Partitioning of chromosomes into euchromatic and heterochromatic domains requires mechanisms that specify boundaries. The S. pombe JmjC family protein Epe1 prevents the ectopic spread of heterochromatin and is itself concentrated at boundaries. Paradoxically, Epe1 is recruited to heterochromatin by HP1 silencing factors that are distributed throughout heterochromatin. We demonstrate here that the selective enrichment of Epe1 at boundaries requires its regulation by the conserved Cul4-Ddb1(Cdt)² ubiquitin ligase, which directly recognizes Epe1 and promotes its polyubiquitylation and degradation. Strikingly, in cells lacking the ligase, Epe1 persists in the body of heterochromatin thereby inducing a defect in gene silencing. Epe1 is the sole target of the Cul4-Ddb1(Cdt)² complex whose destruction is necessary for the preservation of heterochromatin. This mechanism acts parallel with phosphorylation of HP1/Swi6 by CK2 to restrict Epe1. We conclude that the ubiquitin-dependent sculpting of the chromosomal distribution of an antisilencing factor is critical for heterochromatin boundaries to form correctly.
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