Post-translational modifications of individual lysine residues of core histones can exert unique functional consequences. For example, methylation of histone H3 at lysine 79 (H3-meK79) has been implicated recently in gene silencing in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. However, the distribution and function of H3-meK79 in mammalian chromatin are not known. We found that H3-meK79 has a variable distribution within the murine β-globin locus in adult erythroid cells, being preferentially enriched at the active βmajor gene. By contrast, acetylated H3 and H4 and H3 methylated at lysine 4 were enriched both at βmajor and at the upstream locus control region. H3-meK79 was also enriched at the active cad gene, whereas the transcriptionally inactive loci necdin and MyoD1 contained very little H3-meK79. As the pattern of H3-meK79 at the β-globin locus differed between adult and embryonic erythroid cells, establishment and/or maintenance of H3-meK79 was developmentally dynamic. Genetic complementation analysis in null cells lacking the erythroid and megakaryocyte-specific transcription factor p45/NF-E2 showed that p45/NF-E2 preferentially establishes H3-meK79 at the βmajor promoter. These results support a model in which H3 meK79 is strongly enriched in mammalian chromatin at active genes but not uniformly throughout active chromatin domains. As H3-meK79 is highly regulated at the β-globin locus, we propose that the murine ortholog of Disruptor of Telomeric Silencing-1-like (mDOT1L) methyltransferase, which synthesizes H3-meK79, regulates β-globin transcription.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18346-18352
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 16 2003


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