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Mol Cell Biol. 2013 Sep;33(18):3594-610. doi: 10.1128/MCB.00280-13. Epub 2013 Jul 8.

Genome-wide analysis of chromatin states reveals distinct mechanisms of sex-dependent gene regulation in male and female mouse liver.

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  • 1Division of Cell and Molecular Biology, Department of Biology and Bioinformatics Program, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Chromatin state maps were developed to elucidate sex differences in chromatin structure and their impact on sex-differential chromatin accessibility and sex-biased gene expression in mouse liver. Genes in active, inactive, and poised chromatin states exhibited differential responsiveness to ligand-activated nuclear receptors and distinct enrichments for functional gene categories. Sex-biased genes were clustered by chromatin environments and mapped to DNase-hypersensitive sites (DHS) classified by sex bias in chromatin accessibility and enhancer modifications. Results were integrated with genome-wide binding data for five transcription factors implicated in growth hormone-regulated, sex-biased liver gene expression, leading to the following findings. (i) Sex-biased DHS, but not sex-biased genes, are frequently characterized by sex-differential chromatin states, indicating distal regulation. (ii) Trimethylation of histone H3 at K27 (H3K27me3) is a major sex-biased repressive mark at highly female-biased but not at highly male-biased genes. (iii) FOXA factors are associated with sex-dependent chromatin opening at male-biased but not female-biased regulatory sites. (iv) Sex-biased STAT5 binding is enriched at sex-biased DHS marked as active enhancers and preferentially targets sex-biased genes with sex-differences in local chromatin marks. (v) The male-biased repressor BCL6 preferentially targets female-biased genes and regulatory sites in a sex-independent chromatin state. (vi) CUX2, a female-specific repressor of male-biased genes, also activates strongly female-biased genes, in association with loss of H3K27me3 marks. Chromatin states are thus a major determinant of sex-biased chromatin accessibility and gene expression, with FOXA pioneer factors proposed to confer sex-dependent chromatin opening and STAT5, but not BCL6, regulating sex-biased genes by binding to sites in a sex-biased chromatin state.

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