Chromatin organization marks exon-intron structure

An increasing body of evidence indicates that transcription and splicing are coupled, and it is accepted that chromatin organization regulates transcription. Little is known about the cross-talk between chromatin structure and exon-intron architecture. By analysis of genome-wide nucleosome-positioning data sets from humans, flies and worms, we found that exons show increased nucleosome-occupancy levels with respect to introns, a finding that we link to differential GC content and nucleosome-disfavoring elements between exons and introns. Analysis of genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation data in humans and mice revealed four specific post-translational histone modifications enriched in exons. Our findings indicate that previously described enrichment of H3K36me3 modifications in exons reflects a more fundamental phenomenon, namely increased nucleosome occupancy along exons. Our results suggest an RNA polymerase II–mediated cross-talk between chromatin structure and exon-intron architecture, implying that exon selection may be modulated by chromatin structure.

Authors: Schwartz S, Meshorer E and Ast G
Year of publication: 2009
Journal: Nature Structural & Molecular Biology volume 16, pages 990–995

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