Dynamic 3D chromatin architecture contributes to enhancer specificity and limb morphogenesis

Bjørt K. Kragesteen, Malte Spielmann, Christina Paliou, Verena Heinrich, Robert Schöpflin, Andrea Esposito, Carlo Annunziatella, Simona Bianco, Andrea M. Chiariello, Ivana Jerković, Izabela Harabula, Philine Guckelberger, Michael Pechstein, Lars Wittler, Wing Lee Chan, Martin Franke, Darío G. Lupiáñez, Katerina Kraft, Bernd Timmermann, Martin VingronAxel Visel, Mario Nicodemi, Stefan Mundlos*, Guillaume Andrey

*Corresponding author for this work
51 Citations (Scopus)


The regulatory specificity of enhancers and their interaction with gene promoters is thought to be controlled by their sequence and the binding of transcription factors. By studying Pitx1, a regulator of hindlimb development, we show that dynamic changes in chromatin conformation can restrict the activity of enhancers. Inconsistent with its hindlimb-restricted expression, Pitx1 is controlled by an enhancer (Pen) that shows activity in forelimbs and hindlimbs. By Capture Hi-C and three-dimensional modeling of the locus, we demonstrate that forelimbs and hindlimbs have fundamentally different chromatin configurations, whereby Pen and Pitx1 interact in hindlimbs and are physically separated in forelimbs. Structural variants can convert the inactive into the active conformation, thereby inducing Pitx1 misexpression in forelimbs, causing partial arm-to-leg transformation in mice and humans. Thus, tissue-specific three-dimensional chromatin conformation can contribute to enhancer activity and specificity in vivo and its disturbance can result in gene misexpression and disease.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Genetics
Issue number10
Pages (from-to)1463-1473
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 01.10.2018


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