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PLoS Genet. 2013;9(9):e1003778. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1003778. Epub 2013 Sep 12.

Regulation of the boundaries of accessible chromatin.

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  • 1Genome Institute of Singapore, Singapore, Republic of Singapore.


Regulatory regions maintain nucleosome-depleted, open chromatin status but simultaneously require the presence of nucleosomes for specific histone modifications. It remains unclear how these can be achieved for proper regulatory function. Here we demonstrate that nucleosomes positioned within accessible chromatin regions near the boundaries provide platforms for histone modifications while preventing the occlusion of regulatory elements. These boundary nucleosomes were particularly enriched for active or poised regulatory marks in human, such as histone acetylations, H3K4 methylations, H3K9me3, H3K79me2, and H4K20me1. Additionally, we found that based on a genome-wide profiling of ~100 recombinant yeast strains, the location of open chromatin borders tends to vary mostly within 150 bp upon genetic perturbation whereas this positional variation increases in proportion to the sequence preferences of the underlying DNA for nucleosome formation. More than 40% of the local boundary shifts were associated with genetic variation in cis- or trans-acting factors. A sizeable fraction of the identified genetic factors was also associated with nearby gene expression, which was correlated with the distance between the transcription start site (tss) and the boundary that faces the tss. Taken together, the variation in the width of accessible chromatin regions may arise in conjunction with the modulation of the boundary nucleosomes by post-translational modifications or by chromatin regulators and in association with the activity of nearby gene transcription.

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