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.
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
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
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
CTCF is a highly conserved zinc finger protein implicated in diverse genomic regulatory functions, including transcriptional activation/repression, insulation, imprinting, and X-chromosome inactivation. Here we re-evaluate data supporting these roles in the context of mechanistic insights provided by recent genome-wide studies and highlight evidence for CTCF-mediated intra- and inter-chromosomal contacts at several developmentally regulated genomic loci. These analyses support a primary role for CTCF in the global organization of chromatin architecture and suggest that CTCF may be a heritable component of an epigenetic system regulating the interplay between DNA methylation, higher-order chromatin structure, and lineage-specific gene expression.
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.
The nuclear factor CTCF has been shown to be necessary for the maintenance of genetic imprinting at the mammalian H19/Igf2 locus. MacDonald and colleagues now report in BMC Biology that the mechanisms responsible for maintaining the imprinted state in Drosophila may be evolutionarily conserved and that CTCF may also play a critical role in this process.
See research article http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/8/105
Post-translational modifications of histone proteins modulate the binding of transcription regulators to chromatin. Studies in Drosophila have shown that the phosphorylation of histone H3 at Ser10 (H3S10ph) by JIL-1 is required specifically during early transcription elongation. 14-3-3 proteins bind H3 only when phosphorylated, providing mechanistic insights into the role of H3S10ph in transcription. Findings presented here show that 14-3-3 functions downstream of H3S10ph during transcription elongation. 14-3-3 proteins localize to active genes in a JIL-1–dependent manner. In the absence of 14-3-3, levels of actively elongating RNA polymerase II are severely diminished. 14-3-3 proteins interact with Elongator protein 3 (Elp3), an acetyltransferase that functions during transcription elongation. JIL-1 and 14-3-3 are required for Elp3 binding to chromatin, and in the absence of either protein, levels of H3K9 acetylation are significantly reduced. These results suggest that 14-3-3 proteins mediate cross-talk between histone phosphorylation and acetylation at a critical step in transcription elongation.
Activation of gene expression is thought to be regulated mainly at the level of transcription initiation. Nevertheless, many genes in Drosophila and vertebrates contain RNA polymerase that has started transcription but is paused 30–40 bp from the initiation site. Activation of these genes may thus be regulated by releasing the polymerase from the paused state rather than bringing this protein to the promoter. This release requires the recruitment of specialized proteins that modify the polymerase. It appears that the recruitment of these proteins takes place by modification of two chromatin proteins, histones H3 and H4. Here we characterize a process composed of multiple steps required for release of RNA polymerase from the paused state. The process starts with the recruitment of an enzyme that adds a phosphate group to histone H3. This phosphate serves as a signal to recruit a different protein, which in turn recruits a second enzyme capable of adding an acetyl group to the same histone molecule. The multiple steps involved may provide a variety of mechanisms to control the process.
Insulator elements mediate intra- and inter-chromosomal interactions. The insulator protein CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) is important for insulator function in several animals but a report in BMC Molecular Biology shows that Caenorhabditis elegans, yeast and plants lack CTCF. Alternative proteins may have a similar function in these organisms.
Transcriptional activation of the heat shock genes during the heat shock response in Drosophila has been intimately linked to phosphorylation of histone H3 at serine 10, whereas repression of non-heat-shock genes correlates with dephosphorylation of histone H3. It is then possible that specific kinase and/or phosphatase activities may regulate histone phosphorylation and therefore transcription activation and repression, respectively. We find that treatment of cells with strong phosphatase inhibitors interferes with the genome-wide dephosphorylation of histone H3 normally observed at non-heat-shock genes during heat shock. Mutants in protein phosphatase type 2A (PP2A) also display reduced genome-wide H3 dephosphorylation, and sites of H3 phosphorylation that do not contain heat shock genes remain transcriptionally active during heat shock in PP2A mutants. Finally, the SET protein, a potent and highly selective inhibitor of PP2A activity that inhibits PP2A-mediated dephosphorylation of Ser10-phosphorylated H3, is detected at transcriptionally active regions of polytene chromosomes. These results suggest that activation and repression of gene expression during heat shock might be regulated by changes in PP2A activity controlled by the SET protein.