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      Epigenome editing by a CRISPR/Cas9-based acetyltransferase activates genes from promoters and enhancers


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          Technologies that facilitate the targeted manipulation of epigenetic marks could be used to precisely control cell phenotype or interrogate the relationship between the epigenome and transcriptional control. Here we have generated a programmable acetyltransferase based on the CRISPR/Cas9 gene regulation system, consisting of the nuclease-null dCas9 protein fused to the catalytic core of the human acetyltransferase p300. This fusion protein catalyzes acetylation of histone H3 lysine 27 at its target sites, corresponding with robust transcriptional activation of target genes from promoters, proximal enhancers, and distal enhancers. Gene activation by the targeted acetyltransferase is highly specific across the genome. In contrast to conventional dCas9-based activators, the acetyltransferase effectively activates genes from enhancer regions and with individual guide RNAs. The core p300 domain is also portable to other programmable DNA-binding proteins. These results support targeted acetylation as a causal mechanism of transactivation and provide a new robust tool for manipulating gene regulation.

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          A unique chromatin signature uncovers early developmental enhancers in humans.

          Cell-fate transitions involve the integration of genomic information encoded by regulatory elements, such as enhancers, with the cellular environment. However, identification of genomic sequences that control human embryonic development represents a formidable challenge. Here we show that in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), unique chromatin signatures identify two distinct classes of genomic elements, both of which are marked by the presence of chromatin regulators p300 and BRG1, monomethylation of histone H3 at lysine 4 (H3K4me1), and low nucleosomal density. In addition, elements of the first class are distinguished by the acetylation of histone H3 at lysine 27 (H3K27ac), overlap with previously characterized hESC enhancers, and are located proximally to genes expressed in hESCs and the epiblast. In contrast, elements of the second class, which we term 'poised enhancers', are distinguished by the absence of H3K27ac, enrichment of histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation (H3K27me3), and are linked to genes inactive in hESCs and instead are involved in orchestrating early steps in embryogenesis, such as gastrulation, mesoderm formation and neurulation. Consistent with the poised identity, during differentiation of hESCs to neuroepithelium, a neuroectoderm-specific subset of poised enhancers acquires a chromatin signature associated with active enhancers. When assayed in zebrafish embryos, poised enhancers are able to direct cell-type and stage-specific expression characteristic of their proximal developmental gene, even in the absence of sequence conservation in the fish genome. Our data demonstrate that early developmental enhancers are epigenetically pre-marked in hESCs and indicate an unappreciated role of H3K27me3 at distal regulatory elements. Moreover, the wealth of new regulatory sequences identified here provides an invaluable resource for studies and isolation of transient, rare cell populations representing early stages of human embryogenesis.
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            ChIP-seq accurately predicts tissue-specific activity of enhancers.

            A major yet unresolved quest in decoding the human genome is the identification of the regulatory sequences that control the spatial and temporal expression of genes. Distant-acting transcriptional enhancers are particularly challenging to uncover because they are scattered among the vast non-coding portion of the genome. Evolutionary sequence constraint can facilitate the discovery of enhancers, but fails to predict when and where they are active in vivo. Here we present the results of chromatin immunoprecipitation with the enhancer-associated protein p300 followed by massively parallel sequencing, and map several thousand in vivo binding sites of p300 in mouse embryonic forebrain, midbrain and limb tissue. We tested 86 of these sequences in a transgenic mouse assay, which in nearly all cases demonstrated reproducible enhancer activity in the tissues that were predicted by p300 binding. Our results indicate that in vivo mapping of p300 binding is a highly accurate means for identifying enhancers and their associated activities, and suggest that such data sets will be useful to study the role of tissue-specific enhancers in human biology and disease on a genome-wide scale.
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              CRISPR RNA-guided activation of endogenous human genes

              Catalytically inactive CRISPR-associated 9 nuclease (dCas9) can be directed by short guide RNAs (gRNAs) to repress endogenous genes in bacteria and human cells. Here we show that a dCas9-VP64 transcriptional activation domain fusion protein can be directed by single or multiple gRNAs to increase expression of specific endogenous human genes. These results provide an important proof-of-principle that CRISPR-Cas systems can be used to target heterologous effector domains in human cells.

                Author and article information

                Nat Biotechnol
                Nat. Biotechnol.
                Nature biotechnology
                22 April 2015
                06 April 2015
                May 2015
                01 November 2015
                : 33
                : 5
                : 510-517
                [1 ]Department of Biomedical Engineering, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
                [2 ]Center for Genomic & Computational Biology, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
                [3 ]University Program in Genetics and Genomics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
                [4 ]Department of Cell Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
                [5 ]Department of Pediatrics, Division of Medical Genetics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
                [6 ]Department of Biostatistics & Bioinformatics, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
                [7 ]Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America
                Author notes
                Address for correspondence: Timothy E. Reddy, Ph.D., Center for Genomic & Computational Biology, Box 3382, 101 Science Drive, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, 919-684-3286, tim.reddy@ 123456duke.edu . Charles A. Gersbach, Ph.D., Department of Biomedical Engineering, Room 136 Hudson Hall, Box 90281, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0281, 919-613-2147, charles.gersbach@ 123456duke.edu

                Co-corresponding authors




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