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      The molecular hallmarks of epigenetic control.

      1 , 2
      Nature reviews. Genetics
      Springer Nature

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          Abstract

          Over the past 20 years, breakthrough discoveries of chromatin-modifying enzymes and associated mechanisms that alter chromatin in response to physiological or pathological signals have transformed our knowledge of epigenetics from a collection of curious biological phenomena to a functionally dissected research field. Here, we provide a personal perspective on the development of epigenetics, from its historical origins to what we define as 'the modern era of epigenetic research'. We primarily highlight key molecular mechanisms of and conceptual advances in epigenetic control that have changed our understanding of normal and perturbed development.

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          Most cited references123

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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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            Selective recognition of methylated lysine 9 on histone H3 by the HP1 chromo domain.

            Heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) is localized at heterochromatin sites where it mediates gene silencing. The chromo domain of HP1 is necessary for both targeting and transcriptional repression. In the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, the correct localization of Swi6 (the HP1 equivalent) depends on Clr4, a homologue of the mammalian SUV39H1 histone methylase. Both Clr4 and SUV39H1 methylate specifically lysine 9 of histone H3 (ref. 6). Here we show that HP1 can bind with high affinity to histone H3 methylated at lysine 9 but not at lysine 4. The chromo domain of HP1 is identified as its methyl-lysine-binding domain. A point mutation in the chromo domain, which destroys the gene silencing activity of HP1 in Drosophila, abolishes methyl-lysine-binding activity. Genetic and biochemical analysis in S. pombe shows that the methylase activity of Clr4 is necessary for the correct localization of Swi6 at centromeric heterochromatin and for gene silencing. These results provide a stepwise model for the formation of a transcriptionally silent heterochromatin: SUV39H1 places a 'methyl marker' on histone H3, which is then recognized by HP1 through its chromo domain. This model may also explain the stable inheritance of the heterochromatic state.
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              Gene action in the X-chromosome of the mouse (Mus musculus L.).

              MARY LYON (1961)
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nat. Rev. Genet.
                Nature reviews. Genetics
                Springer Nature
                1471-0064
                1471-0056
                Aug 2016
                : 17
                : 8
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Laboratory of Chromatin Biology and Epigenetics, The Rockefeller University, 1230 York Avenue, New York 10065, New York, USA.
                [2 ] Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Stübeweg 51, Freiburg D-79108, Germany.
                Article
                nrg.2016.59
                10.1038/nrg.2016.59
                27346641
                b69a1ac0-8c1f-46af-b154-5c5e4579dfce
                History

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