Background: Nucleosome translocation along DNA is catalyzed by eukaryotic SNF2-type ATPases. One class of SNF2-ATPases is distinguished by the presence of a C-terminal bromodomain and is conserved from yeast to man and plants. This class of SNF2 enzymes forms rather large protein complexes that are collectively called SWI/SNF complexes. They are involved in transcription and DNA repair. Two broad types of SWI/SNF complexes have been reported in the literature; PBAF and BAF. These are distinguished by the inclusion or not of polybromo and several ARID subunits. Here we investigated human SS18, a protein that is conserved in plants and animals. SS18 is a putative SWI/SNF subunit which has been implicated in the etiology of synovial sarcomas by virtue of being a target for oncogenic chromosomal translocations that underlie synovial sarcomas.
Methodology/principal findings: We pursued a proteomic approach whereby the SS18 open reading frame was fused to a tandem affinity purification tag and expressed in amenable human cells. The fusion permitted efficient and exclusive purification of so-called BAF-type SWI/SNF complexes which bear ARID1A/BAF250a or ARID1B/BAF250b subunits. This demonstrates that SS18 is a BAF subtype-specific SWI/SNF complex subunit. The same result was obtained when using the SS18-SSX1 oncogenic translocation product. Furthermore, SS18L1, DPF1, DPF2, DPF3, BRD9, BCL7A, BCL7B and BCL7C were identified. 'Complex walking' showed that they all co-purify with each other, defining human BAF-type complexes. By contrast,we demonstrate that human PHF10 is part of the PBAF complex, which harbors both ARID2/BAF200 and polybromo/BAF180 subunits, but not SS18 and nor the above BAF-specific subunits.
Conclusions/significance: SWI/SNF complexes are found in most eukaryotes and in the course of evolution new SWI/SNF subunits appeared. SS18 is found in plants as well as animals. Our results suggest that in both protostome and deuterostome animals, a class of BAF-type SWI/SNF complexes will be found that harbor SS18 or its paralogs, along with ARID1, DPF and BCL7 paralogs. Those BAF complexes are proteomically distinct from the eukaryote-wide PBAF-type SWI/SNF complexes. Finally, our results suggests that the human bromodomain factors BRD7 and BRD9 associate with PBAF and BAF, respectively.