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Nucleosome fragility is associated with future transcriptional response to developmental cues and stress in C. elegans

Author(s): Jeffers, Tess E; Lieb, Jason D

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Abstract: Nucleosomes have structural and regulatory functions in all eukaryotic DNA-templated processes. The position of nucleosomes on DNA and the stability of the underlying histone–DNA interactions affect the access of regulatory proteins to DNA. Both stability and position are regulated through DNA sequence, histone post-translational modifications, histone variants, chromatin remodelers, and transcription factors. Here, we explored the functional implications of nucleosome properties on gene expression and development in Caenorhabditis elegans embryos. We performed a time-course of micrococcal nuclease (MNase) digestion and measured the relative sensitivity or resistance of nucleosomes throughout the genome. Fragile nucleosomes were defined by nucleosomal DNA fragments that were recovered preferentially in early MNase-digestion time points. Nucleosome fragility was strongly and positively correlated with the AT content of the underlying DNA sequence. There was no correlation between promoter nucleosome fragility and the levels of histone modifications or histone variants. Genes with fragile nucleosomes in their promoters tended to be lowly expressed and expressed in a contextspecific way, operating in neuronal response, the immune system, and stress response. In addition to DNA-encoded nucleosome fragility, we also found fragile nucleosomes at locations where we expected to find destabilized nucleosomes, for example, at transcription factor binding sites where nucleosomes compete with DNA-binding factors. Our data suggest that in C. elegans promoters, nucleosome fragility is in large part DNA-encoded and that it poises genes for future context-specific activation in response to environmental stress and developmental cues.
Publication Date: Jan-2017
Electronic Publication Date: 14-Nov-2016
Citation: Jeffers, Tess E, Lieb, Jason D. (2017). Nucleosome fragility is associated with future transcriptional response to developmental cues and stress in C. elegans. Genome Research, 27 (1), 75 - 86. doi:10.1101/gr.208173.116
DOI: doi:10.1101/gr.208173.116
ISSN: 1088-9051
EISSN: 1549-5469
Pages: 75 - 86
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Genome Research
Version: Final published version. This is an open access article.

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