The EZH2 SANT1 domain is a histone reader providing sensitivity to the modification state of the H4 tail

Sci Rep. 2019 Jan 30;9(1):987. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-37699-w.


SANT domains are found in a number of chromatin regulators. They contain approximately 50 amino acids and have high similarity to the DNA binding domain of Myb related proteins. Though some SANT domains associate with DNA others have been found to bind unmodified histone tails. There are two SANT domains in Enhancer of Zeste 2 (EZH2), the catalytic subunit of the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2), of unknown function. Here we show that the first SANT domain (SANT1) of EZH2 is a histone binding domain with specificity for the histone H4 N-terminal tail. Using NMR spectroscopy, mutagenesis, and molecular modeling we structurally characterize the SANT1 domain and determine the molecular mechanism of binding to the H4 tail. Though not important for histone binding, we find that the adjacent stimulation response motif (SRM) stabilizes SANT1 and transiently samples its active form in solution. Acetylation of H4K16 (H4K16ac) or acetylation or methylation of H4K20 (H4K20ac and H4K20me3) are seen to abrogate binding of SANT1 to H4, which is consistent with these modifications being anti-correlated with H3K27me3 in-vivo. Our results provide significant insight into this important regulatory region of EZH2 and the first characterization of the molecular mechanism of SANT domain histone binding.

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

  • Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 Protein / chemistry*
  • Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 Protein / metabolism*
  • Histones / chemistry*
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Protein Domains
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Histones
  • Enhancer of Zeste Homolog 2 Protein