Analysis of long-range gene regulation at the HoxD locus

Hoxd genes are essential for the development of the various body axes in vertebrates and hence the underlying regulatory mechanisms are of paramount importance. Among these various mechanisms are long-range acting enhancers, which are located in the two adjacent regulatory landscapes. Analyses of chromatin architecture at this gene cluster has revealed the existence of two topologically associating domains (TADs) flanking the cluster and encompassing these regulatory landscapes. However, the dynamics of such regulatory regions as well as the stability and functional contribution of specific enhancer-promoter interactions during development remains to be established. In this work, we analysed the 3D chromatin organization and transcription profile at the HoxD locus, at different time points during genital tubercle (GT) development, and observe that the 3D conformation of this regulatory region predates the embryonic emergence of the GT. Along with this tissue development, we observe a reduction in transcript levels correlating with a decrease in enhancer-promoter chromatin loops within the adjacent gene desert. This decrease occurs while maintaining a subset of CTCF/Cohesin associated contacts, which are preserved independently from the transcriptional status of the gene cluster. To further explore the functional contribution of this regulatory landscape, we used CRISPR-Cas9 technology to generate mice carrying partial deletions of this region, as well as targeted deletions of both transient (enhancer associated) and constitutive (CTCF/Cohesin associated) contacts. We observe that single deletions of both transient and constitutive contacts displayed little if any effect on Hoxd genes expression in the GT. On the contrary, the single deletion of a previous characterized Hoxd enhancer, the Prox element, or deletions comprising several enhancers, result in the reduction of Hoxd genes expression levels. Overall our results suggest that not all enhancer elements within a complex regulatory landscape have the same functional strength, and highlight the existence of a dynamic yet robust system to tightly regulate Hoxd genes expression.

Duboule, Denis
Lausanne, EPFL

Note: The status of this file is: EPFL only

 Record created 2019-04-15, last modified 2019-10-04

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