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PLoS Genet. 2013;9(8):e1003699. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003699. Epub 2013 Aug 15.

Binding of TFIIIC to sine elements controls the relocation of activity-dependent neuronal genes to transcription factories.

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  • 1MRC Laboratory for Molecular and Cell Biology, University College London, London, United Kingdom.


In neurons, the timely and accurate expression of genes in response to synaptic activity relies on the interplay between epigenetic modifications of histones, recruitment of regulatory proteins to chromatin and changes to nuclear structure. To identify genes and regulatory elements responsive to synaptic activation in vivo, we performed a genome-wide ChIPseq analysis of acetylated histone H3 using somatosensory cortex of mice exposed to novel enriched environmental (NEE) conditions. We discovered that Short Interspersed Elements (SINEs) located distal to promoters of activity-dependent genes became acetylated following exposure to NEE and were bound by the general transcription factor TFIIIC. Importantly, under depolarizing conditions, inducible genes relocated to transcription factories (TFs), and this event was controlled by TFIIIC. Silencing of the TFIIIC subunit Gtf3c5 in non-stimulated neurons induced uncontrolled relocation to TFs and transcription of activity-dependent genes. Remarkably, in cortical neurons, silencing of Gtf3c5 mimicked the effects of chronic depolarization, inducing a dramatic increase of both dendritic length and branching. These findings reveal a novel and essential regulatory function of both SINEs and TFIIIC in mediating gene relocation and transcription. They also suggest that TFIIIC may regulate the rearrangement of nuclear architecture, allowing the coordinated expression of activity-dependent neuronal genes.

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