Cellular heterogeneity within embryonic and adult tissues is involved in multiple biological and pathological processes. Here, we present a simple epigenomic strategy that allows the functional dissection of cellular heterogeneity. By integrating H3K27me3 chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) and RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) data, we demonstrate that the presence of broad H3K27me3 domains at transcriptionally active genes reflects the heterogeneous expression of major cell identity regulators. Using dorsoventral patterning of the spinal neural tube as a model, the proposed approach successfully identifies the majority of previously known dorsoventral patterning transcription factors with high sensitivity and precision. Moreover, poorly characterized patterning regulators can be similarly predicted, as shown for ZNF488, which confers p1/p2 neural progenitor identity. Finally, we show that, as our strategy is based on universal chromatin features, it can be used to functionally dissect cellular heterogeneity within various organisms and tissues, thus illustrating its potential applicability to a broad range of biological and pathological contexts.
- gene expression
- spinal neutral tube