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1.  An inverse relationship to germline transcription defines centromeric chromatin in C. elegans 
Nature  2012;484(7395):534-537.
Centromeres are chromosomal loci that direct segregation of the genome during cell division. The histone H3 variant CENP-A (also known as CenH3) defines centromeres in monocentric organisms, which confine centromere activity to a discrete chromosomal region, and holocentric organisms, which distribute centromere activity along the chromosome length1–3. Because the highly repetitive DNA found at most centromeres is neither necessary nor sufficient for centromere function, stable inheritance of CENP-A nucleosomal chromatin is postulated to epigenetically propagate centromere identity4. Here, we show that in the holocentric nematode Caenorhabditis elegans pre-existing CENP-A nucleosomes are not necessary to guide recruitment of new CENP-A nucleosomes. This is indicated by lack of CENP-A transmission by sperm during fertilization and by removal and subsequent reloading of CENP-A during oogenic meiotic prophase. Genome-wide mapping of CENP-A location in embryos and quantification of CENP-A molecules in nuclei revealed that CENP-A is incorporated at low density in domains that cumulatively encompass half the genome. Embryonic CENP-A domains are established in a pattern inverse to regions that are transcribed in the germline and early embryo, and ectopic transcription of genes in a mutant germline altered the pattern of CENP-A incorporation in embryos. Furthermore, regions transcribed in the germline but not embryos fail to incorporate CENP-A throughout embryogenesis. We propose that germline transcription defines genomic regions that exclude CENP-A incorporation in progeny, and that zygotic transcription during early embryogenesis remodels and reinforces this basal pattern. These findings link centromere identity to transcription and shed light on the evolutionary plasticity of centromeres.
PMCID: PMC3538161  PMID: 22495302
2.  Antagonism between MES-4 and Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 Promotes Appropriate Gene Expression in C. elegans Germ Cells 
Cell reports  2012;2(5):1169-1177.
The C. elegans MES proteins are key chromatin regulators of the germline. MES-2, MES-3, and MES-6 form the C. elegans Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 and generate repressive H3K27me3. MES-4 generates H3K36me3 on germline-expressed genes. Transcript profiling of dissected mutant germlines revealed that MES-2/3/6 and MES-4 cooperate to promote expression of germline genes and silence the X chromosomes and somatic genes. Based on genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation, H3K27me3 and H3K36me3 occupy mutually exclusive domains on the autosomes and H3K27me3 is enriched on the X. Loss of MES-4 from germline genes causes H3K27me3 to spread to germline genes, resulting in reduced H3K27me3 elsewhere on the autosomes and especially on the X. Our findings support a model in which H3K36me3 repels H3K27me3 from germline genes and concentrates it on other regions of the genome. This antagonism ensures proper patterns of gene expression for germ cells, which includes silencing somatic genes and the X chromosomes.
PMCID: PMC3513488  PMID: 23103171
3.  H4K20me1 Contributes to Downregulation of X-Linked Genes for C. elegans Dosage Compensation 
PLoS Genetics  2012;8(9):e1002933.
The Caenorhabditis elegans dosage compensation complex (DCC) equalizes X-chromosome gene dosage between XO males and XX hermaphrodites by two-fold repression of X-linked gene expression in hermaphrodites. The DCC localizes to the X chromosomes in hermaphrodites but not in males, and some subunits form a complex homologous to condensin. The mechanism by which the DCC downregulates gene expression remains unclear. Here we show that the DCC controls the methylation state of lysine 20 of histone H4, leading to higher H4K20me1 and lower H4K20me3 levels on the X chromosomes of XX hermaphrodites relative to autosomes. We identify the PR-SET7 ortholog SET-1 and the Suv4-20 ortholog SET-4 as the major histone methyltransferases for monomethylation and di/trimethylation of H4K20, respectively, and provide evidence that X-chromosome enrichment of H4K20me1 involves inhibition of SET-4 activity on the X. RNAi knockdown of set-1 results in synthetic lethality with dosage compensation mutants and upregulation of X-linked gene expression, supporting a model whereby H4K20me1 functions with the condensin-like C. elegans DCC to repress transcription of X-linked genes. H4K20me1 is important for mitotic chromosome condensation in mammals, suggesting that increased H4K20me1 on the X may restrict access of the transcription machinery to X-linked genes via chromatin compaction.
Author Summary
In many animals, males have one X chromosome and females have two. However, the same amount of gene expression from X chromosomes is needed in the two sexes. The process of dosage compensation (DC) globally regulates X-chromosome gene expression to make it equal between the sexes, and it occurs in different ways in different animals. In mammals, one X chromosome in females is randomly inactivated, leaving one active X chromosome. In contrast, in the nematode worm C. elegans, the two X chromosomes in hermaphrodites are repressed two-fold to match gene expression to the single X chromosome in males. Previous work in C. elegans identified proteins required for DC that bind to the X chromosome, but their mode of action is not known. Here we show that DC proteins lead to higher levels of histone H4 lysine 20 monomethylation (H4K20me1) on hermaphrodite X chromosomes and that H4K20me1 functions in repressing X-chromosome gene expression. This shows that histone modification is an important aspect of the mechanism of dosage compensation. Together with previous work linking H4K20me1 to chromatin structure regulation, our results suggest that dosage compensation might lower gene expression on hermaphrodite X chromosomes by compacting them.
PMCID: PMC3441679  PMID: 23028348
4.  Integrative Analysis of the Caenorhabditis elegans Genome by the modENCODE Project 
Gerstein, Mark B. | Lu, Zhi John | Van Nostrand, Eric L. | Cheng, Chao | Arshinoff, Bradley I. | Liu, Tao | Yip, Kevin Y. | Robilotto, Rebecca | Rechtsteiner, Andreas | Ikegami, Kohta | Alves, Pedro | Chateigner, Aurelien | Perry, Marc | Morris, Mitzi | Auerbach, Raymond K. | Feng, Xin | Leng, Jing | Vielle, Anne | Niu, Wei | Rhrissorrakrai, Kahn | Agarwal, Ashish | Alexander, Roger P. | Barber, Galt | Brdlik, Cathleen M. | Brennan, Jennifer | Brouillet, Jeremy Jean | Carr, Adrian | Cheung, Ming-Sin | Clawson, Hiram | Contrino, Sergio | Dannenberg, Luke O. | Dernburg, Abby F. | Desai, Arshad | Dick, Lindsay | Dosé, Andréa C. | Du, Jiang | Egelhofer, Thea | Ercan, Sevinc | Euskirchen, Ghia | Ewing, Brent | Feingold, Elise A. | Gassmann, Reto | Good, Peter J. | Green, Phil | Gullier, Francois | Gutwein, Michelle | Guyer, Mark S. | Habegger, Lukas | Han, Ting | Henikoff, Jorja G. | Henz, Stefan R. | Hinrichs, Angie | Holster, Heather | Hyman, Tony | Iniguez, A. Leo | Janette, Judith | Jensen, Morten | Kato, Masaomi | Kent, W. James | Kephart, Ellen | Khivansara, Vishal | Khurana, Ekta | Kim, John K. | Kolasinska-Zwierz, Paulina | Lai, Eric C. | Latorre, Isabel | Leahey, Amber | Lewis, Suzanna | Lloyd, Paul | Lochovsky, Lucas | Lowdon, Rebecca F. | Lubling, Yaniv | Lyne, Rachel | MacCoss, Michael | Mackowiak, Sebastian D. | Mangone, Marco | McKay, Sheldon | Mecenas, Desirea | Merrihew, Gennifer | Miller, David M. | Muroyama, Andrew | Murray, John I. | Ooi, Siew-Loon | Pham, Hoang | Phippen, Taryn | Preston, Elicia A. | Rajewsky, Nikolaus | Rätsch, Gunnar | Rosenbaum, Heidi | Rozowsky, Joel | Rutherford, Kim | Ruzanov, Peter | Sarov, Mihail | Sasidharan, Rajkumar | Sboner, Andrea | Scheid, Paul | Segal, Eran | Shin, Hyunjin | Shou, Chong | Slack, Frank J. | Slightam, Cindie | Smith, Richard | Spencer, William C. | Stinson, E. O. | Taing, Scott | Takasaki, Teruaki | Vafeados, Dionne | Voronina, Ksenia | Wang, Guilin | Washington, Nicole L. | Whittle, Christina M. | Wu, Beijing | Yan, Koon-Kiu | Zeller, Georg | Zha, Zheng | Zhong, Mei | Zhou, Xingliang | Ahringer, Julie | Strome, Susan | Gunsalus, Kristin C. | Micklem, Gos | Liu, X. Shirley | Reinke, Valerie | Kim, Stuart K. | Hillier, LaDeana W. | Henikoff, Steven | Piano, Fabio | Snyder, Michael | Stein, Lincoln | Lieb, Jason D. | Waterston, Robert H.
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2010;330(6012):1775-1787.
We systematically generated large-scale data sets to improve genome annotation for the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a key model organism. These data sets include transcriptome profiling across a developmental time course, genome-wide identification of transcription factor–binding sites, and maps of chromatin organization. From this, we created more complete and accurate gene models, including alternative splice forms and candidate noncoding RNAs. We constructed hierarchical networks of transcription factor–binding and microRNA interactions and discovered chromosomal locations bound by an unusually large number of transcription factors. Different patterns of chromatin composition and histone modification were revealed between chromosome arms and centers, with similarly prominent differences between autosomes and the X chromosome. Integrating data types, we built statistical models relating chromatin, transcription factor binding, and gene expression. Overall, our analyses ascribed putative functions to most of the conserved genome.
PMCID: PMC3142569  PMID: 21177976
5.  An assessment of histone-modification antibody quality 
We report testing of the specificity and utility of over 200 antibodies raised against 57 different histone modifications, in Drosophila melanogaster, Caenorhabditis elegans and human cells. While most antibodies performed well, over 25% failed specificity tests by dot blot or western blot. Among specific antibodies, over 20% failed in chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments. We advise rigorous testing of histone-modification antibodies before use and provide a website for posting new test results.
PMCID: PMC3017233  PMID: 21131980
6.  Caenorhabditis elegans chromosome arms are anchored to the nuclear membrane via discontinuous association with LEM-2 
Genome Biology  2010;11(12):R120.
Although Caenorhabditis elegans was the first multicellular organism with a completely sequenced genome, how this genome is arranged within the nucleus is not known.
We determined the genomic regions associated with the nuclear transmembrane protein LEM-2 in mixed-stage C. elegans embryos via chromatin immunoprecipitation. Large regions of several megabases on the arms of each autosome were associated with LEM-2. The center of each autosome was mostly free of such interactions, suggesting that they are largely looped out from the nuclear membrane. Only the left end of the X chromosome was associated with the nuclear membrane. At a finer scale, the large membrane-associated domains consisted of smaller subdomains of LEM-2 associations. These subdomains were characterized by high repeat density, low gene density, high levels of H3K27 trimethylation, and silent genes. The subdomains were punctuated by gaps harboring highly active genes. A chromosome arm translocated to a chromosome center retained its association with LEM-2, although there was a slight decrease in association near the fusion point.
Local DNA or chromatin properties are the main determinant of interaction with the nuclear membrane, with position along the chromosome making a minor contribution. Genes in small gaps between LEM-2 associated regions tend to be highly expressed, suggesting that these small gaps are especially amenable to highly efficient transcription. Although our data are derived from an amalgamation of cell types in mixed-stage embryos, the results suggest a model for the spatial arrangement of C. elegans chromosomes within the nucleus.
PMCID: PMC3046480  PMID: 21176223
7.  The Histone H3K36 Methyltransferase MES-4 Acts Epigenetically to Transmit the Memory of Germline Gene Expression to Progeny 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(9):e1001091.
Methylation of histone H3K36 in higher eukaryotes is mediated by multiple methyltransferases. Set2-related H3K36 methyltransferases are targeted to genes by association with RNA Polymerase II and are involved in preventing aberrant transcription initiation within the body of genes. The targeting and roles of the NSD family of mammalian H3K36 methyltransferases, known to be involved in human developmental disorders and oncogenesis, are not known. We used genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) to investigate the targeting and roles of the Caenorhabditis elegans NSD homolog MES-4, which is maternally provided to progeny and is required for the survival of nascent germ cells. ChIP analysis in early C. elegans embryos revealed that, consistent with immunostaining results, MES-4 binding sites are concentrated on the autosomes and the leftmost ∼2% (300 kb) of the X chromosome. MES-4 overlies the coding regions of approximately 5,000 genes, with a modest elevation in the 5′ regions of gene bodies. Although MES-4 is generally found over Pol II-bound genes, analysis of gene sets with different temporal-spatial patterns of expression revealed that Pol II association with genes is neither necessary nor sufficient to recruit MES-4. In early embryos, MES-4 associates with genes that were previously expressed in the maternal germ line, an interaction that does not require continued association of Pol II with those loci. Conversely, Pol II association with genes newly expressed in embryos does not lead to recruitment of MES-4 to those genes. These and other findings suggest that MES-4, and perhaps the related mammalian NSD proteins, provide an epigenetic function for H3K36 methylation that is novel and likely to be unrelated to ongoing transcription. We propose that MES-4 transmits the memory of gene expression in the parental germ line to offspring and that this memory role is critical for the PGCs to execute a proper germline program.
Author Summary
Germ cells transmit the genome from one generation to the next. The identity and immortality of germ cells are crucial for the perpetuation of species, yet the mechanisms that regulate these properties remain elusive. In C.elegans, a histone methyltransferase MES-4 is required for survival of the primordial germ cells. MES-4 methylates histone H3 at lysine 36 (H3K36), a modification previously linked to transcription elongation and involved in preventing aberrant transcription initiation within the body of genes. Surprisingly, our genome-wide analysis of MES-4 binding sites in C. elegans embryos revealed that MES-4 is capable of associating with genes that were expressed in the germ line of the parent worms but are no longer being actively transcribed in embryos. To our knowledge, this is the first example of transcription-uncoupled H3K36 methylation. We suggest that MES-4-generated H3K36 methylation serves an “epigenetic role,” by marking germline-expressed genes and by carrying the memory of gene expression from one generation of germ cells to the next.
PMCID: PMC2932692  PMID: 20824077
8.  Core Structure of the yeast Spt4-Spt5 Complex: A Conserved Module for Regulation of Transcription Elongation 
Structure (London, England : 1993)  2008;16(11):1649-1658.
Spt4-Spt5 complex is an essential RNA Polymerase II elongation factor found in all eukaryotes and important for gene regulation. We report here the crystal structure of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Spt4 bound to the NGN domain of Spt5. This structure reveals that Spt4-Spt5 binding is governed by an acid-dipole interaction between Spt5 and Spt4. Mutations that disrupt this interaction disrupt the complex. Residues forming this pivotal interaction are conserved in the archaeal homologues of Spt4 and Spt5, which we demonstrate to also form a complex. Even though bacteria lack an Spt4 homologue, the NGN domains of Spt5 and its bacterial homologues are structurally similar. Spt4 is located at a position that may help to maintain the functional conformation of the following KOW domain in Spt5. This structural and evolutionary perspective of the Spt4-Spt5 complex and its homologues suggest that it is an ancient, core component of the transcription elongation machinery.
PMCID: PMC2743916  PMID: 19000817
9.  The Septins Function in G1 Pathways that Influence the Pattern of Cell Growth in Budding Yeast 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(4):e2022.
The septins are a conserved family of proteins that have been proposed to carry out diverse functions. In budding yeast, the septins become localized to the site of bud emergence in G1 but have not been thought to carry out important functions at this stage of the cell cycle. We show here that the septins function in redundant mechanisms that are required for formation of the bud neck and for the normal pattern of cell growth early in the cell cycle. The Shs1 septin shows strong genetic interactions with G1 cyclins and is directly phosphorylated by G1 cyclin-dependent kinases, consistent with a role in early cell cycle events. However, Shs1 phosphorylation site mutants do not show genetic interactions with the G1 cyclins or obvious defects early in the cell cycle. Rather, they cause an increased cell size and aberrant cell morphology that are dependent upon inhibitory phosphorylation of Cdk1 at the G2/M transition. Shs1 phosphorylation mutants also show defects in interaction with the Gin4 kinase, which associates with the septins during G2/M and plays a role in regulating inhibitory phosphorylation of Cdk1. Phosphorylation of Shs1 by G1 cyclin-dependent kinases plays a role in events that influence Cdk1 inhibitory phosphorylation.
PMCID: PMC2291192  PMID: 18431499

Results 1-9 (9)