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Molecular and cellular biology

Panspecies small-molecule disruptors of heterochromatin-mediated transcriptional gene silencing.


PMID 25487573

Abstract

Heterochromatin underpins gene repression, genome integrity, and chromosome segregation. In the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, conserved protein complexes effect heterochromatin formation via RNA interference-mediated recruitment of a histone H3 lysine 9 methyltransferase to cognate chromatin regions. To identify small molecules that inhibit heterochromatin formation, we performed an in vivo screen for loss of silencing of a dominant selectable kanMX reporter gene embedded within fission yeast centromeric heterochromatin. Two structurally unrelated compounds, HMS-I1 and HMS-I2, alleviated kanMX silencing and decreased repressive H3K9 methylation levels at the transgene. The decrease in methylation caused by HMS-I1 and HMS-I2 was observed at all loci regulated by histone methylation, including centromeric repeats, telomeric regions, and the mating-type locus, consistent with inhibition of the histone deacetylases (HDACs) Clr3 and/or Sir2. Chemical-genetic epistasis and expression profiles revealed that both compounds affect the activity of the Clr3-containing Snf2/HDAC repressor complex (SHREC). In vitro HDAC assays revealed that HMS-I1 and HMS-I2 inhibit Clr3 HDAC activity. HMS-I1 also alleviated transgene reporter silencing by heterochromatin in Arabidopsis and a mouse cell line, suggesting a conserved mechanism of action. HMS-I1 and HMS-I2 bear no resemblance to known inhibitors of chromatin-based activities and thus represent novel chemical probes for heterochromatin formation and function.