Chromatin is spatially organized into three-dimensional structures at different levels including A/B compartments, topologically associating domains and loops. The canonical CTCF-mediated loop extrusion model can explain the formation of loops. However, the organization mechanisms underlying long-range chromatin interactions such as interactions between A-A compartments are still poorly understood. Here we show that different from the canonical loop extrusion model, RYBP-mediated phase separation of CTCF organizes inter-A compartment interactions. Based on this model, we designed and verified an induced CTCF phase separation system in embryonic stem cells (ESCs), which facilitated inter-A compartment interactions, improved self-renewal of ESCs and inhibited their differentiation toward neural progenitor cells. These findings support a novel and non-canonical role of CTCF in organizing long-range chromatin interactions via phase separation.
© 2022. The Author(s) under exclusive licence to Center for Excellence in Molecular Cell Science, CAS.