Eviction of linker histone H1 by NAP-family histone chaperones enhances activated transcription

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Abstract

Background: In the Metazoan nucleus, core histones assemble the genomic DNA to form nucleosome arrays, which are further compacted into dense chromatin structures by the linker histone H1. The extraordinary density of chromatin creates an obstacle for accessing the genetic information. Regulation of chromatin dynamics is therefore critical to cellular homeostasis, and histone chaperones serve as prominent players in these processes. In the current study, we examined the role of specific histone chaperones in negotiating the inherently repressive chromatin structure during transcriptional activation. Results: Using a model promoter, we demonstrate that the human nucleosome assembly protein family members hNap1 and SET/Taf1β stimulate transcription in vitro during pre-initiation complex formation, prior to elongation. This stimulatory effect is dependent upon the presence of activators, p300, and Acetyl-CoA. We show that transcription from our chromatin template is strongly repressed by H1, and that both histone chaperones enhance RNA synthesis by overcoming H1-induced repression. Importantly, both hNap1 and SET/Taf1β directly bind H1, and function to enhance transcription by evicting the linker histone from chromatin reconstituted with H1. In vivo studies demonstrate that SET/Taf1β, but not hNap1, strongly stimulates activated transcription from the chromosomally-integrated model promoter, consistent with the observation that SET/Taf1β is nuclear, whereas hNap1 is primarily cytoplasmic. Together, these observations indicate that SET/Taf1β may serve as a critical regulator of H1 dynamics and gene activation in vivo. Conclusions: These studies uncover a novel function for SET that mechanistically couples transcriptional derepression with H1 dynamics. Furthermore, they underscore the significance of chaperone-dependent H1 displacement as an essential early step in the transition of a promoter from a dense chromatin state into one that is permissive to transcription factor binding and robust activation.

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Zhang, Q., Giebler, H. A., Isaacson, M. K., & Nyborg, J. K. (2015). Eviction of linker histone H1 by NAP-family histone chaperones enhances activated transcription. Epigenetics and Chromatin, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13072-015-0022-8

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