Sex chromosome dosage compensation in Drosophila provides a model for understanding how chromatin organization can modulate coordinate gene regulation. Male Drosophila increase the transcript levels of genes on the single male X approximately two-fold to equal the gene expression in females, which have two X-chromosomes. Dosage compensation is mediated by the Male-Specific Lethal (MSL) histone acetyltransferase complex. Five core components of the MSL complex were identified by genetic screens for genes that are specifically required for male viability and are dispensable for females. However, because dosage compensation must interface with the general transcriptional machinery, it is likely that identifying additional regulators that are not strictly male-specific will be key to understanding the process at a mechanistic level. Such regulators would not have been recovered from previous male-specific lethal screening strategies. Therefore, we have performed a cell culture-based, genome-wide RNAi screen to search for factors required for MSL targeting or function. Here we focus on the discovery of proteins that function to promote MSL complex recruitment to "chromatin entry sites," which are proposed to be the initial sites of MSL targeting. We find that components of the NSL (Non-specific lethal) complex, and a previously unstudied zinc-finger protein, facilitate MSL targeting and display a striking enrichment at MSL entry sites. Identification of these factors provides new insight into how MSL complex establishes the specialized hyperactive chromatin required for dosage compensation in Drosophila.
Chromatin environments differ greatly within a eukaryotic genome, depending on expression state, chromosomal location, and nuclear position. In genomic regions characterized by high repeat content and high gene density, chromatin structure must silence transposable elements but permit expression of embedded genes. We have investigated one such region, chromosome 4 of Drosophila melanogaster. Using chromatin-immunoprecipitation followed by microarray (ChIP-chip) analysis, we examined enrichment patterns of 20 histone modifications and 25 chromosomal proteins in S2 and BG3 cells, as well as the changes in several marks resulting from mutations in key proteins. Active genes on chromosome 4 are distinct from those in euchromatin or pericentric heterochromatin: while there is a depletion of silencing marks at the transcription start sites (TSSs), HP1a and H3K9me3, but not H3K9me2, are enriched strongly over gene bodies. Intriguingly, genes on chromosome 4 are less frequently associated with paused polymerase. However, when the chromatin is altered by depleting HP1a or POF, the RNA pol II enrichment patterns of many chromosome 4 genes shift, showing a significant decrease over gene bodies but not at TSSs, accompanied by lower expression of those genes. Chromosome 4 genes have a low incidence of TRL/GAGA factor binding sites and a low T(m) downstream of the TSS, characteristics that could contribute to a low incidence of RNA polymerase pausing. Our data also indicate that EGG and POF jointly regulate H3K9 methylation and promote HP1a binding over gene bodies, while HP1a targeting and H3K9 methylation are maintained at the repeats by an independent mechanism. The HP1a-enriched, POF-associated chromatin structure over the gene bodies may represent one type of adaptation for genes embedded in repetitive DNA.
The Drosophila MSL complex mediates dosage compensation by increasing transcription of the single X chromosome in males approximately two-fold. This is accomplished through recognition of the X chromosome and subsequent acetylation of histone H4K16 on X-linked genes. Initial binding to the X is thought to occur at "entry sites" that contain a consensus sequence motif ("MSL recognition element" or MRE). However, this motif is only ∼2 fold enriched on X, and only a fraction of the motifs on X are initially targeted. Here we ask whether chromatin context could distinguish between utilized and non-utilized copies of the motif, by comparing their relative enrichment for histone modifications and chromosomal proteins mapped in the modENCODE project. Through a comparative analysis of the chromatin features in male S2 cells (which contain MSL complex) and female Kc cells (which lack the complex), we find that the presence of active chromatin modifications, together with an elevated local GC content in the surrounding sequences, has strong predictive value for functional MSL entry sites, independent of MSL binding. We tested these sites for function in Kc cells by RNAi knockdown of Sxl, resulting in induction of MSL complex. We show that ectopic MSL expression in Kc cells leads to H4K16 acetylation around these sites and a relative increase in X chromosome transcription. Collectively, our results support a model in which a pre-existing active chromatin environment, coincident with H3K36me3, contributes to MSL entry site selection. The consequences of MSL targeting of the male X chromosome include increase in nucleosome lability, enrichment for H4K16 acetylation and JIL-1 kinase, and depletion of linker histone H1 on active X-linked genes. Our analysis can serve as a model for identifying chromatin and local sequence features that may contribute to selection of functional protein binding sites in the genome.
In Drosophila, X chromosome dosage compensation requires the male-specific lethal (MSL) complex, which associates with actively transcribed genes on the single male X chromosome to upregulate transcription approximately 2-fold. We found that on the male X chromosome, or when MSL complex is ectopically localized to an autosome, histone H3K36 trimethylation (H3K36me3) is a strong predictor of MSL binding. We isolated mutants lacking Set2, the H3K36me3 methyltransferase, and found that Set2 is an essential gene in both sexes of Drosophila. In set2 mutant males, MSL complex maintains X specificity but exhibits reduced binding to target genes. Furthermore, recombinant MSL3 protein preferentially binds nucleosomes marked by H3K36me3 in vitro. Our results support a model in which MSL complex uses high-affinity sites to initially recognize the X chromosome and then associates with many of its targets through sequence-independent features of transcribed genes.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a complex disorder associated with multiple genetic, epigenetic, developmental, and environmental factors. Animal models of type 2 diabetes differ based on diet, drug treatment, and gene knockouts, and yet all display the clinical hallmarks of hyperglycemia and insulin resistance in peripheral tissue. The recent advances in gene-expression microarray technologies present an unprecedented opportunity to study type 2 diabetes mellitus at a genome-wide scale and across different models. To date, a key challenge has been to identify the biological processes or signaling pathways that play significant roles in the disorder. Here, using a network-based analysis methodology, we identified two sets of genes, associated with insulin signaling and a network of nuclear receptors, which are recurrent in a statistically significant number of diabetes and insulin resistance models and transcriptionally altered across diverse tissue types. We additionally identified a network of protein-protein interactions between members from the two gene sets that may facilitate signaling between them. Taken together, the results illustrate the benefits of integrating high-throughput microarray studies, together with protein-protein interaction networks, in elucidating the underlying biological processes associated with a complex disorder.