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LSSS 2014-2015


Life Sciences Seminar Series


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Job Dekker

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, USA

Two ways to fold the genome

Selected Publications

The Hitchhiker's guide to Hi-C analysis: practical guidelines.Lajoie BR, Dekker J, Kaplan N
Methods 2015 Jan 15; 72:65-75


Over the last decade, development and application of a set of molecular genomic approaches based on the chromosome conformation capture method (3C), combined with increasingly powerful imaging approaches, have enabled high resolution and genome-wide analysis of the spatial organization of chromosomes. The aim of this paper is to provide guidelines for analyzing and interpreting data obtained with genome-wide 3C methods such as Hi-C and 3C-seq that rely on deep sequencing to detect and quantify pairwise chromatin interactions.

Two ways to fold the genome during the cell cycle: insights obtained with chromosome conformation capture.Dekker J
Epigenetics Chromatin 2014; 7(1):25


Genetic and epigenetic inheritance through mitosis is critical for dividing cells to maintain their state. This process occurs in the context of large-scale re-organization of chromosome conformation during prophase leading to the formation of mitotic chromosomes, and during the reformation of the interphase nucleus during telophase and early G1. This review highlights how recent studies over the last 5 years employing chromosome conformation capture combined with classical models of chromosome organization based on decades of microscopic observations, are providing new insights into the three-dimensional organization of chromatin inside the interphase nucleus and within mitotic chromosomes. One striking observation is that interphase genome organization displays cell type-specific features that are related to cell type-specific gene expression, whereas mitotic chromosome folding appears universal and tissue invariant. This raises the question of whether or not there is a need for an epigenetic memory for genome folding. Herein, the two different folding states of mammalian genomes are reviewed and then models are discussed wherein instructions for cell type-specific genome folding are locally encoded in the linear genome and transmitted through mitosis, e.g., as open chromatin sites with or without continuous binding of transcription factors. In the next cell cycle these instructions are used to re-assemble protein complexes on regulatory elements which then drive three-dimensional folding of the genome from the bottom up through local action and self-assembly into higher order levels of cell type-specific organization. In this model, no explicit epigenetic memory for cell type-specific chromosome folding is required.

Organization of the mitotic chromosome.Naumova N, Imakaev M, Fudenberg G, Zhan Y, Lajoie BR, Mirny LA, Dekker J
Science 2013 Nov 22; 342(6161):948-53


Mitotic chromosomes are among the most recognizable structures in the cell, yet for over a century their internal organization remains largely unsolved. We applied chromosome conformation capture methods, 5C and Hi-C, across the cell cycle and revealed two distinct three-dimensional folding states of the human genome. We show that the highly compartmentalized and cell type-specific organization described previously for nonsynchronous cells is restricted to interphase. In metaphase, we identified a homogenous folding state that is locus-independent, common to all chromosomes, and consistent among cell types, suggesting a general principle of metaphase chromosome organization. Using polymer simulations, we found that metaphase Hi-C data are inconsistent with classic hierarchical models and are instead best described by a linearly organized longitudinally compressed array of consecutive chromatin loops.

Cohesin-based chromatin interactions enable regulated gene expression within preexisting architectural compartments.Seitan VC, Faure AJ, Zhan Y, McCord RP, Lajoie BR, Ing-Simmons E, Lenhard B, Giorgetti L, Heard E, Fisher AG, Flicek P, Dekker J, Merkenschlager M
Genome Res. 2013 Dec; 23(12):2066-77


Chromosome conformation capture approaches have shown that interphase chromatin is partitioned into spatially segregated Mb-sized compartments and sub-Mb-sized topological domains. This compartmentalization is thought to facilitate the matching of genes and regulatory elements, but its precise function and mechanistic basis remain unknown. Cohesin controls chromosome topology to enable DNA repair and chromosome segregation in cycling cells. In addition, cohesin associates with active enhancers and promoters and with CTCF to form long-range interactions important for gene regulation. Although these findings suggest an important role for cohesin in genome organization, this role has not been assessed on a global scale. Unexpectedly, we find that architectural compartments are maintained in noncycling mouse thymocytes after genetic depletion of cohesin in vivo. Cohesin was, however, required for specific long-range interactions within compartments where cohesin-regulated genes reside. Cohesin depletion diminished interactions between cohesin-bound sites, whereas alternative interactions between chromatin features associated with transcriptional activation and repression became more prominent, with corresponding changes in gene expression. Our findings indicate that cohesin-mediated long-range interactions facilitate discrete gene expression states within preexisting chromosomal compartments.

Exploring the three-dimensional organization of genomes: interpreting chromatin interaction data.Dekker J, Marti-Renom MA, Mirny LA
Nat. Rev. Genet. 2013 Jun; 14(6):390-403


How DNA is organized in three dimensions inside the cell nucleus and how this affects the ways in which cells access, read and interpret genetic information are among the longest standing questions in cell biology. Using newly developed molecular, genomic and computational approaches based on the chromosome conformation capture technology (such as 3C, 4C, 5C and Hi-C), the spatial organization of genomes is being explored at unprecedented resolution. Interpreting the increasingly large chromatin interaction data sets is now posing novel challenges. Here we describe several types of statistical and computational approaches that have recently been developed to analyse chromatin interaction data.