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1.  Role of chromatin and transcriptional co-regulators in mediating p63-genome interactions in keratinocytes 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):1042.
The Transcription Factor (TF) p63 is a master regulator of epidermal development and differentiation as evident from the remarkable skin phenotype of p63 mouse knockouts. Furthermore, ectopic expression of p63 alone is sufficient to convert simple epithelium into stratified epithelial tissues in vivo and p63 is required for efficient transdifferentiation of fibroblasts into keratinocytes. However, little is known about the molecular mechanisms of p63 function, in particular how it selects its target sites in the genome. p63, which acts both as an activator and repressor of transcription, recognizes a canonical binding motif that occurs over 1 million times in the human genome. But, in human keratinocytes less than 12,000 of these sites are bound in vivo suggesting that underlying chromatin architecture and cooperating TFs mediate p63-genome interactions.
We find that the chromatin architecture at p63-bound targets possess distinctive features and can be used to categorize p63 targets into proximal promoters (1%), enhancers (59%) and repressed or inactive (40%) regulatory elements. Our analysis shows that the chromatin modifications H3K4me1, H3K27me3, along with overall chromatin accessibility status can accurately predict bonafide p63-bound sites without a priori DNA sequence information. Interestingly, however there exists a qualitative correlation between the p63 binding motif and accessibility and H3K4me1 levels. Furthermore, we use a comprehensive in silico approach that leverages ENCODE data to identify several known TFs such as AP1, AP2 and novel TFs (RFX5 for e.g.) that can potentially cooperate with p63 to modulate its myriad biological functions in keratinocytes.
Our analysis shows that p63 bound genomic locations in keratinocytes are accessible, marked by active histone modifications, and co-targeted by other developmentally important transcriptional regulators. Collectively, our results suggest that p63 might actively remodel and/or influence chromatin dynamics at its target sites and in the process dictate its own DNA binding and possibly that of adjacent TFs.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-1042) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4302094  PMID: 25433490
p63; Chromatin; ChIP-Seq; Transcription; Keratinocyte; ENCODE
2.  Chromatin accessibility: a window into the genome 
Epigenetics & Chromatin  2014;7(1):33.
Transcriptional activation throughout the eukaryotic lineage has been tightly linked with disruption of nucleosome organization at promoters, enhancers, silencers, insulators and locus control regions due to transcription factor binding. Regulatory DNA thus coincides with open or accessible genomic sites of remodeled chromatin. Current chromatin accessibility assays are used to separate the genome by enzymatic or chemical means and isolate either the accessible or protected locations. The isolated DNA is then quantified using a next-generation sequencing platform. Wide application of these assays has recently focused on the identification of the instrumental epigenetic changes responsible for differential gene expression, cell proliferation, functional diversification and disease development. Here we discuss the limitations and advantages of current genome-wide chromatin accessibility assays with especial attention on experimental precautions and sequence data analysis. We conclude with our perspective on future improvements necessary for moving the field of chromatin profiling forward.
PMCID: PMC4253006  PMID: 25473421
Chromatin; MNase; DNase; ATAC; FAIRE; Sequencing; Library; Epigenome; Histone; Nucleosome
3.  Chromatin architectures at fission yeast transcriptional promoters and replication origins 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;40(15):7176-7189.
We have used micrococcal nuclease (MNase) digestion followed by deep sequencing in order to obtain a higher resolution map than previously available of nucleosome positions in the fission yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Our data confirm an unusually short average nucleosome repeat length, ∼152 bp, in fission yeast and that transcriptional start sites (TSSs) are associated with nucleosome-depleted regions (NDRs), ordered nucleosome arrays downstream and less regularly spaced upstream nucleosomes. In addition, we found enrichments for associated function in four of eight groups of genes clustered according to chromatin configurations near TSSs. At replication origins, our data revealed asymmetric localization of pre-replication complex (pre-RC) proteins within large NDRs—a feature that is conserved in fission and budding yeast and is therefore likely to be conserved in other eukaryotic organisms.
PMCID: PMC3424540  PMID: 22573177
4.  Discovering chromatin motifs using FAIRE sequencing and the human diploid genome 
BMC Genomics  2013;14:310.
Specific chromatin structures are associated with active or inactive gene transcription. The gene regulatory elements are intrinsically dynamic and alternate between inactive and active states through the recruitment of DNA binding proteins, such as chromatin-remodeling proteins.
We developed a unique genome-wide method to discover DNA motifs associated with chromatin accessibility using formaldehyde-assisted isolation of regulatory elements with high-throughput sequencing (FAIRE-seq). We aligned the FAIRE-seq reads to the GM12878 diploid genome and subsequently identified differential chromatin-state regions (DCSRs) using heterozygous SNPs. The DCSR pairs represent the locations of imbalances of chromatin accessibility between alleles and are ideal to reveal chromatin motifs that may directly modulate chromatin accessibility. In this study, we used DNA 6-10mer sequences to interrogate all DCSRs, and subsequently discovered conserved chromatin motifs with significant changes in the occurrence frequency. To investigate their likely roles in biology, we studied the annotated protein associated with each of the top ten chromatin motifs genome-wide, in the intergenic regions and in genes, respectively. As a result, we found that most of these annotated motifs are associated with chromatin remodeling, reflecting their significance in biology.
Our method is the first one using fully phased diploid genome and FAIRE-seq to discover motifs associated with chromatin accessibility. Our results were collected to construct the first chromatin motif database (CMD), providing the potential DNA motifs recognized by chromatin-remodeling proteins and is freely available at
PMCID: PMC3655836  PMID: 23656909
5.  FOXO1 regulates expression of a microRNA cluster on X chromosome 
Aging (Albany NY)  2013;5(5):347-356.
Phosphoinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) pathway is a crucial modulator of many physiological and pathophysiological phenomena, including aging, diabetes and cancer. Protein kinase Akt, a downstream effector of PI3K, controls a plethora of cellular functions, including gene transcription. A key mechanism connecting Akt activity to changes in gene expression is inhibitory phosphorylation of FOXO family of transcription factors. Accordingly, altered expression of FOXO targets may account for many biological consequences of PI3K/Akt signaling. While the previous efforts focused on FOXO-dependent regulation of protein-coding genes, non-coding RNA genes have emerged as equally important targets of many transcription factors. Therefore, we utilized a regulated form of FOXO1 to profile FOXO1-dependent changes in miRNA expression in human cells. Both microarray hybridization and next-generation sequencing revealed changes in the products of a miRNA cluster on X chromosome. Rapid induction of these miRNAs occurred independently of de novo protein synthesis. Furthermore, inhibition of PI3K in cancer cell lines caused derepression of these miRNAs, as would be expected for FOXO-regulated genes. Members of the major oncogenic cascades are significantly overrepresented among the predicted targets of the miRNAs, consistent with tumor-suppressive role of FOXO1. The discovered miRNAs represent new candidate mediators of FOXO1 functions and possible biomarkers of its activity.
PMCID: PMC3701110  PMID: 23748164
the forkhead family of transcription factors; mir; miRNA; oncotarget; cancer
6.  Identifying genomic features by BLASTing through chromatin 
Epigenetics & Chromatin  2013;6(Suppl 1):P43.
PMCID: PMC3600812
7.  Standardized collection of MNase-seq experiments enables unbiased dataset comparisons 
BMC Molecular Biology  2012;13:15.
The organization of eukaryotic DNA into chromatin has a strong influence on the accessibility and regulation of genetic information. The locations and occupancies of a principle component of chromatin, nucleosomes, are typically assayed through use of enzymatic digestion with micrococcal nuclease (MNase). MNase is an endo-exo nuclease that preferentially digests naked DNA and the DNA in linkers between nucleosomes, thus enriching for nucleosome-associated DNA. To determine nucleosome organization genome-wide, DNA remaining from MNase digestion is sequenced using high-throughput sequencing technologies (MNase-seq). Unfortunately, the results of MNase-seq can vary dramatically due to technical differences and this confounds comparisons between MNase-seq experiments, such as examining condition-dependent chromatin organizations.
In this study we use MNase digestion simulations to demonstrate how MNase-seq signals can vary for different nucleosome configuration when experiments are performed with different extents of MNase digestion. Signal variation in these simulations reveals an important DNA sampling bias that results from a neighborhood effect of MNase digestion techniques. The presence of this neighborhood effect ultimately confounds comparisons between different MNase-seq experiments. To address this issue we present a standardized chromatin preparation which controls for technical variance between MNase-based chromatin preparations and enables the collection of similarly sampled (matched) chromatin populations. Standardized preparation of chromatin includes a normalization step for DNA input into MNase digestions and close matching of the extent of digestion between each chromatin preparation using gel densitometry analysis. The protocol also includes directions for successful pairing with multiplex sequencing reactions.
We validated our method by comparing the experiment-to-experiment variation between biological replicates of chromatin preparations from S. cerevisiae. Results from our matched preparation consistently produced MNase-seq datasets that were more closely correlated than other unstandardized approaches. Additionally, we validated the ability of our approach at enabling accurate downstream comparisons of chromatin structures, by comparing the specificity of detecting Tup1-dependent chromatin remodeling events in comparisons between matched and un-matched wild-type and tup1Δ MNase-seq datasets. Our matched MNase-seq datasets demonstrated a significant reduction in non-specific (technical) differences between experiments and were able to maximize the detection of biologically-relevant (Tup1-dependent) changes in chromatin structure.
PMCID: PMC3464627  PMID: 22559821
Next-generation sequencing; High-throughput sequencing; Chromatin; Nucleosomes; Histones; MNase-seq; Micrococcal nuclease (MNase)
8.  Integrity of chromatin and replicating DNA in nuclei released from fission yeast by semi-automated grinding in liquid nitrogen 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:499.
Studies of nuclear function in many organisms, especially those with tough cell walls, are limited by lack of availability of simple, economical methods for large-scale preparation of clean, undamaged nuclei.
Here we present a useful method for nuclear isolation from the important model organism, the fission yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe. To preserve in vivo molecular configurations, we flash-froze the yeast cells in liquid nitrogen. Then we broke their tough cell walls, without damaging their nuclei, by grinding in a precision-controlled motorized mortar-and-pestle apparatus. The cryo-ground cells were resuspended and thawed in a buffer designed to preserve nuclear morphology, and the nuclei were enriched by differential centrifugation. The washed nuclei were free from contaminating nucleases and have proven well-suited as starting material for genome-wide chromatin analysis and for preparation of fragile DNA replication intermediates.
We have developed a simple, reproducible, economical procedure for large-scale preparation of endogenous-nuclease-free, morphologically intact nuclei from fission yeast. With appropriate modifications, this procedure may well prove useful for isolation of nuclei from other organisms with, or without, tough cell walls.
PMCID: PMC3235078  PMID: 22088094
9.  Tup1 stabilizes promoter nucleosome positioning and occupancy at transcriptionally plastic genes 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(20):8803-8819.
Despite technical advances, the future of chromatin mapping studies requires an ability to draw accurate comparisons between different chromatin states to enhance our understanding of genome biology. In this study, we used matched chromatin preparations to enable specific and accurate comparisons of Saccharomyces cerevisiae chromatin structures in the presence and absence of the co-repressor protein Tup1. Analysis of wild-type and tup1 Δ chromatin data sets revealed unique organizational themes relating to the function of Tup1. Regulatory regions bound by Tup1 assumed a distinct chromatin architecture composed of a wide nucleosome-depleted region, low occupancy/poorly positioned promoter nucleosomes, a larger number and wider distribution of transcription factor-binding sites and downstream genes with enhanced transcription plasticity. Regions of Tup1-dependent chromatin structure were defined for the first time across the entire yeast genome and are shown to strongly overlap with activity of the chromatin remodeler Isw2. Additionally, Tup1-dependent chromatin structures are shown to relate to distinct biological processes and transcriptional states of regulated genes, including Tup1 stabilization of Minus 1 and Minus 2 promoter nucleosomes at actively repressed genes. Together these results help to enhance our mechanistic understanding of Tup1 regulation of chromatin structure and gene expression.
PMCID: PMC3203618  PMID: 21785133
10.  The Stress Response Factors Yap6, Cin5, Phd1, and Skn7 Direct Targeting of the Conserved Co-Repressor Tup1-Ssn6 in S. cerevisiae 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(4):e19060.
Maintaining the proper expression of the transcriptome during development or in response to a changing environment requires a delicate balance between transcriptional regulators with activating and repressing functions. The budding yeast transcriptional co-repressor Tup1-Ssn6 is a model for studying similar repressor complexes in multicellular eukaryotes. Tup1-Ssn6 does not bind DNA directly, but is directed to individual promoters by one or more DNA-binding proteins, referred to as Tup1 recruiters. This functional architecture allows the Tup1-Ssn6 to modulate the expression of genes required for the response to a variety of cellular stresses. To understand the targeting or the Tup1-Ssn6 complex, we determined the genomic distribution of Tup1 and Ssn6 by ChIP-chip. We found that most loci bound by Tup1-Ssn6 could not be explained by co-occupancy with a known recruiting cofactor and that deletion of individual known Tup1 recruiters did not significantly alter the Tup1 binding profile. These observations suggest that new Tup1 recruiting proteins remain to be discovered and that Tup1 recruitment typically depends on multiple recruiting cofactors. To identify new recruiting proteins, we computationally screened for factors with binding patterns similar to the observed Tup1-Ssn6 genomic distribution. Four top candidates, Cin5, Skn7, Phd1, and Yap6, all known to be associated with stress response gene regulation, were experimentally confirmed to physically interact with Tup1 and/or Ssn6. Incorporating these new recruitment cofactors with previously characterized cofactors now explains the majority of Tup1 targeting across the genome, and expands our understanding of the mechanism by which Tup1-Ssn6 is directed to its targets.
PMCID: PMC3084262  PMID: 21552514
11.  ArchAlign: coordinate-free chromatin alignment reveals novel architectures 
Genome Biology  2010;11(12):R126.
To facilitate identification and characterization of genomic functional elements, we have developed a chromatin architecture alignment algorithm (ArchAlign). ArchAlign identifies shared chromatin structural patterns from high-resolution chromatin structural datasets derived from next-generation sequencing or tiled microarray approaches for user defined regions of interest. We validated ArchAlign using well characterized functional elements, and used it to explore the chromatin structural architecture at CTCF binding sites in the human genome. ArchAlign is freely available at
PMCID: PMC3046486  PMID: 21182771
12.  Genome-wide search identifies Ccnd2 as a direct transcriptional target of Elf5 in mouse mammary gland 
BMC Molecular Biology  2010;11:68.
The ETS transcription factor Elf5 (also known as ESE-2) is highly expressed in the mammary gland and plays an important role in its development and differentiation. Indeed studies in mice have illustrated an essential role for Elf5 in directing alveologenesis during pregnancy. Although the molecular mechanisms that underlie the developmental block in Elf5 null mammary glands are beginning to be unraveled, this investigation has been hampered by limited information about the identity of Elf5-target genes. To address this shortcoming, in this study we have performed ChIP-cloning experiments to identify the specific genomic segments that are occupied by Elf5 in pregnant mouse mammary glands.
Sequencing and genomic localization of cis-regulatory regions bound by Elf5 in vivo has identified several potential target genes covering broad functional categories. A subset of these target genes demonstrates higher expression levels in Elf5-null mammary glands suggesting a repressive functional role for this transcription factor. Here we focus on one putative target of Elf5, the Ccnd2 gene that appeared in our screen. We identify a novel Elf5-binding segment upstream of the Ccnd2 gene and demonstrate that Elf5 can transcriptionally repress Ccnd2 by directly binding to the proximal promoter region. Finally, using Elf5-null mammary epithelial cells and mammary glands, we show that loss of Elf5 in vivo leads to up regulation of Ccnd2 and an altered expression pattern in luminal cells.
Identification of Elf5-targets is an essential first step in elucidating the transcriptional landscape that is shaped by this important regulator. Our studies offer new toolbox in examining the biological role of Elf5 in mammary gland development and differentiation.
PMCID: PMC2949602  PMID: 20831799
14.  Improved ChIP-chip analysis by a mixture model approach 
BMC Bioinformatics  2009;10:173.
Microarray analysis of immunoprecipitated chromatin (ChIP-chip) has evolved from a novel technique to a standard approach for the systematic study of protein-DNA interactions. In ChIP-chip, sites of protein-DNA interactions are identified by signals from the hybridization of selected DNA to tiled oligomers and are graphically represented as peaks. Most existing methods were designed for the identification of relatively sparse peaks, in the presence of replicates.
We propose a data normalization method and a statistical method for peak identification from ChIP-chip data based on a mixture model approach. In contrast to many existing methods, including methods that also employ mixture model approaches, our method is more flexible by imposing less restrictive assumptions and allowing a relatively large proportion of peak regions. In addition, our method does not require experimental replicates and is computationally efficient. We compared the performance of our method with several representative existing methods on three datasets, including a spike-in dataset. These comparisons demonstrate that our approach is more robust and has comparable or higher power than the other methods, especially in the context of abundant peak regions.
Our data normalization and peak detection methods have improved performance to detect peak regions in ChIP-chip data.
PMCID: PMC2700807  PMID: 19500407
15.  The RNA Polymerase II Kinase Ctk1 Regulates Positioning of a 5′ Histone Methylation Boundary along Genes ▿† 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(2):721-731.
In yeast and other eukaryotes, the histone methyltransferase Set1 mediates methylation of lysine 4 on histone H3 (H3K4me). This modification marks the 5′ end of transcribed genes in a 5′-to-3′ tri- to di- to monomethyl gradient and promotes association of chromatin-remodeling and histone-modifying enzymes. Here we show that Ctk1, the serine 2 C-terminal domain (CTD) kinase for RNA polymerase II (RNAP II), regulates H3K4 methylation. We found that CTK1 deletion nearly abolished H3K4 monomethylation yet caused a significant increase in H3K4 di- and trimethylation. Both in individual genes and genome-wide, loss of CTK1 disrupted the H3K4 methylation patterns normally observed. H3K4me2 and H3K4me3 spread 3′ into the bodies of genes, while H3K4 monomethylation was diminished. These effects were dependent on the catalytic activity of Ctk1 but are independent of Set2-mediated H3K36 methylation. Furthermore, these effects are not due to spurious transcription initiation in the bodies of genes, to changes in RNAP II occupancy, to changes in serine 5 CTD phosphorylation patterns, or to “transcriptional stress.” These data show that Ctk1 acts to restrict the spread of H3K4 methylation through a mechanism that is independent of a general transcription defect. The evidence presented suggests that Ctk1 controls the maintenance of suppressive chromatin in the coding regions of genes by both promoting H3K36 methylation, which leads to histone deacetylation, and preventing the 3′ spread of H3K4 trimethylation, a mark associated with transcriptional initiation.
PMCID: PMC1800795  PMID: 17088384
16.  Global Analysis of the Relationship between the Binding of the Bas1p Transcription Factor and Meiosis-Specific Double-Strand DNA Breaks in Saccharomyces cerevisiae†  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(3):1014-1027.
In the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, certain genomic regions have very high levels of meiotic recombination (hot spots). The hot spot activity associated with the HIS4 gene requires the Bas1p transcription factor. To determine whether this relationship between transcription factor binding and hot spot activity is general, we used DNA microarrays to map all genomic Bas1p binding sites and to map the frequency of meiosis-specific double-strand DNA breaks (as an estimate of the recombination activity) of all genes in both wild-type and bas1 strains. We identified sites of Bas1p-DNA interactions upstream of 71 genes, many of which are involved in histidine and purine biosynthesis. Our analysis of recombination activity in wild-type and bas1 strains showed that the recombination activities of some genes with Bas1p binding sites were dependent on Bas1p (as observed for HIS4), whereas the activities of other genes with Bas1p binding sites were unaffected or were repressed by Bas1p. These data demonstrate that the effect of transcription factors on meiotic recombination activity is strongly context dependent. In wild-type and bas1 strains, meiotic recombination was strongly suppressed in large (25- to 150-kb) chromosomal regions near the telomeres and centromeres and in the region flanking the rRNA genes. These results argue that both local and regional factors affect the level of meiotic recombination.
PMCID: PMC1347019  PMID: 16428454
17.  ChIPOTle: a user-friendly tool for the analysis of ChIP-chip data 
Genome Biology  2005;6(11):R97.
ChIPOTle is a new software tool designed specifically for the analysis of ChIP-chip data.
ChIPOTle (Chromatin ImmunoPrecipitation On Tiled arrays) takes advantage of two unique properties of ChIP-chip data: the single-tailed nature of the data, caused by specific enrichment but not specific depletion of genomic fragments; and the predictable enrichment of DNA fragments adjacent to sites of direct protein-DNA interaction. Implemented as a Microsoft Excel macro written in Visual Basic, ChIPOTle uses a sliding window approach that yields improvements in the identification of bona fide sites of protein-DNA interaction.
PMCID: PMC1297653  PMID: 16277752

Results 1-17 (17)