Regulatory dynamics of 11p13 suggest a role for EHF in modifying CF lung disease severity

Stolzenburg, L. R.; Yang, R.; Kerschner, J. L.; Fossum, S.; Xu, M.; Hoffmann, A.; Lamar, K. M.; Ghosh, S.; Wachtel, S.; Leir, S. H.; Harris, A.

Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 May 27; 45(15):8773-8784


Mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene cause cystic fibrosis (CF), but are not good predictors of lung phenotype. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) previously identified additional genomic sites associated with CF lung disease severity. One of these, at chromosome 11p13, is an intergenic region between Ets homologous factor (EHF) and Apaf-1 interacting protein (APIP). Our goal was to determine the functional significance of this region, which being intergenic is probably regulatory. To identify cis-acting elements, we used DNase-seq and H3K4me1 and H3K27Ac ChIP-seq to map open and active chromatin respectively, in lung epithelial cells. Two elements showed strong enhancer activity for the promoters of EHF and the 5' adjacent gene E47 like ETS transcription factor 5 (ELF5) in reporter gene assays. No enhancers of the APIP promoter were found. Circular chromosome conformation capture (4C-seq) identified direct physical interactions of elements within 11p13. This confirmed the enhancer-promoter associations, identified additional interacting elements and defined topologically associating domain (TAD) boundaries, enriched for CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF). No strong interactions were observed with the APIP promoter, which lies outside the main TAD encompassing the GWAS signal. These results focus attention on the role of EHF in modifying CF lung disease severity.

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