Higher-order chromatin structure regulates gene expression, and mutations in proteins mediating genome folding underlie developmental disorders known as cohesinopathies. However, the relationship between three-dimensional genome organization and embryonic development remains unclear. Here we define a role for bromodomain-containing protein 4 (BRD4) in genome folding, and leverage it to understand the importance of genome folding in neural crest progenitor differentiation. Brd4 deletion in neural crest results in cohesinopathy-like phenotypes. BRD4 interacts with NIPBL, a cohesin agonist, and BRD4 depletion or loss of the BRD4-NIPBL interaction reduces NIPBL occupancy, suggesting that BRD4 stabilizes NIPBL on chromatin. Chromatin interaction mapping and imaging experiments demonstrate that BRD4 depletion results in compromised genome folding and loop extrusion. Finally, mutation of individual BRD4 amino acids that mediate an interaction with NIPBL impedes neural crest differentiation into smooth muscle. Remarkably, loss of WAPL, a cohesin antagonist, rescues attenuated smooth muscle differentiation resulting from BRD4 loss. Collectively, our data reveal that BRD4 choreographs genome folding and illustrates the relevance of balancing cohesin activity for progenitor differentiation.
© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature America, Inc.