Coordinated methyl and RNA binding is required for heterochromatin localization of mammalian HP1alpha

EMBO Rep. 2002 Oct;3(10):975-81. doi: 10.1093/embo-reports/kvf194. Epub 2002 Sep 13.


In mammalian cells, as in Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Drosophila, HP1 proteins bind histone H3 tails methylated on lysine 9 (K9). However, whereas K9-methylated H3 histones are distributed throughout the nucleus, HP1 proteins are enriched in pericentromeric heterochromatin. This observation suggests that the methyl-binding property of HP1 may not be sufficient for its heterochromatin targeting. We show that the association of HP1alpha with pericentromeric heterochromatin depends not only on its methyl-binding chromo domain but also on an RNA-binding activity present in the hinge region of the protein that connects the conserved chromo and chromoshadow domains. Our data suggest the existence of complex heterochromatin binding sites composed of methylated histone H3 tails and RNA, with each being recognized by a separate domain of HP1alpha.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone / metabolism*
  • Drosophila
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Genetic Vectors
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism
  • Heterochromatin / metabolism*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmids / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Chromatin
  • Chromosomal Proteins, Non-Histone
  • Heterochromatin
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • heterochromatin-specific nonhistone chromosomal protein HP-1
  • RNA
  • Glutathione Transferase