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WAPL maintains a cohesin loading cycle to preserve cell-type-specific distal gene regulation


The cohesin complex has an essential role in maintaining genome organization. However, its role in gene regulation remains largely unresolved. Here we report that the cohesin release factor WAPL creates a pool of free cohesin, in a process known as cohesin turnover, which reloads it to cell-type-specific binding sites. Paradoxically, stabilization of cohesin binding, following WAPL ablation, results in depletion of cohesin from these cell-type-specific regions, loss of gene expression and differentiation. Chromosome conformation capture experiments show that cohesin turnover is important for maintaining promoter-enhancer loops. Binding of cohesin to cell-type-specific sites is dependent on the pioneer transcription factors OCT4 (POU5F1) and SOX2, but not NANOG. We show the importance of cohesin turnover in controlling transcription and propose that a cycle of cohesin loading and off-loading, instead of static cohesin binding, mediates promoter and enhancer interactions critical for gene regulation.

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