Yanfen received her Ph.D from Huazhong Agricultural University where she studied the transcriptomic changes that caused the reproductive isolation in plants. Now, she is a postdoc in The Jackson Laboratory and focusing on the chromatin structure changes in development and disease that affect enhancer-promoter interactions, gene expressions and other cellular functions by the means of 3D-genome technologies.
The SOX2 transcription factor is critical for neural stem cell (NSC) maintenance and brain development. Through chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) and chromatin interaction analysis (ChIA-PET), we determined genome-wide SOX2-bound regions and Pol II-mediated long-range chromatin interactions in brain-derived NSCs. SOX2-bound DNA was highly enriched in distal chromatin regions interacting with promoters and carrying epigenetic enhancer marks. Sox2 deletion caused widespread reduction of Pol II-mediated long-range interactions and decreased gene expression. Genes showing reduced expression in Sox2-deleted cells were significantly enriched in interactions between promoters and SOX2-bound distal enhancers. Expression of one such gene, Suppressor of Cytokine Signaling 3 (Socs3), rescued the self-renewal defect of Sox2-ablated NSCs. Our work identifies SOX2 as a major regulator of gene expression through connections to the enhancer network in NSCs. Through the definition of such a connectivity network, our study shows the way to the identification of genes and enhancers involved in NSC maintenance and neurodevelopmental disorders.