TAD-free analysis of architectural proteins and insulators

Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 Mar 16;46(5):e27. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkx1246.


The three-dimensional (3D) organization of the genome is intimately related to numerous key biological functions including gene expression and DNA replication regulations. The mechanisms by which molecular drivers functionally organize the 3D genome, such as topologically associating domains (TADs), remain to be explored. Current approaches consist in assessing the enrichments or influences of proteins at TAD borders. Here, we propose a TAD-free model to directly estimate the blocking effects of architectural proteins, insulators and DNA motifs on long-range contacts, making the model intuitive and biologically meaningful. In addition, the model allows analyzing the whole Hi-C information content (2D information) instead of only focusing on TAD borders (1D information). The model outperforms multiple logistic regression at TAD borders in terms of parameter estimation accuracy and is validated by enhancer-blocking assays. In Drosophila, the results support the insulating role of simple sequence repeats and suggest that the blocking effects depend on the number of repeats. Motif analysis uncovered the roles of the transcriptional factors pannier and tramtrack in blocking long-range contacts. In human, the results suggest that the blocking effects of the well-known architectural proteins CTCF, cohesin and ZNF143 depend on the distance between loci, where each protein may participate at different scales of the 3D chromatin organization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Genome / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Insulator Elements / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Protein Binding
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Transcription Factors