A system for imaging the regulatory noncoding Xist RNA in living mouse embryonic stem cells

Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, 1030 Vienna, Austria.
Molecular biology of the cell (Impact Factor: 4.47). 05/2011; 22(14):2634-45. DOI: 10.1091/mbc.E11-02-0146
Source: PubMed


In mammals, silencing of one of the two X chromosomes in female cells compensates for the different number of X chromosomes between the sexes. The noncoding Xist RNA initiates X chromosome inactivation. Xist spreads from its transcription site over the X chromosome territory and triggers the formation of a repressive chromatin domain. To understand localization of Xist over one X chromosome we aimed to develop a system for investigating Xist in living cells. Here we report successful visualization of transgenically expressed MS2-tagged Xist in mouse embryonic stem cells. Imaging of Xist during an entire cell cycle shows that Xist spreads from a single point to a steady state when the chromosome is covered with a constant amount of Xist. Photobleaching experiments of the established Xist cluster indicate that chromosome-bound Xist is dynamic and turns over on the fully Xist covered chromosome. It appears that in interphase the loss of bound Xist and newly produced Xist are in equilibrium. We also show that the turnover of bound Xist requires transcription, and Xist binding becomes stable when transcription is inhibited. Our data reveal a strategy for visualizing Xist and indicate that spreading over the chromosome might involve dynamic binding and displacement.

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Available from: Rachael Walker, Mar 10, 2014
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    • "The organization of Xist RNA as distinct foci distributed throughout the Xi, as revealed by 3D-SIM, may encourage some reconsideration. Notably, as a hypothetical model, a focal organization of Xist was already suggested in 1996 by Clemson and coworkers [84] and further considered in Xist RNA tagging experiments in living ESCs [85]. 3D-SIM also provides an informative basis for the comparative assessment of the number of Xist RNA foci. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background A Xist RNA decorated Barr body is the structural hallmark of the compacted inactive X territory in female mammals. Using super-resolution three-dimensional structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM) and quantitative image analysis, we compared its ultrastructure with active chromosome territories (CTs) in human and mouse somatic cells, and explored the spatio-temporal process of Barr body formation at onset of inactivation in early differentiating mouse embryonic stem cells (ESCs). Results We demonstrate that all CTs are composed of structurally linked chromatin domain clusters (CDCs). In active CTs the periphery of CDCs harbors low-density chromatin enriched with transcriptionally competent markers, called the perichromatin region (PR). The PR borders on a contiguous channel system, the interchromatin compartment (IC), which starts at nuclear pores and pervades CTs. We propose that the PR and macromolecular complexes in IC channels together form the transcriptionally permissive active nuclear compartment (ANC). The Barr body differs from active CTs by a partially collapsed ANC with CDCs coming significantly closer together, although a rudimentary IC channel system connected to nuclear pores is maintained. Distinct Xist RNA foci, closely adjacent to the nuclear matrix scaffold attachment factor-A (SAF-A) localize throughout Xi along the rudimentary ANC. In early differentiating ESCs initial Xist RNA spreading precedes Barr body formation, which occurs concurrent with the subsequent exclusion of RNA polymerase II (RNAP II). Induction of a transgenic autosomal Xist RNA in a male ESC triggers the formation of an ‘autosomal Barr body’ with less compacted chromatin and incomplete RNAP II exclusion. Conclusions 3D-SIM provides experimental evidence for profound differences between the functional architecture of transcriptionally active CTs and the Barr body. Basic structural features of CT organization such as CDCs and IC channels are however still recognized, arguing against a uniform compaction of the Barr body at the nucleosome level. The localization of distinct Xist RNA foci at boundaries of the rudimentary ANC may be considered as snap-shots of a dynamic interaction with silenced genes. Enrichment of SAF-A within Xi territories and its close spatial association with Xist RNA suggests their cooperative function for structural organization of Xi.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · Epigenetics & Chromatin
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    ABSTRACT: Many organisms show major chromosomal differences between sexes. In mammals, females have two copies of a large, gene-rich chromosome, the X, whereas males have one X and a small, gene-poor Y. The imbalance in expression of several hundred genes is lethal if not dealt with by dosage compensation. The male-female difference is addressed by silencing of genes on one female X early in development. However, both males and females now have only one active X chromosome. This is compensated by twofold up-regulation of genes on the active X. This complex system continues to provide important insights into mechanisms of epigenetic regulation. Copyright © 2015 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; all rights reserved.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2015 · Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology
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    ABSTRACT: A large part of higher eukaryotic genomes is transcribed into RNAs lacking any significant open reading frame. This "non-coding part" has been shown to actively contribute to regulating gene expression, but the mechanisms are largely unknown. Particularly instructive examples are provided by the dosage compensation systems, which assure that the single X chromosome in male cells and the two X chromosomes in female cells give rise to similar amounts of gene product. Although this is achieved by very different strategies in mammals and fruit flies, long, non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are involved in both cases. Here we summarize recent progress towards unraveling the mechanisms, by which the Xist and roX RNAs mediate the selective association of regulators with individual target chromosomes, to initiate dosage compensation in mammals and fruit flies, respectively.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2012 · Biochimie
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