Looping of upstream cis-regulatory elements is required for CFTR expression in human airway epithelial cells
NandyMazumdar M., Yin S., Paranjapye A., Kerschner JL., Swahn H., Ge A., Leir SH., Harris A.
© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research. The CFTR gene lies within an invariant topologically associated domain (TAD) demarcated by CTCF and cohesin, but shows cell-type specific control mechanisms utilizing different cis-regulatory elements (CRE) within the TAD. Within the respiratory epithelium, more than one cell type expresses CFTR and the molecular mechanisms controlling its transcription are likely divergent between them. Here, we determine how two extragenic CREs that are prominent in epithelial cells in the lung, regulate expression of the gene. We showed earlier that these CREs, located at -44 and -35 kb upstream of the promoter, have strong cell-type-selective enhancer function. They are also responsive to inflammatory mediators and to oxidative stress, consistent with a key role in CF lung disease. Here, we use CRISPR/Cas9 technology to remove these CREs from the endogenous locus in human bronchial epithelial cells. Loss of either site extinguished CFTR expression and abolished long-range interactions between these sites and the gene promoter, suggesting non-redundant enhancers. The deletions also greatly reduced promoter interactions with the 5' TAD boundary. We show substantial recruitment of RNAPII to the -35 kb element and identify CEBPβ as a key activator of airway expression of CFTR, likely through occupancy at this CRE and the gene promoter.