AS1DHRS4, a head-to-head natural antisense transcript, silences the DHRS4 gene cluster in cis and trans

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Aug 28;109(35):14110-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1116597109. Epub 2012 Aug 13.


The human genome, like other mammalian genomes, encodes numerous natural antisense transcripts (NATs) that have been classified into head-to-head, tail-to-tail, or fully overlapped categories in reference to their sense transcripts. Evidence for NAT-mediated epigenetic silencing of sense transcription remains scanty. The DHRS4 gene encodes a metabolic enzyme and forms a gene cluster with its two immediately downstream homologous genes, DHRS4L2 and DHRS4L1, generated by gene duplication. We identified a head-to-head NAT of DHRS4, designated AS1DHRS4, which markedly regulates the expression of these three genes in the DHRS4 gene cluster. By pairing with ongoing sense transcripts, AS1DHRS4 not only mediates deacetylation of histone H3 and demethylation of H3K4 in cis for the DHRS4 gene, but also interacts physically in trans with the epigenetic modifiers H3K9- and H3K27-specific histone methyltransferases G9a and EZH2, targeting the promoters of the downstream DHRS4L2 and DHRS4L1 genes to induce local repressive H3K9me2 and H3K27me3 histone modifications. Furthermore, AS1DHRS4 induces DNA methylation in the promoter regions of DHRS4L2 by recruiting DNA methyltransferases. This study demonstrates that AS1DHRS4, as a long noncoding RNA, simultaneously controls the chromatin state of each gene within the DHRS4 gene cluster in a discriminative manner. This finding provides an example of transcriptional control over the multiple and highly homologous genes in a tight gene cluster, and may help explain the role of antisense RNAs in the regulation of duplicated genes as the result of genomic evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms
  • Gene Duplication / genetics
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • HeLa Cells
  • Hepatocytes / cytology
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Multigene Family / genetics
  • Oxidoreductases / genetics*
  • RNA, Antisense / genetics*
  • RNA, Untranslated / genetics


  • Chromatin
  • RNA, Antisense
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • Oxidoreductases
  • DHRS4 protein, human

Associated data

  • GENBANK/HQ845197
  • GENBANK/HQ845198