Promoter G-quadruplexes and transcription factors cooperate to shape the cell type-specific transcriptome

Nat Commun. 2021 Jun 23;12(1):3885. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-24198-2.


Cell identity is maintained by activation of cell-specific gene programs, regulated by epigenetic marks, transcription factors and chromatin organization. DNA G-quadruplex (G4)-folded regions in cells were reported to be associated with either increased or decreased transcriptional activity. By G4-ChIP-seq/RNA-seq analysis on liposarcoma cells we confirmed that G4s in promoters are invariably associated with high transcription levels in open chromatin. Comparing G4 presence, location and transcript levels in liposarcoma cells to available data on keratinocytes, we showed that the same promoter sequences of the same genes in the two cell lines had different G4-folding state: high transcript levels consistently associated with G4-folding. Transcription factors AP-1 and SP1, whose binding sites were the most significantly represented in G4-folded sequences, coimmunoprecipitated with their G4-folded promoters. Thus, G4s and their associated transcription factors cooperate to determine cell-specific transcriptional programs, making G4s to strongly emerge as new epigenetic regulators of the transcription machinery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA / chemistry
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism
  • G-Quadruplexes*
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods*
  • Humans
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics*
  • Protein Binding
  • Sp1 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Transcription Factor AP-1 / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcriptome / genetics*


  • Sp1 Transcription Factor
  • Transcription Factor AP-1
  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA