Covalent modification of histones on chromatin is a dynamic mechanism by which various nuclear processes are regulated. Methylation of histone H3 on lysine 4 (H3K4) implemented by the macromolecular complex COMPASS and its related complexes is associated with transcriptionally active regions of chromatin. Enzymes that catalyze H3K4 methylation were initially characterized genetically as regulators of Hox loci, long before their catalytic functions were recognized. Since their discovery, genetic and biochemical studies of H3K4 methylases and demethylases have provided important mechanistic insight into the role of H3K4 methylation in HOX gene regulation during development.
histone methylation; trithorax; SET domain; Compass Complex; MLL; HOX genes
It has been suggested that a specific pattern of histone posttranslational modifications and their crosstalk may constitute a code that determines transcriptional outcomes. However, recent studies indicate that histone modifications have context-dependent effects, making their interplay more like a language within the chromatin signaling pathway than a code.
The elongation stage of transcription is highly regulated in metazoans. We previously purified the AFF1- and AFF4-containing super elongation complex (SEC) as a major regulator of development and cancer pathogenesis. Here, we report the biochemical isolation of SEC-like 2 (SEC-L2) and SEC-like 3 (SEC-L3) containing AFF2 and AFF3 in association with P-TEFb, ENL/MLLT1, and AF9/MLLT3. The SEC family members demonstrate high levels of polymerase II (Pol II) C-terminal domain kinase activity; however, only SEC is required for the proper induction of the HSP70 gene upon stress. Genome-wide mRNA-Seq analyses demonstrated that SEC-L2 and SEC-L3 control the expression of different subsets of genes, while AFF4/SEC plays a more dominant role in rapid transcriptional induction in cells. MYC is one of the direct targets of AFF4/SEC, and SEC recruitment to the MYC gene regulates its expression in different cancer cells, including those in acute myeloid or lymphoid leukemia. These findings suggest that AFF4/SEC could be a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of leukemia or other cancers associated with MYC overexpression.
Eleven-nineteen Lysine-rich Leukemia (ELL) participates in the Super Elongation Complex (SEC) with the Pol II CTD kinase P-TEFb. SEC is a key regulator in the expression of HOX genes in Mixed Lineage Leukemia (MLL) -based hematological malignancies, in the control of induced gene expression early in development, and in immediate early gene transcription. Here, we identify an SEC-like complex in Drosophila, as well as a distinct ELL-containing complex that lacks P-TEFb and other components of SEC named the “little elongation complex” (LEC). LEC subunits are highly enriched at RNA Polymerase II (Pol II) -transcribed small nuclear RNA (snRNA) genes, and the loss of LEC results in decreased snRNA expression in both flies and mammals. The specialization of the SEC and LEC complexes for mRNA and snRNA-containing genes, respectively, suggests the presence of specific classes of elongation factors for each class of genes transcribed by RNA polymerase II.
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.
Promoter proximal pausing by initiated RNA polymerase II (Pol II) and regulated release of paused polymerase into productive elongation has emerged as a major mechanism of transcription activation. Reactivation of paused Pol II correlates with recruitment of SuperElongationComplexes (SECs) containing ELL/EAF family members, P-TEFb, and other proteins, but the mechanism of their recruitment is currently a major unanswered question. Here, we present evidence for a role of human Mediator subunit Med26 in this process. We identify in the conserved N-terminal domain of Med26 overlapping docking sites for SEC and a second ELL/EAF-containing complex, as well as general initiation factor TFIID. In addition, we present evidence consistent with the model that Med26 can function as a molecular switch that interacts first with TFIID in the Pol II initiation complex and then exchanges TFIID for complexes containing ELL/EAF and P-TEFb to facilitate transition of Pol II into the elongation stage of transcription.
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.
The expression of genes that reside near telomeres is attenuated through telomere position-effect variegation (TPEV). Using a URA3 reporter located at TEL-VIIL of S. cerevisiae, it was demonstrated that the disruptor of telomeric silencing-1 (Dot1) regulates TPEV by catalyzing the methylation of H3K79. URA3 was also used as a reporter to demonstrate that H3K79 methylation is required for HM silencing. Surprisingly, a genome-wide expression analysis of mutants defective in H3K79 methylation patterns indicated that only a few telomeric genes, such as the COS12 located at TEL-VIIL, are subject to H3K79 methylation-dependent natural silencing. Consistently, loss of Dot1 did not globally alter Sir2/3 occupancy in subtelomeric regions, but did lead to some telomere-specific changes. Furthermore, we demonstrated that H3K79 methylation by Dot1 does not play a role in the maintenance of natural HML silencing. Our results show that the commonly used URA3 reporter located at TEL-VIIL or at the mating loci may not report on natural PEV and that studies concerning the epigenetic mechanism of silencing in yeast should employ assays that report on the natural pattern of gene expression.
Posttranslational modifications of histones are coupled in the regulation of the cellular processes involving chromatin such as transcription, replication, repair, and genome stability. Recent biochemical and genetic studies have clearly demonstrated that many aspects of chromatin, and not just posttranslational modifications of histones, provide surfaces that can interact with effectors and the modifying machineries in a context-dependent manner, all as a part of the “chromatin signaling pathway”. Here, we have reviewed recent findings on the molecular basis for the recruitment of the chromatin-modifying machineries and their diverse and varied biological outcomes.
A screen of Saccharomyces cerevisiae histone alanine substitution mutants revealed that mutations in any of three adjacent residues, L97, Y98, or G99, near the C terminus of H4 led to a unique phenotype. The mutants grew slowly, became polyploid or aneuploid rapidly, and also lost chromosomes at a high rate, most likely because their kinetochores were not assembled properly. There was lower histone occupancy, not only in the centromeric region, but also throughout the genome for the H4 mutants. The mutants displayed genetic interactions with the genes encoding two different histone chaperones, Rtt106 and CAF-I. Affinity purification of Rtt106 and CAF-I from yeast showed that much more H4 and H3 were bound to these histone chaperones in the case of the H4 mutants than in the wild type. However, in vitro binding experiments showed that the H4 mutant proteins bound somewhat more weakly to Rtt106 than did wild-type H4. These data suggest that the H4 mutant proteins, along with H3, accumulate on Rtt106 and CAF-I in vivo because they cannot be deposited efficiently on DNA or passed on to the next step in the histone deposition pathway, and this contributes to the observed genome instability and growth defects.
To define the molecular regulators required for differential pattern of H3K79 methylation by Dot1, we performed a GPS screen and discovered that the components of the cell cycle-regulated SBF complex were required for normal levels of H3K79 di- but not trimethylation. Genome-wide mapping revealed that H3K79 di- and trimethylation to present a mutually exclusive pattern on chromatin with M/G1 cell-cycle-regulated genes significantly enriched for H3K79 dimethylation. Since H3K79 trimethylation requires prior monoubiquitination of H2B, we performed genome-wide profiling of H2BK123 monoubiquitination and showed that H2BK123 monoubiquitination is excluded from cell cycle regulated genes and sites containing H3K79me2 but not from H3K79me3 containing regions. A genome-wide screen for factors responsible for the establishment/removal of H3K79 dimethylation resulted in the identification of several genes including NRM1 and WHI3, which both impact the transcription by the SBF, and MBF complexes, further linking the regulation of H3K79’s methylation status to the cell cycle.
Chromosomal translocations involving the MLL gene are associated with infant acute lymphoblastic and mixed lineage leukemia. There are a large number of translocation partners of MLL that share very little sequence or seemingly functional similarities, however, their translocations into MLL result in the pathogenesis of leukemia. To define the molecular reason why these translocations result in the pathogenesis of leukemia, we purified several of the commonly occurring MLL chimeras. We have identified a novel super elongation complex (SEC) associated with all chimeras purified. SEC includes ELL, P-TEFb, AFF4 and several other factors. AFF4 is required for SEC stability and proper transcription by poised RNA polymerase II in metazoans. Knockdown of AFF4 within SEC in leukemic cells shows reduction in MLL chimera target gene expression suggesting that AFF4/SEC could be a key regulator in the pathogenesis of leukemia through many of the MLL partners.
Histone methylation on lysine 4 of histone H3 (H3K4) is a hallmark of activity of the transcribed regions on eukaryotic chromatin. H3K4 can be mono-, di- and trimethylated by Set1/COMPASS. In this review, we will discuss recent findings regarding the role of the Y/F switch by the catalytic domain of Set1 in the regulation of H3K4 methylation by Set1/COMPASS.
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.
The budding yeast CenH3 histone variant Cse4 localizes to centromeric nucleosomes and is required for kinetochore assembly and chromosome segregation. The exact composition of centromeric Cse4–containing nucleosomes is a subject of debate. ChIP-chip experiments and high resolution quantitative PCR confirm that there is a single Cse4 nucleosome at each centromere, and additional regions of the genome contain Cse4 nucleosomes at low levels. Using unbiased biochemical, cell biological, and genetic approaches we have tested the composition of Cse4-containing nucleosomes. Using micrococcal nuclease-treated chromatin, we find that Cse4 is associated with the histones H2A, H2B, and H4, but not H3 or the non-histone protein Scm3. Overexpression of Cse4 rescues the lethality of a scm3 deletion, indicating Scm3 is not essential for the formation of functional centromeric chromatin. Additionally, octameric Cse4 nucleosomes can be reconstituted in vitro. The Cse4-Cse4 interaction domain appears to be essential and interaction occurs in vivo in the centromeric nucleosome. Taken together, our experimental evidence supports the model that the Cse4-nucleosome is an octamer, containing two copies each of Cse4, H2A, H2B, and H4.
Cse4/CENP-A; centromere; yeast; Scm3; chromatin-immunoprecipitation; nucleosome
H2B ubiquitylation has been implicated in active transcription but is not well understood in mammalian cells. Beyond earlier identification of hBRE1 as the E3 ligase for H2B ubiquitylation in human cells, we now show (i) that hRAD6 serves as the cognate E2 conjugating enzyme, (ii) that hRAD6, through direct interaction with hPAF-bound hBRE1, is recruited to transcribed genes and ubiquitylates chromatinized H2B at lysine 120, (iii) that hPAF-mediated transcription is required for efficient H2B ubiquitylation as a result of hPAF-dependent recruitment of hBRE1-hRAD6 to the Pol II transcription machinery, (iv) that H2B ubiquitylation per se does not affect the level of hPAF-, SII- and p300-dependent transcription and likely functions downstream and (v) that H2B ubiquitylation directly stimulates hSET1-dependent H3K4 di- and tri-methylation. These studies establish the natural H2B ubiquitylation factors in human cells and also detail the mechanistic basis for H2B ubiquitylation and function during transcription.
A common landmark of activated genes is the presence of trimethylation on lysine 4 of histone H3 (H3K4) at promoter regions. Set1/COMPASS was the founding member and is the only H3K4 methylase in Saccharomyces cerevisiae; however, in mammals, at least six H3K4 methylases, Set1A and Set1B and MLL1 to MLL4, are found in COMPASS-like complexes capable of methylating H3K4. To gain further insight into the different roles and functional targets for the H3K4 methylases, we have undertaken a genome-wide analysis of H3K4 methylation patterns in wild-type Mll1+/+ and Mll1−/− mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). We found that Mll1 is required for the H3K4 trimethylation of less than 5% of promoters carrying this modification. Many of these genes, which include developmental regulators such as Hox genes, show decreased levels of RNA polymerase II recruitment and expression concomitant with the loss of H3K4 methylation. Although Mll1 is only required for the methylation of a subset of Hox genes, menin, a component of the Mll1 and Mll2 complexes, is required for the overwhelming majority of H3K4 methylation at Hox loci. However, the loss of MLL3/MLL4 and/or the Set1 complexes has little to no effect on the H3K4 methylation of Hox loci or their expression levels in these MEFs. Together these data provide insight into the redundancy and specialization of COMPASS-like complexes in mammals and provide evidence for a possible role for Mll1-mediated H3K4 methylation in the regulation of transcriptional initiation.
Histone H2B monoubiquitination by Rad6/Bre1 is required for the trimethylation of both histone H3K4 and H3K79 by COMPASS and Dot1 methyltransferases, respectively. The dependency of methylation at H3K4 and H3K79 on the monoubiquitination of H2BK123 was recently challenged, and extragenic mutations in the strain background used for previous studies or epitope-tagged proteins were suggested to be the sources of this discrepancy. In this study, we show that H3K4 and H3K79 methylation is solely dependent on H2B monoubiquitination regardless of any additional alteration to the H2B sequence or genome. Furthermore, we report that Y131, one of the yeast histone H2A/H2B shuffle strains widely used for the last decade in the field of chromatin and transcription biology, carries a wild-type copy of each of the HTA2 and HTB2 genes under the GAL1/10 promoter on chromosome II. Therefore, we generated the entire histone H2A and H2B alanine-scanning mutant strains in another background, which does not express wild-type histones.
The multiprotein complex Set1/COMPASS is the founding member of the histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4) methyltransferases, whose human homologs include the MLL and hSet1 complexes. COMPASS can mono-, di-, and trimethylate H3K4, but transitioning to di- and trimethylation requires prior H2B monoubiquitination followed by recruitment of the Cps35 (Swd2) subunit of COMPASS. Another subunit, Cps40 (Spp1), interacts directly with Set1 and is only required for transitioning to trimethylation. To investigate how the Set1 and COMPASS subunits establish the methylation states of H3K4, we generated a homology model of the catalytic domain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast Set1 and identified several key residues within the Set1 catalytic pocket that are capable of regulating COMPASS's activity. We show that Tyr1052, a putative Phe/Tyr switch of Set1, plays an essential role in the regulation of H3K4 trimethylation by COMPASS and that the mutation to phenylalanine (Y1052F) suppresses the loss of Cps40 in H3K4 trimethylation levels, suggesting that Tyr1052 functions together with Cps40. However, the loss of H2B monoubiquitination is not suppressed by this mutation, while Cps40 is stably assembled in COMPASS on chromatin, demonstrating that Tyr1052- and Cps40-mediated H3K4 trimethylation takes place following and independently of H2B monoubiquitination. Our studies provide a molecular basis for the way in which H3K4 trimethylation is regulated by Tyr1052 and the Cps40 subunit of COMPASS.
Cells undergoing developmental processes are characterized by persistent non-genetic alterations in chromatin, termed epigenetic changes, represented by distinct patterns of DNA methylation and histone post-translational modifications. Sirtuins, a group of conserved NAD+-dependent deacetylases or ADP-ribosylases, promote longevity in diverse organisms; however, their molecular mechanisms in aging regulation remain poorly understood. Yeast Sir2, the founding member of the family, establishes and maintains chromatin silencing by removing H4 lysine 16 acetylation and bringing in other silencing proteins. Here we show an age-associated decrease in Sir2 protein abundance accompanied by an increase in H4 lysine 16 acetylation and loss of histones at specific subtelomeric regions in replicatively old yeast cells, which results in compromised transcriptional silencing at these loci. Antagonizing activities of Sir2 and Sas2, a histone acetyltransferase, regulate the replicative lifespan through histone H4 lysine 16 at subtelomeric regions. This pathway, distinct from existing aging models for yeast, may represent an evolutionarily conserved function of Sirtuins in regulation of replicative aging by maintenance of intact telomeric chromatin.
Chromosomal surfaces are ornamented with a variety of posttranslational modifications of histones, which are required for the regulation of many of the DNA-templated processes. Such histone modifications include acetylation, sumoylation, phosphorylation, ubiquitination and methylation. Histone modifications can either function by disrupting chromosomal contacts or by regulating non-histone protein interactions with chromatin. In this review, recent findings will be discussed regarding the regulation of the implementation and physiological significance for one such histone modification, histone H3 Lysine 4 (H3K4) methylation by the yeast COMPASS and mammalian COMPASS-like complexes.
In yeast, the macromolecular complex Set1/COMPASS is capable of methylating H3K4, a posttranslational modification associated with actively transcribed genes. There is only one Set1 in yeast; yet in mammalian cells there are multiple H3K4 methylases, including Set1A/B, forming human COMPASS complexes, and MLL1-4, forming human COMPASS-like complexes. We have shown that Wdr82, which associates with chromatin in a histone H2B ubiquitination-dependent manner, is a specific component of Set1 complexes but not that of MLL1-4 complexes. RNA interference-mediated knockdown of Wdr82 results in a reduction in the H3K4 trimethylation levels, although these cells still possess active MLL complexes. Comprehensive in vitro enzymatic studies with Set1 and MLL complexes demonstrated that the Set1 complex is a more robust H3K4 trimethylase in vitro than the MLL complexes. Given our in vivo and in vitro observations, it appears that the human Set1 complex plays a more widespread role in H3K4 trimethylation than do the MLL complexes in mammalian cells.
Methylation of histone 3 lysine 4 (H3K4) by yeast Set1-COMPASS requires prior monoubiquitination of histone H2B. To define whether other residues within the histones are also required for H3K4 methylation, we systematically generated a complete library of the alanine substitutions of all of the residues of the four core histones in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. From this study we discovered that 18 residues within the four histones are essential for viability on complete growth media. We also identified several cis-regulatory residues on the histone H3 N-terminal tail, including histone H3 lysine 14 (H3K14), which are required for normal levels of H3K4 trimethylation. Several previously uncharacterized trans-regulatory residues on histones H2A and H2B form a patch on nucleosomes and are required for methylation mediated by COMPASS. This library will be a valuable tool for defining the role of histone residues in processes requiring chromatin.
Parafibromin, a transcription factor associated with the PAF complex, is encoded by the HRPT2 gene, mutations of which cause the hyperparathyroidism-jaw tumor syndrome (OMIM145001). To elucidate the function of parafibromin, we generated conventional and conditional Hrpt2 knockout mice and found that Hrpt2−/− mice were embryonic lethal by embryonic day 6.5 (E6.5). Controlled deletion of Hrpt2 after E8.5 resulted in apoptosis and growth retardation. Deletion of Hrpt2 in adult mice led to severe cachexia and death within 20 days. To explore the mechanism underlying the embryonic lethality and death of adult mice, mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) were cultured and Hrpt2 was deleted in vitro. Hrpt2−/− MEFs underwent apoptosis, while Hrpt2+/+ and Hrpt2+/− MEFs grew normally. To study the mechanism of this apoptosis, Hrpt2+/+ and Hrpt2−/− MEFs were used in cDNA microarray, semiquantitative reverse transcription-PCR, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays to identify genes regulated by parafibromin. These revealed that Hrpt2 expression and the parafibromin/PAF complex directly regulate genes involved in cell growth and survival, including H19, Igf1, Igf2, Igfbp4, Hmga1, Hmga2, and Hmgcs2. Thus, our results show that expression of Hrpt2 and parafibromin is pivotal in mammalian development and survival in adults and that these functions are likely mediated by the transcriptional regulation of growth factors.