An RNA-binding region regulates CTCF clustering and chromatin looping
Mammalian genomes are folded into Topologically Associating Domains (TADs), consisting of cell-type specific chromatin loops anchored by CTCF and cohesin. Since CTCF and cohesin are expressed ubiquitously, how cell-type specific CTCF-mediated loops are formed poses a paradox. Here we show RNase-sensitive CTCF self-association in vitro and that an RNA-binding region (RBR) mediates CTCF clustering in vivo. Intriguingly, deleting the RBR abolishes or impairs almost half of all chromatin loops in mouse embryonic stem cells. Disrupted loop formation correlates with abrogated clustering and diminished chromatin binding of the RBR mutant CTCF protein, which in turn results in a failure to halt cohesin-mediated extrusion. Thus, CTCF loops fall into at least 2 classes: RBR-independent and RBR-dependent loops. We suggest that evidence for distinct classes of RBR-dependent loops may provide a mechanism for establishing cell-specific CTCF loops regulated by RNAs and other RBR partners.
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