Epithelial Cells in 2D and 3D Cultures Exhibit Large Differences in Higher-order Genomic Interactions

Genomics Proteomics Bioinformatics. 2021 Feb 22;S1672-0229(21)00026-7. doi: 10.1016/j.gpb.2020.06.017. Online ahead of print.


Recent studies have characterized the genomic structures of many eukaryotic cells, often with a focus on their relation to gene expression. So far, these studies have largely only investigated cells grown in 2D culture, although the transcriptomes of 3D cultured cells are generally closer to their in vivo phenotypes. To examine the effects of spatial constraints on chromosome conformation, we investigated the genomic architecture of mouse hepatocytes grown in 2D and 3D cultures using in situ Hi-C. Our results reveal significant differences in higher-order genomic interactions, notably in compartment identity and strength as well as in topologically associating domain (TAD)-TAD interactions, but only minor differences at the TAD level. RNA-seq analysis reveals an up-regulation in the 3D cultured cells of those genes involved in physiological hepatocyte functions. We find that these genes are associated with a subset of the structural changes, suggesting that the differences in genomic structure are indeed critically important for transcriptional regulation. However, there are also many structural differences that are not directly associated with changed expression, whose cause remains to be determined. Overall, our results indicate that growth in 3D significantly alters higher-order genomic interactions, which may be consequential for a subset of genes that are important for the physiological functioning of the cell.

Keywords: 3D culture; Chromosome conformation; Compartments; In situ Hi-C; TAD.