Drosophila SWR1 and NuA4 complexes are defined by DOMINO isoforms

Elife. 2020 May 20:9:e56325. doi: 10.7554/eLife.56325.


Histone acetylation and deposition of H2A.Z variant are integral aspects of active transcription. In Drosophila, the single DOMINO chromatin regulator complex is thought to combine both activities via an unknown mechanism. Here we show that alternative isoforms of the DOMINO nucleosome remodeling ATPase, DOM-A and DOM-B, directly specify two distinct multi-subunit complexes. Both complexes are necessary for transcriptional regulation but through different mechanisms. The DOM-B complex incorporates H2A.V (the fly ortholog of H2A.Z) genome-wide in an ATP-dependent manner, like the yeast SWR1 complex. The DOM-A complex, instead, functions as an ATP-independent histone acetyltransferase complex similar to the yeast NuA4, targeting lysine 12 of histone H4. Our work provides an instructive example of how different evolutionary strategies lead to similar functional separation. In yeast and humans, nucleosome remodeling and histone acetyltransferase complexes originate from gene duplication and paralog specification. Drosophila generates the same diversity by alternative splicing of a single gene.

Keywords: D. melanogaster; chromatin; chromosomes; gene expression; genetics; genomics; histone acetylation; histone exchange; histone h2a.z; nucleosome remodeling; transcription.

Plain language summary

Cells contain a large number of proteins that control the activity of genes in response to various signals and changes in their environment. Often these proteins work together in groups called complexes. In the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, one of these complexes is called DOMINO. The DOMINO complex alters gene activity by interacting with other proteins called histones which influence how the genes are packaged and accessed within the cell. DOMINO works in two separate ways. First, it can replace certain histones with other variants that regulate genes differently. Second, it can modify histones by adding a chemical marker to them, which alters how they interact with genes. It was not clear how DOMINO can do both of these things and how that is controlled; but it was known that cells can make two different forms of the central component of the complex, called DOM-A and DOM-B, which are both encoded by the same gene. Scacchetti et al. have now studied fruit flies to understand the activities of these forms. This revealed that they do have different roles and that gene activity in cells changes if either one is lost. The two forms operate as part complexes with different compositions and only DOM-A includes the TIP60 enzyme that is needed to modify histones. As such, it seems that DOM-B primarily replaces histones with variant forms, while DOM-A modifies existing histones. This means that each form has a unique role associated with each of the two known behaviors of this complex. The presence of two different DOMINO complexes is common to flies and, probably, other insects. Yet, in other living things, such as mammals and yeast, their two roles are carried out by protein complexes originating from two distinct genes. This illustrates a concept called convergent evolution, where different organisms find different solutions for the same problem. As such, these findings provide an insight into the challenges encountered through evolution and the diverse solutions that have developed. They will also help us to understand the ways in which protein activities can adapt to different needs over evolutionary time.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / genetics
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • Drosophila / enzymology*
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins / metabolism*
  • Histone Acetyltransferases / genetics
  • Histone Acetyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Histones / genetics
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Multiprotein Complexes / genetics
  • Multiprotein Complexes / metabolism*
  • Nucleosomes / genetics
  • Nucleosomes / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / enzymology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • His2Av protein, Drosophila
  • Histones
  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Nucleosomes
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • dom protein, Drosophila
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • NuA4 protein, S cerevisiae
  • Adenosine Triphosphatases
  • Swr1 protein, S cerevisiae

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE145738
  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.1rn8pk0qt