The Igf2/H19 muscle enhancer is an active transcriptional complex.
ABSTRACT: In eukaryotic cells, gene expression is mediated by enhancer activation of RNA polymerase at distant promoters. Recently, distinctions between enhancers and promoters have been blurred by the discovery that enhancers are associated with RNA polymerase and are sites of RNA synthesis. Here, we present an analysis of the insulin-like growth factor 2/H19 muscle enhancer. This enhancer includes a short conserved core element that is organized into chromatin typical of mammalian enhancers, binds tissue-specific transcription factors and functions on its own in vitro to activate promoter transcription. However, in a chromosomal context, this element is not sufficient to activate distant promoters. Instead, enhancer function also requires transcription in cis of a long non-coding RNA, Nctc1. Thus, the insulin-like growth factor 2/H19 enhancer is an active transcriptional complex whose own transcription is essential to its function.
Project description:Developmentally regulated transcription often depends on physical interactions between distal enhancers and their cognate promoters. Recent genomic analyses suggest that promoter-promoter interactions might play a similarly critical role in organizing the genome and establishing cell-type-specific gene expression. The Igf2/H19 locus has been a valuable model for clarifying the role of long-range interactions between cis-regulatory elements. Imprinted expression of the linked, reciprocally imprinted genes is explained by parent-of-origin-specific chromosomal loop structures between the paternal Igf2 or maternal H19 promoters and their shared tissue-specific enhancer elements. Here, we further analyze these loop structures for their composition and their impact on expression of the linked long non-coding RNA, Nctc1. We show that Nctc1 is co-regulated with Igf2 and H19 and physically interacts with the shared muscle enhancer. In fact, all three co-regulated genes have the potential to interact not only with the shared enhancer but also with each other via their enhancer interactions. Furthermore, developmental and genetic analyses indicate functional significance for these promoter-promoter interactions. Altogether, we present a novel mechanism to explain developmental specific imprinting of Nctc1 and provide new information about enhancer mechanisms and about the role of chromatin domains in establishing gene expression patterns.
Project description:Enhancers activate gene transcription in spatial and temporal patterns by interactions with gene promoters. These elements typically reside distal to their target promoter, with which they must interact selectively. Additional elements may contribute to enhancer-promoter specificity, including remote control element sequences within enhancers, tethering elements near promoters, and insulator/boundary elements that disrupt off-target interactions. However, few of these elements have been mapped, and as a result, the mechanisms by which these elements interact remain poorly understood. One impediment is their method of study, namely reporter transgenes in which enhancers are placed adjacent to a heterologous promoter, which may circumvent mechanisms controlling enhancer-promoter specificity and long-range interactions. Here, we report an optimized dual reporter transgene system in Drosophila melanogaster that allows the simultaneous comparison of an enhancer's ability to activate proximal and distal fluorescent reporter genes. Testing a panel of fluorescent transgenes in vivo, we found a two-protein combination that allows simultaneous measurement with minimal detection interference. We note differences among four tested enhancers in their ability to regulate a distally placed reporter transgene. These results suggest that enhancers differ in their requirements for promoter interaction and raise important practical considerations when studying enhancer function.
Project description:We examined how remote enhancers establish physical communication with target promoters to activate gene transcription in response to environmental signals. Although the natural IFN-beta enhancer is located immediately upstream of the core promoter, it also can function as a classical enhancer element conferring virus infection-dependent activation of heterologous promoters, even when it is placed several kilobases away from these promoters. We demonstrated that the remote IFN-beta enhancer "loops out" the intervening DNA to reach the target promoter. These chromatin loops depend on sequence-specific transcription factors bound to the enhancer and the promoter and thus can explain the specificity observed in enhancer-promoter interactions, especially in complex genetic loci. Transcription factor binding sites scattered between an enhancer and a promoter can work as decoys trapping the enhancer in nonproductive loops, thus resembling insulator elements. Finally, replacement of the transcription factor binding sites involved in DNA looping with those of a heterologous prokaryotic protein, the lambda repressor, which is capable of loop formation, rescues enhancer function from a distance by re-establishing enhancer-promoter loop formation.
Project description:Gene expression is controlled by enhancers that activate transcription from the core promoters of their target genes. Although a key function of core promoters is to convert enhancer activities into gene transcription, whether and how strongly they activate transcription in response to enhancers has not been systematically assessed on a genome-wide level. Here we describe self-transcribing active core promoter sequencing (STAP-seq), a method to determine the responsiveness of genomic sequences to enhancers, and apply it to the Drosophila melanogaster genome. We cloned candidate fragments at the position of the core promoter (also called minimal promoter) in reporter plasmids with or without a strong enhancer, transfected the resulting library into cells, and quantified the transcripts that initiated from each candidate for each setup by deep sequencing. In the presence of a single strong enhancer, the enhancer responsiveness of different sequences differs by several orders of magnitude, and different levels of responsiveness are associated with genes of different functions. We also identify sequence features that predict enhancer responsiveness and discuss how different core promoters are employed for the regulation of gene expression.
Project description:Enhancers are traditionally viewed as DNA sequences located some distance from a promoter that act in cis and in an orientation-independent fashion to increase utilization of specific promoters and thereby regulate gene expression. Much progress has been made over the last decade toward understanding how these distant elements interact with target promoters, but how transcription is enhanced remains an object of active inquiry. Recent reports convey the prevalence and diversity of enhancer transcription and transcripts and support both as key factors with mechanistically distinct, but not mutually exclusive roles in enhancer function. Decoupling the causes and effects of transcription on the local chromatin landscape and understanding the role of enhancer transcripts in the context of long-range interactions are challenges that require additional attention. In this review, we focus on the possible functions of enhancer transcription by highlighting several recent enhancer RNA papers and, within the context of other enhancer studies, speculate on the role of enhancer transcription in regulating differential gene expression.
Project description:Eukaryotic gene transcription is regulated at many steps, including RNA polymerase II (Pol II) recruitment, transcription initiation, promoter-proximal Pol II pause release, and transcription termination; however, mechanisms regulating transcription during productive elongation remain poorly understood. Enhancers, which activate gene transcription, themselves undergo Pol II-mediated transcription, but our understanding of enhancer transcription and enhancer RNAs (eRNAs) remains incomplete. Here we show that transcription at intragenic enhancers interferes with and attenuates host gene transcription during productive elongation. While the extent of attenuation correlates positively with nascent eRNA expression, the act of intragenic enhancer transcription alone, but not eRNAs, explains the attenuation. Through CRISPR/Cas9-mediated deletions, we demonstrate a physiological role for intragenic enhancer-mediated transcription attenuation in cell fate determination. We propose that intragenic enhancers not only enhance transcription of one or more genes from a distance but also fine-tune transcription of their host gene through transcription interference, facilitating differential utilization of the same regulatory element for disparate functions.
Project description:Gene transcription in animals involves the assembly of RNA polymerase II at core promoters and its cell-type-specific activation by enhancers that can be located more distally. However, how ubiquitous expression of housekeeping genes is achieved has been less clear. In particular, it is unknown whether ubiquitously active enhancers exist and how developmental and housekeeping gene regulation is separated. An attractive hypothesis is that different core promoters might exhibit an intrinsic specificity to certain enhancers. This is conceivable, as various core promoter sequence elements are differentially distributed between genes of different functions, including elements that are predominantly found at either developmentally regulated or at housekeeping genes. Here we show that thousands of enhancers in Drosophila melanogaster S2 and ovarian somatic cells (OSCs) exhibit a marked specificity to one of two core promoters--one derived from a ubiquitously expressed ribosomal protein gene and another from a developmentally regulated transcription factor--and confirm the existence of these two classes for five additional core promoters from genes with diverse functions. Housekeeping enhancers are active across the two cell types, while developmental enhancers exhibit strong cell-type specificity. Both enhancer classes differ in their genomic distribution, the functions of neighbouring genes, and the core promoter elements of these neighbouring genes. In addition, we identify two transcription factors--Dref and Trl--that bind and activate housekeeping versus developmental enhancers, respectively. Our results provide evidence for a sequence-encoded enhancer-core-promoter specificity that separates developmental and housekeeping gene regulatory programs for thousands of enhancers and their target genes across the entire genome.
Project description:The differentiation, maintenance, and repair of skeletal muscle is controlled by interactions between genetically determined transcriptional programs regulated by myogenic transcription factors and environmental cues activated by growth factors and hormones. Signaling through the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) receptor by locally produced IGF2 defines one such pathway that is critical for normal muscle growth and for regeneration after injury. IGF2 gene and protein expression are induced as early events in muscle differentiation, but the responsible molecular mechanisms are unknown. Here we characterize a distal DNA element within the imprinted mouse Igf2-H19 locus with properties of a muscle transcriptional enhancer. We find that this region undergoes a transition to open chromatin during differentiation, whereas adjacent chromatin remains closed, and that it interacts in differentiating muscle nuclei but not in mesenchymal precursor cells with the Igf2 gene found more than 100 kb away, suggesting that chromatin looping or sliding to bring the enhancer in proximity to Igf2 promoters is also an early event in muscle differentiation. Because this element directly stimulates the transcriptional activity of an Igf2 promoter-reporter gene in differentiating myoblasts, our results indicate that we have identified a bona fide distal transcriptional enhancer that supports Igf2 gene activation in skeletal muscle cells. Because this DNA element is conserved in the human IGF2-H19 locus, our results further suggest that its muscle enhancer function also is conserved among different mammalian species.
Project description:RNA functions at enhancers remain mysterious. Here we show that the 7SK small nuclear RNA (snRNA) inhibits enhancer transcription by modulating nucleosome position. 7SK occupies enhancers and super enhancers genome wide in mouse and human cells, and it is required to limit enhancer-RNA initiation and synthesis in a manner distinct from promoter pausing. Clustered elements at super enhancers uniquely require 7SK to prevent convergent transcription and DNA-damage signaling. 7SK physically interacts with the BAF chromatin-remodeling complex, recruits BAF to enhancers and inhibits enhancer transcription by modulating chromatin structure. In turn, 7SK occupancy at enhancers coincides with that of Brd4 and is exquisitely sensitive to the bromodomain inhibitor JQ1. Thus, 7SK uses distinct mechanisms to counteract the diverse consequences of pervasive transcription that distinguish super enhancers, enhancers and promoters.
Project description:Gene regulatory programs in different cell types are largely defined through cell-specific enhancers activity. The histone variant H2A.Z has been shown to play important roles in transcription mainly by controlling proximal promoters, but its effect on enhancer functions remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate by genome-wide approaches that H2A.Z is present at a subset of active enhancers bound by the estrogen receptor alpha (ER?). We also determine that H2A.Z does not influence the local nucleosome positioning around ER? enhancers using ChIP sequencing at nucleosomal resolution and unsupervised pattern discovery. We further highlight that H2A.Z-enriched enhancers are associated with chromatin accessibility, H3K122ac enrichment and hypomethylated DNA. Moreover, upon estrogen stimulation, the enhancers occupied by H2A.Z produce enhancer RNAs (eRNAs), and recruit RNA polymerase II as well as RAD21, a member of the cohesin complex involved in chromatin interactions between enhancers and promoters. Importantly, their recruitment and eRNAs production are abolished by H2A.Z depletion, thereby revealing a novel functional link between H2A.Z occupancy and enhancer activity. Taken together, our findings suggest that H2A.Z acts as an important player for enhancer functions by establishing and maintaining a chromatin environment required for RNA polymerase II recruitment, eRNAs transcription and enhancer-promoters interactions, all essential attributes of enhancer activity.