Concept: Histone H1
Elucidation of the biological role of linker histone (H1) and heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) in mammals has been difficult owing to the existence of a least 11 distinct H1 and three HP1 subtypes in mice. Caenorhabditis elegans possesses two HP1 homologues (HPL-1 and HPL-2) and eight H1 variants. Remarkably, one of eight H1 variants, HIS-24, is important for C. elegans development. Therefore we decided to analyse in parallel the transcriptional profiles of HIS-24, HPL-1/-2 deficient animals, and their phenotype, since hpl-1, hpl-2, and his-24 deficient nematodes are viable. Global transcriptional analysis of the double and triple mutants revealed that HPL proteins and HIS-24 play gene-specific roles, rather than a general repressive function. We showed that HIS-24 acts synergistically with HPL to allow normal reproduction, somatic gonad development, and vulval cell fate decision. Furthermore, the hpl-2; his-24 double mutant animals displayed abnormal development of the male tail and ectopic expression of C. elegans HOM-C/Hox genes (egl-5 and mab-5), which are involved in the developmental patterning of male mating structures. We found that HPL-2 and the methylated form of HIS-24 specifically interact with the histone H3 K27 region in the trimethylated state, and HIS-24 associates with the egl-5 and mab-5 genes. Our results establish the interplay between HPL-1/-2 and HIS-24 proteins in the regulation of positional identity in C. elegans males.
While many proteins are involved in the assembly and (re)positioning of nucleosomes, the dynamics of protein-assisted nucleosome formation are not well understood. We study NAP1 (nucleosome assembly protein 1) assisted nucleosome formation at the single-molecule level using magnetic tweezers. This method allows to apply a well-defined stretching force and supercoiling density to a single DNA molecule, and to study in real time the change in linking number, stiffness and length of the DNA during nucleosome formation. We observe a decrease in end-to-end length when NAP1 and core histones (CH) are added to the dsDNA. We characterize the formation of complete nucleosomes by measuring the change in linking number of DNA, which is induced by the NAP1-assisted nucleosome assembly, and which does not occur for non-nucleosomal bound histones H3 and H4. By rotating the magnets, the supercoils formed upon nucleosome assembly are removed and the number of assembled nucleosomes can be counted. We find that the compaction of DNA at low force is about 56 nm per assembled nucleosome. The number of compaction steps and associated change in linking number indicate that NAP1-assisted nucleosome assembly is a two-step process.
Histone H3 of nucleosomes positioned on active genes is trimethylated at Lys36 (H3K36me3) by the SETD2 (also termed KMT3A/SET2 or HYPB) methyltransferase. Previous studies in yeast indicated that H3K36me3 prevents spurious intragenic transcription initiation through recruitment of a histone deacetylase complex, a mechanism that is not conserved in mammals. Here, we report that downregulation of SETD2 in human cells leads to intragenic transcription initiation in at least 11% of active genes. Reduction of SETD2 prevents normal loading of the FACT (FAcilitates Chromatin Transcription) complex subunits SPT16 and SSRP1, and decreases nucleosome occupancy in active genes. Moreover, co-immunoprecipitation experiments suggest that SPT16 is recruited to active chromatin templates, which contain H3K36me3-modified nucleosomes. Our results further show that within minutes after transcriptional activation, there is a SETD2-dependent reduction in gene body occupancy of histone H2B, but not of histone H3, suggesting that SETD2 coordinates FACT-mediated exchange of histone H2B during transcription-coupled nucleosome displacement. After inhibition of transcription, we observe a SETD2-dependent recruitment of FACT and increased histone H2B occupancy. These data suggest that SETD2 activity modulates FACT recruitment and nucleosome dynamics, thereby repressing cryptic transcription initiation.
The nucleosome is the basic repeating unit of chromatin. During the nucleosome assembly process, DNA is wrapped around two H3-H4 dimers, followed by the inclusion of two H2A-H2B dimers. The H3-H4 dimers provide the fundamental architecture of the nucleosome. Many non-allelic variants have been found for H3, but not for H4, suggesting that the functions of chromatin domains may, at least in part, be dictated by the specific H3 variant that is incorporated. A prominent example is the centromeric H3 variant, CENP-A, which specifies the function of centromeres in chromosomes. In this review, we survey the current progress in the studies of nucleosomes containing H3 variants, and discuss their implications for the architecture and dynamics of chromatin domains.
Histone H1 binds to linker DNA between nucleosomes, but the dynamics and biological ramifications of this interaction remain poorly understood. We performed single-molecule experiments using magnetic tweezers to determine the effects of H1 on naked DNA in buffer or during chromatin assembly in Xenopus egg extracts. In buffer, nanomolar concentrations of H1 induce bending and looping of naked DNA at stretching forces below 0.6 pN, effects that can be reversed with 2.7-pN force or in 200 mM monovalent salt concentrations. Consecutive tens-of-nanometer bending events suggest that H1 binds to naked DNA in buffer at high stoichiometries. In egg extracts, single DNA molecules assemble into nucleosomes and undergo rapid compaction. Histone H1 at endogenous physiological concentrations increases the DNA compaction rate during chromatin assembly under 2-pN force and decreases it during disassembly under 5-pN force. In egg cytoplasm, histone H1 protects sperm nuclei undergoing genome-wide decondensation and chromatin assembly from becoming abnormally stretched or fragmented due to astral microtubule pulling forces. These results reveal functional ramifications of H1 binding to DNA at the single-molecule level and suggest an important physiological role for H1 in compacting DNA under force and during chromatin assembly.
Monoubiquitination of histone H2B on Lys 123 (H2BK123ub) is a transient histone modification considered to be essential for establishing H3K4 and H3K79 trimethylation by Set1/COMPASS and Dot1, respectively. Here, we identified Chd1 as a factor that is required for the maintenance of high levels of H2B monoubiquitination, but not for H3K4 and H3K79 trimethylation. Loss of Chd1 results in a substantial loss of H2BK123ub levels with little to no effect on the genome-wide pattern of H3K4 and H3K79 trimethylation. Our data show that nucleosomal occupancy is reduced in gene bodies in both chd1Δ and, as has been shown, K123A mutant backgrounds. We also demonstrated that Chd1’s function in maintaining H2BK123ub levels is conserved from yeast to humans. Our study provides evidence that only small levels of H2BK123ub are necessary for full levels of H3K4 and H3K79 trimethylation in vivo and points to a possible role for Chd1 in positively regulating gene expression through promoting nucleosome reassembly coupled with H2B monoubiquitination.
We developed a chemical cleavage method that releases single nucleosome dyad-containing fragments, allowing us to precisely map both single nucleosomes and linkers with high accuracy genome-wide in yeast. Our single nucleosome positioning data reveal that nucleosomes occupy preferred positions that differ by integral multiples of the DNA helical repeat. By comparing nucleosome dyad positioning maps to existing genomic and transcriptomic data, we evaluated the contributions of sequence, transcription, and histones H1 and H2A.Z in defining the chromatin landscape. We present a biophysical model that neglects DNA sequence and shows that steric occlusion suffices to explain the salient features of nucleosome positioning.
Linker histone H1 is an important structural component of chromatin that stabilizes the nucleosome and compacts the nucleofilament into higher-order structures. The biology of histone H1 remains, however, poorly understood. Here we show that Drosophila histone H1 (dH1) prevents genome instability as indicated by the increased γH2Av (H2AvS137P) content and the high incidence of DNA breaks and sister-chromatid exchanges observed in dH1-depleted cells. Increased γH2Av occurs preferentially at heterochromatic elements, which are upregulated upon dH1 depletion, and is due to the abnormal accumulation of DNA:RNA hybrids (R-loops). R-loops accumulation is readily detectable in G1-phase, whereas γH2Av increases mainly during DNA replication. These defects induce JNK-mediated apoptosis and are specific of dH1 depletion since they are not observed when heterochromatin silencing is relieved by HP1a depletion. Altogether, our results suggest that histone H1 prevents R-loops-induced DNA damage in heterochromatin and unveil its essential contribution to maintenance of genome stability.While structural importance of linker histone H1 in packaging eukaryotic genome into chromatin is well known, its biological function remains poorly understood. Here the authors reveal that Drosophila linker histone H1 prevents DNA:RNA hybrids accumulation and genome instability in heterochromatin.
Cytosine methylation regulates essential genome functions across eukaryotes, but the fundamental question of whether nucleosomal or naked DNA is the preferred substrate of plant and animal methyltransferases remains unresolved. Here, we show that genetic inactivation of a single DDM1/Lsh family nucleosome remodeler biases methylation toward inter-nucleosomal linker DNA in Arabidopsis thaliana and mouse. We find that DDM1 enables methylation of DNA bound to the nucleosome, suggesting that nucleosome-free DNA is the preferred substrate of eukaryotic methyltransferases in vivo. Furthermore, we show that simultaneous mutation of DDM1 and linker histone H1 in Arabidopsis reproduces the strong linker-specific methylation patterns of species that diverged from flowering plants and animals over a billion years ago. Our results indicate that in the absence of remodeling, nucleosomes are strong barriers to DNA methyltransferases. Linker-specific methylation can evolve simply by breaking the connection between nucleosome remodeling and DNA methylation.
DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) elicit a histone modification cascade that controls DNA repair. This pathway involves the sequential ubiquitination of histones H1 and H2A by the E3 ubiquitin ligases RNF8 and RNF168, respectively. RNF168 ubiquitinates H2A on lysine 13 and lysine 15 (refs 7, 8) (yielding H2AK13ub and H2AK15ub, respectively), an event that triggers the recruitment of 53BP1 (also known as TP53BP1) to chromatin flanking DSBs. 53BP1 binds specifically to H2AK15ub-containing nucleosomes through a peptide segment termed the ubiquitination-dependent recruitment motif (UDR), which requires the simultaneous engagement of histone H4 lysine 20 dimethylation (H4K20me2) by its tandem Tudor domain. How 53BP1 interacts with these two histone marks in the nucleosomal context, how it recognizes ubiquitin, and how it discriminates between H2AK13ub and H2AK15ub is unknown. Here we present the electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM) structure of a dimerized human 53BP1 fragment bound to a H4K20me2-containing and H2AK15ub-containing nucleosome core particle (NCP-ubme) at 4.5 Å resolution. The structure reveals that H4K20me2 and H2AK15ub recognition involves intimate contacts with multiple nucleosomal elements including the acidic patch. Ubiquitin recognition by 53BP1 is unusual and involves the sandwiching of the UDR segment between ubiquitin and the NCP surface. The selectivity for H2AK15ub is imparted by two arginine fingers in the H2A amino-terminal tail, which straddle the nucleosomal DNA and serve to position ubiquitin over the NCP-bound UDR segment. The structure of the complex between NCP-ubme and 53BP1 reveals the basis of 53BP1 recruitment to DSB sites and illuminates how combinations of histone marks and nucleosomal elements cooperate to produce highly specific chromatin responses, such as those elicited following chromosome breaks.