High throughput screening identifies SOX2 as a Super Pioneer Factor that inhibits DNA methylation maintenance at its binding sites

Ludovica Vanzan, Hadrien Soldati, Victor Ythier, Santosh Anand, Nicole J Francis, Rabih Murr

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Feb 11, 2020
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Received Date: 8th January 20

Access of mammalian transcription factors (TFs) to regulatory regions, an essential event for transcription regulation, is hindered by chromatin compaction involving nucleosome wrapping, repressive histone modifications and DNA methylation. Moreover, methylation of TF binding sites (TBSs) affects TF binding affinity to these sites. Remarkably, a special class of TFs called pioneer transcription factors (PFs) can access nucleosomal DNA, leading to nucleosome remodelling and chromatin opening. However, whether PFs can bind to methylated sites and induce DNA demethylation is largely unknown.
Here, we set up a highly parallelized approach to investigate PF ability to bind methylated DNA and induce demethylation. Our results indicate that the interdependence between DNA methylation and TF binding is more complex than previously thought, even within a select group of TFs that have a strong pioneering activity; while most PFs do not induce changes in DNA methylation at their binding sites, we identified PFs that can protect DNA from methylation and PFs that can induce DNA demethylation at methylated binding sites. We called the latter “super pioneer transcription factors” (SPFs), as they are seemingly able to overcome several types of repressive epigenetic marks. Importantly, while most SPFs induce TET-dependent active DNA demethylation, SOX2 binding leads to passive demethylation by inhibition of the maintenance methyltransferase DNMT1 during replication. This important finding suggests a novel mechanism allowing TFs to interfere with the epigenetic memory during DNA replication.

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This is an abstract of a preprint hosted on an independent third party site. It has not been peer reviewed but is currently under consideration at Nature Communications.

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