Ovesen JL, Fan Y, Zhang X, Chen J, Medvedovic M, Xia Y, Puga A
The ability of chromatin to switch back and forth from open euchromatin to closed heterochromatin is vital for transcriptional regulation and genomic stability, but its dynamic structure is subject to disruption by exposure to environmental agents such as hexavalent chromium. Cr(VI) exposure disrupts chromatin remodeling mechanisms and causes chromosomal damage through formation of free radicals, Cr-DNA adducts, and DNA-Cr-protein cross-links. In addition, acute, high-concentration, and chronic, low-concentration exposures to Cr(VI) lead to significantly different transcriptional and genomic stability outcomes. We used mouse hepatoma Hepa-1c1c7 cells to investigate how transcriptional responses to chromium treatment might correlate with structural chromatin changes. We used Formaldehyde-Assisted Isolation of Regulatory Elements (FAIRE) analysis coupled with deep sequencing to identify regions of the genome that may switch between open and closed chromatin in response to exposure to varying Cr(VI) concentrations. At either Cr(VI) concentration, chromatin domains surrounding binding sites for AP-1 transcription factors become significantly open, whereas BACH2 and CTCF binding sites are open solely at the low and high concentrations, respectively. Parallel gene expression profiling using RNA-seq indicates that the structural chromatin changes caused by Cr(VI) affect gene expression levels in the target areas that vary depending on Cr(VI) concentration, but show no correlation between global changes in the overall transcriptional response and Cr(VI) concentration. Our results suggest that FAIRE may be a useful technique to map chromatin elements targeted by DNA damaging agents for which there is no prior knowledge of their specificity, and to identify subsequent transcriptomic changes induced by those agents.