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1.  SET for life: biochemical activities and biological functions of SET domain-containing proteins 
Trends in biochemical sciences  2013;38(12):621-639.
SET domain-containing proteins belong to a group of enzymes named after a common domain that utilizes the cofactor S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM) to achieve methylation of its substrates. Many SET domain-containing proteins have been shown to display catalytic activity towards particular lysine residues on histones, but emerging evidence also indicates that various non-histone proteins are specifically targeted by this clade of enzymes. Here, we summarize the most recent findings on the biological functions of the major families of SET domain-containing proteins catalyzing the methylation of histones 3 on lysines 4, 9, 27, and 36 (H3K4, H3K9, H3K27, and H3K36) and histone 4 on lysine 20 (H4K20) as well as candidates that have been reported to regulate non-histone substrates.
PMCID: PMC3941473  PMID: 24148750
SET domain-containing proteins; histone lysine methylation; non-histone substrates
2.  The MLL3/MLL4 Branches of the COMPASS Family Function as Major Histone H3K4 Monomethylases at Enhancers 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2013;33(23):4745-4754.
Histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4) can be mono-, di-, and trimethylated by members of the COMPASS (complex of proteins associated with Set1) family from Saccharomyces cerevisiae to humans, and these modifications can be found at distinct regions of the genome. Monomethylation of histone H3K4 (H3K4me1) is relatively more enriched at metazoan enhancer regions compared to trimethylated histone H3K4 (H3K4me3), which is enriched at transcription start sites in all eukaryotes. Our recent studies of Drosophila melanogaster demonstrated that the Trithorax-related (Trr) branch of the COMPASS family regulates enhancer activity and is responsible for the implementation of H3K4me1 at these regions. There are six COMPASS family members in mammals, two of which, MLL3 (GeneID 58508) and MLL4 (GeneID 8085), are most closely related to Drosophila Trr. Here, we use chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing (ChIP-seq) of this class of COMPASS family members in both human HCT116 cells and mouse embryonic stem cells and find that MLL4 is preferentially found at enhancer regions. MLL3 and MLL4 are frequently mutated in cancer, and indeed, the widely used HCT116 cancer cell line contains inactivating mutations in the MLL3 gene. Using HCT116 cells in which MLL4 has also been knocked out, we demonstrate that MLL3 and MLL4 are major regulators of H3K4me1 in these cells, with the greatest loss of monomethylation at enhancer regions. Moreover, we find a redundant role between Mll3 (GeneID 231051) and Mll4 (GeneID 381022) in enhancer H3K4 monomethylation in mouse embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cells. These findings suggest that mammalian MLL3 and MLL4 function in the regulation of enhancer activity and that mutations of MLL3 and MLL4 that are found in cancers could exert their properties through malfunction of these Trr/MLL3/MLL4-specific (Trrific) enhancers.
PMCID: PMC3838007  PMID: 24081332
3.  Snapshot: Chromatin Lysine Methylase Complexes: Transcriptional Regulation and Epigenetics 
Cell  2012;149(2):498-498.e1.
PMCID: PMC3711870  PMID: 22500810
4.  Polycomb Repressive Complex 2-Dependent and -Independent Functions of Jarid2 in Transcriptional Regulation in Drosophila 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2012;32(9):1683-1693.
Jarid2 was recently identified as an important component of the mammalian Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2), where it has a major effect on PRC2 recruitment in mouse embryonic stem cells. Although Jarid2 is conserved in Drosophila, it has not previously been implicated in Polycomb (Pc) regulation. Therefore, we purified Drosophila Jarid2 and its associated proteins and found that Jarid2 associates with all of the known canonical PRC2 components, demonstrating a conserved physical interaction with PRC2 in flies and mammals. Furthermore, in vivo studies with Jarid2 mutants in flies demonstrate that among several histone modifications tested, only methylation of histone 3 at K27 (H3K27), the mark implemented by PRC2, was affected. Genome-wide profiling of Jarid2, Su(z)12 (Suppressor of zeste 12), and H3K27me3 occupancy by chromatin immunoprecipitation with sequencing (ChIP-seq) indicates that Jarid2 and Su(z)12 have very similar distribution patterns on chromatin. However, Jarid2 and Su(z)12 occupancy levels at some genes are significantly different, with Jarid2 being present at relatively low levels at many Pc response elements (PREs) of certain Homeobox (Hox) genes, providing a rationale for why Jarid2 was never identified in Pc screens. Gene expression analyses show that Jarid2 and E(z) (Enhancer of zeste, a canonical PRC2 component) are not only required for transcriptional repression but might also function in active transcription. Identification of Jarid2 as a conserved PRC2 interactor in flies provides an opportunity to begin to probe some of its novel functions in Drosophila development.
PMCID: PMC3347239  PMID: 22354997
5.  The COMPASS Family of H3K4 Methylases in Drosophila ▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(21):4310-4318.
Methylation of histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4) in Saccharomyces cerevisiae is implemented by Set1/COMPASS, which was originally purified based on the similarity of yeast Set1 to human MLL1 and Drosophila melanogaster Trithorax (Trx). While humans have six COMPASS family members, Drosophila possesses a representative of the three subclasses within COMPASS-like complexes: dSet1 (human SET1A/SET1B), Trx (human MLL1/2), and Trr (human MLL3/4). Here, we report the biochemical purification and molecular characterization of the Drosophila COMPASS family. We observed a one-to-one similarity in subunit composition with their mammalian counterparts, with the exception of LPT (lost plant homeodomains [PHDs] of Trr), which copurifies with the Trr complex. LPT is a previously uncharacterized protein that is homologous to the multiple PHD fingers found in the N-terminal regions of mammalian MLL3/4 but not Drosophila Trr, indicating that Trr and LPT constitute a split gene of an MLL3/4 ancestor. Our study demonstrates that all three complexes in Drosophila are H3K4 methyltransferases; however, dSet1/COMPASS is the major monoubiquitination-dependent H3K4 di- and trimethylase in Drosophila. Taken together, this study provides a springboard for the functional dissection of the COMPASS family members and their role in the regulation of histone H3K4 methylation throughout development in Drosophila.
PMCID: PMC3209330  PMID: 21875999
6.  The H3K27me3 Demethylase dUTX Is a Suppressor of Notch- and Rb-Dependent Tumors in Drosophila▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(10):2485-2497.
Trimethylated lysine 27 of histone H3 (H3K27me3) is an epigenetic mark for gene silencing and can be demethylated by the JmjC domain of UTX. Excessive H3K27me3 levels can cause tumorigenesis, but little is known about the mechanisms leading to those cancers. Mutants of the Drosophila H3K27me3 demethylase dUTX display some characteristics of Trithorax group mutants and have increased H3K27me3 levels in vivo. Surprisingly, dUTX mutations also affect H3K4me1 levels in a JmjC-independent manner. We show that a disruption of the JmjC domain of dUTX results in a growth advantage for mutant cells over adjacent wild-type tissue due to increased proliferation. The growth advantage of dUTX mutant tissue is caused, at least in part, by increased Notch activity, demonstrating that dUTX is a Notch antagonist. Furthermore, the inactivation of Retinoblastoma (Rbf in Drosophila) contributes to the growth advantage of dUTX mutant tissue. The excessive activation of Notch in dUTX mutant cells leads to tumor-like growth in an Rbf-dependent manner. In summary, these data suggest that dUTX is a suppressor of Notch- and Rbf-dependent tumors in Drosophila melanogaster and may provide a model for UTX-dependent tumorigenesis in humans.
PMCID: PMC2863695  PMID: 20212086
7.  Common and Distinct Genetic Properties of ESCRT-II Components in Drosophila 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(1):e4165.
Genetic studies in yeast have identified class E vps genes that form the ESCRT complexes required for protein sorting at the early endosome. In Drosophila, mutations of the ESCRT-II component vps25 cause endosomal defects leading to accumulation of Notch protein and increased Notch pathway activity. These endosomal and signaling defects are thought to account for several phenotypes. Depending on the developmental context, two different types of overgrowth can be detected. Tissue predominantly mutant for vps25 displays neoplastic tumor characteristics. In contrast, vps25 mutant clones in a wild-type background trigger hyperplastic overgrowth in a non-autonomous manner. In addition, vps25 mutant clones also promote apoptotic resistance in a non-autonomous manner.
Principal Findings
Here, we genetically characterize the remaining ESCRT-II components vps22 and vps36. Like vps25, mutants of vps22 and vps36 display endosomal defects, accumulate Notch protein and – when the tissue is predominantly mutant – show neoplastic tumor characteristics. However, despite these common phenotypes, they have distinct non-autonomous phenotypes. While vps22 mutations cause strong non-autonomous overgrowth, they do not affect apoptotic resistance. In contrast, vps36 mutations increase apoptotic resistance, but have little effect on non-autonomous proliferation. Further characterization reveals that although all ESCRT-II mutants accumulate Notch protein, only vps22 and vps25 mutations trigger Notch activity.
The ESCRT-II components vps22, vps25 and vps36 display common and distinct genetic properties. Our data redefine the role of Notch for hyperplastic and neoplastic overgrowth in these mutants. While Notch is required for hyperplastic growth, it appears to be dispensable for neoplastic transformation.
PMCID: PMC2613530  PMID: 19132102
8.  vps25 mosaics display non-autonomous cell survival and overgrowth, and autonomous apoptosis 
Development (Cambridge, England)  2006;133(10):1871-1880.
Appropriate cell-cell signaling is crucial for proper tissue homeostasis. Protein sorting of cell surface receptors at the early endosome is important for both the delivery of the signal and the inactivation of the receptor, and its alteration can cause malignancies including cancer. In a genetic screen for suppressors of the pro-apoptotic gene hid in Drosophila, we identified two alleles of vps25, a component of the ESCRT machinery required for protein sorting at the early endosome. Paradoxically, although vps25 mosaics were identified as suppressors of hid-induced apoptosis, vps25 mutant cells die. However, we provide evidence that a non-autonomous increase of Diap1 protein levels, an inhibitor of apoptosis, accounts for the suppression of hid. Furthermore, before they die, vps25 mutant clones trigger non-autonomous proliferation through a failure to downregulate Notch signaling, which activates the mitogenic JAK/STAT pathway. Hid and JNK contribute to apoptosis of vps25 mutant cells. Inhibition of cell death in vps25 clones causes dramatic overgrowth phenotypes. In addition, Hippo signaling is increased in vps25 clones, and hippo mutants block apoptosis in vps25 clones. In summary, the phenotypic analysis of vps25 mutants highlights the importance of receptor downregulation by endosomal protein sorting for appropriate tissue homeostasis, and may serve as a model for human cancer.
PMCID: PMC2519036  PMID: 16611691
Vps25; ESCRT; Protein sorting; MVB; Notch; Cell proliferation; Cell survival; Apoptosis

Results 1-8 (8)