Chromatin remodeling during in vivo neural stem cells differentiating to neurons in early Drosophila embryos

Cell Death Differ. 2017 Mar;24(3):409-420. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2016.135. Epub 2016 Nov 18.


Neurons are a key component of the nervous system and differentiate from multipotent neural stem cells (NSCs). Chromatin remodeling has a critical role in the differentiation process. However, its in vivo epigenetic regulatory role remains unknown. We show here that nucleosome depletion regions (NDRs) form in both proximal promoters and distal enhancers during NSCs differentiating into neurons in the early Drosophila embryonic development. NDR formation in the regulatory regions involves nucleosome shift and eviction. Nucleosome occupancy in promoter NDRs is inversely proportional to the gene activity. Genes with promoter NDR formation during differentiation are enriched for functions related to neuron development and maturation. Active histone-modification signals (H3K4me3 and H3K9ac) in promoters are gained in neurons in two modes: de novo establishment to high levels or increase from the existing levels in NSCs. The gene sets corresponding to the two modes have different neuron-related functions. Dynamic changes of H3K27ac and H3K9ac signals in enhancers and promoters synergistically repress genes associated with neural stem or progenitor cell-related pluripotency and upregulate genes associated with neuron projection morphogenesis, neuron differentiation, and so on. Our results offer new insights into chromatin remodeling during in vivo neuron development and lay a foundation for its epigenetic regulatory mechanism study of other lineage specification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly*
  • Drosophila / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian / cytology
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neural Stem Cells / cytology
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes
  • Transcription Factors