G Kar, JK Kim, AA Kolodziejczyk, KN Natarajan, E Torlai Triglia, B Mifsud, S Elderkin, JC Marioni, A Pombo, SA Teichmann
Polycomb repressive complexes (PRCs) are important histone modifiers, which silence gene expression; yet, there exists a subset of PRC-bound genes actively transcribed by RNA polymerase II (RNAPII). It is likely that the role of Polycomb repressive complex is to dampen expression of these PRC-active genes. However, it is unclear how this flipping between chromatin states alters the kinetics of transcription. Here, we integrate histone modifications and RNAPII states derived from bulk ChIP-seq data with single-cell RNA-sequencing data. We find that Polycomb repressive complex-active genes have greater cell-to-cell variation in expression than active genes, and these results are validated by knockout experiments. We also show that PRC-active genes are clustered on chromosomes in both two and three dimensions, and interactions with active enhancers promote a stabilization of gene expression noise. These findings provide new insights into how chromatin regulation modulates stochastic gene expression and transcriptional bursting, with implications for regulation of pluripotency and development.Polycomb repressive complexes modify histones but it is unclear how changes in chromatin states alter kinetics of transcription. Here, the authors use single-cell RNAseq and ChIPseq to find that actively transcribed genes with Polycomb marks have greater cell-to-cell variation in expression.