Convergence of topological domain boundaries, insulators, and polytene interbands revealed by high-resolution mapping of chromatin contacts in the early Drosophila melanogaster embryo

Elife. 2017 Nov 17;6:e29550. doi: 10.7554/eLife.29550.


High-throughput assays of three-dimensional interactions of chromosomes have shed considerable light on the structure of animal chromatin. Despite this progress, the precise physical nature of observed structures and the forces that govern their establishment remain poorly understood. Here we present high resolution Hi-C data from early Drosophila embryos. We demonstrate that boundaries between topological domains of various sizes map to DNA elements that resemble classical insulator elements: short genomic regions sensitive to DNase digestion that are strongly bound by known insulator proteins and are frequently located between divergent promoters. Further, we show a striking correspondence between these elements and the locations of mapped polytene interband regions. We believe it is likely this relationship between insulators, topological boundaries, and polytene interbands extends across the genome, and we therefore propose a model in which decompaction of boundary-insulator-interband regions drives the organization of interphase chromosomes by creating stable physical separation between adjacent domains.

Keywords: D. melanogaster; Hi-C; ZGA; chromatin topology; chromosomes; evolutionary biology; gene regulation; genes; genomics; insulator; polytene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Insulator Elements*
  • Polytene Chromosomes / metabolism*


  • Chromatin
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Histones