Histone H3.3 K27M and K36M mutations de-repress transposable elements through perturbation of antagonistic chromatin marks

Mol Cell. 2021 Dec 2;81(23):4876-4890.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2021.10.008. Epub 2021 Nov 4.


Histone H3.3 lysine-to-methionine substitutions K27M and K36M impair the deposition of opposing chromatin marks, H3K27me3/me2 and H3K36me3/me2. We show that these mutations induce hypotrophic and disorganized eyes in Drosophila eye primordia. Restriction of H3K27me3 spread in H3.3K27M and its redistribution in H3.3K36M result in transcriptional deregulation of PRC2-targeted eye development and of piRNA biogenesis genes, including krimp. Notably, both mutants promote redistribution of H3K36me2 away from repetitive regions into active genes, which associate with retrotransposon de-repression in eye discs. Aberrant expression of krimp represses LINE retrotransposons but does not contribute to the eye phenotype. Depletion of H3K36me2 methyltransferase ash1 in H3.3K27M, and of PRC2 component E(z) in H3.3K36M, restores the expression of eye developmental genes and normal eye growth, showing that redistribution of antagonistic marks contributes to K-to-M pathogenesis. Our results implicate a novel function for H3K36me2 and showcase convergent downstream effects of oncohistones that target opposing epigenetic marks.

Keywords: Drosophila; H3K27me3; H3K36me2; K27M; K36M; ash1; krimp; oncohistones; piRNA; transposons.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Centromere / ultrastructure
  • Chromatin / chemistry*
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • DNA Methylation
  • DNA Transposable Elements*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Histones / chemistry*
  • Histones / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Imaginal Discs / metabolism*
  • Lysine / chemistry
  • Methionine / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mutation*
  • Phenotype
  • RNA-Seq


  • Chromatin
  • DNA Transposable Elements
  • Histones
  • Methionine
  • Lysine