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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Live-cell imaging reveals enhancer-dependent Sox2 transcription in the absence of enhancer proximity.

  • Author(s): Alexander, Jeffrey M
  • Guan, Juan
  • Li, Bingkun
  • Maliskova, Lenka
  • Song, Michael
  • Shen, Yin
  • Huang, Bo
  • Lomvardas, Stavros
  • Weiner, Orion D
  • et al.
Abstract

Enhancers are important regulatory elements that can control gene activity across vast genetic distances. However, the underlying nature of this regulation remains obscured because it has been difficult to observe in living cells. Here, we visualize the spatial organization and transcriptional output of the key pluripotency regulator Sox2 and its essential enhancer Sox2 Control Region (SCR) in living embryonic stem cells (ESCs). We find that Sox2 and SCR show no evidence of enhanced spatial proximity and that spatial dynamics of this pair is limited over tens of minutes. Sox2 transcription occurs in short, intermittent bursts in ESCs and, intriguingly, we find this activity demonstrates no association with enhancer proximity, suggesting that direct enhancer-promoter contacts do not drive contemporaneous Sox2 transcription. Our study establishes a framework for interrogation of enhancer function in living cells and supports an unexpected mechanism for enhancer control of Sox2 expression that uncouples transcription from enhancer proximity.

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