Insulators mediate inter- and intra-chromosomal contacts to regulate enhancer-promoter interactions and establish chromosome domains. The mechanisms by which insulator activity can be regulated to orchestrate changes in the function and three-dimensional arrangement of the genome remain elusive. Here we demonstrate that Drosophila insulator proteins are poly(ADP-ribosyl) ated and mutation of the poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (Parp) gene impairs their function. This modification is not essential for DNA occupancy of insulator DNA-binding proteins dCTCF and Su(Hw). However, poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation of K566 in CP190 promotes protein-protein interactions with other insulator proteins, association with the nuclear lamina and insulator activity in vivo. Consistent with these findings, the nuclear clustering of CP190 complexes is disrupted in Parp mutant cells. Importantly, poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation facilitates intra-chromosomal interactions between insulator sites measured by 4C. These data suggest that the role of insulators in organizing the three-dimensional architecture of the genome may be modulated by poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation.
epigenetics; transcription; chromatin; CTCF; PARP
Chromatin insulators are DNA–protein complexes with broad functions in nuclear biology. Drosophila has at least five different types of insulators; recent results suggest that these different insulators share some components that may allow them to function through common mechanisms. Data from genome-wide localization studies of insulator proteins indicate a possible functional specialization, with different insulators playing distinct roles in nuclear biology. Cells have developed mechanisms to control insulator activity by recruiting specialized proteins or by covalent modification of core components. Current results suggest that insulators set up cell-specific blueprints of nuclear organization that may contribute to the establishment of different patterns of gene expression during cell differentiation and development.
Drosophila; insulator; transcription; nucleus
A growing body of evidence suggests that insulators have a primary role in orchestrating the topological arrangement of higher-order chromatin architecture. Insulator-mediated long-range interactions can influence the epigenetic status of the genome and, in certain contexts, may have important effects on gene expression. Here we discuss higher-order chromatin organization as a unifying mechanism for diverse insulator actions across the genome.
chromatin; epigenetics; topological domains; transcription; nuclear organization
DREF was first characterized for its role in the regulation of transcription of genes encoding proteins involved in DNA replication and found to interact with sequences similar to the DNA recognition motif of the BEAF-32 insulator protein. Insulators are DNA-protein complexes that mediate intra- and inter-chromosome interactions. Several DNA-binding insulator proteins have been described in Drosophila, including BEAF-32, dCTCF and Su(Hw). Here we find that DREF and BEAF-32 co-localize at the same genomic sites, but their enrichment shows an inverse correlation. Furthermore, DREF co-localizes in the genome with other insulator proteins, suggesting that the function of this protein may require components of Drosophila insulators. This is supported by the finding that mutations in insulator proteins modulate DREF-induced cell proliferation. DREF persists bound to chromatin during mitosis at a subset of sites where it also co-localizes with dCTCF, BEAF-32 and CP190. These sites are highly enriched for sites where Orc2 and Mcm2 are present during interphase and at the borders of topological domains of chromosomes defined by Hi-C. The results suggest that DREF and insulator proteins may help maintain chromosome organization during the cell cycle and mark a subset of genomic sites for the assembly of pre-replication complexes and gene bookmarking during the M/G1 transition.
transcription; chromatin; epigenetics; replication; cell cycle; mitosis
Eukaryotic genomes are intricately arranged into highly organized yet dynamic structures that underlie patterns of gene expression and cellular identity. The recent adaptation of novel genomic strategies for assaying nuclear architecture has significantly extended and accelerated our ability to query the nature of genome organization and the players involved. In particular, recent explorations of physical arrangements and chromatin landscapes in higher eukaryotes have demonstrated that chromatin insulators, which mediate functional interactions between regulatory elements, appear to play an important role in these processes. Here we reflect on current findings and our rapidly expanding understanding of insulators and their role in nuclear architecture and genome function.
Chromatin; Epigenetics; CTCF; TFIIIC; Nuclear Organization
The mechanisms responsible for the establishment of physical domains in metazoan chromosomes are poorly understood. Here we find that physical domains in Drosophila chromosomes are demarcated at regions of active transcription and high gene density that are enriched for transcription factors and specific combinations of insulator proteins. Physical domains contain different types of chromatin defined by the presence of specific proteins and epigenetic marks, with active chromatin preferentially located at the borders and silenced chromatin in the interior. Domain boundaries participate in long-range interactions that may contribute to the clustering of regions of active or silenced chromatin in the nucleus. Analysis of transgenes suggests that chromatin is more accessible and permissive to transcription at the borders than inside domains, independent of the presence of active or silencing histone modifications. These results suggest that the higher-order physical organization of chromatin may impose an additional level of regulation over classical epigenetic marks.
Chromatin; transcription; nucleus; epigenetics
Recent findings provide evidence that tDNAs function as chromatin insulators from yeast to humans. TFIIIC, a transcription factor that interacts with the B-box in tDNAs as well as thousands of ETC sites in the genome, is responsible for insulator function. Though tDNAs are capable of enhancer-blocking and barrier activities for which insulators are defined, new insights into the relationship between insulators and chromatin structure suggest that TFIIIC serves a complex role in genome organization. We review the role of tRNA genes and TFIIIC as chromatin insulators, and highlight recent findings that have broadened our understanding of insulators in genome biology.
chromatin; Epigenetics; CTCF; tRNA genes; ETC loci
Long-range interactions between transcription regulatory elements play an important role in gene activation, epigenetic silencing, and chromatin organization. Transcriptional activation or repression of developmentally regulated genes is often accomplished through tissue specific chromatin architecture and dynamic localization between active transcription factories and repressive Polycomb bodies. However, the mechanisms underlying the structural organization of chromatin and the coordination of physical interactions are not fully understood. Insulators and Polycomb group proteins form highly conserved multi-protein complexes that mediate functional long-range interactions, and have proposed roles in nuclear organization. In this review, we explore recent findings that have broadened our understanding of the function of these proteins and provide an integrative model for the roles of insulators in nuclear organization.
CTCF; Polycomb; TFIIIC; Cohesin; Epigenetics
Myc has been characterized as a transcription factor that activates expression of genes involved in pluripotency and cancer, and as a component of the replication complex. Here we find that Myc is present at promoters and enhancers of D. melanogaster genes during interphase. Myc co-localizes with Orc2, which is part of the pre-replication complex, during G1. As is the case in mammals, Myc associates preferentially with paused genes, suggesting that it may also be involved in the release of RNAPII from promoter proximal pausing in Drosophila. Interestingly, about 40% of Myc sites present in interphase persists during mitosis. None of the Myc mitotic sites correspond to enhancers and only some correspond to promoters. The rest of mitotic Myc sites overlap with binding sites for multiple insulator proteins that are also maintained in mitosis. These results suggest alternative mechanisms to explain the role of Myc in pluripotency and cancer.
Insulators are DNA-protein complexes that can mediate interactions in cis or trans between different regions of the genome. Although originally defined on the basis of their ability to block enhancer–promoter communication or to serve as barriers against the spreading of heterochromatin in reporter systems, recent information suggests that their function is more nuanced and depends on the nature of the sequences brought together by contacts between specific insulator sites. Here we provide an overview of new evidence that has uncovered a wide range of functions for these sequences in addition to their two classical roles.
The functional output of the genome is closely dependent on its organization within the nucleus, which ranges from the 10 nm chromatin fiber to the three-dimensional arrangement of this fiber in the nuclear space. Recent observations suggest that intra-and inter-chromosomal interactions between distant sequences underlie several aspects of transcription regulatory processes. These contacts can bring enhancers close to their target genes, or prevent inappropriate interactions between regulatory sequences via insulators. In addition, intra- and inter-chromosomal interactions can bring co-activated or co-repressed genes to the same nuclear location. Recent technological advances have made it possible to map long-range cis and trans interactions at relatively high resolution. This information is being used to develop three-dimensional maps of the arrangement of the genome in the nucleus and to understand causal relationships between nuclear structure and function.
Chromatin; Epigenetics; Transcription; Nucleus
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
CTCF plays diverse roles in nuclear organization and transcriptional regulation. In this issue of Developmental Cell, Essafi et al. (2011) report a mechanism by which the repressive or active state of chromatin in a domain defined by CTCF can be switched by the Wt1 transcription factor to regulate gene expression.
Enhancer function underlies regulatory processes by which cells establish patterns of gene expression. Recent results suggest that enhancers are specified by particular chromatin marks in pluripotent cells, which may be modified later in development to alter patterns of gene expression and cell differentiation choices. These marks may contribute to the repertoire of epigenetic mechanisms responsible for cellular memory and determine the timing of transcription factor accessibility to the enhancer. Mechanistically, cohesin and non-coding RNAs are emerging as critical players responsible for facilitating enhancer-promoter interactions. Surprisingly, these interactions may be required not only to facilitate initiation of transcription but also to activate the release of RNAPII from promoter-proximal pausing.
epigenetics; histones; chromatin; RNA
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.
Although components of the nuclear pore complex have been implicated in gene regulation independent of their role at the nuclear envelope, the evidence so far has been indirect. Capelson et al. (2010) and Kalverda et al. (2010) now reveal that certain nucleoporins are actively involved in transcription inside the nucleoplasm of Drosophila cells.
Nucleoporins; nuclear envelope; transcription; chromatin
CTCF plays diverse roles in the regulation of eukaryotic genes. A new study by Lefevre et al., 2008 reveals a novel mechanism in which non-coding RNA transcription and nucleosome repositioning evicts CTCF from a regulatory element, to facilitate induction of a nearby gene.
CTCF; insulator; transcription; chromatin
Genetic analysis of the Drosophila leg-arista-wing complex (lawc) gene suggests a role for the Lawc protein in chromatin-related processes based on its classification as a trxG gene but the molecular mechanisms of its function remain elusive. We have found that Lawc is a small, cysteine-rich protein that is present in most of the interbands of polytene chromosomes. In agreement with this observation, Lawc co-localizes with RNA polymerase IIo (Pol IIo) and it is recruited to transcribed loci after elongation by Pol IIo has begun. Lawc interacts with the nuclear proteasome regulator dREGγ in a yeast two-hybrid assay and both proteins co-localize on polytene chromosomes. In addition, a mutation in lawc interacts genetically with a mutation in a component of the proteasome. lawc mutants show decreased expression of some genes, while the levels of Pol IIoSer2 increase. We conclude that Lawc is required for proper transcription by RNA polymerase II in a process that involves the nuclear proteasome.
transcription; Lawc; RNA polymerase II; dREGγ; proteasome
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
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
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
The epigenome of the human malaria vector Anopheles gambiae was characterized in midgut cells by mapping the distribution and levels of two post-translational histone modifications, H3K27ac and H3K27me3. These histone profiles were then correlated with levels of gene expression obtained by RNA-seq. Analysis of the transcriptome of A. gambiae midguts and salivary glands led to the discovery of 13,898 new transcripts not present in the most recent genome assembly. A subset of these transcripts is differentially expressed between midgut and salivary glands. The enrichment profiles of H3K27ac and H3K27me3 are mutually exclusive and associate with high and low levels of transcription, respectively. This distribution agrees with previous findings in Drosophila showing association of these two histone modifications with either active or inactive transcriptional states, including Polycomb-associated domains in silenced genes. This study provides a mosquito epigenomics platform for future comparative studies in other mosquito species, opening future investigations into the role of epigenetic processes in vector-borne systems of medical and economic importance.
H3K27ac; H3K27me3; histone post-translational modifications; chromatin immunoprecipitation; gene expression regulation; mosquito-borne diseases; ChIP-seq; RNA-Seq
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
Chromosome conformation capture studies suggest that eukaryotic genomes are organized into structures called topologically associating domains. The borders of these domains are highly enriched for architectural proteins with characterized roles in insulator function. However, a majority of architectural protein binding sites localize within topological domains, suggesting sites associated with domain borders represent a functionally different subclass of these regulatory elements. How topologically associating domains are established and what differentiates border-associated from non-border architectural protein binding sites remain unanswered questions.
By mapping the genome-wide target sites for several Drosophila architectural proteins, including previously uncharacterized profiles for TFIIIC and SMC-containing condensin complexes, we uncover an extensive pattern of colocalization in which architectural proteins establish dense clusters at the borders of topological domains. Reporter-based enhancer-blocking insulator activity as well as endogenous domain border strength scale with the occupancy level of architectural protein binding sites, suggesting co-binding by architectural proteins underlies the functional potential of these loci. Analyses in mouse and human stem cells suggest that clustering of architectural proteins is a general feature of genome organization, and conserved architectural protein binding sites may underlie the tissue-invariant nature of topologically associating domains observed in mammals.
We identify a spectrum of architectural protein occupancy that scales with the topological structure of chromosomes and the regulatory potential of these elements. Whereas high occupancy architectural protein binding sites associate with robust partitioning of topologically associating domains and robust insulator function, low occupancy sites appear reserved for gene-specific regulation within topological domains.
Understanding the topological configurations of chromatin may reveal valuable insights into how the genome and epigenome act in concert to control cell fate during development. Here we generate high-resolution architecture maps across seven genomic loci in embryonic stem cells and neural progenitor cells. We observe a hierarchy of 3-D interactions that undergo marked reorganization at the sub-Mb scale during differentiation. Distinct combinations of CTCF, Mediator, and cohesin show widespread enrichment in looping interactions at different length scales. CTCF/cohesin anchor long-range constitutive interactions that form the topological basis for invariant sub-domains. Conversely, Mediator/cohesin together with pioneer factors bridge shortrange enhancer-promoter interactions within and between larger sub-domains. Knockdown of Smc1 or Med12 in ES cells results in disruption of spatial architecture and down-regulation of genes found in cohesin-mediated interactions. We conclude that cell type-specific chromatin organization occurs at the sub-Mb scale and that architectural proteins shape the genome in hierarchical length scales.