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Hum Mol Genet. 2005 Apr 1;14(7):953-65. Epub 2005 Feb 24.

Familial cases of point mutations in the XIST promoter reveal a correlation between CTCF binding and pre-emptive choices of X chromosome inactivation.

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  • 1Molecular Pathology Section, Laboratory of Immunopathology, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 5640 Fishers Lane, Twinbrook I Rm. 1417, Rockville, MD 20852, USA.


The choice mechanisms that determine the future inactive X chromosome in somatic cells of female mammals involve the regulated expression of the XIST gene. A familial C(-43)G mutation in the XIST promoter results in skewing of X chromosome inactivation (XCI) towards the inactive X chromosome of heterozygous females, whereas a C(-43)A mutation found primarily in the active X chromosome results in the opposite skewing pattern. Both mutations point to the existence of a factor that might be responsible for the skewed patterns. Here we identify this factor as CTCF, a conserved protein with a 11 Zn-finger (ZF) domain that can mediate multiple sequence-specificity and interactions between DNA-bound CTCF molecules. We show that mouse and human Xist/XIST promoters contain one homologous CTCF-binding sequence with the matching dG-contacts, which in the human XIST include the -43 position within the DNase I footprint of CTCF. While the C(-43)A mutation abrogates CTCF binding, the C(-43)G mutation results in a dramatic increase in CTCF-binding efficiency by altering ZF-usage mode required for recognition of the altered dG-contacts of the mutant site. Thus, the skewing effect of the two -43C mutations correlates with their effects on CTCF binding. Finally, CTCF interacts with the XIST/Xist promoter only in female human and mouse cells. The interpretation that this reflected a preferential interaction with the promoter of the active Xist allele was confirmed in mouse fetal placenta. These observations are in keeping with the possibility that the choice of X chromosome inactivation reflects stabilization of a higher order chromatin conformation impinging on the CTCF-XIST promoter complex.

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