RNA polymerase II (Pol II) is responsible for the transcription of all protein and some noncoding RNA genes in eukaryotic cells and is extensively regulated by cellular cues through chromatin, DNA sequence-specific factors, and complex cofactors etc. In close collaboration with a fantastic biophysicist, Andrey Revyakin, I am using fluorescence based single-molecule approaches to address the fundamental biochemical mechanisms regarding the functions and regulations of the Pol II transcription machinery. We have successfully recapitulated in vitro human Pol II transcription with highly purified factors under single-molecule microscopes and are currently looking into the assembly and regulation of the ~3 mega Dalton complex required for accurate initiation by Pol II at a promoter, and the fate of individual components during reinitiation.
My major in college (Shandong University, China) was Microbiology and this training makes me keep in mind the caveats not obvious to naked eyes. During my graduate research, I studied gene profiles upon human B lymphocyte activation and chromatin/transcription regulation in the budding yeast (at Peking Union Medical College/Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (M.S.) and the Pennsylvania State University (Ph.D.) respectively). These in vivo experiences gave me both the interest and comfort to look into biological questions with a reductionist approach from the opposite side, which is pushed to an extreme recently – one molecule at a time.
Transcription is an inherently stochastic, noisy, and multi-step process, in which fluctuations at every step can cause variations in RNA synthesis, and affect physiology and differentiation decisions in otherwise identical cells. However, it has been an experimental challenge to directly link the stochastic events at the promoter to transcript production. Here we established a fast fluorescence in situ hybridization (fastFISH) method that takes advantage of intrinsically unstructured nucleic acid sequences to achieve exceptionally fast rates of specific hybridization (∼10e7 M(-1)s(-1)), and allows deterministic detection of single nascent transcripts. Using a prototypical RNA polymerase, we demonstrated the use of fastFISH to measure the kinetic rates of promoter escape, elongation, and termination in one assay at the single-molecule level, at sub-second temporal resolution. The principles of fastFISH design can be used to study stochasticity in gene regulation, to select targets for gene silencing, and to design nucleic acid nanostructures. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.01775.001.
Enhancer-binding pluripotency regulators (Sox2 and Oct4) play a seminal role in embryonic stem (ES) cell-specific gene regulation. Here, we combine in vivo and in vitro single-molecule imaging, transcription factor (TF) mutagenesis, and ChIP-exo mapping to determine how TFs dynamically search for and assemble on their cognate DNA target sites. We find that enhanceosome assembly is hierarchically ordered with kinetically favored Sox2 engaging the target DNA first, followed by assisted binding of Oct4. Sox2/Oct4 follow a trial-and-error sampling mechanism involving 84–97 events of 3D diffusion (3.3–3.7 s) interspersed with brief nonspecific collisions (0.75–0.9 s) before acquiring and dwelling at specific target DNA (12.0–14.6 s). Sox2 employs a 3D diffusion-dominated search mode facilitated by 1D sliding along open DNA to efficiently locate targets. Our findings also reveal fundamental aspects of gene and developmental regulation by fine-tuning TF dynamics and influence of the epigenome on target search parameters.
The diverse transcriptional mechanisms governing cellular differentiation and development of mammalian tissue remains poorly understood. Here we report that TAF7L, a paralogue of TFIID subunit TAF7, is enriched in adipocytes and white fat tissue (WAT) in mouse. Depletion of TAF7L reduced adipocyte-specific gene expression, compromised adipocyte differentiation, and WAT development as well. Ectopic expression of TAF7L in myoblasts reprograms these muscle precursors into adipocytes upon induction. Genome-wide mRNA-seq expression profiling and ChIP-seq binding studies confirmed that TAF7L is required for activating adipocyte-specific genes via a dual mechanism wherein it interacts with PPARγ at enhancers and TBP/Pol II at core promoters. In vitro binding studies confirmed that TAF7L forms complexes with both TBP and PPARγ. These findings suggest that TAF7L plays an integral role in adipocyte gene expression by targeting enhancers as a cofactor for PPARγ and promoters as a component of the core transcriptional machinery.DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.00170.001.
Forty years of classical biochemical analysis have identified the molecular players involved in initiation of transcription by eukaryotic RNA polymerase II (Pol II) and largely assigned their functions. However, a dynamic picture of Pol II transcription initiation and an understanding of the mechanisms of its regulation have remained elusive due in part to inherent limitations of conventional ensemble biochemistry. Here we have begun to dissect promoter-specific transcription initiation directed by a reconstituted human Pol II system at single-molecule resolution using fluorescence video-microscopy. We detected several stochastic rounds of human Pol II transcription from individual DNA templates, observed attenuation of transcription by promoter mutations, observed enhancement of transcription by activator Sp1, and correlated the transcription signals with real-time interactions of holo-TFIID molecules at individual DNA templates. This integrated single-molecule methodology should be applicable to studying other complex biological processes.
Prior Publications (7 of 5)
Gene expression depends upon the antagonistic actions of chromatin remodeling complexes. While this has been studied extensively for the enzymes that covalently modify the tails of histones, the mechanism of how ATP-dependent remodeling complexes antagonize each other to maintain the proper level of gene activity is not known. The gene encoding a large subunit of ribonucleotide reductase, RNR3, is regulated by ISW2 and SWI/SNF, complexes that repress and activate transcription, respectively. Here, we studied the functional interactions of these two complexes at RNR3. Deletion of ISW2 causes constitutive recruitment of SWI/SNF, and conditional reexpression of ISW2 causes the repositioning of nucleosomes and reduced SWI/SNF occupancy at RNR3. Thus, ISW2 is required for restriction of access of SWI/SNF to the RNR3 promoter under the uninduced condition. Interestingly, the binding of sequence-specific DNA binding factors and the general transcription machinery are unaffected by the status of ISW2, suggesting that disruption of nucleosome positioning does not cause a nonspecific increase in cross-linking of all factors to RNR3. We provide evidence that ISW2 does not act on SWI/SNF directly but excludes its occupancy by positioning nucleosomes over the promoter. Genetic disruption of nucleosome positioning by other means led to a similar phenotype, linking repressed chromatin structure to SWI/SNF exclusion. Thus, incorporation of promoters into a repressive chromatin structure is essential for prevention of the opportunistic actions of nucleosome-disrupting activities in vivo, providing a novel mechanism for maintaining tight control of gene expression.
Probing chromatin structure with nucleases is a well-established method for determining the accessibility of DNA to gene regulatory proteins and measuring competency for transcription. A hallmark of many silent genes is the presence of translationally positioned nucleosomes over their promoter regions, which can be inferred by the sensitivity of the underlying DNA to nucleases, particularly micrococcal nuclease. The quality of this data is highly dependent upon the nuclear preparation, especially if the digestion products are analyzed by high-resolution detection methods such as reiterative primer extension. Here we describe a method to isolate highly purified nuclei from the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the use of micrococcal nuclease to map the positions of nucleosomes at the RNR3 gene. Nuclei isolated by this procedure are competent for many of the commonly used chromatin mapping and detection procedures.
Chromatin structure and nucleosome positioning play a crucial role in gene expression regulation. Nucleosome positioning is often inferred by the protection of underlying DNA to nucleases. Because nucleases are excluded by plasma membranes, chromatin mapping requires isolating nuclei from cells and digesting the chromatin in situ with nucleases. The quality of this data is highly dependent on the nuclei preparation. Here we describe a method to isolate nuclei from the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the use of micrococcal nuclease to map the chromatin structure at the RNR3 gene. Nuclei isolated by this procedure are competent for many of the common chromatin mapping and detection procedures.
In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the repressor Crt1 and the global corepressor Ssn6-Tup1 repress the DNA damage-inducible ribonucleotide reductase (RNR) genes. Initiation of DNA damage signals causes the release of Crt1 and Ssn6-Tup1 from the promoter, coactivator recruitment, and derepression of transcription, indicating that Crt1 plays a crucial role in the switch between gene repression and activation. Here we have mapped the functional domains of Crt1 and identified two independent repression domains and a region required for gene activation. The N terminus of Crt1 is the major repression domain, it directly binds to the Ssn6-Tup1 complex, and its repression activities are dependent upon Ssn6-Tup1 and histone deacetylases (HDACs). In addition, we identified a C-terminal repression domain, which is independent of Ssn6-Tup1 and HDACs and functions at native genes in vivo. Furthermore, we show that TFIID and SWI/SNF bind to a region within the N terminus of Crt1, overlapping with but distinct from the Ssn6-Tup1 binding and repression domain, suggesting that Crt1 may have activator functions. Crt1 mutants were constructed to dissect its activator and repressor functions. All of the mutants were competent for repression of the DNA damage-inducible genes, but a majority were "derepression-defective" mutants. Further characterization of these mutants indicated that they are capable of receiving DNA damage signals and releasing the Ssn6-Tup1 complex from the promoter but are selectively impaired for TFIID and SWI/SNF recruitment. These results imply a two-step activation model of the DNA damage-inducible genes and that Crt1 functions as a signal-dependent dual-transcription activator and repressor that acts in a transient manner.
The Ssn6-Tup1 corepressor complex regulates many genes in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Three mechanisms have been proposed to explain its repression functions: 1) nucleosome positioning by binding histone tails; 2) recruitment of histone deacetylases; and 3) direct interference with the general transcription machinery or activators. It is unclear if Ssn6-Tup1 utilizes each of these mechanisms at a single gene in a redundant manner or each individually at different loci. A systematic analysis of the contribution of each mechanism at a native promoter has not been reported. Here we employed a genetic strategy to analyze the contributions of nucleosome positioning, histone deacetylation, and Mediator interference in the repression of chromosomal Tup1 target genes in vivo. We exploited the fact that Ssn6-Tup1 requires the ISW2 chromatin remodeling complex to establish nucleosome positioning in vivo to disrupt chromatin structure without affecting other Tup1 repression functions. Deleting ISW2, the histone deacetylase gene HDA1, or genes encoding Mediator subunits individually caused slight or no derepression of RNR3 and HUG1. However, when Mediator mutations were combined with Deltaisw2 or Deltahda1 mutations, enhanced transcription was observed, and the strongest level of derepression was observed in triple Deltaisw2/Deltahda1/Mediator mutants. The increased transcription in the mutants was not due to the loss of Tup1 at the promoter and correlated with increased TBP cross-linking to promoters. Thus, Tup1 utilizes multiple redundant mechanisms to repress transcription of native genes, which may be important for it to act as a global corepressor at a wide variety of promoters.
The Imitation SWItch (ISWI) chromatin remodeling factors have been implicated in nucleosome positioning. In vitro, they can mobilize nucleosomes bi-directionally, making it difficult to envision how they can establish precise translational positioning of nucleosomes in vivo. It has been proposed that they require other cellular factors to do so, but none has been identified thus far. Here, we demonstrate that both ISW2 and TUP1 are required to position nucleosomes across the entire coding sequence of the DNA damage-inducible gene RNR3. The chromatin structure downstream of the URS is indistinguishable in Deltaisw2 and Deltatup1 mutants, and the crosslinking of Tup1 and Isw2 to RNR3 is independent of each other, indicating that both complexes are required to maintain repressive chromatin structure. Furthermore, Tup1 repressed RNR3 and blocked preinitiation complex formation in the Deltaisw2 mutant, even though nucleosome positioning was completely disrupted over the promoter and ORF. Our study has revealed a novel collaboration between two nucleosome-positioning activities in vivo, and suggests that disruption of nucleosome positioning is insufficient to cause a high level of transcription.
The RNA polymerase II general transcription factor TFIID is a complex containing the TATA-binding protein (TBP) and associated factors (TAFs). We have used a mutant allele of the gene encoding yeast TAF(II)68/61p to analyze its function in vivo. We provide biochemical and genetic evidence that the C-terminal alpha-helix of TAF(II)68/61p is required for its direct interaction with TBP, the stable incorporation of TBP into the TFIID complex, the integrity of the TFIID complex, and the transcription of most genes in vivo. This is the first evidence that a yeast TAF(II) other than TAF(II)145/130 interacts with TBP, and the implications of this on the interpretation of data obtained studying TAF(II) mutants in vivo are discussed. We have identified a high copy suppressor of the TAF68/61 mutation, TSG2, that has sequence similarity to a region of the SAGA subunit Ada1. We demonstrate that it directly interacts with TAF(II)68/61p in vitro, is a component of TFIID, is required for the stability of the complex in vivo, and is necessary for the transcription of many yeast genes. On the basis of these functions, we propose that Tsg2/TAF(II)48p is the histone 2A-like dimerization partner for the histone 2B-like TAF(II)68/61p in the yeast TFIID complex.