Genomic methods in profiling DNA accessibility and factor localization

Chromosome Res. 2020 Mar;28(1):69-85. doi: 10.1007/s10577-019-09619-9. Epub 2019 Nov 27.


Recent advancements in next-generation sequencing technologies and accompanying reductions in cost have led to an explosion of techniques to examine DNA accessibility and protein localization on chromatin genome-wide. Generally, accessible regions of chromatin are permissive for factor binding and are therefore hotspots for regulation of gene expression; conversely, genomic regions that are highly occupied by histone proteins are not permissive for factor binding and are less likely to be active regulatory regions. Identifying regions of differential accessibility can be useful to uncover putative gene regulatory regions, such as enhancers, promoters, and insulators. In addition, DNA-binding proteins, such as transcription factors that preferentially bind certain DNA sequences and histone proteins that form the core of the nucleosome, play essential roles in all DNA-templated processes. Determining the genomic localization of chromatin-bound proteins is therefore essential in determining functional roles, sequence motifs important for factor binding, and regulatory networks controlling gene expression. In this review, we discuss techniques for determining DNA accessibility and nucleosome positioning (DNase-seq, FAIRE-seq, MNase-seq, and ATAC-seq) and techniques for detecting and functionally characterizing chromatin-bound proteins (ChIP-seq, DamID, and CUT&RUN). These methods have been optimized to varying degrees of resolution, specificity, and ease of use. Here, we outline some advantages and disadvantages of these techniques, their general protocols, and a brief discussion of their development. Together, these complimentary approaches have provided an unparalleled view of chromatin architecture and functional gene regulation.

Keywords: ATAC; CUT&RUN; ChIP; Chromatin; DNase; MNase; genomics; nucleosome occupancy; transcription factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin / genetics*
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly / genetics*
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods
  • Genomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • Chromatin