Comprehensively Profiling the Chromatin Architecture of Tissue Restricted Antigen Expression in Thymic Epithelial Cells Over Development
HANDEL AE., Shikama-Dorn N., Zhanybekova S., MAIO S., Graedel A., Zuklys S., Ponting C., HOLLANDER G.
Thymic epithelial cells (TEC) effect crucial roles in thymopoiesis including the control of negative thymocyte selection. This process depends on their capacity to express promiscuously genes encoding tissue-restricted antigens. This competence is accomplished in medullary TEC (mTEC) in part by the presence of the transcriptional facilitator AutoImmune REgulator, AIRE. AIRE-regulated gene transcription is marked by repressive chromatin modifications, including H3K27me3. When during TEC development these chromatin marks are established, however, remains unclear. Here we use a comprehensive ChIP-seq dataset of multiple chromatin modifications in different TEC subtypes to demonstrate that the chromatin landscape is established early in TEC differentiation. Much of the chromatin architecture found in mature mTEC was found to be present already over earlier stages of mTEC lineage differentiation as well as in non-TEC tissues. This was reflected by the fact that a machine learning approach accurately classified genes as AIRE-induced or AIRE-independent both in immature and mature mTEC. Moreover, analysis of TEC specific enhancer elements identified candidate transcription factors likely to be important in mTEC development and function. Our findings indicate that the mature mTEC chromatin landscape is laid down early in mTEC differentiation, and that AIRE is not required for large-scale re-patterning of chromatin in mTEC.