Active and poised promoter states drive folding of the extended HoxB locus in mouse embryonic stem cells

Nat Struct Mol Biol. 2017 Jun;24(6):515-524. doi: 10.1038/nsmb.3402. Epub 2017 Apr 24.


Gene expression states influence the 3D conformation of the genome through poorly understood mechanisms. Here, we investigate the conformation of the murine HoxB locus, a gene-dense genomic region containing closely spaced genes with distinct activation states in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells. To predict possible folding scenarios, we performed computer simulations of polymer models informed with different chromatin occupancy features that define promoter activation states or binding sites for the transcription factor CTCF. Single-cell imaging of the locus folding was performed to test model predictions. While CTCF occupancy alone fails to predict the in vivo folding at genomic length scale of 10 kb, we found that homotypic interactions between active and Polycomb-repressed promoters co-occurring in the same DNA fiber fully explain the HoxB folding patterns imaged in single cells. We identify state-dependent promoter interactions as major drivers of chromatin folding in gene-dense regions.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Computer Simulation
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Genetic Loci*
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • Protein Binding
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Chromatin
  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA