggesting a mechanism for Vezf1 function in the insulator.
Enhancer blocking function in the β-globin insulator element is conferred by a binding site for CTCF. Consistent with this property, CTCF binding was found some years ago to be essential for imprinted expression at the Igf2/H19 locus. Work in many laboratories has since demonstrated that CTCF helps stabilize long-range interactions in the nucleus. We have recently shown that in the case of the human insulin locus such an interaction, over a distance of ~300kb, can result in stimulation of a target gene which itself is important for insulin secretion.
CTCF; Vezf1; insulation; heterochromatin
Chromatin boundaries facilitate independent gene regulation by insulating genes from the effects of enhancers or organized chromatin. However, the mechanisms of boundary action are not well understood. To investigate whether boundary function depends on a higher order of chromatin organization, we examined the function of several Drosophila melanogaster insulators in cells with reduced chromatin-remodeling activities. We found that knockdown of NURF301 and ISWI, key components of the nucleosome-remodeling factor (NURF), synergistically disrupted the enhancer-blocking function of Fab7 and SF1 and augmented the function of Fab8. Mutations in Nurf301/Ebx and Iswi also affected the function of these boundaries in vivo. We further show that ISWI was localized on the endogenous Fab7 and Fab8 insulators and that NURF knockdown resulted in a marked increase in the nucleosome occupancy at these insulator sites. In contrast to the effect of NURF knockdown, reduction in dMi-2, the ATPase component of the Drosophila nucleosome-remodeling and deacetylation (NuRD) complex, augmented Fab7 and suppressed Fab8. Our results provide the first evidence that higher-order chromatin organization influences the enhancer-blocking activity of chromatin boundaries. In particular, the NURF and NuRD nucleosome-remodeling complexes may regulate Hox expression by modulating the function of boundaries in these complexes. The unique responses by different classes of boundaries to changes in the chromatin environment may be indicative of their distinct mechanisms of action, which may influence their placement in the genome and selection during evolution.
Chromatin boundaries regulate gene expression by modulating enhancer–promoter interactions and insulating transcriptional influences from organized chromatin. However, mechanistic distinctions between these two aspects of boundary function are not well understood. Here we show that SF1, a chromatin boundary located in the Drosophila Antennapedia complex (ANT-C), can insulate the transgenic miniwhite reporter from both enhancing and silencing effects of surrounding genome, a phenomenon known as chromosomal position effect or CPE. We found that the CPE-blocking activity associates with different SF1 sub-regions from a previously characterized insulator that blocks enhancers in transgenic embryos, and is independent of GAF-binding sites essential for the embryonic insulator activity. We further provide evidence that the CPE-blocking activity cannot be attributed to an enhancer-blocking activity in the developing eye. Our results suggest that SF1 contains multiple non-overlapping activities that block diverse transcriptional influences from embryonic or adult enhancers, and from positive and negative chromatin structure. Such diverse insulating capabilities are consistent with the proposed roles of SF1 to functionally separate fushi tarazu (ftz), a non-Hox gene, from the enhancers and the organized chromatin of the neighboring Hox genes.
Insulators prevent promiscuous gene regulation by restricting the action of enhancers and silencers. Recent studies have revealed a number of similarities between insulators and promoters, including binding of specific transcription factors, chromatin-modification signatures and localization to specific subnuclear positions. We propose that enhancer-blockers and silencing barrier-insulators might have evolved as specialized derivatives of promoters and that the two types of element use related mechanisms to mediate their distinct functions. These insights can help to reconcile different models of insulator action.
Core promoters and chromatin insulators are key regulatory elements that may direct a transcriptional enhancer to prefer a specific promoter in complex genetic loci. Enhancer and insulator flank the sea urchin (Paracentrotus lividus) α-histone H2A transcription unit in a tandem repeated cluster containing the five histone genes. This article deals with the specificity of interaction between the H2A enhancer-bound MBF-1 activator and histone gene promoters, and with the mechanism that leads the H1 transcripts to peak at about one-third of the value for nucleosomal H3 and H2A mRNAs. To this end, in vivo competition assays of enhancer and insulator functions were performed. Our evidence suggests that the MBF-1 transcription factor participates also in the expression of the H3 gene and that the sns5 insulator buffers the downstream H1 promoter from the H2A enhancer. Altogether, these results provide a clear demonstration of the enhancer-blocking function of a chromatin insulator in a natural gene context. In addition, they suggest that both the H2A enhancer and the sns5 insulator may account for the diverse accumulation of the linker H1 versus the core nucleosomal histones during early development of the sea urchin embryo.
Insulator elements affect gene expression by preventing the spread of heterochromatin and restricting transcriptional enhancers from activation of unrelated promoters. In vertebrates, insulator’s function requires association with the CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF), a protein that recognizes long and diverse nucleotide sequences. While insulators are critical in gene regulation, only a few have been reported. Here, we describe 13,804 CTCF binding sites in potential insulators of the human genome, discovered experimentally in primary human fibroblasts. Most of these sequences are located far from the transcriptional start sites, with their distribution strongly correlated with genes. The majority of them fit to a consensus motif highly conserved and suitable for predicting possible insulators driven by CTCF in other vertebrate genomes. In addition, CTCF localization is largely invariant across different cell types. Our results provide resource for investigating insulator function and possible other general and evolutionarily conserved activities of CTCF sites.
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.
The spatiotemporal specificity of gene expression is controlled by interactions among regulatory proteins, cis-regulatory elements, chromatin modifications, and genes. These interactions can occur over large distances, and the mechanisms by which they are controlled are poorly understood. Insulators are DNA sequences that can both block the interaction between regulatory elements and genes, as well as block the spread of regions of modified chromatin. To date, relatively few insulators have been identified in developing Drosophila embryos. We here present the genome wide identification of over 14,000 binding sites for 6 insulator-associated proteins. We demonstrate the existence of two broad classes of insulators. Insulators of both classes are enriched at the boundaries of a particular chromatin modification. However, only insulators bound by BEAF-32, CP190, and dCTCF are enriched in regions of open chromatin or demarcate gene boundaries, with a particular enrichment between differentially expressed promoters. Furthermore, insulators of this class are enriched at points of chromosomal rearrangement among the 12 species of sequenced Drosophila, suggesting that insulator defined regulatory boundaries are evolutionarily conserved.
Enhancer-blocking insulators are DNA elements that disrupt the communication between a regulatory sequence, such as an enhancer or a silencer, and a promoter. Insulators participate in both transcriptional regulation and global nuclear organization, two features of chromatin that are thought to be maintained from one generation to the next through epigenetic mechanisms. Furthermore, there are many regulatory mechanisms in place that enhance or hinder insulator activity. These modes of regulation could be used to establish cell-type specific insulator activity that is epigenetically inherited along a cell and/or organismal lineage. This review will discuss the evidence for epigenetic inheritance and regulation of insulator function.
Insulators; Epigenetic Inheritance; Chromatin; Nuclear organization
The organization of chromatin domains in the nucleus is an important factor in gene regulation. In eukaryotic nuclei, transcriptionally silenced chromatin clusters at the nuclear periphery while transcriptionally poised chromatin resides in the nuclear interior. Recent studies suggest that nuclear pore proteins (NUPs) recruit loci to nuclear pores to aid in insulation of genes from silencing and during gene activation. We investigated the role of NUPs at a native yeast insulator and show that while NUPs localize to the native tDNA insulator adjacent to the silenced HMR domain, loss of pore proteins does not compromise insulation. Surprisingly we find that NUPs contribute to silencing at HMR and are able to restore silencing to a silencing-defective HMR allele when tethered to the locus. We show that the perinuclear positioning of heterochromatin is important for the NUP-mediated silencing effect and find that loss of NUPs result in decreased localization of HMR to the nuclear periphery. We also show that loss of telomeric tethering pathways does not eliminate NUP localization to HMR, suggesting that NUPs may mediate an independent pathway for HMR association with the nuclear periphery. We propose that localization of NUPs to the tDNA insulator at HMR helps maintain the intranuclear position of the silent locus, which in turn contributes to the fidelity of silencing at HMR.
Insulator mediated alteration in higher-order chromatin and/or nucleosome organization is an important aspect of epigenetic gene regulation. Recent studies have suggested a key role for CP190 in such processes. In this study, we analysed the effects of ectopically tethered insulator factors on chromatin structure and found that CP190 induces large-scale decondensation when targeted to a condensed lacO array in mammalian and Drosophila cells. In contrast, dCTCF alone, is unable to cause such a decondensation, however, when CP190 is present, dCTCF recruits it to the lacO array and mediates chromatin unfolding. The CP190 induced opening of chromatin may not be correlated with transcriptional activation, as binding of CP190 does not enhance luciferase activity in reporter assays. We propose that CP190 may mediate histone modification and chromatin remodelling activity to induce an open chromatin state by its direct recruitment or targeting by a DNA binding factor such as dCTCF.
Strains from a collection of Drosophila GFP protein trap lines express GFP in the normal tissues where the endogenous protein is present. This collection can be used to screen for proteins distributed in the nucleus in a non-uniform pattern.
We analyzed four lines that show peripheral or punctate nuclear staining. One of these lines affects an uncharacterized gene named CG11138. The CG11138 protein shows a punctate distribution in the nuclear periphery similar to that of Drosophila insulator proteins but does not co-localize with known insulators. Interestingly, mutations in Lamin proteins result in alterations in CG11138 localization, suggesting that this protein may be a novel component of the nuclear lamina. A second line affects the Decondensation factor 31 (Df31) gene, which encodes a protein with a unique nuclear distribution that appears to segment the nucleus into four different compartments. The X-chromosome of males is confined to one of these compartments. We also find that Drosophila Nucleoplasmin (dNlp) is present in regions of active transcription. Heat shock leads to loss of dNlp from previously transcribed regions of polytene chromosome without redistribution to the heat shock genes. Analysis of Stonewall (Stwl), a protein previously found to be necessary for the maintenance of germline stem cells, shows that Stwl is present in a punctate pattern in the nucleus that partially overlaps with that of known insulator proteins. Finally we show that Stwl, dNlp, and Df31 form part of a highly interactive network. The properties of other components of this network may help understand the role of these proteins in nuclear biology.
These results establish screening of GFP protein trap alleles as a strategy to identify factors with novel cellular functions. Information gained from the analysis of CG11138 Stwl, dNlp, and Df31 sets the stage for future studies of these proteins.
Insulators define chromosomal domains such that an enhancer in one domain cannot activate a promoter in a different domain. We show that the Drosophila gypsy insulator behaves as a cis-stimulatory element in the larval fat body. Transcriptional stimulation by the insulator is distance dependent, as expected for a promoter element as opposed to an enhancer. Stimulation of a test alcohol dehydrogenase promoter requires a binding site for a GATA transcription factor, suggesting that the insulator may be facilitating access of this DNA binding protein to the promoter. Short-range stimulation requires both the Suppressor of Hairy-wing protein and the Mod(mdg4)-62.7 protein encoded by the trithorax group gene mod(mdg4). In the absence of interaction with Mod(mdg4)-62.7, the insulator is converted into a short-range transcriptional repressor but retains some cis-stimulatory activity over longer distances. These results indicate that insulator and promoter sequences share important characteristics and are not entirely distinct. We propose that the gypsy insulator can function as a promoter element and may be analogous to promoter-proximal regulatory modules that integrate input from multiple distal enhancer sequences.