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.
epigenomics; chromatin immunoprecipitation; ChIP-exo; micrococcal nuclease mapping; deoxyribonuclease I mapping
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.
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.
Eukaryotic genomes are compacted into chromatin, which restricts access to DNA. In order for cells to transcribe, replicate, and repair DNA, chromatin structure must be altered. Eukaryotes have evolved chromatin remodeling enzymes that use energy derived from ATP hydrolysis to modulate chromatin structure. In vitro, yeast ISWI and CHD remodelers require 30–85 bp of extranucleosomal DNA in order to efficiently remodel chromatin, but in vivo, yeast linker DNA is, on average, <20 bp. By mapping yeast Isw1, Isw2, and Chd1 on native chromatin, we find that these remodelers bind to extended regions of linker DNA adjacent to transcription factor binding sites within nucleosome depleted regions. Remodeler binding is associated with nucleosome turnover and transcription rate, suggesting that ISWI and CHD remodelers help to reestablish proper chromatin structure following 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.
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 Gurdon's latest work are the chromatin impediments to artificially induced reprogramming, discovered by Shinya Yamanaka, who shared the award with Gurdon.
See research article: http://www.epigeneticsandchromatin.com/content/5/1/17
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 SIFT’s 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).
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.
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.
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.
Nucleosomes that contain the histone variant H2A.Z are enriched around transcriptional start sites, but the mechanistic basis for 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 H2A.Z function, we generated high-resolution maps of homotypic and heterotypic Drosophila H2A.Z (H2Av) nucleosomes. Although homotypic and heterotypic H2A.Z nucleosomes map throughout most of the genome, homotypic nucleosomes are enriched and heterotypic nucleosomes are depleted downstream of active promoters and intron/exon junctions. The distribution of homotypic H2A.Z nucleosomes resembles that of classical active chromatin and shows evidence of disruption during transcriptional elongation. Both homotypic H2A.Z nucleosomes and classical active chromatin are 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 following 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.
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 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 significance for epigenome maintenance, gene regulation, and control of DNA replication.
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.
As environmental temperatures rise, plants seek help from their core molecular mechanisms to adapt. One molecule that comes to the rescue, regulating gene expression, is the chromatin protein H2A.Z.
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 find 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 identifying 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.
Eukaryotic chromatin is separated into functional domains differentiated by posttranslational histone modifications, histone variants, and DNA methylation1–6. Methylation is associated with repression of transcriptional initiation in plants and animals, and is frequently found in transposable elements. Proper methylation patterns are critical for eukaryotic development4,5, and aberrant methylation-induced silencing of tumor suppressor genes is a common feature of human cancer7. In contrast to methylation, the histone variant H2A.Z is preferentially deposited by the Swr1 ATPase complex near 5′ ends of genes where it promotes transcriptional competence8–20. How DNA methylation and H2A.Z influence transcription remains largely unknown. Here we show that in the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, regions of DNA methylation are quantitatively deficient in H2A.Z. Exclusion of H2A.Z is seen at sites of DNA methylation in the bodies of actively transcribed genes and in methylated transposons. Mutation of the MET1 DNA methyltransferase, which causes both losses and gains of DNA methylation4,5, engenders opposite changes in H2A.Z deposition, while mutation of the PIE1 subunit of the Swr1 complex that deposits H2A.Z17 leads to genome-wide hypermethylation. Our findings indicate that DNA methylation can influence chromatin structure and effect gene silencing by excluding H2A.Z, and that H2A.Z protects genes from DNA methylation.
Despite the successes of genomics, little is known about how genetic information produces complex organisms. A look at the crucial functional elements of fly and worm genomes could change that.
Geneticists have long known that centromeres suppress crossing over, but considerable evidence indicates that they appear to recombine. Confirmation of gene conversion in maize centromeres explains this paradox.
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.
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. Whereas H3 nucleosomes wrap DNA in a left-handed manner and induce negative supercoils, we show here that CenH3 nucleosomes that are 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. Rather, the surfaces that hold the nucleosome together would be available for kinetochore protein recruitment. The mutual incompatibility of nucleosomes with opposite topologies can potentially explain how centromeres are efficiently maintained as a unique loci on chromosomes.
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.