Functional characterisation of cis-regulatory elements governing dynamic Eomes expression in the early mouse embryo.
Simon CS., Downes DJ., Gosden ME., Telenius J., Higgs DR., Hughes JR., Costello I., Bikoff EK., Robertson EJ.
The T-box transcription factor (TF) Eomes is a key regulator of cell fate decisions during early mouse development. The cis-acting regulatory elements that direct expression in the anterior visceral endoderm (AVE), primitive streak (PS) and definitive endoderm (DE) have yet to be defined. Here, we identified three gene-proximal enhancer-like sequences (PSE_a, PSE_b and VPE) that faithfully activate tissue-specific expression in transgenic embryos. However, targeted deletion experiments demonstrate that PSE_a and PSE_b are dispensable, and only VPE is required for optimal Eomes expression in vivo Embryos lacking this enhancer display variably penetrant defects in anterior-posterior axis orientation and DE formation. Chromosome conformation capture experiments reveal VPE-promoter interactions in embryonic stem cells (ESCs), prior to gene activation. The locus resides in a large (500 kb) pre-formed compartment in ESCs and activation during DE differentiation occurs in the absence of 3D structural changes. ATAC-seq analysis reveals that VPE, PSE_a and four additional putative enhancers display increased chromatin accessibility in DE that is associated with Smad2/3 binding coincident with transcriptional activation. By contrast, activation of the Eomes target genes Foxa2 and Lhx1 is associated with higher order chromatin reorganisation. Thus, diverse regulatory mechanisms govern activation of lineage specifying TFs during early development.