X inactive-specific transcript (Xist) is a long noncoding RNA that plays an essential role in X chromosome inactivation. Although Xist RNA, like common protein-coding mRNAs, is transcribed by RNA polymerase II, spliced and polyadenylated, it is retained in the nucleus and associates with the X chromosome it originates from. It has been assumed that Xist RNA recruits proteins involved in epigenetic modifications and chromatin compaction to the X chromosome. One of the major proteins constituting the nuclear matrix, hnRNP U, has been shown to be required for the association of Xist RNA with the inactive X chromosome (Xi). In this study, we found that the first 950-nt sequence of Xist RNA had the potential to associate with chromatin in a manner independent of hnRNP U. Furthermore, its chromatin association is apparently dependent on the presence of an intact A-repeat sequence, which is one of the repeats in Xist/XIST RNA conserved among many mammalian species, and has been shown to be important for Xist RNA-mediated silencing. Taking this unexpected finding and a previous study demonstrating the effect of Xist RNA lacking the A-repeat on the formation of the silent heterochromatin domain together, we suggest that the A-repeat captures chromatin near the initial loading site of Xist RNA and relocates it into the core of the heterochromatin domain.
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