Functional characterization of RebL1 highlights the evolutionary conservation of oncogenic activities of the RBBP4/7 orthologue in Tetrahymena thermophila

Nucleic Acids Res. 2021 Jun 21;49(11):6196-6212. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkab413.


Retinoblastoma-binding proteins 4 and 7 (RBBP4 and RBBP7) are two highly homologous human histone chaperones. They function in epigenetic regulation as subunits of multiple chromatin-related complexes and have been implicated in numerous cancers. Due to their overlapping functions, our understanding of RBBP4 and 7, particularly outside of Opisthokonts, has remained limited. Here, we report that in the ciliate protozoan Tetrahymena thermophila a single orthologue of human RBBP4 and 7 proteins, RebL1, physically interacts with histone H4 and functions in multiple epigenetic regulatory pathways. Functional proteomics identified conserved functional links for Tetrahymena RebL1 protein as well as human RBBP4 and 7. We found that putative subunits of multiple chromatin-related complexes including CAF1, Hat1, Rpd3, and MuvB, co-purified with RebL1 during Tetrahymena growth and conjugation. Iterative proteomics analyses revealed that the cell cycle regulatory MuvB-complex in Tetrahymena is composed of at least five subunits including evolutionarily conserved Lin54, Lin9 and RebL1 proteins. Genome-wide analyses indicated that RebL1 and Lin54 (Anqa1) bind within genic and intergenic regions. Moreover, Anqa1 targets primarily promoter regions suggesting a role for Tetrahymena MuvB in transcription regulation. RebL1 depletion inhibited cellular growth and reduced the expression levels of Anqa1 and Lin9. Consistent with observations in glioblastoma tumors, RebL1 depletion suppressed DNA repair protein Rad51 in Tetrahymena, thus underscoring the evolutionarily conserved functions of RBBP4/7 proteins. Our results suggest the essentiality of RebL1 functions in multiple epigenetic regulatory complexes in which it impacts transcription regulation and cellular viability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biological Evolution
  • Conserved Sequence
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gene Expression
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Histone Chaperones / chemistry
  • Histone Chaperones / metabolism*
  • Histone Chaperones / physiology
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Oncogenes
  • Protozoan Proteins / chemistry
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Protozoan Proteins / physiology
  • Retinoblastoma-Binding Protein 4 / metabolism
  • Retinoblastoma-Binding Protein 7 / metabolism
  • Tetrahymena thermophila / genetics
  • Tetrahymena thermophila / growth & development
  • Tetrahymena thermophila / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • H-NS protein, bacteria
  • Histone Chaperones
  • Histones
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • RBBP4 protein, human
  • RBBP7 protein, human
  • Retinoblastoma-Binding Protein 4
  • Retinoblastoma-Binding Protein 7
  • DNA

Grants and funding