Predicting spatial and temporal gene expression using an integrative model of transcription factor occupancy and chromatin state.
Wilczynski, B., Liu, Y.H., Yeo, Z.X. & Furlong, E.E.
PLoS Comput Biol. 2012 Dec;8(12):e1002798. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002798.Epub 2012 Dec 6.
Precise patterns of spatial and temporal gene expression are central to metazoan complexity and act as a driving force for embryonic development. While there has been substantial progress in dissecting and predicting cis-regulatory activity, our understanding of how information from multiple enhancer elements converge to regulate a gene's expression remains elusive. This is in large part due to the number of different biological processes involved in mediating regulation as well as limited availability of experimental measurements for many of them. Here, we used a Bayesian approach to model diverse experimental regulatory data, leading to accurate predictions of both spatial and temporal aspects of gene expression. We integrated whole-embryo information on transcription factor recruitment to multiple cis-regulatory modules, insulator binding and histone modification status in the vicinity of individual gene loci, at a genome-wide scale during Drosophila development. The model uses Bayesian networks to represent the relation between transcription factor occupancy and enhancer activity in specific tissues and stages. All parameters are optimized in an Expectation Maximization procedure providing a model capable of predicting tissue- and stage-specific activity of new, previously unassayed genes. Performing the optimization with subsets of input data demonstrated that neither enhancer occupancy nor chromatin state alone can explain all gene expression patterns, but taken together allow for accurate predictions of spatio-temporal activity. Model predictions were validated using the expression patterns of more than 600 genes recently made available by the BDGP consortium, demonstrating an average 15-fold enrichment of genes expressed in the predicted tissue over a naive model. We further validated the model by experimentally testing the expression of 20 predicted target genes of unknown expression, resulting in an accuracy of 95% for temporal predictions and 50% for spatial. While this is, to our knowledge, the first genome-wide approach to predict tissue-specific gene expression in metazoan development, our results suggest that integrative models of this type will become more prevalent in the future.
Transcription factors: from enhancer binding to developmental control.
Spitz, F. & Furlong, E.E.
Nat Rev Genet. 2012 Sep;13(9):613-26. doi: 10.1038/nrg3207. Epub 2012 Aug 7.
Developmental progression is driven by specific spatiotemporal domains of gene expression, which give rise to stereotypically patterned embryos even in the presence of environmental and genetic variation. Views of how transcription factors regulate gene expression are changing owing to recent genome-wide studies of transcription factor binding and RNA expression. Such studies reveal patterns that, at first glance, seem to contrast with the robustness of the developmental processes they encode. Here, we review our current knowledge of transcription factor function from genomic and genetic studies and discuss how different strategies, including extensive cooperative regulation (both direct and indirect), progressive priming of regulatory elements, and the integration of activities from multiple enhancers, confer specificity and robustness to transcriptional regulation during development.
Tissue-specific analysis of chromatin state identifies temporal signatures of enhancer activity during embryonic development.
Bonn, S., Zinzen, R.P., Girardot, C., Gustafson, E.H., Perez-Gonzalez, A., Delhomme, N., Ghavi-Helm, Y., Wilczynski, B., Riddell, A. & Furlong, E.E.
Nat Genet. 2012 Jan 8;44(2):148-56. doi: 10.1038/ng.1064.
Chromatin modifications are associated with many aspects of gene expression, yet their role in cellular transitions during development remains elusive. Here, we use a new approach to obtain cell type-specific information on chromatin state and RNA polymerase II (Pol II) occupancy within the multicellular Drosophila melanogaster embryo. We directly assessed the relationship between chromatin modifications and the spatio-temporal activity of enhancers. Rather than having a unique chromatin state, active developmental enhancers show heterogeneous histone modifications and Pol II occupancy. Despite this complexity, combined chromatin signatures and Pol II presence are sufficient to predict enhancer activity de novo. Pol II recruitment is highly predictive of the timing of enhancer activity and seems dependent on the timing and location of transcription factor binding. Chromatin modifications typically demarcate large regulatory regions encompassing multiple enhancers, whereas local changes in nucleosome positioning and Pol II occupancy delineate single active enhancers. This cell type-specific view identifies dynamic enhancer usage, an essential step in deciphering developmental networks.
A transcription factor collective defines cardiac cell fate and reflects lineage history.
Junion, G.*, Spivakov, M.*, Girardot, C., Braun, M., Gustafson, E.H., Birney, E. & Furlong, E.E.
Cell. 2012 Feb 3;148(3):473-86.
Cell fate decisions are driven through the integration of inductive signals and tissue-specific transcription factors (TFs), although the details on how this information converges in cis remain unclear. Here, we demonstrate that the five genetic components essential for cardiac specification in Drosophila, including the effectors of Wg and Dpp signaling, act as a collective unit to cooperatively regulate heart enhancer activity, both in vivo and in vitro. Their combinatorial binding does not require any specific motif orientation or spacing, suggesting an alternative mode of enhancer function whereby cooperative activity occurs with extensive motif flexibility. A fraction of enhancers co-occupied by cardiogenic TFs had unexpected activity in the neighboring visceral mesoderm but could be rendered active in heart through single-site mutations. Given that cardiac and visceral cells are both derived from the dorsal mesoderm, this "dormant" TF binding signature may represent a molecular footprint of these cells' developmental lineage.