Although population-level analyses revealed significant roles for CTCF and cohesin in mammalian genome organization, their contributions at the single-cell level remain incompletely understood. Here, we used a super-resolution microscopy approach to measure the effects of removal of CTCF or cohesin in mouse embryonic stem cells. Single-chromosome traces revealed cohesin-dependent loops, frequently stacked at their loop anchors forming multi-way contacts (hubs), bridging across TAD boundaries. Despite these bridging interactions, chromatin in intervening TADs was not intermixed, remaining separated in distinct loops around the hub. At the multi-TAD scale, steric effects from loop stacking insulated local chromatin from ultra-long range (>4 Mb) contacts. Upon cohesin removal, the chromosomes were more disordered and increased cell-cell variability in gene expression. Our data revise the TAD-centric understanding of CTCF and cohesin and provide a multi-scale, structural picture of how they organize the genome on the single-cell level through distinct contributions to loop stacking.
Hafner A • Park M • Berger SE • Murphy SE • Nora EP • Boettiger AN
May 4th, 2023