Molecular and cellular biology

Sequential histone modifications at Hoxd4 regulatory regions distinguish anterior from posterior embryonic compartments.

PMID 15340071


Hox genes are differentially expressed along the embryonic anteroposterior axis. We used chromatin immunoprecipitation to detect chromatin changes at the Hoxd4 locus during neurogenesis in P19 cells and embryonic day 8.0 (E8.0) and E10.5 mouse embryos. During Hoxd4 induction in both systems, we observed that histone modifications typical of transcriptionally active chromatin occurred first at the 3' neural enhancer and then at the promoter. Moreover, the sequential distribution of histone modifications between E8.0 and E10.5 was consistent with a spreading of open chromatin, starting with the enhancer, followed by successively more 5' intervening sequences, and culminating at the promoter. Neither RNA polymerase II (Pol II) nor CBP associated with the inactive gene. During Hoxd4 induction, CBP and RNA Pol II were recruited first to the enhancer and then to the promoter. Whereas the CBP association was transient, RNA Pol II remained associated with both regulatory regions. Histone modification and transcription factor recruitment occurred in posterior, Hox-expressing embryonic tissues, but never in anterior tissues, where such genes are inactive. Together, our observations demonstrate that the direction of histone modifications at Hoxd4 mirrors colinear gene activation across Hox clusters and that the establishment of anterior and posterior compartments is accompanied by the imposition of distinct chromatin states.

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