Sound of silence: the properties and functions of repressive Lys methyltransferases

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2015 Aug;16(8):499-513. doi: 10.1038/nrm4029.


The methylation of histone Lys residues by Lys methyltransferases (KMTs) regulates chromatin organization and either activates or represses gene expression, depending on the residue that is targeted. KMTs are emerging as key components in several cellular processes, and their deregulation is often associated with pathogenesis. Here, we review the current knowledge on the main KMTs that are associated with gene silencing: namely, those responsible for methylating histone H3 Lys 9 (H3K9), H3K27 and H4K20. We discuss their biochemical properties and the various mechanisms by which they are targeted to the chromatin and regulate gene expression, as well as new data on the interplay between them and other chromatin modifiers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / physiology*
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*


  • Histones
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase