The Insulator Binding Protein CTCF Positions 20 Nucleosomes around Its Binding Sites across the Human Genome
Peterson, Craig L.
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CitationFu, Yutao, Manisha Sinha, Craig L. Peterson, Zhiping Weng. "The Insulator Binding Protein CTCF Positions 20 Nucleosomes around Its Binding Sites across the Human Genome" PLoS Genetics 4(7):e1000138. (2008)
Chromatin structure plays an important role in modulating the accessibility of genomic DNA to regulatory proteins in eukaryotic cells. We performed an integrative analysis on dozens of recent datasets generated by deep-sequencing and high-density tiling arrays, and we discovered an array of well-positioned nucleosomes flanking sites occupied by the insulator binding protein CTCF across the human genome. These nucleosomes are highly enriched for the histone variant H2A.Z and 11 histone modifications. The distances between the center positions of the neighboring nucleosomes are largely invariant, and we estimate them to be 185 bp on average. Surprisingly, subsets of nucleosomes that are enriched in different histone modifications vary greatly in the lengths of DNA protected from micrococcal nuclease cleavage (106–164 bp). The nucleosomes enriched in those histone modifications previously implicated to be correlated with active transcription tend to contain less protected DNA, indicating that these modifications are correlated with greater DNA accessibility. Another striking result obtained from our analysis is that nucleosomes flanking CTCF sites are much better positioned than those downstream of transcription start sites, the only genomic feature previously known to position nucleosomes genome-wide. This nucleosome-positioning phenomenon is not observed for other transcriptional factors for which we had genome-wide binding data. We suggest that binding of CTCF provides an anchor point for positioning nucleosomes, and chromatin remodeling is an important component of CTCF function. Author Summary The accessibility of genomic DNA to regulatory proteins and to the transcriptional machinery plays an important role in eukaryotic transcription regulation. Some regulatory proteins alter chromatin structures by evicting histones in selected loci. Nonetheless, no regulatory proteins have been reported to position nucleosomes genome-wide. The only genomic landmark that has been associated with well-positioned nucleosomes is the transcriptional start site (TSS)—several well-positioned nucleosomes are observed downstream of TSS genome-wide. Here we report that the CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF), a protein that binds insulator elements to prevent the spreading of heterochromatin and restricting transcriptional enhancers from activating unrelated promoters, possesses greater ability to position nucleosomes across the human genome than does the TSS. These well-positioned nucleosomes are highly enriched in a histone variant H2A.Z and 11 histone modifications. The nucleosomes enriched in the histone modifications previously implicated to correlate with active transcription tend to have less protected DNA against digestion by micrococcal nuclease, or greater DNA accessibility. This nucleosome-positioning ability is likely unique to CTCF, because it was not found in the other transcriptional factors we investigated. Thus we suggest that the binding of CTCF provides an anchor for positioning nucleosomes, and chromatin remodeling is an important aspect of CTCF function.