Topological domains are key architectural building blocks of chromosomes, but their functional importance and evolutionary dynamics are not well defined. We performed comparative high-throughput chromosome conformation capture (Hi-C) in four mammals and characterized the conservation and divergence of chromosomal contact insulation and the resulting domain architectures within distantly related genomes. We show that the modular organization of chromosomes is robustly conserved in syntenic regions and that this is compatible with conservation of the binding landscape of the insulator protein CTCF. Specifically, conserved CTCF sites are co-localized with cohesin, are enriched at strong topological domain borders, and bind to DNA motifs with orientations that define the directionality of CTCF's long-range interactions. Conversely, divergent CTCF binding between species is correlated with divergence of internal domain structure, likely driven by local CTCF binding sequence changes, demonstrating how genome evolution can be linked to a continuous flux of local conformation changes. We also show that large-scale domains are reorganized during genome evolution as intact modules.
Copyright © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.