Background: Histone post-translational modifications (PTMs) play central roles in chromatin-templated processes. Combinations of two or more histone PTMs form unique interfaces for readout and recruitment of chromatin interacting complexes, but the genome-wide mapping of coexisting histone PTMs remains an experimentally difficult task.
Results: We introduce here a novel type of affinity reagents consisting of two fused recombinant histone modification interacting domains (HiMIDs) for direct detection of doubly modified chromatin. To develop the method, we fused the MPP8 chromodomain and DNMT3A PWWP domain which have a binding specificity for H3K9me3 and H3K36me2/3, respectively. We validate the novel reagent biochemically and in ChIP applications and show its specific interaction with H3K9me3-H3K36me2/3 doubly modified chromatin. Modification specificity was confirmed using mutant double-HiMIDs with inactivated methyllysine binding pockets. Using this novel tool, we mapped coexisting H3K9me3-H3K36me2/3 marks in human cells by chromatin interacting domain precipitation (CIDOP). CIDOP-seq data were validated by qPCR, sequential CIDOP/ChIP and by comparison with CIDOP- and ChIP-seq data obtained with single modification readers and antibodies. The genome-wide distribution of H3K9me3-H3K36me2/3 indicates that it represents a novel bivalent chromatin state, which is enriched in weakly transcribed chromatin segments and at ZNF274 and SetDB1 binding sites.
Conclusions: The application of double-HiMIDs allows the single-step study of co-occurrence and distribution of combinatorial chromatin marks. Our discovery of a novel H3K9me3-H3K36me2/3 bivalent chromatin state illustrates the power of this approach, and it will stimulate numerous follow-up studies on its biological functions.
Keywords: Chromatin; Epigenetics; Histone code; Multivalent readout; Reading domains.