Dynamics and function of distal regulatory elements during neurogenesis and neuroplasticity

Sudhir Thakurela, Sanjeeb Kumar Sahu, Angela Garding, Vijay K. Tiwari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Gene regulation in mammals involves a complex interplay between promoters and distal regulatory elements that function in concert to drive precise spatiotemporal gene expression programs. However, the dynamics of the distal gene regulatory landscape and its function in the transcriptional reprogramming that underlies neurogenesis and neuronal activity remain largely unknown. Here, we performed a combinatorial analysis of genome-wide data sets for chromatin accessibility (FAIRE-seq) and the enhancer mark H3K27ac, revealing the highly dynamic nature of distal gene regulation during neurogenesis, which gets progressively restricted to distinct genomic regions as neurons acquire a post-mitotic, terminally differentiated state. We further find that the distal accessible and active regions serve as target sites for distinct transcription factors that function in a stage-specific manner to contribute to the transcriptional program underlying neuronal commitment and maturation. Mature neurons respond to a sustained activity of NMDA receptors by epigenetic reprogramming at a large number of distal regulatory regions as well as dramatic reorganization of super-enhancers. Such massive remodeling of the distal regulatory landscape in turn results in a transcriptome that confers a transient loss of neuronal identity and gain of cellular plasticity. Furthermore, NMDA receptor activity also induces many novel prosurvival genes that function in neuroprotective pathways. Taken together, these findings reveal the dynamics of the distal regulatory landscape during neurogenesis and uncover novel regulatory elements that function in concert with epigenetic mechanisms and transcription factors to generate the transcriptome underlying neuronal development and activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1309-1324
Number of pages16
JournalGenome Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sep 2015


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