Despite correlations between histone methyltransferase (HMT) activity and gene regulation, direct evidence that HMT activity is responsible for gene activation is sparse. We address the role of the HMT activity for MLL1, a histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4) methyltransferase critical for maintaining hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Here, we show that the SET domain, and thus HMT activity of MLL1, is dispensable for maintaining HSCs and supporting leukemogenesis driven by the MLL-AF9 fusion oncoprotein. Upon Mll1 deletion, histone H4 lysine 16 (H4K16) acetylation is selectively depleted at MLL1 target genes in conjunction with reduced transcription. Surprisingly, inhibition of SIRT1 is sufficient to prevent the loss of H4K16 acetylation and the reduction in MLL1 target gene expression. Thus, recruited MOF activity, and not the intrinsic HMT activity of MLL1, is central for the maintenance of HSC target genes. In addition, this work reveals a role for SIRT1 in opposing MLL1 function.
Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.