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Caenorhabditis elegans chromatin-associated proteins SET-2 and ASH-2 are differentially required for histone H3 Lys 4 methylation in embryos and adult germ cells.

Xiao Y., Bedet C., Robert V.J., Simonet T., Dunkelbarger S., Rakotomalala C., Soete G., Korswagen H.C., Strome S., Palladino F.

Methylation of histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4me), a mark associated with gene activation, is mediated by SET1 and the related mixed lineage leukemia (MLL) histone methyltransferases (HMTs) across species. Mammals contain seven H3K4 HMTs, Set1A, Set1B, and MLL1-MLL5. The activity of SET1 and MLL proteins relies on protein-protein interactions within large multisubunit complexes that include three core components: RbBP5, Ash2L, and WDR5. It remains unclear how the composition and specificity of these complexes varies between cell types and during development. Caenorhabditis elegans contains one SET1 protein, SET-2, one MLL-like protein, SET-16, and single homologs of RbBP5, Ash2L, and WDR5. Here we show that SET-2 is responsible for the majority of bulk H3K4 methylation at all developmental stages. However, SET-2 and absent, small, or homeotic discs 2 (ASH-2) are differentially required for tri- and dimethylation of H3K4 (H3K4me3 and -me2) in embryos and adult germ cells. In embryos, whereas efficient H3K4me3 requires both SET-2 and ASH-2, H3K4me2 relies mostly on ASH-2. In adult germ cells by contrast, SET-2 serves a major role whereas ASH-2 is dispensable for H3K4me3 and most H3K4me2. Loss of SET-2 results in progressive sterility over several generations, suggesting an important function in the maintenance of a functional germ line. This study demonstrates that individual subunits of SET1-related complexes can show tissue specificity and developmental regulation and establishes C. elegans as a model to study SET1-related complexes in a multicellular organism.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 108:8305-8310(2011) [PubMed] [Europe PMC]

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