Catalytic-Independent Functions of PARP-1 Determine Sox2 Pioneer Activity at Intractable Genomic Loci

Ziying Liu, W. Lee Kraus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Pioneer transcription factors (TFs) function as genomic first responders, binding to inaccessible regions of chromatin to promote enhancer formation. The mechanism by which pioneer TFs gain access to chromatin remains an important unanswered question. Here we show that PARP-1, a nucleosome-binding protein, cooperates with intrinsic properties of the pioneer TF Sox2 to facilitate its binding to intractable genomic loci in embryonic stem cells. These actions of PARP-1 occur independently of its poly(ADP-ribosyl) transferase activity. PARP-1-dependent Sox2-binding sites reside in euchromatic regions of the genome with relatively high nucleosome occupancy and low co-occupancy by other transcription factors. PARP-1 stabilizes Sox2 binding to nucleosomes at suboptimal sites through cooperative interactions on DNA. Our results define intrinsic and extrinsic features that determine Sox2 pioneer activity. The conditional pioneer activity observed with Sox2 at a subset of binding sites may be a key feature of other pioneer TFs operating at intractable genomic loci.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)589-603.e9
JournalMolecular cell
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 16 2017


  • PARP-1
  • Sox2
  • chromatin
  • embryonic stem cells
  • nucleosome
  • nucleosome rotational positioning
  • pioneer transcription factor
  • transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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