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Cell Reports


XIST RNA triggers chromosome-wide gene silencing and condenses an active chromosome into a Barr body. Here, we use inducible human XIST to examine early steps in the process, showing that XIST modifies cytoarchitecture before widespread gene silencing. In just 2–4 h, barely visible transcripts populate the large “sparse zone” surrounding the smaller “dense zone”; importantly, density zones exhibit different chromatin impacts. Sparse transcripts immediately trigger immunofluorescence for H2AK119ub and CIZ1, a matrix protein. H3K27me3 appears hours later in the dense zone, which enlarges with chromosome condensation. Genes examined are silenced after compaction of the RNA/DNA territory. Insights into this come from the findings that the A-repeat alone can silence genes and rapidly, but only where dense RNA supports sustained histone deacetylation. We propose that sparse XIST RNA quickly impacts architectural elements to condense the largely non-coding chromosome, coalescing RNA density that facilitates an unstable, A-repeat-dependent step required for gene silencing.


XIST, A-Repeat, CIZ1, chromosome structure, H3K27, UbH2A, heterochromatin, Barr body, epigenetics, transcription


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