Research ArticleGENETICS

p63 establishes epithelial enhancers at critical craniofacial development genes

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Science Advances  01 May 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 5, eaaw0946
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw0946


The transcription factor p63 is a key mediator of epidermal development. Point mutations in p63 in patients lead to developmental defects, including orofacial clefting. To date, knowledge on how pivotal the role of p63 is in human craniofacial development is limited. Using an inducible transdifferentiation model, combined with epigenomic sequencing and multicohort meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies data, we show that p63 establishes enhancers at craniofacial development genes to modulate their transcription. Disease-specific substitution mutation in the DNA binding domain or sterile alpha motif protein interaction domain of p63, respectively, eliminates or reduces establishment of these enhancers. We show that enhancers established by p63 are highly enriched for single-nucleotide polymorphisms associated with nonsyndromic cleft lip ± cleft palate (CL/P). These orthogonal approaches indicate a strong molecular link between p63 enhancer function and CL/P, illuminating molecular mechanisms underlying this developmental defect and revealing vital regulatory elements and new candidate causative genes.

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