Chromatin remodeling of human subtelomeres and TERRA promoters upon cellular senescence: commonalities and differences between chromosomes.

PMID 23644601


Subtelomeres are patchworks of evolutionary conserved sequence blocks and harbor the transcriptional start sites for telomere repeat containing RNAs (TERRA). Recent studies suggest that the interplay between telomeres and subtelomeric chromatin is required for maintaining telomere function. To further characterize chromatin remodeling of subtelomeres in relation to telomere shortening and cellular senescence, we systematically quantified histone modifications and DNA methylation at the subtelomeres of chromosomes 7q and 11q in primary human WI-38 fibroblasts. Upon senescence, both subtelomeres were characterized by a decrease in markers of constitutive heterochromatin, suggesting relative chromatin relaxation. However, we did not find increased levels of markers of euchromatin or derepression of the 7q VIPR2 gene. The repressed state of the subtelomeres was maintained upon senescence, which could be attributed to a rise in levels of facultative heterochromatin markers at both subtelomeres. While senescence-induced subtelomeric chromatin remodeling was similar for both chromosomes, chromatin remodeling at TERRA promoters displayed chromosome-specific patterns. At the 7q TERRA promoter, chromatin structure was co-regulated with the more proximal subtelomere. In contrast, the 11q TERRA promoter, which was previously shown to be bound by CCCTC-binding factor CTCF, displayed lower levels of markers of constitutive heterochromatin that did not change upon senescence, whereas levels of markers of facultative heterochromatin decreased upon senescence. In line with the chromatin state data, transcription of 11q TERRA but not 7q TERRA was detected. Our study provides a detailed description of human subtelomeric chromatin dynamics and shows distinct regulation of the TERRA promoters of 7q and 11q upon cellular senescence.