A phylogenetic study of SPBP and RAI1: evolutionary conservation of chromatin binding modules

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 18;8(10):e78907. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0078907. eCollection 2013.


Our genome is assembled into and array of highly dynamic nucleosome structures allowing spatial and temporal access to DNA. The nucleosomes are subject to a wide array of post-translational modifications, altering the DNA-histone interaction and serving as docking sites for proteins exhibiting effector or "reader" modules. The nuclear proteins SPBP and RAI1 are composed of several putative "reader" modules which may have ability to recognise a set of histone modification marks. Here we have performed a phylogenetic study of their putative reader modules, the C-terminal ePHD/ADD like domain, a novel nucleosome binding region and an AT-hook motif. Interactions studies in vitro and in yeast cells suggested that despite the extraordinary long loop region in their ePHD/ADD-like chromatin binding domains, the C-terminal region of both proteins seem to adopt a cross-braced topology of zinc finger interactions similar to other structurally determined ePHD/ADD structures. Both their ePHD/ADD-like domain and their novel nucleosome binding domain are highly conserved in vertebrate evolution, and construction of a phylogenetic tree displayed two well supported clusters representing SPBP and RAI1, respectively. Their genome and domain organisation suggest that SPBP and RAI1 have occurred from a gene duplication event. The phylogenetic tree suggests that this duplication has happened early in vertebrate evolution, since only one gene was identified in insects and lancelet. Finally, experimental data confirm that the conserved novel nucleosome binding region of RAI1 has the ability to bind the nucleosome core and histones. However, an adjacent conserved AT-hook motif as identified in SPBP is not present in RAI1, and deletion of the novel nucleosome binding region of RAI1 did not significantly affect its nuclear localisation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin / metabolism*
  • Conserved Sequence
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism
  • Phylogeny*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Species Specificity
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Zinc Fingers


  • Chromatin
  • Nucleosomes
  • RAI1 protein, human
  • TCF20 protein, human
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factors

Grant support

This work was supported by the Norwegian Research Council, Familien Blix Fond and the Norwegian Cancer Society to Professor Terje Johansen. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.