TAL1 is a key hematopoietic transcription factor that binds to regulatory regions of a large cohort of erythroid genes as part of a complex with GATA-1, LMO2 and Ldb1. The complex mediates long-range interaction between the β-globin locus control region (LCR) and active globin genes, and although TAL1 is one of the two DNA-binding complex members, its role is unclear. To explore the role of TAL1 in transcription activation of the human γ-globin genes, we reduced the expression of TAL1 in erythroid K562 cells using lentiviral short hairpin RNA, compromising its association in the β-globin locus. In the TAL1 knockdown cells, the γ-globin transcription was reduced to 35% and chromatin looping of the Gγ-globin gene with the LCR was disrupted with decreased occupancy of the complex member Ldb1 and LMO2 in the locus. However, GATA-1 binding, DNase I hypersensitive site formation and several histone modifications were largely maintained across the β-globin locus. In addition, overexpression of TAL1 increased the γ-globin transcription and increased interaction frequency between the Gγ-globin gene and LCR. These results indicate that TAL1 plays a critical role in chromatin loop formation between the γ-globin genes and LCR, which is a critical step for the transcription of the γ-globin genes.
Carbonic anhydrase 1 (Car1), an early specific marker of the erythroid differentiation, has been used to distinguish fetal and adult erythroid cells since its production closely follows the γ- to β-globin transition, but the molecular mechanism underlying transcriptional regulation of Car1 is unclear. Here, we show that Car1 mRNA decreases significantly when erythroid differentiation is induced in MEL cells. The Ldb1 protein complex including GATA1/SCL/LMO2, binds to the Car1 promoter in uninduced cells and reduced enrichment of the complex during differentiation correlates with loss of Car1 expression. Knockdown of Ldb1 results in a reduction of Ser2 phosphorylated RNA Pol II and Cdk9 at the Car1 promoter region, suggesting that Ldb1 is required for recruitment of Pol II as well as the transcription regulator P-TEFb to enhance elongation of Car1 transcripts. Taken together, these data show that Ldb1 forms a regulatory complex to maintain Car1 expression in erythroid cells.
Ldb1; Car1; Car2; erythroid differentiation
Although linearly distant along mouse chromosome 7 and human chromosome 11, the mammalian β-globin gene is located in close proximity to the upstream locus control region enhancer when it is actively transcribed in the nuclear chromatin environment of erythroid cells. This organization is thought to generate a chromatin loop between the LCR, a powerful enhancer, and active globin genes by extruding intervening regions containing inactive genes. Loop formation in the β-globin locus requires erythroid specific transcriptional activators, co-factors and insulator-related factors. Chromatin structural features such as histone modifications and DNase I hypersensitive site formation as well as nuclear localization are all involved in loop formation in the locus through diverse mechanisms. Current models envision the formation of the loop as a necessary step in globin gene transcription activation, but this has not been definitively established and many questions remain about what is necessary to achieve globin gene transcription activation.
β-globin locus; chromatin loops; LCR; transcription
Chromatin loops juxtapose distal enhancers with active promoters but their molecular architecture and relationship with transcription remain unclear. In erythroid cells, the locus control region (LCR) and β-globin promoter form a chromatin loop that requires transcription factor GATA1 and the associated molecule Ldb1. We employed artificial zinc fingers (ZF) to tether Ldb1 to the β-globin promoter in GATA1 null erythroblasts in which the β-globin locus is relaxed and inactive. Remarkably, targeting Ldb1 or only its self-association domain to the β-globin promoter substantially activated β-globin transcription in the absence of GATA1. Promoter-tethered Ldb1 interacted with endogenous Ldb1 complexes at the LCR to form a chromatin loop, causing recruitment and phosphorylation of RNA polymerase II. ZF-Ldb1 proteins were inactive at alleles lacking the LCR, demonstrating that their activities depend on long-range interactions. Our findings establish Ldb1 as critical effector of GATA1-mediated loop formation and indicate that chromatin looping causally underlies gene regulation.
chromatin; looping; zinc finger proteins; transcription; hemoglobin; Ldb1
In metazoans, enhancers of gene transcription must often exert their effects over tens of kilobases of DNA. Over the last decade it has become clear that to do this, enhancers come into close proximity with target promoters with the looping away of intervening sequences. In a few cases proteins that are involved in the establishment or maintenance of these loops have been revealed but how the proper gene target is selected remains mysterious. Chromatin insulators had been appreciated as elements that play a role in enhancer fidelity through their enhancer blocking or barrier activity. However, recent work suggests more direct participation of insulators in enhancer-gene interactions. The emerging view begins to incorporate transcription activation by distant enhancers with large scale nuclear architecture and sub-nuclear movement.
In this issue of Molecular Cell, Wood et al. (2011) provide mechanistic insight into the regulation of insulators that helps explain how they can organize chromatin in a cell type specific fashion.
The principles underlying the architectural landscape of chromatin beyond the nucleosome level in living cells remains largely unknown despite its potential to play a role in mammalian gene regulation. We investigated the three-dimensional folding of a 1 Mbp region of human chromosome 11 containing the β-globin genes by integrating looping interactions of the CCCTC-binding insulator protein CTCF determined comprehensively by chromosome conformation capture (3C) into a polymer model of chromatin. We find that CTCF-mediated cell type-specific interactions in erythroid cells are organized to favor contacts known to occur in vivo between the β-globin locus control region (LCR) and genes. In these cells, the modeled β-globin domain folds into a globule with the LCR and the active globin genes on the periphery. In contrast, in non-erythroid cells, the globule is less compact with few but dominant CTCF interactions driving the genes away from the LCR. This leads to a decrease in contact frequencies that can exceed 1000-fold depending on the stiffness of the chromatin and the exact position of the genes. Our findings show that an ensemble of CTCF contacts functionally affects spatial distances between control elements and target genes contributing to chromosomal organization required for transcription.
Enhancers, silencer and insulators are DNA elements that play central roles in regulation of the genome that are crucial for development and differentiation. In metazoans, these elements are often separated from target genes by distances that can reach 100 Kb. How regulation can be accomplished over long distances has long been intriguing. Current data indicate that although the mechanisms by which these diverse regulatory elements affect gene transcription may vary, an underlying feature is the establishment of close contacts or chromatin loops. With the generalization of this principle, new questions emerge, such as how the close contacts are formed and stabilized and, importantly, how they contribute to the regulation of transcriptional output at target genes. This review will concentrate on examples where a functional role and a mechanistic understanding has been explored for loops formed between genes and their regulatory elements or among the elements themselves.
long range interactions; chromosome conformation capture; enhancers; silencers; insulators
Lim domain-binding protein 1, a core subunit of complexes containing Scl, Gata1, and Lmo2, is needed continuously throughout erythropoiesis and megakaryopoiesis in adult mice.
During erythrocyte development, the nuclear cofactor Lim domain binding protein 1 (Ldb1) functions as a core subunit of multiprotein DNA binding complexes that include the transcription factors Scl and Gata-1 and the Lim-only adapter Lmo2. Scl, Gata-1, and Lmo2 are each required for erythropoiesis, suggesting that Ldb1-nucleated transcription complexes regulate key steps during erythropoiesis. We documented a requirement for Ldb1 in erythropoiesis in mice. Analysis of ldb1−/− embryos revealed a critical requirement for Ldb1 during primitive erythropoiesis, and conditional inactivation of ldb1 at later stages of gestation and in adult mice demonstrated that Ldb1 is continuously required for both definitive erythropoiesis and megakaryopoiesis. Down-regulation of Ldb1 in erythroblasts inhibited the expression of multiple erythroid-specific and prosurvival genes. These results represent the first unequivocal demonstration of a role for Ldb1 in erythropoiesis in vivo and establish a critical function for Ldb1-nucleated complexes in regulating the erythroid/megakaryocyte transcriptional program.
It is widely recognized that the next great challenge in the post-genomic period is to understand how the genome establishes the cell and tissue specific patterns of gene expression that underlie development. The β-globin genes are among the most extensively studied tissue specific and developmentally regulated genes. The onset of erythropoiesis in precursor cells and the progressive expression of different members of the β-globin family during development are accompanied by dramatic epigenetic changes in the locus. In this review, we will consider the relationship between histone and DNA modifications and the transcriptional activity of the β-globin genes, the dynamic changes in epigenetic modifications observed during erythroid development, and the potential these changes hold as new targets for therapy in human disease.
β-globin; chromatin; epigenetics; histone modifications; locus control regions; insulators
Long range interactions between distant regulatory elements, such as enhancers, and their target genes underlie the specificity of gene expression in many developmentally regulated gene families. NLI/Ldb1, a widely expressed nuclear factor, is a potential mediator of long range interactions. Here we show that NLI/Ldb1 and erythroid binding partners GATA-1/SCL/Lmo2 bind in vivo to the β-globin locus control region (LCR). The C-terminal LIM interaction domain of NLI is required for formation of the complex on chromatin. Loss of the LIM domain converts NLI into a dominant negative inhibitor of globin gene expression, and knock down of NLI using shRNA results in failure to activate β-globin expression. Kinetic studies reveal the NLI/GATA-1/SCL/LMO2 complex is detected at the β-globin promoter coincident with RNA pol II recruitment, β-globin transcription and chromatin loop formation during erythroid differentiation providing evidence that NLI may facilitate long range gene activation.
GATA-1 is an erythroid activator that binds β-globin gene promoters and DNase I hypersensitive sites (HSs) of the β-globin locus control region (LCR). We investigated the direct role of GATA-1 interaction at the LCR HS2 enhancer by mutating its binding sites within minichromosomes in erythroid cells. Loss of GATA-1 in HS2 did not compromise interaction of NF-E2, a second activator that binds to HS2, nor was DNase I hypersensitivity at HS2 or the promoter of a linked ε-globin gene altered. Reduction of NF-E2 using RNAi confirmed the overall importance of this activator in establishing LCR HSs. However, recruitment of the histone acetyltransferase CBP and RNA pol II to HS2 was diminished by GATA-1 loss. Transcription of ε-globin was severely compromised with loss of RNA pol II from the transcription start site and reduction of H3 acetylation and H3K4 di- and tri-methylation in coding sequences. In contrast, widespread detection of H3K4 mono-methylation was unaffected by loss of GATA-1 in HS2. These results support the idea that GATA-1 interaction in HS2 has a prominent and direct role in co-activator and pol II recruitment conferring active histone tail modifications and transcription activation to a target gene but that it does not, by itself, play a major role in establishing DNase I hypersensitivity.
Histone acetyltransferases are associated with the elongating RNA polymerase II (Pol II) complex, supporting the idea that histone acetylation and transcription are intertwined mechanistically in gene coding sequences. Here, we studied the establishment and function of histone acetylation and transcription in noncoding sequences by using a model locus linking the β-globin HS2 enhancer and the embryonic ɛ-globin gene in chromatin. An intact HS2 enhancer that recruits RNA Pol II is required for intergenic transcription and histone H3 acetylation and K4 methylation between the enhancer and target gene. RNA Pol II recruitment to the target gene TATA box is not required for the intergenic transcription or intergenic histone modifications, strongly implying that they are properties conferred by the enhancer. However, Pol II recruitment at HS2, intergenic transcription, and intergenic histone modification are not sufficient for transcription or modification of the target gene: these changes require initiation at the TATA box of the gene. The results suggest that intergenic and genic transcription complexes are independent and possibly differ from one another.
Locus control regions are regulatory elements that activate distant genes and typically consist of several DNase I hypersensitive sites coincident with clusters of transcription activator binding sites. To what extent nucleosomes and activators occupy these sites together or exclusively has not been extensively studied in vivo. We analyzed the chromatin structure of human β-globin locus control region hypersensitive sites in erythroid cells expressing embryonic and fetal globin genes. Nucleosomes were variably depleted at hypersensitive sites HS1-HS4 and at HS5 which flanks the 5′ of the locus. In lieu of nucleosomes, activators were differentially associated with these sites. Erythroid–specific GATA-1 resided at HS1, HS2 and HS4 but the NF-E2 hetero-dimer was limited to HS2 where nucleosomes were most severely depleted. Histones H3 and H4 were hyperacetylated and H3 was di-methylated at K4 across the LCR, however, the H3 K4 MLL methyltransferase component Ash2L and histone acetyltransferases CBP and p300 occupied essentially only HS2 and the NF-E2 motif in HS2 was required for Ash2L recruitment. Our results indicate that each hypersensitive site in the human β-globin LCR has distinct structural features and suggest that HS2 plays a pivotal role in LCR organization at embryonic and fetal stages of globin gene expression.
The establishment of epigenetic marks, such as methylation on histone tails, is mechanistically linked to RNA polymerase II within active genes. To explore the interplay between these modifications in transcribed noncoding as well as coding sequences, we analyzed epigenetic modification and chromatin structure at high resolution across 300 kb of human chromosome 11, including the β-globin locus which is extensively transcribed in intergenic regions. Monomethylated H3K4, K9, and K36 were broadly distributed, while hypermethylated forms appeared to different extents across the region in a manner reflecting transcriptional activity. The trimethylation of H3K4 and H3K9 correlated within the most highly transcribed sequences. The H3K36me3 mark was more broadly detected in transcribed coding and noncoding sequences, suggesting that K36me3 is a stable mark on sequences transcribed at any level. Most epigenetic and chromatin structural features did not undergo transitions at the presumed borders of the globin domain where the insulator factor CTCF interacts, raising questions about the function of the borders.
We studied the mechanism by which an insulator interrupts enhancer signaling to a gene using stably replicated chromatin templates containing the human β-globin locus control region HS2 enhancer and a target globin gene. The chicken β-globin 5′ HS4 (cHS4) insulator acted as a positional enhancer blocker, inhibiting promoter remodeling and transcription activation only when placed between the enhancer and gene. Enhancer blocking by cHS4 reduced histone hyperacetylation across a zone extending from the enhancer to the gene and inhibited recruitment of CBP and p300 to HS2. Enhancer blocking also led to accumulation of RNA polymerase II at HS2 and within cHS4, accompanied by its diminution at the gene promoter. The enhancer blocking effects were completely attributable to the CTCF binding site in cHS4. These findings provide experimental evidence for the involvement of spreading in establishment of a broad zone of histone modification by an enhancer, as well as for blocking by an insulator of the transfer of RNA polymerase II from an enhancer to a promoter.
Gene activation requires alteration of chromatin structure to facilitate active transcription complex formation at a gene promoter. Nucleosome remodeling complexes and histone modifying complexes each play unique and interdependent roles in bringing about these changes. The role of distant enhancers in these structural alterations is not well understood. We studied nucleosome remodeling and covalent histone modification mediated by the β-globin locus control region HS2 enhancer at nucleosome-level resolution throughout a 5.5-kb globin gene model locus in vivo in K562 cells. We compared the transcriptionally active locus to one in which HS2 was inactivated by mutations in the core NF-E2 sites. In contrast to inactive templates, nucleosomes were mobilized in discrete areas of the active locus, including the HS2 core and the proximal promoter. Large differences in restriction enzyme accessibility between the active and inactive templates were limited to the regions of nucleosome mobilization, which subsumed the DNase I hypersensitive sites. In contrast to this discrete pattern, histone H3 and H4 acetylation and H3 K4 methylation were elevated across the entire active locus, accompanied by depletion of linker histone H1. The coding region of the gene differed from the regulatory regions, demonstrating both nucleosome mobilization and histone hyperacetylation, but lacked differences in restriction enzyme accessibility between transcriptionally active and inactive genes. Thus, although the histone modification pattern we observe is consistent with the spreading of histone modifying activity from the distant enhancer, the pattern of nucleosome mobilization is more compatible with direct contact between an enhancer and promoter.
The overall structure of the DNase I hypersensitive sites (HSs) that comprise the β-globin locus control region (LCR) is highly conserved among mammals, implying that the HSs have conserved functions. However, it is not well understood how the LCR HSs, either individually or collectively, activate transcription. We analyzed the interactions of HS2, HS3 and HS4 with the human ε- and β-globin genes in chromatinized episomes in fetal/embryonic K562 cells. Only HS2 activates transcription of the ε-globin gene, while all three HSs activate the β-globin gene. HS3 stimulates the β-globin gene constitutively, but HS2 and HS4 transactivation requires expression of the transcription factor EKLF, which is not present in K562 cells but is required for β-globin expression in vivo. To begin addressing how the individual HSs may interact with one another in a complex, we linked the β-globin gene to both the HS2 and HS3. HS2 and HS3 together resulted in synergistic stimulation of β-globin transcription. Unexpectedly, mutated, inactive forms of HS2 impeded the activation of the β-globin gene by HS3. Thus, there appear to be distinct interactions among the HSs and between the HSs and the globin genes. These preferential, non-exclusive interactions may underlie an important structural and functional cooperativity among the regulatory sequences of the β-globin locus in vivo.
On stably replicating episomes, transcriptional activation of the ɛ-globin promoter by the β-globin locus control region HS2 enhancer is correlated with an increase in nuclease sensitivity which is limited to the TATA-proximal nucleosome (N1). To elucidate what underlies this increase in nuclease sensitivity and the link between chromatin modification and gene expression, we examined the nucleoprotein composition and histone acetylation status of transcriptionally active and inactive promoters. Micrococcal nuclease digestion of active promoters in nuclei released few nucleosome-like nucleoprotein complexes containing N1 sequences in comparison to results with inactive promoters. We also observed that N1 DNA fragments from active promoters are of a subnucleosomal length. Nevertheless, chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments indicate that histones H3 and H4 are present on N1 sequences from active promoters, with H3 being dramatically hyperacetylated compared with that from inactive promoters and vector sequences. Strikingly, H3 in the adjacent upstream nucleosome (N2) does not appear to be differentially acetylated in active and inactive promoters, indicating that the nucleosome modification of the promoter that accompanies transactivation by HS2 is highly directed and specific. However, global acetylation of histones in vivo by trichostatin A did not activate transcription in the absence of HS2, suggesting that HS2 contributes additional activities necessary for transactivation. N1 sequences from active promoters also contain reduced levels of linker histone H1. The detection of a protected subnucleosomal sized N1 DNA fragment and the recovery of N1 DNA sequences in immunoprecipitations using anti-acetylated H3 and H4 antibodies argue that N1 is present, but in an altered conformation, in the active promoters.
We investigated the requirements for enhancer-promoter communication by using the human β-globin locus control region (LCR) DNase I-hypersensitive site 2 (HS2) enhancer and the ɛ-globin gene in chromatinized minichromosomes in erythroid cells. Activation of globin genes during development is accompanied by localized alterations of chromatin structure, and CACCC binding factors and GATA-1, which interact with both globin promoters and the LCR, are believed to be critical for globin gene transcription activation. We found that an HS2 element mutated in its GATA motif failed to remodel the ɛ-globin promoter or activate transcription yet HS2 nuclease accessibility did not change. Accessibility and transcription were reduced at promoters with mutated GATA-1 or CACCC sites. Strikingly, these mutations also resulted in reduced accessibility at HS2. In the absence of a globin gene, HS2 is similarly resistant to nuclease digestion. In contrast to observations in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, HS2-dependent promoter remodeling was diminished when we mutated the TATA box, crippling transcription. This mutation also reduced HS2 accessibility. The results indicate that the ɛ-globin promoter and HS2 interact both structurally and functionally and that both upstream activators and the basal transcription apparatus contribute to the interaction. Further, at least in this instance, transcription activation and promoter remodeling by a distant enhancer are not separable.