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Epigenetics and Chromatin

, 9:44

First Online: 19 October 2016Received: 27 July 2016Accepted: 05 October 2016


BackgroundIn C. elegans, in order to equalize gene expression between the sexes and balance X and autosomal expression, two steps are believed to be required. First, an unknown mechanism is hypothesized to upregulate the X chromosome in both sexes. This mechanism balances the X to autosomal expression in males, but creates X overexpression in hermaphrodites. Therefore, to restore the balance, hermaphrodites downregulate gene expression twofold on both X chromosomes. While many studies have focused on X chromosome downregulation, the mechanism of X upregulation is not known.

ResultsTo gain more insight into X upregulation, we studied the effects of chromatin condensation and histone acetylation on gene expression levels in male C. elegans. We have found that the H4K16 histone acetyltransferase MYS-1-Tip60 mediates dramatic decondensation of the male X chromosome as measured by FISH. However, RNA-seq analysis revealed that MYS-1 contributes only slightly to upregulation of gene expression on the X chromosome. These results suggest that the level of chromosome decondensation does not necessarily correlate with the degree of gene expression change in vivo. Furthermore, the X chromosome is more sensitive to MYS-1-mediated decondensation than the autosomes, despite similar levels of H4K16ac on all chromosomes, as measured by ChIP-seq. H4K16ac levels weakly correlate with gene expression levels on both the X and the autosomes, but highly expressed genes on the X chromosome do not contain exceptionally high levels of H4K16ac.

ConclusionThese results indicate that H4K16ac and chromosome decondensation influence regulation of the male X chromosome; however, they do not fully account for the high levels of gene expression observed on the X chromosomes.

KeywordsCaenorhabditis elegans Dosage compensation Gene expression Epigenetics Chromosome territories Chromatin Histone acetylation AbbreviationsDCCdosage compensation complex

HAThistone acetyltransferase

H4K16achistone H4 lysine 16 acetylation

FISHfluorescent in situ hybridization

YACyeast artificial chromosome


MSLmale-specific lethal

NSLnon-specific lethal

TSStranscription start site

TTStranscription termination site

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-s13072-016-0097-x contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Autor: Alyssa C. Lau - Kevin P. Zhu - Elizabeth A. Brouhard - Michael B. Davis - Györgyi Csankovszki


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