Enzymatic nucleosome acetylation selectively affects activity of histone methyltransferases in vitro

Biochim Biophys Acta Gene Regul Mech. 2022 Jul;1865(5):194845. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagrm.2022.194845. Epub 2022 Jul 28.


Posttranslational modification of histones plays a critical role in regulation of gene expression. These modifications include methylation and acetylation that work in combination to establish transcriptionally active or repressive chromatin states. Histone methyltransferases (HMTs) often have variable levels of activity in vitro depending on the form of substrate used. For example, certain HMTs prefer nucleosomes extracted from human or chicken cells as substrate compared to recombinant nucleosomes reconstituted from bacterially produced histones. We considered that pre-existing histone modifications in the extracted nucleosomes can affect the efficiency of catalysis by HMTs, suggesting functional cross-talk between histone-modifying enzymes within a complex network of interdependent activities. Here we systematically investigated the effect of nucleosome acetylation by EP300, GCN5L2 (KAT2A) and MYST1 (MOF) on histone 3 lysine 4 (H3K4), H3K9 and H4K20 methylation of nucleosomes by nine HMTs (MLL1, MLL3, SET1B, G9a, SETDB1, SUV39H1, SUV39H2, SUV420H1 and SUV420H2) in vitro. Our full kinetic characterization data indicate that site-specific acetylation of nucleosomal histones by specific acetyltransferases can create nucleosomes that are better substrates for specific HMTs. This includes significant increases in catalytic efficiencies of SETDB1, G9a and SUV420H2 after nucleosome acetylation in vitro.

Keywords: Acetylation; Cross-talk; Epigenetics; Methylation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Histone Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Histones* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Nucleosomes*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational


  • Histones
  • Nucleosomes
  • Histone Methyltransferases