Chromosome position analysis of ChIP-chip data revealed that several carbon source and stress-responsive yeast transcription factors conditionally bind subtelomeric X elements.Integration of several microarray gene expression data sets showed that, in this context, the factors conditionally control the boundaries and strength of subtelomeric silencing.Regulation of silencing by a fatty acid-responsive factor was found to be dependent on Sir2p and independent of Hda1p.These findings provide a critical link for establishing the mechanisms by which telomere biology is coordinated with other cellular processes including responses to environmental stimuli, aging and adaptation.
It is well established that environmental conditions modulate gene expression through local binding of a variety of conditionally active transcription factors, each responsive to specific environmental cues. However, another prevalent mechanism of gene regulation in eukaryotic cells is the long-range control of groups of genes by chromatin modifications or other position-dependent mechanisms. One such phenomenon, gene silencing, is an important and evolutionarily conserved mode of regulation that controls expression of subtelomeric genes. These genes are enriched for stress response and metabolic genes and their regulation is controlled by the spreading of silencing molecules from chromosome ends (telomeres) into subtelomeric regions. Levels of subtelomeric silencing have been linked to cellular lifespan, and study of the regulation of silencing is fundamental to our understanding of human aging. The spread of silencing in subtelomeric regions is discontinuous, and is controlled by various genomic elements that can either relay and enhance silencing from telomeres (proto-silencing) or create boundaries that protect some genomic regions from silencing. In yeast, every subtelomeric region contains an X element that proto-silences centromere-proximal genes, and also insulates telomere-proximal genes from silencing.
In this paper, we identify a regulatory mechanism to control X element-mediated proto-silencing and insulating activities in response to environmental cues. The mechanism was identified using chromosome position analysis of microarray-based chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP-chip) data for environment-responsive TFs and genome-wide gene expression data under the same conditions. The mechanism involves the conditional association of environment-responsive transcription factors to X elements. The binding at X elements results in regulation of proto-silencing of centromere-proximal genes, or insulation of telomere-proximal genes (depending on the factor) in response to environmental stimuli related to stress response and metabolism. One example is shown below (Figure 4B). Transcription factor, Oaf1p, conditionally binds X elements in the presence of fatty acids and enhances proto-silencing specifically under this condition. Oaf1p and several other factors implicated here are known to control adjacent genes at intrachromosomal positions, suggesting their dual functionality in both gene-specific transcriptional regulation, and long-range position-dependent mechanism. Investigation of this mechanism during the response to fatty acid exposure showed that conditional proto-silencing activity is dependent on Sir2p, a molecule known to be involved in subtelomeric silencing related to aging. This study reveals a path cells can use to coordinate subtelomeric silencing related to aging with cellular environment, and with the activities of other cellular processes.
Subtelomeric chromatin is subject to evolutionarily conserved complex epigenetic regulation and is implicated in numerous aspects of cellular function including formation of heterochromatin, regulation of stress response pathways and control of lifespan. Subtelomeric DNA is characterized by the presence of specific repeated segments that serve to propagate silencing or to protect chromosomal regions from spreading epigenetic control. In this study, analysis of genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation and expression data, suggests that several yeast transcription factors regulate subtelomeric silencing in response to various environmental stimuli through conditional association with proto-silencing regions called X elements. In this context, Oaf1p, Rox1p, Gzf1p and Phd1p control the propagation of silencing toward centromeres in response to stimuli affecting stress responses and metabolism, whereas others, including Adr1p, Yap5p and Msn4p, appear to influence boundaries of silencing, regulating telomere-proximal genes in Y′ elements. The factors implicated here are known to control adjacent genes at intrachromosomal positions, suggesting their dual functionality. This study reveals a path for the coordination of subtelomeric silencing with cellular environment, and with activities of other cellular processes.