Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Next-gen reappraisal of interactions within cancer-associated protein complex

Date:
January 15, 2014
Source:
Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Summary:
At a glance, DNA is a rather simple sequence of A, G, C, T bases, but once it is packaged by histone proteins into an amalgam called chromatin, a more complex picture emerges. Histones, which come in four subtypes -- H2A, H2B, H3, and H4 -- can either coil DNA into inaccessible silent regions or untwist it to allow gene expression. To further complicate things, small chemical flags, such as methyl groups, affect whether histones silence or activate genes.

This image shows the context-dependent function of COMPASS.
Credit: Image courtesy of Dr. Ali Shilatifard, Stowers Institute for Medical Research

At a glance, DNA is a rather simple sequence of A, G, C, T bases, but once it is packaged by histone proteins into an amalgam called chromatin, a more complex picture emerges. Histones, which come in four subtypes -- H2A, H2B, H3, and H4 -- can either coil DNA into inaccessible silent regions or untwist it to allow gene expression. To further complicate things, small chemical flags, such as methyl groups, affect whether histones silence or activate genes.

Among activator histones is a form of H3 decorated at a precise location (defined as H3K4) with three methyl groups (known as "H3K4me3"). Researchers knew previously that the presence of H2B exhibiting a single ubiquitin molecule stimulated the methylase that modifies H3K4, thereby increasing H3K4me3 levels. But how the methylase's activity was directed toward the appropriate targets had remained unclear.

Now, using biochemical, structural, and global sequencing techniques, researchers in the lab of Ali Shilatifard, Ph.D., an Investigator at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, reveal an unanticipated mechanism underlying H3K4 trimethylation. Their study, published in the January 15, 2014 issue of Genes & Development, explains why H3K4me3 is deposited adjacent to a target gene promoter rather than haphazardly across the entire gene. This finding is significant because mutations in the human gene encoding the methylase responsible for H3K4me3 are associated with childhood leukemias, among other malignancies.

The work also illustrates the way powerful new genome-wide sequencing methodologies are impacting all molecular biology, including cancer research. "Here, we show that one cannot rely on methods that simply measure overall bulk H3K4me3 levels in vitro," says Shilatifard. "Only genome-wide sequencing could have revealed that H3K4 trimethylation was promoter-specific in non-mutant yeast."

This means that many assumptions about gene expression may need to be retested using next-generation approaches. "The old technologies were like observing just one region of Earth from a distant telescope in space and then making assumptions about what the entire earth looked like," Shilatifard says. "With new technologies, we can now see the whole planet."

The methylase in question, named SET1 in yeast and MLL in mammals, is part of a protein aggregate called COMPASS, for COMplex of Proteins ASsociated with Set1. Shilatifard was the first to define the role of COMPASS in chromatin modification. "Over a decade ago, our lab used yeast to show that COMPASS was an H3 methylase," he says. "Since these fundamental systems are highly conserved from yeast to Drosophila to humans, we took advantage of the awesome power of yeast genetics to identify what regulates H3K4 methylation activity."

Part of the paper addresses SET1/MLL regulation by different proteins within yeast COMPASS. Investigators knew that if you lopped off more than half of SET1's front end, levels of DNA-bound trimethylated H3K4 in cells harboring the remaining "stub" were equal to those in cells containing the full-length protein when analyzed in bulk. This led some to presume that the entire front end of SET1/MLL, as well as factors that interact with it, must not be needed to regulate H3K4me3 activity.

The new paper shows that this presumption was not correct. The Shilatifard team first employed biochemical methods to capture every piece of DNA bound to H3K4me3 in the genome of yeast harboring either full-length SET1 or the stub missing the front end. They then sequenced all of those DNA fragments and mapped their position in the yeast genome.

Significantly, they found that even though H3K4me3 levels in bulk were equivalent in normal and mutant cells, H3K4me3 was differentially distributed throughout the genome: in normal cells, H3K4me3 complexes sat primarily on DNA regions that switch adjacent genes on or off, control regions called promoters. By contrast, the DNA of cells harboring the stub exhibited DNA-binding H3K4me3 complexes in the middle of or between genes.

These discoveries, combined with other findings, call for re-interpretation of data suggesting that the stub is all you need for H3K4 trimethylation. Instead, the new work shows that COMPASS factors that bind to the SET1/MLL front end limit H3K4me3 deposition to the correct genomic sites (that is, to the promoter regions), while factors that bind the SET1/MLL stub increase the protein's half-life. This partially explains earlier misinterpretations: highly stable stubs of SET1 "promiscuously" methylated the wrong parts of the genome when the regulatory front end of the protein was missing. The paper also addressed how H2B ubiquitin modification machineries stimulate the entire process.

Understanding COMPASS regulation is essential, as genes encoding factors in the complex are mutant in numerous cancers. For example, chromosomal translocations involving a gene encoding one MLL protein occur frequently in human leukemias, hence the designation MLL, which stands for Mixed Lineage Leukemia protein. Other MLL proteins are strongly implicated as tumor suppressors in human cancers such as lymphoma and pediatric brain tumors.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stowers Institute for Medical Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. L. Thornton, G. H. Westfield, Y.-h. Takahashi, M. Cook, X. Gao, A. R. Woodfin, J.-S. Lee, M. A. Morgan, J. Jackson, E. R. Smith, J.-F. Couture, G. Skiniotis, A. Shilatifard. Context dependency of Set1/COMPASS-mediated histone H3 Lys4 trimethylation. Genes & Development, 2014; DOI: 10.1101/gad.232215.113

Cite This Page:

Stowers Institute for Medical Research. "Next-gen reappraisal of interactions within cancer-associated protein complex." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140115172932.htm>.
Stowers Institute for Medical Research. (2014, January 15). Next-gen reappraisal of interactions within cancer-associated protein complex. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140115172932.htm
Stowers Institute for Medical Research. "Next-gen reappraisal of interactions within cancer-associated protein complex." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140115172932.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

Traditional Farming Methods Gaining Ground in Mali

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) He is leading a one man agricultural revolution in Mali - Oumar Diatabe uses traditional farming methods to get the most out of his land and is teaching others across the country how to do the same. Duration: 01:44 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Goliath Spider Will Give You Nightmares

Buzz60 (Oct. 20, 2014) An entomologist stumbled upon a South American Goliath Birdeater. With a name like that, you know it's a terrifying creepy crawler. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins