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BMC Genomics January 1, 2018; 19 (1): 206.

Global analysis of primary mesenchyme cell cis-regulatory modules by chromatin accessibility profiling.

Shashikant T , Khor JM , Ettensohn CA .

BACKGROUND: The developmental gene regulatory network (GRN) that underlies skeletogenesis in sea urchins and other echinoderms is a paradigm of GRN structure, function, and evolution. This transcriptional network is deployed selectively in skeleton-forming primary mesenchyme cells (PMCs) of the early embryo. To advance our understanding of this model developmental GRN, we used genome-wide chromatin accessibility profiling to identify and characterize PMC cis-regulatory modules (CRMs). RESULTS: ATAC-seq (Assay for Transposase-Accessible Chromatin using sequencing) analysis of purified PMCs provided a global picture of chromatin accessibility in these cells. We used both ATAC-seq and DNase-seq (DNase I hypersensitive site sequencing) to identify > 3000 sites that exhibited increased accessibility in PMCs relative to other embryonic cell lineages, and provide both computational and experimental evidence that a large fraction of these sites represent bona fide skeletogenic CRMs. Putative PMC CRMs were preferentially located near genes differentially expressed by PMCs and consensus binding sites for two key transcription factors in the PMC GRN, Alx1 and Ets1, were enriched in these CRMs. Moreover, a high proportion of candidate CRMs drove reporter gene expression specifically in PMCs in transgenic embryos. Surprisingly, we found that PMC CRMs were partially open in other embryonic lineages and exhibited hyperaccessibility as early as the 128-cell stage. CONCLUSIONS: Our work provides a comprehensive picture of chromatin accessibility in an early embryonic cell lineage. By identifying thousands of candidate PMC CRMs, we significantly enhance the utility of the sea urchin skeletogenic network as a general model of GRN architecture and evolution. Our work also shows that differential chromatin accessibility, which has been used for the high-throughput identification of enhancers in differentiated cell types, is a powerful approach for the identification of CRMs in early embryonic cells. Lastly, we conclude that in the sea urchin embryo, CRMs that control the cell type-specific expression of effector genes are hyperaccessible several hours in advance of gene activation.

PubMed ID: 29558892
PMC ID: PMC5859501
Article link: BMC Genomics
Grant support: [+]

Species referenced: Echinodermata
Genes referenced: alx1 endo16 ets1 LOC115920638 LOC115923239 LOC115925255 LOC115926321 LOC575170 P16 sm30a sm30c sm50 tbr1 tfe3

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References [+] :
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