Infoscience

Thesis

Genomic Context and KRAB/KAP1-mediated Transcriptional Repression

Chromatin structure and its impact on transcriptional activity represent one of the major revolutions in the biomedical field over the passed decade. The implications concern as much fundamental as clinically-oriented research; diseases and therapeutical strategies are being approached from a new point of view (Mackay et al., 2008; Richman et al., 2009). The current work dissects the different susceptibilities of genes in the human genome and how these react to the changes in chromatin landscape upon the recruitment of a transcriptional corepressor. The KRAB-Zinc finger proteins are the largest family of transcriptional repressors in the human genome. These repressors use the KRAB domain as a docking site for KAP-1 which in turn recruits a macromolecular chromatin-remodelling complex leading to heterochromatin formation. Yet current knowledge of their impact on gene regulation is limited. By artificially recruiting a KRAB-repressor in the context of genes, our lab has previously shown that this repression can act over several tens of kilobases (Groner et al., 2010). Specifically, transcriptional silencing depends on the spreading of repressive marks to the upstream promoter. However, such spreading to the trapped promoter is not systematic, suggesting potential counter-acting influences. To identify the determinants of repression, we designed a high-throughput approach of our experimental system to accumulate thousands of KRAB docking sites for which the trapped promoter is regulable and docking sites for which the promoter is immune to repression. Firstly, our data indicate that KRAB/KAP-1-repression can act efficiently over distances of 20 kb albeit in a very variable fashion, but is limited beyond that. Second, propagation of repression in the transcribed regions was favoured in most open chromatin. Third, we observed that the broader context of genes sustaining repression was that of most euchromatic regions, recapitulating the genetic context of natural targets of KAP1 repression. On the other hand, we have no evidence that barrier elements such as CTCF counteract this KRAB-mediated repression within genes. Finally, work on cases where repression acts over distances greater than 40 kb hints at the regulation of enhancers by our KRAB repressor rather than promoter. In conclusion, this work broadens the knowledge in the emerging field of gene regulation and provides further insight on the complexity of chromatin architecture and its meaning at a functional level.

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