SUMO modification is required for in vivo Hox gene regulation by the Caenorhabditis elegans Polycomb group protein SOP-2

Nat Genet. 2004 May;36(5):507-11. doi: 10.1038/ng1336. Epub 2004 Apr 11.


Post-translational modification of proteins by the ubiquitin-like molecule SUMO (sumoylation) regulates their subcellular localization and affects their functional properties in vitro, but the physiological function of sumoylation in multicellular organisms is largely unknown. Here, we show that the C. elegans Polycomb group (PcG) protein SOP-2 interacts with the SUMO-conjugating enzyme UBC-9 through its evolutionarily conserved SAM domain. Sumoylation of SOP-2 is required for its localization to nuclear bodies in vivo and for its physiological repression of Hox genes. Global disruption of sumoylation phenocopies a sop-2 mutation by causing ectopic Hox gene expression and homeotic transformations. Chimeric constructs in which the SOP-2 SAM domain is replaced with that derived from fruit fly or mammalian PcG proteins, but not those in which the SOP-2 SAM domain is replaced with the SAM domains of non-PcG proteins, confer appropriate in vivo nuclear localization and Hox gene repression. These observations indicate that sumoylation of PcG proteins, modulated by their evolutionarily conserved SAM domain, is essential to their physiological repression of Hox genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins*
  • Cell Nucleus / physiology*
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Genes, Homeobox / physiology*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protein Transport
  • RNA Interference
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*
  • SUMO-1 Protein / genetics
  • SUMO-1 Protein / metabolism*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • Two-Hybrid System Techniques
  • Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzymes / metabolism*


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • SUMO-1 Protein
  • Sop-2 protein, C elegans
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzymes
  • ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme UBC9