Sep 2012 PLoS genetics

Two distinct repressive mechanisms for histone 3 lysine 4 methylation through promoting 3′-end antisense transcription.


Margaritis T, Oreal V, Brabers N, Maestroni L, Vitaliano-Prunier A, Benschop JJ, van Hooff S, van Leenen D, Dargemont C, Géli V, Holstege FC


Histone H3 di- and trimethylation on lysine 4 are major chromatin marks that correlate with active transcription. The influence of these modifications on transcription itself is, however, poorly understood. We have investigated the roles of H3K4 methylation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae by determining genome-wide expression-profiles of mutants in the Set1 complex, COMPASS, that lays down these marks. Loss of H3K4 trimethylation has virtually no effect on steady-state or dynamically-changing mRNA levels. Combined loss of H3K4 tri- and dimethylation results in steady-state mRNA upregulation and delays in the repression kinetics of specific groups of genes. COMPASS-repressed genes have distinct H3K4 methylation patterns, with enrichment of H3K4me3 at the 3′-end, indicating that repression is coupled to 3′-end antisense transcription. Further analyses reveal that repression is mediated by H3K4me3-dependent 3′-end antisense transcription in two ways. For a small group of genes including PHO84, repression is mediated by a previously reported trans-effect that requires the antisense transcript itself. For the majority of COMPASS-repressed genes, however, it is the process of 3′-end antisense transcription itself that is the important factor for repression. Strand-specific qPCR analyses of various mutants indicate that this more prevalent mechanism of COMPASS-mediated repression requires H3K4me3-dependent 3′-end antisense transcription to lay down H3K4me2, which seems to serve as the actual repressive mark. Removal of the 3′-end antisense promoter also results in derepression of sense transcription and renders sense transcription insensitive to the additional loss of SET1. The derepression observed in COMPASS mutants is mimicked by reduction of global histone H3 and H4 levels, suggesting that the H3K4me2 repressive effect is linked to establishment of a repressive chromatin structure. These results indicate that in S. cerevisiae, the non-redundant role of H3K4 methylation by Set1 is repression, achieved through promotion of 3′-end antisense transcription to achieve specific rather than global effects through two distinct mechanisms.

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