H3K9MTase G9a is essential for the differentiation and growth of tenocytes in vitro

Histochem Cell Biol. 2015 Jul;144(1):13-20. doi: 10.1007/s00418-015-1318-2. Epub 2015 Mar 27.


Cell differentiation is controlled by specific transcription factors. The functions and expression levels of these transcription factors are regulated by epigenetic modifications, such as histone modifications and cytosine methylation of the genome. In tendon tissue, tendon-specific transcription factors have been shown to play functional roles in the regulation of tenocyte differentiation. However, the effects of epigenetic modifications on gene expression and differentiation in tenocytes are unclear. In this study, we investigated the epigenetic regulation of tenocyte differentiation, focusing on the enzymes mediating histone 3 lysine 9 (H3K9) methylation. In primary mouse tenocytes, six H3K9 methyltransferase (H3K9MTase) genes, i.e., G9a, G9a-like protein (GLP), PR domain zinc finger protein 2 (PRDM2), SUV39H1, SUV39H2, and SETDB1/ESET were all expressed, with increased mRNA levels observed during tenocyte differentiation. In mouse embryos, G9a and Prdm2 mRNAs were expressed in tenocyte precursor cells, which were overlapped with or were adjacent to cells expressing a tenocyte-specific marker, tenomodulin. Using tenocytes isolated from G9a-flox/flox mice, we deleted G9a by infecting the cells with Cre-expressing adenoviruses. Proliferation of G9a-null tenocytes was significantly decreased compared with that of control cells infected with GFP-expressing adenoviruses. Moreover, the expression levels of tendon transcription factors gene, i.e., Scleraxis (Scx), Mohawk (Mkx), Egr1, Six1, and Six2 were all suppressed in G9a-null tenocytes. The tendon-related genes Col1a1, tenomodulin, and periostin were also downregulated. Consistent with this, Western blot analysis showed that tenomodulin protein expression was significantly suppressed by G9a deletion. These results suggested that expression of the H3K9MTase G9a was essential for the differentiation and growth of tenocytes and that H3K9MTases may play important roles in tendinogenesis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • DNA Methylation
  • Embryo, Mammalian
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Histone Code
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / genetics*
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Tendons / cytology*
  • Tendons / embryology
  • Tendons / enzymology*


  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Postn protein, mouse
  • Tnmd protein, mouse
  • G9a protein, mouse
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase