Paramecium contains a large vegetative macronucleus with high coding density and high polyploidy. Histone marks (H3K4me3) revealed no narrow peaks but broad domains along gene bodies. Intergenic regions were devoid of nucleosomes.
The unicellular ciliate Paramecium contains a large vegetative macronucleus with several unusual characteristics including an extremely high coding density and high polyploidy. As macronculear chromatin is believed to be devoid of heterochromatin our study characterizes the functional epigenomic organisation necessary for gene regulation and proper PolII activity. Histone marks (H3K4me3, H3K9ac, H3K27me3) revealed no narrow peaks but broad domains along gene bodies, whereas intergenic regions were devoid of nucleosomes. Our data implicates H3K4me3 levels inside ORFs to be the main factor to associate with gene expression and H3K27me3 appears to occur as a bistable domain with H3K4me3in plastic genes. Surprisingly, silent and lowly expressed genes show low nucleosome occupancy suggesting that gene inactivation does not involve increased nucleosome occupancy and chromatin condensation. Due to a high occupancy of Pol II along highly expressed ORFs, transcriptional elongation appears to be quite different to other species. This is supported by missing heptameric repeats in the C-terminal domain of Pol II and a divergent elongation system. Our data implies that unoccupied DNA is the default state, whereas gene activation requires nucleosome recruitment together with broad domains of H3K4me3. This could represent a buffer for paused Pol II along ORFs in absence of elongation factors of higher eukaryotes