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Cell. 2001 Dec 14;107(6):727-38.

Methylation of histone H3 at Lys-9 is an early mark on the X chromosome during X inactivation.

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Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724, USA.


Coating of the X chromosome by Xist RNA is an essential trigger for X inactivation. However, little is known about the early chromatin remodeling events that transform this signal into transcriptional silencing. Here we report that methylation of histone H3 lysine 9 on the inactive X chromosome occurs immediately after Xist RNA coating and before transcriptional inactivation of X-linked genes. X-chromosomal H3 Lys-9 methylation occurs during the same window of time as H3 Lys-9 hypoacetylation and H3 Lys-4 hypomethylation. Histone H3 modifications thus represent the earliest known chromatin changes during X inactivation. We also identify a unique "hotspot" of H3 Lys-9 methylation 5' to Xist, and we propose that this acts as a nucleation center for Xist RNA-dependent spread of inactivation along the X chromosome via H3 Lys-9 methylation.

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