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Mapping accessible chromatin across time scales can give insights into its dynamic nature, for example during cellular differentiation and tissue or organism development. Analysis of such data can be utilised to identify functional cis-regulatory elements (CRE) and transcription factor binding sites and, when combined with transcriptomics, can reveal gene regulatory networks (GRNs) of expressed genes. Chromatin accessibility mapping is a powerful approach and can be performed using ATAC-sequencing (ATAC-seq), whereby Tn5 transposase inserts sequencing adaptors into genomic DNA to identify differentially accessible regions of chromatin in different cell populations. It requires low sample input and can be performed and analysed relatively quickly compared with other methods. The data generated from ATAC-seq, along with other genomic approaches, can help uncover chromatin packaging and potential cis-regulatory elements that may be responsible for gene expression. Here, we describe the ATAC-seq approach and give examples from mainly vertebrate embryonic development, where such datasets have identified the highly dynamic nature of chromatin, with differing landscapes between cellular precursors for different lineages.
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