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Analysis of intergenic transcription and histone modification across the human immunoglobulin heavy-chain locus.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2008-10-07)
Muslima Chowdhury, Omid Forouhi, Sandeep Dayal, Natalie McCloskey, Hannah J Gould, Gary Felsenfeld, David J Fear

Ig class switch recombination (CSR) is initiated by activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID) mediated deamination of the switch (S) regions; the resultant mismatch is processed to yield the DNA breaks required for recombination. Whereas many of the pathways involved in the mechanism of recombination have been identified, little is known about how CSR is regulated. AID action is known to require transcription of the Ig heavy-chain genes. However, it is not understood how AID is restricted to the Ig genes. Many aspects of gene expression are known to be regulated by modification of chromatin structure. In turn, chromatin is known to be regulated by several RNA-dependent activities. We have mapped the transcriptional and chromatin landscape of the human Ig heavy-chain locus to investigate the effect these activities have on CSR. We demonstrate that the Ig heavy-chain constant genes and 3'-regulatory regions are in an active chromatin conformation in unstimulated total human B cells: the locus undergoes both genic and intergenic transcription and possesses histone modifications associated with "active" chromatin (acetylated H3 and H4 and lysine 4 trimethylated H3). However, on cytokine stimulation, these modifications spread into the S regions, demonstrating a chromatin remodeling activity associated with switching. Surprisingly, after stimulation, the S regions also accumulate lysine 9 trimethylated H3, a modification previously associated with gene silencing. These data demonstrates that the Ig locus is maintained with a complex pattern of both positive and negative histone marks and suggest that some of these marks may have dual functions.

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