Research Article

Mechanisms of OCT4-SOX2 motif readout on nucleosomes

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Science  26 Jun 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6498, pp. 1460-1465
DOI: 10.1126/science.abb0074

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Engaging the nucleosome

Cell identity is defined by gene expression patterns that are established through the binding of specific transcription factors. However, nucleosomal units limit access of transcription factors to specific DNA motifs within the mammalian genome. To study how transcription factors bind such chromatinized, nucleosome-embedded motifs, Michael et al. focused on the pluripotency factors OCT4 and SOX2. They systematically quantified the relative affinities of these factors at different motif positions throughout the nucleosome, enabling structure determination of OCT4-SOX2–bound nucleosomes by cryo–electron microscopy. OCT4 and SOX2 bound cooperatively to strengthen DNA-binding affinity and resulted in DNA distortions that destabilized the nucleosome. This analysis reveals position-dependent binding modes that were validated in vivo, providing insights on how transcription factors read out chromatinized motifs.

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