During skeletal muscle differentiation, the activation of some tissue-specific genes occurs immediately while others are delayed. The molecular basis controlling temporal gene regulation is poorly understood. We show that the regulatory sequences, but not other regions of genes expressed at late times of myogenesis, are in close physical proximity in differentiating embryonic tissue and in differentiating culture cells, despite these genes being located on different chromosomes. Formation of these inter-chromosomal interactions requires the lineage-determinant MyoD and functional Brg1, the ATPase subunit of SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling enzymes. Ectopic expression of myogenin and a specific Mef2 isoform induced myogenic differentiation without activating endogenous MyoD expression. Under these conditions, the regulatory sequences of late gene loci were not in close proximity, and these genes were prematurely activated. The data indicate that the spatial organization of late genes contributes to temporal regulation of myogenic transcription by restricting late gene expression during the early stages of myogenesis.
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