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Within the nucleus of eukaryotic cells, chromatin is organized into compact, silent regions called heterochromatin and more loosely packaged regions of euchromatin where transcription is more active. Although the existence of heterochromatin has been known for many years, the cellular factors responsible for its formation have only recently been identified. Two key factors involved in heterochromatin formation in Drosophila are the H3 lysine 9 methyltransferase Su(var)3-9 and heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1). The linker histone H1 also plays a major role in heterochromatin formation in Drosophila by interacting with Su(var)3-9 and helping to recruit it to heterochromatin. Drosophila STAT (Signal transducer and activator of transcription) (STAT92E) has also been shown to be involved in the maintenance of heterochromatin, but its relationship to the H1-Su(var)3-9 heterochromatin pathway is unknown. STAT92E is also involved in tumor formation in flies. Hyperactive Janus kinase (JAK)-STAT signaling due to a mutation in Drosophila JAK (Hopscotch) causes hematopoietic tumors. Results: We show here that STAT92E is a second partner of H1 in the regulation of heterochromatin structure. H1 physically interacts with STAT92E and regulates its ectopic localization in the chromatin. Mis-localization of STAT92E due to its hyperphosphorylation or H1 depletion disrupts heterochromatin integrity. The contribution of the H1-STAT pathway to heterochromatin formation is mechanistically distinct from that of H1 and Su(var)3-9. The recruitment of STAT92E to chromatin by H1 also plays an important regulatory role in JAK-STAT induced tumors in flies. Depleting the linker histone H1 in flies carrying the oncogenic hopscotch Tum-lallele enhances tumorigenesis, and H1 overexpression suppresses tumorigenesis. Conclusions: Our results suggest the existence of two independent pathways for heterochromatin formation in Drosophila, one involving Su(var)3-9 and HP1 and the other involving STAT92E and HP1. The H1 linker histone directs both pathways through physical interactions with Su(var)3-9 and STAT92E, as well with HP1. The physical interaction of H1 and STAT92E confers a regulatory role on H1 in JAK-STAT signaling. H1 serves as a molecular reservoir for STAT92E in chromatin, enabling H1 to act as a tumor suppressor and oppose an oncogenic mutation in the JAK-STAT signaling pathway.
Xu, N., Emelyanov, A. V., Fyodorov, D. V., & Skoultchi, A. I. (2014). Drosophila linker histone H1 coordinates STAT-dependent organization of heterochromatin and suppresses tumorigenesis caused by hyperactive JAK-STAT signaling. Epigenetics and Chromatin, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1756-8935-7-16