The transcriptional regulatory structure of plant genomes remains poorly defined relative to animals. It is unclear how many cis-regulatory elements exist, where these elements lie relative to promoters, and how these features are conserved across plant species. We employed the assay for transposase-accessible chromatin (ATAC-seq) in four plant species (Arabidopsis thaliana, Medicago truncatula, Solanum lycopersicum, and Oryza sativa) to delineate open chromatin regions and transcription factor (TF) binding sites across each genome. Despite 10-fold variation in intergenic space among species, the majority of open chromatin regions lie within 3 kb upstream of a transcription start site in all species. We find a common set of four TFs that appear to regulate conserved gene sets in the root tips of all four species, suggesting that TF-gene networks are generally conserved. Comparative ATAC-seq profiling of Arabidopsis root hair and non-hair cell types revealed extensive similarity as well as many cell-type-specific differences. Analyzing TF binding sites in differentially accessible regions identified a MYB-driven regulatory module unique to the hair cell, which appears to control both cell fate regulators and abiotic stress responses. Our analyses revealed common regulatory principles among species and shed light on the mechanisms producing cell-type-specific transcriptomes during development.
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