How subtle changes in 3D structure can create large changes in transcription [article]

Jordan Yupeng Xiao, Antonina Hafner, Alistair Boettiger
2020 bioRxiv   pre-print
Animal genomes are organized into topologically associated domains (TADs), which exhibit more intra-domain than inter-domain contact. However, the absolute difference in contact is usually no more than twofold, even though disruptions to TAD boundaries can change gene expression by 8-10 fold. Existing models fail to explain this superlinear transcriptional response to changes in genomic contact. Here, we propose a futile cycle model where an enzyme stimulated by association with its products
more » ... ith its products can exhibit bistability and hysteresis, allowing a small increase in enhancer-promoter contact to produce a large change in expression without obvious correlation between E-P contact and promoter activity. Through mathematical analysis and stochastic simulation, we show that this system can create an illusion of enhancer-promoter specificity and explain the importance of weak TAD boundaries. It also offers a mechanism to reconcile recent global cohesin loop disruption and TAD boundary deletion experiments. We discuss the model in the context of these recent controversial experiments. Together, these analyses advance our interpretation and understanding of cis-regulatory contacts in controlling gene expression, and suggest new experimental directions.
doi:10.1101/2020.10.22.351395 fatcat:drijx47fmnd6fahhvmsobui32y