Screening assays for epigenetic targets using native histones as substrates

J Biomol Screen. 2012 Jan;17(1):18-26. doi: 10.1177/1087057111423968. Epub 2011 Sep 30.


In the past years, a lot of attention has been given to the identification and characterization of selective and potent inhibitors of chromatin-modifying enzymes to better understand their specific role in transcriptional regulation. As aberrant histone methylation is involved in different pathological processes, the search for methyltransferase and demethylase inhibitors has emerged as a crucial issue in current medicinal chemistry research. High-throughput in vitro assays are important tools for the identification of new methyltransferase or demethylase inhibitors. These usually use oligopeptide substrates derived from histone sequences, although in many cases, they are not good substrates for these enzymes. Here, the authors report about the setup and establishment of in vitro assays that use native core histones as substrates, enabling an assay environment that better resembles native conditions. They have applied these substrates for the known formaldehyde dehydrogenase assay for the histone demethylase LSD1 and have established two new antibody-based assays. For LSD1, a heterogeneous assay format was set up, and a homogeneous assay was used for the characterization of the arginine methyltransferase PRMT1. Validation of the system was achieved with reference inhibitors in each case.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Antibodies / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods*
  • Histone Demethylases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Histone Demethylases / immunology
  • Histone Demethylases / metabolism
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Reproducibility of Results


  • Antibodies
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Histones
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Histone Demethylases
  • Aldehyde Oxidoreductases
  • formaldehyde dehydrogenase, glutathione-independent
  • KDM1A protein, human
  • PRMT1 protein, human
  • Protein-Arginine N-Methyltransferases