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Enhancer features that drive formation of transcriptional condensates

By Krishna Shrinivas, Benjamin R. Sabari, Eliot L. Coffey, Isaac A. Klein, Ann Boija, Alicia V. Zamudio, Jurian Schuijers, Nancy M. Hannett, Phillip A. Sharp, Richard A. Young, Arup K. Chakraborty

Posted 17 Dec 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/495606 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.molcel.2019.07.009)

Enhancers, DNA elements that regulate gene expression, contain transcription factor (TF) binding sites. TFs bind short sequence motifs that are present throughout the genome at much higher frequency than active enhancers, and so the features that define active enhancers are not well understood. We show that DNA elements with TF binding site valency, density, and binding affinity above sharply defined thresholds can recruit TFs and coactivators in condensates by the cooperative process of phase separation. We demonstrate that weak cooperative interactions between IDRs of TFs and coactivators in combination with specific TF-DNA interactions are required for forming such transcriptional condensates. IDR-IDR interactions are relatively non-specific with the same molecular interactions shared by many TFs and coactivators, and phase separation is a universal cooperative mechanism. Therefore, whether a genomic locus is an enhancer that can assemble a transcriptional condensate is determined predominantly by its cognate TFs binding site valency and density.

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