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5-Formylcytosine controls nucleosome positioning through covalent histone-DNA interaction

By Eun-Ang Raiber, Guillem Portella, Sergio Martínez Cuesta, Robyn Hardisty, Pierre Murat, Zhe Li, Mario Iurlaro, Wendy Dean, Julia Spindel, Dario Beraldi, Mark A. Dawson, Wolf Reik, Shankar Balasubramanian

Posted 24 Nov 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/224444

Nucleosomes are the basic unit of chromatin that ensure genome integrity and control access to the genetic information. The organization of nucleosomes is influenced by the underlying DNA sequence itself, transcription factors or other transcriptional machinery associated proteins and chromatin remodeling complexes. Herein, we show that the naturally occurring DNA modification, 5-formylcytosine (5fC) contributes to the positioning of nucleosomes. We show that the ability of 5fC to position nucleosomes in vitro is associated with the formation of covalent interactions between histone residues and 5fC in the form of Schiff bases. We demonstrate that similar interactions can occur in a cellular environment and define their specific genomic loci in mouse embryonic stem cells. Collectively, our findings identify 5fC as a determinant of nucleosomal organization in which 5fC plays a role in establishing distinct regulatory regions that are linked to gene expression Our study provides a previously unknown molecular mechanism, involving the formation of reversible-covalent bonds between chromatin and DNA that supports a molecular linkage between DNA sequence, DNA base modification and chromatin structure.

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