Within the genomes of metazoans, nucleosomes are highly organised adjacent to the binding sites for a subset of transcription factors. Here we have sought to investigate which chromatin remodelling enzymes are responsible for this. We find that the ATP-dependent chromatin remodelling enzyme SNF2H plays a major role organising arrays of nucleosomes adjacent to the binding sites for the architectural transcription factor CTCF sites and acts to promote CTCF binding. At many other factor binding sites SNF2H and the related enzyme SNF2L contribute to nucleosome organisation. The action of SNF2H at CTCF sites is functionally important as depletion of CTCF or SNF2H affects transcription of a common group of genes. This suggests that chromatin remodelling ATPase’s most closely related to the Drosophila ISWI protein contribute to the function of many human gene regulatory elements.
CTCF is a transcriptional regulator acting as an insulator element interfering with enhancer function and as a boundary between chromatin domains. CTCF has been shown to organise an exquisite array of phased nucleosomes flanking its binding sites. Here we identified SNF2H as the enzyme primarily responsible for organising the extended arrays of nucleosomes adjacent to CTCF sites. We find that SNF2H acts to maintain the occupancy of CTCF at its binding sites, but does not act as a general loading factor for CTCF’s binding partner cohesin. SNF2H’s action at CTCF sites is functionally important as overlapping cohorts of genes are affected by depletion of CTCF or SNF2H. Other transcription factors also organise nucleosomes and we find that the SNF2H and the related enzyme SNF2L contribute to organising nucleosomes at many of these sites.