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In female mammals, one of the two X chromosomes is transcriptionally silenced to equalize X-linked gene dosage relative to XY males, a process termed X chromosome inactivation. Mechanistically, this is thought to occur via directed recruitment of chromatin modifying factors by the master regulator, X-inactive specific transcript (Xist) RNA, which localizes in cis along the entire length of the chromosome. A well-studied example is the recruitment of polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2), for which there is evidence of a direct interaction involving the PRC2 proteins Enhancer of zeste 2 (Ezh2) and Supressor of zeste 12 (Suz12) and the A-repeat region located at the 5' end of Xist RNA. In this study, we have analyzed Xist-mediated recruitment of PRC2 using two approaches, microarray-based epigenomic mapping and superresolution 3D structured illumination microscopy. Making use of an ES cell line carrying an inducible Xist transgene located on mouse chromosome 17, we show that 24 h after synchronous induction of Xist expression, acquired PRC2 binding sites map predominantly to gene-rich regions, notably within gene bodies. Paradoxically, these new sites of PRC2 deposition do not correlate with Xist-mediated gene silencing. The 3D structured illumination microscopy was performed to assess the relative localization of PRC2 proteins and Xist RNA. Unexpectedly, we observed significant spatial separation and absence of colocalization both in the inducible Xist transgene ES cell line and in normal XX somatic cells. Our observations argue against direct interaction between Xist RNA and PRC2 proteins and, as such, prompt a reappraisal of the mechanism for PRC2 recruitment in X chromosome inactivation.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





2235 - 2240


Animals, Cell Line, Gene Silencing, Mice, Microscopy, Electron, Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis, Polycomb-Group Proteins, RNA, RNA, Long Noncoding, Transcription, Genetic