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Genes & Development

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Genes & Development

RNA metabolism is altered following DNA damage, but the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Through a 14-3-3 interaction screen for DNA damage-induced protein interactions in human cells, we identified protein complexes connected to RNA biology. These include the nuclear exosome targeting (NEXT) complex that regulates turnover of noncoding RNAs termed promoter upstream transcripts (PROMPTs). We show that the NEXT subunit RBM7 is phosphorylated upon DNA damage by the MAPKAPK2 kinase and establish that this mediates 14-3-3 binding and decreases PROMPT binding. These findings and our observation that cells lacking RBM7 display DNA damage hypersensitivity link PROMPT turnover to the DNA damage response.

Polycomb-repressive complex 2 (PRC2) facilitates the maintenance and inheritance of chromatin domains repressive to transcription through catalysis of methylation of histone H3 at Lys27 (H3K27me2/3). However, through its EZH2 subunit, PRC2 also binds to nascent transcripts from active genes that are devoid of H3K27me2/3 in embryonic stem cells. Here, biochemical analyses indicated that RNA interaction inhibits SET domain-containing proteins, such as PRC2, nonspecifically in vitro. However, CRISPR-mediated truncation of a PRC2-interacting nascent RNA rescued PRC2-mediated deposition of H3K27me2/3. That PRC2 activity is inhibited by interactions with nascent transcripts supports a model in which PRC2 can only mark for repression those genes silenced by transcriptional repressors.

The mammalian circadian clock is based on a transcription–translation feedback loop (TTFL) in which CLOCK and BMAL1 proteins act as transcriptional activators of Cryptochrome and Period genes, which encode proteins that repress CLOCK–BMAL1 with a periodicity of ~24 h. In this model, the mechanistic roles of CRY and PER are unclear. Here, we used a controlled targeting system to introduce CRY1 or PER2 into the nuclei of mouse cells with defined circadian genotypes to characterize the functions of CRY and PER. Our data show that CRY is the primary repressor in the TTFL: It binds to CLOCK–BMAL1 at the promoter and inhibits CLOCK–BMAL1-dependent transcription without dissociating the complex ("blocking"-type repression). PER alone has no effect on CLOCK–BMAL1-activated transcription. However, in the presence of CRY, nuclear entry of PER inhibits transcription by displacing CLOCK–BMAL1 from the promoter ("displacement"-type repression). In light of these findings, we propose a new model for the mammalian circadian clock in which the negative arm of the TTFL proceeds by two different mechanisms during the circadian cycle.

The SAGA (Spt–Ada–Gcn5 acetyltransferase) coactivator complex contains distinct chromatin-modifying activities and is recruited by DNA-bound activators to regulate the expression of a subset of genes. Surprisingly, recent studies revealed little overlap between genome-wide SAGA-binding profiles and changes in gene expression upon depletion of subunits of the complex. As indicators of SAGA recruitment on chromatin, we monitored in yeast and human cells the genome-wide distribution of histone H3K9 acetylation and H2B ubiquitination, which are respectively deposited or removed by SAGA. Changes in these modifications after inactivation of the corresponding enzyme revealed that SAGA acetylates the promoters and deubiquitinates the transcribed region of all expressed genes. In agreement with this broad distribution, we show that SAGA plays a critical role for RNA polymerase II recruitment at all expressed genes. In addition, through quantification of newly synthesized RNA, we demonstrated that SAGA inactivation induced a strong decrease of mRNA synthesis at all tested genes. Analysis of the SAGA deubiquitination activity further revealed that SAGA acts on the whole transcribed genome in a very fast manner, indicating a highly dynamic association of the complex with chromatin. Thus, our study uncovers a new function for SAGA as a bone fide cofactor for all RNA polymerase II transcription.

ZNF750 controls epithelial homeostasis by inhibiting progenitor genes while inducing differentiation genes, a role underscored by pathogenic ZNF750 mutations in cancer and psoriasis. How ZNF750 accomplishes these dual gene regulatory impacts is unknown. Here, we characterized ZNF750 as a transcription factor that binds both the progenitor and differentiation genes that it controls at a CCNNAGGC DNA motif. ZNF750 interacts with the pluripotency transcription factor KLF4 and chromatin regulators RCOR1, KDM1A, and CTBP1/2 through conserved PLNLS sequences. ChIP-seq (chromatin immunoprecipitation [ChIP] followed by high-throughput sequencing) and gene depletion revealed that KLF4 colocalizes ~10 base pairs from ZNF750 at differentiation target genes to facilitate their activation but is unnecessary for ZNF750-mediated progenitor gene repression. In contrast, KDM1A colocalizes with ZNF750 at progenitor genes and facilitates their repression but is unnecessary for ZNF750-driven differentiation. ZNF750 thus controls differentiation in concert with RCOR1 and CTBP1/2 by acting with either KDM1A to repress progenitor genes or KLF4 to induce differentiation genes.

Nuclear DNA in the male gamete of sexually reproducing animals is organized as sperm chromatin compacted primarily by sperm-specific protamines. Fertilization leads to sperm chromatin remodeling, during which protamines are expelled and replaced by histones. Despite our increased understanding of the factors that mediate nucleosome assembly in the nascent male pronucleus, the machinery for protamine removal remains largely unknown. Here we identify four Drosophila protamine chaperones that mediate the dissociation of protamine–DNA complexes: NAP-1, NLP, and nucleophosmin are previously characterized histone chaperones, and TAP/p32 has no known function in chromatin metabolism. We show that TAP/p32 is required for the removal of Drosophila protamine B in vitro, whereas NAP-1, NLP, and Nph share roles in the removal of protamine A. Embryos from P32-null females show defective formation of the male pronucleus in vivo. TAP/p32, similar to NAP-1, NLP, and Nph, facilitates nucleosome assembly in vitro and is therefore a histone chaperone. Furthermore, mutants of P32, Nlp, and Nph exhibit synthetic-lethal genetic interactions. In summary, we identified factors mediating protamine removal from DNA and reconstituted in a defined system the process of sperm chromatin remodeling that exchanges protamines for histones to form the nucleosome-based chromatin characteristic of somatic cells.

Transcription of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) is inhibited by de novo DNA methylation during gametogenesis, a process initiated after birth in oocytes and at approximately embryonic day 15.5 (E15.5) in prospermatogonia. Earlier in germline development, the genome, including most retrotransposons, is progressively demethylated. Young ERVK and ERV1 elements, however, retain intermediate methylation levels. As DNA methylation reaches a low point in E13.5 primordial germ cells (PGCs) of both sexes, we determined whether retrotransposons are marked by H3K9me3 and H3K27me3 using a recently developed low-input ChIP-seq (chromatin immunoprecipitation [ChIP] combined with deep sequencing) method. Although these repressive histone modifications are found predominantly on distinct genomic regions in E13.5 PGCs, they concurrently mark partially methylated long terminal repeats (LTRs) and LINE1 elements. Germline-specific conditional knockout of the H3K9 methyltransferase SETDB1 yields a decrease of both marks and DNA methylation at H3K9me3-enriched retrotransposon families. Strikingly, Setdb1 knockout E13.5 PGCs show concomitant derepression of many marked ERVs, including intracisternal A particle (IAP), ETn, and ERVK10C elements, and ERV-proximal genes, a subset in a sex-dependent manner. Furthermore, Setdb1 deficiency is associated with a reduced number of male E13.5 PGCs and postnatal hypogonadism in both sexes. Taken together, these observations reveal that SETDB1 is an essential guardian against proviral expression prior to the onset of de novo DNA methylation in the germline.

Polycomb-repressive complex 2 (PRC2) catalyzes the methylation of histone H3 Lys27 (H3K27) and functions as a critical epigenetic regulator of both stem cell pluripotency and somatic differentiation, but its role in male germ cell development is unknown. Using conditional mutagenesis to remove the core PRC2 subunits EED and SUZ12 during male germ cell development, we identified a requirement for PRC2 in both mitotic and meiotic germ cells. We observed a paucity of mutant spermatogonial stem cells (SSCs), which appears independent of repression of the known cell cycle inhibitors Ink4a/Ink4b/Arf. Moreover, mutant spermatocytes exhibited ectopic expression of somatic lamins and an abnormal distribution of SUN1 proteins on the nuclear envelope. These defects were coincident with abnormal chromosome dynamics, affecting homologous chromosome pairing and synapsis. We observed acquisition of H3K27me3 on stage-specific genes during meiotic progression, indicating a requirement for PRC2 in regulating the meiotic transcriptional program. Together, these data demonstrate that transcriptional repression of soma-specific genes by PRC2 facilitates homeostasis and differentiation during mammalian spermatogenesis.