The Mediator subunit MED23 couples H2B mono-ubiquitination to transcriptional control and cell fate determination

EMBO J. 2015 Dec 2;34(23):2885-902. doi: 10.15252/embj.201591279. Epub 2015 Sep 1.


The Mediator complex orchestrates multiple transcription factors with the Pol II apparatus for precise transcriptional control. However, its interplay with the surrounding chromatin remains poorly understood. Here, we analyze differential histone modifications between WT and MED23(-/-) (KO) cells and identify H2B mono-ubiquitination at lysine 120 (H2Bub) as a MED23-dependent histone modification. Using tandem affinity purification and mass spectrometry, we find that MED23 associates with the RNF20/40 complex, the enzyme for H2Bub, and show that this association is critical for the recruitment of RNF20/40 to chromatin. In a cell-free system, Mediator directly and substantially increases H2Bub on recombinant chromatin through its cooperation with RNF20/40 and the PAF complex. Integrative genome-wide analyses show that MED23 depletion specifically reduces H2Bub on a subset of MED23-controlled genes. Importantly, MED23-coupled H2Bub levels are oppositely regulated during myogenesis and lung carcinogenesis. In sum, these results establish a mechanistic link between the Mediator complex and a critical chromatin modification in coordinating transcription with cell growth and differentiation.

Keywords: H2B mono‐ubiquitination; Mediator MED23; RNF20 and RNF40; myogenesis; tumorigenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Mediator Complex / genetics
  • Mediator Complex / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle Development / genetics
  • Muscle Development / physiology
  • Ubiquitination / genetics
  • Ubiquitination / physiology


  • Histones
  • Med23 protein, mouse
  • Mediator Complex

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE22557
  • GEO/GSE40286
  • GEO/GSE59518