Chromatin Hyperacetylation Impacts Chromosome Folding by Forming a Nuclear Subcompartment

Mol Cell. 2020 Apr 2;78(1):112-126.e12. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2020.03.018.


Delineating how chromosomes fold at length scales beyond one megabase remains obscure relative to smaller-scale folding into TADs, loops, and nucleosomes. We find that rather than simply unfolding chromatin, histone hyperacetylation results in interactions between distant genomic loci separated by tens to hundreds of megabases, even in the absence of transcription. These hyperacetylated "megadomains" are formed by the BRD4-NUT fusion oncoprotein, interact both within and between chromosomes, and form a specific nuclear subcompartment that has elevated gene activity with respect to other subcompartments. Pharmacological degradation of BRD4-NUT results in collapse of megadomains and attenuation of the interactions between them. In contrast, these interactions persist and contacts between newly acetylated regions are formed after inhibiting RNA polymerase II initiation. Our structure-function approach thus reveals that broad chromatin domains of identical biochemical composition, independent of transcription, form nuclear subcompartments, and also indicates the potential of altering chromosome structure for treating human disease.

Keywords: BRD4-NUT; Hi-C; NUT carcinoma; PROTAC; Proteolysis Targeted Chimera; chromatin acetylation; chromosome architecture; nuclear organization; nuclear subcompartments.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Nucleus / genetics*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Chromatin / chemistry
  • Chromatin / drug effects
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Chromosomes, Mammalian / chemistry*
  • Chromosomes, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / metabolism


  • BRD4-NUT fusion oncogene protein, human
  • Chromatin
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion