The C. elegans Dosage Compensation Complex Propagates Dynamically and Independently of X Chromosome Sequence

Sevinç Ercan, Lindsay L. Dick, Jason D. Lieb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The C. elegans dosage compensation complex (DCC) associates with both X chromosomes of XX animals to reduce X-linked transcript levels. Five DCC members are homologous to subunits of the evolutionarily conserved condensin complex, and two noncondensin subunits are required for DCC recruitment to X. Results: We investigated the molecular mechanism of DCC recruitment and spreading along X by examining gene expression and the binding patterns of DCC subunits in different stages of development, and in strains harboring X;autosome (X;A) fusions. We show that DCC binding is dynamically specified according to gene activity during development and that the mechanism of DCC spreading is independent of X chromosome DNA sequence. Accordingly, in X;A fusion strains, DCC binding propagates from X-linked recruitment sites onto autosomal promoters as a function of distance. Quantitative analysis of spreading suggests that the condensin-like subunits spread from recruitment sites to promoters more readily than subunits involved in initial X targeting. Conclusions: A highly conserved chromatin complex is appropriated to accomplish domain-scale transcriptional regulation during C. elegans development. Unlike X recognition, which is specified partly by DNA sequence, spreading is sequence independent and coupled to transcriptional activity. Similarities to the X recognition and spreading strategies used by the Drosophila DCC suggest mechanisms fundamental to chromosome-scale gene regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1777-1787
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 17 2009


  • DNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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