Dynamic spatiotemporal modification of chromatin around DNA damage is vital for efficient DNA repair. Normal stem cells exhibit an attenuated DNA damage response (DDR), inefficient DNA repair, and high radiosensitivity. The impact of unique chromatin characteristics of stem cells in DDR regulation is not yet recognized. We demonstrate that murine embryonic stem cells (ES) display constitutively elevated acetylation of histone H3 lysine 9 (H3K9ac) and low H3K9 tri-methylation (H3K9me3). DNA damage-induced local deacetylation of H3K9 was abrogated in ES along with the subsequent H3K9me3. Depletion of H3K9ac in ES by suppression of monocytic leukemia zinc finger protein (MOZ) acetyltransferase improved ATM activation, DNA repair, diminished irradiation-induced apoptosis, and enhanced clonogenic survival. Simultaneous suppression of the H3K9 methyltransferase Suv39h1 abrogated the radioprotective effect of MOZ inhibition, suggesting that high H3K9ac promoted by MOZ in ES cells obstructs local upregulation of H3K9me3 and contributes to muted DDR and increased radiosensitivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1013-1022
Number of pages10
JournalStem Cell Reports
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 13 2016


  • ATM
  • DNA damage response
  • H3K9ac
  • H3K9me3
  • MOZ
  • epigenetic
  • histone acetylation
  • histone methylation
  • radioprotection
  • stem cells


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