Association between active genes occurs at nuclear speckles and is modulated by chromatin environment.
Brown JM., Green J., das Neves RP., Wallace HA., Smith AJ., Hughes J., Gray N., Taylor S., Wood WG., Higgs DR., Iborra FJ., Buckle VJ.
Genes on different chromosomes can be spatially associated in the nucleus in several transcriptional and regulatory situations; however, the functional significance of such associations remains unclear. Using human erythropoiesis as a model, we show that five cotranscribed genes, which are found on four different chromosomes, associate with each other at significant but variable frequencies. Those genes most frequently in association lie in decondensed stretches of chromatin. By replacing the mouse alpha-globin gene cluster in situ with its human counterpart, we demonstrate a direct effect of the regional chromatin environment on the frequency of association, whereas nascent transcription from the human alpha-globin gene appears unaffected. We see no evidence that cotranscribed erythroid genes associate at shared transcription foci, but we do see stochastic clustering of active genes around common nuclear SC35-enriched speckles (hence the apparent nonrandom association between genes). Thus, association between active genes may result from their location on decondensed chromatin that enables clustering around common nuclear speckles.