A positive role for polycomb in transcriptional regulation via H4K20me1

Cell Res. 2016 May;26(5):529-42. doi: 10.1038/cr.2016.33. Epub 2016 Mar 22.


The highly conserved polycomb group (PcG) proteins maintain heritable transcription repression of the genes essential for development from fly to mammals. However, sporadic reports imply a potential role of PcGs in positive regulation of gene transcription, although systematic investigation of such function and the underlying mechanism has rarely been reported. Here, we report a Pc-mediated, H3K27me3-dependent positive transcriptional regulation of Senseless (Sens), a key transcription factor required for development. Mechanistic studies show that Pc regulates Sens expression by promoting H4K20me1 at the Sens locus. Further bioinformatic analysis at genome-wide level indicates that the existence of H4K20me1 acts as a selective mark for positive transcriptional regulation by Pc/H3K27me3. Both the intensities and specific patterns of Pc and H3K27me3 are important for the fates of target gene transcription. Moreover, binding of transcription factor Broad (Br), which physically interacts with Pc and positively regulates the transcription of Sens, is observed in Pc(+)H3K27me3(+)H4K20me1(+) genes, but not in Pc(+)H3K27me3(+)H4K20me1(-) genes. Taken together, our study reveals that, coupling with the transcription factor Br, Pc positively regulates transcription of Pc(+)H3K27me3(+)H4K20me1(+) genes in developing Drosophila wing disc.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / embryology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Lysine / metabolism*
  • Methylation
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 1 / metabolism*
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Wings, Animal / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Histones
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Pc protein, Drosophila
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • sens protein, Drosophila
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 1
  • Lysine