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Concept: Nucleosome


Chromatin modifiers regulate lifespan in several organisms, raising the question of whether changes in chromatin states in the parental generation could be incompletely reprogrammed in the next generation and thereby affect the lifespan of descendants. The histone H3 lysine 4 trimethylation (H3K4me3) complex, composed of ASH-2, WDR-5 and the histone methyltransferase SET-2, regulates Caenorhabditis elegans lifespan. Here we show that deficiencies in the H3K4me3 chromatin modifiers ASH-2, WDR-5 or SET-2 in the parental generation extend the lifespan of descendants up until the third generation. The transgenerational inheritance of lifespan extension by members of the ASH-2 complex is dependent on the H3K4me3 demethylase RBR-2, and requires the presence of a functioning germline in the descendants. Transgenerational inheritance of lifespan is specific for the H3K4me3 methylation complex and is associated with epigenetic changes in gene expression. Thus, manipulation of specific chromatin modifiers only in parents can induce an epigenetic memory of longevity in descendants.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Histone, Epigenetics, DNA methylation, Methylation, Nucleosome


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


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.

Concepts: DNA, Histone, Nucleosome, Histone H2B, Chromatin, Histone H3, Histone H4, Histone H1


The NSD (nuclear receptor SET domain-containing) family members, consisting of NSD1, NSD2 (MMSET/WHSC1), and NSD3 (WHSC1L1), are SET domain-containing methyltransferases and aberrant expression of each member has been implicated in multiple diseases. They have specific mono- and dimethylase activities for H3K36, while play non-redundant roles during development. Aside from the well-characterized catalytic SET domain, NSD proteins have multiple potential chromatin-binding motifs that are clinically relevant, including the fifth plant homeo domain (PHD5) and the adjacent Cys-His rich domain (C5HCH) located at the C-terminus. Herein, we report the crystal structures of the PHD5-C5HCH module of NSD3, in the free state and in complex with H3(1-7) (H3 residues 1-7), H3(1-15) (H3 residues 1-15) and H3(1-15)K9me3 (H3 residues 1-15 with trimethylation on Lys9) peptides. These structures reveal that the PHD5 and C5HCH domains fold into a novel integrated PHD-PHD-like structural module with H3 peptide bound only on the surface of PHD5 and provide the molecular basis for the recognition of unmodified H3K4 and trimethylated H3K9 by NSD3 PHD5. Structural studies and binding assays show that differences exist in histone binding specificity of the PHD5 domain between three members of the NSD family. For NSD2, PHD5-C5HCH:H3 N-terminus interaction is largely conserved, though with a stronger preference for unmethylated H3K9 (H3K9me0) than trimethylated H3K9 (H3K9me3), and NSD1 PHD5-C5HCH does not bind to H3 peptides. Our results shed light on how NSD proteins that mediate H3K36 methylation are localized to specific genomic sites and provide implications for the mechanism of functional diversity of NSD proteins.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Protein structure, Histone, Peptide, Nucleosome, Histone H3


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.

Concepts: DNA, Histone, Nucleosome, Histone H2B, Histone H3, Histone H4, Histone H2A, Histone H1


Epidemiological studies suggest that a father’s diet can influence offspring health. A proposed mechanism for paternal transmission of environmental information is via the sperm epigenome. The epigenome includes heritable information such as DNA methylation. We hypothesize that the dietary supply of methyl donors will alter epigenetic reprogramming in sperm. Here we feed male mice either a folate-deficient or folate-sufficient diet throughout life. Paternal folate deficiency is associated with increased birth defects in the offspring, which include craniofacial and musculoskeletal malformations. Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis and the subsequent functional analysis identify differential methylation in sperm of genes implicated in development, chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, autism and schizophrenia. While >300 genes are differentially expressed in offspring placenta, only two correspond to genes with differential methylation in sperm. This model suggests epigenetic transmission may involve sperm histone H3 methylation or DNA methylation and that adequate paternal dietary folate is essential for offspring health.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Histone, Epigenetics, DNA methylation, Methylation, Nucleosome, Reprogramming


A pharmacologic approach to male contraception remains a longstanding challenge in medicine. Toward this objective, we explored the spermatogenic effects of a selective small-molecule inhibitor (JQ1) of the bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) subfamily of epigenetic reader proteins. Here, we report potent inhibition of the testis-specific member BRDT, which is essential for chromatin remodeling during spermatogenesis. Biochemical and crystallographic studies confirm that occupancy of the BRDT acetyl-lysine binding pocket by JQ1 prevents recognition of acetylated histone H4. Treatment of mice with JQ1 reduced seminiferous tubule area, testis size, and spermatozoa number and motility without affecting hormone levels. Although JQ1-treated males mate normally, inhibitory effects of JQ1 evident at the spermatocyte and round spermatid stages cause a complete and reversible contraceptive effect. These data establish a new contraceptive that can cross the blood:testis boundary and inhibit bromodomain activity during spermatogenesis, providing a lead compound targeting the male germ cell for contraception. PAPERCLIP:

Concepts: Histone, Sperm, Enzyme inhibitor, Spermatozoon, Nucleosome, Meiosis, Sertoli cell, Puberty


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


Carcinosarcomas (CSs) of the uterus and ovary are highly aggressive neoplasms containing both carcinomatous and sarcomatous elements. We analyzed the mutational landscape of 68 uterine and ovarian CSs by whole-exome sequencing. We also performed multiregion whole-exome sequencing comprising two carcinoma and sarcoma samples from six tumors to resolve their evolutionary histories. The results demonstrated that carcinomatous and sarcomatous elements derive from a common precursor having mutations typical of carcinomas. In addition to mutations in cancer genes previously identified in uterine and ovarian carcinomas such as TP53, PIK3CA, PPP2R1A, KRAS, PTEN, CHD4, and BCOR, we found an excess of mutations in genes encoding histone H2A and H2B, as well as significant amplification of the segment of chromosome 6p harboring the histone gene cluster containing these genes. We also found frequent deletions of the genes TP53 and MBD3 (a member with CHD4 of the nucleosome remodeling deacetylase complex) and frequent amplification of chromosome segments containing the genes PIK3CA, TERT, and MYC Stable transgenic expression of H2A and H2B in a uterine serous carcinoma cell line demonstrated that mutant, but not wild-type, histones increased expression of markers of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) as well as tumor migratory and invasive properties, suggesting a role in sarcomatous transformation. Comparison of the phylogenetic relationships of carcinomatous and sarcomatous elements of the same tumors demonstrated separate lineages leading to these two components. These findings define the genetic landscape of CSs and suggest therapeutic targets for these highly aggressive neoplasms.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Cell, Cancer, Histone, Nucleosome, Histone H2B


The NuRD complex is a multi-protein transcriptional corepressor that couples histone deacetylase and ATP-dependent chromatin remodelling activities. The complex regulates the higher-order structure of chromatin, and has important roles in the regulation of gene expression, DNA damage repair and cell differentiation. HDACs 1 and 2 are recruited by the MTA1 corepressor to form the catalytic core of the complex. The histone chaperone protein RBBP4, has previously been shown to bind to the carboxy-terminal tail of MTA1. We show that MTA1 recruits a second copy of RBBP4. The crystal structure reveals an extensive interface between MTA1 and RBBP4. An EM structure, supported by SAXS and crosslinking, reveals the architecture of the dimeric HDAC1:MTA1:RBBP4 assembly which forms the core of the NuRD complex. We find evidence that in this complex RBBP4 mediates interaction with histone H3 tails, but not histone H4, suggesting a mechanism for recruitment of the NuRD complex to chromatin.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Gene expression, Histone, DNA repair, Transcription factor, Nucleosome