Cellular senescence is an irreversible proliferation arrest, tumor suppression process and likely contributor to tissue aging. Senescence is often characterized by domains of facultative heterochromatin, called senescence-associated heterochromatin foci (SAHF), which repress expression of proliferation-promoting genes. Given its likely contribution to tumor suppression and tissue aging, it is essential to identify all components of the SAHF assembly pathway. Formation of SAHF in human cells is driven by a complex of histone chaperones, namely, HIRA and ASF1a. In yeast, the complex orthologous to HIRA/ASF1a contains two additional proteins, Hpc2p and Hir3p. Using a sophisticated approach to search for remote orthologs conserved in multiple species through evolution, we identified the HIRA-associated proteins, UBN1 and UBN2, as candidate human orthologs of Hpc2p. We show that the Hpc2-related domain of UBN1, UBN2, and Hpc2p is an evolutionarily conserved HIRA/Hir-binding domain, which directly interacts with the N-terminal WD repeats of HIRA/Hir. UBN1 binds to proliferation-promoting genes that are repressed by SAHF and associates with histone methyltransferase activity that methylates lysine 9 of histone H3, a site that is methylated in SAHF. UBN1 is indispensable for formation of SAHF. We conclude that UBN1 is an ortholog of yeast Hpc2p and a novel regulator of senescence.
The mammalian HIRA/UBN1/CABIN1/ASF1a (HUCA) histone chaperone complex deposits the histone H3 variant H3.3 into chromatin, and is linked to gene activation, repression and chromatin assembly in diverse cell contexts. We recently reported that a short N-terminal fragment of UBN1 containing amino acids 1–175 is necessary and sufficient for interaction with the WD repeats of HIRA, and attributed this interaction to a region from residues 120–175 that is highly conserved in a yeast ortholog Hpc2 and so termed the HRD for Hpc2-Related Domain. In this report, through a more comprehensive and refined biochemical and mutational analysis, we identify a smaller and more moderately conserved region within residues 41–77 of UBN1, that we term the NHRD, that is essential for interaction with the HIRA WD repeats; we further demonstrate that the HRD is dispensable for this interaction. We employ analytical ultracentrifugation studies to demonstrate that the NHRD of UBN1 and the WD repeats of HIRA form a tight 1:1 complex with a dissociation constant in the nanomolar range. Mutagenesis experiments identify several key residues in the NHRD that are required for interaction with the HIRA WD repeat domain, stability of the HUCA complex in vitro and in vivo and changes in chromatin organization in primary human cells. Together, these studies implicate the NHRD domain of UBN1 as being an essential region for HIRA interaction and chromatin organization by the HUCA complex.
HIRA; UBN1; Histone Deposition; Chromatin Regulation
The HIRA chaperone complex, comprised of HIRA, UBN1 and CABIN1, collaborates with histone-binding protein ASF1a to incorporate histone variant H3.3 into chromatin in a DNA replication-independent manner. To better understand HIRA’s function and mechanism, we integrated HIRA, UBN1, ASF1a and histone H3.3 ChIP-seq and gene expression analyses. Most HIRA-binding sites co-localize with UBN1, ASF1a and H3.3 at active promoters and active and weak/poised enhancers. At promoters, binding of HIRA/UBN1/ASF1a correlates with the level of gene expression. HIRA is required for deposition of histone H3.3 at its binding sites. There are marked differences in nucleosome and co-regulator composition at different classes of HIRA-bound regulatory site. Underscoring this, we report novel physical interactions between the HIRA complex and transcription factors, a chromatin insulator and an ATP-dependent chromatin-remodelling complex. Our results map the distribution of the HIRA chaperone across the chromatin landscape and point to different interacting partners at functionally distinct regulatory sites.
Using sensitive protein sequence profile analyses we investigated the evolution of some histone chaperones and showed that Hir3p and Hpc2p have a much wider phyletic pattern than was previously known.
While histone chaperones have been intensely studied, the roles of components of the Hir–Asf1 histone chaperone complex such as Hir3p and Hpc2p are poorly understood. Using sensitive protein sequence profile analyses we investigated the evolution of these proteins and showed that Hir3p and Hpc2p have a much wider phyletic pattern than was previously known. We established the animal histone-deacetylase-complex-interacting proteins, CAIN/CABIN, to be orthologs of Hir3p. They contain a conserved core of around 30 TPR-like bi-helical repeats that are likely to form a super-helical scaffold. We identified a conserved domain, the HUN domain, in all Hpc2p homologs, including animal ubinuclein/yemanuclein and the recently discovered vertebrate cell-cycle regulator FLJ25778. The HUN domain has a characteristic pattern of conserved acidic residues based on which we predict that it is a previously unrecognized histone-tail-binding chaperone. By analyzing various high-throughput data sets, such as RNAi knock-downs, genetic and protein interaction maps and cell-cycle-specific gene expression data, we present evidence that Hpc2p homologs might be deployed in specific processes of chromatin dynamics relating to cell-cycle progression in vertebrates and schizogony in Plasmodium. Beyond the conserved HUN domain these proteins show extensive divergence patterns in different eukaryotic lineages. Hence, we propose that Hpc2p homologs are probably involved in recruitment of the ancient conserved histone-loading Hir–Asf1 complex to different lineage-specific chromatin reorganization processes.
HIRA (or Hir) proteins are conserved histone chaperones that function in multi-subunit complexes to mediate replication-independent nucleosome assembly. We have previously demonstrated that the Schizosaccharomyces pombe HIRA proteins, Hip1 and Slm9, form a complex with a TPR repeat protein called Hip3. Here we have identified a new subunit of this complex.
To identify proteins that interact with the HIRA complex, rapid affinity purifications of Slm9 were performed. Multiple components of the chaperonin containing TCP-1 complex (CCT) and the 19S subunit of the proteasome reproducibly co-purified with Slm9, suggesting that HIRA interacts with these complexes. Slm9 was also found to interact with a previously uncharacterised protein (SPBC947.08c), that we called Hip4. Hip4 contains a HRD domain which is a characteristic of the budding yeast and human HIRA/Hir-binding proteins, Hpc2 and UBN1. Co-precipitation experiments revealed that Hip4 is stably associated with all of the other components of the HIRA complex and deletion of hip4+ resulted in the characteristic phenotypes of cells lacking HIRA function, such as temperature sensitivity, an elongated cell morphology and hypersensitivity to the spindle poison, thiabendazole. Moreover, loss of Hip4 function alleviated the heterochromatic silencing of reporter genes located in the mating type locus and centromeres and was associated with increased levels of non-coding transcripts derived from centromeric repeat sequences. Hip4 was also found to be required for the distinct form of silencing that controls the expression of Tf2 LTR retrotransposons.
Overall, these results indicate that Hip4 is an integral component of the HIRA complex that is required for transcriptional silencing at multiple loci.
The orderly deposition of histones onto DNA is mediated by conserved assembly complexes, including Chromatin Assembly Factor-1 (CAF-1) and the Hir proteins [1–4]. CAF-1 and the Hir proteins operate in distinct but functionally overlapping histone deposition pathways in vivo [5, 6]. The Hir proteins and CAF-1 share a common partner, the highly conserved histone H3/H4-binding protein Asf1, which binds the middle subunit of CAF-1 as well as to Hir proteins [7–11]. Asf1 binds to newly synthesized histones H3/H4  and this complex stimulates histone deposition by CAF-1 [7, 12, 13]. In yeast, Asf1 is required for the contribution of the Hir proteins to gene silencing [7, 14]. Here, we demonstrate that Hir1, Hir2, Hir3 and Hpc2 comprise the HIR complex, which co-purifies with histone deposition protein Asf1. Together, the HIR complex and Asf1 deposit histones onto DNA in a replication-independent manner. Histone deposition by the HIR complex and Asf1 is impaired by a mutation in Asf1 that inhibits HIR binding. These data indicate that the HIR complex and Asf1 proteins function together as a conserved eukaryotic pathway for histone replacement throughout the cell cycle.
chromatin assembly; HIR; Asf1; histones
The mammalian genome encodes multiple variants of histone H3 including H3.1/H3.2 and H3.3. In contrast to H3.1/H3.2, H3.3 is enriched in the actively transcribed euchromatin and the telomeric heterochromatins. However, the mechanism for H3.3 to incorporate into the different domains of chromatin is not known. Here, taking the advantage of well-defined transcription analysis system of yeast, we attempted to understand the molecular mechanism of selective deposition of human H3.3 into actively transcribed genes. We show that there are systemic H3 substrate-selection mechanisms operating even in yeasts, which encode a single type of H3. Yeast HIR complex mediated H3-specific recognition specificity for deposition of H3.3 in the transcribed genes. A critical component of this process was the H3 A-IG code composed of amino acids 87, 89 and 90. The preference toward H3.3 was completely lost when HIR subunits were absent and partially suppressed by human HIRA. Asf1 allows the influx of H3, regardless of H3 type. We propose that H3.3 is introduced into the active euchromatin by targeting the recycling pathway that is mediated by HIRA (or HIR), and this H3-selection mechanism is highly conserved through the evolution. These results also uncover an unexpected role of RI chaperones in evolution of variant H3s.
Human HIRA, ASF1a, ASF1b and CAF-1 are evolutionally conserved histone chaperones that form multiple functionally distinct chromatin assembly complexes, with roles linked to diverse nuclear process, such as DNA replication and formation of heterochromatin in senescent cells. We report the crystal structure of an ASF1a/HIRA heterodimer and a biochemical dissection of ASF1a's mutually exclusive interactions with HIRA and the p60 subunit of CAF-1. The HIRA B-domain forms an antiparallel β-hairpin that binds perpendicular to the strands of the β-sandwich of ASF1a, via β-sheet, salt-bridge and van der Waals contacts. The N- and C-terminal regions of ASF1a and ASF1b determine the different affinities of these two proteins for HIRA, by contacting regions outside the HIRA B-domain. CAF-1 p60 also employs B-domain-like motifs for binding to ASF1a, thereby competing with HIRA. Together, these studies begin to define the molecular determinants of assembly of functionally diverse macromolecular histone chaperone complexes.
Histone Deposition; Chromatin Regulation; Histone Chaperones; ASF1; HIRA; CAF-1
The human HIRA gene has been named after Hir1p and Hir2p, two corepressors which together appear to act on chromatin structure to control gene transcription in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. HIRA homologs are expressed in a regulated fashion during mouse and chicken embryogenesis, and the human gene is a major candidate for the DiGeorge syndrome and related developmental disorders caused by a reduction to single dose of a fragment of chromosome 22q. Western blot analysis and double-immunofluorescence experiments using a specific antiserum revealed a primary nuclear localization of HIRA. Similar to Hir1p, HIRA contains seven amino-terminal WD repeats and probably functions as part of a multiprotein complex. HIRA and core histone H2B were found to physically interact in a yeast double-hybrid protein interaction trap, in GST pull-down assays, and in coimmunoprecipitation experiments performed from cellular extracts. In vitro, HIRA also interacted with core histone H4. H2B- and H4-binding domains were overlapping but distinguishable in the carboxy-terminal region of HIRA, and the region for HIRA interaction was mapped to the amino-terminal tail of H2B and the second α helix of H4. HIRIP3 (HIRA-interacting protein 3) is a novel gene product that was identified from its HIRA-binding properties in the yeast protein interaction trap. In vitro, HIRIP3 directly interacted with HIRA but also with core histones H2B and H3, suggesting that a HIRA-HIRIP3-containing complex could function in some aspects of chromatin and histone metabolism. Insufficient production of HIRA, which we report elsewhere interacts with homeodomain-containing DNA-binding factors during mammalian embryogenesis, could perturb the stoichiometric assembly of multimolecular complexes required for normal embryonic development.
HIRA-like (Hir) proteins are evolutionarily conserved and are implicated in the assembly of repressive chromatin. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Hir proteins contribute to the function of centromeres. However, S. cerevisiae has point centromeres that are structurally different from the complex centromeres of metazoans. In contrast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe has complex centromeres whose domain structure is conserved with that of human centromeres. Therefore, we examined the functions of the fission yeast Hir proteins Slm9 and the previously uncharacterised protein Hip1. Deletion of hip1+ resulted in phenotypes that were similar to those described previously for slm9Δ cells: a cell cycle delay, synthetic lethality with cdc25-22, and poor recovery from nitrogen starvation. However, while it has previously been shown that Slm9 is not required for the periodic expression of histone H2A, we found that loss of Hip1 led to derepression of core histone genes expression outside of S phase. Importantly, we found that deletion of either hip1+ or slm9+ resulted in increased rates of chromosome loss, increased sensitivity to spindle damage, and reduced transcriptional silencing in the outer centromeric repeats. Thus, S. pombe Hir proteins contribute to pericentromeric heterochromatin, and our data thus suggest that Hir proteins may be required for the function of metazoan centromeres.
Cellular senescence is an irreversible proliferation arrest triggered by short chromosome telomeres, activated oncogenes, and cell stress and mediated by the pRB and p53 tumor suppressor pathways. One of the earliest steps in the senescence program is translocation of a histone chaperone, HIRA, into promyelocytic leukemia (PML) nuclear bodies. This relocalization precedes other markers of senescence, including the appearance of specialized domains of facultative heterochromatin called senescence-associated heterochromatin foci (SAHF) and cell cycle exit. SAHF represses expression of proliferation-promoting genes, thereby driving exit from the cell cycle. HIRA bound to another histone chaperone, ASF1a, drives formation of SAHF. Here, we show that HIRA's translocation to PML bodies occurs in response to all senescence triggers tested. Dominant negative HIRA mutants that block HIRA's localization to PML bodies prevent formation of SAHF, as does a PML-RARα fusion protein which disrupts PML bodies, directly supporting the idea that localization of HIRA to PML bodies is required for formation of SAHF. Significantly, translocation of HIRA to PML bodies occurs in the absence of functional pRB and p53 tumor suppressor pathways. However, our evidence indicates that downstream of HIRA's localization to PML bodies, the HIRA/ASF1a pathway cooperates with pRB and p53 to make SAHF, with the HIRA/ASF1a and pRB pathways acting in parallel. We present evidence that convergence of the HIRA/ASF1a and pRB pathways occurs through a DNAJ-domain protein, DNAJA2.
The histone genes are an important group of cell cycle regulated genes whose transcription is activated during the G1/S transition and repressed in early G1, late S, and G2/M. The HIR complex, comprised of Hir1, Hir2, Hir3 and Hpc2, regulates three of the four histone gene loci. While relief of repression at the G1/S boundary involves the HIR complex, as well as other cofactors, the mechanism by which this derepression occurs remains unknown. To better understand how transcriptional repression contributes to periodic expression in the cell cycle, we sought to identify the cell cycle signals required to alleviate HIR-mediated repression of the histone genes. By measuring histone gene transcription in strains with various combinations of clb mutations, we found that the mitotic Clb1/Clb2 cyclins are required to alleviate Hir-mediated repression during the G1/S transition and that Clb2 physically interacts with the HIR complex. While the HIR complex regulates histone genes transcription in combination with two other histone H3/H4 chaperones, Asf1 and Rtt106, our data demonstrate that the mitotic Clb cyclins are necessary to specifically alleviate the repressive action of the HIR complex itself in order to allow proper expression of the histone genes in late G1/early S phase.
Clb cyclins; HIR complex; Asf1; Rtt106; histone genes; cell cycle
The anaphase-promoting complex (APC) is required for mitotic progression and genomic stability. Recently, we demonstrated that the APC is also required for mitotic chromatin assembly and longevity. Here, we investigated the role the APC plays in chromatin assembly. We show that apc5CA mutations genetically interact with the CAF-I genes as well as ASF1, HIR1, and HIR2. When present in multiple copies, the individual CAF-I genes, CAC1, CAC2, and MSI1, suppress apc5CA phenotypes in a CAF-1- and Asf1p-independent manner. CAF-I and the APC functionally overlap, as cac1Δ cac2Δ msi1Δ (caf1Δ) cells expressing apc5CA exhibit a phenotype more severe than that of apc5CA or caf1Δ. The Ts− phenotypes observed in apc5CA and apc5CA caf mutants may be rooted in compromised histone metabolism, as coexpression of histones H3 and H4 suppressed the Ts− defects. Synthetic genetic interactions were also observed in apc5CA asf1Δ cells. Furthermore, increased expression of genes encoding Asf1p, Hir1p, and Hir2p suppressed the apc5CA Ts− defect in a CAF-I-dependent manner. Together, these results suggest the existence of a complex molecular mechanism controlling APC-dependent chromatin assembly. Our data suggest the APC functions with the individual CAF-I subunits, Asf1p, and the Hir1p and Hir2p proteins. However, Asf1p and an intact CAF-I complex are dispensable for CAF-I subunit suppression, whereas CAF-I is necessary for ASF1, HIR1, and HIR2 suppression of apc5CA phenotypes. We discuss the implications of our observations.
In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, three out of the four histone gene pairs (HTA1-HTB1, HHT1-HHF1, and HHT2-HHF2) are regulated by the HIR co-repressor complex. The histone chaperone Rtt106 has recently been shown to be present at these histone gene loci throughout the cell cycle in a HIR- and Asf1-dependent manner and involved in their transcriptional repression. The SWI/SNF and RSC chromatin remodeling complexes are both recruited to the HIR-dependent histone genes; SWI/SNF is required for their activation in S phase, whereas RSC is implicated in their repression outside of S phase. Even though their presence at the histone genes is dependent on the HIR complex, their specific recruitment has not been well characterized. In this study we focused on characterizing the role played by the histone chaperone Rtt106 in the cell cycle-dependent recruitment of SWI/SNF and RSC complexes to the histone genes.
Using GST pull-down and co-immunoprecipitation assays, we showed that Rtt106 physically interacts with both the SWI/SNF and RSC complexes in vitro and in vivo. We then investigated the function of this interaction with respect to the recruitment of these complexes to HIR-dependent histone genes. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation assays (ChIP), we found that Rtt106 is important for the recruitment of both SWI/SNF and RSC complexes to the HIR-dependent histone genes. Furthermore, using synchronized cell cultures, we showed by ChIP assays that the Rtt106-dependent SWI/SNF recruitment to these histone gene loci is cell cycle regulated and restricted to late G1 phase just before the peak of histone gene expression in S phase.
Overall, these data strongly suggest that the interaction between the histone chaperone Rtt106 and both the SWI/SNF and RSC chromatin remodeling complexes is important for the cell cycle regulated recruitment of these two complexes to the HIR-dependent histone genes.
DNA and histone synthesis are both triggered at the beginning of S phase by cyclin/cdk2 activity. Previous studies showed that inhibition of DNA synthesis with hydroxyurea or cytosine arabinoside (AraC) triggers a concerted repression of histone synthesis, indicating that sustained histone synthesis depends on continued DNA synthesis. Here we show that ectopic expression of HIRA, the likely human ortholog of two cell cycle-regulated repressors of histone gene transcription in yeast (Hir1p and Hir2p), represses transcription of histones and that this, in turn, triggers a concerted block of DNA synthesis. Thus, in mammalian cells sustained DNA synthesis and histone synthesis are mutually dependent on each other during S phase. Although cyclin/cdk2 activity drives activation of both DNA and histone synthesis at the G1/S transition of cycling cells, concerted repression of DNA or histone synthesis in response to inhibition of either one of these is not accompanied by prolonged inhibition of cyclin A/cdk2 or E/cdk2 activity. Therefore, during S phase coupling of DNA and histone synthesis occurs, at least in part, through a mechanism that is independent of cyclin/cdk2 activity. Coupling of DNA and histone synthesis in S phase presumably contributes to the prompt and orderly assembly of newly replicated DNA into chromatin.
The HIR complex, which is comprised of the four proteins Hir1, Hir2, Hir3 and Hpc2, was first characterized as a repressor of three of the four histone gene loci in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Using a bioinformatical approach, previous studies have identified a region of Hpc2 that is conserved in Schizosaccharomyces pombe and humans. Using a similar approach, we identified two additional domains, CDI and CDII, of the Hpc2 protein that are conserved amongst yeast species related to S. cerevisiae. We showed that the N terminal CDI domain (spanning amino acids 63–79) is dispensable for HIR complex assembly, but plays an essential role in the repression of the histone genes by recruiting the HIR complex to the HIR-dependent histone gene loci. The second conserved domain, CDII (spanning amino acids 452–480), is required for the stability of the Hpc2 protein itself as well as for the assembly of the HIR complex. In addition, we report a novel separation-of-function mutation within CDI of Hpc2, which causes derepression of the histone genes but does not confer other reported hir/hpc-phenotypes (such as Spt phenotypes, heterochromatin silencing defects and repression of cryptic promoters). This is the first direct demonstration that a separation-of-function mutation exists within the HIR complex.
histone gene; HIR complex; HPC2; transcription; chromatin; yeast
The differentiation of post-meiotic spermatids in animals is characterized by a unique reorganization of their nuclear architecture and chromatin composition. In many species, the formation of sperm nuclei involves the massive replacement of nucleosomes with protamines, followed by a phase of extreme nuclear compaction. At fertilization, the reconstitution of a nucleosome-based paternal chromatin after the removal of protamines requires the deposition of maternally provided histones before the first round of DNA replication. This process exclusively uses the histone H3 variant H3.3 and constitutes a unique case of genome-wide replication-independent (RI) de novo chromatin assembly. We had previously shown that the histone H3.3 chaperone HIRA plays a central role for paternal chromatin assembly in Drosophila. Although several conserved HIRA-interacting proteins have been identified from yeast to human, their conservation in Drosophila, as well as their actual implication in this highly peculiar RI nucleosome assembly process, is an open question. Here, we show that Yemanuclein (YEM), the Drosophila member of the Hpc2/Ubinuclein family, is essential for histone deposition in the male pronucleus. yem loss of function alleles affect male pronucleus formation in a way remarkably similar to Hira mutants and abolish RI paternal chromatin assembly. In addition, we demonstrate that HIRA and YEM proteins interact and are mutually dependent for their targeting to the decondensing male pronucleus. Finally, we show that the alternative ATRX/XNP-dependent H3.3 deposition pathway is not involved in paternal chromatin assembly, thus underlining the specific implication of the HIRA/YEM complex for this essential step of zygote formation.
Chromosome organization relies on a basic functional unit called the nucleosome, in which DNA is wrapped around a core of histone proteins. However, during male gamete formation, the majority of histones are replaced by sperm-specific proteins that are adapted to sexual reproduction but incompatible with the formation of the first zygotic nucleus. These proteins must therefore be replaced by histones upon fertilization, in a replication-independent chromatin assembly process that requires the histone deposition factor HIRA. In this study, we identified the protein Yemanuclein (YEM) as a new partner of HIRA at fertilization. We show that, in eggs laid by yem mutant females, the male pronucleus fails to assemble its nucleosomes, resulting in the loss of paternal chromosomes at the first zygotic division. In addition, we found that YEM and HIRA are mutually dependent to perform chromatin assembly at fertilization, demonstrating that they tightly cooperate in vivo. Finally, we demonstrate that the replication-independent chromatin assembly factor ATRX/XNP is not involved in the assembly of paternal nucleosomes. In conclusion, our results shed new light into critical mechanisms controlling paternal chromosome formation at fertilization.
Senescence is characterized by an irreversible cell proliferation arrest. Specialized domains of facultative heterochromatin, called senescence-associated heterochromatin foci (SAHF), are thought to contribute to the irreversible cell cycle exit in many senescent cells by repressing the expression of proliferation-promoting genes such as cyclin A. SAHF contain known heterochromatin-forming proteins, such as heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) and the histone H2A variant macroH2A, and other specialized chromatin proteins, such as HMGA proteins. Previously, we showed that a complex of histone chaperones, histone repressor A (HIRA) and antisilencing function 1a (ASF1a), plays a key role in the formation of SAHF. Here we have further dissected the series of events that contribute to SAHF formation. We show that each chromosome condenses into a single SAHF focus. Chromosome condensation depends on the ability of ASF1a to physically interact with its deposition substrate, histone H3, in addition to its cochaperone, HIRA. In cells entering senescence, HP1γ, but not the related proteins HP1α and HP1β, becomes phosphorylated on serine 93. This phosphorylation is required for efficient incorporation of HP1γ into SAHF. Remarkably, however, a dramatic reduction in the amount of chromatin-bound HP1 proteins does not detectably affect chromosome condensation into SAHF. Moreover, abundant HP1 proteins are not required for the accumulation in SAHF of histone H3 methylated on lysine 9, the recruitment of macroH2A proteins, nor other hallmarks of senescence, such as the expression of senescence-associated β-galactosidase activity and senescence-associated cell cycle exit. Based on our results, we propose a stepwise model for the formation of SAHF.
Cellular senescence is an irreversible proliferation arrest of primary cells and an important tumor suppression process. Senescence is often characterized by domains of facultative heterochromatin, called Senescence-Associated Heterochromatin Foci (SAHF), which repress expression of proliferation-promoting genes. Formation of SAHF is driven by a complex of histone chaperones, HIRA and ASF1a, and depends upon prior localization of HIRA to PML nuclear bodies. However, how the SAHF assembly pathway is activated in senescent cells is not known. Here we show that expression of the canonical Wnt2 ligand and downstream canonical Wnt-signals are repressed in senescent human cells. Repression of Wnt2 occurs early in senescence and independent of the pRB and p53 tumor suppressor proteins, and drives relocalization of HIRA to PML bodies, formation of SAHF and senescence, likely through GSK3β-mediated phosphorylation of HIRA. These results have major implications for our understanding of both Wnt-signaling and senescence in tissue homeostasis and cancer progression.
Approximately 10% of cancers use recombination-mediated Alternative Lengthening of Telomeres (ALT) instead of telomerase to prevent telomere shortening. A characteristic of cells that utilize ALT is the presence of ALT-associated PML nuclear bodies (APBs) containing (TTAGGG)n DNA, telomere binding proteins, DNA recombination proteins, and heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1). The function of APBs is unknown and it is possible that they are functionally heterogeneous. Most ALT cells lack functional p53, and restoration of the p53/p21 pathway in these cells results in growth arrest/senescence and a substantial increase in the number of large APBs that is dependent on two HP1 isoforms, HP1α and HP1γ. Here we investigated the mechanism of HP1-mediated APB formation, and found that histone chaperones, HIRA and ASF1a, are present in APBs following activation of the p53/p21 pathway in ALT cells. HIRA and ASF1a were also found to colocalize inside PML bodies in normal fibroblasts approaching senescence, providing evidence for the existence of a senescence-associated ASF1a/HIRA complex inside PML bodies, consistent with a role for these proteins in induction of senescence in both normal and ALT cells. Moreover, knockdown of HIRA but not ASF1a significantly reduced p53-mediated induction of large APBs, with a concomitant reduction of large HP1 foci. We conclude that HIRA, in addition to its physical and functional association with ASF1a, plays a unique, ASF1a-independent role, which is required for the localization of HP1 to PML bodies and thus for APB formation.
In many animal species, the sperm DNA is packaged with male germ line–specific chromosomal proteins, including protamines. At fertilization, these non-histone proteins are removed from the decondensing sperm nucleus and replaced with maternally provided histones to form the DNA replication competent male pronucleus. By studying a point mutant allele of the Drosophila Hira gene, we previously showed that HIRA, a conserved replication-independent chromatin assembly factor, was essential for the assembly of paternal chromatin at fertilization. HIRA permits the specific assembly of nucleosomes containing the histone H3.3 variant on the decondensing male pronucleus. We report here the analysis of a new mutant allele of Drosophila Hira that was generated by homologous recombination. Surprisingly, phenotypic analysis of this loss of function allele revealed that the only essential function of HIRA is the assembly of paternal chromatin during male pronucleus formation. This HIRA-dependent assembly of H3.3 nucleosomes on paternal DNA does not require the histone chaperone ASF1. Moreover, analysis of this mutant established that protamines are correctly removed at fertilization in the absence of HIRA, thus demonstrating that protamine removal and histone deposition are two functionally distinct processes. Finally, we showed that H3.3 deposition is apparently not affected in Hira mutant embryos and adults, suggesting that different chromatin assembly machineries could deposit this histone variant.
Chromatin is composed of basic units called nucleosomes, in which DNA wraps around a core of histone proteins. HIRA is a histone chaperone that is specifically involved in the assembly of nucleosomes containing H3.3, a universally conserved type of histone 3. To understand the function of HIRA in vivo, the authors generated mutant fruit flies with a non-functional Hira gene. Surprisingly, mutant flies were viable, but females were completely sterile. By analysing the female fruit flies' eggs, the authors found that in the absence of HIRA protein, the sperm nucleus was unable to participate in the formation of the zygote. In Drosophila, as in many animals, the condensed sperm chromatin contains protamines instead of histones. The authors found that the only crucial role of HIRA in flies was to assemble nucleosomes containing H3.3 in the male pronucleus, after the removal of protamines. This fundamental process, which is presumably also controlled by HIRA in vertebrates, allows the paternal DNA to reconstitute its chromatin and participate in the development of the embryo.
The HIR/HPC (histone regulation/histone periodic control) negative regulators play important roles in the transcription of six of the eight core histone genes during the Saccharomyces cerevisiae cell cycle. The phenotypes of hir1 and hir2 mutants suggested that the wild-type HIR1 and HIR2 genes encode transcriptional repressors that function in the absence of direct DNA binding. When Hir1p and Hir2p were artificially tethered to yeast promoters, each protein repressed transcription, suggesting that they represent a new class of transcriptional corepressors. The two proteins might function as a complex in vivo: Hir2p required both Hir1p and another Hir protein, Hir3p, to repress transcription when it was tethered to an HTA1-lacZ reporter gene, and Hir1p and Hir2p could be coimmunoprecipitated from yeast cell extracts. Tethered Hir1p also directed the periodic transcription of the HTA1 gene and repressed HTA1 transcription in response to two cell cycle regulatory signals. Thus, it represents the first example of a transcriptional corepressor with a direct role in cell cycle-regulated transcription.
CAF-1 and HIR are highly conserved histone chaperone protein complexes that function in the assembly of nucleosomes onto chromatin. CAF-1 is characterized as having replication-coupled nucleosome activity, whereas the HIR complex can assemble nucleosomes independent of replication. Histone H3K56 acetylation, controlled by the acetyltransferase Rtt109 and deacetylase Hst3, also plays a significant role in nucleosome assembly. In this study, we generated a set of deletion mutants to genetically characterize pathway-specific and overlapping functions of CAF-1 and HIR in C. albicans. Their roles in epigenetic maintenance of cell type were examined by using the white-opaque switching system in C. albicans. We show that CAF-1 and HIR play conserved roles in UV radiation recovery, repression of histone gene expression, correct chromosome segregation, and stress responses. Unique to C. albicans, the cac2Δ/Δ mutant shows increased sensitivity to the Hst3 inhibitor nicotinamide, while the rtt109Δ/Δ cac2Δ/Δ and hir1Δ/Δ cac2Δ/Δ mutants are resistant to nicotinamide. CAF-1 plays a major role in maintaining cell types, as the cac2Δ/Δ mutant exhibited increased switching frequencies in both directions and switched at a high frequency to opaque in response to nicotinamide. Like the rtt109Δ/Δ mutant, the hir1Δ/Δ cac2Δ/Δ double mutant is defective in maintaining the opaque cell fate and blocks nicotinamide-induced opaque formation, and the defects are suppressed by ectopic expression of the master white-opaque regulator Wor1. Our data suggest an overlapping function of CAF-1 and HIR in epigenetic regulation of cell fate determination in an H3K56 acetylation-associated manner.
Substrates of cyclin-cdk2 kinases contain two distinct primary sequence motifs: a cyclin-binding RXL motif and one or more phosphoacceptor sites (consensus S/TPXK/R or S/TP). To identify novel cyclin-cdk2 substrates, we searched the database for proteins containing both of these motifs. One such protein is human HIRA, the homologue of two cell cycle-regulated repressors of histone gene expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Hir1p and Hir2p. Here we demonstrate that human HIRA is an in vivo substrate of a cyclin-cdk2 kinase. First, HIRA bound to and was phosphorylated by cyclin A- and E-cdk2 in vitro in an RXL-dependent manner. Second, HIRA was phosphorylated in vivo on two consensus cyclin-cdk2 phosphoacceptor sites and at least one of these, threonine 555, was phosphorylated by cyclin A-cdk2 in vitro. Third, phosphorylation of HIRA in vivo was blocked by cyclin-cdk2 inhibitor p21cip1. Fourth, HIRA became phosphorylated on threonine 555 in S phase when cyclin-cdk2 kinases are active. Fifth, HIRA was localized preferentially to the nucleus, where active cyclin A- and E-cdk2 are located. Finally, ectopic expression of HIRA in cells caused arrest in S phase and this is consistent with the notion that it is a cyclin-cdk2 substrate that has a role in control of the cell cycle.
Chromatin assembly factor I (CAF-I) is a three-subunit histone-binding complex conserved from the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae to humans. Yeast cells lacking CAF-I (cacΔ mutants) have defects in heterochromatic gene silencing. In this study, we showed that deletion of HIR genes, which regulate histone gene expression, synergistically reduced gene silencing at telomeres and at the HM loci in cacΔ mutants, although hirΔ mutants had no silencing defects when CAF-I was intact. Therefore, Hir proteins are required for an alternative silencing pathway that becomes important in the absence of CAF-I. Because Hir proteins regulate expression of histone genes, we tested the effects of histone gene deletion and overexpression on telomeric silencing and found that alterations in histone H3 and H4 levels or in core histone stoichiometry reduced silencing in cacΔ mutants but not in wild-type cells. We therefore propose that Hir proteins contribute to silencing indirectly via regulation of histone synthesis. However, deletion of combinations of CAC and HIR genes also affected the growth rate and in some cases caused partial temperature sensitivity, suggesting that global aspects of chromosome function may be affected by the loss of members of both gene families.