Disruptions of topological chromatin domains cause pathogenic rewiring of gene-enhancer interactions

Darío G. Lupiáñez, Katerina Kraft, Verena Heinrich, Peter Krawitz, Francesco Brancati, Eva Klopocki, Denise Horn, Hülya Kayserili, John M. Opitz, Renata Laxova, Fernando Santos-Simarro, Brigitte Gilbert-Dussardier, Lars Wittler, Marina Borschiwer, Stefan A. Haas, Marco Osterwalder, Martin Franke, Bernd Timmermann, Jochen Hecht, Malte SpielmannAxel Visel, Stefan Mundlos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mammalian genomes are organized into megabase-scale topologically associated domains (TADs). We demonstrate that disruption of TADs can rewire long-range regulatory architecture and result in pathogenic phenotypes. We show that distinct human limb malformations are caused by deletions, inversions, or duplications altering the structure of the TAD-spanning WNT6/IHH/EPHA4/PAX3 locus. Using CRISPR/Cas genome editing, we generated mice with corresponding rearrangements. Both in mouse limb tissue and patient-derived fibroblasts, disease-relevant structural changes cause ectopic interactions between promoters and non-coding DNA, and a cluster of limb enhancers normally associated with Epha4 is misplaced relative to TAD boundaries and drives ectopic limb expression of another gene in the locus. This rewiring occurred only if the variant disrupted a CTCF-associated boundary domain. Our results demonstrate the functional importance of TADs for orchestrating gene expression via genome architecture and indicate criteria for predicting the pathogenicity of human structural variants, particularly in non-coding regions of the human genome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1012-1025
Number of pages14
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jan 5 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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