Widespread enhancer activation via ERα mediates estrogen response in vivo during uterine development

Nucleic Acids Res. 2018 Jun 20;46(11):5487-5503. doi: 10.1093/nar/gky260.


Little is known regarding how steroid hormone exposures impact the epigenetic landscape in a living organism. Here, we took a global approach to understanding how exposure to the estrogenic chemical, diethylstilbestrol (DES), affects the neonatal mouse uterine epigenome. Integration of RNA- and ChIP-sequencing data demonstrated that ∼80% of DES-altered genes had higher H3K4me1/H3K27ac signal in close proximity. Active enhancers, of which ∼3% were super-enhancers, had a high density of estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) binding sites and were correlated with alterations in nearby gene expression. Conditional uterine deletion of ERα, but not the pioneer transcription factors FOXA2 or FOXO1, prevented the majority of DES-mediated changes in gene expression and H3K27ac signal at target enhancers. An ERα dependent super-enhancer was located at the Padi gene locus and a topological connection to the Padi1 TSS was documented using 3C-PCR. Chromosome looping at this site was independent of ERα and DES exposure, indicating that the interaction is established prior to ligand signaling. However, enrichment of H3K27ac and transcriptional activation at this locus was both DES and ERα-dependent. These data suggest that DES alters uterine development and consequently adult reproductive function by modifying the enhancer landscape at ERα binding sites near estrogen-regulated genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Diethylstilbestrol / pharmacology*
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / genetics
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / metabolism*
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal / metabolism
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Forkhead Box Protein O1 / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics*
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 3-beta / genetics
  • Histone Deacetylases / metabolism
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Methylation / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Models, Animal
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid / genetics*
  • Uterus / embryology*


  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogens, Non-Steroidal
  • Forkhead Box Protein O1
  • Foxa2 protein, mouse
  • Foxo1 protein, mouse
  • Histones
  • Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 3-beta
  • Diethylstilbestrol
  • Histone Deacetylases