Development 2018 07 18;145(14). Epub 2018 Jul 18.
Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA
SOX9 controls cell lineage fate and differentiation in major biological processes. It is known as a potent transcriptional activator of differentiation-specific genes, but its earliest targets and its contribution to priming chromatin for gene activation remain unknown. Here, we address this knowledge gap using chondrogenesis as a model system. By profiling the whole transcriptome and the whole epigenome of wild-type and -deficient mouse embryo limb buds, we uncover multiple structural and regulatory genes, including , , and , as specific markers of precartilaginous condensation, and we provide evidence of their direct transactivation by SOX9. Intriguingly, we find that SOX9 helps remove epigenetic signatures of transcriptional repression and establish active-promoter and active-enhancer marks at precartilage- and cartilage-specific loci, but is not absolutely required to initiate these changes and activate transcription. Altogether, these findings widen our current knowledge of SOX9 targets in early chondrogenesis and call for new studies to identify the pioneer and transactivating factors that act upstream of or along with SOX9 to prompt chromatin remodeling and specific gene activation at the onset of chondrogenesis and other processes.