KRAB zinc finger protein ZNF676 controls the transcriptional influence of LTR12-related endogenous retrovirus sequences.
BACKGROUND: Transposable element-embedded regulatory sequences (TEeRS) and their KRAB-containing zinc finger protein (KZFP) controllers are increasingly recognized as modulators of gene expression. We aim to characterize the contribution of this system to gene regulation in early human development and germ cells. RESULTS: Here, after studying genes driven by the long terminal repeat (LTR) of endogenous retroviruses, we identify the ape-restricted ZNF676 as the sequence-specific repressor of a subset of contemporary LTR12 integrants responsible for a large fraction of transpochimeric gene transcripts (TcGTs) generated during human early embryogenesis. We go on to reveal that the binding of this KZFP correlates with the epigenetic marking of these TEeRS in the germline, and is crucial to the control of genes involved in ciliogenesis/flagellogenesis, a biological process that dates back to the last common ancestor of eukaryotes. CONCLUSION: These results illustrate how KZFPs and their TE targets contribute to the evolutionary turnover of transcription networks and participate in the transgenerational inheritance of epigenetic traits.
Funder: schweizerischer nationalfonds zur förderung der wissenschaftlichen forschung; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.13039/501100001711