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Stratification of TAD boundaries identified in reproducible Hi-C contact matrices reveals preferential insulation of super-enhancers by strong boundaries

By Yixiao Gong, Charalampos Lazaris, Theodore Sakellaropoulos, Aurelie Lozano, Prabhanjan Kambadur, Panagiotis Ntziachristos, Iannis Aifantis, Aristotelis Tsirigos

Posted 24 May 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/141481 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-03017-1)

The metazoan genome is compartmentalized in megabase-scale areas of highly interacting chromatin known as topologically associating domains (TADs), typically identified by computational analyses of Hi-C sequencing data. TADs are demarcated by boundaries that are largely conserved across cell types and even across species, although, increasing evidence suggests that the seemingly invariant TAD boundaries may exhibit plasticity and their insulating strength can vary. However, a genome-wide characterization of TAD boundary strength in mammals is still lacking. A systematic classification and characterization of TAD boundaries may generate new insights into their function. In this study, we first use fused two-dimensional lasso as a machine learning method to improve Hi-C contact matrix reproducibility, and, subsequently, we categorize TAD boundaries based on their insulation score. We demonstrate that higher TAD boundary insulation scores are associated with elevated CTCF levels and that they may differ across cell types. Intriguingly, we observe that super-enhancer elements are preferentially insulated by strong boundaries, i.e. boundaries of higher insulation score. Furthermore, we perform a pan-cancer analysis to demonstrate that strong TAD boundaries and super-enhancer elements are frequently co-duplicated in cancer patients. Taken together, our findings suggest that super-enhancers insulated by strong TAD boundaries may be exploited, as a functional unit, by cancer cells to promote oncogenesis.

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