The modulation of chromatin structure is a key step in transcription regulation in mammalian cells and eventually determines lineage commitment and differentiation. USF1/2, Setd1a and NURF complexes interact to regulate chromatin architecture in erythropoiesis, but the mechanistic basis for this regulation is hitherto unknown. Here we showed that Setd1a and NURF complexes bind to promoters to control chromatin structural alterations and gene activation in a cell context dependent manner. In human primary erythroid cells USF1/2, H3K4me3 and the NURF complex were significantly co-enriched at transcription start sites of erythroid genes, and their binding was associated with promoter/enhancer accessibility that resulted from nucleosome repositioning. Mice deficient for Setd1a, an H3K4 trimethylase, in the erythroid compartment exhibited reduced Ter119/CD71 positive erythroblasts, peripheral blood RBCs and hemoglobin levels. Loss of Setd1a led to a reduction of promoter-associated H3K4 methylation, inhibition of gene transcription and blockade of erythroid differentiation. This was associated with alterations in NURF complex occupancy at erythroid gene promoters and reduced chromatin accessibility. Setd1a deficiency caused decreased associations between enhancer and promoter looped interactions as well as reduced expression of erythroid genes such as the adult β-globin gene. These data indicate that Setd1a and NURF complexes are specifically targeted to and coordinately regulate erythroid promoter chromatin dynamics during erythroid lineage differentiation.
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