Chromatin dynamics enable transcriptional rhythms in the cnidarian Nematostella vectensis

Eviatar N. Weizman, Miriam Tannenbaum, Ann M. Tarrant, Ofir Hakim, Oren Levy

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8 Scopus citations


In animals, circadian rhythms are driven by oscillations in transcription, translation, and proteasomal degradation of highly conserved genes, resulting in diel cycles in the expression of numerous clock-regulated genes. Transcription is largely regulated through the binding of transcription factors to cis-regulatory elements within accessible regions of the chromatin. Chromatin remodeling is linked to circadian regulation in mammals, but it is unknown whether cycles in chromatin accessibility are a general feature of clock-regulated genes throughout evolution. To assess this, we applied an ATAC-seq approach using Nematostella vectensis, grown under two separate light regimes (light:dark (LD) and constant darkness (DD)). Based on previously identified N. vectensis circadian genes, our results show the coupling of chromatin accessibility and circadian transcription rhythmicity under LD conditions. Out of 180 known circadian genes, we were able to list 139 gene promoters that were highly accessible compared to common promoters. Furthermore, under LD conditions, we identified 259 active enhancers as opposed to 333 active enhancers under DD conditions, with 171 enhancers shared between the two treatments. The development of a highly reproducible ATAC-seq protocol integrated with published RNA-seq and ChIP-seq databases revealed the enrichment of transcription factor binding sites (such as C/EBP, homeobox, and MYB), which have not been previously associated with circadian signaling in cnidarians. These results provide new insight into the regulation of cnidarian circadian machinery. Broadly speaking, this supports the notion that the association between chromatin remodeling and circadian regulation arose early in animal evolution as reflected in this non-bilaterian lineage.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1008397
JournalPLoS Genetics
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research leading for this paper was funded by the Moore Foundation (https://www., “Unwinding the Circadian Clock in a Sea Anemone” (Grant #4598) to A.T and O.L. The founders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We would like to thank Ms. Adi Zweifler and Dr. Noa Simon Blecher for their help with Nematostella cultures and assistance. This study represents partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Ph.D. thesis for E. Weizman at the Faculty of Life Sciences Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to and

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Weizman et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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