Development of homogeneous nonradioactive methyltransferase and demethylase assays targeting histone H3 lysine 4

J Biomol Screen. 2012 Jan;17(1):49-58. doi: 10.1177/1087057111416659. Epub 2011 Sep 21.


Histone posttranslational modifications are among the epigenetic mechanisms that modulate chromatin structure and gene transcription. Histone methylation and demethylation are dynamic processes controlled respectively by histone methyltransferases (HMTs) and demethylases (HDMs). Several HMTs and HDMs have been implicated in cancer, inflammation, and diabetes, making them attractive targets for drug therapy. Hence, the discovery of small-molecule modulators for these two enzyme classes has drawn significant attention from the pharmaceutical industry. Herein, the authors describe the development and optimization of homogeneous LANCE Ultra and AlphaLISA antibody-based assays for measuring the catalytic activity of two epigenetic enzymes acting on lysine 4 of histone H3: SET7/9 methyltransferase and LSD1 demethylase. Both the SET7/9 and LSD1 assays were designed as signal-increase assays using biotinylated peptides derived from the N-terminus of histone H3. In addition, the SET7/9 assay was demonstrated using full-length histone H3 protein as substrate in the AlphaLISA format. Optimized assays in 384-well plates are robust (Z' factors ≥0.7) and sensitive, requiring only nanomolar concentrations of enzyme and substrate. All assays allowed profiling of known SET7/9 and LSD1 inhibitors. The results demonstrate that the optimized LANCE Ultra and AlphaLISA assay formats provide a relevant biochemical screening approach toward the identification of small-molecule inhibitors of HMTs and HDMs that could lead to novel epigenetic therapies.

MeSH terms

  • Biotinylation
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / drug effects
  • Histone Demethylases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Immunoassay / methods
  • Lysine / metabolism*
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Small Molecule Libraries


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Histones
  • Peptides
  • Small Molecule Libraries
  • Histone Demethylases
  • KDM1A protein, human
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase
  • SETD7 protein, human
  • Lysine