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Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2003 Aug 1;190(3):272-7.

Analysis of specific lysine histone H3 and H4 acetylation and methylation status in clones of cells with a gene silenced by nickel exposure.

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Department of Environmental Medicine and The NYU Cancer Institute, New York University School of Medicine, Tuxedo 10987, USA.


We have previously reported that the gpt transgene in G12 Chinese hamster cells could be silenced by water-insoluble nickel compounds nickel sulfide (NiS) or nickel subsulfide (Ni(3)S(2)) and showed that the transgene was silenced by de novo DNA methylation and chromatin condensation. To further understand the nature of this silencing, we used the chromatin immunoprecipitation assay to elucidate the chromatin structure in nickel-induced silenced G12 clones. We also analyzed the effects of the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor 5-azacytidine (5-AzaC) and a histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA) on histone H3 and H4 acetylation and gpt gene expression in selected nickel-silenced clones. We observed that both histone H3 and H4 were hypoacetylated and a methyl DNA-binding protein MeCP2 was targeted to the gpt gene locus, resulting in a localized inactive chromatin configuration in nickel-silenced cell clones. The histone H3K9 was also found methylated in three of four nickel- silenced cell clones, whereas the histone H3K9 was deacetylated in all four cell clones, indicating that the H3K9 methylation was involved in nickel-induced gene silencing. The acetylation of the gpt gene could be increased by a combination of 5-AzaC and TSA treatment, but not by either 5-AzaC or TSA alone. The gpt transcript was studied by either Northern blot or by semiquantitative RT-PCR following treatment of the silenced clones with TSA or 5-AzaC. An increase in gpt mRNA could be detected by RT-PCR in the clones that regained acetylation of H3 and H4. These data show that gene silencing induced by nickel in the gpt transgenic cell line involved a loss of histone acetylation and an activation of histone methylation. Both H4 and H3 histone acetylation were lost in the silenced clones and these clones exhibited an increase in the methylation of the lysine 9 in histone H3.

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