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Chromatin Architecture Emerges during Zygotic Genome Activation Independent of Transcription

Chromatin architecture is fundamental in regulating gene expression. To investigate when spatial genome organization is first established during development, we examined chromatin conformation during Drosophila embryogenesis and observed the emergence of chromatin architecture within a tight time window that coincides with the onset of transcription activation in the zygote. Prior to zygotic genome activation, the genome is mostly unstructured. Early expressed genes serve as nucleation sites for topologically associating domain (TAD) boundaries. Activation of gene expression coincides with the establishment of TADs throughout the genome and co-localization of housekeeping gene clusters, which remain stable in subsequent stages of development. However, the appearance of TAD boundaries is independent of transcription and requires the transcription factor Zelda for locus-specific TAD boundary insulation. These results offer insight into when spatial organization of the genome emerges and identify a key factor that helps trigger this architecture.

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