An interdependent network of functional enhancers regulates transcription and EZH2 loading at the INK4a/ARF locus

Cell Rep. 2021 Mar 23;34(12):108898. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.108898.


The INK4a/ARF locus encodes important cell-cycle regulators p14ARF, p15INK4b, and p16INK4a. The neighboring gene desert to this locus is the most reproducible GWAS hotspot that harbors one of the densest enhancer clusters in the genome. However, how multiple enhancers that overlap with GWAS variants regulate the INK4a/ARF locus is unknown, which is an important step in linking genetic variation with associated diseases. Here, we show that INK4a/ARF promoters interact with a subset of enhancers in the cluster, independent of their H3K27ac and eRNA levels. Interacting enhancers transcriptionally control each other and INK4a/ARF promoters over long distances as an interdependent single unit. The deletion of even a single interacting enhancer results in an unexpected collapse of the entire enhancer cluster and leads to EZH2 enrichment on promoters in an ANRIL-independent manner. Dysregulated genes genome-wide mimic 9p21-associated diseases under these scenarios. Our results highlight intricate dependencies of promoter-interacting enhancers on each other.

Keywords: 9p21; ANRIL; CDKN2A; EZH2; GWAS; INK4a/ARF; chromatin organization; enhancer clusters; enhancer network; super enhancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 9 / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16 / genetics
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16 / metabolism*
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic / genetics
  • Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 Protein / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genetic Loci
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16
  • Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 Protein