Modulation of chromatin structure has been proposed as a molecular mechanism underlying the spatiotemporal collinear expression of Hox genes during development. CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF)-mediated chromatin organization is now recognized as a crucial epigenetic mechanism for transcriptional regulation. Thus, we examined whether CTCF-mediated chromosomal conformation is involved in Hoxc gene expression by comparing wild-type mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cells expressing anterior Hoxc genes with Akt1 null MEFs expressing anterior as well as posterior Hoxc genes. We found that CTCF binding between Hoxc11 and -c12 is important for CTCF-mediated chromosomal loop formation and concomitant posterior Hoxc gene expression. Hypomethylation at this site increased CTCF binding and recapitulated the chromosomal conformation and posterior Hoxc gene expression patterns observed in Akt1 null MEFs. From this work we found that CTCF at the C12|11 does not function as a barrier/boundary, instead let the posterior Hoxc genes switch their interaction from inactive centromeric to active telomeric genomic niche, and concomitant posterior Hoxc gene expression. Although it is not clear whether CTCF affects Hoxc gene expression solely through its looping activity, CTCF-mediated chromatin structural modulation could be an another tier of Hox gene regulation during development.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2016 International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
- DNA methylation
- Hox genes
- Hoxc cluster
- chromatin looping