An Xist-dependent protein assembly mediates Xist localization and gene silencing

Nuclear compartments play diverse roles in regulating gene expression, yet the molecular forces and components driving compartment formation are not well understood. Studying how the lncRNA Xist establishes the inactive-X-chromosome (Xi)-compartment, we found that the Xist RNA-binding-proteins PTBP1, MATR3, TDP43, and CELF1 form a condensate to create an Xi-domain that can be sustained in the absence of Xist. The E-repeat-sequence of Xist serves a multivalent binding-platform for these proteins. Without the E-repeat, Xist initially coats the X-chromosome during XCI onset but subsequently disperses across the nucleus with loss of gene silencing. Recruitment of PTBP1, MATR3, TDP-43 or CELF1 to ΔE-Xist rescues these phenotypes, and requires both self-association of MATR3 and TDP-43 and a heterotypic PTBP1-MATR3-interaction. Together, our data reveal that Xist sequesters itself within the Xi-territory and perpetuates gene silencing by seeding a protein-condensate. Our findings uncover an unanticipated mechanism for epigenetic memory and elucidate the interplay between RNA and RNA-binding-proteins in creating compartments for gene regulation.