Precise regulation of gene expression programs during embryo development requires cooperation between transcriptional factors and histone-modifying enzymes, such as the Gcn5 histone acetyltransferase. Gcn5 functions within a multi-subunit complex, called SAGA, that is recruited to specific genes through interactions with sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins to aid in gene activation. Although the transcriptional programs regulated by SAGA in embryos are not well defined, deletion of either Gcn5 or USP22, the catalytic subunit of a deubiquitinase module in SAGA, leads to early embryonic lethality. Here, we review the known functions of Gcn5, USP22 and associated proteins during development and discuss how these functions might be related to human disease states, including cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.
Keywords: ATAC complex; Gcn5; PCAF; SAGA; Usp22; cancer; development; differentiation; histone acetylation; neurodegenerative disease; stem cells.