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Concept: Acetylation


The association of histone modification changes with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has not been systematically examined. We conducted a histone acetylome-wide association study (HAWAS) by performing H3K27ac chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) on 257 postmortem samples from ASD and matched control brains. Despite etiological heterogeneity, ≥68% of syndromic and idiopathic ASD cases shared a common acetylome signature at >5,000 cis-regulatory elements in prefrontal and temporal cortex. Similarly, multiple genes associated with rare genetic mutations in ASD showed common “epimutations.” Acetylome aberrations in ASD were not attributable to genetic differentiation at cis-SNPs and highlighted genes involved in synaptic transmission, ion transport, epilepsy, behavioral abnormality, chemokinesis, histone deacetylation, and immunity. By correlating histone acetylation with genotype, we discovered >2,000 histone acetylation quantitative trait loci (haQTLs) in human brain regions, including four candidate causal variants for psychiatric diseases. Due to the relative stability of histone modifications postmortem, we anticipate that the HAWAS approach will be applicable to multiple diseases.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Brain, Histone, DNA repair, Cerebral cortex, Acetylation


Protein acetylation is an important posttranslational modification with the recent identification of new substrates and enzymes, new links to disease, and modulators of protein acetylation for therapy. α-tubulin acetyltransferase (αTAT1) is the major α-tubulin lysine-40 (K40) acetyltransferase in mammals, nematodes, and protozoa, and its activity plays a conserved role in several microtubule-based processes. Here, we present the X-ray crystal structure of the human αTAT1/acetyl-CoA complex. Together with structure-based mutagenesis, enzymatic analysis, and functional studies in cells, we elucidate the catalytic mechanism and mode of tubulin-specific acetylation. We find that αTAT1 has an overall fold similar to the Gcn5 histone acetyltransferase but contains a relatively wide substrate binding groove and unique structural elements that play important roles in α-tubulin-specific acetylation. Conserved aspartic acid and cysteine residues play important catalytic roles through a ternary complex mechanism. αTAT1 mutations have analogous effects on tubulin acetylation in vitro and in cells, demonstrating that it is the central determining factor of α-tubulin K40 acetylation levels in vivo. Together, these studies provide general insights into distinguishing features between histone and tubulin acetyltransferases, and they have specific implications for understanding the molecular basis of tubulin acetylation and for developing small molecule modulators of microtubule acetylation for therapy.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Enzyme, Histone, Posttranslational modification, Lysine, Acetylation, Histone acetyltransferase


Learning induced changes in protein acetylation, mediated by histone acetyl transferases (HATs), and the antagonistic histone deacetylases (HDACs) play a critical role in memory formation. The status of histone acetylation affects the interaction between the transcription-complex and DNA and thus regulates transcription-dependent processes required for long-term memory (LTM). While the majority of studies report on the role of elevated acetylation in memory facilitation, we address the impact of both, increased and decreased acetylation on formation of appetitive olfactory memory in honeybees. We show that learning-induced changes in the acetylation of histone H3 at aminoacid-positions H3K9 and H3K18 exhibit distinct and different dynamics depending on the training strength. A strong training that induces LTM leads to an immediate increase in acetylation at H3K18 that stays elevated for hours. A weak training, not sufficient to trigger LTM, causes an initial increase in acetylation at H3K18, followed by a strong reduction in acetylation at H3K18 below the control group level. Acetylation at position H3K9 is not affected by associative conditioning, indicating specific learning-induced actions on the acetylation machinery. Elevating acetylation levels by blocking HDACs after conditioning leads to an improved memory. While memory after strong training is enhanced for at least 2 days, the enhancement after weak training is restricted to 1 day. Reducing acetylation levels by blocking HAT activity after strong training leads to a suppression of transcription-dependent LTM. The memory suppression is also observed in case of weak training, which does not require transcription processes. Thus, our findings demonstrate that acetylation-mediated processes act as bidirectional regulators of memory formation that facilitate or suppress memory independent of its transcription-requirement.

Concepts: DNA, Histone, Histone deacetylase, Posttranslational modification, Nucleosome, Acetylation, Histone H3, Histone acetyltransferase


There is collecting evidence suggesting that the process of chromatin remodeling such as changes in histone acetylation contribute to the formation of stress-related memory. Recently, the ventrolateral orbital cortex (VLO), a major subdivision of orbitofrontal cortex (OFC), was shown to be involved in antidepressant-like actions through epigenetic mechanisms. Here, we further investigated the effects of the histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDACi) valproic acid (VPA) on stress-related memory formation and the underlying molecular mechanisms by using the traditional two-day forced swimming test (FST). The results showed that VPA significantly increased the immobility time on day 2 when infused into the VLO before the initial forced swim stress on day 1. The learned immobility response to the stress was associated with increased phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) in VLO and hippocampus on the first day. The levels of phosphorylated ERK (phospho-ERK) in VLO and hippocampus were significantly decreased when retested 24 h later. The pretreatment with intra-VLO VPA infusion further reduced the activation of ERK on day 2 and day 7 compared with the saline controls. Moreover, the VPA infusion pretreatment also induced a significantly decreased BDNF level in the VLO on day 2, whereas no change was detected in the hippocampus. These findings suggest that VPA enhance the memories of emotionally stressful events and the ERK activity is implicated in stimulating adaptive and mnemonic processes in case the event would recur.

Concepts: Histone, Epigenetics, Histone deacetylase, Posttranslational modification, Memory, Limbic system, Acetylation, Histone-Modifying Enzymes


The recently discovered histone post-translational modification crotonylation connects cellular metabolism to gene regulation. Its regulation and tissue-specific functions are poorly understood. We characterize histone crotonylation in intestinal epithelia and find that histone H3 crotonylation at lysine 18 is a surprisingly abundant modification in the small intestine crypt and colon, and is linked to gene regulation. We show that this modification is highly dynamic and regulated during the cell cycle. We identify class I histone deacetylases, HDAC1, HDAC2, and HDAC3, as major executors of histone decrotonylation. We show that known HDAC inhibitors, including the gut microbiota-derived butyrate, affect histone decrotonylation. Consistent with this, we find that depletion of the gut microbiota leads to a global change in histone crotonylation in the colon. Our results suggest that histone crotonylation connects chromatin to the gut microbiota, at least in part, via short-chain fatty acids and HDACs.

Concepts: DNA, Bacteria, Amino acid, Nutrition, Histone, Histone deacetylase, Posttranslational modification, Acetylation


Chronic alcoholics who also binge drink (i.e., acute on chronic) are prone to an exacerbated liver injury but its mechanism is not understood. We therefore investigated the in vivo effects of chronic and binge ethanol ingestion and compared to chronic ethanol followed by three repeat binge ethanol on the liver of male C57/BL6 mice fed ethanol in liquid diet (4%) for four weeks followed by binge ethanol (intragastric administration, 3.5 g/kg body weight, three doses, 12h apart). Chronic followed by binge ethanol exacerbated fat accumulation, necrosis, decrease in hepatic SAM and SAM:SAH ratio, increase in adenosine levels, and elevated CYP2E1 levels. Histone H3 lysine acetylation (H3AcK9), dually modified phosphoacetylated histone H3 (H3AcK9/PS10), and phosphorylated H2AX increased after binge whereas phosphorylation of histone H3 ser 10 (H3S10) and H3 ser 28 (H3S28) increased after chronic ethanol-binge. Histone H3 lysine 4 and 9 dimethylation increased with a marked dimethylation in H3K9 in chronic ethanol binge group. Trimethylated histone H3 levels did not change. Nuclear levels of histone acetyl transferase GCN5 and histone deacetylase HDAC3 were elevated whereas phospho-CREB decreased in a distinctive manner. Taken together, acute on chronic ethanol ingestion caused amplification of liver injury and elicited characteristic profiles of histone modifications, metabolic alterations, and changes in nuclear protein levels. These findings demonstrate that chronic ethanol exposure renders liver more susceptible to repeat acute/binge ethanol induced acceleration of alcoholic liver disease.

Concepts: Protein, Histone, Histone deacetylase, Alcoholism, Posttranslational modification, Nucleosome, Alcohol abuse, Acetylation


Nonspecific histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibition has been shown to facilitate the extinction of drug-seeking behavior in a manner resistant to reinstatement. A key open question is which specific HDAC is involved in the extinction of drug-seeking behavior. Using the selective HDAC3 inhibitor RGFP966, we investigated the role of HDAC3 in extinction and found that systemic treatment with RGFP966 facilitates extinction in mice in a manner resistant to reinstatement. We also investigated whether the facilitated extinction is related to the enhancement of extinction consolidation during extinction learning or to negative effects on performance or reconsolidation. These are key distinctions with regard to any compound being used to modulate extinction, because a more rapid decrease in a defined behavior is interpreted as facilitated extinction. Using an innovative combination of behavioral paradigms, we found that a single treatment of RGFP966 enhances extinction of a previously established cocaine-conditioned place preference, while simultaneously enhancing long-term object-location memory within subjects. During extinction consolidation, HDAC3 inhibition promotes a distinct pattern of histone acetylation linked to gene expression within the infralimbic cortex, hippocampus, and nucleus accumbens. Thus, the facilitated extinction of drug-seeking cannot be explained by adverse effects on performance. These results demonstrate that HDAC3 inhibition enhances the memory processes involved in extinction of drug-seeking behavior.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Histone, Histone deacetylase, Limbic system, Acetylation, Histone acetyltransferase, Histone-Modifying Enzymes


The studies reported here were undertaken to define the regulation and functional importance of zinc-dependent histone deacetylase (Zn-HDAC) activity during liver regeneration using the mouse partial hepatectomy (PH) model. The results showed that hepatic HDAC activity was significantly increased in nuclear and cytoplasmic fractions following PH. Further analyses showed isoform-specific effects of PH on HDAC mRNA and protein expression, with increased expression of the class I HDACs, 1 and 8, and class II HDAC4 in regenerating liver. Hepatic expression of (class II) HDAC5 was unchanged after PH; however HDAC5 exhibited transient nuclear accumulation in regenerating liver. These changes in hepatic HDAC expression, subcellular localization, and activity coincided with diminished histone acetylation in regenerating liver. The significance of these events was investigated by determining the effects of suberoylanilide hydroxyamic acid (SAHA, a specific inhibitor of Zn-HDAC activity) on hepatic regeneration. The results showed that SAHA-treatment suppressed the effects of PH on histone deacetylation and hepatocellular BrdU incorporation. Further examination showed that SAHA blunted hepatic expression and activation of cell cycle signals downstream of induction of cyclin D1 expression in mice subjected to PH. Conclusion: The data reported here demonstrate isoform-specific regulation of Zn-HDAC expression, subcellular localization, and activity in regenerating liver. These studies also indicate that HDAC activity promotes liver regeneration by regulating hepatocellular cell cycle progression at a step downstream of cyclin D1 induction. (HEPATOLOGY 2012.).

Concepts: DNA, Histone, Histone deacetylase, Liver, Transcription factor, Acetylation, Histone acetyltransferase, HDAC3


Besides the transcription-promoting role of histone acetyltransferases (HATs) and the transcription-delimiting function of histone deacetylases (HDACs) through histone acetylation and deacetylation respectively, HATs and HDACs also regulate the activity of several non-histone proteins. This includes signal transducers and activators of transcription (STATs), key proteins in cytokine signaling. Unlike Tyr phosphorylation/dephosphorylation, which mainly acts as an on/off switch of STAT activity, the control exerted by HATs and HDACs appears multifaceted and far more complex than initially imagined. Our review focuses on the latest trends and novel hypotheses to explain differential context-dependent STAT regulation by complex posttranslational modification patterns. We chart the knowledge on how STATs interact with HATs and HDACs, and additionally bring a transcriptional regulatory and gene-set specific role for HDACs in the picture. Indeed, a growing amount of evidence demonstrates, paradoxically, that not only HAT but also HDAC activity can be required for STAT-dependent transcription, in a STAT subtype- and cell type-dependent manner. Referring to recent reports, we review and discuss the various molecular mechanisms that have recently been proposed to account for this peculiar regulation, in an attempt to shed more light on the difficult yet important question on how STAT specificity is being generated.

Concepts: DNA, Proteins, Histone, Histone deacetylase, Posttranslational modification, Transcription factor, Acetylation, Histone acetyltransferase


Histone acetyltransferases (HATs) catalyze the acetylation of specific lysine residues in histone and nonhistone proteins. Recent studies showed that acetylation is widely distributed among cellular proteins, suggestive of diverse functions of HATs in cellular pathways. Nevertheless, currently available assays for HAT activity study are still quite limited. Here, we evaluated a series of thiol-sensitive fluorogenic compounds for the detection of the enzymatic activities of different HAT proteins. Upon conjugation to the thiol group of HSCoA, these molecules gain enhanced quantum yields and strong fluorescence, permitting facile quantitation of HAT activities. We investigated and compared the assay performances of these fluorogenic compounds for their capability as HAT activity reporters, including kinetics of reaction with HSCoA, influence on HAT activity, and fluorescence amplification factors. Our data suggest that CPM and coumarin maleic acid ester are excellent HAT probes owing to their fast reaction kinetics and dramatic fluorescence enhancement during the HAT reaction. Further, the microtiter plate measurements show that this fluorescent approach is robust and well suited for adaption to high-throughput screening of small molecule inhibitors of HATs, highlighting the value of this assay strategy in new drug discovery.

Concepts: Protein, Transition state, Drug discovery, Lysine, Acetylation, High-throughput screening, Histone acetyltransferase, Compound management