Chromatin dynamics enable transcriptional rhythms in the cnidarian Nematostella vectensis. uri icon


  • In animals, circadian rhythms are driven by oscillations in transcription, translation, and proteasomal degradation of highly conserved genes, resulting in diel cycles in the expression of numerous clock-regulated genes. Transcription is largely regulated through the binding of transcription factors to cis-regulatory elements within accessible regions of the chromatin. Chromatin remodeling is linked to circadian regulation in mammals, but it is unknown whether cycles in chromatin accessibility are a general feature of clock-regulated genes throughout evolution. To assess this, we applied an ATAC-seq approach using Nematostella vectensis, grown under two separate light regimes (light:dark (LD) and constant darkness (DD)). Based on previously identified N. vectensis circadian genes, our results show the coupling of chromatin accessibility and circadian transcription rhythmicity under LD conditions. Out of 180 known circadian genes, we were able to list 139 gene promoters that were highly accessible compared to common promoters. Furthermore, under LD conditions, we identified 259 active enhancers as opposed to 333 active enhancers under DD conditions, with 171 enhancers shared between the two treatments. The development of a highly reproducible ATAC-seq protocol integrated with published RNA-seq and ChIP-seq databases revealed the enrichment of transcription factor binding sites (such as C/EBP, homeobox, and MYB), which have not been previously associated with circadian signaling in cnidarians. These results provide new insight into the regulation of cnidarian circadian machinery. Broadly speaking, this supports the notion that the association between chromatin remodeling and circadian regulation arose early in animal evolution as reflected in this non-bilaterian lineage.

publication date

  • November 2019