Coordinated histone modifications and chromatin reorganization in a single cell revealed by FRET biosensors

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Dec 11;115(50):E11681-E11690. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1811818115. Epub 2018 Nov 26.


The dramatic reorganization of chromatin during mitosis is perhaps one of the most fundamental of all cell processes. It remains unclear how epigenetic histone modifications, despite their crucial roles in regulating chromatin architectures, are dynamically coordinated with chromatin reorganization in controlling this process. We have developed and characterized biosensors with high sensitivity and specificity based on fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). These biosensors were incorporated into nucleosomes to visualize histone H3 Lys-9 trimethylation (H3K9me3) and histone H3 Ser-10 phosphorylation (H3S10p) simultaneously in the same live cell. We observed an anticorrelated coupling in time between H3K9me3 and H3S10p in a single live cell during mitosis. A transient increase of H3S10p during mitosis is accompanied by a decrease of H3K9me3 that recovers before the restoration of H3S10p upon mitotic exit. We further showed that H3S10p is causatively critical for the decrease of H3K9me3 and the consequent reduction of heterochromatin structure, leading to the subsequent global chromatin reorganization and nuclear envelope dissolution as a cell enters mitosis. These results suggest a tight coupling of H3S10p and H3K9me3 dynamics in the regulation of heterochromatin dissolution before a global chromatin reorganization during mitosis.

Keywords: FRET biosensors; chromatin reorganization; histone modifications.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly* / genetics
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer / methods
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Heterochromatin / genetics
  • Heterochromatin / metabolism
  • Histone Code* / genetics
  • Histones / chemistry
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Mitosis
  • Models, Biological
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Heterochromatin
  • Histones
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • enhanced cyan fluorescent protein
  • yellow fluorescent protein, Bacteria
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins