Heterochromatic gene silencing is an important form of gene regulation that usually requires specific histone modifications. A popular model posits that inheritance of modified histones, especially in the form of H3-H4 tetramers, underlies inheritance of heterochromatin. Because H3-H4 tetramers are randomly distributed between daughter chromatids during DNA replication, rare occurrences of asymmetric tetramer inheritance within a heterochromatic domain would have the potential to destabilize heterochromatin. This model makes a prediction that shorter heterochromatic domains would experience unbalanced tetramer inheritance more frequently, and thereby be less stable. In contrast to this prediction, we found that shortening a heterochromatic domain in Saccharomyces had no impact on the strength of silencing nor its heritability. Additionally, we found that replisome mutations that disrupt inheritance of H3-H4 tetramers had only minor effects on heterochromatin stability. These findings suggest that histones carry little or no memory of the heterochromatin state through DNA replication.
Keywords: S. cerevisiae; chromosomes; epigenetics; gene expression; heterochromatin; histones.
© 2019, Saxton and Rine.