Antagonism between MES-4 and Polycomb repressive complex 2 promotes appropriate gene expression in C. elegans germ cells

Cell Rep. 2012 Nov 29;2(5):1169-77. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2012.09.019. Epub 2012 Oct 25.


The Caenorhabditis elegans MES proteins are key chromatin regulators of the germline. MES-2, MES-3, and MES-6 form the C. elegans Polycomb repressive complex 2 and generate repressive H3K27me3. MES-4 generates H3K36me3 on germline-expressed genes. Transcript profiling of dissected mutant germlines revealed that MES-2/3/6 and MES-4 cooperate to promote the expression of germline genes and repress the X chromosomes and somatic genes. Results from genome-wide chromatin immunoprecipitation showed that H3K27me3 and H3K36me3 occupy mutually exclusive domains on the autosomes and that H3K27me3 is enriched on the X. Loss of MES-4 from germline genes causes H3K27me3 to spread to germline genes, resulting in reduced H3K27me3 elsewhere on the autosomes and especially on the X. Our findings support a model in which H3K36me3 repels H3K27me3 from germline genes and concentrates it on other regions of the genome. This antagonism ensures proper patterns of gene expression for germ cells, which includes repression of somatic genes and the X chromosomes.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / genetics
  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins / metabolism
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Genome
  • Germ Cells / metabolism*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Methylation
  • Mutation
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 / metabolism
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • X Chromosome / genetics
  • X Chromosome / metabolism


  • Caenorhabditis elegans Proteins
  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • Mes-3 protein, C elegans
  • Mes-4 protein, C elegans
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • mes-2 protein, C elegans
  • mes-6 protein, C elegans
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE38160