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Postberg, Jan; Heyse, Katharina; Cremer, Marion; Cremer, Thomas; Lipps, Hans J.: Spatial and temporal plasticity of chromatin during programmed DNA-reorganization in Stylonychia macronuclear development. In: Epigenetics & Chromatin 2008, 1:3




Background: In this study we exploit the unique genome organization of ciliates to characterize the biological function of histone modification patterns and chromatin plasticity for the processing of specific DNA sequences during a nuclear differentiation process. Ciliates are single-cell eukaryotes containing two morphologically and functionally specialized types of nuclei, the somatic macronucleus and the germline micronucleus. In the course of sexual reproduction a new macronucleus develops from a micronuclear derivative. During this process specific DNA sequences are eliminated from the genome, while sequences that will be transcribed in the mature macronucleus are retained. Results: We show by immunofluorescence microscopy, Western analyses and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) experiments that each nuclear type establishes its specific histone modification signature. Our analyses reveal that the early macronuclear anlage adopts a permissive chromatin state immediately after the fusion of two heterochromatic germline micronuclei. As macronuclear development progresses, repressive histone modifications that specify sequences to be eliminated are introduced de novo. ChIP analyses demonstrate that permissive histone modifications are associated with sequences that will be retained in the new macronucleus. Furthermore, our data support the hypothesis that a PIWI-family protein is involved in a transnuclear cross-talk and in the RNAi-dependent control of developmental chromatin reorganization. Conclusion: Based on these data we present a comprehensive analysis of the spatial and temporal pattern of histone modifications during this nuclear differentiation process. Results obtained in this study may also be relevant for our understanding of chromatin plasticity during metazoan embryogenesis.