The chromatin remodeling complex NuRD establishes the poised state of rRNA genes characterized by bivalent histone modifications and altered nucleosome positions

Wenbing Xie, Te Ling, Yonggang Zhou, Weijun Feng, Qiaoyun Zhu, Henk G. Stunnenberg, Ingrid Grummt, Wei Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


rRNA genes (rDNA) exist in two distinct epigenetic states, active promoters being unmethylated and marked by euchromatic histone modifications, whereas silent ones are methylated and exhibit heterochromatic features. Here we show that the nucleosome remodeling and deacetylation (NuRD) complex establishes a specific chromatin structure at rRNA genes that are poised for transcription activation. The promoter of poised rRNA genes is unmethylated, associated with components of the preinitiation complex, marked by bivalent histone modifications and covered by a nucleosome in the "off" position, which is refractory to transcription initiation. Repression of rDNA transcription in growtharrested and differentiated cells correlateswith elevated association of NuRD and increased levels of poised rRNA genes. Reactivation of transcription requires resetting the promoter-bound nucleosome into the "on" position by the DNA-dependent ATPase CSB (Cockayne syndrome protein B). The results uncover a unique mechanism by which ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes with opposing activities establish a specific chromatin state and regulate transcription.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8161-8166
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - May 22 2012
Externally publishedYes



  • Cell differentiation
  • Epigenetic dynamics
  • NoRC
  • Poised chromatin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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