Gene bivalency at Polycomb domains regulates cranial neural crest positional identity

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The cranial neural crest cells are multipotent cells that provide head skeletogenic mesenchyme and are crucial for craniofacial patterning. We analyzed the chromatin landscapes of mouse cranial neural crest subpopulations in vivo. Early postmigratory subpopulations contributing to distinct mouse craniofacial structures displayed similar chromatin accessibility patterns yet differed transcriptionally. Accessible promoters and enhancers of differentially silenced genes carried H3K27me3/H3K4me2 bivalent chromatin marks embedded in large enhancer of zeste homolog 2–dependent Polycomb domains, indicating transcriptional poising. These postmigratory bivalent chromatin regions were already present in premigratory progenitors. At Polycomb domains, H3K27me3 antagonized H3K4me2 deposition, which was restricted to accessible sites. Thus, bivalent Polycomb domains provide a chromatin template for the regulation of cranial neural crest cell positional identity in vivo, contributing insights into the epigenetic regulation of face morphogenesis.

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