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64 Publications

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    03/13/14 | Single-molecule dynamics of enhanceosome assembly in embryonic stem cells.
    Chen J, Zhang Z, Li Li , Chen B, Revyakin A, Hajj B, Legant W, Dahan M, Lionnet T, Betzig E, Tjian R, Liu Z
    Cell. 2014 Mar 13;156:1274-85. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.01.062

    Enhancer-binding pluripotency regulators (Sox2 and Oct4) play a seminal role in embryonic stem (ES) cell-specific gene regulation. Here, we combine in vivo and in vitro single-molecule imaging, transcription factor (TF) mutagenesis, and ChIP-exo mapping to determine how TFs dynamically search for and assemble on their cognate DNA target sites. We find that enhanceosome assembly is hierarchically ordered with kinetically favored Sox2 engaging the target DNA first, followed by assisted binding of Oct4. Sox2/Oct4 follow a trial-and-error sampling mechanism involving 84-97 events of 3D diffusion (3.3-3.7 s) interspersed with brief nonspecific collisions (0.75-0.9 s) before acquiring and dwelling at specific target DNA (12.0-14.6 s). Sox2 employs a 3D diffusion-dominated search mode facilitated by 1D sliding along open DNA to efficiently locate targets. Our findings also reveal fundamental aspects of gene and developmental regulation by fine-tuning TF dynamics and influence of the epigenome on target search parameters.

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    Tjian LabLiu (Zhe) Lab
    03/10/14 | Charting Brachyury-mediated developmental pathways during early mouse embryogenesis.
    Lolas M, Valenzuela PD, Tjian R, Liu Z
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2014 Mar 10;111(12):4478-83. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1402612111

    To gain insights into coordinated lineage-specification and morphogenetic processes during early embryogenesis, here we report a systematic identification of transcriptional programs mediated by a key developmental regulator-Brachyury. High-resolution chromosomal localization mapping of Brachyury by ChIP sequencing and ChIP-exonuclease revealed distinct sequence signatures enriched in Brachyury-bound enhancers. A combination of genome-wide in vitro and in vivo perturbation analysis and cross-species evolutionary comparison unveiled a detailed Brachyury-dependent gene-regulatory network that directly links the function of Brachyury to diverse developmental pathways and cellular housekeeping programs. We also show that Brachyury functions primarily as a transcriptional activator genome-wide and that an unexpected gene-regulatory feedback loop consisting of Brachyury, Foxa2, and Sox17 directs proper stem-cell lineage commitment during streak formation. Target gene and mRNA-sequencing correlation analysis of the T(c) mouse model supports a crucial role of Brachyury in up-regulating multiple key hematopoietic and muscle-fate regulators. Our results thus chart a comprehensive map of the Brachyury-mediated gene-regulatory network and how it influences in vivo developmental homeostasis and coordination.

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    01/28/14 | Single-molecule tracking of the transcription cycle by sub-second RNA detection.
    Zhang Z, Revyakin A, Grimm JB, Lavis LD, Tjian R
    eLife. 2014 Jan 28;3:e01775. doi: 10.7554/eLife.01775

    Transcription is an inherently stochastic, noisy, and multi-step process, in which fluctuations at every step can cause variations in RNA synthesis, and affect physiology and differentiation decisions in otherwise identical cells. However, it has been an experimental challenge to directly link the stochastic events at the promoter to transcript production. Here we established a fast fluorescence in situ hybridization (fastFISH) method that takes advantage of intrinsically unstructured nucleic acid sequences to achieve exceptionally fast rates of specific hybridization (\~{}10e7 M(-1)s(-1)), and allows deterministic detection of single nascent transcripts. Using a prototypical RNA polymerase, we demonstrated the use of fastFISH to measure the kinetic rates of promoter escape, elongation, and termination in one assay at the single-molecule level, at sub-second temporal resolution. The principles of fastFISH design can be used to study stochasticity in gene regulation, to select targets for gene silencing, and to design nucleic acid nanostructures. DOI:

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    Tjian Lab
    01/08/13 | Dual functions of TAF7L in adipocyte differentiation.
    Zhou H, Kaplan T, Li Y, Grubisic I, Zhang Z, Wang PJ, Eisen MB, Tjian R
    eLife. 2013 Jan 8;2:e00170. doi: 10.7554/eLife.00170

    The diverse transcriptional mechanisms governing cellular differentiation and development of mammalian tissue remains poorly understood. Here we report that TAF7L, a paralogue of TFIID subunit TAF7, is enriched in adipocytes and white fat tissue (WAT) in mouse. Depletion of TAF7L reduced adipocyte-specific gene expression, compromised adipocyte differentiation, and WAT development as well. Ectopic expression of TAF7L in myoblasts reprograms these muscle precursors into adipocytes upon induction. Genome-wide mRNA-seq expression profiling and ChIP-seq binding studies confirmed that TAF7L is required for activating adipocyte-specific genes via a dual mechanism wherein it interacts with PPARγ at enhancers and TBP/Pol II at core promoters. In vitro binding studies confirmed that TAF7L forms complexes with both TBP and PPARγ. These findings suggest that TAF7L plays an integral role in adipocyte gene expression by targeting enhancers as a cofactor for PPARγ and promoters as a component of the core transcriptional machinery.DOI:

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    Tjian Lab
    08/01/12 | Transcription initiation by human RNA polymerase II visualized at single-molecule resolution.
    Revyakin A, Zhang Z, Coleman RA, Li Y, Inouye C, Lucas JK, Park S, Chu S, Tjian R
    Genes & Development. 2012 Aug 1;26:1691-702. doi: 10.1101/gad.194936.112

    Forty years of classical biochemical analysis have identified the molecular players involved in initiation of transcription by eukaryotic RNA polymerase II (Pol II) and largely assigned their functions. However, a dynamic picture of Pol II transcription initiation and an understanding of the mechanisms of its regulation have remained elusive due in part to inherent limitations of conventional ensemble biochemistry. Here we have begun to dissect promoter-specific transcription initiation directed by a reconstituted human Pol II system at single-molecule resolution using fluorescence video-microscopy. We detected several stochastic rounds of human Pol II transcription from individual DNA templates, observed attenuation of transcription by promoter mutations, observed enhancement of transcription by activator Sp1, and correlated the transcription signals with real-time interactions of holo-TFIID molecules at individual DNA templates. This integrated single-molecule methodology should be applicable to studying other complex biological processes.

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    Tjian LabLiu (Zhe) Lab
    09/02/11 | Control of embryonic stem cell lineage commitment by core promoter factor, TAF3.
    Liu Z, Scannell DR, Eisen MB, Tjian R
    Cell. 2011 Sep 2;146(5):720-31. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.08.005

    Deciphering the molecular basis of pluripotency is fundamental to our understanding of development and embryonic stem cell function. Here, we report that TAF3, a TBP-associated core promoter factor, is highly enriched in ES cells. In this context, TAF3 is required for endoderm lineage differentiation and prevents premature specification of neuroectoderm and mesoderm. In addition to its role in the core promoter recognition complex TFIID, genome-wide binding studies reveal that TAF3 localizes to a subset of chromosomal regions bound by CTCF/cohesin that are selectively associated with genes upregulated by TAF3. Notably, CTCF directly recruits TAF3 to promoter distal sites and TAF3-dependent DNA looping is observed between the promoter distal sites and core promoters occupied by TAF3/CTCF/cohesin. Together, our findings support a new role of TAF3 in mediating long-range chromatin regulatory interactions that safeguard the finely-balanced transcriptional programs underlying pluripotency.

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    Tjian Lab
    08/01/11 | Sub-nuclear compartmentalization of core promoter factors and target genes.
    Yao J, Tjian R
    Cell Cycle. 2011 Aug 1;10(15):2405-6
    03/15/11 | Subnuclear segregation of genes and core promoter factors in myogenesis. (With commentary)
    Yao J, Fetter RD, Hu P, Betzig E, Tjian R
    Genes & Development. 2011 Mar 15;25(6):569-80. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100640108

    Recent findings implicate alternate core promoter recognition complexes in regulating cellular differentiation. Here we report a spatial segregation of the alternative core factor TAF3, but not canonical TFIID subunits, away from the nuclear periphery, where the key myogenic gene MyoD is preferentially localized in myoblasts. This segregation is correlated with the differential occupancy of TAF3 versus TFIID at the MyoD promoter. Loss of this segregation by modulating either the intranuclear location of the MyoD gene or TAF3 protein leads to altered TAF3 occupancy at the MyoD promoter. Intriguingly, in differentiated myotubes, the MyoD gene is repositioned to the nuclear interior, where TAF3 resides. The specific high-affinity recognition of H3K4Me3 by the TAF3 PHD (plant homeodomain) finger appears to be required for the sequestration of TAF3 to the nuclear interior. We suggest that intranuclear sequestration of core transcription components and their target genes provides an additional mechanism for promoter selectivity during differentiation.

    Commentary: Jie Yao in Bob Tijan’s lab used a combination of confocal microscopy and dual label PALM in thin sections cut from resin-embedded cells to show that certain core transcription components and their target genes are spatially segregated in myoblasts, but not in differentiated myotubes, suggesting that such spatial segregation may play a role in guiding cellular differentiation.


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    Tjian Lab
    03/08/11 | Core promoter recognition complex changes accompany liver development.
    D’Alessio JA, Ng R, Willenbring H, Tjian R
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2011 Mar 8;108(10):3906-11. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100640108

    Recent studies of several key developmental transitions have brought into question the long held view of the basal transcriptional apparatus as ubiquitous and invariant. In an effort to better understand the role of core promoter recognition and coactivator complex switching in cellular differentiation, we have examined changes in transcription factor IID (TFIID) and cofactor required for Sp1 activation/Mediator during mouse liver development. Here we show that the differentiation of fetal liver progenitors to adult hepatocytes involves a wholesale depletion of canonical cofactor required for Sp1 activation/Mediator and TFIID complexes at both the RNA and protein level, and that this alteration likely involves silencing of transcription factor promoters as well as protein degradation. It will be intriguing for future studies to determine if a novel and as yet unknown core promoter recognition complex takes the place of TFIID in adult hepatocytes and to uncover the mechanisms that down-regulate TFIID during this critical developmental transition.

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    Tjian Lab
    11/19/10 | A new focus on plant sciences.
    McCormick SJ, Tjian R
    Science. 2010 Nov 19;330(6007):1021. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100640108