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EMBO J. 1999 Apr 1;18(7):1923-38.

Functional mammalian homologues of the Drosophila PEV-modifier Su(var)3-9 encode centromere-associated proteins which complex with the heterochromatin component M31.

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Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP), The Vienna Biocenter, Dr. Bohrgasse 7, A-1030 Vienna, Austria.


The chromo and SET domains are conserved sequence motifs present in chromosomal proteins that function in epigenetic control of gene expression, presumably by modulating higher order chromatin. Based on sequence information from the SET domain, we have isolated human (SUV39H1) and mouse (Suv39h1) homologues of the dominant Drosophila modifier of position-effect-variegation (PEV) Su(var)3-9. Mammalian homologues contain, in addition to the SET domain, the characteristic chromo domain, a combination that is also preserved in the Schizosaccharyomyces pombe silencing factor clr4. Chromatin-dependent gene regulation is demonstrated by the potential of human SUV39H1 to increase repression of the pericentromeric white marker gene in transgenic flies. Immunodetection of endogenous Suv39h1/SUV39H1 proteins in a variety of mammalian cell lines reveals enriched distribution at heterochromatic foci during interphase and centromere-specific localization during metaphase. In addition, Suv39h1/SUV39H1 proteins associate with M31, currently the only other characterized mammalian SU(VAR) homologue. These data indicate the existence of a mammalian SU(VAR) complex and define Suv39h1/SUV39H1 as novel components of mammalian higher order chromatin.

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