The rapid transcriptional response to the transcription factor, glucocorticoid receptor (GR), including gene activation or repression, is mediated by the spatial association of genes with multiple GR binding sites (GBSs) over large genomic distances. However, only a minority of the GBSs have independent GR-mediated activating capacity, and GBSs with independent repressive activity were rarely reported. To understand the positive and negative effects of GR we mapped the regulatory environment of its gene targets. We show that the chromatin interaction networks of GR-activated and repressed genes are spatially separated and vary in the features and configuration of their GBS and other non-GBS regulatory elements. The convergence of the KLF4 pathway in GR-activated domains and the STAT6 pathway in GR-repressed domains, impose opposite transcriptional effects to GR, independent of hormone application. Moreover, the ROR and Rev-erb transcription factors serve as positive and negative regulators, respectively, of GR-mediated gene activation. We found that the spatial crosstalk between GBSs and non-GBSs provides a physical platform for sequestering the Ep300 co-activator from non-GR regulatory loci in both GR-activated and -repressed gene compartments. While this allows rapid gene repression, Ep300 recruitment to GBSs is productive specifically in the activated compartments, thus providing the basis for gene induction.
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© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Nucleic Acids Research.