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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A January 1, 2020; 117 (26): 15075-15084.

Long-term association of a transcription factor with its chromatin binding site can stabilize gene expression and cell fate commitment.

Gurdon JB , Javed K , Vodnala M , Garrett N .

Some lineage-determining transcription factors are overwhelmingly important in directing embryonic cells to a particular differentiation pathway, such as Ascl1 for nerve. They also have an exceptionally strong ability to force cells to change from an unrelated pathway to one preferred by their action. Transcription factors are believed to have a very short residence time of only a few seconds on their specific DNA or chromatin-binding sites. We have developed a procedure in which DNA containing one copy of the binding site for the neural-inducing factor Ascl1 is injected directly into a Xenopus oocyte nucleus which has been preloaded with a limiting amount of the Ascl1 transcription factor protein. This is followed by a further injection of DNA as a competitor, either in a plasmid or in chromosomal DNA, containing the same binding site but with a different reporter. Importantly, expression of the reporter provides a measure of the function of the transcription factor in addition to its residence time. The same long residence time and resistance to competition are seen with the estrogen receptor and its DNA response elements. We find that in this nondividing oocyte, the nerve-inducing factor Ascl1 can remain bound to a specific chromatin site for hours or days and thereby help to stabilize gene expression. This stability of transcription factor binding to chromatin is a necessary part of its action because removal of this factor causes discontinuation of its effect on gene expression. Stable transcription factor binding may be a characteristic of nondividing cells.

PubMed ID: 32532919
PMC ID: PMC7334453
Article link: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Grant support: [+]

Species referenced: Xenopus
Genes referenced: ascl1 klf2 myod1 neurog1 sox2
GO keywords: cell fate determination [+]

Article Images: [+] show captions
References [+] :
Bertrand, Proneural genes and the specification of neural cell types. 2002, Pubmed